How Many Words?

By Shamus
on May 7, 2017
Filed under:
Random

I have been doing this site for a dozen years, but the question didn’t occur to me until now. I noticed the three-year anniversary of my Patreon campaign was coming up and I was looking for a way to quantify my overall output. The question is:

How many words do I write in a year?

Of course, this number will go up and down from year to year. Some years my big project is a comic that will naturally be more image than words. Other years I end up posting most of my words on the Escapist. Sometimes I’ll focus on video content and sometimes I’ll lose my mind and write over a hundred thousand words about one videogame franchise.

But still. Even if I don’t have a convenient way to measure stuff I’ve done for other sites, we ought to be able to get some sort of handle on how many words I write on this site, right? I mean, I’ve got the database right here. (You can’t see it, but I’m holding up the database and gesturing with it right now.) That should have all the information we need.

I suppose the first step is to filter out the stuff not written by me. To date, 5,025 posts have been published on this site. (This includes posts you haven’t read yet, like the future entries in my Arkham City and Zenimax vs. Facebook series.) 321 of them have been written by other people, and the remaining 4,704 posts were written by me. So all we need to do is get a word count on those posts and we’ll have what we need, right?

Well…

Continue reading »


202020262 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.



What Are You Playing These Days?

By Shamus
on May 5, 2017
Filed under:
Video Games

This was going to be my first impressions on Diablo III. Yes, 5 years after Diablo III was released I suddenly got the urge to see what the fuss was about.

It all started when I watched Joseph Anderson’s critique of the expansion and I saw how some of the late-game combat worked and how some of the skill trees operated. I started thinking that maybe there was enough complexity to be worth a look. My initial impression of the beta back in 2012 was that Diablo III was very pretty, but hopelessly dull and shallow. Also the “always online single-player” was pretty off putting. It still is. I guess the $20 price tag for the base game made the decision a little easier.

As I played, my “first impressions” post grew into a mini-review, which grew into a full review, which then expanded into analysis, which made me think that maybe this isn’t the kind of thing I ought to dash out over the space of a day and a half. That’s probably for the best anyway. Making something thoughtful and analytical is usually better than just blurting out the first 1,000 words that come charging out of the atavistic crevices of my brain. But this does leave me without a post for today.

So let me ask a question that’s pretty much always on my mind: What are you folks playing these days?

I don’t mean “what mobile game are you using to kill time while waiting for the bus”. I mean what game is really consuming your thoughts and attention in your free time? Or if you don’t have enough free time, what game would you spend it on if you did? Old stuff? New stuff? AAA stuff? Indies? Platformers? Shooters? Shooters? Visual novels? Is all of the time going into one title or are you splitting your attention between multiple games? There’s a really big world of games out there these days.

For me:

Primary: I’ve been playing the new 0.15 update for Factorio. It’s a pretty big improvement across the board, but after several hours I’ve only just begun to get a feel for the new content.

Secondary: I’ve also been playing Diablo III. I can’t decide if this is the best terrible game I’ve ever played, or the worst awesome game I’ve ever played. Nothing is an accident here. Blizzard made exactly the game they wanted to. But the game they wanted to make keeps deviating from the game I expect in strange ways.


A Hundred!A Hundred!202020203There are more than 282 comments. But less than 284



Arkham City Part 15: Sniper, No Sniping!

By Shamus
on May 4, 2017
Filed under:
Batman

Batman emerges from the GCPD building and heads for Joker’s Steel Mill to recover the cure for t-NOPE! It’s time for another distraction!

Helicopter

The news helicopter, just before it takes a missile.

The news helicopter, just before it takes a missile.

Vicki Vale is just outside the police building in a helicopter, shining her spotlight in Batman’s eyes like a dingbat. Joker has got his hands on some rocket launchers by this point, and so he has his men shoot her down. The tail is blown off of her helicopter and she goes spinning out of control, flying out of the player’s view.

Judging by where she lands, the pilot evidently flew this half-a-helicopter over several rooftops, gaining altitude in the process. He was then able to descend straight down and land on a patch of highway in a small canyon of crumbling buildings. And then it exploded, burned to a crisp, disintegrated the pilot, and left Vicki Vale with black smudges on her face and very slightly disheveled hair. The aircraft and all of her gear exploded, but she’s still holding her cell phone which means she can still somehow maintain her live feed.

Snipers have converged on her position. I have no idea how Joker’s goons got here. This part of the city is flooded, so the only way to get around is by either swimming in the freezing water or gliding overhead using your superhero cape, and I’m going to assume those options aren’t available to Joker Goons #151 through #155.

It’s silly, but this segment serves a purpose. Several actually.

First, we need to slow Batman down a bit. The player thinks that Joker has the cure and that Batman will die without it. Naturally the worry is that he won’t leave any for our hero. The next time we see Joker it will be Clayface-Joker, looking healthy. It might feel a little strange if we go directly from the Freeze Fight to our confrontation with Joker. The writer needs to create some space in the minds of the audience for the Joker to be “cured”.

Continue reading »


202020201There are now 81 comments. Almost a hundred!



Nan o’ War CHX: Vince Neil’s Tatuado

By Rutskarn
on May 3, 2017
Filed under:
Lets Play

I’ve started a new job, which is good. But I haven’t played any more Blood and Gold: Caribbean!, which is bad. But I have just enough time to write a post. But I’ve run out of screenshots. But I have some I’d taken, but never used. But I don’t have much to say about them.

I think I’ve worked out a compromise. Today, I’m going to post my leftover screenshots of Blood and Gold: Caribbean! And on an entirely unrelated note, I am going to tell you about Vince Neil’s Tatuado.

Because no-one else will.

Continue reading »


20201454 comments. It's getting crowded in here.



Zenimax vs. Facebook Part 1: The Troubled History of VR

By Shamus
on May 2, 2017
Filed under:
Column

Back in February of this year, a Texas jury awarded half a billion dollars to ZeniMax in the long-running Zenimax vs. Facebook case. Half a billion bucks is a lot of money, even for these titans. Zenimax is of course the parent company of Bethesda, of Skyrim and Fallout 4 fame. Facebook owns Oculus, the former darling of the VR headset scene. So while in court this was a fight between Zenimax and Facebook, to the gaming community this was a fight between “Bethesda” and “Oculus”.

I don’t really care about the petty slap-fight between these two gargantuan companies as they bicker over a pile of money neither one of them needs or knows what to do with, but there are some really interesting side-arguments going on here about source code and VR.

Continue reading »


202020363 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.



The Joy of Candy

By Shamus
on Apr 30, 2017
Filed under:
Personal

I mentioned this last week, but not everyone listens to the podcast. So here is the text version:

One of the great delights of parenthood is introducing someone to candy. You get to be the one to put the very first piece of chocolate in the mouth of another human being. You get to see the look on someone’s face when they discover that chocolate is a thing that exists!!! Granted, they haven’t usually mastered language enough to describe the experience, but (judging by most photo albums) toddler facial expressions are worth a thousand pictures.

Things didn’t work out this way with our oldest. When Bay was growing up she couldn’t tolerate candy. Give her some candy, and twenty minutes later she’s gone red in the face, with dark circles under her eyes, and is engaging in uncharacteristic self-stimming behavior. As a parent, it was pretty unsettling. I’m not going to detail all of our efforts to figure out exactly what things were doing this to her, but it was not a precise process. Eventually we discovered that if we kept her away from corn and the usual food dyes, she was fine.

About the same time, we discovered I couldn’t have corn either. My symptoms were different, but the result was the same: Eat corn, feel terrible.

We called this a “food allergy”, but I’m not convinced this has anything to do with the immune system. Then again, I don’t know what it is. When I was growing up, I never heard of anyone who was “allergic” to corn. That’s crazy! That’s like being allergic to water! But then as the 90s rolled around I’d occasionally hear about people having this problem. Then in the 00s the problem afflicted Bay and I. These days it doesn’t seem uncommon at all. I know several people who can’t touch corn without taking a voyage through the Valley of Regret, down the river of Oh God Why Did I Eat That.

The worst is when I go to a party or family gathering. Continue reading »


2020202016There are now 96 comments. Almost a hundred!



The Site is Shaping Up

By Shamus
on Apr 28, 2017
Filed under:
Notices

Yes, I know we’re all sick to death of talking about fonts, cascading style sheets, and site layout. But it needs to be done. I mean, you wouldn’t want the site to still look like this would you? Of course not. Let’s just get it over with.

The short version: I’m nearly done tinkering with the site. Let me know if anything is still broken in terms of usability. Please be specific.

The 1,000 word version:

If you’ve ever clicked on the “archives” drop-down box above, you’ve probably noticed that this site has been running continuously since 2005. There are people old enough to vote now who weren’t old enough to read when this site began. During that time, screens have become both larger and smaller. Desktop users have embraced 16:9 jumbotron monitors while mobile users have created a demand for sites that can be comfortably read on a five-inch screen.

The well of content is deeper and the needs of the readership are more complex. This wouldn’t be a big deal if I was one of those fancy professional web developers with hipster glasses, an iMac, and a $10 Starbucks coffee too complex to pronounce. But I’m an aesthetically numb engineer and I’m mostly half-assing my way through this increasingly challenging job. Some of the challenges are just a normal part of web development, while others are problems created by past-me. (That lazy bastard.)

So let’s look at the problems I’ve left for myself. Also I’m going to “decorate” this post with archived images of how the blog looked in years past.

Continue reading »


A Hundred!203There are 123 comments here. I really hope you like reading.



Arkham City Part 14: Freeze Tag

By Shamus
on Apr 27, 2017
Filed under:
Batman

Dr. Freeze has set up shop in the old Gotham City Police Department. He’s got his weapons back and he’s wearing his suit. Batman hands over the blood and Freeze sticks it into a machine that looks like a centrifuge but is actually a space magic science machine. The cure appears in less time than it takes to make toast. I’m sure you’ll be unsurprised to discover the cure comes in the form of blue science juice.

Before Batman went crawling around under Arkham City playing Tomb Raider for three hours, these two had agreed that Batman would get some blood from Ra’s, and Freeze would use it to synthesize a cure. But now that he’s holding the cure in his hand, Freeze wants to use it to negotiate with Batman.

That’s actually kind of reasonable. Freeze is a supervillain, he doesn’t like Batman, and he’s not really getting anything out of this deal.

Joker has kidnapped Nora, Freeze’s frozen wife. Freeze wants Batman to rescue her. Again, this is reasonable. If Freeze storms the place and starts killing Joker’s guys, one of them might hurt Nora. Or she might be hurt in the battle. Or they might threaten to hurt her and he’d have no choice but to retreat. But Batman? This is the perfect job for him. He can slip in, pacify the guards, and secure Nora’s cryogenic container.

Continue reading »


201737 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.



Nan o’ War CH9: Fifteen Men on a Big Ol’ Chest

By Rutskarn
on Apr 26, 2017
Filed under:
Lets Play

Having just killed a bunch of thugs to protect a man I’d just beaten up to scare him into paying me to kill a bunch of other thugs who were probably paid to beat him up to scare him into paying me to protect him, I think I’ve proven that my capacity for vicious, backbiting, syntactically ambiguous crime is bottomless. Really, I have no moral standards whatsoever. But you know what I do have?

Regular standards. Screw this Mickey Mouse mine mission that keeps popping up. Actually, you know what, screw this whole territory. I think I’ve had enough of rum-dandy colonial life. Time to really commit to this romantic aesthetic and cruise up the island chain to Þe Olde Pyrate Faction.

Note the differences between a pirate town and a regular town. For one thing, there`s a pirate flag. For another, when I set foot on shore, all Spaniards worldwide wrinkle their noses in unison and make a note to hate that granny they`ve never met.
Note the differences between a pirate town and a regular town. For one thing, there's a pirate flag. For another, when I set foot on shore, all Spaniards worldwide wrinkle their noses in unison and make a note to hate that granny they've never met.

Behold the Caicos Islands! I can’t wait for these to be settled, uh, ten years from now.

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20203Feeling chatty? There are 43 comments.



The End of an Era

By Shamus
on Apr 25, 2017
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

I’ve been collaborating with Josh Viel since 2010. We’ve done Spoiler Warning for seven years, and The Diecast for Four. But as of now we’re going our separate ways. While I haven’t personally spoken to Chris yet, I’ve been told he’s leaving too.

We’ve had disagreements over how I run this site. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but at the same time I need to explain the disagreement or I’ll end up buried in questions, rumors, and speculation. So here’s the short version: He’s been unhappy with how I run this community and he couldn’t in good conscience continue to participate. The most recent Spoiler Warning post was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I didn’t step in when he thought I should, and I allowed comments to stand unchallenged that he thought deserved censure. (In my own reckoning, I should simply have closed the comments when people got angry. I didn’t feel the need to personally weigh in.) This was only the latest in a long series of disagreements over this sort of thing. This has been a long time coming.

Continue reading »


A Hundred!A Hundred!A Hundred!A Hundred!20208448 comments. Keep commenting and you're liable to break the internet.



Diecast #197: BATTLEGROUNDS, Westerado, Call of Duty

By Shamus
on Apr 24, 2017
Filed under:
Diecast

Direct download (MP3)
Direct download (ogg Vorbis)
Podcast RSS feed.

Hosts: Rutskarn, Shamus, Campster and Baychel.

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2020201272 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.



The Worst Job

By Shamus
on Apr 23, 2017
Filed under:
Personal

The modem coughs and screams like someone beatboxing to white noise. Why the shit do modems always default to ear-splitting volume levels, and why can I never remember where you go to change it?

The connection happens and I’m ready to begin work for the day. I open Microsoft Outlook Express, hit “Check Email”, and then brace myself for the worst part of the day.

It’s 1997.

Part of my job involves answering technical questions from our users. This means my email is public. It’s posted on our website, and it’s in my signature on the message board. Which means spam bots have had years to discover it. Which means all the spammers have it. Also, a couple of years ago our company went from free-to-play to a paid model. This pissed people off, and part of the public backlash / protest was that someone signed our emails up for various porn mailing lists.

I don’t know if it’s the mailing lists or the spam bots, but these days I get between one and two hundred emails a day, and 90% of them are advertisements for pornography.

Maybe if you’re young you imagine “porn” means HD video of attractive people doing obvious things that I don’t need to belabor here. But this is 1997, and spammers don’t yet have vast botnets of compromised machines to deliver their spam payload. The internet is slow, bandwidth is expensive, and spammers still sort of pay to send out their spam.

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2020202016There are now 96 comments. Almost a hundred!




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