blarg?

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.

March 27, 2012

Fear In Its Purest Form

Filed under: awesome,digital,doom,interfaces,lunacy,vendetta,weird,work — mhoye @ 9:35 pm

More Of The Same

The one thing that makes gives me more of that bone-chilling existential dread than anything else in the world, the thing that makes me question the fundamental physical underpinnings of the universe and fear the answers, is code that stops working as you’re staring at it, at the exact moment you realize that it should never have worked in the first place.

Not cool, universe. Not cool at all.

This Internet, It Drives By?

Filed under: fail,hate,interfaces,lunacy,vendetta — mhoye @ 9:47 am

Last week I announced a software release to the enterprise mailing list. I promptly get back a one-word reply, mailed directly to me.

From: Grant Street
Organization: A***** L****
To: Mike Hoye 
Subject: Re: BeSDS now supports Thunderbird and Thunderbird ESR.
Return-Path: grants@**.***.au

Unsubscribe

Thanks, Grant.

This morning, I get:

7:14 -!- Irssi: Starting query in mozilla with User6708
07:14 <User6708> F`UCK YOU !!!!!!
10:38 <mhoye> What?
10:38 -!- User6708: No such nick/channel

Ladies And Gentlemen, a tiny fraction of the glorious joys of developing software for people on the internet.

February 8, 2012

This Meta Goes To Eleven

Filed under: awesome,flickr,interfaces,life,lunacy,parenting,weird — mhoye @ 9:33 pm

Meta, Circular

I took this picture of Maya taking a picture of a Skype session with her grandfather, in which the camera on my computer embedded a picture of her in the corner of the picture his computer took of him holding up a picture of me from when I was 12 years old, holding a camera. While thinking to myself privately that Douglas Hofstadter was, on reflection, a bit of a simpleton.

It took me a few minutes to shake this moment off, let me tell you.

December 22, 2011

Astrophysics

Filed under: academic,lunacy,science — mhoye @ 11:27 pm

According to Wolfram Alpha, there are 2.9 x 10^6 dietary calories in a cubic meter of cheese, 142829% of your recommended daily caloric intake.

Furthermore, there are 8.468×10^47 cubic meters in a cubic light year. From this, we can conclude that there are 2.455 x 10^54 dietary calories in a cubic light year of cheese.

According to NASA the sun produces 3.8 x 10^33 ergs/sec or roughly 3.8 x 10^26 joules/sec. Over the course of a year that adds up to approximately 6.065 x 10^37 joules of energy.

One dietary calorie or “kilocalorie” equals about 4180 joules. Doing the math we conclude it will take 1.7 x 10^20 years for our sun to generate the same amount of energy as a cubic light year of cheese.

Be warned, however, that at 977 kilograms per cubic meter, or 8.27 × 10^50 kilograms per cubic light year, the Schwarzchild Radius of a cubic light year of cheese would be 1.23 × 10^24 meters, significantly greater than the 9.46 x 10^15 meters in a light year. From this we can conclude that a cubic light year of cheese, should that somehow manifest itself, will immediately collapse into a black hole.

So while you would think a cubic light year of cheese would be the obvious choice over the sun, if you are presented with a choice between them, the numbers suggest you would be far better off choosing the sun.

These numbers assume cheese of approximately constant density. Swiss cheeses require much more sophisticated modelling.

(This article has been updated to reflect a comment from Jin, seen below, who notes that Wolfram returns dietary calorie units, which is to say kilocalories, rather than simply calories. The original claim, that it would take the sun 1.7 x 10^17 years to generate the same amount of energy as is contained in a cubic light-year of cheese was inaccurate, and has been corrected above. The author sincerely regrets any inconvenience this may have caused.)

December 16, 2011

Horror Show

Filed under: analog,interfaces,life,lunacy,parenting — mhoye @ 10:20 pm

The Window

You’re no doubt familiar with the old horror-movie bit of the walking, lumbering monster being able to chase down a victim who’s running hard to get away from them. You know the drill: it doesn’t matter how hard, fast or far they’ve run, they could have the stamina of a marathoner and the speed of a sprinter: the moment they stop to catch their breath the monster is there, chainsaw, claws, mandibles or lurching undeadness to hand.

I’ve long thought that classic scares like that come from some common antecedent lodged deep in the collective unconscious, the common experiences that so many of us unsuspectingly have. But I hadn’t really thought about where that particular one might come from until I was trying to catch up with my daughter as she took off down the block, running flat out as fast as a two-year-old can go. While I walked after her at a stately pace, eventually catching her without particular effort.

So if you’re wondering what the original of that particular horror trope is, there you are.

It’s me.

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