Showing posts from January, 2013
I was generally happy with Thief 3, but there was just one thing that made me twitch. Whoever did the script and/or script editing for the first two games had an ear for language. Whoever did the third game did not.

Garrett speaks modern English, with an American accent. Sensible, since the game was developed by an American studio that had limited funds for the voice acting. The other factions speak various other flavors of English, which diverge from standard AmE in various ways. The City Guard are mostly something that vaguely approximates standard BrE; the Keepers speak AmE or BrE which retains a few archaic features and a lot of formality. Both are distinct from Garrett, but nothing you wouldn't hear on television, and you'd have to write fairly badly in standard English in order to write noticeably badly in this.

The Hammerites speak what is very solidly a dialect of English which retains the T-V distinction -- for those of you who don't absorb languages at random, th…
One of the other things I always liked about Thief is that there's surprisingly little separation between the story and the gameplay. In a lot of games, especially FPS-style games, the first-person HUD gets in the way of elaborate cutscenes. It's a very limited way to frame a scene, and while that's good for play, it's bad, or at least inconvenient, for art. Traditionally, plot is seen as an interruption to action gameplay and is confined to specifically-defined chunks of story, usually stuck between levels as a way to get the player from one place to the next.

Thief does use third-person cinematics between maps, but there's at least an equal chunk of the plot contained within the play space. The pace of gameplay is fluid, often slow, and huge amounts of exposition are given via documents and other media Garrett finds in the places he's bent on robbing. By pausing before you wonk people over the head, you can overhear conversations that range from important and …
Good news, everybody! The broken rat isn't nearly so broken anymore. I have no idea why he was acting sick in the first place -- he may have fallen off of something unexpectedly and banged himself up, or he may just have been freaked out that his feet weren't working right -- but the main problem appears to actually be that his back half is not taking orders as well as he'd like. (It would not surprise me if he were just flipping out over it. Rats are complicated enough to be pointlessly neurotic. The problem is the same as for many people I think; they're clever enough to manipulate a lot of things in their little rat lives, so when they find something they can't do anything to fix, they pop a sprocket.) The rest of the rat is working fine now.

He lost a lot of weight from refusing to move for a few weeks, but I'm doing drive-by feedings whenever it occurs to me to try. I feel like a Jewish grandmother. "How are you? You look cold, you should eat somethin…
HAHAHAHA. I have also got Moggie going through now, specifically the Let's Play entries for the Thiefseries of games.

I first ran into Thief: The Dark Project while I was in college. I had a roommate who appeared to have survived to college age either by accident or manipulation -- she committed a lot of grievous roommate sins, like never cleaning anything, ever, and as far as I could tell, only leaving the tiny shared room for food and restroom breaks. One of these was playing computer games when I was trying to sleep and outright refusing to use headphones. Which was especially puzzling, because one of them was Thief, whose engine uses stereolocation to tell you where the guards are walking, which should work even better when you're not using crap PC speakers.

Still, at least I was being kept awake by a very pretty game.

Thief: The Dark Project (and the sequel, Thief: The Metal Age) was the brainchild of Looking Glass Studios, also responsible for the System Sho…

"Welcome to fucking Boatmurdered!"

I love video games. Unfortunately, I am total shit at some of them. Anything based on an FPS engine, for starters. I have zero sense of space without being able to actually stand in it, and I am chronically lost in level geometry. I can wander about and admire it, in a slapdash fashion, but when it comes to actually playing, I blunder around blindly and run into things and generally fail in a horrible fashion that is either hilarious or aggravating to no end, depending on whether you're watching me from the sidelines, or on my team in co-op mode. Similar problems plague me in dogfight sims.

Another category at which I am laughably bad is real-time strategy. I'm reasonably okay at SimCity things -- although I am way more amused by loading a scenario and then just triggering natural disasters while I laugh in a manner befitting an evil god -- but anything that involves military tactics is right out. I'm not actually short on the kind of plotting ability you need to win the t…

Weekend Radio Theater

The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - "The Out Of Date Murder"

The Adventures of Sam Spade - "The Vaphio Cup Caper"

Box 13 - "The Sad Night"
In my years of running tabletop games, I have been blessed with a lot of very cooperative players. They don't necessarily cooperate with me -- some of them get pretty obstreperous in-character. All of my tabletop games are designed around the premise that my players will show up with laptops and smartphones and will be Googling things like cracked-out little internet monkeys. It's much easier than arguing with them over turning all their gadgets off while we're playing, plus if you're playing with a load of IT geeks, giving them the idea that the overt solution to the puzzle is not on Google is kind of awe-inspiring, and more than a little frightening. Plus it means I can directly enforce the rule that if you're too busy staring at the screen to give me an action when I ask what you're doing for the round, you officially Lose A Turn To Wikipedia, and I skip to the next PC.

I personally encourage creative loophole abuse, because I think it's funny. I've …
Anyone who knows anything about constructing RPG modules is familiar with the Lord British Postulate. It's paraphrased in a variety of different ways, but the most common one is, "If you stat it, they will kill it." -- in other words, any creature that has a formal character information sheet that includes a finite number of hit points can, by means of a sufficiently clever and determined group of players, have that number reduced to zero.

The name stems from an incident in Ultima Online, an MMO variant of the popular Ultima series of traditional sword-and-sorcery RPGs. Richard Garriott, the creator of all things Ultima, has a couple of characters that pop up repeatedly in the games, whom he freely admits are author avatars, and which fail to be as annoying as author avatars generally are in large part because he uses them to set plot in motion rather than micromanaging the world with them. If you're sufficiently nerdy, you may recognize the name even if you don'…
In the past couple of weeks, I have had more than one person ask me for advice on a situation that boiled down to, "X person is a member of Y demographic group which is traditionally oppressed in Z fashion, and also is acting like a histrionic wanker. If I tell them to fuck off, is that equivalent to Z? How do I make them stop getting their drama all over me without coming off as a complete Y-ist?"

Nine hundred and ninety-nine times out of a thousand, the proper response to this is 'mu'. 'Mu', written with the character [無], is the traditional solution to many Zen koans, including the infamous, "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" The ideograph's literal meaning is 'void', 'nothingness', or when attached to some other thing, 'lack or nonexistence of (second thing)'. It is the equivalent of searching the Great Database of the Cosmos for something and getting back MALFORMED_QUERY: 0 records found.

In short, it means th…
I have given up trying to predict when the rat is going to die. One moment he looks like he won't last the night, and an hour later he's issuing credible threats of mutiny because I took the jar lid away while there were still a few molecules of Nutella left on it. He does still agitate for food, which is an important vital sign for rats on a par with breathing and locomotion, so he's not finished yet.

The back end of the rodent isn't working so well anymore. This isn't a good sign, although it's not an especially bad one either; a lot of male rats have issues with the rear chassis, especially if they're the kind of indiscriminately-bred pet shop snake food whose family tree doesn't fork. It's not dissimilar to the hip dysplasia problem that plagues overbred dogs like golden retrievers. It's a death sentence in the wild, but in captivity it mostly means I get to re-set their cage with a lot of ramps instead of ladders. He's obviously not com…
Cap just answered a question from a lady concerned that having previously been a sex worker is going to hurt her ability to get a job in academia. The letter writer happens to be in the social sciences, which is also technically my field. I happen to know that if there's any area of study where they will sincerely not give two-tenths of a shit what you did before you got your PhD, it's this one.

I would almost like to say I'm lucky I ended up in a socially-liberal field, but that's not actually true. The liberal bent is a large part of the reason I chose it in the first place. I could have gone into pretty much anything -- and was subject to a huge amount of pressure to go into everything, but that's a different discussion -- but I had absolutely no interest in having to write papers in a discipline that had a very rigid required lecture/publishing style. Largely because I know myself well enough to know that it would never work.

I have this problem, see. I'm p…
I am rapidly going bats tonight. I am trying to map out a bunch of scenarios for a point-and-click adventure I've had in my head for years. I keep forgetting why I hate flow charts until I try to do one again -- then it all comes rushing back at me.

I have never, ever done flow or outlines for essays or stories. I hated it like you wouldn't believe in high school and undergrad, when some instructor wanted me to turn in work on a research paper in stages. First week thesis, second week outline, third week draft, etc. I always had to just write the damn paper first and then go back and reverse-engineer all of the "prep" work, because if I tried to the prep work first I not only got utterly lost in my notes, but half the time then forgot big chunks of the essay I wanted to write, and had to start all over again.

The problem is not that I work in a completely haphazard fashion, where things only come together by accident. It's all quite orderly in my head. The proble…

Weekend Radio Theater

The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - "Colonel Wharburton's Madness"

The Adventures of Sam Spade - "The Critical Author Caper"

Box 13 - "The Haunted Artist"
I get to feeling bad, some days, that my list of Famous People I Obsess Over doesn't have more women on it. It makes me wonder if I'm an oblivious victim of the patriarchical blah blah blah. I don't think I am, but then, I wouldn't notice if I were, would I?

Much of the problem seems to stem from the fact that, for a very large chunk of recorded history, women weren't allowed to do the kinds of things I find interesting. If they did those things anyway, they generally kept it on the QT -- nobody with an iota of talent for espionage, for example, would be dumb enough to write any of this shit down. They generally didn't publish memoirs, on the grounds that if they told the truth they'd probably get whacked, and if they left all of the scandalous bits out nobody would want to read past page five. I could go research, but I'd be missing the kind of source I like the best, which is one penned by the subject herself. My second favorite kind of source, the ca…
Today's stupid media trick: The Beatles, as they were before hi-fi stereos, via Winamp.

I am a Beatles fan. They were, and periodically still are, one of my random obsessions. I have an almost embarrassingly large amount of music on a portable HDD, and just the Beatles bootlegs take up about 2GB.

The earliest Beatles albums were all released in mono mixes. They weren't called mono mixes at the time -- they were just "mixes", because it hadn't yet occurred to anyone that there might be a point to having a second speaker. Up until fairly recently, music had been recorded "as live" in the studio, which meant you got the band together and everybody played and sang and that was what you got on tape. By the time the Beatles got to doing things in a studio, someone had thought up what's called "multi-track recording", in which you recorded the instrument track onto one tape, then played that back through the performers' headphones so that the…
Confession time: I did not watch the Golden Globes. I don't have a TV. The reason I don't have a TV is not because I am an ironic hipster douchebag that thinks that television is for the masses of intellectually stunted sheeple -- I want to punch these people as much as the rest of you -- but because I didn't own the one we had in the living room and it went with the roommate who moved out, and we didn't subscribe to any of the TV channels on our cable service when we had one anyway. The internet and NetFlix were fine, and since the TV has gone walkies the internet will do.

Also, I was ready to throw something at the wall after watching an entire Emmys presentation where Sherlock was nominated for pretty much everything short of Best Formulaic Jerkass Sitcom and then won nothing. After the ABC people spent half an hour on the red carpet asking inane questions about hobbits of absolutely everyone there except Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch, who were about twent…

DVD Extras: A bit of background

Someone asked on Twitter a while ago if anyone knew the history of DVD extras. Since my brain is a giant seething mosh pit of this sort of thing, I told him I'd try to get around to posting some sort of datadump on the topic soon. Here be.

DVD extras are not actually unique to DVD. So far as I know, they began to appear on laserdiscs, partly as an incentive to purchase the disc-based copy of the movie rather than the VHS tape, and partly as a way to show off.

Videocassettes are an entirely linear format. From any given point, your only choice is to access the next point along the tape, either backwards or forwards -- all the REW and FF buttons do is access the linear sequence of tape segments veryveryfast, which is why a lot of VCRs can and will give you some sort of (possibly torn and garbled) picture when you do it while the tape is running. Film, the very first home video format, works similarly; the only way to get to a specific frame is to wind the film onto and off of spindl…