Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ron Pall

Is it a requirement
that the field of Presidential candidates must always include a third-tier wacko?

I speak, of course, about Ron Paul, he who has galvanized a motley procession of internet glibertarians, gold-standard tin-foil-hatters, colloidal silverfish and neo-paleoconservatives.


There is literally nothing about him that isn't batshit insanity masked by the most reasonable facade. He's a snake oil salesman peddling cyanide. Just go to THOMAS and check out his bill sponsorship.

He wants to repeal the estate tax. He wants to make it so that children born to non-citizens won't be citizens themselves. He wants to put into law that human life begins at conception. He wants to bar the Federal government from putting any funds at all toward family planning, which means Planned Parenthood would be completely gone (instead of just underfunded and gutted, like all social programs after Reagan's rape of The Great Society).

He wants to get the US out of the United Nations, because if there's one thing he learned from Bush's shitty foreign policy it's that the US needs to isolate itself from the world even more. He wants to "restore the second amendment rights of all Americans," which means that he doesn't want the government to distinguish between automatic weapons made for killing lots of people and sports rifles, and he doesn't want laws about child safety locks or safe storage. Oh, and you should be allowed to carry your Gatling gun into National Parks, goddammit. Also, no gun-free school zones; as long as the children are packing heat, they'll be fine.

Jesus, I can go on. He introduced a bill that would've helped out with his Colloidal Silver scam by making it so that if you claim your bullshit cures people then the FDA can't label it a drug unless there is no scientific evidence supporting it. Like you can't find a crackpot doctor to sign off on your bleach-flavored boner pills.

He doesn't want any Federal funds going toward any universal health screening program. Offshore drilling. Canceling fuel taxes when the prices reach a certain amount, thereby "promoting free trade," also known as "kickbacks to Big Oil."

He wants the President to have the authority to issue letters of marque and reprisal against Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. If you don't know what that means, he wants the President of the United States to have the authority to pay pirates and mercenaries to capture persons and property affiliated with bin Laden or al Qaeda. I'm guessing the burden of proof wouldn't be on the mercenaries.

Fuck this guy. For every reasonable Puppies Are Cute Act he co-sponsors, there are three of his own pet projects that read like Sean Hannity's dream journal.


Look, just read this piece from Reason magazine. It concerns newsletters that bore Ron Paul's name and were published with his full knowledge and which he of course disavows. Smart, because the content is no better than the screeds put out by Stormfront.

I know he says he didn't approve the writing. Either he is lying or he's a fucking moron. Maybe both. It's very possible Lew Rockwell, a good buddy of Mr. Paul, actually did the writing, which doesn't make things any better. Lew Rockwell's a sanctimonious little shit, and just the type of guy to still use the term "comsymp" in 1991 (when referring to Martin Luther King, natch).

Vote for who you want. But don't fucking try to convince me that Ron Paul has anything in common with the left-wing just because he's up for legalizing marijuana and doesn't trust the government. He's pretty much a textbook example of a reactionary states-rights Dixiecrat with just a hint of Ayn Rand's anal-fixation philosophy.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Surfing With the Alien

just may be the best rhythm game ever created.

Go to the site and sign up for the beta. Trust me.

As a game it has a mix of both timing and puzzle challenges, your speed is determined by the music tempo, you collect colored blocks that fill gauges and you try to grab three blocks of the same color (in a column or row).

The design is simple yet clever, with very small tweaks altering the gameplay significantly. Not only that, but they had the foresight to include a casual mode, where the puzzle element is gone and you merely have to ride along and collect blocks - or just ride along, if the mood strikes.

This game would be perfect for the iPod.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Dead Waning

I'm glad I waited
at least a year before purchasing the 360. It has a respectable catalog and the early titles are already released as Greatest Hits, putting them in the 25 dollar range.

I tried out Dead Rising and it is an example of how some of the best core gameplay can be completely marred by the worst design decisions.

Let me count the ways:

1. Timed fetch quests that culminate in escort quests. I decided I wouldn't bother rescuing any more people after I spent a half hour clearing a path for this lady only to have three things completely botch my progress.

A) Followers have to be a certain number of steps before they will follow you through load doors but the game doesn't tell you if they aren't close enough, B) if you don't get them through the door and then go back to the previous room their position will "reset" somewhere near the middle of the map instead of where you fucking left them and C) I hit a cutscene trigger as soon as I entered the door, but apparently zombies are spawned in based on time because when I went back the path I had cleared was entirely overrun.

2. Unblockable attacks. Zombies will initiate close up attacks. Sometimes you can shake them off, but you will always lose at least one health point. There is no 100% way to detect this, since the distance varies from zombie to zombie. You start with four health points. Whee. Most bosses have attacks that are unblockable and aren't interrupted by your attacks - not even when you slam a sledgehammer onto their heads.

3. The game is based around iteration but without saving any of your game progress. What this means is that you are expected to do a few "dry runs" where you level up your guy a lot and then you play the game "for real". Fuck that. The quests give you the most leveling points and most of them are terrible, so you're basically supposed to do horrible quests over and over again before you arrive at an optimal experience.

4. You'd think that killing zombies using found objects is perfect for core gameplay. Apparently the designers of Dead Rising thought it better to give you some hackneyed mystery plot where you track down zany characters. The zombie killing ends up being tangential because of the stupid time limits to get to the next mission.

5. Horrible characters. Across the board some of the worst, most insipid personalities brought to life by jerky animation and atrocious voice acting.

6. At a certain point in the game the large center park area will spawn a jeep with a .50 cal mounted on the back, containing three violent militia members. So instead of a nice wide open space to kill zombies it's now an area you have to run through as fast as you can while dodging psychopaths. Yes you can kill them but they respawn.

7. When Otis calls you on the walkie-talkie to tell you about missions, you can't fight. Even if you are surrounded by zombies. You have to run around like an idiot until he goes through his whole spiel.

The whole game is shot through with horrible design decisions. I keep trying to get psyched about picking it back up but playing it feels like an actual chore.


The worst thing about Dead Rising is that it could be a great game.

I would center the game around an extended siege, say, a week. You and several other survivors are trapped in a warehouse that is constantly under attack. The gameplay has two parts: fending off assaults and going into the mall to scavenge for needed supplies. The original game already has the player going into stores to grab new weapons/clothes, so wrap this into the core gameplay.

Maybe you'd be tasked with finding a first aid station to raid for medical supplies. Along the way you find a hardware store and pick up nails, which will help you restore some of the barricades.

In Dead Rising zombies are set dressing, a diversion while you deal with the annoyances of the main game.

It's hard to hope for a sequel when the original is such a mess.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Merits a Look

I'm addicted
to a simple, fun roguelike called Meritous.

The rooms appear to be generated fractally. On my current game there are 3000 of them. Part of the fun is going room to room and watching the larger pattern appear on the map.

It's not quite a one-button game but it's close. You move with arrow keys. When you hold down the spacebar you generate a psychic charge - when you let go the charge radiates in a circle from you.

The charge will destroy enemies and their projectiles. You go room to room, destroy enemies with your psychic charge and collect psi crystals.

Those crystals are used to upgrade your shield and charge.

The game is largely about movement and timing, dodging shots in order to build up a more powerful charge. Some enemies will only be destroyed by a powerful blast of psi power.

You'll be surprised at the depth to the system. I think it's genius that extra functionality is contained inside objects - the upgrade machines, teleports, save points. The primary verbs never change, you don't have to worry about anything but the core gameplay and proper assessment of your enemies.

Give it a try. Even the graphics are a delight.


Every time I miss
the Round Table I always have some kind of dumb excuse.

Well, this time I have a real reason. I wanted to write a post. I tried to write a post.

But I already wrote it.

I wrote it June 19, 2005.

I spent a long time researching that post and a long time writing it. It was difficult, largely because I'm not overly familiar with the subject. I don't hesitate to say that I think it's one of the better pieces I've written on this now-and-then-serious blog.

I got exactly zero responses to it. Nothing. No e-mails. No comments, and I have open commenting. The post is even in my sidebar.

I didn't really feel right asking to have it included in the Round Table, but I offer it up again in case anyone wants to know what I thought two and a half years ago.

Hope it holds up.