Saturday, 26 May 2007

Traveller's Dilemma

Most people who have any interest in economics, game theory or even human psychology have heard of the Prisoner's Dilemma. PD is a big problem for free-market libertarists, because it undermines their claim that left to their own devices, people will always make rational choices and therefore state intervention is Evil. Problem is, when people do make rational decisions in cases involving the PD the result is far from optimal to most, if not all, concerned. There is also a thing called the Free rider problem which is closely related to PD. Things like social security and nature conservation are FRP's. People are unwilling to take part because they know it will take a lot of people to participate to make any difference. So there is the danger that their sacrifices are useless, thus it's better not to participate. And this is where the state is needed - to make everyone pay benefiting everyone in the long run.

I just read an article on the Traveller's Dilemma which is a variation of the Prisoner's Dilemma. What the studies mentioned in the article prove is that people are not rational beasts, required to make free-market society function better than one that is controlled to some degree by the state or other bodies. I don't believe in too much control either, but there needs to be something to control the worst outcomes that free-market libertarism could come up with.

Funny thing is, these dilemma's are more or less intuitive in nature, yet many refute them. This, in my opinion, proves that for some economics isn't a science but a religion. If reality clashes with theory, reality is wrong. This is actually one of the main separating factors between science and religion. The former is prepared to change it's theories, latter is not. Of course the other major difference is is that science requires that results must be repeatable.

That's why it's usually so hard to have a rational discussion with libertarians. It's just like trying to argue a believer that his belief system is wrong which is completely impossible. Well, ok, you can try to argue but it will never lead anywhere.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Kärpät the champions, again

Well, well. I wasn't too confident earlier about Kärpät's chances of winning the championship, but it's occasionally nice to be wrong. In fact, not only did Kärpät win it, they did it in some style. 10 games in the playoffs, 10 wins. And even though some matches looked even judging by the score, Kärpät was clearly the better side.

It will interesting to see what the team will look like next season as rumours are taking most of the star players elsewhere. Mika Pyörälä, first line left winger has already signed a contract with Timrå of the Swedish Elitserien and it is almost certain the playoffs' MVP Janne Pesonen will go to Anaheim. It is also quite possible that team captain Jari Viuhkola goes to Chicago and Viktor Ujcik moves back to Czech. Rumours are also abound that Kalle Sahlstedt might quit icehockey for good as his sone has been diagnosed with cancer and the very skillful Juha-Matti Aaltonen might also be headed for the NHL, to St Louis Blues. New crowd favourite Ross Lupaschuk's situation is also interesting, some sources claim he has already signed a contract with HIFK Helsinki, that is unless he moves to the NHL as he was excellent, especially during the playoffs.

So the CEO Juha Junno and the rest of the background staff need to work hard building a good team for next season as at least some of these rumours are bound to be true.

But for now it's just time to enjoy.

I had my camera with me on Thursday and managed some pictures. I actually took a lot of them but the lights etc. made it hard to get decent pictures. With shutter speeds of more than 1/100th of a second moving things get blurry. And the camera had trouble focusing on some shots. But thankfully with the so-called shotgun style (shoot loads) some pictures came out ok, at least after some post-processing. I had to do at least some minor adjustments to pretty much every image, at least adjusting the brightness with the Curves tool because the camera left most pictures quite dark.

I have to give the thumbs up for JAlbum once again. It has improved a lot since I last downloaded a version and has some new excellent skins, like the one I used (Chameleon). It doesn't get any easier than this. Some of the default settings are stupid, like the one where JAlbum wants to readjust my pictures and with the settings it uses (jpg compression rate etc) they end up looking quite horrible. So it's best to tell it to use the original pictures if you have already done the post-processing.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

3D Sounds

The Virtual Barbershop is quite an interesting experiment on how we perceive sound. David Heron has managed to create a real-sounding environment for headphones. I'm just left wondering why this couldn't be used more. Games tend to have poor 3D sounds if you don't have multiple speakers, especially feeling of distance seems hard to create. Yet many game types would benefit immensly from better sounds. First person shooters come to mind first. Just listening to that demonstration is enough to make you wonder what could be achieved. I can't think of many games that have anything resembling a believable sound environment. It feels like that part of gaming is lagging ten years behind the rest.

Processing power might of course be a stumbling block. The games should consider echoes and obstacles, for instance. My main gripe in Deus Ex - my all-time favourite game - is how you can hear sounds coming from behind walls just like if the wall wasn't there. You can hear footsteps through ten feet of concrete which is completely ridiculous.

Game developers are heading down the road of physics and improving the graphics more and more. Both are nice things, but trying to create a realistic experience requires a realistic sound system. As a matter of fact, it should be quite high in the priorities list because one would think it's much easier to create a good 3D sound environment than to create 3D images on a flat screen.

Of course the demonstration is much easier to make since the head doesn't move and the sounds have been made static - you can't do anything to change how the sounds play. Just the ability to be able to shake your virtual head would make the demonstration a lot harder to pull off. But surely it must be possible, maybe by trying to simulate a human's hearing, i.e. calculating the sounds created in the environment twice with that small difference in location. Echoes etc are a different things altogether, though but maybe a similar system to how lightning is calculated could be used. It could be a lot simpler.

I'm thinking of splitting the sound spectrum into parts. Say 20-80Hz, 80-200Hz etc depending on what a meaningful split is. Then you would have to define how much each part dampens when it hits each material in the gaming world. This is something similar to how lightning is calculated already. The general rule is, of course, that the higher the sound, the more it dampens, but if this was based on material, the sounds would sound very different in a jungle than in inside a subway station.

But I'm no expert on this so I can't possibly calculate how much processing power even a simple system would require. It could be an interesting experiment in itself, though.