Yesterday I watched Pacific Rim1 and played
Attack of the Friday Monsters.2 It's not likely I'll write more
about either specifically but they're both fun and worth engaging if
you think you might like them. Pacific Rim is about if giant
monsters were real in today's world; Friday Monsters is about if
they were real in the 70s when the genre was new.
What I want to point out is how both do one important thing that's
also becoming rare in nerd culture - they're tightly-focused-genre
works that are actually new works! I've grown tired of most things of
this kind because they end up being mostly in-jokes, callbacks, or
worst, incompetent aping. This pushes me to more avant-garde things,
which I enjoy, but I also want to see more work in the areas I'm
comfortable with and know about.
Both of these works are about basically the same thing, and both are
not derivative. I mean, yeah, they're derivative in the sense they
are obviously in the same space as Godzilla, Ultraman, Gundam,
and so on. But they are not loaded down in a way that requires "nerd
literacy" to enjoy nor do they break your focus by making references
to things outside themselves. They stand as quality works in the genre
rather than the most recent/egregious self-back-patting. They remind
me of why I like those things instead of just reminding me that I like
Quick review: Needs more women, and the women need to say more things. ↩
Kim's piece drew my interest because her tone and conclusion
match mine closely (or that's how I read it, at least). She has the
same inability to find words to describe the base elements. But her
interpretation of the "contents" of the game is the exact opposite. I
saw a world of complex "accreted details"; she saw "decay" and
First, I think that particular symmetry is interesting - that the same
material reads as overbuilt and collapsed is itself worth some
reflection. But it also points to two fundamental ways to make sense
of the game. As it relates to Problem Attic specifically we might
also be focusing on the two halves of the game.
To make sense of an overly-complicated system, you need to strip it
down. As a programmer I know that the rules of any given level of
Problem Attic can be expressed as a dozen or so lines of code. I
played the game trying (mostly unconsciously) to see the rules at that
The approach Kim suggests is an alternative I didn't see (likely
because I am a programmer). If the world is in a state of decay you
make sense of it by finding and mentally inserting the parts that are
missing. We understand the function of the the Roman Forum not
because we can strip it down to constituent marble and grass with
well-understood physical properties but because we can add imagined
orators and produce stalls.
And this isn't exclusive to Problem Attic. All game mechanisms are
in some way reducible to something formally "simpler" than they are
visible as in the game. A rule book is easier to understand than just
watching a game, or it's failed as a rule book. And all game
mechanisms are in some sense incomplete with regards to the richness
of objects and interactions in the real world.3
What might be special about Problem Attic is the way it resists
explanation from both sides. Nothing in our daily experience prepares
us for Tetris or Pac-Man but we grasp and can re-explain a
sufficient set of rules quickly. At the other end games like Animal
Crossing or The Last of Us have rule systems that contain so much
code they're beyond formal explanation by any one person but we can
understand them via their presentation, even when it bears only a
cursory resemblance to the real-world objects we are using to
understand them. Problem Attic admits neither straightforward
instruction manuals nor analogies - as I half-described before, it's
only "comfortable being a videogame".
For a game I struggle to find words for, I'm sure writing a lot
about it. ↩
This different frame extends even to Liz's music. I've
described the sound as "excessively layered" to a friend. ↩
Or even their virtual worlds. It makes perfect sense to ask
something like "what's Isabelle's favorite song?" but the
formal systems in New Leaf prohibit this even though
Isabelle, songs, and favorite songs are all things in the
game. That doesn't stop us from understanding the game through
analogy with the real world though. ↩
I played Dungeon Heroes, by Gamelyn Games (which seems to be
mostly Michael Coe). It's a one- or two-player boardgame which takes
10-30 minutes per play; I've played it twice with my wife (who
Kickstarted it) and four times solo.
The back of the box promises a "roguelike strategy game" and I admit I
scoffed when I heard it. I have played many games - board and
video - that self-described as "roguelike" but didn't deliver anything
close to the tactical-puzzle feel associated with the genre.
This one, though, works. Nothing in the game feels over-designed, my
usual first objection to dungeon-crawl boardgames. Somewhat like FTL
the characters play out as resources to expend and extensions to the
space of possible actions. Unlike FTL but like other roguelikes
these actions are mostly non-fungible - only the rogue can disarm
traps; only the cleric can heal. Randomness plays a small but critical
role, as incomplete information demanding contingency planning rather
than variable small-scale outcomes. In the two-player version, there's
an added element of bluffing on the dungeon player's side.
There's some hints of zugzwang; rare in "classic" roguelikes but
common in some of the more recent minimalist ones (Ending,
Bump by Aaron Steed; Zaga-33 and 868-HACK by Michael
Brough); entirely unknown to me in other boardgame dungeon
crawls. Most of the time it's not relevant to the game - and the
cleric can burn two actions if necessary - but the dungeon player can
sometimes force very bad moves on the hero player near the end of the
The material quality is great. We have several Kickstarted games in
our house and the quality varies a lot. This one has a high-quality
box reminiscent of Fantasy Flight's Silver Line and beautifully cut
This acted as a flashpoint for my disappointment at the amount of
latent sexism in themed boardgame design. I don't want to take it to
task specifically right now because it's not uniquely or especially
gross in any way. But several parts are troubling.
So PBS Idea Channel did a bit about Animal Crossing tying it
into Hiroki Azuma's theory of otaku as narrativelessness. I was
shocked and not sure how to respond to someone who says Animal
Crossing has an "absence of narrative". Or makes the base critical
mistake that "the point" of a work is merely one thing that happens in
the work. So I snarked and then this happened, and I really
don't know how to respond to someone who thinks writing YouTube
comments - and therefore reading YouTube comments - is a good use of
But I still feel I owe a response of more than 140 characters, because
I think this is a serious issue on a couple axes. It goes beyond just
Animal Crossing and into more fundamental issues of what games do
and how we talk about them.
Animal Crossing has a narrative. It even has a canonical "story,"
just not a three-act plot. Everything else in the video falls apart
at that one fact. But even ignoring that the analysis is shallow.
Collecting is a thing you can do in Animal Crossing, yes. But while
"collecting" is semantically broadened to near-meaninglessness in the
video, that still ignores dancing with friends and designing clothes
and planning roads and writing letters and rocking out and
appreciating artwork and appreciating fake artwork and glitching your
way into the river and watching TV and sitting on a stump and just
enjoying the 2AM music. And still I wouldn't call any of these things
"the point" of the game. (I'm not ready to stake out any claim on that
Why I am trying to "collect" a villager's picture before they move
out? Why am I filling my back room with musical instruments for
jamming when friends come over? It's because of the memories of the
time I spent in the game and a desire to make more - the narrative -
not in spite of it.
I don't want to tell you how Animal Crossing should be played! I
just don't want you telling people how it should be played. I will
tell you what I get out of playing it, and I want you to tell me what
you get out of playing it. This is the difference between the basis of
pseudo-science and critical discourse. A personal account is missing
from Rugnetta's video and offering an analysis of the play experience
sans reference to real player is one of the few wrong ways to do
So the best long-form response I can muster is to continue to document
my own experience with the game, and read a diversity of others'
experiences. Unlike Rugnetta I'm not universalizing or essentializing
mine - it is mine, real but one of many. (I am also not getting paid
via YouTube hits.)
Partway through composing this,
Gamasutra posted this series of letters between its authors which
saves me the effort of writing the second half. There's no better way
to highlight the variety of experience - and the shallowness of the
one offered by Rugnetta - than an actual discussion around it. Here's
what approaching the game with "otaku citizenship" gets you, from Mike
I was hooked on collecting things and being part of something, and
now that that feeling has died off, I can't really see why I was
playing it in the first place.
And here's what other approaches get you, from Kris Ligman:
As we become more urbanized and these natural and small-town spaces
disappear, we escape to a sort of virtual outdoors out of
comfort. In fact, I love how Animal Crossing also serves as a
critique of the encroach of modernity...
Or Christian Nutt:
In the end what I am left with is this: how long can this go on? I
don't see an obvious end to it. I'm sure it'll taper down and down,
but for right now, I've forged a real emotional connection to my
game, and I can still see uncharted territory, too.
There's nothing wrong with jumping at collection or stopping a game
after two weeks (though like Mike, you might realize in retrospect it
was a poor choice). There is something wrong with saying that since
you stopped after two weeks, that's all there is to the game. Try
actually engaging with it; if you can't do that, don't tell other
people what they're doing.
PBS Idea Channel is often social media garbage, more thinkfluencing
than thinking.2 So why bother responding? Because it's also
getting more attention than, like, any of the other critical writing
about Animal Crossing I've linked to. When Warren Spector (or
other big-mouthed-dev-of-the-week) says there's no quality mainstream
games criticism, this is why. Lazy nerd pop culture callbacks get tens
of thousands of views and big branding - more than twice as many as
Leigh Alexander's Kotaku post of about the same age, and
everything else is on sites much smaller than Kotaku. Thoughtful
analysis is buried.
This is a vast oversimplification driven by not wanting to
drag in the whole discussion of games-centered criticism vs.
player-centered criticism. All I mean here is that if PBSIC
wants to do the player-centered approach they're trying to
do, they can't ignore the player. ↩
No better example of this than tip-toeing around offending
climate change denialists at the end of the same video. Very
"fair and balanced," not at all the PBS science broadcasting I
grew up with. ↩
It made my laptop draw a lot of power and run very hot. This is
probably some issue with Stencyl.
I feel like the game works to defy writing / talking about its
contents. Very little is representational. It doesn't offer any text
in-game to describe its elements (beyond, for a couple rooms, a pair of
letters). Its contents generate descriptors like "the
horizontally-controllable crosses" or "the striped alternative
foreground" which are meaningless unless you play it, and then you
don't need them anyway. It is comfortable being a videogame and
uncomfortable being a rules sheet or essay.
Accordingly it asks, but also rewards, a high degree of videogame
literacy as you parse out the contents yourself.
There were a few levels that reminded me of other games. One scene in
particular dredged up a strong memory of Braid. Several moments were
reminiscent of VVVVVV. The game is radically unlike either of these,
I think this is an indescribably important game.
Liz Ryerson says the game is "about prisons," which I see, but there
was a more personal touchstone for me.1 I have recurring
nightmares of forms and queues and a general fear - not just "dislike"
but something more visceral - of bureaucracy. Think of the anxiety you
get when walking near the edge of a tall cliff; that's a reasonable
comparison to how I feel engaging relatively mundane bureaucratic arms
like a post office or bank teller.
In Problem Attic I felt less jailed than lost, in the same way I do
in those dreams. The environments hinted at an underlying structure /
design / purpose which layers of accreted details and incidentals
obscured or broke. Navigating something that at first blush looks like
unstructured garbage (or worse, parsing out a structure that turned out
incorrect), vomitus of numbers and symbols that withdraw while
simultaneously demanding engagement. It was the same feeling I got
trying to prepare my taxes or my health insurance forms - a fear of
being lost in a system just outside my mental grasp.
As a trivial, early, and easily explicable example: Riding the
"enemies" that chase you and shake the screen and play discordant
noise is key to solving many of the rooms. The only way to succeed is
to engage the system despite your ignorance and its apparent
Which comes with the acknowledgment that the closest I've
come to a physical prison is a US CBP waiting room at
EWR. If you've never been in either it's probably closer
than you think, but still leagues apart. ↩
I made the Labelle Litanizer, a program which generates random
Animal Crossing: New Leaf outfits.
Latour litanies confront us with objects in a way that defies our
usual methods of grouping or reduction. In a similar way the Labelle
Litanizer asks us to consider the possible rather than merely the
desirable or expected.
I was surprised at the tonal bluntness sometimes - a hint of disgust
in Have you considered a bathrobe?, a winking flirt in Have
you considered a pink wet suit, gas mask, and timer?The in-game text often captures this effect too, the "mere"
substitution of objects changing the sentence's meaning in ways beyond
simple reference. (Take that, positivism!)
Along with the variety it does suggest it's worth noting what the
constraints prevent. In Animal Crossing you are forbidden from
holding a balloon and an ice cream; a false nose and glasses; two
different shoes. Tools (shovels, axes) and toys (balloons, tweeters)
are indistinguishable. Eventually every player asks whether Animal
Crossing is real play or fake work; this ontography only contributes
to blurring that line.
The point of such things is that they mostly speak for themselves, so
that's all I'm going to say for now.
I'm playing a ton of Animal Crossing: New Leaf. I don't have a lot
to say holistically about it. I'll leave that to
Christian Nutt at Gamasutra, and some further insight about what
it means for Nintendo vs. what it means for humans from
Anna Anthropy's essay at Tiny Cartridge. It's a good game, and a
nice game, and cuts broad and deep and expressive, and if you can
afford a Nintendo 3DS and the game and you think you might like it,
you probably will and should get it.
Like many players I've been rushing to upgrade my house. My main room
is at maximum size, as is my second floor, and my left and back rooms
have been upgraded. This house is bigger than any I will ever actually
own. The rooms all have themes - the left is doubling-down on balloons
for HHA points; the back is a music studio full of instruments; the
basement is a display for my mask collection.
But actually, the room I've spent the most time organizing is my
right-side room, and it's still 4x4.
For a game with a reputation for being laid-back and rustic Animal
Crossing play is often rushed and concerned with growing, expanding,
filling, saturating. This room is a slight push-back against
that. It's as small as it can be and the pieces in it, though
carefully curated, are also haphazard. The desk is "rococo" but the
room lacks ostentation; the lamp "regal" but most of the furnishings
are cheap; the stools "modern" but there's no sign of the machined
lines and precision bevels we associate with a modern aesthetic.
Despite this mixture the room remains cohesive, cozy, and my main
design goal, fictionally functional.
Many rooms in New Leaf are designed as set-pieces.
Christian's 7-Eleven is a good example here. I don't want to
denigrate this kind of design in any way - I'm working on rooms like
this myself! - but there's also something about it that rubs me the
wrong way. Do you really want an orchestra in your house, or a
dinosaur, or a 7-Eleven? What's the role-play going on here - you're
playing a fictional character opening a 7-Eleven? You're playing a
fictional character playing at running a fake, toy 7-Eleven? The
character is "you" playing at running a fake 7-Eleven? All the answers
I have bring forward awkward inconsistencies; does the consistency
matter at all?1 Even the rooms that are not "play rooms" look
more like an IKEA catalog than a lived-in space.
I don't have an answer. I still enjoy doing it at the same time I
wonder what, if anything, the play is doing to me.
This room rejects that view of what an Animal Crossing room "should"
be. You can do things in it, not in the sense of "it has lots of
interactable objects," but in the sense that you can invite someone in
for tea, or a game of go; you can turn on the lamp and pull out the
chair and write a letter at night. The game's surface promise of a
"virtual life" can occur in this room. It's imbued with the purpose of
human living, not theater or bragging. Its composition is dense,
suboptimal, and ad hoc.
Plainly though, that's a lie. It's just as considered and unnatural as
any of the other rooms. The "human living" that happens is still only
theater when your "human" has no material or psychological needs. The
honest natural state of an Animal Crossing room is a pile of fish
and bugs and twelve kinds of chairs you're worried you won't be able
to reorder later.
But no one - not the HHA, not other villagers, not us - is comfortable
with that, either.
This also stands in contrast to a lot of the clothing I
see, which are designs the people who make them would
love to make and wear in real life, if they had the
Rune Factory and the Harvest Moon series in general has been
depressingly heteronormative in most of its entries.1 Marriage is
a common element in the games, but it's almost always between a man
and a woman. Unlike previous entries in the Rune Factory series
RF4 allows you to play as a young woman in addition to a young
man. And yet despite this step forward, in this version they've managed to
design something even more offensive than just ignorance and erasure.
After you beat the game, you can play as a character of the same
nominal gender you played before but with any character model
regardless of gender. This means if you want a gay or lesbian
relationship, first you need to play through the game as the other
gender. Then you can play as the gender you want, while everyone in
the game constantly misgenders you.
If there's a mainstream game with a better analogue for how our
culture treats transgender and genderqueer people, I've yet to play
it. Except it's being sold as a norm-reinforcing funny bonus "feature"
rather than an analysis of how awful that is.
XSEED, you've still got a chance to make this right. Throw that
out. Let both player characters romance and marry any of the
bachelor/bachelorettes. Write dialogue that works for gender-neutral
relationships. It's twenty-fucking-thirteen. I'm playing AAA games
with gay relationships. I'm playing AAA games with gender
sliders. Don't pretend you can roll that back ten years and aren't
making a political - and offensive, dehumanizing - statement in doing
The two exceptions are Magical Melody where one character,
ambiguously gendered, is available for the male and female
player characters to marry, and Harvest Moon DS Cute where
the mandatory female player character may marry a female
character - a welcome change, but also one that felt more like
diffusing any concerns a male player might have of "being gay"
than a legitimate nod towards alternative relationships.
Also, in Save the Homeland and Innocent Life, the
mandatory male player can't marry anyone. ↩
I'm under no illusion that they're talking about me - most likely they
are not aware of my existence - but writing about the sort of games
they make, both to help surface them on my parts of the Internet and
to process my experience playing them, was a major impetus for me
starting this blog. Many times in my life I've written privately about
games that have affected me and I wanted to make some of that public;
to improve my own skills and to give what little publicity I could to
important yet mostly-invisible games.
So far I've failed. I wrote a lot about Monster Hunter, exactly
the kind of game that doesn't need more writing. And I've got a dozen
"I played" posts about small games half-written but they're not coming
BioShock, and all AAA games, have a glut of symbols outstripping
their actual meaning. They are thematically and semantically shallow
and that leaves their unanchored signs floundering near the surface
for any dumbass critic to come along and write a 10k word middlebrow
essay. It's the same problem that plagues their mechanical design -
the games are decorated with "content" and "systems," little of which
is worth intaking or interacting with; they glitter with
references and designators but few point to any objects or events
In contrast games like Kopas's A Synchronous Ritual and
Porpentine's How to Speak Atlantean are critically difficult.
There's precious little visible surface and things are buried deep,
but everything you do find is affecting and challenging. Even when the
games are lavish - a word I would use to describe about half of
Porpentine's games including Atlantean - the lavishness acts like a
"here there be dragons" treasure map - Dig at the X, way
down. There's gold, I promise, but it's going to take you a while. Oh,
and in the same place I've also buried your most erotic fear.
Again I think there's an analogy with the traditional meaning of
"difficult games" (e.g. Dark Souls). In a difficult game the player
and game negotiate détente. The game promises itself but only once the
player offers up part of themselves as well - a piece of procedural
memory, a bruised thumb. In a critically difficult game the game
reveals itself but the player-critic can't emerge uncritiqued
themselves - an acknowledgment of limited personal experience, limited
imagination, internalized bigotry, complicity in dangerous
systems. (In a, let's call it critically casual game, the
player-critic still emerges changed, but in a way that reinforces
whatever views they had going in.)
The first essay I wrote intending to publish here (which I still have
not done) is about Micha Cárdenas's A Survivor is #Reborn. I have
essentially rewritten it three times now and each time one section of
it grows: This game is (correctly) calling me out on my blindness to
sexism - how can I critique something that has already so effectively
So writing about these games is super-hard! At every step you're
critiquing yourself and your critique as much as the work in question.
That's not a reason to not do it, though. Rather the opposite - it's
why we must do it, because this is change we need. We are all
starving, and we need to learn to prepare food other than AAA
I played Fear Less! by Innomin and atpalicis. It's an endless runner
that takes probably 10-60 minutes to "complete" depending on your
skill. It deals with nightmares about dying.
I love the visual style. The desaturated palette with big pixels but
still relatively high resolution reminds me of Game Boy Color
games. The high detail with the simulated pixel grid makes it feel
unreal and dream-like.1 The look on the character's face
captures exactly a feeling which starts as fear and progresses into
defiance without ever needing to change.
There's all sorts of small ways the game puts forward descriptions of
fear. The specificity of the skulls with ribbons as passive reminders
of your previous attempts. Losing ground by tripping over tombstones,
fear of failure leading to failure. Later in the game pacifism is
available as a tool of the strong and able compared to violence as a
tool for the weak and afraid.
Many games have started including F2P-style "upgrades," usually to a
frustrating end - Ridiculous Fishing being a recent high-profile
game I thought suffered from its unnecessary slow pacing. This is the
first game I recall that uses that upgrade process to tell a story
rather than just eat time. (Again, compare Ridiculous Fishing which
has a story but upgrades exist only to trigger rather than reinforce
Unfortunately it still has some parts which only exist to eat time. To
reach the ending you need to unlock all the medals (achievements) and
some of those require failing in specific ways or passing milestones
that feel arbitrary. I think it would benefit from removing the
achievements and replacing the ending trigger with simply having all
upgrades. Flawless running could provide a coin multiplier or speed
increase rather than a binary on/off trigger.
A similar effect was used to similar ends in the
exploration/horror game Dawning. ↩
I can't get excited about Google Glass. The public privacy concerns
are too great. The platform is too closed, the software too
crappy. The company making it has too patchy a history of support and
too disgusting a commercial mandate.
I can't get excited about Oculus Rift. The issues I want to see more
game designs tackle right now are ones it makes worse. It's a device
that cuts out everyone around you, that makes 25% of people motion
sick, that seems basically purpose-built to re-sell the same
first-person action games and designs in an era where the usual
rasterization improvements have hit diminishing returns. Its backers
crow about immersion, but
videogame immersion is bullshit. On a purely technical
level I care more about color-accurate and high-DPI displays and it's
a big step backwards for both these things.
This is what I want. They don't take pictures. They don't tell me
where to go. They don't encourage me to come back to Doom, Team
Fortress, or other designs that worked perfectly well on traditional
displays. Instead they show me something new; they let me interact in
new kinds of spaces with other people; they let people who are not
plugged in spectate.
It's actually all in the name, right? They augment my
experience. They don't replace it, they don't virtualize it, and they
certainly don't "smooth," "simplify," or "filter" it.
I would suggest that the recent popularization of these harassment
stories has created a sort of anxiety around men's culpability in
these scenarios, and that these pieces on "daddy hackers" aim to
relieve this anxiety. They are heartwarming stories that present men
as problem solvers rather than problem creators. These men use the
technical knowledge that only they seem to possess in order to, as
PC Mag reports, "empower female gamers."
It's really cool that these hacks are happening. It's not cool how
they're being framed - as an afeminist, male-driven pursuit; a way to
defuse concerns about women in nerd culture while still ignoring
them. It immediately reminded me of when male progressives in the US
talk about issues affecting "our wives, daughters, mothers" - women
are liminally present, but they're never the ones speaking and never
the ones spoken to.
before, but now I'm learning enough to write something substantial.
Like a (non-Perlenspiel) game.
One of the things you need for a game is a game loop. In large games
these are increasingly tricky affairs spread out over multiple threads
can't do that, but you can at least implement the basics correctly.
The canonical tutorial on this stuff is deWiTTERS Game Loop which
goes over several implementation strategies. Only one of those
implementations, "Constant Game Speed independent of Variable FPS," is
worth pursuing. (To know why, read the article.) So how to do it in
This post used to be a lot longer and full of bad advice. Here is good
advice: Use only requestAnimationFrame. Just do everything the
deWitters article says inside of requestAnimationFrame. After more
testing I've discovered browsers' schedulers are basically awful,
unreliable, and this is the only way to make a main loop appropriate
for a game. If you are targeting one specific version of one browser
on one platform, you can maybe manage a better loop with the
setInterval-based method I had described before, but if you're doing
that you're better off writing a native application in the first
A bit over a hundred years ago,
California was all set to build a great-looking bike highway. Unfortunately
they built car highways instead and pretty much doomed good urban
planning, air quality, international politics, etc. More alternate
history stories should pick events like this as divergence points,
rather than boring crap like who won wars.
I will know my course has been successful when my students
understand Coursera’s business model behind offering free higher
education globally (along with the promise of greater social
equality) as an exciting venture capital investment opportunity
through which to increase privately-held wealth and lock in
existing educational hierarchies.
Rising food prices led farmers to plant crops in fields previously
considered marginal or set aside as grasslands. Honeybees forage in
those grasslands, and can’t get the nutrition they need from
flowering crops alone.
This is a positive feedback loop, since without bees fruits don't get
pollinated and food gets even more expensive. If this was, say, a
college education, or health care, the solution is obvious:
large-scale private pollination efforts. If you want fruit, you'd
better spend your lunch hour pollinating that garden to earn a fruit
certificate to exchange for a shitty melon. (Hah hah, just kidding,
who gets a lunch hour anymore?)
Shane Carruth has released his new film, Upstream Color, as a $20
DRM-free download. His previous film Primer is one of my
favorites. I don't feel quite as good about Upstream Color, but I
still recommend it.
Someone (an adult) reviewed
every Goosebumps book. Eight-year-old-me is
jealous. Today-me hopes the reviewer is still okay.
Here is a version of Astroids that is also a security hole
and the author, Michal Zalewski,
explaining how it works. This attack is oblique,
involves multiple levels of the platform stack, and the information
immediately leaked is not usually thought of as a security problem by
those under attack. This also describes things like cache timing
attacks or the BEAST and CRIME TLS attacks. The biggest challenge
facing computer security right now isn't even just plugging all the
holes, but explaining to laypeople and novice programmers what kinds
of things are risks and threats.
God of Blades came out for personal computers (a while ago, and I
missed it). I'd previously played it on iOS. Satisfying slow-paced
hack-and-slash with an underused aesthetic. A bourbon to Devil May
Cry's wine. (Bayonetta's tequila? God of War's jello shots?)
Communities aren’t “just friends”. Sure, they’re often groups of
friends based around a common interest, but when a community of
friends overlaps or encompasses technical resources, they must take
There's an icon on my dock to pop up a new graphical frame.
There's a shell command I can type to open a new graphical frame.
There's something I can type into Spotlight to open a new graphical frame.
If the server is dead for some reason, there's a way to start it in
a small number of clicks.
If the server is dead for some reason, as many as the above features
as possible still work.
It's easy, but not the default, to start standalone (non-client)
Emacs instances as well.
You too can bring several hours and three separate scripting tools to
bear on this, or follow the simple (hah hah) instructions below.
First, install Emacs For Mac OS X. The Emacs that comes with OS X is
old and crusty, and the one at that site is new and Cocoa-ready and
Retina-enabled and so on. Put it in /Applications - if you put it
somewhere else, you'll need to correct all the other scripts I'm
mentioning in this post.
Emacs Server at Login
Open up the AppleScript Editor. If you're an Emacs user this probably
looks awful and confusing to you. Paste the following into it:
Press ⌘K to compile it, then ⌘S and save it in
/Applications/Development. (This subfolder keeps your Applications
menu clean, and has an important effect on sort order later.) To give
it a nice icon, select the original Emacs.app; press ⌘I; click the
icon in the top-left; press ⌘C; select on your new Emacs Server.app
bundle; press ⌘I; click the icon in the top-left; press ⌘V.
Open up System Preferences > Users & Groups > Login Items and now
you can press the + button and choose Emacs Server.
The server is invisible until you first connect a client to it. Then
it will appear in the dock, as the regular Emacs.app.
New Frame Dock Icon
To make a dock icon that opens up a new Emacs frame - a client if the
server is available, a standalone instance otherwise - create the
following script in the AppleScript Editor and save it as an
Application named Emacs Client. in /Applications/Development.
Then drag this from the Applications folder to your dock. This will
also make it so typing emacs into Spotlight selects this as the
first item ("Development" sorts before "Emacs", "Client" sorts before
If connected to the server, this opens up a new client frame each
click, by design. To just raise existing frames, click the other
Emacs icon on the dock, representing the running application.
Server-aware Shell Scripts
I put these in ~/.local/bin. You'll need to add that to your $PATH
if you haven't already. First, two simple ones. These will start new
instances, not clients, but they're necessary to properly handle shell
arguments for fallbacks for clients. They're also nice to have if you
actually want to start a new instance.
Now for something more complicated - ec, start a Cocoa client or
fall back to a new instance (via the above emacsc) if the server is
alias emacsclient="/Applications/Emacs.app/Contents/MacOS/bin/emacsclient"if["$#" -eq 0 ]; then# Emacs doesn't activate itself when there's no filename.
emacsclient -c -a ~/.local/bin/emacsc &
osascript -e "tell application \"Emacs\" to activate"waitelseemacsclient -c -a ~/.local/bin/emacsc "$@"fi
Finally: Some aliases for ~/.bash_profile.
alias emacsclient="/Applications/Emacs.app/Contents/MacOS/bin/emacsclient"alias et="emacsclient -t -a ~/.local/bin/emacst"alias emacs="ec"export EDITOR="ec"
et is like ec except it starts a terminal client (/ new terminal
instance as a fallback); unlike ec it doesn't need to interact with
Finder. As a personal preference, plain old emacs should create a
new Cocoa client frame.
Activate Emacs on New Frames
The AppleScript and shell scripts we made will automatically activate
the Emacs application when you start a client through them. What if we
start a client some other way? There's a lot of ways Emacs can end up
launching and no matter how it does, you probably want the new frame
to have the focus so you can just start typing.
To do this, we can take advantage of the ns features in Emacs Lisp
and the frame-creation hooks. Add the following to your ~/.emacs or
some file it loads:
(if (featurep'ns)(progn(defunns-raise-emacs()"Raise Emacs."(ns-do-applescript"tell application \"Emacs\" to activate"))(if (display-graphic-p)(progn(add-hook'server-visit-hook'ns-raise-emacs)(add-hook'before-make-frame-hook'ns-raise-emacs)(ns-raise-emacs)))))
Now anything that opens or selects a frame will also activate Emacs
for Finder. The featurep check means this is harmless to load on
non-OS X platforms, and ns-raise-emacs is not (interactive) for
reasons that will be self-evident if you think about them.
Launch Services is happy to start the Emacs Server instance but loses
track of it afterwards. This is mostly harmless but annoying.
The second Emacs icon on the dock (the one for the main Emacs.app
rather than your custom Emacs Client.app) behaves oddly when no
frames are visible. Its menu bar and context menu don't work, and you
can't start a new frame from it directly. This is likely an issue
because both Emacs and Finder assume any graphical application has at
least one main window / frame, even if it might not be visible.
(Thanks to Dan Gerrity for pointing out a typo in the original posted
I'm spending way more time with Candy Box that I expected. Even
after it opened up what I saw at first was an ordinary
energy-waiting-spending mechanism. These are common in F2P games but
lately they're found even in other styles2 of game, and I hate
But for Candy Box this is another layer of trickery. If you're
really paying attention you get on an exponential feedback loop within
about an hour of play. There's the "opening up" after a few minutes,
but then also a second at that point, where you start to get
meaningful choices on intervals comparable to the time it takes to
make the choice. The candy energy becomes almost irrelevant (say, as
relevant as how many potions you have in a Final Fantasy game) as
you start to consider how you can use the potions and scrolls
available. Eventually you get the cauldron and navigable levels and
it's more like animation lockdowns than waiting for energy; the scales
are so short and there's so many near-term options at each juncture.
What really drew me in was the mechanism of the Wishing Well (although
a similar choice appears with smaller magnitude at other points in the
game). It gives you a one-time ability to gain items proportional to
the items you have. In a game where the decision space unlocks
gradually a one-time ability comes with worries that you might not
even know what's important. Between the exponential power curve and
granting this ability it becomes a game about patience rather than
just a game in which I must be patient.
When you have to wait two days and can pay $10 to remove that, it's
abusive or at least stressful in a bad way. But what is it when you
can wait an hour or two days or five days and then invoke an ability -
exactly once - to multiply your energy by eight? Then it becomes a
game of patience and suspicion. How long can I wait before invoking
this? I know if I do it after an hour I'll get to do this new
thing. I don't know, but suspect, if I wait a day it's going to open
up much more. I don't suspect, but might believe, that if I wait a
another day it's going to open even more.
So it's kind of a game of chicken, but against a static system: When
do I think the designer stopped implementing new things? Inevitably
the comparison, when would I stop adding new things? How much do I
think I don't know? It's constantly asking me that, and I think
that's an uncommon question in videogames.
I'm pretty sure there's a new genre forming here. Which
is cool; games today need more secrets. ↩
That "how the game might make money" is now a "style" or "genre"
is a frustrating issue in itself. ↩
deconstructs Super Princess Peach
and finds that, although it continues Nintendo's history of
problematic character design, it also has some unlikely subtext that
helped him resonate with Peach's character:
Bowser's giant vibrating phallus of emotion is too strong for other
men, but it leaves him irrational and emotive, allowing the
collected, in-control female hero to defeat him with her logical use
and understanding of her emotions.
Aniwey's Candy Box was pretty cool until I accidentally hit
backspace and lost a couple (critical) hours of progress.
High-resolution background art from Final Fantasy IX, cut
from the game (probably for size reasons). FFIX is the only one in
the series I've respected more as I age (and probably mature). I
would love to see these put into a re-release or hacked into the
Some recommendations after a week of playing Ludum Dare games:
I made a game called 1234567891 for Ludum Dare 26.
It's a short web-based puzzle game. At first I didn't much like the
theme and wasn't going to do anything. (I prefer to view themes as
prompts for something the game should be about, not just a style for
the game to be in.) But my wife was playing Hyperdimension Neptunia
V all day so I had to do something other than Monster Hunter for a
change. It probably took about five hours to make playable and then
another two to add sound, playtest and make some interface tweaks.
I don't really like puzzle three but it's doing double-duty as a hint
for puzzle nine, which is inscrutable enough even with it. People are
having more trouble with puzzle six than I expected.2 Puzzle eight
The core mechanics and feel are inspired by Nemesis Factor, a toy
that felt like something you'd find in an abandoned Martian daycare
center. The form is inspired by
Anna Anthropy, Leon Arnott, and Liz Ryerson's Triad - a
quick riff on a theme and then it's over, no time wasted on a 255
board checklist or "infinite procedural levels!" no one will play.
Like my last completed Ludum Dare game it uses Perlenspiel and
should run properly in any modern-ish browser, including phones and
tablets (for which a secret button appears since you can't just press
No relation to 86856527. Which you should totally play. ↩
Vs lbh'er fghpx, cerff Pgey+Fcnpr gb fxvc gb gur arkg chmmyr. ↩