Virtual reality is the stuff of programmer legend. Every software engineer that’s ever read Snow Crash (or more recently, the excellent Ready Player One) has dreamed of jacking into the metaverse. But why now? Well, if you think of it in very coarse terms as strapping two smartphones on your face and writing clever glue software, modern consumer VR is a natural outcome of what Chris Anderson calls the “peace dividend of the smartphone wars”.
It really is another of those things: if you think “eh, that’ll never happen,” just wait twenty years.
(As a pedant, I should point out that the Oculus, like the 2DS, uses a single smartphone with a line drawn down the middle. Two screens was an economical move in the DS vs PSP days—but that was before the smartphone wars!)
“With systemic hubris driving business decisions and an almost palpable condescension toward the people that buy their products, one thing’s become increasingly clear: games may not have a Citizen Kane, but the game industry is Citizen Kane.”—Robert Rath, the Escapist
My favorite part of this is the way there’s no obvious accompanying photo, so sites picking up the news use their favorite Magic card art and hope for the best; depending where you read it, you could expect a movie about flying robots or orcs or steampunkers or who knows what. The Verge is the most literal.
I am not optimistic about the movie itself—it seems there’s a lot more ways to fail than to succeed—but I hope it turns out ok.
Every so often we have meetings at big companies we’re working with. I can’t say I’m totally immune to the change in atmosphere, but it doesn’t bother me too much. The artists, though, always come away all “thank god we’re not working at a place like that!” It’s not just the cubicles—apparently low cubicles are a thing now?—and the giant mazelike buildings, though those don’t help. I’m not actually sure what it is, to be honest.
Perhaps relatedly, I’ve heard complaints that parts of the city that have had these giant tech companies move in have had local shops and restaurants shut down, because their cafeterias (modeled after Google) keep the workers inside instead of sending them into the streets to buy lunch.
That makes me really sad! Eating with your coworkers is on balance a good thing, but ffs the walking and deciding where to go and eating actual quality prepared food is also important! The Google bus haters are throwing rocks through the wrong window, but the cafeteria does nobody any favors.
Obviously if your giant office building is in the suburbs that’s its own problem; go ahead and feed your own nerds.
In Appalachia the country is beautiful and the society is broken.
This article has been making the rounds. Just in time for Justified to come back! Even if that show seems to have run out of homegrown villains and spends less time in Kentucky than it used to. It’s an interesting read, though it is the National Review: stay for the reporting, leave before the policy prescriptions.
Krugman’s got a response; Williamson’s reply is basically just name-calling.
Here’s Raymond Chen on that RTL wonkiness; they’ve got a special test locale for windows that’s Backwards English, so they can actually look at text and see if it’s correct. In our PS3 days we had a version of the game in Pig Latin for the same reason.
Only vaguely relatedly, it took quite a bit of trial and error to get my iPhone back from Korean mode; the Settings menu is not friendly to the illiterate.
One from the “things you don’t learn until you need them” files. We’ve been getting more and more responsible about localization, though our East Asian language support is still hacks on top of bandaids. We wrote our own font code—Shannon’s wanted to do signed distance renderering (pdf) since forever—and so we don’t really benefit from the way almost everything else in the world seems to just deal with international text. Which is really cool; somehow I thought we’d be stuck in the world where, like, web browsers would do ok with Unicode, but if you cut and pasted some text into a random program odds are it would fail.
So we get to write word wrapping code ourselves!
At least we’re not doing right-to-left text. That sounds like a nightmare. It would be less of a nightmare if it didn’t actually mean “mixing RTL and LTR text together in the same string”.
I’ve been quiet for a while, distracted from tumblng by working on DIY stuff. I’ve been building up a list of RPG combat mechanics I’d like to try—mostly variations on streamlining movement so you can add pieces without slowing the game down, or different kinds of combos because they’re fun—and it’s at the point where I might as well put together a testbed to try them out for real.
I tried the whole “work on it a little bit every day” thing, which actually worked for a while! (I can’t imagine going so far as waking up early; I can barely manage lurching from bed to work before embarrassingly late.) The trick, at least where programming was concerned, was to have it well planned out in my head. As long as it was, I found I could sit down and make a little bit of progress. But then I ran out and started bumping into features that I only had a vague plan for; it might be time to stew on it for a few months, or find a way to fold it into something I’m doing at work.
Not quite yet, though; work right now is slogging through the checklist of things you need to ship a game, all the ask for review/airplane mode warning/analytics plugins that get put off until the last minute. Somehow none of this stuff quite carries over from game to game.
The new Phoenix Wright is very much more of the same. I’m about a case and a half in, and they’re talking portentiously about “The New Dark Age of the Law.” I can’t say it feels particularly dark to me, but I haven’t played a Phoenix Wright game yet where I’d call the legal system even vaguely close to functional.
They’ve redone the character art (and, occasionally, the environments) in 3d, which is kind of weird. Because the animations are the same—the same ridiculous “oh my god you found a flaw in my testimony!” poses, the same timings, even—but they’re uncannily smooth.
Indeed, the politics of Captain America became a bit of a problem when the war ended and there weren’t any Nazis left to punch. For a while, there was an attempt to fill the void with weird science (Cap fights Martians more than once) and gangsters, but it didn’t really work. More pertinent, in 1953, there was a failed attempt to re-brand Captain America as the “Commie Smasher” and return to the war-time scripts of sabotage and fifth-columnists but with the swastika replaced with the hammer and sickle. A funny thing happened though; even at the height of the McCarthy era, Americans didn’t want to buy an anti-Communist Captain America. The comic book folded and Captain America wasn’t seen until 1964 when he was suddenly revived from his Arctic prison by the Avengers. The anti-Communist Captain America was ret-conned into being a crazed history graduate student named William Burnside who had himself surgically altered and then dosed with a flawed version of the Super-Serum, which drove him insane to the point where he saw communist sympathizers everywhere. The subtext isn’t particularly thick here: the “Commie-Smasher” was a paranoid wannabe, whereas the real Captain America is the “living legend of WWII” waiting in suspended animation during the Second Red Scare, who emerges back onto the scene with the arrival of the New Frontier and the Great Society.
Another for the “politics of Captain America” files!
There’s a Three Parts Dead sequel out! I liked the last one. When it comes to fantasy sequels I’m still making my way through Republic of Thieves; I get the feeling that Lynch doesn’t realize that we don’t like Locke for himself—and certainly not for his battles with alcoholism and/or self-pity—we like him for his crimeing. So it’s been slow going; I’m kind of resigned to the declining crime rate.
“Over and over again as I’ve dredged through this stuff, I kept finding programming constructs, ideas and approaches we call part of “modern” programming if we attempt them at all, sitting abandoned in 45-year-old demo code for dead languages. And to be clear: that was always a choice. Over and over again tools meant to make it easier for humans to approach big problems are discarded in favor of tools that are easier to teach to computers, and that decision is described as an inevitability.”—
The money shot in this really fascinating article on why we (usually) start counting arrays at 0 instead of 1 in programming languages, a story that also involves yacht racing. Recommended, even if you don’t program! (via ryannorth)
This prompted Guido van Rossum, inventor of Python, to explain why he chose zero; certainly Python’d abandoned enough history that he was free to choose whichever he liked best. (It made syntax for slicing arrays a little cleaner.)
Gerrymandering, the practice of redrawing congressional districts after a decadal census to favor one political party over the other, is getting a bad rap, especially after Republicans used it to maintain a majority in the House despite losing the majority vote in the last election. Sure, gerrymandering may be a…
A fun little jigsaw. As always with unlabeled geography quiz I forget that cities go on the edge, not the middle.
There are a lot of people complaining about lousy software patents these days. I say, stop complaining, and start killing them. It took me about fifteen minutes to stop a crappy Microsoft patent from being approved. Got fifteen minutes? You can do it too.
In a minute, I’ll tell you that story. But first, a little background.
Joel made a Stack Exchange for the Patent Office, and people are using it to match patents with prior art.
Patrick Juola, one of the dudes who used computer analysis to attempt to confirm the rumor that J. K. Rowling in fact authored The Cuckoo’s Calling describes his techniques, and a brief history of the subject:
The idea that we can use quantifiable models of this kind of linguistic choice is hardly new. It dates back at least to the logician Augustus de Morgan (yes, de Morgan’s rule), who proposed in the mid-19th century that average word length could be used to settle questions of disputed authorship.
And the techniques he used on JKR aren’t that much more sophisticated; in the end, a whole bunch of not-particularly-reliable fingers all pointed more at her than not. It did seem like he was in a hurry.
This morning the former editor of The New Yorker and the daughter of Zbigniew Brzezinski went googly-eyed at the thought of women having casual sex on campus. I can imagine “Morning Joe” would have bubbled over with mirth had host Joe Scarborough not been on vacation. These grown men and women — survivors of EST, Crosby Stills and Nash albums, and Elton John’s Oscar parties — could not believe Kate Taylor’s findings, detailed at wearying length this weekend. Their bodices wrinkled at one particular case, a young woman who spoke as bluntly as she could:
“We are very aware of cost-benefit issues and trading up and trading down, so no one wants to be too tied to someone that, you know, may not be the person they want to be with in a couple of months.”
What alarms me about the quote is not the young woman’s describing fucking in fiduciary terms — it’s that it’s taken parents so long to realize the piece of shit world in which they expect their children to “mature,” reproduce, and plunder. It is after all the fault of a society that extirpates the public sector in the name of economizing and reduces the worth of a college degree to admission papers into a meritocracy. If the parents worship Mammon, then how do you expect their children to think otherwise?
The conservative backlash — with whose consequences, as noted above, we still deal — relies on dialectical shrewdness. Use the enemy’s logic to buttress your conclusions. That was Schlafy’s strategy. Women’s lives were meaningless thanks to feminism. The Equal Rights Amendment, held in quaint esteem these days, usurped the rights of wives. This is an example of how conservatism, to cite Corey Robin’s The Reactionary Mind, “adapts and adopts, often unconsciously, the language of democratic reform to the cause of hierarchy.”
Conservatism in the language of freedom is a sneaky and intentional trick, but personal freedom in the language of the market is a poisonous delusion handed down from a corrupt generation? I tend to think that his first instinct is correct—in the long run the language wins—but there’s a case to be made either way.
Justin Wong, one of the all-time top fighting game players, lost to Job “EMP Flocker” Figuerora early in the Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 tournament at EVO 2013. But that was only the start of an incredible comeback that you’ve got to see.
Some epic, epic matches. Normally Marvel is kind of whatever for me. It’s hard to see what’s going on, and matches so often turn into first hit -> kill one character -> kill the rest of the team as they fail to swap in safely. But EVO brought out really, really good players using all different strategies. Justin Wong’s old-school team of Wolverine/Storm/Akuma went against the grain, resulting in some interestingly varied matches that went right down to the wire.
Ripple Dot Zero might just be the Retro Platformer To End All Retro Platformers (Finally) – or at least, it would be if it were more fun to actually, you know, play.
Oh my god yes :(
It’s incredibly nostalgic—they’ve obviously played their fair share of Sonic and Strider, and if you’re not following Mario (or Super Metroid) it’s the obvious other path to head down.
Chevy Ray Johnson’s complaints notwithstanding—and I’m sympathetic, since every time I’ve tried to do something with slopes, it’s ended in pain—it was the golden age of slopes in platformers. Run downhill, go faster! It’s fun to go fast. Ripple desperately needed slopes, or at least a second gear for your dude to shift into; keeping the flow-breaking exploration parts of Sonic without the running fast and looping-the-loop parts is kind of missing the point.
Marco Arment on the end of Reader, with a bit of an old-web call to arms:
RSS grew up in a boom time for consumer web services and truly open APIs, but it especially spread like wildfire in the blogging world. Personal blogs and RSS represented true vendor independence: you could host your site anywhere, with any software. You could change those whenever anything started to suck, because there were many similar choices and your readers could always find your site at the domain name you owned.
The free, minimally restricted web-service-API era has come and gone since then.
Which… idk! He’s not wrong, certainly. Although contra his earlier hopes, it looks like Reader’s death has mostly resulted in a whole lot of basically identical but slightly shittier Reader clones; I’ve gone to Feedly, but I’m not entirely happy with it. The strangest part is the way AOL and Digg are both trying to be relevant again with their own RSS readers; neither does anything special.
Maybe it’s still early, that once people get the hard part out of the way—reading and displaying feeds—and have enough users to stress test their systems, they’ll be able to experiment. You can’t start fighting until there’s something to fight over, maybe? And that something is us, as of Monday.
Blizzard’s Titan reboot, is, like they say, not surprising. MMOs are hard to make, and WoW is a tough act to follow.
A year ago GW2 vs. SWTOR vs. Tera seemed to mark the beginning of a new generation of MMOs.
Back then I was kind of discounting Tera’s combat; I thought GW2 had by far the strongest hand. I was (and still am) so tired of quests, whereas, compared to Diablo 3 or Vindictus or any real action game, Tera is still pretty sluggish.
But slightly punchier combat is the change that requires the least effort to cobble into your existing design. And if your players like it, it lets you get away with making fewer skills and weapons; so it really shouldn’t have been a surprise that, when I played the Neverwinter and Dragon’s Prophet betas, they had Tera’s locked camera and click-to-attack, but last-generation questing. Neverwinter has taken one further step, questwise: in addition to markers on the minimap telling you where to go—even WoW has those, these days—it puts a trail of sparkles along the ground that you can follow to your quest objectives.
Better combat is better, for sure. It’s what you do the most of, and god knows tab to target, hit button sequence on cooldown is stale. But I’d hoped people would also be experimenting more with the structural parts: quests, loot, when and why you go places to do things.
I’m being a little unfair to Tera here; after playing some other games and coming back to it, they did a good job with their animations & effects and so forth; the kill-loot-repeat cycle is pretty satisfying. It has the same weakness as God of War etc.—you’ve got a combo string where most of the damage is at the end, and so there’s a tiresome risk/reward around can you finish your combo before the enemy does its big attack, or do you play it safe and block; pushing your luck vs. the enemy’s clock. But waiting is boring!
Max Chafkin has an article about Activision vs. Infinity Ward for Vanity Fair. Basically the whole Call of Duty saga. Not much that’s new if you’ve been following it, but it’s a nice summary; I guess Respawn showing off their new (and awesome-looking) game at E3 is the hook.
I’d heard this part in rumors:
As part of the agreement, West and Zampella were allowed to operate almost completely autonomously. Whereas other studios had to submit their finished games to their bosses for quality testing several months before the release dates, Infinity Ward was allowed to handle this task internally. The upshot was that no one among Activision’s top brass would play Modern Warfare 2 until the general public did.
They didn’t let anybody from Activision in the building while they were making MW2. (God, were we jealous; we never had anything useful or good come from LA, but we didn’t have IW’s power to refuse.) In a better world, one would say that the whole thing ran on trust. Which was upheld, in one direction at least. They made Activision a solid, solid game.
One more thing that wasn’t mentioned in the article: their deal let them ship the game without the Activision logo movie in the beginning—that bullshit three seconds/extra button press that they inflict on every single user, every time they play.
That feels like the heart of it, to me: “My god, our name isn’t the first thing people see?” It hurt their pride. IW wasn’t appropriately deferential to Bobby, and that couldn’t be allowed.
I’m not a big Thief fan—sneaking is not my strong point, particularly without Metal Gear’s delightful radio plays to keep me going—but “here’s how I would do it!” is one of my favorite ways to hear people talk about games, I think because it says more about them and what they want out of games than about the game in question, which… the play’s the thing, really.
Damion Schubert on the console wars! This is mostly a “hooray, he’s back,” since he kind of went dark once he started working on SWTOR. I’d worried that his new corporate overlords would rein him in a little, since MMO forumgoers are an excitable lot, and are happy to read too much into anything anyone says, to say nothing of the lead designer. Which kind of turns out to be the case. Which is too bad; I mostly remember him for a series of really solid posts making the conservative case for “why fantasy? why combat? why classes and levels?” in MMOs. (some things have changed in the intervening half decade; some haven’t.)
Here he is on the last console launch vs. this one:
To be honest, what I saw from Sony when they launched was just unbelievable arrogance, undoubtedly coupled by them being the winners of the previous console generation. I didn’t think I was likely to see that kind of arrogance again, but I guess that was before Don Mattrick suggested that anyone who didn’t want to be connected 24/7 should just keep playing their 360 in a tone so serious that you can tell that they all sat around in a marketing meeting and agreed that was their talking point.
I remember how awful the triggers felt on the PS3 controller, but this post reminded me how terrible its battery was, combined with a recharging cable that wouldn’t reach to your sofa. Let’s hope they’ve learned from that, at least.
It’s kind of exciting, having a new console war; it gets the blood all fired up. If Microsoft hadn’t just so terribly bobbled the PR around (what may yet prove to be) a sensible DRM strategy, it might have been a boring repeat of last time around.
“It’s like getting upset that somebody with the keys to your house could mess up the order of books on your shelf. I mean, they have the keys to your house. If they wanted to make your life miserable, they would do much more than just screw with your book collection.”—Raymond Chen's been doing this for a while, keeps needing new analogies for why what you think is a security loophole isn't actually a security loophole.
Bernanke gave a solid commencement speech at Princeton yesterday; larded through with jokes, advice, a touch of sentimentality, all the stuff you’d want from a such a speech, really. People have been highlighting this part:
The concept of success leads me to consider so-called meritocracies and their implications. We have been taught that meritocratic institutions and societies are fair. Putting aside the reality that no system, including our own, is really entirely meritocratic, meritocracies may be fairer and more efficient than some alternatives. But fair in an absolute sense? Think about it. A meritocracy is a system in which the people who are the luckiest in their health and genetic endowment; luckiest in terms of family support, encouragement, and, probably, income; luckiest in their educational and career opportunities; and luckiest in so many other ways difficult to enumerate—these are the folks who reap the largest rewards. The only way for even a putative meritocracy to hope to pass ethical muster, to be considered fair, is if those who are the luckiest in all of those respects also have the greatest responsibility to work hard, to contribute to the betterment of the world, and to share their luck with others. As the Gospel of Luke says (and I am sure my rabbi will forgive me for quoting the New Testament in a good cause): “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded” (Luke 12:48, New Revised Standard Version Bible). Kind of grading on the curve, you might say.
And it’s a good part! Some of those people, like at Slate, point out that the dude who coined the word meritocracy in 1958, Michael Young, did so satirically, and he was half angry, half I-told-you-so about people using it totally seriously fifty years later.
I don’t think you need to do too much work to reconcile Bernanke the Republican political appointee and Bernanke the commencement speaker; they’ve different responsibilities. In particular: he’s talking to a giant room of people who are thinking, at least a little, “I am at this very moment graduating from Princeton, I am hot shit,” and this is about the last chance anyone’s going to get to throw cold water on them. Even if it means foregrounding abstract political beliefs that don’t really influence him at his day job.