I gotta admit it: I have a secret love for McDonald's breakfast sandwiches. On the morning after a rough night out, I wake up with a deep hole in the pit of my stomach. A McDonald's bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit-shaped hole that I only know of one way to fill. If you don't know what I'm talking about or feel like averting your eyes in disgust at the image of that neatly-wrapped bundle of salt and fat above, then you may as well hit the close button on your browser right now. This is not the post for you.
For the rest of you, come with me. I've got a little secret to share.
Are we all in agreement that the biscuit option at McDonald's is the best of the sandwich-holders, handily defeating the lame English muffins, trouncing those squishy round things they like to call bagels, and narrowly edging out the salty-sweet pleasure of a McGriddle?
And are we also in agreement that the worst part of their biscuit sandwiches is that strangely folded egg patty? It's pre-cooked, reheated, rubbery, oddly flavored, not completely unpleasant, but definitely not egg-like.
Well here's the deal: you can get your McDonald's biscuit sandwiches (or any breakfast sandwich, for that matter) made with a 100% real egg, cracked and cooked fresh on-premises. All you've got to do is tell the cashier that you'd like your sandwich made with a "round egg" and they'll replace your folded egg patty with a real egg, free of charge.
It'll even appear on your receipt that way. The round eggs are the same ones they use on the Egg McMuffin, made from a real egg cooked on the flattop in a ring-shaped mold. The difference it makes for the sandwich is huge.
An egg sandwich from McDonald's that actually tastes like egg? Who'da thunk it?
Take a look at their relative cross-sections. The round egg even has a touch of lightly-cooked, soft yolk in the center. Just like a real fried egg. Almost.
Recently, your friend and mine Cliff Bleszinski wrote an essay defending microtransactions in general and EA in specific. There are a lot of things to be said about this essay - some of which are said expertly by Jim Sterling here, and some of which touch on concepts discussed by Shamus Young writing a couple of years ago about Bobby Kotick here and here.
Cliff's main point is that game developers exist within an economic landscape, and as such they will do what makes them money and avoid what doesn't. As consumers, our job is to vote with our wallets, supporting what we like and boycotting what we don't.
In response to this, I'm going to finally post something I wrote back in October 2011. I never put it up before because I couldn't find a way to turn it into a full article. It's really just one simple idea. But as foreseen by Nathan Grayson and proved by the recent SimCity debacle, if anything it's more relevant today than it was a year and a half ago.
Here it is.
I remember when buying games wasn't a political statement.
I know I'm venturing dangerously close to get-off-my-lawn territory, but surely you remember too - it wasn't that long ago. Buying a game was casting an economic vote for the kind of content you wanted to see in games - not for the sleazy tricks you'd let publishers and distributors get away with.
We already talked about Diablo III's lack of offline single-player and ban on mods a couple of times. And now it turns out that Batman: Arkham City is placing offline, single-player content - the Catwoman levels - behind an "online pass" that will cost you extra if you buy used and which can only be activated online.
You may really want these games, and may not personally be troubled by the new constraints. Maybe you were going to buy Batman new and only play Diablo online anyway. But you still might be concerned about the precedents being set, and maybe you don't want to spend money saying that these practices are a-okay with you. If so, I know exactly how you feel.
It's a minefield you don't have to worry about with other media. To decide whether to buy a movie or a book or an album or a painting you mostly just have to decide whether you're interested in its content. You don't have to research its delivery method. You never take home a DVD only to find that since you bought it used, you'll have to fork over a couple more bucks if you want to watch the director's commentary. You never buy a book only to find that, as an anti-theft measure, it can only be read while you're in view of a CCTV camera. Recent videogames are unprecedented in that the mechanics of acquiring and consuming their content can vary tremendously and without warning from title to title.
Because we've been long trained by other media that this isn't something you have to look out for, most people don't. How many people buying Arkham City will do so because they've decided they don't mind the online pass - and how many will do it because they walked into a GameStop and—hey, look, Batman! Batman's awesome.
A lot of the economic votes that come in, demonstrating that publishers can pull these tricks and still get our money, are completely uninformed. You and I know these games come with these barbs, because we are interested enough in gaming to read about it online. This places us firmly in the minority. Most people who buy these games have no idea what they're getting themselves into.
Which makes it seem all the sneakier that the boldest of these experiments always seem to come attached to games that a huge number of people are guaranteed to buy anyway. It seems that the more hotly anticipated a game is, the more likely it'll come inextricably attached to a new way to devalue a product in the name of cost cutting or profit protecting.
Okay, actual substantive response: the really scary thing is that I don't agree with the premise that other forms of media are not susceptible to these issues. All digital media can be laden with DRM and other usage restrictions (e.g., as far as I know there's no way to back up Comixology files so you can read them later if you have to wipe your device). So basically this post is right but doesn't go nearly far enough in sounding the alarm about how much we let publishers get away with.
in the sense of a thing that is not formal.
In the age of chivalry,
it referred to a wound that did not require treatment.
This is what Monty Python referenced
with the Black Knight’s insistence that
“It’s just a flesh wound!”
The usage shifted when “formality”
ceased to mean a wound that required attention
and started to mean
something that a lawyer didn’t want you
to think too hard about.
A 20-year-old college student has rebuilt Portal, Valve's 2007 space-bending game, from the ground up, on—wait for it—a graphing calculator. In a display that puts the old calculator versions of Mario and Tetris to shame, Alex Marcolina posted to a gaming forum and reddit on Sunday about his re-engineered version of Portal. It took three years to build and cannot, due to resource constraints on TI-83/84 calculators, execute more than 16 kilobytes of code.
When Marcolina set out to rebuild Portal on TI’s graphing calculator platform, he was 17. Now, he’s a 20-year-old game design major at UC-San Diego who programs games mainly for computers, but likes to dabble in graphing calculator games on occasion because it's “a fun challenge to make a game for a platform that is not supposed to even support games."
The native language for the TI-83 and 84 calculators is called TiBasic. But when it comes to making games, creators favor a language called Axe, developed by a member of the calculator and PC gaming forum Omnimaga. Marcolina points out the syntax for Axe is “very loose, but it allows for good optimization in the translation from code to assembly.”
To represent portal travel, Marcolina told Ars he had to create two separate sets of variables: x and y for regular space, and i and j for “Portal Space” (when the player is moving through a portal). i represents how far into the portal the player is, and j the side-to-side movement relative to the portal.
The entire source code for the project is freely available, but Marcolina highlights the physics portion for us here:
: If R
: !If I-1
The subroutine GO converts normal space coordinates to “Portal Space” for the entrance portal, while RO does the opposite for the exiting portal. When the player is only partially through the portal, the code draws a “shadow object” on the exiting side, but the player’s position is only moved once they’re entirely through.
Subroutine M represents the fun part: the satisfying launches through the air players can achieve by dropping through portals from high up on a ledge. M dictates how the game redirects the player’s velocity when going through the exit portal based on how fast they were going when entered the other side, but translated to the direction of the new portal.
Marcolina told Ars the code governing the portal gun and placement of portals was more complex than the bit controlling how the player moves. As in the original Portal, portals can’t be placed anywhere, but instead must be “bumped” from the location they’re shot to fit with the geometry of the level. “There needs to be a good amount of code in place to make sure the portals don’t get bumped into invalid locations, or even outside the level,” Marcolina said.
An implementation of the TI-83 version of the Portal physics engine from when Marcolina first began developing the game.
Marcolina also had to attempt to replicate the characteristic Portal level design, but under severe memory constraints (graphing calculators are barely modern devices any more, having only just recently gotten color screens). Apps in a graphing calculator are limited to executing 16 kilobytes of code, a severe constraint given the amount of animation involved, Marcolina said.
Overall, he favored levels that are more mentally challenging, like the earlier levels of the original Portal, rather than the later levels that require good timing and hand-eye coordination. “Levels that require extreme dexterity to solve wouldn’t work very well due to the less than optimal control,” Marcolina said.
While programming for graphing calculators admittedly doesn’t give Marcolina’s work a wide reach, he points out that the constraints of the platform teach him to be a better coder. “Oftentimes on computers, when you are first learning to code, going the lazy way has little effect on the end result because computers are so fast anyway that you can't tell the difference,” he said. “But on a calculator you have to work very hard to make sure you make every last instruction of your code be as useful as possible.”
When a magnitude 6.8 earthquake shook Olympia, Wash., in 2001, shopowner Jason Ward discovered that a sand-tracing pendulum had recorded the vibrations in the image above.
Seismologists say that the "flower" at the center reflects the higher-frequency waves that arrived first; the outer, larger-amplitude oscillations record the lower-frequency waves that arrived later.
"You never think about an earthquake as being artistic -- it's violent and destructive," Norman MacLeod, president of Gaelic Wolf Consulting in Port Townsend, told ABC News. "But in the middle of all that chaos, this fine, delicate artwork was created."
President Obama is using a Cold War-era mind-control technique known as "Delphi" to coerce Americans into accepting his plan for a United Nations-run communist dictatorship in which suburbanites will be forcibly relocated to cities. That's according to a four-hour briefing delivered to Republican state senators at the Georgia state Capitol last month.
On October 11, at a closed-door meeting of the Republican caucus convened by the body's majority leader, Chip Rogers, a tea party activist told Republican lawmakers that Obama was mounting this most diabolical conspiracy. The event—captured on tape by a member of the Athens-based watchdog Better Georgia (who was removed from the room after 52 minutes)—had been billed as an information session on Agenda 21, a nonbinding UN agreement that commits member nations to promote sustainable development. In the eyes of conservative activists, Agenda 21 is a nefarious plot that includes forcibly relocating non-urban-dwellers and prescribing mandatory contraception as a means of curbing population growth. The invitation to the Georgia state Senate event noted the presentation would explain: "How pleasant sounding names are fostering a Socialist plan to change the way we live, eat, learn, and communicate to 'save the earth.'"
The meeting consisted of a PowerPoint presentation followed by a 90-minute screening of the anti-Agenda 21 documentary, Agenda: Grinding America Down. It was emceed by Field Searcy, a local conservative activist who was forced out of the Georgia Tea Party in April due to his endorsement of conspiracy theories about the president's birth certificate and the collapse of World Trade Center Tower 7. The presentation also featured a special video cameo from conservative talking-head Dick Morris in which the former Clinton aide warns that Obama "wants to force everyone into the cities from whence our ancestors fled."
About 23 minutes into the briefing, Searcy explained how President Obama, aided by liberal organizations like the Center for American Progress and business groups like local chambers of commerce, are secretly using mind-control techniques to push their plan for forcible relocation on the gullible public:
They do that by a process known as the Delphi technique. The Delphi technique was developed by the Rand Corporation during the Cold War as a mind-control technique. It's also known as "consensive process." But basically the goal of the Delphi technique is to lead a targeted group of people to a pre-determined outcome while keeping the illusion of being open to public input.
How perilous is the situation? Here's a slide from the presentation comparing Obama's record to that of Mao and Stalin:
Courtesy of Better GeorgiaObama, of course, has taken no steps to bring the United States under the control of a United Nations sustainable-development-themed dictatorship. (Environmental groups complain that he hasn't even taken sufficient action to combat climate change.) But that hasn't stopped state legislatures and local conservative groups from taking aim at the perceived threat. In May, the Kansas Legislature approved a resolution blocking Agenda 21 from being implemented in its state, following in the footsteps of Tennessee. Rogers, the Georgia Senate majority leader, introduced legislation in January that would have blocked the nonbinding UN resolution from being applied to his state. Among other things, the resolution noted that, "according to the United Nations Agenda 21 policy, social justice is described as the right and opportunity of all people to benefit equally from the resources afforded by society and the environment which would be accomplished by socialists and communist redistribution of wealth."
If it seems as if Rogers is just repeating John Birch Society conspiracies, he is—literally. As in Tennessee, large portions of his 2012 bill, SR 270, were lifted word-for-word from draft legislation prepared by the Birchers.
But as Seth Clark, the Better Georgia volunteer who filmed the Capitol conspiracy bash, points out, Rogers' warning extended well beyond the actions of liberal politicians. According to one slide that was featured at the presentation, "Smart Growth and Sustainable Development are often promoted by NGO's, Chambers of Commerce and [public–private partnerships] that are unelected and unaccountable to the people." In August, when the Georgia Chamber of Commerce handed out its official grades for state legislators, Rogers got an A+.
Apparently the conspiracy is coming from inside the Capitol.
Update, 11/15/12: Rogers defended the presentation in an email to the Cherokee (Ga.) Tribune, noting that the meeting had been requested by constituents. "This is not the first time our office has facilitated this type of request and won’t be the last, I am sure," he said.
Update II: That was quick. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jim Galloway reports that Rogers has withdrawn his name from the Senate majority leader race.