Archive for October, 2009

The Week to Come and Also Pretty Pictures

31 Oct

Alright, this is how far I’ve slipped under the rigors of college life. I am, in fact, posting the Pretty Pictures from Week A at the same time I am posting the first post of Week B. But it’s okay, because I’ve got three of them. That’s right, I made not one but three pictures for you guys. That’s right, I’m the most hardworking guy in the
What’s that? You say that these are random pages of notebook doodles I did to help me concentrate in my Humanities class?

Oh. Well, then.

…did I mention there’s three of them?

As usual, click for the larger not-suck version.

Anyway. How about that Week to Come?

  • Workplace Tension
  • Laugh Riot
  • Dead for Left
  • The End is Nigh
  • Maybe Doodles or Maybe Not I Dunno

Fun Fact for the Week: I have never met a scanner that did not hate me, its owner, and all carbon-based life, what with their pathetic desire to convert images on paper into data.

 

Bonus: A Story

31 Oct

Since there’s no Dwarf Fortress post this week, and since you guys seem to have a perverse fascination with watching everything I love collapse in slow motion, I felt kinda guilty and decided to give you guys a little something extra. That something extra turns out to be this story, which I’ve been saving for this sort of occasion.

The background: Phase and I were kicking back, shooting the breeze on the Steam chats and finding increasingly boring turns of phrase to describe how bored we were. Then this happened.

[ChHa] Phase: I’m bored.
[ChHa] Phase: Tell me a story, wont you Charles?
[ChHa] Rutskarn: Alright.
[ChHa] Rutskarn: Once upon a time, there was a zombie who joined the circus.
[ChHa] Rutskarn: For it was his dream, his passion, his calling, to become an acrobat.
[ChHa] Rutskarn: See, in life he’d muddled along as a stockbroker, always concerned with making ends meet, never wanting to pursue his dreams.
[ChHa] Rutskarn: Now that he was undead and effectively immortal, he wanted to finally have a go at them.
[ChHa] Rutskarn: So he enrolled, and learned the most important lesson of all:
[ChHa] Rutskarn: Being an acrobat is really bloody hard, especially for someone who has rotted limbs and a weak sense of balance.
[ChHa] Rutskarn: He was instead employed in the freak show.
[ChHa] Phase: That was a beautiful story.
[ChHa] Rutskarn: Ah, but it’s not finished!
[ChHa] Phase: Teaching us that dreams and reality are different.
[ChHa] Phase: It’s not?
[ChHa] Rutskarn: Not quite.
[ChHa] Rutskarn: Ahem.
[ChHa] Rutskarn: Sorry, finishing a post.
[ChHa] Rutskarn: Anyway.
[ChHa] Rutskarn: One day, as he put on his makeup and got into costume, the zombie noticed something strange about one of the patrons.
[ChHa] Rutskarn: He was carrying a package that leaked smoke and made a loud TICKTOCKTICKTOCK noise.
[ChHa] Rutskarn: Also it was labeled Bomb.
[ChHa] Phase: Sounds like Grandma’s special cheesecake.
[ChHa] Rutskarn: Well, see, to be a stockbroker you have to be an excellent judge of character.
[ChHa] Rutskarn: And he could tell that the man carrying this bomb was a desperate man with nothing to lose.
[ChHa] Rutskarn: …who was going to commit suicide.
[ChHa] Rutskarn: …with a bomb.
[ChHa] Rutskarn: …in the circus, right now.
[ChHa] Rutskarn: He knew that this was his moment.
[ChHa] Rutskarn: He burst from the room, vaulted over a crowd full of people, did a foreward roll through some elephant dung, flipped over a broken cart full of sharp knives and broken glass, spin-kicked off an iron post and landed right on top of the man.
[ChHa] Rutskarn: Breaking his collarbone, leg, both hands, knees, ankles, and metatarsals in the process.
[ChHa] Rutskarn: But he rolled into the man, and knocked him over. The bomb was knocked to the ground and taken away to blow up safely in a poor neighboorhood.
[ChHa] Rutskarn: The day was saved, all thanks to his hidden acrobatic knowledge.
[ChHa] Rutskarn: Unfortunately, since he was now crippled, he could never so much as run again, let alone do acrobatics.
[ChHa] Rutskarn: He was cast out of the circus and became a stockbroker again.
[ChHa] Rutskarn: But he’d had that moment–that one moment of glory, couched in abilities he unlocked in a moment of pure adrenaline–and that was enough for him.
[ChHa] Rutskarn: The End.

Well, now, wasn’t that special?

No. No, it wasn’t.

Oh, yeah, and Pretty Picture up today, if there’s a merciful technology god (there isn’t, but I’ll give it a shot anyway).

 
 

ZOMG, Video Let’s Play

29 Oct

So, a while ago, Saint’s Row 2 went on sale for $7 on Steam. I was extremely on-the-fence about it, since the only thing I hate more than over-consolized video games is the uproariously stupid thug gangsta rap culture, but good reviews from Zero Punctuation and Twenty Sided and the extensive character customization won me over.

To my relief, I was able to customize the game to the point where it resembled not so much a rap CD writ large as a British crime movie. My character, a beret-wearing cockney lad who listens to Easy Listening stations as he mows down pedestrians, was someone I could inhabit the shoes of without wanting to vomit blood.

What I didn’t know then was that the game could be played co-op with anyone in the world. Also, that an enterprising member of the Giant in the Playground forums named Jibar had also purchased the game.

One thing lead to another, and the next thing I knew, we were setting up Skype and recording test video for a possible Let’s Play series.

So, here it is. Just a 9-part test series of Jibar and I messing around, failing to rob museums, running over cops, running over each other, screaming at each other, trying to ignore vague homoerotic undertones, doing manly things, and hijacking civilian watercraft for fun and profit.
Some notes:

  • We couldn’t get a good voice chat setup that was recordable, so we ended up just recording conversations on Skype and syncing them up. As such, it’s crackly and occasionally hard to hear.
  • There is no structure to this, but I still think it’s pretty funny, myself.
  • The framerate sucks. This is not our fault, the fault of our computers, or the fault of anyone except the people who ported this game to PC.
  • I am in yellow. He has the top hat.
  • I am a traitorous pyromaniac who can’t put away his rocket launcher for five minutes together.
  • Jibar is the worst driver in any reality, with any vehicle.
  • Enjoy.
 
 

Crossfire Tango, Part 9

28 Oct

(Essay+Midterm=Shorter V&B. Hope you like it anyway.)

Codename Foxhunter had had better times. A hunting trip in which he depopulated a small forest of any life form bigger than a bulimic shrew. A camping excursion where he lived off the land for a week (the land, in this case, being the farm of one of his father’s peasant families). A recent fancy dress party, at which he won the award for most dead animals involved in the creation of a pair of spectacles.

Actually, now that he really got down to it, just about any time in which he had a few intact bones to rub together was probably better than this one.

In other words, it wasn’t quite the amusing romp he’d signed on for. He still felt cheated—all previous experience had taught him that chimps do not know how to equalize a close-range gunbattle, and he couldn’t shake the feeling that someone, somewhere, had cheated.

He tried to roll onto his side, an endeavor that did more to amuse passing vermin than it did to measurably shift his position. After a few moments, he decided impotent whimpering was more his style, and set into it with renewed vigor.

He had reached quite a clip when the shadows fell over him.

He tried to turn his head, which was a bad idea. Then he tried to say hello, which released a gargled grunt and a bucketful of red drool and did little else.

One of the figures cleared his throat.

“So, uh. How did it go, then?”

There was an exasperated sigh from one of the others. “Really, man? Really?”

“Well, come on, we don’t know! He might have shot them all and then, you know…tripped. Get off my back!”

“Well, alright, let’s settle it, then.” The shadow grew darker as the second man bent down. “Oy…what was this guy? Foxhunter. Can you hear me? Gargle once for yes.”

Foxhunter gargled.

“Ow. Okay, good, good. So…they got away, then.”

Gargle.

“After they, and I realize I’m making some wild assumptions here, beat you soundly.”

“Just saying,” the first man muttered. Foxhunter gargled meekly.
“What a surprise. Anyway, thanks for the info.” The second man stood up. “There you have it, then. Turns out, finding one of our operatives in a crater full of his own blood is not a sign that we’ve won forever.”

“Yeah, yeah. So, that could have gone better.”

“Eh. It could have, but it wasn’t gonna.” There was the sound of a weapon being cocked. “I’m telling you, they’re dangerous people. They’re not the lackwit moron criminals that get taken in after they try to use their fame to get a free beer. They’re actually pretty damn good at fighting things. Point is, this, right here? This was to be expected.”

Foxhunter reflected on this for a moment, then gurgled darkly.

“Anyway, so they know we’re coming. They probably already did. No, trust me on this, we’re still in the game.”

“Come what may,” said a third voice, deeper than the others, “we need not fear failure. The death of the one called Vatsy is necessary retribution for his crimes. So says the Seven-Layered Writ of Toros, as it was handed down to the race of men.”

There was a pause.

“Uh, yeah,” said the second man. “Sure. Anyway, come on, we’ve wasted enough time. They’re probably nearing Checkpoint 2 by now.”

“Yeah, right, let’s move.”

“In the name of Toros, we shall proceed.”

“Right.”

“Yrgghellpme?” Foxhunter managed finally.

The shadows disappeared. There was the sound of retreating footsteps, and then silence.

“Fuullgh.”

 

Random Project: maudKAOS

26 Oct

I’ve started a new storytelling project. It’s a first-person narrative about an ordinary guy caught in the middle of a world going seriously, seriously mad.

Not terribly original, is it. There is one new gimmick, however:

It’s told via Twitter.

And I don’t mean I’m just using Twitter instead of writing it out on a page, either. It’s told as if the guy was Tweeting his experiences leading up to and later encompassing the shift in the world situation. I’ll time the entries as realistically as possible to represet his sporadic, desperate messages to the outside world.

I’ve spent the past week or so establishing the character and setting, but the story proper should begin soon. I don’t promise it’ll be awesome, but it should be an interesting experiment.

A few notes:

1.) Yes, that’s the same title I used for a failed forum RPG that I mentioned on this site. Shut up, I like the name. I know it sucks.

2.) Yes, that’s me in the profile pic…kind of. I made a face and then heavily photoshopped it. That’s why I have a 5 o’clock shadow, despite the fact that I seem to be incapable of growing facial hair. Also, I’m probably going to have to make a new one–I mean, I was going for tired-looking slacker, but I think I’m drifting into sex-offender-mugshot territory.

3.) No, I have no idea what I’m doing. Tell you what–stick with me on this one and I’ll do my best.

 
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In a Hostile Country: The Saga of Cahmel (Let’s Play Morrowind, Part 19)

25 Oct

When we last left our hero, he had a price on his head, fresh blood on his hands, the attention of the law, and a really, really terrible quest in the queue.

I don’t even remember what it was. All I know is that it sounded pretty godawful. Something about…mines. And mine-related activities, I dunno. Probably work some murder and larceny in there somewhere. Routine stuff, basically. So I figure, hey, I’ve been taking orders from Lazy MacPruneface long enough. It’s about time I got promoted again.

I bring this up to her—you have to actively ask your questgiver to promote you, apparently because little things like a higher pay grade slip their mind otherwise—and she tells me that basically, she’s not actually qualified to promote me any higher. She suggests that if I didn’t want to run various chores for her, a man named Crassius Curio could give me a promotion and better quests. If, you know, I’m into that sort of thing.

So…let me get this straight. There’s a guy out there who will a.) give me a promotion and b.) give me better jobs than the ones you’ve been giving me? Why, exactly, didn’t you tell me about this? Oh, right, because you don’t want to have to train some new guy. It takes a couple weeks of intensive industrial espionage and murder before you’re qualified to deliver a package, and those are weeks of sitting around on your fat keister that you’re never going to get back.

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The Week to Come

25 Oct

This is Halloween week. I’d spend this space trying to scare you, but if you’re here, then you:

a.) Have probably already read some of my work, and

b.) Have access to the internet.

If these conditions are met…let’s face it, there’s little I can say in this space that can possibly spook you.

Maybe you’ll be chilled by these offerings. Probably not.

  • Say Uncle
  • The Chase is On
  • A New Project
  • Creeping Creepification

Fun Fact for the Week: An objective and academic analysis of the facts suggests that Millard Fillmore was, in fact, a ninja. The jury is still out on Calvin Coolidge .

 

Kahdzbar’s Journal, Part 4

23 Oct

I bear tragic news.

Today, work proceeded as usual. Smiley was doing her daily farm-related activites. Sparky was clearing off the remaining areas. Fishy was off fishing. And She-Wolf set off like she always did, axe in hand, expression determined.

She didn’t return for lunch that day. Or afternoon alcohol. Or evening alcohol.

That night, as we sat around the campfire eating our roasted fish, we realized that we couldn’t feel She-Wolf’s comforting gaze on our backs and the place was less quiet than usual. A quick headcount revealed the worst—She-Wolf was missing.

We mounted a search party. As I sat down to record this very entry, Easy entered, She-Wolf’s tattered corpse in his hands. Something had brutally torn her apart—there were tooth marks and gashes all over her body, and she was literally soaked through with her own blood. I’m afraid some of it has gotten on to the pages of this book.

I ask Easy if they’d found the fiend who’d killed her. She informed me that they had, in fact, seen the culprit, but that it would be impractical to pursue said killer and bring them to justice.

I understand the reasoning, but I don’t have to like it.

Let it thus be recorded into the books of the ancients that “She-Wolf” Sazirukosh died as she lived—a woman of battle, of decisive action and honorable warfare. Though she may have lost her life at the traitorous waste-stained hands of a Rhesus monkey, she will live on forever in our hearts as a guardian and a hero. When the fortress is fully established, I will name a main gate after her to immortalize forever the protection she gave us.

Rest in peace, She-Wolf. There are no monkeys beyond the veil.

Coming in a week later. I haven’t had much time to keep up with this record as of late—things have been real busy, what with us short a hand and all. I almost wish we could send back asking for someone new, but I don’t want to sound greedy. Besides, I’m sure we can make do with 6 people.

This morning, I decided to go on a tour of the fortress—see how things were coming along, and all that. I’d spent the rest of the week designing the proposed lower stories in my tent, so I was interested to see how my men were getting along without my firm hand to guide them.

First, I visited the storage room. A bit sparse, I thought. Perhaps they shifted around all of the massive food barrels when I wasn’t looking. I’d have to sort that out—we won’t get anywhere if we misplace all of our rations, now, will we?

At that point, my train of thought was interrupted by Easy. She was dragging a barrel inside with one and eating something with the other.

“Sampling the food barrels, are we?” I asked in a playful voice.

She stared at me for a moment, then shook her head slowly. “Actually, no, this isn’t a food barrel. It’s full of rocks.”

“Rocks?”

“You said to store away any ore we found,” she said. “So, here’s the latest barrel. Sorry, the stockpile outside is filling up.”

“Stockpile outside? Where, exactly, outside?”

“All of it, more or less. The whole outside.”

I gestured, a little confused. “So, then, where are the food barrels?”

“Eh?”

“The barrels full of food.”

She stared at me for another moment. “I don’t understand the question.”

“Well, like,” I gestured towards her hand. “That. Where’d you get that?”

She opened her palm. “This? Corner of the refuse room. Little scamp was quick, but I managed to tempt him out with a spare bit ‘o cheese.”

My mouth dropped open. “You’re eating rats? How often?”

“Oh, not often. Just, you know, when I get hungry.”

Without another word, I stormed into the farm room.

There stood Smiley, something that took me a moment to actually grasp. She was absolutely caked head-to-toe with filth, such that one could quite possibly plant a half-acre of crops on her chest. The only things visible were her eyes—mad, bright sparks that glowed in the torchlight. For the first time in this noble enterprise, I was genuinely unsettled.

“What?” she asked, a little forcefully.

I didn’t know what else to ask, so I went with, “How’s the farm coming along?” At this point she simply crouched, growled, and began to paw the earth savagely. I heard her mutter, “Come on, mushrooms, grow, or you’ll never get promoted, no, you’ll hit the dirt, the dirt ceiling, grow, grow you bastards…” at this point, I elected to take a break.

I’m not afraid to admit that we’ve hit another little rough patch.

 
 

Crossfire Tango, Part 8

21 Oct

A gunshot smacked into the pavement. Bruno seized Vatsy by the scruff of his neck, half-carrying half-throwing him forward towards the shooter’s vantage point. Together they collapsed against the wall, Bruno’s eyes locked on the rooftop three stories above.

There was a brief moment of silence. A silhouette flickered, and Bruno made a motion as if to throw something at it.

The silhouette vanished instantly.

Bruno’s lips bent up in something that could, if viewed under a certain light and by a particularly discerning individual, be called a smile. It was about as mirthful as a raven dead of malaria, but it was a smile nonetheless.

“Think I might have guessed right, boss.”

“Evidence is accumulating.” Vatsy squinted up at the roof. “Poor shot, luckily.”
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Wherein Rutskarn Doubts BioWare

19 Oct

I’m not optimistic about Dragon Age.

For the majority of you along the CRPG circuit, that’s a kind of heresy. I mean, it’s BioWare, for chrissakes. They did some awesome stuff in their time—Knights of the Old Republic and Baldur’s Gate II are some of my absolute favorite games, right up there with Half-Life 2 and Morrowind.

And like most people, I was impressed by the early hype. 6 different backgrounds to choose from? A dark, mature fantasy setting? Dynamic combat? Sign me the hell up!

That was then. Then, understand, was over a year ago. This is now, and now, I’m wildly cynical about it.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s the trailers. Maybe it’s the way they make everything seem like a generic CBPHR (crystalbladeprophecyherorealm) setting with a handful of grit and gore thrown in. Maybe it’s the over-the-top, trying-too-hard feeling the cutscenes and narration give off. Maybe it’s the sorceress with the low-cut dress. Maybe it’s the reality of the title sinking in (Dragon Age? That’s the name you give to your revolutionary RPG? Was Legend Sword of Legends taken?). Regardless, the setting started to impress me less and less.

And then they released the character builder as a free download. I was ecstatic—finally, I’d get to look at all the much-vaunted background customization, at the improved mechanics, at what amounted to the guts of any RPG—the stats and character building. This was just the thing to restore my faith in the game.

Or, alternately, completely demolish it.

Okay, saying you get to pick from 6 different backgrounds is basically a lie. Try to stay with me here:

You get three breathtakingly original races—humans, elves, and dwarves. Each race gets to pick from three classes, except dwarves, who—in this spirit of this new and revolutionary RPG setting—are precluded from using magic. If you create a mage of either of the other races, you get a choice of exactly one background—you grew up in a magic academy. If you create a human that’s not a mage, but a fighter or rogue, you get a choice between Nobleman and…Nobleman. So, actually, that’s not a choice so much as a screw you. You wanted your rogue to have a backstory that could plausibly explain skill at sneaking and robbery? What, do you think you’re a storyteller or something? Didn’t you know that’s BioWare’s job? So let’s say you pick a non-mage elf instead. You get a choice between some sort of wild elf, which is pretty generic, and City Elf, which gives you a mandatory backstory involving your wedding day being interrupted by a human noble. What, your character’s more of a free spirit, living on the streets by their wits and not willing to tie themselves down? Again, screw you. Oh, and if you play a dwarf, you get your choice between—this will blow your mind—Dwarven Commoner and Dwarven Nobleman. Thanks, BioWare. I was terrified at the prospect of actually getting a meaningful choice.

Also, what the hell? The only hard crunch I get to play with is adding a few points to my stats. I can’t even scavenge points from the stats they roll up for me. What if I want to play a tough but stupid character? Or a weak but brilliant one? It looks like we start out with pretty average stats overall, and then get to pick what we’re a little bit good at. And your spells and stuff, all picked for you at first level. What, you want a little control over your character from the get-go? Sheesh, the designers are miracle workers, you know. You’re acting like 1st level character building is something that’s been in every single RPG for a decade.

Most importantly: no social stats. No social skills. No social…anything. No charisma, no speech, no bribery. Okay, unless I missed the announcement where they’re doing something brilliantly creative and innovative with persuasion and trickery, this, right here? This is a deal breaker.

I haven’t given up on it. I’m not arrogant enough to assume I’ve gleaned the game’s quality from a demo and a handful of videos. Suffice it to say, I haven’t exactly been impressed by what I’ve seen so far.