Quotulatiousness

May 24, 2017

ESR presents Open Adventure

Filed under: Gaming, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Eric S. Raymond recently was entrusted with the original code for ADVENT, and he’s put it up on gitlab for anyone to access:

Colossal Cave Adventure was the origin of many things; the text adventure game, the dungeon-crawling D&D (computer) game, the MOO, the roguelike genre. Computer gaming as we know it would not exist without ADVENT (as it was known in its original PDP-10 incarnation).

Long ago, you might have played this game. Or maybe you’ve just heard stories about it, or vaguely know that “xyzzy” is a magic word, or have heard people say “You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike”,

Though there’s a C port of the original 1977 game in the BSD game package, and the original FORTRAN sources could be found if you knew where to dig, Crowther & Woods’s final version – Adventure 2.5 from 1995 – has never been packaged for modern systems and distributed under an open-source license.

Until now, that is.

With the approval of its authors, I bring you Open Adventure. And with it some thoughts about what it means to be respectful of an important historical artifact when it happens to be software.

This is code that fully deserves to be in any museum of the great artifacts of hacker history. But there’s a very basic question about an artifact like this: should a museum preserve it in a static form as close to the original as possible, or is it more in the right spirit to encourage the folk process to continue improving the code?

Modern version control makes this question easier; you can have it both ways, keeping a pristine archival version in the history and improving it. Anyway, I think the answer to the general question is clear; if heritage code like this is relevant at all, it’s as a living and functional artifact. We respect our history and the hackers of the past best by carrying on their work and their playfulness.

May 17, 2017

Sid Meier interview

Filed under: Business, Gaming, History — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Last week, Chris Suellentrop talked to the legendary Sid Meier about the Civilization series and other games:

The first Civilization was released more than a quarter-century ago in 1991, after being developed by a team of two – Meier and Bruce Shelley – that grew to 10 at its largest. Meier estimated recently that the budget for the game was around $170,000. He did the programming, the design, and the artwork. “It was kind of an audacious game for us to make,” Meier said during a talk about the game’s development at this year’s Game Development Conference in San Francisco. “6,000 years of history in 640k.”

The Civilization series has now sold almost 40 million copies, according to Take Two, which owns Firaxis. Sid Meier’s Civilization VI, the most recent entry in the series, was released last year. (Even though Meier’s name is on it, the lead designer was Ed Beach.)

At GDC, Meier talked to Glixel for almost an hour with boyish enthusiasm about what makes Civilization work, why Firaxis turns to a new lead designer with almost every sequel, and that whole thing with having his name on the box.

How did it feel to deliver a postmortem on Civilization at the Game Developers Conference to mark the 25th anniversary of the game’s release?
In between the time Civ 1 came out and now, the Internet appeared, modding appeared, Reddit appeared, mobile appeared. So many things have happened in that time. But it’s all within a lifetime.

At Firaxis, Civ has been the pillar of what we do. We’re able to find a freshness in it by bringing in different designers. It’s one of the unique things about Civilization. Each iteration is led by a different person. There’s almost a Civ burnout. Once you’ve done a Civ, you’re kind of burned out and somebody else comes in with some fresh ideas.

[…]

What makes a good Civ game?
What happens in the player’s imagination. What we discovered afterwards, just by luck, kind of, was what fueled this “one more turn” phenomenon was the idea that, in your mind, you were always projecting what was going to happen next and what was going to happen three turns from now, what was going to happen eight turns from now. You had multiple irons in the fire. You were exploring this continent. You were dealing with troublesome neighbors. And you had this wonder that was always about to be built. So you were always anticipating what comes next.

A good Civ game has that quality, and it’s based in part on the turn-based nature of it. You have the time to imagine what’s going to happen next. You have the time to project your strategy, your ideas into the future. There’s also the anticipation not only of what you’re about to do but what the game’s about to do to you. Genghis Khan is going to show up. Or they’re going to finish the wonder before you. So there’s all those things that you are looking forward to and anticipating.

April 7, 2017

The art of Shakespeare … well, actually the art of Munchkin Shakespeare

Filed under: Gaming, Humour — Tags: — Nicholas @ 05:00

John Kovalic reflects on the now-complete artwork for Munchkin Shakespeare:

Munchkin Shakespeare is DONE!

At least my part.

Final tally: about 250 cards, bookmarks, covers, etc.

It was, without question, the largest single Munchkin project I’ve ever tackled at one sitting.

Well, several sittings, really. Over about a two-month period.

The final sitting was the best, though. In London at the time, I wandered around Southwark – Shake-dawg’s stomping grounds – and chose the bar at Shakespeare’s Globe to finish the last few drawings.

[…]

Munchkin Shakespeare was a hugely fun project – but it was also hugely huge, thanks to you monsters and all the stretch-goals you hit.

Would more time have been helpful? Yes. But then, that’s always the case. Point being, Munchkin Shakespeare is going to look fantastic. Most of that is due to the Steve Jackson Games Art Department, which always manages to make my silly little scribblings look great. Those folks are amazing.

Also? The cards are hilarious. I mean, truly madcap, green-eyed, bloodstained tremendous. Thanks to Steve Jackson, Andrew Hackard, and many contributors who threw in crazy ideas during a crowdsourcing braintrust info-dump that launched this too, too silly project.

Here are some first-looks at a few of the cards (Insert usual “Art Not Final” etc. things I’m supposed to say here)!

March 20, 2017

Towards a taxonomy of the tribes of the Alt-Right

Filed under: Gaming, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

A guest post at Catallaxy Files tries to identify the various sub-groups of the larger Alt-Right movement:

The Alt-Right may be described as the group of people who have been cast out of polite, progressive society. It is not a particularly intellectual movement, but this is a characteristic of the mechanism of its formation: Intellectuals as a group largely have the capacity and inclination to avoid being kicked out of polite society. This is not to suggest that the typical member of the Alt-Right is brutish; far from it. One of the characteristics of the progressive movement is its tendency to attack the people for their privilege: the people who choose to become Alt-Right are both able and independently minded. These are people who get things done.

[…]

Who are they and what do they believe? Again, there isn’t exactly a formal list. Moreover, many loudly deny being part of the Alt-Right, while quietly indicating that they are somewhat aligned. There are some identifiable groupings. Among them there are degrees of acceptance of the truths that are colloquially called ‘red pills’ (as per the Matrix). To this end, Vox Day, one of the more intellectually capable individuals who is openly part of the Alt-Right, set out 16 points on which there is general agreement. A new person in the movement – either intellectually curious or recently cast out – may only agree with 3 or 4 of these points. These people are considered ‘Alt-Lite’. Anyone who agrees with the vast bulk of these points is ‘Alt-Right’. Those on the spectrum from White Nationalism to White Supremacy are a subgroup referred to as the ‘Alt-White’; those with a broader view that has scope for all nationalities and peoples as the ‘Alt-West’. Finally, there are a group of generally aligned intellectual strands which are referred to collectively as the Dark Enlightenment.

The Alt-White holds an interesting position within the Alt-Right. From one perspective, they have been cast out the longest, and were also the originators of the term ‘Alt-Right’, which lends them a touch of primacy. At the same time, they are inclined to a degree of overextension and the their intellectual output is targeted at a broader but less educated base than some other groups. There is a degree of tension, especially where white nationalism gives way to white supremacy. […]

The Alt-West seems to be where a lot of those who were cast out from a more liberal or libertarian position seem to end up. These people may have come to the Alt-Right out of Gamergate, out of the computing/technology industry, out of science fiction community, or a number of other incidents. […] Gamergate is a story in itself, starting with a personal feud on a gaming site and morphing into an acrimonious ideological confrontation between an “alt-right” group and the feral left.

The Alt-Lite is really about getting your toes wet. Its transitional. As such it described people in process more than a set community. That said, places like this expose people to a metered dose of this red-pill.

There is another faction that is roughly ‘men’s groups’, men trying to navigate a world that is hostile to them and to family formation. There is some deep stuff in there if you are looking into social interaction, but it’s largely not suitable for ‘polite company’. A number of the men who started that grouping have broadened out from that starting base. See this site or this one for something less given in to the hedonism and base tendencies of the age.

March 2, 2017

Munchkin Shakespeare … I can’t believe this isn’t already a thing

Filed under: Gaming, Humour — Tags: — Nicholas @ 05:00

I don’t play games as often as I used to, but the Steve Jackson Games Munchkin series has always been a great source of party entertainment. I just discovered a Kickstarter campaign to produce a new one, called Munchkin Shakespeare, which will end just over a week from now. I know I have several quite serious Shakespeare fans among my readership, so I’d be remiss not to pimp this game to them:

They’ve more than met the initial goal, so the game will be produced, but the number and variety of stretch goals is yet to be fully completed.

January 30, 2017

An interesting reading on the significance of #GamerGate

Filed under: Gaming, Media, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

At Samizdata, Perry de Havilland considers the historical footnote that was #GamerGate:

Looking back, it’s hard to overstate the cultural significance of GamerGate: it marked when the Left suddenly and unexpectedly lost control of social media, right at the point where the influence of social media actually started to matter. In a sense, it was the second wave of discontent that started with the arrival of anti-MSM blogs in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, but within a very different internet environment compared to ‘The Golden Age of Blogging’ 2001-2010. As has often been the case in military campaigns, when one side becomes greatly overextended, they only realise they have lost the initiative when they seek to advance and experience a completely unexpected reversal: a result that may seem obvious and perhaps even inevitable to a historian looking back, but which was far from obvious to the people on the ground at the time.

So certain was the Left that they had won the culture war, so confident with the established media under their effective control that ‘truth’ was theirs to declare, that they gave up on any pretence of objectivity. After all, their enemies had been swept from both airwaves and print (I sometimes cannot tell the difference between the Times and the Guardian and the Economist). And so they began to manoeuvre with the assurance and arrogance of an army under an umbrella of complete air(wave) supremacy, a supremacy that suddenly proved to be illusory because opinions had moved on-line.

January 23, 2017

QotD: When “nerd culture” became (kind of) normal

Filed under: Gaming, Liberty, Media, Quotations, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Interestingly, the dot.com bust does not seem to have slowed down or discredited the geek subculture at all. Websites like http://geekculture.com and http://thinkgeek.com do a flourishing business, successfully betting investment capital on the theory that there is in fact a common subculture or community embracing computer hackers, SF fans, strategy gamers, aficionados of logic puzzles, radio hams, and technology hobbyists of all sorts. Just the fact that a website can advertise “The World’s Coolest Propeller Beanies!” is indication of how far we’ve come.

I’ve previously observed about one large and important geek subtribe, the Internet hackers, that when people join it they tend to retrospectively re-interpret their past and after a while find it difficult to remember that they weren’t always part of this tribe. I think something similar is true of geeks in general; even those of us who lived through the emergence of geek culture have to struggle a bit to remember what it was like back when we were genuinely atomized outcasts in a culture that was dismissive and hostile.

There are even beginning to be geek families with evidence of generational transmission. I know three generations of one, starting when two computer scientists married in the late 1960s, and had four kids in the 1970s; the kids have since produced a first grandchild who at age five shows every sign of becoming just as avid a gamer/hacker/SF-fan as his parents and grandparents.

Little Isaac, bless him, will grow up in a culture that, in its plenitude, offers lots of artifacts and events designed by and for people like him. He will take the World Wide Web and the Sci-Fi Channel and Yugio and the Lord of the Rings movies and personal computers for granted. He’ll probably never be spat on by a jock, and if he can’t find a girlfriend it will be because the geekgirls and geek groupies are dating other guys like him, rather than being nonexistent.

For Isaac, Revenge of the Nerds will be a quaint period piece with very little more relevance to the social circumstances of his life than a Regency romance. And that is how we know that the nerds indeed got their revenge.

Eric S. Raymond, “The Revenge of the Nerds is Living Well”, Armed and Dangerous, 2004-12-20.

January 16, 2017

“Crafting. Needs. To. End. It is ruining gaming”

Filed under: Gaming — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

John Ringo posted this on Facebook, and while I don’t play the particular games he references, I’m also finding that in-game crafting (which seemed like such a cool idea when I first heard of it) is really just an extended PITA:

(more…)

November 29, 2016

QotD: Imagined agency

Filed under: Gaming, Media, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

If you engage with [childrens’] interest, you can also help them toward appreciating and understanding the context, most obviously the history and politics, but also the life lessons to be learned from the decision making and engineering, for example the parable of the Panther and the T34 (tldr: “Good enough now is sometimes better than perfect, later.”)

You can even view stories about soldiers and soldiering as workplace adventures, since most of them hinge on office politics and team building.

And, in this context, the violent video games are just another learning tool, for all that they are also fun and a way to let off steam.

The third cost is more nebulous: imagined agency.

Children don’t have a lot of real agency, and, not only is it hard for a child to imagine modern adult agency, it’s also not very exciting.

One of the reasons action stories are compelling is that the main conflict is explicit and easy to grasp, and character agency simple and tangible: you know who Sharpe is struggling with because they are trying to kill each other; and you know he has agency because he has a unit of men, a rifle, and that big French cavalry sword.

It’s just much much easier to play soldiers in the garden, than aid worker, doctor or even adventurer. After a certain age, a child can only spend so long pretending to climb a mountain or pushing through the jungle undergrowth, but they can spend an entire afternoon enjoying a running skirmish, especially if they have those cool laser tag guns that actually track hits.

If you take away the plastic gun (with it’s don’t-shoot-me orange cap), ban Call of Duty, and censor books with guns and explosions on the cover, then — to me — it feels like you’re saying, Don’t imagine making important decisions, balancing risks, or being proactive.

M. Harold Page, “Children and War Toys and Violent Video Games and Action Stories”, Charlie’s Diary, 2016-11-15.

October 27, 2016

World of Warships British Cruiser Q&A

Filed under: Gaming, Military — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on Oct 23, 2016

Sunday bonus video! A few days ago I had to chance to put some questions to Karsin and Tuccy of the WoWs Dev Team regarding the new Royal Navy cruisers. Here’s what they had to say.

October 19, 2016

World of Warships – Her Majesty’s Ships

Filed under: Britain, Gaming — Tags: — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 18 Oct 2016

So I’m about to do an HMS Belfast video when Wargaming contact me and say “Hey, we gave you all the RN Light Cruisers again, your video can go up tomorrow and the whole thing goes live in two days. Any questions?”

TWO DAYS! YOU’RE KILLING ME HERE!

Yeah, I know, first world problems. Here’s the Royal Navy light cruiser line in general, and the premium tier 7 cruiser HMS Belfast in particular. THEY’RE AWESOME!

The Naval Hymn performed by the US Navy Band Chanters

October 13, 2016

If we’re living in a simulation, do we even want to break out?

Filed under: Gaming — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

I have no expertise in this area, but it appears to me that if the “Silicon Valley billionaires” are right and we are living in a simulated reality there are only two likely options. First, we’re (if you’ll pardon the simplification) “players in the game” — whether we’re aware of it within our simulation or not — and we can leave the simulation in the same way a World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV or Guild Wars 2 player can log off and resume life in “meat space”. Second, most or all of us are actually NPCs and there’s no way to leave the simulation because (some|most|all) of us have no objective existence outside the simulation we currently occupy. If the second option is true … and mathematically it’s the one that’s overwhelmingly likely if we’re actually in a simulation, then there’s little point in discovering that it’s true, as we’ll all cease to exist when our home simulation is turned off.

October 9, 2016

Tips and tricks for Civilization VI

Filed under: Gaming — Tags: — Nicholas @ 03:00

In PC Gamer, T.J. Hafer offers a few ideas to help you get started in your first few Civilization VI games:

Civilization VI

Going from Civ 4 to Civ 5 was probably the biggest step out of the comfy, immortal dictator shoes Sid Meier’s flagship series had ever taken, but Civ 5 to Civ 6 is an even more significant transformation. So whether you’re totally new to this world domination thing or a veteran of weathering Gandhi’s aggressive nuclear policy — along with battling the rest of Civ 6’s leaders — it’s wise to seek some understanding of the basics. There are some tricky concepts to come to terms with a couple layers under what Sean Bean will tell you in the tech pop-ups. And it’s Sean Bean, so you never know when he might get impaled or immolated, leaving us to navigate the winds of time on our own.

[…]

Barbarians have gotten a lot smarter

You know that scene in Jurassic Park where they realize the velociraptors have figured out how to open doors? My first couple encounters with Civ 6’s barbarians were a bit like that. The first barbarian unit you see is probably going to be a scout. And guess what? He’s coming to scope out your city and determine if it’s weak enough to attack. Not only that, but when his friends do arrive, they’re likely to have an intelligent unit composition and an understanding of the terrain similar to a human player.

City centers can’t attack in Civ 6 until walls have been built, so your first couple dozen turns can really put you at the mercy of the barbarians. Don’t wander off too far with your first warrior. I also recommend building at least one more warrior and a slinger very early on — before you even make a second settler. It’s worth it. On the bright side, barbarians are also now smart enough to retreat and lick their wounds if they know they’ve been beaten. So you only really need to kill a little more than half of their raiding party to buy yourself a respite.

Spread your Traders around to build road networks

Since trade routes now automatically generate roads between cities (and this is, in fact, the main way of building roads), you’re going to want to keep re-basing your traders every time their mission expires to add another link to your network until all the cities of your empire are connected. Roads are more important than ever due to the harsh terrain movement changes I discussed with Tom. They can easily be the difference between being able to reinforce a city that’s under siege, and allowing it to fall to friggin’ Saladin and his friggin’ auto-heal overpowered stupid-face Mamluks.

Also, don’t forget to protect your traders passing through the fog of war! I lost two of them to a barbarian scout with one health that I let live after the destruction of his village, thinking he wasn’t worth chasing and wouldn’t be a threat anymore. He apparently learned kung fu and took vengeance for his ancestors, costing me a lot of money, and I wasn’t too happy about it.

October 6, 2016

Civilization VI: What’s New or Changed? [Technology, Civics, Districts, Wonders, etc…]

Filed under: Gaming — Tags: — Nicholas @ 02:00

August 18, 2016

World of Warships – The Royal Navy

Filed under: Britain, Gaming — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 08:50

Published on 17 Aug 2016

Ahoy there, shipmates! Splice the mainbrace and shiver me timbers! British cruisers are coming and here’s our first look!

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