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How to look cool and get the chicks while playing MMO's

Rants, wild speculation, unfounded theories and general poor quality humor.

Author: MacScarfe

Making the world's worst MMO

Posted by MacScarfe Saturday September 12 2009 at 12:00PM
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So i've decided i want to make the worlds' worst MMO.

Well alright that's not striclty true, i came up with a brilliant idea for an MMO but when i put it down on paper it sucked, sucked beyond suckiness.

So here in true marketing style the bulletin points for the game.

  • 1 Player Class!
  • 1 Zone!
  • Non-persistant world!
  • Levels may drop as well as rise!
  • 1 NPC Enemy!
  • Virtually no PvP!
  • No global chat!
  • Grinding Quests for No experience points!
  • No mini-map!
  • Unique buisness model!
  • And Finally .... Never released always in Open Beta!!!!!!

Sounds truely craptastic dosn't it ...... *sigh*

So let me explain in more detail why i think this is a good idea for an original and unique MMORPG experience.

The Mountain of Gods

1 Zone!, Non-persistant world! and No Mini-map!

So i know the current top of the wishlist is for an open expansive persistant world, but frankly withing the dual contexts of game lore and limited development budgets i can't do this.

The entire game takes place on a mountain top but mainly in the mountain. Essentially a god created a gigantic mountain, leveled the top and ordered his followers to worship there. The temple grew and the monks started to dig into the mountain for extra space until eventually the entire mountain was hollowed out. Another god saw this, didn't like being out done and ordered his followers to take the mountain from the bottom up, which they did. Now the followers of the original god are confined to the mountain top itself and are fighting to retake the entire mountain back. Hence one zone.


So why a non-epersistant world? Okay so this is kinda misnomer. Essentially the original god cursed the mountain once his followers lost control of it and now it is like a massive rubics cube with the corridors and rooms moving from place to place within the mountain. However sects (i.e. guilds) will have the power to extert the gods control over a small area and make it persistant. So you'll have the mountain top and small player controlled pockets within the mountain itself connected/or not to each other by a randomly changing dungeon. Which kinda makes a mini-map pointless as the exit would be that way ... probably, however i would love the ability of players to draw their own maps (of the persistant parts) and trade them to other players.

1 Class!

Okay another misdirection on my part, but this time deliberately. As much as we all like buzz words and sterotypes the twin polar opposites of Theme-park and Sandbox simply don't work as well as they used to do. What would best describe what i'm aiming for would be a themed sandbox skill based game.

However i want to try and encourage, strongly, the themed aspect and thus the 1 class idea. Your all monks of the one god attempting to reclaim your mountain.Okay so your character can specalize in resource mining or tunnelling or creating the persistant areas within the mountain, or even a warrior monk protecting all of the above .... but above all else your a MONK on a holy mission for your god! So to confine you to one class (no matter how meaningless that is inregards to game mechanics) will hopefully foster a specific mentality within the players base, because we all know how a warrior is supposed to behave, how a rogue is supposed to be have etc etc etc, and i want you to behave like a monk.

Lvl's may drop as well as rise, Questing for no exps! and Virtually no PvP!

And of course in a skill based system levels are also redundant arn't they? .......... Well no. The level system is a brilliant and easy to understand tool for both players and developers, it is nothing more than a method of measurement. However tradionally it has been used to measure a generalized and otherwise undefinable quaility of a player. We all know that a lvl 1 toon would stand no chance a againt a lvl 50 toon, and that the lvl 1 player is called an 'apprentice' and the lvl 50 a master. It's an excellent generalised system of measurement and it's just we tend to use it to measure something which dosn't always need measuring.

So lets use the level system to measure something else then. Typically religons, temples and monastaries rule on a strict hieratical system, one person is in control, below him is another rank, below that etc etc etc. So lets use the level system only the political/religous power off the character. The higher the level the further up the structure you are and because this game is set in a fantsay setting and not some realistic environment, there will come to a point that the only way to advance in level is to take out someone above you. This highly ritualized form of PvP will be the only form of PvP in the game, a game where you all worship the same god and your all striving for the same end.

And with levels being a measure of political power, experience points are of course pretty much useless, so quests become about resource gathering (and thus not strictly speaking essential to the basic game play). Now obviously there are many many different types of resources, from good old bricks to reenforce the tunnels to doing good deeds to be seen as more pious, which would be the basic starting point for a political career. Either way the exps system so beloved of the majority of MMO's will be thrown out of the window.

1 Enemy!

No this is a little more complex than it at first appears. This is not simply an expedient way to reduce the number of models the artists need to produce, i want this to be much more than this. Currently NPC monsters are as Artifically Intelligent as a wet paper bag and the different shape and sizes and attack types of each monster is there to simply help hide that fact that there as dumb as a stump. You need to kill 10 x then go to y where they aimlessly wander around and you can kill them happily (careful not to aggro the next group) as their breathern look on.


I hope that by reducing the number of monsters to 1 speices we can spend more time on developing a multileveled AI that will produce a far more plausable and challenging opponent for the player. For as much as you the player is on a mission to reclaim the mountain the npc mobs are on a mission to keep the mountain, both sides have goals and both sides should be developing unique tactics to fullfill their goals.

No global chat!

As much as i hate global chat as an immersion buster i understand why, except in a very specific set of circumstances, it is essential to the community of an MMO. I just want to try and create those very specific set of circumstances that mean a global chat system isn't needed. The majoirty of the actual 'game' the hacking/slashing/mining etc takes place in an ever shifting labyrinth .... i want to create a sense of isolationalism for the players to explore. I want a proximity based communication system. I want players to almost hear the echos of their footsteps as they they are the first monks to discover a gigantic library within the mountain, i want them to feel small and disconnected from the rest of the game for that time. But then i also want them to come back to the hustle and bustle of the mountain top safe area, i want them to hear their neighbours prayers or conversations, you could say i want them to smell the feet of the monk next to them.

I want the mountain cold and empty, i want the mountain top hot and noisy and i think a proximity based communication system would help acheieve this.

The Unique business model! and permanent Open Beta!

Again here i want to attempt to change the customers relationship with the development company by subverting exisiting sterotypes held by the customer base.

This game will never be finished, NEVER, and neither should it be because it is my firm opinion that any MMO that dosn't continue to eveolve after release would have a lifespan measured in minutes not years. However thanks to the traditonal video game industry (there's a mind boggling idea in itself considering how few scant years the video game industry has exisited) the customer base has a preconcied notion of what a released game should be and typically these notions are to the detriment of the MMO industry. Seriously how many times do we have to debate endlessly whether game A or B is ready for release?

Because of the way that MMO's are typically developed (and there is some argument to be made as to if this is the right approach in the first place) with heavy player input, groupings of people natturally emerge to fight for a comminly held belief inregards to their vision for the game. In this atmosphere of lobbying no one is ever going to be happy, it's not possible to develop a game that the majoirty of people who have tested it believe that the game has been developed correctly and therefore a game can never be ready for release.

It seems a symplistic solution to the problem, but why not forget about releasing the game, stay in open beta, make it clear to the players that is what is going to happen and that things are going to change and mutate through out the history of the game and that is that. Encourage the openness of feedback from an Open Beta while avoiding the dissappointment and sheer hate of a Release.

Now down to the thorney subject of money. Okay P2P or F2P or RMT ......... oh buggar it i can't decide so lets go all three and more. For the fundamental truth of any small company is the balance between incomings and outgoings is set by the companies attitude not by what the market will bear. Get a little larger and then you have less freedom to do what you want and have to play to the customers more. So what you have to do is cast your customer net as far as possible, within the confines of the very obvious niche this game would play within, while keeping your operating costs to the bare minimum.

So as a sidenote to you graphic junkie ... this is not the game for you, this game needs to be playable on the widest possible number of machines. Upto and including my wife's laptop ... which i can happily admit was a pity buy on my part, because she'll never read this blogg and realise the truth.

So we need to be fexable in the way we accrue our income. So firstly your paying to play a beta! Get it through your heads, this is an open beta and your paying to play it. If you don't like the idea this isn't the game for you.

Token fee to download the client (five dollar sounds good) as i personally think this will cut out a lot of time wasters and possibly even some griefers.
Micro transaction shop ...... okay i understand the rabid hate on the part of some people towards them but you have to understand that as a small game company with an uncertain future this is a good possible source of cash. Now without casting any judgement on any other comapnies cash shops there would for THIS game have to be a few givens and of course some inventive use of said cash shop. No major game altering items for sale, lets keep to fluff and 'minor healing potions' type items. But what about the tutorial ..... no i havn't gone off on a tangent, lets read that again .... 'What about the tutorial?' ..... okay here's the pitch, ONCE an account has completed the ingame tutorial, from then on the player can bypass the tutorial and aquire a package of starter items based on the specalization you want that character for ... for a nominal fee, lets say a dollar? I personally think this is a good use for cash shops.

Okay here's the biggie, and the one i think that will land me in the most hot water. Why can't MMO subs be more like Mobile Phone's? Typically with Mobile Phones they come in 2 sorts, contract or pay as you go, and to my mind i think you should be able to switch between the two as you need. So standard contract, and remember were only a small company casting our net as far as possible in a small pool, so standard normal MMO contract 10 dollar a month. But for the pete's sake surely in this day and age it wouldn't been too technically difficult to operate a pay by the minute system for players ... especially casual players. Now i have no idea about the legal and consumer rights aspect of this ... and that would be where i would be spending some of my hard earned development budget ... legal advice, but technically i can see no reason why we can't run a pay as you go system for the players.

In conclusion

What were talking about here isn't a mainstream MMO, heck lets face it the aim of the game here is to make one that would be profitable with only a 10k sub base, but that's by the by. What we have here is a clearly defined niche game backed by a committed (or needed to be committed) small focused dev team. Unique and entertaining, for a small and hardcore family of players, were talking about busting through pre-concived ideas about MMO's and where we can't do that perverting exisiting MMO taboo's to our advantage. What were talking about is an attempt to create a cult classic, and that would make me very happy.

When will you see this game grace the internet? As soon as i win a couple of million on the lottery. But don't dismiss the idea out of hand, think some of my ideas over and while at first they might not appeal to you, i hope after some reflection you'll see that some or all of them have merit.

P.S. I'll edit for spelling, grammer and reality later when i give a damn

 

MMO's the last great bastion of Communism

Posted by MacScarfe Friday August 28 2009 at 11:08AM
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Okay so a title so full of hyberbol it's almost beyond belief, but really there seems to be a set of unwritten laws and expectations for western hemisphere players of todays MMO's.

1) The level playing field.

No i get it, i really do. Trust me i've always joked when people or paperwork asks me about religion i answer 'devout socialist', i was brought up such and it has formed many of my opinions on how life should be.

And yes in life i see how everyone should have an equal chance to attain their goals and dreams, irregardless of their financial or environmental upbringing, but that's not how life is though is it, lets be honest.

Point of Order: I do not suggest, infer or even dream that ALL current MMO's should conform to my way thinking, neither do i think it should apply to ALL future MMO's.

You see i think (and can i get a stress on the I) what the MMO industry needs is variety, variety and innovation, variety innovation and realistic financial goals, no one expected the spanish inquestion ..... oh wait sorry went off track there.

There is a place for games, in the industry, for games aimed at a niche market. MMO's are afterall above and beyond everything else buisnesses, so games willing to reward players for spending stupid amounts of cash are inevitable.

Now here is where the howling banshees will decend upon me, their point of view is simple you open the door, even the slightest crack, and all of the tradional MMO's will fall to this evil. And yes there are a number of companies who i guess would love to take as much money out of your pockets as quickly as possible. I for one would like to know who these companies are so that i can avoid them because if there only aim is to facilitate your economic downfall then their games are probably gonna suck and suck big time.

But doom and gloom is not the invitable conclusion of letting the money grabbers grab money, because players will vote with their feet/subscriptions and plenty of companies, if not the vast majority, will see how they cam make more than enough money from the tradional MMO model.

2) All playstyles must be accomidated

Okay, show of hands, who has played a PvE centric games and hasn't seen a large thread on the games forums entitled something like "This game will fail without full loot, open world PVP!!!11!!!!"

It seems to me, and probably only me, that one of the main barrier to creativity in the MMO industry is this insane belief that a game must try and accomidate everybodies playstyle. This idea is backup up by the many many posts we all see day in and day out on virtually every games forums calling for radical changes to the basic game design so that a specific playstyle can be included.

It seems to have become a mantra that most game devs recite everyday, and most game devs fail to successfully acomidate in there product. This simple model of get as many subs as possible, irregardless of how long they start subbed, rules the roost mainly because of the WoW factor.

Point of Order: I do not hate WoW, i have never played it, i never will as it holds no interest for me. It's a prefectly good game that appeals to a vast number of players, and i have no opionion on the caliber of human beings that play WoW.

The WoW factor being CEO's and/or the money men saying if Blizzard can do it, then so are we and second place is for losers.

It's a dream i know but i would love it if just one company ceo would decend onto his/her forums and post the following in one of those irritating thread "Thanks for your support for our product, but clearly this game isn't for you and were not about to change it for your benefit, it would be greatefully appreciated that at the end of your current subscription cycle that you cancel and take your buisness to some other game that you will enjoy more than ours." Or words to that effect.

3) All content should be accessable to all players

Again i can see how this seems logical you've bought the game and you've paid the sub fees and you've built your character up to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, so why shouldn't you be able to access all the games content?

Gimmie a sec here, i just need to finish bludgeoining my head against a brick wall..

Secondly, and you'll need to read carefully cause this point is real small ... Why not?

There i said it and i'll do it again, Why not? Why should the instance with the super duper weapon/armor/bunny rabbit reward at the end be soloable? Why should the soloist have access to everything? Don't get me wrong i spend a lot of time playing solo in a lot of games, but since when did that give me the divine right to access everything.

And what would be wrong with an instance which couldn't be grouped? And what about that gear hidden in non-consesual PvP zones that the purist PvE player complains about because they get ganked trying to get it, why not? I'm sure you can come up with a million other examples of this but really can anyone explain Why Not?

Okay lets get the financial argument out of the way with 2 real quick points. 1) (The knucklehead answer) Okay dude show me where on the box it says you'll have complete access to everything ingame? 2) (The pragmatist approach) A standard game designed for the solo player is often advertised as having x amount of hours gameplay, so lets do the maths one PS3 game $60 for 20 hours of gameplay, one PC MMO game box price $40 plus $15 per month for .... how many hours have you played this game? Do the math please.

Conclusion

Okay so it was rant, did you expect anything less? But come on, this approach to MMO's is killing the genre, it needs variety, innovation and WoW being reclassified as a movie or something so that companies and players don't continually draw stupid and irrelavent comparisons to it for every game released or envisioned. It needs a differnet approach to game design and these three rules seem to me to combine together to make an unescapable philospohy which is stifling the industry.

P.S. I'll edit for spelling, grammer and reality later when i give a damn.

Why the h8te?

Posted by MacScarfe Sunday August 16 2009 at 12:30PM
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For my own personal edification AND the fact this mega rant/post was not specific to the game sub-forum i inflicted it upon AND it just took up too much space, i decided to make it into a blog.

Someone asked the following on the forum

"lol... But seriously, why does every game HAVE to cater to the PvP crowd these days? WoW tacked it on and did well, CO may tack it on as well and do well also... Not everyone prefers the sports car so why not let some people drive SUV's?"

this was my reply ......... sorry


Games don't have to cater to PvP these days, the market has grown such that niche games can be very successful, assuming the development company behind them are realistic in their aims and profits forecast. But they have to be aware that it's not a case of just cutting out one ingedient from the cookie cutter MMO formula, but that need to add a new ingedient to compensate for it's loss.

However the real problem is the way MMO's are developed and the way the companies deal with their fans.

Consider how the average computer game is developed vs how the average mmo is developed. At first the process seems very similar, but upon closer inspection the process is quite different. The main differences are time, public interaction and expected value.

MMO take a seriously long amount of time to develop, stupidly long amounts of time and i GUESS this seriously worries developers. With designing a standard game you can go in with a clear game design, which is either forward thinking and cutting edge OR a collection of the current in vogue gaming trends. You get the idea, you build it and you release it all in a short time in comparrison to an MMO. With MMO's you can go in with a clear design in mind but then time goes to work and you lose some or all of it. What is revoluntionary or even just standards in the world of MMO's can in a 4 to 5 year development cycle become very old news. The fact that MMO inovation races along at the pace of a tortoise is immaterial to a company who has invested vast amounts of money into the game and the fear that they will lose all their money by releasing not only a dog of a game but worse an old fashioned dog of a game can grow very large in their minds.

So how does the company protect it's money? Typically they make the design as broadly appealing as possible (hence 50 million WOW clones) AND they go with a flexible design process and involve the customers in it as soon as possible. No this isn't the only reason to involve the public in the development cycle, but i'm focusing on what i see are as the problems.

The joke goes ..... what do you call a horse designed by a committee .... A Camel! The MM of MMO's is quite the problem in so much that the player's testing the game HAVE to be able to communicate with one another because that is a basic function of an MMO. Unlike a single player game when you CAN send a 100 different copies to playertesters and get back individual results. Yes the companies will probably run a forum for those single player game testers to communicate .... but it dosn't HAVE to. But MMO's can't do that. Now put a 1000 playtesters in a forum and you'll get 1001 different reasons why the game sucks and 3001 ways to make it better. But what is worse once a player has given his/her opinion you cannot ignore them or else the company quickly gets a bad rep. You can't listen to all of them because a) it would take so many staff members to sort through and address them and b) you'd get a camel. So you end up ignoring those you can, and addressing those you can't avoid and hopefully it won't corrupt the base game design.

Now all those opinions wouldn't be half as bad if it wasn't for the expected value of a game. No no not the accets of the company, the wages paid, the money wrung from investers or any of that side of game development which we as players really couldn't care less about. I'm talking about the expected value of the game to us as players. Lets be honest typically if we play an MMO for a year we have bought a standard game 4 or 5 times over. Now thankfully the players are intelligent enough to realise they can't expect 4 or 5 standrad games worth of game play but they do expect more of the game that a standard game.

Normal non-MMO games are typically FnF (Fire and Forget) affairs, you pay your money once, you play the game, you love it or hate it and soon after you put it on a shelf to gather dust. MMO's are FnR (Fire and Regret) you pay your money, you play the game, you love it or hate it, you pay some more money, you beging to regret what you cannot do in the game, you pay some more money, you hate it more ... you stop paying the money.

Now players aren't daft (despite the overwhelming number of posts on an overwhelming number of forums) and realise this is what happens and they don't like it, BUT the expectation is that eventually that find a game that will be their BFF (i wonder how many more pointless acronyms i can get into this?) and that they never have to play another game and that the MMO will satisfy there gamer and soical needs forever.

So what we have is a clear game design which attracts large amount of interest from players whose expectations havn't been met elsewhere but who see this game as having a realistic chance of fulfilling those needs. However over the long development process, the design can be corrupted by people who's expectations for the game are not the same as yours. So that for many people the game play experience and their expectations grow further apart as the game develops.

Now with a standard game you get excited as the rumor mill gets going, you read the previews and drool, you read the reviews and decide to buy the game in a near frenzy of excitment and 2 months later you start the process all over again with the next game.

With MMO's the excitment is building and building and building for years, you can have an active part in the games development and when you start to feel the pangs of dissapointment as the game dosn't go the way you feel it should you cling to the belief that if you just shout loud enough you can change the entire thing for the better [/MAIN POINT] and some of these people firmly hold the belief that they know best and will do or say anything which gives their point validity and when that fails they will simply destroy other peoples views in whatever way they can [/MAIN POINT]

One last anaology for the road, look at it like this. You have had a not-so-secret crush on someone and eventually you get the nerve up to ask them out. They laugh at you, your crushed and then the bitterness starts.

Finally the disclaimer, this is all presented as my OPINION and not as FACT so i will not be linking websites to substanciate my claims. Also this 'model' dosn't apply to all game players, in fact i think if you look closely at the gamer community you may find 1 or even 2 people, in the over 100 million+ that play video games, who don't conform to this generalisation, however that dosn't detract from it's validity in any way, shape or form. And lastly i MAY have said things in such as way as the intent was humorous and while i fully accept that my sense of humor and yours are incompatible, also hope that you will do the same and not bitch like a suck pig about some minor aspect of my RANT.
 

Can i be unfair please?

Posted by MacScarfe Saturday October 13 2007 at 6:21AM
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I see a lot of calls to make games fairer, balanced and casual gamer friendly on these and many other forums and i firmly believe this approach to gaming is ruining mmo's and rp in general.

So in tradional reverse order let me start with

Casual gamer friendly.

If i was going to make and run an mmo i would make it casual gamer friendly, for one reason and one reason alone (and it's also the best reason in all honesty) ... money. Why limit your game to die hard fans when you can maximise profits by casual gamer inclusivness!!! (TM).

I don't make mmo's (yet) and i don't run an mmo (still time on this one also) and i want my game to be unremittingly complex, time consuming and unplayable unless you suffer from an mmo related Obsesive Compulsive Disorder. I turn my mmo on in the morning when i wake up and i turn it off again when i go to sleep. Okay i might not be infront of the screen 100% of the time and i may at some point actually run out of cash and have to get a job .. again ... but until then i game a good 12-15 hours a day. I want a game that fullfill's my need of a virtual life and the fact that people are trying to destroy that type of game is so

UNFAIR (note this is said with irony)

Balance

Oh balance i hate thee so. Now i'm not talking about fixing, i'm not talking about alterations to make something work as intended, i'm not even talking about that balance in everything is actually bad.

What i am ranting about is when people call for balance when what they really really want is to be less sucky. Sorry, i know that last statement will have gotten some peoples backs up, but the cold harsh light of reality states one thing and one thing clearly ..... some of us are good at some things and others are not. Please deal with you ineffectualness by NOT limiting my effectiveness. To call for that will only casue me to foam at the mouth, say rude words and generally behave like a 13 year old ganker with uber weapon of noob slaying.

You can't balance everything and something are actually designed to be unbalanced .... yes you heard it here first, some things are supposed to be unbalanced.

Now how to explain this to you, ah i have it .... those non online games you have, the one you havn't played in awhile. If you can remember that far back you might be able to remeber that it has difficulty levels, something along the lines of say easy, medium and hard.

Yes, yes i know you like playing on easy cause it's the most balanced, but i like to play it on hard, and sometimes i'll play on medium and i have even been know to enjoy easy as well.

Some classes, some area's, some games, some monsters are inentionally set on the hard setting. Just because you can't play them well (or in some cases at all even ) it dosn't mean they need to be balanced! Leave it alone, some aspects of games are supposed to be challeneging and if your not up for the challenege then ... soz. I know i know it's all quite

UNFAIR

Fair play

Lord oh lord please let there be an especially deep and nasty part of hell reserved for those of us who believe everything should be fair. This is of course my number one pet hate in the whole universe (at least right this second).

Fairness is such a stupid concept in games, really it is, honestly it really really is. Now i'm not saying that in the real world, where that shiny yellow orb exisits, you know beyond the keyboard, that fairness is a bad thing, it isn't and i'm all for it there ... just not here, well not in the games i wanna play.

What does fairness accutally mean helious? Well actually fairness means bland, anadine and generally as interesting as toilet paper.

Now whoa there boy your playing an non-PvP game cause you can't stand being ganked by 13 yr old gankers with 2handed swords of old people slaying. Yes i do see that there may be a little conflict of interest here, however this is a rant and a rant isn't a place for reasonablness.

Fairness? Everyone has a level playing field, everyone has an equal chance to achieve anything, the ulitmate sandbox experience, and also the clarion call for the virtual utopian society! (TM)

You know what i want to say when someone complains that x, y and z can do a, b and c but m, n and o can't do a, b and c (wow loads of letters dude!) TOUGH, deal with it, don't like it go find another game to play and stop trying to force our game to become some ideal utopian 'isn't everything nice, pleaseant and shiny' world.

You know there are times in my life when looking at kittens dosn't make me go awww!, they make me think of microwaves and washing machines and generally nasty things. Sorry for being a human being and not some well adjusted conformist robot.

I want my game to be unfair, i have come here to this virtual other world partly to get away from the real world and all it's rules, regulations and plesantries (as well as getting way from it's lawlessness, lack of control and general nastiness btw). Now all in all my life isn't that bad, so the overwhelming need for me to run away to a nice place isn't there. I actually want to vacation in the slightly unpleseant side of life and i want to do it in such a manner that doing so neither a) causes reprocussions in the real world and b) if i don't like it i can exercise my right to withdraw electricity form the computer.

Please please please don't be fair, it's destorying MY world and that is so

UNFAIR!