Trouble Thinking

August 17, 2011

DOTA 2 Million Dollar Championship!

Filed under: Game News — Tags: , , , , , — Durandal @ 12:21 pm

So Valve is introducing Defense of the Ancients 2, a sequel to a game modification of Blizzard’s Warcraft 3 that became quite popular, by holding a tournament with a one goddamn million dollar prize. You can watch the live stream here: http://www.dota2.com/tournaments/international/

Apparently people, mostly people who were superstar DotA players, have been playing behind closed doors as QA for a while. Now all those players have arranged themselves into teams and been pitted against each other. For, again, a million dollars which jesus what the hell. It’s an interesting way of advertising. The game isn’t out yet, but DotA has a huge following as is, and the ludicrous size of the prize will probably interest those who have no idea what DOTA 2 is like. Because of how hard to describe this genre is, getting people to watch is important from an advertising perspective, and having people watch a tournament will get the idea of this being a competitive game of merit into people’s heads.

This is Valve’s bid to grab a bit of the competitive pro-gaming pie, which oddly enough seems to exist. I guess the major player right now would be Blizzard, with Starcraft 2. I can only assume taking DotA is also a bit of Valve thumbing their noses at the distinguished competition. I’d give this a watch, even if you’ve got no clue what the fuck DOTA means. It’s a fun game, and it’s actually quite entertaining to watch played well.

Anyways! If you’re at all interested in the game, which is the progenitor of the all the recent MOBA games, you can try signing up for the beta!

Edit: Oh hm. The Beta sign-ups appear to be down for a bit? They may be full up.

August 10, 2011

Prequel Adventure is a Sweet Webcomic

Filed under: Comics, The Internet — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 6:08 pm

In both the sense of being awesome and the sense of being just completely fucking adorable.

Prequel Adventure is loosely set in I think… Morrowind? But it could sub in any random fantasy setting. It stars a cat, Katia, who is a horrible person with worse luck. She’s got the fantasy adventure beginning down pat, arriving in town penniless and looking for work… but she’s completely unskilled. Weak in body and mind and completely unskilled, she quickly realizes that her life isn’t any better here. I like the inversion of the standard steady progress of an RPG. Katia starts off bad, and while things eventually begin to look up, it’s in no way a steady progression. She tries and fails and makes shitty mistakes that aren’t her fault but ruin things anyway. It’s got a nifty little audience participation thing built in, and the author uses it both as a wellspring for general story ideas and as a way to draw pathos out of a situation by looking at readers shout “no, no don’t do THAT” and then having Katia do it anyway.

It feels genuine, and it manages to be incredibly cruel while never disrespecting the protagonist… well, while only occasionally disrespecting her. She might be a coward and useless, but she’s still a person.

It’s also got a lovely little sketchy occasionally animated cartoon style that is really a joy to look at. It’s not the most complex story so far, but each update is a fun or an excruciating read depending on how well you deal with embarrassment humor. I recommend it heartily, start at the beginning!

August 8, 2011

Bastion Soundtrack Online for Free/Pay What You Want

Filed under: Game News, Music — Tags: , , , — Durandal @ 3:12 pm

This is some great fucking music. I mean, I’m not nearly enough of a dorknozzle to go about arguing that the theme to Final Fantasy is actually totally fun to listen to. But Bastion’s soundtrack has been on repeat for a while now in the background. It’s got this really nice cowboy-exotic-folksy… I don’t know shit about music. It’s really nice to listen to and all the tracks are good. It’s not cloyingly “a game soundtrack”. It’s just awesome music that happens to have been included in a game.

Give it a listen, pay for it if you want some extra stuff!

Oh and the game is supposed to be hot shit as well, so give that a go on XBLA for $15 and soon on Steam.

Twitter! I’m So Modern.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Durandal @ 2:41 pm

So I finally attached this thing to my Twitter account. And finally actually activated my Twitter account.

If you have ever read a single goddamn one of my posts, you follow me at @Durandal4532. You follow me or I’ll follow you. I’ll follow you knife-kind, not with Twitter.

So yes, join me on Twitter! It’s a journey we can take together.

Comedy! My Brother, My Brother, and Me is a Comedic Podcast That Is Actually Pretty Good.

Filed under: Interesting Things — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 12:43 pm

So you’re into comedy. Maybe you watch it on The Cent (as we in the know call Comedy Central) or you’re super into some British thing that you insist is great but then again who can tell when each season is 13 minutes long and primarily consists of awkward pausing and tooth decay?

Maybe you listen to podcasts, but probably not. Because podcasts are the castoffs of comedy. There are a thousand of them, and you don’t have the time in your busy day to go around making certain each and every one is actually just the worst thing. You’ve got stuff to do.

But you’ve got me! And I’ve got fuck all to do. So, after having reviewed all podcasts in their entirety over the course of the past week, I’ve brought you the single best comedic podcast: My Brother, My Brother, and Me. I will abbreviate to MBMBaM, pronounced “muh bim bam”.

What is MBMBaM? Well, as they put it:

My Brother, My Brother and Me is an advicecast for the modern era featuring three real-life brothers: Justin, Travis and Griffin McElroy. For roughly five-sixths of an hour each week, with new episodes dropping every Monday, the brothers McElroy will answer any query sent our way, each fielding questions falling into our respective areas of expertise. We operate like a streamlined, advice-generating machine. It’s both terrifying and humbling to behold.

If you’ve got nerdy or boring parents, you’ll remember listening to Car Talk on NPR. It’s like that, but instead of cars they tack more to Dear Abby sorts of advice. Also, their jokes make someone other than themselves laugh on occasion. The brothers alternate between questions sent in by readers and Yahoo Answers questions asked by terrifyingly out of touch people in need of a lot of help.

The Brothers McElroy have a pretty good vibe going. The three of them have gotten comfortable riffing off questions, and using intervals of decent advice as a way of pausing to think about something that would be a much dumber and funnier course of action to advocate. They also have the good sense to actually plan ahead instead of relying entirely on bullshitting, which gives a bit of structure to the experience. Griffin has become the designated question-asker, and over the 65 extant episodes has become adept at pinpointing the down-slope of the riff track and cutting it off with a new question.

It’s the sort of humor that you can’t really pinpoint lines or quotes from all that easily because it’s just a flow looking for local minimums of humorousness, but it’s left me actually crying with laughter several times. It’s a bit like MST3K in that regard, but obviously much worse. I don’t want them getting big heads.

Anyways! I’ve got the sample track for you to listen to, and you can head on over to their website for more, with a new update each week!

Oh, and feel free to ask them questions too:

If you’re in desperate need of a bit of advice, don’t be shy! Simply send an email to mbmbam@maximumfun.org, or post on twitter with the tag #MBMBaM and we’ll take care of that for you.

August 6, 2011

Brink: Update! Agents of Change DLC Free Until The 17th, Free Weekend on Steam!

Filed under: Game News — Tags: , , , , , — Durandal @ 2:11 pm

So Brink, Brink Brink Brink.

Brink.

Look I’m going to level with you. I had hours of fun. It’s a fun time when it works. But holy moly. They did not in any way prepare themselves for what an actual full retail product release would entail. They did some very interesting stuff, but you need to wake up quite early in the morning to get one over on Team Fortress 2.

But! They’ve decided to give the old girl a shot in the arm. If you’re intrigued by Brink, try it this weekend on Steam. It’s free until Sunday at 1 PM, and it’s half off until then as well. If you’ve already got it, or you purchase it before August 17th, you get the Agents of Change DLC free. Agents of change includes a bunch of new powers like the Napalm Grenade, the Pyro Mine, and the Field Regeneration Unit. There are also new weapon attachments, the Bayonet for close-quarters damage, and the Shield for preventing headshots. Finally, they put in two new maps. And all for free! So, awesome deal. I’m going to hop back on.

I really hope this revitalizes things a bit, I do love the concept and the things they’ve attempted, they just… they needed a bit of help.

August 5, 2011

Ultimate Spider-Man News!

Filed under: Comics — Tags: , , — Durandal @ 1:47 pm

If you’re somehow both interested in Ultimate Spider-Man and yet not completely aware of everything happening to him you’re probably the shittiest comic book reader ever. It’s one book, man. Maybe you don’t really care. Maybe just walk away buddy.

But on the assumption that you’re the one person weird enough to want to know about the fate of the offshoot-universe Spider-Man but not read about it okay: Ultimate Universe Peter Parker is now dead. He wasn’t eaten by the Blob, though, so small favors. Now that he’s dead, another young man named Miles Morales has decided to take up the mantle of Spider-Man, having been inspired by the original. It’s likely an attempt to differentiate the Ultimate universe from the 616 or “main” Marvel Comics universe. The Ultimate line has basically been “Teen Superhero Retread Hour” for about 10 years. It was supposed to be a clean restart off in it’s own corner where anything could happen. Beyond a few superficial differences, not much interesting was altered. The biggest draw was Ultimate Spider-Man, written for almost a decade by the same man, Brian Michael Bendis. That’s an impressive thing for comics, which usually run through writers at the same rate as erasers. Now, he’s tossing the protagonist of his longest-running story and replacing him with someone completely fresh.

So, will this be a boon for the book, and indeed the stagnating Ultimate line? It’ll be interesting to see.

Oh! Also, loads of complete assholes are getting up in arms about the new Ultimate Spidey being biracial. Probably the best response is the Drudge Report’s headline:

Yes, Mr. Drudge. In the same sense all human beings you meet may be gay. (Via ComicsAlliance)

Humble Indie Bundle 3 + Humble Indie Bundle 2 = $5.50

Just an update on the Humble Indie Bundle: They’ve added 5 more games, from the Humble Indie Bundle 2 (in addition to Steel Storm, which was added earlier). UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Holy shit, they added Atom Zombie Smasher as I was writing this.

The only requirement to get all the Indie Bundle 2 games is that you pay at least a bit over the average, currently at around $5.43. If you don’t, you still get 6 games. It’s an amazing deal being made even more amazing. If you haven’t already picked it up, then get it! For about $5.50 you now get: Crayon Physics Deluxe, Cogs, VVVVVV, Hammerfight, And Yet it Moves, Steel Storm, Braid, Cortex Command, Machinarium, Osmos, and Revenge of the Titans. And Atom Zombie Smasher  That’s about $100 worth of indie games right there.
If you do not purchase this sandwich-price pack, you aren’t allowed to buy games any more, it’s in the bylaws.

I’ll do my darndest to get out a short review of all the games on offer before the weekend ends, in case you’re the worlds most picky person ever.

August 3, 2011

Debt Ceiling Deal Eliminates Subsidized Graduate Loans

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 10:54 am

So, in case you missed it due to being a generally lazy uninterested person such as I imagine everyone who is not possessed of my singular qualities must be: The Debt Ceiling! Finally a reason to care about it directly.

I’m going into a PhD program. For those of you who weren’t aware, these programs pay about as well as babysitting your little brother. And now, good news: we’re going to solve all of America’s economic problems by making sure graduate programs are even more punishingly poverty-inducing.

So what the fuck happened?

Well, as reported by the great Minneapolis Daily:

But the federal Pell Grant program, which had expected deep cuts, was given $17 billion to maintain its level of support for college students until 2013. Pell Grants are awarded to undergraduate students from low-income families, and do not need to be repaid. At the University of Minnesota, 19 percent of the undergraduate student population received a Pell Grant in the 2009-10 academic year, according to a report released from the University’s Office of Institutional Research.

Oh man! That’s good, that would have sucked. I know a shitload of poor people who would basically be completely fucked seven ways to sunday if they didn’t get a decent loan rate from Pell Grants. Note: the Pell Grants were described as basically welfare by Republicans and Tea Partiers. Weirdly, they somehow got their facts wrong when it came to hating on people poorer than they are! Wooooah.

Rep Denny Rehberg (R Mont) said

“So you can go to college on Pell Grants — maybe I should not be telling anybody this because it’s turning out to be the welfare of the 21st century.”

Guess what a Pell Grant is! Go on. I know the word grant is confusing, it’s a name, and it also sounds like you mean free money. But no, a Pell Grant is actually a payment offsetting tuition for students who maintain a certain GPA and whose families make less than $35,000 a year. It can be, at maximum, $5,500 per year per student. It is in no way even remotely possible for a student to use this money. It’s just a way to make your desperate attempt to go to a non-Community College somewhat more likely. It’s almost as though people with absolutely no one in their lives who is in any way poor don’t even bother checking before they resent their lessers (via Slacktivist). In fact, it’s completely amazing how resentful the wealthy and powerful are of the destitute masses. I can only assume it’s a ploy to drum up votes from people who prefer to think of themselves as hard-working souls who would refuse all government aid if only they knew what it was.

But! Don’t worry. Pell Grants are safe, for now. All we had to do was give up graduate and professional grants! Yaaay. Again via Minneapolis Daily:

But the Pell Grant program’s reprieve came at the cost of government-subsidized loans for graduate and professional students across the nation, which will be eliminated in July 2012 to cover the cost. Those students will need to begin paying interest on their loan while still in school, or let it accumulate.

“Once again we’re seeing graduate and professional education school pitted against undergraduate education,” said Abou Amara, president of the University’s Graduate and Professional Student Assembly While Amara said that he supported the Pell Grant program, funding cuts to programs at the state and federal level and a sparse job market have created a “bleak future” for graduate students.

Now there are going to be no more subsidized loans for Graduate students after July 1st 2012. What this means is that instead of getting a 0% loan (one that, mind you, you still need to pay back), you get one that charges interest. This is a massive hit to one of the few things that made graduate studies something people could contemplate undertaking. Graduate school stipends are so low that loans are frequently necessary, and professional school tuition is so high that loans are frequently necessary. With subsidized loans, you could go a bit into debt in a calculated manner. Without subsidized loans, hello interest potentially fucking you over.  So, you know. Turns out, the solution to our economic woes has always been to make it harder for poor people to do anything of any possible benefit to society.

I mean for goodness sake. You know who came up with the idea of public education for the peasants? Napoleon. Now, I don’t know if you know Napoleon but he wasn’t known as a “nice dude”. He was the sort of guy who murdered as many people as it took for him to become Emperor of Everything. The sort of man who died when a brave hero hit his flashing weak points in the proper order. And let me tell you, he may have been Emperor of France, but he couldn’t stand the French. He was a Corsican, through and through. If he’d been able to rename the country “Haha bet you fuckers didn’t expect a Corsican to take over did you? BAM” he would have.

But because he came from humble beginnings, he understood that it was beneficial for the state to elevate the least citizen because who knows which will eventually show the same totally sweet merit he did? Education that is cheap and available to all isn’t somehow wussy. It’s a cold calculation made by a man who knew how to use the resources at hand to crush his enemies.

Giving up on education to lower the deficit is an insane method of trying to fix the country. Fewer professionals, weaker science education, more crushing debt for those few hopefuls still bothering: fast track to success for everyone! Can’t wait to see how much this screws me over.

August 1, 2011

Starfarer: Faring Pretty Well

Filed under: Game News — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 5:50 pm

Lasers lasers laaaasers

So indie games all seem to have this sell the alpha for funding thing going on. I guess they saw Notch get massively wealthy and think hey you know what that would be a nice thing to be. Thing is, it’s a tricky bargain selling the alpha. Minecraft was unusual in that the basic mechanic, much less gameplay, was compelling. People will play with blocks and have fun, that’s a given. Other indie games are usually competing within a more established niche against similar games with gameplay that requires some interest in said genre to appreciate. So I think while funding yourself with alpha sales is a nice way of rewarding true die-hard genre fans that are interested in scoping out new entries into the FPS/RPG/TBS/whatever field, I don’t think any of them are going to wind up giving people the triple-sized shot of Moneyspresso that Notch got.

Starfarer by developer Fractal Softworks, though, I’m totally giving money to. Why? Well. First off: Space. Fucking space. I can’t even tell you how awesome I find space. I want to make sweet delirious love to space and wake up in the morning to find space stroking my hair and telling me how fantastic I am. I want to marry space in whatever state it’s legal. Not even a joke: I learned the word “ship” as shorthand for “spaceship” before I knew it usually referred to boats. So by that token alone, a game about being a spaceship captain and tooling around shooting people with laser beams and rockets is just fucking aces. I mean we all talk about how oh haha everyone’s a space marine, but when was the last game you played that allowed you to be a space Captain? I mean jeez we all jerked off to Captain Picard in our formative years, right? You’d think there would be a market for this sort of thing. There’s more to it than an oddly underused setting though.

Starfarer appears to be for all intents and purposes a sequel to the games that absorbed at least two of my formative years: Escape Velocity/Escape Velocity Nova. In those games, you played a ship captain who through trade, combat, and diplomacy bought bigger and better vessels and got more important until finally you played a part in any one of a half-dozen galaxy-spanning storylines. I always ended up picking the people who had living ships, because they were boss. The linear campaigns interspersed with nonlinear trading missions along with the vast number of options for ships and components made for an extremely unique gameplay experience. I had more fun calculating fuel costs in order to get my jumps set up for maximum trade profit in that game than was at all sensible.

Starfarer has ambitions that go much further than anything Escape Velocity ever did, and that excites me. But what excites me more is that they appear to be doing everything they can to demonstrate their ability to actually deliver on their promises. The game is being built solid from the ground up. What they have now, rather than being a “vertical slice”, is a sort-of complete “space battle” game. They plan to make this portion of gameplay merely one feature on the list, but the fact that they’re figuring out how to get it feeling right instead of slapping everything together as fast as they can and then telling me they’ll bug-fix as they go makes me want to pay them my money. Hell, they’ve already even got some pretty fully-featured mods on display, so the community can apparently kick in its own work reasonably easily as it grows.

Sweet sweet order-giving. Sexy.

Right now, for $10, you get the standard alpha-buying deal of all the updates plus the final game. If you wait for the final release version, it’ll cost you $20. Now, in a smart move what you get to play immediately looks like actual fun times. Taking the on the role of the Captain of a Flagship, you lead your AI-controlled fleet into battle. Now, obviously everyone hates AI-controlled anything. But the general idea seems to be that the AI on your side be so competent that with the proper load-out they will pretty much just kick ass where you tell them to. You assign priorities and targets going into the mission, and you have a certain number of chances (plus a panic “Full Retreat!” button) to alter orders while underway. Basically like an RTS with little to no micromanagement. So you get to feel all like an admiral ordering around your Captains which aaagh just makes me actually vibrate with joy. There are plans to tweak settings in how well the AI dodges/targets/etc based on how experienced and what the mental state is of whatever captain you have assigned to a given ship.

Also look at this, from their FAQ:

Aren’t you worried about piracy?

Oh yeah, big time.  That’s why we put actual piracy in the game as a mechanic – to ward of the evil, real world software piracy.  That dark voodoo will definitely work better than any other DRM scheme. That, and chicken sacrifices.  Note: we do not condone chicken sacrifices.

I really enjoy indie developers sometimes.

Here, I’ll leave you with a few movies of it in action.

The most recent, a full mission in action:

And just some space ships going pew pew:

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