Thanks to Governments: A Radically Different Internet Is Coming!

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The battle for Net-Neutrality, which despite of what you heard is still ongoing, seems to have changed government regulators attitudes towards the internet on what they can and cannot regulate and censor.

I knew this is where it would go.  As soon as you let Government change how the internet works, you open the doors to all sorts of shenanigans.  All those “Libertarians” who were saying that “Net Neutrality is government interference” even though I have been saying it is the exact opposite for years, well they can just go fuck off, because their ignorance is guaranteeing government interference.

The wild west days of making money off the internet are very much numbered now.  The internet as it looks today will likely be a distant memory within 10 years, even if we somehow get Net Neutrality back.  Big changes are coming, some I might even agree with, but their ultimate effects are unknown.

How Europe’s New Privacy Rule is Reshaping The Internet

Let’s start with one I kind of agree with.  With all the concerns over Facebook sharing data with political data miners Cambridge Analytica with ties to Russia, it seems something needs to be done on the privacy front.  The EU has new rather tough new laws regarding what web sites are allowed to gather about you.  The penalties are big enough that even major companies are changing their policy.

Have you been noticing a lot of “This site uses cookies” pop ups lately? This EU regulation is why.  Also, data collection websites like Google and Facebook have to be open about what data they collect on you, and you have the right to opt out.

Because much of the internet traffic flows through Europe, the EU’s regulations affect everybody, unless you are an American ISP collecting data about your own customers, which the GOP forced through last year.

Meanwhile in America, Law Enforcement Can Access All your Data Just By Asking

Slipped into the must pass budget was the CLOUD Act.  A piece of legislation actually supported by data collection companies, because it basically allows them to wash their hands of the whole issue:

As we wrote before, the CLOUD Act is a far-reaching, privacy-upending piece of legislation that will:

  • Enable foreign police to collect and wiretap people’s communications from U.S. companies, without obtaining a U.S. warrant.
  • Allow foreign nations to demand personal data stored in the United States, without prior review by a judge.
  • Allow the U.S. president to enter “executive agreements” that empower police in foreign nations that have weaker privacy laws than the United States to seize data in the United States while ignoring U.S. privacy laws.
  • Allow foreign police to collect someone’s data without notifying them about it.
  • Empower U.S. police to grab any data, regardless if it’s a U.S. person’s or not, no matter where it is stored.

And, as we wrote before, this is how the CLOUD Act could work in practice:

London investigators want the private Slack messages of a Londoner they suspect of bank fraud. The London police could go directly to Slack, a U.S. company, to request and collect those messages. The London police would not necessarily need prior judicial review for this request. The London police would not be required to notify U.S. law enforcement about this request. The London police would not need a probable cause warrant for this collection.

Predictably, in this request, the London police might also collect Slack messages written by U.S. persons communicating with the Londoner suspected of bank fraud. Those messages could be read, stored, and potentially shared, all without the U.S. person knowing about it. Those messages, if shared with U.S. law enforcement, could be used to criminally charge the U.S. person in a U.S. court, even though a warrant was never issued.

This basically allows police states to trace web activity of individuals all over the world. Bottom line, as I wrote a year ago, is you will need to be even more vigilant with your online privacy than ever before!

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The Horribly Misguided War on Internet Porn

Last year, the Tory Government of the UK attempted to regulate and censor the internet.  Then they had an election which effectively killed those plans (so far).  Meanwhile, in the US, Congress passed legislation that may be more draconian than UK’s attempt.

The U.S. Senate just voted 97-2 to pass the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA, H.R. 1865), a bill that silences online speech by forcing Internet platforms to censor their users. As lobbyists and members of Congress applaud themselves for enacting a law tackling the problem of trafficking, let’s be clear: Congress just made trafficking victims less safe, not more.

Lately, there has been a lot of action to stop sex trafficking.  Sex trafficking is basically organized forced rape of its victims, and unfortunately it is rather prevalent around the world.  Everyone should be against sex trafficking.

Here is the cynical problems with this approach:  1. Somehow conservative politicians equate escort services with sex trafficking.  “Escorts” are in the profession by choice, can choose their clients, and reserve the right to say no.  They are not sex traffickers, no are they part of the sex trafficking industry, but they are low hanging fruit that lawmakers can exploit to say they are doing something about it.  This reduces resources to investigate and stop the real sex trafficking industry which has many real victims including children.

Problem #2: This is a back handed way to implement SOPA.  SOPA in case you don’t remember was a mandate for websites to self police themselves. It would force websites to closely monitor all posts for copyright violations, and other illegal content. It would have effectively closed down major websites that allow user created content unless they hired thousands of people to monitor all content that goes on the site.  FOSTA forces websites to self monitor for sex trafficking.  Because of this Craigslist was forced to shut down the personals section of its website.  No big loss there as far as I am concerned.

The problem is there are legitimate websites used by escorts to safely find clients that are likely to be affected and shut down, this will drive web traffic of this nature further underground and make the sex trafficking problem even worse.

But a bigger fear is that law enforcement will use FOSTA as a way to regulate web traffic of all sorts, and once government’s foot is in the door on this, the next step is to break down the door.  How long before government goes after all porn in the name of stopping sex trafficking?

UPDATE: FOSTA results in raid of Backpage.com. To quote from the story:

Some in the sex worker industry say that removing Backpage from the Internet takes away a safe mechanism for screening clients and that the ads will simply move to sites outside the country or to social media.

There are already governments like the state of Rhode Island proposing taxes on internet porn.  How such legislation could possibly be enforced is troubling. There is no porn on/off switch on the internet.  There exist VPN services designed to block content so that concerned parents can think their kids are safe online, but making everyone use these unless they pay a $20 fee with a picture ID and a written statement saying you want to watch porn, is downright fascist.

Would you be willing to pay a $20 fee and register yourself as a porn watcher just so you can go to legitimate websites that are not “kid friendly”?  Such decisions are likely in our future.

The House of Cards that is Online Advertising

Combining Governments new concern for online privacy with the fiasco that targeted advertising created in 2016 with the Brexit vote in the UK and the Trump election in the US, “targeted advertising” via data collection is getting a bad reputation.

I have been thinking for years that companies that advertise online probably are not getting as much out of it as they think.  Especially those clickbait sites that steal material from other sites, slightly rewrite it to avoid copyright, post it online saturated with ads, then buy ads on Facebook to get people to come to their ad saturated sites, and somehow turn a profit.

Google and Facebook are two of the biggest companies in the world, and they pretty much make all their money on supposedly “targeted advertising”.  Companies looking to sell stuff buy ads on these platforms in hopes that they will be seen by people likely to be interested in their products.  Is the advertising working? Obviously it is working at least a little bit, or nobody would be making any money.

Here’s the problem: it’s not working as well as it used to.

Popular websites struggling

Sites that depend on online advertising for revenue are not doing as well as they used to. Even major sites like Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr, and Reddit seem to have low profit margins if they make a profit at all.  They try to bolster those profits by adding more ads to their sites which of course just annoys readers.

One of my favorite sites was Cracked.com which I visited frequently mostly for their entertaining videos.  On December 6, 2017 Cracked.com’s parent company laid off all the people responsible for those videos. What is left of the site is a skeleton crew that is likely going to turn into another clickbait site.

You Tube Channels are struggling

Making money on You Tube got really big when word got out that some You Tube stars were making millions annually in ad revenue from the site.  This of course started a flood until newcomers were finding out that making original content videos was hard and only the most popular were making the big bucks.

To make matters worse, advertisers on You Tube were upset to learn their ads were appearing on You Tube channels with controversial content. So You Tube started flagging channels with such content. The controversy started with racist and sexist alt-right hate channels, but You Tube also flagged channels that support the LGBT community.

Some of these channels launched Patreon pages which seeks financial help from viewers in the form of small monthly donations. This has helped small operators make money lost on declining advertising revenue.  There was a policy change on Patreon last December that threatened that as a source of revenue, but fortunately it got reversed.  Still it is a lesson that trying to make a living online is a very insecure and unreliable source of income.

Paywalls and More Paywalls

If you are like me, you are going through your facebook feed and reddit news clicking on links that look interesting and finding more and more that they are blocked by paywalls.  With the decline of online advertising, the only way for news sites to stay profitable is get subscribers.

We internet patrons are already paying a lot for our internet connection. How many web sites and Patreons and Twitch channels can we subscribe to realistically on top of that?

The internet has a financing problem, and I’d says we are one recession away from losing thousands of websites and content creators.

The Future looks like Amazon.com

If regulation shuts down social media sites, and declining advertising and subscribers shuts down news sites, we are probably looking at a future internet that looks like Amazon.com.

A board member of Google pretty much said as much in an interview:

Google has competitors in all of tech’s largest companies, but the one former CEO Eric Schmidt is watching the most is Amazon.

“Many people think our main competition is Bing or Yahoo,” he said during a visit to a Native Instruments, software and hardware company in Berlin. “But, really, our biggest search competitor is Amazon. People don’t think of Amazon as search, but if you are looking for something to buy, you are more often than not looking for it on Amazon.”

Schmidt noted that people are looking for a different kind of answers on Amazon’s site through the slew of reviews and product pages, but it’s still about getting information.

Is that where the internet is headed? Who knows, the future is very difficult to predict, but don’t be surprised if your favorite web sites disappear or radically change in the months ahead.

Updating Ariane: Poser vs DAZ Studio Again

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Over the past month, I have been debating on updating Ariane for her next game. The above was an early draft which I am NOT going to use as I will explain.

Like many in the 3D People Rendering Community, I am still torn between the Poser vs Daz Studio rift, which I previously catalogued here, and here.

The last high quality DAZ figure with full Poser support was Victoria 4, which is now over a decade old.  Ancient by tech standards, and still widely supported with new clothes hair and accessories, because such things still sell well.

But Victoria 4 still has some flaws that make it less desirable to use…boat5
I picked this Victoria 4 image to point out the main flaws: 1.) The armpits are way too high up the arm. 2.) the hip to thigh bend looks unnatural, as does the thigh to shin bend.  Finally, 3.) while there are literally hundreds of skin textures available, most do not support the latest renderers like DAZ’s iRay and Poser’s Superfly.

The DAZ Studio solution is really easy: switch to G3 and G8 based figures (there are no G4 to G7 figures because: “reasons”) which DAZ is more than happy to sell you. Most of my fellow Dating Sim/Visual Novel makers have made the switch fairly successfully.

The Poser solution is not so easy. There are advanced models natively available to Poser, namely Dawn and Dusk by Hivewire3D, Paul and Pauline by Smith Micro that come with Poser 11.1, and Project Evolution by Erogenesis that is even more advanced than G8 as far as versatility goes.

The problem is that there is not a lot of support for these figures. Dawn has a fair amount, and Project Evolution may eventually, especially since it has backward compatibility with V4. But the majority of the support for new figures is not surprisingly for G3 and G8.

It is possible to convert G3 and G8 figures to be used in Poser, instructions can be found here.  But because it is not supported natively, you have to convert every accessory the same way, and that could get time consuming, and the resulting Poser figures are memory hogs.  I briefly considered creating a new Ariane based on Karen 7.

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Attempts to make a Dawn version of Ariane

My initial idea was to try and make an “Ariane” using the Dawn figure. While the Dawn figure on the right has a more realistic body shape and curves, I could never get the face right. No matter what I did, the V4 face on the left is better looking and more realistic.

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The truth is I ran into many of the same issues when I converted V3 Ariane to V4 Ariane, but ultimately V4 Ariane was a major improvement.

This time, I am sticking with V4. The three problems with V4 mentioned above can be addressed by new products: 1.) The shoulders and other model issues can be fixed with “Perfect V4” by XandM,  2.) The bending problems can be fixed with products like “Overhaul for V4” by ironman13.  I used these products extensively to create the graphics update of Date Ariane.

The rendering skins can be updated with a python script “D3D Perfect Skin SSS Lite” which will change a basic skin texture to simulate SSS effects in the Superfly renderer, and as a side bonus, the Superfly renderer renders even faster. (The only flaw is that it shows solid white skin in superfly preview mode, switch to firefly preview mode to see what the textures look like, then switch back to superfly mode before rendering.)

There is still the issue of the body shape looking better in Dawn than V4.  I solved that by using the rarely used Muscle Pack for V4. I originally got the muscle pack to make Wendy the Weightlifter look stronger, but adding a “toned” shape to Ariane at about 40%, I can give her the athletic curves I was looking for.

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Now to create some new content with this improved Ariane…

Erotic Visual Novels Part 5

rov11About once a year I highlight some more erotic visual novels similar to Date Ariane. You can read all my posts on this topic here.  Today I’m doing my fifth post, adding to the collection with 3 more.

Pandora

Story and Graphics by Mortze
Format: Javascript/HTML
Download link
Cost: Free

Mortze, the graphic artists who does the work for the last 4 Elsa-verse games (see last post), release his own story in two parts last year. It is now complete and available for download. It is not available as an online game.

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The story is set on a science vessel called Pandora, hired to do underwater archaeology in a part of the ocean that is supposed to be where the legendary lost continent of Atlantis is.  You play a young male college student from Britain hired to do engineering work on the diving equipment.  The ship has a fairly large number of beautiful women on this voyage, too.

Despite the cliche premise, the story is pretty good, and it is pretty linear.  While there are some additional scenes to unlock, there are no extra story branches to explore.

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My biggest concern is the illustration of the main love interest Maggie, the daughter of the ships captain.  They make it a point to say she is just out of high school, meaning she is most likely 17 or 18, therefore age appropriate, but the 3D model used to represent her (Teen Josie form Daz3D) makes her look around 13 or 14, which felt a little creepy at times.

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Leanna: Breaking the Facade

Story and Graphics by Chaotic
Format: Javascript/HTML
Download or Play Online Link
Cost: Free
Walkthrough

Chaotics games continue to go with a traditional plot: get the girl, but each game has gotten more and more sophisticated. Leanna is the latest and most sophisticated.

Leanna is the host of a local news show. On screen she is friendly and likeable.  Off screen she is arrogant and self centered, and hard to get along with. Your job is to make her likeable before you and her appear on a game show together as a couple.

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The challenge is in what you say to her. Many times you are given responses. One of which will make her like you more, another make you like her less, and yet another (and these are the hard ones to figure out) will humble her and “break down the facade” she has built to push everyone away.  Advancement in the game requires you to both make her like you and lower her facade, which requires a balance to your responses.

There is a secondary story branch of trying to reunite Leanna with the original “friend” she was supposed to take on the game show before she abruptly quit.  I actually haven’t completed that one yet.

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I love the graphics in this game, Chaotic’s usual humor is here, and the game proved to be a bit of a challenge.

Added benefit: The latest version of this game allows you to play as a male or female, with different gender appropriate sex scenes depending on your choice.

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April and Violet

Story and Graphics by Chaotic
Format: Javascript/HTML
Available from members area of vdategames.com
Walkthrough

April and Violet is a Members Only game. It is an indirect sequel to Betsy, a free game I reviewed before.  Betsy was a nice prim and proper conservative high school girl that wanted to be more open and confident. If you played that game, you met two other girls, the wild and crazy Violet, and the often mean but misunderstood April. The sub plot of that game (if you chose correctly) was for April and Violet to end up a couple (they are both bisexual).

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The sequel involves you driving to California, and needing a place to stay, you end up in a crappy roadside motel that April and Violet have also managed to find themselves staying at.  Weird twilight zone stuff happens like all of the gas disappearing from your cars, and hiking into the next town reveals a ghost town that recently was filled with people.

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The solution to these mysteries is silly, and involves a chainsaw, but then this whole adventure plays like a stoner comedy where weed is replaced by casual sex and booze.

Like many other Chaotic games, you can pick your gender, making it a crazy girl getaway, or play a male stuck in a hotel with three sex crazed girls.  Oddly, I found the female/female sex scenes to be better animated than the male/female ones.  There are also two skin tones to pick from.

What did you think of these games? Got any suggestions for me to review?

Saving Chloe: The “Elsa-verse” part 4

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Fellow erotic visual novel writers Tlaero and Mortze continue to up the game with their latest release Saving Chloe, which I believe is probably the best game of the genre ever, and sets the bar for the rest of us who work in this genre.  The story is excellent, the artwork is excellent, the 9 possible “good” endings all contain great erotic scenes, and oddly one of the most erotic scenes is in a “bad” ending, of which there are many.  So, lots of choices and lots of endings.

Probably the only flaw of the game is that to really enjoy the story you need to have played 3 previous games Dreaming of Elsa, Redemption for Jessika, and Finding Miranda, all of which I reviewed previously.

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There are other odd things in the game.  Some of the points where stories branch are not very obvious.  This is not necessarily a flaw, I like making seemingly meaningless choices turn out to have big consequences as well, but when you are trying to find those last two endings, and not sure how to get there it can be frustrating, but I made it to all 9 “good” endings without cheating and found about 5 bad ones, too.

Link to download Note: This downloadable game is played in a browser, and because of security issues it probably plays best in Firefox.
Online Link #1 (Playforce)
Online Link #2 (Mortze)

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The Story So Far

So you don’t have to play (or replay) three other games, I thought I would give you a breakdown of the first three games and what we learned about what is going on.  This review contains major spoilers for the games Dreaming with Elsa, Redemption for Jessika and Finding Miranda, all of which you should play first, but if you just want to start with Saving Chloe, or if you already played those games and forgot the details, here are some things you should probably know first or be reminded about.

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Dreaming With Elsa

In Dreaming with Elsa, you play Jason a delivery guy with a recurring dream of chasing a woman. One day your delivery route changes and you deliver a shipment of books to a bookstore whose owner looks exactly like the woman you have been chasing in your dreams. She has also had a recurring dream of being chased by a man. Are you in each others dreams?

Elsa is a shy introvert who lives above the store. She has one employee Chloe who coincidentally has an interest in dream interpretation. Chloe went to the store looking for a rare book called Morpheus which is a legendary book on dreams. Elsa said she did not have a copy, but in their discussion of the book, Chloe talked herself into working for Elsa.

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Elsa and Jason experiment and find that they are indeed sharing dreams together, their dreams get more intimate with each passing night.  Eventually Chloe suggest that they go out on a real date. Elsa who hasn’t gone outside her store/home in months finally goes out on a date.  Out at a restaurant named “Delfino’s”, they meet a waitress named Theresa who plays a role later.

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Upon returning from the restaurant, Elsa invites Jason up to her room where she discovered, someone has been in her apartment. Elsa quickly checks her wall safe, and the only completely intact copy of Morpheus (which she had all along) is still there.

The volume has been in her family for generations, and she was told never to read it, but she reads it to find out why everyone wants it so bad. It is a guidebook of “dream masters”. In it, Elsa learns to put people together in dreams, see into other’s dreams, and control dreams. With these powers she learns who it was who broke into her apartment: It was Chloe. Chloe, who also gained some dream powers from a few pages of a very incomplete copy, has been manipulating everything the entire way in order to get her hands on the full book.  Elsa fires her, and promising that if she catches Chloe in anyone else’s dreams, she will give Chloe nightmares for life.

In the end credit scene of the latest version, we see a strange woman named Xara show up in a dream and ask Elsa if she is the new Dream Master, and that she needs someone with her abilities.

Unanswered questions:

  • What was Chloe’s end game? Why did she need to be a dream master so bad?
  • What is so special about Elsa and Chloe that they would have these powers to begin with?

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Finding Miranda

This and Redemption for Jessika take place at the same time, even ending the same way, but parts of FM take place before RfJ, so I’m reversing them here.  Finding Miranda‘s main plot is an office romance between a systems engineer named Lucas (which you play), who recently lost his wife, and a beautiful and brilliant “problem solver” named Miranda.  For the purposes of backstory for Saving Chloe, the romance is immaterial, it’s the “b” story that is of interest.

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We meet Xara again, this time outside Elsa’s dream world.  She a short blind woman looking for revenge on a former boss named Morland.  He is rich and powerful, and like Elsa, seems to have a superpower, but we do not know what. Morland is protected by a goth female bodyguard named Crow who is a deadly killer with powers of illusion.

Xara isn’t helpless, she is trained in combat before she was blinded, and is basically a female version of Daredevil.  She earns a living teaching self defense courses at a local gym.

Xara can’t touch Morland, but starts recruiting “gifted” people that might be able to. Her first recruit is Miranda, who can solve complex problems in her head and come up with the best strategy rather quickly.  Miranda is also the childhood friend of Chloe, Morland’s daughter!

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Miranda and Chloe fell out about a year and a half ago, when Chloe caused an accident that left Miranda in a coma for a year. Chloe felt sorry and visited her old friend every day of the coma, but upon waking up Miranda refused to forgive her. Since the coma, Miranda has not been able to sleep again for the last 6 months.

Xara also recruits dream master Elsa, of course, and manages a secret contact inside Morland’s operation who goes by the code name “YellowFever”.  This contact leaks information about Morland’s operation to shut down another super-powered woman named Jessica.

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Redemption for Jessika

Jessica’s super power is that she can affect people’s emotions by singing.  Sing fun songs, everyone has fun, sing sad songs, everyone is sad, etc.  Jessica is the lead singer in a rock band that is gaining popularity, mostly because she sings fun songs.

Xara and Miranda work out that Morland plans to disable Jessica by getting her to sing angry by making her angry before a concert, then start a riot at the concert. Unfortunately, Xara is too late to stop it from happening.  Five people are killed in the ensuing riot.

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This is where Redemption for Jessika starts (her real name is Jessica Springfield, but “Jessika with a K” is her stage name).  You play Marc (with a “c”), a court stenographer who, being a big fan of Mayhem (Jessica’s band) was at the concert when the riot started, by happenstance you were also in the court during the hearing to determine if Jessica might have been at fault for the riot.  Jessica has become a drunk mess ever since the incident that left 5 people dead.  The plot of the game is to get Jessica to wake up from her drunken stupor and go back to singing again. Standing in your way is Chloe, who attempts to sabotage your efforts at every step.

Along the way, you learn that Charles, Jessica’s former boyfriend, is the one that made her angry, and that he purposely started the riot. The story ends with you and Jessica stopping a bombing at a political rally that was set by Charles.

Later, back in Finding Miranda, Xara, Elsa, and Miranda learn that Chloe is planning on attacking Jessica again at a concert to prevent her from stopping the bombing, but Miranda kidnaps Chloe to stop her and keeps her drugged for three days until Lucas convinces Miranda it is wrong to keep her that way. Chloe wakes up and she and Miranda have a fierce argument.  Ultimately Miranda feels sorry for the way Chloe is abused by her father Morland, and lets her go.

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In the epilogue of Redemption for Jessika, Jessica is meeting with Xara at “Delfino’s” to be recruited.  Xara informs her that Charles is a pawn of Morland, the man she is trying to take down.  Xara wants her help in recruiting other powered people starting with the waitress Theresa.

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In the epilogue of Finding Miranda, Chloe goes into hiding from her father.  After failing in both operation Elsa and Jessika, she is likely to be severely punished, maybe even killed. In a secret safe house, she grabs her laptop, signs into a secret message board as “YellowFever” and posts that she can no longer help from the inside anymore.

Unanswered Questions:

  • What is Xara’s beef with Morland?
  • What is Morland really up to?
  • What power does Morland have?
  • What power does Theresa have?
  • Where do all these powers come from anyways?
  • Can Chloe be persuaded to switch sides?
  • Can Miranda ever forgive Chloe for the coma?
  • Will anyone figure out Chloe has been working for the good guys the whole time?
  • Can Xara and her allies stop Morland? or Crow? or Charles?
  • Will Miranda ever get a good nights rest?

The above descriptions leave out big chunks of all 3 games, but should give you enough information to start “Saving Chloe”.

Update:

If you play the game and are missing an ending or two, I wrote a guide to how to reach the 10 endings (9 good, 1 major bad). Here is a link to my chart. This is not a complete guide, there are some bad choice traps you will have to avoid yourself. These are just to point you in the right direction.

Virtual Reality vs. Virtual Currency

The tech battle no one is discussing, because in the end, neither will win.

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In 2015, Oculus Rift was supposed to be the beginning of the VR revolution, it wasn’t. In 2016, Samsung Gear VR was supposed to be the beginning of the VR revolution, it wasn’t. In 2017, Playstation VR was supposed to be the beginning of the VR revolution, it wasn’t.

With hundreds of VR games available, VR ready social and building platforms like Sansar and High Fidelity ready for open beta use, and billions of dollars invested in what everyone calls the next big thing, it is rather disappointing that it is not happening. Thanks to a likely big blockbuster in Ready Player One coming to theaters in March, maybe 2018 will finally be the year.

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Or not! There are plenty of reasons why VR has not become mainstream. The biggest is the bulky helmets you have to wear, and that most people experience dizzyness or nausea after only about 20 minutes of use. There is a great fix for this last issue that hasn’t been implemented enough: Virtual noses.

But, the biggest challenge to VR mainstream continues to be cost. You can spend $900 for a Samsung Galaxy 8 and Samsung VR headset, or you can spend about the same amount for a Playstation 4 and a Playstation VR bundle. If you want to do VR on your PC, you need around $1400.  That’s $400 for recently reduced price the Oculus Rift, and a $1000 required video card.

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When did it cost $1000 for a video card?

Why are video cards so expensive? One word: “Bitcoin”.  Virtual currencies like Bitcoin have skyrocketed in price over the last year, so much that it is worth building your own computer to “mine” number combinations that fit the fairly simple formula required to create a new Bitcoin (and if you find a combo, you get to keep it). Regular PC processors are not powerful enough to efficiently “mine”, but graphics cards are.

According to sources, one graphics card can “mine” around $5 to $10 worth of virtual currency a day, though the best strategy is concentrate on the small lesser known currencies, as too many other resources are being used to mine the expensive ones. This means your $1000 graphics card will pay for itself in about 4 months, assuming prices stay high enough. But before you invest, consider that you will need a 500W power supply that has to run 24 hours a day, so expect to lose on your electricity bills, too.

The recent trend is that virtual currencies are declining in value, losing half their value in the last two months. If it continues to decline, you won’t make enough to pay for the electricity. Maybe then video cards will come down in price.

My prediction: Both will fail

Despite being friends with both VR pioneers and crypto currency advocates, I have to take the rational position that they are both doomed to fail.  VR is the next Kinect, WiiU, 3D TV, or many other trendy “cool” techs that ultimately failed.  Crypto-currencies are riding a bubble like “Tulip Mania”.

Advocates of both will insist that they have heard these criticisms before, and my answer is “because they are valid”.

I might invest in VR gear if the price comes down to a decent level. In the mean time, I’m using my graphics card for gaming and 3D rendering.

 

The Rachel and Ariane Story is Complete (for now)

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It was over two years ago when I released a story involving “Date Ariane” star Ariane meeting “Something’s In The Air” star Rachel meeting each other by chance at a Halloween party.  Parts 2, 3, and the first draft of part 4 were released last winter when I had a lot of time on my hands. After today, I am finished with part 5.

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You might want to read the whole story or at least the ending before scrolling down and reading spoilers.

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Last chance…

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OK, Spoilers.

So Ariane really isn’t gay, and Rachel is asexual.  I more or less already revealed this a year ago in the badly written draft of part 4 I released last February.  I had some anonymous bartender break the news in a very awkwardly written scene that might exist somewhere, but I removed it from my web sites.

I spent the good part of this last year trying to rewrite part 4, and failing miserably.  My second approach was to make a game of this story and have the part 4 top club divide into three paths: one with the ending as it currently exists, one where Rachel and Ariane have sex, and one with the “Rachel is Asexual” reveal, but before I could illustrate it, I made a valiant attempt at writing it and completely failing.

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The problem is that a perfect stranger they meet at a sex club should not be breaking the news, even though it makes sense that there would be a lot of sex experts at a sex club.

The fix I came up with is 1.) for the three branches at the sex club to be one long branch, and 2.) to have Lydia make the reveal. It is much better with someone they know breaking the news.  There is a bonus reason 3.) The story comes full circle as part 5 chapter 3 feels like a repeat of part 2.  The last few pictures are even the same except the different hair styles.

At the end of part 2, Ariane reveals she sucks at relationships, and Rachel reveals that she has an odd fetish when it comes to sex — she can’t be herself, she role plays. Part 5 closes both of those story arcs with Ariane finally finding a successful relationship, and Rachel finally being herself in an intimate moment.

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When I first designed the Rachel character I wanted her to be different than Ariane.  Two traits I originally imagined for Ariane, being a science geek and a secret supermodel, never came to fruition, so I gave those traits to Rachel.  I also got a comment once from a vegetarian player of Date Ariane, wondering why she was such a big meat eater, the comment inspired me to make Rachel a vegetarian.

But the biggest trait of Ariane is that she is really into sex, often on the first date.

So my original formulation of Rachel was to make her not really into sex, especially on the first date.  So the stories I came up with in Something’s In The Air didn’t involve sex. There was nudity at the dress shop and at her private photo studio, and at the house party though she didn’t get naked herself.

The problem, as all my beta testers informed me, is that erotic visual novels should have erotic scenes with the main characters. So I came up with this weird but geeky work around that Rachel will have sex when she pretends to be someone else. So I wrote two sex scenes with Rachel involving this quirk.

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I later found out in my research on sexual fetishes, that there are people that fantasize about sex not involving themselves, and it is called autochorissexuality, and it is a sub category of asexuality.  Asexuals are not sexually attracted to anyone, but still may have a sex drive that can be triggered with the right stimulus. That is a pretty good description of Rachel’s quirk.  So Rachel has been asexual since I created her.

Part of the reason I needed to reveal this fact in this story is because asexual representation is rare in the media. It is estimated that Asexuals represent somewhere between 1% to 2% of the population, which makes them a pretty small minority. GLAAD points out that there are literally only 2 asexuals on TV.  Todd on Bojack Horseman is the most prominent, Raphael on Shadowhunters is a minor recurring asexual vampire. That’s it.

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Is this really The End for this story?

There is an epilogue to the story that I attempted to include in the last part, but it interrupted the tone of the story so I dropped it:

On January 2nd, Ariane goes back to work after her week vacation to face a stack of new bug reports to sort and file, while Rachel has a morning meeting with her agent to discuss the new contacts and job offers she got on New Years Eve.  Rachel is super busy with jobs and online classes for the next several months.  The two of them rarely see much of each other after the new year.

This could set up a “Part 6” in the future, or it could set up a future game. I really haven’t decided yet.

Four Videos on Nostalgia You Need To Watch Today! (or you can wait 10 years)

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I have lately been digging around in You Tube watching video essays about art and science and learning a lot of really cool stuff along the way. Four of my favorite channels have all recently taken a swing at the topic of nostalgia in a way that is very thought provoking and worth watching. I tackled the topic a while back myself here.

I’m starting with “Nostalgia Chick” herself Lindsey Ellis:

This video is a very good introduction to nostalgia themes, both good and bad.  When we look back at the past we tend to remember the good and forget the bad.

The second video by Nerdwriter1 has become rather famous in art circles, though should be watched by mainstream audiences. It introduces a couple of new phrases “intertextuality” referring to emotional currency created by nostalgic moments, and “weaponized intertextuality” which is an overblown version that when it shows up it a good sign you are watching a bad movie.

The third video by Just Write is a response to this second video, which combines the ideas of both of these previous videos.  Just write is a channel devoted to writing and I think just watching these videos has improved my writing a bit.

In this video, he takes the idea that “everything has already been done before” and shows how originality can still exist by mixing ideas from the past in new ways, using Stranger Things as a perfect example.

So it is possible for nostalgia to be original when it is done right, when it is done in original ways. To quote the last two videos:

A lot of Hollywood sequels, remakes and reboots use references to their own history as a frequent, but unsatisfying, replacement for actual drama.

It is very tempting to replace the term “a lot of” and just say “all”, because it is practically a given that any sequel remake or reboot is not going to be as good as we often falsely nostalgically remember the original to be.  For every successful remake/reboot like Battlestar Galactica, there are way more awful remakes/reboots like Ghostbusters 2016 that don’t deserve our attention and we are better off going back and rewatching the original, often realizing, like the original Ghostbusters 1985, it wasn’t as good as we remember it being.

For this reason a lot of creators are very reluctant to revisit their popular past projects. Joss Whedon has been asked if he would like to go back and do more episodes of Firefly, the show cancelled way too soon.  His answer is “No”.

Simply put, both Whedon and Fillion know that bringing Firefly back would be a terrible idea. We’re in love with the possibility of more story, the promise of fulfilling answers to the show’s questions. Reality would be a disappointment. Firefly feels perfect because it never had the chance to fail.

If we were to bring back Firefly, it could suffer the same fate as Mr. Robot, one of my favorite shows on the air. Mr. Robot had a near-perfect first season. Everything about it, from the writing and the show’s photography to Rami Malek’s award-winning portrayal of solitary hacker Elliot Alderson, was immaculate.

So much so, in fact, that there were concerns from a variety of critics and reporters that the show wouldn’t be able to sustain that level of quality in its second season. They were right.  If Mr. Robot had just existed as a 10-episode season, it would be remembered as one of the greatest series of television’s modern age. There wouldn’t have been time for the series to be screwed up.

The fact that Firefly only had one season was the best thing that could have ever happened for the show’s integrity, even if that reality stings a bit. Cancellation can be a gift to your legacy.

Sometimes being cancelled before your time is a good thing for legacy.  Returning with weak new episodes is a good way to kill that legacy, for example Arrested Development, Gilmore Girls, X-Files, Full House and Will & Grace to name some recent examples.

However, there is at least one series that has returned from the long dead past and purposely avoided those pitfalls by recognizing those mistakes and reinventing itself as a critique of nostalgia: Twin Peaks, which is what the final video essay by Screen Prism is about.

I believe that these four videos combined really give us a “big picture” of the age of nostalgia we seem to be buried in these days.

Within these videos is the explanation of why returning to the past is largely unsatisfactory, versions of good and bad nostalgia, and how to recognize them, but at the same time offers glimpses into how we can use the past to create original satisfying content in the present.