WazHack : Initial Review

I had dreamed of a game like this once, while hallucinating and battling a gelatinous blob as I randomly teleported around a level, desperately searching for food, or some way to take off cursed a ring of levitation so I could finally descend further into the dungeon.

Games come in various levels of difficulty. Nowadays, this constantly shifting difficulty level is a feature of many top developers (witness Diablo 3 2.0). Back in the old days it was different. They didn’t have billions of processor cycles and trillions of bits upon which to store their results and speculations. Processing power was costly, storage was scarce and slow, and limits like those create difficulties that a sliding scale can never match.

Nethack is a game that is nearly as old as my sentience, the former having come into existence three years after the latter. [ http://www.nethack.org/ ] It’s one of those games I turn to when nothing else was particularly interesting, or I needed a bit of humbling. The first few trips down the dungeon end badly for you. There’s no way around that. After ten or twenty tries things start to make sense, and you start to develop strategies on how to stay alive. How to decide what potions to drink and what scrolls to read…remembering quite vividly the characters you lost to recklessly imbibing everything you came across.

Sure, that amulet you just found *could* be an amulet of regeneration, or even one of resurrection…but it could also be a cursed amulet of strangulation, both impossible to breath through or take off.

Such were the conundrums of Nethack, which is why I have always described it as “Diamond Hard”. There’s no easy level. There’s no “beginner”. No “I’ve never played an RPG before”, or “I’ve played a couple RPGs” mode. Or even “Nightmare” or “Bring it On” option. No, back in the day it was simpler.

There was only life and death. There’s only one mode…Nethack. You have one character. You play it until it dies. No “real time” or any other nonsense, the game doesn’t move until you do, but the game does move *every time* you do. If you can run faster, you can run away. If you can’t, you die. You get to sit there, and think about it. Think about *every thing you do*, knowing there is *probably* a way to survive, but most likely you will die.

And eventually you do.*

Then you decide if you can face the emotional toll again to start over. All those decisions, and even then you couldn’t save him/her from the perils of the dungeons. If only you had, or you had that, or had gone this way, or read that, or who knows what. If only….

When I *can’t* face that loss again…that’s when I set Nethack aside for a while. Sometimes it is just too hard to play. Sometimes those simple decisions that served you well in the past just got your character killed.

Such is life, such is Nethack.

So now you are saying…wait…RPN…I thought this was supposed to be about “WazHack”, or something…why are you talking about a nearly 30 year old text-based game?

That’s because “WazHack” is a modern retelling of an ancient (by gaming standards) story. Because WazHack gets it right. Because it has better graphics (relative terms), and now I know what a “rothe” is supposed to be. It’s not like I haven’t tried clones before…I have whole “Nethack” directory on my gaming page on my linux-based palm computer (calling it a “phone” is such a misnomer at this point)…but this one NAILS IT.

If you have ever tried or enjoyed Nethack, WazHack is for you. If you like HARD games, like “Diamond” hard, WazHack is for you. If you wonder why any game has anything *other than* a Hardcore mode, WazHack is for you.

It’s not for everyone, but if you like this kind of thing, WazHack is the one you want to spend your time exploring.

* or you Win…which I have yet to do with Nethack.

Playing Any PC game on your Phone? Coming Sooner than you think…

The application is called Kainy and was brought to our attention in a comment on the Minecraft: Pocket Edition update article we wrote yesterday. This application is a 2 part program, one part being the actual application for your Android device (the client), and the other being for your PC which streams your games to you as it runs them (the server). Essentially this is your own OnLive network for your own PC games to play on your Android devices.

via Meet Kainy, the application that lets you play PC games on your Android device anywhere.

This is pretty dang awesome.  Letting your phone act as a simple terminal means mostly what it wants is bandwidth, which wifi and/or 4g can bring in spades.

Testing report coming soon…


Nintendo, Electronic Arts and Sony Electronics — some of the largest video game companies in the world — have all pulled their support for an online bill that could encourage censorship online, according to an updated list of supporters of the bill.

Those three companies all supported the Stop Online Piracy Act SOPA when it first entered Congress, according to a report from Joystiq in November.

SOPA, along with the PROTECT IP act in the Senate, give content-producing companies the right to order a take down for a website that they believe is infringing on a copyright. If you even host links to content that infringes on a copyright, you have to take it down

via Now The Largest Game Companies In The World Have Dropped Support For A Bill The Internet Hates.

This bill should die a bad death at this point.  Social media has been somewhat ascendent as of late, and as much as people like to bitch and moan about how shit doesn’t work and everythings broken, and blah, blah, blah…they fail to notice the little victories.

They fail to notice the beach as the tide rolls out.

Keep fighting internets.  You wins somes, you lose sums, but as long as you keep fighting for what you believe in, there is no way to truly lose the war (as far as one can know).

Let’s win this one…for the children *AND* the lulz.

Battlefield 3 : Unboxing, Downloading, and Hardcore Mode

RPN is officially up to spec when it comes to games.  It has been something of a struggle to keep up in the ever crushening economy, but as per, it’s worth it.  Proof of point is in the following two videos.  This is significant as to the level of “virtual reality” 12.4 GHZ of processing power tied together with 8GB of superfast memory (2 of it dedicated solely to drawing and physics) can create in real time (for under $1G, mind you, 27″  monitor included ).   Computers of similar abilities will cost about half this much in 18 months, and be called consoles once again.

But enough preamble, RPN Gaming is live once again.  Here’s the proof.

Normally I like to try and finish a game before doing a full review. In this case, if you think about war as hardcore mode.  Here’s my full Battlefield 3 experience.

NOTE: The above video is also a nod to the curious, and some may say “flippant” nature of the curious crossover of the content of this site…that is…international politics and video games.   While the events portrayed and the re-imagined in the gaming world are never to be confused as the real thing, they can often offer a visceral insight into the nature of certain real life events.

Hardcore mode…IRL there’s no turning it off.

SIDENOTE: For some damn reason EA makes you install Origin (their “Steam-alike”) in order to install and play Battlefield 3.  This is, IMHO, utter crap.  It crashed updating, and wouldn’t let me install from the DVD’s forcing a 5-hour download of  a game I bought at the store.  Not to mention that, as present, Origin is in freaking BETA.   For those not familiar with software code words, that means “it crashes a lot and for no apparent reason, use with caution.”  As that software is the foundation of the B3 experience…right now it sucks.

Game Review ToDo

I mentioned in this post that this year was to be a bit more focused on gaming.    Below is my New Year’s Resolution Review List.  These are games that I’ve missed or not worked my way through and would like to give it a shot in 2011.  Many of these I came across in the Steam Holiday sale.  I figure these should hold me over for at least the next six months or so, if not longer.

There are a number of older games on the list.  I think this is more of a feature than a bug.  PC gaming, in particular affords a longer shelf life than most consoles can imagine.  One of the benefits of Moore’s Law is that each successive computing generation is easily capable of emulating the previous one.  Hence, with a bit of work, we can still enjoy those 2600 and C64 games to this day.  I’m not going to go back that far, but I wanted to get a good review of the decade in gaming, so there are certainly some elderly titles on the todo list*.

I’m hoping to spend an official week with each title (although my real life gaming will skew and Diablo 3 comes out this year, so at least one month is already spoken for) and do the review after that.

Here goes, in no particular order (other than alphabetical):

1) Alien Breed 3: Descent (have a weakness for these style games)

2) Amnesia : The Dark Descent (I like games that start off by telling you not to try and win them)

3) Arcania: Gothic 4 (almost done, should be an early review)

4) Archon Classic (a classic, like it says)

5) Batman: Arkham Asylum (very good, and a complete anomaly in major IP titles)

6) Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (oh yeah)

7) Battlestations: Midway (came in a publisher pack..no idea)

8) Battlestations: Pacific (see above)

9) blur (Rock’n’Roll Racing update)

10) Burnout Paradise (fun driving time)

11) Commander Keen (the id original)

12) Conflict Denied Ops (eh..no idea)

13) Counter Strike Source (my review will most likely be me getting slaughtered for a week, but there ya go)

14) Dark Messiah of Might and Magic (already gone halfway through this)

15) Depths of Peril (love the concept not sure on the execution)

16) Deus Ex GOTY Edition (yeah…just wanted to relive a classic and compare)

17) Deus Ex Invisible War (never did this one)

18) Disciples II : Rise of Elves/Gallena’s Return (softspot for these style games)

19) Doom 3 (I think I already have this review, have to dig it up…did a first person review, quite fun).

20) Evlen Legacy (various expansion…got this on a lark…we’ll see)

21) Empire : Total War (played the first few scenarios…wow).

22) Everyday Shooter (this’ll be an off week, I already have this one down).

23) Front Mission Evolved (Giant Robots, 3rd Person shooter)

24) Guardians of Graxia (again, softspot).

25) Gyromancer (RPG * Bejewled = Hours gone).

…second half coming tomorrow…


*Oh and by “review” I mean a bit more lengthy analysis of the qualities and weaknesses of particular titles.  In the PC gaming world, I think a more accurate picture can be taken once a game is *final*, not once it is *gold*.   So this isn’t the place to find  glowing reviews of the latest greatest slightly tweaked sequel, but more of a long-term view.  Like someone forced, forced I say, to play games until the end of time.

Holy Crap! Videogames! (RPN in 2011)

My very, very, very bad there.   You see I, uh, well, there was this thing, and I got involved with it, and stuff happened afterward (largely having to do with the eight years previous), I lost things and sold things and moved and pawned things, and sold things, and moved and on and on and on.  Long sentence short, I’m finally comfortable again…AND GAMING.

You see, this website is supposed to be about two main themes, international politics and videogames.   It’s a strange mix, but I love them both, and have that passion so I figured it would work out.

Then I stopped having the time and space and internet to game and writing about a loved hobby that I didn’t currently know (the pre-requisite for all adequate and above quality writing) seemed foolish.

That, friends, neighbors and virtual enemies, has changed.  And I’ve everything I need; 1)2TB of external drive space, 2) a Steam account, 3) a steady job to use 2 to fill 1, 4) a good hookup makes it all better, and 5) my own dang room to play in.   In other words, Gaming Nirvana: A Place I Could Stay Forever*.

So expect my frequent diatribes regarding the stagnation of my nation and my observations of the world in which it resides to be interspersed with game reviews and stuff like this… (oh yea, I got a new camera too, FINALLY)…

Just as a general comparison..that video by itslef is up to about 300,000 views…the site itself almost 100K…seems perhaps my mass market talents ain’t in ranting.  But we’ll see (going to be doing more live video on that front too in 2011).  Fair warning for my fans and foes alike, RPN is back and tearing up the nets (and yes, I’m “RobotPirateNinja” or “RobotPiratNinja” on every major gaming service**)

My tastes in games is much like my taste in information, wide, varied, and skewed towards both the independent and high quality.   I’ve been gaming since I was about 5, and cut my teeth on the 2600 (my internet teeth on 2600) and games built in 64K.  That’s 65,536 bytes.  My new hard drive has 2,199,023,255,552.   Or so…roughly.   Gaming has gone infinite, so I want to pick through the good stuff and play with that.

And, of course, tell y’all about it.

*  Not to be confused with Gaming Paradise, which is all the above but upgraded.  You can imagine it in your mind…no…better than that…keep going…keeeeep going….almost there…

** Except for the PS3.  None of that Japan crap ’round these parts (sorry, practicing my smack talking skills…kids today are rather crass).

3DS Coming Early 2011

Kinda sorta excited about this one.

Nintendo’s 3DS, the first portable game device with a 3D screen, will go on sale in Japan on Feb. 26 next year, the company said Wednesday.

The 3DS will cost ¥25,000 (US$298), Satoru Iwata, Nintendo’s president, told a packed news conference in Chiba, near Tokyo. It will launch in Europe, Australia and the U.S. in March. Precise details will be announced by local Nintendo subsidiaries at a later date. (A video of the announcement has been posted at YouTube.)

The device has a screen that doesn’t require the user to wear 3D glasses. Instead, a filter over the display splits the on-screen image and sends slightly different images towards the user’s right and left eyes, providing the illusion of depth.

I’m not so excited about the price, however.  $300 for a Gameboy is a bit steep.  I was slightly surprised to hear that Nintendo has been getting hammered as of late in the marketplace…

Nintendo had sold 132 million of the portable devices from the launch through June this year, but recently sales have been slipping. Between April and June this year, quarterly sales of the device dropped by almost half.

Then I looked at my own gaming habits concerning the DS and realized why…the iPhone/iPad/Droid phenom is now competing directly with the DS in the handheld market.   Most of my handheld gaming in 2010 has been on a smartphone, and the DS has been largely gathering dust.

Will 3-D breathe some life back into the dedicated handheld gaming device market?   If you count the number of qualifiers I had to put on that market segment, you probably won’t be surprised about my conclusion: not likely.  

NOTE: this is without actually seeing the 3DS in action.  If the 3D is good enough to change the game, I’m probably wrong.  If it’s even slightly less than amazing, the Gameboy is probably dead as a long term platform.

NOTE2: I’m curious to see how they are going to try and market this thing.  By its very nature, 3D applications can’t be represented accurately in 2D media, so only a hands-on test will let people know how this thing works in the real world.

Clearing off the desktop…

…sometimes I fall behind.  So to catch up, I just dump a lot of stuff with short commentary and reboot the browsers so my computer can think again.

Here goes…

First up is an acknowledgement of the change to Arizona law.  This took away the worst of it, but I’d expect the rest to be bad enough to fall on its own.

Here’s some of the local reaction to the immigration law.  The march took place before the changes.

Some Fox revisionism.  Seriously, WTF.

The smoke monster gets lose in the gulf.

They caught some guy who doesn’t know how to make a good bomb.

Who did what now?  You don’t say.

Federal money is only *sometimes* evil.  How very Hindu of you

No need for that extra $130 for a 3G iPad.  $99 3G iPhone works fine.

Some speculation by a sci-fi guy about Jobs hatred of flash.

More on the immigration law change in Arizona.

Tattle tales!  How silly.   I say let people strip in the name on art, like that.  This’ll get tossed.

The global warming witchhunt continues in VA via the Cooch.

A good Street Fighter movie? Unpossible.  Possible…

It’s like a cliche now.

The Tea Party takes the Republicans to a new dimension, and beyond.

The alternate question about who “introduced” nukes to the Middle East.

Wonderful reading about the longest living organism(s).

Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand Died, and Andrew Ryan Created Rapture (an exploration of a lack of morality in economics)

I’ve recently had the pleasure of playing through Bioshock a second time, and, well, I’m more blown away than I was the first time.   The first time through I largely missed the story, simple following instructions and playing through.  On the second I sat and listened more closely, and enjoyed it quite a bit more.

Allegedly a first-person-shooter, Bioshock could be better viewed as a story about what happens when morality is removed from science, and when ‘the market’ is given full sway over the running of a society.  A cautionary tale about what can go wrong when ego runs amuck, Bioshock is perhaps the single greatest artistic deconstruction of Rand’s “philosophy.”

In “Bioshock” the game is set in an underwater creator’s paradise called “Rapture”.  In “Atlas Shrugged” the paradise is called “Galt’s Gulch.”   The main question of the book Atlas Shrugged is the simple query, “Who is John Galt?”   Adorned on poster’s throughout Rapture is a similar query, “Who is Atlas?”  There are, most likely, agreat many more literary references in the games, but alas, it’s been a long time since I waded through Rand’s thousand page rants.

UPDATE: Someone put a good video together of Andrew Ryan’s speeches.  These are interspersed throught the game.

The storyline of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead is largely the same.  A true creator wishes to by unimpeded by petty morals and government and any social economic concerns, and strives for a Utopian idealistic objective existence, free from the influence of others.   What makes the Bioshock storyline so interesting is that it begins as the Randian ideal society (“Rapture”) is falling apart after new wrinkle is thrown into the equation.

In Bioshock, this wrinkle is embodied in a type of sea slug that creates “Adam” a gene mutating/controlling substance refined and implemented outside of pesky government institutions like the FDA or FBI.  All that matters is that it works for some people and there is a market for it.  Sure, it drives people crazy and kills a few of them, but in the truly free Randian market, it is the buyer who must totally beware. The concept of product liability is an item left for the courts, of which there are none is Rapture, because who wants pesky judges deciding what is allowable and what is not.  “Let the market decide” is the mantra of the objectivist, and of Andrew Ryan, Bioshock’s very own John/Howard Galt/Roark.

The problem with such concepts, and of Objectivism in particular, is that they essentially boil down to “might makes right.”   This is easy to see in the objectivist viewpoint as illustrated by Rand herself.

If you want this translated into simple language, it would read: 1. “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed” or “Wishing won’t make it so.” 2. “You can’t eat your cake and have it, too.” 3. “Man is an end in himself.” 4. “Give me liberty or give me death.”

The biggest problem with this is in Number 3, which completely misses the fact that in order for something to be “true” in any objective sense, it must both be stated as a proposition and agreed upon by another.  One man simply shouting the truth and assuming it to be the whole truth, is invariably alone and a bit whacked in the head.    A single perspective simply cannot hold in the face of the fullness of reality.  One viewpoint does not a complete picture make.

Indeed, as Rand illustrates in her further explanation…

  1. Reality exists as an objective absolute—facts are facts, independent of man’s feelings, wishes, hopes or fears.
  2. Reason (the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses) is man’s only means of perceiving reality, his only source of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his basic means of survival.
  3. Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.

…there is no place for emotion or love in this philosophy.  To love oneself is a good thing, but this love is demonstrated in service to others, and those that show no love for others, demonstrate a lack of love for themselves.   In Rand’s philosophy, to show love and provide service for another is a bad thing.  Indeed, it is often considered the worst thing.

To be sure, there should be a fair exchange rate for services agreed upon, and Rand tries to deal with this in her fourth bullet point.

4. The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. The government acts only as a policeman that protects man’s rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders. In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.

These concepts, as stated, are completely contradictory when put into practice, as Bioshock illustrates so graphically.  How can a state and economics not be mixed?  What does this look like the real world?   Who is it that guarantees these freedoms?   Obviously Rand relies on government as arbiter, but doesn’t want to pay for it, as all taxation is considered “theft.”  The only way government can be an enforcer of rules is if it has the power to enforce them.  The only way it can have that power is through underwriting and regulating the economic system of a country, and basically being the biggest player at the table.  Someone, or something has to keep the playing field level for a market to stay stable.  Without a regulating force, the table becomes tipped and the little stack loses to the big stack, to draw a Hold ‘Em analogy, more often than a level playing would predict.

As we have seen recently in the United States and global capital markets, without the oversight of someone, then there will always be that weak link, that greedy man lost to himself.  The problem of objectivism when applied to the real world is that there is always someone like Bioshock’s “Fontaine,” ready to break one rule (the violence one) in order to follow the other rule (one’s own happiness is the highest good).

The compromise that free people of the world have settled upon is giving up that ultimate power to a system of government that, throug a series of checks and balances, reaches a certain type of stability.  Perhaps the greatest single sign of this, in the U.S. at least, is the very well entrenched notion that ulitmate power is limited by time.  Yes, a President can do many things in the name of peace and security (like go to war and spy on their own citizens), but in time that power fades, as the time is added to the equation.  Naturally limiting a temporary imbalance of power.

It is in this time dimension that the power becomes balanced, as it allows the system to change and adjust itself in a natural feedback loop of democracy [1].   Truly despotic systems have to be, essentially, stable ones.  It is only through a long term, stable vision of despotism (viewed as one individual’s utopia), backed by the ultimate power of the state, wherein one’s dreams (other’s nightmares) can be realized.  In this aspect the entire world owes a favor to George Washington, and any other “first” leader who follows him, in that they demonstrated how to relinquish the reigns of power as dictated by the laws of the state.

To humble themselves before the law, they make the changing law supreme, and not the fickle will of man.

[1]The only constant is change, to put it poetically, and it is our own limited lifespans that create the need for a moral, a.k.a. emotional, element in the system.   This is not to say that the emotional element should dominate the system, as system dominated by morals dictated from the top tend to eat themselves as they bask in their own greatness (i.e. the divine right of Kings), but morality is an essential part of any stable system.

And “morality” is a shared sense of the goodness (and badness) of things.

Objectivism, and “Rapture” both fail in this regard, as morality and emotion are necessary part of any stable economic system.  Without them the system will eat itself eventually and often much sooner than much later.

Like it says in the title…from International Politics to Video Games.


General advice on playing Bioshock: Hack everything, especially turrets and camera.   Use that wrench to save ammo. Then use ammo liberally on the Big Bros.   Take pictures of everything, especially Houdini’s (it makes it a lot easier to reload when you are invisible) and Big Bros (any help you can get with kicking their ass is appreciated).  Act morally toward the Little Sisters, as it matters in the end how you treat the weak and defenseless…

FINAL SPOILER:  The Best of Andrew Ryan.