Contents

Caty and Cara's Page

Our Computers

Snapshots with Text

Essays for Fun

Ken Burch's Tales

Ken's Neocron Tales

More Neocron Tales

Secret Wars

Tales of the Walker Clan

Our Cast

Why Kevin Doesn't Dance

Writing of Mine That Doesn't Totally Suck

Stuff dl Thinks Is Cool

The Old, Old Grandma Story

The Final Battle

James' Photos

James Meyer's Birds:

Introduction

Photos 1 through 25

Photos 26 through 50

Photos 51 through 75

Photos 76 through 100

Reading

a book cover

Playing





alChandler's Halls



Spreading optimism since 1999


System Shock

It took me forever and a day to find the keycard to that room. When I finally got there I fired the laser (just to see what it did) and destroyed a good chunk of the Earth. I got a nice thank you from Shodan too.

Compared to a game like Prey, System Shock gives you no guidance. I'm in the research level, the control room is locked and somewhere on the level is a keycard that will unlock the door. Prey wants you to finish, System Shock doesn't give a shit if you stroke out trying to get into the control room. Games in the 80s and 90s gave you minimal guidance and there were no YouTube walkthroughs. And no, I'm not going on a rant about how games were better 30 years ago, they're better today.

And as long as we're into remakes, I'd love to see a remake of this game, it was one of the first two computer games I ever played (the other was Zork).

June 5, 2023


Beatles Trivia

That's Wilfrid Brambell, in A Hard Days Night he played Paul's grandfather. The running joke was that he was a clean old man. Brambell played Albert Steptoe in the the British television show Steptoe and Son about a father and son running a junk shop together. The elder Steptoe was referred to as a dirty old man in the show, hence the clean references. And in the UK he was a star in his own right so they got the joke. In America the show was adapted as Sanford and Son (my father loved that show so I ended up watching a lot of episodes).

I just learned this today.

June 4, 2023


The Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series

I mention that a lot, I know. Those books were a big influence in my teen aged years. And after writing the Cabell thing I discovered this guy's video on the subject.

June 2, 2023


Beyond Life

I read James Branch Cabell's books as a kid. Had my parents known how subversive he was they would have audited my books more thoroughly. But Cabell was published by the same company that published The Hobbit so he had to be innocuous. I read a lot of his stuff, but I was also aware he wrote a long literary essay, thinly disguised as a novel, called Beyond Life. In the 80s I found a copy of the book in a used bookstore and bought it. Unfortunately I couldn't follow it at all and put it on the shelf.

A few years ago I thought it might be fun to reread it but my copy, published in 1919, was too delicate to handle. I thought I might buy the paperback edition but then I didn't want to spend money on a book I'd probably never finish. Gutenberg didn't have it and while there was a copy on The Internet Archive it had been scanned in rather then transcribed like Gutenberg's books. I found it unreadable. But a couple of weeks ago I checked again, their copy was still loaded with errors but it was free and with a great deal of effort I was able to decipher the text. So I started reading.

As far as what he believed, life is horrible, the universe is uncaring and the only way people can get through life is through romance, meaning this definition of the word:

2 : a prose narrative treating imaginary characters involved in events remote in time or place and usually heroic, adventurous, or mysterious

Religion helps people endure the horror but religious stories are just romances. Mediocre people (this is Cabell's view, not mine) take the stories as truthful. Smart people know they're just stories but by believing in them humanity as a whole gets ever so slightly better as the centuries roll by. He's elitist as fuck and joins my small list of authors I wouldn't want to meet.

As far as the book went, it was on the dry side, go figure. But I did finish it.

June 2, 2023


Tank

I enjoy stealth games on the whole, but my version of V in Cyberpunk 2077 ended up as a tank. It might be time to put that game back on my system, we'll get word on the expansion this month.

June 1, 2023


AI

When a high powered chatbot goes off the rails and starts handing you a line of bullshit, its creators refer to that as hallucinating, giving the impression that something is going on above and beyond the botís sophisticated predictive text capabilities. After all, they want people to license the thing so they try to give the impression that more is going on under the hood then Bingís AI chatbot rifling through the stuff itís scraped from Reddit and 4chan.

One of my favorite movies was Wargames. The Pentagon does a test to see if the folks in the missile silos will actually turn the keys to launch an ICBM if ordered. A number of them refused so the Pentagon gives the launch codes to a computer called War Operation Plan Response, WOPR for short. The movie was released in 1983 in in that year the most sophisticated supercomputer in the world was the Cray X-MP with 16 MB of memory. But letís roll with the movie's premise and assume the Pentagon was using the same type of AI that Google and Microsoft are peddling.

The short version of the movie is that a kid named David Lightman is trying to download games from a game company and starts war dialing until he hits their number. Lightman gets a hit and finds a list of games, checkers, chess, tic tac toe and Global Thermonuclear War. Naturally thatís the one he goes for, unfortunately he hasnít reached a game company, the list of games are training programs for WOPR. So he and his friend Jennifer Mack run a scenario, the Soviets nuke Las Vegas and David gets called away and hangs up, leaving the scenario still running. Unfortunately WOPRís isnít really aware of the difference between a game scenario and an actual Soviet first strike and starts preparing for a massive counterstrike.

And thatís the problem with the way companies are peddling their AIs. Only an idiot would hand the nuclear football over to Googleís AI, Bard. But the National Eating Disorder Association fired their phone staff after they tried to unionize and replaced them with a bot called Tessa. It did not go well, Tessa has been fired and the hot line is down for now.

The danger is not that AI is self aware and plotting against us, the danger is that some chucklehead will believe the hype and put a chatbot in a situation where it can do unintentional harm. And now if you'll excuse me I'm going to continue my cat and mouse game with Shodan.

May 31, 2023


Review Embargoes

Because gaming journalists have to actually play a game before they can write a review, gaming developers will give review sites a finished copy of a game in advance, but then hold them to an embargo before they can publish their review. The System Shock remake will be available tomorrow but the embargo ended today. In the case of Redfall and Lord of the Rings: Gollum the embargo lasted until the games were available for sale. In an odd coincidence, System Shock is getting very good reviews, but Redfall and Lord of the Rings: Gollum were panned for the disastrous shape when in when they were released.

The rule of thumb is never preorder a game, even if it's from a developer with a good track record. And if the publisher doesn't lift the embargo before the game goes on sale, wait for the reviews.

The System Shock remake was announced in 2016, and seven years later it's ready to go tomorrow. I didn't preorder it until I read today's reviews, they were pretty good so I preordered it a day in advance. Of course that doesn't help the devs very much but what has Nightdive Studios ever done for me, you know?

By the way, you know how if you find a password a modern game will remember it for you? System Shock doesn't do that. They could have easily implemented that, they just chose not to, after all that wasn't a feature in the original game. You're going to have to write things down like a Neanderthal, that's how we did things in 1994.

May 29, 2023


Balance

I admit my hand eye coordination is bad and it affects gaming for me. I wasn't able to finish the Doom remake, hell I wasn't able to finish Duke Nukem back in the day. It's just the way things are. And so I read reviews, if I see something like souls like in the review I know to avoid it.

The reviews for Warhammer 40k Boltgun were almost gushing. But they soft peddled (in my opinion) the way the difficulty ramps up after the first couple of chapters. I was able to deal with that but at the end of Chapter 3 it tossed me into an area, locked the exits and I died many, many times. I thought about lowering the difficulty from medium to easy but you can't change your difficulty level midgame. So I started a new game and set the difficulty to easy. It went much quicker this time and I got through the first arena in two tries. It was the second arena that caused me to quit.

I'm not sure if it's the game or me. I'm 67 and while my coordination in the 80s and 90s was bad, it was a lot better then it is now. But I also suspect that some games are getting harder. After all, computer games have been around since 1962. It's to be expected that as time goes on they'd become more challenging. And to be fair, some of the reviews did mention the difficulty spike. I just didn't expect it to be as bad as it was. And also to be fair, nobody on the Steam boards seems to be complaining about the game's difficulty. Indeed, some folks are complaining that the game is too easy even on the hardest setting. So it's not a game thing, it's a me thing.

On the 31st the remake of System Shock will be released. Even if it gets the kind of reviews Warhammer 40k Boltgun got I'm going to think long and hard before I even consider buying it.

May 28, 2023


Realistic Graphics in Video Games

Rolf and I had been talking yesterday about graphics in games and today I ran across a video by Yahtzee Croshaw over at The Escapist that talked about stuff I considered relevant. So my game plan was to link to the video here, play a little Warhammer Boltgun and put it on YouTube, link to it and make the point that you don't need state of the art graphics to have fun.

Periodically my video capture app and my media app take turns doing weird shit and I have to fuck around and beat one or both of them into submission. If I had dropped a lot of money on a professional video capture and editing suite I could just call up and say, "make this work please," and they'd do that for me. But I'm using free stuff and I don't post enough video to warrant paying a lot of money for a program with big time support, so there you are.

But since things have settled down, Yhatzee's point was that devs doing AAA games chase the latest video engines for their games at the expense of other things.

And I recorded a minute or so of me messing about in Warhammer Boltgun to show you that you can have good clean bun without the latest Unreal engine.

You know, I was 37 when I downloaded the demo for Doom in 1993. But an older millennial, say born in 1983, would have encountered Doom when they were 10. That's an incredibly good age to be blasting demons in Hell to bloody chunks. That same kid is 40 today and has fond memories of thirty year old games. And that's why there are lot of games trying to recreate the look of the Build Engine.

May 26, 2023


Newton

Newton loves chewing on wires and that's why I kick him out of the office when I'm not there. But he hasn't done any wire killing in some time and lately I've been letting him stay in there if he's asleep and I have a quick errand to do. But today he reminded me that he's still a cord cutter. I was getting up from my chair and noticed Newton under the desk, staring at the coaxial cable going into the modem like it was...

So much for reformation.

May 25, 2023


Three and a Half Hours Later...

I finished Forspoken: In Tanta We Trust. It ended on a cliffhanger that will never be resolved. The game was developed by Luminous Productions, a Square Enix studio. But Forspoken underperformed, the studio was disbanded by Square Enix, the developers were branded with the Mark of Cain and are now wandering in the Land of Nod.

Actually nobody was fired, but the devs from Luminous are now doing support work for Square Enix's other projects. As far as the cliffhanger goes, these thing happen. I'm sure there are still some people bitter over Alf.

And as far at the expansion goes I think three and a half hours is too short too be called an expansion. And hell, I'm not very good at the game, I'm sure some players blazed through the game on the highest difficulty setting in 45 minutes.

Tomorrow The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is released. It's a stealth game, Gollum not being too imposing in combat and all that. I like stealth games but I'm not sure I want to play as a murderous, back stabbing wretch who eats babies.

Didn't know that Gollum was a cannibal? It's cool, Peter Jackson chose to leave part of Gollum's curriculum vitae out of the movies. Tolkien himself just mentioned it once in the book, you can read Fellowship of the Ring and miss that detail. But the long and short of it is that I'm not that eager to play as Gollum. Maybe if the reviews rave about the game, but even then, you know? But maybe I should just roll with it.

May 24, 2023


I've Returned

So then, I'm back from Sparta, I picked up the cat, was defeated by a boss fight in Guardians of the Galaxy (still had a good time though) and picked up the expansion to Forspoken.

Newton seemed to like All Star Pet Resort better then bunking at the Vet's. Though ride was longer going home he screamed a lot less. I doubt he'll ever look forward to going there but it didn't seem to annoy him either. So that's good.

As I expected Guardians of the Galaxy broke my winning streak, it now stands at 7-1. Today I started the expansion to Forspoken, hopefully finishing that will leave me at 8-1. You know, I enjoyed Forspoken. I'm aware that it was flawed and that it cost $70 but dammit I enjoyed hanging out with Frey and Cuff.

I'll concede the point that the banter between Frey and Cuff can get annoying but I suspect there's something else going on here. People have complained that they have to play a young, homeless black woman in Forspoken, they want a choice. Yet I don't hear many complaints about having to play Geralt in the Witcher games, or Link in Zelda. Of course Link and Geralt are white guys so that might have something to do with it.

At any rate, Frey was going to be the tent pole for a new franchise. That's not going to happen now, Forspoken's sales were mediocre at best. But I do have an expansion to play, Forspoken: In Tanta We Trust and there's interesting stuff to come. Bethesda's game Starfield arrives in September.

So I'm back.

May 24, 2023


Guardians of the Galaxy

Until this weekend Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy was selling for $60 on Steam. Today it was selling for $18 and I picked it up. I've made it to chapter 3 and while its systems are hard for me to keep straight and it has its share of bugs, I'm having a good time. While it isn't an Arkane game, neither is Redfall, and I start getting restless if I go to long without a solo game.

The only bad thing about the game is that it will probably breaks 2023's completion streak. Probably.

May 6, 2023