Wednesday, October 5, 2011


So I don't usually use this blog for "personal" posts, but eh, I needed somewhere to write this.

Like most folks, I forget most of my dreams. Occasionally, however, I remember a long on with surprising clarity. When that happens I usually feel compelled to write it down somewhere, so let's see how that goes.

The dream started with a remake of Xenogears (an old but awesome PS1 game) with voice acting and 3D characters rather than sprites, but somehow I ended up watching/playing Xenosaga (its 3 part PS2 successor). As it often goes in dreams, I eventually ended up inside interacting with the characters, sorta.

So we were at this enemy space station fightin' one of the big bads. We beat him back but realize he's not beaten for long and we need to make our escape (which is similar to what happened in the actual game). The party finds a bunch of fighters and we commandeer them to make our escape. I ended up being co-pilot for Jin Uzuki, the main character's brother, which is weird because he wasn't even in the game that scene was from, but he's a cool guy so I didn't complain. Once we got our helmets on and the cockpit closed and figured out the flight controls we were off on a whirlwind big city adventure.

Neither of us were experienced with the craft, but being the smart fellows we were, we figured we'd learn as we went along. We sort of did, but we also sort of flew into some sort of anomaly that sent us flying back in time.

We ended up in like, 1940s Detroit or something. There were a bunch of teenagers cleaning up a park nearby, and for some reason Jin hopped out and started helping. Nobody seemed to question the fact that a middle aged Japanese man with a giant Katana and a futuristic flightsuit had just appeared out of nowhere and grabbed a rake.

Our ship appeared to have mysteriously developed cloaking ability, so I wandered around a bit before returning and hopping out as well. The party seemed to have finished their project, so Jin and I joined a few of them to go awanderin'. We were a bit irked at having landed in an age without many of the technological conveniences we were used to (by the standards of the far futurey space age, brick buidings were like mud huts) but we tried to do our best to settle in. After all, there were far worse times we could be sent to.

We got along well with some of our new acquaintances, but we were still thrilled when we learned that the Zohar (a mysterious, powerful and important relic that plays a large part in the Xeno* games) was being used in experiments in a nearby lab. This didn't make much sense since the Zohar should've been in Africa at the time wouldn't be discovered for like 100 more years, but whatevs. Dream logic.

Figuring that this might somehow have our solution, we took our little ship and broke into the lab, sneaking/crashing our way to the Zohar. Jin worked some magic which looked deceptively like mashing buttons and hoping for the best, and us, our ship and 2 unlucky security guards who happened to be nearby all got sucked into a flash of light and ended up in a desert somewhere.

Our new companions seemed a bit upset, so I used the ship's external speakers to say "So while it's perfectly reasonably for you to be upset, we ARE all stuck in a desert together, so it might be wise to stop banging on our ship so we can all work together." That seemed to placate them, so we set about the business of finding food and shelter. I found some scrawny bushes that would do for kindling, and Jin went off to find food while our guests tried to stop wanting to kill us.

Eventually Jin radio'd that he had found food, a herd of sheep (in the desert, go dream logic), and he was off to the east of us. Of course we had no idea if it was really east, but we'd seemed to have made an unspoken agreement to pretend that this planet's sun worked like Sol and did the whole rise east/set west thing. Our guests wandered off in the wrong direction, but I managed to catch up with them and set 'em right.

After a bit of wandering in what we though was Jin's direction, we found . . . an inn. In the middle of the dessert, a quaint little building like you'd find in a quiet country town. So we went in (except for some reason I crawled in through a window) and found Jin sitting at a table. The "meat" was, uh, unusual and I began to suspect that, considering we were potentially on an alien world, "sheep" had been an approximation. Nevertheless, it wasn't bad tasting and it didn't kill anyone, so it seemed to be ok.

At this point the necessities of eating forced our two guests to remove their helmets, revealing that they were not the burly angry stereotypical guard dudes I'd been expecting, but actually were two very attractive young women. It seemed we'd been able to set our differences aside and we had a more or less pleasant dinner chat. (It's worth noting that the girls were wearing high tech body armor like ours, despite having come from dream-1940s.)

Eventually we were visited by the locals, an elderly woman dressed all in brown. We tried to communicate with her, but despite trying greetings in every language we know (which for my part seemed to include a LOT of D&D languages), we were unable to find common ground. I was about to try Abyssal and Infernal but decided against it since I didn't know what kind of place this was, and what effect speaking the words of such fell tongues would have. Plus I doubt that would've worked either.

She wandered off and we went back to contemplating our food, when one of the girls heard someone calling her name. I forget what it was, which irks me, but I think it started with an M. Marika or something? We'll go with that. I advised her not to wander off alone, since we had no idea what this place was and that was more than a little bit suspicious, but she would not be denied and rushed off to find the caller. I followed her cautiously, since I didn't think my suspicions were unwarranted.

It seems I was right, as she wandered into a dark room, and some beast lurking on the ceiling snapped down to bite her. I pulled her out of the way just in time (dream hero, go!) and produced an energy blade with which I cut the creature in two, presumably killing it. We carefully made our retreat from the room and . . . I woke up. That was the end of that. Alas. Oh well, maybe I'll get to see the end of the story when I fall asleep next, though that seems unlikely.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

MMO Adventures

So a buddy of mine asked me the pros and cons of EQ, EQ2 and WoW. I decided to blog 'bout it, and add a few more games. I'm also adding a "niche" for each MMO, which is universally neither pro nor con, but could be either for specific people based on their specific interests.

Pro: Tons and tons of content. Some of the most interesting and complex raid encounters in the MMO industry. A fairly mature community and extensive legacy.
Con: Old. Though it does have a huge amount of content added over the years, and the devs have done a good job of keeping it up to date, much of the content is still outdated, and a lot of the older content is desolate.
Niche: Hardcore pve.

EverQuest 2:
Pro: Beautiful graphics, an amazing soundtrack. The coolest crafting system I have ever seen in an MMO. Tons and tons of quests, and while it is guilty of having bland "kill 10 of these and collect 5 of those" quests at times, it also has plenty of really cool ones.
Con: I'm actually having trouble thinking of one. Honestly, the only reason I'm not playing EQ2 right now instead of *shame* WoW is that most of my friends play WoW while everyone I know who plays EQ2 quit. The raids are much smaller than in EQ1, which could be a con to some depending on preference, though I haven't actually done the raids myself so I can't comment on the quality.
Niche: Casual pve, crafting. It's one of the few games where crafting is more interesting than "have components, press button, receive item."

World of Warcraft:
Pro: Polished content, frequent content updates, phenomenal attention to detail for both gameplay and lore.
Con: A fairly immature community. Before I played WoW, I heard my friends complain about the community and thought "Oh they're just exaggerating, it can't be that bad." Then I played and realized it wasn't. It was worse. There isn't as much room for skill in playing classes as in other MMOs. Skill does make a difference, certainly, but not nearly as much relative to gear as in other MMOs. (For example, I can regularly outdps players in far better gear than me on my EQ1 Magician just by staying on top of things and using a better spell weave, but that doesn't really happen in WoW.)
Niche: Very casual pve with a bit of pvp thrown in. Despite the unique gimmicks that most fights have, there are very few encounters which will truly challenge skilled MMO players, so it is a nice game for casual players who just want to beat up a few zombies with friends but won't appeal to hardcore powergamers as much.

EVE Online:
Pro: The most amazing economy in any MMO in the history of ever. Dynamic and player controlled world. Shifting territory wars, huge battles, complex strategies and all sorts of shiny things. While classes in most MMOs boil down to "tank, healer, dps, crowd control" EVE boasts a far greater variety of possible roles to play in fleets.
Con: It's a pvp game, and pvp at attracts jerkfaces. While there are plenty of cool people in the world of New Eden, there are also plenty of griefers intent on ruining your day.
Niche: Hardcore pvp. Strategic combat. Trigonometry for fun. Spreadsheets in space. Or just playing the market. You can make a healthy amount of ISK (the game's currency) without even undocking if you know how to study and manipulate the market.

Pro: A very interesting class system. Neat public group and raid encounters (the Rifts for which the game is titled). (It automatically forms a public group with anyone near the rift, so you can just jump in and have fun without having to organize a huge raid.)
Con: Ultimately just a WoW/War hybrid. It has little original other than the class system. The rifts are cool, but not as dynamic as I was hoping.
Niche: People who sorta like WoW but got tired of it.

Gods and Heroes: Rome Rising
Pro: A really cool squad system that lets you command a customizable team of NPCs. Also an evolving player owned estate that changes as you complete quests to upgrade it.
Con: Not much else. Sadly the population is very low, and nothing about the game other than the squad system is very noteworthy. Yes it has a big world and lots of quests and customizable character talents, but that's kind of expected in MMOs nowadays. The squad system is the only thing that really hooked me.
Niche: People who like to have lots of characters on screen. The squads open up a lot of possibilities for people (like me) who like that sort of thing.

City of Heroes:
Pro: The coolest character creator ever.
Con: Little else of note.
Niche: People who like superheroes? Admittedly I haven't played this one for some time, and I hear they've added some fancy new stuff since then so my spartan review might be a little unfair.

Dungeons and Dragons Online
Pro: Tons and tons of dungeons. Also a cool system of dungeon bonuses. Each dungeon has mini achievements (smash X crates, kill Y monsters, don't die more than Z times) that boost the xp gain of the dungeon run.
Con: Not solo friendly at all.
Niche: People who enjoy dungeon grouping. Hopefully you have a group ready.

Forsaken World
Pro: Free to play. Beautiful graphics.
Con: Similar to Gods and Heroes. It's not that it's bad per se, just that it doesn't have a unique hook to it. It has quests, and talents, but again you find those just about everywhere nowadays.
Niche: Hard to say. People who like free games I suppose? =p I'd certainly suggest trying it at least once, especially since it's free and easily available on Steam.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Passage of Time

So I feel old. I was looking up something on imdb and realized Men in Black came out 14 years ago. Wthax. Also Men in Black II was 10. Also also they're making a Men in Black III which doesn't make me feel old but is pretty exciting.

Anyway, this reminded me of another little "wow time goes by" anecdote. I have learned that teaching makes me feel older than ever. Some of my students were making accounts for the software we were using, and I noticed one girl appended 98 to the end of her name. This led to the following conversation:

Me: Does that mean you were born in 1998?
Her: Yep.
What I said: Oh. Ok. Carry on.
What I thought: Holy shit, what? My *oldest* and most advanced student (Well, in that class. I had older kids in another one.) was born while I was in middle school, but is now old enough to sit in my class and make video games. I know that's not *that* extreme, but it was like a "woah, epiphany" moment as I realized how long ago my own childhood was and became more acutely aware of the passage of time.

On a mildly related note, earlier in the season I'd been discussing with some other instructors what kinds of tv shows and movies we could show the students. Someone suggested Ren and Stimpy and I mentioned "I'm not sure that'd be appropriate for some of the younger ones." That caused another internal "wthax" moment as I realized "I just said that. I am the person who says that now. What has time done to me!?"

Anyway. There wasn't much point to this post I guess, I just felt the need to record this little ramble somewhere. We'll be back to our (ir)regularly scheduled rants about social flaws and general dumbery when I make my next post in a month or two.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rolling of Rick

I seem to have done a pretty poor job of keeping up with BEDA. Oh well. Back to our regular schedule! (Or lack thereof.)

Today I'm going to talk about Rick Rolling. For those who don't know, Rick Rolling is the process of giving someone a link to something (generally a Youtube video) and telling them it is one thing when in fact is a video of Rick Astley singing Never Gonna Give You Up. It's a neat song, and Rick Rolling done right can be hilarious. Unfortunately, "done right" is apparently quite a challenge.

Now that we've talked about what Rick Rolling is, let's talk about what it is NOT. Simply hearing the song does not mean you have been "rick rolled." A few years ago at ACEN a guy was walking around with a stereo playing the song, and people would exclaim "ahaha, he just rick rolled you!" No! He didn't! That isn't how this works! I know I'm being an internet pedant right now, but we all have our values and this is mine. =p Use the term right! It is only rick rolling when you deceive someone into clicking a link to the video that they think is something else. Get it right. The life you save may be your own.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Have you ever stopped to think about how awesome science is? I mean, periodically I hear people complain about something silly like "It's 2011, where are my flying cars?" Sorry dude, your argument would sound a lot better if you weren't posting that comment on an international digital communication network using a handheld device capable of multiple forms of data exchange and communication, global position and a slew of other features.

Like, srsly, smartphones are probably more advanced than tricorders and communicators from Star Trek. The only thing they can't do that tricorders can is scan someone to tell if they're alive or dead, but hell, someone's probably working on an app for that. Yeah, we complain about not having space ships, but if you showed an Android to someone from 50 years ago they'd probably burn you for being a witch.

And the internet, man. People take it for granted since it's been around for a while, but holy shit, have you ever stopped to think about mind blowing it is that I can just press a button and be talking to someone in Australia as if they were sitting across the table? Even the old days of clunky text chats were pretty impressive, but now we have VOIP and video chat, it's pretty wild.

As for cars, sure they don't fly, but you can hop in a car in New York and be in California within a few days. That used to take months, and half your party would be dead by the time you got there. Hell, you could get in an airplane and be there the same day. There's your flying car, what?

However, nothing that mankind ever has or ever will do compares to the technological awesomeness of this:

Friday, August 12, 2011

This post is new so it sucks

One thing that continues to irk me is the trend of insisting that everything that is old/classic is awesome and everything that's new sucks. I see this often on the various websites and forums I frequent, and applies to virtually every medium of entertainment, as well as other things.

Just today in fact, I saw a post on Reddit demanding to know "Why doesn't Disney make movies like this anymore?" and showing a picture of a scene from Fantasia. Sure, Fantasia was pretty neat, but to insist that Disney hasn't created anything of note lately is . . . what?

Sure, there are some pretty horrible songs/books/movies/games these days, but there are some awesome ones too, and there were horrible ones "back in the day." However, there is such a pool to draw from that it's easy for people to practice selective bias and list a bunch of, say, good bands from a few decades ago and a few unpopular or "bad" (I hesitate to use bad in an objective sense for something that is really up to personal taste and preference, but you get what I mean) ones from today, stubbornly ignoring the fact that it could easily work both ways.

I guess that was kind of vague, so perhaps another concrete example: as anyone who's known me for more than 30 seconds knows, I am a huge fan of the fantasy MMO Everquest. EQ is an old game, and as such has gone through a number of evolutions, now boasting 16 expansion packs and countless smaller patches. Obviously, the game today is wildly different than the game that launched in 1999. Now, while I don't agree with every change the developers have made (devs, Y U nerf jester of Bristlebane illusion times?), for the most part the game has gotten better and better over the years. Even some of the changes I disliked I can begrudgingly admit were probably for the better, it's just impossible to please everyone in a game where if you ask 10 people what they want, you'll get 20 different answers.

Got a bit rambly there, didn't I? Anyway, despite the progress and improvements in the game over the years, there exists a steadfast niche of players who insist "the good old days" were the best, and EQ was "ruined" by all the expansions and additions (casually overlooking the fact that with no content additions everyone would have gotten bored and quit ages and ages ago). Now, as I said before, everyone has a different opinion, and I don't expect everyone to like all the same things as me, but often the arguments are just irrational appeals to emotion with no real factual evidence (and not just for classic EQ, but for a lot of these "it was older back then" arguments).

"It just felt more real." "You weren't there, you wouldn't understand." (Used regardless of whether or not the other party actually was "there" or not.) "It's just not the same."

Yes, there's some shitty music today, and I'm not a fan of a lot of movies nowadays but guys, that's nothing new. For the most part, I think, entertainment (and society in general) is moving on up. I mean, I have my share of complaints of course, but we don't burn people at the stake for being witches anymore so hey, progress right?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Things I like

To counter yesterday's post, I'll make a cheerier one. Things that make me smile:

Apple Pie


Pixar Movies

When someone I haven't talked to in a while texts or messages me just to say hello and see how I'm doing.

When a pretty girl smiles at me as she walks past.

Cats. Usually.

When one of my students solves a complex problem on their own without needed to turn to me for help. While that makes me feel a tad superfluous sometimes, it's good to see the problem solving and research strategies I taught them working.

Finding out a good friend (or attractive girl! =p) and I have a previous undiscovered common interest that we can talk about for ages without getting bored.

Discovering that one of the web comics I enjoy has an update. This may be unusual, but I remain intentionally ignorant of their update schedules so I can enjoy a pleasant surprise every few days.

A complex piece of code compiling and working as intended on the first attempt.

Getting a compliment or recognition you weren't expecting. The second week of camp this summer, one of the 10 year-olds made a poster saying how she loved the camp and listing all the instructors names. My name had a #2 next to it (considering how many of us there were, and how much she liked her #1 instructor, a #2 was not at all bad), which totally made my day.

Other stuff. I couldn't possible capture it all in one list, so I'll cut it short here

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Things that annoy me

I realized a bit late that I'd forgotten to blog today. As I'm still making a half-hearted attempt to keep up with my belated "BEDA" plan, I shared my post-less woes with Kyle, who suggested I blog about annoying things.

Sounds as reasonable as anything. (I hope this doesn't make me sound bitter.) Things that annoy me:

My cough. Seriously, why won't it stop? Now my throat is sore and it makes me less than happy. I thought it was getting better this morning but it seems I was proven wrong. Oh well.

The sounds of people eating. Yes, humans are gross when we eat. Alas.

People who act like their personal preferences are irrefutable objective fact. "I don't personally find you attractive, so you're ugly and nobody will ever love you" etc.

Flip flops. No idea why, but I h9 them, I do.

Flashing banner ads, or ads with sudden sound. Don't get me wrong, I am all for the ad-based revenue model for websites and content providers, and I most certainly don't mind seeing an add or three as I browse my web comics, so long as they don't distract me with flashes and sound.

People who think that simply regurgitating pop culture references without any originality is clever or witty. Yes, I liked Portal too, but shouting "THE CAKE IS A LIE" every time someone talks about a particular bakery item doesn't make you funny. Similarly, as much as I love Monty Python, I grow weary of people who feel the need to shout "Ni" every time we walk past a shrubbery.

When my hair gets in my mouth. I do like having long hair, but it has its drawbacks.

Mildly related, when people feel the need to inform me that it's odd for me to have long hair while being male.

The list could go on but I'm tired, and some of these could be their own blog posts and also I don't want to seem all complainey. Maybe tomorrow I'll do a list of things I like.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Everyday I'm bloggin'

So my astoundingly awesome nerd buddy Kyle is doing this fancy Blog Every Day in August thing and tells me I should do the same. I'm 9 days late and horrible at updating my blog, so it seems improbably that I'll be able to keep it up, but I'll take a stab at it anyway. Maybe.

So, where should we start? I rarely talk about my own personal life in this blog, but I feel compelled to talk about my summer job a bit. Ages ago I found a listing on Craigslist looking for people to teach teenagers game design at a summer camp. I followed the link, and next thing you know I've been hired by a pretty fancy company to teach for two weeks (was supposed to be four but one session got cancelled) at Lake Forest College. Two weeks isn't much, but fortunately they had openings at another school and I was able to teach for another four weeks at Northwestern University.

It was an interesting experience. Teaching can be a fair bit stressful but also, at the risk of sounding sappy, fairly rewarding. I also learned that teaching programming presents some unique challenges.

The problem with teaching a programming class, especially one that is only a week long, is that there is no conceivable way to teach the kids everything they'd need to know about the given language. Even in a semester long college course you can only scrape the tip of the iceberg. I saw my job as not to teach them to program, but to teach them how to learn to program. The first couple of days I'd hand them everything as they had no idea what anything meant, but as the end of the class drew nearer I'd become intentionally more vague. Rather than spelling out everything, I'd give them a higher level suggestion and tell them to think about how to implement, or rather than fixing their problems for them, I'd give them some general troubleshooting strategies. If they had a problem, I'd tell them to Google it first.

This wasn't to be lazy on my part, this is just how I program. Nobody has all the answers out of the box. I don't sit down to start on a piece of software and instantly know what to do. I figure out what I want to do, pull out some Google tutorials and start thinking about how I'll make it happen. The problem is that kids aren't used to classes like this. They expect the adults to have all the answers and dispense them freely, so sometimes when I'd tell a student "Why don't you Google it and see what you find?" they'd get frustrated, thinking it mean I didn't know the answer and was just trying to keep them busy.

Sure, a few times I didn't know the answer, but most of the time I was just trying to show them how to figure things out on their own. Some of the kids got this fine, and developed the ability to solve most of their problems on their own, only calling me over to ask for help when they had a huge issue. Others, however, became entirely dependent on me. Sure, I don't mind helping and answering questions, but if you refuse to do anything without my help, what are you going to do when I'm gone, kids? Fortunately, those cases were the minority, and I like to think that most of my kids left prepared to Google and MSDN/Apple Dev Network their way to success. (Or is that just me being naively optimistic?)

Well, that post ended up a lot more substantial than I expected. Now to figure out what to ramble about tomorrow.

tl;dr Going to try (and fail) to post every day in August. Teaching is hard but fun.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Boobs and TV

So last night a friend showed me this:

The tl;dr is that someone wrote a letter expressing their distaste for the prevalence of boobs in Game of Thrones, and someone wrote an interesting reply about the show (and issues of sex in general).

Now, I mostly agree with pretty much everything the person responding said, but it's been a long time since I wrote anything here and I'm looking for excuses to not do work, so I thought I'd make a little blogrant of my own.

Sex on tv: Who cares? It seems like every few days (probably not actually that often, but it feels that way!) I encounter someone complaining about a sex scene or nudity in a tv show, book, movie whatever and how it "Detracts" from the story or was shown in a demeaning way. Sure, there are some bad sex scenes in media, but that doesn't mean creators need to shy away from showing what is really a perfectly natural part of human life (well, for people who aren't me, at least =p).

That, I think, is the key point I'd like people to walk away with. Sex is fancy and neat and fun (or so I'm told), but contrary to what puritanical folks would have you believe, it's not some horrible dirty thing that should be shied away from. It's just a part of life, and there's no more reason for movie or tv show creators to omit it than to omit people laughing, playing, talking or eating. If it's a part of the story (and in this particular example, I think most or all of the scenes in Game of Thrones were fairly relevant), why not?

I dunno. I could probably ramble more but I'd just be repeating what was said in the original link, except less eloquently, so I'll take a break here.

tl;dr there's nothing wrong with having boobs on tv.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Toon Doom Level Design

Since Toon Doom doesn't have its own site or blog yet, I'm putting this here for reference, or something. (Or maybe it's just an excuse to pad my blog post count.)

2 objects are necessary for a Toon Doom level to be "beaten." First, you'll need a TDErazorBase. This is the player's primary objective and functions like a CTF flag base. Second, you'll need the TDFinishLine. The player who returns Erazor to the finish line first will be the winner. The finish line can be found under UTGameObjective, while Erazor Base is with the other flag bases.

While those two objects are all that is required, it would be a dull level indeed that lacked traps, power ups and check points.

Pickups: Toon Doom has two pick up factories: the hoverboard and speed boots. You can find them under UTPickupFactory in the class hierarchy. To use either pick up factory class, just drop them in the level where you want them like a normal Unreal 3 pickup.

Toon Doom pawns do not have the hoverboard enabled by default. If you want to give them a hoverboard, you can use the Hoverboard pickup factory. Note that since they do not have it by default, they will lose it if they die.

Somewhat similar to the normal UT3 jump boots, speed boots will give the player 10 seconds of super speed.

Check points: These handy objects will allow players to pick up from later in the race rather than having to restart from the beginning if they die. When you place a check point, inspect its properties and you'll notice a variable named "Index." The index allows you to give the checkpoints a sequence. If the player hits check point index 10, then hitting checkpoint index 5 will not change the player's respawn point. The index does not need to be unique, so you can have two checkpoints of a particular index if, for example, there are multiple parallel paths. Also, I recommend leaving gaps at first (for example, label your first few checkpoints 10, 20 and 30 rather than 1, 2 and 3) to make things easier on your self if you decide to add more later. Checkpoints can be found under UTGameObjective.

Spike Traps: Toon Doom has two flavors of spike trap: timed and toggleable. The timed version is fairly straightforward. Place it where you want it, then set the uptime and downtime in the properties. Toggleable spike traps can be controlled using the KISMET "Toggle" block. A pulse to the "On" node will raise them, off will lower them and toggle will of course toggle them. Both spike traps are found under TDSpikeTrap, which is a direct child of Actor.

Easels: Toon Doom has 4 different cartoon characters. There is no functional difference between them, but it lets players have some degree of customization. To allow players to switch characters in your level, use the Easel objects. Any player who approaches an easel will be killed and will respawn as the appropriate character. The Easel parent class inherits directly from Actor.

Edit to add new stuff:

Set Countdown KISMET: Found under Actors > Toon Doom, this kismet action sequence allows you to change the countdown timer displayed in the clock at the top left corner. This count down does not actually have an effect on the game itself, but can be used in conjunction with other events to delay the start of the race while later players connect or players select characters. If you don't want any delay, simply set it to 0.

TDHoverVolume: This volume will simply remove the hover board from any player that passes through it.

TDGooVolume: The Goo volume will "goo" a player, slowing them down for a short time. The goo volume is toggleable, and when inactive will simply function like a regular water volume.

TDGooBlob: This object will briefly apply goo to any player that runs through it. Similar to the goo volume, but a blobby mesh rather than a volume. Just drop it in the level and scale it however much you like.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I forgot to add a title but this new title isn't really any better.

In this thread, we attack strawmen. Sort of. This post contains a lot of references to physical attractiveness, so I want to preface it by saying that beauty is subjective, and what one person finds attractive another finds repulsive. So when I say "an attractive person" I really mean "a person whose physical appearance closely matches those qualities I or the viewer in question would find attractive," it's just easier to say it the first way. Nobody is truly ugly, and everyone is beautiful to someone. I was actually going to make a post about that alone, but I couldn't think of anything more to say than what I just did.

Anyway! Moving on:

I've heard a few people say it's "shallow" to consider looks when choosing a romantic partner. I would posit that it's only shallow when looks are the only thing that matters. Nobody would be happy waking up next to someone they thought was hideous. Anyone who says "looks don't matter" is lying or blind. The reason this becomes an issue, I think, is the perception that "cute" people are more likely to be approached (or have their approaches accepted) by members of their gender of preference, which, naturally, is a source of consternation for us non-super hot folks. For the next few paragraphs, I'm going to take a page from last post's book and copy and paste something I wrote on Reddit. (Woo, efficiency.)

I doubt very many people judge based on looks alone, but looks are the fastest and easiest way to determine whether or not you're interested in talking to someone. Let's say you're in a bar and deciding who to talk to: There's an extremely attractive person, a kind of attractive one and an unattractive one. So which one do you approach? Some people seem to have this perception that pretty people are more stuck up and ugly people are more likely to be nice, but I haven't found that to be the case. I know plenty of awesome gorgeous people and obnoxious ugly people. (I don't like saying that because physical beauty is subjective and I don't think anyone is truly "ugly" but for the sake of this post I'm going to run with it since it's easier.)

So, in the above example, it's quite possible the very attractive person is a horrible jerkface and the average one is kinda ok but not that great and the unattractive one is nicest, smartest, funniest person you'll ever meet, but it's equally possible that the inverse is true. You simply cannot know their personalities, so assuming it's equally likely any given one will be an ass or awesome, there's no reason to not approach the one you find most physically attractive first.

So it's not like society thinks ugly people have no worth (well ok some people act like that but they're idiots), just that it's the "pretty" people who always get talked to first.

I'm not sure I had a point there, really. This is just a topic I've been encountering a bit lately, and I needed something to ramble about, so this happened.

tl;dr Beauty is subjective

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Edumaction: Learn me a book

So earlier today on reddit someone started a thread asking "What do you feel is wrong with our schools?" I went on sort of a mini rant and decided to post it here as well.

Schools teach children facts but not how to learn. Look at math class for example. Ask a 1st grader what 5 x 6 is, and they can probably tell you. Ask them why that is and I bet they'll tell you "Because the times tables say so." We have children memorize the things thought to be important, but don't equip them to go out and learn things on their own.

Also, the school system is living in the past. I can't count the number of times I was assigned a research paper in high school (and even in college a few times) and told "You must use 5 sources for this and 4 of them must be non-internet sources." So, we have the most powerful tool for communication and information exchange in the history of our species quite literally at our fingertips, and we are denied its use so we "learn how to research." I can safely say that in my adult life I have never once gone to a library to research. Anything I need to learn I find online. (Also my "non-internet" sources invariably came from an internet database that archives them anyway.)

The justification is always "Well there's so much bad information" on the internet, which is true, but that's the point! Instead of telling kids to steer clear of Wikipedia and go to the library instead, we should be teaching them how to tell legitimate internet resources from some random angry guy's Tripod page.

Also, tests, bleargh. 9 times in 10, tests/exams test nothing except for a student's ability to regurgitate information on demand. Multiple choice tests only tell you how well a student takes multiple choice tests. For example, I'm in software development, and thankfully most of the classes I had in college were more project oriented, so more like an actual development environment, but I still had a few that were the typical "Put your books and notes away and answer these questions." That is nothing like how it is in real life. When I program now I have a stack of reference books on my desk and a dozen reference pages bookmarked or open in tabs, as do all the professional and undergrad developers I know. Cutting students off from books doesn't test anything except their memorization abilities and limits their ability to solve problems in an environment like the one they'll find in the professional world.