blarg?

September 25, 2014

Insecurity Theatre

Filed under: doom,future,hate,interfaces,lunacy,vendetta — mhoye @ 6:47 pm

Your new password must contain a mix of:

  • uppercase letters
  • lowercase letters
  • numbers
  • symbols
  • symbols that are also numbers
  • illuminati symbols
  • hobo signs
  • occult symbols (not illuminati)
  • old girlfriend’s phone numbers
  • hieroglyphs
  • fragrances
  • H.P. Lovecraft references
  • exotic spices
  • descriptions of that favorite sweater you lost in a breakup that one time
  • secret regrets
  • controversial onomatopoeia
  • limericks about a thermostat
  • vaguely sexual innuendos
  • anagrams of a word you can’t spell
  • favorite emoji
  • least favorite emoji
  • turnips
  • shrugs
  • ennui
  • cursory pats on the back
  • long stares into the middle distance
  • moments of quiet yearning for lost love (unrelated to sweater or secret regret)
  • cups of OK coffee
  • sense of resigned inevitability (minimum three)
  • irish setters
  • tweed hats

No repeat characters.

September 17, 2014

Practical Orthodonty

Filed under: interfaces,lunacy — mhoye @ 8:08 pm

My dentist expressed some concern today that when he pokes my gums with a piece of sharp metal, they’re prone to bleeding.

My observation that almost every part of me has that quality was not well-received. He proposed some treatment for it, but when I told him I’d pay quite a bit extra to have him take whatever that is and dip my entire body in it that part of the conversation didn’t go all that swimmingly either. I said he could hold me by the heel, I know how this works, but no.

Anyway, long story short, apparently dentists have no sense of humour and flossing your entire body won’t make you invulnerable.

Now you know.

September 2, 2014

Architecture For Loners

Filed under: arcade,beauty,doom,future,interfaces,life,lunacy,toys — mhoye @ 9:36 am

This has been sitting around in the drafts folder for a while. I’m not sure why I wanted to finish it off tonight, but I want to get all these half-finished posts done. This seemed like a good way to knock off some of the rust.

Rust Never Sleeps

Occasionally when I’m in one of my darker moods I’ll fire up a game that’s meant to be multiplayer and walk through it alone, crawling around the fringes and corners to see how the game reacts to unexpected stimuli, looking for soft spots and exposed nerves.

I’ve always been a lurker in open worlds games, real life being no exception; I don’t remember when I started looking for the seams, the little gaps where the walls don’t quite line up or the high ledge that offers a long view, but it’s not a thing I can turn off. And when I’m in that sullen loner’s mood, sitting in the dark soloing multiplayer spaces is a pleasant way to spend an hour or two on just that sort of wallhack tourism.

Halo’s Spartan Ops, is kind of fun though not particularly replayable distraction. It’s a neat idea, and I sort of wish they’d done more with the idea of serving up Halo in smaller episodic doses. The environments, though… if you have the right eyes you can’t help but notice that built-for-a-shooter feeling that pervades the designed landscapes of that franchise.

Its not just the trademark gun-litter; whether it’s a forcefield deployed pointlessly in a cave, an otherwise-empty room with one door and twenty or so alien warriors milling around inside waiting to no discernable purpose or an massive structure of dubious architectural merit built by an advanced alien species whose accomplishments include intergalactic teleporters but not doors, you never have a moment to shake off the sense that the world is built entirely around sight lines.

Specifically, as they emerge from you.

This is a pretty niche failure mode, I’ll admit. It’s possible I’m the only person who will ever notice or care about it. But it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a space designed for a shooter that didn’t undercut any grandeur and greater aspirations the game might have. It maybe unavoidable; as lush as some of these environments seem at first, how do you evoke that sense of being part of something much bigger than yourself when everything is designed around you?

So much video game architecture fails that test of basic significance, worlds of outsized and beautiful physics-defying structures that don’t speak to any motive beyond themselves. Halo 4 is hardly the worst example, but the scale it aspires to makes this kind of anarrative laziness hard to overlook. This incredibly ambitious backstory, these huge structures and it’s all facade; there’s no “why”, because you’re there with the controller in your lap and you’re the “why” and there is no larger story than that.

“This place once belonged to an ancient and noble civilization, whose might and wisdom spanned the galaxy”, these structures say, “and as a monument to our glories we have built this: a monochromatic rhombus.”

Also I’m not sure how that Spartan Miller guy got his job, but he’s kind of excitable for an ostensibly hardened space marine.

But if you’re the sort of person who appreciates a jetpack – and if you’re not I don’t really see how we can keep being friends – then a lot of these arbitrary obstructions and forced perspectives are suddenly, inexplicably tractable. That extra degree of freedom is enough; in some places – Science Mountain is a good choice here – suddenly you can fly over a gate you were meant to fight past. And the game, of course, doesn’t appreciate being spoken to like that: Halo is on rails, and always will be thus! And you’re frightening the AI and this is just the way things are and I don’t care for your tone, young man. You can’t just leave the rails, that’s why it’s called “going off the rails”, and… hey, get back here!

And in this transgression, of course, Halo reveals itself for what it is.

You clear that gate, mop up a few stragglers and hop back to flip the switch to proceed. Enemies appear, less and listless. Defeat them, and now you’re alone. The next part of the sequence simply doesn’t happen. No-one else appears, no more doors open. Your team never contacts you and you, stoic and silent, never reach out to them.

There’s no meaning, there’s no more, there’s no distraction; there’s just reflection and just you, silently exploring a small corner of a deserted island intended only for you, forever. And there’s nothing to do but look for another seam, another glitch, to allow you maybe possibly move on.

It’s a weird, lonely feeling; kind of what you’d expect from soloing a multiplayer game alone in the dark.

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

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