Category Archive 'Games'
02 Nov 2013

Girls’ Game


No chainsaw, no BFG, you have to destroy your adversary with gossip! It was inevitable. An experienced (female) professional game designer is trying to Kickstart a Massively Multiplayer Roleplaying Game set in the world of Jane Austen.

Will you get points, I wonder, if you successfully seduce (and ruin) one of the flightier young ladies? What if you (nefarious laugh) nail one of the very smart and principled ones?

Suggested caption: You have seduced, ruined, and abandoned Elizabeth Bennett. You become a member of the Hellfire Club, are awarded a cameo appearance in Pierce Egan’s Life in London, and are chosen by the Tory Party to represent Old Sarum in the House of Commons. You manage to evade a challenge to duel from FitzWilliam Darcy, and die (hiding from your creditors) in Calais at a great old age. Miss Bennett is obliged to leave respectable society, but becomes wealthy by becoming mistress to the Prince Regent.

15 Aug 2013

What D&D Character Am I?

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Over 900,000 people have taken the quiz.


My results:

You Are A:

Neutral Good Human Wizard (8th Level)

Ability Scores:
Strength- 15
Dexterity- 15
Constitution- 19
Intelligence- 20
Wisdom- 18
Charisma- 17

Neutral Good- A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment when it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Wizards- Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard’s strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.

Hat tip to Leah Librescu (FB).

30 Jul 2013

Largest Space Battle in History Took Place on Sunday

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On Sunday night, the largest space battle in history took place, on the server of Eve Online.

The Verge breathlessly reported the approach of the battle fleets.

In less than an hour, a battle of interstellar proportions will break out in the MMORPG Eve Online, a spacefaring simulation with its own politics, economies, and wars — all controlled exclusively by players. Between three and four thousand pilots are set to do battle in one of the largest fights ever on Eve, which you can watch live below or on

The battle is expected to rival the legendary Battle of Asakai as one of the most epic battles in Eve history — which totalled equivalent to $20,000 in losses for the losing team. Today’s battle doesn’t yet have its own name, but is taking place in a system known as 6VDT between two of the largest player alliances in the game, TEST Alliance and the CFC. In order to keep lag to a minimum, since the battle takes place on just one server, Eve’s developers will likely slow down time more than 90 percent so its server can process all player actions. This means today’s battle could take several hours to reach its explosive conclusion.

Update, 3:20PM ET: The Verge’s war correspondent in Eve Online is bringing us live updates of the action about to unfold in deep space. As you can see below, the CFC is preparing to meet the TEST Alliance in battle. Intelligence suggests that the TEST Alliance is now staging its fleet.

Today’s battle could be the culmination of months of conflict, propaganda, and preparation.


Eurogamer reported the outcome:

More than 4000 people took to sci-fi MMO Eve Online last night for the game’s largest ever virtual space battle.

Two of EVE’s biggest rival factions – TEST Alliance and the Goonswarm-led CFC – went head-to-head in a fight that lasted more than five hours and cost more than 2900 ships.

The CFC eventually smashed TEST and sent it fleeing from Fountain, the area of virtual space where the two sides drew their battle lines.

The battle was the culmination of a two-month campaign by the CFC to invade the Fountain area – TEST’s traditional home region – and was directly sparked by TEST’s decision to make an Alamo-style final stand.

09 Apr 2013

Where the Stauton Chess Set Came From

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Smithsonian’s Design Decoded explains the architectural origin of today’s standard Staunton-style chess men.

Prior to 1849, there was no such thing as a “normal chess set.” At least not like we think of it today. Over the centuries that chess had been played, innumerable varieties of sets of pieces were created, with regional differences in designation and appearance. As the game proliferated throughout southern Europe in the early 11th century, the rules began to evolve, the movement of the pieces were formalized, and the pieces themselves were drastically transformed from their origins in 6th century India. Originally conceived of as a field of battle, the symbolic meaning of the game changed as it gained popularity in Europe, and the pieces became stand-ins for a royal court instead of an army. Thus, the original chessmen, known as counselor, infantry, cavalry, elephants, and chariots, became the queen, pawn, knight, bishop, and rook, respectively. By the 19th century, chess clubs and competitions began to appear all around the world, it became necessary to use a standardized set that would enable players from different cultures to compete without getting confused.

In 1849, that challenge would be met by the “Staunton” Chess Set.

The Staunton chess pieces are the ones we know and love today, the ones we simply think of as chess pieces. Prior to its invention, there were a wide variety of popular styles in England, such as The St George, The English Barleycorn, and the Northern Upright. To say nothing of the regional and cultural variations. But the Staunton quickly would surpass them all. Howard Staunton was a chess authority who organized many tournaments and clubs in London, and was widely considered to be one of the best players in the world. Despite its name, the iconic set was not designed by Howard Staunton.

According to the most widely told origin story, the Staunton set was designed by architect Nathan Cook, who looked at a variety of popular chess sets and distilled their common traits while also, more importantly, looking at the city around him. Victorian London’s Neoclassical architecture had been influenced by a renewed interest in the ruins of ancient Greece and Rome, which captured the popular imagination after the rediscovery of Pompeii in the 18th century. The work of architects like Christopher Wren, William Chambers, John Soane, and many others inspired the column-like, tripartite division of king, queen, and bishop. A row of Staunton pawns evokes Italianate balustrades enclosing of stairways and balconies.

I like the Lewes chessmen best.

08 Jan 2013

Chinese Father Hires Virtual Assassins

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Typical hired assassin.

The Next Web describes an ingenious solution adopted by a Chinese father to a widespread parental problem.

What would you do if your adult son was playing video games all day instead of looking for work? Well, one Chinese father resorted to desperate measures when he reportedly hired in-game hitmen to attack his son whenever he logged on to his favorite game, according to the People’s Daily.

After being killed repeatedly in an online game, 23-year-old Xiao Feng figured out that the high-level griefers had been put up to the task by his dad, who says he hoped the trick would cause his son to lose interest in the game. Xiao Feng maintains that he’s not going to settle for just any job and that he hasn’t found the right fit yet.

Hat tip to Rob Long.

18 Oct 2012

If I’d Been There, I’d Have Rooted For Dartmouth

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Dartmouth’s water bottle kicking tee.

Cringe-making behavior by the Yale football coach.


Dartmouth arrived at its game against Yale on Oct. 6 with a full complement of players, all in uniform, to go with many sets of shoulder pads, several footballs and a coaching staff. The Big Green were ready for an important, potentially season-defining Ivy League game.

Dartmouth brought it all, minus one key on-field component: a kicking tee.

After combing through equipment bag after equipment bag roughly an hour before the start of the game against the Bulldogs, Dartmouth players and coaches realized that someone – and we’re not naming names – forgot to include that one vital piece of kicking paraphernalia.

(I will say this: No one is ever truly responsible for packing the equipment. Or everyone is responsible. You know what I mean. Again, we’re not naming names.)

So the Big Green did what any team would do in such a pickle: Dartmouth asked Yale, a brother Ivy, if it could spare a tee.

At first, the Yale equipment manager lent the Big Green a substitute tee. About fifteen minutes before kickoff, however, Yale head coach Tony Reno came over to Dartmouth’s sideline and said that the Bulldogs wanted their tee back, recounted Dartmouth kicker R.C. Willenbrock.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. You need a kicking tee to, you know, kick off. So the Big Green improvised.

Willenbrock came upon inspiration in the form of a water bottle, one he cut down to size, taped and molded before testing as a makeshift tee. Success!

Absolutely pathetic.

And Dartmouth deservedly won, after this disgraceful case of bad sportsmanship, 34-14.

Reading this, I profoundly wished I were president of Yale, so I could have fired that coach so fast his head would spin.

No wonder Yale is losing at football. We have a coach who doesn’t even understand why educational institutions like Yale encouraged young men to play competitive games in the first place.

Hat tip to Tristyn Bloom.

05 Oct 2012

Typical Democrat State Senate Candidate: An Orc Assassination Rogue

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Detail of GOP attack mailer

The Politico reports that, in the State of Maine, one candidate’s World of Warcraft gaming hobby has become a campaign issue.

In an unusual press release issued Thursday, the Maine GOP attacked Lachowicz for a “bizarre double life” in which she’s a devotee of the hugely popular online role-playing game World of Warcraft. In the game, she’s “Santiaga,” an “orc assassination rogue” with green skin, fangs, a Mohawk and pointy ears.

Lachowicz is a Democrat running against incumbent state Sen. Tom Martin in south-central Maine, a heavily Democratic district of about 80,000 people. Martin, elected in 2010, is the first Republican to hold the seat since the 1960s, and his seat is one Democrats are eager to flip back.

Lachowicz has blogged under her own name about her World of Warcraft achievements as well as left-wing politics in a dedicated section of the liberal DailyKos.Com. The Maine GOP excerpted several provocative lines form her posts including one on tax policy that concludes, “Now if you’ll excuse me, I may have to go and hunt down Grover Norquist and drown him in my bathtub.”

Other postings use curse words and make to the joy of “stab[bing] things,” joke about “being in a Socialist guild” and admit to “seriously slacking off at work.”


Actually, I think the Maine Republican Party has a point there.

I don’t personally see anything wrong with on-line fantasy gaming, but residents of that senatorial district ought to ask themselves: Do I want for my state senator the kind of person who chooses the identity of an Orc? Orcs are green-colored, unintelligent, primitives affiliated with the Horde, “a ravenous war machine fueled by demonic energy,” which is to say, the really, really bad guys.

Professionally, Ms. Lachowicz has chosen to have her avatar pursue the career of an assassination rogue.

WoW decribes the rogue class thusly:

For rogues, the only code is the contract, and their honor is purchased in gold. Free from the constraints of a conscience, these mercenaries rely on brutal and efficient tactics. Lethal assassins and masters of stealth, they will approach their marks from behind, piercing a vital organ and vanishing into the shadows before the victim hits the ground.

So, voters also need to ask themselves, is the kind of person who chooses for her avatar the conspicuously unethical class of rogue likely to be the kind of person we want making fiscal decisions for our state?

On the whole, I think one wants to be voting into public offices of trust and responsibility the kind of people who, when they play Warcraft, make their avatars humans, elves, or pandarens (Yoda types), and who adopt good guy professions like Paladin or Priest, or at least neutral professions like Hunter or Warlock.

Run around electing the kind of person whose avatar is a Level 68 Orc Assassination Rogue and you are going to be getting the likes of Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi.

13 Jun 2012


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Neal Stephenson is fascinated with sword-fighting, and is trying to raise the funding for what he intends to be the ultimate sword-fighting video game (to be named “Clang,” and to be developed by Subotai Corporation) using Kickstarter.

He tells us that the project needs to attract pledges amounting to $500,000 (!) by July 9th to develop the game. (Those Seattle game designers clearly all drive Porsches and drink plenty of Cristal.)

They are up to $230,449 right now with 26 days to go. You have to cough up at least $25 for the right to download a copy which is estimated to be finished by February of next year. They will charge your credit card on July 9th, assuming enough optimists climb on board to provide the half million in funding.

On the one hand, I have a strong positive regard for sword-fighting and admire Neal Stephenson. On the other hand, I worked in the game design industry in my youth and, boy! our budgets were orders of magnitude less than $500,000 a game.

I’m not sure how long they’ve been trying to Kickstarter this one, but there are only 26 days left and they are not quite halfway there, which does not look good to me.

Nice costume though, Neal.

04 May 2012

Walden: The Game

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Henry David Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond

Henry David Thoreau went to jail rather than pay taxes to local government (when he objected to federal policies, including the Mexican War and the Constitutional tolerance of Slavery), so naturally enough the same federal government, through its National Endowment for the Arts, is using tax money to fund creation by a group of academics at the University of Southern California of a Thoreau’s Walden “game.”

Lead game designer, USC Associate Professor Tracy Fullerton explains that they are designing “a rich simulation of the woods, filled with the kind of detail that Thoreau so carefully noted in his writings.”

The simulation will “mimic the meditative outdoor life described in Thoreau’s best-known work, written about his two years spent living in a cabin on the shores of Walden Pond in Concord, Mass. The digital Walden Pond will showcase a first-person point-of-view where you can wander through the lush New England foliage, stop to examine a bush and pick some fruit, cast a fishing rod, return to a spartan cabin modeled after Thoreau’s and just roam around the woods, grappling with life’s unknowable questions.”

It is intended to serve as “an introduction for young people, who might not have read the book yet.”

There you are, $40 Grand of your tax dollars for a visual Cliff Notes experience of walking in the woods, picking berries, catching a perch, &c.

It doesn’t sound to me as if the designers have given any thought to score keeping.

Some suggestions:

Work in family pencil factory for cash — minus 10 points

Pick a quart of huckleberries — plus 10 points

Eat a groundhog — plus 30 points, but you become sick to your stomach and lose half your movement allowance for three turns

Make a campfire — plus 5 points, but you must roll dice. If you roll a pair, you have accidentally started a fire and will burn 300 acres of woods and lose 100 points

Sponge off Emerson — minus 10 points

17 Apr 2012

Gaming With Pretension

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Jonathan Blow produces games which are less violent and more pretentious than conventional gun-them-down and blow-them-up games.

The Atlantic really buys into to all this, and lavishes praise on a fellow whose approach to gaming sounds to me a lot like films by Alain Resnais.

[W]hat makes Blow’s games so remarkable[is, that] at great personal expense, in ways no other developer has even attempted, he struggles to communicate a deeply authentic vision of the meaning of human existence. With both of his games, Blow strives to use the unique language of video games to impart the wisdom he has gained the hard way in his life. In The Witness, he hopes to help players try to “step outside their human viewpoint and see what the world is.” And in Braid, he sought to communicate something more personal still. …

[W]hat he is [is]—a spiritual seeker, questing after truth in an as-yet-uncharted realm. These are the terms in which he sees his art. “People like us who are doing something a little different from the mainstream have each picked one direction that we strike out in into the desert, but we’re still not very far from camp,” he told me. “There’s just a huge amount of territory to explore out there—and until you have a map of that, nobody can say what games can do.

07 Mar 2012

Gaming Is Good for You

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World of Warcraft

Robert Lee Hotz, in the Wall Street Journal, describes recent academic studies contending that gaming quickens the eye, speeds the reflexes, and keep’s the predatory human brain alert. Lots of us knew all that already.

One particular statistic stood out.

[T]oday’s average gamer is 34 years old and has been playing electronic games for 12 years, often up to 18 hours a week. By one analyst’s calculation, the 11 million or so registered users of the online role-playing fantasy World of Warcraft collectively have spent as much time playing the game since its introduction in 2004 as humanity spent evolving as a species—about 50 billion hours of game time, which adds up to about 5.9 million years.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

21 Feb 2012

Zombie Trailer Park

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Addictive. Play here.

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