July 21st, 2014

Michael Lopp remembers how playing Mtrek set him on the path that led to his becoming a software engineer:

Mtrek is a real-time multiplayer space combat game loosely set in the Star Trek Universe. Sounds pretty sweet, right? Check out a screen shot.

Mtrek screenshot

OoooOooh yeaaaaaaaah.

Designed and written by Tim Wisseman and Chuck L. Peterson in the late 80s at University of California, Santa Cruz, Mtrek is completely text-based. To understand where an enemy ship was, you had to visualize the direction via the onscreen data. If this wasn't enough mental load, it was absolutely required to develop a set of macros on top of the game's byzantine keyboard commands in order to master a particular ship. Furthermore, if you weren't intimately familiar with the performance characteristics of your particular ship, you'd get quickly clobbered.


After months of playing, I learned that one of the the game's creators, Chuck L. Peterson ("clp") was a frequent player. After one particularly successful evening with my Romulan Bird of Prey, I mailed clp and asked if there was anything, however small, I could do to help with the game. Without as much a signal question to vet my qualifications, he gave me a project. […]

By way of contrast, consider Robin Sloan's piece, posted earlier today, on The secret of Minecraft. Twenty years from now, will we see a generation of coders inspired by Minecraft?

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The first 15 years or so of life are just tutorial missions, which suck. There's no way to skip these.

February 5th, 2014

Life is a game. This is your strategy guide:

Your Character

I never was much good at games.

[Via Tao of Mac]

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'One rarely disappoints with a skull on one's crotch.'*

April 24th, 2013

I'll confess to never having played Warhammer 40K or read any of the tie-ins, but even so I'm quite prepared to believe that this truly is the Best Warhammer 40K Costume Ever:

Best Warhammer 40K Costume EVER?

* Post title courtesy of MeFi user Halloween Jack.

[Via MetaFilter]

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Two Step's just zis guy, you know?

April 22nd, 2013

A telling vignette from Businessweek's article about Eve Online:

[A number of prominent Eve Online players…] were in Iceland's capital to meet with executives from CCP Games, the company that created Eve. The seven make up the Council of Stellar Management (CSM), a group elected by other Eve players and flown by CCP to Iceland every six months or so to discuss how the game should evolve. It's a kind of super-user focus group, but also a channel for players' complaints. In 2011, when CCP rolled out some controversial changes, the company summoned the CSM members to Reykjavík for an emergency meeting in an effort to stem a user backlash. "At the time, I had been dating a girl for only three weeks and was terrified," says Joshua Goldshlag (Eve name: Two Step), a 35-year-old CSM member and computer programmer from Massachusetts. "I certainly did not want to mention that I had been elected as an Internet space politician."

[Via Longform]

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You're the boat boss

April 18th, 2013

If the folks behind Leviathan: Warships are as good at writing turn-based strategy games as they are at making trailers for said games then I may have to seriously consider buying Leviathan: Warships when it comes out:

[Via Pop Loser]

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'Once I step foot outside the rectory, all bets are off.'

January 30th, 2013

A group of former prep school friends take their game of 'tag' very seriously, having met up at a reunion and made a pact to spend the month of February each year resuming the game of 'tag' that they started back in school where it left off. The idea is that whoever is 'It' at the end of February remains tagged until the start of February the following year:

One year early on when Mike Konesky was "It," he got confirmation, after midnight, that people were home at the house where two other players lived. He pulled up to their place at around 2 a.m., sneaked into the garage and groped around in the dark for the house door. "It was open," he says. "I'm like, 'Oh, man, I could get arrested.'"

Mr. Konesky tiptoed toward Mr. Dennehy's bedroom, burst through the door and flipped on the light. A bleary-eyed Mr. Dennehy looked up as his now-wife yelled "Run, Brian!" Mr. Konesky recalls. "There was nowhere for Brian to run."

It's an odd, charming story. I'd imagine that even as I type this a few screenwriters are taking the core of the idea and running with it. The only question is, which type of story do they want to tell?

  • A dark tale where the encounter described above ends with Mike Konesky shot dead because Brian Dennehy forgot it was February and assumed that his family was the target of a home invasion?
  • A politically engaged story about tensions within the group because some members of the group are now senior executives who can have their office managers run interference for them every February and who can use some of their frequent-flier miles to drop in unexpectedly on a friend/target in another state, whilst other members are stuck in their home city or state due to their financial circumstances or work responsibilities?
  • A comedy about how the partner of one of the friends has come to terms with the possibility that for one month a year she might find a strange man crouching in a bush surveilling her house?
  • A farce about whoever is currently 'It' having their suspicious pattern of inter-state travel noted by Homeland Security and thus finding themselves being followed even as they track their target?

So many possibilities.


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Glitch out

December 11th, 2012

Massively Multiplayer online games that close down tend to do so in a highly unsatisfactory manner, with a date being announced for the servers to be turned off and little fanfare beyond that created by the players themselves. Tiny Speck, the company behind Glitch (official site | Wikipedia article) took a much classier approach:

Tiny Speck resurrected favorite rare in-game items, such as the Stoot Barfield Pullstring Doll and the 2010 Glitchmas Yeti, as rewards for participation in the last feats. The company also continued to release new content, from feats to recipes to new areas, until a few days before the closure. Players raced to earn new achievement badges and take screenshots in the just-opened areas. […]

Players enjoyed the fresh content, and developers enjoyed creating it. [Glitch designer Stewart Butterfield…] said that much of that content was almost completed when the staff was notified of the game shutdown – and the jobs that would go with it. Letting staffers complete their own pet projects was a way to recognize their work.


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Pinball wizardry

December 1st, 2012

Designer Sam Van Doorn has made a way to render your prowess at pinball in tangible form:

I deconstructed a pinball machine an reconstructed it as a design tool.

A poster is placed on top of the machine, which has a grid printed on it. Based on this grid you can structure your playing field to your desire. By playing the machine the balls create an unpredictable pattern, dependent on the interaction between the user and the machine. The better you are as a player, the better the poster that you create.

Pinball wizardry

[Via Flowing Data]

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600 lines

March 12th, 2012

Journalist Billy Baker was writing a book when he found himself talking to Kelly R Flewin, who runs a web site devoted to tracking video game records. At which point, Baker's research took an odd turn:

"It's funny," I told Flewin. "We have an old Nintendo Game Boy floating around the house, and Tetris is the only game we own. My wife will sometimes dig it out to play on airplanes and long car rides. She's weirdly good at it. She can get 500 or 600 lines, no problem."

What Flewin said next I will never forget.

"Oh, my!" […]

[Via Longform]

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(Not) Rescuing Natalya

February 20th, 2012

Real Life Goldeneye 64. I've never even played the game but I still found this video hilarious.

I'm reliably informed that there are several in-jokes and references that take it to a higher level if you misspent multiple hours in your youth trying to get Natalya out of there alive.

[Via MetaFilter]

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September 19th, 2011

"Pixels" by Patrick Jean is both beautifully put together, and guaranteed to make fans of arcade games of a certain age feel terribly nostalgic.

[Via Making Light (Particles)]

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Not Tetris 2

September 10th, 2011

Not Tetris 2. To quote the author:

It's got all the upsides of Tetris and all the downsides of physics

Available for Windows, Linux and MacOS X, and well worth a look IMHO.

[Via The Tao of Mac]

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Scrobbling and Scrabble

June 14th, 2011

Matthew Hawn of is convinced that Scrabble and the music tech world have a lot in common..

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God Emperor: The Board Game

February 26th, 2011

Comment of the week, from a MetaFilter discussion on the joys of the long since out-of-print, but fondly remembered, Dune board game:

I'd like to see a God Emperor boardgame.

One player is Leto II. The other players represent the various factions – the BG, the BT, Ix etc. Leto's special power is to see what every other player is going to do before they do it. The other players have a range of powers that don't make sense or provide any apparent advantage, like producing Duncan Idaho gholas or building carts for Leto.

In the first turn the non-Leto players try to kill Leto. If they fail, the Leto player gets to deliver a one minute Nietszche-tinged rant about the evils of bureaucracy, the perfidiousness of historians or the way that a military force made up of males will inevitably destroy itself through homosexuality.

On further turns the non-Leto players get to try again, and each time they fail Leto's ranting time is extended by 30 seconds. The winner is the player who finally manages to kill Leto, although Leto wins if the game goes on for 3,500 turns or when all of the other players leave, whichever happens first.

Seriously, it would be awesome.

posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 9:31 AM on February 24

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January 15th, 2011

One for the geeks: a detailed account of a glorious hack called Retrocast

You may have heard of the new gaming platforms like OnLive or Meo Jogos […] They're a new paradigm in what comes to gaming: you don't need a console or an expensive PC, you'll pay a cheap flat fee or renting cost to play the high end games, all the processing power and game rendering is done on the Datacenter and the video is streamed to your house, all in real time. […]

Technologies like these are bleeding edge. There are many challenges related to the quality of the network, scalability, firewalls, etc, but mostly: very low latency video streaming is difficult. In order for these platforms to work, the roundtrip latency between a gamepad command (ie: you press fire) and the first video frame related to that command being rendered in your client (ie: you actually see the gun being fired) must be less than 100ms in order to "fool" the human brain and have the same real time experience that you would have with local consoles. It's not easy, trust me.

I'm a sucker for retrogames, great and emerging technologies, experimentation and hacking. This idea of doing a poor man's version of a streaming gaming on demand platform was ringing in my head for quite some time, so in a rainy weekend I decided to take matters with my own hands and glue this thing together. […]

Thirty-plus years after I got my hands on my first microcomputer, it still amazes me just how powerful and versatile modern desktop computers are. Still more impressive is the way that the numerous different pieces of software used allowed themselves to be lashed together to produce such miraculous, unexpected results. Powerful, flexible, open software; in the right hands, it's pretty much magical.

[Via The Tao of Mac]

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A rant, animated

January 12th, 2011

Dot Dot Dot – Animated. Highly entertaining.

[Via James Nicoll]

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Digital Nostalgia

January 8th, 2011

Jonathan McCalmont on Digital: A Love Story: Nostalgia, Irony and Cyberpunk

Look beyond the retro stylings, the dodgy music and the revisitation of old game-play mechanics such as making you scribble down important pieces of information, and you'll see that Digital: A Love Story is a game that is fiercely nostalgic for the idea of the internet's lost frontier.

Once upon a time, the internet was seen as a kind of digital Wild West, a wild and woolly frontier just outside of the embrace of civilisation where you were liable to encounter all kinds of things, both pleasurable and horrific: a cultural shatter zone outside of the purview of government. However, just as new settlers brought civilisation to the American West, the popularisation of the internet and its gradual integration into every aspect of our daily lives has brought civilisation to the online world.

By creating a fictionalised past with one foot in the 1980s (when computing was very much a niche hobby) and one foot in the 2000s (when the internet was large enough to start supporting discrete cultural communities), [Digital: A Love Story's author Christine Love] is offering us the chance to feel nostalgia not just for the by-gone age of an uncivilised internet but also for a fictionalised frontier where all kinds of technological possibilities seemed only a few inches out of reach.

[Via Tomorrow Museum]

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Modern Warfare

October 24th, 2010

Joshua Casteel on Call of Duty: Gaming and Reality in Modern Warfare

[Playing in 'The Pit', an introductory section of 'Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2' designed to get the player used to the game mechanics…] The reflexes come back to you. Pop-ups painted like Zarqawi and bin Laden spring up from behind concrete road blocks, sandbags, petroleum barrels, interspersed between pop-ups of fat old men with glasses who look like professors, and women in burkas and hijabs, and kids with backpacks. A few pop-ups that look like leftovers from the Eighties and Nineties – more IRA than al-Qaida – sometimes make it into the rotation. They stutter your trigger rhythms. But the civilian pop-ups, Irish or Arab, look as scared as the enemy ones look scary. That gut contrast is critical. You gotta stay general. If you stop too long to look, trying to spot the visual differences between a ski mask and a kefia, you're done. You gotta just see, like you're seeing with your stomach, so you're not looking, you're seeing, and once you're seeing, you're firing, which means they're dead and you're not. You can't trust details. The moment passes. And you remember. And it's not like you don't already know it, but you do have to remind yourself. This is just a game. So you remember: you did the real thing.

My deployment to Iraq, June 2004: I'm the only one to raise a hand when my convoy commander – a sunglass-wearing, steely-jawed stereotype of himself – asks who's never done this before. […]

[Via Give Me Something To Read]

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Scrabble tiles as far as the eye can see, and beyond

October 15th, 2010

Go and play Scrabb.lya.k.a. "massively multiplayer online scrabble crossword" – before Hasbro nuke it from orbit.


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52 Bad Dudes

August 13th, 2010

52 Bad Dudes.


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