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10:45 PM on 11.21.2011  

Totally NVGR: Frank Miller is a jerk and why he hates the Occupy movement

Hi all, if you haven't heard, Frank Miller hates the Occupy movement. Miller, ever the bitter old out-of-touch entertainer, seems to particularly hate the Occupy protesters, mostly students and young adults, whom he refers to as "pond scum" and entitled, ipad-wielding pre-madonnas who would do better for everyone and just "buck up" and "be somebody" by enlisting in the military and going around the world looking for some terrorists to kill. Or something like that. Sounds like a premise for a Call of Duty Game, doesn't it? (Ironically he pokes at people who play "Lord of Warcraft", wtf is that?)

As a recent college graduate, a person looking for work and someone who has traveled abroad and seen a bit of how others live and think, I am one for open-mindedness and political and personal agitation to address systemic problems in our own country. Whether or not the Occupy movement is the right forum is a different matter, but to say that is completely without worth and that the people involved should just shut up, "stop whining" and sign up for the military and fight another "good fight" for the "benevolent insurance agency"...err corporate interests. (Have you read Hard Boiled? :P). First off, Miller has never served in the military and was penning cartoons at the same age as the Occupiers he demonizes. Secondly, while Miller laments how all of us young wipper-snappers don't want to join the military and start killing people (for whatever reason), many of us who support the protests and the right to protest in general, demand answers from congress about inequities at home, how the financial institutions orchestrated a worldwide financial collapse and why feckless, psychopathic cops are abusing peaceful civilian protesters. Just ridiculous. Here is the link to Miller's now infamous site/blog http://frankmillerink.com/2011/11/anarchy and my own little retort to his political diatribe. Enjoy.
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Frank, what happened to the man who wrote Hard Boiled, who penned the Dark Knight Returns or wrote Sin City? In every one one of those illustrated novels, though Hard Boiled was definitely not a novel, you cast your heroes as people "fighting the good fight" yet getting hated for it by an ignorant, complacent mass of society.

Bruce Wayne fought against the corrupt, fat and lazy idolaters who preached about war while their people sucked on the teet of mindless entertainment and porn and prescription-grade apathy. Nixon, the murderous corporate android who slowly realize the truth about why he has been beating against his programmed cage, tried to find himself by tearing down the people who made him who he is, he was just too late. Hartigan in Sin City was a good, low-middle class cop trying to fight for the only thing in the world that was right in a city full of corrupt officials, lawyers and mob bosses hiding behind badges and suits and smiles.

Yet, having written these stories of men and women, who were far from perfect, fighting adversity and complacency for some sense of "right", you callously demonize the most public group of people, who are mostly young and bright and full of hope I might add, agitating for your supposed ideals as charlatans, miscreants and entitled brats who, for all your intensive purposes, should just shut up, sign up for the military and start killing Muslims because they are the real enemy, right?

The funny and sad thing is you're a writer, godammit, and you come up sounding, ironically, like an entitled little brat herding his wagon, shaking his finger at others who are getting beaten by power-tripping, unleashed rabid dog cops (your favorite!), are being pepper-sprayed for sitting in front of institutions that engineered the financial collapse for more profit, and are rapidly arrested for massing in public and saying something that makes sense and is positive; that many do not feel the our "leaders" and paragons of industry are doing their best for the good of not only our people, but the people of the world at large. And yet you still denigrate these kids and young adults, spit on them with your verbiage and are paid millions to tow the corporate agenda of Islamophobia.

Many out there on the streets protesting are still working at whatever they are doing and risking their safety to say that things are not equal in this country, never have been, and you are hell-bent on, from what I can infer from your latest works and this rant, that there are no problems here in this country that warrant our national attention. Perhaps we should nuke Iran and get this whole charade over with, am I right? Because mistreating their women and having an ineffective government that barely has the capability of nuclear power, let alone less than 1/45 of our GDP, is the SOLE root of every problem in our world? What delusional paranoid fantasy are you living in? There are things done in this country that have directly led to the increased strength of these religious extremists and drug-peddlers. Namely the US reliance and protection of a foreign drug trade that happens to be, of all places, located in the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan, funded by Iranian oil, Middle East blood money, then protected and bought by US interests. Wake up and smell the world burning from the inside. You, of all people, should be able to see behind the veil and see where the train got off tracks and then create art about it and point the finger at EVERYONE, not just one group.

You've always been one to champion the greatest strengths of this nation and its people in your work and through your characters, pulling for the lone-dog in the fight, the one no one listens to because they can't handle the truth. Just because the world is a messed up place means that our country needs to seem perfect? Quit "whining" and hop right into nationalism? It seems to me hubris has gone to your head and complacency has made you infirm. I feel sorry for you and the people who once considered you an idol.   read


4:47 PM on 10.05.2011  

My Job App Fail: An emo guide to properly using colons

For the record I have no idea how to properly use colons, or any grammatical artifice for that matter (I can barely write my name in cursive too! Just, in case, ya know, you wanted to know...nvm). So when I got an e-mail from a potential employer asking me to write a "fun" and "creative" piece on how to properly use a colon (it's a really funky education company), I really didn't know what to write.

Then, in a fit of feckless abandon as to my career futures I decided to write this; an epic piece of longing and love-torn angst (and proper grammar-use too!) that Stephanie Meyer herself could not have written better!

As surprising as it may seem, I didn't end up getting the job as there was "no perfect fit for [me] at this time".

Enjoy--

The wannabe-Goth/emo Field-Guide to proper use of colons or: How I haven’t learned to love anything because life is a giant, obdurate miasma of unyielding crippling darkness that consumes your soul and leaves you without friends or dates

It’s hard to be emo: you’re constantly under pressure from your stupid parents telling you to do stupid and cruel things like homework or to bathe once in a while. It’s even harder when you have to relate how hard and miserable, bleak and full of darkness your shell of a life has become to your anonymous friends online: You have to constantly heighten the sense of impending doom and drama that is about to enter your life as you retell how horrible it was when your father came in to the bathroom while you were exfoliating your inner sixth eye so as to shed the primitive mortal coil and commune with the gods of pain and super-duper sadness by making primitive gurgling sounds punctuated with screams of “MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE OR DEATH!”. But how could you ever relate such a tale to your fans on LiveJournal?

The easiest way to express your feelings in an almost sort of mystical Haiku form, using grandiose words you learned from that new movie “Vampires with nice hair who look sad: 2” like “quaffed” or “pouty”, is to use colons. Colons can be great for expressing your inner darkest emotions by creating compound sentences in your latest soul-rending blog post about the inevitable collapse of the American family because parents just “don’t understand”. Example: “Last night my stomach made the most beautiful pangs of sorrow I have ever heard: Forcing myself to swallow all of my crumpled pages ripped from my diary so I could feel my lingering words of regret and despair turned out to be such a good idea”.

If compound sentences aren’t your thing for relating the unfathomable depths of your cold and dark heart, then maybe you’d like to try writing a list of things you really, really don’t like in this world. Example: Sometimes, when I day-dream during Advanced Lit. class about getting my heart broken by the most cruelly beautiful girl who sits in front of me, Sasha, I think about the things I’ll never have in my life: happiness, a girlfriend, Sasha, jeans that fit normally, colorful clothing, ANY books by Shel Silverstein (because he is too happy), a soul.

Some of the most poignant and sad things in life are best experienced when sharing it with others, so, if you wanted to share your online friend’s, allcutethingswilldie, epic quote about the meaninglessness of suburban life, you should use a colon to introduce his/her/it’s quotation. Example: “My life is miserable but not as miserable as allcutethingswilldie: ‘Today, I had cold apple pie for dinner with terrible ice cream and an even more terrible root beer float; I hate my parents so much and if they were balloons I would pop them’. I’m so jealous”.

Now, armed with the knowledge of how to properly describe your sweet, sweet woe to your friends (even though friends are all fake and stupid) and family (though they wouldn’t listen anyway) you can go out into the wild, totally depressing world and share your disgust with the human race.

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Also, I can't believe I've never seen one of these before!
  read


3:18 PM on 09.25.2011  

Building your dream gaming computer: Pics, pro-tips and tricks

So you're a PC gamer; a venerated, rare breed of individual who boldly goes where no one else goes because it is often too expensive, time-consuming and infuriating, what with hobbled ports of console games, Jim's dreaded "goshdurn DRM" and privacy agreements, but all is not at a loss! PC gaming, if you can afford to spend a little coin on the effort, is an incredibly rewarding experience that in many ways pushes gaming to the true expectations of the fans. Before that sparks outcry, I am a fan of all gaming, but if you want exceedingly pretty graphics and a DIY vibe, you get what you pay for in spades.

For, what if, what if you could get that ultimate sweet rig of your dreams, one that would totally pwn your friend's comps and would give you the privilege, nay, the right to gloat about how you can run BF3 at 65 FPS in full 1920 X 1280 with EYEFINITY and rage mode (made that one up) turned on full blast that didn't have to cost you the price of a Macbook Air signed by Steve Job's penis (I'm assuming that would cost a lot...)?? What if you could build your own at a fraction of the cost of buying a pre-fabbed rig riddled with spamware, hidden fees and over-priced components? What if you could build your dream machine?

Well, then, dear comrade and computer geek in arms, this blog post is for you. Assembled herein this den of promiscuity and vice, what I like to call the "C-Blogs", is a blog post cataloging the steps to building my own "dream computer" for at least $500 less than what I would have paid had someone constructed it for me. Building a computer can be an incredibly rewarding, interesting and fun process and will give you a better idea of what people are actually talking about when they talk about tech specs for BF3 or Metro 2012, what all-illusive clock speeds and refresh rates mean, and, most importantly, what are actually the best parts to get for your money.

So, without further blathering, here is my build (with pictures, guess that's kind of obvious?), as well as tips and links that will help you research, buy the parts for and, eventually, build your own rig. If I've left anything out or if you've got suggestions, please let me know and, to be a bit sappy, it's because of you guys that I really enjoy putting this stuff up here, so rock on!


Parte Uno: Selecting the components

Before you can buy the components, you gotta' research them thoroughly beforehand to look for reviews of the hardware, problems with compatibility (are you building a 32-bit or 64-bit rig, is your HD e-sata II or e-sata III, how much wattage do you need to power the rig, is it a p-67 motherboard or z-68, AMD or Nvidia, AMD or Intel, PCI or PCIE, you get the idea), and just plain old prefrence all should play a part in the process of selecting the best components for your machine at the best possible price-performance ratio.

This was my first full PC build (I've switched out GPUs and the like in the past) and I really had no idea what I was doing before hand, so, along with trial and error, I HEAVILY utilized a number of resources to help me get the job the done right. [size=14Remember:[/size] Everything about your computer comes down to you; it's up to you to put in the hours to finding what parts are right for your computer and what parts are best fitted to your needs and desires (are you building a gaming rig, a graphic design powerhouse, a video-editing squidlaserbear beast-monster?). It should be obvious, but it's also important, unless money is no object to you, to find the best deals on what items you're looking for as well so you maximize the bang for your buck. Here's the list of resources I used when researching and selecting my components for the final build:

Tom’s Hardware
http://www.tomshardware.com/

My favorite site because it has an incredibly active and knowledgable community, just go to the forums, read the “Read first” stickies to know how to best ask/answer questions, and post what you want in the appropriate section and you almost always will get a response right away

Some of the best tech reviews I’ve seen/read as well, easy to follow for any skill level builder and let’s you simply know with great graphs what’s the best purchase for your money (price performance ratio), best resale value, best overall value, etc.

Every month there are a “roundup” of reviews on GPUs, gaming CPUs, soundcards, new tech and other goodies so keep posted up on the site to stay up to date what’s going on in the computing world

Silent PC Review
http://www.silentpcreview.com/

Great resource on finding stats, commentary and video about how PCs actually run and how quiet or loud they are

Danger Den
http://www.dangerden.com/

Huge community resource on everything watercooling-related. If you are going to watercool your PC, this is a great place to start/stay with. A big plus of this site is the really active and enthusiastic community vibe I get when I visit. There are TONS of videos and photos of people’s rigs and tons of guides and really helpful and friendly people who will help you build your own.

Overclockers
http://www.overclockers.com/forums/

One of the largest, if not largest, online community forums dedicated entirely to “performance computing”, incredible resource for finding everything related to PC “enthusiast” gaming/hardware intensive tasks

Proximon’s Guide to Choosing Parts
http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/257075-31-guide-choosing-parts

Super thorough, well thought-out guide to component picking from Tom’s Hardware forum member Proximon

A little outdated now, as the article originally was created in 2008, but the thread has stayed alive all of these years and Proximon occasionally updates old posts, look for his links to his other guides as well about video cards and other components

Anandtech
http://www.anandtech.com/

MaximumPC
http://maximumpc.com

Same as above but with more editorials from the actual staff. I think it’s a great resource to go to for educating yourself about new and different technologies as well as companies, like the differences between AMD and Nvidia or Sli vs. Crossfire, for example

Parte dos: The Build
So, with all the fanfare of the previous paragraphs touting how awesome my computer could be, let's see how I actually did performance and price-wise for what I bought, here is the list of components and prices (circa June 2011) and all from http://www.Newegg.com:

ASRock P67 EXTREME4 (B3) LGA 1155 Intel P67 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard
$159.99

COOLER MASTER HAF 912 RC-912-KKN1 Black SECC/ ABS Plastic ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
$59.99

HANNspree By Hanns-G HF225DPB Black 21.5" Full HD WideScreen LCD Monitor w/Speakers
$129.99

Western Digital Caviar Black WD1001FALS 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive
$84.99

Rosewill RTK-002 Anti-Static Wrist Strap
$4.99

ASUS DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS Black SATA 24X DVD Burner - Bulk - OEM
$19.99

XFX P1-650X-CAH9 650W ATX12V v2.2 / ESP12V v2.91 SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Modular Active PFC Power ...
$88.99

HIS IceQ X Turbo H687QNT1G2M Radeon HD 6870 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card ...
$199.99

Intel Core i5-2500K Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz (3.7GHz Turbo Boost) LGA 1155 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor
$219.99

Crucial M4 CT064M4SSD2 2.5" 64GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
$119.99

CORSAIR Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model CMZ8GX3M2A1600C9B
$84.99

XIGMATEK Gaia SD1283 120mm Long Life Bearing CPU Cooler bracket included I7 i5 775 1155 AMD and dual fan push pull compatible
$29.99

Total: ~$1204

Not bad, right? My comp crushes ALL! Just kidding, but, seriously, with this build I'm running every current gen out there on max settings, full 1920X1280 (where it's supported) at near max FPS (frames per second for you silly tech luddites out there! :P). There are reasons why I didn't "go for broke" or, rather "go broke" on spending extra for my RAM (there really is no current reason why anyone would get above 2X4GB...) or investing in a water cooling system (because I don't need one) or a hyper-fancy $500 graphics card (because I can't afford to do Eyefinity in full 3D across 3 screens), but to each his/her own and if you've got the dough and a spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend/set of parents who won't murder you for doing it, then, by all means, feel free to blow your proverbial wad on them tech goodies (the implications of this statement are disturbing...).

Parte Tres: The Assembly
Now on to the good stuff; PICTURES, YAY! Here are my pics of the process, the components, the final build and some descriptions of each. It's smart to assemble your motherboard first before installing any other components into your rig so you have the most room to insert the most delicate and important part of your build, so I have listed that process first (after the case itself).



A shot of all of the pretty boxes and my messy room. Notice that you shouldn't have a messy room/work area like this when you're building, but whatever.



If you're as messy and unorganized as I am, having something at the ready that you can put all of the tiny, tiny bolts and screws and assorted ties and clips into, like an egg carton, then it's a really good way to avoid the extreme hassle that could ensue if you happen to drop of lose a screw (trust me, it sucks, but thankfully the parts manufacturers count on this happening so they usually give you extras in the packaging).



This is the HAF-912 Micro-ATX case that I have, it's great because it has room for 6 120mm fans (or two 200mm, 1 120mm and/or 1 140mm fan, though it says it can handle up to 12, why you would ever need that much is beyond me). I can't be happy enough about this case, there is a surprisingly large amount of space, interchangeable drive bay brackets and it is exceedingly easy to work in and install. Here's a link to a good Youtube review of the case http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rv7mFfWhERY



The easy-to-use and simple locking mechanism that locks your drives in place and is guaranteed to be secure so no futzing around with bolting or screwing in your hard drives or optical drives (You still have to bolt in your SSDs and 3.5" drives if you have them)



Front of the sexy beast. Notice that there is room for a 3.5" drive bay in the middle of the case (my motherboard came with a USB 3.0 bay so that's what I have in mine)



My motherboard, an ASRock P67 EXTREME4 (B3) LGA 1155. For those of you who don't know, the last number, 1155, is the number of pins that the mobo (short for motherboard) has for the CPU and is an absolutely critical number to remember and work with when looking for component parts for your motherboard, as you will be building your entire computer around it and what it is compatible with and the number is as the number really serves to show whether it's an Intel or AMD mobo. For the price and if you want to go the affordable intel route, this is a pretty hard mobo to beat, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, it is my first build :)

Wiki on CPU socket and pin numbers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CPU_socket



Close-up of the CPU bracket housing. Notice that the bracket clamp that holds down the CPU is open and the CPU is inserted, only to leave the bracket left to be closed, thermal paste/cement to be applied and a cooling system to be place on top of the CPU. With this motherboard it actually takes a surprising amount of force to close down the bracket so don't get worried like I did if you think you're about to break your mobo, it's just an obstinate bracket clamp.



Shot of the back of the mobo. Try not to touch anything on the back of the board and to just hold it by the sides. Especially DO NOT TOUCH THE GOLD PINS of the CPU or you could seriously damage or ruin it with your natural static electricity from your body and your smudgey fingers. It should be noted at this point that static electricity can severely damage your electrical components in the computer, that is why everything you will be putting into the computer comes wrapped in anti-static cellophane (pictured above) and why buying an ESD (Electro-Static Dischare) bracelet is worth the investment of $5.



This is an important part, my XIGMATEK Gaia SD1283 120mm CPU Cooler. Your CPU will fry up almost instantly if you do not have some form of cooling being added directly to the CPU. At this stage is where you carefully apply thermal paste (I use Arctic Silver 5, never use the crappy cement paste the CPU provider gives you) to the back of the CPU and carefully and evenly place your cooling unit on top of the cpu. Be careful to wiggle the cooler around a bit to spread the the paste evenly across the CPU. Notice: You need thermal paste for this process because, by itself, air is a relatively terrible conductor of heat and electricity, the compound I use for my paste, Arctic Silver 5 is a 99.5% silver solution that is much more effective than air or the cement the CPU people give you at transferring heat onto the cooling plate. You have to be extremely careful here as, if you use a paste like Arctic Silver 5, it is slightly electrically conductive which means that if you put too much on, it could drip out the sides and short-circuit your entire board, voiding your warranty and leaving with you an expensive pile of silicon and hardware junk.



Near-final assembly of the motherboard with installed CPU, RAM, and cooler (missing the GPU)



My favorite part of the computer, the 3rd-party HIS ICE-Q Radeon 6870. This card is a total beast for being only $200 and is crossfire-ready and comes with it's own built-in heat exhaust pipes (meaning that you can string two of these bad boys together to more than double your graphics output, Nvidia = Sli , AMD = Crossfire). Pretty dope.



Installing the PSU (Power Supply Unit), the XFX SLI Ready and CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply Unit, the modular cables come in a slick bag of goodies so you're guaranteed to pretty much have every cable under the sun from SATA cables to GPU hook-ups to 4,6, 8 and 12-pin power cables to power your fans and drives. The 80-plus bronze certified means that it is an 80%+ efficient unit so you're only max losing 20% of your power in heat and wire friction loss (as opposed to around ~65% in many stock PSUs out there)



I've left out the installation of the individual wires and the optical drives and the SSD and HD (okay, so I may have left out a lot of stuff!), but here is at least a shot of the completed internal guts of the machine.



And the final product, with shiny red lights! ohhhh, ahhhhhhh. Can you guess the awesomely awesome anime on the monitor? :P   read


12:20 PM on 09.09.2011  

Fallout: New Vegas Mods of Awesomeness - GUNSGUNSGUNS

Hey yall, within the last several months since I built my gaming pc, I've really fallen deep, DEEP into Fallout: New Vegas, mostly because of the joy I get from finding, tinkering, and playing with some killer mods that really make the game infinitely more enjoyable, re-playable and dynamic.

I want to turn this into a series of some sort and maybe expand later to other games like Skryim ( OMFGWTFBBBBQQSHITTTTTTT SO STOKED) when it comes out. 11.11.11 will be such an epic shitshow of a day for me, personally, that I'm not sure if my poor body will be able to endure the requisite ASSLOAD of hours I'm going to put into it. But I digress.

This episode is all about, as you may have guessed from the title, weapons mods. The list consists of my current favorite 10 weapons mods. In the next episode I'll be talking about mods that I use that will help you with fixing the numerous compatability, stability and framerate issues that unfortunately plague New Vegas and keep people from fully enjoying the experience. Hopefully you guys and gals enjoys this series and this ends up being a solid endeavor and, if anything, I hope it encourages you to further check out New Vegas; it's seriously an epic game. The links to the mods are under the names and I've tried to find as much media to show them as possible. Also, one last thing; if you think of anything that would make this blog better or want to see me to include anything I haven't or talk about a particular set of mods, please let me know! So, without further ado, let's get started-

Blaster Prototype

http://www.newvegasnexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=41703




Signature Weapons
http://www.newvegasnexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=43557



WMX - Weapons Mod Expanded
http://www.newvegasnexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=39651



http://www.newvegasnexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=38550

Better Smoke and Ballistics


Nordic firearms
http://www.newvegasnexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=39754





WWII - MG42
http://www.newvegasnexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=41447





Fully Customizable Desert Eagle
http://www.newvegasnexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=42403




AER11 Blue Laser Rifle
http://www.newvegasnexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=43044





Wanted - Matchmaster
http://www.newvegasnexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=38407




EVE - Essential Visual Enhancements
http://www.newvegasnexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=42666



Because...just because

Well that's it for this episode, thanks for reading/viewing/whatevering and stay tuned for more awesomeness in the days/weeks/months/millenia to come!   read


1:21 AM on 08.31.2011  

Improvements: Widgets, branding and indie game development

The internet is full of wannabe douche-bags, real douche-bags, and cute teddy bears. Literally, that is all. So, since I don't like douche bags and am a supermegabig fan of cute teddy bear-like creatures/internet users, I propose that you give us widgets or implement some tool that allows us to go beyond what "following" is now on this site and give us live updates, via email or, like I mentioned previously, a widget or something so we can know who is following us, who is replying to our comments, who likes our blogs, who likes our comments on blogs and such. Reputation systems, as I'm sure you guys know since you are in the heart of social media central up in 'dem guts in SOMA, are a pretty big deal these days and the ability to "+1" someone's comment, to reply to individual comments directly, to "rank" a user (though I can understand why you wouldn't want to do this as well) as, for example, a power user or a helpful person, as you do on the forums, would be a real big help for us bloggers and frequenters of your site.

Point numero dos:

Your buy/sell site is awesome and I've found some cool titles at great prices there, but there isn't enough of a community doing it, it seems like to me anyways, and that's 1) because there is no reputation system - think Ebay and 2) because it's just a bolded red hyperlink on the right side of the homepage, not that obvious to someone who doesn't know what they are looking for (ie. the new people you are trying to attract to the service).


Literally nothing to do with the site at all, but it's cute. SUE ME!
Point numero tres: Branding

Max Scoville's t-shirt designs, those cool hats/beanies/whatever and, of course, the dtoid men need to be more prominently and aggressively marketed to grow your brand, which is what your company has become now with growth. I won't buy IGN stuff because 1) I don't care about it but 2) because it's never displayed anywhere (I'm not sure they even have a store) but you guys have such a rocking community of rabid geeks like me and such a cool culture and atmosphere that it doesn't make any sense to not get all of us on board buying bumper stickers, decals, hats, games, swag, whatever.



Point numero quatro: Indie development

Bungie has it, XBLA has it, Steam has it....sorta and Adult Swim has it. IGN doesn't. Gamespot doesn't. 1up doesn't. Destructoid should have it! I'm absolutely positive there are budding game developers all over this site and I follow many of them on the C-blogs. With such an ardent, rabid community (see first 3 points) we could and should totally have an active indie game development platform going. I don't know if Destructoid alone has the resources, but the rest of the peeps on Revision with you (I'm not sure what your umbrella organization is called right now...sorry) definitely in total have the resources, manpower/chickrawwkerpower and desire to make games. You could be, pun-intended, game-changing in this regard if Dtoid first came out with a way to help gamers and fans develop and distribute their content.


Get some of this hot man flesh...while it's hot

Anywho, I gotta jet, but these are just some thoughts of mine. Have a great day!   read


1:25 AM on 06.22.2011  

Some thoughts on Dust 514 and Defiance

One thing that I've felt has been lacking on Dtoid has been the spotty, hard-to-find news about MMOs in general and about these games in specific. Though the news, as almost always has been the case on Dtoid, has been great, I feel like there isn't enough speculative attention to detail and idolizing of this genre as I feel there should be with such an awesome gamer community as Dtoid. Maybe Dtoiders just don't play that many MMOs or, (GASP), are mostly console people or, even worse, are those lowly creatures we call "casual gamers" NOOOOOO!.

That's okay, though, I'm just playing around. Console and casual gaming are a part of the holy triumvirate as well and all are going in interesting directions, at least with certain IPs and the right developers. But what about having your decisions matter in a game, as has oft been promised to MMO and Console gamers alike? The future direction of gaming is potentially going to really change with these two games, I believe, and introduce a whole new level of what I would call "meta media" content to today's mainstream gamer (IE. the console jockey-of which I am one as well) by just being different and expanding the mix a little bit.


Don't you want to feel more valued and important than you do in a game like Farmville?

With Dust 514, a hybrid tactical RPG/FPS developed by those crazy Icelanders and Finns over at CCP, the maker's of EVE Online, gamers on the PS3 are going to get to experience a gaming world where tactical gameplay decisions made in real-time are supposed to matter and impact the experience of not just other Dust 514 players, but also the EVE universe of players as well, estimated to be at over 350,000 active subscribers (according to http://mmodata.blogspot.com/). As with EVE, players in Dust 514 will be interacting within one universe, one realm, meaning that the actions of a few players perhaps fighting through a stronghold to get at a lucrative communication relay could potentially impact not only their surrounding players but people literally all over the map. With potentially millions of people playing this game, the minutia of countless actions taking place in real-time could, theoretically as has literally happened in EVE, affect everyone in profound and dynamic ways.


Imagine calling down a "doomsday" weapon from EVE to a planet and seeing what happens...

The twist with Dust 514, as I'm sure many of you have read, is that the players in the game work in conjunction with the players in EVE, where the players in one are fighting for control of planets and terrestrial outposts and resources and the other fighting and financially backstabbing each other over control of the stars. If it works out well, this hybrid concept of crossplatform integration and cooperation amongst console and PC/Mac users would be revolutionary in gaming and bring the medium one step closer to making actions real and impacting beyond the confines of the virtual barrier between the two. As this trailer from March shows http://bit.ly/jc3TbN , the cooperation between the two universes could be truly epic.


There are only four screens of Defiance online...

The upcoming Defiance is another example of how "meta media" is working it's way into our console and PC/Mac experiences with an added twist. The game is also setting the stage for a TV show on SyFy and actions that occur in the game will impact the show and vice versa, or so the talking heads say. I, for one, think that is awesome. Imagine living in a world where your avatar, a digital being, can be seen and whose actions can be viscerally felt by potentially hundreds of thousands or even millions of people outside the virtual realm. What if your avatar became real, a celebrity in two realities, two worlds? Game theorists, social commentators and pop critics alike should be having a field day over this game and it's potential implications, but it seems that it really isn't getting that much attention, at least not outside of certain gaming circles and this a damned shame.

For what it's worth, I think these games are going to break the proverbial mold surrounding gaming and hopefully really bring games and gamers closer together and closer to a reality of mutuality. What I mean by that is, a reality where actions matter, where people are seen and where gamers are in the spotlight, both in the virtual world and outside of it as well. It's sucky, but understandable, that little details are given at this time about Defiance and there is still a lot left to learn about Dust 514 as well, but hopefully, as these games are fleshed out, people will get more interested and maybe we'll see some exciting stuff go down next year at the earliest.   read


8:30 PM on 06.04.2011  

Post-grad life and how virtual worlds have changed my reality

Whattup peeps, it's me Will again, I haven't posted in a redonkulously long time, but I've been swamped with shiz and life (whoa is me!) soooo....here it goes:)

So I finally graduated college and ended up doing really well on senior thesis, I eventually entitled it "Silicon Dreaming: How people are changing reality through play in virtual worlds". What a mouthful, huh? If none of you remember what the thesis was about, or why I chose the topic in the first place, let me just say that, as an avid gamer and former MMO (GRRRR WoW) addict and a student training in anthropology/American Studies throughout college, I wanted to focus my final academic effort as an undergrad on something that mattered to me personally; the burgeoning migration of people to virtual spaces and the distortion/creation of realities in cyberspace. In the paper I focused on how powerful notions of market economics and personal visibility were areas of interest that are being explored in beautiful, dangerous, powerful, fun, addictive, psychotic and all-together extremely prescient ways through virtual communities of people "dreaming in silicon" together in the consensual hallucination of virtual worlds.

Though I couldn't talk about everything I wanted to, or avoid as many typos as I ended up having in the final piece as well, I was very proud of the effort that I had put into my piece and was grateful/relieved/blissfully happy when I finally broke into our department's disability access elevator (the building was stupidly locked on a sunday because of finals...) and slid my glossy, still warm pages from my trembling and sweaty palms under my professor's door.

So what does this blog post have anything to do with the larger Destructoid community and why should anyone spend their precious time reading this seemingly ambling rant about my senior thesis and graduating from college? Because it's me dammit!!! Just kidding. In all seriousness though, I wanted to talk about how my paper on virtual reality and how all of our lives now in this current generation of new social, gaming and business technologies are blurring conceptions of reality.

As I write this, in the cafe I'm sitting at on a blustery and chilly June day in Berkeley, Ca (Read: NOT SUMMER), literally everyone in the cafe, about 20 people, including myself obviously, are plugged into some technological device or another. The girl across from me is flirting with her colleague (I deduce that's what he is) and is plundering the depths of LinkedIn. The woman to my left is playing Angry Birds and the dudes to my right (I'm guessing in their thirties) are giggling and sending bits of PHP code to each other. You can order food virtually and pick up food at the cafe, there is some weird fusion jazz playing in the background and my coffee tastes like shit. Everyone I see outside is either looking at their phone or listening to their ipods and my best friend is texting me from DC about her life. I can't help but feel a little lonely in this morass of techno-humanity.

Again, I've got to stop this rant reassert that it is going somewhere and your time was not yet fully wasted. Like the people I talked about in my paper playing WoW or bounty-hunting in EVE Online, checking up on virtual crops in FarmVille or literally murdering each other over virtual merchandise in real life, sometimes I wonder if any of these people are real. I can see them. I can see them moving and eating, talking and laughing, typing and bitching online about their lives, but I don't know any of these people and I can't help but feel a little bit lonely. Life as a post-grad is a weird amalgam of all of my experiences to this point and I should be prepared for the real world, but I don't think anyone really knows what the real world is anymore; I certainly don't. I guess my point with this post, if there is one point, is that I don't really feel like I'm part of a community in real life, even though there are real people around me, and it's easier to pretend that there are people who care about you in cyberspace when you don't have to deal with them personally, when your problems and insecurities are buffered by a virtual barrier of impersonality that cyberspace affords. Writing this blog post, like playing WoW or EVE, is an escape from the mundane, from the painful, from the lonely. Maybe I'm just feeling emo right now, but maybe it's because we are all escaping to cyberspace that reality as lost meaning and feeling when it's outside of a computer screen, virtual battleship or avatar.

Thanks for putting up with this-----> I still don't have a job, so this is what I do in the meantime.   read


7:27 PM on 04.29.2011  

Destructoid vs. IGN

Hi yall, so I've been diligently (cough*cough*) writing my thesis and it's now due in a week. If anyone remembers, it's the one about virtual worlds and all that jazz and fun stuff. Sooo, long story short...advisor said she was "impressed". Wooot! It's due on May 5 and is still at an "early" stage soooo I'll have more on that later.

Back to my main reason for posting. Recent rennovations in the website design of IGN are gearing it to a more social-like network for videogames. The site, at 15 years old, is the largest videogames news and review site on the planet. It has always had blogs and forums since it's founding in 1996, but with the leaving of certain geek-legendary editors over the years and other mitigating factors that just naturally go along with the growth of a online community, groups of people trolling most stories or just commenting about Jessica Chobot's boobs started to fester and grow, eventually taking over most of the site. Sometimes with the wretchedness of Yahoo! News users and dogged determinism of /b., IGN users gave the site growing bad rep. over the years that I know has been echoed throughout virtual circles and boards across the internet. Which is a shame because from my experiences working at IGN as an intern and visiting frequently as a user, the people who work at IGN are pretty cool. Had I worked in the community management side of IGN instead of editorial I think I would have killed myself with all of the bad crap being called out to the editors and just to other users. Now, however, with the addition of Facebook-like reputation systems, twitter-like personal pages, and a social-networking videogames-themed stock trading game, IGN seems to be on top of the world and claiming back their users who have gone astray.


If only trolls just thought of this before they posted

My question is: With a new focus on social networking noticiably toning down the trolling and upping the behavior and immersion of their community, do you think IGN is taking queues from the success of sites like Destructoid and trying to competitively get an advantage and take some more market share? And, if this is the case, and the economic theory of competition in like-markets would suggest it is, does that mean that the people who run Destructoid view themselves as competitors of IGN (as opposed to an entirely separate type of community that happens to be focused on videogames as well)? With videogames(and virtual worlds!:P) mass popularity and saturation across an array of markets and with the continued growth in profits for the media sector in general, does that mean that sites like IGN, Destructoid, Kotaku, and N4g are going to have compete for popularity, visibility and market-share as their chosen media (videogames) gets ever more popular?


Obviously how the conflict would go down.

If I were an economist, I would say s**t yeah it would, but what does that mean for sites other than IGN, by far the largest and most profitable, for other, smaller, less corporate videogame-centric sites like Destructoid?


Ps.
Screw having a sore throat right now.   read


11:37 PM on 04.18.2011  

Reality in the virtual world

On the internet, in a game, in a virtual world, the driver (player, user, individual, ego, what ever you want to call it) is rendered incarnate in the pixels and code of a virtual body. People, with our complexities, our cultural identities, our invidiuality, have access to whole other worlds now with entirely new systems of physics, social structures, entertaintainment and, most importantly, human interaction. We can disappear into this rabbit holes, opening our new set of eyes into worlds that are reinvented and redefined on the fly, and, for the first time in human history, participate in the crucible of cultural creation and evolution with levels of peronsal interaction across such an array of people and media never seen before in the history of human communication. How many of you have a Facebook, a twitter account, watch videos on YouTube? We are all attached, in some immutable way, to the organ of digital language; This is how we speak to each other.


Is this scary? 18 million people pay to play World of Warcraft, 12 million people have avatars populating Second Life, 47 million are watching digital sprites grow in Farmville daily. Many of the people populating these virtual constellations of worlds are spending 4-8 hours per day in these places, fighting, gardening, talking, dating, attacking, and growing together. Experiences are emergent and engage thousands of players simulataneously. These are real places populated by a new race of human in the form of the avatar, a fearless, powerful, creative entity with the chance to free the human driver from the physical realities of non-virtual space. If you could, who would you be, what would you do?


Eve Online, Incarna Character Creation System

Of course there are roles and rules in these "synthetic spaces" in what the design of these places allows for; the mage only has so much mana, you can't take that boss out alone, people have more gold than you. This makes sense though in worlds being seen through the eyes of a human-controlled avatar. Social structures are laid down, relationships are entered, value is established for goods and labor, even in-world media is implemented all combining to form emergent and diverse cosmos of cultural production.


The world in Firefall

These places, like in the real world, allow for the creativity and flexibility that its attending communal groups allow for. Enthusiatic and healthy spaces are full of emergent, community-driven experiences that go beyond the packaged foundation provided by the devleopers. Like architects from the future, virtual world designers and communities of invidiual modders ensure that these worlds stay viable, creative and healthy. Essentially, these are labs for studying at once the foundations of human social experience and an evolving social contract between the myriad number of drivers that is changing those foundations radically.

-
Mash up of ideas for thesis, What do you think? :P

[embed]199123:37809[/embed]   read


4:49 PM on 04.05.2011  

To the Dtoid community: What does this site mean for you?

Hi all again, maybe some of you are getting annoyed with my seemingly incessant anthropological forays into the psyche of game worlds/cultures for my undegrad thesis, but, I assure you, WE MUST MARCH ONWARD TO VICTORY!

Haha, I just wanted to ask you Dtoiders, whom I proudly include myself among you all as being a fellow cute, green robot, what, if anything, Dtoid brings to your lives. How are Dtoid and, by extension, other gaming blogs/communities like Kotaku or N4G, relevant to the cultural kaleidoscope of your lives?

Have you made meaningful relationships through Dtoid or personally grew as individual by meeting with other cool, like-minded people? What have been your best (and/or worst) memories of Dtoid and its community?


Did you know that this means "I love you" in sign language? MINDBLOWN!   read


12:24 PM on 04.05.2011  

Thesistoid: In shambles!

Hi all, first of all, to those of you who have been wonderfully freaking awesome and have trudged through my steady progression of ADD-addled/half-baked thesis ideas, I thank you so much. You've given me great constructive criticism of what to include and what to cut from my paper on cultures in virtual worlds and that has been hugely helpful.

However, I'm a crossroads now, one that I feel is pretty hard to navigate in writing but seemingly the easiest thing to do speaking. I want to show how virtual worlds are both fucked up and wonderful places of human interaction and that alone makes these places very real for the people who engage with and within them. I had tons of saved chat logs from second life to show but, because there is a merciful puppetmaster in the heavens, it seems that they have been deleted so now I'm at a loss and the 30-page, near final draft was due this morning.

I ended up turning in just a 38-page .doc of complete nonsense and run-on sentences that had no cohesion and no direction. Again, because we are willful servants to a bemused higher will, call him Cthulu if you will, it did not hit me until this morning, AFTER 4 DAYS OF STAYING UP UNTIL THE ASSCRACK OF DAWN, what my structure for the paper was going to be.

So now, here it is:


1) What are virtual worlds?
2) In the begginning, there was MUD
3) Player agency and the birth of the avatar
4) Worlds of life, loss and Warcraft (Trolls, e-bussinesses, marriage, etc.)
5) What do virtual worlds contribute to humanity
6) Conclusion

GRRRRRRR, I guess this is a big rant. Coupled with this and my ridiculously-behind animation work for comp sci, I'm about to lose my shit.

  read


1:58 PM on 04.04.2011  

Thesistoid: The history and Importance of virtual worlds, pt.1

Hi! This is finally a coherent, working part I of my undergrad thesis on virtual worlds. Feel free to comment, troll, love, criticize and/or fap to this, it's awesome to get feedback:) (It's a working draft, but feel free to rip it apart :P)


I. In the beginning there was MUD


Though the virtual worlds themselves can have established stories or in-game characters to interact
with (called NPCs or non-player characters), not all of the characters in these worlds are controlled by the game itself. The human player controls the aspects of his/her in-game character, taking charge of interacting with the created experiences of the game environment and, in a virtual world, with other players in a dynamic, collaborative narrative interacting with and within the designs of the virtual environment. A game arguably only becomes a “world” when its in-game characteristics do not remain static, for example, when the narrative experience changes as more players interact within the game. However, virtual worlds exist, necessarily, with or without interaction from players and are defined as “persistent” worlds simply whenever the content of the environment is being changed persistently over periods of time whether that means with updates (patches) or in-game events that could occur at any time.

Since their inception in the late 1970s, virtual worlds have developed in extraordinary ways, beginning with the first MUDs (Multi-User Dungeons) all the way to the current generation’s titular games, like the immensely popular World of Warcraft, the social simulator Second Life and the social-networking game FarmVille on Facebook. With an incredible amount of creative utility and social interplay, virtual worlds have redefined what can games can achieve and what virtual spaces can represent, offering far more to users than just the pursuit of entertainment. However, the foundational focus of play in games, whether with a player’s environment, creatures or interaction with other players, is representative of a core aspect of human culture in general, one that has been importantly brought over into the virtual world and is a key argument for the importance of these worlds and games in general (I will discuss this topic in more depth later on). That being said, virtual worlds, like those seen in Second Life (2003, Linden Labs) or the popular MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online Game) Club Penguin (2005, Disney), a game targeted primarily at children ages 6-14, play host to complex social interactions between players, engaging players in actual businesses, promoting education and focus on social interaction as opposed to fighting monsters or direct competition between other players.

These virtual worlds, from World of Warcraft (known colloquially as “WoW”) to Second Life, are drawing in huge revenues from subscriptions, exclusive content and expansions (Club Penguin has 700,000 subscribers and generates $40 million per year) and have become lucrative businesses for the developers and publishers as well as the users themselves who create businesses selling in-game items or characters. Though today the influence of lucrative consumerism and e-business has certainly changed the landscape of virtual worlds, the core aspects that attracted the first players to these places in the 1970s-1990s remain largely unaltered. The principles of interactivity and play remain at the forefront of these virtual worlds, encouraging in many players the sense that they are engaging in a real world, even if it is one that appears on a virtual plane.

A seemingly far-cry from today’s big-budget MMOs that often emphasize gorgeous visuals, artistic vistas and complex in-game physics engine, the first virtual worlds were text-based games mostly written and coded by college students and young programmers as hobbies. These games, called MUDs (Multi-User Dungeons), were usually fantasy-themed adventure games, where the objectives often revolved around defeating various monsters or simply staying alive. Their structure and stats/rules based architecture of the games borrowed liberally from their tabletop role-playing predecessors like Dungeon and Dragons while the narratives resembled that of the 1970s Choose Your Own Adventure children’s television series. Players could sometimes choose various roles to be played within the game and various paths could be taken that would affect the outcome of the game. Coupled with inventive story-telling that could range from macabre to humorous within a sequence of events, MUDs were lovingly crafted pieces of interactive fiction written and played within tight-knight small communities of people before the advent of mass internet access could spread their culture and games across the world.


Death in Mud (1979)

These games came out thirty years before our generation’s World of Warcraft, Second Life and FarmVille were being played by millions of people across the world and laid down the fundamental groundwork for RPGs (Role-Playing Games) and MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games) to come. Produced through the grassroots efforts of individuals and small communities, the first MUDs implemented important frameworks for narrative fiction and emphasized the structure of rules-based gaming engines left powerful precedents for future generations of developers to follow. MUDs most important contribution, however, was the innate emphasis on social interactivity in-game that would position virtual worlds paradigmatically as places that were not static and required interaction, whether on the part of the developers updating the narrative and environment, or the social interaction between players. Foundationally, these MUDs began life without commercial incentivization and were free to play for anyone who could access them (which was quite difficult without mass access to the internet) for almost an entire decade from the time of their inception in the mid-1970’s to the mid 1980’s; these games were made out of love for the medium and a passion for sharing that love with others. (Citation Castronova p.10)

Arguably the most influential of these games were MUD, created by a University of Essex Computer Science undergraduate named Roy Trubshaw, and Habitat released seven years later, written originally by Randy Farmer and Chip Morningstar for LucasFilm. MUD began as a pet project of Trubshaw, an avid gamer and skilled programmer, while he had free time, utilizing the University’s computer labs and support from his friends and teachers. Trubshaw had wanted to create a game that could capture the role-playing elements of his favorite MUDs, like the text-based Zork I (1980) and HAUNT (1979) computer games (also designed by college students), and introduce multiplayer elements to his game that would make it more interactive, social and fun. Trubshaw had finished coding the first version of his video game by the fall of 1978 and had designed it entirely using a basic assembly language called Macro-10 mainly to simply establish whether the game’s virtual world could be maintained and shared with other players and accessible through multiple terminals. Following the release of a working “Version I”, Trubshaw began work on a second version that ultimately failed to accommodate updates and added features that were being added to the game as Trubshaw tweaked with the structure and listened to his friends’ opinions about what should be included in the game. With the revelation that the Macro-10 language couldn’t support dynamic changes in design, Roy devised the third version of his game, using two separate coding languages for the game engine (e.g. physical rules) and the game world (enemies, quests, interface etc.). In coding the engine Trubshaw used a predecessor language to the “C” computer language (most computer systems use a variant of this language today) and the game world was coded with his own designed language, dubbed MUDDL (Multi-User Dungeon Definition Language). All of this was occurring in an early era of computer age, where for many, it was a revelation that computer language had to be dynamically designed to symbolically instruct the computer environments how to function and how to create dynamic virtual worlds that people could interact with.

With the phenomenon of computing still confined to relatively niche communities of academics, scientists, small groups of coders and military personnel, programming languages were much less complicated and creative than the languages society uses today in programming and game development. Assembly languages like Macro-10, like most creative languages, both computer and human, revolved around the principle that inputs of certain computer-recognized symbols would signify specific meanings (actions), and that by transferring these symbols through outputs, the computer could derive meaning and thus function in intended ways. This was important because it meant that the system, the engine of the game, pivoted on a rules-based physical architecture whereby the game could be “instructed” to function according to certain of rules (e.g. if player chooses a, consequence is b). The circulation of symbols within machines, like within cultures, conferred certain meanings, but, however, computers were not able then to “understand” meanings and were simply interpreting symbols. It took the work of designers and the interaction of players to really grant understanding upon these virtual worlds. Therefore, fundamentally, virtual worlds may be “persistent” without players, but can only encapsulate culture when actual humans are interacting with a games designed environments. Because these communities of gamers and coders were still tight-knight and relatively isolated small bands of people, the culture of these virtual worlds would need to be spread via mass communicative methods before the culture could spread and form the “biomass” of online virtual cultures that we see today in the world’s most popular MMOs (Stephenson quote).

Eventually, virtual worlds found a conduit to travel to others via the coincidental proximity of the British Telecom research facility to the University of Essex, leading to the University being selected to pilot test a packet-switching service called EPSS that could connect to the US-based ARPA Net (Advanced Research Project Agency). Packet switching services, like EPSS and the American ARPA, were early incarnations of what we now recognize as the Internet. These systems were comprised of a mass of networked terminals connected through wires, capable of pushing raw information, regardless of content or type, through to other terminals connected within the network though, of course, at much slower speeds and with far less total bandwidth (how much data can be carried through wires) than we enjoy today. The EPSS link to ARPA Net allowed for the tiny band of programmers and gamers at the University of Essex to connect with researchers and fellow programmers across the Atlantic, eventually attracting groups of American designers, engineers, academics and gamers oversees to check out MUD. By 1983 all universities in the U.K. were connected to a mass packet switching system called JANet (Joint Academic Network), while the formerly experimental EPSS was expanded and became the PSS (Packet Switch Stream). These two innovations allowed for MUD to effectively become the first “viral” videogame, spreading by word of mouth on packet switching and BBS (Bulletin Board Systems) networks. (It is interesting to note that the later incarnations of the internet would absorb these BBS systems into recognize as forums, where people can come to access files located in a centralized virtual space.)   read







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