Fundraiser: Monster Prom

After the game stream, a quiz show, and an edit session, I got to work yesterday on defiling my computer with Windows in order to (maybe!) run Monster Prom. Fortunately I’d done most of the legwork on installing Windows weeks earlier, back when I thought I didn’t have hardware-accelerated video encoding with the Linux version of OBS. Installing OBS and all the other support software was non-trivial, though, let alone configuring it. For a while there OBS would kill the output to my bluetooth headphones, until I remembered all such headphones can operate in two modes and Windows would be “flexible” enough to allow you to switch between them easily and yet block all audio playback if the sampling settings mismatched. As of late last night, I had a duplicate of my streaming set up the Windows side that mostly worked.

Then, this morning, this happened:

MY BRAIN: Did you try running Monster Prom with Proton?
ME: Why on Earth would Steam allow you to run the Windows version of a game via a compatibility layer, when the game natively supports Linux?
MY BRAIN: How long have you been a programmer for?
ME: … Yeah OK, it’s easier to roll out the same feature for all games than set up some sort of master compatibility list. And since Steam is already multi-platform, it’d be trivial to grab the version for an arbitrary OS. Still seems like a long-shot.
MY BRAIN: Won’t know it until you take that shot! And if it works, it’ll integrate pretty smoothly into the Linux streaming setup.

Didn’t I say I was pulling all the stops out for this fundraiser? Fortunately, you’ve done the same; as of this morning, you’ve donated $2,377.45 towards FtB. There was some debate whether we’d even hit two grand, so you’ve exceeded our expectations. Take a bow, y’all! Then fire up my Twitch channel in twenty minutes for a little monster smooching, or check out some of the other events we put on for your benefit, or maybe even top up our or Skepticon’s legal fund.

I, in the meantime, have a Twitch stream to set up.

Fundraiser: What’s So Scary about Climate Change?

There’s a sort of inevitability that’s common to all horror. When watching Jason or the xenomorph, you’re already certain people will die. The real question is who, when, and how. Sometimes its fairly obvious, for instance that lone person in the vent is a goner, in which case the focus is more on how everyone else copes with the loss. Other times, the death comes out of nowhere; Annie Phillips steps into a car on a sunny day and chats up the driver, only to have her throat graphically slit a few minutes later.

This is a lot like climate change. The basic physics has been known since the 1890’s, so there’s no debate over whether it’s happening (unless you’re the Mayor, of course). The focus is on who, when, and how. Desert regions will get hotter, but maybe plants will also get more poisonous? Tinkering with an entire planet will inevitably lead to unforeseen or odd circumstances, most of which will be unwelcome.

So Abe Drayton has joined with PZ Myers, Joshua Johnson, and a sacrificial lamb (me!) to discuss the spooky side of climate change. It’ll be premiering in 45 minutes over on my YouTube channel. It’s just one of many things we’re doing to help pay off our legal bills, so if you have some spare candy please consider donating it to us or Skepticon.

Fundraiser Update: Crypts Were Necrodanced!

Gaaaah, I wanted to have a post up just before I did my game stream, but I was too time crunched. You can still watch the stream here, though! It was a blast to play, though unfortunately I couldn’t do much colour commentary; forcing you to move on the beat meant I was constantly focused on nailing that beat while thinking a few steps ahead. Ah well, we got to see a cutscene, and other than a malfunctioning split timer there were no technical glitches.

I’ve also got a funding update! FtB’s Paypal account now sits at $2,109.93, which I’m quite happy with. For the second month in a row, you’ve opened your wallets up to help us pay off these legal fees, and I’m again eternally grateful. Don’t forgot Skepticon has their own Paypal, too, for their own slice of the fees.

This fundraiser does have me dancing, though. One reason why I was so late to type up this post was that I was participating in the quiz show. After I punch “publish,” I’ve got to finish editing the Climate Change panel and post it to my YouTube channel; I’m aiming for 6PM MDT, which is ambitious but doable. And after all that, I’ve still got the slight problem that Monster Prom crashes on my computer. As mentioned, I have backup plans, but this fundraiser will still consume almost all of my day.

Hey, it’s a small price to pay if it helps with our and Skepticon’s legal fees.

Fundraiser Update: Only Minor Explosions So Far

It doesn’t always show, but there’s a lot of prep work for these fundraisers. I’ve got a half dozen illustrations to create, a scene to render, and a video file to edit, most of which has to be finished before Saturday. I’m also finding Steam games are finicky; Crypt of the Necrodancer disables my secondary monitors if I try to run it fullscreen, and only properly recognized my controller once. It still works with a controller, mind you, but the digital pad is disabled. Monster Prom fails to load at all! I’m guessing it does something funky when initializing OpenGL, but without proper debugging symbols I can’t say much. I have both a plan and a backup plan for Monster Prom, so it should still be a go.

Last I heard, we were up to $1,629.34 in donations towards FtB. That’s a few days old, but my general impression is that we’re not pulling in as much as we did last month. There’s no shame in that, times are tough and this fundraiser is a marathon. If you’d like to boost those numbers, your two choices are FtB’s PayPal or Skepticon’s Paypal. The GoFundMe is still down, and at this point I doubt it’ll come back up.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a hard drive to reinstall.

Fundraiser Update: Princess Kaizo Land, it is

It was kind of hilarious, actually; within a day of me setting a new target, the flood of donations dried up. We’ve had few hundred trickle in, in the past few days, but as it stands the GoFundMe sits at $80,352 plus there’s just over $2,000 donated to the PayPal account. That’s not $83,762, but it’s a damn helpful sum that’ll really help those sued by Richard Carrier. To everyone who’s donated, thank you so much.

But now, I’ve got to get my game face on. The stream of Princess Kaizo Land starts at 10:00 MDT on my Twitch channel (you can convert that to your local time over here). I promised a minimum of four hours, but there’s no way I’ll do that in one go. Saturday’s stream will last just over two hours, with a ten minute break at half-time. The remaining two hours will likely begin over there at 10:00 MDT on Sunday, but watch this space in case things change. Either way, the streams will be archived, so don’t fret if you missed watching me die for the hundredth time.

While I can’t guarantee I’ll pass the game, I can guarantee I’ll die in it. A lot.

Fundraiser Update: Cancelled Panel + New Target

Let’s get the bad news out of the way: that panel I was hosting about fake religions is cancelled. Things didn’t gel together as I hoped, and rather than present a half-baked idea it’s smarter to cancel the thing and save it for next time. I’ve deleted the original blog post to prevent confusion, but you can still view what I had planned via this archive.

Which brings us to the worse news: I’m running Princess Kaizo Land! The numbers will be a bit dated when this post goes up, but as of this typing the GoFundMe is at $80,231, an increase of $581, and we’ve had $1,694 donated via other means. That’s well beyond the $1,200 goal I set, so far beyond that I’m blown away by the amount.

But, uh, I’ve just committed to playing a Kaizo game. Yes, my choice is on the easy end of the scale, but I’m no shovda. I don’t have anywhere near the same skillz, so this is going to be an exercise in frustration. Yes, that can be fun to watch, but it ain’t fun to play.

So lemmie offer you a deal: clearly everyone wants to see me squirm a bit, but there’s more than one way to pull that off. I proposed playing a randomizer as my first target, but I said I’d play it at the “Way Cool” setting. That swaps stages and exits, consistently randomizes enemies, switches around Bowser’s castle entrances, and does some other minor scrambling. There are tougher settings, though; “Mondo” will also scramble sublevels and warps, shuffle enemy placement, tweak boss locations and difficulties, change power-ups, and randomly add ice and water physics to stages. This sits at a nice point between a full-on Kaizo game and the boring vanilla version, while still being an advancement over “Way Cool”‘s settings.

Not good enough? I’ve got one more thing to add. As you’ve probably noticed, I’m not big on comment sections. I think they can be problematic, and I don’t need the online feedback. My Twitch chat settings are almost as locked down as my blog comments. So how about I run Twitch chat much more openly than I usually do: I’ll hold comments for moderation, but that’s about it. I’ll also be checking the chat after each level, at minimum, which should keep things interactive.

Time for numbers: we’ve raised about $2,275 over seven days, pro-rating that another four days brings the total to $3,576, and adding 15% to compensate for a rush of last-minute donations brings the total to about $4,112. Add that to $79,650, and you get $83,762 as the new target for Friday the 25th before midnight. Time to fire some cash at the GoFundMe, or check the fundraising page for other ways you can contribute. Thank you so much for the contributions you’ve made so far, they’ve helped quite a bit with the legal bills!

Now would you please mind saving me from playing a Kaizo game? Pleeeeeeaase??

Fundraiser: The Panel of Inexpert Discussion

“I think the people of this country,” sniffed Michael Gove, “have had enough of experts.” Perhaps he was right.

He wasn’t the only Brexit campaigner to identify and capitalise upon public distrust. Arron Banks, the multimillionaire behind Leave.EU, cheerfully attributed his campaign’s success to the mantra “facts don’t work”. Speaking after his referendum triumph, he said: “The Remain campaign featured fact, fact, fact, fact, fact. It doesn’t work. You’ve got to connect with people emotionally. It’s the Trump success.”

A non-trivial number of people in the world don’t care for facts or reason. They want something to be right, so they act like it’s correct. Trump perpetually says voter fraud is rampant, the experts repeatedly point out that isn’t the case, and yet groups of Trump supporters have started showing up to polling places to discourage people from voting. As a blogging network devoted to facts and reason, we turn down our noses at such tactics. And yet by avoiding the feelings-trump-facts crowd, we’re ignoring a significant chunk of the people.

This panel is our attempt at getting comfortable with their worldview. A number of people will lecture you on things of questionable truthhood, and if you walk away feeling something afterward then we’ll have succeeded. You can watch the event live on YouTube, where it will be archived afterwards. So tune in Sunday the 27th at 2PM MDT, and feel something. Don’t forget, this is all happening as part of our legal fundraiser; if you like this concept, chip in a few bucks here. Alternatively, check the fundraiser page for more ways you can contribute.

Fundraiser Update: Target Met! Long Live the Target

I know, it doesn’t look like it. Visit the legal GoFundMe, and you’ll see the current total is $79,760. And yet I said earlier that

As I type this, the legal GoFundMe sits at $79,650. Increase that above to $79,950, and I’ll switch from playing Super Mario World to Super Mario World Randomizer at the “Way Cool” difficulty on the 26th.

Some basic math reveals $79,760 is below $79,950, apparently well short of the goal. The missing piece is the very next sentence:

If you insist on donating only to FtB, instead of everyone impacted by Richard Carrier’s lawsuit, I’ll still count your donation towards that $79,950.

And PZ informs me that the PayPal link has raised a whopping $436.98 in one day! That math easily brings the combined total above $79,950, so it’s official. I’m playing Super Mario World Randomizer, thanks to your generosity!

But it’s going to be a pretty boring fundraiser if we hit all our goals in 24 hours. Thankfully, as I hinted at last time, I have quite a bit in reserve. Ever heard of a “Kaizo” game? Wikipedia has.

Kaizo Mario World, also known as Asshole Mario, is a series of three ROM hacks of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System video game Super Mario World, created by T. Takemoto. The term “Kaizo Mario World” is a shortened form of Jisaku no Kaizō Mario (Super Mario World) o Yūjin ni Play Saseru. The series was created by Takemoto for his friend R. Kiba.

Kaizo Mario World features extremely difficult level designs on the Super Mario World engine. The series is notable for deliberately breaking all normal rules of “accepted” level design, and introduced many staples of later Kaizo hacks, such as placing hidden blocks where the player is likely to jump, extremely fast autoscrollers, dying after the goal post and various other traps. This cruelty and the resulting frustration, as well as the skill level required, is both the purpose of the hacks and the appeal of any Let’s Play videos made of them.

The original hack was so popular that “Kaizo” became a generic term to mean any game mod that includes new levels and significantly amps up the difficulty of the original. As the name implies, Princess Kaizo Land is a kaizo game starring Princess Peach that’s significantly shorter than Super Mario World. It’s considered a “light” or easy kaizo, and has netted rave reviews. I’ve played a bit of it, but never passed the first level.

If you raise the GoFundMe to $80,850 before midnight MDT of September 25th, I’ll switch from playing Super Mario Randomizer (“Way Cool” difficulty) to Princess Kaizo Land. I know, that’s an increase of $1,200, but a) you’ve demonstrated you’ve got the funds at hand, and b) I really don’t want to play Pricess Kaizo Land. I haven’t played Super Mario World in ages, so my skills are pretty rusty. Even an easy kaizo game will be a big challenge! To preserve my sanity, I’ll guarantee to play at least four hours of Princess Kaizo Land, should the target be hit, but I can’t guarantee I’ll pass the game.

As before, any donations to the PayPal account also count towards this goal. My preference is that you donate to that GoFundMe instead of the PayPal link, though; the more cash we stuff in there, the more people will be free of legal debt. Still, it’s your money to do with as you see fit. I’m just happy you spent some of it to help others, in the face of all that 2020 has thrown at you.