jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

PlayStation Home is closing down next week.

It was like Second Life, but with long loading times for managing your inventory. It ran only on the PS3. It was funded by microtransactions, both directly to Sony and from their cut of third-party developers' takes. Players could choose their wardrobes and decorate their homes and clubhouses, but could not create items or spaces themselves.

Final Fantasy XI is ending its content updates late this year.

It was an early-2000's era MMO, with far more haters than fans. The Final Fantasy name inspired a number of people to try it out, while its punishing mechanics and near-complete lack of in-game directions left most of those people disappointed. Those who toughed it out were rewarded with stories and cutscenes which were sometimes incomprehensible, but always breathtaking and epic ... just like in most Final Fantasy games.

These games were my homes.

FFXI got us through the worst years of our family of origin's abuse, and helped us find the self-confidence to take on a leadership role. Home came installed on a PlayStation 3 we received as a gift, soon after coming out as transgender, and it was one of our biggest lifelines. We were too scared to go outside, but we could log on and feel like we were actually with other people. And explore spaces we never could otherwise.

We tried to log in to Home tonight. It hurt too much, to see the place all but abandoned. I think it hurts more than it normally would, because of all the other people and things that we've lost in just the past few years. Just this month, someone we care about deeply and used to be able to call family told us to GTFO, apparently because our religious beliefs are now unacceptable to them.

Nearly everything that we've known in our life has basically died in a fire, and sometimes we feel like we died along with them. Sometimes, all we can do is sit here paralyzed and wish that someone would come back. Or that we hadn't driven them off, or that we hadn't been unable to be around them, or even just that we knew why they had gone.

Either way, we're sorry. And we hurt a lot, sometimes. Like right now.

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)
This essay compares another platform's user and developer experience to GNOME's, in an attempt to understand how to make GNOME accessible to app developers.

I'm watching a presentation about PlayStation Home given at GDC (Game Developers' Conference) 2010, and what amazes me is how easy it seems to be to make stuff for Sony's version of Second Life. It uses industry-standard 3d modeling software (sadly not Blender), and simple Lua scripts to hold everything together. The guy giving the presentation explicitly said he wanted a graphic artist to be able to try out the developer's kit and have a good idea of what they could make from it very quickly, and at every step there are tons of examples and validators which point out potential problems.

The end result is decidedly niche, since it only runs on the PlayStation 3 and takes forever to load (both Home itself and each "scene" in it). I've personally had a lot of fun with it, though, because it's even easier to play than it is to develop for. If Second Life is like a hardcore custom KDE or Windows 7 desktop (running in classic mode!), Home's more like GNOME 3 in that it's extremely simple to play and easy to control and customize your avatar.

SL makes darned near anything possible, but everything's clicky and difficult, and the end result is like a 3d modeling app crossed with a chatroom with bad lag. Home makes a number of trade-offs versus SL that make it more usable:
  • Your avatar can perform fewer actions, but they're all much easier to select.

  • It automatically sorts your inventory into folders, based on how you wear something or what kind of object it is.

  • Instead of rendering scenes or avatars gradually, it takes up to a minute to load each scene fully, and displays a transparent "ghost" person for avatars which haven't loaded completely yet.

  • Scenes themselves are completely self-contained. They can connect with each other through doors or teleporters, but there is no "mainland" area.

  • There's a dedicated game API for developers who want to make games in Home, which is less flexible than SL's open-endedness but makes it a lot easier to write games.

Very few people use Home or SL regularly, and the ones who do tend to be hardcore fans. In SL's case, the interface turns people off, along with how pointless it feels if you don't have friends there or aren't into kink. In Home's case, the long loading times (worse than other PS3 titles) don't help, plus the fact that it's basically a platform for Facebook-style social games where you play as yourself. Plus the fact that it's only on one game console, and isn't that heavily promoted. All of these factors limit Home's audience.

What Home does, though, it does better than Second Life IMO. Even if you toss out Linden Lab's marketing and take SL for the 3d modeling chatroom it is, it's just plain incredibly clunky to use. You have to really be captivated by it to even learn the basic controls. Whereas with Home, you can pick up a controller and play immediately if you can stand the long loading times. I just wish they'd tell people "you can use USB keyboards" when they log in, because one of my friends didn't know that.

Home's biggest limitations are that, from a player's point of view, it's tied to the PlayStation 3; and from a developer's point of view, it's tied to Sony. You need to be a Sony-approved developer, and pay a few thousand dollars for a dev kit. It's not like SL where anyone can jump in and start designing outfits. And while it's also not a griefer's paradise (with a large red light district) like SL is, there's still a lot of harassment in it.

PlayStation Home: Of the devil?

In the Free Software community, we might say that Home is immoral because of how proprietary it is. Tying your stuff to one platform and company is only one way to limit freedom, though, and Home seems to empower both users and developers in ways that (for instance) OpenSim doesn't. Partly because of the network effects and built-in PS3 audience, but also partly because that's what it was made to do, was be simple and widely accessible.

Learning to write GNOME applications, I was struck by how basic it seemed at its core. That a few lines of code, in a simple language, could create an elegant app. I just had to go through a lot of IMO unnecessary work in order to find out how to make that happen to begin with.

I documented what I learned, with the help of my mentor, but it hasn't been nearly enough. I want the best Free Software desktop to also be the most accessible to novice developers, even those who just want to write apps and aren't interested in "contributing to the community." Because requiring someone to be an established C guru, who fits in on GNOME IRC, in order to start writing apps isn't really that different from Sony's gatekeeping. Not from the perspective of someone who wants to create something and hasn't a clue where to start.

Let's make things better

If anyone's interested in contributing, this page explains how to get started hacking the developer docs, while this page outlines where I want to go with JavaScript's. I don't have a lot of free time to work on it in between using my limited spoons to deal with depression and transitioning, but I'm trying to document things that occur to me, and I'm open to hearing suggestions.

Still alive

Jan. 1st, 2013 07:10 pm
jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)
For much of 2012, I didn't honestly think I'd survive it. Whether because things were just plain rough in general, or because after being rejected last Christmas everything that reminded me this holiday season would drive me to despair.

But, somehow I made it. I feel like I've learned a lot, and that I'm stronger now. Not because breaking someone's arm makes the arm stronger afterwards, but because broken arms eventually heal, and you can at least learn from the experience. I don't think that I've fully healed yet, but I feel like I've passed the test, so to speak, and have been trying to get back in business.

Speaking of business

I have two commissions outstanding that I need to complete. After that, I would like to take more. Complicating that are the fact that my living space, computer, and website(s) are extremely disorganized after a year of living day to day, and that I need to keep writing articles to pay rent.

My old approach to productivity was to decide far in advance what had to be done today, fall short because of distraction or despair, then kick myself and be even less productive afterwards. This year, or at least for this past week, I've been trying something different.

First, I'm making a log of everything I get done in a day that I consider "productive," with writing work bolded. This way I have records that prove I'm not lazy, even when my depression tells me that I am. Looking at them, it turns out that I do a lot of cooking and cleaning and organizing, as well as projects to help other people and sometimes-difficult necessary social interactions (like calling tech support). Some of these things might be trivial to other people, but they cost me metaphorical spoons, and logging them serves to remind me of that as well.

And second, instead of trying to write two articles a weekday (which was proving too difficult in 2012 even though I'd managed more than that the year previous), I'm writing one article per day, full stop. Even if I have a depressive episode, I feel I can still hopefully maintain that. Furthermore, if I get more than a single article completed I'm spending some or all of the money from that on myself. There are a lot of things I need to get, still. Plus getting nice things improves my morale, as does seeing that I'm capable of doing this much work.

What I (would like to) use

Nearly every part of my setup this year got upgraded. My boyfriend, [personal profile] aliaspseudonym, bought me a new ThinkPad Edge E430, along with a 16 GB Nexus 7. The laptop was custom-built with a Core i5 processor and a solid-state cache drive, which is perfect for installing a minimal (lightning-fast) Linux setup. I wish that it had more hard drive space for Steam games though (more on this later).

Besides that, I got a free smartphone upgrade from my wireless carrier, and a generous friend gifted their 80 GB backwards-compatible PlayStation 3 they were no longer using. I've had a lot of fun in PlayStation Home, which is sort of like Second Life but with less bondage and much better controls. It's done a lot to improve my morale, and help me feel less isolated and give me the chance to interact with others and explore. Plus, the (small, inexpensive, open-box discounted) HDTV that I got for it works extremely well as a second monitor for my laptop.

Probably the most unexpected upgrade was a free game controller for my tablet, thanks to a promotion by Moga. All I (and everyone else who read Android Police) had to do was pay shipping, which was less than the cost of the bundled games. It doesn't work with very many titles, but it's compact and well-designed, and comes with a very nice slipcase that's almost exactly the size of my tablet.

I'd next like to get some of the tablet accessories I put on my holiday wish list, like a Poetic case, Wacom stylus and portable stand. A keyboard is also a must, although I'd need one which can fit in my bag. I really love the idea, though, of having a complete game console and workstation computer inside my handbag at all times. It makes me feel warm and secure, and reminds me of the Palm Pilot setup I used to have (with a folding keyboard) except better. Plus it's more portable than my new laptop, although it's more portable than my old one.

A holly-jolly something or other

Christmas was nonexistent for me this year. There were no decorations indoors (or spoons to put them up with), and I didn't spend it with anyone in person.

What I had was "just like any other Tuesday, except there's presents." From my sister [personal profile] cfmv, from Alias, and from a ton of online game stores which all held massive sales at the same time. And I suddenly had gadgets that I could play them on. >_>

I grabbed both of Square-Enix's Chaos Rings games for less than the price of one. Bioshock 1 and 2 were on sale for $5 altogether. Same with Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel. The first two Mass Effect games were $5-10 each. All these games I'd always wanted to play, and even a few extras that I was pleasantly surprised by. I got pretty much every game on my list this year, including the big ones (Xcom and Guild Wars 2), and a bunch that I didn't put on my list because I couldn't justify the cost. But suddenly -- between the ridiculous sales, a larger-than-expected monthly bonus, Alias' having more hours at his job this month, and another friend helping provide us with Christmas dinner and baking supplies and things -- the cost was no longer an issue.

So many sales. o.o; And two Humble Bundles, and Steam's Big Picture sale of controller-based games. All in one month. Plus the tablet game controller that inexplicably fell in my lap.

It not only helped distract me from the depression, it's probably going to carry me through until next December at this rate. >_>; I'm still planning on getting FFXIV: A Realm Reborn and FFXI: Seekers of Adoulin this year, but I'm waiting on subscribing to either right now. Instead, I've been too busy plowing through KotOR (and going to holiday events in PlayStation Home).

Extremely long digression about technology stuff )

Finally some family stuff

Most of you probably already know how my family dropped me like a rock right before Christmas 2011, when I came out to them as trans. They didn't stop contacting me then, though. Within a few months my dad was congratulating me about winning an award, and asking me what he should call me.

I just about bit his head off. Not because he was being impolite, or doing anything wrong at the time. But because his actions had put me through hell very recently, and cost me an extra $100 a month because of complicated lease-related stuff.

I couldn't ignore what they did to hurt me anymore. I couldn't just let them get away with this, like they had with everything else. Not because I want revenge. Because I don't want to be hurt again. I don't want them to feel they can hurt me at will, can lash out at me with no consequence and no apologies, and act like this is normal and okay.

I tried to reconcile with them, over a period of several months. But this time, "maintaining the status quo" was no longer an option. I'm honestly not sure I care if they "disapprove of my lifestyle" or not. I just didn't want to have to pretend that I didn't have both a boyfriend and a significant other; that I wasn't female; that I wasn't transitioning; and that my family's actions hadn't hurt me. Hadn't made last year hell for me, and put me at much higher risk of all kinds of dangerous things ... according to the research in a pamphlet written for Mormon parents of LGBT kids, which I kept trying to show them.

I don't want to have to be in the closet for them. Not about being trans, and not about being an abuse survivor. Not when I almost died there.

I pressed them for an apology. But what I really wanted was acknowledgment of the fact that what they had done to me was Not Okay, assurance that it would Never Happen Again, and recognition of what I was going through. That it wasn't like what they thought, and that whatever the heck they thought it was like, it was something I needed to do. That I loved and depended on both my significant others, that if I didn't transition I'd die, and that if they didn't want me to die they Must Not push me in a harmful direction.

I was unable to persuade them of any of the above. I am no longer speaking with them, and haven't for several months now. A "family" you can't be yourself around, can't ask for (at least moral) support with your troubles, and can't ever let down your guard around or you'll get hurt, is not family at all. It's less than worthless; it's harmful.

I'm glad to have my new sister, and am looking forward to spending next year with her and [personal profile] rev_yurodivy and my boyfriend and the extremely supportive friends that I've made here on Dreamwidth.

Happy new year, everyone.
jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)
Content note: This essay will very briefly touch on Mormon religious concepts, as an illustration to a point. This is not just more ranting about stuff that I used to believe.

The concept in question is the idea of "eternal progress." I was taught that this was something which set my old church apart from the Brand X(-tian) churches out there, which all supposedly thought we'd be sitting on clouds in heaven and singing forever and ever. On top of that, we supposedly had "continuing revelation" even in this life, where God's living prophet would tell us new things which were tailored for our day and age.

I really believed all of this. And I believed that "heaven," for that matter, wasn't simply an unquestionably good place that believers were rewarded with. Rather, I believed that there were two kinds of people who didn't go to heaven: The unworthy who knew and regretted their unworthiness, and the unworthy who didn't see heaven as heaven because they'd been twisted around so much they didn't know up from down. They didn't want to go there, and if they could it wouldn't be heaven to them. They simply couldn't appreciate it.

(I may have mixed in some Planescape theology there.)

A couple years after I left my old church, it hit me that this was exactly right. Because back there, they were still teaching the same "Sunday School answers" to every problem, at least the ones they acknowledged existed. And God's living prophet was still telling the same old stories about widows and stuff. Even their new website about "Mormons and Gays" (trigger warning for homophobia) explicitly says "we don't know" why God doesn't want gays to get married. This is what it's come to, now that their old reasons have been disproven. And while the rest of the first world is moving towards marriage equality, they're having a hissy fit over women wearing pants to church.

It's progress, but it's glacially slow and decades behind. And most of their discourse is still the same-old.

Progressive software

Why do I bring all this up? Because I've been realizing how unhealthy it is for me to dwell on that garbage, and trying to find new things to occupy my time with. And while looking at different forums and blogs, I realized I felt more at home on Planet Ubuntu than most more traditional "Free Software" blogs, although Planet GNOME's a close second and I also like Máirín Duffy's blog. And I realized the reason why was the same as with the above: Because in my personal experience, Free Software zealots in the vein of the Free Software Foundation are fundamentalists, who are as anti-progressive as the ones in the church that I left.

So while GNOME is moving design radically forward, they're throwing fits about it. While Máirín's teaching Girl Scouts to use Inkscape, they're making fun of her and staging juvenile protests on Planet Fedora, against the idea of making it easier to use and get involved with. And while the Outreach Program for Women is bringing new writers and contributors into the fold, they're trolling our blogs and insisting we're making stuff up about harassment and other issues that they do not face.

(I realize "they" is amorphous here, so for the sake of discussion it means "the people who do these things." I associate "them" with the FSF because I see it as the least progressive, most fundamentalist arm of the Free Software movement, which I associate in my mind more with their boycotts and insistence on purity than anything -- like the GNU project, or the gcc compiler, or the GPL -- that they may have actually done or created at some point. I'm open to being proven wrong here; I'm aware that people and organizations change, and have been especially impressed with some of Microsoft's recent products. This is just an impression I have, based on who they call their enemy and why.)

I guess what I'm saying is I realized I like the culture in Ubuntu and GNOME, where the emphasis is on moving forward (albeit in different directions for different reasons), and on bringing this stuff that we have to as many people as possible, and even on changing it so as to be more useful and accessible. Whereas in other projects, and communities, and of course churches, I see more of an emphasis on preaching (or appearing to preach) the same fundamentals over and over again, to the point of insulting people it doesn't appeal to or help instead of asking them why.

Progressive gaming?

I realize it's slightly ironic that I'm saying all this when my favourite computer game ever was made about 10 years ago. >_> In FFXI's case, though, I really haven't seen anything better at doing what it does best, for me personally. Most MMOs these days tend to copy World of Warcraft, with its looting and button-mashing and information overload UI. And they don't even do a good job of it.

For me, FFXI isn't a game so much as a world, that I experience in a particular way. It has a minimalist interface that's designed to be played with a game controller. It's immersive, and sort of invites contemplation. Chatting's normally done by text instead of headset. And the pace is extremely different. The only games I know of which come close to how it feels (which I didn't describe very well) are PlayStation Home and FFXIV, both of which I either play or am hoping to play when it comes to the PS3.

I realize now that a lot of the things I lament about missing, that were around in the "good old days" of FFXI, are things that made the game hostile to newbies. I feel good about triumphing over them, but countless others got discouraged and left. I like seeing the game make some progress on this front, and I have high hopes for FFXIV: A Realm Reborn. I want to see this style of game that I like stay young, and bring in new players. I don't want to only be surrounded by people my age, and with my exact preferences. And I don't want all that we talk about to be how things aren't like what they used to be.

In conclusion

I guess there's not really a point to all this. I just figured I ought to write more Dreamwidth essays. Most of the realizations I've been having and progress I've been making, in the last few weeks, I've only been sharing on Skype. I figure I ought to change that, since people seem to like my writing.

About us

~ Fox | Gem | Rei ~

We tell stories, paint minis, collect identity words, and share them all with our readers. If something we write helps you, let us know.

~ She / her ~

Subscribe

RSS Atom

Tags

Style Credit

Page generated Apr. 24th, 2017 08:53 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios