Trouble Thinking

September 29, 2010

Minecraft Developer is Now a Multi-Millionaire

Filed under: Game News — Tags: , , , — Durandal @ 5:53 pm


This was pretty obvious from the statistics of his sales after the free weekend, but it’s official: Notch, the developer of Minecraft, is a multi-millionaire.

This is from money coming from no other source than $14 per-person purchases of the Minecraft alpha. That is to say, he’s made more by selling the pre-pre-release version of his game than some studios make. With 273,437 registered users, he’s pulled in $3,828,118.

Apparently, first-person lego building has struck a deep nerve with the buying public. I’d love to get some statistics about who’s buying, though. I can’t tell if it’s just a few hundred thousand people who already play a lot of games deciding $14 isn’t much to pay for a decent time-sink game that’s got a unique premise or if it’s a lot of people particularly interested in this sort of exploration/building game who haven’t found much value in the standard game releases. It’s certainly a premise that lends itself to self-expression and individual storytelling, which is pretty rare in modern games. Partly, I’m sure, because “make your own fun” is considered an intensely risky proposition. I really dug the free weekend, so I’m happy to encourage you all to pick this up while it’s still cheap and make your own crazy block creations!

Beat this.

Notch has stated he’s going to drive most of this money into making a proper studio and developing other games, while at the same time making a push to really finish up Minecraft and polish it for a release version. He’s also going to save a lot and put some into his upcoming wedding because he loves his girlfriend (check the bottom of the page). Actually, that page is full of interesting little bits of programming he’s done in the past few years. It’s obvious he’s a dude with some interesting ideas and the wherewithal to express them. I can’t wait to see what he does with the new-found crazy riches he has!

September 27, 2010

Dropbox: file sharing made worth my time

Filed under: Interesting Things — Tags: , , — Katherine Barclay @ 5:11 pm

Do you have more than one computer?

Do you have files you’d like to be able to use, easy, from more than one location without having to cart them around on a flash drive?

Do google docs occasionally annoy you?

If you answered ‘no’ to that third question, I hate to have to be the one to tell you this, but, you just might be a robot. If you answered ‘yes’ to any of them, then you might want to consider checking out Dropbox.

Dropbox is a neat little program that you can install on as many computers as you’d like. It creates a secure folder Out There on the Internet, and a copy of it on your computer. Files you copy or put into that folder get stored in the main Dropbox folder, and can be accessed either from any other computer with the program installed (so long as you give it your user info) or by going to their website and logging in there. Everything synchs automatically after you save and close a file, and appears miraculously where you next want it!

Okay, maybe not so miraculously, but for a girl who’s used to juggling word files over four laptops, this thing is pretty amazing, okay? You can also create shared subfolders within your main folder and share the files in them with any other dropbox users you invite into it. Easier, IMHO, than emailing ‘myfilev1.7’ back and forth every twenty minutes, if you do collaborative work a lot.

There are paid options, of course, but the standard free download (which takes about six seconds to set up) is free, and gives you 2G of storage space, plus an additional 250 mg if you were got there by following a referral link, like the one earlier in this post – or this one right here. 2.25 gigs of space isn’t bad, and you can get another 250 mg for each person you convince to sign up after you. They install the program and put a file in the folder, you get space.

It’s like a pyramid scheme, only with fewer crappy cosmetics or energy drinks, and more file storage!

Go on, check it out!

September 25, 2010

Comics Are Boss: Psychic Russian Dog Former Space Test Pilot In Tiny Space Suit

Filed under: Comics — Tags: , , — Durandal @ 1:21 am

Comic books have some flaws, I admit that.

But every other medium also has a flaw: no other medium in history has given us Cosmo: a dog that wears a tiny spacesuit and telepathically murders evil aliens.

Everyone who has a soul should go buy at least the first trade of Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s fun and interesting and fucking seriously COSMO the TALKING RUSSIAN PSYCHIC DOG.


September 22, 2010

Bioshock Infinite: Okay, Okay. I’m Interested.

Filed under: Game News — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 12:01 pm

So, Persekore just got through with the game Bioshock and revealed her initial impressions a little while back.

I had a great time with Bioshock myself, back when normal good people played it several years ago. I had so much fun that Bioshock 2 was something I really looked forward to for a while. What new cool thing would they try? Would the endings of the previous game be the basis for the next? Would they improve upon the aspects of the first game that I didn’t dig as much? Would you actually touch water for more than 2 seconds?

The answer was “No, no. Bioshock 2 will basically be the same exact thing.” That just doesn’t interest me. Bioshock was a good game, but I don’t need another 10 hours of the same thing.

My opinion of the recently announced Bioshock: Infinite was basically the same. Another shooter with powers and an emphasis on dramatic presentation of a story focusing on the decay of a nigh-mystical city founded on a certain operating philosophical principle? Same song, different verse.

Okay, so now you’re running around on a floating zeppelin-powered city apparently populated by American Manifest Destiny xenophobes built around the turn of the century as a sort of clockwork Death Star… that’s … that’s actually kind of cool.

And I guess the new Big Daddy is just another big hulking dude except this one is a giant steampunk cyborg man who looks like a cross between a robot, a gorilla, and an old carnival strongman with an amazing moustache… that’s… that’s sort of excellent.

But what really sold me on the idea was this 10-minute long preview of the gameplay. Is it the same style of game, down to having more than a few of the same exact magic power things for the main character to do? Yes. Is the style so similar that you’d think the games were made simultaneously as some sort of “make a political allegory in an FPS” competition? Yes.

Does it look really cool? Good lord yes.

September 20, 2010

Minecraft Free Long Weekend!

Filed under: Game News — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 12:12 pm

Minecraft is free for a while right now.

That should fill you with excitement, but also a sort of vague dread at the fact that you’re definitely going to lose $10 a few hours from now.

What’s that you say? “I have not heard of Minecraft, I don’t care about stupid indie games. They’re tiny and dumb and ugly and I prefer shooting beautifully rendered aliens. Anyway, what the hell is Minecraft?”

This is Minecraft:

This is Minecraft:

This is Minecraft:

Basically, Minecraft is a game where you gather resources from an infinite, randomly generated world. Using those resources, you make tools. Using those tools, you gather more resources from more difficult to reach areas, and then you make better tools to gather more resources… and the whole time you alter the world to your choosing.


September 17, 2010

LoL, or, why I don’t do MM-anything.

Filed under: Troubled Thinking — Tags: , , — Katherine Barclay @ 1:52 am

So … I’ve mentioned before that I’m not much of a gamer. That’s not, actually, really all that true. I was unpacking my shit from a move I did a couple of weeks ago, and when it came to my PS2 box I actually have a decent number of games, most of which I’ve played and enjoyed and not sucked at.

The thing is, they’re all single player, because that’s really all I can do.

Give me a character with a tragic past and an obvious quest, and I’m great. I can swing and puzzle (kinda) and platform (not really) with the best of them, and have an awesome time. But as soon as you get more than three other people in the game, assuming we’re not talking about some hopped-up version of SSB or something like that, I crumble. I feel as though I’ve been teleported to a strange land where the aliens all look the same as I do and can’t understand why I don’t speak any of their languages and insist on breathing oxygen.

I know it can’t be true, but every time I enter an MMO setting, I feel as though I’m the only person in the universe who hasn’t done this before, preferably more times than can be conveniently counted, feeling stupid and clunky and effectively like a waste of space. After dying a few times in rapid succession I always end up feeling that simply by playing the game I’m letting down everyone else in it, probably even the entire server. My space, after all, could have just as easily been filled by anyone else at all, and chances are the person who would have played if I hadn’t wouldn’t have sucked half as badly as I did.

It makes it kind of hard to want to get better.

For the past few days, Durandal has been trying to convince me to play that Warcraftian game he was blogging about, and eventually I gave in – mostly because I wasn’t paying attention, and somehow missed the part where this was exactly the kind of game I don’t play. I played through the demo and a practice round against a few faceless bots, and decided that I probably sucked, but might not have been as bad at is as I was expecting to be. So, I let myself get talked into playing an actual game, and somehow, had a lot of fun. I died way more than I’d wanted to, but I saw at the end that someone else had died as much as I had and killed fewer people, so yay for that, I guess? Anyway, it was epic and confusing, but also satisfying.

Yay, I thought, maybe I can actually do this! (more…)

September 15, 2010

What Exactly Is An MRI?

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 12:23 pm

Throughout Trouble Thinking’s storied several-month history, one question has been relentlessly asked by readers and yet has remained cruelly unanswered: what is the function and design of an MRI?

The time has come to put this questions to rest.

First of all, it looks like this:

Like a cross between Vader's chair-bubble and what Dr. Doom uses to place you into a nightmare from which you will NEVER AWAKE.

A Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine is designed to peer through your skin and see the bits inside using immense powers you barely understand. That must be frightening for you.

So why do we need an MRI to look inside ourselves when we already have other methods of looking into the human body, like X-Rays?

Several reasons. First of all, there’s only so often you can X-Ray your genitals before you stop producing children and start producing X-Men. But not the good X-Men, you get this guy:

The BEST X-Man.

Basically, many other imaging techniques use radiation. And while said radiation probably won’t do anything in particular to you, it’s considered ethical to limit the exposure the average research participant has to the potentially harmful effects of radiation no matter how small the likelihood of harm. This is the same reason most men cover their balls during a dental X-Ray. You can never be too careful. An MRI is also non-invasive, requiring only that you sit still. Many other techniques for imaging require the use of “contrast material” that is minutely radioactive, and has to be injected.

Alright so presumably you don’t want anything to do with Beak up there, so you’re intrigued. But how does an MRI work, if not through the wonders of our friend Radiation?


September 13, 2010

League of Legends: Free and Fun

Filed under: Game News — Tags: , , , — Durandal @ 6:05 pm

So, if you’ve been playing games for the past few years, odds are high you’ve heard of the wildly successful modification to Warcraft 3 called “Defense of the Ancients” or “DotA”. If not, there’s no need to worry. Trouble Thinking is here to hold your hand.

DotA is a game that grew out of another game. That is, the Real Time Strategy game Warcraft 3 was released with a little toolkit that allowed you to make your own maps to play on. One map, called “Defense of the Ancients” happened to be very cleverly conceived and grew to be very popular. Part of what made it so interesting is that the map bore little resemblance to the normal gameplay of Warcraft. Instead, it was a very idiosyncratic mix of RPG and competetive RTS. And Lemmings.

The free-to-play game League of Legends, by Riot Studios, grew out of that modification. Here’s how the game usually plays: you pick your hero from a cast of dozens of non-sequitur heroic archetypes. Each of them is unique, but it takes a few games to tease much out beyond the fact that some attack from a distance and some from close up. The map is a square, with team Blue of players starting at the bottom-left base, and team Purple starting at the top-right base. A minute or so after the players connect, minions spawn.

Minions are these little lines of pretty weak little uncontrollable… minions… who walk in a straight line until they meet at the center and then fight. Whoever wins that fight then keeps walking until they get to the enemy base, at which point they try to destroy it. Defense towers line the paths to each base, making it harder for the little minions to get through. So what is there for a player to do?


September 10, 2010

Kurt Busiek is Right

Filed under: Comics — Tags: , , — Chris @ 10:37 pm

For those of you who don’t know, Kurt Busiek is one of comic’s most prolific writers, and is probably most well known for his (absolutely fucking excellent) series Astro City. Recently, a post Busiek wrote on a private message board was “accidentally” made public. The gist? The vast majority of comics currently being produced by Marvel and DC are mediocre to sub-par, mired in pointless crossovers and unnecessary blood and gore, and overall completely uninteresting.

Apparently, this has caused a bit of a stink in certain circles, which confuses me a bit, considering that Kurt Busiek is absolutely right.

Seriously, I’m not sure how anyone could get mad about this thing. First of all, Busiek was way more polite about the whole thing than he had any need to be, providing valid, well reasoned, non-inflammatory explanations for why all these current comics don’t work for him, and even went out of his way to note the exceptions that he still finds interesting. It’s pretty hard to get mad at a guy when he essentially ends his argument saying, “but, hey, you know, it’s just not my kind of thing anymore.”

Furthermore, the overall quality of comics from the big two has dropped, and dropped considerably. A couple years ago I could barely keep up with all the books I wanted to read. Now? DC has Secret Six and Batman and Robin, and Marvel is down to The Incredible Hercules/Prince of Power (or whatever they’re calling it this week). That’s it. Out of the dozens and dozens of books these two publish, there are three comics that are any good.

Why should I read from the big two anyway, when there are plenty of excellent alternatives out there? As I mentioned in an earlier post, Vertigo has plenty of great stuff coming out right now (yes, I know that DC owns Vertigo, I’m trying to make a point here—shut up), and with comics like Hellboy, Chew, and Invincible still being released by other publishers, I don’t see any reason to sit around and wait for Marvel and DC to pull their heads out of their asses.

Marvel and DC wonder why the comics side of the business is failing, but when the only answer they can come up with is “More blood! More crossovers! More pandering to our dwindling fan base instead of trying something new!” it’s really hard to be surprised.

September 8, 2010

The Eyes of the Mantis Shrimp are Awesome

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , — Durandal @ 12:52 pm

If there’s one thing readers have come to expect from Trouble Thinking, it’s facts about sea creatures. If there’s two things readers have come to expect from Trouble Thinking, it’s facts about the Mantis Shrimp.

Fact 1: 100% Excellent.

That colorful little dude up there has some kind of awesome abilities, like claws that move so fast they cause cavitation, a shockwave through the water, and hit prey twice with a single strike.

But we can address that in the many Mantis Shrimp Facts posts to follow, what I’m concerned with at the moment is their amazing eyesight. Mantis Shrimp, for some reason, have probably the best eyesight in the entire animal kingdom. You know how your dog always laughs at you when you try to figure out where that dog-urine smell is coming from? Mantis Shrimp see us looking at things with our big squishy useless eyeballs and they just quietly fluoresce to each other. “Come on, let’s leave them be” they say “they can’t even see us laughing at them. This is just sad.”

The Mantis Shrimp Eyeball looks like this

It's okay to stare.

“Wait” you’re saying to yourself “that’s not AN eyeball, that’s three eyeballs.” Congratulations, it’s just dawning on you.


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