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Lost Ark • The Register

The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. For this edition, we’re back in MMO territory and, yes, Amazon is involved.

Amazon Games’ New World was a huge launch for the fledgling studio, but a few months down the line and the new MMORPG* hotness was coming apart at the seams. Gaping code oversights, show-stopping bugs, and fixes that broke other systems tested players’ patience to the limits. New World crashed from a peak of almost a million concurrent users five months ago to not quite 20,000 as I write.

An aborted attempt at a martial artist on the character creation screen

An aborted attempt at a martial artist on the character creation screen

On the other hand, New World is in its infancy and potentially has years of shelf life left – as long as the hardcore keep logging in and the devs can iron out its many issues. But Amazon, it seems, had another project waiting in the wings, almost like a contingency. Taking on publishing duties, Bezos’ bunch released Lost Ark on 11 February with Korean developer Smilegate RPG.

The graphics, to be fair, are pretty

The graphics, to be fair, are pretty

Lost Ark has been out since 2019 in South Korea, where it is enormously popular thanks to its free-to-play business model. Following a Russian launch last year, the isometric MMO has now come to Western shores with three years of refinement behind it – so it’s little surprise that the game peaked with 1.3 million concurrent players (admittedly many of them queuing for hours to get in), making it one of the most-played titles on Steam.

Multiple players have to work together to take down world bosses like the Salt Giant

Multiple players have to work together to take down world bosses like the Salt Giant

The above paragraph contains one serious red flag – free to play – because often it just means pay to win. Full disclosure: I chucked about 40 quid at Lost Ark before launch for a founders’ pack, about the same amount I would on most new games, and honestly there didn’t seem to be much by way of perks that really benefitted me during the leveling stage. From what I can tell, and by asking people in-game, it seems that most of this comes into play during the endgame.

The bigger they are the harder they fall

The bigger they are the harder they fall

Otherwise Lost Ark is free, and remarkably well made at that. Which means the question is whether it sounds like something you’d want to check out. So here’s the upshot.

How dungeons work compared to other MMOs is one of Lost Ark's redeeming features

How dungeons work compared to other MMOs is one of Lost Ark’s redeeming features

What immediately sets Lost Ark apart from the MMO pack is gameplay. As mentioned, the action takes place from a fixed-camera isometric perspective. Ring any bells? Yeah, Blizzard’s Diablo III is the single most obvious influence on how Lost Ark feels. Movement is controlled by left-clicking or holding down and moving the mouse, which may feel awkward to many but those familiar with the Diablo series shouldn’t have much of a problem.

Another awesome dungeon encounter

Another awesome dungeon encounter

You then have your combat abilities bound by default to QWER and ASDF, which are fired off against enemies as you move around the battlefield, and you start out with six that can be tweaked and improved as the character grows, rather than a meagre two to three that have to be spammed during the opening hours.

Environments are varied and beautiful

Environments are varied and beautiful

How your character plays depends on the class and subclass you choose, and there’s a whole bunch of them. I went with a warrior (berserker) because I’m basic, but before you start the game presents clips of how each class looks and feels so you can select what seems coolest to you. All playstyles are locked to a gender so you can’t pick male or female, just class. It should be added that Lost Ark’s women are always well endowed and only wear high heels, something that passes muster less and less among Western studios.

Defending a fortress from a demon army

Defending a fortress from a demon army

So how does it work? The fantasy realm of Arkesia is open world to some degree but also not. You can think of each area as a separate dungeon like in Diablo, where going through a specific exit will take you to the next region (once you’ve activated a “triport” you can also quick travel between areas). But before that you have the standard MMO fare of questing for experience points (XP), which are used to upgrade your character. Naturally, these quests will come in one of a few flavours – go here, kill that; go here, pick up that; go here, yadda yadda. Fortunately, they can be relatively painless, and the combat at least is visually spectacular.

Eventually these quests will lead to instanced storyline events and dungeons with bosses and loot drops that can be completed either solo or as part of a four-player group. Now, here’s where Lost Ark deviates again from the MMO formula. Every character is a damage machine. There are no healer or tank classes, which makes things feel… all a bit casual honestly. So you romp through the dungeon, steamroll the bosses, and get gear upgrades. Some are genuinely impressive in terms of environment and boss mechanics, but that doesn’t stop Lost Ark feeling too easy.

Because the camera is fixed, you rarely see cities from this vantage

Because the camera is fixed, you rarely see cities from this vantage

You’re led through all these areas by the storyline quest, which isn’t much to write home about, nor is the voice acting, which seems to be a feature rather than a bug when it comes to games from the Far East. Like Diablo, it’s basically “ahhh the demons are coming!” and a race to find the titular arks, magical items that drive out evil. However, Lost Ark does pull off neat cut-scenes and set pieces, something sorely lacking from most MMOs. I especially enjoyed the story arc where you help restore the rightful king of Luterra to his throne, which climaxes in an epic siege battle. Another example is when you man the guns on the walls of a crumbling fortress to fight off a huge demon incursion.

Mobs can drop maps to secret dungeons for extra loot

Mobs can drop maps to secret dungeons for extra loot

On the way a mind-boggling amount of systems become apparent. Once you’ve liberated Luterra, you’re given an island mansion with a well-endowed, high-heeled butler where you can craft items and send crews out on various missions for rewards. Then there’s the faceting of precious stones that give you bonuses to stats, an infuriatingly random process. Engraving also awards stat bonuses, but not before you’ve collected all the necessary tomes to learn the process. Each continent has a completion percentage, too, which appears to encourage the creation of alternative characters as you’re rarely likely to make it through a region with more than 50 per cent on your first pass.

Then, just when you think you’re about to reach the end of the campaign, you’re suddenly given a ship to explore all of Arkesia. A glimpse of the vast world map shows just how wrong you are.

Suddenly, pirate ships!

Suddenly, pirate ships!

It’s true that there is real depth and detail to Lost Ark, but it’s somewhat overwhelming, and not helped by the atrocious UI design. While I haven’t felt the need to throw any more money at the game as I slowly approach level 50 (cap is 60), I can see premium-currency gotchas lurking at the edges, like where research at your manor can be completed instantaneously at the click of a button.

The yellow exclamation and question marks will be familiar to MMO veterans

The yellow exclamation and question marks will be familiar to MMO veterans

Ultimately, though, Lost Ark feels too easy, too casual, kind of like a mobile game you would play when you’re supposed to be doing something else. While combat is a blast, I’ve rarely felt challenged and the only times I’ve died is when I wasn’t watching my health bar during a dungeon or world boss encounter. It means that all I have to look forward to when I log back in is the gradual creeping of the XP bar. Granted, players keep telling me “you’re only at the start of the game”, but at this point I’m not sure I want to find out how deep the rabbit hole goes.

However, if you’re pining for Diablo with an MMO twist, hey, it’s free. Knock yourself out. Just mind the wallet. ®

*Massively multiplayer online roleplaying game, if you really didn’t know by now e.g. World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, New World, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn etc.

Rich played a bit of Lost Ark on Twitch as ExcellentSword. Chuck him a follow for more video game impressions as they happen! Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from around 8:30-9pm UK time.

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Congratulations, Privacy Just Took A Great Leap Out the Window!

Your Data Is Being Used Without Your Permission And Knowledge

The Voice Of EU | In the heart of technological innovation, the collision between intellectual property rights and the development of cutting-edge AI technologies has sparked a significant legal battle. The New York Times has taken legal action against OpenAI and Microsoft, filing a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court. This legal maneuver aims to address concerns surrounding the unauthorized use of the Times’ content for the training of AI models, alleging copyright infringements that could potentially result in billions of dollars in damages.

READ: HOW YOUR DATA IS BEING USED TO TRAIN A.I.

This legal tussle underlines the escalating tension between technological advancements and the protection of intellectual property. The crux of the lawsuit revolves around OpenAI and Microsoft allegedly utilizing the Times’ proprietary content to advance their own AI technology, directly competing with the publication’s services. The lawsuit suggests that this unauthorized utilization threatens the Times’ ability to offer its distinctive service and impacts its AI innovation, creating a competitive landscape that challenges the publication’s proprietary content.

Amidst the growing digital landscape, media organizations like the Times are confronting a myriad of challenges. The migration of readers to online platforms has significantly impacted traditional media, and the advent of artificial intelligence technology has added another layer of complexity. The legal dispute brings to the forefront the contentious practice of AI companies scraping copyrighted information from online sources, including articles from media organizations, to train their generative AI chatbots. This strategy has attracted substantial investments, rapidly transforming the AI landscape.

Exhibit presented by the New York Times’ legal team of ChatGPT replicating a article after being prompted

The lawsuit highlights instances where OpenAI’s technology, specifically GPT-4, replicated significant portions of Times articles, including in-depth investigative reports. These outputs, alleged by the Times to contain verbatim excerpts from their content, raise concerns about the ethical and legal boundaries of using copyrighted material for AI model training without proper authorization or compensation.

The legal action taken by the Times follows attempts to engage in discussions with Microsoft and OpenAI, aiming to address concerns about the use of its intellectual property. Despite these efforts, negotiations failed to reach a resolution that would ensure fair compensation for the use of the Times’ content while promoting responsible AI development that benefits society.

In the midst of this legal battle, the broader questions surrounding the responsible and ethical utilization of copyrighted material in advancing technological innovations come to the forefront.

The dispute between the Times, OpenAI, and Microsoft serves as a significant case study in navigating the intricate intersection of technological progress and safeguarding intellectual property rights in the digital age.


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‘The Bill Gates Problem’ – The Case Against World’s Richest Man

The Case Against World’s Richest Man

When Clinton assumed the presidency of the United States, there was eager anticipation from the Chinese, not for Clinton himself, but for Bill Gates. This was during the late 1990s, a period when the internet was still in its nascent stages, and the digital boom of the early 2000s had not yet reached its peak. The enigmatic persona that captivated the attention of the burgeoning Asian powerhouse is now portrayed in “The Bill Gates Problem” as a “domineering, brusque figure” whose demeanor is likened to “a cauldron of passions that freely erupts.” According to a former employee cited in the book, Gates was perceived as “a complete and utter jerk to people 70% of the time,” while the remaining 30% saw him as a “harmless, enjoyable, exceptionally intelligent nerd.”

The 1990s were also the decade of the conflict between Microsoft and the now defunct Netscape browser, which challenged what was already being openly described as the former’s monopolistic practices. Gates was investigated and accused in Congress for such practices; he ultimately won the battle, but the case harmed his reputation, and in 2000 he resigned as CEO of his company. From there he undertook an expansion of the foundation that he had established with his wife and to which he has dedicated his main efforts in the last two decades. In 2006, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation received the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation.

With a personal fortune of $100 billion and tens of billions more in his private foundation, Gates has been one of the richest men in the world for decades, and the foundation has been the most generous organization of its kind, specializing above all in health aid, education and child nutrition, with a large presence in Africa and India among other regions of what was formerly known as the Third World. Tim Schwab, a contributor to the weekly left-wing newspaper The Nation, undertook a detailed investigation to denounce something that in truth was already known: that American foundations are largely a way for billionaires to avoid taxes.

To prove this, he thoroughly looked into the accounts and procedures of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the failures and occasional successes of its philanthropic policies, and came to the conclusion that behind this facade of help to the needy hides an operation of power. He is ruthless in his criticism, although accurate in his analysis of the growing inequality in the world. Absorbed by the revolutionary rhetoric, he laments that the Gates Foundation has remained “deadly silent” regarding movements such as Occupy Wall Street or Black Lives Matter, which demand social change in the face of the “excess wealth and ‘white savior’ mentality that drives Bill Gates’ philanthropic work.” He does attribute some good intentions, but his criticism is merciless, sometimes even coarse, while the absence of solutions for the problems he denounces — other than the calls for do-goodism — is frustrating.

His abilities as an investigative journalist are thus overshadowed by a somewhat naive militancy against the creative capitalism that Gates promotes and an evident intention to discredit not only his work but, above all, him. The demands he makes for transparency and the accusations of obscurity are dulled by the author himself in the pages he dedicates to Gates’ relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the famous corruptor of minors at the service of the international jet set. Gates has explained his meetings and interviews with him on countless occasions, and in no case has any type of relationship, other than their commercial relations or some confusing efforts to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, been proved. Still, Schwab raises, with no evidence whatsoever, the possibility that their relationship “could have had something to do with Epstein’s principal activities in life: sexual gratification and the exercise of power.” The book is full of this kind of opinions and speculations, to the detriment of a more serious analysis of Gates’ mistakes in the management of his foundation, the problems of shielding the intellectual property of vaccines in the hands of the pharmaceutical industries and, ultimately, the objective power that big technology companies have in global society.

He signed a collaboration agreement with the RAE to improve Microsoft’s grammar checker and was interested in the substantial unity of the Spanish language in all the countries where almost 600 million people speak it. That man was very far from the sexist, arrogant, miserable predator that Schwab portrays. Nor did we deduce — and this can be applied to the personal adventure of Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Zuckerberg, Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos — that his life’s goal was world domination, as suggested by this book. If they have achieved it, or may achieve it, it is due to the dynamics of digital civilization and the objective difficulties in governing it. The deregulation of financial capitalism, which has increased inequality among humankind, is due to the incompetence of obsolete political institutions and to leaders who care more about their own fates than those of their people. The criticism against “lame and wasteful government bureaucracies” might be part of the propaganda promoted by the world’s wealthy, but lately we have also heard it from small-scale farmers across Europe.

In conclusion, we found the book to be more entertaining than interesting. It provides a lot of information — we’re not sure if it’s entirely verified — and plenty of cheap ideology. Above all, one can see the personal crusade of the author, determined to prove that Bill Gates is a problem for democracy and that millionaire philanthropists are a bunch of swindlers. The world needs their money; maybe managed by party bureaucracies, that much is not clear. Bill Gates’ money, that is, but not Bill Gates himself.


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Conflicted History: ‘Oppenheimer’ And Its Impact On Los Alamos And New Mexico Downwinders

‘Oppenheimer’ And Its Impact On Los Alamos And New Mexico Downwinders

The Voice Of EU | In the highly anticipated blockbuster movie, “Oppenheimer,” the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the man behind the first atomic bomb, is portrayed as a riveting tale of triumph and tragedy.

As the film takes center stage, it also brings to light the often-overlooked impacts on a community living downwind from the top-secret Manhattan Project testing site in southern New Mexico.

A Forgotten Legacy

While the film industry and critics praise “Oppenheimer,” a sense of frustration prevails among the residents of New Mexico’s Tularosa Basin, who continue to grapple with the consequences of the Manhattan Project. Tina Cordova, a cancer survivor and founder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, expresses their feelings, stating, “They invaded our lives and our lands and then they left,” referring to the scientists and military personnel who conducted secret experiments over 200 miles away from their community.

The Consortium, alongside organizations like the Union of Concerned Scientists, has been striving to raise awareness about the impact of the Manhattan Project on New Mexico’s population. Advocates emphasize the necessity of acknowledging the human cost of the Trinity Test, the first atomic blast, and other nuclear weapons activities that have affected countless lives in the state.

The Ongoing Struggle for Recognition

As film enthusiasts celebrate the drama and brilliance of “Oppenheimer,” New Mexico downwinders feel overlooked by both the U.S. government and movie producers. The federal government’s compensation program for radiation exposure still does not include these affected individuals. The government’s selection of the remote and flat Trinity Test Site, without warning residents in the surrounding areas, further added to the controversy.

Living off the land, the rural population in the Tularosa Basin had no idea that the fine ash settling on their homes and fields was a result of the world’s first atomic explosion.

The government initially attempted to cover up the incident, attributing the bright light and rumble to an explosion at a munitions dump. It was only after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Japan weeks later that New Mexico residents realized the magnitude of what they had witnessed.

Tracing the Fallout

According to the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, large amounts of radiation were released into the atmosphere during the Trinity Test, with fallout descending over a vast area. Some of the fallout reached as far as the Atlantic Ocean, but the greatest concentration settled approximately 30 miles from the test site.

Now I Am Become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds.

J. Robert Oppenheimer

The consequences of this catastrophic event have affected generations of New Mexicans, who still await recognition and justice for the harm caused by nuclear weapons.

A Tale of Contrasts: Los Alamos and the Legacy of Oppenheimer

As the film’s spotlight shines on the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, a contrasting narrative unfolds in Los Alamos, more than 200 miles north of the Tularosa Basin. Los Alamos stands as a symbol of Oppenheimer’s legacy, housing one of the nation’s premier national laboratories and boasting the highest percentage of people with doctorate degrees in the U.S.

Oppenheimer’s influence is evident throughout Los Alamos, with a street bearing his name and an IPA named in his honor at a local brewery. The city embraces its scientific legacy, showcasing his handwritten notes and ID card in a museum exhibit. Los Alamos National Laboratory employees played a significant role in the film, contributing as extras and engaging in enlightening discussions during breaks.

The “Oppenheimer” Movie

Director Christopher Nolan’s perspective on the Trinity Test and its profound impact is evident in his approach to “Oppenheimer.” He has described the event as an extraordinary moment in human history and expressed his desire to immerse the audience in the pivotal moment when the button was pushed. Nolan’s dedication to bringing historical accuracy and emotional depth to the screen is evident as he draws inspiration from Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

For Nolan, Oppenheimer’s story is a potent blend of dreams and nightmares, capturing the complexity and consequences of the Manhattan Project. As the film reaches global audiences, it also offers a unique opportunity to raise awareness about the downwinders in New Mexico, whose lives were forever altered by the legacy of nuclear weapons testing.

The Oppenheimer Festival and Beyond

Los Alamos is determined to use the Oppenheimer Festival as an opportunity to educate visitors about the true stories behind the film’s events. The county’s “Project Oppenheimer” initiative, launched in early 2023, encompasses forums, documentaries, art installations, and exhibits that delve into the scientific contributions of the laboratory and the social implications of the Manhattan Project.

A special area during the festival will facilitate discussions about the movie, fostering a deeper understanding of the community’s history. The county aims to continue revisiting and discussing the legacy of the Manhattan Project, ensuring that the impact of this pivotal moment in history is never forgotten.

As “Oppenheimer” takes audiences on an emotional journey, it serves as a reminder that every historical event carries with it complex and multifaceted implications. The movie may celebrate the scientific achievements of the past, but it also illuminates the urgent need to recognize and address the human cost that persists to this day.


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