Results for category "Opinion Column"

Post for the sake of Post

So… I promised you audience participation last week. And things haven’t quite come together yet. Fret not children, for that time shall come, but as it stands I have a post to make that I wasn’t quite prepared for. So all I’m going to do this week is entertain you with a link bomb. Some extra cool goodies that should at least flex your cerebellum a tiny bit. Enjoy.

First up, some cool video game manipulation. Watch this guy as he reprograms Super Mario World in real time, in game, so he can jump directly to the credits from the first level. Also check out the Ars Technica piece linked in the body of this article, it gets a little deeper into how it all works. http://kotaku.com/near-impossible-super-mario-world-glitch-executed-for-t-1681109239

Now, check out this nerd. He’s pretty good with a bow, but couldn’t they have found a better narrator?

One more video to sate you this week. A nice little documentary from the good people at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC.

I like Turtles.

Science-Fantasy Literature

I’ve been reading a lot lately (mostly for enjoyment). There is a series of books, what I’ve read so far are actually short stories compiled in books, by Fred Saberhagen called Berserker that have been brought to my attention. They focus on a war between life and unlife, with unlife taking the form of gigantic robotic death machines called Berserkers. And it’s fucking great.

before i get in depth on what makes Berserker great, let me tell you about why I’m a bad book reader.

The problem i have with reading occurs where boredom sets in and I never pick up the book again. I have high standards for books, and if it doesn’t tickle me just right, then it’s done. Just before I started with Berserker, I was reading a book called Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good… but it’s very dry. It takes an almost clinical approach to fantasy space exploration. It offers great insights into not only the human mind but also the possibilities of the universe that our society’s general anthrocentric attitude often misrepresent. Too often I hear people stating that life needs water to exist. There is no oxygen on that planet so there can’t be life. It goes on an on, and people think that our universe is inhospitable, but in reality the general media just has a limited view of the possibilities. Star Maker takes a stab at some of those preconceived notions (despite having been written (published) in 1937). Despite this… after my pumping up of it’s ideas, I just can’t make it through the book. It’s too clean, too sterile, almost in direct opposition of the subject matter of life. It’s interesting, sometimes engaging and even intellectual… but I’m bored by it. I hyperbolized a bit earlier in this paragraph, that I never pick a book up again after I toss it aside, not true, I’ll keep limping through Star Maker, one page at a time. But I have A Game of Thrones coming in the mail, and if that’s nearly as good as my buddies would have me believe, I’m sure Star Maker will fall by the wayside.

Image taken from https://www.flickr.com/photos/85385780@N03/7906643408/

You can find this online for free… just don’t tell anyone that I told you that.

But before that package arrives, I suspect I’ll have another 2 Berserker books under my belt. They are extraordinarily diverse in their subject matter (for being centered around killer robots). Saberhagen manages to often leave the robots at the side of the conflict and focus on the people. Which is something games are incapable of. The video game Mass Effect is the perfect example because many readers of the Berserker series believe the giant killer robots from deep space idea used in Mass Effect to be directly cribbed from Berserker. And after only 1 book, I agree. The similarities in their design and function and behaviors are too similar to be co-incidence. But. The thing Mass Effect didn’t take from Berserker is the characterization. Mass Effect is good at characterizing, but everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, going on in that game is about the Reapers (their version of Berserkers). Saberhagen took a less direct route in his stories, once in a while the short stories don’t even have a Berserker in them (many, many of them do. But it’s nice when we get a look at the regular people of the universe rather than the giant death machines or the super heroes (figurative super heroes, of course)). I can appreciate a small part of the whole, which is something that is missing from much of sci-fantasty.

taken from https://www.flickr.com/photos/martinisaac/3619759712/

I love this cover. Penguin had the best cover artists.

I suppose that wide focus is also a boon of the format. I haven’t gotten into the novel length stories from Saberhagen… partly because the short stories have been so great I don’t have any desire to part with them but also because of my boredom factor, if they begin to lag, I’m probably just going to be out the door. But that’s a mystery for me to solve on my own. Anyway -point of the post- read Saberhagen, it’ll get you pumped and thinking at the same time.

The Deal with Free to Play

Proud Mammal Kane 17 Comments

Here we are, only 2 months in and I’m already resorting to talking about video games. I’ve just been playing a lot of games recently and a good number of them fall into the “Free to Play” (FtP from here on) category. And if you don’t know what that means, welcome to the club, because FtP just rolls about 100 types of games and payment systems into one big umbrella term. I think I’ve narrowed them down to 3 basic types though with a couple subsets to boot.

Fully Free to Play Forever – These games are all about ad revenue. These are often flash games and you can find them just about everywhere. A great thing? They’re small diversions. They’re great if you’re a kid and you have no money and absolutely nothing to do. Another great thing? There are literally millions of these games out there. A bad thing? Well, most of them suck. A vast majority of them are just click bait. Once in a while one might grab your attention and hold it, but all these guys are trying to do is get you in the door to see an ad, and from then on it doesn’t matter. They’re not good, but they’re not going to cost you anything but time. So… whatever!

One and Done – These games don’t quite fall under the FtP header for most people, because most games are the type that you buy and can play on forever. I’m going to narrow this a bit to only include Massively Multiplayer types of games that usually involve a subscription. The best example of this is Guild Wars 2. Once you buy the game, you never have to buy anything else ever again. They of course give you the option, because Premium Content is never far from any FtP game, but they do it reservedly, and it doesn’t affect the way anyone plays the game. I respect that.

Premium Content – Here’s the type of monetary manipulation that really got me wanting to talk about FtP games. There are two really important sub-categories of premium content FtP games that makes one an absolute delight and the other a wretched mess of unholy marketing. The difference between the two is that one’s premium content changes the way the game is played, while the other doesn’t. And one of those two styles hurts the ways the basic game can be enjoyed by their players.

One of the most successful games in the world, called League of Legends, allows players to make purchases from their store that don’t affect the gameplay. They sell skins and upgrades that can’t be bought via the in-game currency but nothing they sell hurts the competitive nature of the game. League of Legends is a cutthroat and aggressive game, people that play it often times take it very seriously (too much so in my opinion, but that’s another article). That player base doesn’t want unfair advantages based on the amount of spending money a player has. And I commend League for doing it in this totally egalitarian way. They created an ultra popular game and they don’t make you pay a dime for anything –unless- you want to. Great.

On the other hand. The situation I abhor is the grim amalgamation of all of these parts. It’s a Frankenstein’s Monster of cash grabbing premiums. And as much as I hate to bash it, Star Wars: The Old Republic is the worst and most aggressive content limiting game I’ve ever played under the FtP header. From the very first screen you see, you’ll be limited in choosing who to play. And while in a very minimalistic interpretation that choice is 99% cosmetic, but you’re making a character that you have to be happy with for essentially what amounts to the rest of the time you play the game. Which could be 5 or 10 years if you like it enough. That first choice alone limits the amount of people that SW:TOR will draw in because it limits the player’s choices immediately. On top of that, they limit other functionalities (including max level, chat, social groups, etc) unless you pay for their subscription service, which is fine, just don’t call it Free to Play. Call it an Unlimited Trial period. Or Call it a Sample Version. I just can’t believe that any of their current players like the system. And as much as it seems like I’m railing against SW:TOR, I just think what they’ve done is bad business, and a little manipulative. The game itself is decent.

taken from http://www.heatherbrookes.org/hb-blog/?p=2341

FtP SW:TOR (acronym central)

I like Free to Play games. I think it’s a good business plan and in some cases I’m sure it makes bigger profits than normal sales. I just don’t like it when they offer something up as “free” but withhold anything that makes it good. or it a metaphorical sense… It’s kind of like a pay-toilet. Sometimes you just have to put the quarter in the slot to find out if the shit’s worth it. and It’s usually not.

4 Things Wrong With Science Fiction Spaceships

Proud Mammal Kane 207 Comments

Proud Mammal is working on a game that deals with some of the physics of space travel, and it’s lead me down a path of thinking about the space ships we see in movies and television. Most of my favorite ships from those sources are utterly bonkers. The Viper (Battlestar Galactica) has terrible maneuverability. The Enterprise (Star Trek) has literally zero true visibility, they rely 100% on computer read-outs. The TARDIS (Dr. Who) is… well it’s a police box, or… a gateway or something, but regardless they show that thing flying through space.

Image by Locozee

No problem.

Those ships don’t work in any situation but fantasy… but that’s not really what I wanted to point out. There are 4 things that I think could improve any space ship design with only tiny changes, and here they are.

1. Add Windows – So many designs in science fiction do away with windows because they have sensors and view screens and emergency back up generators that will protect them from every needing to see anything. Star Trek (at least The Original Series) has the crew receiving all of their information from powered screens. I know for a fact that there is at least one instance of them losing power and becoming totally helpless (Star Trek: The Motion Picture). Maybe if they had a window and some manual propulsion vents (to give them a way to propel themselves without power), they wouldn’t get caught up in so many issues where they just have to talk themselves out of trouble (I know what you’re doing Gene Roddenberry, save a lot of money on those FX, yeah?). And maybe they didn’t think layering of screens would be possible either, but we’re already living in a world of Google Glass, so maybe we can just stick those same sensors and screens right on the window, solve everyone’s problem. Worst case scenario, just swing your view screen in front of the window when you don’t need to see.

from scifi.blogoverflow.com

Sooo, which direction is this thing looking?

2. Add Rear View Mirrors – Even the ships with windows generally don’t have any means of seeing behind themselves. Point to any number of space fighter and they have these cockpits that can see (at best, and not counting blind spots) 180 degrees around their ship. The X-wing, the Viper, and Starfox’s ship, none of them can see behind themselves and none of them can turn on a dime (for some reason, their versions of space don’t let you spin while maintaining momentum). The most egregious violator of this and the one with the most prominent problem? Firefly’s Serenity. There is an entire episode dedicated to what happens when they don’t look behind them (1 whole episode of their short 14 episode run – I.E. that’s a problem for them 7% of the time: which is huge compared to most of my other fixes on these other ships). They’re followed into deep space by a bounty hunter trying to catch them off guard… and they don’t know he’s there despite the fact that he’s been following them at close range for hours! Just mount a mirror on the outside of that ship and they would never have had a problem.

From Dash Z

A quick look backwards once in a while… not too difficult.

3. Reduce Ship Size – There are so many enormous ships in science fiction that it’s basically a trope at this point. But I’m going to point to the absolute biggest of them all, The Death Star. Clocking in at 160 Kilometers in diameter it’s easily one of the biggest ships in science fiction history. But what is that space used for? It’s not all power and laser workings, I can tell you that. There’s a standing army aboard, but why? It’s a blatant misuse of manpower and materials… because instead of building the extra 80 miles (diameter) of crew quarters, mess halls, cinemas, shopping plazas, family barracks, pre-schools, roads and breweries – they could have just made it smaller. They need probably 3 teams of 20 to pilot the ship, 3 teams of 20 to shoot the gun. 20 kilometers would probably have been plenty big enough to house the gun, have enough power and STILL have room for homespun niceties for the crew. Plus, with all that extra metal and crew, they could have manned additional ships to help protect the giant mega weapon. And it’s not just Star Wars that gets this wrong. Almost every giant ship in science fiction is absolutely too big for what it’s designed to do. Oh man… and don’t even get me started on the logistics of keeping these ships supplied. Unless they’re essentially magic like Star Trek’s replicator… only then is it possible.

from  Cartuse Imprimanta Refill Profesionist

Never get between a Klingon and his magic whiskey.

4. Add More Engines or Thrusters – The thing about space craft is that they need more than one thruster to get motion in more than one direction, and a lot of space craft in movies and television do have more than one… but, and it’s a huge but, they’re so often asymmetrical that it’s a wonder these ships don’t go spinning out of control immediately. Take Battle Star Galactic’s Viper, its 3 main engines aren’t directly behind the center of mass, and they are not symmetrical. That ship is going to go into some wicked spins. The X-wing design on the other hand is a bit better, it has 4 engines, directly at center of mass and they’re symmetrical. Good. But something we never see in the movies are nose-cone thrusters, something to give it a good dog fighting maneuver. Getting followed? No problem, just swing your ship 180 degrees and blast away while you move backwards.

from Gizmodo

Great luck for the Cylons that whoever designed this ship was drunk.

There’s my nitpicks, and they’re all valid. These ships just aren’t as good as they could be. They can’t see, they’re wasteful and (in a real situation) they would probably just spin out of control forever. With my proposed changes, the Empire would have won the war, the crew of Serenity wouldn’t have to deal with uninvited madmen on board, and the Enterprise would certainly get to decrease the number of red shirts it orders.

from couples costumes

“Thanks buddy!”