Review: Machine Man (2011) by Max Barry
Dec 28th, 2011 by Ice Cream Jonsey

Each day when I come into work, I am greeted by a widescreen monitor that shows how many failed regression tests exist in the program we sell. Over the last two and a half years I created thousands of tests. I feel pride and ownership in them, which is unsettling to me, because this is supposed to be my job, and not my passion or anything, right?

We hired a guy six months ago who quit last week. He was – still is! – a brilliant automation engineer. He left the tests I made in better shape than when he started. He created dozens of new tests and I would work with him again in an instant. But there was a reptilian part of my brain that wouldn’t shut its goddamn mouth every time he made something new. It objected to the very concept of stuff I didn’t myself make. This stunned me. It bugged me. I couldn’t put my finger on any of it until I read Machine Man by Max Barry. That feeling, and many others that you experience in an engineering job, are deftly captured by Max Barry here.

Machine Man is written in the first-person and gives us an often painfully accurate voyage in the mind of a brilliant and successful autistic nerd that nobody would want to spend any time with outside of work. And even that is probably pushing it, Christ. Dr. Charles Neumann (our protagonist) loses his leg in an industrial accident and figures out pretty quickly that the prosthetic industry is a bit shit. He’s inspired to develop a kind of leg that will make him bigger, stronger, faster than before. What Barry does throughout the entire book is capture the inspiration that can consume a dork when all distractions have ceased, and you can truly focus. We (apparently I will selfishly align with Dr. Neumann when it serves my purposes) understand that being in the uncanny valley creeps everyone out. Mimicking human behavior is thrown out for all manner of robotic improvement.

It’s funny without picking on autistic people, which they pretty much deserve for ruining the Wikipedia, so credit Barry there. I can’t articulate why I am able to finish his novels in a night or two, but I got into the same vibe that I had with his books Jennifer Government and Company.

There is a kind of character that Barry does extremely well. (Dr. Neumann is characterized perfectly, and I don’t remember anything like him in one of Barry’s previous works.) The character of Cassandra Cautery is an intelligent, capable woman who gets in over her head, and I was reminded of a similar gal from his previous novel, Company. (I’m going to be honest: I can’t remember her name, but she was the woman who was obsessed with working out.) (OK, I got out my hardback of Company, and her name was Holly Vale.) Everything Cassandra said felt genuine, even though most of it was horrible, because I find myself listening to car insurance ads on the radio during my commute home, and somebody without a soul is churning those out.

What’s really stopping Machine Man from being brilliant instead of just really good is that there are many other characters that don’t feel as well-developed. I thought that the character of Lola Shanks felt less fleshed-out, because we were getting to know her exclusively through the tortured prism of Dr. Neumann, who is not all that great with women. I can’t decide if, therefore, it’s pretty cool that she was filtered that way or what. Regardless, I remembered that I became slightly attracted to the woman who did my rehab when I tore up my knee many years ago, even though I swore I wouldn’t let myself be, because I knew it was extremely cliched. C’mon son. So this is another thing that felt right about Machine Man to me. I can’t completely dismiss the nagging feeling that when Barry spends as much time with his characters as he does with his (quite fun) plots, he’s going to blow up the world.

With that in mind, the ending made my skin crawl. A couple pages that were just brilliantly written, where I was, like, scratching myself to remind my own brain that I’ve got my body and didn’t lose it or abandon it. I felt sick when reading it. In the good way. Kicking the covers so I could see my own legs, I felt ill while reading text on a page, which is some of the highest praise I can give a novel. I don’t want to give anything away, but I think the last two pages of Machine Man make an argument that its genre is horror instead of sci-fi. That’s a trick I don’t think I’ve ever seen before and wish I’d thought of myself.

Feeding Frenzy review on Caltrops
Jul 27th, 2011 by Ice Cream Jonsey

I reviewed the very fun little rubber monster movie, by RedLetterMedia, over on Caltrops.

Pinback’s Final 2010 Academy Nominee Rankings
Jun 25th, 2011 by Pinback

As of three nights ago, we’ve finally made it through all ten of last year’s Best Picture nominees, thanks to True Grit finally coming out on DVD. I will now rank them in order, with ratings and a small NIBLET of opinion about each of them.

Rankings are on the famous Pinback 0-5 Star scale, where the fifth star is reserved for extremely special films, not just great ones.

#1. The Social Network (****1/2): A masterwork. Two hours of people talking about websites, and the most riveting movie I’ve seen in years. It’s Fincher’s third best movie, which means that Fincher might be the best director on the planet. Far outclasses anything else in this list, and the fact that it didn’t win is still a monstrous injustice.

#2. 127 Hours (****): Another movie about something you wouldn’t think would be interesting (a guy stuck on a rock), and it’s fascinating, terrifying, funny, and at one particular point which you can guess, awfully difficult to watch. Another Danny Boyle winner.

#3. True Grit (***1/2): A solid Coen Bros. effort, but one which you feel like they could have done in their sleep. A raucous, hilarious first half gives way to more traditional narrative by the end, but it’s a joy throughout, and Jeff Bridges once again knocks it out of the house, even though I’m not sure I understood 1/4 of what he said.

#4. The King’s Speech (***1/2): I wanted to hate this for beating Social Network, but it’s hard to hate. A well done telling of a "made-for-the-Academy" storyline. Colin what’shisname won all the acting awards, but Geoffrey Rush steals the show.

#5. Black Swan (***1/2): A bit of a return to form for Aronofsky, this mindfuck turns ballet into a literal horrorshow, and also features Natalie Portman masturbating vigorously. So, there ya go.

#6. Toy Story 3 (***1/2): I saw the original Toy Story about five hundred times, but only saw the second one about a week before this came out on DVD. This is much better than the second one. My only complaint was, Christ, there’s just SO MUCH going on in it, it’s actually quite exhausting. But for a movie like this, too much is better than not enough.

#7. Winter’s Bone (***): A Heart-of-Darkness-like trek through the Ozark Mountains, done up to look just as dangerous and foreboding as the Congo river, the land through which Jennifer Lawrence must navigate is the most impressive character in the film. Also holy crap is she gorgeous. Oh my god.

#8. The Kids Are Alright (**1/2): A difficult movie to like, because everyone in it is a horrible person. One character is presented to be perhaps not a horrible person, but by the end, everyone is horrible. However, good performances and at least a slightly interesting narrative make this reasonably watchable. Once, anyway.

#9. Inception (**1/2): It’s inexcusable that this is thought of so highly. It’s a reasonably well-executed caper movie, with one reasonably interesting idea, and a few reasonably entertaining special effects. Two and a half stars is a reasonably accurate rating.

#10. The Fighter (**): What the hell is this? This is a movie? Christian Bale’s performance aside, I cannot think of a blander story to put to film. Not to spoil it for anyone, but as far as I can tell, the story is: "Pretty talented boxer practices a lot and then wins a bunch of fights." Yeah, that’s… that’s great. Couldn’t you have just told me about it and saved me the two hours? David O. Russell was a better storyteller when he was punching his stars and calling Lily Tomlin a cunt.

This concludes this list which is now over.

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.


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.


Bull (2008) by Kent Tessman
Dec 19th, 2010 by Ice Cream Jonsey

I am posting this like an entire year late. I loved Bull. I want you to love it, too. But I have to confess that I have spent every night for the last ten years using Kent Tessman’s game development system (“Hugo”) to make text games. So if Kent wasn’t so good at the one thing, I’d have written earlier about how much I enjoyed the other thing.

I am also troubled by the fact that my refrigerator has been broken for three weeks and I’m really running out of ways to combine the only things I have left: dry cereal and scotch. The refrigerator in Kent’s text adventure “Future Boy!” is the closest thing I have to one in my real life. (Kent not only wrote and directed Bull, he created a text adventure programming language called Hugo and made two of my favorite games with it.) I’m not capable of writing about the movie he made without this (waves hands) ALL of this becoming an egregious conflict of interest. But who cares. Journalism is dead, anyway. Bull is an engaging, gripping ride that gets better with every viewing. …And the fact that I code about text people saying horrible things to each other in the development environment he gave the world doesn’t affect that.

There are two problems with most independent movies. They are shot terribly and the actors suck. So I want to stress how nice, how professional Bull looks. The CG is just outstanding. (Kent not only wrote and directed Bull, created the programming language Hugo and wrote two of my favorite games, but did the computer graphics for Bull.) It’s well-lit. It’s filled to bursting with hot chicks. I would be happy if I never saw another movie set in Los Angeles or New York, so this one being set in Toronto is a pleasing change of pace. And the actors really aren’t aware that we expect them to seem like they are reading their lines off cue cards written in Comic Sans. The delivery is so good! Benjamin “Pinback” Parrish once said that all independently-made movies ought to have two small information boxes on the back of the DVD slipcase: The “running time” box and the “feels like” box. Most indie movies would go something like “Running Time: 88 Minutes, Feels Like: 244.” But Bull, Christ — it changes everything I’ve ever thought about an indie film. Everything. It’s clear before the conclusion of the first scene, where a desk falls out of a building, that Bull is a real movie that demands to be judged by the same criteria that all movies with budgets in the millions are regularly judged on. (Oh, Kent not only wrote, directed and did the CG for Bull, he created Hugo, the games Future Boy! and Guilty Bastards and wrote a video processing program called Alien Ray for his movie, for post-production VFX work.)

There wasn’t a single line of dialog that was awkwardly delivered. No scene had a distracting component that broke the “magic” of viewing. There was no part where the viewer suspects that something crucial was cut from the film, or that a scene was re-worked due to budgetary limitations. The most sincere compliment I can give it is that I “forgot” Kent wrote and directed it about fifteen minutes into it. This is the standard that all indie movies ought to strive for. That all movies ought to strive for.


I have spent a lot of time talking about the movie in relation to its peers. I’d like to stress that it stands on its own. The script is charming. For instance, I absolutely loved the following line, delivered by a guy on his deathbed:

“… I made so much goddamn money”

(Part of it is the dude’s delivery.) If I find myself in a stock scene in a movie, all I ask is that I’m given something new. People have been dying in hospitals in movies for a hundred years. Don’t look this up, but I’m pretty sure that there’s a bit in Birth of a Nation where a guy dies when the abacus keeping him alive locks up. But at no point while watching Bull did I think, “psh, I’ve seen this before.” Take Jay Valentine’s early speech about luck – I am easily led and agreeable, so I wasn’t expecting Valentine to come out against luck. I would have expected just the opposite. Even though that’s been my experience in life – all the advantages I’ve ever received have been due to luck and, geez, little else. So this scene was really sort of speaking to me. If I feel a movie is operating on the same wavelength that I am, even for just a bit, then I really buy in to the whole experience.

Craig Lauzon, playing Charlie (our protagonist) did the best job of any actor that I’ve ever seen in a production of this scale. I really hope that Craig and Kent get the chance to make movies together for a long time. His character has enough going on where he captures our attention throughout the entire piece. I really enjoyed the set design when Charlie meets Maury Chaykin. The way the camera was pulled back and the way the light streamed in reminded me of when the robot Sean Young gets the Voight-Kampf test in Blade Runner, but it may have been the video game that had the similar set, I can’t exactly recall. At any rate, I liked the set and I think the featurette showed that there was a lot of CG there, which blew me away. It was a fun scene, and reinforced that our dearly departed Mr. Chaykin could have been equally successful as an action screen star, with the beat-down he delivers in that bit.

Kent consistently nails scenes that draw from the shared consciousness of our culture. I happen to think that there isn’t much worse than going to an office party by yourself. It’s usually depressing and awkward. The experience that Charlie and Penny (Lindsey Deluce) have at their office party is depressing and they both show that they are quite susceptible to feeling awkward. And Charlie’s nearly-constant feeling of being in over his head at his job (and recognizing that fact) come across really well. We have every reason to feel bad for the guy and root for him no matter what happens.

One of the reasons this has taken forever to write is because Bull is a difficult movie to avoid spoiling. I really can’t talk in depth about what’s going on without ruining everything, and I desperately want you to see it. You can get it here through Amazon.

And I have to say that I loved the logo on the unturned cards in the Solitaire game.

Rob “Flack” O’Hara’s Interactive GET LAMP Review
Sep 14th, 2010 by Ice Cream Jonsey

Ooooh lookit me, Planet IF whoring here! I don’t think this made the feed. Rob “Flack” O’Hara wrote up his review of Get Lamp in the form… of a text adventure! Let me link you to his blog post. Perhaps you’d like a direct link to the review, which you can play via Parchment over the Internet?

There actually IS an ending to it, and a ton of things to talk about. Can you steal a virtual man’s copy of his hard-won independent documentary??

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.


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 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

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:


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.


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.


In conclusion… hotkeys!

Flack’s Top 15 Games of All-Time
Aug 17th, 2010 by Ice Cream Jonsey

Flack had been counting down his 15 favorite video games in the JC BBS for a month now, and he recently completed the list. Down to #1, at least. Confused? Don’t be! Look, just click on this goddamn list.

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