Tuesday, June 28, 2016

EVE are Legion !

After spending three months this spring revisiting EVE-Online, I yammered a bit about some of its good and bad points. I've still yet to see anything even close to the quality of EVE's market system in other games and through this and a small amount of open-world building/destruction by players (starbases) EVE much more closely approaches the ideal of a true MMO than other products advertising themselves as such. On the other hand, it has suffered the usual decline in quality in terms of facilitating griefing, force-feeding players the "right" choice in developing their character and gear, trivializing player control over resources and investment in resource gathering, plus has never outgrown the limitations of its now antiquated core mechanics.

However, EVE shares its greatest failing with the rest of the industry. Indeed, more than anything, the industry standard of legitimized cheating has, over the past fifteen years or so, gradually made online games increasingly unpalatable. Though EVE has only recently added a cash shop fitting the model of its competitors, in reality it legitimized bribery as a means of player advancement from the very start, albeit in its particular, rather unusual way.

While bumming around various solar systems, you might do a double-take at seeing very similar names in your chat box. The first few times you see two or three player names with the same format you might shrug it off as, ida know, maybe a husband and wife team playing together? Awww, how schweet.
You'd be wrong. You might assume that seven or ten accounts all sharing the same name represent seven or ten players, some tightly-knit clan so hardcore that being in the same corporation just isn't enough for them and they have to resort to old-school tags in their very names!
You'd be wrong. Though obviously the examples above may very well be exceptions to the rule, what you're looking at in such cases is one player running two, three, even twelve accounts. This version of cheating was always quite common in browser strategy games around Y2K and to figure out how it became the rule in EVE we have to go back to the very beginning, to basic character advancement mechanics.

Early MMOs tended to use the high-brow version of character advancement, skill-based systems in which you improve each skill by using it. Your heavy armor skill improves as you get hit while wearing heavy armor. Your fireball skill improves with every ball you fire. Think Skyrim. The simplified, dumbed-down D&D alternative of class-based, level-based gameplay nonetheless came a close second and immediately gained overwhelming popularity as World of Warcraft copycats took over the market. Both systems nonetheless require active player involvement, which means a twelve year old playing five hours a day will rapidly out-pace someone with a full-time job playing a couple of hours every other night.

EVE offered offline character advancement. Select a skill and it increases slowly, second by second, for as long as your account is active, whether or not you're logged in and regardless of what you're doing. To my great shame, I initially bought into this notion (mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, I was young and foolish) and thought this system would be the greatest thing since sliced goblins. Of course, you can double your skill improvement by doubling your accounts. Don't like having to buy minerals or materials through EVE's market system? Just pay CCP another $13/mo and you can effortlessly skill up your very own resource harvester alt. Don't like having to haul your equipment in a small ship? Another $13/mo and you can skill up your very own freighter alt! Easy as pie in the sky.

The most basic rule of games, by definition, is parity. Everyone pays the same entrance fee. Everyone gets the same equipment. Everyone kicks the same ball. Every player gets the same number of chess pieces. Every team has the same number of players! In EVE, however, you quickly run into jaw-dropping aberrations like the following conversation, re-iterated endless times by countless players in countless chats throughout the game's history.

"How many accounts do you have?"
"2 but mulling over a third if I can get it to make financial sense"
"I have 3 accounts with 1 main character on each. Two of them have a second hauler character."
"3 accounts"
"Just one, and probably never any more than that."
"Two, but I don't actually play them. Ones a titan, the other's a command ship whore that I let leadership use."
"I used 2 accounts myself and had access to 3 additional accounts."
"2, But thinking of starting another. What for? I dunno yet..."
"Two accounts. One for PvP, one to fund my PvP habit."
"5 accounts. I could plex them all but I'd rather have iskies for my toonies and pay for year long subs instead."
"4, thinking of 5. Each one I add will pay for itself in plex. Its just a matter of wanting to spend the time dealing with it."
"One can't see myself getting a second one for a while but it seems like I need one and I don't really like that."
"1 account, 3 toons"
"12 ... been down to 9 ... fuck you, capital construction... Ninja Edit: Also, fuck you :ccp: for tempting me with cheap gametime... and fuck you plex market for slowly dropping to a reasonable level. Gosh, fuck EVE"
"9 at the moment...I think."
"15 accounts, playing simultaniously on 5 computers with 3 monitors each 1 x orca 9 x mining 1 x hauler 4 x security"
"Two accounts. One to make the ISK, the other to burn it."
"4 active, 6 total."
"I am almost in the exact same situation as yourself I have 2 accounts with 1 character on each. I have a incursion character on one and a PvP character on the other."
"I have two active accounts with one character on each."
"3 accounts 2 Characters on all three."
"3 accounts, 9 toons"
"4 at the moment"
"Three currently!"
"(main) (scouting alt) (ratting/scouting alt) (ratting/scouting alt) (neutral proteus/moros alt) (bonus alt)
"At he momment I have one main with 60+mill sp and two fairly fresh one breaking 20mill sp soon and one inn the low 3-4mill sp."
"2. My first is a mining character and I was looking at a rorqual later, but the changes fucked me up. My other I'm training for incursion"
"I have two"
"3 Accounts"
"One active, my char from 2006 and an inactive exploration/salvager char I didn't feel like paying for anymore."
"4 atm."
"4 accounts, with 4 main characters."
"I currently have one account, i've always wanted a second one for pvp or for anything honestly."
"This time 3 on 2 accounts (previous singular character is gone)."
"2 accounts. Couldn't ever see having more than that"
"6 accounts"
"6 accounts, 4 active."
"7 - Each with a main character, a trade alt (Jita, Amarr, Rens, etc), and a Cyno alt."
"Hit a high point of around 25, now around about 8. The rest are all inactive/unsubbed."
"32 - I'm currently running a character farm... kinda like the matrix but without all the mess"
"I love these threads because I get to show how stupid I am for having 15 accounts I'm plexing and a few more alts"

Not bothering pasting every reply. Yes, a few hold-outs persist, gritting their teeth with a single account. Hat's off to you, my masochistic friends, but you really need to find a better hobby. Also, I love all the idiots puffing their chests believing they hold some moral high-ground by ONLY running two or three accounts at a time, like the idiot jocks bragging that they're "only" artificially oxygenating their blood and are therefore so much more ethical than the ones pumping steroids.

Fucking retards.

Before you ask, yes, this was a problem from the start of the game but not nearly as rampant. My guild leader in 2003 ran two accounts from the start, but she was the only one (maybe two) in our ten to twenty-player corporation. CCP saw the potential and ran with it, incorporating multiple accounts and real-money trading at every into the core of their marketing plan until EVE became, more than "the PvP MMO" and more than the only one with a real market system, utterly defined by its status as the multibox MMO. The latest big gameplay addition, planetary industry (EVE's answer to Farmville) was obviously designed to give as much of an advantage as possible to players with multiple accounts. Its profitability scales very poorly with a long time investment but very well with shallow investment across multiple characters.

After running through CCP's offer for three months for the price of one and feeding my nostalgia, I was sort of torn on whether to continue for three more months. Playing around with the rather robust crafting system was still fun, after all. Then I got ganked, losing a month's worth of crafted goods. I quit in disgust when I realized I'd started thinking this would've been so much simpler if I'd had a second account to do my hauling. This of course reminded me that the very reason half a dozen players could camp that station 24/7 is that as they're sitting there each of them also has a second and third and fourth and thirteenth account getting them an advantage by mining / hauling / farming / spying, etc.

So yeah, fuck EVE and fuck the degenerate scum cluttering it. Once you allow cheating you begin attracting the sort of pathetic trash who want to cheat. Once you encourage it you lose any pretense of legitimacy.

By the way, if you want a fun exercise, try reminding EVE players that they are in fact cheating, every second they run more than one character and with every month of game time they buy with real money and then sell to another player for an in-game advantage. Be ready for some mind-boggling performances of mental gymnastics as they twist themselves in knots trying to justify themselves. No, it's not really cheating because I'm not actively hacking CCP's server. No, but you see, it's not real-money-trading because I'm not giving the money directly to another player, it has to go through CCP first. Nonono, you see, it's not really unfair because only one of my characters is an active combat pilot, and the rest are just paying for it.

Then of course, you've got the inevitable hiding behind authority, pretending that as long as unfairness is legalized by authority it's not really unfair. Aaaaand of course the other dodge: no, but you see it's not giving me that much of an advantage, not really and truly, just a little bit, it's almost as if it doesn't even matter. Bullshit! If it didn't give you an advantage, you would not be doing it!

One player, one account, one character at a time. It's the only way multiplayer games should ever be run.

P.S.: Keep this in mind if you ever see CCP bragging about its subscriber statistics by the way. Two to three accounts are now THE RULE in EVE, not to mention the handful of addicts running ten or more accounts at once. They may show 27,000 accounts online at once, but that boils down to under ten thousand players for certain, more likely a bit less than that.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

I am my own grandpa

For the past few days I've been diving breathlessly into Banished (a shockingly good game, if not exactly perfect) and the many, many, many... many times I've been forced by some miscalculation to scrap my city and start over have brought to mind an old nuisance that seemingly will just not die out.

As I've repeatedly and at length expounded in the past, naming is more than just window-dressing in games. It expresses identity. I am Werwolfe, from my unstable temperament to my love of nature and social pariah status to my predilection for anachronism to whatever other real, imagined or self-imposed character traits I care to assign myself.

So I, the wise and ever-Byronic mayor Werwolfe, welcome you to the scenic village of Nyctimus on the banks of the... the... of the... wait, that ain't right.
Esthervile? What the hell? I didn't write that. I don't even know anyone named "Ville." Why isn't my town's name Nyctimus? My town / planet / space station / undisclosed location names are always either Niflheim or Nyctimus. "Werwolfe of Estherville" kinda lacks that mythic tonality, y'know?

So yeah, I hate the auto-fill. I hate it in city sims. I hate it in TBSes:
I hate it especially in RPGs, the last genre where you should ever be prompted to surrender the choice of your own identity.
To clarify, I've got nothing against the availability of a name randomizer. It's a useful tool. Maybe you want to take a randomized name and make it your own, appending your own meaning to it or building your character around it. Off the top of my head, Aedan above sounds sort of like Aiden so maybe I want to make him into a truly Edenic Lawful Good stick-in-the-mud and play that role to the hilt. Maybe you just want to use the name randomizer as inspiration. In LotRO I flipped through scores of randomized names for each of my characters, not to actually choose one, but to see what kind of suffixes and such to use to massage my mythological mutt names into something Middle-Earthling.

However, the randomizer should never be the default. The player should always be presented with the blank name box, the grand question of "who are you?" The randomizer button should stand nearby as a backup, but personal choice should always come first.

And yeah, it seems like a minor issue, having to drag-select and hit delete, and I've likely put more work into this post than it would take me to delete hundreds of randomized names, but it's the principle of the thing, you know? It should be the people with no imagination who have to go to the trouble of that extra click, not me. Not those who want to think for them-elves.
I know where I came from. But where did all you zombies come from?

Friday, June 24, 2016

A Letter to the English People

Dear delusional cretins,

I speak as one of those despicable overly-mannered continentals who skipped right over the cliffs of Albion to the other continent to become a crass, brassy, loudmouth ugly American. My main interest in the British Isles resolves to an utter disgust with the nonsensical, slapdash, disorganized nightmare of Heathrow layovers.

Now, when I heard of this whole Brexit debacle, I immediately and as it turns out quite mistakenly assumed it would turn out like the Scottish secession, a tempest in a teapot brewed by nationalist reactionaries stirring up the discontent of the lower classes for their own self-aggrandizement. Well, I'll hazard a guess that italicized portion holds true. Then again, every single region of the globe has its share of chauvinists somehow convincing themselves that their particular city / state / country / country-club, if only it would isolate itself from the despicable foreign element, would become a shining beacon of civilization yadda-yadda bullshit. I realized the Scottish referendum was akin to, say, Texan separatism, and most Texans and Scots know damn well there's more to a functional society than chest-thumping tribalism, no matter how appealing it may be.

But if it would be self-destructively impractical for Texas to secede, it would be utterly suicidal for New York to do so. The core of London seems to know this as well. The most interesting part of this whole thing to me are the demographics of the referendum, particularly the very clear regression toward separatist idiocy with increasing voter age. Precisely the opposite of what I'd have expected. After the initial shock at this lunacy actually climbing over 50% of the populace, I assumed it must've been the result of some spur of the moment rabblerousing, the sort of revolutionary spirit which tends to run rampant among the youth of any society. I pictured several million chavs and football hooligans swarming the polls to dictate the fate of their betters.

Shows how little I know about the English mentality. So what are we looking at here? The young realize England's part of Europe. Scotland and Ireland know better. The educated center of London seems to realize it must cling to its continental ties. Is all this just the lingering resentment of the aging English provincial middle class pining for the glory days of imperial wealth? For the respectability of sitting in the epicenter of a dying world empire, the glorious past today's fifty-somethings imagine their parents might have enjoyed?

Okay, details aside, I'd just like to point out one tiny core concern: Britain's golden age was a plunder-based economy. You no longer have your precious empire, and you're not getting it back. The next world empire's going to be China. Deal with it. England is now a very overcrowded piece of chalk, fifty million of you dancing on the head of a pin. Your main export these days is nostalgia. Your industrial growth was based on wool and peat bogs. Your early 20th century economy hinged on parasitic militarism. What do you even have that's relevant to an information-age economy? Uranium? Oil? Silicates? Copper? High-turnover intensive agriculture? Give me a freaking break, your wheat needs tanning salons just to sprout up there. "More powerful" without the EU? You can't even feed yourselves!

England's (and Britain's overall) fate since WWII has been the inevitable dieback the center of any empire experiences with the loss of its victims. I cannot begin to fathom the myriad inscrutable cut-throat machinations by which British leadership has staved off the collapse, but your inherently untenable position cannot last much longer. Whatever time you've borrowed you've done so at the mercy of your hated continental cousins, and economic unity, that amazing first move toward a truly open, cosmopolitan, post-nationalist society is your only chance toward a peaceful, respectable senescence instead of the apocalyptic vision of a starving, bankrupt former European aristocracy tearing up highways in desperation for more arable land.

Quasi-sincerely yours,

P.S.: By the way, when it comes to economics, trade and anything else money-related? Might want to actually listen to your stingy Scottish constituency...

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

ST: TNG - Data, AI and the Holodeck

In an effort to relive my early teens, I am re-watching old episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It is both better and worse than I remembered it, as was my youth most likely.

Seriesdate: 1.13

Smarmometer detects severe infestation of Wesleyitis! Proceed at your own risk!
Actually, as this episode is rather representative of, among other things, Wesley Crusher's negative influence, I'll have to address its Weaselier side when I get around to that topic. Suffice it to say that while the entire rest of the crew are somehow taken in by the impersonation of Data by his evil twin brother, only Wesley, wonderful, magical Wesley, can see through the (very flimsy) ruse.
I'll also have to address the evil twin angle when he shows up again. Which I seem to remember he will. For my purposes here I'd just like to draw everyone's attention to the episode number. Thirteen. We're only thirteen episodes into the series, during which, aside from a few scenes here and there, Data had done precious little to nothing.

Data was basically Spock 2.0, his character being defined by his inhuman nature and not individual personality traits. Now, Spock also acquired an evil twin in the infamous Mirror Mirror episode (remember the one with the inexplicable goatee?) However, this was about halfway through the series, and the original series' smaller cast had lent us ample time to delight in Spock qua Spock before such a cheesy gimmick had to be dredged up to throw the character in a new light. Data, on the other hand, was still largely an unknown quantity by this early point in TNG, diluted by the larger cast. Not only had his Pinocchio schtick not been introduced yet but even his abilities as an android had not been explored much.

I don't think I'd have noticed it without watching the series in order but this issue ran rampant during the first thirty or so episodes. The main characters are thrown into new situations causing personal trauma and altering their worldview... before we'd ever seen that worldview, before they had been properly introduced to the audience, before we had a good look at the status quo which such gimmickry challenges. Troi, Data, Picard, Riker, Worf, pretty much every character suffered from this tendency, which I assume must've been inserted into the show by someone very high in the creative hierarchy.

How the hell TNG ever made it past its first season, I have no idea.


Seriesdate: 2.03
Elementary Dear Data

I've never much liked holodeck episodes. They're a cop-out. TNG's producers certainly seem to have loved them, probably because they got to re-use sets, props and costumes from other shows without investing in SF-ish gadgetry. So far, the production values in holodeck scenes, whether Victorian England, mobster 1940s, what-have-you, certainly seem much higher than TNG's own flavor of decor. More lavishly primped up, more extras, etc.
Still, they're a cop-out, having nothing to do with the Enterprise boldly going and all that jazz; a way of avoiding SciFi settings in a SciFi show. But hey, the cast certainly sank their teeth into the cheesy half-assed period acting and costumes, so aside from my ideological opposition, I must admit this turned out rather entertaining.
Lookin' dapper, chappers.
Data likes playing Sherlock.
Actually, wasn't this part of what made the characters on TNG so lovable? Militaristic jargon aside, they are all such giant freakin' nerds! Seriously, they spend half their free time in mathematical simulations and the other half roleplaying.
But anyway, Data's a total munchkin. Instead of playing the modules fresh, he's memorized all the Sherlock stories so he always has the winning ticket. In order to challenge him, Geordi orders the computer to create a worthy opponent. The computer programs a sentient Dr. Moriarty program, who takes control of the holodeck and kidnaps Dr. Pulaski but by the end of the episode has grown past the limitations of his villainous origins, prompting a lovely scene in which Picard respectfully preserves the life of this novel sentient being.
Get it "sentient novel" eh? Oh, I slay me.

But wait, what did I just say? The Enterprise's computer just created a new sentience on command? Just like that? All that claptrap about the brilliant, inimitable work of the singular genius Dr. Noonien Soong in creating Data, and it turns out the Enterprise's computer can "make it so" in all of three seconds?

Kinda fizzles Data's uniqueness, doesn't it?
What's worse, this seems to happen nearly every other time they flip on the holodeck.
Hey, it's a recreational device with a one in three-ish episodes' chance of spawning a hideous self-aware cybernetic abomination. Fun!


Seriesdate: 2.04
The Outrageous Okona

Woo, back-to-back holodeck goodness. Someone saved a bundle on sets and props by switching to 20th century.
Anyhoo, meet Captain Kirk's illegitimate grandson... and his totally legit ponytail.

Okay fine, so Okona's not really related to the honorable James T. Crotchgrab, but he might as well have been. Aside from being played by a better actor than Shatner was back during the original series, Okona's largely the same daring, adventurous, young but rich and/or in charge, capable and independent ladies' choice of male archetypes. And he's wearing a motorcycle jacket in space! Oh well, at least it's not a turtleneck this time. Before long, Picard's stuck trying to mediate between two different planets where Okona's made free with the crown jewels or made even free-er with his family jewels, if you catch my nine months' drift. Then of course you're treated to a TV-quality twist ending that'll have you yawning with suspense.
Whatever. Not what I came here for. I'm here for the jokes. See, Okona tells jokes. Data doesn't get said jokes. Data tries to learn jokes, hilarity ensues (not really) thus winds up once again, for no particular reason, in the holodeck.

This is basically the first episode to feature Data's quest for the human condition and I must say they kicked it off in a really weird way. Aside from Guinan delivering a classic SF one-liner ("you're a droid and I'm a-noid") Data spends most of his half of the episode being mentored in human humor by a hologram. Once again, instead of taking full advantage of Data's alien mindset to play him off against normal human counterparts, the show's writers mistakenly double down on their two main computerized elements.

Admittedly, the pathos of Data's moment of realization before the 1980s comedy club audience he simulated for himself came off quite well, but I can't help questioning this choice of venue. How much more poignant would Data's failures have been if he's been trying 24th century jokes on 24th century Enterprise crew members instead of simulating an audience which would have meant nothing to him or to anyone else. After all, those of us learning how to tell jokes these days don't ask ourselves "boy, I wonder how this one about the finger and bellybutton would play in a tavern in pre-Enlightenment Rotterdam?"

Though obviously intended as a major character on the show from the start, the Data role was very awkwardly handled for the first season and a half. Instead of being "the android" in the same way Spock was "the Vulcan" Data repeatedly gets tossed into plots involving other robots, computers, mining equipment, sentient holograms, anything and everything mechanical which diluted his persona. Even when playing up his uncanny valley lack of humor, it's before a simulated audience. Only starting with this episode does his Pinocchio meta-plot begin to lend him some more defined features.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Blanding

Riding its cavalcade of poor design decisions into the living death of failed online games, The Secret World has so far barely managed to stay borderline kinda sorta playable due to its inspired, atmospheric setting and writing. This manifests in part in the coherent spin the writers put on TSW's version of deed/badge/achievement unlocks, the lore descriptions. Exploring various locations doesn't accumulate mere tired little one-liners as in most games but opens up, paragraph by paragraph, scores of pages of rather flamboyantly word-smithed vignettes presenting each game concept/location/monster from the point of view of "The Buzzing" - the bee-themed hive-mind impersonation of Gaia incarnate.

These rather bubbly, giddy, semi-coherent passages, through their unmistakable personality, have lent TSW a great deal of continuity and identity which may otherwise have gotten lost in the half-baked clutter of nonsensical features. When, with the Tokyo expansion, a second set of Lore entries was added, it too was designed from the start as a coherent personality instantly recognizable by the player, this time a bit of grungy film noir grit to offset the bees' sweetness. Other recurring characters' text followed suit, maintaining a specific persona, providing consistent touchstones by which players can interpret their adventures. Richard Sonnac's haughty, restrained, respectable aloofness came through with every paragraph lamenting mangled children or bad wine-making.

So what's been happening now in TSW? Well, after releasing their latest "issue" which boiled down to a grand total of one mission bundled with a bunch of old ones for a new price, Funcom finally implemented the closest thing yet to player housing: the museum! There you can mount replicas of various monsters on display, but if and only if you've collected all the new lores implemented for every monster type, endless numbers of them. A great big collectible heap of timesink for players to chase, all in one gulp, with no fanfare to wash it down.

Anyone notice something different? Compare the old lores' style:
To the New:
The bees still call you sweetling, and that's as much of the old buzz as has been retained. Suddenly, TSW's lores have acquired the stilted, stiff, nondescript, uninspired tone of my own ramblings, my own talentless obsession with the declarative "to be." Don't ask me how. Maybe they fired whoever wrote all that older free-running prose, maybe the same writers simply put out much less inspired material as a massive rush job as filler. Still, if your flavor text starts sounding like something an amateur blogger with a grand total of ten readers could put out, you're either bland or incoherent or both. It's not so much that the writing's bad as that it's nothing, the same nothing one could find in any other perfunctory customer-fleecing device from Funcom's competitors.
This is a description of a monster, from subject to verb with precisely the acceptable ratio of adjectives per punctuation.
And no, the picture doesn't have to match the topic, while we're at it. How silly of you to suggest.

Through all its failures, TSW's writing, voice acting and atmosphere have carried it farther than it should ever have gotten. A half-baked group system tacked onto a single-player game, hopelessly mangled by trying to shoehorn in PvP mechanics where they never belonged, compounded by obvious budget cuts upon cuts, flubbed releases, new instances that nobody seems to actually want to play, yet another PvP instance which drove away more players than it satisfied, more effort poured into the game's cash shop than actual content, a monstrous gear-farming treadmill separating players from each other, yeah, TSW had all the problems one expects from this degenerate avorton of a genre once called MMOs.

But the writing, up until now, had stayed good. It had stayed interesting. Hell, their big Halloween event a couple years back was nothing but flavor text yet still enjoyable despite the blatant rip-off. Is this TSW now swearing off even decent flavor text, and do they expect to survive jettisoning their last bit of fuel? Burning down Rome was bad enough but now even your fiddlin's gotten worse, Nero!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Involuntarily Closeted

Funny, as I only catch up on the news every few days, I managed to post my rant about sexual freedom and gay rights' decreasing relative relevance a couple of days after some idiot decided to prove me wrong by shooting up a gay nightclub. Isn't my face red. Well, not really, since the event touches on my greater point about sexual repression, but I'll get to that in a moment.

First off: religion. Sick, idiotic, primitive pretext for every kind of oppression and villainy you care to name. Add this example to the pile - and yes, this latest mass-murderer's Muslim, big surprise. For every left-wingnut crying about "islamophobia" we're rapidly accumulating a matching brainwashed loser who's shot up, blown up or burned down a restaurant, church, airplane, night club, etc. for the greater glory of Mohammed's whiskers.

Second: guns. You don't get to pretend it's not a problem! If you flood the market with them, the people who want to use them will, and those with better things to do will become victims. For all the moronic Libertarian bullshit arguments about self-defense, the assuredly well-armed population of Orlando responded to this attack the same way bystanders do in every other shooting: they ran the other way! How many attacks have actually been foiled by all these heroic true-blue, amendment-adoring all-American gap-toothed rednecks with gun racks in their pickup trucks?

Finally, can we all just acknowledge that a great part of this cretin's problem was likely the mountain of self-hatred brought about by closeted sexuality? Salon is all too eager to heap ridicule, vitriol and condemnation upon self-declared "involuntarily celibate" straight white boys and their violent revenge fantasies. However, will all the self-serving feminist mouthpieces who have made careers out of bashing men dare to include this non-Christian, non-white, non-heterosexual in their diatribes? Will they admit how closely this man's repressed sexuality echoes that of the left wing's favorite targets? I would guess not. Omar Mateen's privilege rating places him squarely among anti-intellectual facetious regressives' favorite lapdogs.

So great care must be taken never to admit that the thought crimes for which the likes of Salon lambastes twenty-something straight white male social outcasts were actually put into practice by a gay Muslim Middle-Easterner. Might have to admit that religion - any religion, including those being attacked by Western corporate imperialism - breeds disgustingly diseased abortions of thought. Might have to admit that being gay does not endow one with higher ethical thought and that most of Americans' rhetoric about "oppressed minorities" is nothing but smoke and mirrors to distract from more realistic interpretations. Worse, they might have to admit that the old-style closeted, taboo, repressed sexual impulses, the desperate self-hatred brought about by religious vilification of sexuality transitions seamlessly into the past several decades' surrender of public discourse to feminists' new-style, relentless fundamentalist vilification of sex, men, and especially men's desire for sex.

Ah, well. I generally avoid writing back-to-back "humanity" posts, but this seemed too apropos to pass up.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Perverting Perversion

Funny word "perversion" isn't it? Homosexuals used to be called perverts, with all the vicious denigration and abuse inherent in that social condemnation. Oh, of course it had its facetious justification. Absent the ever-present superstitious kow-towing to the dictates of imaginary religious figures up in the sky, the moral majority resorted to the perennial favorite "won't somebody please think of the children" and male homosexuals were hunted down as pederasts preying upon young innocents (never mind the young have never been that innocent) or dangerous lunatics.

But hey, we're past all that now. We're enlightened. We're modern. We're cool with it. In 2016, few outside the backwaters of religious zealotry would dare run "faggots" out of town. We stand up for that one-fiftieth of the population, as we should. Straight men have been fired for asking gay co-workers to stop staring at them. A stupidly paranoid and extreme PC thuggish over-reaction, admittedly, but containing a grain of truth. Staring's harmless. Expressing a casual sexual interest is harmless. In the era of cheap STD screening, condoms, safe abortion and premarin, sex itself is harmless.

So what if a woman tells a heterosexual man to stop staring at her? Would that be prejudice? Would she get fired? Irrelevant question. In that situation we need only wonder how quickly he gets booted out the door on her say-so.

Isn't it funny that the same "progressive" women prancing around with tassels on their nipples in "slut walks" will not hesitate to slap a man into whiplash and demand he lose his livelihood if they catch him staring at their cleavage? It's funny. So sitcoms teach us. Ha-ha. Funny. Laugh, damn you. Oh, the grand macabre farce of human behavior. It never stops delivering.

Of course, it has its facetious justifications. Men have to be beaten down whenever they express sexual interest in women, because, you see, all men are pederasts rapists.

In 2016 cosmopolitan, urbane western discourse, a gay man staring at a straight man's ass is a saint. A straight man staring at a woman's ass is a pervert. Perversion's a funny word. Misusing something, re-purposing it, abusing it. We like doing that. We're creative little monkeys, after all. We find new uses for pegs and holes of different shapes, new victims for old abuse. Why throw away perfectly workable slander? Whatever freedom homosexuals have gained in the name of decriminalizing "perversion" is restricted only to them, as a token show of political correctness. Thank every goddess of sexuality that ever was that a grand total of 4% of the population has escaped vilification. Wooptie-fucking-doo

Meanwhile, we're more certain than ever that 45% of the population is composed of perverts. Perverts who like looking at women's breasts.
Perverts who like big butts and cannot lie.
Perverts who have the gall to verbally abuse a woman by directly asking her if she wants to have sex or (mon dieu!) even worse, not ask her, thereby imposing their heinous male preferences upon her body image!
*slap* *slap*
Perverts who would like to have sex with a woman without being chained to her for decades afterward and bled to support her.

Instead of becoming a wedge in the wall of traditionalist sexual repression as it should have been, homosexuality and trans-sexuality have become distractions from the greater issue of sexual freedom - because, of course, true sexual freedom would undermine the greatest, most pervasive perversion of all, the primordial doctrine of male obligation to women. Women's instinctive attitude of hoarding sex like a resource by which to secure a lifetime's worth of work from a male, the presumption that men should be made to beg and slave for sex, the nickle-and-dime valuation of every half-hour's worth of sex in days and months' worth of indulging a woman's every whim from sappy movies to listening to every inane detail of her life to decorating her apartment to the outright monetization of sex in the guise of diamond jewelry, child support, a house, alimony, all that? That whole routine which gets glorified as "romance?"

That's perversion. That's perverting the simple act of sex more than anal fisting or nipple clamps ever could, twisting it beyond recognition, burying it beneath a lifetime's worth of guilt, head-games and manipulation. And yet, it's men who are constantly ridiculed and vilified as "perverts" for their sexual preference for sex itself - more proof, feminists assure us, that our world must somehow be a patriarchy.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016


I've finally gotten around to playing Syberia 2, replaying the first game as well while I'm at it (which I'd mostly run through back when they came out) and for better or worse I must say: this is what happens when you let a cartoonist design games.

Well, as almost all other players have said, these are incredibly pretty adventures. Relatively high-budget for adventure games and utilizing, if not the highest, certainly what was in 2002 some pretty high-end graphics software, Syberia's visuals were detailed and artistically inspired enough to remain eye-catching more than a decade later... at least as static images, because the animations leave a lot to be desired. Sokal illustrated a lavish, languid picture-book full of colorful, emblematic locales but largely failed to incorporate these into a truly interactive experience. If I had to pin down the most concise encapsulation of Syberia's failings:
At one point, the heroine must scale a vertical wall of ice creased by endless fractures which you're obviously meant to use as handholds. Occasionally, you have to shift from the left to the right of the wall to continue upwards. Unfortunately the pattern of visual cues (cracks) in no way matches where your character places her hands and feet, nor is there any but the flimsiest correlation of available hand and foot-holds to the left or right with the actual route you must take. The visuals, no matter how lovingly detailed or imaginative, have little relevance to the task at hand. This refrain keeps repeating throughout the games, much more jarringly and annoyingly so in the second one. Just one more example:
At one point, your "dog" runs off to chase something. You find him by a stream, having chased off a beaver mid-way through chopping down a tree. Turns out it's a stream you need to cross. Obviously, you need to somehow finish dropping the tree over the water as a makeshift bridge.
You can't interact with the tree.
You have a box of matches but you can't set fire to the tree.
Your animal sidekick likes fish. You get a fish. Can you pin it to the tree to make the animal knock it down for you? Of course not.
You have to walk one screen over, feed the fish to the animal in a completely random location, whereupon it, in its excitement, runs back here where you find the tree mysteriously felled over the water, presumably by the overexcited pet's antics.

In a comic book, this would make for an adorable little scene. In an interactive medium, where the player's decisions are supposed to drive the action, it's utterly idiotic.

It's a little unfair for me to keep using examples from the second game, as it suffered the usual nosedive in quality we've come to associate with the term "sequel." The sequel is hopelessly mired in such utter randomness and insane pixel-hunting for non-sequiturs. At one point you have to pick up a wooden peg randomly fallen by a pile of clutter, half-buried in the snow, very nearly illustrating a needle in a needlestack. The original made a fair bit more sense and was also a more interesting, more inspired work.

Though outwardly centered on an idiot savant's obsession with finding living mammoths in Siberia, the first Syberia used this only as a pretext for a wistful look back at the increasingly forgotten social milieu of early 20th-century Europe. It matches, if anything, the spirit of Grand Budapest Hotel - the wistful, romanticized nostalgia for a largely fabricated world which died before the story's heroes were even born, a proud cosmopolitan creative juggernaut languishing in its own decadence and self-imposed obsolescence. Starting in a little artisanal community in the French Alps dying around its factory of steampunk tinkertoys now being put out of business by electric and electronic gadgetry, you set off to find Hans, the genius who can give life to mere conglomerations of gears. Hans Voralberg himself is busy chasing his own obsession with mammoths, his own dreams of a world forgotten before he himself was ever born. Yet everywhere you go his influence remains, an entire railway of creative genius running through a decrepit self-important university town with the unlikely name of Baroque-stadt, past an overzealous military gatekeeper still waiting for the Cossacks to invade, further through a fuming, wrought-iron ode to self-destructive Soviet industry and its dreams of the stars, to a lavish health spa with a single aging guest and two caretakers.

The sequel, on the other hand, was pretty much phoned in. It resigns itself to a mere children's story centered on an adorable big-eyed animal sidekick and a cackling, ugly pointy-nosed villain and the remaining pathos of its major plot twists is completely lost in the sheer frustration of its puzzles, almost all of which have to be brute-forced without any hints or coherent planning. The incessant interruptions of phone calls and cutscenes of Kate Walker's former life as a New York lawyer, annoying but illustrative in the first game, become utterly irrelevant in the second.

At the very least, the first Syberia is worth playing. Bask in its musty melancholy reminiscence of the creative, adventurous spirit of days past. If you like it, by all means run through the second for the sake of extending the experience, but don't even bother trying to solve the puzzles (cheating's no shame in such a pointless task) and be ready to fast-forward past many annoyingly cheap, cliched children's comic-book routines

I am amused at the perhaps inadvertent commentary on idealism the two games embody. In the first, Siberia and its mammoths stand outside the player's reach. The game itself consists of the race for that grandiose dreamworld of forgotten marvels. Once you reach it, it turns out to be pretty drab stuff. Is Godot worth waiting for?

Oh, and if you're going to play and know enough French to catch at least half the dialogue, go ahead and download the French versions. The voice acting's not stellar either way, but the French dialogue flows slightly better.

Monday, June 6, 2016


"Let's play Twister, let's play Risk
I'll see you in heaven if you make the list
(yeah yeah yeah yeah)"

R.E.M. - Man on the Moon

Having already been to the mun I naturally consider myself an expert on the subject, so it is without reservations that I can recommend this finest treatise on munology which I've encountered in recent leisurely Saturday movie renting. A-yawp, raising the bar, that's me.

Of course, Moon isn't really about the moon. Like much good SciFi, it harnesses its otherwordly situation to prompt thought on the choices made by intelligent beings. In other words social commentary. To their credit though, the creators didn't merely phone in the speculative premise by sticking to cardboard sets and a robot played by some intern with deely-boppers. They dedicated the necessary funding to special effects trips around the barren lunar landscape and chiseled out a plausible-looking lunar habitat complete with a robot which, much like those in Interstellar, actually looks robotic. And hey, it worked. The hard SF crowd ate it up, for instance prompting a mention of Moon's premise of helium-3 mining in Freefall.

The main thrust of the story is the opportunity for unethical profiteering created by every new frontier, the murderous fringes by which every human hierarchy feeds and placates the peaceful, passive population at the core of the empire. Which does not make it a cowboy movie. Aside from a smashed diorama, the characters mostly act out their drama of personal identity and rage against the system like civilized, capable professionals and not rabid bull-necked jock action heroes. Many of the deeper questions are not stated outright but merely brush up against the viewer's awareness to spark what I'm guessing have been millions of marijuana-laced philosophical discussions long after the movie's viewing. The ever-popular "if someone made an identical copy of your brain" makes its usual appearance (along with the usual hand-waving at the mind-boggling technological difficulty of such a task) but my own favorites surround GERTY.

Is GERTY sentient or a Chinese box? If sentient, do we bemoan its lack of personal agency in the story? Is its intellect greater and more valuable than that of its charges? Or do we applaud its personal agency in furthering a cause greater than itself, in making a rational choice in which self-interest and ethics have both been weighed?

Damnit, I want a GERTY spin-off.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Cyrano was tyrading up the wrong tree

Insults are even more effective if they're not clever. The disapproval and scorn of educated people is  bad enough, sure, but what's even worse is having to absorb the inept ridicule of the lower classes. That some mindless mouthbreathing tween waste of air can call me "noob" and get away without having his shoulderblades torn off and used as crude pliers to tear out his shitlicking worthless tongue like he deserves, that is the ultimate insult, the knowledge that the world accepts this treatment of me as inferior to him.

So yes, by all means, dredge up all the golden oldies. Insults to sexuality and tribal affiliation, the lowest common denominator. The dumber, the more low-brow, the more crass and facile and lazy and disgusting the insults, the better. Call each other nigger faggot spics cunts kikes dikes chinks twinks wogs dogs and pollywogs, whatever makes your target think they're being treated as inferior by the lowest of the low, that they've become so worthless in the eyes of society as to be fodder for such filth.

Bonus points for misspelling.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

International Inflation Day

Once upon a time, in an introductory  anthropology class, we watched a documentary in which a Peruvian man said he's thankful to the Americans who came to study the ruins near his village, for bringing plumbing and a grade school education with them. He foresaw a better future for his five children.

Today is international children's day in... well, you know, some international places. International places with children. Granted, lots of places vary this date - oh, by the way, Thailand? You're doing it wrong. So wrong.

Anyhoo, today much of the world is celebrating those wondrous little bundles of smells, because as a species with already insanely high parental investment compared to most of the animal kingdom, we're obviously not obsessed enough already with the fruit of our loins. So allow me to celebrate this feast of spawning with a link.

Hooo-eee, lookit dem numbers fly!

Seven and a half billion of us filthy overgrown monkeys running around, and most of them so fucking stupid, uneducated or just beaten over the head that they still think fairies up in the clouds will solve all their problems. Stop breeding already! Ya wanna celebrate children? Stop shitting out so many of the damn things that they have to fight over scraps all their lives against the screaming hordes of other superfluous naked apes. Despite the impression left by the popular computer game series by that name, civilization is not a numbers game.

The population around 1600 C.E. was around five to six hundred million. That world of Copernicus,  Galileo, Shakespeare and Newton consisted of one-fourteenth today's human mass, only a tiny educated sliver of which managed to produce any thought worth expressing. The Athens of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Alexander the Great numbered around one hundred to one hundred and forty thousand, a population a bit smaller than that of... ida know, let's say Provo, Utah or Melitopol, Ukraine or Ijebu-Ode, Nigeria. I eagerly await the inevitable rise of the great schools of Provo, Melitopol and Ijebu-Ode - and make it snappy, 'cause we could sure use a few more Aristotles right about now.

Breeding is not progress. Quite the opposite. You've likely  heard the insipid propagandistic catchphrase "Children are our country's greatest resource" - true, and this is a resource bought and sold like any other. For anyone but the rich, anyone except the puppet-masters who maintain a stranglehold on all natural resources (and/or as the old Marxist catchphrase holds it, the means of production) the only currency we have to trade with are our body/mind combo package, our ability as individuals. The rich must capture or purchase our cooperation, and they are always eager to devaluate it.

An abundance of humans cheapens the individual human. The more of you there are, the less one unit of "you" buys. If you're one in a million, there are now seven and a half thousand of "you" interchangeably disposable for your boss to fire, for bankers to bankrupt on a whim, for generals to use as cannon fodder. That is your children's fate: disposability inherent in the eyes of their own brothers and sisters, the power elite's abuse nascent in an overcrowded womb. A world of more dogs to eat more dogs. Just like in the Civilization games, it's the millennial, domineering, megalomaniacal puppet masters who benefit from the ever-thicker glut of bricks in the wall.

You want to help struggling third-world countries? Send them condoms, not food. Popularize tubal ligations and make sure abortion clinics always outnumber orphanages.

Back when we watched that documentary with the inane social "scientist" propaganda, I was the only one to raise my hand and ask "yeah, a school's good, and plumbing's good, but is anyone handing out condoms?" The man had five kids. Will his five have five each of their own? Will those twenty-five fighting for one twenty-fifth the share of whatever life a dusty Andean plateau can offer be twenty-five times as eager to accept the interference of rich foreigners in exchange for a few scraps of condescending "humanitarian aid?"