Just a short post for June, since not much happened in this month. It consists entirely of video game reviews.
I played two newish games that I really liked. The Swapper is a great puzzle game with a very well done mood, like exploring those deep caverns in Metroid where you felt like you weren't supposed to be there. What really stands out for me is the puzzle design: Like Braid, most of them investigated a single new idea, and you have enough information to solve any of them from about 4 minutes into the game. Though they all had clean answers, a lot of them admitted alternate solutions without being too exploitable. It's my favorite thing to beat games the wrong way, so this one was super. Starseed Pilgrim is a somewhat hard to place indie gem. It's part figure-out-the-rules, part exploration, part polishing your skills, part puzzling. I played a really long time in this game without realizing a basic fact, and I have a feeling that there are a few more things to learn. (I have made progress towards what I think is the final goal, but haven't "finished" yet.)
I played some other games: A Dark Room has been making the rounds and can be played in your browser no big deal. It's a text-only game pretty akin to the now classic Candy Box. A Dark Room ended up disappointing me, but it's not too long and it does have some good fun. Call of Duty Black Ops II was pretty disappointing. I feel like I sort of know what I'm getting myself into with these Triple-A shooters (it grossed half a billion dollars in its FIRST DAY, the most ever, though I guess that speaks more to the quality of its predecessors, most of which I did like), but this game was really uninspired. It was like they just got a bunch of level designers to put together some "missions" that had nothing to do with one another and you jumped from one to the next lookin' at axis-aligned crates and then there'd be these random ass "team" missions that had nothing to do with anything where you'd be telling all these idiots what to do but mostly you just wanted them to just stand there to attract the enemy fire so you could do it yourself. Like real war. On the other hand, Bioshock Infinite was much better than its predecessors and I liked it a lot. At its heart it's just a shooter (and only a mediocre one) but the map design is so lovely, and some of the characters and storytelling is really cool too. I do think this one is worth playing.
That is all. Any games you think I should be playing?
Hello! These days I don't post that often to this here Radar, though I do like to make sure I hit the once-a-month minimum. My attention sort of drifts from venue to venue and currently it is on Twitter. But anyway, some summer summaries:
My SIGBOVIK paper about a simple general NES AI, foretold in a recent post, had an accompanying video that became quite popular, getting almost half a million views. At about 16 minutes, that's over 15 years of people-time spent watching that thing, which is still weird to think about. It spawned a bunch of press, of varying quality and accuracy. The New Yorker article is good, and it appears in such unlikely sources as Chemical & Engineering News. Some of it hilariously misses the point. I've been working on follow-ups to the NES work, specifically video collecting a bunch more games and some more interesting visualizations of what's going on during the playing process. But now I'm kinda a perfectionist about it so don't hold your breath.
For Object Jam we put together a game that also sort of misses the point. It was a real-things adventure game starring several magnetic tetrahedra called "Tetraheroes". In practicing my video editing skillz I put together this rapidly-cut movie of the one and only playthrough which is kind of like the world's longest Vine.
I went to Japan! It was really interesting and fun and I recommend it. At some point maybe I'll get to my massive backlog of photos and write some stories down, since there were some good ones, but I've sort of realized that taking photos is more fun than retouching and posting them. For me the highlights: Hiroshima, which was a nice fun city with the looming spectre of the Atom Bomb, and it was a very powerful and moving experience to actually be there. Tokyo, which is just an amazing place that we could easily have spent the whole two weeks exploring just that. Hanging out with natives, which we only did at the very end, but it was perfect to see the real culture and I beat one of the guys in an inebriated Street Fighter IV match and learned enough Japanese to invent a few jokes that worked on drunk people.
I became a member at the new TechShop in Pittsburgh, which is kind of like a gym but instead of exercise machines they have power tools. I've been taking classes and I have a few projects in mind, which for sure I will share here if I succeed at them. So far my favorite tool is of course the Flow waterjet cutter, which is basically a computer-controlled Super Soaker that can cut through several inches of plate steel no big deal.
Up next is a trip to Denver for a wedding; I'll be in the woods but I am looking forward to extending my GPS trail collection of places in the world where I've run ("3D World Runner"). Among other things like hanging out with my good friends, you know.
Hello! Today I am starting my first real on-purpose vacation ever, a 2.5 week trip to Japan. I've traveled a lot for conferences and work and weddings and stuff, but never really Just Cuz. So that is cool. I probably won't really have Internet or phone, but it's not like I update this thing more than once a month anyway.
I'm going to be gone for SIGBOVIK this year, but I did spend about 4 months on a secret project which I'm eager to show off! I recorded a video explanation and demo for the conference which I'll post here once it passes and I can find Internet. Or go to the conference if you're in Pittsburgh... It's always a good time!
SIGBOVIK 2013, the world's most prestigious computer science conference, is coming up. I've been participating since the beginning in this superb lampooning of academia and whatever. This year I have a few silly/serious papers and a masterwork that I've put about 12 weekends into and which is truly too advanced for any other publication venue. In my humble opinion. Fact. But we can always use more submissions, and we welcome them from anywhere in the world on any topic, even if you can't attend. You've got a few more decoy deadlines left. So let's do!