Links and Notes for the Week of October 7, 2018

Links and Notes for the Week of May 20, 2018

* Happy 21st Century, from Charles Stross.
* The files of the SCP Foundation should be good for writing prompts and nightmares.
* The one Trump scandal which encompasses all the rest.
* Emasculated president Donald Trump, who is terrified of everyone who is not white and rich, believes all Mexicans are part of MS-13. When this was pointed out, he called it “fake news,” which is actually verification of the charge, since literally every time Trump squeals “fake news,” is it because something true was printed and he didn’t like it.
* Metafilter has posted a new catch-all politics thread. Many good links and comments therein.
* If you have a few minutes and you like simple adventure-type games, give Dicey Dungeons a try.

Links and Notes for the Week of February 4, 2018

* This is how you give an acceptance speech: Ursula Vernon, upon receiving the 2017 Hugo Award for best novelette.

* Some words:
** “gigil” (Tagalog) – the trembling or gritting of the teeth in response to a situation that overwhelms your self-control. The powerful urge to bite or squeeze something cute.
** “Kummerspeck” (German) – lit. “Sorrow fat” or “Sorrow bacon” – the weight gained through stress eating.

* Over at Metafilter (user name: JohnFromGR) there is an excellent catch-all post covering the latest bullshit from the alt-right/neo-nazi contingent of genre fiction and fandom (Sad Puppies, Rabid Puppies, Happy Frogs, GamerGaters, MRAs, etc.).

* Though I have been aware of it for quite some time, I have never used Patreon. That all changed after I attended ConFusion and spoke with a number of writers who fund their writing through Patreon. Since then I have added my support to the efforts and good works of Kameron Hurley (on Patreon) and Apex Publishing (on Patreon). I really like this mode of providing support. It is a good balance to the per-project model of Kickstarter and similar services. Another way to look at it might be to say that it has the same highs and lows as Kickstarter, just smoothed out over a much larger time frame. In any event, a few dollars a month to support great writing in return for the opportunity to read that great writing, is money well spent.

* I have been following the Calvert Journal for a while now. Back in 2016 they ran an article about teens in Transnistria, which introduced me to the concept of states which are minimally recognized as such by other countries. Transnistria has been one such since the collapse of the Soviet Union. They, along with Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Artsakh, created the Community for Democracy and Rights of Nations (Twitter feed). I find places like this interesting because they exist on the edges and in the interstices of power, and thus may be fertile ground for new ideas of politics, sovereignty, autonomy and empire. If they survive.

* In your copious free time, you can amuse yourself with Monster Breeder. Capture monsters. Breed them. Make new monsters!

I Don’t Have Time for This

The diabolical Bock — who just launched a new version of his website — recently introduced me to a wonderful new game: Travian.

Travian is a free, browser-based Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG), in which you are the ruler of a small tribal village (Roman, Gaul or Teuton). The first part of the game involves resource management and building construction — think the first couple of hours of Warcraft — aaanddd that is as far as I have progressed.

The world is persistent, and couple that with it being browser-based, means that you can start building something, go surf the web for a while, then log back in and see how your tribe is progressing. This is a good thing, because building construction generally takes in the neighborhood of 30 minutes. The more powerful/important the building or unit, the longer it takes to build, the more resources it uses, and the more prerequisites it requires.

Once you have a good base set up, you can begin trading with/raiding your neighboring villages, or building new villages. There appears to be a finite amount of land, which means you need to sign up NOW NOW NOW!!!

I have two user accounts (which is expressly against the rules) : “Levendis” and “Zartog”. You can only have one user account per email address, which can be a pain unless (like me) you have a domain name with a catch-all email address, and (like me) you might be inclined to do this sort of thing, and (unlike me) you have time to play this thing all day.

Many instructions and helpful tips can be found at the Travian Wiki.

Remember: It takes a viking to raze a village.

Playing With(in) the Rules

In Twisty Little Passages, Montfort distinguishes between three types of story or narrative: Diegetic, Hypodiegetic, and Extradiegetic (from diegesis). The 1001 Arabian Nights is useful for describing the differences: The framework story is diegetic, each of the individual stories is hypodiegetic, and the physical book itself, the paper and ink, is extradiegetic.

In the world of Interactive Fiction, Diegetic commands are those which control the “player character”. Extradiegetic (e.g. meta-) commands are those which control the game itself. Hypodiegetic commands are those which are made through the player character, and which influence other characters in the game.

Moving from Interactive Fiction out to User Interaction, we find some parallels. Using the navigation links in a website is diegetic. Using the web browser controls is extradiegetic. Perhaps using in-system tools (e.g. a price calculator or a store locator) could be considered hypodiegetic.

Someone pointed out a few years ago that web developers and usability experts, nominally working in a “new” field, could take many lessons from the video game industry, which has been working on many of these same problems for more than 30 years.


A couple of days ago I came across the teaser site for Spore, the next game by Will Wright, the fella who brought us Sim City.

In Spore, you are responsible for evolving the life on your planet, from the level of denizen-of-the-primordial-soup all the way up to galactic overlord.

Gamespy has a long article about/interview with Wright about Spore, among other things. One paragraph struck me as particularly intertesting:

Clicking on the egg brought up a creature editor, and allowed the player to “evolve” with a new generation of critters. The editor was amazingly flexible. Wright could give his creature extra vertebrae, he could give it fins or tails to move faster, he could add claws or extra mouths, whatever he wanted. More importantly, all the creature animations weren’t hard-coded; they were dynamic. If he put six tails on his creature, the game would figure out how a six-tailed creature would move. The critter was completely his.

I immediately thought of two artificial life-ish experiments: Sodaplay and Framsticks, both of which involve creating (and with Framsticks evolving) creatures to test for survivability and fitness.

Supposedly the game will be out in 2006.

Elite is 31337

I was feeling bored nostalgic bored at work today so I spent some time browsing around the int0rw3b. As luck would have it, the first site I surfed to, The WikiPedia , had some interesting stuff in it. Specifically, a link to an entry on Harun al_Rashid . He was the Caliph in the Thousand Nights and a Night , and more recently he was the central character in issue 50 ( Ramadan ) of Neil Gaiman‘s Sandman comic book .

After looking up a few other random words I typed in “elite”. This returned a variety of possible results, one of which was subtitled “computer game”.

Could it be?!? YES! An entry on the greatest computer game of the 1980s!

Doing a Google search brought up a great BBC article on the people who created the game, all those years ago. I am still in the process of looking for good ports of the original to a PC platform. They are surprisingly, frustratingly, few and far between — although this one looks promising. I say “surprisingly” because there is nothing about the game that could not be easily done in Flash.

So if I don’t find any good results in the next few weeks, I guess I will have to quit my job and build it myself!