blarg?

May 21, 2014

What Better Place Than Here, What Better Time Than Now

Filed under: awesome,doom,lunacy,music,vendetta — mhoye @ 3:07 pm

I was in an Ikea last weekend, when their background music system started playing Rage Against The Machine.

I was actually paralyzed for a moment. I found myself looking around, thinking “Am… Am I just old? Is this old-person music now? Or is it finally time? Here? Why here, now?” I felt, briefly, like I was revisiting a scene from They Live, entirely in my own head. Am I the only person who can hear this? Doesn’t anyone else know what comes next?

I took a minute to look around; I expected to see at least one other person trying to decide whether or not it was time to start flipping stuff over and setting it on fire, but nope. Not a one.

UPDATE: A cölleägüe pöints öut thät there ären’t enough ümläuts in this pöst, which I will äddress directly.

May 9, 2013

How Does Anyone Work In These Conditions

A little while ago, the espresso machine in our office broke down. This doomsday scenario is, and I say this without the least bit of hyperbole, the most catastrophically dire situation that can exist in this or any other possible universe. If the intertubes felt slow for you the last few weeks, that’s probably why.

After a while, I started asking a colleague, Sean Martell, to ‘shop up some old war propaganda every few days, to express our dismay.

So, here you go.

We Need Coffee To Survive

It Can Happen Here

We Can Do It

Mercifully it is now fixed, and productivity should normalize in a day or two.

December 21, 2012

Genuflecting To Fools

Filed under: analog,doom,fail,future,losers,lunacy — mhoye @ 11:49 am

Guys guys great news: it turns out that panicky superstitious people who deliberately misinterpret their shallow understanding of an incredibly narrow slice of a foreign culture they’re otherwise completely disinterested in aren’t reliable predictors of anything at all ever.

Who saw that coming, right?

I like to imagine that for months now somewhere in the Yucatan peninsula people have been saying “Oh shit, man! The white people’s calendar ends on December 31st!!” and then howling with laughter, because somehow it’s hilarious every time.

November 21, 2012

Fifteen Minutes Of Forever

Well, that certainly took off, didn’t it?

I’ve had some pretty mixed feelings this week; putting a ton of time and effort into a startup that doesn’t take off and then seeing a tiny little side project blow up has had me quietly making Scumbag Internet ragefaces, but I suppose if Internet Fame was going to find me, I’m happy it’s for doing something I’m proud of. Sure beats falling down an escalator on Youtube and then being Youtube Escalator Guy forever.

Here’s a video of the introduction to WindWaker running in Dolphin, with my pronoun patch applied.

So anyway, that Windwaker mod? Huge, and kind of all over the place. The first wave of web coverage started with Hackaday, followed quickly by an unfortunately-titled Ars Technica article before metastasizing to Metafilter, Kotaku, Joystiq, and a bunch of international sites I can almost but not quite read.

One Dutch site declared, “Vader hackt computerspel dochter om van hoofdpersonage vrouw te maken”. I have no idea what that means but if I try to say it in English it reads “Vader hacked computerspells doctor on van hoofed-personage vroom to making”, and how awesome is that? (Update! It’s actually Belgian, my mistake.)

Funny anecdote: I looked all over the place for software that would record from a segment of my screen and capture the audio coming out of my speakers. Quicktime, incomprehensibly, will do video but only record from the microphone or line-in but not audio-out. After trying a bunch of free/trialware that was all garbage, I had one of those embarrassing “self, you’ve been stupid” moments-of-clarity and solved the problem by plugging a male-male headphone cable into both jacks on the Mac. Man, solving software problems with hardware: so gauche.

Dear Quicktime devs: that’s right, I’ve added a missing feature to your software with a copper wire. “Plaatsvervangende schaamte“, speaking of awesome Dutch words, roughly means “transposed shame”; embarrassment you’re feeling on behalf of somebody too oblivious to feel it themselves. I’m feeling plaatsvervangende schaamte right now, and I’m looking at you.

So, a couple of general points, mostly random notes or observations I’ve made in the last week and a half or so.

  • First and foremost: thanks for the positive press and lots of public and private messages of support. There’s been quite a bit of interest in this, and I’ve taken those opportunities to to talk about how women are treated by the video game industry and gamer culture, and how I think things need to change. I doubt I’ll get a podium like this one very often, and I’m glad I feel like I’ve done the right thing with it.
  • If you want to try it out but all that stuff about hashes and patches in the original post was offputting, one commenter has got a thing that will make it much easier for you, for which I’m grateful. Thanks, Daniel!
  • Boy, trying to do anything progressive on the ‘net sure brings out the cranks, doesn’t it? I suppose there’s always going to be somebody out there with the time to tell you you suck, saying “FAIL” and fantasizing about murdering your family while yelling at you to google Ron Paul, especially if you’ve got the temerity to suggest that women should have an equal voice in the world and maybe aren’t property. Brendan Behan once said that “Critics are like eunuchs in a harem: they know how it’s done, they’ve seen it done every day, but they’re unable to do it themselves”, and while I don’t agree with that every day, that sentence has definitely been rattling around my head for the last two weeks.

    But the ‘net’s usual cadre of reactionary neanderthals aside, a number of white dudes have suggested that this was somehow unnecessary because there are plenty of strong female role models in video games, citing Samus Aran and Lara Croft, and leaving me shaking my head. Truly, those people haven’t been paying attention or can’t read, two problems that may be reinforcing each other; neither of those characters are in games suitable for a child, and both of them have been horribly mistreated in the most recent editions of their franchise, for the most patronizing, misogynist reasons imaginable. So dudes, while you’re making a strong argument there, it’s not at all the one you think you’re making.

    In any case: there were fewer death threats than I expected, but not none. Way to stay in character, purse-dogs of the Internet.

  • Etherpad – and presumably any collaborative text editor, but specifically Etherpad – is so much better than doing interviews over the phone. A bit slower, a bit clunkier if you’re not a touch-typist maybe, but being able to actually have both sides of the interview collaborate, be able to walk away for a few moments without breaking anything, and having something you both have a record of and can cut and paste? So good, and outweighing the alternatives by quite a bit.
  • Even if it still has tremendous reach we all suspect old media is doomed, right? Well, funny story about that, you can sort of tell how doomed various segments of the media are by how they try to get in touch with you. I was interviewed by a couple of people, and how people got in touch with me was informative:
    • Lukas Blakk at Geek Feminism found me on IRC and proposed doing the interview in Etherpad right away. Ok, you’ve got me. I’m in.
    • A number of people who found the article scrolled down to the Contact page, and found me through that. That’s cool, that works; when Skype got a little choppy we could switch to Etherpad, and it worked out well.
    • A smaller number of people – some independent journalists, some larger media organizations – googled me, found Bespoke I/O and contacted me through that; some of those people used Skype or otherwise on voice recordings of their interviews, which is OK even if it seems like a lot of retyping.
    • Nobody’s tried to fax me yet, but two people saw the article and then looked me up in the phone book and left a message on my land line. Doomed, guys. Doooooooooooooooooomed.
  • We all kind of know URL shorteners are bullshit, but you really don’t find out just how bad they are for small shops and the Web in general until you’re trying to learn things from your referrer logs. No joke, URL shorteners are a straight-up theft of knowledge. In fact, I’m wondering if being able to hoard all that redirect info for themselves is the specific reason that Twitter has decided to tell their entire ecosystem to go die in a fire. As an aside, it is such a shame to watch them blow another opportunity – “Become Infrastructure” – that most startups would cut off an arm for, but hey, that’s Twitter. Maybe everything that new guy learned at MySpace will be able to help them hahaha *sob*.
  • It seems a little churlish to complain about media rights, given the nature of the project, but my Flickr feed is flagged “All Rights Reserved”. Among larger media outlets NBC News, Der Spiegel, Huffington Post, Buzz60 and the Toronto Star were noteworthy for actually asking for reprint permission, as were a handful of smaller blogs. Precisely zero of the big-name techblogs – Ars Technica, Kotaku, Jezebel, Joystiq, any of them – bothered to ask.
  • Oh, Today Show… closing out with “Oh, the things a Pop will do for his princess”, really? Go say that in an empty room; listen to the echo. That’s the sound of your being part of the problem.
  • Nobody cares about Google+. For real; I have evidence. Ever heard of Plurk? Yeah, neither have I, and maybe this is some sort of unexpected sampling bias, but Plurk’s numbers destroyed Google+ as far as my referrer logs are concerned. Google actually does run a vibrant, engaging and competitive social network, but it’s called Google Reader.

A lot of people have asked me if I’m going to do this again with some other game, and I started last week saying that it depended on what my daughter wanted and which way her interests went. The amount of pushback I got for it though, the threats and hate mail, have certainly helped me make up my mind.

Definitely, yes.

October 18, 2012

Terrible idea, or best idea?

Filed under: awesome,digital,interfaces,irc,lunacy — mhoye @ 11:17 am

Today in IRC-as-performance-art news, a friend just had the idea of turning Amazon’s recommendation algorithm into some sort of Reality-TV / Takeshi’s Castle crossover thing.

12:02 <mhoye> My goodness, Amazon's "people who have bought this also bought" is returning some pretty implausible results.
12:04 <mhoye> 500 feet of rapelling cable, an espresso tamper, five knives and a ten-pound box of adhesive googly-eyes.
12:05 <mhoye> I live my life, and somewhere in the world, algorithms learn to fear.
12:05 <mhoye> This is good.
12:05 <colleague> that's actually not a bad mix
12:05 <mhoye> It gives me something to aspire to.
12:05 <colleague2>  mhoye: there's a concept for a show here -- something like "Chopped" but not food
12:05 <mhoye> I need more days in my life where those things are a necessity.
12:07 <mhoye> colleague2: That is a _brilliant_ idea. Some sort of cinema-verite thing where you go over the list of things Amazon also recommends, and then construct some sort of high-intensity scenario where IF YOU DON'T RAPPEL INTO THE ELEVATOR SHAFT, PRY OPEN THE DEVICE WITH ALL THE KNIVES AND TAMP TEN POUNDS OF GOOGLEY EYES INTO IT OR THE CITY IS DOOMED.
12:09 <mhoye> Update: Clicking 'next' has added a book called "The Wisdom Of Whores", a 6-quart slow cooker and five hundred miniature pompoms to the list.
12:09 <mhoye> This might get complicated.

Contrived? Dumb? Absolutely. But also awesome, no?

October 5, 2012

Destroy Your Legends

Filed under: arcade,awesome,digital,interfaces,lunacy,want — mhoye @ 1:41 pm

The Verge is running a question for their community: “You’ve Just Been Given Control of a Great Video Game Franchise!” What do you remake, and why?

I wrote this:

Now, I’m an inveterate Legend Of Zelda fan, but if you’re paying attention to the sociopolitical background noise in that series, it’s… well. Literary theorists call this sort of thing “problematic”, which an in-field shorthand for “inconsistent and, if you look carefully, kind of sadmaking.” Your role as a hero there is to ostensibly to gain the powers and tools you need to defeat Ganon, noted evil megalomaniac, and secure the safety of the Kingdom of Hyrule.

But if you look a little closer, your role there is explicitly to restore the status quo ante of the Kingdom of Hyrule, power structure and all. The Royal Family stays Royal, the gods stay gods, the people stay the people. It’s a little… undemocratic.

The only time they’ve really deviated from that formula was in Majora’s Mask, which I don’t think strictly counts as a Legend Of Zelda game, despite being arguably the best game in that series.

The game I want puts a spin on that; a new Legend Of Zelda in which, through the curse of the wayward Skull Kid, Link wakes up to that realization and seeks out the Princess and Ganondorf, who have known the truth of the situation for centuries. The player retreads some of the older games, seeking out some of the less-used artefacts and people; large parts of the game played as Gandondorf and the Princess as the real villain of the whole thing, the divinely-backed King of Hyrule, marshals his forces and eventually the Gods themselves to stop you from dethroning him.

Roughly sketched, the trailer looks like this:

Fade in, to the sound of ZREO’s version of “Farewell Hyrule King”, from “WindWaker” In the old eight-bit Legend Of Zelda arcade font, the screen reads: “We’ve fought for centuries.”

Quick, pulsing cuts of Ganon’s introductory scene from A Link To The Past, Ocarina and
WindWaker

In the purple “Link To The Past” text style: “Over and over again.”

More fade-in-and-out cuts from the final fights in Ocarina, WindWaker and Twilight Princess.

“Ocarina of Time”-look: “Hundreds of years.”

We pan over the world maps from Link To The Past and WindWaker.

“WindWaker”-look: “Thousands of miles.”

Style: Twilight Princess. “.. and all that time, I’ve never lost.”

Music fades out, at the end of the slow part of Farewell Hyrule King, and closes
with the skittering-over-stone sound of a dungeon door closing.

“And all that time, I was wrong.”

Three heartbeat clips of Ganon’s face from different games.

“And now I have to go back.”

“Through the long years and distant lands.”

More clips of Link as he walks towards some of the iconic architecture of the series.

“To recover the ancient powers,”

“To summon my old enemy one last time.”

Style: Something new, light-grey on black, understated.

“To face the gods that have savaged our land,”

Slow pans around devastated landscapes, islands from the dark-worlds from A Link To The Past and Twilight Princess blurring into Hyrule. Broken ruins of the castles from various games.

“that Power, Wisdom and Courage might stand together at last,”

“… and set the people of Hyrule free.”

We now see Link walking into a small shrine, clearly built around the statue at its altar, a kneeling Ganon looking skyward. The Master Sword still embedded Excalibur-like in his skull; this is where he was last defeated, at the conclusion of Windwaker. Link brushes him off, as gently as an old friend, before putting two hands to the hilt of the sword and drawing it out. A thin shell of the stone crumbles away, and Ganon sags for a moment, and then rises.

He looks at the raised sword, and then to Link, and a voice that rumbles with scratching subsonic echoes asks, “You have woken me, here? Why?”

Link answers: “To end this. To give you everything you want.”

As previews of the gameplay, the trailer concludes with some exploration of canonical past environments by Link, but we also see Princess Zelda carrying a bow and a fine rapier, dressed as Shiek and creeping, Thief-style, through the rafters of Hyrule Castle at night, and Ganon parting a phalanx of armored pikemen with the same casual gesture you’d use to part a bead curtain.

Shortly we see Ganon, walking into Zelda’s room as she stands on her balcony, overlooking the kingdom. The princess knows he’s there, and doesn’t even turn around, smiling sadly. “Again, Ganon? And so soon?”. He shakes his head, and she turns around, looking quizzical as he replies “No, Princess, not this time. The Hero is Awake.”

“At last.”

A clip of Ganondorf, arm extended, levitating Zelda up to the back of an enormous arachnid creature, as she grabs on with one hand and pulls her rapier with the other. King of Hyrule snarling “You will not defile my kingdom” as an army of knights marches forward.

We close on a close up of Link, looking down briefly at the shield on his arm, emblazoned with the Crest of Hyrule. He smiles, tossing it to the ground and drawing the small Kokiri shortsword from his belt, Master Sword in his other hand. We pan back from that to see Link standing on a green hilltop, backs together with Princess Zelda, bow drawn and eyes narrowed, and Ganon, nodding to himself while his hands smoke with a green, burning-copper fire. As we pan further back, we see the hill surrounded at the base by thousands of soldiers, armored knights on horseback and snarling monsters in shining armor plate.

We fade out over the Crest of Hyrule and the title: “The Legend Of Zelda: Divine Kingdom”.

And then we fade to black.

I mean, sure. Almost pure fanservice, in a sense, but I think the idea’s got potential. The hard part is designing cooperative gameplay that makes sense for the very different character-roles involved, but I think that’s solvable.

Anyway, there you go.

June 12, 2012

Ideas For Games For Gamers With Kids

Dear Ubisoft –

I’m a longstanding fan of your work but like a lot of long-time gamers my life’s moving ahead. I’ve got a family now, but even so I’d like my kids to be able to share my hobbies as much as anyone who’s ever collected a stamp or oiled up a baseball glove. And I know I’ve asked you for some impractical things in the past – I know, I know, as much as my daughter has loved riding the fancy horse around in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, that adding penguins and giraffes might not be feasible – but hear me out here.

I really enjoy being able to play big, free-running open-worlds games with my daughter. She’s smart, attentive, and understands where things are and what we’re trying to do in these fictional spaces; it’s a joy as a parent to have her interested in my pastimes, for however long that lasts. But most of the games I play to unwind aren’t particularly content-appropriate for her, if I’m playing them strictly as intended.

Take the Assassin’s Creed series. Running, climbing, jumping into the water with a big splash and swimming, horseback riding… they’re all great; we can watch Ezio jump in and out of haystacks like a fool together all day. Looking at things, watching people go by, just watching the ebb and flow of the city, it’s terrific. Fist fights, sword fights, picking pockets and shanking people unexpectedly before you toss the body off a building, somewhat less so.

But there’s just a ton, a ton of wonderful architecture in those games, as you well know. Wonderfully detailed buildings and elaborate historical notes about people, places and events that are better than anything I’ve seen in any other game, and beautiful in their own right. Italian cities, a Rome and a Constantinople that I honestly believe would be wonderful to explore and learn about on their own in a stripped down, accommodating and non-violent game.

So let me rephrase that: if you do take away the aggro guards, the various threats, fights and malfeasances, and you keep the historical notes, artifacts and characters, what game do you have left?

I think you might, with some judicious writing, have “Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego”, as set in the most beautiful rendition of the middle ages ever made.

All the parts are there – you’ve got the engine, you’ve got the world, you’ve got the art assets and the tools in the can already. I never want to say “just” when it comes to a software product – I know how dangerous that word is – but the temptation here is strong. But the opportunity here for a same-couch, cooperative game that kids can play with parents, puzzling things out and doing a bit of historical exploration in the process… Not only do I think that some great writing could tie it into and move along the series’ (great) ongoing narrative, but I think it could be a genuinely new, genuinely fun game in its own right.

You’d have to keep the horse, though. The horsey is important.

Please and thank you,

– Mike Hoye

June 4, 2012

Today, In Orbital Panopticon News

Filed under: doom,future,interfaces,lunacy,science,toys — mhoye @ 3:23 pm

This is really astounding, though perhaps it shouldn’t be. The Department of Defence has given NASA a gift of two better-than-Hubble telescopes it built but never used, because despite this quote describing them…

They have 2.4-meter (7.9 feet) mirrors, just like the Hubble. They also have an additional feature that the civilian space telescopes lack: A maneuverable secondary mirror that makes it possible to obtain more focused images. These telescopes will have 100 times the field of view of the Hubble, according to David Spergel, a Princeton astrophysicist and co-chair of the National Academies advisory panel on astronomy and astrophysics.

… it considers them to be outdated. That’s right – 100 times the field of view of the Hubble, more maneuverable and able to take far more accurate pictures, hugely better than any instrument available to any civilian anywhere, and apparently an antique. As The Atlantic notes:

“That’s right. Our military had two, unflown, better-than-Hubble space telescopes just sitting around. […] This is the state of our military-industrial-scientific complex in miniature: The military has so much money that it has two extra telescopes better than anything civilians have; meanwhile, NASA will need eight years to find enough change in the couches at Cape Canaveral to turn these gifts into something they can use. Anyone else find anything wrong with this state of affairs?”

Maybe just the fact that those cameras were intended to be pointed down, not up.

The issue’s not whether you’re paranoid, Lenny, I mean look at this shit, the issue is whether you’re paranoid enough.

Strange Days, 1995.

May 31, 2012

The Pre-emptive Machine-Vision Horror Trope Needs A Better Name

Filed under: arcade,awesome,doom,future,interfaces,lunacy,toys — mhoye @ 9:27 am

That’s a game called StarForge, a kind of minecrafty farm/build/survive game that looks pretty promising. Trading off the eight-bit charm of Minecraft for a lot of FPS aggro, it looks like a boots-on-the-ground, shovels-in-the-dirt revisiting of classics like Dune II or Command And Conquer.

There’s a moment in there at about the thirty second mark, though, that gave me a surprising amount to think about; it would have been interesting to see a longer buildup to this, maybe with an explanation of the world and some more examination of what the player’s built up, leading up to the alone-in-the-dark moment where the turrets suddenly spin up and start grinding through ammo before the player can even see what’s coming. From a gameplay perspective this is a great demo; you can tell by the way the entire internet is trying to turn his poor server into one of the smoking craters you see in the video. But from a human-experience perspective, there’s a new thing on display here.

We have tools now that can see a lot further into the dark than we can, make decisions about what they find and then act on them immediately, deploying an staggering amount of force with remarkable precision. It’s sudden, and there’s a good argument to me made that it has to be as sudden as possible – the delay of a warning, a supervising authority or even just a human interaction might be an unacceptable delay, a burden the selection pressure of a technological arms race will quickly discard. Often, in fact, the best-case scenario there is that these tools leave enough of an audit trail that a complex situation might be understandable in long hindsight. But more often you’ll have a few thousand spent casings, a few dozen empty rocket tubes, the burned out shells of a few smoking buildings, the charred husks of their residents and no way to reconcile that with justice or conscience.

So now there’s this moment, that a human can be alone with their anticipation in the crowding dark, when machines we’ve built whose judgement we don’t really trust suddenly act with incredible violence on things we can’t see for reasons we don’t understand.

It’s really a perfect moment – the visceral panic of survival horror, that existential sense irrelevance that lives at the periphery of monstrously outsized forces, the deep-seated, voodoo suspicion of incomprehensible tech… “Your support tools or personal network suddenly goes insane” is going to be the spring-loaded-cat of the 21st century, I think, and for good reason.

I really need an “overthinking” tag.

April 16, 2012

Even A Change Of Hats

Filed under: awesome,beauty,future,interfaces,life,lunacy,parenting,science,weird — mhoye @ 10:23 am

Bloor Station

Sufficiently advanced fashion is indistinguishable from cosplay.

The obvious corollary to that is: fashion that is easily distinguished from cosplay is insufficiently advanced.

I mentioned this to somebody in passing the other day; today, my goodness, the Internet Provides:

If you wear a white coat that you believe belongs to a doctor, your ability to pay attention increases sharply. But if you wear the same white coat believing it belongs to a painter, you will show no such improvement.

So scientists report after studying a phenomenon they call enclothed cognition: the effects of clothing on cognitive processes.

It is not enough to see a doctor’s coat hanging in your doorway, said Adam D. Galinsky, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, who led the study. The effect occurs only if you actually wear the coat and know its symbolic meaning — that physicians tend to be careful, rigorous and good at paying attention.

The findings, on the Web site of The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, are a twist on a growing scientific field called embodied cognition. We think not just with our brains but with our bodies, Dr. Galinsky said, and our thought processes are based on physical experiences that set off associated abstract concepts. Now it appears that those experiences include the clothes we wear.

See also, of course:

“It is a well known psychological fact that people’s behavior is strongly affected by the way they dress.”

But here, I’m going to do you one better: Have you heard of Endosymbiotic theory? It’s the idea that the internal structures in bacterium – and not just the bacteria in your gut, but the cells that make up a You – have evolved partly by absorbing other organisms and hosting their processes internally, a symbiosis that eventually makes them functionally indistinguishable from a single organism. Sort of the way you, looking through your eyes at this screen, feel like you’re functionally a single organism.

But you’re not. You’re colonies of symbiotic colonies all the way down. The consciousness you think of as you is an emergent pattern on the outside edge of fractal stack of organic Matryoshka dolls. A consciousness you can arbitrarily game with cosplay, letting you temporarily absorb the psychological practices of a different stack of Matryoshka colonies symbiotically into your own.

There’s no you. You don’t exist. It’s cosplay all the way up and colonies all the way down.

Dress up a little.

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