Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Nanoblogging Is Your Microblogging - Episode 4

It's the end of the month, and you know what that means... It's time for me to throw up an emergency blog post so it at least looks like I've done something for every month. Hey, at least I'm honest about my filler material.

14. Edge and Limbo Make Steam Debut; Blogger Fails to Create Humorous Title
Hey you, do you like games that were released years ago on other platforms that finally make their way to PC via Steam? You know I do! It seems like we got a double-dose of this at least with the help of popular app Edge and popular console download Limbo, both shuffling into the Steam store within a couple weeks of each other. I hear both games are quite good, and I'll gladly look into reviewing them here... after they go on sale. That's the other thing you can always count on. Me being a miserly old grump.

15. Hey Guys, Guess What? I READ A BOOK!
If you know me and my terrible reading habits, this is a huge deal. I finally finished reading Lawrence Lessig's Free Culture the other day. I first heard about the book thanks to the occasional nod from xkcd. On a whim, I decided to try the book out, and it ended up being the first pleasure book I've taken notes on. I got halfway through the book last summer, and took a Communications Law class in the fall semester. We only spent a couple days talking about copyright law, but I wrote a term paper on copyright terms and cited what I had already read in the book. What I found weird was that during the research for the paper, I noticed the author's name coming up in some of the court transcripts I found. As I found out (when I resumed reading the book over winter break), the author of the book was one of the lawyers in a Supreme Court case regarding the issue. So I continued reading like a madman, and I got up to about seven pages from the end of the book before I returned to school in the spring. I just finished reading those seven pages now.

I know copyright law isn't the most thrilling discussion topic in the world, but he makes some interesting points about how our culture and entertainment economy works. The book's a bit dated now (I think it was written in 2005?), but I'd still recommend it to anyone who's looking for an interesting read on a part of law not discussed much in public, or for anyone who's looking for a good conspiracy theory over how much control big businesses have over us. (I say that not to be cynical but to summarize what I took from the book in an exaggerated, humorous way.)

16. Goodbye, Pinky
I don't know how many readers I get who visit from Jay is Games (although I guess I have that little stats toolbar... Well, apparently that's 21 of you in the last month... and three people searching for "people riding kangaroos"), but I have a bit of a complaint to get off my chest. I've been continuing my mostly weekly Letters In Boxes column for a few months now (we've just wrapped up the 12th edition, containing the 50th individual puzzle). But in the most recent edition of the series, I squandered away a puzzle I've been harboring away for quite some time now. This puzzle set was based on the concept of base mathematics, where you had to convert a bunch of numbers from binary and ternary and other bases into decimal form. The third puzzle in the series takes a severe deviation from the normal puzzle style and instead uses a screenshot taken from MSPaint's color selection palette. The answer, if you sit down and convert the red, green, and blue values to hexadecimal, is FACADE.

I've had an oddly long attachment to this puzzle, and I'm sad to announce that what was used in the series was nowhere near what I had originally hoped to do. The puzzle idea first came about back when we ran a SpaceChem Giveaway on the site. John, my fellow puzzle inventor, and I came up with a series of puzzles based on the periodic table. I came up with one puzzle idea, where a greenish-colored box was supposed to be translated in the same hexadecimal way to get BA for barium. Ultimately, the puzzle was shot down because it would be "too colorblind-unfriendly", but I was determined to make it work somehow. It was only last week that I thought up the idea for the base-themed puzzles and decided to give the idea another go. The entire puzzle consisted of only a box with a pinkish hue in it. Sadly, in my test run, I found that the #FACADE-colored box I wanted to use would turn into different colors depending on which file format it was saved in, or even which program opened it, so the idea was scrapped and turned into the straightforward "here are the numbers, figure out what to do with them" format linked to above.

In the end, the puzzle seemed to get rather positive remarks, as people enjoyed the shock of seeing something unusual in the middle of the normally dichromatic puzzle series (one person compared it to playing an ARG... wholly not what I intended, but thanks!). But still, in the back of my mind, I have this nagging feeling that I threw away that puzzle unnecessarily, and I can't ever get it back. Perhaps someday there might be a browser or a file format or a painting program that will allow colors to show up exactly as intended no matter what, but by that time, this little nugget of an idea might have spread too far to be novel anymore. Perhaps it's already been done, and I just haven't heard of it yet. It's like I let a little part of myself go into the world, never to return again. I can't help but wonder if that's something normal to be feeling, but yet I also wonder why I don't feel that with so many other puzzles I've made. Perhaps it's time to step back and reflect on what I've done.

17. Vusy as a VVVVVV
You all have gone out and bought VVVVVV by now, right? And you've played through it multiple times as well, right? And you've put the soundtrack music into your jogging playlist, right? Suddenly, that's not enough love for the 22nd letter of the alphabet. The most recent version of the game, released as part of the Humble Indie Bundle, includes a level editor, preloaded with a bunch of user-made levels. In addition, it's incredibly easy to download other players' homemade maps, and the developer has featured a number of levels on his website. For the past couple of weeks, I've been playing through user levels like mad, and I'm actually running out of levels to tackle! I guess that means it's time I finish up the level I've been working on, except I'm terrible with scripting. Hurry that tutorial up, Terry, eh?

18. One Final Note, Brought to You By the Letter Z
In my last post, I mentioned how I wish I bought Atom Zombie Smasher when it was on sale. Well, thanks to the Humble Indie Bundle mentioned above, I now own AZS. As it turns out, it was just as fun as I was imagining it to be, but it also bizarrely lacks replay value. After a certain point, it feels like once you've beaten the game enough times, it loses its novelty. There are plenty of user-made mods available to tweak certain aspects of the game (sadly, you have to wade through the hordes of people who just re-uploaded the sample mod just to get an achievement), but it still feels like the same game too many times over. Still, I've put a handsome chunk of time into the game, so maybe there's still just enough of a cling factor to keep me coming back.