Desert Bus Appearance

 By Shamus Nov 22, 2010 38 comments

Here is my appearance on Desert Bus from yesterday:


Link (YouTube)

I was a bit more flippant with answers than I’d normally be, but this was very much a fast-paced affair and I didn’t want to slow things down. The questions about D&D were interesting. Too interesting. The answers required more thought than I could have given them at the moment, and I was shy of anything that required a lengthy reply. Remember that
I was talking into a phone which was going to a cell phone which was feeding into an open mic which was then broadcast over Ustream. I could barely hear James and Paul. (They were easy to hear on the live feed, but that was on a five-second delay.) So I tried to stick to simple questions and keep it moving.

The unnamed technology behind Desert Bus is a remarkable apparatus. Pieced together from web cams, old videogame systems, their video production equipment, numerous computers, monitors, laptops, and a half dozen bits of free (to use) software. They have their live feed. Another feed of the game being played. They have a burgeoning chat room fed to a huge monitor so that the driver can read it. They have the website for announcements and links, and email for side conversations. Telephones for interviews. There’s they Paypal donation system, and then all the scrips that they use to hook into that and display running totals on the website and on the live feed. Then they have some kind of crazy organization system to keep track of the challenges, auctions, and prizes.

Everyone is so impressed with how much money they raise, but I’m impressed they’re able to get the system working at all. Heck, I’m impressed they can even go for ten minutes without throwing a breaker.

201838 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.


  1. Roper says:

    I am so glad you have posted this. I missed your little interview and was so dissapointed.

  2. MarkHawk says:

    It made me sad to hear that you don’t have time for D&D any more. :(

    I also apologise to anyone I pissed off by spamming the question on the chat. :P

    • Klay F. says:

      Its okay. When you have 1500 people on an IRC chat, your questions get swallowed up by the miasma of idiocy being spammed so quickly that nobody has time to read them. Pretty much the only way to get your questions answered is to just spam them once every 5 seconds. Even still, the LRR crew only seemed to pick the stupidest questions to answer while letting the interesting questions fall by the wayside.

  3. Fists says:

    That show, or whatever it is, is strangely addictive.
    Likewise glad you posted, I was sleeping.

  4. Greg says:

    Are we going to see questions you’d have wanted to give longer answers to appear later as blog posts?

    The ‘game with no combat’ idea is one I’ve seen a few times with various degrees of success and I’m curious if you’ve got a more detailed take on it beyond ‘abandon all ye hope gms who would railroad their players into here’ and your favoriate puzzle might be interesting to see too :)

    • krellen says:

      My answer to running a game without combat is to do it on a forum. In person, the combat rules of various games aren’t slow enough as to discourage use, but when you try to map them through in a forum-run game, where response times are much longer (hours or days can pass between combat rounds, for instance), players are far more willing to find ways to avoid combat if possible.

    • John Callaghan says:

      Actually, most of the RPGs I run have little to no combat and they work well. (Honestly.) Of course, it depends what the players’ expectations of the system are. They aren’t likely to go to Nobilis for a dungeon bash!

      Having said that, being deliberately inappropriate can be a laugh. For a chuckle, I ran the introductory scenario from Call Of Cthulhu (The Haunted House) using Golden Heroes superhero PCs. It took 20 minutes, at least half of which was character generation.

  5. LadyTL says:

    When I was watching it early on, they actually did make some comments about being worried about power. Something about power strips plugged into power strips. So they are probably keeping a close watch on where they plug things in and how.

    • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

      By knowing the maximum power drain of the equipment and which wall socket is behind which breaker.

      I don’t about US, but in Finland there’s usually three main breakers, each for a different phase. The maximum current for each of those is 16 A without a special permit (I don’t know how hard it would be to get one) and then there are minor breakers for, say, living room, bathrooms etc.

      Anyway, I could theoretically get a total of 48 amperes. With the voltage in Europe being 230V, that would amount to 11 040 watts. Of course some are lost because you don’t want to push the limit. Or even get near it. And you’d have to fit everything on three separate groups, each maxing at 3 680 W. But that’s why I wrote “theoretically”.

      • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

        I also wrote it because the power mentioned on most appliances don’t match the actual drain, at least at peak.

        So let’s try something closer to reality. 3 680 W absolute maximum per breaker, but the minor breakers usually have split some to lighting and an electric oven. It’s still possible to blow a breaker, but usually you have to turn the oven on. So let’s drop a third of the max power out. 2 426 W (rounding down).

        To count for peak drain, and give breathing room, let’s halve it. 1 213 W.
        However that doesn’t count for loss due to wiring etc. So let’s drop a fifth off. 970.4 W.
        Round down for miscalculations (both those before, and when adding up devices) to 900 W.

        That’s per breaker, so 3×900 W. Not calculating, because it’s important to keep in mind that it’s spread across.

        900 W translates to ~3.9 A in a 230 V area and to ~8.2 A in a 110 V area, per breaker. And note that I started with a 16 A limit in a 230 V area, so that includes plenty of breathing room, so blowing a breaker would demand impressively bad luck. Not to mention that if you decide not to be careful, you can just double the amperes or watts and use those without necessarily blowing a breaker. In fact, it should still be unlikely.
        (Incidentally 1800W, 7.8A w/ 230V, 16.4A w/ 110V. Though I’d recommend 16.3A, so you don’t go over 1800W.)

        • wtrmute says:

          My building is very old (1940s), so we only get one phase for the whole building. However, the breaker I have on the street stops at 40 A while the main breakers at home are rated for 30 A. Probably because we use 127 V rather than 220 V, so it makes sense that the breakers would stop at about half. But anyway, they’re 127 V too, right? So I think the current limit would be closer to 30 A rather than 16 A. So, double all power limits in the post above?

          • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

            I’m going to go through the calculations again, showing the math (tl;dr at end):

            The absolute limit (V x A): 127 x 30 = 3 810 W.

            Dropping third (W x (2/3)): 2 540 W.

            Dropping for unknown loss (W x 0.8): 2032 W.

            Not halving this time, could just do it in the end for safety.

            Rounding down (I like to ignore everything after the first number, but only saving the first and second would be better): 2 kW. Okay, 2 000 W.

            Getting amperes (W / V or W : V): In this case 2000/127, which gives ~15.7 A. (it went 15.748…)

            So 2000 W, 15.7 A. Note that I rounded downwards much more heavily in my first example.

            A drop in voltage is a drop in power, unless the current picks up the slack (voltage x ampere = power). Luckily yours does, because the same devices need roughly the same amount of power regardless of the voltage. Not getting more bang for the breaker, but at least everything works equally per breaker.

            I need to emphasize that I’m being very pessimistic, because that’s what I’m trained to do. Also, when I had written “major breaker” I meant fuse, when I wrote “minor breaker” I meant an actual circuit breaker (which are reusable).

            tl;dr: No doubling.

      • Decius says:

        Yeah, US households tend to be single phase* AC, mostly 110V. The amperage limit of each circuit is determined by the electrical distribution equipment that you have installed: If you want to pay for heavy-duty switches, breaker boxes, and wiring, you can put as much wattage on the grid as it will bear. Because the breakers are set based on the wiring, you might have a box with a bus breaker that trips when a total of 40A flow through the entire box, with ten or more 8A breakers off of the bus. Fuses are little used for household use anymore, because too many people would ‘bypass’ them when spares were unavailable. I think that they are still used by distribution centers, since multimegawatt circuit breakers are expensive. I think the biggest I’ve ever seen was one on the output of a generator rated for 2MW 480V three phase AC.

        *As in, any place that needs to have three phase AC might have to pay for lines from the distribution center. Some find it cheaper to purchase motor/generator equipment to get three phase power.

        • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

          Good to know about the single phase.

          I’ve heard of several cases where people placed a new fuse in the box without even turning the electricity off, having it then blow. Meaning that whatever blew the fuse before was still connected, because they couldn’t put two and two together. Worst yet, some actually decide that the whole thing is the fault of these “fuse things” and then shove a metal piece into the box. Yeah, try to explain that one to your insurance company when the house catches on fire.

          So remember people: When moving to a new house, always check that all the fuse boxes actually contain fuses, so you can’t strain the wires so much that they’ll heat up and set something on fire. Actually, you might want to check that before you decide to take it, because there could be a problem in the wiring that is causing the fuse to blow.

    • silver says:

      I’m not 100% sure, but I heard one of them say they were “at the office,” which might be an ironic reference to their basement, but it might mean actual commercial space. If the latter, they’ll have drastically improved power availability than they would in residential space.

  6. Arkady says:

    About seven minutes in, my favourite bit to take out of context:

    QUESTIONER: A book.
    SHAMUS: A what?!

    Anyway, interesting interview.

  7. SatansBestBuddy says:

    To answer the question on why your blog’s more popular than the average blog, I’d say it’s all in the communication.

    You have points to make, and you’re damn good at getting that point across, plus you’ve got enough wit to be entertaining and enough wisdom to sound smart on pretty much anything you write about so that your points are always very, very persuasive.

    Basically, if I had to tell somebody why DRM is bad, I’d pull up one of your many, many (many, many) articles on it and read it to them, cause I know it’ll be worded better than anything I could come up with myself.

    DM of the Ring doesn’t hurt much, either; in fact, I’d say a lot of your past stuff is what draws people in, much more than your current stuff. (though that certainly draws people in, as well, it’s just you have more in the past then you do now)

    In short, you know how to write.

    • Joe Cool says:

      I got pulled in with DM of the Rings, like a lot of people I think. I stayed because the content was just plain interesting, well written, well thought out, witty, and insightful.

      In short, Shamus, your blog is more popular than many other blogs because you’re a better writer than many other bloggers.

      Edit: It also helps that the discussion here is more thoughtful and civil than just about anywhere else on the internet, and many places in the real world. You seem to attract a good crowd.

      • Galad says:

        I’ll third the pull of DMotR, it’s what got me to follow this blog regularly, in fact, that’s the only blog I follow. It’s the kind of gem that justifies the existence of the Internet despite all the crap it has. Shamus mentioned he felt S4E2 of Spoiler Warning feels like success..while I won’t try to deny that, I’d think he first knew success with DMoTR – just look how the first strips in it have barely 20 comments at most while the last one has a whopping 700+

        • Sphore says:

          Add another to the DMotR crew… the comic drew me in, but the content made me stay long after I finished my first read-through. Thanks for putting up the interview!

  8. Hitch says:

    I like the idea of a Desert Bus Spoiler Warning… sort of. In any given Spoiler Warning there are segments where you sort of drift off topic. You start talking about other games than the one currently being played or other non-related subjects. This is usually when the current game has hit a repetitive stretch and you’ve said all there is to say about that but you’ve been reluctant to cut away from showing a complete play-through. But given the shorter format, and the desire to retain viewers, I would suggest just flashing a title card of “here Josh killed a few dozen more robots” or “here Josh spent 20 minutes running across the wasteland” whatever is appropriate and skipping to the next interesting bit. Then take any interesting off-topic discussions you had and laying it over Desert Bus footage as a fake Spoiler Warning. See if you can fool anyone into thinking you spent hours watching Josh drive a bus. Just record a fake opening, “Hi this is Shaumus” “I’m Josh” “I’m Rutskarn” “I’m Mumbles” “and we’re playing Desert Bus” to stick at the beginning of every one. I don’t think it would matter that you never actually mention the game you’re supposedly playing.

    • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

      Well, Shamus should make a short recap in the beginning every now and then. “And Josh has been driving for five hours now. Very entertaining.” Toss in an occasional joke, “last time Josh got pulled over by a police officer for not using a turn signal. Great use of motion capture by the way” and no-one would be wiser.

  9. Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

    About System Shock:
    I was born in 1985. When I read about System Shock in a Finnish game magazine (I think it was Pelit lit. “Games”) my curiosity was piqued. I was nine, so I wouldn’t have used that word or an equivalent in Finnish necessarily, but still. Some time later I got to try it. Unable to grasp the controls, I had to give up. Then computers and OSes changed, and playing it would’ve been possible only through an emulator but Dosbox didn’t exist yet. And then took some time to work with sshock.

    So I ended up playing the original System Shock in 2006. And I loved it. And I prefer it over System Shock 2. Mainly because I think the cybernetics/software system is better and more sensible/believable, but still. Visuals took some getting used to though.

    Incidentally (from Wikipedia): “A popular feature of DOSBox is its ability to capture screenshots and record gameplay footage. The video is compressed using the Zip Motion Block Video codec. [snip] The video recording feature was added in version 0.65.”

    One more thing. You’re not cloned when you die in the first one. The robots and cyborgs are programmed to disable and then haul people into the “respawn” devices, because unless the player has flipped the override switch on they turn people into cyborgs. (Been bugging me ever since you erred in Spoiler Warning and I didn’t find a single correcting comment.)

    • Decius says:

      I played the PC Gamer demo of System Shock when it first came out. Hundreds of times. The demo covered only the first floor, until you got to the elevator. The controls were relatively novel but easy to learn.(A game of the same era, CyClones, also had the turn-keyboard aim-mouse mechanic, but it was crap for unrelated reasons *cough*worstfullmotionvideointhehistoryofvideogames*cough*.)

      It was much, much later when I revisited it. More recent games had broken me of the style required to fight sprite-based enemies in a first-person polygonal world. I haven’t seen looking and aiming controlled separately in a long time. It should come back: maybe put q and e (or right shoulder and left shoulder) as ‘glance left’ and ‘glance right’ with an option to ‘toggle glance left/right’. I know in a lot of games, I sometimes want to fire without adjusting my aim and pay attention to something else, or look down a side passage without facing it.

  10. Fat Tony says:

    Shamus on spoiler warning: LRR:Anything else you could say about it?
    Shamus:No! actually no!

    5:15 It was an accident!

    7:20 Have you met any spoiler warning co-hosts?
    (*Me:Expects Rutskarn & Josh(In guise as Redginals Cuthbert) to burts throught the wall and steal….{the one with specs whos name i’ve forgotten} WHILE BUNNYHOPPING)

    Me:On desrt bus, you should make some kind of mod for desert bus that makes it more interesting.

    I entertaing the internet instead of my friends, I thanks Shamus. (if your friends want you to entertain them get them to do some kind of project with you? Maybe I Hit It With My Axe style)

  11. Neil Polenske says:

    And here you are Shamus complaining about how hard Spoiler Warning is to coordinate! :D

  12. GoodApprentice says:

    Thanks for posting this Shamus. It was a good “appearance”, although you seemed a little stiff in that corner caption ;)

    I just wanted to point out that you’re certainly not an old man. You’re the same age as me and my gaming buddies and the typical age of the average computer gamer.

  13. Klay F. says:

    Right before the interview took place, there LRR guys were calling you “an Escapist editor”…I laughed at that… NOT because the idea seemed preposterous, but because if Shamus ever did an official review of a game like Russ Pitts does (complete with video supplement), I would finally be able to die happily.

  14. skeeveti says:

    damn right im mad about this

  15. El Quia says:

    So, about those “too interesting” D&D questions… how about making and article out of them? I really miss the pen & paper RPG content in this site :(

    Then again, maybe you have your hands full? It’s ok, I was just saying :p

  16. Dice says:

    Well, because the D&D questions were so interesting… I’ll have to agree with the poster above me: Why don’t you do any D&D posts anymore? I always really enjoyed those and they’ve given me quite some inspiration and insight as a DM. I’d love to know your best puzzle and thoughts on possibilities for combatless campaigns for example.

  17. Specktre says:

    Was there for the live interview. I loved your testimony about your daughter.

    But please, look for work!!! We, the readers here, love you and don’t want anything bad to happen! I’m job searching myself, and it’s not fun. Quite frankly, I have not been very active in the search myself; partly because of discouragement, partly because of college, and partly because I’m a horrible procrastinator. But if I don’t continue to try, I’m going to be trouble as far as money is concerned. People like us–that is to say, people who need to find a source of income–can’t give up! We have to persevere!
    I have school and stuff to pay for, and you have a family.

    Now, I’m really sorry if I’m coming across as nosey or anything, and I’m not trying to harp on you (or anything). I guess I’m just trying to show that I care, and you have, in a way, played a part in encouraging me to keep job searching.

    I’ve said it before, you’re a cool guy–and you have 15 years of experience under your belt whereas some people only have, like, 2. I have FULL confidence in you!

    So… yeah. Loved the interview. And hold strong.

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