I Played That! #18: Pinball Construction Set (C64)

In 1983 or ’84 some old friends of the family from when I was a wee tot came to visit. Their youngest son, Tim, was about my age, so it would fall on me to keep him entertained. Tim and I didn’t have a lot in common, and he never wanted to do anything. I couldn’t find anything that he was interested in. My Commodore 64 was the closest, so I thought maybe we could play a new game together.

This spurred me to do something drastic. I boxed up my comics (I had only been reading for a short time, and didn’t have too many, but I had older issues of The New Teen Titans, which were in demand) and sold them to a shop. I then used the money to buy Pinball Construction Set, a game I’d been wanting and now had the impetus to purchase.

Tim still wasn’t too interested, so screw him, I let him dangle while I played PCS.

Pinball Construction Set was exactly what it said. It provided the tools, in a drag-and-drop interface, for creating your own computer pinball games. Everything (at the time) you could think of was included in some fashion, and the editor was surprisingly robust.

I was fascinated by it, and dove into the history of pinball. I checked books out of the library and designed all kinds of tables, but like most thing, my interest was fairly shallow, and I wasn’t very good at actually playing pinball, much to my dismay. Practice with real machines was prohibitive and also frustrating; I didn’t want to get good at it, I wanted to be good at it.

A couple of years later, when I was steeped in New Orleans BBS culture, I came up with a way to bring fresh blood to my favorite bulletin board systems. PCS not only made pinball games to play within the program, you could also save your creations as stand-alone games that ran by themselves. I created tables themed around some of the BBSes, included the phone number in the artwork, and uploaded them to whatever sites I could find. I’m fairly certain this plan did not work.

Posted in Videogames | Tagged ,

My Tweek on Twitter

What I did this week (and the week before!) on Twitter, the website you grew up with.


* I’m improving lives

* sorry

* I have no time for this bullshit.

* See, there generally aren’t fish in space, so the last bit is unexpected

* Seriously, this is a riot

* Regarding that worker in Germany killed by a robot.

* RT of the week

* also RT of the week

* David Bowie had an adventure

* It’s off their third album, Booty Rumpin’

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I Have No Shame

Here’s a shirt you can not buy.

Posted in Geek Stuff | Tagged ,

We Can Be Happy Underground, a Fallout Shelter Review

Like many others, I have been playing the iOS game, Fallout Shelter, a free-to-play game put out by Bethesda to help pass the time until November 10th, when Fallout 4 is released.

Fallout Shelter is a Tamagotchi of a “game”. You have to make sure your vault’s citizens have food and water and electricity, keep them happy, and help them reproduce. At this point you do not have to clean up their poop. Rooms produce the things you need and you collect them my tapping on them. You can reassign workers based on their skills, and workers are happier doing something they’re good at. You can also send folks out into the wasteland on a Progress Quest-like journey to recover outfits and weapons and hopefully not die. Along the way there are “challenges” that give bonuses upon completion. Usually the challenges are things you’re doing anyway, so completing them is no big deal.

The biggest challenge rewards are lunchboxes. Lunchboxes are a set of four rewards, one of which is usually rare, such as a special outfit, weapon, or even Vault Dweller. Everything about Fallout Shelter is free (not counting your time, the most precious resource of all) but you can buy lunchboxes with real-world cash. I bought one just to throw a bone to the developers.

Let me tell you a little about Vault 107, my vault. It started out pretty innocent, but soon things got a little hot.

Those ladies with the yellow shirts on are all pregnant. Two of them were knocked up by the same guy, who was also the only guy in the vault at the time who had a weapon. Already an investigation is warranted.

The pregnancy thing is a little…well, it’s kind of disturbing. One of your jobs as Overseer is to increase your vault’s population, and you do that by placing a man and a woman in a residential room. They’ll chitchat, dance, and then the magic happens. They sneak off behind closed doors, smiles come out, and then the man pops out followed by a shuffling pregnant woman in a yellow maternity smock. Here’s one of my guys chatting up a lady.

Some folks have pointed out the uncomfortable nature of this, where basically you’re force-breeding couples. Women then become another resource to manage so you can get your numbers up. (Getting new settlers from the wasteland is possible, but it’s very slow.) For the record, people who are related won’t breed, they’ll just hang out spending “family time” together.

When a kid is born you can name it, and you can even rename other Vault Dwellers. It was a grand day when I realized this!

These two would later have a beautiful daughter named Beefcreep. As a result of this I have no idea who is related to who anymore.

But your citizens do more than just reproduce. You build rooms for producing food, water, and power, as well as medical supplies. You assign people to work in rooms and, if their stat for that room is high, the room will produce faster and they will be happier. So while your citizens do something other than bang each other, that something is only work. There is no non-sexual recreation in the vault.

I take that back: if they don’t feel like working or screwing, they can grab a gun and some stimpaks and head out to the wasteland. Here’s Caligula Pete on such a mission.

He showed up at my vault wearing a royal outfit and had pretty good stats, so he’s one of my regular explorers, along with El Perro Negro (the luchador guy in the pic above), Zazz, The Unknowable, and Pppppp. I’m now training Mookie Wilson to also do wasteland runs.

My vault has a radio station, which is a room you can build that tries to attract new dwellers. One of my guys who works in it, Crawdad Hicks, even has Three Dog’s outfit from Fallout 3 (I got it out of a lunchbox.)

One day the radio station attracted a dude in a clergy outfit, complete with pope hat. I brought him into the vault and threw him in a residence room with three other people while I tried to figure out where to put him. He immediately knocked up two of the women in the room, Shasta and Spap Oop.

(That other guy isn’t saying “LOL”, that’s his name. In fact, he’s saying the opposite of LOL because he just got double alpha dogged.) Long story short, that clergy guy is now named Sex Pope and he works in the radio station. He also knocked up Taylor Swift.

Here’s the thing about Fallout Shelter: it’s not particularly fun. There’s only so much you can do with it, after about 30 minutes you’ve seen all it has to offer, and it’s not challenging in the slightest. If it didn’t decide you needed to touch it every few minutes it could easily play itself. And yet, I can’t put the damn thing down.

I suspect that Bethesda didn’t expect much from it, just threw it out there for laughs and is surprised as anyone that it’s gotten so much traction. Maybe they’ll add more to it now that it seems to be a hit. Even if they don’t, I have my eye on a population of 200 (which is both the maximum occupancy and just a matter of time, since I don’t think citizens die of old age) and will probably keep going.

Here’s the current status of my vault:

and here’s the newest addition, citizen #75:

Posted in Videogames | Tagged ,

I Played That! #17: Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura (PC)

Arcanum was the first game from Troika Games, a studio formed by developers of Fallout. It too is an isometric RPG, but this time set in a fantasy world. What sets it apart from a million other fantasy RPGs was that this fantasy world wasn’t stuck in a medieval setting, but was experiencing an industrial revolution. That’s an interesting concept, and the fact that it was doing this years before the “steampunk” aesthetic both became a thing and became a thing everyone was sick of, made it fresh and exciting.

In Arcanum, you can take a path of magic or technology, but each one has negative effects on the other. The more tech you have, the less magic you’ll be able to use, and vice-versa. Balancing the two didn’t work particularly well, so you’d eventually have to commit one way or another. In addition, the game was non-linear and full of side quests with multiple solutions, so your playing experience was largely up to you. You could construct technology items from seeming junk, which was cool. The game had a lot of offer.

Sadly, it’s also a disaster. There’s a lot in it, but little of it works very well. Should you take the magic route, there are loads of magic spells to choose from, but you’ll never need more than three of them. One of the first combat spells you get will easily carry you through the rest of the game. If you go the technology route, it won’t be long before nothing stands in your way; it’s just plain better than the magic route.

The NPCs continued the fine tradition of NPCs being useless except for carrying items around. In Arcanum, casting spells can fatigue a character, and if you cast too many, you’ll eventually pass out. One of the first NPCs you meet has healing magic, and he’ll bombard you with it as you take incredibly minor damage until he drops unconscious.

I can tell you many people who fondly remember Arcanum and very very few who remember any details at all about the story. It was also very prone to bugs.

Basically, Arcanum was a great idea that needed a lot more polish. While it’s not unplayable or unenjoyable, what it delivers is a tiny fraction of what it seems to promise. It’s probably better known for some of the ideas it brought to RPGs instead of how it implemented those ideas.

Posted in Videogames | Tagged

My Tweek on Twitter

What I did this week (and the week before!) on Twitter, the website you grew up with.


* I didn’t have time to photoshop it.

* Oh, Fake Voyager 2!

* This was on June 18

* So. Many. And. All. The. Same.

* Getting business cards printed up

* I never knew how sympatico I was with David Bowie, at least grocery-shopping-wise

* Only white people get to have history.

* I’ve nver even played one of these games and I’m sick of them

* not sure why CNN later took down this image

* I’m just saying what everyone’s thinking here

* RT of the week

* true story

* Vice-RT of the week

* Also true story

Posted in Twitter | Tagged

How About This Flag Instead?

Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide

It’s a great day for love!

Posted in Politics | Tagged

Southern Culture on the Skids

We all know now that a week ago Dylann Roof went into a predominantly black church in South Carolina and murdered nine people. He flat-out told them his reason for doing so (they were black), he had a manifesto and was looking to incite a race war, and he left one person alive to tell others what happened. Somehow this isn’t enough to make him get called a terrorist, which makes sense; in America, a terrorist is a person who makes white men afraid.

Once again a mass shooting will get some people to mention guns, but guns will have nothing to fear. There won’t be a gun debate because the gun debate is over and the guns won (fun fact: I don’t remember which shooting that was). Instead we will do as we always do and talk about something else.

Will it be the fact that Roof’s hatred was racially motivated? Heavens no, it can’t be that because we have a black president and therefore racism is over. Obviously any lingering cases of white people being convinced that black people are taking their women and ruining their country are isolated incidents with no recognizable connection between them.

Will we talk about the appalling state of mental health care in this country, even as we say that Roof was clearly sick, twisted, and crazy? Ha ha no indeed we will not.

So instead this time the Confederate flag will take the hit, which, let me tell you, I was shocked as hell to see. Did Dylann Roof play so few videogames or listen to so little music that we had to resort to this? It was surprising enough when the Confederate flag was thrown under then bus, but then Republicans couldn’t start repudiating it fast enough!

Now, let me say that I couldn’t be happier to see the beginning of the end of this miserable rag. Throw them all in a landfill, salt the landfill, and then shoot the landfill into the sun. Whatever sense of pride and heritage you get from the symbol of a bunch of traitors fighting for the right to own human beings can stand to feel a little bruised. I don’t give three-fifths of a damn about your great-great-grandpappy who served with Beauregard at Shiloh or whatever. If you have some affection for the Confederacy and its flag, maybe you need to re-think a few things. You can pretend it means something else, but it’s a symbol of a society founded on racism and slavery and we don’t need anyone “honoring” it. We certainly don’t need the government honoring it. I am all for getting it the hell out of here.

But although Roof sported the flag in some photos, he didn’t kill nine people with it. He didn’t murder them after reading up on Civil War history. The flag was a symbol of his racism and anger, but it wasn’t the cause, merely an expression of it (as it was when South Carolina decided to fly it in 1961, when the Negroes started getting uppity). At no point was Dylann Roof walking down the street when suddenly he saw a Confederate flag and thought, “Yes, father, I shall become a racist.”

It’s hard to complain about someone doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, but this is too important to let slide. It plays into the narrative that racism is over, that we’re all equal now, that it’s all in the past. To take down the symbol of an 1861 rebellion and then high-five ourselves is to ignore the racism that is going on right now, which isn’t stopping, and which seems to be growing in strength. We already teach that from the moment slaves were freed, things have just gotten better and better for black folks, which isn’t even remotely true. We can backslide, and we’ve done it several times. Again, that flag wasn’t flying over South Carolina since 1861, it went back up a hundred years later. Black people are constantly told that slavery ended a hundred and fifty years ago and they need to get over it, yet white people still need for some reason to hold on to the pride and heritage of their failed slave state. Take down the flag because it’s a continuing symbol of hatred, not because it might be “misinterpreted” by people who haven’t gotten the word that we’re all equal now.

President Obama recently spoke frankly about race; in fact he used the “n-word”. People who’d been happily calling him an n-word for eight years (or at least some polite company euphemism, like “thug”) were outraged that he would say such a thing. In fact, no one knows what context it was said in or what else he said because we were too busy having to take some air at this breach of social conduct unbecoming to the office of President (which has been held by many people who owned n-words). This bizarre theater, feigning outrage at a word we were sure had not been uttered in decades (except maybe by the aforementioned “thugs” who for some reason get to use it), is baffling. Who is it intended to convince?

I also worry about this new-found criticism and disowning of the Confederate flag because yeah, this time the scapegoat is, in fact, a symbol of hate and racism, but what if Roof had been big into videogames, or some kind of music, or comics, or weed, or whatever? We’d have the same song-and-dance now, the same theater and posturing by those in positions of authority, but I think most of us wouldn’t be quite as excited. Yes, by all means let’s stop the actual government from flying this garbage flag, but are we really ready to see it removed from stores and such because it’s currently unpopular? That’s the unfortunate thing about freedom; people are free to have shit opinions. Like religion, we unfortunately have to accommodate every whackadoo who thinks he’s got a hotline to the Creator, but it’s not the government’s job to support any of it (or at least, not supposed to be).

It already seems like the moment when we could discuss the legacy of the Civil War, the ugly root that survives and thrives in our society, has passed, and now we’re talking in mere symbols and signs, and within a few days that discussion too may well pass. Hell, maybe we’ll have another mass shooting to take our minds off it. Or maybe another baffling, isolated case of systemic racism in a fraternity or police department or school district or wherever. Maybe an actual 100% certified terrorist will get busted for thinking about maybe some day beginning to formulate a plot that would kill hundreds if it ever actually went off or even existed. The real threat out there isn’t Dylann Roof’s racism, it’s violent dangerous people who aren’t white.

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