Stolen Pixels #24:
Awesome’d: Episode 3

By Shamus
on Sep 26, 2008
Filed under:
Column

Fair warning: This installment of Stolen Pixels is my most evil comic to date. Yes, it’s even worse than the EA one about hookers and ice cream.

I’m going to leave comments open for this one, just to see what happens. I know the registration page at The Escapist is a high wall which many refuse to cross. (Slackers!) Once in a while I get emails or comments elsewhere on the site from people who have something to say about the comic but who won’t or can’t get into the forums over there. I thought I’d see what those folks have to say.

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From the Archives:

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  1. facus says:

    Why would you do this to us? ;_;
    Definitely didn’t see that coming. Though it is pretty funny.

  2. Jattenalle says:

    I don’t know how to react… I feel violated…
    *Cries a little*

  3. Factoid says:

    Actually it’s not the registration page…it’s the fact that it goes to a forum rather than a simple comment roll.

    Maybe it’s the registration does have a little to do with it, but there is something about the immediacy of a comment thread that I like as opposed to a forum.

    Both tend to invite morons, but forum threads tend to invite them to hang out LONGER. (your own community notwithstanding…but I doubt The Escapist enjoys the same level of discourse as this site)

  4. SimeSublime says:

    I don’t know if it’s just me, but the escapist is increibly slow. I’ve clicked on the link to the comic, clicked on the link to unfold the comments here, read the comments here, typed this, and the comic is still loading. I’m not even typing fast. Basically, I loath going to the Escapist to do anything simply due to the fact that it takes 10 times longer than anything else to load. You’re lucky your comics are so good.

    Edit: The page finally finished loading, and what do you know? It loaded everything *except* the comic. I had to refresh the page to get it to come up.

  5. Ozy says:

    If you’re talking about fanfiction crossovers, then you have to mention this useful tool: http://kaction.com/badfanfiction/

    “Your challenge is to write crossover fanfiction combining Spaceballs and Garfield. The story should use drug abuse as a plot device!”

  6. Matthew Allen says:

    HEHEHEHE!!! Fantastic. Well done. “Kiss Harry Potter….” HEHEHEHEHE!

  7. fair_n_hite_451 says:

    /me go shower now.

    You bad man. Very bad man.

  8. Pederson says:

    Pfft. I’ve had worse!

  9. rose glace says:

    > I know the registration page at The Escapist is a high
    > wall which many refuse to cross.

    it’s not just that. the entire escapist site is nasty:
    between fighting off cookies from a zillion different
    sites, trying to keep from plotzing at the colours and
    layout and being driven to distraction by the constant
    ‘nattering’ from all over the screen, i read pixels and
    sometimes listen to ben and then get the hell out of dodge.

    that said: the world needs more sam and max. write all you
    want; i’ll read it.

  10. Ouchies says:

    Wow, the Harry Potter quip had me “lol”.

    Good work.

  11. Melfina the Blue says:

    Very funny. (And you’re about 7 years too late on the fanfic thing).

  12. Sean w/o an H says:

    “Holy Kriss Kross with their pants on frontwards.”

    You just officially made my day, Shamus.

    and hopefully folks I know won’t ask the fanfic question anytime soon…

  13. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Ive tried registering on the escapist once,but something got screwed and I never got the mail.Then I gave up.

    Excelent comic Shamus.But Im already reading DMMs harry potter fanfic,so you are too late to violate me.

  14. I can’t speak for Sam and Max, but you’re channeling Strongbad pretty well, IMHO.

  15. Anon says:

    …since when is that a joke?

    Not funny, dude.

  16. Alex says:

    Remember when I used to write Pokémon fanfic, starring a trainer named Alex and his Slowpoke? No? Good.

    … Oh, raspberries.

  17. Al Shiney says:

    SP readers: What I object to is you automatically treat me like an inferior.

    Shamus: Well I am king.

    SP readers: Oh, king eh? Very nice. And how’d you get that, eh? By exploiting the readers. By hanging on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic and social differences in our society.

    — brief interlude —

    SP readers: Come and see the violence inherent in the system. Help! Help! I’m being repressed!

    Shamus: Bloody peasant!

    SP readers: Oh, what a giveaway! Did you hear that? Did you hear that, eh? That’s what I’m on about! Did you see him repressing me? You saw him, Didn’t you?

    Epilogue: And now Shamus, your dedicated readers/players have violated you right back, in a slightly different, though legally binding sense.

  18. TehShrike says:

    How much longer are you going to keep making posts here about Stolen Pixels? I’ve already got it on my RSS feed, your posts here make it show up twice in my feed reader. :-P

  19. Jeremiah says:

    Just be thankful it wasn’t slash fanfic… yet.

  20. Aergoth says:

    @Al Shiny Epic wins on the monty python reference.
    Now, if shamus could stick that in, I think we’d have pure comedic gold on our hands here.

    Also, I object to the slackers comment. The correct term is judicious waste of time.

  21. trousercuit says:

    If I don’t feel violated, am I a bad person?

    Hilarious, though.

  22. scragar says:

    I’m not a big fan of the escapist at all, I love their content, but between the terrible layout, tons of cookies and bad colour schemes I’ve never actually stuck around for anything more than a single page.
    I don’t think I’ve ever even noticed a link to the forums there, it’s just so bad(and after going out of my way to check for the link I see it, thin white on blue, anyone other than me just mistake that bar across the top for just being a lighter blue without text?).

    Regarding the forum vs comments thing I find that it’s more of a focus thing, in comments everyone is talking about the same topic, get a forum and threads suddenly become free to move away from a topic or merge(everyone has seen it happen, two people talk about a subject on one thread, then when they see each other on a different thread they go and continue the old threads discussion on the new one as well).

    And right now I’m conflicted, part of me wants to call you a horrible, evil person, while another wishes to tell you how great that was, the final part of me is still trying to work out the best excuse to use if someone brings up the topic of crossovers or fanfiction.

  23. Joe Cool says:

    (I’m one of those who wanted to comment, but found the registration wall too high.)

    Shamus: I have really been loving this series. You have really done a good job nailing the respective humor/dialog styles of Sam & Max and Strong Bad.

    Oh, and Sam & Max and H*R crossover fanfic? Squee! *dies*

  24. Rustybadger says:

    Hee! Guess what, Shamus? Thanks to the wonders of the intartubes, you CAN see my expression!

    That was due to the instant synthesization in my brain of Sam&Max/Strongbad/Potter slash- which I did NOT need this early in the morning!

    Also, I am glad that the Escapist is paying you, because their site blows goats. Repeatedly. It’s like they deliberately try to make it suck, because nothing sucks that bad by accident. Except this summer camp I went to in 1980- that sucked bad, and I don’t think anyone planned for it to- that was long before the era of deliberate suckage. Anyhow, The Escapist. Your comic is cool, and I suffer their stupididty to read it, but unfortunately for the other authors on the site, they don’t get read by me because they never had my loyalty beforehand.

    If anyone from The Escapist reads this site: My daughter could rebuild your site so it works properly. Call me.

  25. Author says:

    I don’t have a problem with the site, but I find it difficult to connect with the strip. Although it was the case with Chainmail Bikini too. I only started to see the funny side after strip 12 or so.

  26. Gary says:

    I’m loving this Sam and Max/ Strong Bad crossover. Seriously funny stuff. You have the individual voices for all three characters pegged extremely well!

  27. MadTinkerer says:

    Oh, THANKS, Ozy. I clicked on that site and now I have to write a fanfiction about America’s Funniest Home Videos and Chobits (The CLAMP manga/anime) using an orgy as a plot device.

    The second time it instructed me to write a fanfic about The Titanic and Doug (the formerly-Nickelodeon now-Disney show) with oral sex as a plot device.

    I’m a little scared to reload the page a third time.

  28. krellen says:

    I read fanfic. I’m not ashamed.

    My half-brother used to be famous for his fanfics, and he didn’t even write lemons.

  29. Angie says:

    Like Factoid, I prefer specific comment threads, but the login is also a deal-breaker for me. I already have far too many logins and passwords for places around the web which legitimately need it — my journals and blogs, some games I play where I have an identity and accumulated resources, anyplace where I spend money — you know, places where I need to be able to log in as myself and prevent others from doing so.

    Blogs and forums don’t make that cut. There are a few other places around the web, mostly author sites, where I read and would love to join the discussion, but I just lurk because they expect me to juggle yet another login and password just to comment. Sorry, no.

    Angie

  30. Old_Geek says:

    I did feel that the MC Hammer reference crossed the line fro meerly evil to comicbook super villian type evilness. The rest I didn’t understand.

  31. Alan De Smet says:

    I don’t begrudge you disabling comments here. The Escapist is paying you* to draw visitors, so it seems tacky to pull those very visitors back away.

    (* They are paying you, right? If they aren’t, you should totally open comments here!)

    On the series itself, today’s episode you absolutely nailed the characters voices. As a fan of both Sam & Max and the sbemails, I could totally hear the characters voices reading your lines, and it fits. That said, while amusing they’re not your funniest strips.

  32. Vao Ki says:

    I have to say you’re doing a great job on Sam & Max as well as Strongbad. I’m also a fan of both and could hear their voices saying those lines.

    This is a fun series to see you work on, and a nice breath of fresh air.

  33. Shawn says:

    Um… but we all already ready your Lord of the Rings fanfic.

  34. Casper says:

    Heh, I have already read fanfiction. I read your book “Free Radical” after all ;).

    LotR is a webcomic. I’m sure there is difference. Um… there is one, right?

  35. Ethan says:

    Very funny.

    I find it a bit ironic that Sam and Max have gone from comics, to video games, back to comics again.

  36. Nygelis says:

    Wow… you have utterly captured the voices of both Sam and Max. Reading that last one was like playing the game. That’s a little bit scary and a whole lot awesome!
    /inconspicuously scoots a little farther away from Shamus

  37. Chuk says:

    It doesn’t count as fanfic if you’re getting paid for it.

  38. David B says:

    I’ve no problem with fanfic. Stephen Brust’s “Firefly” novel can’t be considered anything but, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    I draw the line at *bad* fanfic, though. And I still haven’t really read any. Or finished any, at least.

  39. Chargone says:

    … i read a lot of fanfic anyway, so this doesn’t worry me. [actually, i read a lot full stop. almost as much as i play games, probably.]

    that said, i have no idea who Sam and Max are, and was barely aware of Strongbad’s existence prior to this.

    and yeah, I’m one of those people who doesn’t register of forums just so i can make a comment once in a blue moon. i Always loose my user names and passwords if i don’t use things pretty regularly.

  40. Kel'Thuzad says:

    @Ozy:

    That link is hilarious. I got: Use Gordon Ramsay and Spongebob Squarepants, with Suicide as a plot device.

    Heh.

  41. Vao Ki says:

    I got: Use the Simpsons and The Matrix with Terrorism as a plot device. That’s doable I guess.

  42. ShadowDragon8685 says:

    Waha-hahahahaaaaah!

    I loved it! I loved it. And, having played some Sam & Max today, I could totally hear them saying it, too. :)

  43. Zanfib says:

    Free Radical.

    That is all.

  44. Jabor says:

    I guess I’ve been admitted to the, uh, “society” of fanfic readers since I found Free Radical.

    Damnit, Shamus needs to write more books.

  45. Kotenku says:

    Honesty: If I weren’t already a pretty long time reader (I dunno, DMotR #70-something?) I’d take you your strip off RSS and not come back.
    That you’re doing it knowingly doesn’t console me at all.

    To be clear, I’m not so much angry or pissed off that you’re doing whatever you want with your comic strip as just utterly baffled.

    My only possible guess is that this whole endeavour with the comic strip is some insidiously calculated experiment to see how people react to… whatever it is that you’re doing.

  46. Claire says:

    Fanfiction with Sam & Max and Strongbad… I don’t know whether to hope for “YOU WILL BE KILL BY DEMONS” (as I normally do with any fanfiction), or a ridiculous furpile plus Strongbad to the limit. I suppose that, much like my voting for political offices, the final verdict will depend on whether I hate the universe enough to inflict the greater evil upon it.

    So, yeah, we’re going with the furpile. (Drivers were dicks today.)

  47. Zaxares says:

    I WRITE fanfiction. You’ll have to do better than that if you want to make me cringe. :P

  48. Alex says:

    Shamus, I’m a big fan, I’ll keep reading your blog and Stolen Pixels, no disrespect, etc. That said, this “Awesome’d” arc is the equivalent of a bad sprite comic. The last three are the only comics you’ve done so far that have actually made me think:

    Did he have a contest recently, where whoever sent him the most Nabisco snack points got to write for his comics?

    I feel kind of bad for saying this actually, because I don’t wanna be a buzzkill and hurt the supportive mood the other comments are generating. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I’ve never played the Sam & Max games. Maybe it -is- just me, I’m prepared to accept that. But I don’t think these latest strips are up to the standards set by… well, anything else you’ve done, ever. I “get” the punchlines, but frankly they just aren’t very funny, least of all compared to the hilarious EA/hookers/ice cream strip you mentioned. I also think the only people who should ever write for Strong Bad are the Brothers Chaps.

    And believe me, I know a thing or two about making an unfunny comic(I have one of the earliest comics “reviewed” by that bad webcomics blog, after all). So maybe I don’t really have the moral authority to criticize someone else’s work in this area. They can’t all be winners, and I know it’s just supposed to be a stupid internet comic and that this shouldn’t be as big a deal as I’m making it out to be. But I do sense an unusual drop in quality from your regular body of work. =/

  49. Dix says:

    Um… so?

    I actually was disappointed that this comic has as its topic fanfiction rather than video games, video gaming, or a given video game. I was under the impression that SP was going to be about – that stuff, not about stuff kind of at random. Not to say that the topic of fanfiction does not deserve a few broad jabs, but in my opinion, Shamus, you’re at your best when you’re working on a somewhat different level of geekery. A gaming level. :)

  50. Damian says:

    The Escapist is slow and glitchy largely due to its crazy-ass DNS system; depending on your ISP, it may not even work at all (I’m looking at YOU, TelstraClear).

    I have the following in my hosts file, which makes things work as they should:

    # fix dodgy Escapist DNS
    216.27.11.196 ww.escapistmagazine.com
    64.62.134.199 static.escapistmagazine.com static.warcry.com

    (add an extra ‘w’ to the first one – autoformatting grrr)

  51. John Callaghan says:

    I got…

    “Your challenge is to write crossover fanfiction combining Gilligan’s Island and Brady Bunch. The story should use oral sex as a plot device!”

    Now, we didn’t get either show in the UK but I’m guessing that would be an unusual plot device, yes?

    Thanks for the link, Ozy. I can see that being a good source of Over The Edge RPG story ideas.

    As for Shamus’s strip, I’m afraid I don’t know either source (someone once showed me a Strongbad webcomic about five years ago, actually) but the colours are pretty. :)

  52. Vao Ki says:

    For those who don’t “get it” or just don’t like it: This is unfortunate. If you’ve never played Sam & Max then I understand why you don’t get/like this comic.

    If you like adventure games and humor you should definitely download the freebie called “Abe Lincoln Must Die!” Once you’ve played the game you should be able to hear their voices in Shamus’ comic.

    Strongbad is another story. His creator has a warped sense of humor, but in a different way than Sam & Max. Combining the two in such an odd crossover comic was the real joke here I believe, and for those of us who know the characters, it was well done.

    To say that this work was below Shamus’ previous offerings without knowing the sources is like saying you don’t like someone because they have a weird haircut.

    This is simply a different flavor of comic.

    And the fact that it uses games (I think the images from Strongbad came from his game) to mimic fanfiction makes it no different than most of Shamus’ previous work other than the actors and the punchline.

    We’re not going to like everything he does, but if a creative person never attempts to expand his creative box of tools he’ll end up delivering the same old thing rehashed many different ways…

    Kinda like the gaming industry now.

  53. Kross says:

    If anyone from The Escapist reads this site: My daughter could rebuild your site so it works properly. Call me.

    I’d be fascinated to hear which parts of the site she would rebuild. I admin the web servers for the Escapist, but can pass on any design tips to our artists and php coders.

    Currently, I know some ISPs have issues with our DNS balancing. We use a slightly modified lbnamed to load balance our web servers, unfortunately there’s not a whole lot of options when it comes to load balancing DNS outside of a straight round robin. Especially as nobody respects SRV records (which I have defined).

    I’m currently in the process of waiting for an IP to set up another lbnamed instance at our secondary datacenter for a bit of offloading of DNS traffic (we already have multiple BIND servers for the main DNS zones), although as far as I can tell we’re not overloaded on that front. Unfortunately to load balance DNS we have to use a low timeout, which some servers like apparently Telstra don’t handle well at all.

    It does make me sad to hear from people that our site is considered a slow loading pile of crap, but we do what we can. Any reasonable advice is always appreciated. ;)

  54. Author says:

    As far as I can tell, escapistmagazine.com uses the double-CNAME common at all CDNs. The only difference I see, if you look at the way Akamai does it, they cut the TTL of A records instead of CNAME as done at escapistmagazine.com.

    Still, I have to wonder about the necessity of all this. Penny-arcade has no double CNAMEs, and it works. How’s that. At what level of traffic such balancing excercises become necessary?

  55. Kross says:

    Penny arcade looks like it is using a single A record with a standard high TTL (3500+). That most likely points to a proxy server which then routes to a farm of web servers behind it. I’m pushing for an offloaded proxy solution at some point, but unfortunately don’t have the hardware for it currently.

    We currently have several web servers across two data centers, with the top level www. pointing at the load balancer. The load balancer cnames to one of the web servers. This seems to be fine in all the tests we are able to do here. The only people who have problems are those overseas it seems. Every time I’ve talked to an ISP they are able to reach our site fine, and it seems to be individual customers. :/

    As far as level of traffic, we push several thousand active connections a second through a good chunk of the week, so luckily some people are resolving the site. ;)

    Akamai does have the (expensive) advantage of being able to use geographically close points of presence, while our servers are all in either North Carolina or Chicago. We’re looking into getting a real CDN at some point when our budget can justify it. Amazon’s new offering is looking promising, but S3 is a pain to sync to.

    Hopefully getting this new lb daemon online this week will help with some routing. I’m also going to push the TTL up a bit, and maybe the broken DNS servers that aren’t forwarding will cache at least one of the web servers.

  56. […] difficulties at The Escapist: One of the admins for the site stopped by and left comments here and here, which gives some interesting details on the technical difficulties of webserver […]

  57. Rustybadger says:

    @Koss: Thanks for explaining the tech behind what you guys do to make things run over there. My (admittedly limited) experience with web design led me to mistakenly assume the problems were due to poor code. Naturally, I’m far too lazy to bother validating the actual code- jumping to conclusions is so much easier! I now have a new appreciation for the fact that The Escapist actually loads in my browser at all- and I’ll tell my daughter she’d better tune up her php skillz before she takes on a project of that size!

  58. YaVerOt says:

    Kross: Talk to the guy’s daughter, you made a big improvement a few weeks ago, and SP#24 loaded in 5 to 6 seconds. Now with the page open click on the thing in the scrollbar and try to pull it down a little, notice how the page is so poorly designed that it doesn’t move. Okay. Now release the button n the mouse. Now click at the bottom of the scrollbar, notice how it took 3 seconds (instead of the near-instantaneous any other site would be) to scroll down a screenful? Now click at the top of the scrollbar, notice how it takes 4 seconds to scroll up a screenful (again any other site is near instantaneous). Remember, all this scrolling is happening after the page is completely loaded, we aren’t re-hitting your servers at all, but something is done wrong such that it takes measurable time to do something as simple as scrolling.

    Really I have no idea how you could make a page that unresponsive, I need to load about 100B of jpegs locally in a single page for it to be that bad.

  59. Kross says:

    So, spent most of this afternoon between a blue screening computer (new one on the way) trying to get the new dns load balancer handling traffic. After doing some local tests and having it seem to work via dig, tried to make it live only to have it fail due to some obscure Bind configuration reason.

    So I revert it out only to have issues hitting the sites when it should have been reverted. Come to find out later, our off site DNS slaves weren’t configured to actually slave all of the domains (these were ollld servers from years ago with warcry.com, and are updated via a third party interface). So now that we’ve discovered the sync issue with those, hopefully some people who were having DNS issues should no longer have them.

    As far as slow scrolling on a site, that sounds like a typical heavy style/script issue. I know we have some fairly dense style sheets on some parts of our site, I’ll see if I can get our coders to take a look at what may be slowing rendering down. They’re usually more focused on cranking out new layouts and such that speed isn’t always taken into account as much as it could be. We also mostly lay out for whatever the newest Firefox is, although we check things out in IE and Safari.

    There’s some heavy image use as well, although I’ve done a lot recently to compress and cache a lot of things that may not have been previously. We continually try to make things run smoother, with some methods being easier to implement then others, but any suggestions should you come across something are always welcome.

  60. rose glace says:

    well, the SOA for escapistmagazine.com is a little suspect:

    escapistmagazine.com. 7200 IN SOA 216.27.11.222.escapistmagazine.com. hostmaster.warcry.com. 2008100206 3600 600 172800 7200

    in particular, the MNAME (which should be the domain name
    of the master dns server for the zone) is given as
    216.27.11.222.escapistmagazine.com which is a CNAME (which
    in itself may or not be legal, i haven’t checked) which
    points to http://www.escapistmagazine.com which is a CNAME which
    points to esc.lb.escapistmagazine.com which is a CNAME
    for amber.warcry.com which…. isn’t a DNS server. so
    the SOA is dodgy at best.

  61. rose glace says:

    hm. something munged my posting, so i’ll restate it as
    this: visit http://dnscheck.se/ and all will be revealed.

  62. Kross says:

    Nice catch! The SOA records are years old and were written as an IP address (by my predecessor). I’m not sure if the newer versions of Bind parse the file differently or it just happened to work anyway, but I’m fixing those now.

    Thank you for the info!

  63. […] had trouble with The Escapist loading slow, please do poke around as see how it works for you now. Changes have been made (due partly to helpful suggestions from you folks) and I’m curious to see how things work […]

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2 Trackbacks

  1. […] difficulties at The Escapist: One of the admins for the site stopped by and left comments here and here, which gives some interesting details on the technical difficulties of webserver […]

  2. […] had trouble with The Escapist loading slow, please do poke around as see how it works for you now. Changes have been made (due partly to helpful suggestions from you folks) and I’m curious to see how things work […]

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