My super power? Supercooled ennui.

Apparently the Scientologists are nearly ready to REVEAL THEIR FIENDISH PLANS!

On Friday I walked around Hollywood and went by this building:

The building itself looked like it was under heavy renovation, but outside some distinctly bored people were setting up “Free Stress Tests!” on folding card tables out front, using gewgaws that looked remarkably similar to props you’d see in movies from the 1950s that were supposed to be Space Radar consoles or something.

I just walked on past because frankly I’m all out of cult this week, but if I knew they were preparing to unleash SUPER POWERS? I’d be all over that. I could have used some City of Villains-esque power sets in LA traffic, lemme tell ya.

E3 Day 1: Staring Down The Chasm Of Death

So I pick up a couple of friends at E3 and ask where they want to go. “AWAY.” “Righto.” I drive west. I figure eventually I’ll run into an ocean. I am correct in this; specifically Pacific Coast Highway. It’s definitely very oceany. Yep, there’s the ocean. Whee! I vaguely remember a touristy-style pier from a prior visit to LA. (It turns out I was thinking of Venice Beach, which was well south of our position.) So we keep driving.

And we drive.

And we drive some more.

“OK, enough ocean. Look, a right turn! Let’s go.”

So we do.

Dear readers, California has mountains. Yes, this is news to me too. Who knew! What’s more, these mountains have roads leading up them. Without guard rails. Occaisonally, after mudslides, without two lanes.

I am sure at this point an ex-coworker may chime in about my (lack of) driving skills. Suffice to say I had a passenger literally GIBBERING.

Finally, an hour and a half later, we finally come down from the mountaintop, much like Moses.

“ohmygodmygodmygod”

“Hey, it’s flat here.”

“Look… smog… beautiful, wonderous smog…”

“You mean you guys are grateful to see LA?”

“GODS YES.”

It was a brave new world. A post-cliff world. So we entered Bel Air in search of an IHOP.

Tune in tomorrow, when I actually get into E3, I promise.

Mein Kampf, 2006 edition

Ahmadinejad in his own words. For those keeping track, the spokesperson for a country close to achieving nuclear weapons capability is puzzled that Israel appears on maps, lectures the US on 9/11, takes the moral high ground on Iraq and Afghanistan, and avers that the only solution to these problems is a disavowal of democracy and a forcible embrace of Islam.

Yay for Earth.

EEE

Leaving for E3 tomorrow. It’s mostly a vacation for me, so it’s more likely than in E3s passed that you’ll see me wandering aimlessly slackjawed. If so feel free to, uh, wave or something.

Vanguard jumps from Microsoft to… uh… SOE?

Normally I don’t note these sort of dealings, but this is too bizarre not to.

\’e2\’80\’9cAs the development process is ongoing and constantly shifting, it became clear that MGS and Sigil had varying visions and direction for the title\’e2\’80\’99s development,\’e2\’80\’9d said Brad McQuaid, CEO of Sigil Games Online. \’e2\’80\’9cIn the best interest of Vanguard, it was decided that we would buy back the publishing rights from Microsoft.\’e2\’80\’9d

As co-publisher of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, Sigil assumes greater control of marketing and PR, while maintaining responsibility for game development, community relations, media relations, customer support, and quality assurance. Under the terms of the agreement, SOE will provide distribution, marketing, hosting and back-end support — including billing and technical support — for the game. Additionally, SOE is tentatively planning on adding Vanguard, upon its release,to SOE\’e2\’80\’99s Station Access\’e2\’84\’a2 subscription plan. Station Access allows players to enjoy all of SOE\’e2\’80\’99s MMO titles for one low monthly price.

In other news, Dick Cheney and Hilary Clinton are running on a combined ticket in 2008. “What the hey, if McQuaid and Smedley can settle their differences, ours simply pale in comparison”, they said.

OK, so I’m a little slow; apparently the entire mass blogosphere exploded in a frenzy of wiis over the news today. Aggro Me, who I’m gonna come out and just call the EQ2 blogger of record, has tons of links and commentary on the subject if you want to read more, including Brad McQuaid’s reaction on the Sigil boards.

Allakhazam.com purchased by IGE holding company

As posted by Allakhazam on his boards:

The ownership issues here are convoluted. This is how deals like this get done. The size of this is pretty amazing. This is just the announcement for our own users, not the actual corporate announcement, which will likely come much later. We are now owned by a company that owns a bunch of stuff, including IGE. They bought both of us (and several other sites as well) and then split us into separate divisions so that there is no interaction between them. You know my stand on gold selling. Before agreeing to anything like this, I wanted to make sure that there would be no interaction between those divisions and that I would have complete control over the new network, including the sites that used to be part of ogaming. So this means that the Ogaming sites and Thottbot have been split off of IGE and into our network and no longer have any connection with them.

I don’t like Marlboros, but I still buy oreos. I would never buy a Ford, but would definitely buy a Jaguar. Not big on Taco Bell, but like KFC. Many products you use are owned by people who own other products you may not like. It’s the way of the world. As long as the companies are run separately, most people are fine with that. If your oreo cookie wrapper had a marlboro ad on it, maybe that would be a problem. It is important to keep in mind that we are a completely separate company within a large holding company that just happens to own other companies as well.

I realize some people are not going to be happy with this, but the fact is that we are now able to do things we just were never able to do before. This gives us the financial backing and stability to really do a great deal for everyone. Before the financial backing for the site was just me. Now it is a well financed corporation.

As he mentioned, Allakhazam has always been very anti-gold farming and has turned down acquisition offers in the past. His new business partners, called variously RPG Holdings LLC and Content Holdings LLC, according to a quick Google search, include IGE, OGaming, Thottbot, what appears to be an RSS scooper-site that aggregates other site content, designed to milk Google Ads and Gay Indy.

The real motivation here is straightforward, if interesting.

IGE, which has a severely tarnished reputation among most gamers (ironically, since pre-Yantis acquisition they were briefly seen as “the good guy gold sellers”, as described in this interesting, if sometimes rumor-mongering article) has thrown a good deal of money about trying to purchase their way out of it. Thus the monthly full-page and often back-cover ads in Computer Games magazine (the only mass market trade publication still willing to sell IGE ad space), the abortive partnership with Themis Group, the purchasing of seemingly money losing community sites in bulk, and the hiring of ex-game industry executives.

This “interview” PR piece gives a good overview of what IGE would like to put forth as its spin. This was my takeoff on it at the time. You’re seeing it now for the first time because when it was topical, my employer was already in the news for vocally going after IGE and I thought it best not to throw logs on that fire. But as you can see, my take on IGE is pretty plain. They’re vice profiteers, no more and no less. Like most vice profiteers, they’d prefer to work within the law, but don’t feel particularly bound by it. And they profit off of… well, my work, and that of my friends and coworkers, so I take it a bit personally.

Thus the purchase of sites like Ogaming (which as far as I can tell is famous mainly for its ownership) and Thottbot, which has to be probably the site with the most traffic on the Internet. Note that neither of these sites are replete with mysupersales.com ads. It may well be that, especially in thottbot’s case, the purchase was simply to have an entity within the IGE constellation that was more well known than, well, IGE. And it may be simply that IGE purchased the site simply because it was available, and hey, that gold farmer money was just sitting there. Rumors have always swirled about that IGE purchased Thottbot to “put pressure on Blizzard”, but that doesn’t make a whole great deal of sense unless you’re being fitted for an aluminum foil Helm of Thought Control Warding. World of Warcraft would not spin off its axis were Thottbot to disappear.

However, Allakhazam would spin off its axis were Thottbot not to disappear. While, again, theorizing, as some have, that the Thottbot purchase was simply to put non-IGE sites like Allakhazam out of business is a bit too Machiavellan for believability, the fact remains that as long as Thottbot offered its wares for free, selling a similar service was going to be a hard sell. And here, we finally see at the end of a long series of rumor-control posts by Allakhazam, something approaching a primal scream of truth:

The value of the purchase is really obvious. Thottbot and Allakhazam are the two largest sites for the largest MMO game in the world. The two have cancelled each other out financially, since anything one would charge for in a premium service was offered by the other for free. Now with both sites, we can expand our premium service to cover all WoW players. Frankly if Thottbot hadn’t existed I doubt I would have had to sell Allakhazam. Because Thottbot existed and was giving away their information for free (and losing money like crazy to their former company who didn’t care if they made any money off it) we could not make a profit off our wow site even though it was by far our biggest expense. The company that bought both sites was smart enough to realize the potential of combining those two user bases.

For the end user, this mainly amounts to “Hope all you guys liked using Thottbot for free!”. For Allakhazam, this means that his primary competition just got folded under his banner. And for IGE? Who knows. They’re seeing heavy competition from Asian gold farmers, and the seriously odd set of sites you get from googling “RPG Holdings LLC” implies that, like all mobsters, in the end they just want to go legit as a media company.

Meanwhile, if you do /who Azshara or /who Dire Maul you’ll still see the usual names, and the world continues to turn on its axis, and people with more money than time will continue to buy gold online because, hey, it’s easy and they’re there. Even in games like Guild Wars and City of Heroes, where gold is essentially meaningless, people still queue up to buy it. So much for the theory that a well-designed game will eliminate “RMT”. Hey, it’s easy and they’re there.

There aren’t any easy answers, and there aren’t any good answers, but on the whole I’d rather John Smedley sell me my Cloak of Fire Resistance than Jonathan Yantis, all things considered. At least the former has to live with the impact of his decisions, along with the rest of us.

Amazingly, You Cannot Actually Make Millions From Tiny Classified Ads

Regarding the PE story I mentioned earlier, almost as earthshakingly, Terra Nova finally finds an RMT media story they didn’t like.

This is the kind of story that we love here at Terra Nova, since it involves nifty issues about virtual worlds, the social fiction of money, and all sorts of other interesting questions. But I don\’e2\’80\’99t love this story. I think it\’e2\’80\’99s basically bogus. In fact it\’e2\’80\’99s worse than that. This story has finally convinced me that MindArk is fantastic at generating public relations stories that credulous media sources pick up without questioning, but which, if investigated for even a moment, make you shake your head in wonder.

Bucky Carooe back in the glory days of waterthread.org had Mindark figured out years ago, but still, it’s nice to see some credulity from a site often sourced as the primary academic journal dealing with MMOs.

Kevin Smith pwns you.

If you’re not reading his blog, why not? Today he posted a thoughtful piece about everyone’s favorite service industry, and earlier this month he told the harrowing, true story of Jay (of Jay and Silent Bob) getting detoxed.

Thanks to J. for the pointer. Not everyone needs to keep a blog but it’s good when some do.