Emote Friends: Interacting with Emoticons

The new THM boss

The newest chibi in the family: my friend uses emotes to brighten up Thaumaturgist’s guild.

A few nights ago I was playing Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn, better known as ARR, with my best friend. And one way or another, I accidentally made a few emote friends.

So, what is “emote friends”? Simple. Emote friends = friends made through random uses of emoticons. My friend and I were bursting out laughing (emote “/laugh”) after completing a certain quest and suddenly the guy next to us joined in, “/laugh”-ing at us very loudly. Not wanting to lose, I gave him another dose of my own “/laugh”-ing. My friend joined in, then two more players joined in. One of us tried emote “/dance” and I also did the same. I used emote “/clap” and someone else used yet another emote. And another, and another.

After a while I said, “Okay, okay. Let’s all be friends,” and added them to my Friend List.

Nowadays emotes are an essential tool of social interaction in the Internet, and even more so in MMO games. In forums, we depend on the various keys in the keyboard to express our thoughts, starting from the basic smiley-face “:-)” to the more advanced glaring-face “>>:-(”. In social networking sites, we can also enjoy the visual renders of the most basic emotes — type “:D” in Facebook, for example, and the site will automatically change it into the Big Grin icon.

But in MMOs — at least in the more graphically advanced ones — we also have animations. Type “/grin” and zoom in to your character’s face, and you’ll find his smile widens confidently. Type “/wave” and he will wave his hand at whoever you happen to select. And — my favourite — type “/dance” and your character will do a little jig to the unheard music, while other players would glare at him as if he’s crazy.

These examples only apply in ARR, because each game has their own sets of emotes. Dragon Nest, for example, has two emotes for “/dance”, each of which differs depending on what character you are playing. Dance with a Kali character, and if you’re male and perverts (these two words are synonymous) make sure to prepare some tissue and close the curtains first. (emote “/wink”)

But the use of emotes in any MMOs is still limited. In ARR, for example, you need to stand still to use most of the emotes. You can’t run a dungeon and “/laugh”-ed when your friend is cracking a joke. You can try of course, and the dialogue box will say you’ve already used that emote. But there’ll be no animation, no change on the facial expression, no laughing-out-loud voice from your character. That’s a big turn off.

Doubting Lalafell

This little Lala wants to use emotes more freely.

And there’s a problem with the length of writing needed to use an emote. It’s much faster, not to mention easier, if we just type “LOL” instead of “/laugh”. When you run a dungeon, you don’t want to waste time typing “/laugh” when you can use the three letters “LOL”. Even “/LOL” is longer than “LOL” by one letter, and when you’re battling a big bad boss, you don’t always want to waste time writing that extra letter. “LOL” might not have any animation, but it’s much more convenient. I really think other game developers will benefit from imitating Dragon Nest’s auto-render, so that when you type “LOL” in the dialogue box, the system will automatically change it into its animated counterpart — your character will laugh, in a clear voice and with a change in the facial expression. This way, the game will be more interesting and, more importantly, more realistic.

On the side note, maybe it’s also a good idea to set up a system that can detect the dialogue box for any basic emote. If for example you type, “That is so true LOL”, the dialogue box will just say, “Character 1: That is so true” and your character will be laughing at the same time. Of course, there has to be some restrictions to this, otherwise we won’t be able to type “lollipop” and “Lolita” ever again.

The one thing I like about ARR — in terms of emotes, anyway — is that you can combine emote “/sit” with a few other emotes. So, if you type “/sit” and then “/wave”, your character will wave his hand while remain seated. The same goes with “/sit” plus “/laugh”, and “/sit” plus “/thumbsup”, although in the last one your character will nod instead of giving a thumb’s up. I wish there will be more emotes available to combine with emote “/sit”, but ARR developers have got the right idea — they make emote-ing more interesting.

Someone once told me, “Everyone smiles in the same language”. The same thing applies for emotes. Wherever you are, whatever your culture is like, “:D” always means a big smile and “:|” always means a whatever-face. The emote friends I mentioned above, for example, are all speaking Japanese and I can’t speak the language except for “Konichiwa” and “Aishiteru”. But we can still interact through emotes and that makes us emote friends.

I imagine someday all messaging apps like WhatsApp will have a 3D avatar who does our emotes for us. You type “LOL” and he’ll laugh, you type “:P” and he’ll make a silly face. It’ll make chatting much more expressive. Seeing the current pace of technological innovations, I say this won’t happen very far in the future — the only question is which tech developers will get this idea first and be able to utilise it efficiently. As for me, I’ll go back to ARR and do another round of “/laugh”. Who knows? Maybe some other strangers would join in and end up in my Friend List. (emote “/wink”)

After Lightsabers: What-If Applications of Photonic Molecules

Soon, mate, that might be you.

I know lightsabers, you know lightsabers. Everyone knows lightsabers, or at least has heard about Star Wars, George Lucas and the famous “I am your father” line.

Now, you might’ve heard that, a few months ago, a few scientists from Harvard and MIT have accidentally invented what potentially can be lightsabers. (See: http://goo.gl/mnxe0W) When introducing their “photonic molecules” to general public — an entirely new matter, it is said, made of light and rubidium atoms, the same chemical element used to make fireworks purple — the scientist said how these molecules can interact and deflect each other, not unlike what we see in the big screen.

Ordinary light can’t do this — if you light two torches crossroad-fashion, for example, the two light beams will go through each other as if it’s not there. But photonic molecules have a certain degree of solidness, thanks to the rubidium atoms, and this makes them into a light that can be touched.

But the one question people have asked — besides when we can get our hands on these lightsabers — is how we can use this new matter in a more practical way. Sure, these molecules will make pretty trinkets for when the new Star Wars instalment is released in 2015, but when you get down to it, how often would we use these “lightsaber” trinkets? Why settle for trinkets when we can make, say, a new holographic communication device that enables us talk face-to-artificial-face? What other uses can we use this finding for?

Here’s a few ideas.

1. Cutting Implements

The most obvious one is cutting implements. After all, this new technology is compared to lightsabers, a futuristic weapon that’s said to be able to cut through (nearly) everything. But in real life, is it possible to use this new matter to cut stuffs?

The answer is — I don’t dare to say more than “maybe”. The scientists did say the photonic molecules can interact with each other, but I can’t find any confirmation on how they affect other matters. These molecules have substance, so it should be able to interact with other solid matters. But to what extent they can interact — right now, all I have is nothing but guesswork.

Also, although the scientists did say these molecules can deflect each other, “deflect something” is not the same with “cut”. It’s true that even now we have lasers that can seemingly cut through solid matters, but it doesn’t mean its application to these photonic molecules will be easy. How can we know this laser won’t “cut” through the rubidium medium first? Right now, I have no idea.

2. Hologram

Have you heard of Hatsune Miku? This Japanese virtual idol has her own concert where she appears as 3D holographic images and sings in a software-designed voice. It blows me how creative the producers have made use of holographic technology to create an idol, but it’s still far away from the holographic concepts we can find in many sci-fi movies, including Star Wars again.

Hatsune Miku depends on a dilad screen to appear as a life-size 3D hologram. But if we can tame the photonic molecules, we might be able to create a new form of hologram that doesn’t require any screen to operate.

But what makes me think this idea is possible? Well… for now, just call it an optimist’s thinking. These photonic molecules are made partly of light and partly of solid atoms. So, the optimist reasons, if we can control the movement of these atoms — for example, to resemble the face of a person — we might be able to have a 3D hologram that doesn’t need any screen for its realisation.

Yes, really.

Of course, right now there’s still many safety consideration — I don’t know what raw rubidium atoms do to human bodies — and maybe it’s still far away until we have the technology that allows the movement of these atoms. But if we can make it possible, the application will be limitless. We can have holographic communication that will replace voice calls and Skype’s face-to-screen chatting. Creating artworks made entirely of light are not impossible. And maybe we’ll have yet another virtual idol, and this time, we won’t need any dilad screen or mosquito net when going to her concert.

3. Computing

Ever since the finding of this “lightsaber” material, scientists have been pondering the possibility of its application in the development of quantum computing. But how does this finding relate to that?

To understand it, you’ll have to understand how quantum computers work — and there are tons of people out there more qualified than me to give you a lecture about it. For now, think of them as supercomputers that can process data not just using the basic two units of information, called bits (which is either 1 or 0), but with a bigger range of units of information, called qubits (including 0/0, 0/1, 1/0 and 1/1). To strip all the technical bits, quantum computers are many times stronger than your current computers. But scientists have always had difficulty in their development because “photons” — scientists’ way of saying “light”, which is chosen as the medium to carry quantum information — cannot interact with each other, even though their interaction is vital for the quantum computer processing. (See also: http://goo.gl/lsCDFf)

Now that we’ve found photon that can interact with each other, suddenly we have a whole new possibility for quantum computing.

What will you do when, years from now, quantum computers replace your home computers? Well, right now the possibility is limitless, so please please please don’t just use it for Microsoft Word and a game of Solitaire.

4. Sound (?)

This one is even more of a what-if than the others. And the only reason I put it here is… well, it just got me thinking.

Light travels faster than sound. The reason for this is the speed of light is still affected by the density of air in which it travels. Change the density and the speed of sound will change. Whereas light travels without being affected (or affected in microscopically small ways, I don’t know) by the density of air. Because sound needs molecules in the air to travel, while light doesn’t.

But, in the case of these photonic molecules, when light is projected into the cloud of rubidium atoms, the light, as the scientists put it, “excite” the atoms. “Excite” is a rather vague word, but it gives me an impression that these molecules can travel faster than ordinary atoms. If it’s really true, then when sound travels in these photonic molecules — if such thing is possible, anyway — can we create sound that travels faster than other sounds?

Of course, I don’t know how fast that is, or why we want to make a faster sound. Other elements in the air might also hinder the movement of these photonic molecules. Also, the current research has indicated that the light “slows down” when it enters the cloud of atoms, which means it won’t be as fast as the speed of light. But whether it’s still faster than ordinary sound — it’s still a question mark.

***

I’m not a scientists. I’m more of a journalist who’s interested in the future technology. So, what I write here is mostly a speculation, and I don’t have the means to prove whether it’s true or not.

Still, as the optimist would say: I can’t wait to see what else tomorrow will bring.

5 Years into the Future

(Attributed to Loic Le Meur)

Smartglass: one of our future technology

Your smartphone wakes you up with the newest alarm app. There’s no sound you can hear — no loud ringing, jingling noise that tends to wake up your neighbours instead of you — because this app doesn’t need any. Its sensor just detects when you’re in your lightest sleep state, and then it vibrates and emits sound that’s inaudible to human ears but nevertheless can bring you back from your sleep state.

You get up, and immediately after, you’re greeted with a “Good morning, owner” from your smartphone. You say, “What’s today’s schedule?” and one of Siri’s younger siblings (which you can give a personal name) opens the corresponding apps and gives you the to-do list for today. Then you say, “Check my email” and automatically the Intelligent Voice opens your inbox and chirps a brief summary for each new message.

After taking a bath and making some breakfast, you turn on the TV and check out today’s news. No remote is needed. You just voice the command “Turn On” and the TV will do so. You slide your hand in the air, a few inches from the screen, and the TV will browse through the channel, without any static interference in-between.

It’s time to go to work. You pick up your smartglass — if not Google Glass then certainly one of its younger siblings — and connect it to your smartphone. It may take a few seconds until it’s ready, so you use that time to set up your smartphone on the small holder on the car’s dashboard, and automatically it will connect to the car, wirelessly. Then you say to your smartglass, “Show direction to my workplace” and the glass accesses the map apps you have and detects the traffic condition for each street. Another few seconds later, a semi-transparent map appears on your smartglass, detailing the best directions from here on.

As you get closer to the downtown area, you notice one or two flying car above the busy street, looking all luxurious or (because lately there’s been a lot of rains) merely disheveled. You say, “Take a picture” and your smartglass captures the image of that flying car. And with a few more voice commands, you edit the photos, changing the colouring and the brightness, and post it in the latest social network.

***

Don’t you think this is like something out of sci-fi movies? But all of these might come true in 5 years time — or even less.

Even now we’ve had the Sleep Cycle app, which — as mentioned above — can detect various sleep state you’re in and only wake you up when you’re in the lightest sleep state (i.e., when you’re the easiest to wake up). This app still uses a little bit of noise to wake you up, but compared to how loud the old days’ alarm clocks can be, this one is super quiet. So, in 5 years time, it’s possible the developers will find a way to wake us up without causing any ruckus. I know I don’t like waking up because of my next-room neighbour’s alarm, so this one will be very useful.

You must’ve heard of Siri: the Intelligent Voice feature in iOS that can — through your vocal command — search Google, check contacts, set up calendars and other automatic responses. But frankly, the current Siri sucks. I’ve tried it a few times and it never does what I tell it to do. I said, “Search Google for Iron-Man” and it came up with “abandonment”. I said, “Search Google for Sherlock Holmes” and it came up with various articles about humps. Humps! Is this because Siri can’t detect accents yet?

I hope the future Intelligent Voice will be easier to deal with. I know Cortana — the Intelligent Voice for Windows Phone — is under development, but who knows how its performance will be.

We’ve heard of remote-free TVs for some time — the kind of TVs that doesn’t require any remote because your voice and the movement of your hand are enough to control it. I’ve seen one of those some time ago and frankly, it looks pretty awesome. But the price is also awesome, so I prefer to wait until it gets a little bit cheaper. In 5 years time, though, it’s possible the remote-free TVs will replace most of the current TVs.

The first smartglass — or Intelligent Glass, or Personal Glass, or whatever it will be called — will be available for consumers in 2014. Google Glass it is called, although rumour has it that Microsoft is also developing another smartglass that will rival this upcoming gadget. Today, a war between smartphones; tomorrow, a war between smartglasses. And even until now I’m still not sure how people already wearing glasses can wear this gadget.

The world’s first flying car will be ready for sales in 2015, according to US company Terrafugia. Sadly, it’s still expensive (nearly $300,000) and to drive it you’ll need at least 20 hours flying experience (which means more money for the flying practice). But a lot of things can happen in 3 years, so by 2018 — who knows? Maybe a number of you will have flew around in your cars. When that happens, should I call you “drivers” or “pilots”?

All of these are just speculations, of course — speculations based on what we’ve had today and the info we’ve got on coming technology. Some of these might be take longer time until it’s ready for consumers, while the rest might be released for consumers but don’t work as well as promised. Things happen. Still, it’s kinda exciting to see what our life will be like in 5 years time.

Virtual Retinal Display: A Different Approach to Virtual Reality

No, I promise: It WON’T look like this.

The future equals to virtual reality. That seems to be the message developers are trying to say when more and more efforts are poured into the development of VR devices. The latest one is Avegant’s Virtual Retinal Display, of which the consumer-friendly prototype will be ready early next year.

VR itself is not something new. The idea has existed a long time in popular fiction, including the game .Hack franchise and the anime Sword Art Online. And of course, we’ve had other VR devices such as MyVu, HMZ-T1 and — the one that recently makes a notable ripple in the tech world — Oculus Rift.

But Virtual Retinal Display uses a different concept altogether. If its predecessors are developed by placing a high-resolution screen on the back side of the glasses-like exterior, Virtual Retinal Display projects light directly into your eyes. This concept allows for higher resolution imagery and less eye strain.

What many of us want to know next, of course, is how this device will react to the user’s eye movement. Its predecessors require us to move our heads if we want to see left and right. But because Virtual Retinal Display projects light directly into our eyes, is it possible to make a sidelong glance and still see those virtual surroundings without turning our heads at all? It will be interesting to see how Avegant is going to address this matter.

Unlike Oculus Rift, Virtual Retinal Display is not created with VR gaming in mind. Avegant plans to focus its development towards mobile video entertainment. Which is why the company is currently developing a new design for the device — one that won’t embarrass the users when worn in public.

However, this does not mean VR gaming will not be possible. Given how in the past arcade gaming adapted to the development of TVs, I find there are a lot of reasons to remain optimistic.

You can follow the development of this fancy device in their Twitter: https://twitter.com/avegant

(Source: cNetKotaku)

Wishlist: Preview of Batman Arkham Origins

The bad-ass Batman. Attributed to HarryBana.

“I don’t care who does it. I don’t care how they go.” In one Christmas Eve, The Black Mask watches, impassive, as his henchmen bring in today’s victim and forces him down to his knees. Another henchman hands over a still-burning cigarette and The Black Mask bends down, letting the red light illuminate his grinning skull.

“I just want The Bat dead,” he whispers — and fills the victim’s eye with a Christmas present: a red-hot cigarette end.

***

In another place and in the later time, a man wakes up to find himself hanging upside down with The Batman holding on his leg. “Where’s The Black Mask?” the dark knight demands, then drops him from the clock tower. Soon the cord around his leg twangs and the man is a big yo-yo, bawling his eyes out and banging his face on the clock’s surface. Then The Batman hears the man’s phone ring, informing him of his destination: Diamond District Tower.

>> Read the rest of this article here.

This article is my attempt for the narrative game writing that seems quite popular nowadays. I’ve seen it for a while, but embarrassingly enough I’ve never tried it until now. It doesn’t seem much different from the standard short-story writing I did all the time — except that I’ve seen the visual before I describe it in writing. Which is far more fun.

This game has a lot more cool stuffs to write about — the detective vision, for example — but I’ve already hit the word limit. (I might need to work around this problem later.) If you’re interested, you can check out the video from which I write this story down: http://goo.gl/bOhQ5P

Batman: Arkham Origins is coming to PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U and PC on 25 October.

Wishlist: Upcoming Superhero Movies that Look Bad-Ass

Superhero Movie Art. Attributed to marvelousRoland http://flic.kr/p/bCsgvb

Superhero movie art (attributed to marvelousRoland)

A few days ago I re-watched Kick-Ass. And since then I’ve had this craving for more superhero movies.

But like in all cases of waiting for something, that something never comes out soon enough. Especially with all the hints and teasers of what will happen in these movies, which make me less and less patient. So, I thought, I might as well take note of which superhero movies are coming to the cinema, starting from the end of this year and beyond.

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Thor: The Dark World (November 2013)

The last one that will appear in the cinema this year — to be exact, next month — before the five months of waiting for the next movie.

In Iron Man 3 we have seen what’s happening in Tony Spark’s life following the events in The Avengers, so I can’t wait to see what’ll happen with the rest of the team. But what makes me really go frenzy is that, this time, Loki — who’s played the supervillain role in Thor and The Avengers — is going to work together with his brother. In the last few days the internet has been full of bromance speculation of the two. If you’re a fan you may make a high-pitched fan-girl scream right now.

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier (April 2014)

I wasn’t too happy with the previous Captain America movie, so the only reason I put this in the wishlist is to see what will happen to him after the events in The Avengers. Fingers crossed, may this movie be better than the first.

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The Amazing Spiderman 2 (May 2014)

I love the first movie. Peter Parker’s new personality is much spicier than the all-around good-boy of the previous trilogy (which is epic, nonetheless). Also looking forward to any possibility of Spiderman crossover with another superhero. Fantastic Four is a good one — I heard Spidey’s first comic book appearance has something to do with his attempt to join Fantastic Four. True or not true?

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Transformer: Age of Extinction (June 2014)

I don’t really follow the news updates for this movie, since I’m disappointed with Transformers 3. It was too full of damsel-in-distress scenes. The heroine (I’ll remember her name in a minute …) can do nothing but screaming and waiting to be rescued — unlike the previous two movies where she really take part in the events that are happening. Hopefully the fourth instalment will be better.

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X-Men: Days of Future Past (July 2015)

The Wolverine is awesome. If you haven’t watched it, watch it right now. I can’t wait to see what Logan is going to do next, especially after what’s happened with his claws …

There’s also a rumour going around that Logan will die in this coming movie.

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The Avengers 2 (May 2015)

I must admit, the first Avengers movie is epic. I was sceptical at first, since it was the first superhero crossover movie, but it turned out better than I dared to imagine. The downside, of course, if you want to enjoy it fully, you’ll have to watch the previous movies related to each of the superheroes. This graph sums it up pretty well: http://goo.gl/fp7se

Rumour is, Aaron Johnson — who in superheroes circle is known as Kick-Ass — is also going to appear as one of the new heroes.

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Kick-Ass 3 (Unconfirmed)

It’s not known yet when the third instalment of Kick-Ass saga will appear, but the creator Mark Miller says it’s going to be the last one. Is this good news or bad news? Personally, I hate it when a movie ends so perfectly then a sequel appears and ruins the original ending. But on the other hand, if it ends here there will be no more Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl. So I’m not sure how I should react to this news.

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Superman vs Batman (Unconfirmed)

Yet another attempt for a superhero crossover movie — at least, according to the rumours. Personally, I don’t like how Man of Steel turned out, but I do love The Dark Knight saga. The idea of combining the two into one epic movie — well, it’s something to die for.

Playing: Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn

Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn

Eorzea during sunset

This is what I’m currently playing: Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn, or also known as “ARR”. And this picture above is Oxel Petrichor, the character I’m playing. He’s a Miqo’te: a race of playable characters presumably created for someone with fetish for cat ears and cat tail. Do I have such fetish? I dunno; I never check.

The remake of the second MMO in Final Fantasy (FF) franchise, ARR is something I’ve been wanting to play since its relaunch in August this year. But what with the server problem following it, I’ve just started playing it quite recently. And so far I’m enjoying every moment of it.

Playing ARR is like reminisce of all games in the franchise. Here and there I’m seeing references to the previous FFs, like the Helm of Light (FF I), Magiteks (FF VI) and even Materias (FF VII). The last time I heard, you can even dress up your character in Lightning’s costume (FF XIII) although I don’t know where you can get it. Then again, my character Oxel is male, so perhaps it’s not a good idea to give him a new hobby.

Being an explorer-gamer, I see world/setting creation as something really important — second only to the plot— so thankfully Eorzea, the world of ARR, is really well-design. Each map point has its own backstory and each field is big enough that I haven’t been bored exploring every nook and cranny. And although you can’t talk to all NPCs, you can still see what they were saying through the text bubble above their heads. Too bad players don’t have the same text bubbles — it would make communication between players easier when we were facing strong enemies.

So far I’ve died twice and one of them is suicide — caused by me jumping down to the bottom of the valley because I couldn’t see the way down. I do that quite often — jumping down from somewhere really high — because I like to see how high I can take and still survive. It’s part of exploration — finding out what you can and cannot do. But if I did this in real life, I’d have to live in a loonyhouse for my own safety, so I might as well do it in games. It’s something to do, suicide — as long as not in real life, of course.

The battle system is not exactly the best. It’s not very player-responsive — you just click on a monster and then use the hotbars to perform various skills. You can’t roll on the ground to evade attacks; you don’t have to jump when fighting flying monsters (because the monsters are understanding enough not fly too high). You can walk around to avoid AoE attacks (those red marks on the ground), but I don’t know if this helps or not — sometimes I still take damage even after I’ve walked out of the red marks. And you can’t parry or dodge an attack unless your character has decided to do it.

Strangely enough, this battle system is still fun. Maybe I’m just bored of extremely player-responsive battle systems in Dragon Nest and Guild Wars 2, where I have to keep moving if I don’t want to take damage. I’m actually enjoying the simplicity of ARR, where I don’t have to keep dodging for the futility of it. It’s almost pleasant — I can just relax, attack with combos, heal when necessary, and run away crying when desperate. The lack of battle complication actually means I can just enjoy the story and the world of Eorzea.

I’m playing in Lamia server. Don’t forget to “/wave” at me if you happen to pass by!