Saturday, July 15, 2006

Hounding Howard

Years ago we had a Premier in Tasmania called Robin Grey. He was a pig-headed man who stuck to his guns even when he was blatantly in the wrong, as for example in the Franklin Dam issue where he wanted the dam built and passed legislation that anyone who was on public land near the dam site was now trespassing, and was arrested for it, despite a record vote by the population for no dam at all. But when the Federal Government stepped in and halted the dam, Robin Grey didn't spit and pout; he simply accepted that if that was the situation, he'd make the best of it for Tasmania, and now fought tooth and nail for compensation for the state because of the intervention. I had to admire that about him.

Fast forward to 2006, and John Howard is under pressure this last week or two to resign and hand the leadership of the Party over. Why? Because 12 years ago he said he would serve 1-2 terms as Prime Minister if the Party got elected, and now Peter Costello is beating that memo up into a major power play. If broken promises were grounds for dismissal in politics, there wouldn't be a single player who lasted more than a week. Its the nature of the game that you tell people what they want to hear, and then try to deliver the goods afterward. If you can't, so be it.

The big question is, why should John Howard resign? I compare him to Robin Grey because, like Mr Grey, Mr Howard has beliefs and isn't afraid to stick to them. Sure a lot of his decisions are unpopular. The Liberals brought in GST; there were lots of horror stories and muddy campaigns against it, but you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone in Australia these days who doesn't think the new tax system is fairer and easier than we used to have. In a time where gay marriages are legitimized in countries such as the US, John Howard took a stand and said "No, we won't". It may have lost him a lot of gay votes but I'll guarantee it won him more from the straight population. The recent industrial relations legislation has been the subject of a smear campaign since its inception, and although you can certainly find some people who were hard done by as a result of it if you look hard enough, the average worker is much better off now. Like the GST, in 10 years time people will look back and say "Why did we complain so much about that?"

Then, of course, there's the Opposition to consider. The Labor Party has no chance of ever being elected while Kim Beazley is its leader; the fact that Labor doesn't realise this is proof of how out-of-touch with the general population and its feelings they are. Like Alexander Downer, Kim Beazley just doesn't have that "je ne sais quoi" that electors want. Peter Costello knows this, and that's why he sees his best chance at being PM to be now - provided he can get Howard out of the way.

John Howard and his Liberal Party have consistently, since gaining office, passed family- and moral-supportive laws, showed compassion to our neighbours, been tough when they had to be, and had the strength to pass legislation which made them unpopular in the short term, but ultimately was for the country's good. Australia has thrived under their leadership. I'm not a person who votes for a particular Party, but John Howard is a man I will tolerate as Prime Minister for as long as he wants to be its leader, because, like him or loathe him, his record speaks for itself.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Dear Blog

Dear Blog, sorry I haven't got time to write much to you today. I've been making Lux maps flat out, but don't worry, I'm sure I will tire of it quickly and return to you. See you soon.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Fired Up

A spate of house fires over the last year in Rosebery, an isolated town on the far west coast of Tassie, has locals worried, according to The Advocate, the north-west's newspaper. Rosebery is one of those mining towns which rise and fall with the prosperity of the mines, and the mines in the region are continually being kept open by government handouts and intervention. Ten years ago you could buy a house in Rosebery for $10,000, but today's fire 'caused damage [to the latest house] estimated at $220,000'. Why the big difference? Well, we have had a real estate price boom in the state over recent years - as more Mainlanders discovered the idyllic life down here and the comparitively cheap cost of housing, the local market naturally went up, so that values soon fell into line with the rest of Australia. But those West Coast mines just aren't ever going to be viable ever again. What goes up must come down, and housing values in Rosebery and other mining towns will drop again as they become mining ghost towns in the future. It must be a hell of a temptation for a person who had a house that was worth $10,000 a few years ago, is insured for $220,000 now, and who knows that it will only drop in value in the future. I'm not saying that people are burning their own houses down for the insurance money. Just that it could be very tempting.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Explaining Lux

Yesterday's comments about Lux were answered by Mark Bauer, one of the MapLAB testing team. You can read the entire answer by clicking on the 'Comments' link to yesterday's article, but for those who don't bother, here are the main points:

SillySoft is a small company, and thus the MapLAB was formed, made up of unpaid volunteers independent of SillySoft. Their main task is not to eliminate maps but to test for bugs; once there were many hence the insistence on time and quality by instituting the one-per-week rule. EVERY map for Lux was made by a user. ALL the maps ever submitted can be accessed in the Plugin Manager by entering /set showAllMaps (join an internet game as a guest and then type it into the chat bit at the bottom). The rating system means nothing. Make maps that you enjoy and want to play, because the point the of Lux and the point of map making, is not to be on the top of a heap, it's to have fun.

Yes, I agree, the main criticism I had was that maps could be lost to users on the whim of a few map testers, and that is totally negated by the /set showAllMaps command which allows you to see everything. I should also perhaps mention something else: in all of my contacts with the Lux forums or via email so far, I've received replies within hours. This is in sharp contrast to many companies or forums where posts are ignored or flamed, where questions elicit not meaningful answers but comments like 'ya nOOb ur oWnEd'. Mark reckons Lux's main strength is that the users create all the maps; I would make that half the main strength, the other half being a user community which accepts new users quickly and helpfully. In my other posts re Lux I was quite picky and bordering on uncomplimentary; when you slap someone they can respond in two ways - fight back, or turn the other cheek. Lux and its users were put to the test by me in the last couple of days, and passed with flying colors.

So get out there and buy Lux, and start making maps people. We want these MapLAB testers to be so busy their girlfriends leave them. If taking over the world is fun, then taking over a thousand worlds will be a blast!

Lux maps

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Lux Lament

They're a fickle lot over at SillySoft. Lux has been around for years, but the lack of maps was always the problem. In such circumstance, you'd think SillySoft would welcome any and all efforts to expand the mapbase, but instead, all maps submitted are first sent to MapLAB users to test-play (which isn't such a bad idea at all, it keeps out the absolute garbage and stops porn-based maps etc). After they've contacted you with suggestions, if they think its good enough, it gets added to the database of maps which the Lux Plugin Manager accesses. My map from yesterday scored a 4.1 out of 5, and elicited the comments "blast to play and looks very nice!" and "Quite a success for your first map… Very nice… I think it will be warmly recieved." Great, makes me feel it was well worth the effort.

Except that after one day and only 5 votes, its been rated down to 2.4 - and that means that, after only one day, no-one can see it on the website or Plugin Manager since they only show maps of rating 3 or higher. That didn't impress me very much, it made me wonder how many other excellent maps have been created by users only to be thrown into the deepest darkest dungeon of SillySoft never to appear again. A total of 5 people have rated my map, and because 1 of them didn't like it, it will forever be lost to the rest of the Lux community. Those few people have decided on behalf of the many.

Lux's main problem was always its lack of maps and this is no way to fix it. The program has an ideal marketing strategy in that the Plugin Manager only downloads maps if you paid for the program, so SillySoft should half the price (and thereby get 10 times the sales - sound business sense) and make every map available to users. Better yet, install a popup that says 'Show me only maps rated (x) or higher'. Then every user would have access to all maps of a quality threshold they wanted, whether a select few individuals at the MapLAB thought they were good enough or not. And because they could still access all the maps, some of those less-than-3 maps might get more ratings and come back above 3 again, whereas the way the current system works they're gone for good.

Since designing 'Circuit Showdown', I've done 4 new maps, but I can only submit one a week ('to keep quality up' says SillySoft's submit page). I think they're all excellent, but already, one week into owning Lux, I wonder if I will bother making any more. I enjoy making them, and I'm a good graphic designer, but I'm just not going to bother if 1 or 2 individuals can take my efforts away from everyone else. My second map, 'Space Invaders', is ready to upload. It would have been easy to rip some graphics off the web for it, but for copyright reasons I created all the graphics from scratch. It took quite some time, but perhaps all that effort will be wasted. I'll submit it when SillySoft's system decides to let me, and we'll see how long it survives. This is no way to build a thriving user community.

Monday, July 10, 2006

First Lux Map

I bought Lux, that risk-style game from SillySoft, a few days ago. Its been around for quite some time but I was always put off buying it because there weren't a lot of maps. Well, now there are over 200 downloadable, and with a Map Editor built in, you can be sure many more will come. My map is called 'Circuit Showdown', and after a day or two of testing by the MapLab people, will be available through Lux's built-in Plugin Manager.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Aztec Festival

Just returned from taking the kids out to the Aztec Chocolate Festival at Latrobe. For those interested in attending next year, don't bother. I rate the whole thing one big Chocolate Starfish. More details later.