Monthly Archives: February 2005

On In Jokes and Cliff Faces

In-jokes are jokes that are only funny to members of a particular group. For instance, this joke, which deals with a data error detection technique:

A byte walks into a bar.
The bartender looks up and says “Hey, what’s wrong?”
The byte replies, “Parity error.”
The bartender shakes his head. “Yeah, I thought you looked a bit off.”

Maybe you don’t get it. On the other hand, I could have told you the math joke.

Of course, there are in-jokes, and there are jokes that “out” you. Especially if it is on a t-shirt. There are other groups, and other jokes.

This article from McSweeney’s is funny for a certain group of people because of its detail. There are many incongruous aspects of Contra, but the game is fun. Nobody cares that you can dodge bullets or jump five feet straight in the air. Enemies run at you, and you shoot them with a variety of weapons. In a lot of cases, it’s enough. Sometimes, the game is even more fun than the designers intended.

Contra is about two lone soldiers, battling against the infinite numbers of an alien horde. It is a cooperative game.

Until the third stage.

At the third stage, (“Waterfall”) Contra changes into a no holds barred race for your 30 lives against the human being holding controller number two. For this one stage, in addition to all the enemy soldiers, player two is your enemy. Player two is a far more subtle and insidious opponent than any boss character in the entire game. Player two doesn’t even have to shoot you to kill you.

“Waterfall” is a vertical climb up a heavily fortified cliff wall. The screen would only move up as fast as the players did. However, it only followed the player who was higher on the screen. This was especially devious because if player two was at the bottom of the screen and you were at the top, you could jump up, forcing the stage to scroll upward and killing them with the “bottom of the screen.” However, player two would then spawn at the top.

The hunter is now the hunted.

Needless to say, this style of play isn’t very cooperative. But it sure is enjoyable.

Then the fourth stage (“Enemy Base 2”) would come along and then you’d get back to your regularly scheduled alien slaughtering, as if nothing happened.

I’m going to guess that killing player two is not a part of Contra’s original design document—but it is darkly comic. It is a joke shared among Contra players.

Start up an NES. Put in the code. Invariably, when the third stage comes around, someone is going to die. And everyone laughs.

Anyone want to catch a game? I promise I won’t kill you on the third stage more than a couple of times.

Where's my money?

I got my PowerBook in May of 2003. Some of you may remember my announcement when I bought it. I’m very happy with the purchase—but now I want a new machine. Maybe a dual processor G5. And a pony. And an EZ Bake Oven. This is the part where I look at my mortgage statement, and sigh.

Last Christmas, I bought my parents an iBook.

They love it so far. They’re acclimating to it slowly, but they seem to want to use it a lot more than any Windows machine they’ve ever had. Today, my mother and father wanted to get their Barcelona pictures off the camera and onto the iBook. It went well. Much easier than trying to get them to do things on a Windows machine. Here is the condensed version:

“Okay Mom, I want you to plug in the USB cable into the camera, and then into the iBook.”
“Now wait. Okay, press “Import.”
“Oh wow, that works. There are my pictures! This is really easy! You’re so thoughtful and patient!”

This condensed version is the only one available to American audiences because in the orginal, my mother doesn’t know which port is the USB port, and then can’t find the “Import” button after iPhoto started up. Test audiences found this “Director’s Cut” extremely trying and frustrating.

Some walked out of the theater.

It was during this conversation with my Mother and Father (held over Skype, which they love) that I was reminded that my brother also owns an iBook. He bought one soon after Mom and Dad did. Now, my mother and father may need another iBook because they’re already squabbling over who gets to use it.

But, here’s my point: My entire family is a “switch” ad.

I just don't understand

The Metal Gear series of games has always been entertaining to me. I remember playing the first Metal Gear on the Nintendo Entertainment System, with the 8-bit sprites and two frames of animation for running. The emphasis on not being seen was an interesting departure from the “shoot first, ask questions” run and gun style of gameplay that was dominant on game consoles at the time.

Then the series broke new ground on the PlayStation, adding superior graphics and retaining the “stealth” gameplay that made the first so popular. The series also became very story oriented, with a focus on character driven drama during the cutscenes. The cutscenes were so well written, you could just put in the disc and watch them. In fact, after you complete the game there is the option to do just that. In all, there were just under two hours of cutscenes that felt like an action movie, with a lot of reflection by the main characters about their actions as soldiers.

The latest in the series is on the PlayStation 2, and is Metal Gear Solid 3. I have not picked this one up yet, as I am waiting for a price drop. Reviews are fairly consistent, saying that the game still retains the aspects that make it attractive for fans of the previous games, but still being innovative enough to warrant a play through. The story however, is a prequel, and is set in the midst of the Cold War. An interesting touch.

What I enjoy about the series is the amount of detail that they put into making these game worlds. They are, in fact “worlds,” and not just maps, or levels. The game designers put a lot of work into making everything as “real” as possible. They visited with military advisors and went to ranges to shoot the weapons they modeled in game. All that and they manage to keep the “realism” while making the games enjoyable to play.

Speaking of fun, it’s good to know that they can have fun with their cutscenes, too.

So much to do.

The bit over there in the “about me” blurb is fairly accurate. If it’s a longer post, odds are that I just posted the damn thing right away. Then I start noticing grammatical errors on the order of “Paris in teh teh Spring.” Then the broken links start to show up. Then of course, there’s the elimination of adverbs. Then cutting the extraneous sentences.

Then there are the errors pointed out by my “editors.” (Thank you!) So, by the time the post is the third or fourth down the page, it has gone through approximately four or five edits. No lie. Then, at some point, I let them go because I’ve done all I can.

I’m not sure why I don’t edit before I hit that publish button. I either don’t believe in the rough draft, or I believe in organic, living text.

Yeah that last bit sounded like bullshit to me, too.

In any case, just like my posts, I’ll be editing and tweaking and doing my best to not break the site. For those of you that have been here a while, drop me a line and let me know what you think.

New readers should just come back when I say something funny, which should be any week now.

This blog. . . Is clean.

I was getting tired of the blogger-google machine. Long wait times for logging in and posting were also tiring. Rick pointed out that I really do not benefit from this relationship, and they were just using me for content.

And now, I am going to shill for Dreamhost.

They are great. They are better than CATS. I would use them again and again.

Please to be using the above link to sign up for the provider of web hosting. Thank you.