Although the two sequels [, PAL II and III,] were released in a span of months, they bore little resemblance to each other.
The two-dimensional Legend of Sword and Fairy II, produced by Softstar’s Taiwan office, stayed true to the first installment’s wuxia martial arts theme and aesthetic,
while the three-dimensional Legend of Sword and Fairy III, produced by Softstar’s Shanghai subsidiary, had a dramatically different look based on xianxia, or “chivalric fantasy.”
market’s verdict was clear:
Whereas the wuxia-themed second installment was met with a tepid popular and critical response,
the high fantasy-inspired third installment proved wildly popular
The contrasting market performance of these two games proved to be a watershed moment in the development of the Chinese video game industry.
In the two decades since, the center of the industry has migrated from Taiwan to the mainland,
while xianxia fantasy themes have overtaken wuxia martial arts stories as the industry’s bread and butter.
Wuxia literature emerged in its modern form during the Republican era (1912-1949), but it’s in the 1950s that it became a cultural phenomenon.
Xianxia is a cousin of sorts to wuxia, with both genres tracing their modern roots back to Xiang Kairan’s 1923 novel “The Peculiar Knights-Errant of the Jianghu.”
But while wuxia authors preferred the down-to-earth and unpretentious styles of classic novels like “Water Margin,”
xianxia was more indebted to a different, even older part of the Chinese canon: zhiguai.
By the late 1990s, Chinese artists and storytellers were mixing elements of xianxia with the typical “swords and magic” of Western fantasy novels like J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
Drawing on Taoist notions like “self-cultivation” — through which sages sought immortality and transcendence —
they created an alternate, parallel universe, complete with its own language and logic.
The resulting genre, known as xuanhuan, or “mystical fantasy,” represents a continuation of the xianxia genre, and by extension zhiguai.
If wuxia novels were typically published in newspapers and magazines,
xianxia and xuanhuan literature was mostly shared anonymously online.
Over time, game developers created a visual language for xianxia distinct from that of earlier wuxia-centric titles.
In particular, although xianxia was very much a Chinese genre, its mixed origins meant its fans were more likely to be familiar with Western fantasy and storytelling conventions than wuxia, which remained relatively esoteric.
developers drew on Western fantasy and RPG conventions to establish hierarchies of Chinese mythological creatures and their powers,
allowing them to organize various spirits and beasts drawn from a disjointed corpus of myths and zhiguai stories into a coherent, universally applicable system.
Because the xianxia genre is not bound to any specific historical era, designers were also freer to experiment with different styles and looks.
Whereas in wuxia, female characters are often capable fighters who dress androgynously,
xianxia game developers took cues from Japanese anime, comics, and games culture,
pandering to the male gaze by dressing female characters in as little as possible.
This hybrid style is not limited to character design;
xianxia creators liberally borrow elements from Eastern and Western cultures in their worldbuilding.
Often, it’s only in the mortal realm that buildings abide by Chinese architectural conventions;
buildings belonging to practitioners of Taoist “self-cultivation” often resemble Baroque cathedrals and gardens.
Although it draws on local cultural elements with deep roots,
its liberal appropriation of international cultural markers and storytelling conventions has spared it to an extent from associations with Chinese nationalism.
Indeed, when developers can’t find appropriate visual reference material for elements of the xianxia canon, they often default to “Westernizing” it.
Xianxia game developers may have never consciously set out to change China’s cultural landscape,
but their hybrid approach to storytelling has revolutionized Chinese pop culture far beyond the gaming industry.
The genre’s rise mirrors the ways in which contemporary China is simultaneously rediscovering its national identity and embracing globalization.
Open Connect is Netflix’s in-house content distribution network specifically built to deliver its TV shows and movies.
Started in 2012, the program involves Netflix giving internet service providers physical appliances that allow them to localize traffic.
These appliances store copies of Netflix content to create less strain on networks
by eliminating the number of channels that content has to pass through to reach the user trying to play it.
To avoid the traffic and fees, Netflix ships copies of its content to its own servers ahead of time.
That also helps to prevent Netflix traffic from choking network demand during peak hours of streaming.
At present, Netflix says it has 17,000 servers spread across 158 countries,
and the company tells me it plans to continue expanding its content delivery network.
Netflix prioritizes where it places these servers based on where it has the most members and relationships with ISPs
Netflix provides ISPs with the servers for free, and Netflix has an internal reliability team that works with ISP resources to maintain the servers.
The benefit to ISPs, according to both Netflix and Akamai, is fewer costs to ISPs
by alleviating the need for them to have to fetch copies of content themselves.
While Netflix doesn’t disclose how much it costs the company to build and maintain these servers,
Netflix says it’s invested roughly $1 billion in Open Connect since its creation a decade ago.
It’s dumping mountains of money into the CDN because a premium and user-engaged streaming experience is core to Netflix’s entire business strategy.
The Verge spoke with an AT&T executive who confirmed that
it still sells Netflix optimal network connections to the streamer
rather than having Netflix install physical devices in its data centers.
Netflix effectively ships three copies of each of its titles to its servers, each with a different level of quality.
Netflix pre-places this content during off-peak hours so it’s not competing with other internet traffic that would occur during high-use streaming times.
Open Connect has two types of servers:
flash, which handles faster delivery, and
storage, which holds up to 350 TB of data.
If something sitting in storage becomes popular, Netflix will move that title onto the flash server.
In recent years, Amazon.com Inc has killed or undermined privacy protections in more than three dozen bills across 25 states, as the e-commerce giant amassed a lucrative trove of personal data on millions of American consumers.
In Virginia, the company boosted political donations tenfold over four years before persuading lawmakers this year to pass an industry-friendly privacy bill that Amazon itself drafted.
In California, the company stifled proposed restrictions on the industry’s collection and sharing of consumer voice recordings gathered by tech devices.
And in its home state of Washington, Amazon won so many exemptions and amendments to a bill regulating biometric data, such as voice recordings or facial scans, that the resulting 2017 law had “little, if any” impact on its practices, according to an internal Amazon document.
Amazon had more than 90,000 recordings Alexa devices made of the reporter’s family members since 2017.
As executives edited the draft [of an internal memo], Herdener summed up a central goal in a margin note: “We want policymakers and press to fear us,” he wrote.
He described this desire as a “mantra” that had united department leaders in a Washington strategy session.
Carney and Huseman adopted a core tenet of Amazon’s corporate culture – data-driven management –
as they expanded a program called “watering the flowers,” an effort to cultivate politicians.
Its goal was to create a “well-tended garden” of influencers who could help with “policy challenges or crises,”
according to a 2014 public-policy six-pager that outlined the effort.
Amazon tried but failed to derail the 2018 California law
The 2018 Amazon document reviewing executive goals discussed plans to oppose the measure, noting concern about its “right to know” provisions for consumers.
The 2018 public-policy update said of the proposal: “We strongly prefer no regulation, but if regulation becomes inevitable, we will seek amendment language to narrow any new requirements to the greatest extent possible.”
The law’s passage was considered a major failure internally.
An Amazon legal-strategy document written after the bill became law called the measure emblematic of “troubling regulatory and legislative trends” that “caught us by surprise.”
Amazon’s latest effort to stop regulation of voice recordings focused on a bill from Republican Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham.
The lawmaker worried that Amazon staffers were listening to some Alexa recordings made in people’s homes.
Cunningham has tried unsuccessfully since 2019 to require companies to get consumer consent before storing or sharing smart-speaker recordings.
When Cunningham re-introduced the measure this year, Amazon took a novel lobbying approach: It argued the privacy protections would hurt disabled people.
Some recordings involved conversations between family members using Alexa devices to communicate across different parts of the house.
Several recordings captured children apologizing to their parents after being disciplined. Others picked up the children, ages 7, 9 and 12, asking Alexa questions about terms like “pansexual.”
In one recording, a child asks: “Alexa, what is a vagina?”
In another: “Alexa, what does bondage mean?”
Amazon’s Kindle e-readers, for instance, precisely track a user’s reading habits, another reporter’s Amazon data file showed.
The disclosure included records of more than 3,700 reading sessions since 2017, including timestamped logs – to the millisecond – of books read.
Amazon also tracks words highlighted or looked up, pages turned and promotions seen.
punctum: the (often marginal) detail that leaps out of an image and “pricks” the viewer with a strange and often inexplicable emotion.
My marginalia became a series of handholds on the placid smoothness of the page. I took hold of my daily experience one silly little mark at a time.
My notes are like the rings of a tree, trapping the atmosphere of a given moment. Like Barthes’s necklace, their presence lends far more resonance than their actual content, because they remind me of myself.