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Archive for August, 2009

I’m Not Allowed In The Kitchen Either

Monday, August 31st, 2009

After the debacle that was My Mother’s Chili (it’s a title- it gets capitalized), tadalafil my mother was never allowed into the kitchen without competent supervision again. Or, ambulance at least, unhealthy she wasn’t allowed to make anything more complicated than peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. For myself, I made a vow that I would never commit the same sort of blasphemy against the art of cuisine.

Skip ahead a dozen years. I’ve graduated high school and am studying Education at the University of Akron. My wife and I have recently moved out of a shoebox-sized apartment (when I tell you it was so small that I could stand in the living room and reach the kitchen and the bathroom without actually having to stretch, it’s not really an exaggeration) and into our first house. I won’t go into detail about this house except to say that when we had it appraised, the building inspector gave it thoughtful stare and said, “Well, you can’t exactly call it a fixer-upper; we’re going to have to invent a new word…” We paid less on our mortgage for that house, near the heart of the town, than we had for the little rodent-infested apartment we had just moved out of, and it’s arguable that we were still being robbed.

In any case, though, it was an investment; our money was going into a sinkhole that would someday actually belong to us. In the meantime, though, we were so broke that we had to panhandle outside elementary schools in order to scrape up enough change to buy gas so that we could go to work and school. I’ll tell you, there’s nothing quite so depressing as realizing that the average five-year-old child has- in his pockets- roughly double your net worth…


Canadian Army – Lessons Learned

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

A note from the author.

I teach Basic Military Qualification (Land) which is what they call the SQ (Soldier Qualification) these days. Basically it’s the course after basic training where a soldier learns actual army stuff, machine guns, M-72 section attacks winter survival, grenades etc. After the field training exercise #1 and #2 I get the candidates to fill out a few lines in a book I have started. The next course after them gets to read this book when they show up. The book is titled “Things I Learned the Hard Way in SQ/BMQ(L)”

(Submitted by Magerin Blakely)

  1. Ensure your spare C9 (machine gun) barrel is tight on your back or you could be eating it during a section attack
  2. Label kit with full last name or you will make the MBdr (me) very angry
  3. Do not sleep in your trench, even if there’s no rain in the forecast. You _will_ wake up wet
  4. Don’t pack counting on the weather being +30C all week with no rain because this is an army base and it could snow tomorrow.
  5. (more…)

And the Cord You Rode In On.

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Art is an essential part of what makes us human beings.  The ability to create, for the sake of creation and for the sake sharing that creation with others, is an urge that appears to be, if not unique amongst the creatures on this planet, is at the very least a rare trait indeed.

Our art is is both a reflection of who we are as a people, and in many important ways, it is the sum of who we are as a people.

It is our hopes, our dreams, and our fears.  It a snapshot of our  history, a reflection of the present, and a glimpse of where we are heading in our future.

Of the many types of art one of the most ubiquitous is music.


Voodoo Farming #10 (08/27/09): Left 4 Dead

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Welcome back to Voodoo Farming: A Not-Quite In-Depth Look At Zombies In Popular Culture. It’s been a little while, huh?

Today I decided to finally get around to Left 4 Dead.

What’s with Valve and Lighthouses anyway?

Threat Level:Brains...Brains...Brains...Brains...Brains...

L4D gets 4/5 on the threat level. If it were you against the zombies, it would be 3/5, but anyone who has ever played a cooperative game can tell you the most dangerous thing in the entire game is the idiot with a lot of firepower and no clue how to use it.

Did I mention that L4D always has friendly fire on?

Before I go any further – you now hear the valvE game intro bass riff:

What's with Valve and Lighthouses anyway?

What’s with Valve and Lighthouses anyway?

I am sick as shit of this screen. This is actually one of the many reasons that I dislike playing L4D, and I think I’ve worn out my ESC key. I constantly hammer the damn thing and mutter “Get to the fuckin’ title screen already, get to the fuckin’ title screen already…”

Look, Valve – you make highly successful games. No one disputes this. But you (and so many other companies) go to the trouble to have this seemingly unskippable logo screen at the start of every single one of your goddamned games.

I know it’s an industry standard. Fuck the industry standard. I have what is by all means a modern computer – not top of the line, but pretty damn good – and I want to get into my game as fast as possible. It’s just like booting an OS. If I have time to go make a sandwich while your game is loading and it’s still not done when I get back, you are doing something very wrong.<⁄rant>

Anyway, on to the goddamned game.

Because when it comes to zombie outbreaks, nothing bad ever happens in a forest.

Because when it comes to zombie outbreaks, nothing bad ever happens in a forest.

L4D doesn’t have maps insomuch as it has campaigns. Every campaign runs more like a movie than a game; the loading screen is even styled as a movie poster.

Zoey must have a hard time sleeping at night.

Zoey must have a hard time sleeping at night.

The camera majestically pans in, and the characters talk about their current situation. “I heard we need to $COMPLETE_OBJECTIVE so we don’t die!” That’s basically how every L4D campaign starts. I’ve yet to play any custom campaigns, but I just can’t wait to see a half-assed implementation of the game with the pre-existing dialogue shoehorned into a situation that doesn’t really fit.

'Source Engine' and 'Outdoors' are two things that don't always go well together.

“Source Engine” and “Outdoors” are two things that don’t always go well together.

Valve did a bangup job on the scenary. If you play Half-Life 2 with a critical eye, you can see the places where they cut corners on architecture (using bump-mapped textures instead of actually drawing geometry) so that the beastly Source engine can run better on low-end machines. You don’t notice that so much in L4D.

Here’s the UI – your guns, your health, and the health of your comrades. Cooperation is absolutely necessary in this game. There are many situations where you’re going to be completely helpless unless someone else helps you. Of course, nothing ever goes wrong in that kind of situation.

No more s'mores left?

No more s’mores left?

After a quick look around at the peaceful scenary, you immediately grab as many bullets you can stuff in your pockets. For the newer players, go with the shotgun as your primary weapon. I suppose the Uzi has its own advantages, but I stick with the shotty anyway.

Hey! Down in front!

Hey! Down in front!

And this is why I prefer the shotgun. In the early game, you’re going to have waves of zombies coming at you, often in big, juicy clumps. Personally, I burn through Uzi ammo way too quickly. I suppose that it’s useful for long distances, but why not just use the pistol with its infinite ammo? (One of Valve’s sick jokes is that the pistol actually does a shit-ton of damage.)

You’ll also come across two throwable weapons, namely pipe bombs and molotov cocktails. The molotovs are useful for covering a wide area with fire – they are very useful for fighting stuff like Tanks (huge, hulking infected that have thousands of hit points). When it comes to the regular trash zombies, however, the pipe bomb is superior. Simply throw it…

Beep beep beep beep beep beep...

Beep beep beep beep beep beep…

And laugh maniacally as a few dozen zombies are turned into a fine red paste:

Is it raining?

Is it raining?

The campaigns are split into five parts. Between each part is a safe house where you can restock on ammo and health, take a break, etc. Once you close the safe house’s door, the next section of the campaign loads and you’re treated to a variety of stats about your gameplay and some funky techno music.

Stats stats stats

Stats stats stats

I’d like to say that between Left 4 Dead and Killing Floor, I prefer KF hands down. But one of the things Valve gets right and Tripwire Interactive doesn’t is that they put flashlights on every single gun (and they look beautiful):

Cue 'Prairie Dog Surprise' music.

Cue “Prairie Dog Surprise” music.

In KF’s latest patch, they finally fixed the flashlight. It looks nice now, but it’s still only on two guns. Shape up, Tripwire Interactive.

You get the opportunity to pick up a second infinite-ammo pistol very early on. You will also typically get a shot at grabbing the second tier of weaponry sometime in the second of five parts of the campaign:

Choices, choices...

Choices, choices…

Between the Assault Rifle, Combat Shotgun, and Hunting Rifle, I almost always pick the Hunting Rifle. Why?

BOOM! HEA... I think I did this joke already.

BOOM! HEA… I think I did this joke already.

That’s why. Boom, headshot. If you’re skilled under pressure you can wreak havoc – even against Tanks (surprisingly). When the other players are crying about being out of assault rifle bullets, you’ll be sitting pretty with half your reserve of Hunting Rifle bullets still in your pockets.

Wrapping It Up:

L4D is an okay game, but I don’t believe that it’s worth the $40 I payed for it or the $50 that many more people shelled out for it.

Killing Floor literally cost me half of what I’ve paid for Left 4 Dead, and I’ve probably played it a hundred times as much. And while KF has had paid DLC (four new character skins for $2, and yes I bought it), they’ve been doing quite well with their free updates (see the aforementioned update).

Valve, meanwhile, decided to cause a shitstorm and announce Left 4 Dead 2 before they released any significant DLC for the first game (READ: new weapons, maps, creatures, etc.). No, Survival mode doesn’t count.

I’m not a member of that L4D2 Boycott group, but I don’t think that I’ll be buying it – certainly not at full price. Why? Valve has taken far too long to release any decent DLC for a very short game that they made a shit-ton of money on. When the price comes down, you’re going to get more content than the early adopters and at a better price. When it’s down to around $20, maybe I’ll buy it.

So should you buy L4D? I highly recommend trying it out at a sucke- er, friend’s place first, or perhaps renting the 360 version. Play through one whole campaign, and that’s the entire game over and over and over again. At least with Killing Floor you have DLC coming out at a steady pace and a dedicated community that has actually been making good maps.

Reader Mail:

No Reader Mail this week.

Special Message From Ihmhi:

I hope you guys haven’t felt particularly screwed over the last few weeks. I’ve fallen behind in my research for VF and had to actually take last week off because I couldn’t sit down to write anything. Part of it is that a friend of mine is really ill and that has been affecting my sleep, and another part has to do with my dad getting drunk on a near-nightly basis and playing polka music until 2am. I typically drown it out with something like loud techno music (which is what I’ve been listening to for the last two hours on loop). So… yeah. I SUFFER FOR YOU GUYS WORSHIP ME AS YOUR NEW GOD.

I’m going to try to keep VF going weekly, but I’m working on fun things like trying to get financial aid to go to college, find a job, etc. I honestly might not be able to dedicate the several hours of research and writing it takes to make an issue of VF every week and still remain sane. If it comes to that, I’m sorry, but I’d rather write quality work every week or two than come out with some crappy stuff every week on time.

That’s it for VF this week.

Ihmhi is a developer for Fortress Forever, a free, fast paced Team Fortress mod for Half-Life 2.

My Time At Gen Con

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

As I mentioned earlier, I got to go to Gen Con a little over a week ago, and stuff went pretty well.

First of all, I got to meet one of my favorite authors and artists, Howard Taylor.  We have spoken to each other online, and I was very shocked to learn he was a fan of my list.



Monday, August 24th, 2009

I fear that my meager skills as a wordsmith are not up to the challenge of conveying just how awesome this is.

Truly we live in a golden age.


Giant New IT List

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

(Submitted by Confusion)

1. Not allowed to use any audio editing software to splice together funny conversations from our digital recorders.
2. Not allowed to insert synthesized speech into digital recordings either.
3. Not allowed to use Windows Movie Maker to edit video recordings and make videos to the song “The Chicken Dance”.
4. Not allowed to edit videos to any music.
5. Not allowed to edit videos.
6. Not allowed to “monitor network usage” via VNC on my lunchbreak by randomly connecting to other users machines.
7. Not allowed to VNC into users machines on thier breaks to see what they are doing.

8. Not allowed to use VNC to post, email, or IM strangers from other peoples machines
9. Not allowed to make changes to someones MySpace or Facebook pages via VNC connection to their machine.
10. Not allowed to VNC into a machine without contacting the user.
11. “I left a voicemail” does not count.
12. Not allowed to make “UI improvements” by changing users desktops, icons, or wallpaper via VNC.
13. Not allowed to use VNC connections to “test bandwidth” by downloading torrents on other peoples machines.
14. Not allowed to “stress test” the LAN by downloading torrents either.
15. Same goes for the firewall.

News Update

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

So I have recently decided to take advantage of the very generous new GI Bill.

And it turns out that there are many online universities now, where I can pursue an extra degree from the comfort of my home office, while still leaving me the free time to take care of other things. Like job hunting, working on my game designs, taking care of my pregnant wife, and in the near future, taking care of my new children.
For those that are curious, I am studying Graphic Design, so that I can better make art for my own boardgames….oh and so that I can get a decent creative job while waiting for the Dallas video game industry to recover.

However this means that I may not have as much time to keep up with things on the site.

I’ll still put the Monday morning list update up, and I’ll still make sure to write at least once a week or so. But I may start cutting back/waiting to see if any guest writers want to pick up the slack. (This incidentally, should be interpreted as a hint for any people who are already guest writers who happen to read this)

Public Service Announcement

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Zombie Ants!

(Thank you Donny)

More Zombie Ants!

(Thank you Kat)

Baby Prep

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

I went to Gen Con this past weekend, and am still busy playing catch-up here at my house. Also I seem to have run through all of my guest posts, so I’ll just jot something down quick tonight. I’ll have more to say on the con and the neat things I saw later.

1) I’ve recently been getting ready for the birth of my children. Mainly by panicking, but occasionally by doing something more useful. Last week my wife gave me access to the Amazon baby-gift registry. An act she has come to regret.

It turns out that nobody has a rule against registering your twins for his and hers C’thulu plush dolls. My wife being the good sport that she is, let it slide, but drew the line at organizing a R’leya themed nursery. I can probably get away with teaching them to say “C’thulu F’tagen!”