Get your Portable ID!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


So I'm working on trying to build a backup NAS for my office, and I'm thinking of using a hardware RAID5 card (3ware 9650SE-4LPML) coupled with OpenSolaris.

Any thoughts, Internets?

Cliff's Notes to Male Personal Ads

I've created a helpful guide to reading a 25-50 year-old man's personal ads for you ladies. Here's what they're actually trying to say.

Hello. I am a male approaching an age where I am no longer confident in my ability to attract the opposite sex and am therefore stepping up the level of urgency of my requests. My own personal qualifications for being involved in a relationship are meaningless from my perspective as I find myself in possession of a penis. In all likelihood, I'm probably useful to somebody if I would just make an effort.

I am seeking a female that will go to bed with me who I will be able to stand looking at and talking to in the morning, with option to extend that to all subsequent mornings for the remainder of either of our lives.

I am not picky, but here is a list of things that I am picky about, which tends to extend to nearly every aspect of your being, most notably those you are not in direct control of and which I should probably ignore.

Please respond immediately, as each passing second in which I have not had a response erodes further my confidence in my ability to attract the opposite sex and vastly increases the likelihood that I will die aspirating in an alleyway under the crushing burden of a substance abuse habit.

No fatties, that just further damages my confidence in my self-worth as it does not properly adhere to the strictures of the modern male self-image which I have been made to accept for the last two to five decades of my life.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fallout 3

I've been hooked on Fallout 3 in the spare time I've had in the 4 weeks since it was released, which between moving, meeting with real estate bastards, reading the Night Watch novels, papers for classes and a reticent RAID unit at work, has only been about 50-70 hours. No doubt about it, it's got its claws sunk into me.

When I want to like a game this badly, its defects scrabble at me with their tiny claws. Eventually those defects and limitations prove enough of an irritation that I actually spend some time thinking about them and realize that they really should have caught this crap in the design stages.

My chief complaints with Fallout 3 isn't that it is "Oblivion with guns" as the common complaint is phrased. I'm OK with "Oblivion with guns." I kinda wished I had a sniper rifle the entire time I was playing Oblivion. Also, it's more than just that. My problem is that it's Oblivion - with all of its defects, shortcomings and just plain design no-nos - with a better game nailed onto its ass like a massively expensive game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

And make no mistake, Fallout 3 is a better game than Oblivion. The plot is more interesting and delivered better. The few developed characters are more interesting, the random events are far more interesting, there are a more quests than the previous two Fallouts AND Oblivion combined, the areas are more unique than in Oblivion... The list does go on. The number of improvements they've made in their delivery, storytelling style and the extent to which they've resisted Bethesdaisms is commendable. But the flaws are still there, and the most glaring ones should probably be considered inexcusable in this day and age.

I shall enumerate them on my patent-pending Fail-O-Meter whose range goes from 1 to 11, from "Actually, not fail" to "Epic Fail."

  • Vampires(8) - Seriously? Fucking vampires. Are you people so horny for the dead that you cannot make a single fucking game without vampires in them? Burn your Anne Rice books, then your Brian Lumley books, then yourself for good measure. While not actually a fail per-se, the vampire subquests were so incredibly lamely veiled love notes to vampires that it came across like a child's stick figure drawing of you and Count Chocula holding hands and kissing. Whoever at your company is responsible for this should be fired, and immediately, so they stop frou-frouing up your games.

  • Texture art(11) - EPIC FUCKING FAIL. The issue isn't the quality of the art, which I'll get back to, but the god damned compression. When somebody can put out a texture mod within 2 weeks of every single one of your product releases since Morrowind which triples the quality of the textures without having any impact on performance or file size, you need to fire your textures people and hire people who actually understand how to do computer art.

    Back to the quality issue, you still need to fire the guy who does human faces, they're ugly as fuck. Also, in a world in which there is so god damned much turpentine that you can hardly walk around without tripping on some, why is everything still so fucking dirty? Presumably because there isn't a single rag left in the world after they dropped the Ragomic bomb on the Wasteland to make sure that nobody could make molotovs from all the ridiculous amount of scotch and vodka laying around to use against the Chinese.

  • Movement and hit detection(8) - Seriously, this crap wasn't even good enough when Morrowind came out, and now is 6 years later. You move around like a guy on top of a very sticky ball who is propelled by somebody pushing him around by the head. Simple small slopes are unclimbable and at any given time, trying to climb over some feebly constructed and strangely placed pile of rubble which couldn't have fallen there because the ceiling above is intact, you may become irrevocably stuck, requiring you to load a save game to get out, because your character is too stupid to understand climbing and too weak to climb out of a hole that is knee deep and steeply walled. When jammed in this situation, should you decide to shoot past a piece of rubble that is more open space than solid to hit some enemy who is no doubt approaching to laugh at you for being too stupid to extricate yourself from a small pile of debris, you will find yourself hitting thin air, or aiming for a tiny piece of rebar which, if you were mad and spatially retarded, might be considered between you and your target. Hit detection fail, collision detection fail, movement engine fail. Redo your engine - it doesn't cut it in 2008, and it certainly won't cut it in 2010. This is not difficult - people have had better movement engines than this since the late nineties.

  • Enemies(7) - As with Oblivion, the world is populated by four kinds of people:
    1. people who are invincible because the writers couldn't figure out how to deal with the fact you killed them
    2. people who aren't invincible but are holy and sacred and the universe themselves protects them so if you kill them you're the worst person ever - even if that person is a complete and utter douchebag who deserves death and you can tell before their lame giveaway plot lets you know it's OK to kill them
    3. people who are OK to kill but might still talk to you even though they're boring people with recycled dialog options
    4. And ravening, psychotic drooling lunchbox-headed murderous freaks who will stop at nothing to flay the skin from your bones, make a canoe from it, and shit in that canoe.

    I'd like to think there is more range to human discourse than just "worship/ignore/kill," and I'd also like to think that even the craziest of motherfuckers might eventually become intimidated enough to surrender or recognize that you just saved their ass from something worse than either of you and not immediately attack you.

    The AI has improved since Oblivion, no doubt about that, but the characters walking around with that AI haven't gained any depth since Daggerfall. If a group of 3 raiders is fighting off a Deathclaw and I blow the Deathclaw's brains out shortly before it swipes the last survivor's legs clean off, I'd expect the raider to at least try to figure out why I saved him, rather than immediately checking "Deathclaw" off of their list of "Things to kill/eat/fuck" and then noticing the next item on the list is yours truly.

    I'm not expecting a redemption quest and a back story for every roaming asshat the Wasteland has to offer , but I would like to see, just once, a sandbox game where they recognize that the enemy of your enemy just might be your friend. Imagine saving a raider from aforementioned Deathclaw, and later you save a raider from the same gang from a yao guai. Both times the raider recognizes you spared them and runs off. Later you encounter the same gang and they're friendly to you and will trade with you. This is the human experience - few people are such bastards that they fail to understand the dogma of "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours." Every hostile NPC in the Bethesda games practices a "I'll scratch your back with a knife" dogma of human interaction and it just frankly gets old. They could at least ignore you if you don't attack them occasionally, even if they are total bastards. We live in an era where video games are becoming more and more like traditional storytelling, where even the ordinarily shallowest games are acquiring thought-provoking depths. It wouldn't hurt to have the one genre which always has been thought-provoking - RPGs - try to modernize as well.

  • World interaction(5) - I can't climb up your ass too much about this, since the whole game industry has been taking giant steps backward in this department since the nineties. But I'm going to try anyway.
    • In 1990 - that's 18 years ago for the mathematically challenged, Origin Systems gave us the Worlds of Ultima games. In The Savage Empire every item that your character (as in Ultima 6) was interactive, labeled with a name, if it was small enough to move, it was movable and you could actually build weapons out of junk you harvested from the countryside.
    • In Wasteland in 1988 (that's 20 fucking years ago) you could force locks with crowbars, knock a locked door down with brute strength, blow them open with explosives, each lock had a hardness value determining what it could be blown open with (grenade not enough? try c4), and if you really wanted to, you could pick the lock. Weapons jammed, but, once fixed, returned to their full value. You could use your perception skill to locate hidden doors or discern the combination for a tricky combo lock. You could dig out debris with a shovel to allow you to move through a blocked area.
    • In Fallout 3, you can drag some stuff around like you were a retarded man attempting to use the Force, pick up some useless junk, and interact with everything else in the world with a boring series of menus and pop-out dialogs. Everything else in the world is completely immobile with the exception of the ludicrously exploding cars, debris is an inviolate and indestructible single unit, and if something blocks your path, you need to find a tunnel to go around it or never pass it. The few weapons you can build are all built using a special item only found in a dozen or so places in the game and they use a menu and a rather well-done sound effect. In the end, you get a weapon which is only as good as the average piece of crap you find in the Wasteland, with the exception of the explosives, which although they're made out of cola and detergent and cherry bombs, do more damage than anything else in the game short of actual nuclear bombs. Should you tire of this bleak world and decide to leave it for greener, less radioactive pastures, you wander off into the sunset, only to find an invisible wall which inexplicably informs you that you can't go any further, as if you were a ghost and your soul was tied to your place of burial.

    It seems we've sacrificed an interactive and cleverly constructed past which was dry in personality for a future which is shiny and full of personality but doesn't do anything.

With a studio the size of Bethesda, the wealth of middleware available to take a lot of the work out of making a game, and nearly two years of development time, I just plain expect better than Oblivion's engine with some fun additions tacked on. The shit that was plainly broken with Oblivion should have been resolved before they started adding on to the engine, and they need to recognize the shortcomings in their game design style and correct them. Game development isn't just a business, it's an art, and until the few studios which have the cojones and freedom to treat it like one start actually treating it like one, we're going to be the one medium which is totally discounted and marginalized by the mainstream as being shallow escapism.

And maybe we are shallow escapism, but that doesn't mean we can't develop our art, god dammit. Don't feel alone in all of this, Bethesda - you're not - plenty of other companies have much to answer for with their games and their lack of advancement between them (coughBungiecoughLionheadcough) but you're the one company that we have to hope is going to suck it up and make good games, since nobody else seems to care to make deep quality RPGs anymore. You need to send your artists away for proper training (I recommend asking Valve to help out), send your writers and designers to some writing workshops, make your programmers spend some quality time with movement and physics (try Assassin's Creed and Mirror's Edge's contextual movement) and add a "required reading" of some of the best games in history to your list of prerequisites to being assigned anything meaningful in your next project. You have the potential to make the best games that come out every year, ones which will be remembered forever. Don't let yourselves fall short.

Ok, I'm done talking like anybody from Bethesda will ever read this now.