by adam mathes · subscribe · RSS · archive
Happy birthday trenchant daily.
Seems only yesterday I was self-importantly exiting the weblog community and now that’s not even a thing that makes sense!
I mean, it’s not really a thing that made sense then either.
And it doesn’t really seem like yesterday. It seems like really a long time ago.
The point is I’ve been able to view the sunset while driving home along 280 this week, this site still exists, and that’s good.
I feel like maybe I missed something important in gaming in 2013. I bought a lot of games but had few memorable gaming experiences, and I think my “play and reasonably enjoy and complete” over “total games bought” ratio was lower than normal. But there were some good ones - here’s what I played and enjoyed in 2013.
The M.C. Escher / non-Euclidean first-person puzzle masterpiece is easily my game of the year.
Frank Cifaldi remarked in a recent Insert Credit that AntiChamber could only be done in a game. You can’t express what that game expresses in any other medium, which is rare and beautiful and special.
Another World (20th Anniversary Edition) is one of those Amiga classics I never played since my knowledge of the Amiga canon is non-existent. The difficulty level doesn’t hold up, but thankfully they’ve included a more modern “not insane” easy mode that I could tolerate. The art, plot, pacing and environment of this game have stood the test of time and it’s incredible. It’s also just nice to see that some games are going to hold up decades later - we do have important pieces in this medium to consider over time.
Papers Please a “dystopian document thriller” is genius.
Miasmata is a game where you are on a deserted island, desperately trying to figure out what’s going on and create a cure for the disease you’re dying from. And also you have to actually use a map and landmarks to triangulate your position. You can and will get lost. This is a game where you can get lost and have to use a compass and triangulation! And then fall down because it got dark! Love it.
One of the most memorable and exciting game experience I had in 2013.
FTL I was way late on this and I hate rogue-likes but it’s hard not to enjoy the crap out of this one. If you’ve waited this long you may just want to wait and get it on iPad where it feels like it ultimately belongs.
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Holy crap this game is way too hard for me and I gave up about midway through then just watched a Let’s Play but it’s good. It’s really good. I respect it. I just don’t have the kind of time and patience to develop the skill it asked of me.
Call of Juarez Gunslinger is just super awesomely stupid fun. The entire game is told via flashback, which makes for some interesting twists in gameplay as levels change as his memory “improves” or the listeners question his story. The RPG-elements lead to abilities (slowing time, dodging bullets, etc) that actually are really fun and add something new to the gameplay as you progress.
If you think that trailer is awesome, you will like Shadow Warrior because that is basically what you will get. If you are like “wow I thought they could only get away with that sort of shit in the 90’s” actually they couldn’t, the original was controversial then too. But you are kind of right and should skip it.
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Meh, Not Recommended, Etc
The Cave - I experienced a game-breaking bug 4 hours in and was so bored and disappointed never went back.
Call Of Duty Black Ops 2 sort of just reminded me that we’ve run out of ideas in semi-on-rails FPS games and need some of kick in the ass (gameplay or technology-wise) to make them fun again maybe. Also, I loved the first Black Ops (which is my favorite COD game that doesn’t have a level where you get no gun and get shot when you run away) so this was sad for me.
Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon this weird 80’s pastiche had great ads and media for it but the gameplay was awful, the garish colors got real old in practice, and the performance on my MacBook Pro with Retina Display was unacceptably slow. Also, just not as funny as I thought it would be. Kind of awesome it got made though, I think?
Dust: An Elysian Tale looked really fun but then after about an hour I lost interest and I think maybe I accidentally bought a Metroid for furries game.
And the rest that I’ve decided to not bother writing about because it’s already February and why is this taking me so long to post? Also they weren’t good or memorable or recommended - Book of Unwritten Tales, Strike Suit Zero, Bioshock Infinite, Evoland, To The Moon, Magrunner, Mark of the Ninja, Rise Of The Triad, Signal Ops.
I’ve gone from an abundance of time to scarcity but find that the constraints often lead to better decisions.
My media diet is drastically different. Healthier in many ways, shockingly unhealthy in others.
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The constant 24 hour news cycle is gone from my life. I moved to a once a week cycle by reading the Economist on my iPad, but even that is a fading habit.
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I spend my commutes listening to podcasts, primarily Put Your Hands Together, which records a live stand-up comedy show each week. Sometimes the sets are amazing - sometimes they are so-so, and sometimes people bomb. It’s “real” and refreshing and I love it. It reminds me of when I first discovered stand-up when it was a huge part of Comedy Central programming in the 90’s. But this is rawer - those were generally far more polished sets.
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My relationship with Twitter is becoming undone, and perhaps a harbinger of my entire view of the personal web. This site’s lack of content being another sad result.
As I was wondering if I had reached an inflection point in my lifetime of a “published self” or if this was just another life stage with a lack of time and distinct priorities, Ian wrote to me:
Feels like I can see a saturation point to “putting oneself on the internet.” Maybe it’s a decade away, but I feel like its arrival is clear?
quick answer is it’s already happening we just don’t see it because we’re old. Ie, snapchat.
Then I read this keynote presentation from Evan Spiegel of Snapchat and it seemed clearer.
Internet Everywhere means that our old conception of the world separated into an online and an offline space is no longer relevant. Traditional social media required that we live experiences in the offline world, record those experiences, and then post them online to recreate the experience and talk about it. […]
This traditional social media view of identity is actually quite radical: you are the sum of your published experience. […]
Snapchat relies on Internet Everywhere to provide a totally different experience. Snapchat says that we are not the sum of everything we have said or done or experienced or published – we are the result.
We are who we are today, right now. We no longer have to capture the “real world” and recreate it online – we simply live and communicate at the same time
There is no online and offline world, there is just the world.
(At least until we have VR that is — “better than real life – people will get lost in this and not want to leave” — which feels like it is only a few short years away.)
Be sure to shake Yahoo Weather this holiday season if you need more snow or Yetis.
Very proud to help launch this today.
See also: my belowrez app, its neglected tumblr, and Simulating Constrained Retrocomputing Color Palettes in iOS.
It feels very heavy but the screen is huge! Are they serious about these power and volume buttons because they are really difficult to press.
So light! Feels unresponsive compared to an iPhone, but you get to stare at a giant screen while you wait to see if your tap registered.
Best iPad ever. Get one.
New phone, new TV.
New Apple TV.
New toaster. (But all the microwaves are wrong.)
I like California ten times more than before now that I drive along 280. I get it in a way I never have.
Personal computers were called “personal” in contrast to their large, mainframe, shared resource predecessors.
But personal computers — desktop computers — are fundamentally impersonal. They are big, standard, functional objects we keep in rooms hidden away.
Smartphones and mobile devices are personal. At launch, Steve Jobs described the iPad as intimate.
We touch the devices themselves, not a separate “input” device. We carry them on our persons.
Mobile devices are personal, intimate, and used in public — the whole package matters. And therefore how these devices make us feel, and what these devices say about you to others matter.
All this adds up to a new reality where fashion matters to a degree the technology industry couldn’t have imagined a decade or two ago.
Wearables (watches, glasses, whatever else comes next) will be even more about fashion as these things will be even more a part of how we present ourselves to others.
And this is interesting because as the technology becomes “good enough” to meet the baseline needs as an industry we can’t justify upgrade on function alone. The rapid acceleration of upgrade cycles on mobile devices has made reinvention every year or two a stronger part of the development cycle, and that’s a huge part of what excites people.
People want the new styles. They want fashion in their technology.
Apple’s 5C launch seemed like a first (though not particularly effective) foray into this reality — repackaging the iPhone 5 into a more “fashionable” package rather than just marketing it as “last year’s model” seems like an interesting move.
This new intersection between technology and fashion combined with the quicker release cycle is probably going to yield a lot of interesting developments in hardware and software over the next few years.
My hope is that it becomes the “go to” platform for innovative hardware and software for dedicated PC gamers and early adopter tech hobbyists.
And keeping that market happy may be the key to its success.
The Dawn of 3D
When I was a teenager in the 90’s, the biggest breakthrough in entertainment technology (to me) was 3D hardware acceleration.
The difference between Quake and GLQuake (the first hardware accelerated game most people experienced) was huge. That switch from software rendering to having 3D acceleration brought PC gaming to a whole other level of realism.
And if you wanted to experience that you had to really be on the PC side. New hardware was released regularly, you could tinker with your PC and upgrade things, and all the best software was for DOS or Windows. Apple users didn’t really get the same experience. Nor did console users.
On the console side, 3D acceleration was also drastically changing things (the N64 was released about when PC 3D acceleration became affordable in the last 90’s) but the cycle of hardware releases and innovation was much slower. If you wanted to be in the cutting edge, the PC was the place to see it.
The key insight there is that gaming drove purchases in the space — people wanted to experience better frame-rates, better resolution, better performance on the games they loved and were willing to pay for it.
Today, the console development cycles are even longer. And unlike in the past where console hardware differed significantly from general purpose computers and offered specialized capabilities (you couldn’t get 2D graphics on most PC’s in 1986 equivalent to a NES) they are basically computers in a box you connect to a TV with specialized software. There’s not the kind of magical gaming performance enhancements there were a few generations ago.
The PC ecosystem — which depended on both Microsoft and OEMs to cycle quickly to bring performance and innovation to market — is in trouble as the broader consumer market shifts their personal use to mobile devices. Businesses seem less excited about Microsoft upgrades that don’t seem to provide more value to companies or justify new hardware. Is your business really going to run better on Windows 8 than Windows 7? If anything, you’re probably more worried about productivity loss during upgrades now.
Meanwhile, the hobbyists and gamers who really love this stuff are helping Valve and Steam become a multi-billion dollar company.
It makes sense that Valve would try to decouple itself from a troubled ecosystem and bootstrap a new one for its best customers. It’s a smart move.
SteamOS’s success depends on creating an ecosystem that gets innovative hardware and software to consumers faster.
A big question is as new hardware like the Oculus Rift become generally available, what will be the best and most consumer friendly way to use it? If it’s “buy a SteamBox and plug it in and download supported games” then that’s a pretty compelling story. Especially compared to, buy one, struggle to get it working with a PC, cry, upgrade drivers, cry some more or wait a few years until XBox supports it.
Valve has the best and probably most profitable customers in the gaming space heavily using their system today. If they provide a new hardware platform for them to adopt that provides better experiences, faster hardware updates, and new capabilities beyond what consoles or PC’s do, those customers will probably be happy to adopt it over time as PC’s lose that technical advantage.
Bruce Schneier on subverting NSA surveillance:
My five tips suck. They are not things the average person can use. One of them is to use PGP [a data-encryption program]. But my mother can’t use PGP. Maybe some people who read your publication will use my tips, but most people won’t.
Basically, the average user is screwed. You can’t say “Don’t use Google”—that’s a useless piece of advice. Or “Don’t use Facebook,” because then you don’t talk to your friends, you don’t get invited to parties, you don’t get laid. It’s like libertarians saying “Don’t use credit cards”; it just doesn’t work in the real world.
The Internet has become essential to our lives, and it has been subverted into a gigantic surveillance platform. The solutions have to be political. The best advice for the average person is to agitate for political change.
There is a huge difference between market share of units and usage share. And it shouldn’t surprise anybody that it’s like that. Anybody that’s used both should not be surprised that that is the natural result. And that’s really important to us because we have never been about selling the most. We’re about selling the best and having the best experience and having the happiest customers.
Happy generally means using more. You know, you find something you like. You do it more. And so I think that has become even more the case over the last year.
Today I walked into a store and bought a pocketable handheld computer with a persistent network connection that has more power than desktop computers I spent the first two decades of my life using at a fraction of the cost.
The address of the old computer was automatically transferred to the new computer so everyone could continue contacting me the same way.
The computer learned my fingerprints and only unlocks itself when it sees mine, so others can’t use it without my permission.
After entering my login information, all of my applications, settings, and data began to download on the new computer, wirelessly.
And it comes with a built-in camera that takes better digital photographs than any pocket point and shoot camera I’ve owned, even in low light.
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Buying an Apple iPhone reminds how far we’ve come in computing in a very short time.