Trouble Thinking

December 29, 2010

Blight of the Immortals: Get In While the Beta’s Hot

Filed under: Game News — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 8:52 pm

So, previously on Trouble Thinking I mentioned the really quite interesting and fun long-long-long-term browser game “Neptune’s Pride”.

Well, the developer that created Neptune’s Pride has made another strange strategy game to play every 15-24 hours for a month called “Blight of the Immortals“.

“Blight of the Immortals” is a bit of a different beast. Perhaps because they realized Neptune’s Pride is a spectacular frustrating exercise in trying not to get back-stabbed by horrible assholes, they’ve made Blight a cooperative enterprise. There’s still competition between players, but it’s more of a race than a violent orgy of betrayal unseen since the days of Caligula.

The setup for the game is that there’s some generic fantasy world (orcs, elves, etc etc) that is beset by a terrible blight! It turns those it kills into shambling horrors. They aren’t dead, but they yet move upon the countryside eating, pillaging… growing. Basically zombies yeah. So, in response to this, you and 8 other players play the “basically forward thinking alliance of races”. You have a small number of controlled cities and units, and you need to kill the zombies. You do this by both sending your armies against them, and growing your armies through trade or conquest. The majority of the world starts as uncontrolled Independent Cities, who are dicks. Rather than valiantly join the fight against the growing horde, they sit there being assholes until you pay them or conquer them.

The game, like Neptune’s Pride, is basically played in real-time. Each unit, though, takes absolute ages to move. So you set your army of Dwarfs in motion at 8 AM, and check on their progress tomorrow at 7 AM. The simple strategy of trading needed coins with other players, setting up your little towns by upgrading defenses and economic power, and aligning your armies is really engaging. It’s also really hard unless everyone is working together, which is actually the fun part. You need to coordinate your efforts and trade coins/units/towns in order to bring your forces to bear fast enough to stem the tide of Undead.

I would say that at a price of Not Any Money, you have no reason not to check out this really fun little game.

December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Filed under: Site News — Tags: — Durandal @ 1:31 am

Merry Christmas, anyone reading! I hope you’re checking this long after the festivities. Trouble Thinking will be back on it’s regular schedule come next week.


I promise a minimum of 3 new facts about the mantis shrimp each day. That is my Christmas gift to you.

 

Also, this was the second Google Image result for “christmas”. The first was pornography. Happy Holidays!

December 21, 2010

Murderbullets!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Durandal @ 2:46 pm

Murderbullets is a cool and completely NSFW comic by James Stokoe, whose work I’ve previously linked. Apparently, it was planned as a longer ongoing, but Orc Stain stepped in and took up all his time.

The bulk of this was done sometime between Wonton Soup 2 and Orc Stain, starting out as a entry for an anthology. The theme of the anthology was “The last comic you would ever draw”, so I took it rather literally and did 8 pages of a cracked out character drawing a book in a post apocalyptic wasteland that would grant him entry into the afterlife. Also, for some reason a moose was chained to his toilet. I got wrapped up in figuring out how this situation came to be and developed an elaborate back story involving time travelling, mutants, knife fights and cybernetic dolphin street gangs. Of course none of this would fit into an anthology, so I decided to take a stab at a full length book.

The guy makes really really neat looking comics, and I’d say it’s well worth checking out just for the art.

December 17, 2010

The Strike of the Mantis Shrimp!

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , — Durandal @ 9:15 am

That’s right, folks. Trouble Thinking is bringing you what you, for whatever reason, appear to really want. Mantis Shrimp related facts!

This time though, I’m going to be lazy and just grab the beautifully rendered CreatureCast video that explains the exact mechanics of the Mantis Shrimp’s hunting abilities in lovely you-are-in-4th-grade-o-vision.

December 15, 2010

Humble Indie Bundle 2: Humble Humbler.

So hey, you remember during the spring, when there was a bundle of good indie games for $whatever you want for sale?

Well, apparently enough people paid more than $0.01 for the whole shebang, and a bunch of indie developers have decided to give it another go! A combination of independent game titles that would cost $85 all told if bought individually are being offered as a pack for the low low price of anything you feel like paying.

The new bundle includes

Braid: A puzzle game that centers around the concept of manipulating time. It’s really quite excellent in all respects. It’s very pretty looking, very interesting, and solidly fun to make your way through. Highly recommended by every single critic ever, too. If you haven’t already played, I’d say dropping $5-$10 for the bundle moves from a convenience to a necessity.

Cortex Command: A game so indie, it’s site couldn’t handle the extra traffic coming from people checking out the bundle! I know absolutely nothing about this game except for the fact that the very few user reviews I’ve found seem to be positive. But hey, it’s not like paying anything at all for it is taking a huge risk.

Machinarium: Adventure games were once kings of the computer. Every household in America owned two copies of Myst, one for playing and one for praying. But that time has passed and will never return. The good part about adventure games, though, is that you don’t need a triple-A budget to make a great one. By all accounts, Machinarium looks like a really well constructed and interesting puzzle adventure starring just the cutest little robots ever. They really make WALL-E look like some kind of monster in comparison. The fact that it’s all hand-painted beautifully just makes it even more perfectly story-book.

Osmos: Is a game about gobbling up little dots, but in a clever way. Basically, you grow when you gobble, but in order to move you need to expend energy, and therefore shrink. So the game becomes something more than Easy Pacman and becomes an exercise in using your resources efficiently. It’s also beautiful and calming, as you’d expect from a game by the same guys who did flOw.

Revenge of the Titans: Is a weird but cool looking little combination of Tower Defense (that game you play at the office) and Real Time Strategy. So basically you construct a little military base, complete with elaborate defense system, and then you strike out at the enemy when you’ve got a big enough force to make a go of it. This is another game whose artwork just immediately appeals to me. It’s pixel art done well, instead of just for a retro flair.

And just for good measure, you can donate to two worthwhile charities at the same time!

The Electronic Frontier Foundation: Basically protecting innocent internet denizens like yourself from constant attempts to make everything so much worse that it is almost crazy. They tend to stand up for reasonable copyright as well.

Child’s Play: As I mentioned previously, Child’s Play is a charity that gives toys to little sick kids. It’s a great cause, and the overhead is crazy tiny so all of your cash/gifts basically go directly where you mean for them to go. Pick your favorite hospital, look at their wish-list on Amazon, and if you’re a decent human being you will not be able to resist giving a kid with leukemia “Goodnight Moon” or something.

There really is no legitimate reason not to go and buy these games and donate to these charities, I mean you literally cannot possibly not afford them. But make me proud, and pay what you can actually afford. These developers are going out on a limb, and we should reward them for that, not rob them.

December 13, 2010

Minecraft to Enter Beta Stage December 20th

Filed under: Game News — Tags: , , — Durandal @ 2:34 pm

Man, by the time Minecraft is actually a release game, I think everyone will already have a copy.

For those of you unaware of the whole development schedule games tend to run on, “Alpha” means “really shit version that we use to just basically make sure things are up and running”. It’s the earliest playable build of a game, and it usually ends up being used exclusively by Quality Assurance drones running it ten thousand times to check for bugs. Minecraft was released in the Alpha stage a little while ago because while it was kind of sparse in terms of content, the actual underpinnings were already pretty bug-free by that point. Plus, it’s a super easy way to drum up interest and get an idea of the potential audience. Also, a good way to make a cool couple million.

But now, the developer has stated that they’re boldly stepping into Phase 2 of Operation Everyone Check Out This Sweet Game: the beta! The beta should have far more of the features that are supposed to be in the final release of the game, both in terms of content and features. Hopefully it will remain reasonably bug-free.

With Beta comes a larger focus on polish and content, and we’ll start early on with adding proper modding support with a stable API, and we’d love all input we can get on this from the modders out there. We’ll also add some kind of non-intrusive narrative to the game to help drive the game experience early on, and to provide some kind of late game goal. There will be a bigger focus on testing and stability as well, with more time between updates.

When the game enters beta, the price will rise to 14.95 Euro.

It’s going to cost a bit more, but you’ll get access to all versions up to the release if you buy after December 20th. Although, if you’re smart, you’ll just buy a copy right now for the lower price, because you’ll be granted access to every future version of the game, which at this point seems like it may be a lot!

Thor: THHHOOOORRR *KRAKABOOOOM*

Filed under: Comics — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 9:00 am

Thoooor thorthorthorthorthor

The new trailer for Thor confirms what I always suspected: Thor!

Seriously dudes, this will be spectacular. It is a bit funny that the official accent of Asgard seems to be “whatever, british-ish?”, but it looks pretty sweet and for a brief moment Hogun the Grim is visible, so that’s pretty awesome. The Destroyer Armor is classic big bad-guy stuff, too. Hopefully they do some fight choreography in this one that’s actually interesting though. The oddest part about other big-name Marvel Movies is how little action there is. They’re based on a genre that trends towards one fight sequence per panel, and yet the Iron Man movies have a combined half-hour of him punching stuff.

 

Speaking of Thor: if you’d like to read more about the sweet viking god super-hero, look no further than Thor: The Mighty Avenger!

It’s a fun, action-packed, and funny book. I’ve not read anything else Roger Landridge has written, but I will now. It’s also got some spectacular art in it thanks to Chris Samnee:

Thor totally kicking a heart patient's ass!

If I were you, and thank Thor I am not, but if I were I would grab the trade paperback collections of this stuff, because it is straight gold. It’s basically a non-seriousface version of the events of the movie, and the myth. Thor is a dick, gets cast down to Earth, learns to love and fight totally awesome super-villains and such. It’s easy to jump into with no knowledge of the Marvel universe, and each issue contains at least one bit where Thor beats the holy hell out of someone, half the time discovering that it was all a mixup and apologizing but everyone’s okay with that because hey it is Thor if he doesn’t hit you in your teeth at least once he doesn’t respect you.

 

December 10, 2010

Geek and Gamer Girls are Awesome!

Filed under: Interesting Things — Tags: , , — Katherine Barclay @ 6:54 pm

Geek and Gamer Girls!

Anyone who hasn’t already seen the Geek and Gamer Girls Anthem needs to go check it out right now. For one thing, it’s basically just hot chicks cosplaying as fictional hot chicks, to the tune of that annoyingly catchy Katy Perry song. For another, it’s hosted by Seth Green, with cameos by Katee Sackhoff and Stan Lee, and I love it when big-name people I recognise are willing to take the time to come down to my level and have fun with some awesome things.

So, seriously, go! Enjoy!

Piracy

Filed under: Interesting Things — Tags: , , , — Durandal @ 5:33 pm

At some point, I probably would have written a post about piracy and my thoughts on it, with the understanding that those of you without my brain couldn’t possibly process the nuances of the topic without a little outside assistance. It’s looking like that won’t be necessary now, as I’ve found an opinion piece so close to my own thoughts as to render them redundant.

David Brothers, of the blog 4thLetter, makes a compelling case that widespread piracy hasn’t so much killed any of the industries it affects as it has altered them.

“In the past, if you wanted to watch a tv show, you had to tune in at the right time or hope someone taped it for you (which was probably technically illegal). If you wanted to buy an album or hear a song, you needed the radio or a record shop. Video games? Go to Funcoland. Books? Hit the library. And on and on and on.”

The internet, and piracy, changed that forever. For the first time, non-physical media became a possibility. MP3s caused a catastrophic drop in the perceived value of music. Being able to store hundreds, or thousands, of songs on a computer, and later an mp3 player, makes you rethink how you approach music. You don’t have to buy albums that are half filler just to get the two or three songs you like. You can just get those songs. Even if you like all of an album, you don’t need a six foot high stack of jewel cases any more. It fits in your pocket.

Piracy isn’t just about getting things for free, it’s about convenience. For a long time, despite the shit you needed to go through in order to successfully download something, piracy was significantly more convenient in addition to not costing anything. But industries have stepped up. Steam, and other digital download services, are successfully combating PC piracy not by shoving a shitload of DRM into products (though there is some, more than I’d like) but by offering an excellent, approachable, useful service that provides reasonable prices and frequent sales. Why bother finding a workable torrent/crack on some godawful little site when you can pay $5 for the game, integration into a nice little UI, achievements, and hook-ups to friends? Speaking of achievements, as Mr. Brothers points out:

“Achievements and Trophies on 360 and PS3 are other anti-piracy measures. You don’t get to partake in competing with your friends over your gamerscore if you pirate. If you don’t believe that score chasing is a huge part of gaming culture right now, find out how many of your Xbox owning friends played through King Kong because it gave away 1000 gamerpoints around launch time. Make sure to ask them if they enjoyed playing through that game, too. Go ahead. I’ll wait. No, I won’t, because the answer is “almost all of them” and “none of them,” in that order.”

Piracy isn’t fair. Hell, it isn’t even legal. But that doesn’t free you from the obligation to compete. You don’t suddenly win all your money back when you’ve complained enough. No amount of Anti-Piracy rhetoric or legislation is going to change the fact that one of your competitors is some dude in a foreign country with a DVD burner, a T1 line, and some adspace to sell. And all around us is evidence that you can compete with that kind of free. iTunes is doing spectacular business. Steam, Direct2Drive, the X-Box Live and PSN marketplaces, the Kindle, the iPhone, NetFlix, all of these products are successfully answering piracy by actually giving customers the kind of instant gratification they want. In every way but price, they’re better than piracy. And they’re reaping the rewards.

And if piracy gets more sophisticated? Simpler to use? Well, be prepared to make your product better too. I won’t be weeping for you.

“Piracy changed the game. It has hurt a lot of people, and that sucks, but at the same time, it’s created a world where being conservative makes you a dinosaur. It’s forced companies to evolve and actually listen to what their customers want. The world changed. Screaming about how illegal or unfair it is isn’t going to fix much. We’re at a point where almost all of the medium we consume is being adjusted to fit into a brand new paradigm. Whether comics or movies or tv or music, physical media is diversifying and digital media is rapidly expanding. Everything changes, usually for unfair reasons. Pay attention to what came before, look at what people want, and adjust accordingly. You can evolve or die.”

December 8, 2010

SPACE! SpaceX Capsule Launched

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , — Durandal @ 1:34 pm

SpaceX, the private space firm founded by the dude who founded PayPal, not the dude obsessed with naming things vaguely sexual things just to see if he can, has just successfully launched their Dragon module. It’s only supposed to hang there doing nothing for a bit according to the flight plan:

Adorable!

“Launch and separate from Falcon 9, orbit Earth, transmit telemetry, receive commands, demonstrate orbital maneuvering and thermal control, re-enter atmosphere, and recover Dragon spacecraft”

But they hope that will lead to bigger and better things in the coming year, including a successful docking with the ISS. Basically, SpaceX and other independent space companies hope that undercutting NASA will be good business. And what with NASA basically saying they’re not going to bother trying anything for another 5-10 years to see if space lowers it’s guard, it’s looking like that’s a good bet.

Even if none of these companies become Weyland-Yutani or anything, it’s still heartening to see that there’s some decent progress in finding cost-effective solutions for space travel. I don’t expect to have a personal X-Wing any time soon, but I cannot imagine that being able to explore the other 99.999…9% of the universe will eventually come in handy. The nice part about small companies is that the day-to-day keeps them on actually viable tracks toward bigger and better projects that build on previous experience, instead of promising to get to Mars in a machine built last decade for a budget of $Shoe.

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