Thursday, March 22, 2018

Is the word "mannequin" culturally insensitive? Shouldn't it be womannequin or personnequin? Two-spirit-o'-quin? Or alternately eviloppressivepatriarchequin?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Shifting Demographic - Level Up Yours

- and I'll level down mine, and I'll get to boredom afore ye.

"No classes, no levels" went the campaign promise of a whole slew of MMOs last decade, inevitably proven false as soon as one began grinding through the game in question. It was a promise appeasing older, experienced gamers' dissatisfaction with the endless treadmill of leveling through a leveled world. Removed from its twenty-deep tabletop DnD setting with its finite campaigns, this mechanic has proven at best extraneous and more appropriately counterproductive to persistent virtual worlds by separating and isolating players. Yet the levels persist, whether officially or in the form of upgradeable gear or hours of training time or any other shallow smokescreen.

In part this is mere inertia in an industry only marginally more creative than Hollywood, the remake capital of the world. Game designers grew up with level-based games and their copycatting, profiteering excuses for minds will not grow beyond levels.

In part this is mere pandering to base human instincts. Humans are primitive apes and human  happiness is "the feeling that power is growing and resistance is being overcome" as Nietzsche put it. While overcoming resistance is a logical part of any goal-driven game, players get much more readily addicted to mere shallow declarations of increasing power, to the soaring music and flashing effects of a LEVEL UP message.

However, it largely serves to control player behavior. Experience points and character advancement being the biggest motivator in DnD as well, online game developers have latched on to this carrot to stick the player firmly on their rails, to prevent the players from choosing their own paths. Some might say that such games (WoW-clones, mostly) only truly begin at maximum level (when the gear farming grind begins) but then we're still left with the obvious question of purpose. In this light, leveling up one's character to maximum would seem a mere extended tutorial. After all, MMOs (as the logical convergence of several previous genres) were originally some of the most vast and complex games around. Their learning curve, especially for the likes of EVE-Online or A Tale in the Desert, was notoriously steep, with intricate technology trees contextualizing all player action within a coherent microcosm.

Interestingly enough, it was not the more complex games which held fast to the leveling treadmill. In fact, the more dumbed down, linear and repetitive the game, the more likely it is to feature big flashy LEVEL UP effects. So levels as tutorial are less a consequence of an MMO's difficulty as of the expected stupidity of its target audience. Inevitably, as computer games shifted from their old nerdy audience of the late '90s to the mass market, simplistic hand-holding and pats on the back became more and more important. A "no classes, no levels" MMO would by necessity be an aggressively niche-oriented product.

The main question would be how to get the message out to the right niche. Maybe target fans of hard science fiction? Red Mars MMO, anyone?

Saturday, March 17, 2018

It's A Man's World

What'll you do for me love oh what'll you do
If I should condescend to stick it in you?
Do me a solid for my solid and do me a favor
Twenty carats per finger and keys to my Viper

Want the honor of mine in you?
Then head out to make my dreams true.
Tie a noose around your neck
Button up until you choke
Keep my picture on your desk
Earn for me until you're broke.

Let's agree you're a moron
I'll bear with you dramatically
Sighing my martyrdom
To your friends and your family.
Let's agree that you're primitive
And no woman can learn
But by the civilizing scorn
Of men by whom she's spurned.
Let's agree you're a criminal
Archon matrilineal
Your looks kill, mine only reveal
My right to your collateral

Forward! I'll cry from the rear
Your sacrifice cheer
Darling girl, save the world
While I sneer.

Want a chance at the snake?
Kneel - make it believable
One knee, one ring, one divorce, one check
To my glory payable

Long chase to the bone begs a pet most docile
Every step yours alone 'cause I'm oh so fragile.
I can't say the first word -
If you do it's harassment.
You retreat?
Then you're nothing, a girl-child, grow up
Keep aggressing until you're in tatters
Thrown in jail on my word for all your rights matter.
If I wake with regrets then it's rape; that's consent
By my lights, anyway
By my word and eye-waters.
Once more into the fray
Let's be friends, and just friends
Until *I* want a lay
Let's delay; keep you guessing
Auto da fe;
Got it wrong
Keep rehearsing.

Every Homo knows sex is not about sex
It's all in the wrist and the diamond bracelet
Want to feel?
Fifty dollars - per ball
And the higher that wall, the more you must praise
This obstacle course couched almighty "romance"
So step up your game
Swallow all my disdain
Weave it into my train
Swim the sky, span the sea
For a chance to touch - Me!

You want more?
You're a pig
You're a dog
You're a snake in the grass
You perverted brute lass.
If I call you, show up
When you do, you're a stalker
It's fun and it's safe this denial always plausible
This sperm-baited trap
This ownership marker
Works for me so let's make it your crucible

I'll set the hoops
But you'll do the jumping
Guess my mind or it's moot
Learn my praises to sing
Woo me and shoe me, your stallion demure.
If your wallet's not roomy enough to ensure
First class seats and a rush reservation
If your name earns no bows for me in the neighbourhood
If your free time's not slotted toward my elevation
Then you'd best pack for spinsterhood.
You build the house and I'll decorate it
Don't you dare raise your voice when you hear me berate
Your woman cave basement.
What'll you do for me love, oh what'll you do
If I should condescend to stick it in you?

edit 2018/03/20
Rearranged slightly because I think it flows better this way.

Friday, March 16, 2018


Your community: a bleached reef, bog or troglobity? I drift in and doubt inane doubt inaned out and need rift between me and you "ew"-in me while you drown beneath your sea of faces. Lose my traces of you, trace my losses to you, only you, all the you every you only one yous, schooling vortices in your sea while I drift in and out of your nibbling inanity. I bite, abate your piranha synchronicity, I gnash a more sonorous monody than all your monotonous choral carnivory. I drift through your cloud, seven billion proud, minnows sharking the shallows while depths boom with echoes of my lunar pedigree. See me stride tides to stand grand upon land barren of minds too oceanic who panic at solid footing while looting the tide pools of spools of lycanthrope fur calling it wool. Drool your saprophyte hopes while your drifting waste chokes stone in effluvial folklore, fucklore your fish-song and folkload your pre-frontal notochorduncity. While you school in "communities" fishies, we are not the same species.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Tangled River

Hey, the 1940s called, they want their drawing style back.

...Y'know, for an overused joke, I so rarely get to use that joke.

Anyway, Tangled River. Is a webcomic. Is clear. Is clean. Is sci. Is fi.
Is somewhat declarative.

Then again, that suits its general aesthetic. Like Freefall, Escape From Terra or A Miracle of Science, Tangled River owes a lot to the golden age of science fiction, when SF was just regaining a hard science edge. Though, really... can anything with humanoid "aliens" ever qualify as hard Scie Fie?

Tanya is the oldest "beta" or second-generation human on an alien planet inexplicably inhabited by an entire earthlike ecosphere complete with tribal stone-age "aliens" with pointy ears and face spots. Having the entire story narrated from her necessarily limited adolescent perspective imbues it with a forced but engaging sense of mystery aside from the usual "coming of age" schlock. Her world consists of chores and teenage dating drama and caring for her chronically depressed mother until she's called to adventure by a flaming portend in the sky, to plumb the mysteries of human technology's sudden failure and their expedition's fragmentation.

The target audience for this one's a bit hard to pin down, if it even has one. Drawing style: clean, well-proportioned, but on the other hand theatrical. A teenage heroine might indicate a teenage market, but the story moves much too leisurely, nonviolently and non-romantically for that. A "coming of age" story might indicate a condescending adult audience looking down their noses at youth, but Tanya's a surprisingly level-headed and respectable girl, all-in-all. General tone and pacing might indicate sedate hard science fiction, but its pointy-eared "alien" setting undercuts that and fails to deliver the constant technoporn one might expect.

The best I can situate it is teetering awkwardly between Robinson's Red Mars and Heinlein's Podkayne of Mars, though really even that's an unfair comparison. (Also: distinct lack of Mars.) Despite all it might be said to lack, despite its seeming initial simplicity, Tangled River holds together well enough on the merit of its own mix of interpersonal and interplanetary intrigue. It can't lack what it doesn't need. If you like old-school space pioneer stories, this one's for you.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Gigantic knives win gun fights

I spoke about the recent AoS derivative game Gigantic some time ago, so I won't go into much detail now. As it's being scuttled by its parent company by this July*, I might as well get a couple of posts about its more salient features in under the wire.

Those, my poor quality-deprived friends, are choices!

So-called MOBAs, being dumbed down from the original Starcraft / Warcraft custom RTStrategy maps to suit the fast-fingered, slow-brained tastes of whiny mass-market millennial trash, tend to lack tactically-relevant customization options. I don't care if it's DotA2, LoL or Smite. Even buying gear is almost always a straight climb up a blatantly obvious upgrade ladder. Some of the less known or newer titles like Prime World or Paragon offer much more pre-game customization through collectible card decks, but even they're pretty weak on letting players adapt after match start.

Gigantic, on the other hand, appended miniature two-deep skill trees to heroes' combat abilities, plus a choice of specializing in one of three abilities at level five. Some of these are mere damage or resistance upgrades while others can radically alter how an ability functions, adding force fields, teleportation, etc. More interestingly, they resisted the urge to make every choice valid for every match, thus qualifying as one of the few development teams to realize that "situational" is not a dirty word. The character above is a high-damage melee assassin / bruiser type, so for most matches the bonus damage option with the added stun is the obvious choice, hands down. Occasionally, you'll be fighting a tank-heavy team and the armor break will be more important. Rarely, very rarely, you'll be fighting a firing squad team.

Quite satisfying to stand in front of three idiot parasitic snipers -not killing them- cracking your whip above your head, tanking enough damage to kill you five times over while your teammates whittle them down. Suck my iconoclasm, bitches.

* I'm well aware this may just be a publicity stunt by the company, as developers rarely give such long warning. Still, the game was intriguing enough to warrant publicity.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

To all my fellow Proctors

"Bolt of lighting out of the blue
Without forewarning the heat is on you"

MDFMK - Witch Hunt

The accusation of "overacting" is most often justified. Our contemporary socially just and politically correct society has after all been, for the past three decades, an overemotional and over-emoting milieu which breeds just such actors. This begs at least some mention, though, of situations in which "over"-acting is merely an accurate representation of a ludicrous situation.

Over and under are relative terms. Supervillains (and sometimes heroes) would likely make for appropriate grandiloquence. However, you also occasionally see the likes of the 1996 adaptation of The Crucible criticized, specifically Daniel Day-Lewis and his monumental rendition of Proctor's "because it is my naaaaame" speech. Over the top, you say?

Anyone who says so seems to be ignoring the play's social context, and I don't just mean the McCarthy anticommunist paranoia which it parodied. Even if tempted to reference the infamous Puritan self-restraint, let's not forget the characters in this play are embroiled in an honest-to-goodness WITCH HUNT!!! Their entire society was over-acting. Hard to go over the top with a source of inspiration which lacks a top, which by definition has thrown all moderation to the wind and is busily fratriciding itself into oblivion. Sometimes a cigar is a nuke you just have to ride to its destination.