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Showing posts from 2022

Memory Leaks: The Magic Circle

ðŸŋ️ Ship it... The Magic Circle  is a 2015 sandbox puzzle game for consoles and PC that takes place in a vaporware adventure game that's been trapped in development hell for nearly twenty years. You are a QA tester who gets abandoned in the game after a dismal playtest that mostly consists of watching the two developers bicker. A rogue... someone... reaches out to you for help from inside the game. He teaches you how to hack the game's creatures and access new parts of the world and start manipulating things--so just maybe you can turn this game into something shippable before the developers figure out what you're up to. How I Remember It... This is a delightfully weird meta-game that derives a lot of humor from poking fun at the culture of software development and video game development in particular. The game-within-the-game The Magic Circle  holds the record for getting the most rounds of crowd-funding for a single project without actually fulfilling it. The main writer

Everything I Need To Know About Relationships I Learned From WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING

ðŸ˜ī Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream... 1994's Speed  was the movie that introduced us to Sandra Bullock (we don't talk about Demolition Man ) but it was 1995's While You Were Sleeping  that made her a household name. And it is my favorite holiday movie. Forget Die Hard-- this is what I watch at Christmas, and it has been for years. And not just because I'm still harboring a decades-long crush on the lead actor. It's smartly written, full of hilarious performances, peppered with quotable lines, and more than anything else, resonates with me. When I was 15, I spent the week between Christmas and New Years watching this movie almost every single night. Seriously, I'm here for this movie. And, thankfully, the lessons it imparted on my then-hopelessly-romantic 15-year-old brain were actually pretty worthwhile. So here are a few of the takeaways from this movie that I still hold to today. Love = Laughter This is a really big one for me. The film sets up a love triangle b

Memory Leaks: The Lord of the Rings: The Battle For Middle-Earth

⚔️ And my axe... The  Lord of the Rings  movies hit theaters in December 2001 and were an unparalleled box office success. Naturally, there was a desire to capitalize on that success with tie-in video games, which started to arrive about a year later. The first few to hit the scene were about what you'd expect: over-the-shoulder hack-and-slash affairs that were just a little too dark and drab because that was the tone of serious video games, but then in 2004 we got something different: a campaign-style RTS that allowed you to play through the events of the movies as either good or evil. And it was The Lord of the Rings: the Battle for Middle-Earth . How I Remember It... As someone who was obsessed with The Lord of the Rings  in 2004, I think it's safe to say that I played most of the games that were attached to this IP. And I was mostly disappointed, because I don't care for hack-and-slash gameplay all that much. When BfME  came out, the big selling point on the box was tha

Stray Thoughts: The Next Crypto Scam

ðŸ’ą We are the dollars and cents and the pounds and pence... So the cryptocurrency market appears to have mostly crashed-- thank farking gourd! I'm taking for granted that crypto and NFTs are almost* all scams, and if you're unsure of why I would think that, I will point you to the definitive explainer on the subject: Dan Olson's sublime video essay Line Goes Up: The Problem with NFTs . * The token counter-example is HNT, which is used to create a market for bandwidth on the Helium network--that is, it's actually being used as a currency rather than purely speculation. Instead of going into the details of why it's a scam, I instead want to talk about why scams like this arise in the first place and why we're inevitably going to see more of them. So strap in, because this is a long one. Actually I'll just skip to the end here: rich people are hoarding too much wealth. That's the cause. That's it. With the corollary that rich people--or hell,  most  pe

Memory Leaks: Super Mario Galaxy

🌌 She's out back counting stars... Super Mario Galaxy  was released in November 2007 just in time for the holidays. It was the first proper Mario title for the Nintendo Wii and the third 3D Mario  game, following the much-beloved Super Mario 64  and the much-reviled Super Mario Sunshine . It introduced a gravity mechanic, wherein Mario would travel between planets trying to find stars to power up a space ship that would take him to his dear kidnapped-again Princess Peach. The game was also built around the novel motion controls of the Wii and took full advantage of controller-waggling-as-gameplay. It was extremely well-received. It was the highest-rated video game on review-aggregator GameRankings right up until the site folded in 2019. How I Remember It... I was intrigued by this game from the get-go, but in 2007 our budget for video games was not so robust that we could just up and drop $50 on a triple-A new release. But the idea had its hooks in me. Interplanetary platforming.


21 people are dead that didn't need to be. My children go through active shooter drills at their elementary schools. Because people like you love guns more than humans. You fucking asshole. I'm so tired of all of this. ]{p

Memory Leaks: You Don't Know Jack, Vol. 3

ðŸ‘Ļ‍ðŸĶē Go On Up, You Bald-Head... You Don't Know Jack  was a series of pop culture trivia CD-ROM games from JellyVision that first launched in 1995. The game took the form of a game show where up to three contestants would compete for cash prizes. In reality, the game was played by up to three people sitting around the same computer keyboard. 1995 was a trip, yo. The series was successful enough to have released something like sixteen titles, not counting re-titled games for different platforms. The format was simple: there would be 7 or 21 questions played out over a series of rounds followed by a "Jack Attack" final round. Whoever had the most money won. Volume 3 was released in October of 1997 and it was the last game in the series that kept to that formula. How I Remember It... I had a friend freshman year of college who collected trivia games. (He also had several different iterations of Trivial Pursuit  and playing them was a pretty common way to kill a weekday eveni

Stray Thoughts: The Catholic Problem

⛪ Back On My Bullshit... So it looks like Missouri is, amongst other states, about to legally outlaw abortion. If you follow me on Twitter, you've no doubt seen me retweeting a lot of women and journalists sharing their thoughts about the consequences and fallout of this decision. It's not that I don't have opinions, it's just that it didn't really feel like it was my moment to speak, so I elected to use my platform to amplify others. That said, this here website is my personal blog, so it's a place tailor-made for my opinions, so I'm going to give them now, but rather than retread what a bunch of better-informed-than-me people have already said, I'm going to talk shit about religion, something that I feel amply qualified to do. Oh, that reminds me: this is one of those posts that's going to be hyper-critical of Christianity, so if that's not your particular bottle of vodka--or if you're my mom--maybe give this one a pass. KTHXBYE So, a few y

Memory Leaks: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

🐗 It's a wild, wild life... The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild  simultaneously released for the Wii U and as a launch title for the Nintendo Switch on March 3, 2017. The game was a departure for the series, which had recently been telling linear stories rooted in the lore of the franchise. Breath of the Wild , by contrast, features very little lore, a fairly scant story, and a rich open world to explore with challenges that can be tackled in any order or skipped altogether. Link awakens in a post-apocalyptic land that has been devastated by Calamity Ganon, a magical maleficent force occupying Hyrule castle and locked in a century-long struggle with the Princess Zelda. But her power is failing, and she has called up on you to defeat Ganon and free Hyrule. The game was a tremendous hit. How I Remember It... On March 3, 2017, I decided to get a Nintendo Switch. Well, I'd made this decision some weeks before, but I'd missed the preorders, so I decided to try to get one on

Stray Thoughts: The Future of Smash

✊ When everybody's smashing things down... Last year Masahiro Sakurai, creator and long-time curator of the Nintendo video game series Super Smash Bros , announced that he would be retiring from the series after the last new fighter was released for Super Smash Bros Ultimate . As part of the announcement, he speculated that whoever took over for him would need to take the series in a new direction for the next installment. That's because Ultimate --appropriately named--is effectively a summation of the entire franchise. In addition to all the new content, it also contains every fighter and level that came before (I'm 99% sure, which means someone is going to fact-check this and point out that the Nintendo Light-Zapper was a playable character in Melee ). Whatever comes next for  Smash , it's going to have to feel different. And this makes sense. Smash  is fairly unique among Nintendo franchises in that it doesn't get re-invented every console generation to take adva

Hoo-Boy, Twitter Just Got Itself Acquisitioned?

ðŸĶ Well, Shit... There's a lot of ink spilled--and yet to be spilled--about Elon Musk's sensational and highly publicized attempt to purchase Twitter and what that means. He wants to bring it back to its roots as a platform for free speech, etc, meanwhile Leftist Twitter has been shitting its collective pants and threatening to move to Canada. A number of new social media platforms have sprung up to collect Twitter's refugees, and a few that previously existed are getting a bunch of new acolytes and their servers are crashing. (Bee-Tee-Dubs, you can friend me on  at @kurtpankau) Amidst a lot of this are a few points that are getting lost that I want to call attention to. So, in no particular order, here's why I'm pissed about this mess and, oh yeah, shit's going to get political and sweary in this post, so with that in mind... "Free Speech" is a Dogwhistle Y'all know that, right? Speech is roughly as free as it has ever been. We'

Memory Leaks: The Legend of Zelda

🐗 You could break my heart apart, I've got the power... The Legend of Zelda  is a top-down fantasy adventure game released by Nintendo in February of 1986 in Japan and over a year later in North America and Europe. It was inspired by designer Shigeru Miyamoto's childhood exploring the woods around his home in Kyoto, and is considered an important forerunner to the action-RPG genre of video games. The series is one of Nintendo's most enduring, having contributed launch titles to both the Wii and the Switch systems. Its protagonist, Link, is among the most popular and recognizable characters in Nintendo's roster, despite his being several different characters across the series. He's behind Mario in that department, but still... How I Remember It... I'm about 80% sure I received this game as a Christmas present in 1987. It was wildly  popular. It had been touted as "the best video game ever made" and that was undoubtedly true in 1987. At the time I got i

RUSSIAN DOLL and Non-Diegetic Storytelling

  🕰️ Time is on my side, yes it is... The second season of Netflix's Russian Doll  is dropping next week. If you didn't watch the first season, it tells the story of Nadia, an NYC programmer who is struck by a car after her birthday party and finds herself stuck in a time loop. It's a darkly funny drama about helping others and forgiving yourself, and it had the kind of conclusion that prompts inane "The ending of ______ explained" think-pieces and YouTube videos. Similar to Encanto , this is a show where the thematic elements bleed into the literal narrative, and re-watching the first season has had me thinking about the ways that works. So, with that in mind, let's talk about non-diegetic storytelling. SPOILERS FOR SEASON 1 OF RUSSIAN DOLL... AFTER THREE PARAGRAPHS OF TABLE-SETTING Let's do some vocabulary work. Diegesis is the world of the story. It's what characters are aware of and interacting with. You frequently hear this term in the context o

Memory Leaks: Starcraft

 ðŸš€ Waiting in the sky, he'd like to come to meet us... Starcraft  wasn't the first real-time strategy game, but it was the one that blew up the genre. Released in 1998 after three years of development, Blizzard gave us a story-driven, highly-asymmetrical, and thoroughly world-built game about the struggle between displaced, fractious Terrans, the rampaging insect-like Zerg, and the advanced psychic Protoss. This game was also a popular vehicle for esports, especially in South Korea, which dominated and in many ways pioneered the activity in the late 90s. How I Remember It... This was the game that everybody played in my house in college. I resisted it at first because I had gotten into the Command & Conquer  series in high school and the two had just-different-enough control schemes that it was difficult to switch back and forth. But I was eventually won over. We played a lot more multiplayer death-match than any of the actual campaign--although I did try my hand at those.

Remake This!

Anything you can do I can do better... There's been some news about a reboot of Quantum Leap , which I am low-key excited for. It was one of my favorite shows as a kid. Basically a procedural with a time travel element, heavily infused with nostalgia and off-beat humor, and then you had these weird digressions like with the "Evil Leaper". Loved it. And I've revisited it as an adult and... it's a bit rough. Has not aged gracefully at all. But! The core idea is solid and I think a modern twist could be wildly entertaining. And this got me thinking about some other things that would be ripe for a remake. So without further adieu, here are some movies that I think would benefit from a modern update. Ace in the Hole A 1951 Billy Wilder film about a journalist who tries to reinvigorate his career by turning a story about a man stuck in a cave into a full-blown media circus, prolonging the rescue in order to milk as much as he can out of it. As a rule, I hate old movies,

Memory Leaks: Gone Home

🏚️ Where the heart is... Gone Home  is a 2013 walking simulator from The Fullbright Company. You play as Katie, a college student returning from studying overseas to visit her parents and younger sister in Oregon in 1995. Since no one met you at the airport, you've had to take a cab, and when you arrive at your home, you find it empty and locked. Remembering a hidden key that will give you access to at least part  of the house, you set about trying to figure out what happened--be it sinister or supernatural--to your family. How I Remember It... There are games that you play over and over again and there are the games that you only need to play once. I played this when it was new-ish, loved it to pieces, and have never picked it up again. It took me about two hours to complete, and I spent the entire time on tenterhooks. After the first hour, I started to close it down so I could go to bed but realized that sleep would be futile, so I stayed up to finish it. Gone Home  is a master

That Time I Wrote a Calculation Engine That No One Knew How To Use

♾️ He talks in maths, he buzzes like a fridge... I work on software, and I've been doing so professionally for over a decade now. Shortly after starting at my current job, I was pulled into a brand new project working on quoting tool for one of our sales divisions. These quotes had a lot of complexity and cascading effects involving margins and markups, sometimes deriving final amounts from those, sometimes going the other way, and it all had to add up correctly. This is, just so we're clear, a lot more complex than it sounds. Computers are machines built to do math, but they are very opinionated about the math they do. You see, for humans a number is a number, but to a program running on the JVM, a number is a byte, a short, an int, a long, a float, or a double (and sometimes also a boolean) and these different types don't inherently play nicely together. If you take $1 and add $.75 to it, the computer may just tell you it can't do that unless you convert the 1 to a 1.