Friday, October 29, 2010

Unique Individuals

The thing is, a lot of those birds don't even seem all that angry.

I mean yeah, that yellow bird, he's mad. He might be a bit too mad in fact, like maybe this whole egg situation is just a convenient excuse for him to vent some unresolved issues. So I guess that's legitimate anger, even if it's less about those pigs and more about his relationship with his father.

Red bird might be a little angry, but mostly he seems to be there out of a sense of obligation. I've got a feeling yellow bird talked him into it, calling him a coward and stuff like that until he grudgingly agreed to come along.

But blue bird? Blue bird isn't angry because blue bird has no idea what's going on. And he never has. He honestly just saw that big slingshot and, in his compromised state, thought it sounded like fun. Either that or yellow bird promised him some Cheeto's.

You could make the case that black bird is angry, he certainly seems to enjoy his role in all of this. But that's the thing, he enjoys it. I think black bird may simply be a psychopath. He's going to blow something up no matter what, this is just a good opportunity.

White bird seems like he's just scared out of his mind. White bird just wants to go home, and flies away with genuine relieve each time his attack is done.* Yellow bird threatened him, that's the only explanation.

Green bird is pretty clearly a weirdo. He's basically that kid from school who would occasionally show up wearing one of his mom's hats, or something. And he wouldn't explain or even reference it, cause he just loved that everyone found it strange. I'm not even sure what he's doing here, probably just knew it was good public place to show off how much of a weirdo he is. He's going to grow some kind of crazy mustache, trust me on this.

*Also, does anyone else find it weird that he drops eggs? I mean, isn't the whole point that they're trying to save eggs? How many eggs is it okay for him to plop on the ground in the service of saving the stolen ones?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tree of Knowledge (Beta)

So . . . how can I NOT talk about Minecraft this week.

Minecraft is an independently developed game about exploring a gigantic open world. The graphics are simple and blocky, but what it lacks up close it makes up for in sheer scope.

This is a world that goes forever. You can walk and swim as far as you want, and the game will keep generating new space for you to inhabit.

And that's why you can get incredibly lost.

But the game's vastness isn't just on the surface. By combining the materials you collect you can create new objects, from simple picks and shovels to torches that can be flipped on and off with a wall switch. And all of it is only the beginning.

Minecraft is currently in "alpha" state, the software equivalent of a rough draft. By the time it's finished there's no telling the kinds of things that will be possible. I just hope the future versions are compatible with the world we've been at work on.

That's right, "we." I knew as soon as I saw Minecraft that it was something I wanted as a multiplayer experience, so I setup my own server for the game. And gradually various friends came to it, knocking on my IP address and asking if they could live on the spare desktop in my home office.

And just look at what they've built:

The last few constitute the beginnings of "town," the area we're working on together. It's been amazing watching the work of individuals gradually come together to refine this virtual place. With complete authorial power over the landscape, we are gradually making it our own.

Given the incomplete state of the software, I can't help but think of it as a kind of digital Eden. Though the magnitude of it all is impressive, the rules governing the world are strange and incomplete. An update to the server software would represent an incredible shift in reality. One update in particular.

In any place of darkness, monsters spawn. For now they offer no threat, since all damage is turned off in the server software until the bugs with it are worked out. When that gets changed, original sin comes to our world, and we will need to be ready.

*Hehe, I made a big tower.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Radio Silence

I'm not trying to be antisocial. That's not what this is.

I just don't understand the desire to chatter on, ensuring that the sound of talking fills every single moment of life, even the somewhat awkward moments like this one. Can't this just be a little personal time? Can't we just stand here in silent reflection for this one moment during the day?

And anyway, isn't it the least bit weird for you to talk right now? Shouldn't you have other, more important things to focus on? I mean I know the process is fairly automatic, but anything that can go wrong deserves your attention, no matter how simple or familiar it is. Why don't you handle that situation, and we'll talk afterwards?

Because again, it's not an antisocial thing. I'm not Mmhmm-ing your little quips because I don't like you, or even don't want to talk to you.

I just don't want to talk to you at a urinal.*

*Also, why are you always in here when I am? Do you pee like, thirty times a day? Or are we just on eerily similar whiz-schedules.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Andrew was . . . well, Andrew was a monster.

Now, when I say that, I don't mean that Andrew was "monstrous." He did not commit monstrous acts. He did not hurt people. I don't mean it that way.

No, when I say that Andrew was a monster, I mean that he was nine feet tall, green, had rows of horns growing down his back, and had enormous dinosaur-like claws for hands and feet.

I guess you'd say that I mean "monster" in the "literal" sense.

I'm explaining this up front for a reason, because otherwise you'd go through this story thinking that he was a regular human being. There are a couple of things that might make you get that impression:

1. Andrew lived across the hall from me. Like in an apartment. An apartment just like mine. Nine foot tall green guy, getting up everyday and hitting that light switch with his terrifying claw.

2. No one but me ever seemed to notice that Andrew was a monster. I mean he knew of course. It's hard to miss the fact that the whole world is designed around creatures who cannot crush tree trunks like they were aluminum cans and do not eternally smoulder. I don't know what the rest of the world's problem was. When I see an enormous creature down the street, with glowing eyes and breathing that sounds like thunderclaps, I don't wonder if he played college football. I wonder where I'm going to hide.

3. As a direct result of #2, Andrew had a job and did many things that a normal person would do. He simply did them with the added challenge of being a natural abomination.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Amazing Gamer Blogs!

Paperboy (1984) was quite an experience.

I'm sure it was an easy sell to most parents: a nice wholesome game about delivering newspapers-very TV Land. But the gentle motif and cartoony cover art of a happy kid tossing out papers doesn't communicate several realities about the game:

1. It's positively teeming with bizarre crap, painting a typical suburban street as a terrifying death trap.
2. It leads you to run your paper route in gangster fashion, keeping your customers in line while punishing those who aren't on your side.
3. It is brutally difficult, the way only games of that era are. It demands precision control, timing, and reflexes, and there are multiple ways to fail.

So let's start by going over the many ways you can die in Paperboy.

You can run into fences, trees, skateboarders, dogs, break dancers (it was the 80's) and children on big wheels. Sounds normal enough right?

You can also be run over by a car, hit by a runaway lawn mower, or fall down an open manhole. Each day you also have to cross 2 streets, which are used exclusively by speeding motorcyclists who seem to have no regard for human life.

Think that all seems a little weird?

You can also be beaten by crazy old women, some of whom are your subscribers, when they come running after you with rolling pins. Also, random tiny tornadoes will sometime chase you down the street. Oh, and then there's Death* himself. Yeah, the Grim Reaper. He's there, just hanging out, and will personally come to collect your soul.


Not content to make you dodge the afterlife at every turn, Paperboy also made you attend to your crappy job whipping newspapers. And you'd better do it right, because the required subscriber number goes up everyday, and the customers are picky. If that paper isn't on the doorstep or directly in the mailbox, even for one day, then forget it. Apparently having the news isn't worthwhile if it takes any extra effort. And don't you dare think about breaking a window . . .

. . . unless, of course, it's on a red "non-subscriber" house (and yeah, apparently canceling your newspaper sub puts you into a weird place, and you paint your whole house red overnight). You get extra points for every broken window or damaged piece of property in a non-subscriber yard, so feel free to pepper those houses with random throws. They dropped their subscription, and deserve to suffer.

And if you manage to dodge death in your little nightmare world, plus keep enough of those picky customers happy for a full week**, you know what you get? Your name in the paper. That's it.**

Paperboy in summary: Work is hard and punishing, no one appreciates you and even inanimate objects are out to get you. Good luck, sucker.

*In addition, a lot of the houses seem to have tombstones in front of them. The game is weirdly morbid.

**And what happens the next week? Does the subscriber limit keep going up, until the poor kid is run ragged delivering papers to most of the developed world?

***A fact I know because of my father, the only person I know who has beaten the game.