The Race that Eats its Young

By Shamus
on Dec 28, 2016
Filed under:
Movies

46 comments

I watched the documentary The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats its Young a few months ago. It describes one of the most brutal races in the world, and follows a number of contestants as they tackle the challenge in 2012. The movie has stayed with me since then. I keep thinking back to it and wondering at the strange quirks and personal drives that compel people to do this to themselves.

I know calling something “The Dark Souls of [thing]” is horribly cliché by this point, but The Barkley Marathon really is the Dark Souls of footraces. It’s a 100 mile ultramarathon race. It consists of five loops around a 20-mile course. It must be completed in 60 hours or less. The course involves a great deal of climbing and overcoming physical barriers like mud, water, rocky terrain, prickly plants, and the more general inconveniences of untamed wilderness. It has considerably more elevation change than any other 100 mile race. There are no markers denoting the boundaries of the course. Navigation is done by way of written instructions describing natural landmarks, and the course changes every year. To keep navigation interesting, runners change direction with each lap. There is no aid along the way, aside from two places where the runners can acquire water. (And on one particularly cold year, some of the water had frozen.) The race is set up so that some of the laps are run in the dark.

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Dénouement 2016 Part 1: It’s OVER!

By Shamus
on Dec 27, 2016
Filed under:
Video Games

120 comments

And so another year gets all used up. Which means it’s time to look back on the videogame industry and try to extract some sort of signal from the raging noise.

Outside of videogames, this year sucked. It was ugly and stressful and stupid and I’m basically sick of the hate. I’ve got people I love all over the political spectrum, and so I spent about a year watching all the people I care about vilify each other on social media. Makes me glad I’m part of a hobby so dedicated to escapism.

Last year I noted that there were sort of two themes. On the indie side we had “Games about making games”, while on the AAA side we had bugs and glitches and terrible ports. Of course, the bugs and performance problems were mostly due to the fact that we were still early in the new console generation and so all the graphics engines were in the shake-out period.

A year later, we seem to be lingering in that shake-out period, plus we’re in the uncertainty of a half-step console generation, PLUS we’re in the early speculation phase of another full generation just around the corner. I have a feeling our engine technology is going to be a giant pile of chaos and dysfunction for the next couple of years.

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Don’t Go Away Mad, Disco Away

By Shamus
on Dec 26, 2016
Filed under:
Music

22 comments

Last week I posted that I was frustrated with the DAWDigital Audio Workstation. I use to make music and that I was looking for something new. Thanks for all the suggestions. I downloaded a bunch of them and I’ve spent a few days staring at mysterious interfaces and seeing how far I could get with a program before I needed to look for tutorials. I’m stubborn like that. Also, it’s a pretty good test of a program’s design.

I’m not going to post the full DAW vs. DAW breakdown. For one, I didn’t spend enough time with any of them to really do them justice. Secondly, I get the distinct impression only about six of you would care. Instead let’s just cut to the chase: So far my favorite of the new programs is Studio One. They have a Hippie Freeloader Edition for $Zero, and their mid-range edition is just $100 USD. These are really great prices by the standards of DAWs.

As an experiment, I decided to take a track I’d already made in my old Magix Music Maker and re-make it in the free version of Studio OneWhich is called Studio One Prime for some unfathomable reason. “Prime” sounds like it should be the name of the top-tier version, not the freeware one. But whatever.. Then I’d post both versions so we could compare. I already had this song done in Magix Music Maker (MMM), so I spent Christmas Day making another version in Studio One (S1).

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Merry Christmas

By Shamus
on Dec 25, 2016
Filed under:
Notices

56 comments

Between the time I moved out of my parent’s house and the time I got married, I spent a few years living alone. The holidays are strange when you’re alone. You don’t want to decorate, because it feels like you’re decorating for yourself. You could cook a meal, but you’re just cooking for yourself, and you already do that every night. What else are you going to do? Sing Christmas carols to yourself? Maybe buy yourself a present? Get hammered on eggnog and watch Die HardOn Christmas Eve I watched Die Hard with my son. It was his first time seeing it. He seemed to like it well enough, although I don’t think it will be the Christmas Classic for his generation that it was for mine. by yourself?

Actually I guess that last one kind of works.

Aside from the religion and consumerism, this time of year is about family and friendship. That’s a good thing to celebrate. But if you’re alone, then the holiday can make you feel even more alone. It feels like everyone else is eating awesome food, swapping presents, singing carols, and watching kitschy Christmas movies together while you sit in your non-decorated place eating non-holiday food. Everyone else is doing something you aren’t and if you try to do anything festive on your own it end up feeling sad and forced, like Kevin McCallister making a fake party in Home Alone. Except unlike Kevin, not even evil Joe Pesci wants to visit you.

So to all my friends and family who live alone: I’m thinking of you. Hope you enjoy yourself, however you decide to spend the day.

To everyone who isn’t alone: What are you doing here? It’s Christmas. Stop reading my blog and go do holiday stuff. You can read this when you roll into work on Tuesday morning feeling hungover and tired.

Merry Christmas.


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A Very Dead Rising Christmas

By Josh
on Dec 24, 2016
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

22 comments


Link (YouTube)

Merry Holidays! Happy Christmas! Festivus Hanukkah! Whatever holiday tradition you celebrate, we did our very best this year to make it a Very Special Event!

And by that I mean we managed to pull three of the five castmembers together at the last minute to record an hour of a game about zombies and old people that nobody apparently likes very much. It’s a Decemberween miracle!


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Errant Signal: Dead Rising 4

By Shamus
on Dec 23, 2016
Filed under:
Video Games

48 comments

Chris is a fan of the Dead Rising series. He actually bought me a copy of DR3 a while backThanks buddy! and I got to see what the series is all about. Now he’s played Dead Rising 4, and we discover the series has changed quite a bit this time around…


Link (YouTube)

Like Chris says at the start, Dead Rising is a polarizing game. Either you find it off-putting, or it gives you a kind of gameplay and tension that you just can’t get anywhere else. I know the zombie genre is played out at this point, but Dead Rising pre-dates the zombie craze and – until now – has been very much focused on doing its own thing.

Mechanically it’s kind of old-school Japanese survival horror, but thematically, it’s… uh? I dunno. Honestly, I was never able to figure out what the game was trying to be. Between the crafting, the unforgiving timer, the super-serious plot elementsFight to get a dose of anti-zombie serum to stop your young daughter from turning., gonzo world, goofy dress-up mechanics, and vague scattershot commentary on consumerism, I never had any idea what I was supposed to be feeling at any given moment. Is this supposed to be funny? Sad? Ironic?

I’m one of the people who dislikes the series. The timer is a complete killjoy for me. I hate this kind of time pressure. It’s not the good kind of tension you get from a “race against time” type story. Instead, it’s a sort of nagging nuisance, like knowing you can’t settle in an enjoy this game because you have to leave for work in twenty minutes. Everything about it seems engineered to inhibit my ability to have fun.

The game is also critic-proof, which means I can’t even enjoy tearing it apart for analysis. The game is such a mess of tones and ideas that you can’t zero in, figure out what the designers were trying to do, and see if they achieved it. No matter how stupid the story is, how frustrating the gameplay, how broken the mechanics, or how incoherent the themes, someone can always excuse it with, “No Shamus, you just don’t get it. They made that bit stupid on purpose. See, it’s actually satire.” Kojima has been getting away with this for decades. All criticism can be deflected with the “It’s satire!” defense.

But now it looks like this latest Dead Rising has been designed to make the series more “mainstream”. I know I just spent four paragraphs dumping on the game, but this sounds like a terrible idea. They’re abandoning the things that gave the series its personality. That’s like adding quicksave and quickload to Dark Souls. It doesn’t make me any more likely to play it, but it will probably alienate existing fans.

I hate to see something unique taken away, even if it’s something I don’t personally enjoy.



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Crash Dot Com Part 7: The Source

By Shamus
on Dec 22, 2016
Filed under:
Personal

66 comments

It’s the year 2000, and I’m still working on the virtual mall. The original plan called for lining up deals with distributors, or retailers, or existing online storefronts. I think the idea was that John Business would rent virtual storefronts to people who wanted to sell goods in our mall. I’m guessing those deals have been hard to come by, since it’s been ages since I’ve been given pictures of new stores and products to translate into 3D. At the start of the project I made a couple of demonstration stores, and I haven’t been given any real ones since then.

The lack of new content has given us some breathing room in the timetable. It’s been weeks since Roger – my boss and also a pretty good friend – stopped by my cubicle with a question or request from the people representing John Business, which means I have time to spend on other projects.

Security Through Obscurity

Is this enough obscurity? I can make it more obscure if you like.

Is this enough obscurity? I can make it more obscure if you like.

Roger really likes my work and has often wanted to get me the source code for our software. The coders guard the source jealously. Roger – being an executive of the company – technically has access to the source, but only in the sense that he has access to the machine where the source is hosted. He could drive an hour to downtown Boston to our hosting company, go through the layers of biometric securityWhich all seems pretty Star Trek here in 2000. and look directly at the machine in question, but he has no idea where the files are stored, what they look like, or how to access them.

Whenever he asks, the coders always reply with, “Why would you need that?”

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Music and the Desire to Improve

By Shamus
on Dec 21, 2016
Filed under:
Music

52 comments

About two and a half years ago I published Bad and Wrong Music Lessons, a series where I explained the few scraps of knowledge I’d shaken loose from the world of music. I followed that up with Project Button Masher, where I tried to push myself into doing new things by imitating various videogame soundtracks.

I haven’t really had much to say about music since then. One reason is basic anxiety.

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Object Oriented Debate Part 3: Damned if you do…

By Shamus
on Dec 20, 2016
Filed under:
Programming

75 comments

So the original problem is that programs turned into an incomprehensible mess. Too many disparate systems can make arbitrary changes to the state of the problem at any time.

The solution we’ve been using (or trying to use) for the last couple of decades is to stick the various bits of our program into appropriately named objects, and then fit those objects into a hierarchy.

If I have a SpaceMarine object then I should have a limited number of things that I can do to it. Perhaps Heal(), Damage(), or Spawn(), and so the inner workings of a SpaceMarine will be hidden from the outside world. This is called encapsulation. It keeps the complexity of the SpaceMarine from leaking out into the rest of the code, and it keeps the complexity of the rest of the code from polluting the SpaceMarine.

Now let’s discuss some of the objections to OOP. Remember that this particular conversation was started by Brian Will in his video:


Link (YouTube)

But I don’t want to simply repeat what Will says, so I’m going to offer my own criticism of OOP. If you want to hear his arguments, watch the video.

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Diecast #181: Rogue One, Super Mario Runner, VR

By Shamus
on Dec 19, 2016
Filed under:
Diecast

72 comments

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

Hosts: Josh, Rutskarn, Campster. Episode edited by Josh.

I couldn’t be on the show, since my family Christmas party was on the night we usually record. We’re not going to have a podcast for the next couple of weeks, since nobody wants to record a show on the eve / day of a major holiday.

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Twenty Minutes With Pre-Dynastic Egypt

By Shamus
on Dec 16, 2016
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

61 comments


Link (YouTube)

I’ve never heard of this game, but it looks really interesting. Rutskarn does his Russian accent in this episode, which means this instantly wins the coveted “Best Episode of Spoiler Warning 2016” award.


202020161 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.



Good Robot: Even Better Robot

By Shamus
on Dec 15, 2016
Filed under:
Good Robot

90 comments

The Good Robot team has been working to update and improve the game. The update is currently live on the public beta branch and will go out to all users probably in the next day or so.

I have to say, I loved coming back to Good Robot. There gets to be a point in a long-running project where you’re sick of the whole thing and just want it to be done. Than you get the post-release feedback and you start thinking about all the ways you could have made it better.

I may not like what Lucas did to the original Star Wars movies, but I can certainly understand the temptation to keep “polishing” something forever. Hopefully these are net improvements for people.

Partial list of changes:

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