Do You Feel Lucky?

(and feel free to comment! My older posts are certainly no less relevant to the burning concerns of the day.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Trendspotting 2: What's Next For Alterative Anachronism Style Slash Attitude Mashups?

Steampunk's kind of cool, but I think it's time we dug deeper into the antecedents that no doubt must have led to the steampunk revolt in the first place. That's right.

Steamdisco.

Video Game Idea #4: BOSSQUEST: The Embossening

There should be a video game where you ARE the level boss. I mean - that's such an obvious idea, probably there are already several takes on it, but if not, come on. NEEDS TO BE DONE. All you'd do is fucking sit around waiting for these shrimpy quick dudes to come in and try to beat you with their nimbleness, move combos and clever weapons. You'd be all "BUMP!!!!!!! Next."

Well, that's not all you'd do. Despite the perception of most Players, there's a lot more involved in being Boss than waiting around to whomp up on some pipsqueak chump. In between attacks from Players (by the way, when we say "Players," we mean "antagonist character, controlled by the computer but made to resemble the stereotypical player-protagonist of other videogames - right down to the godawful botched jumps and dodge-right-into-the-attack gaffes of the early and inexperienced comers! Players coming at you would show recognizably different improvisations, strategies, and other idiosyncrasies, just like a real Boss has to face), you'd have social time with your minions and various little interaction skits and jokes that would be (for a videogame) quite revolutionary in their fuzzy logic bot personalities, albeit designed not to pass as real people but to incarnate various quirky personalities of video-game underthugs. There would be internecine backstabbing office politics and rivalries to deal with, sure, and non-Player-fighting job tasks assigned that you'll have to juggle, but also water coolor chat, maybe parties with cake for some occasion - a going-away, a birthday whatever. All kinds of stuff you can imagine! The perils of interoffice dating, in a realistic major videogame badguy corporation setting. But don't get too wrapped up in it the milieu because - SUPRISE!!!! HOLY SHIT here comes another level-storming attacker! What the fuck, guys, nobody was out on hall patrol?! Everybody in the party, fuck. Real responsible! The stooges would scatter as much in fear of your wrath as in fear of Player - leaving you to meet the sneak attack at a furious disadvantage, but perhaps: fuck it. You're the Boss. Sometimes, that's the Job.

That's why you make the big bucks. Or whatever form of respect and satisfaction tokens bad guys get paid in, in their pixelated economy.

Character design would be a big key to the appeal. You can imagine the examples I'm sure. You want to push all the way archetypal without slipping over to derivative. You can't go wrong, long as it's got that appeal to it! A big hairy robot in diapers with an eight-month's pregnant belly and a jaunty beret? Sure, why not. Haun! Haun! Haun! Something memorable, something quirky, that's the main thing. It's got to hearken to the idea of what a Big Boss is and a Level Boss aspires to be, again, without blatantly ripping off any single game. There are so many fantastic ideas you could throw up you might as well just pick one and run with it, honestly. In fact, while the main Boss character would be so out-of-the-box kickass that everybody'd love to play it, you can also choose the choose-your-own full-custom feature if you like. People will come up with some FUCKED-UP Boss options, I assure you - and there'd be connectivity via online to share, so your great little self-made guy can go viral! Become beloved and infamous. A lot of different goals to be pursued in this game - but you don't have to, you can ignore the distractions and just focus on being as Boss as you like. Arguably you'll do better on the official scoring.

Gameplay would include a level-up feature that's not just a power-up, it's also a race against the clock versus the powering-up Players. You'd smack the crap out of all comers easy at first, but it gets harder pretty fast. The more you pound fuck out of the intruder with style, flair, brutality, etc. the more your points rack up. The worse the Player gets in hits against you, you're LOSING points (not health bar though - style bar). In short, the longer it takes you to beat enough Players to level up to the next level's Boss (with a power and size beef-up to suit - by the way, all this time you've been EATING the defeated players!), the quicker those incoming attackers are improving in power, skill, guile, and Ken. But then if you can make it to the promotion point YOU take a leap up in toughness - and you're once again easily trashing the initial Players who make it to you. Do it fast while you can, do it with style, do it with cruel taunts and psychological warfare - trick the Player into thinking they've got you cornered and them BOOM. SHITTED ON 'EM! There'd be some interesting attack and defense options, and a fast fun intuitive gameplay. You need every bit of it to realize your goal, and make it all the way to be Big Boss.

By the way, after each promotion but the last, you come into your new Boss Office and there's the previous occupant, now demoted to make room for your rising star - finishes cleaning out their stuff into a big cardboard box, walks past you grumbling, the usual sad story *sniff*. But then to get that final promotion, you have to battle and defeat the Big Boss yourself!

To Be The Boss, you've got to Beat The Boss.

And the real pain-in-the-ass of it is, if you and the Big Boss take too long battling back and forth...guess who's coming to barge in? THE PLAYER.

Which won't go real well for him/her, one suspects. But it'll be a hell of a strategy wrinkle for your fight!

PHASE-TWO SPOILER: speaking of interactivity, the next phase is we go massively multiplayer online, with real humans controlling the attacking Players, all dying to take down and humiliate Bosses and spoil their Boss dreams - starting out weak and playing their way up, against the competition of all the people playing Bosses competing to be the Boss of the higher levels! Rising and falling based on how they do, constantly beating back waves of aggressive players and trying to outmaneuver and outpolitic one's ambitious rivals. In an environment like that, making it to top Big Boss status of the server could conceivably win you the people's ovation and fame forever.

All-in-all, somebody's probably thought of, developed, marketed and sold this same basic concept, but I bet they fucked up and missed all the important parts. Should've called me.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

How Many Languages Does Han Solo Speak, Anyway?

Is it just a coincidence he speaks both Chewie and Greedo? Chewie, sure, he's had all the time in the world to learn. But Greedo's kind of an asshole. Not the kind of dude whose conversation delights are going to tempt anyone to bear down and learn a new language for the pleasure of participation. And: Han speaks Jabba, too? Jabba's clearly not speaking Greedo. True, in his own lines he's speaking human to them, but he clearly understands everything they're jibber-jabbering back at him.

Is Solo some kind of specialist in the languages of Tatooine (with a side of wookie for business and good-buddy purposes), or does he speak a comparable selection of local languages at each of the shithole planets he puts the Falcon into port at? We don't get the impression Solo lives in Tatooine. He's just soaking in the wretched atmosphere of scum and villainy at Mos Eisely, keeping an eye out for an easy score, meanwhile enjoying the jazz scene. He's not there to make a thorough study of tongues.

I'm not saying it's impossible for him to have mastered a few languages. I'm just saying it raises an eyebrow. It's a little convenient. Han's not the type you expect to put all that effort and study in, just to impress a few of these fringe species types with his thoughtful grasp of their beloved mother tongue. Especially given he can't be bothered to answer back in it.

The fact these different folks all understand Han doesn't seem too problematic to me. Realistically, everybody pretty much has to understand English. It's clearly the official State Language. These monocultural and definitely English-speaking Imperials who've been ruling this galaxy with an iron fist aren't going to foster some multi-culti polyglot paradise! That Trooper asks you a question, you better be hip to his jive talk. And I suspect if you can't answer in him back in something he can understand, you may find yourself up shit creek in Dagoba without a Gronkneik.

The more you examine it, the more peculiar Han Solo's love of languages seems. I wish we'd learned a bit more about this guy's backstory.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

The Tough Topics #37: Slavery and the Bee Crisis

Somebody once told me that in Japan, there are no bees, and so all pollination is done by hand. It turns out that's not true, but I'm pretty sure I know who steered me wrong and how it happened. She must have read something to the effect that "In Japan, pollination is done by hand," and took it to mean that it was done ONLY by hand. She then passed that tidbit on to me, in that breathless and plausible way she has, such that I found it amazing instead of merely incredible - result? I didn't look it up. Now, it is true enough that in Japan, pollination is done by hand - but not exclusively, and not only in Japan. Japan does have bees. I apologize to any of you who I may have misled on that score, in the past. Blast my credulity! Blast yours too, while we're at it.

In the process of hunting and pecking around the internet to research this topic, I also came across an interesting and hilarious tidbit: an estimate to the effect that converting the pollination industry from bee-based to humans-only would cost a cool nine-hundred billion dollars.

Estimates like that are delightful to me, because come on. No way would it cost that much! There isn't that much money in the world! Push come to shove, they wouldn't try to spend no nine hundred billion dollars. They'd just bring back slavery.

Easy.

First: make it multiracial, of course. That would kill two birds with one stone, really. You do realize that today, people consider that slavery was wrong because it was racist? It's true! So we fix that. Institute quotas: no racial demographic can be overrepresented by more than 5 percentage points, in a comparison of the general population to the slave population. Once you hit that ceiling, anybody of that racial group wanting to sell themselves into slavery would be turned down cold.

Secondly, no matter what, nobody would be captured and made a slave. That's unjust. It would only be people who have consensually sold themselves into it, due to unpayable student loans, or to avoid a prison sentence, or whatever other reason. Maybe they're investigative journalists, and a little too gung-ho about it? Here's how it would work: they'd sell themselves to the government, and whoever needs the slaves would buy them from the government - sterilized, of course! You can't have slaves breeding. You'd be raising generations of children born into slavery, if you did that. It would destroy the market!

Thirdly, let's put some strict anticruelty laws in place. This is a no-brainer. There needs to be regulation and oversight to ensure slaves are being pampered with plenty of nutritious food, adequate clothing, clean and sanitary living quarters with strict limits on overcrowding. Economies of scale apply: clothing, food and lodging doesn't cost nearly as much as they milk you for it at retail! Cap the work-week at 70 hours at the absolute most, with provisions for holidays and reduced workloads for the elderly - I'm not sure what you'd do about the infirm. Perhaps they could tell stories or sing.

Point is, it's clear these solutions can be come up with. If you don't think people would sell themselves into slavery and not sweat the tradeoff, you may not be paying close attention to what life's like. Would you choose a life of drudge work, no pay, no possibility of advancement, but at least you know you'll be clothed, fed, housed and taken care of? If you are many, many people, you're already choosing all the negatives from that list. If you think people wouldn't willingly consign themselves to what they're already pretty much doing in exchange for a guaranteed standard of living, go "google" recidivism, why don't you. Prisons are drastically overcrowded and, we hear, dangerous places. And in case you don't know, people commit crime just to get back inside: where they know they're clothed, fed, housed, and to some extent, taken care of. They say it's because the person has been institutionalized, from years on the inside.

Wrong. It's because the outside is a far worse institution than prison, for many, many people. We will have no shortage of crop pollinators (among other trades), and it won't cost no nine-hundred billion dollars.

But hold on there!

Maybe the crisis won't end up requiring such creative measures, you say? Rather than change the very structure of how we view (or claim to) human life, wouldn't it be more prudent to not? And if it happens, won't the problem take care of itself, as all things do? Five or ten years after the agriculture crash, what we've got left will be - at that point - a sustainable population, won't it?

I have to admit, you're right, there. Some would argue, better to preserve our essential liberties for posterity, in that case - rather than trade 'em all away now, over some b.s. current-events crisis that ten years from now will find itself all taken care of. Isn't it time for us to cure ourselves of the stereotypical modern-era curse of shortsightedness?

Far and away the best solution would be, of course: bees. And plenty of 'em. Bees are better than nine hundred billion dollars that we don't have.

Bees are better than slavery, too. Anyone arguing otherwise has something wrong with them.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Video Game Pitch #3 (I think): FUTURE SOCIOPATH

One time I thought a great videogame would be called "Future Sociopath" and you'd start out as a toddler pulling wings off flies and progress from there. You know how one of the common childhood backgrounds to violent sociopaths is torturing and killing helpless creatures? Lack of empathy? Etc.? It would be like that. Perhaps you could even boost sales piggybacking off the success of Grand Theft Auto by implying it could easily be a prequel.

Yes, we all know that the link between childhood sadism towards animals and violent, dissociative adult behavior has been questioned, some say discredited, and that there's little hard diagnostic correlation to support the claim, but the idea is pretty well imbedded in our web of pop culture pop psychology notions - and isn't that half the whole fun of videogames to have some fun with our collective myths?

Also, if we can get young people to play the game it could keep them from doing it for real. Sometimes, you really don't want Johnny to go play outside.