Archive for February, 2011

The New Journals (Dwarf Fortress), Introduction

28 Feb

(The last series began here)

Nobody anticipated I’d ever be seen again—least of all myself. When I set out into the foothills, crazed by starvation and fear and loneliness, I wasn’t in the frame of mind to seek civilization. I wasn’t in the frame of mind to do anything at all, really. The past few weeks had been spent curled up alone in a hole filled with the dead, the dying, and the stinking refuse of a dozen hopeless failures, waiting for the end that had been promised from the first day, and when it didn’t arrive, I wandered out to find it. My goal, my only goal at all, was to walk until I stopped walking.

So when the scout came upon me, standing naked in a river screaming myself hoarse at passing fish, I’m not sure who was less equipped for the situation. I don’t blame him for his reaction, which was to shoot me with a crossbow, especially since it directly followed my reaction, which was to bumrush him with what I thought was an axe and have since been informed was a red snapper six days dead. It occurs to me that I never did get that scout’s name. Someone did mention that he was doing fine, and that he had happily managed to convince himself that the whole thing was a hallucination.

I was quite lucky to have been found. I was even luckier not to have been identified until I was strong enough to fashion my bedpan into a crude weapon. Two averted “misunderstandings” later, I’d regained enough of my faculties to leave the place and rejoin dwarven society, within which further assassination attempts would seem kind of tacky.

It took a few months to reassemble my sanity; in confidence, I’m not sure I found all of the pieces. My life before was divided into two categories of roughly equal weight: the time before The Expedition, and The Expedition. Looking back, The Expedition was the only part that was terribly clear to me. Everything before was a little fuzzy, as if it’d happened to somebody else and I’d just read about it. Even the early parts of The Expedition were a little like that. I remember being really, really excited about something at first. As time went on, I got less excited, and my memories get clearer. Probably the clearest memory, the one that burned through all the day to day struggles and minutia, was the point where I figured out why I’d been given the job of expedition leader in the first place. That memory’s the reason I made a point of keeping a calendar.

Dwarf society has many traditions, especially when it comes to nobility, that are curiously strict and specific. One that I have already mentioned is that direct assassination attempts on any ambulatory member of society are considered uncouth. A second one is that any noble who has gone through great hardship must spend three months recovering before he may rejoin the day-to-day activities court.

Weeks passed. I marked each one very carefully, greeted each one very cautiously. And then, two months and twenty-nine days after I was released from the hospital, I received the letter informing me that I had been assigned another expedition.

Looks like they’re giving me another chance. I’m just so touched I could kill myself.

 
 

Jibar vs. Rutskarn: Hidden Source

26 Feb


In this episode of JaR (Hidden):

  • Awful roommate/housemate stories
  • Phase is competent
  • Jibar is incompetent
  • Rutskarn is supremely competent in all things
  • Rutskarn screams like his genitals were turned into a vampire bat

You’re welcome.

 

Oblivigations

25 Feb

Despite all my fan patches, troubleshooting, alchemy, incantations, and supplications to Agogo, Oblivion refuses to work properly. I get in a little bit and then boom–game stops responding stimuli and I have to put it down ugly-like. As I’ve mentioned before, this does not, technically, make playing Oblivion impossible, but it does make getting anything like a respectable chunk of gameplay very time consuming. Time is not a resource I’ve had a lot of lately.

So in the interest of generating a regular stream of game-related content for the site–the fiction and JaR are unrelated–I’m going to put Oblivion aside for a moment and take something else up. I’ll come back to it when I get the opportunity, but right now, I just can’t play something that’ll work for less than five minutes together. I’m going to need a backup game.

Since you guys have been good sports about the lack of steady content the past few weeks, I thought I’d rest the decision on what game I’ll be doing in your hands–within a range of options, of course. I’ll do text/screenshot versions of one of these games:

  • Dwarf Fortress
  • Minecraft
  • Hitman: Blood Money
  • Master of Magic

My decision will hinge on a simple majority vote. The first episode of the backup series will launch over the weekend.

A brief note on why the other two regular series haven’t been around, setting aside the previously mentioned time crunch:

We’ve been having trouble getting JaR to record properly, but the good news is we have filmed a pretty good episode that we just need to flash encode. There’s no reason that shouldn’t be up soon.

I’m sitting down and figuring out where I want to take Pig Girl next, because I think setting off on the wrong foot now could possibly kill the project.

 

Sin Explicación

24 Feb

 

Rantasmagoria: A Puzzle of the Tech

20 Feb

Perhaps you recall Shamus Young’s rant about Games for Windows LIVE, the snarl of ass-backwards interfaces and computer cancer that Windows is using to…I’m not actually sure what it’s for. If it was intended to compete with Steam, which is conceivable, then it’s actually a little bit funny how badly they’re doing. There’s a pretty bleak contrast between their quality, ubiquity, and fan support. One the one hand, Steam is a service I’ve come to accept and even welcome on my computer. It offers a few interesting features, an efficient game installation hub, and a vast, easy-to-use store that’s chock full of bargains on any given day. You will find many people who are actual fans of Steam. Games for Windows LIVE has as many fans as chlamydia.

I had my first brush with Games for Windows LIVE fairly recently, when I booted up Arkham Asylum and it prompted me to create an account. It offered me a choice between an Online Account and an Offline Account. Now, keep in mind that neither was even a little bit necessary. The game already has Steam’s DRM loaded. It’s designed for single-player gameplay. If it has an achievement system in Offline mode, I haven’t seen a trace of it. But what the hell, creating an Offline account is reasonably quick, so I’ll get it over with.

This is my account. Did I mention I've been in a bad mood lately?

Then Kane and Lynch comes along. Yeah, everyone hates it, bad reviews, the Gerstmann thing, I know. It was on sale for five dollars–and even then I wouldn’t have even considered buying it, except that Jibar and I needed a new game to play co-op for our video series and K&L is based around a co-op mode. Besides, Jibar actually really likes the game. We deducted ten bucks from the JaR profits and each got ourselves a copy.

Once we’d loaded it up and determined that it could be recorded smoothly, I set about making a LAN game to host on our Hamachi server. It was then that I discovered—and this is not reported anywhere—that to play co-op, you need an Xbox 360 controller.

That’s right. To play with two people on the PC, you need a 360 game controller plugged into the machine. They took a game that was designed to be played with two people, and when they ported it to the computer, they require it to be played split-screen. That’s like designing a car that only works when it’s hooked up to at least two horses, and then not listing that in the car’s features. Re-reading the game’s listing on the store page, I can be just charitable enough to call their approach grossly misleading. I would be more tempted to call it swindling.

Luckily for our recording prospects, there is another, less elaborate gameplay mode that can be played multiplayer. It won’t make for a full JaR season, but it’ll fill up a couple episodes and we can get our money’s worth. The only thing is, despite the game using Steam’s servers, you can only play if you have a LIVE account. Great.

With some difficulty, I bring up the intensely ugly Games for Windows LIVE dashboard that’s crowbarred into every Windows release. I try to move my mouse to select the menu, but the cursor doesn’t move. Did it lock up my machine? I press an arrow key experimentally; this changes my selection on the menu. No mouse support on the menu, huh? Fantastic. Let’s party like it’s 1996.

I find a link on the menu that’ll let me create a GWL account, then click on it. That’s when the game locks up.

After rebooting, I go through the above process again, and it somehow manages to work this time. The link actually takes me out of the game and brings up a web page using Internet Explorer, which I didn’t even know I had installed. I was just lazy enough not to copy the link and bring it up again in Firefox purely out of spite.

The web page tells me that before I can create my LIVE account, I have to register an e-mail address. I think. I’m still not exactly sure what it was asking me to do, but that’s okay, this is what spam accounts are for.

I go through an invasive, lengthy, and captcha-ridden application process, by the end of which I have furnished the Microsoft database with a host of fraudulent information about my name, whereabouts, and birthplace. This takes about ten minutes, about half of which is spent coming up with creative ways to work insults into my “personal information”. Then I go back to other page and follow the link to create my actual account. The link, which is provided on the official Microsoft page linked to their contemporary GWL releases, is dead.

Not only is it a 404-type page, it’s a 404-type page on the Xbox Live website. Now, I’m the first to admit that I have something of a working knowledge of computers. I can find my way around them and solve simple to moderately complex problems, and I have a rudimentary knowledge of computer structure, but it’s rare that know exactly what I’m doing and I do occasionally mislay or misinterpret hardware buzzwords. However, while I’m not an expert, I’m pretty secure in asserting that a personal computer is not an Xbox. What’s more: I’m pretty sure the FAQ/press release on the last page pointed out that GWL accounts and Xbox Live accounts are not the same thing, and cannot be used the same way.

I don’t think this website has what I’m looking for. I guess it’s time to hit the Google. The first page I come to when I search, “Games for Windows LIVE,” is a page indicated in the search results as, “Welcome to Games for Windows LIVE marketplace.” This seems like a good place to start, so I click the link.

The site I am directed to is entirely in German.

Now, I speak a little bit of German. I’d even make a cute trans-lingual statement to that effect if I could be bothered to look up the commands for umlauts or double-esses. But I’m not fluent enough to attempt making an account in this language, and I don’t see a way at all to switch it to English. The top bar does have a rider at the end specifying German, but deleting it and reloading the page just kicks me right back to Deutsch, and inferring what the US or English equivalent would be from the conventions used in the url just kicks me to a, “SEITE NICHT GEFUNDEN,” page.

Keep in mind that this is Microsoft’s storefront. It’s the equivalent of the Steam store. How badly did they have to muck this up that you can’t even shop in the correct language?

I shop around a bit more, and after about twenty minutes, I finally manage to find the right page and make myself an account. It’s worth pointing out that when it came time to choose an account name, every anti-Microsoft slur I could think of was already taken. I felt a sudden, gratifying moment of solidarity with the hundreds of people who had already beaten down this path of misery and confusion, and had, like me, struck out in the only way they could. What else could we do? We’ve already given Microsoft our money for this nonsense. It’s their platform. All we can do is accept their pointless, dysfunctional boondoggle of a system and whine about it later on the internet.

Finally, after a little over thirty minutes, I load up the game and try to access my account. After getting it to understand that I have a LIVE account, a laborious process, it finally prompts me to enter in my CD key. Now, I’ve played many Steam games that required CD keys before, which is pretty damn silly, but this is the first one that wouldn’t let me just copy-paste it in there. Once I get it in, the game starts loading something, then says it’s going to go download something else. Then it crashes and burns—which was apparently what it was supposed to do, because from its ashes another loader appears, which downloads a few things, stalls, and vanishes without warning.

The account still isn’t working. I doubt it ever will, something I’m beyond caring about. I guess what I’m really trying to say here, and I apologize in advance for how radical and unpopular this opinion might be, but what I’m trying to say is: Microsoft sucks.

And so does Kane and Lynch. But don’t tell Jibar I said that.

 

X-COMisery

18 Feb

http://www.livestream.com/chocolatehammer/video?clipId=pla_13535717-f119-49b3-ae14-54683c7f39e6

I forgot to post a notice about the Livestream of X-COM yesterday; if you missed it, the video can be viewed at the link above. You should probably watch this one if you’ve got even a passing interest in the series, because you know how I was waiting for my luck to run out and everything to go pits up?

Yes.

 

The Cyrodiil Look: Cahmel’s New Travels (Let’s Play Oblivion, Part 19)

17 Feb

When we last left our noble hero, he was considering whether or not a career in straight murdering people was feasible. I mean, it’s not too much of a stretch. I’ve been doing the whole physical violence against my fellow man/woman thing for ages, and while most of that has been at the amateur level, there’s at least a couple of professional dude-killings I can stick on my resume. Those guys in that cave that one time, for example. And that dude-lady in the house. And the other guys in that cave that other time. I don’t think I’ve ever been paid money to assassinate an innocent person before, but it’s a pretty fine line, right? Except in the legal, ethical, or practical sense.

And hey, I’ve been practicing all the right things. Over the course of the past week or so, I’ve been working almost nonstop building up my stock of bribe money, my tolerance for squirrely quests that go outside of my best interests, and my general misanthropy. And also sneaking and daggers and stuff. I am fully equipped to creep up behind someone, work up a lather of uncalled for hatred towards their potato faces, shank them, pay the guard not to arrest me afterwards, and accept a completely meager and disproportionate reward for the whole business before circling back for some more.

Yeah, you know what? I’ve found my calling. I’ve found the one thing on this continent that I’m willing to do. I’m not going to duke it with hobos in the hopes of scoring someone’s lunch money, I’m not going to steal from the middle-class and act irritatingly paternal towards the poor, I’m not going to do jobs for a Grapes-of-Wrath-soundin’ company looking to hire up starving stragglers and throw them at actual literal wolves, and as for that saving the world and returning the rightful heir to the throne in order to prevent the apocalypse thing? Sorry, but I prefer to do jail time and/or pay off the system to excuse my multiple homicides. Performing community service just ain’t my scene.

Mommy, I’ve decided what I’m going to do when I grow up. I want to kill lots and lots of people that probably don’t deserve it.

The trouble is that the Dark Brotherhood won’t even consider your application unless you have already iced a minimum of one punk, and even then, only if it was an unprovoked assault. I guess the Brotherhood can just sense whenever anyone murders any other person at any time, which, while it’s not exactly an exclusive criterion, at least it’s more relevant than the Thieves’ Guild qualification exam, which is bred specifically to select  individuals the Guild shouldn’t want. At least this test is sloppy and generalized in the right direction.

Actually, there’s a good point—the Dark Brotherhood can apparently magically detect whenever someone illegally murders someone else. That would mean they just know whenever a murder is committed, Minority Report style. Setting aside the vast implications of that for a moment: does the Dark Brotherhood visit absolutely every murderer, or just the ones who look buff and pretty enough to do the organization justice? I mean, let’s say I stab some random beggar in order to loot their meager savings and incongruous accent. Is the DB really gonna look at me and go, “Yeah, he’s got what it takes?” Because I’m pretty sure they’d have to interview like thousands of people a year if that was the case. And at least a couple of those interviews would have to be kinda unpleasant.

DB RECRUITER: You sleep soundly for a murderer. Perhaps, within your uniquely dark soul, even you realize that you have the potential to accomplish great and terrible what are you doing to that live stoat?

FISHBOY FRANK: This dance keeps me alive! It is the hound-beast that culls the freshest chicken!

DB RECRUITER: I hate this job so much. I really gotta score that transfer to Murdering People.

Enough screwing around—time to figure out how I’m gonna do this. I guess step one is figuring out who to kill to get cred with the other murderers. Technically, anyone would do, but I make a habit of never being randomly cruel when I can score petty revenge on a specific individual instead. And at this point, it’s really not so much a matter of figuring out who I want dead as it is picking out which ones I would want to kill the least. Into this I’m factoring in how much they’ve wronged me, how smug they were when they did it, how smug their face is, and whether or not I can take them in something that shares a few incidental characteristics with a straight fight.

Armand Christophe, the guy who turned the process of joining the Thieves Guild into a dumbass reality show that carried with it the crappiest benefits ever committed to contract? He did screw me over, and his face is pretty smug, but on the other hand, he’s all super important and stuff. I bet you a million dollars of anyone’s money that he’s unkillable.

Arena dude? He’s spent the last decade or so hurling childish insults at starving, desperate, heavily-armed hobos. He’s either tough as nails or he’s managed to turn stupidity into adequate body armor. Either way, too risky.

The Emperor? Hm. That’s actually not a bad oh, wait, someone beat me to it.

Dammit, this is hard.

 

An Update, A Question

15 Feb

EDIT: Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. Whether or not it works, I’ll grit it out and work up a buffer today, then post a new entry tonight.

Bad news first: the reason the Synergy season of Jibar and Ruts has not debuted is that we’ve taken several more cracks at it, and none of the audio files have come out right. We’re going to try to film a replacement set of episodes this weekend.

And now, a question about Oblivion. The internet has been some help in this, but maybe you lot have had some experience with this bug:

Every time I play Oblivion, I’ll coast along for five minutes and then I’ll be rendered unable to control the game. That means no movement or actions, and also no accessing the menu to cleanly quit the game. I’ve re-installed, I’m running no mods, and I’ve tried the game patched and unpatched with no success in either state.

Anyone have any idea what gives? It’s making it really, really difficult to do the Let’s Play when I have to stop playing every five minutes to sack the program and slap-box my computer into compliance. I’ve already got a limited amount of time to do the gameplay; throw in this business, and I’m going to have to do some real creative scheduling to have a chance of getting aught done.

Anyway, if you’ve any idea what’s causing this, drop a line in the comments below.

 

Hobotine’s Day

14 Feb

Think that guy/girl in the seat next to yours is starting to take a fancy to you? Feel like your cute coworker is a few comments away from asking you out? Got a special someone who can’t stand to be apart from you? Irritating, ain’t it? Don’t you worry; this Valentine’s Day, we’ve got that business locked down with these glorious Hobotines.

The only expressions of affection sanctioned by Chocolate Hammer.org, these babies cost exactly zero dollars apiece, and can be prepared by printing them out on the worst-quality paper within arm’s reach, cutting or tearing them to the appropriate dimensions, and folding. Simple, free, terrifying.

Click the thumbnails for full-sized versions.

If you actually use one of these in any context, inform me, and I will go halfsies on your genital reconstruction surgery.

 

Catanomics

11 Feb

My neterworks appear to be at least temporarily functional once again, my throat is clearing up, and my finals are just about all concluded. This augurs a return to posting form; what’s more, a few secret projects will be ready for release in the foreseeable future, which tickles me tremendously.

What I have for you right now is this comic. In the strictest sense of the word, it is fiction, but I’d prefer to call it paneled truth.