Epiphenomena

MacBook Pro Cancels Benchmark: Interrupted by Flaming Hot Magma

Posted in Art, Buckeye, Digital Innovation, Epiphenomena, Eschatology, Fiction, Games on October 7th, 2010 by Elijah Meeks – Comments Off

Dammit, I just lost a piece of my life on MS Paint Adventures…  And for this?

Of course, I’m still not sure, but I think this method of storyteller as parser, whether community-oriented or feigned, is somewhere near Sword and Sworcery’s faux authentick.

Ah the unscrupulous mule! It understands war.

Posted in Art, Epiphenomena, Eschatology, Games on September 20th, 2010 by admin – Comments Off

Millions of books lining the shelves at Borders and stacking up in Googlespace and literature moves on…

One thing to make clear is that I try to make everything an interpretation of the game. If I went around inventing stuff it wouldn’t be fun anymore, because you wouldn’t know what I’m making up and what is the game being crazy. Plus, Dwarf Fortress is such an excellent story generator that it’s always more entertaining to write around what it gives me. It’s a fun creative limitation, and it’s the entire point of this LP, so I don’t take a lot of liberty with physical actions. If Dett has an amusing medical accident, I want the reader to know it actually happened. The only time I broke this rule was the cat counting joke in the first update and that happened because I was still working out the creative boundaries of the story (Exi’s cat did die, though). I do take liberty with social interactions because the extent of what you witness in the game is dwarves talking to each other in the dining hall, and I don’t see the harm in writing amusing conversations and creating these elaborate social dynamics between all the dwarves. That’s part of storytelling so it wouldn’t be the same without it, and really it’s still just interpretation there because all I’m doing is explaining what the dwarves say to each other on a day to day basis.

But in a lot of cases, the social interactions are usually also inspired by something. The Hyte and Dett dynamics with Mar were written because I always saw those two dwarves following her around. Exi and Behem are both miners, so of course they interact a lot. The still is right by the gemcutting station and the room where Frote trains animals, so of course Kesti interacts with them. Stuff that makes sense.

I also tend to play in ridiculous ways. For example, Squib being stationed to monitor the elf beasts in the first update happened. I didn’t want them interrupting work orders.

A couple of the more prominent Dwarf Fortress-based humor bits that aren’t covered by the screenshots and wouldn’t be clear to a non-Dwarf Fortress player:

1. Trame electing himself into several important positions is a reference to how players tend to make one dwarf responsible for the manager, broker, and bookkeeper duties.
2. Exi’s architecture design (and the entire concept of what dwarf culture considers good art) is a reference to how many Dwarf Fortress players just design their fortresses in efficient squares instead of more elaborate designs.
3. The mules showing up everywhere and bothering everyone is an in-game mechanic. Animals you don’t keep in cages are obnoxious.
4. The syntax of the Mittens engraving is a combination of an in-game description of a Forgotten Beast and a description of a crafted object.
5. Dett’s entire concept is based off how (in 31.03 – it’s since been patched) doctors were broken and would either horribly murder their patients or were unable to do anything productive for them. Honestly I would have been fine with hospitals never getting patched for that reason.
6. In the Dett update, she laments the lack of serrated discs and enormous corkscrews as hospital supplies. Those are in-game trap components.
7. Kesti’s reverence of the dining hall is an in-game mechanic. Someone posted earlier that dwarves will be happy despite the murder of all their friends and family so long as they ate in a fine dining hall recently. It’s true.
8. War mules are an in-game mechanic, too, but I had to mod the game files to make them trainable as war animals. This was the only modification to the base game.

You should really go give Tarn Adams a couple bucks…

And so we come full circle

Posted in Art, Digital Innovation, Epiphenomena, Eschatology, Games on August 17th, 2010 by Elijah Meeks – Comments Off

“Dwarf Fortress is really the kind of game that benefits third party viewers most when it’s transcribed and narrated and illustrated, rather than just watched.”

Posted in Academia, Digital Innovation, Epiphenomena on June 2nd, 2010 by Elijah Meeks – Comments Off

We tend towards influ­en­tial, frac­tional exem­plars, partly out of neces­sity (raised to the level of insti­tu­tions) and partly out of habit (raised to the level of tra­di­tions).

Tim Carmody’s very insightful “The Trouble with Digital Culture“, part of CHNM’s Hack the Academy event.

Top Ten New Features of HTML5

Posted in Digital Innovation, Epiphenomena, Eschatology on April 30th, 2010 by Elijah Meeks – Comments Off

Now that Steve Jobs has firmly stated that Flash can be buried because rich internet applications can be written in “javascript” (a new and exciting “scripted” language that little is known about, except for the fact that Lowes.com has a javascript store finder that crashes my iPhone) and HTML5, I think it’s time to look at the top ten amazing new features available to you some time in 2022, when HTML5 may* arrive!

#10 – HTML5 finally solves that annoying rollover behavior that prevents any Web 2.0 application from running on a mobile interface by getting rid of it entirely.  Instead, all mouselike commands will be nested in a <at-steves-whim></whim> tag that will implement shoddy, worthless junk depending on the current mood of populist technocrats.

#9 – HTML5 actually implements full Semantic Web capability, and will implement your very own Semantic Web whenever you’d like, just by giving a #start-semantic-web command.  Please note, however, that this is theoretical, as even the Google techs that got Quake working in HTML5 forgot to try this, so while the Semantic Web is now a distinct possibility, it remains as unlikely as it did when it was impossible.

#8 – HTML5 will actually learn to code for you, so that all those times when you neglected to learn how to code and claimed you were just waiting for a really solid open standard will be forgotten because not only will HTML5 teach you to code and learn it for you, it will purposefully make the apps built by code literate losers who learned how to code (albeit in awful, awful languages) run less efficiently out of spite.

#7 – HTML5 contains <ideological> wrappers that allow arguments to be viewed based on their merits, thus solving thousands of years of senseless conflicts.

#6 – HTML5 also contains <wittgensteinian> wrappers that may or may not restore all of those senseless conflicts, just for kicks.

#5 – HTML5 will always render Joan Jett as a young, rebellious hellion, even if the video is of her appearance on The Ellen Degeneres Show.  In HTML5, Joan Jett punches Ellen right in the eye.

#4 – HTML5, while technically incapable of restoring your childlike optimism, contains <polyanna> tags that allow you to force your own twisted corruption of it upon others.

#3 – HTML5 contains </terminator> tags that can be used to deactivate killer cyborgs as well as allow Monsanto-engineered crops to produce viable seeds.

#2 – HTML5 also contains <terminator> tags (necessary for compliance) that should only be used by very responsible individuals.

#1 – In HTML5, Soviet Russia finally gets to tag you.

*No really, 2022.  Remember, HTML5 is also part of the Semantic Web Zombiepocalypse, so even though its arrival will fix everything, you have to weigh that value against the distinct possibility that, like the Zombie Web, it may never actually get here.

The Transcendent Beauty of Radar Topography

Posted in Art, Epiphenomena on April 5th, 2010 by Elijah Meeks – Comments Off

Some days, when you’re working with spatial analytical software, looking for a way to shoehorn techniques used to study bighorn sheep into studying the historic gravities of power, you forget that you’re dealing with some of the most beautiful imagery to have graced the retina.  There’s something about radar topography and electron microscopy that reveal shapes and patterns both foreign and familiar.  Here’s Canada and the northern United States, round about the Rockies.

North America - 250m Resolution - Albers Equal Area Contiguous

Tomorrow, AD

Posted in Digital Innovation, Epiphenomena, Eschatology on March 31st, 2010 by Elijah Meeks – Comments Off

For all of us who find it completely not suspicious at all that everyone at Boing Boing loves Hot Tub Time Machine (starring action spectacular superstar John Cusack, not coincidentally soon to be a guest blogger at Boing Boing, which I wouldn’t have known except they mention it in every post, along with how impressed they are by the cinematic quality of John Cusack Presents Hot Tub Time Machine starring John Cusack) and are intrigued by the idea of “time travel” I direct you to a blog, from the future.

Ascii Dreams

Note the dates, note the prescient information that could only come from someone who actually came back from one week in the future.  Or perhaps the blog has become quantum entangled with a stray waveform tabby, and it exists both now and later.  Note that Dwarf Fortress Alpha is about to have a new iteration that includes the kinds of features I spent eight years looking for in Nethack (and all I ended up with was a rusty longsword, which is not, thank you very much, a metaphor).

Learning Incorrect Schema

Posted in Academia, Digital Innovation, Epiphenomena, Fiction, Games on February 17th, 2010 by Elijah Meeks – Comments Off

Just finished watching Will Wright’s presentation for the Games for Learning Institute.  It’s cleansing, I think, to move from some of the raw intuition that open source types present as social commentary and listen to someone like Will Wright, who’s actually considering the difference between “the social landscape and the material landscape” and has been doing so for years.  The talk itself focused on the concept of games and stories as schema, fostering understanding of our world through lessons and cause-effect chains.

Wright obviously has been engrossed in story for his entire career, and during the unplanned delay before the talk engaged with an audience and pointed out that games do not supplant the linear narratives of books, but rather modify and complement them.  This comes up at the end of the talk, where he discusses Fractal Entertainment– How modern “properties” or “worlds” are not a single piece of media, but rather multiple expressions (some cinematic, some interactive, some linear, some board game, some RPG).  This includes not only top-down licensed expressions but also crowd-driven epiphenomena such as machinima and graphic novels based on Sims gameplay.

Also interesting is the concept of emergence not only within a game but also around a game, where the activity that surrounds, say, Wii Bowling, is as important to the enjoyment and definition of the game as the hardware and software.  As Wright puts it, the absurd gesticulations one makes while trying to bowl with a plastic stick.  But emergence plays a role outside the story proper, and becomes part of the meta-story, where the story is dissected and used as lesson (Wright notes that Blade Runner is the inspiration for city planners for The Dystopian Future to Avoid) and also as Story deconstructed into components to create what the designer calls “possibility space”.  And once that space is created, story emerges from it, to start the dialectical chain all over again.

Of course, story is too narrow, and Wright deals with this by settling on describing movies and books as linear narratives, which is broad enough not only to cover romance novels but also monographs and encyclopedias.  The convergence presented by Wright is mirrored by the convergence of high end research, focusing on model building and schema pattern strategies.  And while these schemas and models are arbitrary, they allow, as Wright points out, the ability to map the patterns that emerge within possibility space.

So many years of so many toys has left the theorists of the world in flux.  That’s why we have so many would-be philosophers with no background in the matter and so many academics struggling to understand their place in  society cut loose from the linear narrative.  It’s good to see someone like Will Wright, who is knowledgeable and systematic in his understanding of how the digital world and the social world mesh and the new subtleties available as a result of that meshing.  And on top of all that, there’s a great story about the Soviet space program accidentally crash-landing in China.

“Dinner for wolves”

Esoterica

Posted in Art, Buckeye, Digital Innovation, Epiphenomena, Eschatology on February 9th, 2010 by Elijah Meeks – Comments Off

It’s hard to tell if there’s such a fragmentation of visual culture that the post-ironic, repurposing crowd exists at a convex location from the materialist/idealistic crowd or if they’re right next to each other but, because of how we project them, they get split in half and floated away on an imaginary ocean.  You know, like Greenland when you run a Lambert Asian Conformal Conic.

To muddy the water a bit, I offer this piece of <3000 viewed Youtubedness:

What’s going on here?  Is it an attempt to show how absurd dancing is, or to show how absurd arguments are?  Or is it just playing a game with highly responsive digital tools (that’s about the only excuse I can imagine for the Brendan Frasier clapping meme) and the actual message isn’t a message at all, other than, “Look, I did something cool with Final Cut!” which is, ultimately, so idealistic as to be childlike, and hence the exact opposite of the ironic implication of much of these memes.  I think there’s a serious schizophrenia in modern underculture media production, to the point where I’m no longer sure if anyone is reflecting at all about what they’re producing and how it’s communicated.

Updated Apple Downloads for Flash Player

Posted in Art, Digital Innovation, Epiphenomena on February 3rd, 2010 by Elijah Meeks – Comments Off

I took the liberty of updating Apple.com’s woefully out-of-date description of its Adobe Flash Player for Mac.

Now includes information for iPad and iPhone owners!!!

Now includes information for iPad and iPhone owners!!!