Kill meeee

Another in the saga of Memes Nobody Asked For.

This is a friend’s iPhone 4S after a drop from shoulder height. Is it possible to pity inanimate objects? You wouldn’t feel bad for a floor lamp that somebody knocked over, but this, well.

iPhone kill meeee

Dark Souls II playthroughs

Sometimes I think I was born on the Internet. I remember tweaking settings on my 28.8k modem to improve latency. I remember 56.6k modems and their amazing throughput that let you download an MP3 in the same amount of time it takes to listen to it. I remember being excited for college mainly because of their mythical T1 connection, a blazing pipe of video game demos and Napster.

But images on the Internet always mystified me. How did people go from physical camera to printed picture to scanner to image processor to FTP program to web page? Too many steps! I remember hoarding any pictures I could find (and using them to build an “award-winning” X-Files fan site circa 1997).

Now we have memes and image macros - which anybody can make - but not just anybody can make good ones. So I’d like to toss my hat in the ring. In lieu of the quality journalism and punditry this site is unknown for, I’m going to post some memes I’ve created. You put up with this, and I’ll continue to pretend you exist.

Dark Souls II playthroughs

The Amazing Spider-dope

I was amazed that I liked the first Amazing Spider-man. The subplot with the construction workers and the cranes was unbearably cheesy and Dr. Connors’ underground lab made no sense, but the action was good, the stakes were clear, and Peter and Gwen had a great dynamic and some real chemistry. The high school fight was authentic, I’m told, given the way Spider-man moves, improvises, and cracks wise.

Now for the sequel to ruin everything.

Warning: spoilers. But they’re all dumb, so you might be better off knowing this nonsense in advance.

Who was Peter's mother? You never hear her name.

Amazing Spider-man 2 opens with Peter Parker’s father, Richard, and his mysterious double life that everyone figured out while watching the trailers for the first movie. Big shock, he was a researcher at Oscorp labs and responsible for the radioactive spiders that basically ruined his son’s life. Hey, that’s supposed to be a big shock. I don’t see your jaw on the floor.

Richard Parker discovers that Oscorp is going to sell its biological weapons to a foreign power (PROTIP: this is treason, only the Secretary of State can authorize international weapon sales) and flees Snowden-style with his research (PROTIP: grab yo kid, grab yo wife, call the FBI and go into witness protection). He leaves his son with his sister or sister-in-law and takes a private jet with his wife to God knows where. Oh neat, your jaw’s on the floor now.

What was Richard’s plan? If he felt so threatened by Oscorp that he fled the country, did he really think they wouldn’t target his son? He did absolutely nothing to conceal Peter’s location or identity. They sent an assassin on the flight, I don’t think an after-school kidnapping is out of bounds. For that matter, what was Oscorp’s goal? If Richard just made a copy of their research, then sure, killing him ties up that loose end. Strange that they didn’t do anything once the assassin failed to check in after the flight. That seems like something worthy of a follow-up.

A connector-less protocol that delivers USB 3-level bandwidth. Sure.

I’m trying to be good and ignore the outrageously unrealistic use of technology in this movie, like the circa 1999 private plane whose Internet connection remains steady while an engine is on fire and the cabin has lost pressure and they’re dropping out of the sky; the magic data cube Norman Osborn gives Harry that contains gigabytes of video and turns his desk into a Microsoft Surface (couldn’t just encrypt a folder on the network?); and the Oscorp internal employee search that displays faces of non-matches, takes more than 500 milliseconds, and lets a security employee enter commands to stop the search in progress (hey Oscorp: fire your database admin).

Whoops, I failed.

Speaking of Oscorp, why did Norman send his son Harry away to boarding school for over a decade? Norman recognizes his son’s scientific genius, why not keep him in the family business trying to solve the hereditary disease? I appreciate that Mr. Osborn values a liberal arts education, but if Harry’s going to turn into Darth Sidious the moment he graduates, shouldn’t you put this highly motivated child prodigy in a lab where he can do some good?

Maybe Harry could help Peter Parker with his priorities. I know the premise of Spider-man is that being a superhero affects Peter’s normal life, but I don’t blame Gwen Stacy one bit for leaving him. Petty criminals stealing plutonium seems like something the local police could handle. Or not, considering their pursuit-modified Crown Victorias can’t accelerate past a tow truck dragging an armored car. So Peter’s late for his graduation, late for dinner, and possessing Phillip J. Fry’s capacity for pursuing women, where the strategy is to write “I love you” in a large enough font that she never leaves you. I’m kind of surprised that Max Dillon didn’t think Spider-man was talking to him.

Jamie Foxx is awesome.

Max is a nerdy scientist who’s saved by Spider-man and is then his biggest fan. He becomes Electro, the electricity supervillain, after Oscorp flouts OSHA safety regulations for the fifty billionth time and Max falls into a vat of electric eels.

Now, if you’re Oscorp and the last employee who was affected by your biologic research turned into a supervillain and threatened Manhattan, what would you do with Max as he lies charred on the floor? Would you clean up the mess, erase all records of the employee, and send his corpse to the morgue to be cremated?

You would? Excellent! Who did you send to take care of that? Brock Hardass, your trusted no-nonsense henchman, who would personally oversee every step of the process? Oh. You didn’t. You sent Joe the Intern, who couldn’t convince your systems administrator to purge Max Dillon’s employee file immediately and just dumped the corpse at the morgue and told them to take care of it whenever. Ugh. Well, the CEO’s secretary is your boss now, maybe this can’t be helped.

Oh look, it's Infamous' Cole McGrath.

Don’t ask how, but Electro gets loose and terrorizes Times Square by doing his low-rent Dr. Manhattan impression. With the help of Spider-man and the police and fire departments, Electro is subdued. And then, for assaulting police officers and endangering the lives of hundreds of civilians and causing millions of dollars in property damage - all on the national news - Electro is put on trial and sentenced to life in prison.

Hah! Just kidding. He’s returned to Oscorp no questions asked. The cops don’t monitor his location, Spider-man doesn’t keep tabs on him after realizing he’s Max Dillion, nobody from the news investigates the biggest story since Dr. Curt Connors turned into The Lizard.

Meanwhile at Oscorp (motto: Come And Get Us, Trial Lawyers!) Harry Osborn discovers the company’s secret projects, codename Project Secret Projects. The guy who wanted to call it something innocuous like “Janitorial Wastewater Analysis 2003” must have been voted down. It’s there that Harry discovers the radioactive spider venom his father thought might cure their hereditary disease. He seems to know that Spider-man was bitten by one of Oscorp’s radioactive spiders, so he reviews security camera footage of the lab before Spider-man appeared in New York and deduces it’s Peter Parker.

Hah! Sorry, kidding again. Oscorp uses proprietary data storage blocks that connect to transparent capacitive office desks for their secret projects but doesn’t invest in things like security cameras and tape backup.

Anyhoo, Harry believes Spider-man’s blood will cure his disease and asks Peter Parker to convince the web-slinger to donate some. Spider-man’s being remarkably thoughtful as he turns Harry down, worrying more about the billionaire’s safety than the fact that Spidey’s blood will identify him as the son of Richard Parker. Unfortunately the webbed one doesn’t consider how a doomed, emotionally stunted billionaire might retaliate when denied what he believes to be a life-saving cure.

Harry has some awesome blue curtains. Sorry, what were we talking about?

You might answer “by throwing the vast resources of his company at capturing Spider-man” but Harry is booted out of Oscorp after Evil Businessman faked a file somewhere. This seems as logical as any other corporate action given that Harry can force his board of directors to answer directly to the secretary. Technically powerless but probably still in command of millions of dollars, Harry bluffs his way into the Ravencroft Institute to rescue Electro and take revenge on Spider-man.

What follows is a predictable fight-the-villain-in-his-lair sequence where Spidey confronts Electro in a power plant. Our heroes win after a lecture about eighth-grade science, the kind of thing you’d think Max Dillon - who designed the power plant - wouldn’t fall for.

Confession: I didn’t know Gwen Stacy was going to die. I didn’t realize she had to wear that specific outfit when she died, so it was kind of a shock. Peter’s grief seems appropriate, and throws into relief the whole “Peter Parker is just like me because he has normal person problems.” Yeah, like paying the rent, worrying about his relatives… oh, and being hunted by an infinite number of monsters and/or gangs and causing the death of at least one member of each family he’s close to. Sheesh.

It’s amazing he’s still sane.

Final Archstone

I’m totally out of these. I think. Continued from part two.

Oh good, I did have an airboat joke last time

  • CHLAMIDIOT: Minion cannot be killed on its first turn after being placed
  • REMEMBER SPACEBOT: Select a card from your opponent’s hand that they will never be allowed to play nor discard
  • RODNEY’S PERSONAL PROFESSIONAL RECOMMENDATIONS: Select the cards your opponent will play next turn
  • BOOM BUMPER: Hero gains 2 health after attacking their own minions
  • JUST IGNORE IT, IT’S NON-DIAGETIC: Minion cannot be targeted by enemy hero abilities
  • ET ME, BUDDY: After a friendly minion attacks an enemy minion, deal 1 damage to that enemy minion
  • YOU WIN SNAKE KNOWING: Kill any serpent on the board
  • NINETY DOLLAR MANICURE: Cast Divine Shield on a friendly minion
  • WHY ARE YOU STILL GOING HA: After receiving three hits on your hero, deal half the total damage to the enemy hero
  • SUPPRESSING FIRE EXTINGUISHER: Silence all enemy minions
  • RANDY GAVE ME A BIBLE LESSON: Remove any one friendly and one enemy minion from the board
  • HE’S BUTTONLESS: Grant any friendly minion Stealth

More Archstone

Video games, Archer quotes, and game design? I could make these up all day. Don’t miss part one.

We do need a card called CHOPPERSAURUS. But I couldn't think of a good joke for it.

  • PHRASING BOOM: Enemy hero takes damage after emoting
  • BARRY DOES IT HURT: Redirect all damage to adjacent minion
  • OKAY TRY GUEST: Defeat your opponent while at full health and receive their Battle.net password
  • AIRBOOOAT: Minion attacks enemy hero twice then dies
  • TIGER TRANQS, BITCHES: Minions deal double damage while all jungle animals are frozen
  • FISHERMAN’S WIFE: On death, summon a 3/2 octopus
  • HOMEBOY MCJEWERSON: Kill two targets damaged by your minions
  • NOOOPE: Minion refuses to attack enemies who will kill it
  • CLASSIC LUKE THE SPOOK: Pretend to send a minion to your opponent’s side as a double agent but it still attacks your minions
  • BISHLAMEK GURPGORK: Dogs and snakes do double damage on Friday
  • I’M PACMAN JONES: Spend in-game gold to damage your opponent
  • BURT REYNOLDS IS ON LINE OOONE!!!: Enemy minions take 1 damage when an elite minion is played
  • SAY HELLO TO SISTER MORPHINE: Heal minion for 5 damage but freeze it for two turns
  • MELAWAN RAJA: Force an enemy minion to attack a specific target on your side
  • A TONTINE LADS: Last minion on the board receives the full health of friendly minions killed this turn
  • HAHAHA LEAVE IT: When the enemy hero attacks your hero, take one of their cards
  • KRIEGER KLENSE: Fully heal all your minions and silence them
  • FOX-EARED ASSHOLE: Minion scratches adjacent minions when placed
  • THE ZONE WILL BE ONE OF DANGER: Opponent emotes a different phrase than what they selected
  • SAY DWARVEN TECHNOLOGY AGAIN: Increase weapon’s durability to 10
  • OSTRICH BURGER: Place a stealth 0/1 minion on your opponent’s side
  • EMERGENCY TRACHEOTOMY: Minion dies if not healed within two turns
  • IT’S JUST LIKE THE OLD GYPSY WOMAN SAID: Select an opponent’s minion to die at the end of their next turn
  • RAMPAAAGE: Minion gains +5 attack and Windfury but is reduced to 1 health
  • APOLOGIZE TO MY TINNITUS: Explosions adjacent to this minion also damage it

UPDATE: Not quite done with these yet.

Archstone

I’m addicted to Blizzard’s Hearthstone. Which is weird because I despise card games. Maybe not having to handle the physical cards is helpful? Or the simple-yet-complex strategy of the game itself? I’ve tried Magic the Gathering but it didn’t stick with me. I like how a game of Hearthstone can be over quickly so you’re not staring down two dozen cards in various orientations.

The other love of my life is Archer. While playing Hearthstone last night I wondered what the ISIS crew would make of this game. So here are some Archer-themed Hearthstone cards and effect ideas.

I swear, if my next Expert pack doesn't have the Pyroclast card I will literally die

  • TRUCKASAURUS: Minion can reach past enemy minions with taunt
  • OTHER BARRY: Minion leaves for two turns and returns with triple damage and health
  • HOW HARD IS IT TO POACH A GODDAMN EGG: If minion fails to kill target on the first attack, toss its clothing off the balcony
  • MR. BLOODMOBILE: Every time another minion attacks, lose 1 health
  • GREEN RUSSIAN: Attack power doubled next turn, then minion falls asleep for two turns
  • DR. SPELTZ CALLING: Minion’s attacks alternate between causing damage and having no effect
  • WHICH IS THIRD IN THE WORLD: Double damage when minion is the third one to attack in a turn
  • OH MY GOD THERE IS NO BOMB: Minion appears to do 10 damage but actually does zero
  • WHAT RAY, YOU ALREADY HAVE THE CHAIR: Minion temporarily goes down to 1 health during opponent’s turn
  • BLOB MARLEY: Silence three minions for one turn
  • JUST THE TIP: Enemy dies if your attack leaves them with 1 health
  • DIVERSITY DOUBLE WHAMMY: After playing this card, play another card of a different type
  • NOT AS MUCH AS I LOVE… CHOCOLATE: Attack damages target and two adjacent minions
  • DUCHESS: Rename a minion to something emasculating
  • M AS IN MANCY: Enemy minions hit themselves when attacking
  • I WILL LITERALLY DIE: Minion dies if not played every turn
  • MIND CONTROL MIKROCHIP: Enemy minion randomly attacks comrades when you cast a spell
  • BLOOD SWAP: Exchange health with an enemy minion
  • THIS IS GONNA BE AHHMAZING: Minion has +5 damage but silences adjacent minions when placed
  • THREE BIGGEST FEARS: Minion is unable to attack Crocolisks
  • CHOKE ME: Attacks less than 3 damage heal this minion
  • BENOIT: Hero says “BALLS” every time this minion attacks

UPDATE: Now with more Archstone

Horror-ible

Games like Amnesia and Outlast don’t really scare me.

Which is not to say that they aren’t scary. Insane asylums and spooky mansions are great settings for horror games, but there’s something missing from these titles. First let’s talk about the core of a horror game. What makes a horror game different from a horror movie?

Nice monster design, though. Does this guy have a name?

In the movie you’re supposed to identify or sympathize with the characters before bad things happen to them. But games are different. In video games you are the character. It’s usually your choice whether to split up or search the creaking dresser or open that rusting door. There are monsters about, to be sure, and dealing with said nasties is where Amnesia and its buddies diverge from games like System Shock 2, Bioshock, and Dark Souls.

When playing Amnesia I’m not scared of the monsters. I can’t fight them. All I can do is run and hide in a cupboard or blockade the door. And yeah, it’s a fun experience and pretty terrifying to my 10 year-old self, but the monsters don’t feel like a threat. When you face a monster in Amnesia you either escape from it or the thing kills you. They can’t take anything from me except my time from the last checkpoint. The lack of incremental damage and - crucially - choice kills the horror for me.

Encountering a monster in System Shock 2 can go any number of ways. I can run. I can whack it with a wrench if I’m out of ammo. I can spent precious bullets killing it. Maybe I’ll use a hypo to increase my speed and circle strafe while I’m wrenching the thing to death. Furthermore, the monster can do any amount of damage to my character, requiring me to use a med hypo or find a healing bed.

The point is, when I face a monster in System Shock 2 there’s an uncertainty to the fight. The game should be balanced so I’m pretty weak and combat is risky, but at least there’s some risk. I can do well in combat or I can do poorly, but each monster is going to take something from me that I’ll have to deal with before the next monster. Sometimes I’m so low on equipment that I don’t want to face the monster, requiring a stealthy approach.

L-l-l-look at you, hacker. A pathetic creature of meat and bone.

I don’t feel that dread in Amnesia. The developers know when each monster appears and where the player will have to run to escape it. There’s a little skill as you need to run and hide properly, but if you fail, well, no big deal! Just try again! It’s not going to affect your experience against the next monster. I’d like to see a mod for Amnesia where the “monster is chasing you” music is replaced with the Benny Hill theme.

That would be way more horrifying.

Paranoia+

The squealing of the Internet over Google’s purchase of Nest baffles me. Sure it’s not exactly their mandate of organizing the world’s information, but I fail to see the pants-wetting terror of an advertising company having access to my most personal integer: the temperature of my living room. It looks like another attempt by Google to get its hands an excellent hardware manufacturer ala Motorola. Even in an apartment I desperately want a Nest thermostat and some of those Protect smoke detectors.

What’s Google going to do? Most likely yes, they’ll integrate it with their other systems. Your Android phone would know if you’re coming home early and signal the thermostat to warm up earlier. With the knowledge of your vacation through Gmail the thermostat could turn itself off until you came back. I’m sure Google has better weather prediction than anyone else and can tune the system to be more responsive. For data privacy hounds this is a nightmare, but the rest of us will be one step closer to the house of the future. Integration with the “feared” Google+ should be the least of anyone’s worries.

Oh no, another social network for me to ignore! What unrelenting horror!

Speaking of things I don’t understand, how about the sturm und drang over Google+? Yes it’s a vaguely-failed social network, but it’s also the label for your Google account. Is this an if-by-whiskey argument? Nobody complains about an Apple ID signing you in to iTunes and Game Center and the App Store, do they? A Microsoft account gets you into Xbox and Outlook.com and Skype and there are no howls of protest. Complaining that you have to get a Google+ account sounds like tin foil hat types gibbering about getting a social security number. Neither Google nor the United States Government is forcing you to literally tattoo that on your forehead. Relax!

In fact, we’re pretty far from a doomsday scenario in tech.

You know how Amazon’s supposedly practicing predatory pricing to put other companies out of business so they can raise their prices? Borders is gone and Kindles haven’t gotten more expensive. Circuit City is gone and AmazonBasics HDMI cables haven’t gotten more expensive. I’m not arguing for the government to turn a blind eye to Amazon’s behavior but part of being a predator is eating your competition. Amazon seems content to starve them out of business and stay hungry forever.

My other favorite doomsday scenario (which I don’t have a hard time believing despite owning a ton of their electronics) is the Apple Apocalypse. This is the one where Apple extends the App Store’s restrictions on running software to OS X. In one way it’s already here: all new Macs ship with a toggle switch set to “only run apps signed by Apple and certified developers” but it’s trivial to turn off and run your favorite BitTorrent client. Next would be making a whitelist of all Internet sites Apple deems acceptable and marking the other ones as phishing scams to iOS Safari users. Finally they’d lock you out of your own content library and refuse to play any music or videos or let you read any books that aren’t sold by Apple.

Are you getting the chills or laughing your ass off?

Hard to tell from here.

Old Ben on the mountain

With respect, I think gaming has found its Andy Rooney. Ben Kuchera has been unleashed from the Penny Arcade Report to write scathing opinion articles for Polygon that sound like grammatically correct forum screeds. While I find myself agreeing with Ben on most counts, his latest volley against SimCity is slightly too much. Slightly.

Remember the rebooted SimCity from 2013? The one that consumed me utterly? Maxis is patching an offline mode into the game so you can play by yourself. Save and load individual cities. You know, the sort of thing we’ve taken for granted in the last 20 years of computer gaming. People are livid to read an official announcement without a mea cupla.

Those are hard to write, you know? Maxis made some huge gambles on the future of their franchise with multi-city regions, being always online, the whole individual simulation model. With multi-city regions leading to restrictively small lots; epic server downtime at launch; and the traffic and individual simulation shown to be illusory… how would you write a letter admitting those failures to your customers? Blizzard shows us one way, by treating it as a gameplay feature that didn’t work out rather than some moral cavity. Note how the word “sorry” or “apology” doesn’t appear in the actual text.

Pictured: the truth raining down on the simulation's facade

Maxis phrases their announcement similarly, although Patrick Buechner does apologize… for not starting the post by wishing everyone a happy new year. The rest of it is the standard “we care about modders so long as they play by our hilariously restrictive rules” baloney. Patrick finishes by linking to his Twitter account, reminding me so much of how Tony Stark ends impromptu press conferences.

I agree with Ben that Maxis should say something about why they’ve gone back on their previous decisions, but in some cases he’s putting words in their mouth. Lucy Bradshaw said “It wouldn’t be possible to make the game offline without a significant amount of engineering work by our team” which is not the same as ”offline modes would never be offered.”

Maybe the reason EA and Maxis don’t seem to care so much about this “breach of trust” is because, like all companies run by human beings, they don’t see themselves as bad people. Apple doesn’t think it’s wrong to organize a price fixing conspiracy or cheat consumers out of warranties on two continents.

Besides, software development takes time! Maxis can’t just clap their hands and materialize these features. They have to be carefully written and thoroughly tested. Writing game code is hard, and part of game development is shipping that code. It can be challenging to tell ”when it’s done,” and you could spend forever adding features and fixing bugs. But if you’re going to continue to exist as a studio you have to put that game in the hands of consumers and face the music.

For what little it’s worth, I adored SimCity. Fundamentally broken but still fun. Maybe it’s fixed now. I’m glad to see these new features and look forward to whatever the modding community comes up with. You know, assuming Maxis approves your particular reskin.

Node thank you

People who work with Node.js could tell you what’s actually wrong with the language. I can only complain about the surface-level issues. But here’s a big one: starting a Node server (and its inevitable Mongo database) is a pain in the butt.

Whereas it’s trivially easy to get a Ruby or PHP server running all the time through Apache, Node.js prefers to be started manually. I’m not happy with any of the daemons I’ve found to automate these things.

Luckily I have Automator.

After a few days of poking around I’ve written a script that starts the database, web server, then loads Chrome and hits the URLs for my app and its debug monitor. I share them with you all in the hope that your Node woes will be absolved.

Download the Automator application to start Mongo and Node servers