Thursday, August 31, 2006

Gone and Back

Blogs are just like
diaries - that can suddenly disappear without any warning or explanation.

This site was gone for about a day. Some of you may have noticed. I certainly did. No amount of re-publishing would resurrect my words.

Please let them make a way to backup all posts. It would help to have an autoarchive tool on the desktop that would sync with the browser.

I downloaded Microsoft's XNA Game whatever. Haven't really had a chance to look at it in depth, but just know that it's C# with some help. If you use the game templates it will set up your update and render loops, etc., but you're still expected to, like, know what you're doing. As if.

It looks like there may be some good tutorials, though, including videos - so if I feel the urge I may throw my body against the programming wall again.

Also, the Left Behind: Eternal Forces demo is out. My opinion later.

Monday, August 28, 2006


Moved this weekend
. Managed to load, unload and return the truck on Saturday. Now we're just doing the usual sorting/nesting processes. As is apparently typical, Comcast has been pretty terrible thus far, but the only other option is the Dish. Meh.

The Just Cause demo was awful. The controls were impossible - the turn speed was jacked way up, drawing weapons was delayed, lack of autotarget . . . there was a very high frustration : fun ratio.

A link via Warren Ellis, on Hyperglyphic Media. Some quick thoughts:
-Wouldn't a good essay on such a topic be written in hyperglyphs?
-Isn't the author essentially describing Chinese?
-Most of the Okinawans I met weren't even minimally fluent in Kanji, which requires knowledge of approximately 5,000 characters. What would be the motivation for anyone to learn a book of hyperglyphs (other than intellectual curiosity), especially if they aren't universally adopted?
-The thing about the Tarot is that the cards can pretty much mean anything at all - they're effectively Rorschach blots with recognizable features.

My wife is looking forward to the color DS Lites dropping on September 13. I believe she'll go for the pink one. I plan on getting one for myself, if only for Animal Crossing.

That is all.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Coffee Talk

I've been trying
to come up with some new topics. Every so often I get the suspicion that I'm sounding like a broken and/or uncreative record. Enough meta.

Here are a few points of discussion:

1. Permawound - What if your character is actually wounded with every hit and the damage just gets worse and worse until your character becomes a broken sac of mangled flesh and bone, unable to move or do much of anything but pray for the devs to institute permadeath?

2. Forget about class-based RPGs vs. skill-based. What if you had an RPG in which the player had to improve their character along some kind of progression curve by performing in-game actions? How does this compare to the alternative system of allowing no in-game progress whatsoever? What about the staunch DeRPers, roleplayers who forgo any kind of system entirely and don't play RPGs at all?

3. Flush from defrauding gamers out of millions with the con-game known as downloadable content, game developers are now planning on forcing players to compile the builds themselves and do their own testing/debugging. Gamers will have to pay the developer for every bug they find and fix.

4. We need to have an official ratings board for sports. Football, for example, would get a T for Teen due to its frequent violence and sexually suggestive content (tights, patting men on the ass, cheerleaders). The catch, though, is that if there was a particularly brutal play and, let's say, someone's helmet popped off - there was some blood on the field - then the ratings board would have to re-rate that particular game and the teams involved would get sued and the government would be up in arms over the shocking lack of regulation in the sports world. Hockey would be illegal. Also, soccer riots.

5. Everyone should play Armadillo Run. And buy the full game. It's really quite brilliant.

6. My first two attempts to download the Just Cause demo failed. The first time (from gamespot) took several hours and my computer reported 100% - this was sheer sophistry on the part of my OS. Thanks, Firefox download manager. The second time,'s servers apparently crapped out around 10%. Here's a suggestion for Eidos, and any company that releases demos: make sure people can get the damn thing. My personal choice would be to create a torrent file - you relieve the strain on centralized servers and it spreads much, much faster. Anyway, snagging it from the official site gives me a good d/l rate so far - but I won't get to play it until tomorrow, and that makes me sad.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Nature's Infinite Wisdom


A humble ant uses its bear-trap jaws to shoot itself into the air.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have found a creature that has perfected the rocket jump.

Google Acquires Earth's Entire Landmass

Oceans To Follow

Apparently back in '03 or so, Google bought Pyra Labs, the people in charge of Blogger. Weird.

I had no idea - there are gaps in my life where I would usually have retained some small bit of trivia. When I investigate these . . . I'm not sure there's a word for feeling that you should have a bit of knowledge that's lacking . . . well, whatever the term, I always find that my time in the Marine Corps made me unaware in a general sense. There are still tenuous connections to popular culture, but stress and constant work and social isolation and the dreadful foreboding that you may be placed into terrible situations blocks out so much.*

Anyway, I mention the Google thing because I went ahead and upgraded to the new Blogger beta and it has to link to a Google account. Not that there are too many people likely to use Blogger lacking a Google account.

I'm rambling. Blogger beta looks promising. As does Writely, though I'll probably stick with OpenOffice at the moment. I can envision savvy editors and novelists hacking out changes in a few hours that might have taken a few weeks by post and/or phone. I'll have to enlist someone to try the simultaneous editing capability.

Also, last week Garry's Mod migrated over to a new address in anticipation of the upcoming (when it's done) release of GMod 10. There are some great videos showing the wild sandbox mode and a few of the contraptions you can rapidly prototype. It's a great way to show off fast content-creation tools - eventually I'd like to see a full-fledged mod-maker with the same ease-of-use.

*This is on my mind especially in light of the news that the Marine Corps is having to tap into its IRR program because the Active Duty and Active Reservists are all used up. Oh, and that they don't have enough money to keep their equipment in shape, which was pretty much common knowledge to me at least four years ago - that they are admitting it in the papers means the Corps is completely fucked. Way to go, Rumsfeld!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

As Bad As Real Life

I scan the map
for the green dots that represent people.

Warren Ellis is exactly right. Second Life is an obscene amount of land and buildings with a rotating population of only thousands at a time. You walk through a world depopulated by plague or aliens or spontaneous combustion.

I teleport toward a clump of green dots. I have no idea what might be there.

I walk through the door cube. The world around me fluctuates between degrees of completeness.

Shit, it's a country bar. There are a bunch of people stuck in a clipped line-dancing animation. I watch for a few moments. Cowboy hats and jeans. I fucking hate it.

Exchanges of salutations. Over and over again. It's like replaying the first ten minutes of a cocktail party.

"Hello, Sally."

"Hello, Rick."

"Greetings, Rick."

Someone drops the equivalent of a shared LSD trip and an array of billboards with a shirtless hunk in a cowboy hat sprays out of the floor and dissipates into the air. Nice.

I walk outside. The streets are empty. Fuck this. I need to be drunk.

Confederate flag hanging from a pole. Where do I buy a molotov?


A welcome center. There are a few clusters of avatars.

Asshole with wings. Guy in military costume. Scantily-clad female with large honkers.

I need to get myself a pair of tits. And/or a giant, swaying phallus. Both readily available for purchase.

I stumble into the middle of a discussion. World War II. Fuck is it a stupid conversation.

"If the Russians hadn't attacked Germany, the US wouldn't have had a chance."

"Yeah they would've. The US is the best."

Then someone flashed a swastika and was asked to remove it, to which they complied. Then a quick lesson about how the swastika is sometimes used by Indians, but nary a mention of its direction of movement and then I try to drive a jeep and am rejected.

Stupid jeeps.

And the conversation goes on and it's got a 1:100 signal-to-noise ratio.


There's no way to die, not that I can figure out.

I wonder if I can build a suicide machine that will permanently forbid certain skins and shapes?

I go to Integral Castle, thinking that maybe Mr. Ellis will be there, or at least some interesting member of his readership.

It's just me, alone in a castle with a giant banana chair and a small rocket. Most of the time it's like that, alone in a room with [fill in the blank with something unexpected].


I don't have a lot of money. I want to buy a guitar.

There are some great guitars for sale and I try one out, shredding and giving off actual flames.

I don't feel like purchasing any Lindens, so I try my luck at a casino. I'm up, then down, then up, then only a little down, then I call it quits. To win big, you have to play big.

Just like Vegas. Just like any money-sucking operation.


I haven't figured out what to do, or even if there's anything to do.

Sometimes I feel like asking, "What's the point?"


Two oldies and a rebirth.

Mafia - Horrible game. Starts with a frustrating getaway mission in a clunker of a car. Then you're forced to do a certain number of taxi missions before the game proper begins - taxi missions in which you must follow traffic laws and guess where exactly the passenger wishes to disembark.

Vice City - Always good. PC controls aren't as good as a control pad, though. Helicopter controls are impossible. One of the best examples of keeping a coherent theme with mixed gametypes. Aiming is much better with the mouse.

A Tale in the Desert III - Pretty much the same concept as its previous iterations. Imagine being a worker unit in an RTS, now remove all combat units and set it in a fictional ancient Egypt. You collect resources, raise crops, make bricks, improve your skills, build structures and when the 24 hour trial runs out, wait for the fourth iteration.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Kill This Noise

News flash:
Lester Bangs is fucking dead. So is Hunter S. Thompson.

People have to stop asking stupid goddamned questions like, "How come nobody's like Hunter S. Thompson anymore? How come we don't have assholes like Lester Bangs kicking around?"

Those are stupid questions. Ask them if you want, but they're the worst kind of wanking, like asking why there's no Citizen Kane of videogames. Or why there's no Marcel Marceau of competitive hopscotch. Or no truffle of bubble gum.

I will henceforth refer to such a question as "The X of Y Postulate."

I've seen at least two articles about how videogame critics need to take more drugs and insult more devs, but that's more than enough to signal a moratorium. The call and response that results doesn't push anything along.

The thing about "The X of Y Postulate" is that it inevitably gives you a lot of reasons why Y isn't in any way similar to X - but little else.

So we won't ever have a Hunter S. Thompson of videogame criticism because there was only one HST, and we never had an HST of anything - we had a writer who wrote about things in his particular voice, a voice that was compelling and authoritative and thoroughly fucked up. Remember that he wrote sports columns for much of his later life. His last non-sports column, written on September 11th a few months* before he would kill himself, is one of the most chilling and prescient things ever written - ever.

It was a response to an event, though - it wasn't of anything.

This should be the last time I respond to this topic, until six months from now when someone asks the same questions all over again.

Note: This post isn't particularly topical, not in blogpost time - it's at least two or three weeks past freshness, but it was stinking up my Drafts page so I sprinkled some salt on it and served it up hot. The inspiration comes from this article on Pitchfork - there was a similar essay around the same time, but I can't find it at the moment.

*update: pointed out by Patrick Dugan in the comments - this statement is wildly off the mark - he would kill himself in 2005, which, even when broken down into months, would not qualify as only a few. Duly noted. Still, I hated his sports columns. But then, I'm not fond of sports.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Could a casual game
lead to political action or social change?

How much information can you communicate through a casual game before it moves beyond its casual appeal?

After much careful thought and consideration and slamming my head into the wall, I admit that I don't have any clear answers.

But it's compelling to imagine a mixture of The Daily Show and Bejeweled, even without knowing the specifics of that vision.

Casual games represent a great delivery mechanism - small downloads, easy-to-learn systems, low overheads and cross-demographic appeal.

I'm thinking about ARGs and flash mobs - could they work as part of a Get Out The Vote effort? What if a scavenger mystery culminated on election day? What if registering to vote yielded new clues? Would people consider such a game casual or hardcore?

A campaign run with a digital token game spread through e-mail and cell phones. Responding to questionnaires, volunteering for events, every little action is rewarded with a pack of tokens. These virtual tokens carry memories of your actions - you can level them up and then play against a computer or real-life opponent. I'm thinking a mix of Checkers/Go, with the altered tokens extending the rules set.

Maybe a policy group creates a puzzle game. Blocks of words fill the screen. The words are adjectives and nouns. Players attempt to create chains of words that will yield a policy problem at the bottom of the screen, along with several different suggestions. The game will build a map of the player's responses and show them where they differ from the policy group. The player won't just get the party line, however - levels will delve into differing viewpoints and relevant historical events in bite-size chunks.

I think we're already seeing more complex games altering society. MMOs, especially, are changing the way people interact. Second Life is a great example -- I'd like to see the concepts of SL stripped down and placed into a browser, maybe even a simplified interface that would directly translate into the full experience.

For that matter, I'd like to see a candidate for public office with an SL persona.

Link: Watercooler games has examples of political and activist games.