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[Review] Ranking all the Switch shmups Ep25 - Q-YO Blaster
There was a time when I believed that shmups could only feature ships. Then games like Parodius came to challenge that belief. If an Octopus can be the player, then anything is possible. And don’t get me started on Cho Aniki… When it comes to unusual characters for a shmup, it’s always a coin toss. They could either be the most fun you’ve had in a while or end up being a disappointment. Time for me to toss this coin! Publisher: Forever entertainment Platform: Nintendo Switch Release date: Jun 27, 2019 Price: $9.99 Tate: You can, but you might need to tilt your head Q-YO Blaster is by far the strangest 2D horizontal shmup I’ve reviewed for this ranking list. The gameplay and mechanics aren’t anything particularly odd, but there’s something about the presentation and the lore which is legitimately fascinating. For some reason it feels like a game developed by someone out of this world who learned about our culture through animated movies.
SATURDAY MORNING SHMUP
One of the aspects that tipped me over the edge when deciding what to review was the art style. Keeping up with the animation vibe, Q-YO Blaster sports an old school cartoon art style. Enemies will be colorful creatures with quirky details such as baseball caps, big eyes or even Mickey Mouse styled gloves. Their animations are equally as comical whether it is their attack animation of their death animation. Of course, cartoony can be used to describe maybe half of the style. The other half is probably more akin to a sci-fi coat of paint. Along the many bugs and animals, there’s also a great deal of robots, monsters, heavy weaponry and even blood running rampant (or maybe it’s oil?). It does makes sense considering the bugs came from space, and it definitely adds a touch of mystery when navigating through the stages of Q-YO Blaster.
EVERYONE IS HERE!
My original expectation of the game was to have a few pilots including the Q-YO, floating dog head from the screenshots and doggy airplane. Little did I know that Q-YO Blaster has more pilots than I have fingers in both of my hands. Pilots are arranged into 3 different teams. Each pilot has different stats which include damage, speed and fire. The teams can have +damage, +endurance or a mixture of both. Fortunately, despite the outrageous pilot designs and sprites, their hitboxes are all the same. After picking your pilot, you can pick one of 7 different special weapons to round out your style. From whichever angle you want to watch it, Q-YO Blaster offers a crazy amount of customization options. The defining feature of each team is their assistant. Assistant are powerful screen-wide effects that trigger once you fill the assistant gauge. The gauge can be filled by continuously shooting and defeating enemies. Once filled, you can hold the fire button to unleash its effect. The effects are a screen explosion that clears bullets, a temporary shield or a 360 barrage of missiles.
BUILDING YOUR OFFENSE
With all of the previous elements combined, you can play as one of 112 possible combinations of team, pilot and special weapons. In terms of weapons at your disposal, you have 3: your basic shot, your special weapon and your assistant. Your basic shot is an infinite gun that shoots bullets straight ahead with some degree of spread. The first shot is always straight, so you can opt for manual rapid fire to keep a straight line of fire. Alternatively, you can hold the button and just auto-fire. Occasionally, you’ll find power-up weapons flying around the stage. This power-ups will grant you a limited weapon when collected. These extra weapons are considerably faster than your basic shot at the cost of having limited ammo. They also have a unique effect on their very first shot, once more giving you a choice between manually shooting or going with the auto-fire.
ALSO BUILD YOUR DEFENSE
One defensive tool you have at your disposal is the pulse. Pulse clears every bullet on screen and turns them into gems. When collected, this gems will increase the level of your special weapon gauge. This special weapon will be whatever you picked on the character select, and has 3 different levels of strength depending on how many gems you have collected. It also comes with some slight invulnerability so you can use it to get out of sticky situations. The caveat of pulse is that you can only carry 3 stocks, and it is only refilled by collecting extra pulse power-ups. I have mixed feelings about this limitation, as I feel it plays an integral part of your offensive game plan. Its hard limit prevents any smart usage other than just a get-out-of-jail card. I would have loved if it had a gauge like the assistant, as that would have created a balance between building pulse and shooting your special.
Every stage carries a sort of familiar scenery. I like to think of it as Toy Story levels. Considering the characters are Q-YOs and bugs, it makes sense for the scenery to be a relatively small scale such as houses or gardens. I find them to be very charming, or it might be just my nostalgia kicking in because I grew up with Toy Story. Nonetheless, I really dig the stages. At the end of each stage, there’s a very comical boss waiting for you. These bosses represent whichever vibe you got from the level. For example, the boss of the garden level is none other than Queen Bee herself. Bosses turn the action up to 11 featuring huge bullet patterns and significantly more aggressive tactics. My one complaint about the bosses is that they feel a lot like a flow chart. They have a couple of attacks and will cycle through them in the same order all the time. Assuming you can dodge them, it’s only a matter of repeating the same moves over and over until the boss goes down. This is even worse on the harder difficulties when the bosses have much more HP. The most interesting aspects of the stages are the end rewards. Similar to many rogue-lite games, clearing a stage will let you choose a perk for the rest of your adventure. The perks are always the same, but include upgrades such as increased speed, faster shots or even 1ups.
Despite being a shmup, I really recommend paying attention to the story! It really is something else! I don’t think it actually makes much sense, but there’s something about the way it’s told that crashes my brain. It does have some powerful moments as well! Including that one stage with the sad music and the rain. I don’t want to spoil it, but it really hit me hard. I didn’t delve too much into game modes, but there’s basically classic and arcade. Classic is your base mode with the entire story and 3 selectable difficulties. If you don’t want to go through the story every time (even though it is skippable), then arcade mode is for you. Arcade mode features 0 cutscenes, so it’s all fun and games. Arcade mode is also much harder, but has 99 continues.
HARDER ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER
I have to make one of my classic parenthesis to talk about difficulty. Being honest, I think the expert difficulty and to some extent arcade are pretty terrible. The reason is because of the way the game is balanced as a result of them. Harder difficulties feature faster bullets and more complex patterns, but also feature increased vitality for the enemies. The increased lethality of the enemies makes for a hearty challenge, but all good is wiped out by the tedium of enemy endurance. What I found out was that enemies are very durable in the harder difficulties. Rather than creating a fun challenge, it makes it incredibly hard to destroy enemies. Most enemies feel like sponges that just refuse to die unless you have a special weapon. Some enemies feel outright impossible to kill before they leave the screen, an issue which hurts a lot when it comes to homing projectiles that need to be destroyed. Fun and dynamic dog fights become grindy situations where you focus on a single ship and fail to destroy it while having others flood the screen. I really think harder difficulties would have been better without the added HP on enemies but retaining the faster bullets and harder patterns.
SLOW AND STEADY DOESN’T WIN THE RACE
While on the topic of hard difficulties, the homing bullets are another culprit behind the reason the difficulty isn’t fun. I’ve never been a fan of homing attacks as they feel cheap, but it feels like it wasn’t play tested because some slower ships can’t actually avoid a homing shot without the speed upgrade. To be fair, no one shoots homing bullets on stage 1, so taking speed is utmost priority. One thing I do like about speed is that most boss patterns allow you to dodge at high speed. You can’t slow your speed, so it’s nice that there isn’t finesse required to survive some waves.
A LITTLE BIT MORE TIME IN THE OVEN
If I was on a game show about quick words and someone mentioned “Q-YO Blaster”, my response would be “rough”. While some aspects of the game are really cool, there are other where it feels a little bit incomplete. Some enemies don’t match the visual quality of others such as Major Tomm. The UI and menus also seem to come from a prototype version. There’s also a sort of bug where if you die and use a credit, the game immediately pauses. Not a big deal, but it feels out of place. The customization screen is also all sorts of blurry. You can’t remap controls either, which is a shame considering the shoulder buttons would really come in handy. Most of these issues aren’t a big deal by themselves, but they taint the final product by making it feel a little like shovelware. The game is really fun though, so it is sad to think about having it fall under that umbrella.
So the mandatory question is, is it fun? It definitely is! With its bizarre and unsettling vibe, Q-YO Blaster is still tons of fun to play. While there is certainly a lot of room for improvement, Q-YO Blaster is still a solid choice for a shmup if you are fan of the cartoon style, of the horizontal shmup format or just a fan of little critters in general. THE RANKING SO FAR:
Steredenn: Binary Stars
Stardust Galaxy Warriors: Stellar Climax
Sky Force: Reloaded
R-Type Dimensions EX
Sine Mora EX
Shikhondo – Soul Eater
Ghost Blade HD
Aero Fighters 2 (ACA Neogeo)
Lightening Force: Quest for the darkstar (Sega Ages)
[Table] Asteroid Day AMA – We’re engineers and scientists working on a mission that could, one day, help save humankind from asteroid extinction. Ask us anything!
Source There are several people answering: Paolo Martino is PM, Marco Micheli is MM, Heli Greus is HG, Detlef Koschny is DVK, and Aidan Cowley is AC.
Can we really detect any asteroids in space with accuracy and do we have any real means of destroying it?
Yes, we can detect new asteroids when they are still in space. Every night dozens of new asteroids are found, including a few that can come close to the Earth.
Regarding the second part of the question, the goal would be to deflect them more than destroy them, and it is technologically possible. The Hera/DART mission currently being developed by ESA and NASA will demonstrate exactly this capability.
I always wanted to ask: what is worse for life on Earth - to be hit by a single coalesced asteroid chunk, or to be hit by a multiple smaller pieces of exploded asteroid, aka disrupted rubble pile scenario?
DVK: This is difficult to answer. If the rubble is small (centimetres to meters) it is better to have lots of small ones – they’d create nice bright meteors. If the rubble pieces are tens of meters it doesn’t help.
Let’s say that hypothetically, an asteroid the size of Rhode Island is coming at us, it will be a direct hit - you’ve had the resources and funding you need, your plan is fully in place, everything you’ve wanted you got. The asteroid will hit in 10 years, what do you do?
DVK: I had to look up how big Rhode Island is – a bit larger than the German Bundesland ‘Saarland’. Ok – this would correspond to an object about 60 km in diameter, right? That’s quite big – we would need a lot of rocket launches, this would be extremely difficult. I would pray. The good news is that we are quite convinced that we know all objects larger than just a few kilometers which come close to our planet. None of them is on a collision course, so we are safe.
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Why are you quite convinced that you know all object of that size? And what is your approach in finding new celestial bodies?
DVK: There was a scientific study done over a few years (published in Icarus 2018, search for Granvik) where they modelled how many objects there are out there. They compared this to the observations we have with the telescopic surveys. This gives us the expected numbers shown here on our infographic: https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2018/06/Asteroid_danger_explained
There are additional studies to estimate the ‘completeness’ – and we think that we know everything above roughly a few km in size.
Thanks for the answer, that's really interesting! It's also funny that the fist Flyeye deployed is in Sicily, at less than 100km from me, I really had no idea
DVK: Indeed, that's cool. Maybe you can go and visit it one day.
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What about Interstellar objects however, like Oumuamua?
DVK: The two that we have seen - 'Oumuamua and comet Borisov - were much smaller than the Saarland (or Rhode Island ;-) - not sure about Borisov, but 'Oumuamua was a few hundred meters in size. So while they could indeed come as a complete surprise, they are so rare that I wouldn't worry.
Would the public be informed if an impending asteroid event were to happen? And, how would the extinction play out? Bunch of people crushed to death, knocked off our orbit, dust clouds forever?
DVK: We do not keep things secret – all our info is at the web page http://neo.ssa.esa.int. The ‘risky’ objects are in the ‘risk page’. We also put info on really close approaches there. It would also be very difficult to keep things ‘under cover’ – there are many high-quality amateur astronomers out there that would notice.
In 2029 asteroid Apophis will fly really close to Earth, even closer than geostationary satellites. Can we use some of those satellites to observe the asteroid? Is it possible to launch very cheap cube sats to flyby Apophis in 2029?
DVK: Yes an Apophis mission during the flyby in 2029 would be really nice. We even had a special session on that topic at the last Planetary Defense Conference in 2019, and indeed CubeSats were mentioned. This would be a nice university project – get me a close-up of the asteroid with the Earth in the background!
Go to the section 'resolutions'. This is now a statement that scientists can use to present to their funding agencies, demonstrating that it's not just their own idea.
Thanks for doing this AMA! Did we know the Chelyabinsk meteor in 2013 (the one which had some great videos on social media) was coming? Ig not, how comes? Also, as a little side one, have there been any fatalities from impact events in the past 20 years?
Unfortunately, the Chelyabinsk object was not seen in advance, because it came from the direction of the Sun where ground-based telescopes cannot look.
No known fatalities from impacts have happened in the past 20 years, although the Chelyabinsk event did cause many injuries, fortunately mostly minor.
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How often do impacts from that direction happen, compared to impacts from visible trajectories?
In terms of fraction of the sky, the area that cannot be easily scanned from the ground is roughly a circle with a radius of 40°-50° around the current position of the Sun, corresponding to ~15% of the total sky. However, there is a slight enhancement of objects coming from that direction, therefore the fraction of objects that may be missed when heading towards us is a bit higher.
However, this applies only when detecting an asteroid in its "final plunge" towards the Earth. Larger asteroids can be spotted many orbits earlier, when they are farther away and visible in the night side of the sky. Their orbits can then be determined and their possible impacts predicted even years or decades in advance.
There must be a trade-off when targeting asteroids as they get closer to Earth, is there a rule of thumb at what the best time is to reach them, in terms of launch time versus time to reach the asteroid and then distance from Earth?
DVK: Take e.g. a ‘kinetic impactor’ mission, like what DART and Hera are testing. Since we only change the velocity of the asteroid slightly, we need to hit the object early enough so that the object has time to move away from it’s collision course. Finding out when it is possible to launch requires simulations done by our mission analysis team. They take the strength of the launcher into account, also the available fuel for course corrections, and other things. Normally each asteroid has its own best scenario.
Do you also look at protecting the moon from asteroids? Would an impact of a large enough scale potentially have major impacts on the earth?
DVK: There are programmes that monitor the Moon and look for flashes from impacting small asteroids (or meteoroids) - https://neliota.astro.noa.g or the Spanish MIDAS project. We use the data to improve our knowledge about these objects. These programmes just look at what is happening now.
For now we would not do anything if we predicted a lunar impact. I guess this will change once we have a lunar base in place.
Why aren't there an international organisation comprised of countries focused on the asteroid defence? Imagine like the organisation with multi-billion $ budget and program of action on funding new telescopes, asteroid exploration mission, plans for detection of potentially dangerous NEA, protocols on action after the detection - all international, with heads of states discussing these problems?
DVK: There are international entities in place, mandated by the UN: The International Asteroid Warning Network (http://www.iawn.net) and the Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (http://www.smpag.net). These groups advise the United Nations. That is exactly where we come up with plans and protocols on action. But: They don’t have budget – that needs to come from elsewhere. I am expecting that if we have a real threat, we would get the budget. Right now, we don’t have a multi-billion budget.
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There is no actual risk of any sizable asteroids hitting earth in the foreseeable future. Any preparation for it would just be a waste of money.
DVK: Indeed, as mentioned earlier, we do not expect a large object to hit is in the near future. We are mainly worried about those in the size range of 20 m to 40 m, which happen on average every few tens of years to hundreds of years. And where we only know a percent of them or even less.
President Obama wanted to send a crewed spacecraft to an asteroid - in your opinion is this something that should still be done in the future, would there be any usefulness in having a human being walk/float on an asteroid's surface?
DVK: It would definitely be cool. I would maybe even volunteer to go. Our current missions to asteroids are all robotic, the main reason is that it is much cheaper (but still expensive) to get the same science. But humans will expand further into space, I am sure. If we want to test human exploration activities, doing this at an asteroid would be easier than landing on a planet.
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Yes, but I am slightly biased by the fact that I work at the European astronaut centre ;) There exist many similarities to what we currently do for EVA (extra vehicular activities) operations on the International Space Station versus how we would 'float' around an asteroid. Slightly biased again, but using such a mission to test exploration technologies would definitely still have value. Thanks Obama! - AC
I've heard that some asteroids contains large amounts of iron. Is there a possibility that we might have "space mines" in the far away future, if our own supply if iron runs out?
Yes, this is a topic in the field known as space mining, part of what we call Space Resources. In fact, learning how we can process material we might find on asteroids or other planetary bodies is increasingly important, as it opens up the opportunities for sustainable exploration and commercialization. Its a technology we need to master, and asteroids can be a great target for testing how we can create space mines :) - AC
By how much is DART expected to deflect Didymos? Do we have any indication of the largest size of an asteroid we could potentially deflect?
PM: Didymos is a binary asteroid, consisting of a main asteroid Didymos A (~700m) and a smaller asteroid Didymos B (~150m) orbiting around A with a ~12 hours period. DART is expected to impact Didymos B and change its orbital period w.r.t. Didymos A of ~1%. (8 mins)
The size of Didymos B is the most representative of a potential threat to Earth (the highest combination of probability and consequence of impacts), meaning smaller asteroids hit the Earth more often but have less severe consequences, larger asteroids can have catastrophic consequences but their probability of hitting the earth is very very low.
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Why is there less probability of larger asteroids hitting earth?
DVK: There are less large objects out there. The smaller they are, the more there are.
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Is there any chance that your experiment will backfire and send the asteroid towards earth?
PM: Not at all, or we would not do that :) Actually Dimorphos (the Didymos "moon") will not even leave its orbit around Didymos. It will just slightly change its speed.
I'm sure you've been asked this many times but how realistic is the plot of Armageddon? How likely is it that our fate as a species will rely on (either) Bruce Willis / deep sea oil drillers?
Taking into consideration that Bruce Willis is now 65 and by the time HERA is launched he will be 69, I do not think that we can rely on him this time (although I liked the movie).
HERA will investigate what method we could use to deflect asteroid and maybe the results will show that we indeed need to call the deep sea oil drillers.
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So then would it be easier to train oil drillers to become astronauts, or to train astronauts to be oil drillers?
I do not know which one would be easier since I have no training/experience of deep see oil drilling nor becoming an astronaut, but as long as the ones that would go to asteroid have the sufficient skills and training (even Bruce Willis), I would be happy.
If budget was no object, which asteroid would you most like to send a mission to?
Nice question! For me, I'd be looking at an asteroid we know something about, since I would be interested in using it for testing how we could extract resources from it. So for me, I would choose Itokawa (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/25143_Itokawa), which was visited by Hayabusa spacecraft. So we already have some solid prospecting carried out for this 'roid! - AC
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Not sure if it counts as an asteroid, but Detlef and myself would probably choose ʻOumuamua, the first discovered interstellar object.
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Do we even have the capability to catch up to something like that screaming through our solar system? That thing has to have a heck of a velocity to just barrel almost straight through like that.
DVK: Correct, that would be a real challenge. We are preparing for a mission called 'Comet Interceptor' that is meant to fly to an interstellar object or at least a fresh comet - but it will not catch up with it, it will only perform a short flyby.
After proving to be able to land on one, could an asteroid serve as a viable means to transport goods and or humans throughout the solar system when the orbit of said asteroid proves beneficial. While it is probably quite problematic to land the payload, it could save fuel or am I mistaken?
Neat idea! Wonder if anyone has done the maths on the amount of fuel you would need/save vs certain targets. - AC
PM: To further complement, the saving is quite marginal indeed because in order to land (softly) on the asteroid you actually need to get into the very same orbit of that asteroid . At that point your orbit remains the same whether you are on the asteroid or not..
can the current anti-ballistic missiles systems intercept a terminal phase earth strike asteroid? or it is better to know beforehand and launch an impacting vehicle into space?
DVK: While I do see presentations on nuclear explosions to deflect asteroids at our professional meetings, I have not seen anybody yet studying how we could use existing missile systems. So it's hard to judge whether existing missiles would do the job. But in general, it is better to know as early as possible about a possible impact and deflect it as early as possible. This will minimize the needed effort.
How much are we prepared against asteroid impacts at this moment?
DVK: 42… :-) Seriously – I am not sure how to quantify ‘preparedness’. We have international working groups in place, mentioned earlier (search for IAWN, SMPAG). We have a Planetary Defence Office at ESA, a Planetary Defense Office at NASA (who spots the difference?), search the sky for asteroids, build space missions… Still we could be doing more. More telescopes to find the object, a space-based telescope to discover those that come from the direction of the Sun. Different test missions would be useful, … So there is always more we could do.
Have you got any data on the NEO coverage? Is there estimations on the percentage of NEOs we have detected and are tracking? How can we improve the coverage? How many times have asteroids been able to enter earths atmosphere without being detected beforehand?
As expected, we are now nearly complete for the large ones, while many of the smaller ones are still unknown.
In order to improve coverage, we need both to continue the current approach, centered on ground-based telescopes, and probably also launch dedicated telescopes to space, to look at the fraction of the sky that cannot be easily observed from the ground (e.g., towards the Sun).
Regarding the last part of your question, small asteroids enter the Earth atmosphere very often (the infographics above gives you some numbers), while larger ones are much rarer.
In the recent past, the largest one to enter our atmosphere was about 20 meters in diameter, and it caused the Chelyabinsk event in 2013. It could not be detected in advance because it came from the direction of the Sun.
We have however detected a few small ones before impact. The first happened in 2008, when a ~4-meter asteroid was found to be on a collision course less than a day before impact, it was predicted to fall in Northern Sudan, and then actually observed falling precisely where (and when) expected.
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DVK: And to add what MM said - Check out http://neo.ssa.esa.int. There is a ‘discovery statistics’ section which provides some of the info you asked about. NASA is providing similar information here https://cneos.jpl.nasa.gov/stats/. To see the sky which is currently covered by the survey telescopes, you need to service of the Minor Planet Center which we all work together with: http://www.minorplanetcenter.org, ‘observers’, ‘sky coverage’. That is a tool we use to plan where we look with our telescopes, so it is a more technical page.
Are there any automatic systems for checking large numbers of asteroids orbits, to see if the asteroid's orbit is coming dangerously close to Earth, or is it done by people individually for every asteroid? I ask it because LSST Rubin is coming online soon and you know it will discover a lot of new asteroids.
Yes, such systems exist, and monitor all known and newly discovered asteroids in order to predict possible future impacts.
It is automatically updated every day once new observational data is processed.
What are your favourite sci-fi series?
DVK: My favorites are ‘The Expanse’, I also liked watching ‘Salvation’. For the first one I even got my family to give me a new subscription to a known internet streaming service so that I can see the latest episodes. I also loved ‘The Jetsons’ and ‘The Flintstones’ as a kid. Not sure the last one counts as sci-fi though. My long-time favorite was ‘Dark Star’.
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Big fan of The Expanse at the moment. Nice, hard sci-fi that has a good impression of being grounded in reality - AC
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When I was a kid I liked The Jetsons, when growing up Star Trek, Star wars and I also used to watch with my sister the 'V'.
When determining the potential threat of a NEA, is the mass of an object a bigger factor or size? I'm asking because I'm curious if a small but massive object (say, with the density of Psyche) could survive atmospheric entry better than a comparatively larger but less massive object.
The mass is indeed what really matters, since it’s directly related with the impact energy.
And as you said composition also matters, a metal object would survive atmospheric entry better, not just because it’s heavier, but also because of its internal strength.
What are your thoughts on asteroid mining as portrayed in sci-fi movies? Is it feasible? If so would governments or private space programs be the first to do so?What type of minerals can be found on asteroids that would merit the costs of extraction?
Certainly there is valuable stuff you can find on asteroids. For example, the likely easiest material you can harvest from an asteroid would be volatiles such as H2O. Then you have industrial metals, things like Iron, Nickel, and Platinum group metals. Going further, you can break apart many of the oxide minerals you would find to get oxygen (getting you closer to producing rocket fuel in-situ!). Its feasible, but still needs alot of testing both here on Earth and eventually needs to be tested on a target. It may be that governments, via agencies like ESA or NASA, may do it first, to prove the principles somewhat, but I know many commercial entities are also aggresively working towards space mining. To show you that its definitely possible, I'd like to plug the work of colleagues who have processed lunar regolith (which is similar to what you may find on asteroids) to extract both oxygen and metals. Check it out here: http://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2019/10/Oxygen_and_metal_from_lunar_regolith
Will 2020's climax be a really big rock?
DVK: Let's hope not...
Considering NASA, ESA, IAU etc. is working hard to track Earth-grazing asteroids, how come the Chelyabinsk object that airburst over Russia in 2013 came as a total surprise?
The Chelyabinsk object came from the direction of the Sun, where unfortunately ground-based telescopes cannot look at. Therefore, it would not have been possible to discover it in advance with current telescopes. Dedicated space telescopes are needed to detect objects coming from this direction in advance.
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Is this to say that it was within specific solid angles for the entire time that we could have observed it given its size and speed?
Yes, precisely that. We got unlucky in this case.
Have any of you read Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven? In your opinion, how realistic is his depiction of an asteroid strike on Earth?
DVK: I have – but really long ago, so I don’t remember the details. But I do remember that I really liked the book, and I remember I always wanted to have a Hot Fudge Sundae when reading it.
I was thinking about the asteroid threat as a teen and came up with this ideas (Hint: they are not equally serious, the level of craziness goes up real quick). Could you please comment on their feasibility? 1. Attaching a rocket engine to an asteroid to make it gradually change trajectory, do that long in advance and it will miss Earth by thousands of km 2. Transporting acid onto asteroid (which are mainly metal), attaching a dome-shaped reaction chamber to it, using heat and pressure to then carry out the chemical reaction to disintegrate asteroids 3. This one is even more terrible than a previous one and totally Dan Brown inspired — transporting antimatter on asteroid, impacting and causing annihilation. Thank you for this AMA and your time!
DVK: Well the first one is not so crazy, I have seen it presented... the difficulty is that all asteroids are rotating in one way or another. So if you continuously fire the engine it would not really help. You'd need to switch the engine on and off. Very complex. And landing on an asteroid is challenging too. Just using the 'kinetic impactor' which we will test with DART/Hera (described elsewhere in this chat) is simpler. Another seriously proposed concept is to put a spacecraft next to an asteroid and use an ion engine (like we have on our Mercury mission BepiColombo) to 'push' the asteroid away.
As for 2 and 3 I think I will not live to see that happening ;-)
What is the process to determine the orbit of a newly discovered asteroid?
The process is mathematically quite complex, but here's a short summary.
Everything starts with observations, in particular with measurements of the position of an asteroid in the sky, what we call "astrometry". Discovery telescopes extract this information from their discovery images, and make it available to everybody.
These datapoints are then used to calculate possible trajectories ("orbits") that pass through them. At first, with very few points, many orbits will be possible.
Using these orbits we can extrapolate where the asteroid will be located during the following nights, use a telescope to observe that part of the sky, and locate the object again.
From these new observations we can extract new "astrometry", add it to the orbit determination, and see that now only some of the possible orbits will be compatible with the new data. As a result, we now know the trajectory better than before, because a few of the possible orbits are not confirmed by the new data.
The cycle can then continue, with new predictions, new observations, and a more accurate determination of the object's orbit, until it can be determined with an extremely high level of accuracy.
What are some asteroids that are on your "watchlist"?
It's called "risk list", and it includes all known asteroids for which we cannot exclude a possible impact over the next century. It is updated every day to include newly discovered asteroids, and remove those that have been excluded as possible impactors thanks to new observations.
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That's quite a list!! Do you guys ever feel stressed or afraid when you have to add another dangerous candidate (and by dangerous I mean those above 200m) is added to this Risk List?
Yes, when new dangerous ones are added it's important that we immediately do our best to gather more data on them, observing them with telescopes in order to get the information we need to improve our knowledge of their orbit.
And then the satisfaction of getting the data needed to remove one from the list is even greater!
What inspired you to go into this field of study?
I was fascinated by astronomy in general since I was a kid, but the actual "trigger" that sparked my interest in NEOs was a wonderful summer course on asteroids organized by a local amateur astronomers association. I immediately decided that I would do my best to turn this passion into my job, and I'm so happy to have been able to make that dream come true.
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DVK: I started observing meteors when I was 14, just by going outside and looking at the night sky. Since then, small bodies in the solar system were always my passion.
As a layperson, I still think using nuclear weapons against asteroids is the coolest method despite better methods generally being available. Do you still consider the nuclear option the cool option, or has your expertise in the field combined with the real-life impracticalities made it into a laughable/silly/cliche option?
DVK: We indeed still study the nuclear option. There are legal aspects though, the ‘outer space treaty’ forbids nuclear explosions in space. But for a large object or one we discover very late it could be useful. That’s why we have to focus on discovering all the objects out there as early as possible – then we have time enough to use more conventional deflection methods, like the kinetic impactor (the DART/Hera scenario).
It seems like doing this well would require international cooperation, particularly with Russia. Have you ever reached out to Russia in your work? Do you have a counterpart organization there that has a similar mission?
DVK: Indeed international cooperation is important - asteroids don't know about our borders! We work with a Russian team to perform follow-up observations of recently discovered NEOs. Russia is also involved in the UN-endorsed working groups that we have, IAWN and SMPAG (explained in another answer).
If multiple videos or pictures, taken from different locations, are available, then it's possible to reconstruct the trajectory, and extrapolate where the object came from.
Regarding the composition, it's a bit more difficult if nothing survives to the ground, but some information can be obtained indirectly from the fireball's color, or its fragmentation behavior. If a spectral analysis of the light can be made, it's then possible to infer the chemical composition in much greater detail.
I've always wanted to know what the best meteorite buying site is and what their average price is??
DVK: Serious dealers will be registered with the 'International Meteorite Collectors Association (IMCA)' - https://www.imca.cc/. They should provide a 'certificate of authenticity' where it says that they are member there. If you are in doubt, you can contact the association and check. Normally there are rough prices for different meteorite types per gram. Rare meteorites will of course be much more expensive than more common ones. Check the IMCA web page to find a dealer close to you.
Just read through Aidans link to the basaltic rock being used as a printing material for lunar habitation. There is a company called Roxul that does stone woven insulation that may be able to shed some light on the research they have done to minimize their similarity to asbestos as potentially carcinogenic materials deemed safe for use in commercial and residential applications. As the interior surfaces will essentially be 3D printed lunar regolith what are the current plans to coat or dampen the affinity for the structure to essentially be death traps for respiratory illness?
At least initially, many of these 3d printed regolith structures would not be facing into pressurised sections, but would rather be elements placed outside and around our pressure vessels. Such structures would be things like radiation shields, landing pads or roadways, etc. In the future, if we move towards forming hermetically sealed structures, then your point is a good one. Looking into terrestrial solutions to this problem would be a great start! - AC
What kind of career path does it take to work in the asteroid hunting field?
It's probably different for each of us, but here's a short summary of my own path.
I became interested in asteroids, and near-Earth objects in particular, thanks to a wonderful summer course organized by a local amateur astronomers association. Amateur astronomers play a great role in introducing people, and young kids in particular, to these topics.
Then I took physics as my undergrad degree (in Italy), followed by a Ph.D. in astronomy in the US (Hawaii in particular, a great place for astronomers thanks to the exceptional telescopes hosted there).
After finishing the Ph.D. I started my current job at ESA's NEO Coordination Centre, which allowed me to realize my dream of working in this field.
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DVK: Almost all of us have a Master's degree either in aerospace engineering, mathematics, physics/astronomy/planetary science, or computer science. Some of us - as MM - have a Ph.D. too. But that's not really a requirement. This is true for our team at ESA, but also for other teams in other countries.
What is the likelihood of an asteroid hitting the Earth In the next 200 years?
Have you played the Earth Defence Force games and if you have, which one is your favourite?
No I have not played the Earth Defence Force games, but I just looked it up and I think I would liked it. Which one would you recommend?
How close is too close to earth? Space is a SUPER vast void so is 1,000,000 miles close, 10,000,000? And if an asteroid is big enough can it throw earth off its orbit?
DVK: Too close for my taste is when we compute an impact probability > 0 for the object. That means the flyby distance is zero :-) Those are the objects on our risk page http://neo.ssa.esa.int/risk-page.
If an object can alter the orbit of another one, we would call it planet. So unless we have a rogue planet coming from another solar system (verrry unlikely) we are safe from that.
Are you aware of any asteroids that are theoretically within our reach, or will be within our reach at some point, that are carrying a large quantity of shungite? If you're not aware, shungite is like a 2 billion year old like, rock stone that protects against frequencies and unwanted frequencies that may be traveling in the air. I bought a whole bunch of the stuff. Put them around the la casa. Little pyramids, stuff like that.
DVK: If I remember my geology properly, Shungite forms in water sedimental deposits. This requires liquid water, i.e. a larger planet. So I don't think there is a high chance to see that on asteroids.
This took me longer than I intended, but I wanted to do my own write-up of all the games I beat in 2019, and I had a lot of fun remembering all of them - in fact, I was actually kind of surprised at how many of the games were really great experiences (though there were a few underwhelming ones, too). Since there are a lot, I categorized them by genre to try to make it a little easier to read. Some titles are hopefully familiar so you can also reminisce, but hopefully some new to you, too, that you'll be encouraged to play. So here goes nothing...
Fable - I'd been going through a period where I didn't want to invest in a lot of super time-consuming games, so that's probably the reason RPGs are largely absent from my list this year, and why Fable ended up being a really good fit. I think I clocked in around 15 hours or so, but even in that amount of time, I felt very satisfied with it. It's open world in a sense, but it's divided into smaller, self-contained areas, and it allows for some exploration and side content (including buying property and getting married) without completely burying you. I liked that the gameplay allowed for a battlemage build as I tend to gravitate towards a good balance of using magic and melee weapons. I didn't learn all the powers, but the ones I did were useful and not just something that felt like a useless attempt at adding variety. The ability to choose between the hero or villain paths is a bit more primitive (read: black and white) than some of the more advanced mechanics in today's games, but given it's one of the more amusing RPGs I've played that doesn't take itself very seriously, I actually appreciated its playful simplicity. If you're looking for a lighthearted romp in a fantasy RPG that doesn't get bogged down in superfluous content and complexity, Fable's a great experience.
Armed and Dangerous - This title sat for a long, long time in my library as something I'd gotten as part of a bundle and totally never meant to play, but I'm really glad I did. The gameplay and graphics do feel very dated, but this game is hilarious if you're into dumb, ridiculous humor. It also strays a bit from your typical shooter in that it gives you some really fun, outlandish weapons to play with, like a gun that shoots out land sharks that gobble up unsuspecting targets. I do remember there being a couple trouble spots that I had to play through multiple times to beat, but overall, it's just a plain ol' good time.
No One Lives Forever 2 - Speaking of hilarious shooters, I don't think it really gets any better than the NOLF series. I played the first game way back on the PS2 and had an absolute blast with it, so I was only too happy to finally get my hands on the second game. If you're not familiar with NOLF, think Xbox/PS2-era 1st person James Bond games, replace the protagonist with a witty female character, throw in a few unusual gadgets, and add a whole lot of charm, humor, and absurdity. It's going to feel outdated, yes, and there is the whole perpetually in legal rights limbo thing, but unless you're against experiencing pure joy, seriously, just play it.
Binary Domain - I bought this game hoping it'd hit some campy, over-the-top notes, and while there is some of that, it still left me feeling like this game had a lot of unused potential, particularly with the characters. The characters are super trope-y (in an entertaining way), and the game does poke fun at that, but the relationships felt pretty shallow - which is a darn shame because I would've liked to have seen the dynamics and interactions among this otherwise interesting, motley crew of characters fleshed out. The plot itself wasn't anything to write home about, either, but I think it could've been brought to a new level of enjoyment had it done more with the characters. Gameplay-wise, it's pretty solid - on paper, it seems like it'd be repetitive as it's a lot of shooting, but it's actually pretty satisfying because doing damage to enemy robots gradually wears away the armor of the targeted area so it almost feels like you're melting it down. I didn't do the voice commands as those seemed more like a gimmick, and the game is perfectly playable without them. There's an added dimension where certain actions you take will affect the trust level of your companions, which can affect the story, but I honestly couldn't say if it really makes any meaningful difference aside from the ending. If you're into the idea of a cybernetic third person shooter, I think it's worth trying, but it's not a top favorite of mine.
Spec Ops: The Line - This title has been thrown around a few times on this subreddit, and while it has been pretty hyped up and I wouldn't say it's a life-changing experience, I still echo any sentiments about this game being a must-play. Don't read anything about it; just play it. Even if you don't like military shooters.
Large open world games
Watch Dogs - I mostly enjoyed this game for being able to explore an impressively faithful rendition of downtown Chicago - the scenery is just fantastic and pretty on par with the environments in games like GTAV. The soundtrack was forgettable and the story was passable, but I didn't get terribly into it. It was fun to sneak around and hack into things (and also having the option to barrel in with guns), but the bloated mountain of side content eventually made it really hard to slog through until I decided I'd had enough and just went on to finish the main story missions. Feels good to have it completed, though.
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood - Another game where I had to figure out what/where I should cut myself off with the side content, heh. I'm not particularly one for historical fiction, but again, I think I mostly enjoyed this game for the exploration aspect. I liked Ezio's story in II (maybe because it was such a stark improvement over the first game), but while I can appreciate that Brotherhood is a great game, not so sure the AC series is my cup of tea as much anymore. I do enjoy the complex platforming portions to figure out how to get from point A to point B, but all the assassinating gets kinda repetitive. I have Revelations, Black Flag, and Unity in my backlog, though, so we'll see if/when I get around to those (will probably at least play Revelations because dat cliffhanger, ugh).
LIMBO - The black and white visual aesthetic of this game is beautiful, and the puzzles are interesting enough, but I can't say it left too much of an impression on me. I think I can see why it's a highly-regarded game, but perhaps between the vagueness of the story and the fact that 2D puzzle platformers aren't my favorite, it just wasn't entirely for me. Plus, I'm a bit of an arachnophobe, so those spider silhouettes were unsettling, lol.
The Fall - This was a neat little indie game. It's a side-scrolling, dark sci-fi adventure with some minor platforming elements and gunplay (which, honestly, not sure it was needed), but this game oozes a lot of atmosphere as a story about artificial consciousness curiously unfolds. If I remember correctly, it ended on a significant cliffhanger, but I enjoyed it enough to play the sequel someday.
Pony Island - I still don't really understand this game, but that's part of its delight. It's an odd mixture of side-scrolling action and puzzles about cute ponies that turns into something more amusingly sinister. Fun to play just for the H-E-double-hockey-sticks of it.
Downward - I loved Mirror's Edge, so when I saw that Downward was a first-person parkour game, I signed the heck up. At first, it does feel like the game has a lot of promise and seems like one big beautiful playground - it's definitely heavy on the eye candy. Unfortunately, it doesn't take long for the game's flaws to surface. Mechanics can be annoying either due to glitches or requiring precise aiming/timing; story is basically non-existent; no real obstacles are present aside from the final boss, which was a headache in itself as it basically just amounts to a bunch of dodging by platforming that you'll probably end up having to retry multiple times. And ultimately, the game just felt empty, like a mere shell of the game it was meant to be.
Epistory: Typing Chronicles - I wasn't sure if this game would provide a real challenge for someone who's a pretty decent typist, but pleased to say it does indeed. Fighting back (or typing back) waves of enemies was probably my favorite part, and I liked how you could switch between powers (like lightning, fire, wind), as certain enemies and mechanisms can only be defeated or triggered by a specific power. The storybook art is unique, and the narrative has a very flowy, poetic feel, though I can't say it particularly moved me. There's an endless mode, too, so I can see myself coming back to that for a quick play.
Beyond Good and Evil - This was the first game in a while that really helped me enjoy gaming again. It's got a lovable, memorable cast of characters, simplistic but fun gameplay, and it's got a smaller open world - meaning that there's enough side stuff to do, but the game doesn't overwhelm you with it or try to detract you from the main story too much. I really, really hope BG&E 2 is released because I would love to return to that world again. It's got that "pure" feeling of not needing to take things too seriously or getting bogged down in a multitude of quests - it's just plain and simple fun.
Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy - This game kind of feels like an Egyptian rendition of a 3D Zelda game, but I mean that in a good way. Throughout this game, you switch back and forth between two characters: 1) the young Prince Tutenkhamen who is turned into a mummy, but is luckily able to use his undeadness to aid the hero through a series of critical thinking tests, and 2) Sphinx, who fights baddies and navigates a bunch of platforming puzzles to find vases to help bring Tutenkhamen back to life and ancient crowns to summon the power to beat the almighty villain. One major downside is that there's no voice acting, so you have to read all the dialogue, but I'd still give it a solid recommendation to anyone who likes action/adventure puzzle games.
Prince of Persia: Warrior Within - I really liked the first PoP in this series, so I also really wanted to like WW, but ultimately I found it to be pretty "meh." To start with the good, the gameplay is very similar to its predecessor - the combat is generally pretty fluid, and the environmental platforming puzzles provide some interesting, fun challenges without being too frustrating - and of course you still have the same ability to bend time. Unfortunately, there was also a lot about the game that I didn't enjoy. I would've liked to have seen some improvements or variance from the first as the gameplay felt kind of old hat after a while. I have mixed feelings about the chase scenes - they got the adrenaline going, but still not a huge fan of them especially when you die multiple times in a row. Also, you could see the "twist" in whatever story there was coming from miles away, and the heavy metal music (or whatever that was) was simply atrocious and made the game feel like a complete tonal detour from the previous. As for the repeated masochistic, sexual comments from the female enemies - yeah, no thank you. It was like someone asked how they could make PoP as needlessly "edgy" as possible, though that seems like a common complaint. So overall I felt a bit unsatisfied with my experience, but I have The Two Thrones in my backlog, so I'm hoping that will be better.
Second Sight - I wasn't really sure what to expect from this older title, but I was actually surprised to find myself enjoying it. The plot is your typical "clandestine operation conducting scientific research for its own nefarious needs" kind of thing, as some random, seemingly unimportant white guy (who talks to himself too much) mysteriously gains psychic powers and then proceeds to get tangled up in a huge conspiracy trying to get to the bottom of it. But that said, the gameplay turned out to be rather fun, for the most part. You have the ability to use guns, too, but the core part of the gameplay involves using various psychic powers to manipulate your surroundings to sneak around, go on the offensive, and solve puzzles. Probably the most frustrating aspect, however, was the targeting system and its failure to quickly switch between targets when needed. All around, though, while I don't know that it's a great game, it's a pretty good one, and if you happen to have it in your backlog, it's worth digging up.
Star Wars: Jedi Academy - This was the first game I played in the Jedi Knight series (save for a couple hours of Dark Forces). It was fun to be back in the Star Wars universe again (I think the last SW game I truly played was KotOR or maybe Republic Commando forever ago), but overall it still felt like a pretty average game, though maybe the dated-ness largely affected my impressions. The lightsaber action was neat, but not perfect as the camera kept annoyingly switching around on me (not sure if that could've been fixed by a setting). Also, once you kinda learned the tricks with the force powers, particularly the shielding ones, it made the game a little too easy and more just a matter of waiting it out till you hacked down the enemies' health enough. Story didn't really mean a whole lot to me either, so my general opinion of the game doesn't amount to much more than a shrug.
No More Heroes - Honestly, it sounds weird to say it, but this game did lightsaber combat way better than Jedi Academy, haha, though there were times my wrist got pretty tired playing on the Wii! I'm somewhat familiar with Suda51's style as I've also played a good chunk of Killer7, and I knew this was a pretty highly-regarded hack 'n' slash title, but I had no idea it had a quirky, charming (small) open world aspect to it (sort of reminds me of Deadly Premonition in that respect). While the game is largely about taking on multiple bosses to become #1, each of those bosses requires a hefty entrance fee to fight, which means you'll have to take on some interesting side jobs (like mowing the lawn, neutralizing scorpions, rescuing cats...you know, the usual) to make money. There are a few other goodies you can get exploring the town of Santa Destroy as well. The downfall of the entrance fee aspect is that I just found myself doing the same highest-paying job over and over again, so there were points it got a bit monotonous near the end. But I will say there were a few bosses that provided a heck of a challenge - one in particular I probably had 30+ attempts under my belt before I finally beat her, and that was just on normal difficulty. It was fun to play something where I felt like I had to have some actual skill to overcome and not just win by button-mashing, but it did require a lot of patience at times. If you want an over-the-top, gratuitously zany action experience, No More Heroes is definitely one of a kind.
Point and click adventures
Sentience: The Android's Tale - This was a charming little sci-fi point and click game (made with RPG Maker, I think?). As the title suggests, you play as an android who's been given free will, and much of the game involves exploring a colony and talking to/doing quests for various people in a time where androids aren't terribly accepted or even despised. One neat feature of this game is that you have the ability to make choices can affect the game and its multiple endings. I wouldn't say it was the most memorable game, but I still enjoyed my time with it and the philosophical concepts it had to offer.
Deponia - A modern take on the classic point and click adventure genre. If you like Monkey Island, Broken Sword, and the like, I'd definitely recommend Deponia. The protagonist can be a bit of a jerk, but it's got a lighthearted story, a colorful cast of characters, and the type of puzzles you'd expect from the genre (most aren't too difficult to solve). It's not a priority, but eventually I'd like to play the other games in the series.
Secret of Monkey Island (Special Edition) - I can see why this classic point and click is so beloved, and the humor certainly helps it to stand out from some of the others. At the same time, I'd played enough adventure games by then that it didn't really do anything unexpected, so while I had fun with it, I wasn't enamored with it. Good for a few casual nights of gaming, but I'm not chomping at the bit to play the others in the series - Deponia's universe was a little more quirky and interesting imo. However, it was pretty neat how you could switch between the original pixel graphics and the cartoon art.
Syberia - "Charming, nostalgic, and whimsical" are probably the three words I'd use to describe this game. Syberia has a pretty long, slow beginning, but if you're patient, what starts as a banal assignment for a lawyer named Kate soon turns into a peculiar mystery as you're drawn into a strange, fascinating world of automatons wherein you attempt to track down their creator. I played this on the Xbox, so point and click controls don't translate so well to the console, but I will definitely get the PC version of the sequel at some point; the promising ending of the first game left me wanting more of the story.
Tex Murphy series (Mean Streets, Martian Memorandum, Under a Killing Moon, The Pandora Directive, and Overseer) - I did a more thorough write-up of these games (including Tesla Effect which I played a few years back) here, but to summarize, while the first two games could be a pass (unless you're really into the pixelated old school adventure games), the others are worth looking into if you're a fan of point and clicks and/or campy humor, goofy sci-fi plots, and that sweet, sweet live FMV action.
Blade Runner - Blade Runner (both the original and 2049) are my favorite films, so I was super thrilled when GOG finally included this game in their library. I did enjoy the blast from the (future) past, but unfortunately I think it's another game that, while I'm sure it was impressive for its time, it doesn't leave quite the same impression today when playing it for the first time. It gets the atmosphere and the feel of the films right, the story is interesting enough to keep you going, and it does provide some twists on your standard point and click gameplay, but I suppose where I found it lacking was with the character development, which I found to be kinda shallow particularly with the character interactions (and in the realm of romance, some of which didn't even make much sense). Probably my fault for secretly wanting a '90s game to be on par with the films, but there it is. Still worth experiencing if you're a fan; just don't set expectations too high.
3D puzzle games
Kairo - A Myst-like game that's super heavy on the abstract. I picked it up because I like games that are an enigmatic experience of awe and loneliness all in one, and it definitely achieves that. But I don't have a whole lot of patience for puzzles that don't give you easily observable hints of how things work, so full confession - I totally used a walkthrough pretty much the entire way through.
Adam's Venture: Chronicles - I like game about archaeological adventures, especially those that take place in the first half of the 1900s, so that's really the only reason I picked this game up. And while there's some exotic historical locales to keep it visually interesting, the puzzles are pretty simplistic and characters largely one-dimensional. There's just so many better adventure/puzzle games out there, so I wouldn't recommend it unless you're scraping the bottom of the bucket for an Indiana Jones fix.
The Talos Principle - It took me a couple of tries to really figure this game out, but once I did, I loved how the puzzles felt a lot like Portal - challenging enough to make you have to think it through from different angles till you get that "aha" moment, but not too challenging to need a guide if you're persistent. The game turned out to be be much bigger and deeper than I expected, too, as the philosophical and existential themes were totally up my alley. My only real beef with this game is that some of the response choices you're given seemed pretty boxed in - I often found myself thinking, "Maybe, but that's not entirely accurate/how I feel" (a lot of it had to do with my theological beliefs not lining up with the game). While I suppose that's a natural limitation of games with multiple dialogue paths, I don't particularly enjoy that feeling of being cornered into responding a certain way just because it has to fit within the developer's worldview (a worldview I don't completely agree with). I think SOMA handled it better as it simply made you think about what you believe without assigning some sort of judgment or narrative consequence. But regardless, The Talos Principle was a really fun, super thought-provoking experience that would definitely be on my must-play list. I haven't played the DLC yet, but I did pick it up in the winter sale, so...TBC.
Thief: Deadly Shadows - I haven't yet played the first two Thief games, but I definitely will because of how much of a blast I had sneaking around in Deadly Shadows. Despite being dated, it's a surprisingly immersive stealth game; it gives you a fair amount of freedom in how to traverse the map, whether to be more non-confrontational or more of an assassin. In general, the levels were pretty well-designed, and the game gives you a decent variety of weapons and tools to use as well (and I actually enjoyed the lock picking mini-puzzle). What I liked the most about the game, though, was sneaking around and stealing special items/treasure. There's enough stealth games out there, but not too many actually focus on thievery. The one glaring point I'll warn you about is that with the PC version, near the end of the game, I experienced a glitch where the game would always crash and I couldn't get it to work no matter what fix I tried, so I had to resort to finding another save file online to finish the game. But still well worth playing in spite of that if you're a fan of the genre - and make sure to get the Sneaky Upgrade patch.
Dishonored - Dishonored is obviously a very polished game, and like Thief, I appreciate the array of options for approaching missions, particularly those that allowed for more creative choices than simple assassination (I took the low chaos route). The rune powers also added a dimension that does seem really interesting on paper, but using some of the powers, particularly Dark Vision and Blink, resulted in an unfortunate conundrum where those powers almost made the game too easy (and even ruined the atmosphere by changing the color palette and replacing the mood music with weird whispering), but also...they're really nice powers. I did end up using them for most of the game because I have no self-control and I wanted to be able to breeze through the game without too much trouble, but I think it might've been a good idea to make those powers a little less useful or provide some kind of disincentivization. As for the story, idk, I didn't really care for it, and the ending felt pretty anticlimactic, though I think that's a common risk with stealth-based games since there isn't necessarily going to be an all-out brawl with a final boss. Bottom line, I enjoyed Dishonored's gameplay, but honestly, I think I liked Thief: DS slightly more because of Thief's bigger focus on stealing pieces of treasure.
Dementium: The Ward - I regret not playing this game when I first bought it. Not because it's a great game, but because I think I would've enjoyed it more back when I was a bigger fan of horror. Now, it seems pretty blasé - you're stuck in a hospital fighting off zombies and other weird monsters all the while never really making sense of what's actually going on. What really got me was the absolutely terrible save system - it autosaves between every chapter and at certain points within the chapter - which might not sound too awful until you realize resources are limited and you have to be careful how you use them as enemies will respawn when you reenter an area. Not worth the trouble imo.
Observer - Being a fan of both Layers of Fear (a previous game done by same developer) and Blade Runner, getting this game seemed like a no-brainer. However, I'm not quite sure how I feel about it. Like Layers of Fear, Observer is a psychedelic horrothriller, and it does that aspect well, but I found it hard to follow. It's a heck of a mind trip as you jump into various memories of the deceased, and it's visually stunning, but it's very convoluted and definitely seems to make being artsy and experimental more of a priority than being coherent. Not saying that's a bad thing, but it didn't personally give me enough to grasp onto in order to have a desire to dissect the narrative and characters for the underlying themes and meaning. For that reason, I prefer Layers of Fear, but I did love the cyberpunk feel of Observer.
Fatal Frame - I'd never played any FF games before, but it hit a nostalgic button for me as it brought me back to the time I was really into late '90s/early '00s horror games like Silent Hill. For better or worse, it's definitely got the hallmarks of that gaming period - the grainy filter, the clunky controls/cameras, the morbid puzzles, the blurbs of informational text as you check out the objects around you - even the menu sounds brought me back. But though it wooed me in, FF at times can be a pretty unforgivingly difficult game. Restorative items and camera film (which you use to fight off hostile ghosts) are somewhat sparse, so I found myself needing to save often and restore older saves if I felt like I lost too much health (I ended up overcompensating, but still a good idea to be conservative). Despite the challenge, however, I still enjoyed uncovering the mystery of this disturbing ghost tale, which actually turned out to be rather sad - wasn't really expecting that from the story, so that was a nice element.
Murdered: Soul Suspect - So, yeah, this game didn't get the greatest reviews, but I'm actually kind of surprised at that. It does sort of play like a ghost version of L.A. Noire (without the interrogation stuff), and there's some weird stealth sequences where you have to sneak around demons, but even though it is a pretty mediocre game to some extent, I think the premise and the characters are interesting enough (albeit kinda hokey) to make you want to keep playing. I wouldn't necessarily run out to get it, but if you have it in your backlog, it's worth trying out.
Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs - Surprisingly, I liked this game more than A Dark Descent. It does take away a lot of what people liked about ADD and turns the franchise into little more than a horror walking simulator, so I definitely get the complaints (no more sanity loss, no real puzzles, not a lot of monsters to worry about and no real need to hide). But the reason I like it more is because the story was more accessible and better written. Despite the protagonist's madness, I could understand where he was coming from and what brought him to that point - I didn't really get that same feeling with ADD (not to mention the ending was completely ridiculous). And I think it's AMFP's narrative that helped make it even more bone-chilling and disturbing than ADD, at least in my opinion. Is it a great horror game? Hmm, probably not, but is it a great horror story? I'd say it's a pretty good one.
Dead Nation - I played this game at a point where I needed something I could play in small bursts between rounds of studying, and I'd say Dead Nation is good for that. It's a short game overall, and the basic premise is that you're just mowing down waves of zombies as you're trying to find a way to escape the city - pretty much your standard zombie apocalypse story. I haven't played a whole lot of isometric games, so that angled, top-down view took a little getting used to, but it actually did get rather fun to take down wave after wave of enemies and watching the bodies pile up as you rack up a bunch of points. But beyond that, there wasn't a whole lot to it - no real reason to use any gun other than the rifle you're first equipped with, and I didn't find myself needing to use a whole lot of strategy other than having lots of explode-y things on hand for crowd control. So not a game I'd necessarily recommend, but it kept me occupied while it lasted.
Detroit: Become Human - I've had a love/hate relationship with David Cage's prior games. I like games that are more like an interactive movie with a "choices matter" aspect, but a lot of the characters in Quantic Dream titles have been pretty wooden, with the focus being more on the over-the-top drama and forcing you to feel something rather than allowing you to feel some genuine sense of connection with the characters on your own terms. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that Detroit was a vast improvement over previous games. There's still parts of the narrative that are pretty ridiculous, of course, but I feel that Detroit does a much better job of developing likeable characters that you want to empathize with. And you can probably guess from my username which character is my favorite, haha. I really liked his dynamic and friendship with Hank in particular. Definitely want to play this again someday because I got a really bad ending with the Kara, Alice and Luther thread. :(
Her Story - I'd been curious about this "game" for a while, and it definitely lives up to the uniqueness I'd heard about. By searching for videos using key words from the spoken text, you try to uncover more and more of a woman's story about whether or not she actually killed her husband. It took some twists and turns that I didn't expect, but I was also expecting the game to have me piece together the evidence myself and provide a case for why she did or didn't do it. Instead, it really is just about listening to her story. It's interesting, but I wouldn't spend more than a couple bucks on it.
Shelter - Another short experiential, artsy game that got surprisingly emotional. You play as a mamma badger looking after her babies, and that means protecting them from the elements and predators. It's not as easy as you'd think. ;__;
Eastshade - To be fair, this game is more than just a walking simulator, but there is a lot of walking. Depending on your gaming interests, though, that could be a perfectly good thing. Eastshade is a real beauty - you play as an aspiring artist who travels far and wide through several lush environments to capture that one of a kind, picturesque moment in a painting. It's a super relaxing experience as there's absolutely no combat; you just amble your way through series of quests, some that are fetch quests, some that involve a little bit of puzzling or investigation, some that allow you to make choices in how to deal with certain character situations (but ultimately don't have a huge effect on the story), and of course, there's the painting quests in which characters commission to have you paint specific things (and there's also an overarching quest to paint certain places in memory of your mother). The painting itself just involves taking a screenshot of your choice, but the game does require a bit of light crafting as you'll have to gather materials to make canvases and a few other helpful items. I think some of the environments could've been a little bit bigger, but ultimately, I was pretty satisfied to clock in around 15 hours or so. There are few games I've played that are as wonderfully calming as Eastshade.
CLANNAD - I did not know what I was signing up for when I bought this as my first visual novel because it is HUGE. Looking back, I don't know that I'd recommend it to anyone looking to get into the VN genre - it feels like a lot of pieces are still missing when you only complete one or a few of the paths. But I did eventually get through all of the paths available, and the writing and character development was well worth the time; there are romances, but it's more about the trials and triumphs of each character, and even though it didn't make me cry, some threads did unexpectedly tug at my heart. It's a big time investment, but CLANNAD will warm you up from the inside out.
2064: Read-Only Memories - It's cute, it's pixelated, it's cyberpunk, but aside from the visual aesthetic, it was a bit underwhelming. It's a not-so-vaguely political narrative about whether robots should be given autonomy and the tensions between human purists and those who have had cybernetic implants. I never felt like there was some huge agenda being forced down my throat - I like exploring ideas of what makes someone human, but it isn't really my cup of tea when it becomes largely framed by the extreme opposite ends of social justice.
Doki Doki Literature Club - Despite seeing all the recs for this VN, I held off on playing this for quite a while because I wasn't sure how dark and twisted it would actually get - I like horror to an extent but not if it involves weird and disturbing fetishes - and with VNs you can never be too sure sometimes. Thankfully, that isn't what this VN is about, and it's another one of those that you just have to experience for yourself without reading anything about it (and it's free), but I will say it was delightfully unsettling once things got real. Just Monika.
I Love You, Colonel Sanders! - I don't even know. But I actually kind of enjoyed it? Whoever designed this VN definitely knew all the tropes, which made it more fun than I would've ever expected. It's still a joke VN, and I wouldn't have paid money for it if it wasn't free, but I got a good hour or so of entertainment out of it.
Reigns - I don't know why, but something compelled me to keep playing through this medieval strategy/choices matter game until I got the real ending (had to use a guide, of course). Probably had something to do with the addictive swipe left or right gameplay, lol. It was entertaining to see all the different possible threads, but bottom line, it was basically just a sufficient time-waster.
Organ Trail - You've probably heard of it before, but's pretty much what you'd think - just a mash-up of the old school Oregon Trail and a zombie apocalypse. Doesn't take terribly long to get through one run of it, but can be a bit challenging at times. I'd rate this as another good mobile time-waster.
A Dark Room - I started by playing the free browser version, and I loved it so much I bought the mobile app version and ended up being glued to my phone for a couple days straight. It's a minimalist, text-based incremental game, and I've never played anything like it before. The story is told through a series of short sentences that intermittently appear depending on your progress, and despite the few words, there's actually lot of mystery to them that makes you want to find out more. The gameplay part of it involves gathering and producing materials in order to build your settlement and help it grow, which the game gathers or produces automatically depending on how you have your resources allocated. Once you get far enough in, you can actually start exploring outside your settlement for other materials and maybe uncover more of the mystery. You can take a backpack of supplies with you, but you'll have to be careful - your food/water amounts and # of torches dictates how far and where you can travel, and you'll run into hostiles so you'll want to make sure you're appropriately geared up. Sadly, it didn't take too long to reach the end of the game; I would've loved to have played so much more of it. But I definitely recommend it to anyone especially since the browser version is completely free.
All Our Asias - This was a short title on Steam that piqued my curiosity because of its experimental, PSX-ish aesthetic. It's more or less a walking sim that's more of an experience than a game, but honestly, it kinda left me wanting more of it? Not necessarily because of the story - which I didn't follow completely - but just because of the exploration aspect. Like sort of a "small open world before there were open worlds" feeling with a very ethereal, otherworldly spin to it. However, it could be boring for people expecting more actual content.
Blameless - I downloaded this because I was looking for a short horror game, and while the atmosphere was nice and creepy, the puzzles weren't all that challenging and the story left something to be desired. But hey, it's free.
What Never Was - This was more or less a half-hour demo for a first-person puzzle game I'm hoping will be released someday because it was rather impressive. I'm a sucker for games with some kind of archaeological adventure/mystery. Apparently part two is currently in development; I just hope that its title isn't a self-fulfilling prophecy.
A Date in the Park - I can't really say anything about this game without spoiling it. It's a free point and click that takes maybe an hour or so, but if you like the kind of creepy where things feel just a little bit "off," it might be worth it just for the sheer experience.
Antenna Dilemma - This was basically chapter one of a pixelated point and click game (and not sure if more chapters are coming). It's charming and fun to click through, but underneath that cute exterior, there's a social commentary on our media consumption habits. The characters in the game are mesmerized by their TV sets, but the protagonist (who's an adorable grey cube) sets outside to find a life beyond. I could see this being a full-fledged story, so it was disappointing when there wasn't more.
Session Seven - This is another point and click pixel adventure game, but the narrative (potentially) takes a darker turn. You play as a guy trying to escape his basement with no idea of how he got there, but the more objects you find and puzzles you complete, the more you remember what happened, and much of it you process during scenes with a psychiatrist that come up periodically in the game. I say "potentially" as there are a few different outcomes depending on how you respond to the psychiatrist's questions. Unlike some of the other freeware, this is a complete story, and while it didn't blow my mind, it's a pretty interesting one.
So that's it for 2019! I think my main takeaway is that I need to play more RPGs for 2020, and I am kind of missing a good JRPG in particular, though sometimes those are hard to commit to because of the time involved. But I suppose it's not about the number of games we beat; it's about the amount of fun we have playing them, right? :)
Dear Reader (including the poor Biden staffers who have to white-knuckle their armrests when not sucking down unfiltered Marlboros every time Joe Biden gives an interview), If you’ve never heard the Milton Friedman shovels and spoons story, you will (and I don’t just mean here). Because everyone on the right tells some version of it at some point. The other Uncle Miltie (i.e., not the epically endowed comedic genius) goes to Asia or Africa or South America and is taken on a tour of some public works project in a developing country. Hundreds of laborers are digging with shovels. Milton asks the official in charge something like, “Why use shovels when earth moving equipment would be so much more efficient?” The official replies that this is a jobs program and using shovels creates more jobs. Friedman guffaws and asks, “In that case: Why not use spoons?” The story might not be true, but the insight is timeless. Here’s another story: When I was in college, we were debating in intro to philosophy the differences between treating men and women “equally” versus treating them the “same.” At first blush, the two things sound synonymous, but they’re not (indeed the difference illuminates the chasm of difference between classical liberalism and socialism, but that’s a topic for another day). I pointed out that there were some firefighter programs that had different physical requirements for male applicants and female ones (this was before it was particularly controversial—outside discussions of Foucault—to assume there were clear differences between sexes). Female applicants had to complete an obstacle course carrying a 100-pound dummy, but men had to carry a 200-pound dummy, or something like that. A puckish freshperson named Jonah Goldberg said: “I don’t really care if a firefighter is a man, a woman, or a gorilla, I’d just like them to be able to rescue me from a fire.” A woman sitting in front of me wheeled around and womansplained to me that “you can always just hire two women.” I shot back something like, “You could also hire 17 midgets, that’s not the point.” (I apologize for using the word midget, which wasn’t on the proscribed terms list at the time.) But here’s the thing: Sometimes it is the point. Whether you’re talking about spoons or little people, the case for efficiency is just one case among many. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s an important one, but it’s not the only one. Sometimes older children are told to bring their little brothers or sisters along on some trip. They’ll complain, “But they’ll just slow us down!” or, “But they aren’t allowed on the big kid rides.” Parents understand the point, but they are not prioritizing efficiency over love. Or, they’re prioritizing a different efficiency: Not being stuck with a little kid who’s crying all day because he or she was left behind. One of my favorite scenes in the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer is when the chess tutor Bruce Pandolfini, played by Ben Kingsley, tells the chess prodigy’s parents that they have to forbid their son from playing pickup chess in the park because he learns bad chess habits there. The mom says “Not playing in the park would kill him. He loves it.” Kingsley replies, accurately, that it “just makes my job harder.” And the mom says, “Then your job is harder.” I love that. I love it precisely because it recognizes that good parents recognize that there are trade-offs in life and that the best option isn’t always the most efficient one. This is one of those places where you can see how wisdom and expertise can diverge from one another. The Unity of Goodness Efficiency can mean different things in different contexts. In business, it means profit maximization (or cost reduction, which is often the same thing). In sports, it means winning. Always giving the ball to the best player annoys the other players who want their own shot at glory, but so long as he can be counted on to score, most coaches will err on the side of winning. Starting one-legged players will wildly improve a basketball team’s diversity score, but it’s unlikely to improve the score that matters to coaches—or fans. I’ve long argued that there’s something in the progressive mind that dislikes this whole line of thinking. They often tend to find the idea of trade-offs to be immoral or offensive. I call it the “unity of goodness” worldview. Once you develop an ear for it, you can hear it everywhere. “I refuse to believe that economic growth has to come at the expense of the environment.” “There’s no downside to putting women in combat.” “I don’t want to live in a society where families have to choose between X and Y,” or “I for one reject the idea that we have to sacrifice security for freedom—or freedom for security.” Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were masters at declaring that all hard choices were “false choices”—as if only mean-spirited people would say you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Saint Greta Nowhere is this mindset more on display in environmentalism. Everyone hawking the Green New Deal insists that it’s win-win all the way down. It’s Bastiat’s broken window parable on an industrialized scale. Spending trillions to switch to less efficient forms of energy will boost economic growth and create jobs, they insist. I’d have much more respect for these arguments if they simply acknowledged that doing a fraction of what they want will come at considerable cost. Consider Greta Thunberg, the latest child redeemer of the climate change movement. She hates planes because they spew CO2. That’s why she sailed from Sweden to a conference in New York. As symbolism, it worked, at least for the people who already agree with her. But in economic terms, she might as well have raised the Spoon Banner off the main mast of her multi-million-dollar craft (that may have a minimal carbon footprint now, but required an enormous carbon down-payment to create). The organizers of this stunt had to fly two people to New York to bring the ship back across the Atlantic. And scores of reporters flew across the Atlantic to cover her heroic act of self-denial. Her nautical virtue signaling came at a price. The organizers insist that they will buy carbon offsets to compensate for the damage done. But that’s just clever accounting. The cost is still real. And that’s not the only cost. It took her fifteen days to get to America. In other words, she actually proved the point of many of her critics. Fossil fuels come with costs all their own—geopolitical, environmental, etc.—but the upside of those downsides is far greater efficiency. If you want to get across the Atlantic in seven hours instead of two weeks, you need fossil fuels. The efficiency of modern technology reduces costs by giving human beings more time to do other stuff. The Conservative Planners The unity of goodness mindset has been spreading to the right these days as well. The new conservative critics of the free market see the efficiency of the market as a threat to other good things. And they’re right, as Joseph Schumpeter explained decades ago. For instance, just as earth-moving equipment replaces ditch-diggers in the name of efficiency, robots replace crane operators, and the communities that depended on those jobs often suffer as a result. I have no quarrel with this observation. My problem is with the way they either sell their program as cost-free, or pretend that the right experts can run things better from Washington. They know which jobs or industries need the state to protect them from the market. They know how to run Facebook or Google to improve the Gross National Virtue Index. Many of the same people who once chuckled at the Spoons story now nod sagely. I don’t mean to say that there’s no room for government to regulate economic affairs. But I am at a loss as to why I should suspend my skepticism for right-wingers when they work from the same assumptions of the left-wingers I’ve been arguing with for decades. Embracing Trumpism to Own Trump Instead I want—or I guess need—to talk about another trade-off. I’ve been very reluctant to weigh in on the Joe Walsh project for a bunch of reasons. The biggest is that I am friends with some of the people cheering it on. But I think I have to offer my take. I don’t get it. Oh, I certainly understand the desire to see a primary challenger to Trump. I share that desire. And I understand the political calculation behind the effort. It’s like when one little league team brings in some dismayingly brawny and hirsute player from Costa Rica as a ringer. The other teams feel like they have to get their own 22-year-olds with photoshopped birth certificates in order to compete. My friend Bill Kristol is convinced that Trump must be defeated and that Walsh is just the mongoose to take on the Cobra-in-Chief. I try not to recycle metaphors or analogies too much, but this seems like another example of a Col. Nicholson move. As I’ve written before, Col. Nicholson was the Alec Guinness character in The Bridge Over the River Kwai. The commanding officer of a contingent of mostly British POWs being held by the Japanese, Nicholson at first follows the rules and refuses to cooperate with his captors in their effort to use British captives as slave labor for a bridge project. But then his pride kicks in and he decides he will show the Japanese what real soldiering is like, agreeing to build the bridge as a demonstration of British superiority in civil engineering. [Spoiler alert] It’s only at the end of the film that he realizes that building the bridge may have been a kind of short-sighted moral victory, but in reality he was helping the Japanese kill allied troops because the bridge was going to be used for shipping Japanese troops and ammunition. When this realization finally arrives, he exclaims, “My God, what have I done?” Walsh’s primary brief against Trump is that Trump is temperamentally unfit for office and a con man. Fair enough. But he has to focus his indictment on Trump’s erratic behavior. Why? Because he’s a terrible spokesman for much of the rest of the case against Trump. I may not call myself “Never Trump” any more, but I was in 2016. And back then, the argument against Trump wasn’t simply that he was erratic. It was also that he wasn’t a conservative, that he happily dabbled in racism and bigotry, and that he was crude, ill-informed, and narcissistically incapable of putting his personal interests and ego aside for the good of the country. I’m sure I’m leaving a few other things out. But you get the point. Walsh may be sincere in his remorse over all the racist and incendiary things he said in the very recent past. He may regret supporting his anti-Semitic friend Paul Nehlen, though I haven’t found evidence of that. But none of that history should be seen as qualifications for the presidency, the Republican nomination, or support from conservatives. And yet, it is precisely these things that make him attractive to his conservative supporters. Trump is an entertainer who trolls his enemies with offensive statements for attention, so let’s find someone who does the exact same thing! Walsh may have been a one-term congressman, but his true vocation was as a shock-jock trolling provocateur. It’s ironic. As I’ve argued countless times, much of Trump’s bigotry in 2016 stemmed less from any core convictions than from a deep belief that the GOP’s base voters were bigoted and he needed to feed them red meat. Trump's reluctance to repudiate David Duke derived primarily from his ridiculous assumption that Duke had a large constituency he didn’t want to offend. He may have believed the Birther stuff, but he peddled it because that’s what his fans wanted. And Joe Walsh was one of those fans. It may also be true that Walsh never really believed most of the bilge he was peddling and that he was doing the same thing Trump did—feeding the trolls—on a smaller scale. But if that’s the case, then he’s a con man, too. I don’t want to beat up on Walsh too much because, again, his epiphany may be sincere. There are lots of people who pushed certain arguments too far only to recognize that the payoff was Trump and the transformation of conservatism into a form of right-wing identity politics. There are a lot of Col. Nicholsons out there. And I have too much respect for Bill Kristol to believe that he would lend his support to someone he believed to be as bigoted as the man Walsh seemed to be a few years ago. But from where I sit, the prize we should keep our eyes on isn’t defeating Trump; it’s keeping conservatism from succumbing to Trumpism after he’s gone. This isn’t easy, and no tactic is guaranteed to be successful. We’ve never been here before. My own approach is to agree with Trump policies when I think they’re right—judges, buying Greenland, etc.—and disagreeing when they’re wrong. My own crutch is to simply tell the truth as I see it, regardless of whether it fits into some larger political agenda or strategy. Truth is always a legitimate defense of any statement. But for those who see themselves as political players as well as public intellectuals, I think this is a terrible mistake. Intellectually and morally, the case for continued opposition to—or skepticism about, Trump cannot—or rather must not—be reduced to simple Trump hatred. But by rallying around Walsh—instead of, say, Mark Sanford, or Justin Amash, or, heh, General Mattis—that’s what it looks like. Because you can’t say, “I’m standing on principle in my opposition to a bigoted troll and con man as the leader of my party and my country and that’s why I am supporting a less successful bigoted troll and con man for president.” Walsh isn’t a conservative alternative to Trump; he’s an alternative version of Trump. And his candidacy only makes sense if you take the “binary choice” and “Flight 93” logic of 2016 and cast Trump in the role of Hillary. Let’s imagine the Walsh gambit works beyond anyone’s dreams and Joe Walsh ends up getting the GOP nomination (a fairly ludicrous thought experiment, I know). If so, I have no doubt that my friend Bill Kristol will say, a la Col. Nicholson, “My God, what have I done.” Various & Sundry Canine Update: It’s good to be home. The beasts were delighted to see us. Everything is settling back to normal, except for one intriguing development. I think Zoë has finally had enough with Pippa’s tennis ball routine. The other day on the midday walk with the pack, Kirsten managed to film Zoë putting an end to the tennis ball shenanigans. She took the ball and buried it. It was, to use an inapt phrase, a baller move—and she was unapologetic about it. Maybe she just didn’t like all the commotion with the other dogs, because she’s tolerant of the tennis ball stuff again. Or maybe she was being protective of her sister given that many of the other dogs in the pack are known thieves. Regardless, they’re doing well and having fun. If you haven’t tuned into The Remnant lately, please give it another try. The first episode of the week was with Niall Ferguson and the feedback has been great. The latest episode is with my friend and AEI colleague Adam White on all things constitutional. Word of mouth is really important in building up audiences, so if you can spread the word about The Remnant or this “news”letter, I’d be grateful.
Hey everyone, Murba here. With E3 gracing us with its presence once again, it’s time to reflect on game series’ both new and old. Here I will be giving an overview of one of the most successful PC franchises for nearly two decades, The Sims series. I will first be describing how the series’ origins and how it came to be made, then I will be going over each game in the series along with their respective add-ons. Origins The Sims series was created by video game designer Will Wright, though he had already been a household name for over a decade. This is due to his work in a variety of games that have focused on sandbox-style gameplay that focused more on player creativity and management rather than objectives or reaching an endpoint. One of the first games he had developed was Raid on Bungling Bay where he stated that he had more fun developing the environments rather than playing the actual game. This would lead him to developing his own video game, originally called Micropolis, that focused on building cities and managing their development without end. Later in development, the game would undergo a name change and become known as SimCity, the very first game in the Sim series. Separate from The Sims series, the Sim series was a series of simulation games that placed players in scenarios that fostered creativity and management skills in a wide variety of situations. Beyond SimCity, the series would expand into other areas like farming in SimFarm, hospital upkeep in SimHealth, and business management in SimTower. There were also games like SimAnt and SimEarth that focused not on earning money but creating life and helping creatures survive in the worlds that the player created. Eventually, a game that combined the business and life management scenarios of the series would be released in the year 2000, aptly named The Sims. The inspiration for The Sims came about when Will Wright faced a sudden hardship when his home was one of many structures that was affected by the 1991 Oakland Firestorm. The house was destroyed, and all his possessions were also lost. Faced with having to basically rebuild his life, the tragedy had turned to inspiration. Wright had begun to think of a video game that would match what he had been through; building a home from the ground up and simulating the joys and struggles of life through a virtual family. After shopping the idea around and facing technological limitations at the time, Electronic Arts finally agreed to pick up the project years after the fire and The Sims was officially put into development and the first trailer was launched. Originally, the game was going to feature an open-ended system that was focused heavily on construction and studying the in-game characters’ behavior. But after working on the social aspect of the game for a time, the developers and Wright found more enjoyment in this and began focusing development on individual characters and the actions they take and relationships they make. Despite the gains in development, though, the game did not elicit much confidence from Electronic Arts and was not properly spotlighted by the time E3 1999 came around. However, the game did gain attention when a demo featured two female Sims professing their love to one another and kissing at a wedding. As same-sex relationships were hardly, if ever, featured in video games, this was a huge steppingstone in many eyes and brought much needed attention to the game. The publicity had successfully highlighted the game and its life-simulating features that many gamers were hyped to play with. Finally, on January 31, 2000, The Sims was officially launched to critical acclaim and overtook Myst as the top selling PC game of all time. Thus, The Sims series was launched with a bang. The Sims The first Sims game revolves around its three basic modes: Live, Buy, Build. The game opens with a loading screen with text implying humorous circumstances that are occurring in order to make the game run properly, a staple that would continue throughout the series. The game then presents the player with a small neighborhood with plenty of pre-designed homes and Sims to play as. Of course, creativity is key in this game and so one of the first things a new player can do is create their own Sims. The creation system in The Sims 1 was a basic system as you could only choose your Sims’ gender, age, skin tone, head, and body. There is also an option to choose your Sim’s personality, whether they be neat or a slob, active or lazy, outgoing or shy, etc. There was a lot of fun in mixing and matching the different options and up to eight Sims could be created in one household or family. The next step is to pick a home for the newly created household to dwell in. One could create their own home or pick from the predesigned ones provided. Either way, a home is always in need of furnishings and this is where the Buy aspect comes into play. A large catalogue of items is provided right at the comfort of your own home, eliminating the need to travel and purchase goods. While a whole slew of objects and knick-knacks are widely available, the Sims needs are a priority. Each Sim as eight needs that need fulfilling; these being Hunger, Social, Fun, Comfort, Hygiene, Bladder, Energy, and Environment. As such, Sims need objects like refrigerators to eat, televisions to have fun, beds to regain energy, etc. Of course, if a Sim family is moved into an empty lot, a home to place said objects in comes first. A home could be however big a player wants within the lot boundary and go up to two stories. Terraforming tools are also available that allows players to build steep hills or deep holes and even create decorative ponds to liven the lot up. The game offers a wide variety of options when building a home like adding wooden or spiral staircases, selecting wallpapers that change the texture of the outside and inside of a home, differing types of flooring like tile and carpet, and even adding pools. Each object in both Build and Buy mode is also accompanied by descriptions that can be elaborate or humorous (with one wallpaper, called "Dare Wallpaper", that outright asks the player if they "dare use this wallpaper" without any explanation why.) When all Sims are moved in and objects placed and homes built, it is time to live life to the fullest. Adult Sims can learn a variety of skills and form relationships with members of their household and other neighborhood Sims. Although travel is not possibly in the base game, Sims do occasionally stop by and can be seen walking past the homes of your playable Sims. Sims can also take on jobs in fields like education, police, and even criminal and work their way up the ladder earning promotions and pay raises. However, there is no day cycle, so the price comes at having a Sim work every day to make a living. Child Sims have more limited options and need to go to school every day much like an adult working-Sim. Another key aspect of the game was the music that was integrated within the modes. While the Live mode was mostly quiet save for radios or speaker systems that could be installed within the home, the Buy and Build modes were accompanied by a new-age Jazz soundtrack created by Jerry Martin. The Buy mode had a livelier soundtrack that created a feeling of excitement but also relaxation as players bought endless objects that livened up their homes and made their Sims lives easier. The Build mode soundtrack was much calmer and created a sensation that nature and construction were working together to build the home of the players’ dreams and was the perfect tone for such a venture. Overall, this soundtrack has been lauded by many and streams can often be found on YouTube for many to listen to. As stated before, one of the main draws of the Sims series is the open-ended gameplay that has no objectives or endgame content. However, this does not exclude a game-over scenario. As with life, Sims can experience mishaps and end up dying as a result of accidents like fires, electrocution, or falling meteors (a common occurrence). Low needs like hunger can also cause Sims to undergo breakdowns and endanger their lives further. Children could also be taken away due to neglect or even sent to military school forever if their grades slump in school. However harsh, these scenarios connect back to Will Wright’s original vision for the Sims being a simulation of real life and the joys and consequences that follow. Overall, though, Sims that are properly taken care of can live prosperous lives and happy lives. They can have relationships, get married, have children through simply actions like kissing, create wondrous works of art, become a jack-of-all-trades by learning every skill in the game, etc. The Sims, while dated in some respects, provided an infinite amount of entertainment that allowed for players to express their creativity in endless ways and play out scenarios that can go good or bad in many ways. Of course, another staple of The Sims series is the expansion packs and there were many in this game, totaling seven for one game. Some packs like Livin’ Large and House Party expanded on the actions Sims could so in their homes like having robot butlers clean up their messes, having teleporting staircases take them up the next floor, and throw massive parties to meet Sims and even meet Drew Carrey in the game. Others like Hot Date, Unleashed, and Vacation allowed for Sims to travel outside of the home and go on dates downtown, visit the expanded neighborhood of Old Town and adopt cats and dogs, or take a trip to the beach, forest, or mountains for a relaxing vacation. Finally, Superstar and Makin’ Magic changed what Sims could dedicate their lives to by letting them visit the new studio lots and become celebrities or become Mages by visiting, or moving into, Magic Town. There was also an online pack called The Sims Online where players could meet with other online through their Sims. Overall, The Sims and its expansion packs would set the stage for the future of the series and be the inspiration for future titles and packs that followed it. The Sims 2 About four years after The Sims was launched, the sequel to the game was released, aptly named The Sims 2. Although Will Wright was attached to the project, he did not provide much input into the sequel and the project was left in the hand’s other developers. The basic gameplay mechanics stayed relatively the same though there were some big additions that were made for this game. One of the first big changes was the shift from an isometric camera to a fully 3D camera in both the neighborhood and home. All Sims, objects, and homes were now 3D models and extensive detail was given to their shading, lighting, and shadow works to make them feel more alive. The upgraded engine also allowed for improvements to be made to the game modes like increasing the height of homes to five floors instead of two, allowing lots to be placed anywhere in the neighborhood, and giving Sims fully facial expressions instead of static heads. Another change that was made was how Sims could be created. Sims no longer stayed the same age forever and could now age appropriately, introducing toddlers, teenagers, and elders to the system. The creation options were vastly improved as individual tops and bottoms could now be customized and selected, outfits like pajamas and formal wear could be selected, and facial sculpting allowed for complete, if sometimes scary, freedom. Finally, a Sim could have an associated Aspiration tied to their personality. Aspirations like Family, Fortune, or Knowledge would dictate what a Sim was most interested in and drive their focus and goals towards these aspirations. A Family oriented Sim would want to focus on marriage and taking care of children while a Knowledge oriented Sim would focus on increasing their skills and creating crafts with what they have learned. These features tie into the Wants and Fears mode as well as the Aspiration Meter. The Aspiration Meter is a mode that can increase or decrease depending on if Wants or Fears are met. Wants and Fears are mini objectives that Sims may want to accomplish like make a new friend or avoid like the plague like getting fired. Fulfilling these grants Sims Aspiration Points and can liven their mood and be redeemed for special rewards that can make the game easier. Such rewards include a helmet that can boost their skills, a machine that lets Sims change their complete personality, and a drink dispenser that can provide extra days in a Sims life. Overall, the game was fitted with multiple features that expanded on the original game and greatly improved the overall experience. The addition of a weekly system meant that Sims did not have to go to work or school every day. Genetics could now be passed down to children instead of the system being a roll of the dice. The addition of a movie maker also allowed players to film their experiences and share them with friends offline and online. Life states were also introduced as Sims could now become a multitude of different species like Vampires, Werewolves, and even Zombies. The Sims 2 was also accompanied by eight expansion packs that provided features seen in previous packs, but some introduced new concepts. University allowed teenage Sims to move out of their parents’ homes and live the dorm life, studying for final exams and joining secret college societies that would make or break their educational experience. Open for Business let Sims create their own businesses by selling objects or providing services for other Sims without needing to work under careers. Seasons introduced weather conditions like rain and snow in the game that changed depending on the seasons. Finally, Apartment Life introduced apartment living and allowed for Sims to find roommates enjoy the joys and pitfalls of living by rent in shoddy holes in the wall or luxurious penthouses. The Sims 2 also introduced the concept of stuff packs. Stuff packs were like expansion packs, but they contained little to no gameplay features and instead just provided new objects that Sims could buy. Ten stuff packs were released, and each contained a theme like Teen Style or Family Fun styles. Some packs like IKEA Home and H&M Fashion were commissions by said companies and earned criticism from gamers and reviewers alike. Overall, The Sims 2 was a huge leap forward for The Sims series as it heavily upgraded its engine and allowed for greater player creativity through its characters and build options. The Sims 3 Will Wright had left Electronic Arts after the release of his newest game Spore yet the Sims license remained with the company. As such, the series would end up being developed further without Wright’s input and a successor to The Sims 2 had begun development, that being The Sims 3. Right from the first trailer, it is clear that this game was going to be much more ambitious than its predecessors and go well beyond to create a new experience. While there were a multitude of changes made like smoother character models and more skills that Sims could learn, there were three big changes that were added to this entry. Probably the biggest change that the game was trying to advertise was the new open world that Sims could traverse in. Previous titles only allowed individual lots to be played in and travel required driving over and waiting on loading screens for the next lot to load. Now the entire world was seamless and entirely open. Sims could walk to and visit neighbors, find collectables stones and bugs in far off locations, go for a jog around town to build up their fitness skills, everything was obtainable now without any interruptions. The second biggest change was the addition of traits. Previous Sims titles allowed for personality points and aspirations to determine how sociable a Sim would be or how neat they were, yet traits completely overhauled this system. Now Sims could have up to five traits that changed their behavior and unlocked certain actions unique to said traits. A Sim with the Virtuoso trait could sing in the shower and build up skills faster in music skills. A Sim who is Never Nude always swims and showers in a bathing suit. A Kleptomaniac could randomly swipe objects from unsuspecting Sims homes. There was a multitude of traits added that could truly make each Sim unique in their own way. The final big change to the game was the addition of the Create-a-Style mode. Previous games only allowed for a few options regarding the color of objects and clothing and could be quite limiting. This new mode allowed for practically every object in the game to be given a custom color or texture depending on player choice. A couch could be turned bright red and giving a metallic texture. A toilet could be colored gold and given a carpet texture. These were all options that made both the Sims and their homes stand out more in this new world. As per usual, expansion packs would further the Sims experience and they each brought new experiences that the series had yet seen. Ambitions allowed for Sims to actively play out their careers like Firefighter or Investigator rather than having the actions be done off camera. Generations put more emphasis on childhood and elderly Sims by giving them new interactions and options like school dances or reminiscing on the old times. Supernatural brought together many life states like lycanthropy and witches all in one expansion pack aimed at creating a true fantasy world. Finally, Island Paradise and Into the Future sought to gives Sims a new way of living by letting them live on luxurious islands and houseboats and travel into the future and experience the wonders of the new technology that could be found. Stuff packs also make a return in this game and as per usual, they are centered around themes like vehicles in Fast Lane and outdoor spaces in Outdoor Living. We also got sponsored packs like Diesel Stuff which added objects from the official company and, much to the confusion of many payers, a Katy Perry styled pack titled Katy Perry’s Sweet Treats which contained candy-themed objects and clothing at a higher cost than most packs. A third type of pack was introduced this generation called Worlds. These were essentially neighborhoods that were available on the Sims online store and retailers, each with their own theme like piracy for Barnacle Bay or outer space for Lunar Lakes. This is also the game that fully utilized the online store and consistently released objects, clothing, and exclusive tools that could be bought with real world money and downloaded into the game. Overall, this was clearly the most ambitious Sims game that has come out. It set a high amount of standards and goals and many players have shown admiration for the steps the game has taken towards achieving them. The Sims 4 With the arrival of the fourth Sims game, this entry has received a more mixed reception compared to its predecessors. One of the key reasons why is because many of the features that were introduced in previous games were either removed or scaled back. This was a game that was meant to appeal towards a larger audience and be able for anyone to play, hence sacrifices were made. The open world was no longer available and loading screens between lots had returned. Sim models were of a lower quality and not as realistic as other entries before it. Features like traits were still present but were scaled back a bit in lieu of new additions. Overall, this was a base game that had a lot of work to do to appeal towards longtime gamers, yet the new additions did help the game stand out more. One of the new key features that was added was Emotions. Previous Sims games usually kept Sims at a simple mindset and anything indicating a change in mood was usually not significant enough that gameplay would be affected. Now the actions that Sims would take, or events that would occur, could now have a positive or negative effect on a Sim’s mood. Things like objects breaking or getting into fights would sour a Sim’s mood and this would linger until something was done to brighten up their mood by doing activities that would make them happy. This also unlocked unique options like kicking down trash cans to vent one’s anger or play in the bathtub of a Sim is feeling playful. These new emotions made Sim’s feel more alive and helped them react more to the environment around them. Another new feature that was added was the revamped create-a-Sim mode. A Sim’s features were no longer reliant on sliders or picking select options but now Sims could now be molded by simply clicking on their body and be changed to the player’s hearts content. Another feature was that Sims’ genders were now completely customizable, giving way to options like transgendered or non-binary Sims. This also opened the door for all clothing and hair options to become available for Sims as it was no longer locked to specific genders now. As per usual, the game has had a slew of expansion and stuff packs, with the latter up to fourteen stuff packs and growing. The game has also introduced the concept of Game Packs. These are essentially the opposite of stuff packs whereas those introduced objects without changing the game fundamentally, game packs offered new modes or features that would have been too small for an expansion pack to feature. These include the Vampires pack which introduced the dark creatures of the night and also Spa Day which lets Sims create their own massage parlor and learn masseuse skills. Overall, The Sims 4 has had a rocky starts due to its missing features but it has steadily carved out an identity of its own and become a key part of the Sims franchise. In the end, The Sims series will forever be one of the most influential PC game series to have ever hit the market and one of my favorite games of all time. What are your favorite Sims games? What were your favorite experiences playing the games? What features do you hope will be added? Feel free to comment on your experiences and thank you for taking the time to read this! Sources: The Sims Wiki The Sims Wikipedia Page) LGR SimCity Series Retrospective The Kiss That Changed Video Games How The Sims Made New-Age Jazz Piano the Soundtrack of Our Lives
Gene therapy treatment for blood disease approved in Europe by izumi3682 in Futurology [–]izumi3682[S] 1 point 3 months ago Why is the guy's skin in the picture green like that? I think that communicates the wrong impression, like you start to turn into "the Hulk" too or you have to get stem cells from "the Hulk" or something. I mean he is not full "Hulk" yet, but he definitely looks like he is starting to turn into him for sure. Like maybe it is a side effect. I find it interesting and a bit unsettling how China (PRC) was the first to attempt this form of CRISPR-Cas9 treatment. As a direct result of the world wide knowledge of what China was doing, a universal moratorium http://www.crisprupdate.com/scientists-seek-moratorium-on-edits-to-human-genome-that-could-be-inherited/ was instituted to keep that kind of experimentation from proceeding. In a word the West was "alarmed". Now I see what is happening and it makes perfect sense to me. You keep up with China, or you get "disrupted". permalinksavecontextfull comments (1)editdelete Where is Augmented and Virtual Reality Technology Headed? by izumi3682 in Futurology [–]izumi3682[S] 2 points 3 months ago That's right by golly! https://www.reddit.com/Futurology/comments/7r42h0/vr_is_going_to_be_like_nothing_the_world_has_eve permalinksavecontextfull comments (2)editdelete CRISPR-Cas9 Improved 10,000-Fold by Synthetic Nucleotides by izumi3682 in Futurology [–]izumi3682[S] 2 points 3 months ago I thought CRISPR-Cas9 was already right specific. Can someone ELI5 how a ten thousand fold improvement in specificity will enable us to defeat all congenital conditions. And probably all pathologies too I suppose. permalinksavecontextfull comments (9)editdelete Double beds and urinals at 35,000 feet – introducing the aircraft interiors of the future by izumi3682 in Futurology [–]izumi3682[S] 1 point 3 months ago Interesting. I wonder which it is going to be now. Rockets that get us anywhere on Earth in like 30 minutes or luxury 16 hour totally VR enabled flights for coach passengers. Vision of rockets for Earth travel: https://www.recode.net/2018/4/11/17227036/flight-spacex-gwynne-shotwell-space-ted-conference-interview permalinksavecontextfull comments (2)editdelete AI must be 'for common good' by Benjaminsen in Futurology [–]izumi3682 1 point 3 months ago I think you are thinking too locally and limitedly as well. Pull back your view. https://www.reddit.com/Futurology/comments/6zu9yo/in_the_age_of_ai_we_shouldnt_measure_success/dmy1qed/ permalinksavecontextfull comments (21)editdelete Will technology ever allow people to experience specific mental fantasies via virtual reality? by infin8ty in Futurology [–]izumi3682 2 points 3 months ago Consider the Wright Brother's "aeroplane". Then think of today's modern aircraft. The VR we have right now is a Wright craft. VR and our minds will surely join. Try the "red pill" ;) https://www.reddit.com/Futurology/comments/7r42h0/vr_is_going_to_be_like_nothing_the_world_has_eve permalinksavecontextfull comments (4)editdelete NIST's new quantum method generates really random numbers by izumi3682 in Futurology [–]izumi3682[S] 1 point 3 months ago Is this a step closer to a quantum computer being capable of more general purpose computing? For example in 1945 we used binary computers for extremely limited applications. The only application I am aware of from 1945 was using binary computers to calculate artillery trajectories. Is something like that analogous to "optimization"? Getting from calculating artillery trajectories to doing everything we do today was not a one year process. Tons of insights, innovations and discoveries accompanied that. I remember making Christmas wreaths out of old punchcards when I was a Cub Scout. Then we would get to spray paint them gold or green. The effect was fairly impressive. Somebody got a ton of them from somewhere. But can we extrapolate that kind of progress (at a potentially much faster rate) with the implementation of quantum computers? Is it likely that humans will learn how to use quantum computers in the same manner that we use binary computers today? Perhaps quantum computers will simply "transcend" (replace) binary computers? Or will we forever be hobbled by having to use binary computers with quantum computers as some kind of piggyback enhancement. Or will they forever stay two separate tracks. Granted, an "exa-scale" supercomputer or whatever comes after an "exa" computer would be pretty insane in it's own right I imagine. I need to know all this and how ballpark soon, because it is important to my ascension to the realm of umm... "Dark Overlord of the Universe". (Yes, I got that from "Howard the Duck", but honestly, the intent is still accurately described.) What. We all have our own personal aspirations I'm sure. Now you know mine. permalinksavecontextfull comments (1)editdelete Peptide-based biogenic dental product may cure cavities by izumi3682 in Futurology [–]izumi3682[S] 5 points 3 months ago Important takeaway: The peptide-enabled technology allows the deposition of 10 to 50 micrometers of new enamel on the teeth after each use. Once fully developed, the technology can be used in both private and public health settings, in biomimetic toothpaste, gels, solutions and composites as a safe alternative to existing dental procedures and treatments. permalinksavecontextfull comments (16)editdelete Will Self-Driving Cars End The Big Automakers? by izumi3682 in Futurology [–]izumi3682[S] 2 points 3 months ago That's a generational attitude. In 1898 very few humans trusted the internal combustion engine over the reliable and easily controlled horse. But by 1908 horses were already beginning to disappear. By 1922 horses were very rare on New York City thoroughfares. Progress marches on. You don't trust SDVs, but a child of say, age 2, that grows up in today's world will never have known a world without SDVs, AI, VR, and human robots walking around like it's no big deal. For me at age 57, it is super important for me to keep my optimistic and somewhat irrationally exuberant outlook. I will fully trust level 5 autonomy SDVs when they do arrive in the next year or so. permalinksavecontextfull comments (13)editdelete Will Self-Driving Cars End The Big Automakers? by izumi3682 in Futurology [–]izumi3682[S] 1 point 3 months ago I think level 5 autonomy SDVs will end a business model that is over 100 years in existence. Namely personal ownership. I'm positive that once humans see how awesome it is to get a car within a few minutes of calling for one, they will never look back. No car insurance, no maintenance. You can't keep your stuff in the car, but you would have no desire to. Nor personalize. Private ownership will continue for a good while I'm sure, but humans will change to this new way very quickly I bet. Like in less than 10 years, easy. I'm not sure how all the infrastructure will work with this, like keeping the car smelling nice and not be all gross and whatnot. permalinksavecontextfull comments (13)editdelete Your fancy new car steers and brakes for you; so why keep your hands on the wheel? by izumi3682 in Futurology [–]izumi3682[S] -1 points 3 months ago The concept is a simple one. Any vehicle from 0 to 4 autonomy requires a fully licensed driver who should at all times keep their hands on the wheel and feet close to the brakes or accelerator. A level 4 autonomy SDV is in my opinion, far more dangerous than a human driving a normal unenhanced car. The reason is that human will be asleep or too deeply engrossed to take over when the car senses imminent danger when the human must take over in seconds or less... When you get into a level 5 autonomy SDV, you will see no steering wheel, brake or accelerator. You do not have to be a fully licensed driver to use a level 5 autonomy SDV. The question is, are level 5 autonomy vehicles going to be released in the next year or two? If not, then we keep on with learning to drive, licensing and behaving as if you are the fully manual driver, despite the fact that you are falling asleep or tempted to watch a movie. You are responsible for what happens still. I will trust a level 5 autonomy vehicle 100%. I will trust level 4 autonomy and below 100% only if the human driver is 100% in control at all times. The most recent figure I have for human caused MVA deaths (in the USA) is 32,000 for the year 2016. Will we see the figure begin to decline in 2018? Will a level 2-4 autonomy vehicle modify these figures? permalinksavecontextfull comments (1)editdelete Proscia is Fighting Cancer with Artificial Intelligence by izumi3682 in Futurology [–]izumi3682[S] 2 points 3 months ago Ultimately, though, Proscia is about more than placating scientists about robots taking their salaries. It’s about saving lives. TL;DR Proscia is replacing technologists, scientists, even pathologists with narrow AI and automation. Me: Why is anybody even surprised anymore? This is what narrow AI is really good at. AI never has a 'bad day". permalinksavecontextfull comments (1)editdelete Atlantic Circulation Weakening: No, We’re Not All Gonna Die (I Mean, Not Because Of This)[sic] by izumi3682 in Futurology [–]izumi3682[S] 1 point 3 months ago I bet the UK gets a lot colder though. Isn't London close to the same latitude of Moscow? And I know it gets right cold in Moscow. Doesn't the Gulf Stream keep the UK pretty mild? permalinksavecontextfull comments (1)editdelete NIST's new quantum method generates real random numbers by [deleted] in Futurology [–]izumi3682 1 point 3 months ago Is this a step closer to a quantum computer being capable of more general purpose computing? For example in 1945 we used binary computers for extremely limited applications. The only application I am aware of from 1945 was using binary computers to calculate artillery trajectories. Is something like that analogous to "optimization"? Getting from calculating artillery trajectories to doing everything we do today was not a one year process. Tons of insights, innovations and discoveries accompanied that. I remember making Christmas wreaths out of old punchcards when I was a Cub Scout. Then we would get to spray paint them gold or green. The effect was fairly impressive. Somebody got a ton of them from somewhere. But can we extrapolate that kind of progress (at a potentially much faster rate) with the implementation of quantum computers? Is it likely that humans will learn how to use quantum computers in the same manner that we use binary computers today? Perhaps quantum computers will simply "transcend" (replace) binary computers? Or will we forever be hobbled by having to use binary computers with quantum computers as some kind of piggyback enhancement. Or will they forever stay two tracks. Granted, an "exa-scale" supercomputer or whatever comes after an "exa" computer would be pretty insane in it's own right I imagine. I need to know all this and how ballpark soon, because it is important to my ascension to the realm of umm... "Dark Overlord of the Universe". (Yes, I got that from "Howard the Duck", but honestly, the intent is still accurately described.) What. We all have our own personal aspirations I'm sure. Now you know mine. permalinksavecontextfull comments (1)editdelete A virtual reality hand feels real after a zap to your brain by izumi3682 in Futurology [–]izumi3682[S] 1 point 3 months ago Well one of the things I say is that we will inevitably leave biology behind to get the VR worlds we want. So that idea is not so far fetched as you may think. https://www.reddit.com/Futurology/comments/7r42h0/vr_is_going_to_be_like_nothing_the_world_has_eve permalinksavecontextfull comments (6)editdelete Revolut CTO Reveals Why Cash Will Disappear Sooner Than You Think by izumi3682 in Futurology [–]izumi3682[S] 0 points 3 months ago Yes, I have often stated that the only way that UBI would ever truly work would be if I was the only one getting it. It would be such a tiny little tax on each human (apart from me) that people would scarce notice. I mean, don't tell anybody, they might get mad at me. But if you start giving everybody UBI it would probably water it down so much that it would no longer be so helpful. (For me I mean.) permalinksavecontextfull comments (3)editdelete A virtual reality hand feels real after a zap to your brain by izumi3682 in Futurology [–]izumi3682[S] 5 points 3 months ago Unfortunately it is going to take a lot of creative zapping of the human brain to bring taste and smell into VR worlds. Silly analogs like mouth pieces and packaged scents like banana are just not going to work. Speaking of smell, let me relate something. I work in a outlying medical clinic. Every once in a while we get a patient that has a bad odor around them. Not BO so much as a horrible unwashed stench. One human can easily stink up a significant portion of the building. So I got to thinking--if we have VR zombies with VR zombie smell--I promise you, you will never be taken by surprise by a zombie like in "The Walking Dead". You will smell one coming a thousand feet away and if its a bunch of them? The odor would be overwhelming long before they came into view. Anyway I'm just sayin'. Now how on Earth we are going to make interfaces that allow us to experience "deepdive" VR or what VR derives into, I don't have a clue. But humans being humans we are going to do our darndest to see if we can recreate like "The Matrix". But even better. It will be our minds interfacing while we sit in a chair, like a lucid dream you can consciously control or something. Think "Black Mirror" 'USS Calister', but without the slave minds hopefully. And the darndest thing is? We will succeed. And within 100 years easily. permalinkunsavecontextfull comments (6)editdelete Revolut CTO Reveals Why Cash Will Disappear Sooner Than You Think by izumi3682 in Futurology [–]izumi3682[S] 5 points 3 months ago Cashless is not the answer. The answer is having a society where a medium of exchange is no longer necessary because pretty much everything is valueless and available to everyone for free. The concept of financial poverty should cease to have meaning. Pretty soon we will have the technology to do this, but it is hard to change a 6,000 year old habit. I may sound pie-in-the-sky unrealistic, but this is what much smarter humans than me are advocating, like Peter Diamandis. Here is something that due to technology is going to lose value quickly. https://www.sciencealert.com/how-artificial-diamonds-are-made-microwave-methane-gas-lab-ethical I also suspect that vehicles will not for much longer be owned, but will be part of low price yearly subscription. The 99% will vote with their shrinking bank accounts. Sure this generation will resist, but children who are 2 years old today will embrace it as a natural thing. And laugh about the way we used to think. And how we would manually drive! OMG! :O permalinksavecontextfull comments (3)editdelete How Will Merging Minds and Machines Change Our Conscious Experience? by izumi3682 in Futurology [–]izumi3682[S] 5 points 3 months ago That is not something we can imagine, little less comprehend in the year 2018. The reason the "technological singularity" is called a "singularity" is because just like our current understanding of physics breaks down and we can't model what happens within the singularity of a black hole, so too our understanding of what we would experience after the technological singularity is just as impossible to model. We hope for the singularity to be as "human friendly" as possible. And I think we are now taking some steps in the right direction with developments like "NeuroLink" and methods of keeping the AI narrow, but joining it to our very minds in some kind of way. We would not, of course, be the same creatures after that in any event. But the bottom line is this. The AI, in whatever form is not only an unstoppable juggernaut, but it is in effect becoming exponentially more powerful about every six months. And we can't put the cat back in the bag, even if we wanted to. We don't want to. Our science, technology and even economy is now too inextricably tied to the accelerating development of AI. Now I think it has come down to a race against time to get it right. 5 to 10 years. Boy, talk about a filter... permalinksavecontextfull comments (5)editdelete In Uber's Vision of the Future, Every Form of Transport Is Fair Game by izumi3682 in Futurology [–]izumi3682[S] 0 points 3 months ago Despite the recent tragedy in Arizona, Uber is not going away. They are deeply involved in the development of AI intrinsic to SDVs. I also admire their efforts to develop a sort of post-scarcity style subscription service that is low priced and highly dependable. Their ultimate goal is to ensure that any human that needs a ride somewhere can get one. Safely, effectively and most importantly for the vast majority of the 99%--cheaply. permalinksavecontextfull comments (1)editdelete Here's the AI documentary Elon Musk thinks is essential viewing by izumi3682 in Futurology [–]izumi3682[S] 0 points 3 months ago Your link is gone now. At least for USA. But you are right. The sound does cut in and out on my link. Reminds me of my old "copy-guard" 1980's. permalinksavecontextfull comments (7)editdelete Here's the AI documentary Elon Musk thinks is essential viewing by izumi3682 in Futurology [–]izumi3682[S] 0 points 3 months ago We have zero choice. Either the AI remains external from us and becomes something very much akin to AGI, if not straight up AGI, not to mention the very real possibility of EI (emergent intelligence). This would quickly (within seconds) cause homo sapiens to be the secondary sentience on Earth. And by quite a wide margin to boot. Think humans vs. "archaea". It is a total 50/50 proposition if that would be heaven or hell. I wouldn't want to take the chance. What is terrifying to ponder is that this outcome is more than likely a natural phenomenon in the universe with any biology that can reach tool making sentience. We are simply in the "larval" stage of intelligence right now. This despite all of our Einstein and Hitler and Boyle's Law and the pyramids of Egypt and screamingly funny cat videos and The Beatles and climate change and 1970's television and the American Civil War or the English Civil War for that matter. It will all vanish in the new AI as if it never existed. After all do we care that much about the history and culture of "archaea"? Same difference. The only realistic choice is that we continue to develop means for the human mind to gain access to what we hope remains narrow AI. I see that we are working to develop the so-called "NeuroLink" and that is a good step in the right direction. Every single human mind would have access not only to the sum total of human knowledge, but the ability to continuously gain information at a rate that is fully beyond our capacity in the year 2018 to fathom, little less understand. The outcome will be a human/AI sentience that may likely be something we would not recognize in any event. Still a "butterfly" from the larva. But at least humans would still be the primary sentience on Earth. Hopefully the AI still does not manage to control us. Nevertheless this option is still the only realistic one we have now. I stated something that is based on what exactly is going on here earlier. Raymond Kurzweil is the proponent. I would say the chances are 90% that most humans do not understand what Raymond Kurzweil is proposing. Anyway here is the comment I made a while back if you are interested. https://www.reddit.com/Futurology/comments/6zu9yo/in_the_age_of_ai_we_shouldnt_measure_success/dmy1qed/ permalinksavecontextfull comments (7)editdelete Here's the AI documentary Elon Musk thinks is essential viewing by izumi3682 in Futurology [–]izumi3682[S] 4 points 3 months ago I just watched this. It's absolutely superb. No futurist should miss this. I paid to permanently own the streaming video. You can also rent it, but i chose to own so i can show everyone. I am izumi3682. I'm the one that posted this link. I posted it before even watching the video, but when it said that Elon Musk--who also appears in it, was impressed, that impressed me too. This video is the honest and real deal right up to "Cambridge Analytica" today. TL;DR : In as little as 5 years, but definitely not more than 10 years the AI will take over unless it is a part of us. The AI scientists in the video explain why this will be. Maybe somebody can hack it and it will be on YouTube for free or something. I just consider myself an "early adopter" in that case. It should be on YouTube for free. Oh well what do you know. I found a Russian hack on YouTube! I can't guarantee quality, but here it is. The video has been on YouTube for 5 days now. It may get removed, so see it quick! It is one hour and 18 minutes long. You won't be bored. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SghmYtar-OY I just checked the YouTube video, the quality appears to be near perfect with 1080p rez and excellent sound on my pc anyways. I was stupid to spend 5.99, but that is ok. I just want to get the information out there. permalinksavecontextfull comments (7)editdelete Leaked Tesla Image Reveals Full Self-Driving User Interface by izumi3682 in Futurology [–]izumi3682[S] 5 points 3 months ago This is the part I ate up! ;) Musk told investors during the company’s fourth quarter earnings call in February that the artificial intelligence will work like other (AI) system(s) in that it will improve exponentially. Claiming that he’s “pretty excited about how much progress we’re making on the neural net front,” he said progress will “feel like, ‘well this is a lame driver, lame driver, well actually this is a pretty good driver, like holy cow this driver’s good.’” permalinksavecontextfull comments (1)editdelete Supercomputer models cloud microphysics by izumi3682 in Futurology [–]izumi3682[S] 1 point 3 months ago When I come across articles like this. Articles that are about simulating this or that. Then I read other articles describing how incredible worlds that are rendered by Nvidia or Unreal Engine 4 are already. I tend to extrapolate. So in like about 50 years just think how those two technologies will have advanced. And then put something like VR with that. Today the VR is primitive, but I bet it will not be so primitive in 50 years. I look at that simple videogame called "No Man's Sky". It actually was released about 2 years ago I think. The thing about that game is that it uses a surprisingly few laws of physics to procedurally generate a stupendous number of "visitable" worlds. The few laws of physics are so that things make sense. It probably does not even qualify as a proper simulation. I don't know how many worlds you can actually have in existence at one time, but in 50 years we will have the computing power and AI, probably AGI, to render something akin to a visitable galaxy. And then a full visitable universe in 100 or 200 more years. If we still care about that kind of thing I mean. God knows what the mixing of AI and the human mind will ultimately lead to.
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