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Netflix, the BBFC, and the VSC seek to make the UK the safest place to be online

New research by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and the Video Standards Council Rating Board (VSC) has revealed that almost 80% of parents are concerned about children seeing inappropriate content on video on demand or online games platforms.

While the best defense will always be for parents to have a more active role in what their children are exposed to, there is now more being done to help make this easier for busy parents.

One such move was made today when the BBFC launched an innovative new industry collaboration with Netflix that will move towards classifying all content on the service using BBFC age ratings.

Using a manual tagging system, along with an automated rating algorithm, Netflix will produce BBFC age ratings for its content. The role of the BBFC will be as an auditor to assure the ratings are consistent with the BBFC’s Classification Guidelines for the UK.

Additionally the BBFC and the VSC have joined forces to publish a joint set of Best Practice Guidelines to help online services deliver what UK consumers want. The Best Practice Guidelines will help online platforms work towards greater and more consistent use of trusted age ratings online. The move is supported by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport as part of the Government’s strategy to make the UK the safest place to be online.

The plan includes recommending the consistent and more comprehensive use of BBFC age labeling symbols across all Video On Demand (VOD) services, and PEGI symbols across online games services, including additional ratings info and mapping parental controls to BBFC age ratings and PEGI ratings.

The voluntary Guidelines are aimed at VOD services offering video content to UK consumers via subscription, purchase and rental, but exclude pure catch-up TV services like iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4, My 5 and UKTV Player.

The research also shows that 90% of parents believe that it is important to display age ratings when downloading or streaming a film online, and 92% of parents think it’s important for video on demand platforms to show the same type of age ratings they would expect at the cinema or on DVD and Blu-ray.

94% of parents indicated that it’s important to have consistent ratings across all video on demand platforms, rather than a variety of bespoke ratings systems. In response the VSC is encouraging services to join the likes of Microsoft, Sony PlayStation, Nintendo and Google in providing consumers with the nationally recognized PEGI ratings on games – bringing consistency between the offline and online worlds.

The Best Practice Guidelines aim to build on the good work that is already happening, and both authorities are now calling for the online industry to work with them in 2019 and beyond to better protect children.

“Our ambition is for the UK to be the safest place to be online,” said Digital Minister Margot James, “which means having age ratings parents know and trust applied to all online films and video games.”

Recommended BBFC/VSC Best Practice Guidelines around voluntary age labelling:

  • A consistent set of BBFC age labelling should be used across all VOD services and a consistent set of PEGI labelling should be used across all online games services
  • Services should work towards full coverage of BBFC age ratings across VOD content, and PEGI ratings for video games
  • Ratings should always be represented by the formal BBFC/PEGI classification symbols
  • Age labels must be easily understandable for the public and reflect the expectations of UK audiences
  • Additional ratings info (for example, ‘drug misuse, discrimination’) should be used alongside the age rating wherever available
  • Age ratings should always be displayed and easy to find before the call to action (the prompt to transact, download, stream, play or view)
  • Although all titles should carry a best practice age rating, any that don’t should be clearly labelled ‘Not Rated’, with a policy of restricting such content to over 18s (unless the content is clearly children’s programming)
  • Services should have arrangements in place to ensure that content has UK age labelling before it is made available to the public
  • Details on the age labelling and policies used by services should be made accessible across all platforms on which each service operates
  • Parental controls should be mapped to BBFC age ratings across VOD content, and PEGI ratings for video games. Users should be able to easily search for age appropriate VOD content and video games

I would love to hear your thoughts on this new development in age labeling of online services for videos and games. You can leave a comment below or join the Phantascene discord server to discuss this and other topics.

Join me on Discord

Like the eclectic casual style of my site (despite my occasional efforts to bring order to its chaos)? If so then you might enjoy being a part of my Discord server as well.

I’ve built the discord server to embrace the chaos and act as a forum for eclectically creative people that enjoy the same kinds of things that I do. From writing to video games to creating animated films, there is so much to explore and do as a creative eclectic, and I hope you will share what you are up to with me.

To join just click here.

Vaporum: A steampunk-based dungeon crawler

I was poking around looking at the games that are releasing soon and came across one that seems to include a few of my favorite things: dungeons, steampunk aesthetics, and adventure.

About Vaporum
Vaporum is a grid-based, single-player dungeon crawler game, that uses a first-person perspective in an original steampunk setting. The game is inspired by old-school games like Dungeon Master I and II, the Eye of the Beholder series and the more recent Legend of Grimrock I and II. Stranded in the middle of an ocean, in front of a gigantic tower, the hero must find out what the place is, what happened there, and most importantly, who he is.

Reading the above description, I could not help but get a mental comparison going to the opening sequence of BioShock. Looking at the first screenshot I saw only emphasized the feel.

The developer lists the following key features of the game:

  • Fight in real time – First-person real-time combat with deadly foes with varied abilities and behaviours.
  • Fully voiced main characters – Find out what happened to the inhabitants of the tower with fully voiced phono-diaries kept by the main story’s protagonists.
  • Tonnes of customisation options – The gadget-based RPG system allows you to evolve your exoskeleton and define your own playstyle.
  • Absorb fumium from defeated enemies – Unlock additional circuits in your exoskeleton and gain new bonuses and skills.
  • Plenty of Puzzles – Solve level-wide objectives and puzzles that vary in difficulty.
  • Exploration and loot – Look for optional passages filled with additional challenges and rewards.
  • What happened in the mysterious tower? – A storyline full of dark secrets and unexpected twists.
  • Tactical Combat – Use various attacks and read your opponents – each enemy has a different set of strengths and weaknesses.
  • Immersive steampunk setting – Beautiful graphics, stunning sound design and an atmosphere that makes you aware of the constant danger lurking around every corner.

Vaporum will be released on different dates for different formats, listed below along with the prices given by the developer:

  • Nintendo Switch (digital): 11th April 2019, ($24.99/ €24.99/ £19.99)
  • PlayStation 4 (digital) EU: 10th April 2019 (€24.99/ £19.99)
  • PlayStation 4 (digital) US: 9th April 2019 ($24.99)
  • Xbox One (digital): 10th April 2019 ($24.99/ €24.99/ £19.99)

The game also promises to have a puzzle system, which is another thing that I love. The puzzles are noted to be level-wide objectives where you will need to use both your wits and reflexes. Most of the riddles are contained in a single room, but there are also progression objectives that will span entire levels, or even multiple ones.

Given a better internet connection and more funds to test out games I would love to be able to try these puzzles out, but given my limitations I would love to hear what others think about the puzzles and encounters in this game, please share your experience in the comments.

Still Waiting to Play Division 2

I just checked the shipping confirmation number that Gamestop had for sending me the Division 2 and it is showing that the game has not yet been sent to the postal facility. You would think since I had ordered it over the weekend, the label was confirmed printed, and it was confirmed as paid already that at some point between Monday and today it might have been sent out – but I suspect that the label is sitting on a stack in the warehouse waiting for an employee to look at it and fulfill the order.

Blender used at Marvel and for other major brands

I came across a video tonight that does a wonderful job of reinforcing what I have said for years.

Blender is an awesome 3D suite that can do professional quality work.

This video is by a gentleman that worked behind the scenes and used Blender to make the “Sizzle” booklet for Marvel’s Avengers movie. Check out he work he did at Marvel, and the work he went on do when an opportunity lead him away from Marvel and onto a path that had him creating some amazing branding animations using Blender.

If you need help on how to get started with Blender, please, let me know kn the comments. I am always happy to help folks discover how to use this amazing program and where to look for answers I may not be able to answer.

My Division Sniper from the first game

A few days ago I was going through Amherst on Legendary and my character got caught on the wall in a glitch when he was killed. This glitched death state kept him upright against the wall, so I took the opportunity of that and three teammates that were not reviving me, to get a few screenshots of my sniper in action.

This is my favorite one, all cleaned up in GIMP to remove the extra HUD things and names of the other members of my team. I might just make this my laptop’s background for a while.

DayZ Launches on the 27th for XBox1, comes to PS4 later in year

Premiering a cinematic trailer during the Inside Xbox show, Bohemia Interactive and Microsoft announced on the 12th that DayZ — the open world online survival game — is launching on Xbox One on March 27.

This is DayZ – This is Your Story

The post-soviet country of Chernarus is struck by an unknown virus, turning the majority population into frenzied infected. Fighting over resources has bred a hostile mentality among survivors, driving what’s left of humanity to collapse. You are one of the few immune to the virus – how far will you go to survive?

The game was in Xbox Game Preview for 7 months of early access development during which the developers worked closely with the community. They say that the game still has post-launch updates scheduled, but that they are ready to unleash the game and let new players come on board in the immersive survival game.

The game has no storytelling mechanics, instead the post-apocalyptic open world of DayZ presents a unique online sandbox where every decision the 60 players make will add up. Even without a storyline, it seems that crossing ways with hostile bandits, overcoming injuries, plotting revenge and improvising during combat are all concepts very familiar to DayZ players.

DayZ is launching on Xbox One thanks to the massive help of the Xbox Game Preview community, a community that helped to shape the game over the past months. The launch will introduce things like an improved controls scheme, better inventory interactions, and general improvements in stability and performance — both on servers and in-game. This series of improvements should lead to a much smoother overall experience, and should also allow new players to just enjoy the game without having been a part of the early access.

To ensure that everyone starts fresh on launch day, all existing player characters and server persistence data from Game Preview will be wiped. There will continue to be post-launch development for DayZ with free platform updates scheduled to drop throughout 2019. These updates will further expand the content available in-game (new weapons and vehicles) and go more in-depth with some of the existing gameplay concepts.

Until the launch update on March 27, DayZ will still be available for its Game Preview price of $39.99, offering players a last chance to get the game for a lower price. After the launch, DayZ will is set to be available for $49.99.

As for the PS4 players, the developers say that DayZ will be coming to PlayStation 4 later this year.

DayZ is an unforgiving, authentic survival experience. Up to 60 survivors on a server engage in a completely unscripted gameplay scenario with no goals given, except for one: to survive as long as they can, by all means necessary. There are no superficial tips, way-points, built-in tutorials, or help given to players. Every decision matters, and every mistake can be lethal. If you die in DayZ, you lose all your character progress and start over, as the game features a permadeath concept.

The developers note the following Key Features of the game:

  • Detailed, authentic backdrop of Chernarus, an open world terrain featuring230 square kilometres of hand-crafted environment based on real life locations
  • Real emotional experience driven by the emergent interactions of 60 players on the server, all fighting for survival by any means necessary
  • Environmental dangers including the infected, dynamic weather, and animal predators
  • Wide variety of complex survival mechanics – from hunting and crafting, through sophisticated injury simulation, to transferable diseases
  • Persistent servers with complex loot economy, and the ability to build improvised bases
  • Visceral, authentic gun play and melee combat systems
  • Smooth and reactive character controller utilizing a detailed animation system

The game also includes vehicles that players can drive, providing them with a means both for travel and material transport.

Celebrating 30 years of the World Wide Web

A Google doodle caught my eye this morning.

This doodle celebrates the start of the World Wide Web, not to be confused with the Internet, some 30 years ago.

In 1989 a man by the name of Sir Tim Berners-Lee was working at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research that is best known for being the home of the largest particle physics laboratory in the world. While working at CERN, Berners-Lee began to work on an idea of creating an ‘information space’ where knowledge could be shared and collaborated on.

In March 1989 Berners-Lee drew up a proposal sheet that showed the flow of information from the CERN system to a document that he created using hypertext that created links on a page on the computer – a web browser page that would make it easier for anyone to locate the information contained in the network.

The CERN website has a copy of the 1990 proposal that would better define the concepts of hypertext and how it was used by Berners-Lee and his team to build documents on the computer that brought together otherwise difficult to locate information within the computer networks.

The system behind the Internet goes back decades before the World Wide Web came into being. In an article entitled Who Invented the Internet, the History channel’s website notes:

Long before the technology existed to actually build the Internet, many scientists had already anticipated the existence of worldwide networks of information.

In fact, it is known that in the early 1900’s Nikola Tesla was considering the possibility of a “world wireless system”. In 1901, With backing from J. P. Morgan, Tesla built the Wardenclyffe wireless station in Shoreham, New York.

Shown here as it appeared in 1094, the tower was designed to be a transatlantic radiotelegraphy station and wireless power transmitter.

Tesla’s vision was originally to transmit messages across the Atlantic to England, and to ships at sea. He later added to the design with the intention of including the capability to wirelessly transmit energy on a global scale. Unfortunately, Morgan did not see the benefit of the design addition and withdrew his funding, causing the tower to be abandoned in 1906. The structure remained uncompleted and was finally torn down in 1916.

By the 1930’s and 1940’s men such as Paul Otlet and Vannevar Bush were contemplating mechanized, searchable storage systems of books and media.

These were all ideas that were bare shadows of what we have today, however, and it was not until the early 1960’s before the first practical schematics for the Internet came around with the idea, popularized by MIT’s J.C.R. Licklider, of an “Intergalactic Network” of computers.

It was the military’s packet switching program that showed the true possible power of the computer when networked.

In the late 1960’s ARPANET, or the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, used packet switching to allow multiple computers to communicate on a single network. In the 1970’s Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf developed the Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol, TCP/IP, which was a communications model that set the standards for how data could be transmitted between multiple networks. ARPANET adopted that as their preferred means of communication on January 1, 1983 and researchers began to connect systems into what most would recognize as an early version of what we have today.

It was Berners-Lee, however, that unleashed the concept that is known as the World Wide Web onto the systems. In 1990 when Berners-Lee introduced his method of accessing data it was so quickly popularized that many who had not had such convenient access to the vast resources of data to be found in the Internet came to see World Wide Web as being synonymous with Internet.

For 30 years the World Wide Web made it possible for even the less trained computer users to not only access the data, but to contribute to it. As a result the Internet has grown exponentially and become a resource that few today that have used it could probably imagine the world being without.

There is a rich and expansive history behind the beginnings and growth of the Internet and it took many many men decades of working together and on the work of their predecessors to create the Internet that we have come to know today with information and entertainment at our fingertips.

What might this all evolve into in tomorrows world?

Please share your thoughts and ideas, and if you know of some details that you feel might be good to share please do in the comments.

My personal bit would be to note that my father was one of the men that worked on the packet switching program for the US Army, speeding the process up to a rate of real time switching for information and the rerouting of communications in the field. I could not imagine my life without the Internet, and will be forever grateful to my father for the part he played in bringing what is one of the most impressive of humanity’s creations into the world.

Survival runs in The Division while writing

Tonight I have decided that while I am working on my novel I will do some runs in Survival on The Division. This gives me a roughly 30 minute to hour and a half break every once in a while during which to just veg out and let my subconsciousness ponder the scene. It’s worked good so far. I just finished my first survival run after nearly 3,000 words being added to my novel tonight. Almost won on Survival too, but was trying to help someone that was after Hunters at the extraction point and got too close to the Hunter and it took me out.

Next run I am going to try to just grab what I need as fast as I can and get to the dark zone with as much time as I can remaining to my initial timer.

Got a new book to read: The Ambler Warning by Robert Ludlum

Okay, so maybe it is not new, but it is new to me. I found it recently and knowing my dad loved Ludlum’s work, and so when I walked by a shelf of books and the only one that I noticed on it was the spine of The Ambler Warning, I decided that I would give this one a go.

So far I am really enjoying the story, but I am only a little ways into it to really give a good opinion on the story. I will say that it is one of those rare gems that has actually kept me reading past the first few paragraphs and through the first few pages. So I am hopeful that this book will be one of those ones that becomes a book I can’t put down and hate having finished it when I have reached the end, not because of a dislike for the ending, but because of the thrilling ride I am hoping to have getting there. We’ll see. It’s been far too many years since I last read a Ludlum novel, but, as I said, my dad loved his books.

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