The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

Art and video games

I’ve been thinking recently about how the visual appeal of a video game has so little actually to do with the technical details of its graphics. Last week when I was complaining about some damn thing I ended up linking to screenshots of Super Mario Galaxy and Halo 3 to make that point, and I’d like to expand upon it here.

There really isn’t any game on any hardware that I’d rather look at than Super Mario Galaxy. Even a year and a half after its release, I think it’s the most attractive video game on the market. The Wii — whatever strengths it may have — is not renowned for its graphical muscle in comparison to the Xbox 360 or the Playstation 3, but it does possess what is, to my thinking, the best-looking game on any of those systems.

This is not unrelated to something I noticed several years back with World of Warcraft and Everquest 2. My computer could run World of Warcraft with all the pretties cranked up without a hitch, but it would choke on EQ2’s high-quality mode, so EQ2 was clearly the more demanding game. And yet… World of Warcraft looked (and looks) better. Granted, there are fewer polygons being drawn, but they’re using their polygons for niceness instead of evil.

A lot of people seem to evaluate graphics purely from a technical perspective; if it’s pushing a lot of polygons and it’s using fancy-ass shader techniques and texture layering to make that dried brown blood smear really look like it’s smeared across that big grey slab of concrete, well shit, them’s some good graphics! I humbly beg to differ. The real measure of a game’s graphics is not in the power of the system but in the skill of the artists. Blizzard understands this. Nintendo understands this. Both companies routinely get derided for using "old" technology to make their games — people cry constantly on the World of Warcraft forums about how it’s not taxing the latest-and-greatest hardware, and we still get doorknobs like Mike Capps talking about how the Wii is "going backwards." And yet, World of Warcraft and Super Mario Galaxy look terrific. And World of Warcraft runs on a computer people actually own. And Super Mario Galaxy runs on a console that doesn’t cost $600. So maybe it’s time you jackasses stop sweating over your triangle fill rates and start hiring some people who can take what’s already there and make it look good.

December 16th, 2008 Posted by | Games | no comments

The old men of New York

I love this. The Mets and the Yankees are the best teams ever when it comes to making sure they’re loaded with expensive old talent. I mean, sure, the White Sox and Tigers pretend to the throne (with a special nod to Detroit for managing to finish not only behind a Cleveland team that had long ago thrown in the towel, but also Kansas City — seriously, Tigers, all that money you spent, and you lost to a tee-ball club, a team that very obviously quit in July, Ozzie Guillen’s all-stars of the eighties reunion tour, and a Minnesota squad that I think only had five players), but only in New York do you see the truly massive free agent spending sprees. The Yankees need starting pitching? Okay! Hire all the free-agent starters! The Mets need a closer? Why not sign two? Then those games’ll get the shit closed out of ’em!

The Yankees are better at it than the Mets, though. The Mets always seem like they’re trying really hard to be the Yankees but can’t quite figure out how; the Yankees need a pitcher, so they sign the very best pitcher on the market, money-is-no-object thank-you-very-much-ma’am, and then make sure they get the second-best pitcher also (and spark rumours that they’re in on the third). The Mets need a closer, so they sign the most expensive closer that they can find, and then they say "hey, the Yankees don’t stop at one" and sign a second closer also. Though it makes sense, since they were so embarassed about their number of blown saves last season, that they’d sign J.J. Putz, who hardly ever… oh, he did? Blew 40% of his save opportunities? Damn, Omar, what was the thinking there?

The Yankees dole out big contracts to elite pitchers like CC Sabathia, headlining sluggers like Alex Rodriguez, and Japanese imports like Hideki Matsui. The Mets respond in kind, giving huge amounts of money to Carlos Beltran, who was really good in Houston for about one month and has been totally average before and since, so he can hit .284 with 27 HR. They decide they need a Matsui of their own, so they import Kazuo Matsui, who bombs so badly they ship him off as soon as possible, only to see him head to the World Series immediately after they cut ties. Then they decide they need a star pitcher and dump a tremendous amount of cash on the ghost of Pedro Martinez, since apparently they fell asleep and forgot it wasn’t still the nineties.

I cannot tell a lie; I love this shit. The Mets are hilarious.

Though equally hilarious is how division rival Philadelphia just gave a starting pitcher a contract well and truly through his forty-eighth birthday. Yeow! If Jamie Moyer eventually breaks Nolan Ryan’s strikeout record, they’re going to have to add an asterisk to that indicating that he did it by playing for seven hundred years.

December 16th, 2008 Posted by | Bullshit | 3 comments

Namecalling? On the internet? How could this be?

So apparently some dude in New York is all offended that somebody else put up a web site calling him a douche, and is trying to sue the other dude for (get this) twenty million dollars.

Now, I’ll be the first person to admit that I’m not a lawyer of any description, but I’m fairly sure they haven’t made any laws against calling somebody else a douche on the internet yet. If they have, my minister of lame insults informs me that roughly 70% of people who have ever posted on Slashdot or played World of Warcraft are in line to get sued before this guy, "Ronn."

But let me know how you get on with that lawsuit. Since, frankly, somebody once called me a "big queer homofag," and I’m thinking that’s worth at least forty million dollars.

December 15th, 2008 Posted by | Bullshit | no comments

And now: A sack of old moaning

Check this asshole out. "Oh oh, I am so outraged that some people make more money than I do! Oh oh, how terribly unfair."

Listen, asshole. Baseball is not pulling a "fraud scheme" by paying its players more than the AP pays assholes to write asshole whine pieces. Before the next time you open your greed hole to complain about how unfair the whole wide world is to you, you might want to reflect on supply and demand and what impact that has on the salaries for top pitchers. Specifically this year, coming off a season in which the two teams you can’t stop bitching about failed to make the playoffs because of a distinct lack of pitching, and with several very good pitchers on the market, the price goes way the shit up. This would be because demand — which in this case means "the number of teams that could benefit by signing CC Sabathia" — is considerably greater than supply — the number of CC Sabathias there are to go around. Sorry if the math on that one’s a bit beyond your ability.

And then what is this shit? After some ignorant whining about how "one out of every 10 U.S. homeowners are either late with their payments or have a house in foreclosure" — which is obviously MLB’s fault, as any fool can plainly see — there’s the shining jewel of all the dipshit comments you make in this entire misinformed rant: "Yet Sabathia will make some $700,000 every time he takes the mound just because he was born with a talented left arm. Burnett will get a half-million for each of his starts just because he can throw a fastball in the mid-90s."

Ooo, Sabathia has more money than you "just because" of an accident of birth? How terribly unfair! And what’s this I hear about Burnett? He makes more money than you just because of the trivial ability to make a ball go nearly a hundred miles per hour without any sort of ball-flinging device? Clearly nobody would pay that much for a useless party trick like that! Obviously this is the work of demons.

Hey dumbfuck, if you honestly think CC Sabathia got where he is "just because he was born with a talented left arm," then you might want to learn a bit about baseball before you write your next baseball article. CC Sabathia has worked his ass off to get where he is. You know what becomes of people with talented left arms who don’t put in the work? They write moronic articles for the AP about how unfair life is. In other words, they become abject failures and useless drains on society. You’re of the opinion, then, that Sabathia has never done anything in his life worth that much money? Well, the people with the money don’t agree with you. And neither do the people with the brains, incidentally; how much did you get paid for this dumb rant? No, don’t tell me, it doesn’t really matter; I’ll just pretend it was ten bucks because I like to exaggerate the value of things. So Sabathia makes seventy thousand times as much money every time he makes a start as you do every time your underwear rides up your ass and you decide to flog the general public with it. You know what the damndest thing about it is, though? Sabathia does at least seventy thousand times as much work as you. In fact, my sources close to the Yankees inform me that it’s much more like ninety thousand. That would be because CC Sabathia is a dedicated, hardworking professional who excels in his field, and you’re a talentless, greedy hack. Desperately unfair, I know.

And what the fuck is this? "What does it say about our country when millions of children don’t have even basic health care and schools don’t have enough teachers, but grown men who play a game for a living make more money in one day than some of us will in our entire lives?" I’ll tell you what it says, MacBitch. It says that our country rules, since we don’t all guilt ourselves out of enjoying our freedom and prosperity. No, we don’t need to avoid ever having fun because some people don’t have as much stuff as we do. And how exactly is it baseball’s responsibility to provide health care for "millions of children" again? Oh, right, it’s not; that’s just one of the straw men that stupid liberals like yourself like to hold up as an example of those horrible giant faceless corporations that are so busy doing what they get paid to do that they forget to spend the investors’ money in unrelated ways that make the people whose money it isn’t feel really good about themselves.

And here we have "The Yankees and Mets scammed taxpayers to build them new stadiums when the old ones were perfectly serviceable." You know what? That’s actually something I agree with, but it’s not a terribly compelling point. Yes, it’s past stupid that taxpayer money was used to construct those stadiums (and most other stadiums nationwide), but I find it hard to fault MLB for that. This would be a bitch with the government that took that money from the people who earned it and then spent it on frivolities — the same government, incidentally, that led to all those mortgage foreclosures you’re so worked up about by forcing banks to extend huge loans to people who couldn’t possibly pay them back. Gotta help the poor, don’t you know! The government is in the business of stealing money from the people who’ve earned it and giving it to other people who claim they deserve it more — maybe instead of bitching at the Yankees and Mets for lining up at the trough, you should direct your energy toward telling the government to knock off the socialist bullshit. Since, tell you a secret, the amount of taxpayer money stolen to build new ballparks in New York pales in comparison to the amount handed out every year in agricultural subsidies. So go jump on that train. Or, you know, under it.

Greed, huh. Man. Fuckin’ greed. If only we could get rid of all these greedy people, what a perfect world this would be! But here’s an insider’s tip, just between you and me: thos greedy people? That’s every single one of us, you dipshit. The Steinbrenners, the Wilpons, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, you, Steven Seagal, me, and everybody else. Greed is a fundamental instinct that we all have because we never would have survived as a species without it. Intelligent, mature people recognise that and look for a way to control and channel it into something positive; immature, whining little shits claim that greed is a feature only of the people they don’t like, and demand that those people be castigated for it. We call people like that "liberals." One of their defining features is that they constantly whine about people who have more than they do while at the same time decrying those people for "greed" and downplaying the amount of effort it took to obtain. Oh, I guess you know that, huh.

So I seem to have gone on a bit here. I suppose it’s time to sum up. In conclusion, Tim, fuck you and the high horse you rode in here on. The Yankees sure could use a pitcher like Sabathia, but we’re all better off without hack journos like youself.

December 14th, 2008 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

Video game luddites

I’ve been thinking about that article I linked to earlier, and specifically about that bonehead comment from Epic’s Mike Capps. You know, the one where he says that developing for the Wii would be "going backwards," because apparently his head’s shoved so far up his polygon fill rate that he’s having a hard time locating the gaming.

There’s a pronounced attitude (and has been for some time) among a lot of the gaming public that says that American games suck, and that American game developers suck. You can be damn sure that the people who say that aren’t talking about Portal and Bioshock; they’re talking about the endless stream of terrible movie-licence games churned out by shlock-merchants like EA, and they’re talking about — this part’s for you, Mike, so you might want to read it twice — the legions of bland, uninspired first-person shooters that justify their tired mechanics and dull graphics by claiming "realism."

Half-life was great, sure, but the legions of Half-life knockoffs were not, and I must admit that it does appear to be the case that the American development scene is almost singlemindedly focused on making those sorts of brown-and-grey shooters. This is not unrelated to the reason why Microsoft can’t give Xbox 360s away in Japan — both the making and the playing of derivative, visually uninteresting shooters is largely an American phenomenon, since we’re caught in the grip of blinkered developers who just keep polishing the same turd over and over again. Mike and his co-religionists think the Wii is a step backwards, but, hey Mike, the rest of us are packing up and moving on without you. There’s a reason why the Wii has sold more units than the 360 and the PS3 combined, and that reason is because a lot of people care more about fun than about how many different texture maps you can mix to get your grey walls smeared with the exact right combination of blood and dirt.

Here’s one other fun point. This is a screenshot from Super Mario Galaxy, and this is a screenshot from Halo 3. I think we can agree that those count as representative, high-profile titles on their respective systems, yes? It’s down to personal opinion, of course, but you tell me which one looks better.

December 10th, 2008 Posted by | Games | no comments

That didn’t take long

So much for Kojima’s pledge that Metal Gear Solid 4 would be the end of the series. As Giant Bomb reports (hi Jeff!), there’s a new Metal Gear-related teaser shown up on the internet recently. The speculation’s all stupid; taken together, apparently it’s a new Metal Gear Acid game on the Wii, the iPhone, and the Xbox 360. Seems plausible!

The official teaser is here, but it consists of nothing more than that screenshot on the Giant Bomb page and a six-second flash leadin. So don’t bother.

December 9th, 2008 Posted by | Games | no comments

Why video games suck

So for the second time, I find myself linking to I apologise for that. If you can endure the multiple strained analogies about "boobies," he makes a lot of really good points; in fact, he says a lot of the same things I’ve been saying for years and years.

So, you know, in case you thought I was the only person around who doesn’t like dry, lifeless, brown games with lots of unskippable cutscenes and bullshit minigames.

December 9th, 2008 Posted by | Games | no comments


You seen this? About how some dipshits in the UK are all pissed at this BrickArms place for selling an Osama bin Laden Lego man? It’s pretty classic.

A few points to consider:

1) I went and looked at the model in question, and it doesn’t look a damn bit like Osama bin Laden. And the "Mr. White" name isn’t screaming BIN LADEN at me, either. So I’m pretty sure this is a generic Arab terrorist figure, and not specifically Osama bin Laden.

2) The BrickArms front page says the online ordering system is currently down due to "overwhelming order volume." So I’m not convinced all the ranting and raving in the world is actually getting you fools what you think it’s getting you.

3) The Lego headquarters is in Denmark. Why is this complaint coming from the UK affiliate? Is it because no other country’s Lego branch thought it was such a big damn deal? Or is it so they could get that quote from Britain’s "religious leaders" in there?

4) The Ramadhan Foundation may indeed qualify as "religious leaders" in the UK for all I know, but I’d think anything with sufficient impact to have earned the label would have been noticed by Wikipedia by now, wouldn’t you?

5) While the anonymous "Lego spokesman" and the apparently-somewhat-more-testicularly-endowed Mohammed Shaffiq may be of the opinion that the best approach to fighting terrorism is to take it really, really seriously, a lot of people the world over think that maybe we’ve brooded enough to satisfy you tight-asses and now we can get back to fighting terrorism our way: by having a laugh at its expense.

6) While the article definitely states that Lego "blasted" BrickArms for creating the terrorist Lego man, I find it interesting that they fail to quote the anonymous Lego spokesman actually, you know, doing any blasting. Every word the spokesman says in that article is about how BrickArms is not licenced or approved by Lego — in other words, it’s boilerplate "we didn’t do it" fluff, and not any type of blasting. I can’t help but infer from this — and from the fact that the best example of a religious leader UPI could come up with was a guy from a religious organisation that doesn’t exactly strike me as poised to overpower the C of E anytime soon — that maybe Mr. Shaffiq is actually the only person complaining, that he elected to do his complaining in the direction of UPI, and that they fluffed it up to make it sound like the entire body of religious groups in the UK is horribly offended by a Lego man with a turban. Oh, and also Lego.

What do you suppose are the chances?

December 6th, 2008 Posted by | Bullshit | no comments

1 tbsp All-purpose Rhubarb

Top o' the cake to you!

German chocolate cake, bitches. I found this recipe in bumming around the internet, and had to try it out. Normally, chocolate cake doesn’t do much for me, but I’m a huge fan of German chocolate cake, what with its fluffy texture and coconut-and-pecan filling and all, and this recipe just looked fantastic (even if his history of the name is somewhat… fanciful).

Turns out it’s actually very easy to make, albeit time-consuming. I had a bit of trouble with the icing, but I’m fair sure that’s down to my fuckup and not an issue with the recipe itself; everything else was punch and pie. As far as I’m concerned, the most difficult part is making the custard for the filling, since the recipe rather glosses over the details and just sort of assumes you’re familiar with making custard. In practice, though, that’s not much of a problem, since it’s really not at all delicate. Unless you stop stirring it. So don’t.

He also doesn’t go into detail on the process of toasting the coconut and pecans, but that’s really quite simple: to toast the coconut, put it in a large, shallow pan (a frying pan will do nicely) with no oil or butter or worcestershire sauce or anything, then give it low to medium flame, and shake it frequently. It’s done when it’s tan instead of white. The pecans are the same exact process, except that since they’re already tan, you’re looking for them to darken somewhat. Unsweetened coconut can be a bit harder to find than you may expect, and you may end up getting soaked by having to buy some "organic" bullshit, but them’s the breaks. Also to note is that if you buy chopped pecans for baking, you’ll probably want to chop them a good deal smaller for this purpose, unless you fancy half-pecans in the centre of your cake.

Do yourself a favour and use an electric mixer for creaming the butter and mixing in the dry and so forth — some people will tell you that it’s better done by hand and that electric mixers are the devil’s work, but they’re just luddites. Ignore them. Do not, however, attempt to fold the egg whites into the mixture with the electric mixer; folding is meaningfully different from plain old mixing, and if you just run the whole thing in the mixer you’ll get a very dense, uncharismatic cake. If you want the proper light, fluffy texture, you need to fold. It’s not hard, I promise. You’ll also need to make sure you get those egg whites properly stiff-peaked — only cowards and sissies would ever whip eggs with an electric mixer, since stiff-peaking egg whites with a baloon whisk is the way Real Men do this kind of Women’s Work.


Anyway, this cake is great. It’s so delicious and moist!

December 3rd, 2008 Posted by | Recipes | 3 comments

Game of smoke and mirrors

The BALCO grand jury testimony has been unsealed. So that’s theotetically thirty-three thousand pages of data gathered from dozens of atheletes connected to steroid use. Thirty-three thousand pages of testimony your tax dollars paid to gather, which so far has given us the marvellous grand prize (as Jonathan Littman points out in that linked article) of a 30-month jail sentence for… err, well, for leaking the testimony. Thank god the government takes baseball so seriously, eh wot?

This almost makes me wonder if the government is engaged in some massive self-esteem-boosting exercise designed to make the prosecutors in the original O.J. Trial feel better about the terrible job they did. This is amateurish. How many times has Judge Illston rejected charges or motions filed by the government due to procedural errors? How many charges has she dismissed altogether due to the not entirely trivial fault of being exactly the same as some of the other charges? And now we get this, which looks for all the world like a major desperation play, and which looks as though it’ll have some pretty major backlash. What in the world is my hard-earned money paying for, anyhow? At least conduct a quality witch hunt, people.

On the plus side, though, A.J. Pierzynski might get hurt in the fallout, and if anybody has it coming, it’s that sonuvabitch. Yeah, you heard me, Barack Obama. What are you going to do about it? Huh??

December 2nd, 2008 Posted by | Baseball | no comments