What alignment are you?

I think this is very proximate to our discussions about gender, given that gender and sex are both social constructs and the problems we’re seeing with having in-depth discussions about these constructs being spectra rather than binary is that it seems those people who can’t answer “trans women are women” think this means we’re creating and reinforcing a binary rather than demanding a spectrum of genders.

Good and evil, order and chaos, are two axes describing spectra of behaviour related to social standing and pro-social behaviour. Dungeons and Dragons has a mechanic wherein you can assign your character Good, Neutral, or Evil, and Lawful, Neutral, or Chaotic, making a 3×3 grid of alignments. It’s certainly more interesting than a binary Good/Evil choice (or, say, Paragon / Renegade, or Light Side / Dark Side), and it means very little outside of the scope of interactions with other human beings. It’s still by necessity an abstraction. Something like the Kinsey Scale for hetero/homosexuality being a 1-9, or Dawkins’ atheist/theist 0-7 scale — neither of those describes the panoply of positions one can stake coherently.

But, still interesting. Take this alignment test to see how you stack up. A number of my friends (including my wife) got Chaotic Good. I got 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 because when it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Yeah, that does sound a lot like me. Including the sentence fragment in the last sentence! (I assume the “when” is superfluous.)

Pause for station identification

I have the Mock The Movie transcripts still to finish — CA7746 is sending me subtitle files galore, and I have yet to upload them because they’re always a bit of a pain to attach within WordPress and link appropriately. (The fact that I have to upload them as .txt instead of .srt is not the least problem.)

After that, as promised, I’ll be doing short reviews of my cornucopia of Steam games, starting with, oh, let’s say Mercenary Kings. And don’t worry, they’ll be reviews from my Evil SJW Perspective.

In the meantime, let me remind you where you are.

Welcome to Lousy Canuck.

I like turtles.

Batman: Arkham Knight on PC pulled from Steam (and a possible fix?)

Apparently, a bunch of folks are having a terrible time getting Batman: Arkham Knight for PC to work. It’s glitchy and unplayable to most. As a result, WB had it pulled from Steam until they could fix the bugs. They are also offering refunds.

Dear Batman: Arkham Knight PC owners,

We want to apologize to those of you who are experiencing performance issues with Batman: Arkham Knight on PC. We take these issues very seriously and have therefore decided to suspend future game sales of the PC version while we work to address these issues to satisfy our quality standards. We greatly value our customers and know that while there are a significant amount of players who are enjoying the game on PC, we want to do whatever we can to make the experience better for PC players overall.

Thank you to those players who have already given valuable feedback. We are continuously monitoring all threads posted in the Official Batman: Arkham Knight Community and Steam forums, as well as any issues logged with our Customer Support (http://support.wbgames.com/). If you purchased your copy of the game and are not satisfied with your experience, then we ask for your patience while these issues are resolved. If desired, you can request a refund at https://help.steampowered.com (Steam refund policies can be found here: http://store.steampowered.com/steam_refunds) or the retail location where you purchased the game.

The Batman: Arkham fans have continually supported the franchise to its current height of success, and we want to thank you for your patience as we work to deliver an updated version of Batman: Arkham Knight on PC so you can all enjoy the final chapter of the Batman: Arkham series as it was meant to be played.

I got the game for free with the laptop I just bought that has an Nvidia card that happened to be running a promotion. I encountered a bit of glitchiness when I first launched it, but I overcame that fairly quickly. Judging by reports, what I encountered may not be the only real issue at hand. Only a fraction of people seem to be complaining about what I was seeing. But what I did was fairly easy and fairly repeatable, from what I can tell.

The specific behaviour I saw was that when you launch the game, it would immediately minimize itself. Once minimized, if you click on the icon to bring it back up to the foreground, it would hiccup repeatedly to a black screen, exactly like this:

The solution for me was to use a gamepad, launch the game, hit Ctrl-Alt-Del to get to the security options in Windows. Choose Task Manager. You may have to do this more than once to get it to bring Task Manager to focus.

As soon as I managed that feat, suddenly the game in the background was running smoothly, with the Windows task bar and Task Manager in the foreground! Every time I clicked back onto the Batman window, though, it would revert to its buggy behaviour. So, I moved Task Manager out of the way, picked up my gamepad, and went into the graphics options, and tried selecting my current screen resolution (1920×1080), Windowed Borderless mode. Then I dared to click back into Batman — and it worked! It also works for subsequent launches. The issue appears to be with the fullscreen, and possibly with some bad window management as a result. It might be possible to induce this specific display mode through the command line launch options or some INI file, but I haven’t gone digging.

Seriously, if this turns out to fix all your problems, then it’s a shoddy implementation of windowing on Rocksteady’s third party PC porter’s fault, which should have been easily caught and (hopefully) easily fixed in QA — you DID do QA, right? It also only appears to happen with certain Nvidia cards, from all reports I’ve seen. And I’ve seen a number that report that over time, the game will eventually start crashing. I’ve only played through the first Batmobile AR mission, so I can’t tell if that’ll happen, but long-running games eventually crashing sounds a lot like memory management issues to me — some garbage collection isn’t being done, or something.

I still can’t get over the fact that this is a Batman game where you shoot tanks with missiles though. And where the first car you have to fire on actually does have a person in it, you make it flip, and it’s only through the grace of plot that the dude — a banged up wreck after being in a horrific missile-induced rollover — climbs out for you to interrogate.

Exploring the wasteland in a red dress

I’m just finishing a playthrough of Fallout: New Vegas, which I bought when it came on sale as a bundle with all the DLC — none of which I’d played my first time through. In this playthrough, I’m playing a female Courier (I’ve long said that if I always choose playing a woman in the games I get that give me the choice, I might come close to 40% female representation!). I have just completed Dead Money, during which playthrough I obtained Dean Domino’s tuxedo — on him, it’s a three piece with bowtie and albeit dirty, still looks damn dapper after two hundred years of consecutive use by its previous ghoul owner.

I put it on my Courier, and like the formal wear the tuxedo is based on, it becomes a pink dress. It’s still CALLED “Dean’s Tuxedo”, mind. But nothing in this game is more jarring than taking a piece of armour off of someone and having it appear completely different when you try to wear it yourself. Something similar would happen if I was playing a male Courier and I tried to wear Vera’s rose-adorned dress. Suddenly, it’s a red and black tuxedo, looking nothing like the piece of fabric I picked off that skeleton.

Today, I saw rumblings that apparently that sort of clothing metamorphosis will no longer happen in Fallout 4, which should have been a happy improvement in the series. That news was incidental, though, obvious only in a segment of trailer displaying a burly male protagonist playing dress-up for his dog through a series of bad-ass and silly outfits then suddenly the outfit is “red dress with a sledgehammer over one shoulder”. (At 9 seconds in, so you don’t have to wait long.)

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Actually, let’s talk about ethics in Watch_Dogs

Let’s all say it: Ayden Pearce is morally repugnant. Errant Signal does an excellent and thorough job itemizing exactly why.

I had been interested in this game, and in the concept of hacking-as-superpower, but when it turned into yet another white-guy-does-whatever-he-wants story, where every moral decision boils down to “shoot the guy or blow up the guy”, where you’re given tidbits of information about the lives and dreams and desires of each person you’re systematically murdering, where you’re essentially obligated to spy on and not intervene in situations where you could actually legitimately make a difference because they’re just cut-scenes inserted for flavour, I couldn’t bring myself to play.

It’s like all the power they give you is misdirected, where you can’t fix the system but you can take advantage of it for your own gain. Where you become judge, jury and executioner for crimes that haven’t yet been committed, and you let other grievous crimes go entirely unpunished because you, omniscient privileged douchebag, cannot be moved to actually do anything. And when you DO do something about an injustice, it’s the wrong thing entirely, against the wishes of everyone around you. Where you’re both the cause and the violent solution to the problems in your life. Where your actions are supposed to be good but your opponents’ actions are bad, despite the fact that you’re doing a thousand times objectively eviller things as a matter of course.

If we’re going to talk about ethics in video games, this is ultimately a Douchebag Hacker Empowerment Fantasy simulator, and it doesn’t remotely touch on any of the things that need to be discussed with regard to the disturbing surveillance culture we’re in. I can get empowerment fantasies in far less problematic worlds than this, without feeling like I’m railroaded into the Evil playthrough of a game like Infamous where the moral choices are approximately “save the box of kittens, or stuff them with grenades and throw them off a building indiscriminately”.

War never changes, but it gets a bit more saturated

FALLOUT 4. Now in Technicolor! It’s going to take place in Boston, because we don’t have enough New England as yet in the Fallout lore. *snrk*

I am so happy this is not an MMO. That would have been a monumental mistake, I think. And I really hope they don’t fragment the content the way Rocksteady just did with Batman: Arkham Knight and the pre-order bonuses.

For the uninitiated, the Fallout universe is not, actually, about an alt history with the Cold War resulting in the apocalypse, believe it or not. It sure looks that way, though, with its 1950s arrested development. Instead, in this universe, nobody invents the transistor during WW2, and instead we invest all our tech development on the vacuum tube. The Great War happens in 2077, over resources, because humanity never gets away from the larger and more resource-consumptive technologies. For some reason, culture is slowed drastically, and by the time of the Great War, America is roughly in the 1950s, only with a Mr. Handy helper robot in every kitchen. After the apocalypse — when India, China, Russia, North Korea and America all nuke the living fuck out of each other (and everyone else, for funzies) — the only survivors are those who went underground into Vaults. They emerge to a wasteland that is populated by mutants, ghouls, raiders and the very dregs of humanity.

I’m happy with this incarnation of the Wasteland. It is significantly closer to Fallout 1 and 2 in looks than 3 ever was, and at the moment, during my replay of Fallout: New Vegas, the only way I can stand to look at it for any length of time is with the Imaginator plugin that offers different colour palettes. (I am presently using the Trek Vaseline Cam palette, which makes the Mojave look a lot like that planet where Kirk fights the Gorn. You know the one.) So I’m looking forward to scavenging the wastelands with more varied landscapes, and with my dog inevitably named Dogmeat at my side.

The only way they could have made this better — at least in my mind — is to have the generic character at the end be a woman, because it’s *just* a generic character, and there’s nothing holding you to picking that specific dude they showed. Could you imagine the outrage from certain quarters? The only way I could think of to make hateful antifeminists lose their shit more than that, though, would be to force the character creation to only allow you to create women. In either case the resultant rage could power me for centuries.

Enjoying problematic video games

One of my favorite game franchises has long been Final Fantasy, much to the chagrin of some elitist nerds for whom the series of JRPGs represents an erosion of the concept of the RPG. Regardless, its take on mythological creatures, even in its Super Nintendo days, served to clue me in on a small piece of context with regard to religion, from which I synthesised a deeper understanding of religion as mythology. (I’d detailed this in my deconversion story in Mission Creep — it was Behemoth and Leviathan in Final Fantasy 2 that gave me the clues I needed, if you’re wondering.)

That’s right, the video game franchise actually helped me to become an atheist — perhaps not singlehandedly, but it was certainly some scaffolding for my building my epistemology. So, even with its warts, of which there are numerous, and even with the side-eye I get from other gamers, it holds a place in my heart.

And yet, I still must criticise, even if I know that doing so might paint me as a studio-shill Social Justice Warrior journalist-sans-journal, and thus a target for the culture of entitlement that is GamerGate.

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#GeekGirlCon Battletoads Livestream

At 12 noon sharp, CST, I’ll be launching an epic war to beat Battletoads, beginning to end. Jodi will be pinch-hitting to provide a running death count and add messages to the feed. It should be embedded below, but you can also go directly to my Twitch feed if you’d prefer.

If you’d like to donate, click the enormous button below the feed.

Watch live video from Lousycanuck on www.twitch.tv

In case that doesn’t work, go here instead.

GGC #DIYSciZone: There’s Battletoads in my future. This Sunday.

Thanks to an anonymous and unbelievable donation to Geek Girl Con of $2000 (SERIOUSLY, someone must REALLY hate me!), the $5000 mark has been blown past for fundraising for the DIY Science Zone. Therefore, this Sunday, starting at noon CST, I’ll be playing Battletoads on twitch.tv, beginning to end, no warps, with unlimited lives. Unless it goes over 12 hours, I have work in the morning — in which case I’ll make a save state and continue next weekend.

This is easily one of the hardest video games of the Nintendo era, owing mostly to its punishing memorization sequences, and its brutal one-hit kills (not to mention the inherent imprecision of the NES controller’s directional pad plus-shape design). This was “I Wanna Be The Guy” hard long before there was such a thing.

Here’s how this game is NOT going to go: a cheat-free perfect speedrun.

Instead, it’ll be me failing over and over and over again at this, since I’ve not played past the first level since I was 14-ish.

Oh how I dread and loathe this.

There are more Acts of Whimsy from scientists at the DIY Science Zone at Geek Girl Con, too! If you’d like to donate, try the below button:

In case that doesn’t work, go here instead.

The video game that would REALLY keep you up at night

I’m no stranger to losing sleep over video games, though usually in a positive context, e.g. that the game is fun and I don’t notice the time. But what if I was to tell you the story of a video game that was literally designed to steal your ability to sleep… among other things? Sounds far-fetched, right? Read on, gentle reader.

In 1981, Atari had created an extraordinarily innovative video game called Tempest. This game, originally imagined as a 3-D remaking of Space Invaders, had players pilot a spacecraft on the near end of a “tube” that extended into the distance on a display, using now-primitive but then new and innovative colour vector-based graphics (as opposed to raster-based graphics, the more traditional pixellated, hand-drawn art). Vector graphics weren’t new at the time, having been used for other games like Asteroids, but the addition of colour with Atari’s “Color Quadrascan” shadow mask technology, developed to compete with raster games, was a significant step forward. The game also featured differing playing boards at each level, with different geometric shapes making up the “tube”, rather than the usual incremental difficulty increases on an identical board that video games til then had used to ratchet up the pressure on players as games went on. And it even featured the ability to choose your starting level based on performance in a previous game, so veterans wouldn’t necessarily have to play through the initial levels over again while attempting to cause the game to roll the level or points counts over. This marked the first video game continue option — though a later raster game called Fantasy implemented it in its more traditional form.

This post isn’t really about Tempest, though. I’m really just setting the stage for what the state of the art was in 1981. If you’ll believe the urban legends, the US government, at about that time, teamed up with a German developer named Sinnesl√∂schen (loosely translated: “Sense Erase”) in an attempt to turn the nation’s Pac-Man Fever into something a little more useful for the empire: mind control. They created a video game that kids would become addicted to, would play at every opportunity, until the mind control would kick in and they’d lose the ability to sleep or even lose their memories.
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