Monday, February 29, 2016


There's a spot-on tribute to Cinemaware in RPS today: What Cinemaware Understood About Cinema And Games.

I've written about Cinemaware before (at this point, I've written about everything before, haven't I?), but reading that tribute made me want to mention them again, because they were incredible.

Cinemaware cost me quite a bit of money:
$599 Amiga 500
$499 Sony monitor
$699 20 meg hard drive

That's in 1987 or so, and every single penny was totally worth it.

There were two dominant companies in the Amiga 500 era, at least for me. Psygnosis made arcade-type games (remember Shadow of the Beast?), and they were absolutely fantastic.

Cinemaware, though, made a different kind of game.

Story driven, with both strategic and action elements. Incredibly atmospheric (Lords of the Rising Sun, Rocket Ranger, or It Came From the Desert).

Plus, they were exuberant.

How many games have you ever played that you could describe as exuberant? Rocket Ranger was the first Cinemaware game I ever played, and it might well be the most exuberant game ever made. Fighting the Nazis with a jetpack? Attacking zeppelins?

It was all utterly wonderful, and far more imaginative than other, larger games with 1000X the budget.

Cinemaware games were like that--deeply involving, intense, and deeply creative.

That's all without even mentioning the sports titles, which were a decade ahead of their time in every conceivable way.

The day that I found out Cinemaware was shutting down remains my saddest moment in almost four decades of happy gaming.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, from Steven Davis, and this is just an incredible read: Satchel Paige and the Championship for the Reelection of the General.

From C. Lee, and this is fascinating: The best way to win an argument. Next, and this fellow was quite a badass: Eric Brown, unflappable British test pilot who set world records, dies at 97. Next, and this is a very witty essay, it's A Point of View: What does vanilla yogurt have to do with the secret of happiness? Next, and this is amazing, it's Dazzling animation “Kaizo Trap” shows what being sucked into an expert game would look like.

From 3Suns, and this is a fantastic story: STOWAWAYS AND CRIMES ABOARD A SCOFFLAW SHIP.

Steven Davis Part II, and this is amazing: Extraordinary Interactive Hi-Res Exhibit of Bosch’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’. Also amazing: Illustrations Brought to Life in Picture Book ‘Vento’ by Virgilio Villoresi and Virginia Mori. Next, and this quite a story, it's Why Dozens of U.S. President Statues Sit Deteriorating in a Rural Virginia Field. Boy, this is ingenious: A 3D Printed Sundial Displays Time Like a Digital Clock. One more, and what a story: THE WOW FACTOR: Few could have guessed that the league's return would become so bloody, bitter and, most of all, emblematic of how power in the NFL truly works.

From Wally, and this is a great read: How to Drop a Gulfstream IV into a Ravine: Habitual Noncompliance. Also, and this is entirely wonderful: We are HAPPY from Kerguelen. This is very clever: Amazing Time Lapse Wood Shop Restoration.

From Frank Regan, and this is excellent: Night and the City: Chris Donlan plays through L.A. Noire with his dad, who grew up in the city in the 1940s.

Here's a fantastic read by my favorite sportswriter (Patrick Hruby): How Football Pulled The Trigger: Former college football player Zack Langston took his own life at age 26. He never played in the NFL, but doctors found CTE in his brain.

Closing out this week, and it's a tremendous article: PrintMore NBA The real Hoosiers tale: Crispus Attucks.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Story

The lady who cuts my hair told me a story today.

She's about my age, so this story happened in the late 1960s, in a very small Texas town.

She's dyslexic, which I never knew, and she said that she still gets nervous when she reads in front of people. I asked her why.

She said that back in the day, parents were discouraged from teaching their children before they went to school, so her mother sent her to first grade without knowing much of anything that was specific to school.

She'd never tried to read or learn the alphabet, so she didn't know that anything was wrong.

During the school year, the teacher asked her to identify a letter in the alphabet, but she wasn't able to.

One letter.

The teacher grabbed her by her arm, lifted the arm up, and beat her on the back of her legs. Beat her until she was black and blue, because she was angry that she didn't know the alphabet.

When she got home, she told her mother, and her mother went to school. In short order, it was discovered that the teacher didn't even have a valid teaching certificate, and she was fired.

Happy ending, right?

Not so much for the little girl who was beaten.

She said from that time on, she never had any confidence in school, and was afraid to answer questions because she might be wrong. She told me all this while she was cutting her hair, almost casually, but I could hear her voice cracking behind me.

This story made me very, very angry, because I feel very protective toward all children, not just my own. There is something fundamentally broken about a person who feels that hitting a child is an effective way to modify behavior. Yet there are people, even today, who defend corporal punishment as "necessary".

I was spanked once in school. I was in seventh grade, and even though I'd done my History homework, it wasn't in my book when I went to turn it in.

Because I didn't have my homework, my teacher got out his paddle (everybody customized their paddle back then, and gave them names), took me out in the hall, and hit me three times.

It was excruciatingly painful. Excruciating. That teacher was all muscle, and he didn't hold back.

If you did that to an adult, it would be assault. But if you do it to a kid, it's "discipline."

This is what kids are being taught in moments like that: violence is perfectly okay when it's "teaching a lesson", or when you're in a position of authority.

Some people deserve to get hit.

And if that affects someone for the rest of their lives, hey, broken eggs and omelets.

I should end the story right here, shouldn't I? All neat and tied up. Except it's almost never that simple.

In my case, the teacher who hit me was my favorite teacher in Junior High. He was a solid, stand-up guy. He took interest in me and encouraged me in athletics, which is something none of the other coaches did.

He was on my side. And he stayed on my side.

Yet after he hit me so hard with something the size and shape of a cricket bat, he laughed a little.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


Today totally got away from me, and I just got home from Eli's practice, so nothing more today. I'm working on a game announcement for next week, and that's taking quite a bit of time right now.

Also, when I say "game announcement", it won't be like GS where I already had a working version of the game. This is the "here's the idea and I'm going to make this" stage, but I want to get you guys involved sooner this time (since I know now that I can actually complete a game, and that still sounds funny when I say it).

Boy, If I Just Had A Dollar For Every Time I've Seen This Headline

The headline:
Meerkat Expert Cleared of Assault in Zoo Love Triangle.

From the story:
A former meerkat expert at London Zoo was cleared Tuesday of assaulting a monkey handler in a love spat over a llama-keeper.

I have questions. So, so many question.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

In Flight

Eli 14.6 is learning how to juggle five balls.

Quite a few people can juggle three balls (I can). Quite a few less can juggle four. Almost no one can juggle five.

He's doing 12-15 tosses before he loses the pattern, so he's on his way.

He's also exploring bounce juggling, which is its own separate thing, apparently.

We were on the way to his dry land workout today.

"Dad, I'm looking at getting some Dube silicon balls for bounce juggling," he said. "Eighty percent rebound."

"That's impressive," said. "That's almost no loss of height at all."

"I know, right?" he said. "But they're expensive. They're fifty dollars each!"

"Maybe you could find balls that have the same rebound characteristics that aren't specifically made for juggling," I said.

"Maybe," he said, "but all the Dube stuff is really first rate. I think I'm just going to save up for them."

We reached the rink and went inside, and he warmed up upstairs in the workout area.

"Hey, I have an idea," I said, right before he started jumping. "If you can jump 9'3", I'll get you those bounce balls."

"Oh, Dad!" he said, laughing. "You know what happens when you do that. Every time."

He's right. Every time I bet him, I lose. At least three times on this specific exercise alone. But he just jumped 9'0" for the first time a few weeks ago. 9'3" is impossible, and I'm not joking.

First jump. He lines up, flies through the air. 9'0".

"That was long," I said.

"Just wait," he said, laughing.

Second jump.

It's huge. "Oh, that was IT!" he shouts as he lands.


"I welcome my cyborg jumping robot overlord," I said. He shakes my hand, laughing.

"The government may come at night and take you to a secret underground facility in Nevada for testing," I said.

I'm making sure I turn on the alarm at night.

Monday, February 22, 2016


Several of you guys have asked for an Eli hockey update, so here you go.

I never thought I'd describe Eli 14.6, but he is steadfast.

The regular season for his travel league finished on Saturday. His team won 2-1, and he had 24 saves. For the season, he's 17-2-1, with a 1.63 GAA and a .925 save percentage.

This season, he's incorporated two incredibly important qualities.

This first is to use his technique for almost every save. He makes far fewer athletic saves than he ever has before, because his technique is so precise now that he doesn't need to. He still has that freakish athleticism, when he needs it, but he doesn't have to rely on it anymore.

What that's done is made him consistent. He's only given up 4 goals once all season.

It's impossible for a goalie to be consistent if they're relying too much on their athleticism. Actually, that's not quite correct. It's impossible for a goalie to have excellent technique without a high degree of athleticism (and flexibility, and strength), but as far as making saves goes, a goalie wants to avoid the desperation save situation whenever possible.

Why? Because even if you do everything right in a desperation save situation, the chances of making the save are low. The goalie will usually be off-balance, and being off-balance is death.

Eli's had many games this season where he was never off-balance. Those are the kinds of games where a goalie can establish control and suck all the life out of the rink.

The second quality, as I mentioned, is that he's steadfast.

Many of the goals he's given up this season have been strange edge cases with knuckling pucks or deflections off his own team.

He doesn't care.

Doesn't get rattled or bothered. Just gets back to business.

His team does a hard dryland workout once a week, but Eli always adds a second, either with me or a trainer, and what he does alone is much tougher than what he does with the team.

No drama. Just getting his work in.

Same goofy kid he's always been. Biggest smile around. Nice to everyone. Just focused at a different level when it's time to work.

He knows what he wants.

Playoffs start this weekend, and his team has a chance to win the state championship in their division. Then high school playoffs. Then tryouts in Michigan.

He's done a terrific job of getting himself to this point. And I know he believes he has much, much further to go.

I know this: I'm not betting against him.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, and it's a fascinating read: Terriers Were Once The Greatest Dogs In The World.

From Wally, and ouch: When Historical Pirates Did PR: The Writings of Captain John Smith. Next, and no thank you, it's This Swiss Roller Coaster Looks Absolutely Terrifying For All The Wrong Reasons. Next, and while the title might not be totally accurate, it's quite good: The Most Satisfying Video Ever Made. This link wins the "What the hell?" award for the week: Tree Lobsters, believed for decades to be extinct, are making a comeback.

From DQ Fitness Advisor Doug Walsh, and this is a terrific video: Jaws vs the Lyon 25.

From C. Lee, and both of these links have wonderful, imaginative art: See the galaxy! Book today! These travel deals won’t last! and Poster Art 150: London Underground’s Greatest Designs. This is a pretty spectacular piece of technology: Researchers develop ‘Superman memory crystal’ that could store 360TB of data forever.

From Tim Lesnick, and this brings back many memories of Creepy Crawlers and whatnot: Mattel Recruits Your Inner Child With $300 ThingMaker 3D Printer for Designing and Creating Toys.

From Craig Miller, and this man does not have a strong arm: Khris Davis has Four Assists.

This is one of the greatest things I've ever seen: A T. Rex Riding a Horse Kicking a Soccer Ball Is Everything Wonderful About the Internet.

From Meg McReynolds, and this is beautiful: Misty Copeland Recreates Iconic Edgar Degas Artwork for Harper's Bazaar.

Thursday, February 18, 2016


I've only played this game for about half an hour. It can best be described as "super trippy".

It can also best be described as an homage to Philip K. Dick, which immediately makes me recommend it for your consumption.

If you enjoyed Richard Linklater's adaptation of A Scanner Darkly, then this should be right up your alley. There's no rotoscoping, but you will recognize the visual style immediately.

One caution: it's not running entirely smoothly at 2560x1440 on my GTX 970. Puzzling.

Steam link (it's $8.99): Californium on Steam.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Make Better Decisions #something or other

This is why the word "no" is in the dictionary:

"Hey!" I shouted at Gloria on Valentine's Day. "There's some heart-shaped cat puke up here. Who said romance is dead?"

Kudos for the hipster Seattle Supersonics jersey, sir, but you are still wearing a horses's head:

There's a story (in my head, at least) about this next picture:

Even Papa Smurf would look at this lady and say, "Hey! That's too much blue!" But there's another story underneath, I think. There's some kind of medical line and a little device she's carrying over her shoulder, and that blue hair is probably a wig. So I'm totally fine if she's all "F--- you, Papa Smurf--your stupid cartoon never reached the dramatic narrative of My Little Pony or even Dora."

That Dora line was a low blow, indeed.

So Papa Smurf slinks away, to his lair, and plots his revenge.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Intricate Surprising Places

I enjoyed making a game. I'd like to make another one.

What I know, though, is that I can't make five more. I want to make one that I can keep making for years, adding content (for free) in addition to the base purchase. A game that can grow essentially as long as I keep working on it.

The reason I'd like to do this, of course, is Dwarf Fortress.

Tarn and Zach have been working on DF for fifteen years, roughly. They'll work on it for fifteen more, I'm guessing.

I like that approach. I can't be anywhere near as ambitious as they are, but conceptually, I'm on the same page.

I've been working on a game idea for the last few weeks, and I asked Tarn why he decided to make a game that had no ending state for the player or the developer. Here was his response, and he was kind enough to allow me to share it with you.

This is Tarn next, not me.

At the beginning, it had to do with not having an audience.  Following a story or solving puzzles are two things you can't program easily for yourself, but exploring a random area or facing random challenges works, and there's no real cause for focusing on an end state.  Arriving at a final score also mean less when playing your own games -- it was less about competition and more about forming a recording of events.

A part of it is the player-DNA from when we were kids.  We never won any of the Ultima games and didn't really think of it as being possible, and the same was true of Rogue and the roguelikes.  So our own RPGs were about wandering around and running yourself into the ground, more or less, and we slowly expanded the idea of Nethack bones files to the rest of the game.  I think that had its first realization when I was about 15, working on the second version of our "dragslay" RPG.  It kept track of the state of all the enemy groups that lived in caves from game to game (their leaders and size), and all of the dragons, and who they all had killed.  So the world gets marginally more interesting as you play, since it tracks a few things, but you couldn't win since the monsters replaced over time as well, by any unnamed monster that killed one of your characters (reminds me of the modern Shadow of Mordor system, if you ever saw that).  We still had score lists back then though -- it took us a few more years to drop those, in favor of diverse stats and records more like the DF legends mode.

There's the other influential angle, which grew out of the two expedition games (Starflight and Seven Cities of Gold).  I don't know if Seven Cities had a win state or not, but we never got close.  It was fun to just go out and make the discovered map grow.  For Starflight, we actually did manage to win, against all odds, but that was just because the game's on a timer and if you don't blow up the crystal planet, you eventually can't play any more.  Over time, we charted the fastest way to get the objects to win the game, did that, and then just filled in our lifeform notebooks -- it was cool that they let you keep playing after you win (which is another take on a "win state").  We've probably talked about this before, but the expedition vs. exploration angle is important to consider -- it's harder to make an exploration game carry itself, since it relies purely on the discoveries for metering.  Having an expedition gives you a multi-faceted quantized game mechanic to work with, but it also can make the game seem a little more mercenary or, at worst, mechanical, sucking the life out of the exploration process.  At its best, it can make the discoveries feel truly earned.

The whole Sim* series of games also deserves a shout-out -- some of those had win states (SimAnt, say), but that wasn't the point.  It can also be handy to think of how exploration aspects and simulation aspects can work together -- discovery the rules of a simulation can be fun, and it can lead to replayable novel situations, though focusing on finding sim rules is probably a little more ripe for player burnout/gimmickness than other types of exploration.

Those are all the old reasons -- since I've been writing the same main game now forever, those are probably still the most important ones.  I've started (and not finished, as you know) various side projects with and without win states, and for the ones without win states, I guess it still mostly comes from the same place:  it's fun to dive into an intricate surprising place.  I think that merges with the programming and design itself more now for me than it did before -- being able to adjust and add to the rules quickly is part of what makes the process enjoyable.

Monday, February 15, 2016


I was idly thinking today about many different things at once, and one of them was Eli 14.6 and how he'll be dating soon.

Boy, that opened a rabbit hole.

I started thinking about what kind of trouble I got into (or nearly) when I was dating in high school, and that led me to think about what was the most intense relationship I'd had before college.

I was a speech nerd in high school (and more accomplished in that, probably, than anything I ever did as an adult). At a tournament in a small Texas town, there was a beautiful girl that, for some reason, liked me.

When I say she was beautiful, I don't mean by speech nerd standards. She was a cheerleader, too, beautiful by any standard. And when she looked at you, her eyes were a very direct connection to everything she felt.

I was a sophomore. She was s senior.

We were very different. She was so sure of herself, so ordered. I was skinny chaos. When we were together, though, the attraction was loud. Deafening, really.

This started a (by high school standards) torrid five month relationship.

Our relationship was almost entirely physical (not sex, but everything else), and I clearly remember writing her long, moony letters in Chemistry class almost every day.

This also explains why I did not do well in Chemistry. Sorry, Mrs. Fuhrman.

She lived an hour away (63.7 miles, door to door), and I would drive to see her on weekends, coming back home at 10 p.m. or later.

For a sixteen-year-old, it was pretty damn exotic.

We talked on the phone every night, too, back in the day when long distance was expensive. I still remember the nighttime rates--somewhere in the range of .22 a minute.

Mom came with the phone bill one month, and she was pissed. It had over $60 in long distance calls, and this was back in 1977, so it was a fortune.

I didn't know it then, because it felt like love, but it was limerence of the highest, strongest order.

Those five months passed so quickly, and then she was graduating. She was valedictorian, too, and she called me a few hours before I was going to drive up for her graduation to tell me that all we did was make out.

Which was true, but she seemed to like doing that as much as I did, so I was absolutely baffled.

She broke up with me, right then.

It was awful--I'm sure I cried on the phone--and about fifteen minutes later, her older brother called me. She was bawling, he said, and he wanted me to come up so that she could get herself together and make her speech.

I did, and I sat on those bleachers and listened to her bog-standard speech and wondered how I could fix this.

I couldn't.

After that day, I don't think I ever heard from her again.

It was crushing.

So I thought about all this, and then I thought I should look her up, just to see how her life turned out. I didn't think I'd find anything, really, but I put her name into Google anyway.

She died seven years ago.

Never married, or got married and divorced. No kids. Still lived in the little town where she grew up, although she did study at a premier acting academy and had small roles in three mainstream films.

Then I saw the picture.

I couldn't believe it, but there was a picture from 1977. Very yellow and faded, but it was her, posing for a picture as a cheerleader.

I was prepared to see a picture of her in present day, but not from when we were dating. It was so overwhelming that I almost started to cry.

There is this thing about growing old, where your emotions are tectonic plates. There are plates from every part of your life, and every part of your past. Over the years, they become more and more unstable, especially the plates from your deep past.

Sometimes, like when you see a picture from 1977, the deep past collides with the present, and you feel the earthquake inside you.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, and it's a great, great read: The Walter White of Wichita.

From Steven Davis, and this was an amazing fellow: Artur Fischer, Inventor With More Patents Than Edison, Dies at 96. Next, and my, what a surprise: Scammers and Spammers: Inside Online Dating's Sex Bot Con Job.

From George Politis, and this seems unwise: Hockey on one wheel: Unicyclists put a true Minnesota spin on hockey.

From Meg McReynolds, and this also seems unwise: 1910-1956 Auto polo: Country club meets Mad Max.

From Brian Witte, and how is this guy not better known? Peter Freuchen.

From Wally, and this is terrific: Every City Has Its Mysteries. Next, and this is from the Oatmeal (excellent as always): How Everything Goes to Hell in a Zombie Apocalypse. This is fascinating: "CHASING ICE" captures largest glacier calving ever filmed.

From C. Lee, and this could explain quite a bit: Why people cheat.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and this is quite entertaining and informative: History of Japan.

From Jeff Fowler, and this is an interesting read: When U.S. air force discovered the flaw of averages. Also, and this is tremendous, it's Centriphone - an iPhone video experiment by Nicolas Vuignier.

Closing out this week, from Jeff Pencis, and this is a PSA: Why Shouldn't You Take Medicine with Grapefruit Juice?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Firewatch (final impressions)

It took me a little over four hours to finish Firewatch.

It's an internal journey combined with a ripping yarn. The voice acting is absolutely superb, as is the dialogue.

There are rough moments, but there are also outstanding, deeply affecting ones, moments that will stick with me long after I've forgotten every detail of fifty other games.

I think the reason I've bounced off a few other, somewhat similar games is that they always ask questions about other characters. "Who are these people? " is the question I'm trying to answer.

In Firewatch, I spent the entire game asking "Who am I?" I was asking real questions about myself in terms of the dialogue choices I made, and that experience was substantial and worthwhile.


What a day: The Dawn of a New Era in Science By announcing the first detection of gravitational waves, scientists have vindicated Einstein and given humans a new way to look at the universe.

Einstein: still a total badass.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Firewatch (impressions at two hours)

I've been looking forward to this game. Very, very much.

In Firewatch, you are a fire lookout in the Wyoming wilderness...

Stop right there.

I would be happy to play a game where you role-played a fire lookout in the wilderness, living in your lookout tower and tending to the daily tasks of fire lookouts. No external plots other than to simulate (in time-compressed format) what fire lookouts do on a daily basis.

I get to do some of that in Firewatch, but there's a plot, too. A story.

At this point, you're expecting me to say that the story ruins the game, but it doesn't. It does seem forced, occasionally, but it's also deeply and surprisingly affecting at times. It's not easy to put themes of hope and loss into a game--at least not deftly--but Firewatch does so quite well.

I also appreciate the dialogue system. While I can't tell you if your choices materially affect the story, your choices do feel meaningful, and they are in the sense that you are defining yourself as a certain kind of person by what you choose.

In most games, I don't care about that much, but this game is different.

The wilderness is a primary character in Firewatch, and it's beautiful. So beautiful. It's constructed in such a way that it feels quite real, and I may at some point I may just go rogue and wander around.

For now, though, I enjoy the story, and I'm content to follow the course.

This is a quiet game, and I highly recommend playing it with headphones. It's also a game that you don't want to play with any distractions around, because becoming immersed in the environment is extremely important to the experience.

Here's a link to the PC version: Firewatch. It's also available on the PS4, but I played the PC version.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Valentine's Day

Since Eli 14.6 has hockey practice tomorrow, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, February 9th (today) was Valentine's Day. In our house, anyway.

That's why there's no content today (sorry), although I will say that the first hour of Firewatch has been very, very compelling. More tomorrow.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Make Better Decisions (Super Bowl Edition)

A mascot for diarrhea being wanded by stadium security:


I've watched all fifty Super Bowls live, and that was the worst Super Bowl I've ever seen.

It's getting more difficult to watch the Super Bowl these days. CBS wasn't covering a football game.

They were covering a brand.

Let me explain.

I was sitting on the couch with Eli 14. 6 and they were talking about the quarterbacks as Denver received the opening kickoff.

I knew what was about to happen.

"They're not going to mention any of Peyton Manning's statistics this season," I said.

Sure enough, they talked all about his career records, etc. But he was the worst starting quarterback--statistically--in the NFL this season, and did they mention that? Of course not, because the NFL has positioned Peyton Manning as an important part of their brand.

Never tarnish "the shield", as they say.

So when the corpse of Peyton Manning was lobbing water balloons fifteen yards down the field, CBS never mentioned the strange lack of velocity, or how the Denver offense can shutter a large part of their playbook because he can't make most of the throws anymore.

That's interesting, though--the story of a once-great quarterback reduced to a fragile shell, struggling to survive on guile, and coaches changing their game plan because of his greatly diminished skills. It's too bad that it wasn't mentioned.

Actually, I think Manning is probably the worst quarterback ever to win a Super Bowl. Not based on his career, obviously, because you can make a case that--at a minimum--he's one of the top five quarterbacks in history. Based solely on this season, though, he had the worst statistical season of any quarterback to start in the Super Bowl, and he was no better yesterday.

Denver, though, had possibly the most dominant defense I've ever seen. Manning could have taken every snap and kneeled, and the game still would have been close.

If you're wondering about the second-worst Super Bowl I've ever watched, it was Super Bowl V. 16-13, Colts over Cowboys. Eleven turnovers. It was wildly bad, although I will say it was far more entertaining than yesterday. The ball seemed to come loose about every third play (here's a drive-by-drive summary).

If you have a few hours to kill, here's the entire game, including commercials. If you watch the full game, you'll have a hard time believing any of it actually happened when it's over. That's how bizarre it was, and eleven turnovers doesn't even begin to describe the craziness.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, from Steven Davis (who also appears later), it's In a Huge Breakthrough, Google’s AI Beats a Top Player at the Game of Go.

From Roger Robar, and man, this is beautiful: Afterglow: Lightsuit Segment.

From Wally, and this is quite interesting: The Cornish Pasty (History). It's also the first Cornish Pasty link to appear on DQ. Next, and this is quite a ghost story, it's Six Boy Scouts Murdered by a Witch Still Haunt a Virginia Road. This is fascinating reading: Sha Na Na and the Invention of the Fifties. Eagles rarely do not kick ass: Dutch Police Are Training Eagles to Capture Drones.

From Steven Davis, and this story has spectacular photos: SWALLOWED BY JAWS: On Jan. 15, legendary surfers took on Maui's skyscraper-sized waves. Next, and this is utterly incredible: Behold! A Telescope (or Tunnel) Book of the Crystal Palace. Red alert for DQ Film Advisor Ben Ormand: The 100 Jokes That Shaped Modern Comedy.

From Rob Funk, and this is a remarkable story: How A Slot Machine Mechanic Flew 150,000 Miles Over 64 Days Without Landing.

From C. Lee, and this is both clever and beautiful: Forget dog-earing and bookmarks that fall, make your own easy origami bookmark instead! Next, and this is painful but a tremendous read: Challenger, Columbia, and the lies we tell ourselves.

Thursday, February 04, 2016


I wasn't going to write any more about Peter Molyneux.

I've defended him for years--decades, really--even though his entire philosophy seemed to be "Deliver anything, promise whatever."

I defended him because the "whatever" often turned out to be extremely interesting, although in no real way resembling the "anything" he promised.

Godus, though, was indefensible.

Yesterday, his bloated corpse suddenly burst to the surface again, bobbing away as "Godus Wars" was released.

A combat relative of Godus, it was free to existing owners of the original, failed product.

No downside, right? That seems reasonable.

Well, except for one thing: 22cans didn't tell anyone that after the first "continent", unlocking the next would cost $4.99. And on for each new continent, presumably.


What kind of stupid asshole would even try this? Promote how Godus owners get this for free, but all you're essentially giving them is a demo of the new "game" which they then need to purchase.

I'll tell you what kind of stupid asshole. The same kind of stupid asshole who would wipe the game forum clean because the comments were overwhelmingly negative about the paywalls.

In retrospect, it's clear that Godus Wars launched as a separate product solely as a platform for in-app purchases.

How sad.

Today, after nuclear weapons-grade criticism of the "demo + $5 +$5 + etc." pricing model, 22cans announced that they're removing the paywall.

They sounded surprised that people cared.

Molyneux also had a remarkable interview with Eurogamer yesterday--remarkable because he quite seriously portrayed himself as the victim in all this.

It all reminds me of a little boy I wrote about a few years ago. He was standing with his mother, and suddenly, he said "Mommy, somebody peed in my pants."

Yes, Peter. Somebody indeed.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

This Seems Solid

Here's an idea: what if Peter Molyneux was required by law to turn his admittedly fantastic ideas for games over to someone else to actually make them?

Traffic! (your e-mails)

I was expecting some traffic e-mails, and you guys didn't disappoint.

First, Adam W sent in a Google Traffic image of Seattle, which--like Austin--doesn't have nearly enough highways for its population:

That's ugly, but it's nothing like Washington, D.C. in the recent snow storm. Tuller sent this in:

That is, without question, the absolute worst Google Traffic image I've ever seen.

I took a quick look at Bejing last night. Some of their big roads were black. I've never even seen black in Google Traffic before. I assume it means "abandon your car".

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Where It's Even Worse

You can see these images much better if you click on them to enlarge.

We have bad traffic in Austin, thanks to people who don't want to pay taxes and (simultaneously) vehemently object to toll roads.

Austin is at least a decade behind in terms of building roads, and what are they doing now? Building a single toll lane onto the primary commuting highway in the city.

What's happening with that toll lane, though, is disaster.

The project was supposed to be completed last September. The toll lane runs north/south for about eleven miles.

I'm stuck in traffic so often and for so long that I've started counting the active workmen on the toll project on any given day. "Active" includes anyone, even if they're not working at the time.

A few weeks ago, I counted 41 people.

Today, for the first time, I counted 92, which is the first time I've been above 80.

92 workmen in 11 miles.

What's happening here is that the contractor submitted a ridiculous, artificially low bid--and won. Now the company isn't even bidding on additional road contracts because this one has been a disaster, and with no ongoing business in road construction, doesn't care what kind of shitty job they do on this one.

I think they've concluded that they'll lose less money by defaulting and paying whatever fine they have to instead of actually carrying the project on to completion.

Even when this toll lane opens, it's not going to help much. At peak times, the highway in question must be 40% over capacity, at least. Even if 10% of commuters use that toll lane (which seems highly unlikely, since it's variable pricing and will be relatively expensive during rush our), it's not going to do much of anything.

Today, out of curiosity, I looked at a few other traffic maps for huge cities. Mexico City, for one:

If you've never looked at Google Maps, red/black is a standstill, red is a near-standstill, orange is 20-30 MPH (roughly), and yellow is above 30 but below regular speeds (again, roughly). That was just the middle of the day in Mexico City.

Here's 7 p.m. in the London area:

Seriously, London, what the hell? It looks like every city within fifty miles of London is basically locked up.

The gold standard for traffic hell in the U.S. is certainly Los Angeles. New York has horrible traffic, but they have excellent mass transit and just don't care. Los Angeles, though, has an incredible number of roads, and they're all a disaster. Have a look:

I'm not sure how anyone can stand to commute, except that many people must go in off hours. Rush hour looks like a nervous breakdown.

Monday, February 01, 2016

The Big Hockey Update Post

Man, Eli 14.6 has had quite a season so far.

He's 15-2-1, with a .925 save percentage and 1.61 GAA (goals against average). In 2016 so far, he's 5-0 with a 1.00 GAA.

His team has won 11 games in a row and is in second place in a very, very tough league. They're going to make the playoffs and have a chance to win the league, which doesn't happen to Austin teams very often.

He still has another six weeks or so before he tries out in Michigan. Now he needs to give'r, but he's been doing that all season.

A few months ago, he told me that there are levels in goaltending:
1. Block the puck
2. Control the puck
3. Control the game

He has worked very, very hard the last two years on #2, where shots are either caught, covered, or sent safely into the corner.

This season, for the first time, he's had level three games. When a goalie gives up no rebounds and makes good decisions, it sucks all the air out of the rink. There's no drama, no loose pucks. It's demoralizing for an opposing team, because all teams try to create chaos in front of the net, and when they can't do it, it's deflating.

Eli's goal is to make every game boring.

Last year, one of the supervising coaches involved with the hockey program was mad at Eli because he didn't get angry when he was pulled during a tournament game. Eli had been sick the entire holiday break, wound up with pneumonia, and that was only his second game back.

His team had been getting pounded all season (his average shots against last year was 40), but they had made a tournament final.

And he got blown up.

I think it was 4-0 halfway through the first period when he got pulled. He sat on the bench and cried for about ten minutes, then pulled it together and tried to help out on the bench.

This coach (not Eli's team coach, who made him a captain and had nothing but good things to say about him) told me, in so many words, that Eli was soft, that he should be angry when he gets pulled.

"He's the least angry kid you've ever met," I said. "I"m not going to try to change his personality just because you don't understand him. Anger has nothing to do with how much he cares."

We kind of left it there, but the implication was that Eli wasn't tough enough, even though this was the same kid who had played through a cracked rib in practice when he was 11.

A few weeks ago, Eli was at the rink watching travel league games with our other teams, because he coaches the Squirt goalies. Everywhere he went, there were kids around him, both younger kids and some of his own teammates.

That same coach walked up to me a few minutes later. A short distance away, half a dozen younger kids were all talking to Eli at the same time. He just stood there with a big grin on his face, trying to answer all of them at once.

"He's everyone's big brother, isn't he?" he said.

"Yeah," I said. "Everyone has value to him."

"He really is a gentle giant," he said, smiling.

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