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Starcraft 2: From Worse to Bad — Core Concepts (Part 1)
Apr 1st, 2011 by Pinback

In this part (3) of a possibly two-part part, we’ll examine what I like to call core concepts, because they are concepts, and also core. These are the some of the basic overlying, or possibly underlying concepts (or "things") that you will want to — nay, have to — keep in mind at all times whilst playing a game of StarCraft II.

To refresh, "playing a game" refers to playing a 1v1 multiplayer game against some other nerd on the internet. While these core concepts apply to other game styles as well, they are most vitally important in the core game, which is 1v1.

Alright, ready? I will try to list these concepts in descending order of importance, but realistically, to rise up to the level of being a bad StarCraft II player, which is our goal, they are all nearly equally important.

CORE CONCEPT #1: Always be building workers.

Start here, and if you must, play several games focusing on nothing but this. With very few exceptions, you are going to want to always be building workers. SC2 is a game of strategic and tactical skill second, and economy first, and it is vital that you grow your economy as quickly as possible. Some might disagree that economy is more important than strategy/tactics, but believe me, if economy is not your #1 concern, you’ll never get far enough into a game to try out any of your precious strategies. And the way you grow your economy is to make as many workers as possible, as quickly as possible.

It also helps to know how many workers are effective at each base. That’s fine, and we can learn that later. Short version: about 24 on mining, and 3 on each gas. But don’t worry as much about that. Just worry about always be building workers. It’s as easy as cake, too. You’ve got your base(s) on hotkeys, and you know that "q" is the grid hotkey for worker, so two quick keypresses will be enough to get the new worker in the queue.

The only time you ever want to not be building workers is if you are going to die if you don’t do something else immediately. If you’re about to be ZERGRUSHOMGed, then some more defenses or military units are probably more important than another worker if you can’t afford both. But once the emergency’s over? See: always be building workers.

CORE CONCEPT #2: Always be building supply buildings.

One of the two most embarrassing things you can do while you’re building your army is to be "supply blocked". Your military buildings are sitting there waiting to create units, you’ve got plenty of money, but instead, they might as well be SPACE HOTDOG STANDS, because you didn’t build enough supply buildings. The word "always" in this case isn’t as precise as in CORE CONCEPT #1, because you don’t really always need to be building supply. You do, however, always need to be watching your supply counter in the upper right hand corner, and when you see you’re getting close, you need to start building it, so that you are never prevented from building more units.

Don’t get supply blocked. It doesn’t look good.

So far, if you’re following these CORE CONCEPTS, you’re developing what pilots call a "scan". A normal checking of certain things that is done on a regular basis to make sure everything’s going well. So now your mental "scan" consists of: "Am I building workers? Am I keeping supply up?" This "scan" will take you far, but it needs to be happening constantly. Many people even put a little sticky note near the screen that says "workers, supply, …" to remind them what they need to be thinking about, all the time.

It’s hard work. That’s SC2.

Now let’s add even more things to your "scan", with:

CORE CONCEPT #3: Always spend all of your money.

"Money" is a general term which is applied to the resources available in the game: minerals and gas. The other most embarrassing thing you can do during your game is have any money. This is because your economy, which you’ve built up pretty well by following the first two CORE CONCEPTS is completely worthless if you’re not spending the money that it generated.

Watch any low-level play, look up at the little resource counters in the upper right, and you’re guaranteed to see some high numbers. Anything more than a couple hundred is "high". Anything more than 500 is "very high". And anything over 1000 is embarrassing.

It’s contradictory to how you might think. You’re sitting there with 1500 minerals and 1000 gas and thinkin’, hey, things are goin’ pretty good! Look at all that cash! Meanwhile, the enemy army comes in and roflstomps you because while you were hoarding wealth, he was spending it, and spending it immediately, to convert it to force on the battlefield as quickly as possible.

Now, there are two ways to spend all your money! One is the right way. One is the wrong way. Let’s say you’re playing Protoss, you’ve got a gateway up, and you’ve got 500 minerals in the bank. Let’s look at the two ways you can spend ’em:

RIGHT WAY* (example): Select the gateway, build a zealot (100). Select the nexus, build a worker (50). Select a worker, build another gateway (150). Select a worker, build a supply building (100).

WRONG WAY: Select the gateway and queue up five zealots. (100, 100, 100, 100, 100).

Do you see the difference? Sure, in both scenarios, your bank account is now at zero. However, in the RIGHT WAY, every last mineral is actively going to use to bring more force to the battlefield, where in the WRONG WAY, only 100 is actively doing anything, and the other 400 are just sitting around in escrow.

Queuing stuff up is one of the most common errors new players make, in fact. So don’t do that. But spend all of your money. If you’ve got a unit-building structure sitting around idle, build a unit with it. If you don’t have enough structures to spend all your money on units, build a new structure.

If you can make money as fast as possible, and spend it as fast as possible (without queuing), you cannot help but become a bad StarCraft II player. And if, god forbid, you actually want to be better than that, then none of this is even a little bit optional.

Let’s review your scan: Am I building workers? Am I building enough supply? Am I spending all of my money?

The final core concept, I was considering saving for part 2, because it may seem more advanced than these basic concepts, but ultimately it still fits into the theme of growing your economy as fast as possible, so I’ll just launch right into:

CORE CONCEPT #4: Always use your macro ability.


Link


One significant addition to SC2 from the original game is that each race now has what’s called a "macro ability". In layman’s terms, it’s a little gimmick that, if you remember to do it, allows you to build your economy faster than you would normally by just building workers. Here’s a quick description of each race’s ability:

TERRAN: May call down "MULEs", which harvest minerals extremely fast for a short period of time before breaking down.

PROTOSS: May "chronoboost" buildings, which has the effect of making that building build stuff faster than it would normally for a short period of time.

ZERG: May "inject larvae" into hatcheries every so often, which gives a one-time increase of the number of units that can be produced from the hatchery at the same time.

At first these may seem like fun little things to try out from time to time, but you will quickly learn that these abilities are not optional, and that you must be using them, every time, as soon as they become available, or your economy will fall behind, because the guy you’re playing is using them, every time, as soon as they become available.

I forget this one the most often, because Jesus Christ, don’t I have enough to worry about with the workers and the supply and the money, and by the way I’m also trying to build units and scout and deploy them to the battlefield and research upgrades and GOD DAMMIT I CAN’T BE THINKING ABOUT THE STUPID MACRO ABILITIES TOO!! It’s too hard!

Well, it is. But you still have to do it. Nobody said that becoming a truly bad SC2 player was going to be easy.

Let’s do one final review of the "scan", which contains all the things that you have to be thinking about at all times, oh my god:

Workers, supply, money, macro ability.

Burn these CORE CONCEPTS into your mind, and into your game, and I guarantee that you will definitely not suck quite as much as you do now.

(*) I realized after the fact that these only add up to 400. You get the idea, though.

The Social Network
Jan 21st, 2011 by Pinback

The Social Network keeps the streak alive.

What streak is that? The Fincher streak. Many have heard me talk about this, so if this is a repeat, forgive:

David Fincher, one of my favorite directors, has an amazing streak going, where his movies alternate, unblinkingly, between greatness and mediocrity. It’s amazing! Let’s go back through history and relive the STREAK:

Alien 3 (**) – The worst of the Alien movies, and an inauspicious beginning for the young Fincher. He has even gone so far as to disown it himself, so it feels like it might possibly not have been all his fault.

Se7en (****) – KaBAM! Fincher blows the world away with a movie that has had every film fan asking this question for over fifteen years now: What’s in the booooox?

The Game (**1/2) – I haven’t seen this in a while, but I remember it being a fun little piece of fluff, while not terribly noteworthy. Some, however, felt it was the worst movie of all time!

Fight Club (*****) – In my top five movies of all time, and one of the greatest works of 20th century American art. As fresh and mindblowing as it was in 1999.

Panic Room (***) – Certainly not bad, and I enjoy movies that try to keep things in a very limited space, but would anyone dare call this movie a great movie? Except for when Jodie Foster yells “FUCK!”?

Zodiac (****1/2) – ALSO one of the greatest movies of all time, and the first time Fincher was able to make greatness without constantly dicking with camera tricks and stuff. A long, long movie, that goes by in a blink.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (**1/2) – Interestingly, his first movie to gain widespread critical acclaim, even getting a Academy Best Picture nomination, is his most boring, least-rewatchable effort to date. This ALSO is a long movie, but unlike Zodiac, it feels every bit of its length. That’s what she said.

Which brings us to:

The Social Network (****) – I sighed with everyone else back in 2008 when we learned his next movie would be “about Facebook”. THINGS I DO NOT CARE ABOUT: 1) Facebook, 2) movies about Facebook.

But as Zodiac showed that Fincher can make a movie about what sounds like a dull topic (hunting the same killer for 20 years with no resolution) positively spellbinding, here he shows it was no fluke, as we have yet another spellbinding movie about a bunch of nerds sitting in rooms either programming, talking about programming, or talking to lawyers. The entire movie is comprised of people sitting in rooms and talking. The dialogue-heavy aspect is no surprise, given writer Aaron Sorkin’s profuse writing style. And it’s about a website.

And somehow, even with his most visually restrained (I counted only one real noticeable camera trick, though it is a cute one) movie to date, Fincher has made this the most entertaining, exhilirating movie I’ve seen in quite a while.

And if Jesse Eisenberg, who plays Facebook founder and sperging dickhole Mark Zuckerberg, doesn’t win Best Actor, I will punch Finsternis in the face. His portrayal, along with the snap-tastic writing, slick direction, and epic soundtrack by Trent Reznor, make this two hours of hardcore, high quality, adult-style entertainment.

Facebook still sucks.

But the STREAK IS ALIVE!

There’s Manchildren Preventing Me From Spending A Workday on Fallout: New Vegas, Manchildishly
Oct 13th, 2010 by Ice Cream Jonsey

The last time I called in sick from work to play a video game, it was for BioShock. I guess it’s okay to reveal the truth now, seeing how the company I worked for was so incompetently run, they recently had to let almost everyone go in Denver. I’m sure that will turn fortunes around for the home office in Glorious Nippon. Of course, taking the day off turned out to be a largely pointless venture, because of the greedy goddamn incompetence of everyone involved. I would like to take a vacation day off for the upcoming release of Fallout: New Vegas (a real vacation day, not the faking of an illness, as I respect the management of where I am now and sometimes that makes all the difference) but doing so would be stupid for the exact same reasons it was pointless to do so a few years ago. Who’s to blame for all this?

CULRPIT #1: STEAM
Look, I love Steam. Well, it’s okay. The cockslurping of the Steamworks project is still the lowest point of gaming journalism in the last ten years. It’s – er, Steam is still the most convenient download service there is, they were (pretty much) first, and of the completely incompetent things they DON’T do, they don’t pretend that they’re going out of business, like the fucking retards running the download service Good Old Games do, they don’t do whatever, er, the hell happened over at Impulse with that Elemental game (I will admit I missed all the threads on that one, but my general understanding is that it was a debacle of … something. Sorry, crack reporting here, I know.) and because they were one of the first download services to exist, I’m not driven to rage by having to sign up for something new. But I have no idea why they don’t let us pre-load the game and then flip a bit once the “release time” has passed.

Because that’s all it should be. We should all be able to download ALL THESE DELICIOUS GIGS* and Steam should authorize us at midnight, the Tuesday these things get released. We’re not getting a price break, you understand. The game isn’t any cheaper. We’re ensuring huge profits by ordering it ahead of time. But we’re able to play it AFTER someone getting it via retail. Which brings us t- he- to CUL- hey

CULPRIT #2: FUCKING RETAIL DINOSAURS
There’s a million other posts ranting about this, but Electronics Boutique-turned-Gamestop love pulling the shit where you can’t get a game unless you “pre-ordered” it, which is basically floating them a loan till your faith in fucking game developers, of all people, results in actual product. It’s the dumbest way to spend your money in the world. So this just drives people to Steam. If you’re at all involved in the horrible management of this terrible corporation, fucking grow up, you goddamn greedy, sniveling simpleton.

I guess there was only two culprits, and I’m pretty sure that the halfbreed shitstain publishers are the reason Steam can’t just flip a bit, so consider this a historical document rather than one filled with facts. We USED to be able to skip work and play a game for an entire day, and it was sort of awesome. Not any more. Much like good hockey and football games, the entire experience got fucked up by the game industry, an industry that makes worse and worse games each year, and finds new ways to hilariously ruin its own culture each year.

*Blackjack pizza made a stupid commercial with Denver Nugget Chauncey Billips recently, where – at one point – a bunch of pizzas are swirling around Chauncey’s head. Chauncey says “LOOKIT ALL THESE DELICIOUS PIZZAS.” This is the only reason someone would ever discuss pizzas made in Colorado, which are an abomination. So of course, Blackjack has done everything to eliminate the ad from the Internet. Stupid fucks. We wanted this to go viral. I wish the “stop snitching” campaign that Carmelo so deeply believed in had him offing Youtube snitches instead of, you know, real ones that murder citizens and cops that Carmelo is so fond of.

I May Have Gotten Banned From The Starcraft 2 Forum
Sep 22nd, 2010 by Ice Cream Jonsey

It all started when Blizzard finally released a patch. I say “finally” not because I am exasperated. Starcraft 2 is one of the most stable games on release of all-time. No, the constantly crying band of idiots on their forum wouldn’t shut up about some perceived disadvantage “Zerg” had, if you played a billion games.

Forum Idiot Lolo started a thread with the following:

the worst idea ever!! ingame clock can take strategy away from the game.. just knowing oh my opponent can’t have blank before 5 mins, or my opponent may have this at 12 mins takes away from the practice and real studying that players used to have to do to learn these timings.. now any retard can just look at a clock and know.. it takes away from possible mind games that can be played to your advantage.

just remove this feature from ladder! its a really bad idea for ladder play. what are your opinions people?

And it went on for SEVEN PAGES. I responded with this:

I can’t believe you pussies managed to go seven pages deep on a GAME CLOCK. A game clock!

I’ve got an idea of something Blizzard can create: a STAR NOOSE. And maybe you could focus-test it for them.

Well, you can imagine my surprise when my post was DELETED! Deleted! Me! Deleted! **Me!**

They have a policy, you see, about making physical threats towards other users. They will delete your post if you do that. You can literally start 20 threads a day submitting that Zerg has a minor disadvantage when you’ve been playing for 50 minutes and that’s fine, but one minor threat, and – but wait! I didn’t make any specific threat! What the –?! So I responded with this:

Why was my post deleted?

I did NOT make a threat towards whoever the idiot was that started this horrible thread. I suggested he get a NOOSE and FOCUS TEST it. That’s all. No threat on my part! I did not offer to buy him a noose. I did not offer to drive to his house and put it on him. All I did was say that Blizzard ought to make a noose, and he ought to test it. You can test nooses without putting them round your head, fastening them to an overhead beam or pipe, and jumping down, you know. Maybe I wanted the manchild OP to test the weave of the material. The quality of the craftsmanship. The color. You don’t know, you banhappy monsters!

Secondly, I specifically said “star noose.” There’s no such frigging thing as a star noose. Here’s methods of suicide that don’t work in a zero gravity world: HANGING. Good Christ! Did my post really get deleted because I told a guy to test out a fanciful device for killing oneself that wouldn’t work in outer space? That’s like four levels of abstraction here! I demand an apology!

I demand an apology!

Look, I didn’t do anything wrong. There’s no blood on my hands. Like Charles Manson, I didn’t directly harm anyone. OK maybe that’s not the best analogy I can use here, but still.

Anyway, for whatever reason, that didn’t seem to get them to restore my post, so to show my independence, I started up Star Control 2, Sim City 2 and any other game with similar initials to show just how little Starcraft 2 means to m- I miss it already.

Starcraft 2: From Worse to Bad — Control Groups
Sep 7th, 2010 by Pinback

SC2! This installment is called:

Putting Your Buildings In Control Groups

That sounds like a terribly dry, boring title, so it may surprise you when I tell you that this is the most important installment that you could ever read, if you want to be a not-quite-as-terrible SC2 player. Stick with me.

If you’ve ever watched a replay of a professional (or even half-decent) SC2 match, you will notice two things:

1. Something has gone horribly, horribly wrong in your life, because you’re sitting there watching replays of other people playing video games.

2. Somehow they’re able to move their armies, attack with precision, AND build new units and buildings and upgrades at the same time!

I could never figure out how that was possible. I’d either be base-building, getting a bunch of guys together, while the guys I’d already built just sat around waiting, or I’d be taking my big group of units and attacking, while my base just sat there doing nothing. There are names for these things! You may have heard them, and if you watch a replay, you will definitely hear them:

TERM: "Micro"

DEFINITION: "Micro"-management of military units. Moving them around, having them scout or attack enemies.

USE IT IN A SENTENCE: "He’s micro-ing really well, see how he sent those marines around to the other side of the (whatever, etc, etc.)"

TERM: "Macro"

DEFINITION: Economy building, Base building, Unit building, etc.

USE IT IN A SENTENCE: "That one guy micros better, but he just got overwhelmed because the other guy out-macroed him lolz gg omfg"

To restate my problems above, I could micro or macro, but not both at the same time. And that amazing thing the pros do? Microing and macroing at the same time. That is the number one key to becoming a only-a-fraction-as-awful SC2 player. And the number one key to microing and macroing at the same time is:

Putting Your Buildings In Control Groups

To review, a "control group" is when you assign a clump of units to one of the number keys on the top row of the keyboard. If you got ten zerglings, and you want to attack, you’d put them in, say, the "1" control group. Then whenever you wanted to select all of them, you’d just hit "1". If you wanted to center the camera on them, you’d just double-tap "1".

That’s fine. But the key thing here is, you can put your buildings in control groups too!

Before I explain how to do this, I will give you an example of what it looks like:

1. Hurm, durm, here I am with my little army on control group 1, I’m gettin’ close to the enemy, this’ll be fun!

2. Oh, I should probably build some more guys back at the base, in case this doesn’t go well, cuz I suck at micro.

OLD WAY: Leave your army sittin’ there, scroll back to the base, select the production building, click on the little Marine picture (or whatever), then double-tap 1 and go back to moving your army around.

NEW WAY: Let’s say you’ve grouped all of your production buildings on the "5" key. You hit "5". You hit (hotkey for Marine). You hit 1 to go back to controlling the army.

Holy crap, right? You just started building a guy, and it took two keystrokes, and you never had to move the camera. You were looking at your army the whole time, confident that back at your base, a new guy was being built. If you had two production buildings, you’d go 5, q, q, 1, and it would automatically make one building start building one guy, and the other the other. You made TWO GUYS in less than a second, without having to take your eye of your army. Oh man.

This gives you the idea of why this is so important.

I will just tell you how I do it. You can play around with it and configure it more to your liking.

TERRAN/PROTOSS:

I put "town hall" buildings (Command Center, Nexus) on 4. All of them. Any time I need a new worker, "4, q". Boom. Need a few? "4, q, q, q". BAM. BUILDIN’ WORKERS. Also each of the town hall buildings has its own little special abilities which you’d also activate this way. As Terran, want to scan the opponent’s base? "4, x, (click on where you want to scan". KAPOW. (Note, all of these examples assumed the "Grid" hotkey system, see last installment.)

I put production buildings (any building that makes units) on 5. I already gave you an example of this. This also, though, makes rallying easy. Want to rally ALL your newly created units to one spot? "5, (right-click on rally point)". Holy Jesus, you just rallied like twelve production buildings to one spot with one key press and one mouse click! HOLY CHRISTING LORD!!

I put "upgrade" buildings (those that you don’t actively interact with except when you wish to do research to do upgrades) on 6. Want to research Warp Gates but are too busy to click around to find the Cybernetics Core? "6, z". KERSPOWW!! JOB’S DUN!

That’s it. I use 4, 5, and 6 because 1, 2, 3 I reserve for groups of military units. Note how awesome this is, though. Using the Grid hotkeys, with these control groupings, I literally never have to move my left hand to do ANYTHING IN THE GAME that you’d ever need to do.

ZERG:

Zerg is slightly different because the "town hall" building is also the only unit production building. So they stay on 4, but 5 is instead used for grouping all the "queen" units, which have special abilities you need to be constantly using — particularly "spawn larvae". Need to spawn larvae at two of your hatcheries with your two queens? "5, x, (click on minimap hatchery), x, (click on other one)". BOWFF!!! Now that’s some fine larvae-spawnin’!

Alright. That’s about it for today’s installment, see you nex—

"HEY WAIT A MINUTE, PINNER! There’s ALL SORTS of production and upgrade buildings! If you have them all grouped together, how do you select a Barracks to build a Marine, vs. a Factory to build a Siege Tank, vs. a Starport to build a Banshee? And if all my upgrade buildings are on one key, how do I research Zergling speed at the Spawning Pool vs. Air attack +1 at the Spire? Etc., etc.?"

That’s the question, isn’t it. And there’s a very special key on the keyboard that has the answer. I will give you a hint as to which key it is:

Did you figure it out? It’s the "Tab" key. And the reason it’s the Tab key is because SC2 has something called "subgroups". You may group a bunch of different types of buildings together, or types of military units together, but SC2 will secretly distribute them into "subgroups", based on their type.

So when you select "5" to select your production buildings, can you guess which key will select the next "subgroup" in your main group? Can you?

I’ll give you that hint again:

Here’s the real life example, which will BLOW YOUR FRIGGIN’ MIND:

You have two barracks and two starports, all on group 5. You’re fightin’ a battle, but quickly want to get two marauders and two medivacs building back at your base. Check it:

"5, w, w, TAB, w, w".

Your mind? FRIGGIN’ BLOWN. First you selected the whole group (which defaulted to the barracks), built two marauders with the "w" hotkey, tabbed over to the starport sub-group, and built two medivacs, with the same hotkey. And since SC2 distributes your requests to all available buildings, each of your four buildings is building one of those units.

And it took you one second, and you never had to look at your base.

I guess, to sum up, I’d say that the most important thing to learn to do as you climb the ranks of the eternally mediocre, is:

Putting Your Buildings In Control Groups

Being a Nielsen Family Is The Greatest Accomplishment Of My Life. I Have No Family.
Sep 1st, 2010 by Ice Cream Jonsey

A few months ago I decided to conduct an experiment, because I was coming off a string of failed relationships, and when it gets that bad, you’re supposed to drown your sorrows in milkshakes, GOOBERS-brand goobers™, and TV. (Note: I just upgraded WordPress and as far as I can tell, the major feature they added was the inability for me to inline pictures with the GUI. So I assume that this recent WordPress update will either turn the ™ into the aggravating diamond character that’s poxed-up my older articles, or that using a ™ will cause a worldwide server meltdown that makes Chernobyl look like a poorly-managed EZ-Bake.)

The experiment was just me leaving my Directv unit on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I tuned it to ESPN and left it there. However, I turned the television itself off. I wasn’t raised this way. I was raised to turn the TV and cable box, both, off. Maybe you weren’t, but there are multiple males in my family who won’t give their names to a computer and childhood habits are hard to break. The unit was on, but the television was off, as it had been that way since the end of the regular NFL season. (I watched both playoff games and the Super Bowl in HD venues, High Definition venues as in, NOTE TO THIEVES, not in my actual goddamn home.)

Well, it finally paid off. I got a notice from Nielsen that they want me to be one of them. I had my suspicions, my paranoid suspicions, that Directv was happily broadcasting my viewing habits to them, because they’re all whores. Doesn’t matter, Nielsen wants me, or more specifically, my family. My family that hasn’t once stopped viewing television since late December, as far as they know. My “family,” that, strictly speaking, kills buggies, eats mushy brown pud and slinks about everywhere. They also constantly put their little paws in the coin return slots of my arcade games, looking for quarters, because they don’t have any money and they reject their poverty.

I’m not sure what channel is going to be the one left on continually when I’m finally accepted as a real Nielsen family. I’m enjoying the power, as it’s the only power in my miserable life at the moment. It probably won’t be ESPN because Chris Berman seems like an enormous cocksucker, and he’s almost always on, from what I understand, just being a pattern of bald and ruining everything. I don’t know what channel Breaking Bad is on, because I’ve been stealing it from the Internet, but that might be a good choice. I also liked the one show where a bunch of guys go on a fishing boat and enslave forty-thousand tons of fresh crab. That was a good one.

Sorry, I don’t have a decent ending to this. Aardvark is counting down his favorite games in the forum, though.

My Six Favorite Posts On The Internet
Aug 30th, 2010 by Ice Cream Jonsey

The Interpreter by John Colapinto

“To Everett, the Pirahã’s unswerving dedication to empirical reality—he called it the ‘immediacy-of-experience principle’ —explained their resistance to Christianity, since the Pirahã had always reacted to stories about Christ by asking, ‘Have you met this man?'”

The Big Scam by Nightfreeze.

It doesn’t matter if this did happen – it could have happened, which makes Eve Online one of the few games that matter.

Another Essjay Essay by Jason Scott

If a picture of the future is really a boot stomping on a throat forever, this is the first post detailing how the way we’re controlling and dispensing information is going to allow it to happen.

Somewhere Nearby is Colossal Cave: Examining Will Crowther’s Original “Adventure” in Code and in Kentucky by Professor Dennis G. Jerz

The most important document in the history of Interactive Fiction.

Extra Cheese by Ben Parrish

I think this period piece pretty much sums up being a single guy in the late 90s, actually. Good Christ!

Poppy Game Insult to Our War Dead by Stuart Campbell and Jonathan Nash

At one point there was such a thing as video game journalism you could be proud of. The rest of the press did everything they could to fuck it all up, natch.

Half-Life Mod Preview Two: Jay Schilling Edition by Fussbett, Toutsuite, conflictNo, The Cable Brothers and Erik

Everyone made fun of in this article is probably writing video game reviews for Gamespot now, actually.

Starcraft 2: From Worse to Bad
Aug 28th, 2010 by Pinback

SC2!Welcome to SC2FWTB, the thread in which I will TEACH YOU, the horrible SC2 player, how to rise to the ranks of the merely bad! I feel qualified to dispense this advice, because I am a bad player. However, I used to be terrible, and have made tremendous strides by following the advice I will now begin to give you!

I will do this in installments!

Today’s installment is called:

HOTKEYS.

Make no mistake! Without using hotkeys, you will always be horrible. Your first and only job, as a horrible player, is to learn to use hotkeys.

Not only that, but you need to learn to use hotkeys exclusively. A good training exercise for this (which will eventually become the way you actually play) is to play games against the computer, without ever touching the little selection menu in the lower-right. NEVER!

This takes work, as in the beginning, it will be much quicker for you to use the mouse to click on an icon than to recall the hotkey. But this is necessary.

Now we will play CHOOSE YOUR OWN GUIDE TO BECOMING NOT SO GODDAMN AWFUL AT SC2:

If you already know the standard hotkeys backwards and forwards, skip to “CONCLUSION”.

If you still haven’t learned any kind of hotkeys well enough for them to be second nature:

I want you to immediately click on “Options” in the SC2 menu. Then I want you to click on “Hotkeys”. At the top of this screen is a dropdown, called “Profile”. I want you to click on the dropdown, and select “Grid”.

What does this mean?

This replaces all of the default hotkeys with the “Grid” hotkeys, which are so much easier to use that you would have to be an insane person not to learn them.

Essentially, it makes the fifteen leftmost (or rightmost, if you’re left-handed) alphabetic keys on the keyboard correspond to the fifteen little icon boxes in the lower right of the screen.

This has three tremendous benefits:

1. If you don’t remember a hotkey, you can just look at the icon, see where it is in the selection menu, and PRESS DAT KEY.

2. The hotkeys for all three races are now PRETTY MUCH THE SAME! No more “e” for probe, “s” for SCV, and… whatever the hell drones were. Now any time you need a worker for any race, “q” is where it’s at.

3. More importantly, you never have to move your hand. You always wondered how the pros could do fifty million things at once and it never looks like they’re flailing all over the keyboard hunting for hotkeys? This is why.

If you’ve ever dreamed of not being horrible at SC2, AND of being able to sit there calmly, your hand comfortably resting in the “home” position, being merely bad, then the Grid hotkeys are a must. There are two complaints you might have about Grid as a horrible player, which are are:

1. “The hotkeys don’t make any sense!” REBUTTAL: Like they made sense before? Now you have to press “q” for a marine, instead of… “a”. ?????

2. “‘a’ was always the attack-move command! The most important command in the game! Now it’s ‘t’!! Arg!” REBUTTAL: Look. If you are right handed, and you’ve got your hands in the right position, “a” is located so you have to curl your ring-finger back to get at it. “t” is right where your index finger is. Now all you gotta do is MASH THAT T. “But ‘a’ stands for ‘attack!!'” REBUTTAL!! Trust me, after the first ten thousand times you hit ‘t’ for attack-move (2 games), you will thank me.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion… hotkeys!

Greta Lumpard is the Bravest Person I Know. (In the Style of Rick Reilly)
May 27th, 2010 by Knuckles the Clown

Greta Lumpard is the bravest person I know. You think Lebron James is tough? Try dunking without legs! Think Steve Nash can shoot? Try beating Greta’s career shooting percentage of 100!

It all started when coach Norm Frumpfeltd of the St. Eor’s Baptist High noticed something at games. A shrill voice cheering the Lady Gophers on. He couldnt figure out where his number one fan was till he looked down to tie his shoe. Their stood his future greatest player, all 2’4″ of her!

You see Greta was born with Stumponge disease. A rare bone disorder that results in the arm and leg bones not developing. Greta was doomed to a life hardship till she saw the St Eor’s Lady Gophers on public access and asked her foster mother “What is that?” Her foster mother unlocked her cage and let Greta watch a couple quarters with the sound on and she was hooked!

The nuns at Eor’s managed to make a special seat out of balsa wood so Greta could go to games. You think you got it made with box seats at the Knicks? Try court side for at the Lady Gophers! Once coach Frumpfetd noticed Greta he immediatley asked her, “would you like to be our “manager”? Greta cried yes quicker than Phil Mickleson at a buffet line.

It was a rough season for the Lady Gophers they were being blown away by Crispus Attucks High in the season finale, when Shronda Jackson, the All-city Cathlic Power Forward for CA got an idea. Why not let Greta in the game!!?????!!!!!!

Coach Frumpfeltd grinned. He called for a time out. And asked Greta if she wanted to be a Lady Gopher! Greta cried “yes sir”

Shronda Jackson and Betsy Mcgilicudy, bitter enemies all game carried Greta to the basket. They lifted her up high balanced the ball on her head. Greta bowed her head the ball swished through and the box score in the paper the next day read “Lumpard 2”.

There was no mention of the accidental dropping of Greta and ensuing broken neck. It mattered not to Greta who earned her Varsity letter going out on top. You see, even though she has no arms or legs, She’s got more heart than Secretariat! Eat that Vince Carter!

The Day I Was Almost Killed By Hot Sauce
May 20th, 2010 by Pinback

That day would be September 14, 2006.

Here is some The Backstory for you:

The Backstory

I’ve been growing quite the hot sauce collection at my desk at work. It is currently up to 19 sauces. I get most of them from Bay Cities Deli which is right down the street and has a wide selection.

One day last week I went uber-extreme for the first time and bought a $10, 4oz bottle of “Da Bomb: Ground Zero”. Da Bomb makes three sauces, and Ground Zero is the middle of the three. The “mildest” (if you can call it that, which you definitely cannot) is “Beyond Insanity”, and the most brutal is “Final Answer” ($40 a bottle).

So anyway, I taste a half-drop of Ground Zero, and it is brutal. I spontaneous get up, leave the room, and start walking around the office, with no particular place to go. But I’m on fire, and am seeing stars.

Good stuff.

The Story

Anyhows, since then I’ve been systematically upping my tolerance, and decided to hit Bay Cities again for a couple new “extreme” sauces. (“Extreme” sauces are those for which the primary heat component is pepper extract, rather than actual chiles. In this way, the heat is concentrated to levels previously unheard of.) I got Dave’s Insanity, which I’d tried many years ago and which I’d feared ever since, and the aforementioned Da Bomb: Beyond Insanity. It actually didn’t occur to me until I reached the checkout aisle the humor of buying both Insanity and Beyond Insanity in the same purchase.

I went back to my desk, and made a cheese sandwich. I took half, and slathered one of the pieces of bread with the Dave’s Insanity, which in its day was far and away the hottest thing on Earth, but since then had been far surpassed by other “extremer” extreme sauces.

It was hot. Very hot.

But… edible! And I got through the whole half sandwich without having any particular sort of conniption, and life was good. I’d conquered Dave’s Insanity, after 15 years!

So I turned to Beyond Insanity, which I was no longer particularly afraid of, since 1) I had just eaten Dave’s with no particularly harsh effects, and 2) it was supposedly half the heat level of Ground Zero, which I’d already tasted and survived the previous week.

So I shmeared that shit on the other half of the sandwich, and went to town.

GAAAK!!!

That was a spicy meatball. About halfway through I was gagging acid and running around the office sweating and hoping to avoid being seen. Then I went back and finished the sandwich. I actually dipped it into one of my other sauces, just hoping to cool it down. Specious logic, but I was willing to try anything. Holy crap, was that hot. You know why? Because half the heat level of INFINITE HEAT is still INFINITE HEAT. Yowza.

It was truly: beyond insanity.

But the burn cooled eventually, and I sat triumphant. Good times. Love the hot sauces.

Flash forward to seven hours later, when I leave the office and head up to visit savvyraven, and go with her to the Big Brother wrap party (where I met lots of famous people I’ve never heard of!) Wow. Just, wow.

As I begin my trek down the 10, it starts. A low, dull ache somewhere deep within my gastrointestinal system. Felt something like between a need to puke and a need to grow a tail. With just a little bit of plain old pain. But it’s low, and it’s dull, and it grows a little to medium-low and medium-dull, and maybe at its zenith it’s graduated to significant discomfort, but that fades eventually, and within ten minutes, I’m back to normal.

Ha! That lunch was catching up with me! Thank goodness that’s over, though. Not too bad, and well worth the good times I’d had.

I turn onto the 405.

This is when it occurs to me, I’d had the Dave’s half of the sandwich… then waited a while… and then had Da Bomb half.

And that’s when it hit.

The low, dull aching was nowhere to be seen. A dagger, bathed in hot sauce, stabbed me with great malice and vigor right in my gut. It twisted and turned. It’s steely sharp edge turning my insides to tartare.

It hurt. A lot. And as I descended the grade that separates the Valley from the Santa Monica bay area, I realized I was breathing very heavy, trying to withstand the agony. Breathing too heavily. Hyperventilating.

And the sounds of the highway were replaced by a high ringing sound. And my hands gripped ever tighter the steering wheel, for they too were going numb. Getting dizzy. Getting faint…

This is too perfect, I thought. I was going to pass out on the freeway. Killed by hot sauce. Poetic.

Unable to think of anything but stopping the car, I urgently made my way over to the very next exit, pulled off, found a side street, parked, put the seat back, and just died. My hands were completely numb. I fumbled unsuccessfully for the phone to call savvyraven to let her know I’d be a few minutes late. Lights and sounds swirled around in an acid dream jumble. This was the end of my life.

But, as is always the case with hot sauces, no matter how powerful, 15 minutes later, it’s all over. My circulation came back, my breathing slowed. I could feel the steering wheel in my hand, and the sweat dripping off the top of my head.

It smelled funny.

I fired the car back up, and headed on to my evening engagement. But the rest of the night, milling with CBS executives and dodging supermodels to get to the buffet, I could not escape the thought… The thought that:

THIS WAS THE DAY I WAS NEARLY KILLED BY HOT SAUCE!

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