Category: ‘Writings’

Short Story Work In Progress: The Two Day Forest

May 28, 2013 Posted by zachary

I have been toying with this idea for a story for a while now. It is part of the back story of the novel I am writing and I have wanted to flesh it out. Since I have been out of the swing of things with my novel and the world it is in I have decided to work on a few short stories based on the world. Here is the synopsis of the story:

The mayor of a small city is only a year away from an election. Not having done much to impress the voters and seal his next election, he decides to raise a specter of fear among the people so that he may be seen as a savior to the people. He decrees that the city is under a major threat from sorcery and that he will be creating a task force designed to stop this threat. Because of this new regime, a sorcerer living in the nearby forest is flushed out and is forced to confront the mayor. He attempts to first solve the problem peaceably but when that fails he is forced to use drastic measures to defend himself.

Starting off, we have two main characters:

Mayor Frances Dupree – He has been mayor of Windale for the last 3 years. He has been a fairly mundane leader and has not done anything real meaningful. He wants to be remembered by the people for many years to come and especially wants to make a good impression on the citizens and win the coming election.

Sorcerer Hawthorne Grendel – He mostly keeps to himself and lives in the woods that border the north side of Windale. He has a strong knack for potions, spells and transformations. He has been mostly unknown by those in the town until a decree from the mayor flushes him out.

The Basic Outline for the story:

  • Frances discusses his coming election with his advisers
  • Frances announces his new anti-sorcery program to the people
  • The program weeds out a few “token” sorcerers
  • Hawthorne is flushed out and confronts the mayor
  • Hawthorne curses Frances in a bout of rage at not finding a solution
  • Hawthorne leaves and is not heard from for several months.
  • The people of Windale prepare for the planting season
  • Nightmarish begin attacking the people after dark
  • In response to the threat, the mayor decides that the only way to protect the people is to cut back the forest.
  • The people spend the entire planting and growing season to cut back the forest to prevent the creatures from attacking.
  • Frances loses his next election as the people lose favor of him and his policies.

So that is the start of it. Over the next week or so, I will be fleshing it out and writing the first couple of drafts. Look for more of it here.

Recently On Techdirt: Catching Up

April 14, 2012 Posted by zachary

So I have been slacking on my blurbs from Techdirt. I have way to many articles since my last summary so I will simply link the headlines unless I want to say something about it. There is a bit about SOPA, some complaints about Ubisoft, a lot about game companies doing awesome things, others doing absolutely stupid things, some interesting perspectives on competing with piracy, some strange events around erotic fiction ebooks and more.

Sega Gets It Right About SOPA: It’s Time For A Hard Reset On Copyright Law & Congress

You can buy a t-Shirt about this one at my RandomTower CafePress store.

CD Projekt Listens To Fans, Abandons Piracy Witch Hunt

ESA Tucks Its Tail Between Its Legs And Pulls SOPA Support

After Years Of Near Obscurity, Atari Turns To Copyright Trolling

Tales From Ubisoft DRM: Latest DRM Goes From Horrible To Slightly Less Horrible

Ubisoft Cuts Off Legit Players With DRM Server Migration; Pirates Play On

If People Like You And Your Work They’ll Pay; If They Like Your Work, But Don’t Like You, They’ll Infringe

You should follow Robert Boyd on Twitter.

If You Want To Compete With Free, This Is What You Need To Know

You should follow Lars Doucet on Twitter. He even wrote a pair of follow up articles on this concept. Part 1Part 2. Part 3.

Paypal Pressured To Play Morality Cop And Forces Smashwords To Censor Authors

Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. Using Trademark Law To Prevent The Use Of Public Domain Stories

Mojang and Bethesda Reach A Settlement In ‘Scrolls’ Trademark Dispute

Authors Can Sleep Easy Now; Paypal Reverses Its Censorship Decision

Finding Success In A Wasteland By Being Open, Human And Awesome

Stardock CEO Wants To Maximize Sales, Not Stop Piracy

New York Convinces Game Companies To Kick Registered Sex Offenders Off Gaming Services

This one is frustrating to no end. If I have time soon, I will probably write about sex offender registries on my Mormon Libertarian blog soon.

Zenimax Files For Trademark On A Skyrim Internet Meme

Yep. I have a t-shirt for this one too.

The Past Three Weeks on Techdirt: Dec 19 – Jan 6

January 6, 2012 Posted by zachary

So with the Christmas Holiday I didn’t write a whole lot and I am just now getting back into writing again for Techdirt. So this time I am combining the last 3 weeks together, for a grand total of 4 articles. Yes I know that doesn’t seem to be a lot. 3 of them were from the last week so it isn’t so bad. Here they are:

Public Opposition Accelerates As Latest Anti-SOPA Petition Hits Goal In Two Days

There are two White House petitions asking Obama to veto the SOPA and PIPA legislation. The first one met its 25,000 signature goal in 2 weeks and the second one hit its 25,000 signature goal in 2 days. That is incredibly awesome. With the massive public backlash against SOPA and PIPA, I don’t know how Obama would be able to justify signing them into law if he values winning in the next election.

Mommy’s Best Games Says ESA SOPA Support Should End

Mommy’s Best Games, creators of Serious Sam Double D, wrote a very good article calling for game developers and gamers to contact ESA member companies to ask them to oppose SOPA and pressure the ESA to do so as well. Let’s hope that more gamers and developers follow through with  the request and SOPA gets opposed.

ESA Officially Supports SOPA, VGVN Members Left In The Cold

Sadly, the ESA seems to be dedicated to supporting SOPA while at the same time leaving members of its “grassroots” organization, Videogame Voters Network, out in the cold. Gamers joined the group in order to protect the rights of gamers and SOPA is in direct contrast to that end. I have always been wary of the VGVN as I knew from the beginning that it could never truly be a gamers’ rights group as long as it was owned and run by the ESA. Join the ECA instead.

PC Gaming Alliance Remains ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ On SOPA

While the PCGA is one of the lesser known games industry trade groups, I still thought it was important to reach out to them for their opinion. They seem to have taken a different, although not necessarily better, tactic than the ESA. They recognize the need to stop piracy, but are remaining mostly neutral on SOPA and PIPA until they get more information from their members and the bills get a lot more review.

So that’s it for the 3 weeks. More will follow.

Changes To Random Battle’s Copyright Notice

December 16, 2011 Posted by zachary

I made a HUGE mistake when I published my book on Smashwords. I was reading the preview of another book, Digilife written by a friend Timothy Geigner, and his copyright notice got me thinking about mine.  I put in no thought into the copyright notice that Smashwords requires in all books it publishes. I thought the requirement was a little annoying and so I just copy/pasted one of the example copyright notices. Then I got to thinking about it and how much it disagreed with my overall philosophy with copyright.

Here is the original copyright notice:

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

I think this is very bad for many reasons. Chief amongst these is the first sentence. I hate the idea of things we buy only being “licenses”. That is so limiting and frustrating for many reasons. I hate it. Too many businesses are moving in the direction of wanting to remove any kind of fair use and first sale rights that we still enjoy. I don’t want to be a part of that.

Second, I don’t mind you giving this book to other people. That is how word spreads. In fact, I feel so strongly about this that I made the whole book freely available on my website. So why would I care that you let your friend or family member borrow it.

Third, The idea that I am upset with the idea that you didn’t pay for it prior to reading it as implied in the second to last sentence is absolutely absurd. I am not upset in any way. I am happy that people have read my book.

With these thoughts in mind, I wrote a new copyright notice that reflects my thoughts on this matter, and even references the book itself. So here is the new copyright notice:

My thoughts on copyright are very flexible as can be seen when reading Chapters 2, 3 and 7 of this book. While I would love for you to pay for this book, I can understand why you might be reluctant to do so. If you do find that you like it and want me to write more, feel free to drop a buck on it.

So there you have it. Enjoy the book.

The Past Two Weeks On Techdirt: Dec 5 – 16

December 16, 2011 Posted by zachary

Last week I only had two posts go live on Techdirt, so I decided to wait for this week to end before writing up my summary of posts. There were some pretty neat stories to share.

Red Cross Wants Real Life Laws Enforced Within Virtual Worlds

The Red Cross has decided that video games depicting war should have international laws governing wars such as the Geneva and Hague Conventions enforced within the game. They want game designers to voluntarily do this or it may consider the need to enforce it by government regulation. We all know how that turned out for violence in games.

Copyright Office Once Again Preparing To Throw Citizens A Fair Use Bone

The Copyright Office is accepting proposals for exemptions to the DMCA’s anti-circumvention language. The EFF wants to be able to jailbreak smartphones, tablets and game consoles. It plus Public Knowledge and the Association of Research Libraries want to be able to bypass the encryption on DVDs for a variety of reasons. Of course this whole process of begging for fair use rights every 3 years is absolutely ridiculous.

Humble Indie Bundle Well On Its Way To Break Sales Record

A new Humble Indie Bundle is upon us and is already raking in the money. It earned its first $500k in a little over 4 hours and its first million within 16. There are some great games there. Check it out now and buy some games.

CD Projekt Shakes Down Suspected File Sharers

CD Projekt has disappointed me by following in the footsteps of the entities such as the RIAA and Righthaven and has decided to send out shakedown letters to suspected file sharers. While trying to protect its copyrights is a noble goal, basing such a move on the flimsy evidence that is ip addresses is very frustrating.

Judge Says OtherOS Removal Was A Bad Business Decision But Not Illegal

The Judge overseeing the OtherOS class action suit against Sony has ruled that Sony did nothing illegal in removing the OtherOS feature. He then threw out the case. This is a relief for Sony but frustrating for those who would like to own their video game console outright.

Microsoft Reminds Everyone: You Do Not Own Your Software

Microsoft has decided that people who buy software through its new Windows 8 App Store are not really buying the software, merely licensing it. This is continuing a trend within the software industry that frustrates and harms buyers. Since we are only licensing the software, Microsoft can disable it on a whim and we have no recourse. Suck.

So that is it for the last two weeks. I hope you enjoy.

This Week On Techdirt: Nov 28 – Dec 2

December 3, 2011 Posted by zachary

This week I only managed to wring out 2 articles. It was a rather busy week for me. But the two articles I did get were important ones, at least as far as I am concerned.

Ubisoft Director Backtracks On Piracy Complaints After Public Lashing

This isn’t the first time I have called Ubisoft out on their inane aversion to PC gaming. It probably won’t be the last. This time an Ubisoft Exec is complaining about piracy and using it as an excuse to not release a PSN/XBox Live game on the PC. It is really sad especially when two developers from other studios are having tremendous success on the PC in spite of piracy.

Elvis Costello Tells His Fans ‘Steal This Record’

Elvis Costello wrote a very interesting article on his official website. In this article he called out his label for pricing a box set package at an insane price of $225. He thought the price should have been far lower. So he decided that his fans deserved more and told them not to buy the box set and in stead buy Louis Armstrong’s collectors set that was only $150 and had far better music according to Costello.

So that is it for this week. Tune in next week to see what else I have in store.

Read Random Battles For Free

December 1, 2011 Posted by zachary

So I have decided to go with a little experiment. Since I am new to the Kindle publishing world and most of my writing has been confined to my blog and those other various places I have written, I have decided that the best thing for me to do is to offer the complete text of my book Random Battles for free.  Seriously, check it out.

The whole thing is available here on my website in web form. So feel free to read it, link to it, do what ever it is you like. If you like what I have written and would like a copy of your very own, you can buy it on Amazon or on SmashWords. By paying for a copy of your own, you will be supporting me as I continue to write. I have two more book in that series I want to write plus another book covering legal issues games have faced in the past.

What I plan to do with the money raised from the book is use it to help me get on the path to working full time on my game company with my brother. We really want to be able to do that instead of working for other people. I will also be able to use that money to help me write more on my blogs that you all love so much.

So check it out.

This week on Techdirt: Nov. 14 – 18

November 19, 2011 Posted by zachary

This week is a rather short week. I didn’t have a lot of time to write new articles. So, there are only two of mine and one from the ECA. Doesn’t really change the importance of the topics discussed, so let’s jump right in.

Gamex Pulls The Welcome Mat Out From Under The Pirate Party

The Swedish Pirate Party was invited to the Swedish game show Gamex. Just a week before the show, after they have paid for  their booth and have been featured on advertising for the show, the people running the show told them they weren’t invited. Apparently someone wasn’t very happy about the Pirate Party’s presence and pressured the show to lock them out. It wasn’t a blanket ban on political speech as another political group was allowed there.

Everyone Freak Out! Gangs Have Discovered The Internet!

Yes. Gangs have discovered the internet. The National Gang Assessment Center does an annual study on gangs and what they are up to. This year got some attention in the game world because the study mentioned Second Life, a popular MMO, as a tool gangs use to communicate. I delved in a bit deeper into the whole section on technology that basically says that gangs are using the internet to communicate. You know, just like everybody else. This isn’t some new thing, it just seems the federal government is a few years behind everyone else in figuring this out.

SOPA/PROTECT IP Would Be Hideously Bad For Video Gamers

This one wasn’t written by me. This is from Jennifer Mercurio of the ECA. I had asked the ECA to write up a guest article on why SOPA would be bad for gamers and this is what they sent over. Great stuff. I am extremely glad that I had the opportunity to work with the ECA for a number of years and still keep in touch with them. It’s nice to have connections.

So that’s it for this week. I have a few new articles lined up for next week so keep an eye out.

This Month on Techdirt: Oct 10 – Nov 9

November 13, 2011 Posted by zachary

So I have been bad. I meant to focus on these articles on a weekly basis and have been slacking this past month. It is not that I have not been busy, but I have neglected my blog for the most part. I did get out an announcement of my new book, Random Battles, and write an open letter to my Congressman and Senators. So there is that. Plus this month had a whole lot of articles on Techdirt. So here we go.

Netflix Kills Qwikster Before It Has A Chance To Live

Netflix made the mistake of trying to break its DVD by mail service from its streaming service without taking into consideration what their customers actually wanted. That turned out to be a bad idea and they backed out.

Barnes & Noble Doesn’t Get Digital DC Comics, Throws Hissy Fit

Barnes & Noble and Amazon are in a bit of a war over digital comics. Amazon won exclusive rights to a segment of DC’s digital line. So in retaliation, B&N removed all the physical copies of those comics form their shelves citing a policy of “make available any book, anywhere, anytime” Yeah, I don’t get how tis move complies with that either.

Universal Backs Away From Planned $60 VOD Release Of Tower Heist

Who knew that charging $60 to watch a movie one time was a bad idea? Oh, right, everyone except Universal. (more…)

Announcing: Random Battles Book 1

November 11, 2011 Posted by zachary

Today is the official announcement for the first in a 3 part series of books on my observations and outlook on the games industry and how it effects the lives of gamers. The book is Random Battles: A Gamer’s Guide to What the Crap is Happening in the Games Industry and can be purchased at Amazon for the Kindle. In keeping with my philosophy on the issues, the book is available worldwide without DRM or installation restrictions.

For a sample of what the book is about, I am including the introduction and a snippet of one of the chapters.

Introduction: The Games We Love

Ever since my mom brought home the TI-99, I have been a gamer. I have played games on that, the Atari 2600, the Apple IIe, the NES, SNES, Genesis, Atari Jaguar, Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance, DS, PS1, PS2, GameCube, Wii, PS3 and various forms of the PC. I have gamed all my life. Ever since playing my first game, I knew I wanted to work in the industry as well. Gaming has changed my life.

Ever since the introduction of the internet I have immersed myself in gaming culture. I follow the changes in the industry, follow trends in game design, distribution and monetization. These changes have fascinated me on several levels. However, throughout the whole of it, I have retained what I think is a unique mindset. I still consider myself a gamer first and a game developer second. This means that any decision I make or position I take is most often leans on the side of the gamer.

This mindset has often put me at heads with those in the games industry. Many of them have forgotten what it means to be a gamer and make many decisions that negatively impact gamers world wide. Luckily, not everyone in the industry is like that and these people are working to change gaming for the better.

Within these pages, you will find many of my observations, thoughts, opinions and predictions regarding many issues with gaming. While it is not a comprehensive look at gaming, It covers many of the broader and more pertinent topics I have observed. Within these pages you will read about Piracy, Used Game Sales, DRM, Accessibility and many other issues.

I hope that those who read this book will look at the topics with an open mind and try to understand just what makes a gamer tick when it comes to these issues. I would also hope that those gamers who read this will take the advice I give in these chapters to better influence gaming for everyone in the world. That is my goal at least.

Chapter 3: Digital Rights Management

No discussion about piracy can be complete without bringing up Digital Rights Management or DRM. DRM is a tool used to prevent the widespread pirating of digital goods such as games.

It has a long and sordid history and has had varying levels of non-success and failure. It has taken such forms as the disk check, dongles, codes from manuals and even online verification. The worst offenses have caused damage to gamers’ computers and have caused all kinds of ill will amongst gamers.

Let’s take a bit of look at various forms of DRM.

Dread Forms of DRM

Like any good Mimic, DRM takes the form of a “benefit” to the gamer, and like all Mimics, ends with the player barely surviving the encounter.

In the early days of gaming, DRM was often found as secret codes that one had to enter into the game at various intervals. For instance, in the original Warcraft the player had to enter a seemingly random word from the game’s manual in order to play the game for the first time. This is fine for the original owners of the game, but as manuals became lost or damaged, it would cause all kinds of problems.

Other games relied on dongles that needed to be plugged into certain ports on the gamer’s PC. Again, these were okay until the dongle became lost or broken. This isn’t widely used any more due to its impracticality.

The next evolution of the dongle is the modern video game console. Proprietary hardware that is required for a game to run. This has allowed game developers many protections as it is often more difficult, though not impossible, to stop piracy when the hardware is locked down.

We also have the disk check. Most older PC games will install everything except a few bits of executable code, or assets and such onto the hard drive. This leaves a few things for the game that need to be pulled off the disk. However, as hard drive space grew it became more practical for everything to be stored on the faster hard drive. So the only thing left on the disk was a signature for the game to check against. If the game couldn’t detect the disk, it wouldn’t run.

With the internet age, developers were able to create a new kind of DRM. This one uses a process to ping a server and validate the game with the mother server. There have been varying levels of this starting with a simple one time registration to an “always on” connection.

Those are just a few kinds of DRM that gamers have encountered over the years. Some of it was okay and others were far more horrible.

The Purpose of DRM

So what is the purpose of DRM? Well, if you ask most any publisher, they will tell you that it is to protect their investment from theft through piracy. If you ask any gamer though you get a different story. They will tell you the purpose of DRM is to annoy us into ever more complicated hoop jumps, or to fight the used games market.

From my observation, DRM is nothing more than a way to avoid blame when a game is a failure. They claim it is to stop piracy, but when a game fails they can point to piracy and declare, “No matter how hard we try we just can’t win.” Then they stop making games for PCs and move to consoles.

So if DRM is not effective, why do they continue to use it? For the most part, it is because of investor pressure. Most DRM advocates are from publicly traded game companies such as EA, Activision or Ubisoft. They are pressured by their shareholders and investors to protect their investments from loss. With this pressure they have to put out measures that make it look like they are trying to stop piracy of their games. In reality, these moves are fruitless and the people being forced to implement them, the developers, know it. They recognize that trying to stop piracy is like trying to stop the tide from rolling in.