Archive for March, 2011

Incompetentman: Let’s Play Hitman, Parts 1+2

31 Mar

Some news:

1.) As per voting, instead of X-COM, I rolled out Hitman: Blood Money.

2.) The stream can be viewed in its entirety here.

3.) Speaking personally–and once I got going–I felt it was much more entertaining to watch than my X-COM streams.

4.) Hitman can be recorded using FRAPS. So from now on, I’ll be doing that on stream days and posting the results to Blip so y’alls can watch in slightly higher definition without interspersed ads. I would have done so today, but I forgot to turn on the mic for FRAPS. Also, the audio balance is a bit off, but no worries.

5.) Once again, stream’s here.

 

Lucid Streaming

30 Mar

Right, site seems to be up and running properly. Once again, thanks to the site’s support personnel for dislodging whatever was stuck in WordPress’ craw this time around.

Here’s the deal. Remember where my computer went down in crimson flame? Well, in the process, I kinda sorta lost my X-COM saves. Permanently? Maybe, maybe not. Bottom line is, they’re not gonna be there tomorrow. I can proceed in one of three ways:

1.) Start a new, better X-COM campaign, incorporating the lessons I’ve learned about friendship and teamwork and the power of ethnic diversity.

2.) Stream another game. Saint’s Row 2, or something of that kidney. If I ever recover the old X-COMmery, I’ll get to that.

3.) Arrhythmically slap myself with my mousepad for thirty minutes while phonetically reciting Mandarin poetry.

I’ll leave this one in your hands. Let me know which of the first two options you want, and I’ll do it at 5:00 tomorrow, at the usual place.

 

Site FUBObviousR

29 Mar

Site formatting, comments got some issues. Sorting them out before long-form content resumes.
Sentence fragments unrelated issue.

 
 

Phoenix on That

27 Mar

EDIT: Not sure what’s wrong with the formatting. Stay tuned.

The time was last Wednesday, about eight ‘o clock. I’d just spent a hard six hours on the line with a disenfranchised Albanian noble trying to sort out his whole finance transfer issue, so naturally, I was in the mood to let my hair down a little. I lit a fire in my trashcan using some greasy rags, settled into my computer chair with a warm mug of unrefrigerated, unpasteurized apple juice, and tuned my browser to my very favorite fling-a-brick-at-a-monkey-to-win-a-prize flash game. It was at about that point that my computer cleared its throat, took a deep breath, and informed me—as tactfully as possible—that I, and it, were about to experience the excitement and adventure that only a really interesting computer virus can provide.

Naturally, this problem wasn’t going to fix itself, so I leapt into action. My efforts were many, but fruitless. In case any of your computers should become infected, here are a few antivirus strategies that I can confirm do not work:

  • Profanity
  • Displaying to the concerned CPU any part of your anatomy
  • Physically assaulting the screen or keyboard
  • Illegal profanity
  • Pleas
  • Desperate pleas
  • Desperate pleas while displaying parts of your anatomy
  • Crying
  • Placing your computer upon a pedestal and publicly stoning it

So, if you’re wondering why no X-COM/updates last week, that would be it. I was not, strictly speaking, on the internet. This has caused several tangible physical alterations to my pigment-drained husk, not all of which are pleasant to behold. Simple, honest sunlight has caused mutations typically not seen outside of fifth-generation lab rats.

The end of the story is this: I have a new machine. It is superior in every way. It’s stronger, faster, smells of lilacs after a soft spring rain, and kills mosquitoes in an eighty-foot radius. I’m pretty sure it’s not possible to marry a computer in California, which is why I’m researching how many organs you need to staple to a motherboard before it legally becomes a person.

It also means that a few projects that were impossible, or too time-consuming, are now once again quite possible. Stay tuned on that front.

 
 

The Pig Girl: Section 2, Part 1

21 Mar

Wallace woke up ugly, in fits and starts, one foot in consciousness and the other in nightmare. He’d been dreaming about the city the way it was, about night air and dull news stations and overpriced breakfasts, and then that dream ended, and another began—he dreamt that he was in the bed in his old apartment, waking up to find that the riots were happening again. Mobs of people—no, not people, but screaming, red-eyed gargoyles—broke down the door, dragged him from his bed, and were stretching him out to split his bones with hammers and hacksaws while sirens spun their wheels uselessly in the distance. And he couldn’t understand what they were saying, even though they screamed so loud his ears stung, but he could only think to respond to them with, “I didn’t want any of this, nobody wanted this, nobody is proud of what they did, nobody, nobody…”

“Looks as if he’s having a seizure back there,” said Victor in a perfectly audible and conversational tone. That was something to anchor him, to place him in the vehicle—not his bed, not his apartment. Some of the dream dissolved away.

“I rather hope he isn’t,” said Reginald. “You know, I don’t think I remember any of that medical program.”

“Neither do I. More’s the pity, really. It’s a wonder neither of us have been shot yet at this rate.”

“Or had a bone broken.”

“Or gotten sick. Especially given the red wind exposure.”

“Or…”

“Hey,” said Wallace. His voice was a little more of a croak than he expected; too much powder, not enough water. That also explained the nightmares, come to think of it. “What time is it? We getting close?”

“Teatime,” said Victor, “And we’re an hour away.”

A dull headache throbbed behind Wallace’s eyes.

“When’s teatime?” he asked.

“In my experience, whenever you’d really like some tea. Academic, since as we don’t currently have any. Sorry if I got your hopes up.”

Read the rest of this entry »

 
 

World Creation II: Introduction

19 Mar

Finals are over, I am on break, and since the Bacchanalian Bikini Beach Barbecue Blast-a-thon was canceled due to an outbreak of scurvy, I’ll have time to work up some more Dwarf Fortress and Pig Girl tomorrow. And for now, there is this.

I didn’t really start Chocolate Hammer with a topic in mind. My goal wasn’t to correct some social wrong, call attention to a cultural issue, or post pictures of cats in compromising positions or whatever’s popular these days. So when I resolved to start my first series, way back in late 2008, I had no idea what to write it about.

At the time, I had some notes lying around for a possible steampunkish RPG setting. Nothing fancy: just some thoughts and concepts scrawled in the margins of my campaign notebooks, stuff I wrote down when I got bored drawing maps of trade routes and writing names with too many consonants. I thought it was worth exploring a bit more, so I made it the subject of first series, World Creation. In it, I spent fifteen entries knitting together a speculative fiction setting, starting with a general overlook and layering in details, piece by piece.

It was a fun project, and while I don’t really plan to revisit the resultant setting at any point, it was a useful and productive exercise nonetheless. Which is why I’ve decided to do it again, starting from scratch and building up to a reasonably fleshed-out and interesting world.

I’m not yet sure if this one will go on as long as the other one, or if it’ll go on longer, or if—midway through, without explanation—it’ll become a radio serial consisting of static buzzes and the murmuring of cows. It’s really beyond my ability to predict. I’m not really aiming at anything, I’m just pulling the trigger and seeing where this one goes.

Speaking of which, let’s jump to it.

The first thing I do when I start creating a setting is get down a few concepts I find interesting. These are drawn from my cramped, dusty, occasionally spider-infested storehouse of ideas, many of which are crude, disjointed, too vague to be useful, or mutually exclusive. But I put them down anyway, because for whatever reason, they stuck with me long enough to make it from a synaptic misfire to the Word document, so maybe they’re worth expanding on.

Here are some of the ideas I have going into this one. Some of these will be thoroughly explained. Some will be self-explanatory. Some won’t be, and won’t be explained, because I don’t really understand them either.

There are two big-picture ideas I’ve got right now. Note that neither of them are hooks, per se—nothing big and high-concept like, “everyone is a goat,” “there are three gods named Francis who keep getting mistaken for each other at parties,” or “the floor is lava.” I’ve got some of those, a few of which I’ll list below, but right now I’m just picking out primary colors. I’ll worry about the furniture in a bit.

The two big ideas are:

Make a good chunk of the setting jungle. I’m a bit sick of fields and deserts, and I haven’t really done anything with jungles before. And why not? Jungles are dense, scary, and full of all kinds of weird biodiversity. It’s a perfect setting for a work of speculative fiction. Now, I don’t want the whole world to be covered in the stuff, but I don’t think I’m going to be filling an entire globe—maybe just an extremely isolated continent.

Make an overwhelming percent of the population tribal. The sort of thick jungle I’ve got here doesn’t work all that well for agriculture. That means hunting and gathering, which implies tribes. This idea appeals to me, so it’s one I’m going to run with.

I’ll save some of the rant for a later edition of this series, but I think the tribal structure is one that’s badly mismanaged by speculative fiction, especially fantasy. Whenever the genre steps out of its anachronistic medieval/renaissance frankenstein homogeny long enough to write about something besides agrarian city-states full of white people, tribes are usually depicted as generically exotic, bafflingly peaceful, noble-savage bands full of white people. Their names are either bluntly literal (“Tree-spear-hunter-toering”) or assembled by taking the Fantasy Name Generator and stripping out the parts added after alpha, the ones that make sure the syllables are arranged in a logical or pronounceable fashion. In short, they beautifully marry a misunderstanding of anthropology with a lack of new or exciting ideas. Ain’t the Sturgeon section of speculative fiction grand?

So I’m going to try to start from scratch on this one. After all, ninety percent of the nonsensical clichés of fantasy are around because fantasy authors base their material on other fantasy authors, who based their material on other fantasy authors, who based their material on Tolkien, who got the ball rolling by cracking a book without a dragon on it.

And now for the other ideas:

Tribal languages that aren’t generic.

Insects that are big, but not SyFy movie* big. Like flies the size of your fist.

Predators that are scary, but resemble the content of a bad CGI action beat from a summer blockbuster as little as possible.

Some agrarian cultures. Even some small cities.

Alcohol isn’t served in bottles.

Guns? More on this later.

Tribal necromancy.

Omnipresent, omniscient, powerful God who is Jeffrey Dahmer evil.

As usual, none of this nonsense: prophecies, mystical crystal shiz, dragons, elves, big flash sparkly magic.

Next week, I’ll rig up a topological map using common household materials, and also a digitizing tablet.

*I originally wrote, “bad SyFy movie,” but an important part of the proofreading pass is removing redundancies.

 

Up Heads A

16 Mar

There won’t be an X-COM stream today, as I’ve got my last final to study for and I look a little something like this:

Stick around. I’m almost out of this.

 

The Bink of Madness

11 Mar

There is an inexhaustible source of comedy gold that is available to each and every American citizen, and it is the grocery store. It’s the place where a gobsmacking hypercapitalist diversity of brands and products meets a lowest-common-denominator expectation of quality, producing goods that range from the sublime to the bizarre to the potentially dangerous. Hours can be productively spent in the margarine aisle alone, comparing the relative merits of Buttery Spread, Taste of Butter Spread, Gold n’ Stuff, or the tantalizingly vague “Original Spread”*. And then there’s the casual racism, like their putting Saint Mary candles right in the middle of the taco spices. But there’s a special place in my heart for the stuff directed at children, because it’s always the most hilariously terrible.

Case in point: someone got the idea to make Easter chocolates shaped like little baby bunnies with the details picked out in candy shell. Historically speaking, there’s a thirty to sixty percent chance this person died of the Black Plague. Point is, every year, all the candy companies come out with some cheap knockoff of this general design and try to flog it for two cents less than their competitors. It’s a pretty oversaturated market. Perhaps that’s why the makers of Baby Binks decided to stand out from the crowd by absolutely goddamn terrifying every man, woman, and child to behold their product:

Look at those eyes. Look at those horrible, horrible eyes. No, I mean it. You looked at the picture and went, “Whoa!” and then you went down here to see what I was going to say next, or to skip to the next picture because reading is boring. Well, back it up, cowboy. Ease your scroll wheel up a few notches and stare right into Baby Binks’ soul.

You done? Okay, the bad news is that your House might now be forever cursed. The good news is, you weren’t me, who was forced to stare down an entire shelf of the wall-eyed bastards, each as terrifying as this one. Hell, some were worse, but when we pointed the camera at them the viewfinder started playing a slideshow of dead dogs.

How can you let even one of these things roll off an assembly line without torching the factory? No-one would stop you. Maybe the foreman would see you stuffing a rag into a bottle of gasoline and ask you a few questions, but then you’d show him Baby Binks, and as soon as he’d regained muscle control, he’d hand you a match.

And besides the eyes, it doesn’t even look that bad. That should have been their next move, actually–just take the eyes off. The result could not possibly be any creepier

And I just threw up. I just threw up my soul.

(To clarify: I didn’t physically or digitally modify the product in the second picture. It hit shelves like that. I’m not sure how I’m going to sleep tonight, but I sure do know what’ll be hiding in the darkest shadow in the back of my closet, waiting to slip out and breathe my soul in through its gaping eye-mouths.)

*A house brand, found next to a similarly-packaged packet of margarine. The wrapper makes no mention of what it tastes like, nor of what it’s trying to taste like. I like to think Original Spread marks a period of unfettered creativity for SUPERVALU food artisans, where they’re trying to break away from society’s established concept of “spread” and really bring something unique to the table.

 

By Way of Explascuses

07 Mar

I’d like to begin this post by claiming that there’s a conspiracy of blood-drinking reptile men who are planning to infiltrate the world’s governments, religions, and militaries–all this for the purpose of overthrowing civilization and crippling the expansion of our species. I’d like to begin the post that way because it’s completely insane, and will hopefully take your mind off the fact that I haven’t put anything up for a week or so. Did it work? Of course it did. Now let’s gently reintroduce the topic so I can clear a few things up.

It’s entirely possible you don’t want to know about my academic career, and I’m not about to go into great depth about it. As much as anything, this is because the topic is pretty boring, even to me. I’m waiting for the classes I want to take–the ones involving fiction–and in the meantime, am suffering the classes I am forced to take, which is everything else. A combination of CHP and arbitrary English requirements mean that, as a Creative Writing major, I was actually unable to schedule any Creative Writing classes for the entirety of this academic year. This is something like showing up to a Golden Corral buffet, and–before you can lay hands on the succulent pseudosteak and spiced hush puppies–having your plate, wallet, and pockets loaded with collard greens. So far, the classes I’ve taken this academic year have had one thing in common, which is that it’s been a herculean task giving the littlest turd about any of them.

Upshot is, I’ve been a little on the burnt side for a couple weeks. It doesn’t help that most of the projects I’ve undertaken–the Oblivion LP, Jibar and Ruts,the Blip.tv reposting of  X-COM, etc–have encountered some sort of ugly technical difficulty that has made them difficult or impossible to maintain in their current form. Maybe I could sit down and sort a few of them out if I had more time, but that hasn’t been the situation for a bit now. That’s put me in a spin where I’m too busy worrying about the projects that aren’t doable that I forget about the few that are. It’s actually a bit tricky to figure out, looking back on it in retrospect, but that’s the situation.

I’m currently on Week 10 of an 11-week quarter, which means I’m looking at a break. That’ll be some time to recharge my batteries, re-evaluate the site’s lineup, and get some content on the rails. For the week and a half until then, I’m going to do what I can and post it when I can. Some or all of this may be entirely goofy. I really don’t know at the moment.

One thing I’d like to say, and I realize this is the bluff of lazy internet people everywhere, is that I do have a few projects I’ve been working on that I just can’t quite talk about. I’ve got a thing that I’ve submitted to The Escapist that they’re looking at, which would be terribly exciting if I scored the chance to work on it. It’s the kind of thing I’ve been interested in doing for some time now. On top of that, I’ve got a fairly extensive fiction project that’s fairly art-intensive, but–and here’s the bit that saves this from being a total bluff–out of the 20 or so pages of art it would require, and the approximately 40 pages of text it would require, about 15 pages of art and 20 pages of text are in the can. You might see that in a month. And then there’s a final thing with the Spoiler Warning people that we’ve already started on, but I don’t know if we’re really ready to announce that one yet.

Anyway, that’s all I wanted to say. Stick around for a bit, everyone–things have been a bit barren, but I sincerely to want to pick it back up as soon as I can.