Thoughts on the Call of Duty: WWII PC Beta and Activison’s problem with cheaters.

This past weekend Activision gave fans of CoD on the PC a chance to try out the upcoming Call of Duty: WWII game in beta form. This was open to anyone with a Steam account as opposed to the console beta tests, which were limited only to folks who had preordered the game. I suspect this was in part because the last few CoD games have had very limited player populations on the PC compared to their console counterparts and the hope was that by allowing anyone to try it out they may convince a few more folks to slap some money down for it. At one point there was over 35,000+ players checking it out mid-day Sunday according to Steam Charts.

Overall I thought the game felt pretty good for being a beta. It ran smoothly on my machine and it looked pretty good doing so. It was a big adjustment to go from the wall-running jetpacks of Infinite Warfare and Black Ops 3 to the limited sprint and boots-on-the-ground of WWII, but it only took a few games to get acclimated. There were a number of graphical flourishes I noticed that enhanced the immersion a bit. On one of the maps with a lot of trees if a grenade went off next to a tree the tree would actually shake from the explosion.

Here’s a YouTube video I made of one of the matches I did pretty well in:

One annoyance that I hope gets fixed before the final release was that I couldn’t hear my own character’s callouts. As you run around the map you and your teammates will automatically call out enemies they see such as “Sniper in the upstairs window!” which can be helpful, but there were a couple of times where I thought I had snuck up on someone only to have them whip around and kill me. I couldn’t figure out why until I watched the killcam and realized my character had made a call out about the dude I had just tried to sneak up on alerting them to my presence. Other than that I have no real complaints about how the beta played.

Which isn’t to say I don’t have any additional complaints. One of the drawbacks to playing games like Call of Duty on the PC is that there will always be people who cheat at the game. On consoles this is usually limited to people who exploit glitches to get outside or under the map so they can get kills while being more or less immune. On the PC it goes a step further with third party programs called aimbots and wallhacks that allow the people using them to see where you are through walls and automatically aim and fire at your head with a simple button press.

Because each iteration of CoD is built upon the versions that came before it’s often trivial for the folks who create such hacks to modify them to work with the next game in the series. It took less than a day for an aimbot to show up in the WWII beta and in a 24 hour period I literally got placed into 5 different matches that had an aimbotter in it in spite of there being tens of thousands of people playing at the time.

I made a YouTube video of the first aimbotter I came across. You’ll note that for the first couple of minutes I don’t realize what’s happening and don’t bother to watch the killcams, but if you pay attention to the text chat in the lower left hand corner of the screen you can already see people arguing over whether or not someone is using an aimbot:

It takes until about my fourth or fifth death to watch the killcam and realize what’s going on. What really amazes me about this clip isn’t the guy cheating, it’s the person on his team telling others to shut the fuck up about it and go back to playing Minecraft if we don’t like it. As though he wouldn’t be upset if he were on the opposite team. I didn’t stick around long after realizing there was a cheater which is why the clip is so short.

Remember how I said the PC beta was open to anyone who wanted to check it out? Turns out this was a terrible idea because anyone who wanted to cheat just had to set up a brand new Steam account and install the beta with the hack and have at it without fear of repercussions.

A little later in the same day I was in a group with Giddy Wraith, who I often play CoD with these days, when we came across another aimbotter. I’m not sure if the cheat was using a crappy hack or if he was overseas, but you can see his character stuttering as he moves around the map. Before the end of the round he ends up timing out and being kicked from the match which allowed us to rally and end up winning. I had my mic on for this one so you get to hear me bitch about it:

I didn’t upload that video right away. I ended up having some minor insomnia and got up around 1:30AM Sunday morning and decided to edit the video and upload it to YouTube. Then I thought I’d see if anyone was playing the beta.

Literally the first match I got into after uploading the above video had another aimbotter in it. I decided to play out the whole match so I could record as much of it as I could. Again, I do a fair amount of bitching about it in the video and you can also hear the cheater laughing about it at one point:

As a PC player none of this is unexpected. There’s always gonna be some assholes out there who are willing to ruin a game experience for other people. Activision maintains an enforcement team specifically to deal with cheaters like the ones above. The folks who make the cheats are always working to improve them and there are enough people willing to purchase stolen game keys and the hacks that the ability to eliminate the problem completely is probably nil, however, this wouldn’t be a big deal if Activision did a decent job of policing their games.

On the PC they don’t seem to be doing much of that at all. In Infinite Warfare there’s an asshole who goes by the name “xihucoatl” who has been aimbotting for months without repercussions. He’s never bothered to set up his Steam profile probably because he assumed he’d be banned pretty quickly, but so far that hasn’t happened.

I first reported him in-game back in April and then I contacted Activision’s support folks on Twitter about him a month later. Their response was to report him in-game, which I and a lot of other people have done. I’ve contacted them repeatedly since then and they always give the same response. It’s now October and here he is still aimbotting away:

Anyone who watches the video can clearly see he’s cheating. At one point I use an ability called “phase shift” that puts you into an alternate dimension for three seconds making you impervious and invisible unless someone phase shifts at the same time. You can clearly see him following me and firing in the killcam while I am phase shifted and he gets a headshot as soon as I phase back in.

He’s been doing this for months. He’s managed to reach Master Prestige 11 with this account which suggests he’s got at least a hundred hours into the game. I have 759 hours in the game and I am Master Prestige 21.

To be fair, there are other aimbotters in IW that we have reported who do appear to have gotten a ban, but it took months for it to happen. When the game is only averaging 802 players world-wide a day that becomes a big problem. There are days where it can be difficult to find a match that doesn’t have a cheater in it which results in my not playing the game for long that day. I don’t know if cheating is so rampant on the PC that Activision is overwhelmed trying to deal with it or they don’t bother with the PC as much because we have such low player populations.

It didn’t help that when Infinite Warfare was released it was incomplete. Standard features such as leaderboards and the emblem editor didn’t come out for a couple of months and a number of challenges weren’t registering properly. Add in the rampant cheating that goes undealt with and it’s no wonder the player population dropped off so quickly. At its peak just after launch there were 15,312 players on the PC with a daily average 4,995 for the month of November. Certainly not a record number, but not bad. The daily average for December was only half that with a peak of 5,496. It’s only gotten worse from there.

I stopped playing the WWII Beta mid-day Sunday because by then I had ended up in an additional two matches with an aimbotter in them and it seemed unlikely that I was going to find many matches that didn’t have someone cheating. For a while I considered canceling my preorder of the game which would make it the first CoD I didn’t play. In the end I opted to stick with it as it is my favorite FPS series and I’ve yet to find another that I enjoy as much. At least when I can find a match that doesn’t have someone cheating. I hope Activision does a better job of policing cheaters on the PC, but given the example above, I am worried they won’t.

My first vlog.

I’ve been talking about trying to get into vlogging for awhile now, but I’ve allowed my trepidation to get the better of me and have kept putting it off until I had a better webcam and then a better mic and then a better Internet connection and so on. Fact is, I don’t know what I’m doing. Then again I didn’t know what I was doing when I started blogging 16 years ago and I’ve done alright with that.

So here it is. It’s short, doesn’t have anything particularly interesting to say, but it’s something and works well as a test of my setup if nothing else. Oh, there is a surprise camo by Jasper the cat:

As you can tell, I’m nervous and not well spoken. I’m assuming that’ll get better in time. I also made this via Google Hangouts because Windows 10’s built-in camera up won’t allow you to choose what mic to record from and I can’t seem to find anything better to use. I’m open to suggestions on what you’d like to see from me.

 

Google Assistant fucked up a perfectly mediocre joke.

When I get to work every morning I ask Google Assistant the same question: Will it rain today? I ask this so I know whether or not I can leave the windows on my car cracked open so it’s not a raging blast furnace when I climb in at the end of the day. This is such a regular occurrence that I’m surprised the artificial intelligence at Google doesn’t just tell me as soon as I shut off my car’s engine without being prompted. Google probably thinks this is the only thing I care about because it’s the one question I’ve most asked the Google Assistant since it was first introduced.

Yesterday when I asked this question the Google Assitant was adamant that it was going to rain. “Absolutely.” She said, “Thunderstorms up the wahzoo all damned day long.” I’m paraphrasing a bit, but that’s essentially what she said. So I rolled up the windows all the way and grabbed my umbrella. You can imagine my surprise when I stepped out in the afternoon and not only had it not rained a single drop, but it was so damned sunny I thought I had somehow been transported to Florida.

I thought to myself, “Hey! Wouldn’t it be funny if I asked Google Assistant if it would rain today and it still insisted that it was going to?” My thinking being that perhaps it had meant it would rain in the evening hours. Then I got the bright idea to record myself asking if it would rain with the brightly shining sun directly behind my head thus illustrating how wrong Google’s supposed artificial intelligence could be. Ha ha!

In hindsight it should’ve been obvious to me that you can’t use voice commands while recording a video because, duh, the mic is busy with the video recording. to have pulled this off I would’ve needed two phones. So not only do I look like an idiot standing in the parking lot with an umbrella when it’s clearly nowhere close to raining, but now I also look like an idiot because I’m barking orders at my phone in a lame attempt at a joke that probably wouldn’t have worked anyway because Google Assistant would probably have told me: “No, of course not, you moron. Don’t you see that sun up there behind your friggin’ head?”

I especially like the bit where I thought that perhaps I just wasn’t speaking loudly enough so I moved the phone closer to my mouth thus revealing just how craggy my left eye socket really is. That’s some high quality eyebrow hair I got going on there.

So fuck you for ruining what would’ve been an entirely middling joke, Google.

 

Anil Seth’s TED Talk on what is consciousness.

What is consciousness? This is one of those questions that seems to be unanswerable, but according to Anil Seth consciousness is a form of controlled hallucination that we’re all having all the time. When we agree on our hallucinations we call that “reality.” He explains the idea behind this in a short TED Talk filmed this past April:

I find the concepts being explored in this fascinating and I wish it went into more depth. I’ll have to see if I can track down more on Anil’s work in this area.

One topic he touches on lightly that I found very interesting was his conclusion that sentient Artificial Intelligence is probably not going to be a problem because consciousness requires more than high intelligence to arise. I feel like there’s a good basis for a science fiction story in that idea, but I’ll be damned if I can nail it down.

Anyway, I thought this was both interesting and informative so I figured I’d share it.

Would you jump from a Ten Meter Tower?

This is fascinating. Take people who have never before jumped from a 10-meter diving platform and pay them a small amount to take the plunge. Then film it.

Ten Meter Tower – New York Times

Our objective in making this film was something of a psychology experiment: We sought to capture people facing a difficult situation, to make a portrait of humans in doubt. We’ve all seen actors playing doubt in fiction films, but we have few true images of the feeling in documentaries. To make them, we decided to put people in a situation powerful enough not to need any classic narrative framework. A high dive seemed like the perfect scenario.

Through an online advertisement, we found 67 people who had never been on a 10-meter (about 33 feet) diving tower before, and had never jumped from that high. We paid each of them the equivalent of about $30 to participate — which meant climbing up to the diving board and walking to its edge. We were as interested in the people who decided to climb back down as the ones jumping.

I’ve never jumped from a ten meter tower, but I have have from a 5 meter tower and that was pretty exhilarating at the time. I was in high school and thus in much better shape, but I still made sure not to belly flop from that height.

Could I do a ten meter tower today? I’d like to think I could with only some minor hesitation, but you never really know until you’re standing on the edge of that platform and looking down at the water.

Take a tour of a brand new 4 bedroom home in Tokyo.

Being that I am currently in the process of house hunting and have had a long-standing fascination with Japan, this video from the folks at Life Where I’m From that gives us a guided tour of a brand new four bedroom home in Japan caught my attention. The limited available land in Tokyo requires building homes right next to each other and they tend to be expensive. This particular home is over $400,000.

Check it out:

Note: You may need to click on the Closed Caption button at the bottom right for the English translations.

There are some very cool aspects to this home such as the control panels for filling the bathtub before you ever enter the room and the video intercom to see who is at the front door. I also like how many things are tucked away behind panels. That said, a stove without an oven and the overall cramped aspects of this house (let alone the price) make me glad I’m not living in Tokyo.

Randy Rainbow is the best thing about the Trump Presidency.

I discovered Randy Rainbow during the election and if I weren’t already married — and heterosexual — I’d marry this guy. Probably the only truly good thing about Trump winning the election is all the material he’s gonna be giving Randy to work with. Here’s his latest:

Humor is one of the best ways to cope with a bad situation and we’re gonna need a lot of it before this administration is done. Thankfully we have Randy to help keep us sane.

OK, I had to add one more:

The Idiot’s Guide to Japanese Apartments

Back in my early 20’s when I was big into anime and manga I would occasionally entertain the idea of moving to Japan and living the life of an expatriate. Then I looked into what it immigrating to Japan would require and opted to just live in Japan vicariously through anime and manga. The more I learned about Japan the more confident I became in my decision.

However, every now and then I wonder if I didn’t make the wrong decision. Then I see something like this video by Rachel and Jun and any doubts vanish:

In comparison to Japanese apartments (at least in the larger cities), the places I’ve rented are almost palatial in size. Which isn’t to say there aren’t a few features in this video I wouldn’t mind having in my own place. That control panel for filling the tub from any room is pretty wicked cool. That said, living in Michigan our earthquakes are rare and rather timid so all the earthquake proofing stuff is nothing I need worry about.

I only just discovered their YouTube channel and I’m loving it. They’ve been at it for the last 4 years so I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, but they tackle all sorts of interesting topics from modern Japanese table manners to gender equality in Japan to how to get an apartment in Japan. Being a Japanophile who decided staying home was a better option, this scratches a long standing itch and is just generally fascinating.

A couple more that I found very fascinating:

There’s several forms of Japanese clothing that I’ve always wanted to try because of how they look or how comfortable they appear to be. I wasn’t aware there had been controversies about it here in the States.

There’s a lot of “trivia” about Japan that makes the rounds. This video takes on some of those claims and whether they’re true.

I don’t know how many other folks who drop by are as fascinated by Japan as I am, but I’m in heaven watching these videos.

Why Christians are seen as the bad guys: Santa isn’t real edition.

Meet Christian pastor/asshole David Grisham of Last Frontier Evangelism. David isn’t happy with parents telling their kids that Santa Claus is watching over them and judging whether they’ve been good or bad and then rewarding them appropriately because that’s Jesus’ job. That’s why he took it upon himself to head to his local mall where parents and kids were lined up to visit Santa and tell everyone the truth about how he’s not real:

Of course the irony here is that Pastor Asshole is insisting that folks should substitute one myth for another. Regardless, he’s another example of a Christian who isn’t happy that some folks are celebrating Christmas in a manner he doesn’t approve of and he’ll be damned before he lets anyone get away with that.

He’s not all that different from the Christians who demand that people say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings.” Upset that someone, somewhere isn’t acknowledging the Christ is CHRISTmas, they post indignant Facebook memes insisting “Merry Christmas” is the only acceptable greeting as though there aren’t a multitude of religious holidays that take place this time of year and that someone might be something other than Christian.

Christmas is one of the best bits of PR Christians have going for them. It’s been embraced as a national holiday in a number of countries and is seen as a celebration not just of the birth of their imaginary friend, but as a celebration of peace and goodwill towards others. It encourages folks to reconnect with friends and families, to be kind and generous, and to aspire to being better people. Regardless of whether anyone buys into the idea of Jesus, the holiday goes a long way to making people be better than they usually are.

At least up until some Christian gets annoyed because they think the people celebrating aren’t putting enough emphasis on the Christ part and decides to ruin the goodwill by pissing all over how other people choose to celebrate. You guys need to realize this is as much a secular holiday as a religious one and has been for a very long time. More importantly, you should stop to think about how you look like an asshole every time you insist others should conform to how you think the holiday should be observed.

You can say Merry Christmas all you want and most folks you say it to are going to take it as a gesture of goodwill. There’s no need to ruin that by insisting everyone must celebrate the holiday the way you do.

Here is your feel-good Christmas commercial for the day.

Allegro, a polish online auction website, wins the heartstring-pull-of-the-day award with this:

I’m not crying, you’re crying.