Patent woes

I don’t normally do this, but sometimes I just have to comment on something that isn’t even remotely connected to videogames, and as you might expect, this is that special moment. Feel free to skip this post if you’re a heartless bastard, though!

We’re good? Well then, here, have this video. No, I instist:

Ah, yes, the moral complexities of capitalism…. I’m sorry, but if you have to ask “Is it good that one given company controls and has the complete monopoly of the cure for X disease?” then you’re doing it wrong, even if said company put lots of money into developing said cure. I have no sympathy for the people and companies that want to control health care and turn it from a right of every human being into a way to make money off of the ill. Oh, hey, and if you’re poor? You’re on your own buddy! After all, your condition as a living and breathing human starts to blur the moment you say you have not enough money.

Capitalism!

5 Horrible but possible games

Let’s have a bit of fun.

This is a list of games I came up with that showcase in one way or another a currently trending idea done horribly, horribly wrong. If the idea was already wrong in the first place, rest assured that I’ll take it to unimaginable extremes. So without further ado, let’s submerge into this delightful sea of awfulness:

  1. Call of Mario: Modern Hero. A gritty remake based on the mario franchise where our titular hero has been converted from a plucky italian plumber into an american silent space marine hacker. His goal is to infiltrate the ‘tubes of the internets via a virtual reality device and deactivate the bomb called “princess” that is under North Korean control. The virtual space is, of course, rendered exactly like a WWII battlefield except with neon lights all over the place. His virtual gun of choice is a flamethrower that shoots balls of fire that bounce around. The last boss is a beefed up giant Kim Jong-il that resembles a naked ape with a red tie. Also, at the end of the game it is revealed that Mario in real life has no legs because irony.
  2. Tomb Raider’s Beach Volleyball Party. After the success of the new game in the franchise and the dire economic state of the company, Square decides to give the audience what they want: a T&A extravaganza. Share pictures and video with your friends via facebook! One hand controls! Take Lara on a date and receive bonus points for never pointing the camera above her chest and crotch. Be complimented by Lara for being socially awkward! Be amazed at how creepy the achievements can get! Hint: Stare at Lara’s boobs for more than 2 hours straight while wanking (requires kinect). Oh yeah, and also there is, like, volleyball and stuff.
  3. xPerience: Assembled. User content is the holy grail of videogames. You’ve seen minecraft, right? You thought that was special? We’ve gone the extra mile! Unlike them, we don’t underestimate our audience. Of course they can build a game if you give them the tools. We? We go way beyond that. We let the community build the tools too! In fact, we demand it! For only 60$ you can also be a part of this new revolution! (Content: MSDOS assembly language compiler and a link to the user manual in the official page).
  4. World of Assassins. Freemium MMO where  there are no monsters or bosses or quests. The only way to earn experience is by murdering other player characters. Once dead, the only way to revive it is by paying an amount equal to the level of the character, which not only revives the character but also makes it gain one level. The experience gained is directly proportional to the level of the murdered character. New players have no levels and only give out 1 experience point when murdered (for reference: 100 are needed to level up to level 1). Tiny differences in level translate into massive differences in fire power.
  5. Tetris: Hardcore Edition. Tetris with physics. Blocks rotate incrementally instead of direct 90 degree turns, other rules and controls stay the same. Drop down to the floor in fetal position and weep profusely.

If you’ve seen some of the videogame news, you might have guessed what triggered this post. If you haven’t, here’s the summarized version: There were some people that tried to “remake” megaman into a gritty and  generic first person shooter. No, I’m not kidding. Weep with me for the state of humanity.

Simulated life: A thought experiment

Are we inside a simulation? Maybe. Maybe not. We really don’t know and I don’t think there’s ever going to be a definitive answer to that question. Of course, it doesn’t actually matter if all our universe is being simulated by another one of higher complexity than ours, but it really is an interesting topic to think about.

I’ve been watching tons of physics videos on the tubes of you (more than a 100 actually … it’s become kind of a hobby) and an interesting concept settled in the back of my mind. You see, a computer simulation of a system can be a very complex thing, the more rules you input into the system the more behaviours you can get out of it*. The problem is, the way you specify and store things like position and point in time can’t be infinitely precise, the simulation can’t have an infinite amount of data for one point in space, so the simulation has to have a certain limited level of precision. The more precision there is, the more storage each value will take up and the more interesting the system can potentially be. Ideally you’d want the minimum distance possible to be a really tiny length.

So far so good, right? The thing is, we are almost positively sure that in our universe there’s a minimum length of distance that we call Planck length. It is also theorized that the time that light takes to travel a planck length is possibly the smallest time possible, so both time and space would have a definitive and limited precision. Granted, it’s a completely ridiculous precision but it still isn’t infinite.

As it turns out, everything in the universe could be finite: energy, mass, gravity, magnetic forces, etc. I don’t know enough on the subject to know if there’s a defined minimum unit for each of these things, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there is.

As far as we know, there’s nothing that prevents our universe from being simulated completely on all levels. It opens the question that I’ve started this post with but it also opens the possibility that one day we’ll be able to simulate life. Digital life. Digital sentient life. Just the imagine how much computational power that would take, how much storage we would need and how complex the rules that govern such a system would be.

Now backtrack on that thought and keep in mind that more computational power than what we have now would certainly help, but that would only speed up the simulation; by itself it doesn’t validate or invalidate it. Also, storage is quite plentiful in our current level of technological advancement, but even if that’s not enough we could shrink the precision used for the values we would be storing. By doing that we would be shrinking the possibility space for the simulation but how much precision is needed for life to manifest? That’s probably impossible to know for sure, at least until we try. So, truly the only thing that prevents us from reaching the simulation of life is that we don’t yet comprehend how everything works inside our own universe, especially the physics at microscopic scales.

Think about that for a second: The day that we comprehend how the universe works is the day that we as a species will be able to create digital life.

I don’t know about you but I find this to be an interesting thought.

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*Yes, you can input contradictory rules or things like that that could simplify things instead of the other way around, but that’s besides the point I’m trying to make.

Developing a website with php

For the past few weeks I’ve been developing a website using the javascript, html, css and php languages. This is not the first time I’ve delved into the depths of web development, but only now can I say that I can see the whole picture. Each language behaves differently, each one has its fair share of annoyances and problems and each one interconnects with the other in weird ways.

I could go on and on about how stupid css is, how counter-intuitive it is and how it manages to defy common sense with strange rules and interactions that turn a simple task into a giant mess of code. What could be done with one simple attribute has to be done with an escheresque contraption of divs and overlapping attributes. I am not making this up. Seriously.

And THAT’s how you make the footer stick to the bottom of the page. Easy, right?

But I’m not here to talk about how horrible css is. Yes, css is broken. Yes, css should die in a fire and be replaced with another language that understands what its suppossed to do and does it well. But the important thing is, css is NOTHING compared to php.

I am not the first one to recognize this.

And I have nothing else to add. That link says it all. I’m serious, look at that mountain of text and tell me with a straight face that there’s anything that I could possibly add to that.

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Thinking aloud

Interpretation, the act of putting together the information observed from a work and extrapolating more information out of it. An unchecked and uncontrolled event. The creator and the interpreter are both part of the process and need to collaborate indirectly to create what amounts to a basic form of communication. A form of communication that works somewhat like a the game of telephone. No control, true, but there is guidance, there is misdirection.

Even when there is no information deliberately hidden and implied by the creator, the audience will always be able to form new information, new theories. All media can be interpreted and the audience will come up with a cornucopia of new information derived from the same work. To experience a piece of media, the act of interpretation is a required process to understand what is going on, even when the author intends to make the experience as cinematic as possible, to require as little interpretation as possible, to appeal to every single human on the face of the earth by requiring as little thinking as possible. On that extreme side of the spectrum, interpretation is still not only possible, but a given. We search for stories, for correlation, for new information that is trying to be communicated, especially when there seems to be none on the surface. No work can be devoid of meaning because the creator says so, the audience is in control.

Without an audience, there is no meaning, there is no communication and there is no purpose.

Deliberately obscuring information for the audience to extrapolate can be a powerful tool of engagement but also an invitation to be insulted. What the hell does THAT mean? Another member of the audience forever lost to the impenetrable material. “Pretentious”, a word used with amazing frequency when a work is intended for interpretation. To be pretentious, to try to sound more intelligent than one truly is. To try to sell vacuous crap as deeply meaningful art. The line between obscure with a purpose and obscure as a masquerade seems impossible to define. Case by case, sure, the line may be clear, but one cannot generalize. Yelling “Pretentious!” without even digging, without trying to understand what’s being said is a sign of laziness. Stereotypical response to a seemingly stereotypical material. But still, a work is not defined by its author, but by the audience. They are the ones that can decide whether a work is pretentious or not. Consensus is a rare state to end up in and time has told us that it doesn’t last long.

All is well and good, but why the hell am I writing in this weird semi-pretentious quasi stream of consciousness style? The answer is quite simple actually, but I’d rather leave that to interpretation.

Let’s get haptic

I think there’s something that is crucially  missing from the vast majority of electronics, and that something is tactile feedback.  Many experiments have come and gone but the only remaining haptic technology that everyone embraces is the almighty rumble (some seriously stupid decisions that were followed by the expected backpedaling notwithstanding).

So it is with great joy that I present to you the latest haptic tech that could actually be used by a real human being.

It even looks like it might not need many modifications to be released as a final controller.

We’ll see if this catches on or not … I sure hope it does.