The incompetent view

I’ll admit, there are other things to write about, yet this is a larger issue than anyone thinks it is. The previous writers did not ponder the questions that were adamant, and Stephanie Kirchgaessner follows suit (at https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jan/27/nsa-faces-questions-over-security-of-trump-officials-after-alleged-bezos-hack) when we consider that the focus here is the NSA in ‘NSA faces questions over security of Trump officials after alleged Bezos hack‘. You see, it is not merely the fact that they got the stage wrong, it is the fact that everyone is looking at the stage, whilst the orchestra is missing, so how about that part of the equation and that leads to very uncomfortable question towards WHY the US is tailing on 5G and why it is trying to tailgate into the 5G room. They forgot what real innovation is and Saudi Arabia is seemingly passing them by, a nation that has forever been seen as a technological third world is surpassing the US and it is upsetting more and more people.

The US National Security Agency is facing questions about the security of top Trump administration officials’ communications following last week’s allegations that the Saudi crown prince may have had a hand in the alleged hack of Jeff Bezos“, with this the article opens and basically nothing wrong is stated here, yet when seen in the light of the byline which was “Democratic lawmaker asks agency if it is confident the Saudi government has not sought to hack US officials“, as such it becomes an issue. first off, the question is not wrong, because the US administration has a duty to seek the safety of communications for its coworkers (senators and such), yet in all this, it does become a little more clear when we see “Ron Wyden, a senior Democratic lawmaker, asked the director of the NSA whether he was confident that the Saudi government had not also sought to hack senior US government officials“. You see in the first, Saudi intentional involvement was NEVER established, moreover, the report (I looked at that last week) has several hiatus of a rather large kind, as such the formulation by this 70 year old person is quite the other issue. 

It is my personal conviction that a Fortune 100 company should consider the danger they open themselves up to when letting cyber issues be investigated by FTI Consulting. The entire matter of how infection was obtained (if it was infection), and that the entire matter was instigated by any third party who had gained access to the phone of Jeff Bezos, and in all this enough doubt was raised who got access and more importantly that there was no evidence that this was ANY Saudi official, as such the short sighted “whether he was confident that the Saudi government had not also sought to hack senior US government officials” by a 70 year old who shows issues of lack of critical thinking, no matter what which school he went to when he was half a century younger.

And again we see the reference towards “The senator from Oregon is separately seeking to force the Trump administration to officially release the intelligence it collected on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post journalist who was killed in a state-sponsored murder in October 2018“, which is another flaw as there was never any clear evidence that anyone in Turkey was “killed in a state-sponsored murder in October 2018“, more importantly, the French UN Essay writer who was seemingly involved in both reports is showing a lack of critical thinking all by herself.

All this whilst Paul Nakasone (director NSA) is confronted with “was believed to have been the victim of a hack that was instigated after he allegedly received a WhatsApp message from the account of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman“, the problem is twofold, in the first I personally see the report by FTI Consulting as a hack job, not a job on a hack. There are several sides that give doubt on infection source and moreover there is additional lack of evidence that the source was a Saudi one. More importantly other sources gave away issues on WhatsApp some time overlapping the event, exploits that made it into the press from all sides giving the weakness that any unnamed party could have played to be a Saudi delivery whilst the file was not from that delivery point. Issues that were out in the open and the report gives that FTI Consulting ignored them. It could read that a certain French Essay writer stated ‘I Have a Saudi official and an American phone, find me a link, any link‘, I am not stating that this happened, but it feels like that was the FTI Consulting case. When was the last time you saw an intentional perversion of justice and truth?

And when we see: “The issue is now the subject of an investigation by two independent UN investigators“, we see an almost completed path. When we see all this lets take a step back and consider. 

  1. An American Civilian had his mobile allegedly (and optionally proven) hacked.
  2. The hacker is not found, the one accused cannot be proven (at present) to be the hacker.
  3. This ends up with the UN?

And I am not alone here. Three days ago (after my initial findings) I see (at https://edition.cnn.com/2020/01/24/tech/bezos-hacking-report-analysts/index.html) the headline ‘Bezos hacking report leaves cybersecurity experts with doubts‘, there we see “independent security experts, some of whom say the evidence isn’t strong enough to reach a firm conclusion” as well as “several high-profile and respected researchers, highlights the limits of a report produced by FTI Consulting, the company Bezos hired to investigate the matter“, so basically, the hair lacking CEO, who owns the Washington Post (where Khashoggi used to work) is allegedly hacked, he seemingly hires FTI Consulting on what I personally believe to be a hack job on hacking phones and the UN is using that biased piece of work to slam Saudi Arabia? Did I miss anything?

Yes, I did, the quote “The report suggested the incident bore hallmarks of sophisticated hacking software“, the problem here is that there is no way to see WHERE IT CAME FROM. Yet other sources give out several pieces on WhatsApp and how other sources could have a free go at infesting people. All whilst we also see “the paper revealed a lack of sophistication that could have been addressed by specialized mobile forensics experts, or law enforcement officials with access to premium tools“, all this whilst the entire setting went around the existence of cyber divisions. There is a link Jeff Bezos – Amazon – FTI Consulting – United Nations. At no point in this do we see any police department, or the FBI, why is that?

As such when we see “A key shortcoming of the analysis, Edwards said, was that it relied on a restricted set of content obtained from Bezos’s iTunes backup. A deeper analysis, she said, would have collected detailed records from the iPhone’s underlying operating and file systems. Other security experts characterized the evidence in the report as inconclusive“, I would state that this is merely the beginning.

Rob Graham (CEO Errata security) gives us “It contains much that says ‘anomalies we don’t understand,’ but lack of explanations point to incomplete forensics, not malicious APT actors” and Alex Stamos, the former chief information security officer at Facebook and a Stanford University professor gives us “Lots of odd circumstantial evidence, for sure, but no smoking gun“, in all this the extreme geriatric Ron Wyden (Oregon) is asking questions from the NSA with the text “asked the director of the NSA whether he was confident that the Saudi government had not also sought to hack senior US government officials” with the emphasis on ‘also‘, a stage that is not proven, and more importantly is almost redundant in the hack job we got to read about. As such I am not surprised to see “FTI Consulting declined to comment“, I wonder why?

It is even more fun to see the CNN article have the stage where we see “a research group at the University of Toronto, offered a suggestion that could allow investigators to gain access to encrypted information that FTI said it could not unlock“, as such we see that there are skill levels missing in FTI, for the simple reason that this report was allowed to leave the hands of FTI Consulting, a Firm that is proudly advertising that they have 49 of the Global 100 companies that are clients. If I had anything to say about it, those 49 companies might have more issues down the road than they are ready for, especially as they have over 530 senior managing directors and none of them stopeed that flimsy report making it to the outside world. I would personally set a question mark to the claim of them being advisor to 96 of the world’s top 100 law firms. I would not be surprised if I could punch holes in more cases that FTI Consulting set advice to, in light of the Bezos report, it might not be too hard a stage to do.

CNN also has a few critical points that cannot be ignored. With “The report’s limited results are a reminder that it can be extremely challenging to reconstruct the activities of a determined, well-resourced hacker, said Kenneth White, a security engineer and former adviser to the Defense Department and Department of Homeland Security“, I do not disagree with that, but the stage where WhatsApp had a much larger problem, is a given, and the report does not bring that up for one moment, that report was all about painting one party whilst the reality of the stage was that there was an open floor on how it was done, yet the report silenced all avenues there. In addition, Chris Vickery (Director UpGuard) gives us “other evidence provided by FTI increased his confidence that Bezos was being digitally surveilled“. that is not in question, core information directs that way, yet the fact that it was a Saudi event cannot be proven, not whilst Jeff Bezos is around hundreds of people in most moments of the day, that part is the larger setting and FTI Consulting knowingly skated around the subject, almost as it was instructed to do so.

One expert who wanted to remain anonymous gave us all “There’s an absurd amount of Monday morning quarterbacking going on” as well as “This isn’t a movie — things don’t proceed in a perfect, clean way. It’s messy, and decisions are made the way they’re made“, that expert is not wrong, and he/she has a point, yet the foundation of the report shows a massive lack in critical thinking whilst the report relies in its text on footnotes (as one would) yet on page 3, the text is “Al Qahtani eventually purchased 20 percent ownership in Hacking Team, apparantly acquired on behalf of the Saudi government. 8

all whilst footnote 8 gives us “https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/8xvzyp/hacking-team-investor-saudi-arabia” so not only does the FTI Consulting Job rely on ‘apparantly‘, the article gives in the first paragraph “Hacking Team was thoroughly owned, with its once-secret list of customers, internal emails, and spyware source code leaked online for anyone to see” as such we see ‘spyware source code leaked online for anyone to see‘, how did FTI Consulting miss this? That and the WhatsApp issue in that same year opens up the optional pool of transgressors to all non state hackers with considerable knowledge, as such the amount of transgressors ups to thousands of hackers (globally speaking). 

FTI Consulting missed that! and it missed a lot more. The article also sets a link to David Vincenzetti and for some reason he is not even looked at, there is no stage in the FTI report that his input was sought out, which in light of all this is equally puzzling. He might not have had anything to report, or perhaps he had enough to report taking the focal point away from Saudi players, we will never know, the joke (read: report) is out in the open in all its glory on limitation. 

In light of all this, did the question by Ron Wyden to the NSA make sense? As far as I can see, I see several points of incompetance and that has nothing to do with the one expert stating that this is a messy, the entire setting was optionally incompetent and for certain massively incomplete. 

More importantly, the last paragraphs has more funny parts than a two hour show by Jimmy Carr. The quote is “Anyone who has had communication with either MBS or his brother Khaled should assume their phone is hacked. Congress needs to get answers from NSA on what it knew about the hack of Bezos phone, when it knew it, and what it has done to stop Saudi criminal hacking behavior” and it comes from CIA analyst Bruce Riedel. Now, the quote is fine, but the hilarious part is how it was phrased (expertly done). Lets go over it in my (super subtle) way: “Anyone who has had communication with either MBS or his brother Khaled should assume their phone is hacked by Saudi, US or Iranian officials. Congress needs to get answers from NSA for a change on a matter that they were never consulted on whilst the report ended up with the UN on what it knew about the hack of Bezos phone, a person who has a few billion and a lack of hair but beyond that has no meaning to the US economy, he keeps all his gotten gains, when it knew when the phone of a civilian was allegedly hacked and, and what it has done to stop Saudi criminal hacking behavior which is not proven at present other than by people who have something to gain from seeing the Saudi’s as the bad party (like Iran), all in a report that is lacking all levels of clarity and proper investigation“, this is an important setting here. Just like the disappearance of a Saudi columnist writing for the Washington Post (another Jeff Bezos affiliate), we do not proclaim Saudi Arabia being innocent, merely that the lack of evidence does not make them guilty, in the present the hacking issue does not make Saudi Arabia guilty, the irresponsible version of the FTI Consulting report shows a massive lack of evidence that makes any Saudi Arabian party more likely than not innocent of all this and as both reports have one UN Female French Essay writer in common, it is more and more like a smear campaign than an actual event to find out what actually happened. Who signed up for that? I wonder if the NSA did, I feel decently certain that until they get all the actual evidence that they do not want to get involved with political painting, their left foot is busy keeping them standing up in a world of hunkered and crouched idiots.

Yet that is just my simple personal view on the matter.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under IT, Media, Military, Politics

Evidence? Why?

I ignored the news initially, as I saw it, it was nothing more than some bash piece on Saudi Arabia. Yet something hot me, it was just a thought and it was: ‘What if I illuminate parts and let common sense people decide‘ (which takes out many journalists and mostly all politicians). As for me? The issue is that the media is all about bashing any royal part of Saudi Arabia, all whilst ignoring evidence (and debatable evidence to a much greater degree, their pursuit of circulation and agreeing to the beat of shareholders and stakeholders has gone to the heads of too many editors and I get a real rush to illuminate this part.

I have never ignored evidence, yet just like with Huawei, it is seemingly all about the big bully shouting, whilst the deciding world for the most ignores evidence and I think that it is a weird situation. Not merely in this blog, but on a few matters, we will get to hold them to account in a few years, at that point these people will make hastily formulated excuses whilst running to their mummies to get breastfeeding (I reckon).

So, lets begin. In the first we have ‘How the UN unearthed a possible Saudi Arabian link to Jeff Bezos hack‘ (the Guardian at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/jan/22/how-the-un-unearthed-a-possible-saudi-arabian-link-to-jeff-bezos-hack) as well as ‘Did Saudi Arabia’s crown prince hack the Amazon king?’ (the Economist at https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2020/01/25/did-saudi-arabias-crown-prince-hack-the-amazon-king), a nice side effect is that the Economist, is viewed and acted on on the 24th of January, whilst the article states that it is the Jan 25th 2020 edition, but enough about that. Let’s start with the Guardian who tells us “The UN’s demand for law enforcement authorities to conduct a proper investigation into the alleged hacking of Jeff Bezos’s mobile phone came after it reviewed the findings of a cybersecurity firm, FTI“, we might not see anything here, yet the UN, who is underfunded and strained has time for this? Is this another US Essay like the one by some French girl on the killing of Jamal Khashoggi? And what about ‘after it reviewed the findings of a cybersecurity firm, FTI‘? This implies that the United Nations called for the inspection, notified a cyber security firm (FTI) and investigated the phone of some so called billionaire (postage and shipping required). So why exactly is this not with the police or an official investigative body like the FBI Cyber division?

Following this we get the real beef with “concluded with “medium to high confidence” that it had been compromised because of actions attributable to a WhatsApp account used by the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman“, first of all, if I want to investigate the corruption at an army base, I will not go in as the lawlordtobe, I would enter the situation as some poor schmuck who is from the city of Noonecares. It is almost like an assasination and the official in question uses his own service revolver instead of someone else’s. And what goes with ‘medium to high confidence‘, what evidence was uncovered? Then we get the part where is all falls to shambles. With “The UN was careful not to be definitive. Instead of pointing the finger, its statement said the apparent hack had been achieved using software “such as NSO Group’s Pegasus or, less likely, Hacking Team’s Galileo, that can hook into legitimate applications to bypass detection and obfuscate activity”“, just like the Khashoggi essay fiasco, the UN is all about being not definitive, as such we want to know how accusations can be made when you are not definitive. As such I would like to point the UN troll to a kids game called Clue, there in that games (for ages 8+) we are introduced to the concept of evidence, where you need to collect facts and state “I am accusing Colonel Mustard who killed Dr. Black (aka Mr. Boddy) in the Kitchen using the lead pipe” and then we look at the evidence and see if the claimant had his or her facts straight. None of that CIA BS where we see ‘medium to high confidence‘, I would offer that if the confidence is already medium, what was not looked at and what was discarded. The statement comes directly before “The NSO Group, an Israeli cyber-surveillance firm, strongly denied that its surveillance tools were responsible“, as such we are left with ‘less likely, Hacking Team’s Galileo‘. so there is a mountain of doubt on an article that throws the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia in a bad light and there is seemingly an increasing lack of evidence. As we go on, we see the NSO giving the statement that offers direct opposition to some firm called FTI with “These types of abuses of surveillance systems blacken the eye of the cyber-intelligence community and put a strain on the ability to use legitimate tools to fight serious crime and terror. We expect that all actors in this arena put in place stringent procedures and technological controls, such as those that we have put in place, to assure that their systems are not used in an abusive manner“, as such there are larger questions not merely on the UN for setting the stage of something that is not on their plate, they apparently went to another small operation (who knows) and let them set up the stage of doubtful and debatable documentation, doubtful as we get one of the implied companies go directly into denial and setting a document based on evidence that is regarded as ‘medium to high confidence‘.

And then something beautiful happens. We see “The FTI report cited by the UN special rapporteurs, Agnes Callamard and David Kaye, noted that both NSO and Hacking Team, an Italian company, offered tools that could theoretically have performed the attack” where we are (again) introduced to that UN essay writer, the one that had given us the joke called some Khashoggi report (Agnes Callamard), as well hiding behind ‘tools that could theoretically have performed the attack‘, the idea that this joke from a building based at 760 United Nations Plaza, Manhattan, New York City, New York 10017 and hide behind the word ‘theoretically‘, as such pardon my French (oh, that was funny!) but how the fuck does she still have a job?

For several reasons I will not use the Economist (as I am not a subscriber), but the quotes in their magazine “which was soon used to steal large amounts of data—though the un did not say exactly what, or how it was used” as well as “It called for an “immediate investigation”. The Saudi embassy in Washington, dc, said the accusations were “absurd”.

As I see it, the UN is nothing more than an advertising paper tiger, adhering to the commands of some stakeholder (identity unknown), if this was a direct action by the UN, those people need to be investigated immediately, I feel decently certain I will get both China and Russia to sign off on this, as this has the distinct smell that comes from neither region, so they would score a win, in addition to that, the UN would have to submit data as to what exactly was taken and how it could be identified, which is also an issue that is unclear and optionally unclear to the UN people involved. 

The Verge had a lot more, they had (at https://www.theverge.com/2020/1/23/21078828/report-saudi-arabia-hack-jeff-bezos-phone-fti-consulting) the actual report, and there we see on page one we see the person we need to hackle for information, it is Anthony J. Ferrante who needs to give us the names of who this so called ‘Confidential Report’ was given to, because it seems that it was leaked. And there we see the originator (vice.com) giving us “The report, obtained by Motherboard, indicates that investigators set up a secure lab to examine the phone and its artifacts and spent two days poring over the device but were unable to find any malware on it. Instead, they only found a suspicious video file sent to Bezos on May 1, 2018 that “appears to be an Arabic language promotional film about telecommunications.”“, however, this is not the end. They also give us “Investigators determined the video or downloader were suspicious only because Bezos’ phone subsequently began transmitting large amounts of data. “[W]ithin hours of the encrypted downloader being received, a massive and unauthorized exfiltration of data from Bezos’ phone began, continuing and escalating for months thereafter,” the report states“. In this I state OK, let’s take an actual look.

And they do give us more, quotes like “The digital forensic results, combined with a larger investigation, interviews, research, and expert intelligence information, led the investigators “to assess Bezos’ phone was compromised via tools procured by Saud al Qahtani,” the report states“, as well as “A mobile forensic expert told Motherboard that the investigation as depicted in the report is significantly incomplete and would only have provided the investigators with about 50 percent of what they needed, especially if this is a nation-state attack“, ““They would need to use a tool like Graykey or Cellebrite Premium or do a jailbreak to get a look at the full file system. That’s where that state-sponsored malware is going to be found. Good state-sponsored malware should never show up in a backup,” said Sarah Edwards, an author and teacher of mobile forensics for the SANS Institute“, and “The investigators do note on the last page of their report that they need to jailbreak Bezos’s phone to examine the root file system. Edwards said this would indeed get them everything they would need to search for persistent spyware like the kind created and sold by the NSO Group. But the report doesn’t indicate if that did get done.“, which is as I personally see it the shallow political BS that some people go for. As such we see in the report “The following investigative steps are currently pending“, and more profound, on page 4 we see: “On May 1st, 2018, Bezos received a text from the WhatsApp account used by MBS“, my issue here is that this might have been the infected one, yet if I did that, I would use an originator that was real. And there we have it, the Dailymail gave us ‘New bug allows hackers to send fake messages pretending to be you – and there’s nothing you can do to stop them‘ (at https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-6039533/WhatsApp-users-beware-Hackers-send-fake-messages-pretending-you.html) with the additional text: “First discovered by Israeli cybersecurity group CheckPoint Research, the flaw is incredibly complex and involves a gap within the app’s encryption algorithms. Writing on their website, the team said the vulnerability could make it possible for a hacker ‘to intercept and manipulate messages sent by those in a group or private conversation’ as well as ‘create and spread misinformation’. Hackers could use the bug to alter the text sent in someone else’s reply to a group chat, essentially ‘putting words in their mouth’, the group said.

It took me 5 minutes and Google search to find this. I am not stating that this is true and that the Daily Mail is the source to use (they often are not), yet this is a larger failing, I expected this from the very beginning, the origins of the setting was not properly investigated. Then Vice.com gave us “the report is significantly incomplete and would only have provided the investigators with about 50 percent of what they needed“, which is what I expected before I read one word of the accusation, and with US Essay writer Callamard involved (yes again it is her) we see what this is, another mindless attack on a nation and one person. They did not even bother getting him properly smeared, and no one is asking questions, I reckon that the involved stakeholders are likely to go for the, if we create enough barbeques, someone will shout fire: ‘I ran’ for office! Anyone?

what is the most irritating part is that the UN is again used as the cheap tool that they are. In this there is also the involvement of the FTI and more interesting that a Cyber Security firm did not look past the simplest trappings, as as we consider the optional involvement of Anthony J. Ferrante we need to consider sending quota to all 49 of the Global 100 companies that are FTI clients. Even if it was merely to make a few people sweat. When a non Cyber adapt like me can see through this part they have a clear problem and whether Anony Mouse Bezos was part of this or not will not matter. There is one other part in the report that should be considered. On page 2 we see “More significantly. al Qahtani is known to have played a key and senior role in the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.” In the first, he was acquitted (in a Saudi trial) and there has been no other trials, as such the statement should be read as false, no clear evidence was ever presented. In the second, as this is part of the executive summary, it seems that this was a way to blatantly strike out against one individual and the evidence is not corroborating any of this, too many questions are left unanswered and the media is not asking them either, as such I wonder what is to be believed, especially in light of the Daily Mail ‘revelation’ last August, which implies long in advance of this report. The fact that this (optional) fact is ignored gives out a much larger issue, the work in incomplete, debatable and political, not factual, as such sending serious cyber letters to the 49 of the Global 100 companies that are FTI clients, as I personally see it, these players are all about facts and when their provider and be painted as open for considerations, we should entertain all kinds of questions. 

I would also look at the footnotes and take a larger look at that descriptive part, I wonder what is left once I have had the chance to take a red pencil through this report. Now, I am not stating that Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud is innocent, I am merely considering that his evidence is so shallow, that I would never accuse him of anything, not before a lot more work was done (and a lot more footnotes were properly weighed), in this consider on page 3 footnote 8. When we go there, we see that the article is Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai a member of Motherboard (so why is there no Motherboard article that is the source), we see “An investor from Saudi  Arabia is apparently behind a company that bought a stake in the controversial spyware vendor” where ‘apparently‘ is the operative word. It is also where we see: “Hacking Team was thoroughly owned, with its once-secret list of customers, internal emails, and spyware source code leaked online for anyone to see“, were all these customers on a secret list investigated? There is also ‘spyware source code leaked online for anyone to see‘, a small fact that is apparently not investigated, additional players all optionally ready to give someone called Bezos the time of his on-line life. Then we get “this apparent recovery is in part thanks to the new investor, who appears to be from Saudi Arabia“, a line ruled by, you guessed it ‘apparent‘ and ‘who appears‘, so much filtering and doubt, and in this FTI used that as a footnote source? A program co-owned for 80% by none other then David Vincenzetti. That does NOT make HIM a guilty party and neither is there any convincing evidence of any kind towards the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud.

When I see all this I wonder if the UN (or FTI) has any clue how much we should regard them as tools. I cannot tell at present what kind of tools they are, but my personal view is that if this is the debatable level of evidence that some employ, we all are in so much more trouble then we ever thought.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under IT, Law, Media, Military, Politics, Science

The thought counts

I am still in some level of debate on this, Alex Hearn published an article last August (at https://www.theguardian.com/games/2019/aug/20/from-cyberpunk-2077-to-the-outer-worlds-are-role-playing-games-getting-too-predictable) and I happened to re-read the story this morning. The main hitter was ‘are role-playing games getting too predictable?‘ I believe it is a valid train of thought to have, yet in this situation is it the game, or the gamer that bears the guilt? As we see the first paragraph we are confronted with: “Not only is it directed by Fallout creators Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky, it shares a lot of DNA with Obsidian’s Fallout: New Vegas – a spin-off with a reputation as the best in the series“, you see there are two trains of thought, the first (not the most embraced one) is that the game was designed by a ‘one pump chump‘, you see a one trick pony is too harsh here. The second is the one I embrace, it is set on two principles.

  1. Relation
  2. Online cheat guides

The relation factor is how you relate to it all, It is easy in the Elder Scrolls, or Fallout, these are plain drives concepts and for the longest time, we go along with it. Even as we are offered options, Fallout 3 and Fallout 4 still try to guide you, yet the reality is that you can go wherever you want ignoring the first stage altogether. The Elder Scrolls 4 (Oblivion) gave you a clear option after you get out of the sewers, The Elder scrolls 5 (Skyrim) did so a lot less, but left the door open to explore. In that beginning we get the option to grow and either you start staging the story, or the game leaves you a little in the dark. In a lot of cases you are a little in the dark, this is seen in Witcher 3, you can go in any direction, yet if you avoid all the missions in the first stage, your character tends to be too feeble to get around, and you die a lot. Until you grow skills you tend to be on your own, now we can see that the first village is an introduction (like the sewers of Oblivion), and yes after that you can explore and decide the way you want and that makes Witcher 3 an amazing game. In that same setting we see Horizon Zero Dawn, it is storydriven, but you can explore your heart out, merely consider that too far away, without proper upgrades your life does not tend to make it for a long time. Still, the origin story that Guerilla Games released is as awesome as any RPG that was EVER released.

It is in that stage we need to see a game like the Outer Worlds, there is a larger stage of introduction and it tends to make the gamer fumble a bit, that is the foundation of RPG, you have to feel your way into any RPG game. Yes, New Vegas was amazing and the stage is still among the very best, but there we get it, when we start exploring, we need to realise that the enemies a little further ahead can make short work of you really fast if the beginning is absent of exploring. Still, New Vegas did one thing better than all others, you have a good and a bad you and some cases can only begotten when you decide on the bad you. It gets to be even better as the third option (Caesar’s Legion) comes into play. It was an RPG founded on replayability, making it one of the very best.

The second stage is another matter, those who rely on online hint/cheat guides. They all go the same direction and it is clear that there are thousands of them (all claiming to have done the path without help), as such the foundation of ‘are role-playing games getting too predictable?‘ becomes slightly less reliable. And for the most, the story is partially that simple and partially not so simple. That part is revealed in Horizon Zero Dawn, the story is so overwhelming that it pushes you from stage to stage, it really was one hell of a trip. The cut movies over the entire game add up to almost 6 hours, almost 6 hours of story and information and some parts are not that small, the story truly is everything and it pushes the player in a direction and not on a path, Guerilla games really outdid most designers. In opposition we see Fallout 3, which had moment, not a story that pushes you and it pushes you more towards places. The article then gives you the Cyberpunk 2077 line with “But the fundamental skeleton the games are built on is so constricting that, given an hour to show off everything they could be, both developers independently converged on a near-identical script“, I personally am not convinced that this is so, in the first there was a quote “open world feature to their upcoming RPG. Players are given the freedom to explore the fictional Night City, take on the side quests that they want to, and be a part of the world that CD Projekt Red has developed“, in the second there is the option to be a Netrunner (hacker), techie (a badgetteer) or Solo (Assassin and direct action). The class you select will influence to some degree the way you play, or the way you play will push you into a class. It changes the way you overcome missions and locations and this changes the game (not the main story). As such did the game become too predictable? 

Well that is still out in the open, yet predictability is often depending on lack of choice, CD Projekt Red (Witcher series, Cyberpunk 2077) has never had that, and overall neither did Bethesda (Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout). Yet it is the way WE play that gives the impression of lack of choice. In the Verge we are given “Obsidian Entertainment’s new role-playing shooter The Outer Worlds, I met a man miserably playing a corporate mascot, his head semi-permanently enclosed in a large, ghoulish moon mask. I spoke to him for several turns, hoping there was something I could do to help. But if there was a way to improve his life, he never suggested it, and I never found it“, as such I never met the man (or played the game) but if we consider that we can help, ignore or optionally kill him, is that a lack of the game, or a lack of the player? You see that is the foundation of RPG, the gamer decides and that is where I oppose Alex Hearn’s statement (not his point of view) ‘are role-playing games getting too predictable?

I believe that the statement is a little out in the open. The makers of New Vegas had an amazing setting (especially after Fallout 3), from one mission you decide whether you go to ‘The House Always Wins 1‘, ‘Render Unto Caesar‘, or ‘Wild Card: Change in Management‘, Obsidian created a phase where we are confronted with a level of brilliance and definitely an opposition of predictability. But Alex is not entirely incorrect, we might agree that there is a good and a bad choice (each with their options) but not much more. the Fable series tend to have them too, as did Mass Effect, but the last one is less RPG set. Yet how many genuinely found the 4th option in Mass Effect 3? I see all the people nod ‘yes’ but in the end, they learned of that options like me, in a YouTube video. Only a few actually found them by their own choices, it tends  to oppose ‘too predictable’. And then we get to a beautiful line in The Verge: “by the end of the game, you’re still one of the most important people in the world“, it shows the largest flaw in RPG, the truth of the matter is that you never mattered, that truth is often pushed out of the RPG, you are merely flock people, you either suck up to the needy as a newcomer, or you decide on what someone larger and more powerful needed and you are the fixer, you are almost never yourself, the person you want to become, the RPG left that out of the equation as it is close to impossible to program too and it does not make an RPG ‘Too Predictable’, it merely makes an RPG ‘less unpredictable’ those two are not the same, not by a long shot.

However, the words of Alex Hearn are still in me and we see that view emphasized in Forbes (at https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2019/10/23/the-outer-worlds-review-roundup-heres-what-critics-are-saying-about-obsidians-new-space-rpg/#2350c4927d34) where we see: “The Outer Worlds, we were promised the kind of RPG we know and love. And that’s exactly what we’re getting, a familiar experience in a new setting” it is the stage of ‘the kind of RPG we know and love‘, and ‘a familiar experience‘, which basically gives Alex the power of his words, an RPG might be many things, but when it is a new title, those two are the foundation of predictability, the question becomes, if that is what the gamer wants and searches, is it the game maker adjusting its view on commerce that is wrong? Is predictability a dangerous part? I believe it is, but is it any less an RPG? That part was not in debate, yet from my side, when I play a different RPG, I need a different stance. Put Elder Scrolls against Witcher and you get that, in either direction, put Elder Scrolls next to fallout and we see it less. Even as the story and the graphics change, we are not the in the stage of countering predictability, we are in a stage of gaming in a different hall, yet doing the same dance and that is where RPG’s tend to fall short (a little) and that is why I loved Horizon Zero Dawn. Even in my own design, as I drew up Elder Scrolls: Restoration and Watchdogs: Refuge, I continued on the franchise as they already had it, new elements, yes, but the setting remained in part the same, so as such am I enabling repetition and as such predictability? I believe that if we move away from “by the end of the game, you’re still one of the most important people in the world“, we can start that the premise, and predictability (to a certain extent) goes out the window. 

He also gives us “every now and again, a game comes along which shows that innovation can happen without putting people off and revives a genre in the process“, yes that is the part I can agree and align with, there were parts in Skyrim that went beyond Oblivion and id just that. Yet what is also a consideration is that both opened the field by allowing everything to be done and it took the replayability away to some extent, as such in Elder Scrolls: Restoration I went back (allegedly) to Morrowind (which I never played) and left a barricade in place, as such not all classes could be done at the same time, a student of one could not join another path. In addition, the end of the mission often would result in the loss of location and a transfer to other places. One cannot be in University all the time, you are replaced as you are merely a student in one. that path lowers predictability to certain levels, even more so as I set the stage where choices were abundant, but limits choices later on. Without going towards a Red wings match in a Blackhawks Jersey (which tends to get you killed). Yet these settings give a much larger joy towards replayability.

RPGs forgot about the stage of limitation. As we are set in a game, we want to do it all, we ourselves become predictable, not the game (although the game did allow for it).

In Watch Dogs: Refuge I decided to set gender and language as barriers, the stage of pushing for time to drink and eat (in Watch Dogs one and two) I merely did weeks of actions on one fruit drink, so how is it I survived? An RPG should take that into account and make food and sleep an essential. You could try to get through a week on red bull without sleep, but you end to look like the zombies in university (in the 3 weeks before final exam). We took options away as debilitating factors, yet when you consider that Okinawa is a cuisine haven (as is most of Japan) making that a factor as overlooked. I reintroduced the option with an optional achievement or two, considering that one should never go for the stressful places loaded on Cheesecake, you get the idea that a lack of food and sleep can be a debilitating factor, we merely programmed that part away, but is an RPG not about the stage of a whole day, not merely the part you crave for (battle and mayhem)?

So why Japan? Well most gamers of Watch Dogs are non-Japanese, so pushing you into a place where you cannot read or comprehend anything sets you in a much larger stage, when we  get everything in english, we see what we need to, yet what happens when language becomes an actual hurdle? We forget that, did we not? for those who are still in the dark, try watching Passion of the Christ without subtitles. When Aramaic and Latin are your only companions, you either get smart (real fast) or you tend to forfeit your life. Italians (Romans) were really not to be too discriminating to people who did not speak their language (they were all considered slaves).

To set the stage where we counter the RPG in ways we forgot, I still wonder if that is because of the hand holding that the RPG maker is willing to make, or the side where we are just too shabby a player of RPG. I am not certain where it goes, but there are plenty of indicators that both are factors, as such we might consider that RPG games are too predictable, yet I remain in a stage where the makers became too enabling. 

It is merely a point of view and whether it is gaming limitation or predictability, it is a setting that are two faces of the same coin. I am still unwilling to say that Alex Hearn right, but he makes a fair point, even though he seemingly forgets that part of the predictability is the gamer him or her self. 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Gaming, IT

What we do not get to read

 

Yes, we have all seen it, the bias in the media, the stage of reporting and more important not reporting, yet in all stages there was always the BBC. Now, for the most I am all about the BBC, I love that channel, whether it is one, two or BBC24, there is a place for all of them and as a conservative it is hard to judge as I went to the small island of Australia (extremely SSE of the UK) and there we do not have the BBC (weird, I know). Yet they are also online and I do see the BBC there regularly (mostly the news), so when the Guardian (at https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/jan/21/dominic-cummings-thinktank-called-for-end-of-bbc-in-current-form), where the Dominic Cummings thinktank announced that it was time that the UK ‘called for ‘end of BBC in current form’‘, and I got all huffy and puffy on that notice. When we look at some of this we see: 

  1. the undermining of the BBC’s credibility; 
  2. the creation of a Fox News equivalent / talk radio shows / bloggers etc to shift the centre of gravity; 
  3. the end of the ban on TV political advertising.”

Well let’s start with item one, anyone who is out there giving us that someone needs to be undermined has ulterior motives, I have never known that undermining is an acceptable fair strategy, more importantly, anyone making any claims towards undermining or optional smear campaigns need to become weary of the bringer of that message. 

The second part is even more hilarious, there is a Fox News equivalent, it is called Fox News, I reckon that the UK has plenty of issues, a lot of them in the direction of discrimination and adding to that with a flair of news worthiness is not the way to go, in light of the morning shows, there is a decent representation. As such, Fox would have a hard time getting a share, let alone someone who treats the news as something on the go, a voice to stage biased views is not the one to go with, especially when you require credibility. 

The third is everyone’s favourite thing to oppose, we are all stoned to death with political pushes from nearly EVERY station on the planet, the articles are often politically laced and less political BS is very much appreciated by most people

As politically I see it, there is a larger issue and as I see it this is about something else, even as we are told that it is about one thing, it is not. People like Dominic Cummings are about large corporations, this is as I see it a first stab at the monarchy, they will not claim it, the more likely they will massively deny it. You see, they are about the message, yet what that message is, is not debated, even as they hide behind “the “mortal enemy” of the Conservative party“, it is not what they are, as a conservative I never had issues with the BBC, if MP’s are not prepared that is THEIR mistake, when they are caught with their pants down THEY are at fault and both sides know that. 

The issue is that people need to be under an advertisement blanket 24:7 to become effective, that is the American way and what is the actual danger is that the Monarchy is a blight to large American corporations. Even as Brexit went wrong, the yanks think that blanket advertisement could have prevented this. There is a truth, it might have been, but at that point the people would have unknowingly taken the path of the wealthy industrialists, and glossy newspapers and some newspapers are all about that, are they not?

When we see “allow politicians to speak directly to the public in ad breaks during Coronation Street” we see the docile approach and when we are told “government ministers should avoid appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme” we see a different level of subterfuge, lets face it, people can ALWAY decide not to appear anywhere, yet at times that leaves a larger question mark and in this it is not the BBC where that question mark is. If a politician is not prepared to answer hard questions, we need to see why not and it seems that BBC 4 Today asks the right questions, or so it seems.

And as we see: “The suggestions were made in a series of long blogposts in 2004 and 2005 by the New Frontiers Foundation, which was a short-lived free market thinktank that aimed to emulate rightwing US organisations such as the Heritage Foundation” we see a larger truth, this is about stating the right wing agenda, not the conservative agenda and you better believe that there is a difference. As such we see the steps of change, and you better believe that “decriminalising non-payment of the licence fee as a first step” is not a first step, it is an advanced step into the undermining of the BBC, I get it, most people do not want to pay it because there is a budget issue, we all see it and we all face it, yet there is a truth behind the existence of the BBC too, it is not shading or colouring, but the option to give a direct view of what is. So when we see “The prime minister first called the licence fee into question during the election campaign and Nicky Morgan, the culture secretary, has suggested a move to a Netflix-style subscription system could be considered for the BBC” you better believe that it is a direct assault on public broadcasting and its disappearance will have far reaching consequences. 

It is enahnced by Ben Bradshaw, a labour MP who gives us “they would like nothing more than to replace the BBC with a rightwing propaganda channel like Fox“, it is the stage for replacing information for advertisement and it would not change immediate, it would be a gradual chance and it can be that way because those who want propaganda have money, they have serious money and partially becasue both sids of the ile were cowards in the past. They refused to properly tax corporations who like the idea of £30 million, instead of the accounted part of £4,600,000,000 which ends up being a lot more than £30 million and there are 5 players already on that line, and more will want that situation but that is not possible in a monarchy and there is every chance, especially after the media debacle of HRH Prince Harry and his wife Meghan that too many people have had enough of that and as such these parties require a propaganda channel sooner rather than later, the BBC is too dangerous for them, as such they need that credibility gone. 

The second truth, the obvious one is also give to us by Ben Bradshaw “The BBC belongs to the British public, not the government, and the public value the public service ethos of the BBC, objective and accurate information and news and the broad range of much-loved radio and TV programmes and would not take kindly to them being sacrificed to Rupert Murdoch“, the immediate issues here are ‘the British public‘, the BBC to a larger degree works for them and as such political players cannot use that channel for ‘their’ message, the get asked serious questions and if they cannot answer, they are smeared with custard (pie in the face routine). In addition, any thinktank that is setting the stage where the people are sacrificed to Rupert Murdoch, or Roger Ailes. Now, they are both good at what they are involved in, yet the news is a larger stage. Even as we need to credit Ailes for a lot, his stage was set to “If you have two guys on a stage and one guy says, “I have a solution to the Middle East problem,” and the other guy falls in the orchestra pit, who do you think is going to be on the evening news?“, it is a fair assessment of our own needs, but at times we do not need a pretty picture, we need to get a real setting of where we are. And even if we do not like it, when it personally hits us we wanted and needed to know what was real and to a larger extent the solution that Cummings is attacking is a really bad thing. There is some level of acceptance as the US is a large place and WE do not watch the local news, but there tends to be local news, in the UK it is a much larger setting where that impact will hurt all the people in the UK. 

Now, I made an accusation earlier on and it is time to set the right frame there. When we consider the ludicrous attacks on the royal family, like the ones on HRH Prince Harry and is wife, most get a little angry, yet the larger population who was tainted by glossy news was not and that is the setting the UK is going to, as the real news is more and more presented in a breakfast and glossy way, we get mixed and opinionated news and it is not the same as actual (read: factual) news, but it is the first step in diminishing the monarchy. We seem to ignore (some successfully) on the news out there, when we look at late last year we see headlines like ‘Meghan Markle In New Documentary Said She Was Warned UK Tabloid Press Would “Destroy” Her Life But Was Unprepared For How Bad It Would Be‘, or perhaps even better Newsweek with ‘FOX NEWS HOST SAYS HE’S ‘SICK’ OF PRINCE HARRY AND MEGHAN MARKLE: ‘BRITAIN SHOULD…BECOME A REAL REPUBLIC’‘ and there we see another example of what America needs, it does not need a monarchy where we look out for the wellbeing of EVERY citizen, it is about a republic where big business rules and the media (as I personally see it) as a well paid prostitute only adheres to their needs 

  1. their shareholders
  2. their stakeholders
  3. their advertisers
  4. their circulation

In this the British royal family does not add to the circulation and is an opponent to the first three who wants that juicy collection of consumers that add up to 55 million, they will not care about the well being of the 13 million they end up casually ignoring, and destroying what little degree of freedom they have in their life, they want a population with 100% enablers. That is the danger and it is time for the people in the UK to wake up to that danger, because the 55,000,000 will not care initially, but as they move from being a consumer/enabler, they will care a great deal as they become the target, and that will happen.

This is why I see the message from people like Dominic Cummings as a very dangerous one, and I feel it is important to speak out against such dangers. Yes, we all see the BBC, a lot of us see and hear the boring (and a real classic) music by Eric Spear of Coronation Street, and the Manchester setting, but the larger truth is that the people in the UK own the BBC, not the politicians. If there is one truth then it is the one where we need to remain aware that what is not owned by politicians could end up giving us the actual facts, not the ones that will make money for the rich industrialists, they have plenty of options, they merely want zero opposition so that they can wield us more comfortably.

As I see it, they need it all done, because too many people are shouting about tax changes, tax changes that properly tax large corporations to a fair degree. I have no problems with corporations having a profit, yet the stage where there is a tax bill of £30 million against £4,600,000,000 which leaves them with an optional 99.992% of their profits, it does not add up and that should not ever be allowed, more important, when that Cummings foundation gets their way, you will not even be informed on those events, unless the evidence gets spread to a much larger degree in a much wider setting, when that is no longer possible, we will be told and most will accept whatever the industrial driven media gives us and you better believe that this is not a good idea.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Finance, Media, Politics

The second lap

We always seem to have a problem with the second lap, the first lap is OK, it is new, we just started, it is the second lap that is the problem, it is that stage where you are tired from the previous lap and the second wind has not started, mainly because the second lap is not the moment where the body adjusts for prolonged exercise.

That is how some see the EU at present (mainly the Observer). The setting of ‘the EU’s weakness on the world stage‘ is however no laughing matter. As we are introduced to “Ursula von der Leyen believes Europe should take a leading “geopolitical” role in international affairs, reflecting the EU’s status as the world’s largest trade bloc. But turning words into deeds is proving problematic“, and it is “We must use our diplomatic and economic strength to support global stability and prosperity… and be better able to export our values and standards” that is part of the problem, in the first, the EU is su up to the gills in debt through the idiotic scheme by Mario draghi that the EU has no economic strength. The IMF gives the EU in GDP growth 2.8% (2017), 2.2% (2018), 1.5% (2019), and 1.6% (2020). This seems like an improvement, yet 0.1% increase is not really an increase and when we consider that the devaluation of the currency gives the EU debt that is currently around € 10,593,000,000,000 a much larger issue to battle, at present only the German debt is decreasing slowly, but the debt in Spain, Italy, and France (all in the trillions) is still increasing, so where does the EU think it has economic strength? And all this whilst the Financial Times informed us yesterday on ‘Europe braces for new fiscal battles‘, here we see Paolo Gentiloni trying to shake things up (no idea why he was referring to shaking up). The issue is larger than anyone can see, because the stage of “widely disliked given their impenetrable and convoluted nature“, the game where you adjust the rules in the middle of the game with 27 players, the entire stage goes awry in this game where the option of “On the Italian social democrat’s reform wish list will be changes making the rules more symmetrical — allowing for countries to be pushed to boost their economies via fiscal policy in downturns, rather than just reining in deficits and debt” (at https://www.ft.com/content/a062fb2e-3b24-11ea-a01a-bae547046735), and it is the debt these never elected officials are trying to be in deny with. Yet there is also an upside in this (as I see it) if this play goes on, the German population will not tolerate the EU to continue. None will address their debt and Germany (as one of the big four) is the only one who got the debt below 72% of GDP, the rest is in a bismal state and whilst we get that the Italians (French and Spain also) are all about ‘new investments’ they are doing it on a maxed out credit card. And whilst we all see this, we also see “One idea is to give countries extra scope to borrow to fund green investment“, yet the basic issue is that this is yet another idea to IGNORE outstanding debts and the people will have to pay for that. So as we see “has already run up against opposition from conservative northern European states“, we see that the Italian factor (Genitoli) is hiding behind “the urgency of the green agenda could improve its chances“. So whilst we now see “Some will want to use any reform opportunity to loosen the regime. Others will wish to use the greater clarity to make the deficit rules even tighter“, we see a basic fight between the spenders and the none spenders and the non spenders have had enough of it all, it founded the Brexit and there are others who do not want to be caught with the consequences of another nation in a stage with their pants down, as such all the other players will have to grab their ankles (you get the idea). 

So while we go back to the Observer view (at https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jan/19/the-observer-view-on-the-eus-weakness-on-world-stage ) we might see “Trump’s illegal, and unilateral, action effectively blew up the most prized achievement of Borrell’s predecessors, Federica Mogherini and Cathy Ashton – the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which was already on life-support because of US sanctions“, it seems that the EU is in some kind of a delusional stage where they take the filtered media view on Iran. Iran had been in a proxy war with Saudi Arabia, it has repeatedly threatened the state of Israel and whilst we are given “the US then insisted that the EU3 (Britain, France and Germany) trigger the deal’s dispute mechanism“, whilst the violations by Iran on the Nuclear pact are completely ignored. All in a stage where the delusional parties are setting the stage where Joseph Borell is in a stage to ‘talk’ with IOran whilst Iran has been refusing to do so and littered transgression upon transgression and the EU remains in denial and seemingly gives the EU press the stage that they are not to report on it for all kinds of unknown reasons. And when we look at the media, they are all so against war that it scares them (which it does), I merely wonder if the US and the UK press would have written ‘The Wrong Track for Confronting Germany‘ in 1943, as we see the New York Times write up the Iranian stage 12 hours ago. In addition, Al Jazeera reported 5 hours ago ‘Iran’s new Quds leader vows ‘manly’ revenge for Soleimani killing‘, which is fine, but this escapes the entire stage as they already had their missile go, yet their ego is not satisfied, so as we are treated to ‘Iran warns of ‘repercussions’ for IAEA after European moves over nuclear deal‘, as well as ‘Iran says it still respects 2015 nuclear deal, rejects ‘unfounded’ EU claims‘ (yesterday, source: CNA), all whilst there are dozens of reports as well as public statements that Iran had transgressed on set limits, so exactly HOW they are ‘respecting’ the Nuclear deal? 

In all this the lack of strength in response from the EU has been frightening. And in regards to the responses, we see on the 20th of January “Mr Mousavi said: “Tehran still remains in the deal. The European powers’ claims about Iran violating the deal are unfounded“, all whilst the news on January 5th was ‘Iran will no longer abide by uranium enrichment limits under 2015 nuclear deal‘, as well as the fact that Iran on state television, on January 5th responded that they pulled out of the Nuclear deal agreement (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsQ-NBaOUMw), as such we can all speculate on what Mr Mousavi is smoking, but more importantly, in light of all this, the utter lack of diplomatic power by the EU, as such the EU statement “We must use our diplomatic and economic strength to support global stability and prosperity“, Ursula von der Leyen sounds nice, but she cannot deliver on any of that. The EU is in the second lap, out of energy from the first lap and their second wind is nowhere near kicking in. Iran might be the strongest example, but it is not the only one, the lack of action in Syria, the lack of action in Yemen and the opposing support against Saudi Arabia, whilst ignoring the actions of Iran in a proxy war, in a speculated stage of a nuclear pact that was not sustainable in any degree and several parties are in denial of all this whilst there is enough optional evidence that the creation of the amounts of enriched Uranium that is now at the core of it all could not be produced by the amount of centrifuges allowed, there are more factors to consider, yet the supporting evidence is at present too thin (a lack of exact numbers is in play too).

In the end, the EU is an organisation that is on its final steps of becoming irrelevant, the debt made them so and these so called elected officials never stepped in when they were supposed to step in as debt levels were pushed to excessive levels as even now, people like Paolo Gentiloni (not just him mind you) are trying to find ways of getting around the debt for spending purposes.

And the matter will get worse soon enough, as the EU nations are in shambles on the EU budget, especially as Brexit is nearing completion, the members are all in a desperate setting of non-union, as we see news like “a French minister has warned nations they will have to pay more“, which is slightly weird as this was always going to be the setting, I warned of that almost 3 years ago. The stage at present is that Germany (at present) pays 20.78% of that budget and France is up for 15.58%, those are the big two and they are looking at an additional 3%-4% after brexit, which now implies that the long term budget up to 2027 will get a massive slam into a wall, it is in that setting, where nations are now feeling the pinch are confronted with a Paolo Gentiloni who wants to spend more and as such all nations have to pay more. Even as the big three are confronted with the impact on their loans from that change, the smaller nations are still in shambles as they were eager to overspend in their first option and they too will have to pay more, so now we optionally get to see an EU gravy train where none of the members agree on anything, as such that expensive train will keep costs high and not produce results, merley delays. 

So when we look at the stage of the EU and the setting of Ursula von der leyen with her “We must use our diplomatic and economic strength to support global stability and prosperity“, all whilst there is no economic power left in the EU and its diplomatic strength (which is linked to their economic power) dwindles basically as fast as their economy does, I wonder what Ursula von der Leyen is looking at, because the outlook from this side is really grim for the EU.

The second lap is the killer for a runner, as the runner gets better he can run longer, yet the reality of crossing that startline the first time and realising that you have less energy whilst you are at the beginning is the realising factor, yet there is a difference, a runner tends to be realistic about where he is and where he is going, as I personally see it, the EU is seemingly a lot less focussed on the reality of the matter as I personally see it. You merely have to read enough media and focus on the quotes to see that part of the equation.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Finance, Media, Military, Politics

Changing the headline

It started (for me) around 6 hours ago when Emma Boyle at Techradar gave us ‘Ubisoft is aiming to create more unique games with an editorial shake up‘, which sounds nice, yet the initial problem for Ubisoft will be to make proper games, an initial essential requirement. As I see it, Ubioft lost their edge and now they are using PR and marketing to make it into ‘Ubisoft is aiming to create more unique games with an editorial shake up‘ (at https://www.techradar.com/au/news/ubisoft-is-aiming-to-create-more-unique-games-with-an-editorial-shake-up), proper games are made not merely by innovative designers and thinkers, but it requires a team of methological thinkers to properly test the game, they need a few wild cards to make sure that ‘stupid choices’ are optionally caught. We are now all about the results of The Division 2 and Ghost Recon Breakpoint, yet the fuming disasters of Assassins Creed Unity are still not forgotten. All whilst Far Cry 4 was more of the same (not a flaw and not the worst idea), yet the short sighted impact of Ubisoft needs to be seen where the bungle of a title is best prevented, at the very top (Yves Guillemot). I have had my issues with Yves Guillemot, yet he does have a proper business instinct and that is something that Ubisoft needs as well. The eyes are now all on Watchdogs: Legion which is approaching release and the idea, concept and work on it is pretty amazing. It takes Watchdogs in another dimension, one that we have not seen before (as far as I know) and it could make way for an entirely new Cyberpunk line. Yet the story is merely one part, it is the release and the initial feel that matters and to be honest, with previous blunders, I would feel more relaxed if they delay it to fix things BEFOREHAND, than give us some lame excuse afterwards, because that is marketing for you, get the money first. 

Consider the fact that I was able to initially ‘design’ a new Watch Dogs 3 (playing in Okinawa) in less than 8 hours, setting the initial stage for close to 50-100 hours of gameplay and with the setting of optionally 4 storylines, all set in hypermodern (slightly futuristic) Japan. Each of the storylines was different and a separate play through of the city with other approach options. Taking lessons from past successes and failures to give the people a new experience. And I got there by ignoring the storyline and setting a free roam stage where you could fall into choices. 

Yet Polygon gives on the 17th (at https://www.polygon.com/2020/1/17/21071083/ubisoft-editorial-team-changes-paris-serge-hascoet-yves-guillemot) ‘With all its games looking the same, Ubisoft shakes up its editorial team‘, there we see the words of CEO Yves Guillemot “blamed on a lack of differentiation in consumers’ minds“, it is actually simpler than that, when you try to build game that pleases all, you end up with a product that pleases none, as I see it, it is really that simple. And as I personally see it, the quote: “Ubisoft chief creative officer Serge Hascoet will remain in charge of Ubisoft’s editorial group, but that he will be given more subordinates and they will be given more autonomy, so that he is able lead from a broader perspective rather than directing individual projects himself” sounds nice, but will it work out that way? It is merely internal marketing of another kind (I am not laying blame on Serge Hascoet). Ubisoft is in a difficult place and this preemptive setting is merely good for the stage if Watch Dogs: Legion misses out too much, if this goes sideways (which I will not initially expect), the value of Ubisoft will diminish 30%-60%, which would scare the shareholders to no degree.

That this is all marketing (to some point) is seen with: “Guillemot said Breakpoint had “been strongly rejected by a significant portion of the community” and that it “did not come in with enough differentiation factors, which prevented the game’s intrinsic qualities from standing out.”“, how about the fact that it was littered with bugs? There is a reason why people are happy to wait 12-20 weeks and pick up the game for 75% less, bugs are a main reason. The lack of quality has driven the massive day one release buy to a soft interesting week 5 or later buy. You can only remain with a setting of special editions with optional additions when you do something about the quality, and that had remained absent. As such I hope that the Watch Dogs: Legion delay is also so that it can be properly tested. I also oppose to some degree the statement “the company needed to leave more time between the launches of its live service games so that they aren’t cannibalizing one another’s interest and audience“, yet too many games at the same time is an issue, but it is not merely about Ubisoft, the game designers ALL want to capture the audience, even as they all know that the consumer in this day and age can only afford one new game, the stage is still set to getting them all. So as we then get into comparing Breakpoint against Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, we saw how Activision kicked the hell and nearly all life out of Breakpoint, that danger would have been a lot less if it had been properly tested. Activision also took a stand, as we take notice of “Modern Warfare’s single-player campaign focuses on realism and feature tactically-based moral choices whereupon the player is evaluated and assigned a score at the end of each level” (source: GamesRadar). Making of forcing a choice is not debilitating, bad testing is, that simple truth hit Breakpoint at least twice over, and as such if became the failure it is (as I personally see it). In all this, the power of better testing will enable ALL games from Ubisoft and making sure that the release date is not what marketing it makes out to be, but when development states that it is ready is a second part in all this. They forget that in the end it is the gamer who wants it and as CD Projekt Red has proven twice over, it comes when it is ready, and as I see it their 93% rating proves them right, which opposes 57% from Breakpoint and it sets a different precedent, it makes the gamers wonder if Ubisoft is still a AAA developer, a question they never really asked before, as I see it Watch Dogs: Legion will push that question to a larger degree in a much larger population making the 60% loss more and more direct, in this I am trying to remain an optimist, the losses could be larger.

The clear message becomes, that Ubisoft better get it right with Watchdogs, if that fails several franchises could be up for grabs for very little, because that is also the curse of shareholders, they will sell, as long as they break even in the deal and for now, that is not the case.

I for one would be a little sad, Ubisoft is a French company, to see a non American (or Japanese) company be this successful was an interesting side, it opened others to the idea that good games did not need come from either two countries (CD Projekt Red also proved that) in all, France has too much on the anvil and they could win and remain or lose a lot, it is not a great place to be, but the two elements I gave out could limit losses to some degree and there is no fault or damage to shift a release date, that is just junk others thrown into the mix. 

And it is not over for Ubisoft, as we see how top title after top title is making an impact on Nintendo Switch, there is a lot from Ubisoft that does have a massive following and they could again. Consider FarCry III on Switch, and even as some are already on Switch, they were not the greatest Assassins Creed games (I still do not regard Assassins Creed IV an AC game). More important, as we see Witcher III on Nintendo, where is AC Origins? It was a masterpiece, could that not be transferred? It is easy to look at transfers, but it is also the cheapest way to repair a software house (and it optionally gives low cost and high yield revenue). In addition the setting where a games might take up to 100 hours, yet the main story take no more than 20 hours, making it an unbalanced equation. Set that against a speed run on Witcher 3, which is not my favourite game mode by the way, taking a player no less than 25 hours. As such we should take notice that there is an optional shortfal in some Ubisoft games (not in AC Origins, or AC Odyssey though), as such there is a lot more that Ubisoft can do, especially in Watch Dogs: Legion and as I personally see it, they better do that BEFORE the game is released, not as some lame DLC excuse (free or not). All this is coming to roost at Ubisoft even before that new Microsoft contraption and the Sony PS5 are released. It shows just how much Ubisoft needs to get fixed and not in a marketing way. They actually remained in the game longer than I anticipated, but as far as I (and others) can tell, they are running out of options, so whether we see an obituary of Ubisoft in the coming year, or a revitalisation is up to the big chair, the quality of games is not something they can short change the gamer on again, they have done that too often (as I personally see it) and the entire “but we fixed it” will not hold water, not this time, there are too many competitors at present.

Their first-person shooter is up against Activision (80%), their RPGs are up against Guerrilla Games  (90%) and CD Projekt Red (92%), and several other games are up against Santa Monica Studio (94%). It goes on and Ubisoft needs to see that they are not alone and that others are winning the gamer share that Ubisoft once had, it is the direct result of sub-standard delivery on quality all that whilst we see that there is no other group that is so into gossip like gamers, mistakes like this become the setting of failure within hours of day one sales and there is a larger group no longer running out on day one, they are largely becoming week 2 buyers (at best)  when it comes to Ubisoft games, as I personally see it, when a gamer gets to spend their cash once on a new game twice a year, that new game better be really good. 

That is the setting that Ubisoft faces and marketing will not save them this time. As to what the new headline should be, I leave that up to the reviewers who took over from me, I looked at games for 13 years, I gave a view of games to two generations and even as I still love games, it had become time (in 2000) for others to take over, yet I never stopped looking at games with a critical eye (yet enjoying them became my number one priority). No matter what story you see published, Guillemot must be realising that his time is over, I will admit that even as For Honor was never my cup of tea, it was unique and amazing as a title, even as it was a multiplayer title, Ubisoft outdid themselves that time around. I recognise that there are plenty of games that are not my cuppa tea, yet that does not stop me from admiring excellence, for Honor delivered, and they are not alone. 

As I stated, changing the headline would give us the real issue and I think the headline should be ‘If we had only given more time to testing out product‘, it might end up being a lousy obituary, but the truth tends to be that, lousy and hard hitting. In the end, we will need to wait until later (after Q2) 2020 to see where Ubisoft is going and what the optional gamer will buy from that point onwards. Yet this is all happening whilst some of the others are solely focussed on getting their one games out. So no matter how we personally see it, Ubisoft is in a vice and they basically put themselves there, considering that AC Origins was a 2017 release. When you get articles on ‘Here are the best (worst) <insert title> bugs‘, you have an actual problem and with 2 years of bugged titles, something should have been done a long time ago, especially as I personally see it that this issue has been around since 2012 to an increasing degree (I will abstain from the ‘to a larger degree’) expression. I understand that NO GAME is absent of bugs, Ubisoft merely has too many of them and for the most they are all over the web and YouTube, so it is not merely my view, as per illustration have a look at the funny parts (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykcA3yKPolY), it is merely the tip of the iceberg and we all know what happened to the Titanic when they wanted their drinks on the rocks.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Gaming

As the house comes down

There are two articles in the Guardian, both are mere hours old and it shows the impact that bully tactics have. In the first it is the EU who starts with ‘EU trade commissioner ‘will call Trump’s bluff’ over Huawei security‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/jan/16/eu-trade-commissioner-will-call-trumps-bluff-over-huawei-security), where we also see ‘Phil Hogan convinced US president will not withdraw intelligence cooperation with UK and EU‘, it appears that Mr. Andrew Parker was right as I expected him to be. The text “The EU trade commissioner has said he will call Donald Trump’s “bluff” on threats to withdraw the US’s cooperation with the UK and the rest of the bloc on intelligence and security over Huawei, the Chinese telecoms giant” and it is important to note that the US has still not shown one lick of evidence that Huawei is under the intrusion thumb of the Chinese government. It was an odd situation, do you think that the Chinese government would interfere with such a large setting of income, whilst the data will be coming to them already through the direct means of applied usage of social media? However, we need to recognise that the US is n a worse state now, even as direct numbers are not given, the political hounding of Facebook and Google, could see a much larger jump of people to Harmony OS and as such these companies could lose a large stage of data coming their way. I personally believe that this is the direct impact of electing into the oval office a man who is known for the one-liner ‘You’re Fired!‘, but that is just me.

There is also the given part of “Phil Hogan has also risked the wrath of the US president by declaring that the EU is not, in principle, opposed to giving the Chinese tech group access to 5G plans. At a press conference in London he said the US did not have exclusivity on safety and security of its citizens, and predicted Trump would come round to the EU view that they had shared interests in that regard“, I believe that Phil Hogan is right, the foundations of the threats were not based on evidence (as I see it), in addition as the US is losing more and more ground in intel gathering in the Middle East, they will become more and more dependant on the EU and UK sources out there and not sharing is really disadvantageous for the US, it will take well over a decade to regrow the size and quality of sources they had. 

The second issue is seen (at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/16/iran-says-it-is-enriching-more-uranium-than-before-nuclear-deal) in the article ‘Germany confirms Trump made trade threat to Europe over Iran policy‘, as we are introduced to ‘Defence minister says Trump threatened to impose 25% tariff on European cars‘, here the stage is different, it is not Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, it is the larger EU political community that is the danger. Iran is a clear and present danger, it was so before America offed Qassam Soleimani and Iran will remain a threat after. The media on a global scale has been all about minimising the impact on Iran, even as there was no way that some nuclear deal would ever make it, but the political hacks in the EU had the arrogance to think that they could (a valid option), yet even now, well over a year later, there is still nothing there. Even now as we get from various sources in the media that Iran is presently enriching more Uranium than ever before, we are given the raw dangers. Even as the EU members are in denial through “In invoking the dispute mechanism for the Iran nuclear agreement or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – in other words, in deciding to hold Tehran to account for its breaches of the deal – the UK, France and Germany insist that they are still firmly behind the deal” we see a dangerous escalation delusion from the EU side. the problem is that if Iran makes a false move on willing to talk, we get the same situation that America faced when Japan stated that they were willing to talk in the months before Pearl Harbour, the problem now is that the target is Israel and optionally a scare tactic towards Saudi Arabia and for some reason people are oblivious to the fact that if the ground of one nation is radioactive, that dust is likely to spread to neighbouring nations. As I see it, Iran will not care about what happens to Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan, optionally it will cross the mediteranian and impacts Italy, Spain, Turkey and Greece for generations. If the radioactive matter hits the sea that will happen for certain. Yet the arrogance of the EU politicians that a place like Iran will talk whilst their Uranium enrichment is running at full force is a dangerous precedence. I do believe that America is doing the wrong thing for the right reason and when (not if) that first missile mysteriously makes it into Hezbollah hands, the denials from Iran will be as loud as possible as it will ‘hide’ behind the military power of Russia, I am just not certain if Russia will be willing to be part of that mess.

So even as we see: “Iran initially denied responsibility for the crash, but three days later admitted that it had downed the plane believing it was an incoming US missile. An Iranian national security commission is investigating the episode“, it does not mention that the person releasing the video is now arrested for matters of Iranian national security. Still the EU politicians think that they can weave some kind of deal and the months of delay is working into the Iranian hands as well and those politicians need to be woken up as soon as possible, because once it is too late, the costs will be beyond comprehension and at that point the EU politician will hide behind ‘fair play’ and ‘unforeseen complications’ all whilst history has seen these issues all before. And in all this, the one part that matters is not addressed. Even as we see and are told that Uranium enrichment is at an all time high, the method of how they are doing it is ignored. Thousands of centrifuges were under critical eyes disposed of, so how were they replaced so easily? With the response as to the killing of January 3rd, we now see that there are Iranian claims that enrichment is back, yet how was this done in under two weeks? It could only have been done if the hardware was already there and if enrichment was the main agenda point from before July 2019, and that means that Iran intended to break the Nuclear accords long before they lost one general, is no one seeing that part?

The media is certainly not making any mention in that direction. The fact that one part of the deal was the reduction of centrifuges from 19,000 to 6,104 (at https://edition.cnn.com/2020/01/16/middleeast/rouhani-iran-uranium-enrichment-intl/index.html). So how can they be back to enriching so quickly? The second part is that enrichment would stop at 3.67%, there is no clear word on how rich their uranium is (at present), but there is also the locations, only Natanz was supposed to be active, but the implied amount stated gives rise to the importance of the fact that there is no way that Natanz can produce that much, implying that Arak, Ishafan, or Bushehr is either back online, or that the EU missed a few places (not entirely improbable).

The second part is that the only registered mine is Bandar Abbas, to continue on the track they are now, the traffic there would have increased massively and no one noticed? An optional issue is that there is MORE than one Uranium mine in Iran, this has two distinct issues. In the first it would mean that Iran has a much larger Uranium consideration, the second is that another mine has been largely unnoticed. It all adds up that in the first the EU dropped the ball to a much larger extent, in the second that the EU was unaware and therefor unable and unwilling to be a true investigator. Now we see the bully threat that America wrongfully made for the right reasons. My small speculation becomes, what is happening to the South, South West and West of Tabas (South Khorasan Province)? And in addition, why is there no open awareness in the EU in these matters? 

It gets to be worse, but I will spare you that part (for now). 

There is another side to all this, it is the financial side. All these actions are costing a boatload of money, money that Iran should not have and that implies that it is getting fueled to some extent from somewhere. Even as we are treated to ‘Defying U.S. sanctions, Iran boosts gas oil sales to neighbours‘ (source: Reuters), we are looking at a larger Iranian infrastructure need, and as far as I can tell, gasoil sales will not fuel that need, and even as we are given “more than 80% higher than the previous quarter and nearly four times higher than the first quarter, data from consultancy FGE showed“, the math doesn’t add up.

So either Iran had the means hidden, or there is a larger play going on. Consider that Iran had to replace well over 5,000 centrifuges to make their setting truthful, these things each costs a bundle, the mining operations needed to be ‘upgraded’ through manpower and that is another infusement of funds, last we see the missile and drone programs, it all adds up to the costs that they cannot afford, someone has handed Iran a credit card, or made funds in other ways available and I cannot see where it comes from (which makes sense as I do not walk in those lanes), yet the media is also not reporting on any of that and finding this would be a massive scoop for any paper, so why is there nothing? Is there nothing? If that is so then the nuclear threat from President Rouhani is hollow and empty, but I do not believe that to be true (personal conviction). 

The main problem for all nations is that Iran has an advanced weapons program, one that does NOT include nuclear weapons, yet the technological knowhow is largely there, as we see enrichment continue, the setting for a dirty bomb is merely months away, so Iran could use a dirty bomb in 2020 if it chose so, an actual nuclear weapon is less likely, yet not impossible. The problem that a weapon like that would be developed in unknown (read: unvisited Iranian) locations and the trigger would be part of a non-nuclear bomb, even if there was nuclear fission, they need the bare minimum to test that, hence hiding a 1Kg bomb in 3 tonnes of TNT would be easily hidden. 

When we go by “The total radioactivity of the fission products is extremely large at first, but it falls off at a fairly rapid rate as a result of radioactive decay. Seven hours after a nuclear explosion, residual radioactivity will have decreased to about 10 percent of its amount at 1 hour, and after another 48 hours it will have decreased to 1 percent. (The rule of thumb is that for every sevenfold increase in time after the explosion, the radiation dose rate decreases by a factor of 10.)” (source: Britannica) and a weapon with less than one Kg would be acceptable for testing, Iran has plenty of places where this would happen unobserved and within hours the larger extend would not be registered, the only path is the EMP, as long as there is no measurement around, it will go unnoticed if the bomb is small enough, so as Iran tests its nuclear detonation options, it can go a long way in staying undetected end the nuclear trigger is pretty much the same for a 400Gr and a 10KT bomb, so that is the danger and we have no idea where Iran is at at this point. Yet the latest info is still that Iran has NO nuclear weapons technology. However, if it can create the amounts of fission that Iran is claiming to be making, they might not be far off, in the most positive scenario they are at best a year away from that.

And in that environment the EU politicians rely on ego and arrogance that Iran will play ball, I might not agree with the bully tactic, but in this case the US and all others have very little to go on. My issue is that I personally believe that anyone (including Iran) is innocent until proven guilty, yet as we witness the statements by president Rouhani and the actions by Iran, can we afford to take that path? Can we actively set the stage of endangering the State of Israel (the most likely first target) to this level of danger? And when that happens, what are the levels of danger that Saudi Arabia faces? More importantly, depending of the first blast, what are the dangers of the surrounding nations of the target? Lets not forget that the Suez Canal goes straight through that area, not only destroying an economy, but endangering the economy of the entire EU. 

When we are in a house as it is coming down on top of us, we need to see what our options are and that part is in no way clear, all whilst we know that running out of the house will bring new and other dangers.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Finance, Media, Military, Politics