Archive for January, 2005


Tort Reform

Posted in Opinion at 3:34 pm by jw

With the stories of million dollar law suits, spiralling insurance costs and lawyers suing on the most perposterous of grounds, tort reform seems like a good thing and I agree that something has to be done. Where I find myself disagreeing with most established positions on reform is in the way in which something has to be done. Everything I’ve seen of the more popular proposals just seems to be fighting the symptom and not the root cause of the problem.

So what is the real problem? Simple – civil suits against large companies or insurance agencies are viewed as a cash jackpot for the complainant if they happen to win. The staggering payout of punitive damages makes it worthwhile to pursue these cases even if you only win one in a hundred. That makes every last one of them worth going after because given the right combination of factors you can potentially end up with a windfall but more importantly, a windfall which you don’t deserve.

Regular damages are awarded based on what you deserve for your injury or loss. That’s the money you deserve and that money should never be limited or taken out of the award process. If you’ve been injured and shown it to be someone else’s fault then you deserve to have them pay the cost of your injuries. The part you don’t deserve is the punitive damages. These are awarded to punish the party who was in the wrong and are set so that the sum is an actual punishment. If you are injured by a large company to the tune of $50,000 worth of hospital expenses and emotional damage etc. that payout isn’t even going to be noticed by a company of that magnitude. The company’s financial department may even decide that the cost savings they can glean from being somewhat negligent may even be worth the occasional damages claim. This is why punitive damages are necessary.

The advocates of conventional tort reform are seeking to limit the punitive damages inflicted on these entites that do wrong, but that defeats the very purpose of punitive damages. If the company isn’t actually hurt by the damages payout then where is the incentive for them to change their ways? That’s the real problem with most ideas for tort reform and the reason I most definitely oppose any sort of limits to the damages set. If a company does wrong, punish it in a way that it actually feels. Can anyone argue against that simply philosophy?

So, given punitive damages can’t be removed but they are causing problems by being awarded to the complainant, the only remaining option is to simply no longer award the punitive damages to the person injured. They’ve already been given what they deserve, why also hand over the windfall for their “luck” in being injured by a large company and not a small one.

However, this then leaves the problem of where to send the money and the real sticking point of the idea. You can’t award it to the government (it gives an incentive for the government to be overly aggressive towards companies and fosters government corruption). You can’t give any sort of incentive to anyone to go after these types of lawsuits for any reason other than actual injury. That only leaves one option in my mind – force the company to simply take the money out to the parking lot and burn it. Naturally that’s figurative but punitive damages really should go nowhere at all. They aren’t a windfall, just the punishment in the only way a company feels it – it’s pocketbook.

Next time I hear someone talk about tort reform, I’ll just ask them if they mean a limitation on punitive damages. If they do, ask them if they believe in punishing a child when they do something wrong. After all, if we punish our children for doing the wrong thing why shouldn’t our companies get the legal equivalent?

The only other offsetting issue to this is the insurance business which sells insurance against these sorts of things. Strangely enough when I started writing this article I thought it was a bad thing to offer this sort of insurance but you know what? Insurance is just a way of mitigating risk and insurance companies always make money. Ultimately, the smart thing to do would be to forego insurance and simply work hard at not making mistakes – you’re only going to get sued if *you* are negligent.


Macroing in EQ2

Posted in General at 12:30 pm by jw

I’ve read a lot of posts about macros and tradeskills and while I appreciate the arguments against the practice, I can’t help but be horrified at how little people really understand about just how complex and sophisticated these macros can be. Accurate detection of macros is next to impossible because they can be programmed to act and behave just like players, given the critical step of identifying the in-game events can be made to happen.

Here’s what macros can do:

  • Send any keystroke to the game
  • Read any pixel or set of pixels from the screen
  • Read anything from a log file
  • Do any sort of calculations, loops and delays imaginable

Frequently I come across the following arguments for how to “detect and ban” macro users:

  1. Detect people who miss 5 in a row, or make crafting more deadly!

    This is seriously the dumbest idea out there. Plenty of people just ignore events/reactions when making low level stuff because it’s just not worth the effort. That hardly flags them as macro users. In fact, a decent macro user will have code to detect the events and respond precisely to them so this action will tend to catch non-macro users far more than macro users. That’s a winner!

  2. Pop up a message box randomly.Remember where I said that macros can read anything from the screen? Guess what popping up a message box is going to do? Yep – make the macro user put simple code into his macro to hit the appropriate button. Again, you catch the sleepy regular crafters and not the macro users.
  3. Have GMs directly attempt to interact with the toon.Well, this has possiblities but the smart macro user will avoid positive detection by simply coding their macro to camp and log out when a GM attempts to interact with the toon, or even when a GM is detected in the zone. Looks suspicious sure, but probably not enough to get you banned.
  4. Time the responses because macros repeat things down to millisecond accuracy.Macros can and do exhibit random response times for a number of reasons. First it’s possible to simply code in random variations to the timing of the keystrokes the macro program is sending to the application. Next, Windows XP has a timeslice of around 100ms for each process, so there’s another source of timer variation. Lastly, the internet varies greatly in packet timing, at least 50-100ms at times depending on how far you are from the server. All that added makes it rather unlikely that a simple timing analysis is going to catch any macro user at all, unless the macro is exceptionally poorly written.

There’s also the convenient fiction that if you suspect someone of macroing you should send them a tell. When I’m tradeskilling I tend to ignore anyone I don’t know sending me random stupid tells like “Hi”. Seriously, I’ve got better things to do than justify my level to some self-appointed vigilante. Whatever floats their boat though I guess.

Here’s the real way to stop macroing, at least until the hackers get their grubby hands into the internals of the EQ2 program itself and reliably detect anything and everything in the game – remove the silly little event box from the bottom of the tradeskill window and integrate events into the 3d view. Also, have events cause significant problems in casting – a missed event should drop the product a whole tier of durability. That itself is much, much harder to macro against because you have to somehow judge the meaning of a 3d image instead of a little 2d bitmap, then respond correctly to preserve your crafting progress. Of course, adding more complexity would be good too so it’s not just hours of mindless key mashing.

Detecting macroers though? Never going to be very reliable if you don’t accept false positives. It wasn’t in EQ1 and I don’t see anything in EQ2 that would make it easier (or WoW or any current MMOG for that matter).

One of the original comments which was very good:

I wrote some insane FFXI macros in my day. What he says is right. I can detect and react to any 2D image like what EQ2 has now. If they display the crafting data in 3D however, it becomes VERY difficult to detect what is going. I think it still theoretically can be done, but only with some amazing scanning code that is ultra efficient… I know I couldn’t pull it off.

But the pop-up window idea that GMs send to potential botters could be a good idea, if the windows had no set colors/sizes/shapes, and if they were totally random blobs with totally random text sizes/fonts/colors. Humans could read that, but bots could not (well, theoretically they could, but not without millions in funding for the code developement – hehe).


Internet Illiteracy

Posted in Opinion at 4:31 pm by jw

Browsing the Brell Serilis board, I saw the following gem:

…i dont need english lessions. my spelling sux yes , and maybe ther are them people out ther that have to point it out just to make them selfs feel better , and as far as my gramer goes i dont feal the need to put peroids and such in , i dident know i was back in school wher it matters if this wher school yes i would use the proper peroids and commas and such but im not so shuve it up your expletive deleted and go teach a class are somthing wher thay care.
and oh ye i allredy droped a 100$ are so on english 101 i cant help it that i have AD/HD and my mind races and i thank faster than my hands can type and on top of that i went to crappy elem schools and that my high school was a football factory and as long as you played football you dident even have to atend class to pass , so beffor you make fun of some one thank about the fact that not all of us are pirfect like you

People like this annoy me excessively. Proper English (even vaguely proper English) allows you to communicate with other people. It’s morons like this that have mastered the art of making noise but haven’t yet gathered the collective brain cells to work together and realize that the whole point of making noises is for someone else to hear and comprehend what you are trying to say.

You learn English in school so you can make yourself understood. Morons like this who think people don’t care that you are at least legible and then make weak excuses about not being in school any more and follow it up with their disability and poor childhood sob stories are just worthless disturbances in the gene pool.

You know what? On the internet and especially on message boards everyone gets a clean slate. What you do with it is your business but you’ll find very little sympathy for begging not to be judged on your communication skills. The amusing thing is that in his final “sentence” he is far closer to the truth than he probably realizes. Not everyone is perfect, but at least some of us try to get as close as we can and refuse to wallow in illiterate uneducated indignation when someone accurately points out that you have the absolute inability to communicate on a messageboard.