The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

Cavemen: 1, Eleven-year-old Girl: 0

So I hear the siblings of the girl who died of untreated diabetes because her parents prayed for her instead of getting her proper medical attention have been relocated and sent to live with relatives. This is a good thing. But it seems that they’re being sent back once the investigation is over, which is definitely a bad thing. These people are unfit to raise children. I’m sorry, but that’s the case. I’m perfectly willing to believe that there was no malice involved — in fact, you’d have a hell of a time convincing me otherwise, since it wouldn’t fit at all psychologically. But lack of malice is simply not enough. These people have demonstrated in the clearest possible way that they cannot reasonably be entrusted with the well-being of their children.

You cannot cure diabetes by praying that it goes away. You can’t cure it with herbal remedies, or with homeopathy, or through chiropractic, or through goddamn acupuncture. In fact, it can’t be cured at all, and if you lack the common sense and the intelligence to realise that if your eleven-year-old is deathly ill she needs to be taken to qualified medical practitioners who know what the fuck they’re doing, then you are not fit to be responsible for her care. Period. This isn’t the fucking fourteenth century anymore, people; there’s no excuse for this sort of ignorance.

March 29th, 2008 Posted by | Bullshit | no comments


So apparently today is Waffle Day in Sweden. Why? Because Jesus was born on Christmas. Obviously.

March 25th, 2008 Posted by | Bullshit | no comments

Spoilin’ Episode Two

So Half-life 2: Episode Two has been well and truly out long enough for anybody who cares to have played it. As such, I’m now going to take the opportunity to talk more in-depth about it. Those who haven’t played the game yet would do well to assume that this entire post is one giant spoiler and avoid it if you care about that.

I thought Episode Two was pretty weak, but I was at pains to figure out exactly why. Now, having reflected on this since I wrote the last post, I think I have a better understanding. I’ll wager one of the main problems with Episode Two is that Gordon takes an almost completely passive role. In Half-life, Gordon has the only Space Marine power armour HEV suit and has to fight his way to the surface to get help. And then he’s the only one who can get to the Lambda labs and save the day from monsters. In Half-life 2, Gordon’s reappearance sparks a rebellion that leads to the fall of the Citadel and the brekaing of Combine control. In Episode One, he destroys the Citadel and leads a whole bunch of refugees to safety before it explodes. In Episode Two, though, Gordon mainly walks around looking for cutscenes wherein the other characters advance the action.

Let’s go scene-by-scene. First off, Gordon and Alyx wander around a building not accomplishing anything until a hunter collapses it on top of Gordon. Gordon then watches as the hunter attacks Alyx. He is not even responsible for running it off before it can kill her; I guess it just gets bored and leaves. Gordon doesn’t get himself out from under the building — a vortigaunt comes along to safe the day. The vortigaunt also is the one who takes care of Alyx while Gordon blunders through tunnels. Vortigaunts save the day when Gordon gets trapped by a swarm of antlions, and then a vortigaunt helps Gordon find his way through the mines so he can stand around and watch the vortigaunt collect the Larval Acid he needs so he can get his +heal up high enough to save Alyx. Then the vortigaunts do all the Alyx-saving, while Gordon decides to have a cutscene with G-man.

Once Gordon and Alyx are on the way, there’s a keen bit of travelling through some Combine traps that seems pretty forced because there’s no way to avoid any of them. Gordon and Alyx encounter a Combine Advisor, and they hang in the air doing absolutely nothing while it blows itself up and runs away. They get attacked by a gunship, but Dog saves them from it. Technically Gordon is in charge of the defense of the White Forest base, but the whole event is so unfun that it sort of negates that. Then suddenly we’re at the ending, where Gordon stands around and watches mobs launch the missile, stands around and watches Eli and Alyx discuss the plot, and then hangs motionless in the air while Combine Advisors kill Eli and then Dog beats them up.

There’s not really a single thing that Gordon actually does all the way through the game. He just shoots the zombies while the mobs do the heavy lifting. Combine that with frequent, long cutscenes, hours of slogging through boring caves, and a large-scale gimmicky vehicle battle to close and you have a game that’s just not that compelling.

March 25th, 2008 Posted by | Games | no comments

Better salt. Faster salt.

The People’s Empire of Darientopia continues to expand at a breakneck pace, thanks to the tireless work of my happy vassals. We have decided that a better transportation infrastructure will aid us in transforming our valuable salt into valuable money, and to that end we have devised an ingenious mechanism. This magic hyperlink will automatically cause a happy vassal to be whipped and beaten until he constructs a road. Click on it — it’s your civic duty!

March 23rd, 2008 Posted by | Bullshit | no comments

Titan: big, windy, and not at all solid

Let’s not beat around the bush here: Cassini just discovered that Titan — one of the moons of Saturn — is very likely to have an underground ocean. This is a major find, since one of the things we already know about Titan is that it’s littered with organic compounds. I think we all know what happens when you have organic compounds and liquid water in proximity to one another.

Though, as Phil Plait wisely cautions us, it’s too early to say anything with certainty. It’s always possible that it’s actually an ocean of mercury or some terrible thing like fluorine, or any number of equally non-life-supporting options. But it sure looks promising right now.

March 21st, 2008 Posted by | Shock and awe | 2 comments

Line Rider again

Hey, I missed this last week when it was news, but it appears that Line Rider is being released on the Wii, DS, and PC in some sort of crazy objective-oriented puzzle format.

In an added bonus, that story is like a crazy puzzle too! If you can find your way through the maze of terrible writing and insults (note to professional journalists: it’s bad form to call your readers "lazy" for expecting you to provide needed details in the story instead of going off to do their own research), you might be able to locate some actual information about the game. If you fail, your punishment is being forced to read the preview on IGN instead, which, as always, is even worse than GameSpot, containing such novelties as the word "fest," which is apparently now an actual noun. My favourite part is where the authour draws attention to the fact that the background layers scroll at different speeds from the foreground — did this guy get frozen in ice back in 1989 and just thawed out to write this review? They should have left him there and saved on the energy bill.

On the other hand, as bad as IGN is, at least the dude doesn’t call me lazy for not doing the research he’s being paid to do. So that’s a plus.

March 20th, 2008 Posted by | Games | no comments

The trials and tribulations of game development

I have a lot in common with Mario. We’re both fat and lazy, we were both first introduced in 1981 and subsequently became famous around the the world, we both have a thing for rich blondes with poofy pink dresses, and we both have a disconcerting habit of stomping on anybody who pisses us off. Unless he has spikes, in which case we set him on fire.

I’ve not made a secret of the fact that, other than being famous on the internet, my main hobbies are 1) playing games and 2) making games. Step one is easy. Like Mario, I’ve gotten pretty adept at jumping my way through turtle-infested forests and saving the princess, and, like Mario, I don’t need anybody’s goddamn help because, in this crazy mixed-up world we live in, an army of countless monsters led by a giant fire-breathing hammer-throwing spiked lizard is no match for a fat man with a mission.

Step two is more difficult. In my day I’ve made a ton of games of all descriptions, from board games to card games to RPGs and even gen-yoo-ine go-outside-and-move-your-lazy-ass physical games. I’ve even made a few video games. And there’s the rub: I’d like to make more video games. Better ones. But, like Mario, I’m no damn use as an artist and I suck as a programmer. This is why, traditionally, my actual implemented video games have all been text adventures, and always much shorter than I originally planned. They generally play something like this:

20 GOTO 10

So what I’m saying is they’re funny and awesome but not exactly full of riveting gameplay, much like Conker’s Bad Fur Day — anyone who remembers my classic "Beat Stephen To Death" or "SVPEL REOPALD PANTS STVFFEL BVFFET 3000" knows the sort of thing I’m talking about. They’re text adventures, and the concept and the writing are where they need to be, but they’re short and simplistic because when I get to the programming part it takes massive amounts of effort for me not to kill myself because anything’s more enjoyable than typing 20 GOTO 10 over and over again for hours.

As for art, though you’d never know it from my fabulous comics, I just don’t have what it takes. Like somebody we know who wears a red shirt, red hat, and blue overalls, visual coordination just isn’t my strength. Not that I’m saying Small Man is the limit of my artistic prowess — I can do somewhat better than that, to be sure, but not well enough, and the last thing the world needs is another stupid "ironic" stick-figure video game (of course, it could be argued that the last thing the world needed a few months ago was another stupid "ironic" sitck-figure webcomic, but you’re neglecting to consider that, um, fuck you).

So that gets us to the present, and me sitting on a design I’ve been working on for a while and trying to figure out any conceivable steps to take toward implementation. Any thoughts from the gang? Approaches I haven’t considered that I could try? Or perhaps volunteers? Hey, the ideal candidate would be a programmer / artist keen to work on an amateur "spare time" game project and also ideally a rich blonde with a poofy pink dress. And no spikes!

March 20th, 2008 Posted by | Games | no comments


The cliché should be "you don’t want to open that can of bees."

March 17th, 2008 Posted by | Bullshit | no comments

Super Smash Bros. Brawl: Second look

I’ve now finished the adventure mode, I’ve played Classic a few times, done a bunch of events and training matches, Brawled against CPUs (many many times), and played with the coin shooter and the level builder. So I have a bit more to say now. This might also get mildly spoiler-y about unlockables, but I’ll try not to be too awful.

First off, Brawling is hilariously fun. Even just against three CPUs, it’s a blast; I only have one controller (and they’re a bit hard to find at present), but I’ll try out the internet play shortly and report on that then. But even just to pick up a controller and throw down against three CPUs is, as I say, a good time. There are a generous ton of characters to choose from (I have 33 presently and there are still more I haven’t unlocked), a whole lot of levels (I think I have 37 with many to go), and a huge number of items.

Speaking of the levels, there’s a massive amount of variety. Some of them are the bizarre scrolling platform-type levels that I don’t really care for, some are more traditional “arenas,” some have destructible features (floors, walls, you name it), and so forth, but they all have two things in common: they all have some scripted weirdness that’s going to happen sooner or later, and they’re all fun. Well, I imagine they’re all fun for somebody, anyhow; I personally hate the stupid upward-scrolling jumpy level just as much as I hated Icicle Mountain back in Melee, but I’m sure somebody likes it or it wouldn’t be there. Fortunately, if you don’t like a level, you can just toggle it out of your rotation and still use “random levels” without ever having to play on it. That’s my kind of thinking right there.

The Smash Ball is hysterical. It appears and floats around the screen, and you have to break it by attacking in order to get it. Whoever has it can use a “final smash,” which is a very powerful attack that varies by character. But if somebody other than you picks it up, you can make him drop it if you hit him enough before he’s used it. It’s great when the game becomes a scramble for the floating ball, and the final smashes themselves are a lot of fun; my character of choice (Ness) has one of the better ones, and I’ve caused all kinds of havoc on the poor CPUs with it.

The adventure mode is keen, but (as I said in the comments on the previous post) I didn’t really get into the boss battles. The last one in particular had a few attacks that kind of made me call bullshit, and the mechanics make it difficult to fight an opponent who doesn’t flinch when hit, since you effectively flinch every time you attack. It’s a kind of odd experience to be fighting a standard platform-type boss with a fighting game character. There are lots of cutscenes to watch in the adventure mode, but they’re mostly enjoyable; short little vignettes that actually tell their story very effectively given that there’s no screen text and exactly two spoken lines the whole way through.

I like the bonus modes a lot this time around; they provide a lot of variety, and it’s nice to have difficulty settings available on the events. I’m fond of the Big Wall of Unlockables, since it’s good to have some hints about what to do to unlock more stuff (that don’t come from the internet), and the trophies are still fun. Stickers I like a bit less, mainly because I don’t really understand the thousand picky little categories of attack power buff that they’re good for in adventure mode. For example: is PK Fire a fire attack, a Psi attack, a Magic attack, an Energy attack, a Specials: Direct attack, a Specials: Indirect attack, or some combination of the above? I don’t know and it doesn’t want to tell me.

The level builder is barebones (don’t expect to be able to make any of the levels the game ships with), but fun, and better than not having a level builder. I don’t really understand why it doesn’t use the pointer, though; this sort of task is a great environment for point controls, and it saddles us with back-and-forth D-pad nonsense instead. I’ve made a few crap levels so far, and they’re fun to fiddle around with, though I’m not sure I’d wish them on other people. Fortunately, through the magic of WiiConnect24, I don’t need to wish: I can force them on other people! That’s awesome.

I’m still not done exploring the different play modes in Brawl, which is a good indication that there’s a shitload of them. So expect another post at a later date with yet more babble, and then probably a review following that. I can at this point wholeheartedly recommend the game to pretty much anybody, though, since I’m very much surprised if you don’t have a hell of a time with it. And that includes even if, like me, you’re completely terrible at it.

March 17th, 2008 Posted by | Games | no comments

Super Smash Bros. Brawl: First look

I’ve put a few hours into Smash Brawl now, and so far it’s holding up pretty well. Mainly I’ve just played the new single-player "adventure" mode, called “The Subspace Emissary.” It’s pretty much a full-featured action-platformer in its own right, and much less like a weird little bonus mode than Smash Melee’s was. Various characters are introduced in story cutscenes, and then you choose which one you’ll play as (or the order you’ll rotate through them if you die) and go run and jump and punch and kick.

It plays pretty well, though the controls seem a little stiff; that’s probably because they’re fighting game controls being twisted into a platformer, and as such they’re a bit more punishing than seems appropriate sometimes. The different characters play noticably differently from one another (though you’re more than welcome to treat all of them as “run around and mash A” if you so desire; Smash is traditionally a great button-masher), and from what I’ve experienced of the new ones, they’re definitely fun. The returning characters play much like they did in Melee, with a bit of tweaking and the occasional different special attack; sometimes this will get you in trouble if you’re a veteran of Melee, since you’ll expect to be able to do the Mario Tornado to back off some punks steppin’ all over your business, and all you get is this wacky squirt gun instead. Some attacks that used to be very weak (such as Yoshi’s… everything) have been beefed up a bit, and some attacks that were overpowered (yes, I’m talking about Pikachu’s Thunder, you jumpy fools) are toned down a bit.

My favourite of the new characters so far is the Pokémon Trainer; the only Pokémon I’ve gotten to play with so far is Squirtle (you need to unlock the different types in the adventure game), but I like the way he plays. And it seems that the ability to switch up my play character would be a pretty strong one. Mind you, I’ve not played with all the new characters yet.

There are hidden characters, even though the web site made it sound like there wouldn’t be; I’ve unlocked one already, and I’m aware of five more besides that I’ve yet to find. No doubt there are more than just that, also. There are lots of trophies and stickers to collect as well, though, sadly, the game appears to be missing the “bonus superlatives” that I found so enjoyable in Melee. Or if they’re there, I can’t find them.

So we’re off to a good start, and the game shows a bunch of promise. I’ll have more to say after I’ve spent more time with it and checked out the other modes.

March 14th, 2008 Posted by | Games | 2 comments