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INTERIOR: BEDROOM, EARLY MORNING

ICE CUBE sits in the edge of the bed, holding a NOTEBOOK and a PEN. Behind him, facing away from camera, a BLONDE FIGURE lies on the bed.

CLOSE-UP ON NOTEBOOK, showing Ice Cube crossing out the name "Andy Summers". Above it, the name "Sting" is already crossed out, and below it the name "Stuart Copeland" is not yet crossed out.

SCENE
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His sign says "ANYTHING HELPS GOD BLESS" followed by a QR code.

I scan it with my phone out my car window, and transfer a dollar (minus a small processing fee) straight to his pre-paid Visa. The confirmation email includes a link to view his Visa statement, in case I want to know what he spent my dollar on. If I was a Premium Patron, I could check his past purchases and balance before making the transaction. I idly wonder who would want to buy the aggregate data of the spending habits of homeless people. Somebody must; the company seems to be doing pretty well.

I realize as I'm driving away that I never made eye contact with him. For the next few seconds I wonder what his face looked like.
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Actionscript 3: An analogy

As a lot of people know, I really enjoy making analogies. Sometimes they're not very good analogies, but they're fun to make anyway. This is an analogy for why I don't like Actionscript 3. In the future, whenever someone asks me what I think of AS3, I will direct them here.

Being a game programmer is like being a sculptor, and Actionscript is like clay. AS1 was like Play-Doh; it frequently got all crumbly, and couldn't really be used for big projects, but it was good for playing with, and rolling into fun shapes.

AS2 is like Sculpey; a great, versatile clay that scales well and you can make pretty much anything with. Sure, it takes some getting used to and it smells weird, but once you got the hang of it the sky's the limit, and you can easily toss together something fairly impressive in like half an hour. You could also develop your own artistic style with it; one person might make a human figure by starting with an armature and building on that, another person might sculpt the body parts separately in molds and then patch them together, and another person might sculpt the entire thing freehand starting with just a blob of clay. I say this as someone who has literally done things with AS2 that people regularly tell me they thought would be impossible to do with AS2, and has made entire, robust games in AS2 starting from scratch in just a few days.

AS3 comes in a box that says "From the makers of Play-Doh and Sculpey, comes the new and improved Clay 3.0!" When you open the box, however, all that's inside is a hammer and chisel, and a note that says "Now you can sculpt with marble!" While it's true that making something out of clay and making something with a hammer and chisel are both called "sculpting", they're really pretty different, and require very different skills. If you sit a sculptor with a big block of Sculpey down next to a sculptor with a hammer and chisel and a big block of marble, and tell them both to sculpt The Thinker, it's gonna take the guy with the hammer and chisel ten times as long to do it, and they'll both end up looking pretty much identical. There's also the fact that I already HAVE a dremel, a jackhammer, and a bunch of other tools that are much better suited to carving marble (read: other programming languages and tools like C, C++, C#, Java, Unity, etc., most of which are available for free), so if I whip something together in clay that I then decide to re-sculpt in marble, I already have much better tools for that than just a hammer and chisel.

I could go on and on with this analogy, but this is a pretty good stopping point. In summary, the reason I don't like AS3 is because AS2 was the perfect tool for rapidly prototyping pretty much anything I could think of, and I could either leave it in AS2, or fairly quickly re-create it in C# or something else using my AS2 prototype as a reference. AS3 throws out everything that made AS2 the perfect tool for rapid prototyping, and instead it claims to be on par with bigger programming languages like C#, but it's really not. AS3 does have an advantage over AS2 in that it has native support for joysticks and accelerometers and other hardware, but again C# and Java do it better and cheaper.
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reccr

I don't know if there's anyone who reads my LJ but not my Facebook any more, but just in case I figured I'd mention this here as well as FB:

My new project is reccr, an automated video game recommender. You rate the games you've played, and it'll tell you what other games you'll like. It's currently in beta, and it could really use as much input as possible at this point, so if you haven't checked it out yet please do so, and if you checked it out a few months ago but haven't been back since, please take another look and see how your recommendations are looking, and rate any games that you've played in the meantime. Thanks!
POEND!!

darling it's better down where it's wetter

OK, duders. As a big fan of the original Bioshock, I was obligated to play Bioshock 2, and I finished it last night.

Initially I was wary of it, since like nobody from the original team was involved in its creation (or so I've heard), but then it came out and I heard it was "more of the same", which actually sounds like a good thing to me, and someone gave me a $25 Gamestop gift card for my birthday, so I picked it up. I will refrain from going off on a 30-page tirade about my experience at Gamestop. Suffice it to say I will make every effort to never set foot in a Gamestop again. Anyway, the game...

Collapse ) overall, there are a few neat improvements that could have made the first game more fun (the changes to hacking and the camera, and meeting some characters face-to-face), there are a few things that are kind of fun but which I think hinder the game's mood and pacing (summoning bots and recruiting enemies), and everything else kind of sucks.
danger helvetica

busman's holiday for pathologists

xuer and I played Pandemic for the first time last night. We played the "introductory" difficulty level, and thought we were totally kicking ass but actually ended up BARELY winning (we won when there was ONE card left in the player draw pile, and if you draw the last card in the player draw pile as part of your mandatory "draw two cards at the end of your turn" EVERYBODY DIES). We drew role cards randomly, and I pulled Medic and she pulled Researcher, and the Medic was a WHOLE lot more useful than the Researcher, but that's OK because she was kind of playing "remotely" with the baby in her lap and having me draw her cards and move her pawn for her most of the time.

To back up for a little bit for anyone who hasn't played Pandemic yet (which is probably most of you), it's a co-op board game where the players are working together to stop four simultaneous, virulent, disease epidemics from wiping out mankind. Each player is assigned a "role" with one or two special abilities, and you all work together and coordinate your actions to cure the diseases. The diseases are color-coded, and to cure a disease a player has to discard five cards of the same color as the disease, while in a city with a research center. This is much easier said than done, however, because the game imposes a strict 7-card hand size limit, and the cards are also very useful for other things like building research centers and fast-traveling around the map. Once all four diseases are cured, the players all win. However, the players all LOSE if the deck they draw from runs out, or the stock of markers for any one disease runs out (meaning that all of the markers for that disease are on the board), or if there are eight "outbreaks" (an outbreak occurs whenever a city gets more than 3 disease markers of the same color, at which point it ruptures disease markers into all neighboring cities, which can cascade more outbreaks if they're already full). So, lots of ways to lose, one way to win. Also, even if you've "cured" one of the diseases it can still pop up and spread around until it is completely eradicated from the board, which is no mean task.

This game was originally released at the height of the piggy-pox and bird flu scare, so its theme was very topical a couple years ago, but I think they probably could've given it longer legs if they'd tacked on a "zombie" theme, even though I feel at this point that zombies have pretty much reached market saturation. With the current theme, it feels just a little bit like I'm playing an edu-game, and one whose topicality has passed. I also think (especially with a zombie theme) that this game could do really well on Xbox Live.
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videos that I wish were on the internets

There are many videos on the internets. But there are some that are not. Here are three videos that are not on the internets (or anywhere else that I can find, for that matter) that I wish were:
  • The "60 Minutes" segment from the late 1970s on the negative effect that video games have on the minds of impressionable youngsters. I saw this once on a random cable channel as part of some sort of "the weirdest 60 Minutes segments" special or something, but of course I've never been able to find it again. The highlight of the episode was a shocking expose on how the 1976 game "Death Race" teaches kids to run over people with cars! (The kids, of course, keep trying to point out to the reporter that the stick figures they're running over with cars are supposed to be evil skeletons rising from their graves.)
  • The "321 Contact" segment where they go to Williams and visit the people working on the Tron video game (from 1982), including a young George Gomez (who later went on to design a lot of critically-acclaimed pinball machines), and get a look "behind the scenes" of how an arcade game is made, complete with level designs that didn't make the final cut.
  • "Color Correction", a PBS documentary on the evolution of the role of black actors in American TV. I watched the first half of this in a "Rave and Hip-Hop Culture" class I took at UNM (yes, there really was a "Rave and Hip-Hop Culture" class one semester at UNM), but the class was poorly organized and we didn't have time to watch the whole thing and the instructor forgot about it the next class. He was supposed to let me borrow it, but he never did.

Dear internets, please find me these videos.