Ignore the Base

Canada is in the midst of a weirdly (by any objective aside from political) timed election. It’s relatively short, some 32 days long before we all head to the polls. Which is fun because some countries spend half their term in the election cycle, meaning they only work half the time on their actual mandate (at best).

First, the basis that Canada has generally been a fiscally conservative and socially liberal country. There’s been a general sharing of power across the parties for a very long time, with both offering centrist platforms.

As with many countries, there are polarizing bits within the nation. We are a physically large country, but 80% of the entire population lives within the US border and urban centers. Proportional representation clearly favors one side, while equal representation would dramatically shift the national agenda. In the olden days, this was less of an issue as the matters of a local area didn’t often conflict at the national level – groups were relatively self-sufficient. In the post-Thatcher/Regan era of global multi-corporations + the massive proliferation of social media the world has shifted nearly completely and within a generation. The ‘financial hubs’ of our country have pushed a particular agenda, and well, the other parts are stuck playing catch up, if at all. This dissonance causes anger because people feel (are) ignored.

I am overly simplifying between urban and other settings. It’s dramatically more complex.

Each political party has a base. In a multi-party system, this base can shift around a bit. In a 2 party system, the bases don’t move. In Canada, we have 2 right-wing parties, and 3 left-wing parties. Only 1 of each wing has ever held national power, the wings that are closer to center and therefore have a wider base. The fringes of a given wing have typically been inconsequential due to lack of size. That said, as we’ve all learned, there is a very loud minority out there. The crazies have no shame after all (and the echo chamber effect cannot be ignored).

The current regional polling reflects this space. Where the numbers are similar at a national level, you have a federal platform. Where the numbers shift dramatically, you have a local platform. The CPC (right wing) absolutely dominates the prairies, where there are very small urban centers. This is their base, and even if the platform was to shoot laser kittens into the sun, they would still have the base come out and vote. This is due to the lack of competition (the PPC is at 3% national support and super fringe), and the community aspects at play. They could even come out with the most left-wing idea, and they’d still get the base out. But they haven’t. Up until this summer, their platform was entirely focused on their base which has meant a shift further to the right. Their new leader however, has really ruffled feathers by leaning to center with the platform. The ‘old guard’ and vocal minority are all over this, but the proof as the say, is in the pudding.

The left is more complex, as they share the remainder of the pie. The Liberals have used this to their advantage in eating into the more left-leaning party’s social platforms. Where the party was generally more controlled on the financials, that’s been all out the window to support social growth programs. They leveraged the fact that the right was going further to the extreme and ‘centrists’ would generally favour their platform (which the last 30 years has signalled). It didn’t matter what they had as a platform, they could just point and say ‘the right wants to stop abortion’ and that would be the end of that.

Not today! The right’s platform has practically ignored their base and put almost all their chips in the middle. That has thrown the left’s thinking that this was a slam dunk election out the window. It’s still leaning left for now, and more because there are a LOT of base voters that will vote against a party rather than for one – strategic voting is the term often used.

I remember reading Foundation when I was younger and fascinated at the concept of psycho-history – that numbers could predict actions, at large scale numbers. To me, this particular development was expected, just that the timing of it is a tad earlier. Most of this is generated from the situation with our southern cousins and the ever growing divisive political situation. It is hard to articulate how much Canada wants to avoid being seen emulating the US system. The shift back to centre was sorely needed, and this is just the first act in that rebalancing.

Regardless of the results of this election, it’ll be fascinating to see how this modifies the party platforms in the future. And I haven’t even started on the generational shift underway now…

Acti-Blizz Lawsuit

I guess it’s current affairs and game related…

Riot Games had a similar suit in the past, which had relatively small impacts in their organization. There were a fair amount of reports on it too, Kotaku’s of note. Curious to the larger outcomes. The $10m payout is peanuts for that company.

In this case, Acti-Blizz is getting his with a state-level lawsuit over discrimination. Personal lawsuits in the US are a dime a dozen. State-level efforts, that frankly millions of dollars invested just making a case. They don’t get issued without a rather high level of confidence that it can be proven. The penalties are not financial – Acti-Blizz revenues are $2b per quarter, so $10m is a hiccup. The penalties here are public, which is weird that we’re in the mode today.

High odds here that there are few execs that are shuffled, maybe a could lose their jobs (Afrasiabi left last year), but I would be really surprised is anything meaningful happens outside of some larger pay-outs to some impacted people. I say this because the executive leadership within that company has been extremely consistent that the only thing that matters is money.

Sidebar – I am convinced that EA has been doing an internal review for years prepping for their eventual suit.

I do understand how these events come to pass. Gamer culture for most of its existence was a “bro” culture, in particular in the more competitive space. Hell, IT culture was full of “a/s/l” questions and then pouncing on anyone that claimed to be female. Picking on Acti-Blizz here, but it’s rampant across the industry. It’s better now, but that’s like comparing a forest fire to a house fire. There are still some big issues to sort out. Riot Games is an interesting example here, as they went to great lengths to build a corporate culture that was reflective of their gaming culture – competitive and aggressive. Wilting flowers got nowhere. Acti-Blizz seems on another level though, where it was outright abusive, and top brass was aware.

What I find the most interesting in all this is the response that Acti-Blizz put out afterwards (emphasis mine).

We are sickened by the reprehensible conduct of the DFEH to drag into the complaint the tragic suicide of an employee whose passing has no bearing whatsoever on this case and with no regard for her grieving family. While we find this behavior to be disgraceful and unprofessional, it is unfortunately an example of how they have conducted themselves throughout the course of their investigation. It is this type of irresponsible behavior from unaccountable State bureaucrats that are driving many of the State’s best businesses out of California.

I have experience in how this process works, though obviously in another country. The company is made aware of pending litigation (if individuals are not indicted), giving the company some time to prepare their statements. The legal team at Acti-Blizz had time to prepare this statement and get it approved. The wording is purposeful.

Ad-hominem arguments are an extremely effective defense – they question the ability of an individual. You’ve seen enough where the defense questions the integrity of a witness, not the actuals facts of the case. The media has conditioned us to look past the facts and at the ideas – Nancy Grace is the best example that comes to mind. But this only works on individuals. It’s a big challenge to sway public opinion on an organization that is established to support people’s rights.

I remain curious as to where this path goes.

Back Into the Fire

Two weeks of vacation isn’t enough – I’ll just put it as plain as that. The first week was all renovations, the second was rain pretty much every day. It wasn’t office work, granted, and I was able to disconnect from email/chat for that time, but it wasn’t what I’d consider a break. When I did get back to the house, the back to school stuff was needed, our fridge needs to be replaced, and my Raider laptop has 4 faulty keys. First world problems much.

The Laptop Keyboard

I have a GE75 Raider, it’s a bit over a year old. The ESC, ~, Y and numpad 5 are not working for some reason. I checked the mechanical parts, everything is fine. The backlight is fine too. I figure I’ll order a new keyboard and replace it. But the GE75 is too new, so I’m rather looking for replacement parts for a GE73 (1yr earlier model). Most ship from China, but I did find one at a reasonable price nearby.

I’ve built my own PCs for years. I’ve repaired numerous laptops. Keyboard on laptops are the absolute worst thing to replace, since you need to take everything out. The GE75 has 2 hidden screws, or hidden in a way that you can’t really get to them without taking more parts first. I was really hoping not to have to take the fan off, and just the board, but everything is glued to something else. The form factor is so small, there are cables connected to both sides of the main board, and I always felt like I was breaking something. Finally get to the keyboard case and there’s a damn shield covering it. One that’s set with plastic rivets. It’s impossible for me to repair without breaking a pile more.

So now I need to find a shop that can do the work for me.

Stardew Valley

I use gaming as stress management. I picked up Stardew Valley for my tablet a while ago, never really got into it. Given the past few weeks, I took it for a spin.

It’s certainly calming. Managing energy levels to get through a day is a fun set of constraints. It’s impossible to lose, which is also good for stress. What it has a bit too much of is breadth to start. There are so, so many objectives that are possible, and nearly all of them are gated behind multiple days of work. They are optional, but they often unlock some other activity – like a greenhouse that grows plants year long.

The gameplay is such that you always get that “one more day” drive. Nearly every action can be automated in some manner, but that requires materials/money. Getting that also takes time and months of in-game effort. The systems are intertwined, and not easily explained, making wiki almost mandatory.

Not saying that’s a bad thing, just that sometimes I end up hitting a wall cause I can’t figure out how the next step completes. Say like a fish that only shows up when raining in the summer, at night, at a lake. How am I supposed to know that?

It is fun to discover new things. Realizing that almost everything has a value aside from money. It’s a drastic departure from most modern games, what with the grey/green/purple quality info. Once into the groove, things start working out.

I’m starting Spring in year 2 now. I understand enough of the mechanics now to close out the community Center this year and those extra unlocks. It’s fun setting up long term goals, then the short term ones as steps.

Plus it has fishing.

Impromptu Vacation

After going full bore and filling every weekend with something, I was finally able to negotiate some time off. 2 weeks worth of full break mode. A few hours after I had confirmed it, my wife sends me a picture of the cottage and it’s leaky roof. And some carpenter ants having fun under a large window set. Guess the vacation would be postponed.

The first weekend was some friends helping get the demo & framing done. The supporting joists were rotten, a separate set of windows was crooked, and an inside wall had suffered years of water damage. All of Saturday was fixing the exterior, straightening the wall, levelling the windows, insulating, and closing up with OSB/Tyvek. The large window repairs included cutting 8” of the floor. The ceiling over the dining area was full of years of mouse trappings. Holy moley. Sunday was setting new window trim for the siding. And then watching the roof repairs not work as expected and it leak inside the house.

Monday was more roof repairs and fixing the interior wall. I should mention it was a load bearing wall, and right on the load. Father-in-law is more than handy and it was a day and a half of work to get it sorted out. The good news is that even with the hose spraying the roof, the leaks are gone.

Tuesday was clean up work outside, shoring up the retaining wall in the crawl space, caulking and filling in holes.

Wednesday was about rebuilding the interior finish. Some white pine tongue & groove, over a cedar plank to cover the cut floor. The rad was going to cover the plank anyhow. With the large wood shortages around, we opted for some 1×5” pine trim. Looks pretty good.

Thursday was about finishing the ceiling in the dining area that had leaked. That was a very cathartic part of the project since its the room we tend to spend the most time in. The same large trim is on the ceiling, just as on the window trim. It’s a different look on the windows, since they are not the same size (off an 1 1/2”), but it still retains the cottage / wood look.

Friday was OFF, as was Saturday. Sunday was mostly off, but we needed to expand the size of the door on the shed by about 9”. A shed that’s 30+ years old, and far from level. Building on anything that’s not level is really hard, cause there’s no easy cuts, everything must be eyeballed. We opted to shore up some parts, shave some parts, and make it as level as possible.

Things that are left to do this week:

  • Put up the vinyl (should be here for next weekend)
  • Rebuild 2 access doors to the crawl space (4×4), including the framing)
  • Add some panels and caps to the extended shed door to close off the gaps
  • Install a 4×8 wood panel sheet on a rebuilt wall
  • Install quarter round in the living/dining room ceilings
  • Spread out the fill that’s in a few piles around to level the yard, which includes removing a good half ton of river rock (we have a homemade shaker)

And before end of season

  • Install some new rain gutters
  • Replace the roof
  • Install a vent in the crawl space

The end goal is that most people won’t see a large difference in the cottage, except some new colours. We will see doors that close level, windows that slide level, less water all over the place, and a shed door that is miles easier to get into / out of.

Oh, and get some fishing in too!

Tornado Alley

It may have made the news near you, but my city got hit with a couple tornadoes on Friday.  First time in 25 years.

 

It’s an oddly built city, with a sister city just across the river (in another province), a we’re in a valley.  This makes for interesting storm paths that hit the west end of the city, cross the river, hit that city, then come back to this side farther in the east.  I live on top of a hill, which is often spared the brunt of any large storm.  I saw the black clouds and a bit of heavy wind… but that’s it.

Luckily there were no fatalities, and just 6 critical injuries.  Power was lost to half the city for most of the weekend, with just over 5,000 left impacted on Monday.  The majority of the city is closed today to allow people to worry about their family and homes, rather than office work.  Except the french school board, but that’s a different topic.

No one on my team was directly impacted, but quite a few of their family members were.  That’s some good news.  My friends and family are mostly unaffected, except for a few with power issues.  That’s also some good news.

I work in IT.  We have multiple data centers in this city, as it’s the core of our operations.  A lot of those centers offer critical services both internally and to clients, so it was an all-hands on deck type of weekend.  Disaster recovery plans are the types of plans you never want to execute, but are glad that you have when you need them.  It’s impressive how thorough and passionate people can be during these types of events.   More than happy with what my team pulled through this weekend, and what the organization was able to do given the circumstances.

Now we start the period of rebuilding.   And to see what kind of help we can provide.

Blizzard Rumors

So first some light reading, all speculation from an inside source.

The gist being

  • Low faith from the senior execs in Heroes of the Storm
  • The next WoW expansion is near complete, with a boost to the art department
  • SC2 is done with no release date
  • Overwatch has no business model
  • Hearthstone is raking it in
  • D3 dev team has been assigned to another project, in the SC universe

Blizzard’s only response so far is related to D3, in that the team continues to support the game and there is no mystery project.

Heroes

This one is reasonable.  HotS is coming into a heavily saturated market, where there are 3 front runners – LoL, DOTA2 and SMITE.  There are dozens of other MOBA games as well.  And they all share the same thing that HotS doesn’t have: free to enter and feature complete.

$40 for a beta entry is high.  There’s no trial to see if you actually like the game, so I am guessing that Blizz has had significantly lower demand than expected.  WoW, HS and SC are all top of pile products.  They lead the industry and have more or less since they launched.  It would be naive to think that HotS could unseat the top 3 in a fell swoop. Prospects should be tempered.

WoW

While this is also reasonable, the timing seems off.  Blizzard takes ~8-10 months to polish a feature complete game.  Math-wise, that would be another release near the holidays.  My bet’s on a Burning Legion expansion, given the hints so far, though my guess there’s a fair amount of story to go.   Still, there are how many Warlords dead?  Blackhand is next and that’s before 6.1 so we’re well over the 50% mark before the first major patch.

Plus, Blizzard tends to make a very, very big deal about expansion announcements, and then proceed to wait over a year for release.  Would be quite a shift if this rumor were true.

Starcraft

The silence on this is quite odd.  The last part (zerg) was well received, and is quite popular.  It’s a game that doesn’t make money outside of expansions though, so an odd choice to not have some release/hype around the next one.  It’s not like we’re looking at a month to go, as the Blizz PR machine hasn’t even started and it typically runs for a few months.

Overwatch

No business model?  I would guess this to be false as business models aren’t a last minute decision, due to the design implications.  Expansions with characters or single character sales seems like a rather obvious decision.  I don’t even see a decision to be made.

Hearthstone

This being top of pile?  Yeah, I can see that.  It’s #4 in Twitch.  Only available on Tablets and not phones, so the actual mobile numbers are hard as hell to find.  It’s leagues beyond it’s closest competitor.

Diablo3

D3 today is a very solid game.  I think Marvel Heroes offers a similar experience.  You’d be spending more on the latter though, as it’s F2P and not B2P.  That would also mean that it’s making more money (at least more than 0).  D3 a year ago had an auction house and the RMAH was running at a decent enough pace.  Blizzard made a cut off that and they shut off the tap.  I’d be curious to see where the metrics are on that.

D3 can only make money on expansions.  Free content in between expansions doesn’t make money.  From a business perspective, Blizz isn’t really in the “more than 1 expansion” market.  It would make sense, based on historical evidence, that Blizz is simply in maintenance mode.

Conclusion

While there’s a lot in here that seems reasonable, it’s a period of the year of typical gaming studio silence.  There’s nothing off the wall, which makes for the worst kind of rumors.  If there’s any truth to it however, it would seem that we’re in for a pretty big flurry of Blizzard announcements before E3.