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  • Mar 1st, 2015 @ 1:05pm

    (untitled comment)

    I don't think I've backed any real failures, as of yet. I tend to back projects that sound like they come from someone who knows what they're doing. So far, I've not been ripped off.

    - - - - -

    A few projects do stand out as being not all that was promised.

    My biggest disappointment is Godus, by British game-development veteran Peter Molyneux and his team. They promised a God Game (an old, established genre, for those who don't know), but they delivered a mobile-phone-type game based around micropayments, something not even hinted at in the Kickstarter description. I haven't played in a long while, so perhaps there's a real game in there now, but I shall have to get around to playing it again before I know.

    Frontier Developments' space game Elite: Dangerous gets a mention for not delivering on the promise of an offline mode. I understand why they did it, I can see what they've built and are continuing to build (I play it, it's a great game for those of us with a good internet connection), but they shouldn't have made promises they couldn't keep and they shouldn't have tried to weasel out of refunding affected crowdfunders afterwards.

    I didn't back their Kickstarters myself, but US developer Double Fine Productions deserves a special mention for abusing both Kickstarter and Steam Early Access by - in my opinion - partially scamming their customers on two separate projects (Broken Age and Spacebase DF-9). I won't buy from them again.

    - - - - -

    On the subject of what crowdfunding is, I don't think any existing definition describes it adequately: it's an investment of sorts, it's a gamble of sorts, it's a pre-purchase of sorts - all of these are both true and false from different perspectives and none of them give the whole picture.

    It's crowdfunding, something new and comparatively unique. The rules that should exist - but currently don't - should reflect its special nature.

    For larger, more professional and more ambitious projects, I would ideally like to see more done to assure crowdfunders that their money won't be wasted or stolen. There should be:
    • independant, professional assessments of project viability;
    • better rules for clearly and exclusively defining projects, goals and progress-milestones - no-one should be making promises they can't be sure of keeping, or using the absence of certain promises to turn a project into something else;
    • minimum standards of communication, so we all know where we stand at any given stage;
    • independant monitoring, so we know where our money's being spent and we can be sure it's not all vapourware;
    • clear definitions of failure, by degrees if necessary, with clear and reasonable procedures for remuneration if some or all goals can't be met and finally;
    • clear rules and standards of enforcement by the fundhost, including pursuing violators and scammers through the courts, where necessary.

    For smaller and more amateur projects, which obviously can't afford those increased operational costs, or any project which is inherently much more of a gamble, there needs to be a very clear distinction that this is the case. No crowdfunding consumer should enter into an agreement uninformed about the risks.

    It may be the case that the two kinds of project are best-served with their own, separate services and definitions. Different names for them might be wise. Pro-funding versus Risk-funding, perhaps?

    Those are the basic rules, as I think they should exist, at any rate. Until such time as we have something like them, what we have now is summed up perfectly by Ehud Gavron above: whatever we'd like it to become, crowdfunding is currently a gamble. We all proceed at our own risk. :)

  • Feb 20th, 2015 @ 2:30am

    Re: Re:

    Hi, K'Tetch. :)

    You are a filthy, blaspheming heretic, but after giving the matter some consideration, I've decided to find it amusing.

    Have a nice day! :D

  • Feb 19th, 2015 @ 3:03pm

    (untitled comment)

    I'm not inclined to either be a cheerleader for the IPO, or give applause for overhyping the toxicity ange, but I am entirely in favour of the authorities seizing fake alcohol.

    In the part of London where I live, it's almost impossible to get a bottle of decent whisky in local off-licenses (our equivalent of the American liquor-store). The supply chain has been crapflooded with fake versions that cost the same as the real thing, but taste like shite, give you a much nastier headache and are worth less than half the asking price (the same stuff is sold as own-brand goods in supermarkets, so we know how much it's worth). If I want to get a decent bottle, I have to go to Waitrose and pay through the nose for it.

    God knows I'm no fan of general notions of IP, but I am entirely alongside it when it comes to getting rid of fakes and fraudsters who take our money under false pretenses, give us substandard crap in return, make the producers of the real thing look bad and generally make us all worse off.

  • Feb 13th, 2015 @ 10:07pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Ick...

    Because I like them? The smart TV, for all its faults, allows access to a wider range of services than is otherwise available. They're very set in their ways, but that's no reason not to try to introduce them to things that will ultimately make them happier.

    It's also cheaper than their preferred option, which is a horrifyingly overpriced Sky TV subscription. The UK's free and legal services aren't great, but a combination of those, plus a low-cost Amazon Instant sub should be able to replace 98% of everything they currently pay through the nose for, at a substantially reduced cost.

    Once they're comfortable enough with the newer OS's, convincing them to stop throwing money away on Skys substandard service should be just a matter of time. :)

  • Feb 12th, 2015 @ 1:41pm

    Re: Re: Ick...

    Disconnecting it is not the problem. Weaning the previously-mentioned old and conservative member of the household off the thing and onto a new box with a new OS - that's the tricky bit. :)

  • Feb 11th, 2015 @ 6:17pm

    Ick...

    That's really unpleasant. My household has an older Samsung smart TV. They're quite handy for some things, but increasingly, I wish we'd gone for a standard TV instead. We could presumably have bought a standalone multimedia box like Roku, but I didn't really know anything about it at the time. It's been a learning experience, I suppose.

    I have generally been ambivalent about recommending them to others. On the plus-side, they deliver a better service than none at all and they're very good for gently introducing older and more conservative family members to new forms of viewing, such as online streaming and watching films stored on hard drive.

    On the downside, performance is far too slow (why do manufacturers always think that we'll be impressed by technology when they've designed it down to a price, rather than up to a specification?), the UI is unintuitive, there's no way to upgrade the smart hardware without replacing the whole unit and I have yet to find anything on the system that can't be done better by standalone, ugradeable third-party boxes.

    After watching Sony, LG and Samsung repeatedly shit in their own soup in the intervening time, I'm not nearly so ambivalent. A standard TV and a Roku (or similar) is clearly the way to go.

    I think, as time passes and technology gets cheaper, it will only become more difficult to obtain a TV that isn't smart-capable, or even smart-dependent. If the latest slew of invasive, cretinous manufacturer decisions is anything to go by, it won't be something to look forward to.

  • Feb 7th, 2015 @ 10:02pm

    Re: Re: Re: They can't.

    It's fairly clear that you've never sat down to play a bunch of old roms using an emulator...Thus, I'm sorry to say, you're not a gamer at heart.

    Your inferences are entirely wrong. I have emulators for many systems prior to PS2 and maintain a not-insubstantial collection of original titles and systems stretching back to the Sinclair ZX-81. Every now and then, I even play the things. Most people don't.

    With very few exceptions, I do not usually play online games. Your comments about e-sports are unrelated to my post or my gaming habits.

  • Feb 7th, 2015 @ 4:50am

    Re: Re: Re: "Smart phones are great handheld gaming devices"

    Although I would put the onus of invention on Miyamoto's games and on the controllers, rather than the often-underwhelming boxes, I mostly agree with you.

    But the Gamecube? Seriously? If the Gamecube did anything inventive or influential, I must have blinked and missed it.

  • Feb 7th, 2015 @ 3:53am

    Re: They can't.

    This is partially correct and worth expanding on. Licensing issues vary from game to game.

    In the case of Nintendos own works - such as Mario, Zelda, etc - there are no licensing isssues to overcome: Nintendo is the sole owner of the code inside the original console hardware and the games and can do whatever they like with them, including porting them to any platform they like without anyone else's permission.

    For non-Nintendo games, many titles are probably owned by large companies such as EA, courtesy of all the acquisitions they've made over the years. They might be willing to license their properties to Nintendo, or if profitable enough, might seek to license an emulator from Nintendo and release the games themselves.

    On the other hand, given that companies like EA, et al, have their own interests in mobile gaming, it's just as likely that they would simply refuse to allow the games to be published at all, seeing it as competition for their own newer investments.

    There are probably also many instances of orphaned works, where ownership details have gotten lost in the fog of historical acquisitions. Those titles can never be released without substantial research efforts to establish precisely who bought what and when, which is unlikely to be profitable.

    In the case of games licensed from films, such as Super Star Wars and Goldeneye, there is almost zero chance of republication. The costs of merely negotiating for the rights would vastly outstrip any potential sales.

    It's worth noting that old games are not as popular as some might think. I think that re-releases of older titles, while profitable, rarely achieve anything like the sales needed to justify significant investment. This is why there are so many buggy, bare-bones PC re-releases that barely function.

    These days, we all have access to emulators and copies of old ROMs, etc, but how many of us actually bother to play them?

    For all the value that nostalgia has for us, most of us would rather play something new.

  • Feb 6th, 2015 @ 3:31pm

    Actually...

    For once I'm going to have to disagree. Normally, I'm quite happy to decry the demented control-freakery of Nintendo, but when it comes to smartphones, I have to concede they have a point.

    Smartphones are good for games that have been designed and built for touch-screen control. For old-school games, which generally require continuous, clear sight of everything on-screen and reliable, responsive controls, they are frankly terrible.

    My experience with games on smartphones is limited, but as far as I've found it, on higher-quality smartphones, the results of porting old-form gameplay have been disappointingly poor and on lower-quality smartphones, the results can be literally unplayable.

    I'm not a big fan of Nintendo, but I can't kick them for not wanting anything to do with something that's only likely to hurt their reputations. If I were them, I wouldn't do it either.

  • Feb 2nd, 2015 @ 1:08pm

    Re: Uhhh? What? Fury / John Wick

    It's not emphasised in this article, but the original TF article was in response to the MPAAs hyperbolic claims about the EU market.

    Accordingly, TF used Findanyfilm.com, an industry service designed for finding legal content in the UK.

    The titles in question were not available in the UK at the time the article was published.

  • Feb 2nd, 2015 @ 12:48pm

    Additional Beermat Research

    In addition to the above, it's worth noting that Apple's terms & conditions and privacy policy are over 22,000 words long, which at an average reading speed will take most people at least 90 minutes to read and understand.

    If that's a reflection of the average, then signing up for the same content as an old branch of Blockbuster Video (or rather, as much as you can get, since so much is missing) will require thirteen and a half hours of reading, assuming you want to know what your rights & responsibilities are.

    As opposed to signing up with Blockbusters, when it still existed, which - if memory serves - took me about ten minutes.

    It feels odd to me, comparing new services with old and finding the new services so wanting, but then, most of the new services, despite the hype, are deliberately crippled by US industry policies. The companies who want to compete - such as Apple and Amazon - can't really do so under the current trade regime.

    It could be and should be so much better than this.
    Perhaps, one day, it will be.

  • Feb 2nd, 2015 @ 11:38am

    Heh.

    At the risk of becoming needlessly recursive, I posted this on the comments on TF. No reason not to repost it here:

    - - - - -

    The issue isn't just about whether content is theoretically available somewhere in a given region, it's also about how accessible it is.

    If consumers have to sign up for forty or more premium-priced services in order to match the content of a branch of Blockbusters, it's safe to say that content is not really available in any meaningful sense.

    In the UK most services are artificially restricted to hosting just a handful of new films and TV programmes. The Sky-owned service NowTV boasted about the issue in a blog post - and reading between the lines, it's abundantly clear that content is being centrally restricted to make all online services as useless, expensive and uncompetitive as the film industry can get away with.

    I posted some simplistic research on the issue on TechDirt some time back. I can't be arsed to do new research at the moment, so I'l just copypasta it here. It wasn't too long ago, so it should still be a fair reflection of the state of the UK VOD market.

    The only thing I'll add is that since writing this, I've had the chance to play with the apps on a Samsung Smart TV device. There's not really much on it from anywhere, but it still has more content available from south-east Asia than it does from Hollywood. When the biggest companies in the industry aren't even trying to compete with no-mark Korean and Malaysian providers, there's clearly something wrong.

    - - - - -

    UK VOD services

    No idea about US services, but for those interested, here are the UK services currently available.

    While I assume this info is largely accurate (no-one would bother to make it up), it is largely from sites I've not previously heard of -- mostly http://anonym.to/?http://community.nowtv.com/t5/Movies/Movies-Latest-amp-Biggest/td-p/7604 -- and the original post is from February, so some details have probably changed since then.

    There are probably more reliable and up-to-date sites for this information, somewhere, but this is the best I could find without a more substantial research effort.

    VOD sites -- Monthly Movies Subscription Costs

    • Now TV (the online version of Rupert-Murdoch-owned Sky Movies) - £9
    • Netflix - £6
    • Amazon Prime Instant Video - £6
    • Wuaki - £6 sub, PPV @ £4.50/new film rental
    • Knowhow Movies - no sub, PPV @ £5/new film rental
    • Blinkbox (from Tesco) - no sub, PPV @ £4.50/new film rental
    • Apple iTunes - no sub, PPV@ £4.50/new film rental
    • Google Play - no sub, PPV@ £4.50/new film rental
    • Xbox Video - no sub, PPV@ £4.50/new film rental

    US readers may wish to note that the UK version of Netflix is generally regarded as an aborted washing-machine foetus of a service, when compared with its US counterpart.

    All PPV prices are for the highest definition versions, which is usually 720p, with a couple of services offering 1080p. Older titles and SD rentals are normally cheaper. TV episodes are usually available - prices vary widely, but are usually cheaper than films.

    As far as I know, all providers -- both subscription and pay-per-view -- require the installation of crapware from either Adobe or Microsoft and all require their users to allow the monitoring and commercial exploitation of their viewing habits.

    Most content available is nearly identical across services. New content - i.e. movies released in the last few years - is heavily restricted. NowTV has a blog post on the subject - http://anonym.to/?http://community.nowtv.com/t5/Movies/Movies-Latest-amp-Biggest/td-p/7604 - which they update monthly:

    The list below shows the top 100 UK box office films in the last 18 months from 29th August 2014.

    Of the titles on the list available to watch on the relevant services at 5th September 2014; Sky Movies has 44, Amazon Prime Instant Video has 4 and Netflix has 4.

    Wuaki Selection is not listed, as this service does not currently feature any titles in the top 100 list.

    When a movie is first available on Sky Movies it will not be available on Netflix or Amazon Prime Instant Video for at least 12 months.

    Source: Rentrak

    The blog post then goes on to list the top 100.

    While the numbers change and have recently shifted in Sky Movies' favour, the figures have strangely consistent ratios from month to month, with retail getting everything, Sky getting a big chunk -- now at 44% -- and Netflix and Amazon both getting the same amount -- now 4%.

    The other 48% or so does not appear to be available, except for retail, the online version of which also shows remarkable consistency of pricing.

    It's fairly apparent that both prices and content are being centrally set by Hollywood, with the intention of driving as much business as possible to their preferred vendors and neutering new services as far as they can get away with.

    This may or may not be legal under UK law, but since there is no prospect of their friends in Parliament ever prosecuting them for anything, it doesn't really matter.

    In any event, it's clear that consumer choice is not on the agenda for the movie industry.

    Not even slightly.

  • Jan 29th, 2015 @ 11:30pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    It's not whether you're on the watch-lists, it's how high up you are.

    They're almost certainly already on the lists, along with everyone else who lives in, works in or ever visits anywhere near a location that's a potential terrorist target, such as government buildings, shopping centres, schools, parks or streets or houses containing more than three people.

    The few people who never go near any of the above are, of course, Officially Suspicious Bastards and go straight to the top of every list there is.

    The only guaranteed way not to be on someone's list is if you were conceived within the last five minutes. This is clearly an oversight that will be corrected in due course. Terrorist embryos around the world beware: the CIA is coming for you soon, with their special $60,000 anti-terrorist coat-hangers.

  • Jan 29th, 2015 @ 11:02pm

    Re:

    It's a trademark dispute, not a certification dispute.

    The article fails to give much information, but this comes from TorrentFreak who in turn got it from apparent originators BizJournals, both of whom go into more detail.

    http://www.bizjournals.com/twincities/news/2015/01/27/612brew-ratedr-ipa-unrated-name-change- mpaa-fight.html

  • Jan 29th, 2015 @ 5:15pm

    Re: Re:

    "I guarantee 100% that given enough information I can find enough coincidences to get anyone on any government watch list."

    I'm fairly sure you don't need anything as esoteric, expensive and work-intensive as information for that.

    All you need to do is say "X might be involved in Y" to a surveilling agency and they'll put them on their watch-list forever. They have every incentive to do so, no incentive not to and no incentive to ever take them off.

    They don't care about anything resembling an articulable reason and why should they? So long as the money keeps rolling in - and they have gaps in their surveillance that they can use as an unquestioned excuse for not catching any real terrorists - they're on the gravy train for life.

  • Jan 27th, 2015 @ 8:43am

    Re: Patriotism

    According to news reports, the amendments have now been withdrawn by the Lords responsible because the government proper has its own redrafted version to release at a later time.

    As if they were reading TechDirt comments, the BBC has helpfully mentioned the names of the Lords responsible: Lords King, Blair (not the famous one), Carlile and West.

    What a shower of arseholes. There's nothing to be done about them now, as the matter is closed for the moment.

    We watch and wait.

  • Jan 26th, 2015 @ 2:28am

    Patriotism

    There's a school of thought that seems to think that those who promote and support legislation in this manner are patriots, with motives pure as the driven snow, concerned only with keeping the nation and its people safe from violent attack.

    It's absolute claptrap.

    People who do things like this, who go out of their way to avoid not only public scrutiny, but the proper analysis of even our democratically-elected representatives in government, are nasty, sleazy, fraudulent little maggots who aren't trustworthy enough to run the cheese counter at Tescos without dipping their fingers in the till, much less any position of civic responsibility.

    I don't know who did this - reporters never seem to want to specify who's responsible - but whoever they are, I want to see them unemployed and barred from ever holding any form of public office again.

    Whatever their motives, they clearly have nothing to do with patriotism or national security or the public good and everything to do with greed and profit at the expense of everyone else.

    They deserve only the dole queue and I want them gone.

  • Jan 6th, 2015 @ 4:17am

    Ouch.

    I've skimmed through the proposed EU Directive and read the dirty bits. It's incredibly heavy-handed, ham-fisted stuff. The biggest issue is that it's all incredibly vague, from start to finish (with one solitary exception).

    - - - - -

    The Directive isn't clear about what problem it's actually trying to solve. It waffles on forever about the damage to EU businesses and cross-border innovation, but gives no case studies, or even a coherent general example.

    I can't think of any example of a genuine problem that these new laws would solve. I'm fairly sure the Directives writers can't think of one, either.

    - - - - -

    Its definition of a Trade Secret is demented, consisting basically of any information which is: (a) likely to be of commercial value; and (b) secret.

    So, in other words, everything a company says is a Trade Secret is a Trade Secret, unless a respondant can prove conclusively that the information was publically available before the alleged infringement.

    There's a little bit of fudge that looks like it was designed to inhibit the law from being used as a back-door patent-troll engine, but that's yer lot as far as exceptions are concerned.

    - - - - -

    The Directive could very easily be called the Immense Collateral Damage Directive. It goes so far out of its way to avoid being specific about almost anything, that viable causes of action are created for almost everything.

    Want to tell the Environmental Health Officer that food-poisoning outbreak was caused by the three-week-old steaks in your bosses restaurant?
    Shut up, they'll sue you.

    Want to tell the accident investigators that the rail crash was caused by the cheap, counterfeit components your company bought?
    Shut up, they'll sue you.

    Want to tell the police that the reason half of India is dead or blind is because your employer's been dumping chemical waste full of arsenic into the local water supply?
    Shut up, they'll sue you.

    No attempt is made to shield citizens who comply with normal public health or law enforcement activity.

    - - - - -

    The one bit of real specificity is thrown out towards the end - and it's so incredibly specific by comparison, I have the distinct impression that it's the Directives sole, real purpose.

    It has a Wikileaks clause. A right of action is created to sue any publication containing an infringing Trade Secret. Blocking Wikileaks, et al, from being seen across the EU would now require no more effort than the blocking of the Pirate Bay.

    A single trip to a senior court of each country and Bob's your uncle - Wikileaks is banned from that country, entirely ex parte, with no opposition, since ISPs are offered no defense under the Directive.

    - - - - -

    Not only that, but the Directive enshrines in law that companies whose Trade Secrets have been infringed have the right to see infringing copies destroyed.

    This raises the prospect that Wikileaks (and other such sites) can legitimately be made the subject of hacking and malware attacks with absolute legal impunity, providing they can find a friendly judge to sign off on it, somewhere in the EU.

    - - - - -

    The new laws, even with the tiny, fig-leaf-shaped bit of fudge designed to stop it, will almost certainly create new classes of patent and copyright trolls, with all the deliberately-leaked porn movies, speculative invoicing, litigious fun and censorship that this implies.

    Interestingly, a company can claim that an unreleased movie is a Trade Secret. If the Directive becomes law, it's a distinct possibility that destructive malware attacks against pirates will one day suddenly become legal as well, with no due process, warning or legal countermeasure. And here we all were, thinking ACS:Law and Prenda were bad enough.

    - - - - -

    No attempt is made to balance out the new laws with any part of the rest of EU legislation, beyond a few very short instructions that local legislators must ensure the law is proportionate and compliant with other EU laws.

    How local legislators are supposed to do this, when the new law is designed specifically to carve out vast exceptions to all other law, is left entirely to the imagination.

    I personally don't imagine the resulting ad-hoc legislative fixes will be particularly fair or proportionate.

    Then again, I'm not sure that this new directive is necessarily legal itself, given how badly it rips the guts out of the Human Rights Act.

    This is probably the most damaging piece of legislation I've ever read. Let's hope it doesn't survive.

  • Dec 31st, 2014 @ 11:47pm

    Ta

    Thank you, Techdirt writers and commenters, for providing an enjoyable, informative site.
    Much obliged and Happy New Year.
    :)

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