Wednesday, December 8, 2010

EGS Twitter Survey for December 6, 2010

My Twitter profile - Past Surveys

This survey question is about the absolute biggest moral dilemma in all of EGS. There are those who would consider the acceptance of homosexuality and all that to be a moral dilemma, but I consider that to just be common sense.

In any case, there is potential for great good and great horror depending on how the magic in EGS is used. Used benevolently, it could usher in a golden age. Used malevolently, it could have the potential to literally destroy the world. Note the "literally" there. I'm not talking Fallout games "life goes on" sort of end of the world here (although I really like Fallout 3).

In short, the consequences of it being common knowledge are unknown, which is in part due to the limits of magic being unknown. Odds are some dude with magic can't blow up the planet, but who knows for sure?

With all that said, here is how I originally presented the question (in the interest of full disclosure, I said nothing about "destruction of the world" potential prior to compiling the results):

You can prove magic is real. Public knowledge would irreversibly change the world, possibly making it worse. Do you keep magic a secret?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

EGS Twitter Survey for December 1, 2010

My Twitter profile - Past Surveys

I have issues with cable news. Not a specific channel, mind you. My issue is with news running 24/7. Sometimes, there just isn't anything worth reporting, or there's just nothing new to say about the latest big news. If you're a cable news network, however, not only do you have to fill that time, but you have to fill it with things that attract viewers away from other networks. It leads to less than objective, and less accurate, reporting.

That said, even if I don't agree with the hosts, I fully approve of editorial shows on those networks. So long as it's clear that the content of that program is editorial, it reduces the amount of air time devoted to trying to fill the inevitable news voids with sensationalized news.

Granted, I don't watch any of those editorial programs and I've heard bad things about many of the ones that do exist, but I still say that having shows on news networks that aren't desperately trying to fill every moment with shocking up-to-the-minute news could theoretically help keep cable news honest. That said, the survey question:

All you have to go on are the internet cell phone videos. You've just seen Arthur say it was real on a cable news program. Your response?

Monday, November 29, 2010

EGS Twitter Survey for November 22, 2010

My Twitter profile - Past Surveys

I'm not sure how survey heavy this week is gonna be. I only asked one last week on account of the holidays, and I'm thinking it's best not to force a question for each update. Quality over quantity, or something... in any case, here's the question from last week:

You're still you, but have taken Justin's place in this comic. How do you respond to Elliot's question from panel four?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Tangled Review

I saw Tangled last night with some friends, and it was a fun, cute movie. The characters were likable, the jokes were funny, and the horse may very well be the most awesome horse in all of cinema (take THAT, Mr. Ed!).

One thing that caught me off guard, however, was the singing. I know it's a Disney movie, but none of the previews I saw gave any hint of musical numbers, and I can't think of any 3D rendered movies I've seen that have been musicals. I would say I was fooled by my own prejudices, but based on the marketing strategies of this movie, I think they were deliberately trying to hide all traces of it being a musical.

Seriously, here are the trailers on YouTube (please note: I consider Trailer 2 to contain a few annoying spoilers):

Trailer 1 - Trailer 2

There are at least three things worth noting about the marketing: one, the focus is on the male lead. Two, there is no evidence of singing. Three, the movie was renamed in order to appeal to a wider demographic (it was originally called Rapunzel, after the true lead of the movie and the original fable).

Now, I actually prefer the title Tangled. It makes it sound more like a fractured fairy tale, which I think is more fun and truer in advertising than Rapunzel. It's inspired by Rapunzel and shares several elements, yes, but it's a different story. This is true of a lot of Disney movies, and there are more extreme cases of differing from the source material than this. As such, I'm all for shaking up the titles a bit.

The reasoning behind it, however, and the reason for the misleading marketing is because they were trying to bring in the young male demographic. The directors claim the name change was for a different reason, but is that sort of thing really up to the directors?

Actually, that's an interesting question. Who ultimately decides what to name these things?

Anyway, this is supposedly the result of The Princess and The Frog not doing as well as hoped, which was disappointing to hear. I admit that the film wasn't a masterpiece, but it was good and deserving of success, and I was hoping for more traditionally animated films. The visuals in Tangled are good and I'm fine with it being 3D rendered, but I fear the financial disappointment of The Princess and The Frog may be the final nail in the coffin of traditional movie animation.

Marketing and feeling lied to aside, the movie really was enjoyable, funny, and Rapunzel was very, very cute. And I don't mean "cute" in a "she's so fine" sort of way. I mean cute as in "fuzzy kitten playing with a ball of yarn". It's not forced, either. The character is just naturally adorable. I know some people won't care about or even notice that sort of thing, but I liked it.

Speaking of which, one of my friends who saw the movie with me, well, HATED this movie. He didn't think there was anything there for adults, and while I don't agree with that sentiment, I do concede that there is a lack of hidden adult humor. A lot of family movies and shows will have subtle jokes that go over the heads of children while making the adults laugh. I personally don't think it's a movie adults cannot enjoy, but I do see how some adults wouldn't care for it. If I may be slightly sexist for a moment, I suspect most of these adults will be male, further emphasizing the misleading marketing.

As for the musical aspect of this musical, it really wasn't that great. I remember a lot of the visuals and the words, but I'm honestly having a lot of difficulty recalling any of the melodies. I usually exit a movie with some of its music stuck in my head, musical or not, but I'm drawing a blank on this one. That's not a good sign when the movie is a musical.

The songs weren't terrible or anything, but I don't think they were to the film's benefit. They also lacked subtlety, somewhat beating the audience over the head with the point of the songs. I believe the film could have pulled off greater subtlety without confusing any (well, most) of the younglings in the audience.

In the end, I did really like this movie, and I'm bound to snag it on DVD when it comes out. The marketing of it was somewhat evil, however, and I think it would've been better without the songs.

Monday, November 22, 2010

EGS Twitter Survey for November 19, 2010

My Twitter profile - Past Surveys

EGS is full of awkward moments and concepts, and I figured this one being suggested was perhaps an extreme example of that. Was I right? Well, let's find out!

Do you agree with Grace's comments about morphing and looking like people in this comic?

Friday, November 19, 2010

EGS Twitter Survey for November 17, 2010

My Twitter profile - Past Surveys

For anyone wondering where the survey for the 15th is, there wasn't one. I couldn't think of a question I actually wanted to ask, and that almost happened with the 17th, too.

It occurs to me that there will be times when I might not have a question to ask for every comic (future fight scenes come to mind), so, for the record, not EVERY comic is guaranteed a survey. I will do them as often as I can think of them, however.

With that out of the way, my latest "dude, mild-mannered Elliot looks like Velma" inspired question (note - due to the natural length of the answers, I accepted multiple tweets per person on this one):

If you had to pick five characters from EGS to cosplay as the Scooby-Doo gang, including Scooby, who would you pick for which roles?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

EGS Twitter Survey for November 12, 2010

My Twitter profile - Past Surveys

I know people have a tendency to go flying when they get hit in martial arts movies, but to quote top scientists, "that doesn't happen for realsies". Someone might move a few feet as a result of a punch or kick, and maybe even slide across the floor for a few more. When it looks like they're flying across the room in a straight line as though suspended by a wire, however, it's probably because they were.

With that in mind...

You just totally kicked a monster 100 feet into a river in front of tons of witnesses. How do you explain being able to do this?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

EGS Twitter Survey for November 10, 2010

My Twitter profile - Past Surveys

Nicknames can suck, can't they? I mean, when they're good, they're good. I once had the nickname Dandave, and I thought it was nifty keen! When they're bad, however...

Elliot can either reinforce or counter the cheerleader persona. Which should he do, and how?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

EGS Twitter Survey for November 8, 2010

My Twitter profile - Past Surveys

As common as it is for all of us to wind up on the news and being asked an awkward question, rarely is that question something we dare not give the actual answer to. Nonetheless, this is the situation Justin finds himself in.

How would you answer Carol's question?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

EGS Twitter Survey for November 5, 2010

My Twitter profile - Past Surveys

What I find funny here is that if Grace was the recipient of the cupcake after the previous question, she'd probably wind up giving it up on account of this question. Why? Well...

Grace needs to comfort mild mannered Elliot! How should she do this?

Friday, November 5, 2010

EGS Twitter Survey for November 3, 2010

My Twitter profile - Past Surveys

You are about to be given a question that would shatter the resolve of kings. Do you think you can handle it?

Don't say you weren't warned:

There is one cupcake left. Both Grace and mild mannered girl Elliot are making puppy-dog faces. Who gets the cupcake?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

EGS Twitter Survey for November 1, 2010

My Twitter profile - Past Surveys

Okay, so we all have our plans ready for what we'll do when we inevitably get zapped into our opposite genders and have to prove our identities. However...

Role reversal: what would it take for you to believe someone claiming they're your friend but have been turned into the opposite gender?

Monday, November 1, 2010

EGS Twitter Survey for October 29, 2010

My Twitter profile

The latest question is the sort that seems a bit odd until one remembers "oh, right. El Goonish Shive. This is to be expected."

Ladies, gentlemen and whoever, the question:

You're temporarily transformed. You're the opposite gender and look very different. How do you prove you're you?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

EGS Twitter Survey for October 25, 2010

My Twitter profile

Before I get to the question, I just want to remind people that I'm not going to post adult content or swearing that goes beyond what one might reasonably expect seeing in the comic itself. Please also keep that in mind when making comments on this blog.

And now, ze question:

What comment would you leave on someone's video of Justin and Super F-Elliot fighting the fire monster?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Parallel Universes Followup

Dear everyone who is still e-mailing me about this: I am not "forgetting" the idea of infinite parallel universes.  I made a long comment in response to one of my earlier posts that really should be it's own blog post, and I'm posting it here. I've bolded where I start talking about "infinite".


My argument is that if there is no randomized component, then the decision is going to based on a variety of factors that we are not even conscious of, including biological, environmental, hormonal, etc.

If that is true and no randomization is occurring, then the outcome of person X being presented with Y cereal boxes under condition Z is going to be constant. The creation of an alternate outcome would be dependent on at least one variable being modified, hence why I consider a lack of genuine randomization a big deal.

To put it another way, if every effect has a cause, what cause exists for them to ultimately choose one cereal over another? One does not walk up to 5 boxes of cereal and walk away with one out of the five with no reason at all behind it. Even if they're totally apathetic and just grabbed a box without looking, their behavior still follows a series of causes and effects that could be tracked and predicted if one had all the information and the means to process it.

I also consider the idea of alternate universes being created as a result of every decision to be somewhat self-aggrandizing. I just held up my hand and chose not to snap my fingers. I find the claim that I just split the universe in twain by doing so a bit ridiculous.

As for 'infinite'. I know what it means. A problem here is that 'infinite' has multiple definitions, and one can argue which term applies to 'infinite' multiple universes. I'm willing to accept this one:

"Immeasurably great" - the number of alternate universes, should they exist, are beyond our ability to measure. The exponential creation of these universes is also beyond our ability to measure. The number is so vast and growing that mankind would be wiped out by the death of the sun before finishing saying what would be a long-outdated number of universes.

Going by this definition, every POSSIBLE universe could exist. Jon Stewart could exist in many different continuities, but he would not be in all of them, nor would we all be in all universes. It would be a cosmically huge mix and match scenario.

This one, however, I am less willing to accept:

"Unbounded or unlimited; boundless; endless" - This implies every universe, possible or not, exists. Under this definition, a universe where the world blew up during the American civil war, was reconstructed by industrious space beavers, and ultimately resulted in an exact copy of the world as we know now, except every five seconds we all freeze, then unfreeze without realizing it, exists.

Now, for all I know, that universe TOTALLY EXISTS, and that would be super cool. However, even if countless universes exists, I don't think that one does. I can't prove it either way, so it's just an opinion, but it's one I think logic has the back of.

In short, I'm actually pretty open to the idea of the first definition being true if there is actually a multiverse, and short of seeing documentation proving otherwise, I'm assuming "immeasurably great" is what quantum theorists are saying.

The second one, however, where any reality can exist for no reason, just seems silly to me. It's not something I'm going to accept has sensible from anyone without solid proof.

Also, of course I think I'm right. I wouldn't be saying this stuff if I didn't think I was. It would be pretty cool if I was wrong, but I haven't heard anything that sounds like definitive proof of that yet. If definitive proof is found, however, I'll probably tweet something along the lines of "cool!" followed by a link to a news post about it ^^;


I would also like to point out to anyone who is annoyed by my statement "nothing is random" that I am equally annoyed by people saying "there are an infinite number of universes" as though they were saying "the sky is blue". A lot of people say it like it's an indisputable fact that's been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. It hasn't been.

I can't prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that nothing is random. It's impossible; all it would take would be one provable random event to disprove my assertion. As such, it's a belief, not a scientific fact.

Infinite universes hasn't been proven, either. For all we know, we're it. There's evidence and hypothesis's that support there being more, but until there's solid, indisputable proof that there's even just one other one (such as by, say, actually making contact with another universe), that too is a belief.

I'll make everyone out there is a deal. I won't claim nothing is truly random is scientific truth if you won't claim there are infinite universes as scientific truth. At this point, they are both beliefs. They are beliefs with foundations in science and reasoning, but beliefs nonetheless.

Friday, October 22, 2010

EGS Twitter Survey for October 22, 2010

It's a whole new you!
My Twitter profile

I've decided to do something fun to accompany EGS story comic updates. At 1 pm Eastern US time (noon for me, hence the "odd" time), a scheduled tweet will ask a question related to the latest update and post most of the tweets I get prior to a set deadline (the deadlines will probably vary. I say "most" only because there's always the possibility that I might not want to quote a particular tweet. This is the internet, after all.

And after all of your answers? My answer.

Who tweeted what will remain anonymous, and I'll also accept e-mail responses that are under 140 characters. This anonymity is to respect people's privacy settings and, let's face it, to make this easier for me. It's a lot faster to just copy/paste the responses.

Without further ado, my question to the readers and their answers:

How would you react if it was you in today's story comic?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Episode Rant: Itchy & Scratchy & Marge

I'm a big fan of early seasons of The Simpsons. Hell, the entire reason my horribly named comic, El Goonish Shive, has "goonish" in the title is because of an episode from season four where the line "hired goons?" got stuck in my brain and refused to leave.

The episode I'm interested in ranting about today, however, is from season two, and is titled "Itchy And Scratchy And Marge". It is reportedly a popular episode and an example of the creators being inspired by the public's response to their own show. I have several nits to pick about its story and it's messages, however, in particular my opinion that Marge, while not really in the right, is not ultimately a hypocrite.


Marge is on a crusade against cartoon violence after she discovers her youngest daughter Maggie is imitating violent behavior from The Itchy and Scratchy Show. She attempts to convince the writers to write less violent material, and winds up protesting the show with the support of other concerned parents. Marge is invited to appear on the talk show Nightline, and while there asks other concerned parents to make their voices heard. After receiving literal truckloads of complaints, the Itchy and Scratchy writers give in and remove all violence from the show.

Sometime after that, Michelangelo's David is on display in Springfield. The same parents who helped Marge censor Itchy and Scratchy want her to lead the protest against the statue on the grounds that it portrays male nudity. Marge does not object to the statue, but is nonetheless invited back to Nightline based on the presumption that she would. She is asked how she can be for one form of freedom of expression and not for another, and concludes that she can't be. The world is once again returned to normal as The Itchy and Scratchy Show becomes violent again.

The Message

One message this episode somewhat conveys, possibly by accident, is that what's appropriate content for a child should be determined on an individual basis. Lisa and Bart watched the show regularly without incident, but Maggie was imitating the show and injured her father as a result. Instead of forcing the networks to change their shows, one should decide for themselves what's appropriate for their children. In Marge's case, she should have allowed Bart and Lisa to watch, but not Maggie.

The message the episode seemed to want to deliver, however, was about freedom of expression. I'm all for freedom of expression, but the manner in which this episode tries to get the point across gets under my skin, and it all boils down to this one question that was asked of Marge:

"How can you be for one form of freedom of expression like our big, naked friend over there, and be against another form, like Itchy and Scratchy?"

Marge's answer is "I guess I can't", suggesting that it is hypocritical of her to object to one and not the other.

My problem with this is that they're NOT THE SAME THING. One is a statue of a naked man, and another is a violent TV show aimed at children. Maggie seriously injured Homer when she imitated Itchy and Scratchy, and it's suggested that other fathers were similarly injured. Marge may have dealt with it poorly, but within the context of the episode, her objections were the result a legitimate concern. It is NOT hypocritical to object to something that is viewed as a threat to one's family while not objecting to something that isn't seen as a legitimate threat to anything!

This is nitpicking, of course. It's a funny episode and there's plenty to like about it, but a particularly big pet peeve of mine is when people over-generalize, and it seems to be becoming more common. A symptom of over-generalizing is erroneous declarations of hypocrisy, and  I've heard many "that's hypocritical" claims that may as well be based on someone eating apples but not eating oranges.

"They're both fruit! How can you object to one and not the other? They're the same!"

I could go on about this pet peeve, but let's stick to the context of this Simpsons episode. To me, this episode is an example of preaching to the choir. It has a good message, but the manner in which it's presented is only going to speak to people who are already on board with it. The final point about freedom of expression is another point entirely. One can claim it's not, but consider someone airing Criminal Minds at 3pm and marketing it to children. Is the issue as to whether that's appropriate for children really freedom of expression?

Then Again...

Of course, the meta-point of this episode was about The Simpsons itself, which is a show intended for adults. The freedom of expression argument definitely applies in that scenario, as the issue isn't, in theory, the impact it might have on children. Children do watch the show (I myself was under 10 when I saw this episode), but they also watch other sitcoms geared for adults, so whatever. Point is, a show intended for adults has a more legitimate claim to "freedom of expression", especially in the real world where the only supposed incident of a child imitating the show and getting hurt was a skateboard accident. Frankly, if someone's taking up skateboarding, there's going to be injuries with or without Bart.

As such, considered from ye-olde meta perspective, the message has a bit more weight. Even then, though, I think it would make more sense for the ultimate lesson to have been for parents to determine for themselves what is and isn't appropriate for their children to watch. It seems much more applicable than "artistic freedom! Ha ha!" To me, that sounds less like a lesson and more like the creators acknowledging that the show is bad for children, but they're gonna keep doing it anyway because it's their right to do so.

And You're Ranting NOW Because...?

I'm bothering to rant about this now because I think it's worth thinking about. I think a lot of attempts at making points like this wind up falling short for similar reasons. There are other episodes of other shows that do similar things, and when I get the chance I'll explain my feelings about them, too (consider yourself warned, Family Guy! Not that you care, but still...). As a quasi-writer myself, it's something I need to keep in mind when beating audiences over the head with my own heavy-handed views on the world.

As for The Simpsons, they got better at this over time. MUCH better. I'm nitpicking an episode from late 1990 here, for Pete's sake. I may as well pick on someone for liking a cheesy band in elementary school. As I've said, though, it's still worth analyzing in retrospect and keeping whatever lessons one might take away from it in mind.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mythbusters: What the hell?

Before anything else, it has to be said: Jamie Hyneman is a badass. He's like, "Yeah, I know you're the president of the United States. I'm still going to wear what I always wear."

Secondly: what the hell? I saw tweets over the weekend about how Adam and Jamie were going somewhere over the weekend and how it was all very hush-hush and would be revealed on Monday, but I never would have guess they were going to hang out with the president. I assume this photograph was taken immediately before putting up a bunch of plastic sheets to keep Mentos-propelled Diet Coke from getting on all those books.

I'm sure the information is available as to what exactly they're doing, but I had to immediately comment on this photo. All I know for certain is that Obama is going to be in an episode of Mythbusters. If there isn't at least one scene with Adam or Jamie asking "can we do that?" followed by Obama saying "yes, we can", I'm going to be sorely disappointed.

Regardless of what they're doing, I'm happy for Adam and Jamie. I like these guys and their show, and getting to meet and hang out with the president, regardless of whatever one's personal political leanings might be, is an honor they should be proud of. Jamie was already something of a mythological folk hero (seriously, look up his past exploits), but now he can cross off "meet the president" on his folk hero checklist.

As a final note, Obama is quoted on the Facebook Mythbusters group as admitting that he was disappointed about not getting to blow anything up. Whatever issues one may have with the president, my opinion of him just went up a notch.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Batman, How Could You?!

I was in a FRY's earlier today, and something caught my eye. A Batman... thing that's specifically designed to be placed on computer monitors. An official Batman product that's designed to stay near where you work at the computer and stare at you with a judgmental look on his face.


Batman, you jerk! I... I thought we had something special! You would sit on my desk, remind me to do all that stuff I'm supposed to do, and now I find out about... about... THIS?!

I'm sorry, Batman, but this is just too much for me. I'm replacing you with my Princess Peach figure. Yeah, she only reminds me to rescue her and play video games, but at least I can trust her! Even if she does disappear for days at a time and comes back smelling strangely of Italian food and turtles...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Strangely Epic Music Video

Yeah, yeah, I'll get back to that quantum physics mumbo-jumbo later. For now, however...

I don't watch a lot of YouTube videos, but there are plenty of gems to be found there. I was recently directed to some Weebl's Stuff on YouTube, and discovered this video for a band named Savlonic while browsing the channel.

She only looks far away.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I clicked on the link for "Tiny Japanese Girl", but what I got was fun, epic music with a fun, epic video. Needless to say, the song is now part of my iTunes collection.

Anything more I could say would just detract from it, so I'll just recommend checking it out when you get a chance. I also recommend checking out other videos of Weebl's. I haven't viewed them all yet, but of what I've seen, Cat Face is awesome. I particularly like the 13th one.

I guess it's worth noting that there's some bad language in some of those videos, but from what I've seen (heard?), nothing too major or frequent. Relative to the much of the internet, it's squeaky clean.

Actually, given that it's on YouTube, I should probably say it's squeaky clean relative to its own comments section.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

True Randomness

"You don't see THAT everyday..."
In my last blog post, I proved once and for all why we couldn't possibly exist in other universes short of a higher power intervening and no one could think of a single argument as to why that could be wrong.


Okay, so maybe there were a lot of comments with counter-arguments. I have a counterpoint that touches on the basis for several arguments for the very existence of other universes and what would cause them to exist at all, however, and I'm curious how it will be countered, so here we go:

Nothing is random.

Before I clarify that statement, here's why I bring it up: there is a hypothesis that every possible outcome of any given moment results in parallel universes. On the surface, this suggests an infinity of universes beyond even the most smarty-pants nerd's comprehension, with universes splitting for no more reason than a person having two different cereal options for their morning breakfast.

The problem with this is that nothing is truly random. There are tons of things that, for all human intents and purposes, are random, but that doesn't actually mean they're truly random. It just means they are beyond our ability to predict.

Three examples: the shuffling of a deck, the rolling of a die, and randomized damage dealt in an RPG video game.

Shuffling: The order of the cards is determined by what order they started in, how they were shuffled, whether they were cut, etc. While we cannot predict the final order they will wind up in, making it random for all human intents and purposes, it's not truly random at all as far as the universe is concerned. There is a clear sequence of events with every effect having a cause. A being of high enough intelligence, observational senses, and knowledge of the starting order could know the order of the cards after being shuffled without looking.

Die roll: Same as the shuffling. How the die is thrown, where it lands, etc, gives us a result that is, for all intents and purposes, random, but it landed on the number it did due to various measurable factors. There are too many factors for us to reasonably keep track of and know the ultimate outcome, but the universe is smarter than us. If it were a being capable of following all the variables, it would know the result of every die throw in advance.

Randomized computer number: One of the major issues in computer programming is generating a truly random number, and the reason for this is that it has to be based on something. In short, it's not truly random at all. Any randomization of the damage being dealt in the RPG is most likely the result of an algorithm that "randomizes" the number based on the internal system clock. If one were an android with lightning fast reflexes and could precisely follow that clock, one could time their menu selections in order to get the best possible results every time.

The end point is that the idea of multiple universes resulting from something like a coin flip doesn't make sense to me. When the coin is flipped, the outcome isn't actually random, meaning that there is only actually one possible outcome in spite of there being two sides. We don't know what this outcome is, but humanity's inability to predict something is not the same as it being random from the perspective of the universe as a whole.

This extends to human psychology and decision making. Going back to the two cereals to choose from example, there are various factors impacting the decision, more than we can even begin to comprehend if we really start to think about it, but none of those factors are themselves random. The decision will ultimately be the result of countless non-random factors that won't arbitrarily change. Regardless of how many types of cereal there are in the cabinet, as far as the universe is concerned, there is only one possible outcome.

...Wait, did I just prove the existence of fate? o_O

Okay, that was an exaggeration for my own amusement, but it's an interesting thing to consider. It's also worth noting that based on this argument, even if there is such a thing as fate, there may as well not be from our perspective. Our tiny human brains are incapable of accounting for the effectively infinite amount of x-factors, so there's no point in assuming we know what our fates are. I think we should be humble, accept the limitations of our own minds, and do our best to make our own destinies without arrogantly assuming we know what our fates are. We don't. That's what makes life both fun and tolerable.

This is the part where someone will comment about random quantum components or electrons out of sync or something like that. If one can genuinely prove quantum randomization resulting in other universes, I'm willing to consider it, but I would need some sort of real, solid proof to revise my opinion of randomness. At the moment, it sounds more to me like humans concluding that things they are incapable of measuring or predicting are truly random as opposed to just being beyond our ability to predict.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Other Universes And Why We Probably Aren't In Them

Family Guy is owned by FOX. Also, the
episode this is from was pretty good.
Parallel universes are a fun science fiction trope. Imagine a world similar to our own where things are very similar but different. Universes where someone else won that one big war, or dragons roam the Earth, or the Star Wars prequels kicked ass. And in these universes, there are various versions of yourself, identical, yet different.

Except that last part is illogical.

Before I continue, I want to make a few things clear. This hypothesis is based on cause and effect, probability, and biology. For all I know, fate is a real thing, and if some all powerful being wants The Daily Show With Jon Stewart to be a constant in the multiverse, then yes, Jon Stewart will exist in all continuities regardless of anything I'm about to say.

Given that we can neither prove nor disprove things such as fate and destiny, however, that is not being considered here and is a different debate altogether.

For the purpose of this argument, the definition of a dimensional alternate is "someone born with identical DNA". It doesn't matter if they mutate later or whatever; so long as they're born with DNA identical to someone in another universe, they're someone's alternate. This ignore's any spiritual or other technical ways one could arguably be an alternate.

Odds of Someone's Parents Meeting

There are so many factors involved here that I honestly don't know how to calculate it. I don't think anyone could. The odds of two specific people getting together in one universe are low enough, but in more than one universe with different histories?

Consider one of my examples where something is crazily different, and the Star Wars prequels KICKED ASS! But what if two people met and fell in love over the internet as a result of their mutual hatred for the prequels? In a universe where there was nothing to complain about, would they still get together, let alone know that the other person even exists?

It's a silly example, but consider any "how did you meet" story, and you can find points where you could have prevented them from meeting by changing just one little thing. Now consider a universe where America lost the Revolutionary war. Imagine how many "little things" that would change.

Again, this argument doesn't factor in fate, the force, cupid, etc, so don't comment with "true wuv" or, well.... I guess I'd just sit at the computer and look annoyed. Not much else I could do, really.

Odds of a Specific Person Being Born

Let's say that in spite of President Lincoln being a space dingo democrat in this other universe, one's parents still meet and have children. The odds of one's dimensional alternate being born remains low all the same.

Remember, for the sake of this discussion, one is not a dimensional alternate unless they have identicial DNA. I don't want to get too graphic here, but if you think about it, it's much more likely that the equivalent of a fraternal twin or a sibling would be born than a dimensional alternate with identical DNA. Whether the first X chromosome is identical would depend on when the baby was conceived, and the second X or Y chromosome would have a low probability of being identical regardless of when conception took place.

This is a problem with time travel as well. I know the universe was pretty easy going in Back To The Future, but I still think Marty should've shapeshifted some as he messed with continuity. Heck, he could've even wound up changing genders!


To the fan art machine!

Exponentially Complicated

When you consider the various reasons two people might not meet and the odds against a specific person being born, the odds of one person existing in multiple universes is pretty low. Thing is, that's just one generation. This applies to every single previous generation.

As such, not only are the odds of one specific person being born astronomically low, but the odds of their parents, grandparents, etc. were low, too. The odds of the family tree being multiversally constant becomes exponentially lower with each successive generation.

Actually, I shouldn't say every previous generation. It's really just up to the point where the universes were last identical. For another universe to be recognizable at all as parallel, it seems like it would have to identical up to a point in history.

Let's say Marty's reckless time travel resulted in the universe diverging into two separate universes, meaning the universes are identical up to sometime in the 1950's. Eventually, the ripple effect of the changes to Hill Valley would be far-reaching, but initially, that town would be the only place with significant changes. By the 1980s, the odds of the latest generation of Hill Valleyans being identical in both universes would be pretty low.


My conclusion is thus: Short of some outside force manipulating who is and isn't born in each universe, the odds of a single person existing in multiple universes where events were different prior to their birth are low to the point of essentially being non-existent.

As such, in a hypothetical universe where things are left to chance and, for example, America lost the revolutionary war, none of us would logically exist.

In spite of all this, the concept is fun enough that I am willing to ignore it, work around it, whatever I've gotta do to be able to write and enjoy parallel universe stories. Yes, there are logical flaws, but science doesn't run the show when it comes to fiction.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Satisfying the Niche Audiences

Oh, wow. I have a BLOG? A place where I can write and say things that are on my mind and share it with the world? EXTRAVAGANT!

My comic, El Goonish Shive, is arguably very strange. In this age of the internet, what does and does not qualify as strange is a bit iffy, but I would still argue that my comic qualifies. It includes a lot of unusual elements and combinations of said elements that attract multiple niche audiences who read it less for the whole and more for specific aspects of it. After over eight years of EGS and time spent online, I have learned something about niche audiences:

Niche audiences can be very difficult to please, and not pleasing them can result in hostility.

I'm not saying this is true of everyone who read EGS because it fits a niche. In fact, I believe (hope?) that the vast majority are pretty easy going and friendly. As is the case with a loud man talking in a room full of a hundred quiet people, however, the demanding portion of the audience stand out significantly even if they are not the majority.

By very difficult to please, I mean there's a portion of the audience who are looking for very specific things, and my comic comes close to what they specifically want without actually doing so. This leads to frustration on their end, and sometimes to my receiving some pretty nasty and continuously negative feedback.

This leads to my own frustration, as the people I refer to are likely to continue reading my comic due to it almost being specifically what they want, them continuing to act with hostility because it's not specifically what they want, and me getting annoyed because it will never be specifically what they want due to what they want being so specific that I'd basically have to make a different comic altogether.

This doesn't just happen with my comic (boy, wouldn't that be weird?). There are people with very specific tastes in regard to many things, and that on its own isn't a problem. One can have very specific tastes without being pushy about it. I myself have some very specific tastes. The X-Files was a show I kept watching because it was almost what I wanted, and it was frustrating because it wasn't what I specifically wanted, and it never became what I wanted.

Heck, it only got worse. Remember when Mulder left and they kept going? I mean, what the hell, right? Scully was cool and all in a "oh my GOD you've been slapped by the paranormal HOW many times and you still won't accept it's real" sort of way, but Mulder was the heart of the show. Without Mulder, it freakin' wasn't the same show. What the hell were they-- Wait, where was I?

Anyway, for the X-Files to become what I wanted, it would have to alienate (PUN!) the majority of its audience. It would need a lighter tone, more humor, confirm the existence of aliens in season one, etc. I would have loved that. The show would've been canceled a few weeks later, but I would've been momentarily placated. The happy ending is that Warehouse 13 now exists, and it's pretty damn close to the tone I wanted. I think Pete is overly goofy to the point of being somewhat difficult to believe at times, but it's close enough, darn it!

Anyway, I don't know if I actually have a moral to this blog post. I mostly wanted to vent a bit about some of the continuous feedback I get from people who will never be satisfied with my work short of drastically altering it to the point that it would no longer be something I'd want to make. It also lead to me thinking about how I've been in that position, as I didn't sit down to write this with any intent of bringing up the X-Files, but there it is.

I guess if there was an ultimate point to it, it would be that if a creator is making apples, feedback on how to make better apples can be helpful and encouraging. Feedback to the same creator in regard to making better oranges and continually hoping said apples will become oranges, however, is ultimately frustrating and demotivational for all concerned.

...Wait, my web browser's dictionary doesn't consider "demotivational" a word? BAH! The interwebs has MADE it a word! Websters, get on that crap. Like, for reals. This toad won't fly.

Monday, July 12, 2010

TK Punch?

I know this is pretty random, but... how the heck does telekinetically boosting a punch work? Seriously, I used to read X-Man, and he'd punch someone with TK BOOSTS!


What does that mean? Are his hands surrounded by force fields? Does that make them tougher somehow? Is there like a bounce effect that sends people flying more? If it's just a force field, does he even need the fist? Does he make his arm, and possibly his whole body, move faster? Wouldn't that be a huge strain on his body, roughly equivalent to something forcefully flinging it around?

Seriously, what the crap does "throwing some TK" into a punch mean?! I've been wondering this for years! Do even the writers of the comic know?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Magic Has Been Played

I recently talked about the possibility of attending a prerelease tournament for Magic: The Gathering's 2011 Core Set. This morning, I woke up at the crack of 6:30am and scampered off to the nearest tournament.

It was a good experience. There were 43 people in attendance, and all of them appeared to be in their upper-teens or older. Part of the reason I went to the earliest tournament was the logic that kids without driver's licenses were less likely to be present that early on a Saturday, but the afternoon tournament (I left right as it was starting) appeared to attract an older audience as well. This bodes well for my potential future participation.

What kind of sucked, however, was that due to the odd number of players, I was randomly chosen to sit out in the second round. This didn't bother me that much; someone had to sit out, after all. What did bother me, however, was in the third round when my opponent didn't show up. Out of four rounds, I only actually got to play in two.

Courtesy lesson: if you're going to leave a tournament early, tell the judges. This tournament was "official", so it apparently wasn't a simple matter of dropping that player and having me play whoever got the buy that round.

Of the rounds I did play, each round being best 2 out of 3 games, I lost one and won the other. I had a white/green deck with many low-cost creatures, some fliers and the occasional heavy-hitter. The most powerful card I had managed to get in my six boosters was the Baneslayer Angel, pictured above (image from the M:TG website). Is it just me, or is this card ridiculously overpowered? It flies, has first strike, you gain life equal to whatever damages it deals, demons and dragons can't touch it, it's 5/5, and it only costs five mana. The first game I won in the final round ended immediately after I played it due to my opponent forfeiting on the basis that he had no way of dealing with the monstrosity of an angel.

It's supposed to be a very rare card (what's known as a mythic rare), but I'm one of two people that got one. I know it's statistically possible, particularly with 258 packs being opened, but still. Someone not in the tournament got the 2010 version in a booster pack as well. Mythic rare my foot.

The conclusion I've reached from this is that it probably is worth my while to attend more tournaments. I don't want to go all out buying a bunch of cards, but I don't have to if my primary goal is to play and have fun.

Monday, July 5, 2010

I... MIGHT Have Been Sick?

Have you ever concluded that you might have had a fever? As in, you didn't think you were sick at the time, but in retrospect the evidence suggests that maybe you were?

Last night, my face felt hot, I had a headache, it was difficult to think straight, and I felt the need to lie down and stay down before it was even 9 pm. At the time, I just concluded it was the heat, but the air conditioning had been on and I had a fan going once it was off, so it wasn't actually all that hot inside. In addition, I wound up turning off the rotate function on my fan because my forehead would feel hot the instant the fan turned away from it.

I dunno, maybe it really was just the heat outside getting to me. I guess I'll never know for certain, but I'm drinking plenty of fluids and staying out of the heat today.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Magic Gathering?

I'm debating whether I should participate in the pre-release madness of the Magic: The Gathering (M:TG) 2011 core set. It's been years since I've played for realsies, though I recently got Duel of the Planeswalkers on Steam, so I'm not nearly as rusty as I could be.

I got out of M:TG long ago due to the cost of staying up to date with "allowable" cards, the annoyance of mostly playing against decks designed by someone on the internet rather than my opponent, rules disputes, and the constant errata (by which I mean the "official" way a card worked wasn't necessarily what was said on the card). It lost its appeal for me, and competition from other card games were making it difficult to find opponents anyway.

However, I'm done collecting cards. I've got old boxes of them that might be fun to look at occasionally, but I suspect the majority of them will one day be traded into a comic shop for store credit that will inevitably be spent on random trade paperbacks. If I were to play again, I would be happy buying pre-constructed decks that are guaranteed to be tourney legal. Heck, you can buy physical copies of the decks from Duel of the Planeswalkers, though with the latest set coming out, I don't know if those will stay tourney legal (see what I mean about the costs of keeping up with "allowable" cards?).

I'm interested in attending a tournament, because frankly, I need to get out and socialize more, and Magic would theoretically be good common ground and fun. This is, of course, assuming there are other adults at the tournament. I know there are plenty of adults who play M:TG, possibly having played it since it first came out, but that doesn't guarantee they'll be the ones attending the tournaments I have easy access to.

I was actually interested in asking someone at the local card shop about upcoming tournaments and what age group they foresaw attending, but man, it is AWKWARD in there. I genuinely have trouble telling who works there and who is just hanging out, which tells me that not much has changed since high school. I wound up checking out the website to find out about the tourney. Kind of pathetic, I know, but the atmosphere made me feel like an outsider in an unwelcome land, which is kinda weird. One would think a comic book store would be a natural habitat for me.

Although, someone on Twitter was kind enough to link to a Store & Event locator, and some of the locations are colleges. I might want to consider those if I'm hoping for adult opponents. Hell, maybe I can finally find people playing D&D 4.0 with that thing. Everyone I find for D&D the old fashioned way flakes out ^^;

Shuffle for Apple TV: Only $178+ Extra!

As anyone who read my last blog post is aware, I had complaints about the Apple TV and its video playlist options. They aren't visible by default, and there's no shuffle option. I think you might be able to shuffle music videos, but I only have one Weird Al video, so I can't really test it. People have offered reasons for this, but I don't buy them. I stand by the "average consumer would want these if they're bothering to buy an Apple TV" stance.

What one might not know is that I own an iPod touch. It's like an iPhone without the phone and camera, which is find by me. My phones go with me everywhere and have a high mortality rate. I want them to be cheap and do their job as a phone well, but I also want it to merely be a minor inconvenience if I inadvertently destroy them.

But I digress. The point is that there's a free app for the iPhone / iPod Touch that lets it be used as an iTunes remote. This means one can control iTunes on the computer or an Apple TV using an iPod Touch or iPhone. One can navigate the library entirely from the iPod and access all of the playlist options available on the iPod.

This includes the "shuffle" option, and it works with the Apple TV.

Just to clarify: There is no video shuffle option native to the Apple TV. If all you have is that, you can't shuffle videos. If you have an iPod Touch or an iPhone, however, you can download the remote app, use it instead of the Apple TV remote, and shuffle to your heart's content.

Perhaps I'm crazy, but that sounds like bullcrap to me. I like iTunes, but the proprietary hardware needs to get its act together.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Inhuman Apples

I recently acquired an Apple TV. This was mostly a result of the simple fact that my iTunes library has grown large over the years and, assuming I can still get a good deal on them, I'd rather have TV shows take up hard drive space than shelf space. At this point, I have much more of the former to spare than the latter.

As much as I like iTunes and my iPod Touch, however, I am convinced that Apple is out of touch with, well, humans. There are some very basic issues with the Apple TV that I am convinced could not have been made by a rational human being, but rather by some creature that has only a rudimentary idea of what humans are like.

For one thing, the Apple TV didn't originally come with video playlists. The XBox 360 had (and probably still has) this problem as well, so let me set the record straight: humans want video playlists. Seriously, it's standard operating procedure now for DVDs to have "play all" functions, and the option to make video playlists exists in iTunes. Why wouldn't we want it on the TV, too?

Apple TV does now has the option to use video playlists, but again, the lack of humanity is highlighted. When I first started using the Apple TV, I thought there weren't video playlists. Why? Because they aren't accessible by default. You have to go into the options and set playlists from "music only" to "all". The playlists aren't in the way or anything once there, so why even have the option? I consider the video playlists important to the point that I was considering returning the device prior to finding the option. Let me highlight this: a lack of video playlists is a deal breaker for some people. Do not hide them.

What's also lacking is a shuffle option for video playlists. Humans get bored with monotony and often enjoy a bit of unpredictability. Yeah, watching certain shows in a random order might not work well, but that's no reason to not allow the shuffle option. It's optional, and the programming already exists for it. If I want to watch Lost on shuffle with episodes of Fringe randomly interspersed throughout, that should be my mistake to make. This isn't a deal breaker for me, but it's still stupid.

Another sign of inhumanity are the photos. Unless your photos are sized just right, they will be cropped and zoomed too far in. Not by a lot, but enough to be annoying, particularly if syncing comics with any text near the edges. It does this for certain videos, too. None of their official stuff, of course, but I subscribe to various video podcasts. I know people complain about having black bars around stuff, but it's preferable to being zoomed in too bloody much.

Speaking of zoom, there are plus and minus buttons right there on the remote. They do not zoom. When viewing photos, you cannot zoom out, in, rotate, etc. You view them at the size Apple has decided to be appropriate and it sucks to be you if don't like it.

And then there's inputting text. Let's say you're doing a YouTube search for "Arizona". Ask a human, and they'll tell you that pushing left while at the far left of the screen, A, pushing left on the remote should take you to the far right, Z. This makes it much faster and easier to input text through a remote. If a human pushes left at the A and stays there with only a beep noise as evidence of the button being pressed, the human will wonder "what the hell is this" and be annoyed by all the additional button presses they have to make.

Don't get me wrong. The Apple TV accomplishes what I got it for, which was a means to view my iTunes library on a TV and in HD. It's connected with an HDMI cable, and now my entire library can easily be moved from HD TV to HD TV. It is something I am glad to have. That said, it is basically accomplishing the bare minimum of what I expect from it, and this is supposed to be a high-end device. As much as I like my iTunes-related Apple products, it's easy to see why some people hate and refuse to use them.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Oh, The Things I Could Theoritcally Build...

As has been mentioned, I am prone to browsing in hardware stores. I usually have just one specific thing to purchase or nothing at all, but my manly instincts draw me to them. The particular location of choice for me at the moment is a massive Menards.

Recently, I found the section with PVC pipes, which immediately got me thinking about a certain video by Linkara about a prop he had made which used PVC pipe. This got me thinking: what could I make with this stuff?

I'm seriously considering trying my hand at making a sci-fi prop gun. It would be an obvious fake (I don't want to make anything that looks like a real gun, nor do I think I could pull it off), and I can tell already that it's easier said than done, but I like the idea of having one. I also like the idea of potentially designing a character around it and cosplaying as said character at conventions. Extremely nerdy, I know, but it sounds like fun.

I know some people are likely to suggest creating the TF Gun from EGS, but I'd rather design something new for this. Besides which, the basis I want to use is PVC pipe, and the TF gun is really blocky. I'm likely to upgrade the design in the comic to make it look more streamlined, but I'm really just interested in making a generic sci-fi blaster.

This could easily just remain an idea in my head. I don't know if I actually want to spend the time and money on it given that I don't know enough yet to be able to know how much time and money it would require, but it's something I want to look into. If anyone knows of any good tutorials on this sort of thing, I would definitely be interested.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Unwanted Courtroom Drama

I'm writing part of this blog post before watching the latest episode of Bones on hulu, and will write the second part afterward. What has prompted me to do this is the fact that the episode I missed on Thursday was a court episode, and frankly, court episodes of non-Law & Order crime shows and me have a tendency to not get along. Like the odd meal that makes me sick at a restaurant I normally enjoy, court episodes of crime shows generally leave a bad taste in my mouth.

One of the reasons court episodes rub me the wrong way is that it brings up the courts at all, and along with them the possibility of the bad guy not getting convicted. That's obviously how the system works, but part of the fun of these shows is the satisfaction of them getting the bad guys. "They got them and now they're going to jail" is more satisfying than "they've arrested them and hopefully this will all hold up in court and maybe they'll get convicted assuming the prosecutor is competent and the defense attorney doesn't have an ace up their sleeve."

This is more true of some shows than others. Suspension of disbelief is often very demanding with shows like Psych and Monk, particularly when it comes to what would actually hold up in court. In theory, court episodes of Bones should be less of an issue due to cases generally ending with slam-dunk evidence or confessions, but they've got a 50/50 record with me so far.

The first court episode of Bones was essentially a "let's see what happens when these guys are in court" scenario. That sort of episode feels like a cookie-cutter plot to me regardless of the mystery, and it feels to me like taking exotic fish out of water. Yeah, it's a change of pace, but it's not really fun to see them flopping around.

The second court episode was more like taking the exotic fish out of one tank and putting them into another. Not only did it feel like there was good reason for the court episode, but there was more to it than seeing fish out of water. It had been built up to the entire season and didn't feel formulaic. It was also more suspenseful, because either verdict would have been believable, interesting and I could easily have seen the writers going either way on it.

Which brings us to the third court episode, the one I'm on the verge of watching. It is not only the third court episode, but the third episode with a recurring villain. This villain is now defending themselves in court, and it's up to our gang of meddling adults to make sure there's a guilty verdict. Not only is it a court case about cases from previous episodes, but the entire premise of the episode feels unnecessary. I felt the previous episode with this villain was enough, and I don't have much enthusiasm for their return.

The show's creator, Hart Hanson, had been talking about the possibility of this episode for a while, which I'm hoping means there's more to it than I'm feeling prior to seeing it. The guy did create one of my favorite TV shows of all time, so I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I'd be lying if I said I was optimistic.

In any case, enough ranting. Time to watch!

The episode turned out to be pretty good. It had a lot of what I don't like about court episodes, but I can see why it exists and it managed to have a lot of suspense and character development in it. I get why Hart Hanson was excited about it.

It did, however, remind me of one of the other reasons I generally dislike court episodes, which is the defense attorneys. They know they're full of it, the good guys know they're full of it, the audience knows they're full of it, but the jury? They've gotta be convinced. It's pretty standard for me to find that scenario more frustrating than fun to watch, but compound it by having the criminal act as their own attorney? It's successful at making me hate them, sure, and it's the sort of thing I like in small doses, but the doses are extra large in a court episode.

To clarify, this episode was definitely effective, suspenseful, and I'm sure a lot of people enjoyed it. Ignoring my personal pet peeves, I think it was solid. From a personal preference standpoint, however, it wasn't my cup of tea. I am looking forward to seeing the fallout (aka the season finale), however.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Bloggery Schemes And Princesses

The image posted here was originally drawn with the intent of being used in my Princess Bride review. My scheme involved a video review full of still images similar to the one posted. I have since revised this plan on account of how many centuries that would take to do (three) and the fact that I plan to review other movies.

(1920x1080 version of image is available at my DA account. Click image for 728x410 version)

I now scheme to go more the route of my previous blog post, which is basically just a regular blog post, but illustrated. That's much more doable, could be converted into a video later if I felt like it, and hey, people can read it when they're not supposed to because it's all quiet and stuff.

Not that I endorse that sort of thing.

But blog posts about what I'm going to blog about are boring, so yeah, about the image. I don't want to say how it would have fit in the review because I still might do a similar joke, but it's Princess Jasmine from Aladdin proposing to Tiana from The Princess And The Frog.

Not to sound too girly or anything (being the manly man that I am), but these are my two favorite Disney princesses. I was a big fan of Aladdin as a kid, which shouldn't come as a surprise. It was a good movie with a magic genie. Of course I liked it. I even liked the second straight to video movie, because the genie came back to do more magic and that bird I liked became a good guy instead of being stuck in some lamp. I suspect I wouldn't like the sequel as much now, but maybe I would. It's not like I'm expecting much from it.

As for Jasmine, she was an attractive woman with long hair, a cool outfit, a strong personality, a pet tiger, and was in that movie I liked with that genie who was awesome because he could do magic and junk. She was cooler to me than any other Disney Princess one could choose from. I also liked her more than Aladdin. That guy used a wish to be a phony and turn his monkey buddy into an elephant. Jackass.

Tiana, however, usurped Jasmine as my favorite princess. Her humble beginnings, determination, strong work ethic, cooking talents... I could go on, but there's just a lot to like about her as a character. Jasmine's a good character too, and I still like her, but a lot of what I like about her is superficial and due to her environment and friends (GENIE!) more than her directly.

Tiana stands on her own. You could remove Tiana from her environment and I don't think my like of her would be diminished. Take away the magic and Agrabah, however, and my like of Jasmine would be. She'd still be cool and likable, but I don't think she stands as tall on her own as Tiana does.

Who do you think are the best princesses, Disney or otherwise? Don't worry about your manliness status. There are tools and video games in the previous post, so you should be fine.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Tools Of Combat

I have newfound respect for the video games Half Life, BioShock, and Team Fortress 2. I was recently browsing in a hardware store, as manly men who do manly things are prone to do.

While there, I discovered that they sold wrenches and crowbars. When sold in a hardware store, the assumption is that they will be used to somehow aide in building, repair, and the opening of crates. In the aforementioned video games, they are in aide of bludgeoning.

Okay, you can use the wrench in TF2 to build and fix things, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t also used to bust some heads.

My assumption with those games has always been that the wrenches were of exaggerated size, and that the crowbar was dangerous mostly by virtue of its teeth. I believed they were sturdy and handy to have, but ultimately not that big or heavy.

I was wrong! They had 24 inch long aluminum wrenches weighing 12 pounds and 36 inch long crowbars with definite weight to them! I know 12 pounds doesn’t sound like much, but (CAREFULLY) try swinging that around sometime. These could definitely be used as strong weapons.

My first thought upon making this discovery was that the characters in these games must be badass muscle men, which is a little weird when you consider Gordan Freeman, the world’s alpha nerd. Anyone who can swing these things endlessly and without effort must hit the gym a lot.

My second thought involved TF2 Engineer cosplay with an actual wrench at a future convention, which was immediately followed by thoughts of me being thrown out on my ass by convention security.

Assuming, of course, they can get past my sentry.

Friday, April 23, 2010

My Perfect Game

I've recently expressed by medium of tweet my interest in Monster Hunter Tri. My interest was born out of the perception of an open environment that acted as a sort of living ecosystem and sandbox elements that would allow me to explore, soak in the scenery, and basically do whatever to my hunter's content.

Since then, I've watched some videos and read a review or two, and I've gotten the feeling that while it's probably a good game, it's most likely not the gameplay experience I was hoping for.

This got me thinking. There have been several times in my life when I've thought "this is it! This is the game I've been waiting for!" only to, of course, be disappointed. Fable, Oblivion, Saints Row 2... They're all fun (except for maybe Oblivion), but none have lived up to my expectations.

So what would be the perfect game for me? (Keep in mind the "for me" part; I'm not claiming this is an objective view of a good game)

1 - Environment

I want a huge open world that rarely, if ever, interrupted by loading screens. The draw distance should compensate for technical limitations in a way that doesn't break immersion (I'm looking at you, Oblivion). There should be small towns and cities of varying scale and a huge wilderness to explore. When I don't feel like sight seeing, there should be fast travel methods that do their job without breaking immersion.

While I am aware that the environment can't go on forever and there have to be cut-off points, I'd prefer those come in the form of something along the edges that one simply cannot pass. It might be a bit forced at times, but simply not being able to move beyond an invisible wall is annoying, and if I can see a place my character should logically be able to get to, I want to be able to go there.

Do not stop me from walking off cliffs, either. No invisible wall should be between my character and purposefully or accidentally falling off of that cliff. It's one of the most immersion-breaking things an environment can do in a video game.

Given my personal tastes, I would prefer a fantasy setting with magic and a wilderness that is mostly alive and well cared for as opposed to high tech and/or post-apocalyptic.

Closest I've experienced to right: World Of Warcraft. I would prefer this be provided in a single player experience, but my favorite thing about that game was simple exploring its world. In fact, it does everything I've listed above. It doesn't do everything I'm going to list, but on this subject, I have yet to see a game do better.

2 - Player Abilities

LET ME JUMP. I grew up on side scrollers and not being able to jump makes me feel like I have a weight around my neck keeping me down.

Melee and ranged attacks should be available, as should super cool special abilities (ideally fueled by magic). There should be genuine reasons to choose one weapon type or spell over another. I should be able to unequip all of my weapons and bare-knuckle box if I so choose.

Among the magic abilities, I want spells that transform opponents. Turn them into animals, weaker enemies, allies, change their genders, whatever. This is a subset of magic that should be available and I give World Of Warcraft props for its sheep spell.

I don't want to have to pick a class, or a species, or anything else that amounts to "you can do this but not that." I want access to everything I'm willing to earn and to be able to learn every ability should I be willing to invest the time. In short, I don't want to be pigeon-holed right from the start.

Now here's the big one. The player ability I rarely see but breaks immersion every time it's absent. Simply put, I want to be able to grab stuff.

No, seriously. Being able to "touch" things is the most basic way a person can interact with objects in real life, and it being absent from games breaks immersion for me. If it's in the game, I want my character to be able to grab it and subsequently try to pick it up. Rocks, chairs, people, vehicles, horses, anything. My character might not be able to pick up whatever they're grabbing, but not letting them try is yet another thing that breaks immersion. Let my character try and fail to pick up that horse. Yes, they'll make an ass out of themselves, but the ability to try and fail at something like that makes it all the more real to me.

And while I'm grabbing things? Let me throw enemies at other enemies. That's always awesome.

Closest I've experienced to right: Overall, I'd say the 3D Zelda games. They fail in a lot of ways, but less so than other games. Oblivion might let you grab stuff, but I found it lacking overall in what you could do with said stuff once grabbed

3 - Bad Guys

One of the things that made me excited about Monster Hunter was the concept of an ecosystem. I like the idea of exploring a sandbox wilderness and witnessing a hunter-prey scenario playing out that I can either interrupt, sit back and watch, or simply ignore.

It would also introduce emergent gameplay strategies, such as shaking off a predator you're not prepared to deal with by leading it towards easier prey that distracts it. Not entirely ethical, but just that being possible would be incredibly cool.

Enemies should behave logically relative to each other. A bear and a boar should not be teaming up to try and kill me, and a humanoid bad guy should not be buddies with a wild bear (unless he's a druid or something). I would welcome a scenario where I'm fighting some random humanoid enemy when suddenly a big monster predator shows up and my foe and I become more concerned with taking it down than each other, or my foe simply runs away leaving me to either do likewise or fight the monster on my own.

Given that I can grab people in my perfect game, I should also be able to grab my foe, throw him at the monster, and run away. Unethical again, but cool simply by virtue of being possible.

I don't want every enemy encounter to feel like an epic challenge. There should be plenty of bad guys who are easily defeated so long as there aren't too many of them. Boss fights, on the other hand, should be epic, and I would like a way to re-fight them at will even if it is just an out-of-main-game menu option.

Closest I've experienced to right: You know, I'm not sure. There are plenty of games that fit parts of the criteria while failing at others. I can't actually think of a game that does the "not all the enemies are on the same side" bit (except maybe Monster Hunter, which I haven't played yet so I'm not certain). A lot of games probably fit the difficulty and boss fight criteria. I haven't kept up on Playstation games and therefore haven't played the God Of War games, but I'm betting they fit the latter half of my criteria.

4 - Character Customization

I don't want armor to determine what my character looks like. I also don't want class or stat-specific races to determine that. I want to customize to my heart's content as a male or female character, make them look human or non-human, and be able to change it up later and save multiple looks that can be variations of the same (such as with different clothes) or completely different.

Closest I've experienced to right: Champions Online, hands down. The only thing it lacks in this regard is the ability to switch genders between looks, which would be odd but this is my perfect game and that therefore needs to be an option, darn it.


I'm wrapping this up because I've just realized I could probably go on forever with this and I've already written more than I thought I would, but it basically boils down to is this:

An immersive sandbox fantasy game with a convincing ecosystem, lots of freedom to customize, fun gameplay and the ability to "touch" and interact with objects via a grabbing mechanism.

What would your perfect game be like?