Fundraiser Update: Super Metroid is LIVE!

As usual, I didn’t give myself enough time to write a post reminding you of the game stream before I started streaming. Oh well, at least I can make up for it during the break! The live stream is currently active at this link, and right now I’m just at the start of Brinstar.

If you like this, for loose definitions of “this,” consider donating to us or Skepticon to help pay off our legal bills. Either way, you can tune into the stream. Can’t make the stream? It’ll stay on my Twitch channel for two weeks, then migrate over to my YouTube channel.

Fundraiser: Mother’s Day Gaming

Howdy, strangers! Gawd, I think I’ve promised myself and others that I’ll start blogging again a half-dozen times or so, and up until this moment it’s never stuck. This time is different, if only because I have a good cause: it’s fundraiser time again at this blog network! I’ve got two contributions planned, the first of which is a gaming stream on Saturday and Sunday. Since the theme this time is Mother’s day, I thought I’d celebrate two famous mothers.

Mother Brain, from Metroid (1986); “Samus and baby Metroid“, by zgul-osr1113 @ DeviantArt.

Mother Brain, from Metroid (1986); “Samus and baby Metroid“, by zgul-osr1113 @ DeviantArt

According to the manga, Mother Brain raised Samus Aran when she was young, which played out pretty much as you’d expect. Aran and the Metroids are two different species (though Samus’ DNA is all kinds of mixed up, and like what is a species anyway?), but she spends some time protecting and nurturing a baby Metroid. Both of them check the minimum required boxes, and one’s even got “mother” in their name. It’s perfect!

Saturday and Sunday, at 10AM MDT, I’ll be streaming Super Metroid over on my Twitch channel. It’ll stay there for two weeks before migrating to my YouTube channel. I haven’t played the game in decades, so I’ll keep a map handy, but otherwise I’ll be winging it.

If you like this, for loose definitions of “this,” consider donating to us or Skepticon to help pay off our legal bills. Otherwise, you’ll see me in a few days.

Who’s up for some Undertale?

I’m starting to learn why Gabe Newell is worth $9 billion USD: Steam sales. A few times a month, Valve will send you an email that some game on your wish list has temporarily dropped in price by 75%. Even if you had no intentions of buying the game in the short term, some part of your brain screams “but what they never drop the price again?!” and tries to yank your finger to the “add to cart” button. I’m trying to build up a resistance to it, but in the meantime one of those snap sales led me to finally purchase Undertale. It’s one of those metatextual games that tries to get you to think about what exactly you’re doing within a game. Just take the about page:

In this RPG, you don’t have to kill anyone.

Each enemy can be “defeated” nonviolently.

Dance with a slime. Pet a dog. Whisper your favorite secret to a knight.

Or, ignore this choice and rain destruction upon your foes.

If the first words you’re told about a game are “you can do X! Or maybe not,” you know that there’s something special about X. And, indeed, there’s multiple endings that can be reached, depending on how your treat other people in the game. These first lines also call attention to the core loop of the typical video game, which usually involves slaughtering other people. Or if you’re playing an RPG, you instead spend a lot of time pick-pocketing the dead or breaking other peoples’ pottery for your personal gain. By placing that front-and-center, Undertale is also pointing out how video games force us to be terrible people thanks to lazy design.

Tune into my Twitch channel sometime in the next eighteen hours, and you’ll see me attempt this game for the first time. While there’s no active fundraiser at the moment, I don’t think there’s harm in reminding you of the links where you can donate to us or Skepticon to help pay off our legal bills.

Fundraiser Update: Past, Future, and Present

To my utter shock, I was no less than two minutes past the official starting point for today’s stream of Stardew Valley! That was the main reason I never announced the stream, in fact, I was too tempted by starting it on time to tab away and write up a blog post. For the next two weeks the video is available on my Twitch page, and after that will pop up on my YouTube archive.

As for the guide on streaming…. ugh. It turns out I have so many tasks to do that I forgot about a rather major one, so after today’s stream I couldn’t resume work on the guide. I’ve got a fair amount of it already in the can, but I don’t want to release anything half-baked. My workload should lessen up mid-week, which will allow me to resume work on it.

I really hate to delay that, especially given how generous everyone has been. We’ve raised an astounding $3,006.94 during this round for FtB! I was pretty convinced we’d never crack $2,200, but you’ve soundly proven me wrong. Thank you so much for helping pay off this network’s legal bills, it helps all of us sleep better at night. You better believe that I’m going to repay the generosity with the best guide to streaming I can muster.

But, in the meantime, I’ve got to crank up the volume and get coding.

Fundraiser: Among Us in Fifteen Minutes

Yeesh, I always forget how long it takes to encode video. All complaints aside, FtB’s Discord has started running a usually-weekly game of Among Us among the commenters and bloggers. For the fundraiser, I asked if we could record one of our games, and the group agreed! Lyrandar, Zankou, and myself recorded our streams, and Zankou did the heavy lifting of stitching it all together.

Follow this link, and in about fifteen minutes you’ll get to watch the results. If you like it, or just like what we do around here, think about forking over some funds to us or Skepticon to help pay off our legal bills. This is just one of many events we’re putting on, too! Check’m all out.

Fundraiser Update: Catching Up

I knew this fundraiser would be trouble for me, as it coincided with a probable work crunch. I’d actually been counting on a bit of trouble, in fact, as I figured the deadline pressure would help lift me over my COVID-19 lethargy.

It didn’t pan out that way. Quite the contrary, in fact; after ticking off my absolutely-must-do-or-else items, I crashed. That coincided with yesterday, which was supposed to be my catch-up day for fundraiser tasks. So as I’m typing this, around when I was supposed to go live with some Stardew Valley gaming, I’ve still got some graphic design work to finish off and splits to write before I can go live. The good news is that it won’t be delayed more than two hours, very little of my gaming setup has changed since last time so I’m not reinventing the wheel.

My post advertising the Among Us game kept getting kicked in favour of those absolutely-must-do-or-else items, too. At this point I’m probably better off writing something an hour before it premieres and linking to the resulting video. But it too doesn’t require much work on my end: the recording was all done a week ago, and Zankou over on the FtB Discord delivered an edited version of it to me, so I just have to slap the aforementioned graphic design on the start and end of it and fire it off to my YouTube channel. If I can’t get that finished today, something’s gone horribly wrong.

My big worry is that streaming guide. I’ve already got forty-plus slides for it, practised one of the live demos I’d planned, and know what I’m going to do for the other, but there’s still a tonne of recording and prep work to be done. If everything falls into place perfectly I could still get it out the door today, but I doubt my luck is that good. Tomorrow works better, in fact, as my plan was always to split Stardew Valley across two days. Four hours of gaming in one day is just…. woof, so this fundraiser has always been a two-day affair for me.

So sorry for the delays, but I don’t intend to roll back my plans for the fundraiser. It’s the least I could do to pay back your generosity.

Fundraiser: Stardew Valley

My thought process for choosing this game was pretty straightforward: fall is a time of harvest, some sort of game where I’m harvesting makes sense, so why not play Stardew Valley? I’ve fallen head over heels for sandbox games, yet never played Harvest Moon. And Stardew Valley is an indie game originally made by one person. It ticks every box.

Alas, it also ticks one more: colonialism. The game gives you a farm once owned by a grandparent, for free, and allows you to develop the place into whatever farm or mining business you want. The context and location sound very North American, which implies there were once First Nations people on that land (though apparently the game actually takes place in Russia?). In reality, if you’re stuck in a soul-sucking job there’s no shortage of options to wiggle out, like starting up an art collective or striking for improved work conditions; in game, though, your “choice” is either to remain in stasis or move into someone else’s place. The game never gives you that choice, though, the moment you gain control of your character is the moment after you’ve taken over this new space. To add insult to injury, you’re still not free of capitalism; oh no, you’ll spend a fair bit of time finding ways to earn cash to trade for goods and services, planting the seeds of your old society in this new space.

This doesn’t make the game any less fun, but it also lingers over it like a faint smell. On Saturday December 5th, at 10:00 AM MDT, I’ll be both enjoying and dissecting this game on my Twitch channel. If you like the concept, consider donating to our fundraiser. It’ll help pay off the legal fees we’re still paying thanks to Richard Carrier. Alternatively, toss some money at Skepticon to pay off their Carrier-related bills. No funds? Not a problem, though you might want to read this to get into the spirit of things.

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.