Monday, July 28, 2014

_Perfect Dark: Initial Vector_: ignore the cover and the origin and just enjoy a great thriller

Perfect Dark: Initial Vector, by Greg Rucka, is a novel set in the fictional future of the Perfect Dark video game series. I picked up a cheap used copy when I saw that it was by Greg Rucka, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

My favorite Rucka work is his Queen and Country series of graphic novels and regular novels, which focus on a British lady spy. So I was pleased to learn that this book had a spy slant. The world of Perfect Dark is one where corporate power has run wild, and so corporate espionage is more like covert ops. 

What I liked best about the book is that a thoroughly satisfying spy thriller made me think about corporate excess the whole time. 

If I hadn't seen Rucka's name on the book, I would have dismissed it out of hand as a schlocky video game tie-in book. I'm very glad I didn't.

The book didn't require any prior knowledge of the game to enjoy it. 

I'd have liked to learn more about the main character's background and what gave her her special abilities. But in the main I was happy to follow the story's twists and turns.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Redshirts, a game about social media, includes some sexism intentionally

(post edited 7/28/14 for grammar and because I didn't originally include a title)

This article:
...  describes both an interesting game and an interesting situation that arose because of it: the designer set out to write a game that would comment on social media as a way of interacting with others, but got criticized by a player for some of the -- intentional -- sexist content. The game includes a stereotypically sexy-alien race, which suffers more sexist attention.  The developer's response? Add a trigger warning to that race choice. Which seems eminently reasonable... but she got criticism for THAT action, by those who felt she caved somehow.

Oh, and the game's name is Redshirts, and so it operates as a reaction to the idea of a future utopia, as well.

_Uncertainty in Games_ by Greg Costikyan

I am reading this slim volume right now, and I got the urge to e-mail Costikyan and say good job. But I couldn't find any way to do that. He has a FaceBook page, so that's an easy solution...if you're on FaceBook, but I'm not.

<insert rant about folks who assume everyone is on FaceBook; cite examples of people whose business cards offer no other way to contact them... >

So I'll just post my love here. This book, which is part of a series called 'Playful Thinking', is an attempt to catalog the ways in which uncertainty is important to the design of games of all types. Costikyan makes a strong case for uncertainty being an important part of a great game.

I find this sort of thing exciting, in that it makes you feel like you could design a game. But you don't have to be a game designer to get a lot out of this book; it's a great help in understanding games.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Inventing languges for a living

The show Game of Thrones needed invented languages...several of them, and with full vocabularies. They turned to the community of folks who make up languages for fun, and held a contest. Here's an interview with the winner:

I've dabbled with inventing languages, and this is the sort of thing that makes me go, "Awwwww man, I want that job." Except it turns out that inventing a complete language would be work, lots of work. Still, this guy is getting paid to be creative; it's a great story.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

"Bloodchild" by Octavia Butler: what might a relationship with a parasitic alien race be like?

I bumped into a reference to this 1984 Nebula- and 1985 Hugo-winning novella in an article today, and quickly found the full text online in  couple of places; here's a link to a PDF with the story and some notes about themes from Butler herself:

I was interested in the idea of parasitic intelligent races, which is one of the big subjects of this story. I was impressed by the nuances of what Butler does with the idea.  I had just been thinking mainly of the conflict: ooh, yuck, that race reproduces parasitically.  Butler sets up a situation where the races need each other. I'll say no more; it deserves all the acclaim it's received.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition Basic Rules Released as a free PDF

Wow, I think Wizards has made a really smart decision here. They've released the basic rules for the latest edition of Dungeons and Dragnos as a free PDF file:

It's too bad there's no way to test both doing this and not doing this, because I predict this is going to seriously help the sales of the product.

Personally, I definitely do not need another role playing game, especially not another version of Dungeons and Dragons. But when they put the rules out there for free, I'm unable not to download and read them.

I assume they plan to make their money on glossy rulebooks with art, and on additional rules. By making the basic rules free:

  • People can try the game easily, read it and see if it's for them.
  • New players have access to the rules before they are hooked enough to buy.
  • You have a searchable electronic reference.

I could go on and on, but the advantages seem enormous. Wonder what they plan to do for other companies add-on products? If they're smart, they'll try to make a welcoming environment for those.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

You should be able to change/annotate the subject of an email you've received

Let's face it...lots of the emails we receive have misleading or useless subject lines. This annoys me because my work day is full of emails and often I need to store them and be able to retrieve them later, and that's not easy to do when the subject is bad.

Even if a search turns up the right mail, if there's more than a few search hits, you need a reasonable subject line to find the right one.

That means that every now and then I get an email that I need to file and I would love to amend the title, but I'm not aware of any mail system that allows that.

I'm using gmail. I wanted to put this out there on the lazyweb and see if anyone has tried a feature like this.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Great twist on the 'Diamonds and Toads' fairy tale: 'Toad Words'

A new twist on the fairy tale about the two women, one blessed to have diamonds come out every time she speaks, the other cursed to spout toads:

That fairy tale always seemed weird and hard to understand, and this followup on what happens after is therefore more satisfying to me. Here's a reference to the original fairy tale: