Abuse My Nipples Dot Biz
May 19, 2018 - D.A.R.E. To Be Stupid
As I was headed to the grocery store the other day to buy beer and beer accessories, I was met outside by a man collecting donations for D.A.R.E. For those of you who grew up during the Selfie Generation and have no clue what D.A.R.E. is, it was basically a failed attempt back in the nineties to keep kids from growing up into drug addicts. The man asked me how I was doing, and I responded that I seemed to have set my DeLorean for 1992 again. I eventually gave him some pocket change to make him stop talking - something I now regret and am now writing this to make myself feel better about.
You see, programs like D.A.R.E. all have a critical flaw in that they really, really suck at what they aim to do. They attempt to define scare tactics as drug education, much like how sexual education is just someone showing you pictures of all of the horrible things that will grow on your dick if you ever stick it inside of somebody else. Aside from being stupid and completely alienating anyone who can spot the flaw in their logic (children are remarkably more perceptive than adults wish to give them credit for), this approach is ultimately ineffective since it fails to address - or even grasp - what puts its target audience at risk in the first place.
Let's back up for a second. I shouldn't be the one to talk about at-risk teens because I never was one and wouldn't really even know what to say if I ever met one. I'm the other half of the audience in drug education classes: the kid that's bored out of his mind because he has to sit through a bunch of shit that will never be applicable to him and he kind of resents everyone else for their poor life choices that have made this program necessary at all. Kids like me saw D.A.R.E. in the same light as a two-hour PSA on why you shouldn't drink bleach: an affront to natural selection and an insult to our intelligence. In the end, I was completely vindicated in my decision to nope right the fuck out of drug education because, as we've already established, I wasn't the target audience anyway. But then, that's not really the point.
Yes, chemical dependency has never been a problem for me, and thus literally anything that any anti-drug campaign from my childhood attempted to teach me was a waste of both their time and mine. But I have spent the overwhelming majority of my life dealing with the kind of depression that drives many people to substance abuse in the first place, and that is the point. Basic life skills like how to cope with feeling like shit and healthy outlets for negative emotions don't really fall under our country's definition of "education", and our population is a very sad reflection of this. Combine this with our cultural obsession with firearms, and it's suddenly not that difficult to see why our days since last mass shooting-o-meter gets reset about once every other week.
It should be obvious by this point that the problem I speak of runs much deeper than drug awareness and is instead an issue with how we look at education as a whole. Our schools do nothing to teach children how to live better lives or be better people - they teach facts, dates, and ultimately useless trivia. At the risk of sounding like I should be kicking Keith David's ass in a back alley, we are taught to sit down, shut up, listen, and obey rather than the one thing that we should be taught above all else: to think. And that's probably because if anyone put any thought into half of the retarded-ass shit our schools did, we'd have a revolt on our hands.
So let's pull this back to the original subject of drug awareness, lest I bitch for hours on end about how fucking retarded "zero tolerance" rules have been and how utterly useless they are to boot. Put away the video of the pushy heroin dealer that literally no kid ever actually encountered in real life and approach the subject with a little bit of thought and complete honesty. Drug addiction ruins lives: that much is openly obvious to anyone with a functional brain or Google access and does not bear further repetition. However, it remains an issue in modern society despite its well-documented effects on your health and overall quality of life, and it will continue to remain so until we address the question of why.
Instead of showing children pictures of Florida Man and threatening them with turning out just like him if they ever so much as smoke a joint, ask them to imagine a scenario in which the desire to escape their problems becomes so severe that the threat of sucking dick for crack is no longer a deterrent. This not only brings up the topic of substance abuse without alienating half of your audience, but it also gets those tiny little brains thinking. And, if you subscribe to the notion that the children are our future, it gets us moving toward something that might actually be a solution.
But then again, why solve a problem when letting it persist is so much more profitable.
March 21, 2018 - The World Of Tomorrow
So, today I want to take a minute to talk to the kids. The adults need to hear this, too, but much less so because, quite frankly, you people don't fucking listen. Anyway, it seems that many of you have come to a recent realization that you would very much enjoy not being shot. As someone who is also not particularly fond of being shot, I can certainly relate. Understandably, you want things to change, and I'm here today to impart some wisdom to y'all about what exactly any meaningful change would entail, as well as the obstacles it will face.
To make an example of a similar but unrelated issue, let's look at a friend of mine who happens to be a homosexual man. And because I'm a bigoted asshole (and not a very good friend, apparently), I decide I'm just going to go punch him in his gay face. Now, this is already illegal because it's, y'know, assault, but there are laws in place that make it extra illegal because what I'm doing is also a "hate" crime. And these laws protect my friend insomuch as they can send my ass to jail, but they don't necessarily address the underlying social prejudices that motivated the attack in the first place.
Point is, the government can't pass laws that change societal attitudes or make us less shitty people. There's been a number of images making the rounds talking about how gun laws work in, say, Japan, and not-so-subtly implying that we're all a bunch of ignorant fuckheads for not blindly following suit. But do you know why they work in Japan? It's because they don't have the collective cultural hardon for firearms that we do. There's nothing in their constitution - assuming they even have one - about their God-given right to arm themselves to the teeth (though I'm pretty sure there's something in there about Pocky). And that's probably because, unlike us, Japan wasn't founded by a bunch of people who were basically like, "hey, fuck you England. We're gonna go make our own country. With blackjack. And hookers. And guns. And we're gonna need those guns because the place we're headed to already has a bunch of brown and red people there and we need to murder the shit out of them to make room for our golf courses and our pumpkin spice lattes and that stupid fucking thing you kids have that puts dog faces on your photos (seriously, what is up with that shit?). And then we're gonna have to fuck up your British asses when you decide to come strolling up in here spouting some shit about tea or taxes or whatever."
You see, kids, we killed a bunch of motherfuckers to get where we're at today and we're still kinda lugging around a bunch of 200 year-old baggage because of it. The mere discussion of gun control in any form, let alone actual implentation, doesn't go over really well here because we don't see guns as tools like everyone else does. We see them as symbols of our independence and 'muh freedoms and bald eagles and shit, and our lives are predicated around the expectation that everyone else wants to come and fuck our shit up - not an entirely unwarranted fear given that we're the country who elected this asshole. We fantasize about putting bullets into anyone who tries to tell us what to do because we don't know how to stand up for ourselves when we actually need to. We'll talk about building a comically giant wall to keep out the sombrero people and their delicious tacos (at least until the fuckin' Kool-Aid Man comes crashing through it with a pitcher full of tequila) and then in the very same breath bend over and gladly take it deep up the ass from our corporate overlords. Yeah, gun control works in other civilized countries, but other civilized countries also aren't mired in a sea of deep-rooted psychological bullshit stemming from being fucked over on a daily basis by the people in charge of them.
This may surprise anyone who is both American and still reading this that a lot of really awful shit that you people think is normal isn't. We live in a country where a hospital can charge you two grand for the privlege of sitting in a waiting room for eight hours and then having a doctor tell you to go the fuck home. This shit's so out of control that there's an entire industry that revolves around helping people pay for basic needs that nobody can afford. And if your broke ass can't even afford to pay "insurance" money to what are essentially legalized mobsters, the IRS will just come along and fine your ass for it. At least the mafia just sends someone to break your kneecaps. We literally deal with people who have no money by charging them money, which is retarded on a level far worse than anything I ever saw in SPED.
And you stupid motherfuckers just sit back and accept this like it's just the fucking way things have to be because you can't see a way around it that doesn't smell like Communism, and that's bad because it means we'll all have to subsist on a diet of vodka and borscht and wrestle bears for a living and learn how to do that damned Russian squat dance. If y'all want to take on the big bad government and bitch at them to fix some bullshit that's actually their fucking fault, start with all that shit in the paragraph above this one. At least then when somebody shoots you, you'll be able to afford to go to the hospital.
Consider for a moment why it is that people tend to respond angrily to anything they don't understand and/or agree with, i.e. daring to suggest that we do something to keep assault rifles out of the hands of maniacs. It's because we as human beings are instinctively driven to protect ourselves and our tolerated ones from anything that threatens our sense of security and well-being. But when the system that is supposed to be providing that sense of security in the first place has not only failed us, but has also gaslighted the ever-loving fuck out of us, we suddenly have all of this negative energy with nowhere to go and it turns us all into a bunch of aggressive dicks. It's why political discussions of any sort in this country are synonymous with dumpster fires and we find ourselves wishing upon those with opposing viewpoints some sort of sandpaper/acid bath/Nickelback treatment - personally, that's something I'd reserve for spammers and whoever the fuck is repsonsible for keeping Daylight Savings Time around. And, more to the point, it's why so many of us wax poetic about the government prying our guns away only from our cold, dead hands.
But here's the rub - it's easy to look at the government as the cause of so very many of our country's problems because it's full of evil people who thrive on the misery and suffering of others, but the truth is that the government is merely a reflection of the real problem: society itself. Lest you be too quick to pat yourself on the back for being one of the approximately 6 billion people on Earth who didn't vote for Donald Trump, realize that America is not merely the country that elected him - it's the country that allowed him to become successful in the first place. Long before "President Trump" was something more than just a throwaway Simpsons gag, we saw a man with nothing to offer the world except being an insufferable asshole. And instead of reviling him for it, we revered him. We elevated a man with no redeeming qualities whatsoever to celebrity status, allowed him to amass more wealth than most of us will ever see in our lives, and it's only now that we take umbrage with him because he's finally in a position where he can do some real damage. Yeah, a perfect world would never have elected Captain Shit-For-Brains because a perfect world would have never produced him.
And that brings us back to what you can do about all of this. The one big advantage that you kids have in this fight is just that - you're kids. Further school shootings aside, y'all are going to be here long after the government bastards you're railing against are compost, and the only way that nothing is going to change is if you all grow up to be a bunch of shitheads just like the withered octogenarians that we're waiting on to hurry up and die off already. You can tell what a nation values most by looking at where its money and resources go, and it's up to all of you to take a good look around you right now and figure out exactly what's important to you. Do you want to grow up into a world where the wealthy elite are the most heartless and ruthless amongst us? Do you want a world where an honest day's work is looked down upon just because it's not part of a lucrative profession, even if (especially if) it's a job that needs to be done like cleaning our toilets or making delicious tacos? Or do you have a vision of a much better world in mind?
In the immortal words of Captain Planet: the power is yours.
February 21, 2018 - On The Nature Of Modding & Game Design
Like anyone with a job or hobby that attracts an audience, there are certain questions that tend to come up a lot to me in my capacity as a modder of video games... certain "frequently-asked questions", if you will. Today, I would like to take a moment to answer some of the most common/pressing of them.
Why don't you just make an original game?
Of all the questions modders are asked, this is easily the most offensive as it both belittles and completely misses the point of our craft. It's like asking someone who enjoys restoring classic cars why they don't just make their own. I'll talk about this in a bit more detail further below, but the short answer is that improving on an existing idea is an entirely different task from forming a new one and, more importantly, is no more or less valid a form of artistic expression because of it.
Why did you change "X" thing?
Game mods face a somewhat unique obstacle in that, unlike an original game, they are expected to justify their own existence. Design decisions are generally not scrutinized in a "vanilla" game to the degree they are in a mod, which makes a certain amount of sense given that players are actively looking for changes in the latter no matter how much its creator wishes they would treat it like the former. It's kind of like dealing with people who can't enjoy a movie because they're too busy comparing absolutely everything about it to the book.
Modders take note: no matter how stupid, arbitrary, or poorly thought-out anything in a base game is, no matter how minuscule or insignificant, someone will question your decision to change it. I've had people ask me why I changed the names of certain enemies in Brave New World when their original names were literal nonsense words so unremarkable that nobody (including the person asking) remembers what they were. And you can fall back on logic or reason all you want to justify your actions, but ultimately the answer will be "because I didn't like what it was before and wanted to change it". And one of the most important things to learn as a modder is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Why DIDN'T you change "X" thing?
Contrary to the above, the answer to this one is usually, "I couldn't". Modding is frequently bound by the restrictions of the source material or by how deep into the code we are able to dig, and things that may seem to the outside observer to be an easy copy/paste job often aren't. Also, do assume that modders (or at least good modders) have put a lot of thought into their final product and have considered all of the potential implications of even a seemingly small change.
That said, ask away - I've made countless changes to my mods based on player feedback pointing out something I just hadn't thought of, and at the very least you're likely to get an interesting piece of developer insight in response.
Why would you mod a game that you don't like?
As the designer of a prominent Final Fantasy VI mod, it often confuses people to learn that I am not all that fond of the original game. While some mods are created by people who are deeply in love with the game in question, these mods are rarely of good quality since their creators saw so little room for improvement. More often than not, they end up veering into bad fanfiction territory and/or falling victim to the philosophy of adding more stuff just to have more stuff with absolutely zero regard for how well any of it fits in or concern for existing content (AKA "Squaresoft Design Theory 101").
This is not to say that good modders hate the games that they are working on; something obviously had to draw them in, after all. But I've come to realize that too much reverence for the game you're working with tends to prevent good or even necessary changes for fear of breaking from the traditional and familiar - this mentality is the reason I am often bitched at for fixing legitimate bugs and exploits. Good mods are ideally born from an attachment to an idea (or ideas) by people with a vision of their full potential and, more often than not, a certain degree of frustration toward their flawed execution that keeps them from realizing that potential. And this frustration - something generally lacking in people who are already happy with games the way they are - is what drives us to make a better game.
On trial and error...
So, this is neither a question nor a complete sentence and it pertains to game design as a whole rather than just modding, but it's an important topic to discuss here given the prevalence of "kaizo" hacks out there in contrast to an audience that is generally more accustomed to modern game design. For those unfamiliar, the term "kaizo" comes from the name of one of the earliest known hacks of its kind: a Super Mario World ROMhack that utilized extreme difficulty as a form of comedy, winding up as a sort of self-directed schadenfreude. This was an extension of the very first such games - a trilogy of Super Mario Bros. hacks called Syobon Action or "Cat Mario" - whose difficulty stemmed entirely from their "puzzle" elements which murdered the player in increasingly ridiculous ways for taking the most logical course of action, thus forcing a purely "trial and error" method of gameplay that (along with the racist sprite hacks of yore) has since gone on to stigmatize modding as a whole. The term is now used to describe any ROMhack of difficulty sufficient to warrant pure trial-and-error gameplay and tends to be freely (and often unfairly) used to describe mods that introduce difficulty of any kind.
It's because of the above that Brave New World shies away from the "difficulty hack" label altogether, but it tends to draw arguments from players who (correctly) realize that it is, in fact, much harder than the original game. My personal take is that there seems to be some degree of resistance to the idea that the player should be made to think, that the game is a puzzle meant to be figured out rather than a mere interactive viewing experience. What some players label "punishment" is to me simply a part of the learning process. Learning involves experimentation, which by its very nature equates to trial and - more often than not - error. Brave New World was designed with the expectation that players would frequently die and be forced to rethink their approach to certain battles, but comparisons to games designed to make the player suffer are inaccurate and something that we wish to avoid.
There seems to be a commonly-held notion that a good game should be easily beatable by a blind player ("blind" in the figurative sense, not literal) without failure and that anyone who thinks otherwise is one of those "Dark Souls" weirdos. There is little acknowledged middle ground between games requiring no effort whatsoever and those specifically designed to be unfair, which from my experience manifests primarily as an unwillingness to experiment. Again using Brave New World as an example, one of its major design philosophies is that the random encounter system should pose a challenge to the player's abilities to figure out how to deal with them quickly and efficiently, or else they exist for no other reason than to waste the player's time. A big part of this is a wide variety of enemy weaknesses and resistances so that no one attack or tactic is universally effective, thus forcing the player to adapt to each individual encounter. Sounds good, yeah?
The result of the above design, however, brings to mind the cautionary advice of Mark Rosenwater against fighting human nature. It's become somewhat of a meme in the Brave New World community for a new player to complain that "X thing is useless because everything is immune to it", with that "X thing" usually being wind damage. And it's not that this statement is even remotely true (approximately 15% of enemies in Brave New World resist wind damage) so much as that players are so rarely forced to attempt different strategies in the original game's design and are very quickly discouraged from doing so at the first sight of failure. The unfortunate ultimate result of this phenomenon is a refusal to move away from "tried and true" tactics even when they fail, with players stubbornly attempting the same thing over and over again rather than trying something new (which, by the way, is the definition of insanity).
And that's it for now. Perhaps in the future I'll do a "part two", but these are the questions that have been stuck in my head for awhile and itching to get out. Thanks for reading, and remember that modders are just people who perform a labor of love for no reward other than the hope that our work makes the world a better (or at least funner) place.
(Or get us laid. That's pretty nice.)
December 07, 2017 - In Which Sexual Predators Become The Prey
As I was watching a good friend play through our resident Final Fantasy VII mod the other night, I thought back on this aging classic and commented, among other things, that sexual harassment was an odd reward for a side quest. In light of the recent deluge of women - and men - who have at any point found themselves on the business end of a Hot Harvey Weinstein and are finally stepping forward to say something, it seems almost quaint to think back to a time when it was treated as a punchline. And I for one couldn't be happier about it.
This isn't to say, of course, that I'm glad to see so many people getting the The 'ol Kevin Spacey or a Charlie Rose Reacharound, but rather that this recent cavalcade of allegations is far more culturally significant than one may be led to believe. This isn't just some major victory for women's rights and everyone who's ever gotten some unwanted Matt Lauer Lovin' or some menstrual Earth goddess bullshit - it's the masses finally beginning to realize the power they wield over the wealthy elite. This is generations of unacceptable behavior from the rich and powerful finally spoken out against by those who once feared retaliation from the powers that be. For as long as any of us can remember, it's simply been accepted that if someone "important" gave you a Louis C.K. Special or a George H.W. Handshake, you simply accepted it and moved on because lowly peasants were powerless to act against the ruling class. But they are few and the unwilling recipients of Andrew Kreisberg's Arrow are legion.
What we've witnessed thus far is merely the tip of an iceberg that runs as deep as the pockets of those who are being brought down by it. People everywhere who've ever recieved a Rowdy Roy Moore, a Steamy Steven Segal, or a James Toback Tune-Up are mad as hell and out for blood. There are those who are calling this a scary time to be a man, but rest assured, gentle readers, that you need only feel the frightened puckering of your anus if you've ever given someone a Nasty Larry Nassar, an Al Franken Fistbump, or a Moist Terry Richardson.
I'll be blunt: nobody wants, has ever wanted, or ever will want a Roy Price Penetration, a Jeremy Piven Pounding, or a Brett Ratner Ravaging. There will never be any demand whatsoever for a Glenn Thrush Thrusting, a Mark Halperin Handy, or A Tony Cornish Cornh- (you know what, no, this one is too easy. There's low hanging fruit and then there's fruit that's lying rotting on the ground.) and there will most definitely never be an ounce of desire for a Raunchy Russell Simmons or some sweet Michael Oreskes Mackin'. These things are the societal equivalent of cancer in that everybody hates them and we are constantly seeking a way to eradicate them once and for all. And when they are finally gone, nobody will ever find themselves wishing that they could have a Dirty Dan Schoen, a Lewd Leon Wieseltier, or a Hamilton Fish Fillet.
The question, then, is why have so many powerful men fallen due to their poor life decisions to do the Dustin Hoffman Hassle or the Cosby Cuddle, yet Mr. "Grab Her By The Pussy" himself remains in power? Only time will tell for certain, but the optimist in me (the naive little bastard) says that we're saving him for the grand finale. I remain the only person I know who wasn't incensed to see him elected, partially because the guy is a comedy goldmine, but mainly because I had the foresight to see that his rise to power would inevitably lead us to this point - a point where we desperately needed to be. The revolution has begun, my friends, and when the dust finally settles it will be the purveyors of the James Levine Shuffle and the John Besh Grand Slam who are instead on the receiving end of a Firm Ben Afflecking.
December 06, 2017 - FAQs, ROMHacks, & Kitties: Oh My!
I recently finished writing my first FAQ in over a decade for the PS2 remake of the original Romancing SaGa, a game I'd highly recommend to anyone interested in an open-ended RPG. Rather than a complete walkthrough, as most guides are wont to be, mine is an actual FAQ that explains many of the game's notoriously obtuse mechanics to new players while still allowing them the fun of figuring out the rest of the game for themselves. Writing guides for games, as anyone who knows me from my GameFAQs days can attest, is what got me started on the road to modding as I quickly found that I wrote about video games as I wanted them to be, not as they were - sort of like how nobody ever created a fictional universe where the president was Donald Trump (except that one time when The Simpsons did it).
To call what I do a modding "career" is somewhat misleading since it's a hobby that I legally cannot profit from (although I cannot in good conscience turn down any willing donations to the help my broke-ass girlfriend send her cats to the vet fund; any money sent to me will go directly toward helping a furry animal in need.) Rather, I consider what I do to be a calling and I am blessed to have a day job that affords me plenty of spare time with which to work my craft. That so many people are unable to make a decent living whilst contributing to society in a meaningful manner - especially when there is so much to be done - is perhaps our greatest downfall and it gives me a great sad.
Ultimately, our problem has boiled down to our failure to come up with an acceptable answer to the question of the ages: how do you make someone pay for something that they can acquire for free? Our perennial response to this dilemma for most art forms, has been corporate sponsorship. In ye olden days, we freely watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the many shows that followed in its wake in exchange for allowing companies to bombard us with ads during piss breaks. This was, in a twisted way, the best of both worlds since the majority of us were free to ignore it and get something for nothing while the small percentage of people who bought insurance just because they saw a caveman doing it on TV kept the gravy train going for all of us. And lest you be too quick to pardon this societal contract for its lone merit, bear in mind that spammers operate on the same basic principle.
Of course, that was then and this is now. Times have changed, and the advertising-based revenue model went out of vogue with slap bracelets and blast processing. We no longer ignore ads - we ignore the shit out of them with technology specifically designed to block them out. This isn't an issue with regards to people like, say, me, who hate corporations and don't buy their shit anyway, but it becomes a real problem when its ubiquity starts to encroach on that one in a thousand demographic of people who see two douchebags in a car and decide to go get some food instead of stabbing whoever came up with that ad campaign in the testicles. And that's not even to mention that the attention-seeking nature of advertising has made it increasingly ill-advised - and in same cases even unsafe - to not use ad blockers.
Meanwhile, corporations have responded to this trend by passing the onus of figuring out a solution on to the content provider. Unlike in the days of television, where companies paid a flat cost, depending on the program, for a 30-second spot to annoy and harass people who lacked mobility and/or a mute button on their remote control, they now pay out purely on a per-click or per-view basis. This has led sites in droves to beg people to whitelist them, for all the good that will do. If the recent layoff-fest over at Cracked is any indication, people have responded in a clear voice that we're not even willing to so much as let our browser load an advertisement that we will then proceed to ignore in the name of funding our media, let alone pay for it. We hate ads that much.
It's somewhat perplexing, then, that something that we as a society loathe so vehemently is also the cornerstone of our economy. Even more vexing is that while piracy is vilified by all who worship at the altar of greed, nobody has ever (to my knowledge, at least) been brassed off to discover their work in a library: a public receptacle where art can be freely consumed by the masses while the creator is (presumably) compensated through government funding. In that light, it's quite unfortunate that our culture fails to view libraries as a legitimate source of artistic and journalistic content and instead as a place where homeless people can go to defecate and touch themselves.
So why hasn't this radical idea caught on? I'm no economist, but I'm guessing that it probably has something to do with our century-old hang-ups about anything that even remotely resembles communism and our love of sucking the giant, corporate cock. Despite the obvious hardships its encountered, companies are ramming their advertising dicks down the public's throat harder than ever in a desperate attempt to get someone to listen, and because our societal attitudes toward a romanticized ideal of capitalism are so deeply ingrained in our collective conscious, nothing is going to change until this entire system falls harder on its ass than Harvey Weinstein at a feminist rally.
So the next time someone gets on your ass for waving your pirate flag, just tell 'em you're supporting your local library.
November 25, 2017 - Twenty Years, Twenty Lessons
I had the opportunity recently to watch a speech given by the lead designer of Magic: The Gathering outlining twenty lessons he has learned about game design over the last twenty years. He speaks at length about game design as more than a numbers game and how it ties in to human psychology, and every point he makes is a point that I myself have learned and preached in my career as a modder. I would strongly urge anyone who has any sort interest in game development whatsoever to watch this video and take the advice given in it to heart.
On the same subject, the recent sale of Sid Meier's Civilization 3 on GOG has inspired me to blow the dust off of one of my oldest modding projects and clean it up for a proper release. Somewhere In Time is my attempt at perfecting the rules of the original game, which is in my opinion the best of all the Civilization games while ignoring all of the extra crap that the expansions bogged it down with. One of my biggest philosophies with game design - and one of the points that Mark Rosenberg discusses in the above-linked video - is that every addition should serve to further the game and that anything that exists for the sole purpose of adding more stuff needs to be cut. Less is more, and in Civ3's case, less was a lot more.
As for Brave New World, the next major update is currently mired in beta hell and will hopefully be out by the year's end. I'd like to thank everyone involved for their patience with getting everything sussed out. I need not look any further than the amazing community that has grown around my mod to know that Synchysi and I have truly accomplished something amazing with it. I love each and every one of you (except Scott - he's a dick).
November 11, 2017 - The Land Of The Free
So, today is the day that America has set aside to honor people who have served in its military. Speaking as someone who comes from a navy family but has never served, I just want to say that you need not subscribe to such jingoistic (or overdramatic) beliefs about our service personnel out there fighting for our freedoms and bald eagles and shit. These are just regular people who've stepped up to do a very unpleasant - and sometimes very dangerous - job, and it's because of them that the rest of us aren't forced into it. The least we can all do, regardless of how we feel about war or the practical joke gone too far we now call "president", is take a moment to let them know we appreciate them.
As for those who actually *are* out there fighting, it's up to us to make sure they've got a home worth coming back to.
October 27, 2017 - It's Raining Blood
Buffy The Vampire Slayer was a show that broke a lot of important ground, hence its enduring legacy even some twenty years after its release. Hell, it's even been studied at length in academia. But although it has many excellent and universally well-liked episodes, asking a typical Buffy fan what their favorite one is will invariably yield one of a very short list of usual suspects. Most likely, it will be the musical episode Once More With Feeling from the otherwise-lackluster season six. This is essentially Buffy's Stairway to Heaven (or Highway to Hell, if you're so inclined) in that any artistic merit it may have is completely overshadowed by that one obnoxious asshole who won't shut the fuck up about it out and Guitar Center employees will ask you to leave if you try to play anything from it. People who love this episode too much aren't quite at the level of "Mormons selling Amway" like, say, a typical Undertale fan is, but damn if they're not trying to be.
I mention this partly to apologize to non-fans of the show for these people (I am really, really sorry) and partly because my favorite episode is fairly well off of the beaten path of even just kind-of-liked episodes. Not that season three's openening act is a bad one by any means, but it's not something that tends to leave the same memorable impact as other offering like The Wish, Dopplegangland, or pretty much any other episode where Allison Hannigan is more bangable than usual. Quite to the contrary, Anne hardly features Willow at all - or any of the rest of the cast, for that matter - instead focusing on a very alone Buffy in Los Angeles attempting to skip out on fate and failing tragically to do so.
Anne is unusual for a Buffy episode in that it doesn't really feel like an episode of Buffy at all due in large part to the absence of a supporting cast to bounce quippy one-liners off of (although Buffy does manage to get a pretty good one in on a random NPC). In fact, Anne feels very much like an episode of Angel to the point where I'm convinced that it was used as a template for at least the entire first season. In a series where the isolation of being a real-life superhero is a primary overarching theme, one which is explored most notably and thoroughly in its fifth season, Anne stands out as the episode where it we see it on full display for the very first time and arguably at it absolute worst.
A key facet of the slayer mythos is a tendency towards a drastically reduced lifespan due to unfortunate death in glorious battle. Buffy's continued aversion of this typical fate as the seasons went on was attributed entirely to her friends and family - ties to the world that all slayers before her explicity lacked. The show explains this both metaphorically and quite literally when her friend(s) bring her back from being only mostly dead in Prophecy Girl and then then again from being all dead in Bargaining. Not counting the three months she spent in the ground leading up to season six (or her downward spiral of self-loathing throughout it), Anne marks the only point in the series in which Buffy is completely cut off from her entire support group. And the end result is, as you might expect, very dark.
The theme of isolation would carry Buffy clear through its polarizing final season and into its grand finale where it is addressed and ostensibly put to bed once and for all by means of Buffy sharing her power with every other girl in the world with the potential to bear it. I call season seven "polarizing" in part because it pretty much plays out like one long episode starting at Conversations With Dead People (which is itself very polarizing) and partly because its primary villain, the "First Evil", is fairly benign since it can't physically affect the world in any way (except for in the aforementioned Conversations With Dead People when the writers forgot that) due to the fact that it can't assume a corporeal form. It thus spends most of the season taunting Buffy and friends with varying degrees of success, culminating in a finale that ultimately gave us more questions than answers. Namely, who in the hell thought anything about Buffy's plan aside from the bit about giving her entire army slayer strength was even remotely a good idea?
To recap, season seven pits Buffy and a small group of "potential" (i.e. "just regular human strength") slayers up against a legion of the undead from the pits of Hell who are under the command of the spirit of original sin itself. The only things that Buffy has going for her are two Deus Ex Machinas and the fact that the undead army can't actually get to her world because the portal to Hell is completely sealed off and can only be opened from her side. Buffy deliberately opens said portal once she decides she's had enough of evil's shit and leads her redshirts into Hell to do battle rather than utilizing the manhole-sized portal as a strategic chokepoint since the enemy outnumbers her by about a thousand to one. And she does all of this before Willow does magic stuff with one of the aforementioned Deus Ex Machinas to activate everyone's Wonder Slayer powers just so it can be extra dramatic when they kick in at the precise moment an undead horde notices a small group of humans in their midst and attacks. It's also worth noting that the subsequent activation of the second Deus Ex Machina, which is the only reason that the entire cast didn't wind up as uber-vamp food, was purely unintentional since nobody - including the person wearing it - had the even slightest clue what it was.
In short, Buffy is a terrible leader.
Chosen bothered me for many years not because it sacrificed logistics to tell a good story, but because its numerous flaws all felt like bad writing that could have been easily explained had Joss even tried. It would make sense, for example, that the one uber-vamp sent up to the surface to fight Buffy earlier in the season would be stronger than all of the ones still stuck in Hell's boot camp, hence why even the likes of Andrew and Anya were mowing them down by the dozens. More importantly, Buffy's incredibly ill-advised assault could have saved much-needed face without sacrificing any drama by having her actually attempt to fight intelligently but then having her hand forced by, say, the portal to Hell breaking wide open when she activated it and spilling forth Hell's (not) Angels before her group had a chance to react. The fact that Buffy had at least the foresight to position her various "B" teams in places where she knew the uber-vamps would go if (when) they got past her primary group clearly showed that she was aware of the need to think her plan through so as not to get everyone killed, and that she makes an active decision not to just feels insulting. It wasn't until I was recently rewatching this episode for about the eighth time that its true message finally dawned on me.
Buffy is a terrible leader.
This is actually addressed in the episodes leading up to Chosen, wherein Buffy is temporarily ousted as the leader of her ragtag army of slayerettes after she foolishly leads them into a battle against Mal from Firefly who proceeds to kill a bunch of them and gouge out one of Xander's eyes. Of course, she's welcomed back a few episodes later after her replacement gets a few of them blown up (but not killed and all with both eyes intact, just to be fair) and all is forgiven. All too often, however, is the very important message of this arc forgotten: Buffy is a terrible leader.
But why? She certainly not stupid; the standardized testing that she was actually present to take during high school in fact showed her to be of above-average intelligence in spite of her vocabulary, and Professor Walsh was impressed enough with her work at one point that she asked Buffy to lead a study group. Rather, Buffy is a terrible leader for the simple fact that her approach to any problem she's faced with is to hit it until it stops being a problem. She only utilizes her 'ol brainmeats on the rare occasion that she's up against something more powerful than she is, such as in Helpless when she's robbed of her strength and must defeat a vampire by tricking him into drinking holy water or when being hunted by Germans with assault rifles in Homecoming forced her to make them shoot each other. But why go to the effort of decieving your enemy when you can just put your fist (or a stake) through him instead?
As a real-life superhero, Buffy has absolute power, and it corrupts her absolutely, just not in the way you might expect. Buffy does not consider herself to be above the law, notably demonstrated when Faith accidentally murders the deputy mayor in Bad Girls or when The Trio tricks her into believing that she "accidentally" killed Katrina in Dead Things. Rather, Buffy is corrupted by her inability to respond to everyday problems in the same way that ordinary people do, which is in essence her "isolation" from the world around her. This is made clear when Buffy faces such issues as trying to hold down a job or dealing her mother's death, the latter of which Giles responds to by flat-out stating that Buffy needs a physical manifestation of her problems to fight. And again, the show literally drives this point home in the seventh season by giving her an ultimate villain "with no ass to kick".
Even Buffy's taste in men is a reflection of her isolated nature in several ways, the most obvious of which being that two of her three primary love interests are vampires. Comparing Angel to Spike is a thesis unto itself, but the relevant point to this topic is that Angel is shown to have a much greater capacity to plan his actions out, both as Angel and Angelus, while Spike is far more impulsive and prefers to recklessly throw himself into situations with little to no concern for potential casualties (at least of the non-romantic variety). Although Buffy claims an undying love for Angel throughout the series, she blows him off with one of the worst speeches in television history just before the final curtain falls and lands in the arms of the man who once cracked a joke about killing all her friends just to make her laugh.
(An alternative take on this is to see both Angel and Spike as varying degrees of corruption and her ill-fated relationship with Riley as the metaphorical paragon of good leadership skills and wordly ties. Say what you want about the guy, but he was the only character in the entire series who was ever smart enough to chuck a grenade into a nest of vampires while they were sleeping rather than trying to fight them hand-to-hand.)
So what does all of this mean? Well, it means that being a leader is more than being able to deal with all of your problems by punching them to death - or, to make a better real-world analogy, by throwing money at them. Being a leader takes a genuine connection with the people you're leading along with a full understanding of the problems they face from their perspective. Buffy got a lot of her troops killed and one of them gruesomely maimed in Dirty Girls because she failed to consider that her typical approach to the problem at hand wouldn't work for someone who couldn't pick up a steel beam like it was made of styrofoam, much like how someone who owns a golf resort has no comprehension of what it's like to have to choose between paying rent or eating, and pretty much with the same result. Buffy ultimately suceeded not through her strength alone, but by combining it with that of her friends (again, literally). On the other hand...
September 09, 2017 - A Priest, A Salesman, & The President Walk Into A Bar...
Ironically, the salesman is a better leader and a better Christian than the other two are. There's not much I can say about Joel Osteen that the internet hasn't already lambasted him for, save for the fact that he's been shown up by two men from professions not exactly known for their ethics. What I find particularly interesting about all of this, however, is that Mattress Mack is - both from my personal account and from friends who have referred to him on multiple ocassions as a vagina loaf - kind of an asshole. I've since learned (or perhaps been gently reminded) that I have a far greater respect for someone who does what is right despite being a jerk than for someone who is pleasant, yet immoral. And as the country swiftly forgets about the events of Harvey as all eyes turn towards the imminent assraping that Florida is about to recieve from his disgruntled mistresss, I feel that this is an important learning experience to keep in mind moving forward.
It's said that there are no athiests in foxholes. Similarly, there is no race or religion in the face of disaster: just people helping people. The good to be found here - if there is any to be found at all - is that trials like these bring out the absolute best in people. I've spent the last two weeks checking up on friends, family, and even expressing my deepest sympathies for complete strangers, all the while wishing that the world could be more like this even when it wasn't falling apart around me. The public roasting of Joel Osteen is significant here because it shows an entire city coming together to say in one memetastic voice that opulence and greed is the exception in this world, not the norm.
Even Donald Trump, professional douchebag and inexplicable leader of the free world, took one look at the mess here and decided to donate a million dollars to help clean it up. Despite the inevitable speculation as to whether or not the amount of money he earns in the time it takes me to get to work in the morning was actually going to come out of his own pocket (which speaks volumes about public opinion of the guy), it does appear that his unusual bout of generosity is genuine if not difficult to accept. Personally, I'd liken any amount of support coming from him to getting a check from NAMBLA.
On a similar note, I read an article that posed the question of whether or not he will be sending aid to Mexico following a recent earthquake there (that joke I made about summoning Captain Planet is becoming eerily accurate), hilariously basing their prediction entirely around the fact that he had as of yet not tweeted about it. It would certainly be the neighborly thing to do given that Mexico just did the same thing for us last week. At the very least I can assure our friends from south of the border that our president is currently hard at work rounding up our very finest laborers and construction workers to send down your way as soon as possible - you just have to look past the fact that it's not a gesture of kindness.
So I guess what I'm trying to say is that a lot of people are assholes, and that's all fine and well. In the end, you only need to look this far to see that most of us are still willing to step up and help our fellow man in their times of need.
And as for the few of us who aren't? Fuck 'em.
August 28, 2017 - *Glub* *Glub *Glub*
There's already a ton of this same thing on every social media outlet out there, so I'm going to keep this brief. I live in a city that is currently taking it up the ass from mother nature with no lube and minimal reacharound - at this point we're basically one South American kid and a monkey away from summoning Captain Planet. Houston is getting pounded harder than my ex-wife in a locker room, which is actually putting it lightly once you realize that this is a highway.
Anyway, there's a been lot of people, both from here and from other cities, out there day and night battling some seriously shitty, not to mention deadly conditions to make sure everyone is all right. And I'm going to speak for everyone here, from the people you've helped to those of us lucky enough to not have to be, that we appreciate everything you're doing and will continue to do. You are the true faces and voices of this country, not an evil Oompa Loompa with a Twitter account.
To everyone else, look out for yourselves and your loved/tolerated ones. Check on the people around you. Be the neighbor that you'd want to have if you were in trouble and really needed it, because one day you just might be.
Stay safe, my friends.
UPDATE: to all of you who are looking to donate to help out, but aren't quite sure where to send your money, local sportsball player and all-around nice guy J.J. Watts has set up a fundraiser page. This is where I would suggest donating to if you'd like to see your moeny go towards ongoing relief in the affected areas instead of just the initial impact.
August 14, 2017 - Livestreamer? I Hardly Knew Her!
First of all, to anyone who's had a hard time finding anything I've linked them to because I keep moving shit around on the site lately, I apologize. I'm done now, I promise. Second of all, anyone out there who ever watches Twitch needs to do themselves a favor right now and install Livestreamer. I cannot understate how much it improves the quality and control over watching streams nor how quick and easy the entire setup process is from start to finish.
Other things that are now up include a partial mirror of the perpetually-downed MyLitleFaceWhen and my own collection of desktop wallpaper complete with full download links on the miscellaneous page. There are 510 wallpapers in total, with about three of them being potentially inappropriate - naturally, these are the ones that my desktop randomizer likes to pull up whenever the Pope comes by for dinner (he's here all the time, fuckin' freeloading pope). There's a lot of variety in my collection of things that I just think look cool, and aside from ponies and redheads with eyepatches don't necessarily reflect any particular interest I might have. I mention this mainly becuase a recent event in which a certain cracked invidiual took the name "Charger" a little too literally makes me fear that some people might take one of them the wrong way.
The truth is that I keep that one around mainly because it amuses me just how much it looks like this one, and I don't think the similarities are at all coincidental. It's a rare bit of social commentary coming from a person who generally loathes it. But just so we're clear, I don't give a fuck which bathroom you piss in and your ethnic background does not make you a bad person - mistreating animals or blasting your stereo at three in the fucking morning does. Also, spammers.
In other news, an article on Brave New World will be appearing in an ebook entitled Somebody Set Us Up The ROM, available as a bonus title in the Summer Smash Game Bundle. For anyone out there who is still running version 1.8.5, please update to 1.8.6 to fix a number of game-crashing bugs (an admitted rarity for us) in 1.8.5. Another update is on its way soon, which should hopefully be done around the same time as the new custom box art from Retro Game Cases.
And just in case you weren't aware, these are totally a thing.
August 05, 2017 - Wait, You Can Download Cars Now?
I'm sure many of you out there have at least heard of RetroPie (not that Retro Pie), but for one reason or another haven't looked much further into it. Emulation is ubiquitous enough amongst even intermediate computer users (whilst beginners are too busy playing Candy Crush and eating paste) that the demand for a dedicated retro gaming system just isn't there. It's really not until you sit down with one that you can truly appreciate how much it streamlines the entire gaming process, not to mention that it allows said process to occur without occupying the machine that you view pornography with.
Thus, for anyone who is interested, I have penned a tutorial for setting up a RetroPie that covers the entire process, from purchase to configuration. I even provide links to my personal collections of boxart and manuals/foldouts to help speed up/eliminate some of the more time-consuming steps. Pretty much the only thing that I don't offer up on a silver platter are the ROMs themselves, mainly because I'd rather not steal traffic from whatever mirror KickAssTorrents is using this week.
While one may be tempted to brand me a Nintendo "fanboy" due to the extensive use of anti-Microsoft hyperbole I employ in the aforementioned guide, it should be noted that A) "fanboy" is just a word that people who like Halo use to describe people who don't like Halo and B) Nintendo is higher up on my shitlist than Microsoft is (albeit only marginally so) thanks to the entire AM2R debacle. For those who don't know what AM2R is, the short version is that Nintendo is butthurt that one guy made the best Metroid game ever while they were busy making crap. Needless to say, rather than doing what any ehtical company might do, they called the lawyers. While DoctorM64 himself calls upon his loyal fanbase not to hate Nintendo for their flagrant douchebaggery, I'm not in a position where I have to say that not to look like a tremendous ass. Such vehement aggressions in the name of copyright protection transform the law from a shield into a sword and are nothing short of an open declaration of war against everything that game modders such as myself stand for.
Consider the age-old rhetoric that dares to assume that the general public wouldn't download a car. Now consider that this advertisement exists in a surreal futuristic world in which cars can be mass-produced on an infinite scale at virtually no cost (or at the very least an insignificant fraction of what they cost today) and the only people who are upset about this technological advancement are big companies who look at it and can't figure out a way to use it to make money. It seems that most companies have yet to recieve the memo that it's not the responsibility of the people to keep them in business while they insist on clinging to an increasingly-outdated revenue model; if your business is threatened because a single man has made a better product than you and is giving it away for free, then he's not the problem - you are.
As for the RetroPie, it's your chance to own a better version of a product that Nintendo deliberatley produced in numbers far short of the actual demand and then just cancelled for no reason, thus proving that they've evolved beyond the need for making money and are now just getting their jollies by pissing us off. Fuck you, Nintendo - I hope you burn in hell.