Domino-toppling record: 32,000 blocks fall in 5½ minutes

February 8, 2021 • 2:45 pm

This has to be a pandemic-induced project! It took this woman 82 days and 32,000 dominoes to set up this awesome scenario.  You will of course have to watch it to the end if you start, but it’s only 5½ minutes long.  I have two questions/comments:

a. Clearly, during the nearly three months of effort, she had to put in some kind of temporary stops to prevent the whole thing from toppling prematurely. But the more you build, the more stops you have to put in.  Eventually, you’ll need lots of them, but I’m not sure how that would work.

b. Who cleaned up the dominos at the end and made sure that blocks of a different color were put together?

Oh, I found this video explaining how she did this, but I haven’t watched it yet. Have a good evening.

Wouldn’t it be nice?: Fallout 76 BETA review

November 2, 2018 • 11:00 am

by Grania (obviously)

Fair warning: I’ve played nearly all Bethesda Game Studio‘s RPGs (not to be confused with Bethesda Softworks) and I like them. I like them a lot. The games in their catalog of Elder Scrolls and Fallout titles are not perfect examples of role-playing games; but in terms of creating big, open worlds where the player is free to explore a richly detailed and enormous landscape for hundreds (or thousands) of hours, I can’t think of anyone who does it better than they do.

Fallout 76 is a bit of an anomaly in their library. It’s been about the most controversial thing they’ve done since Emperor Tiber Septim retconned the province of Cyrodiil from a jungle into a temperate grassland. But it is, for better or worse, what Bethesda does best:  a whole new world full of stories and places for the player to traverse and experience.

First of all, it’s not a traditional single-player RPG, although it has common elements. It’s kind of like playing in survival or hardcore mode but pretty much all the NPCs (non-player characters) are actually other players. Second, it’s not exactly the Fallout universe experience you get from their previous games. Fallout is a post-apocalyptic series of stories in a world that has been devastated by nuclear war – it’s intentionally stark and somber.  Fallout 76 is goofy as is immediately clear when you click on the game trailer. (The video is live-action for reasons of extra goof. Nah, it’s live-action to show that it really is going to be you and your friends out there.) I’m as pleased as anyone to see 10mm SMGs back in the game, but that sort of combat tactic is just asking for Dogmeat to accidentally trip you.

Click through to the official live-action trailer

It’s not that the other Fallout games don’t have their own brand of wackiness, but the humor there tends to be intrinsic to dialogue options or consequences of potential choices you might make.

Fallout 4: what should you say when you are talking to atom-worshiping cultists?

This brings us to a serious question: why did Bethesda decide to bring out an online survival game, especially when people are waiting for Elder Scrolls 6 and Starfield to arrive. The answers are (probably):

  1. To make more money
  2. Use the Fallout 4 assets one last time to achieve #1.
  3. This possibly test-drives features they have in mind for future games – Starfield maybe?
  4. Turning one of their staple universes into an on-line game worked well in the case of ESO even though Bethesda Game Studios were not the developers of that title; so this is an attempt to do something similar for Fallout.
  5. Elder Scrolls 6 and Starfield are far from being ready and bringing out this title buys them more time.
  6. World-building is probably Bethesda’s strongest Special Ability, and this game probably relies on it more than any of their other titles.

Fans of single-player RPGs are not necessarily keen on online RPGs and the main reason is not actually because of ‘griefing’ (that’s anti-social behavior of badly-behaved maladjusts who should be fired into the sun at birth, for you normal readers out there). The real reason is that the ‘winner’ of an online game tends to be the person who can put in the most hours right now, as opposed to the single-player version where you can put in the time you want when it suits you. This means that people who have real-life commitments (like a job) are at a disadvantage. This doesn’t have to be a problem of course, for example there are many Minecraft multi-player servers out there where a group of people play amicably enough for years on end without any particular penalty to those who put in fewer hours. Only time will tell of that will be the fate of Fallout 76.

During BETA testing we are probably seeing players at their sociable best: everyone is new and more interested in exploring for themselves, and those of us who signed up for BETA access are less likely to be the aforementioned maladjusts.

The real question of course is: is it any good?

The graphics are better than Fallout 4 even though they are recognizably F4 assets. Server performance wasn’t bad at all even with a group of people in the same area. There were a couple of laggy moments at the end of “Events” (special group quests that are area dependent), but nothing to make the game unplayable. Graphics aren’t everything of course, – in fact they are the least important thing – but this is the most lush and least bleak Fallout game I’ve seen. That in itself is going to raise eyebrows, as the landscape looks more like the Garden of Eden than America after the bombs dropped.

I played for a couple of hours on Tuesday night when BETA went live for PC players. It’s addictive but I have work in the morning (you see how real life can be a problem?), so I had to curtail my travels after 3.5 hours (-ish). A symptom of everyone being in the same area because we’re pretty much all starting out at the same time, is that too many people in the same place together means that there is a little bit of a bottleneck to use crafting stations. Certain containers do seem to respawn after a while, but in general moving through an area by yourself or with a coordinated group of companions is going to be preferable to running around with a group of strangers. I suspect this will get better as people spread out around the map. I kind of miss Dogmeat already though.

Playing with a group of random strangers on the same map is a little weird. It may not be an issue in the US, but here in Europe I found myself playing with a lot of people who speak a different language. Also, you can hear people through the walls if you are in close proximity. At times I wasn’t sure if I was hearing a person talking or hearing an in-game monster stalking me. That’s going to take some getting used to. You can communicate via a series of weird emoticons and poses, but I haven’t investigated that part of the menu yet. You can also join in on group quests that seem to occur regularly. (I was the lunatic who took out several Protectrons and crazed Mr Handys armed only with a walking cane with barbed wire wrapped around it. Cowards wiser explorers sniped from under the foliage at a distance.)

The crafting aspect of the game has been expanded, although much of what you can craft is now dependent on whether you have found the recipe. Some of these recipes will appear when you level up, I assume some of them are SPECIAL (your personal chosen stats) dependent. Although it is essentially a revamp of Fallout 4‘s crafting system, it’s far more detailed as you will now have to make sure you drink and eat as well as heal yourself from the bites of irradiated squirrels (yes, the rumor that squirrel meat was essentially soylent green is just that – a now proven rumor. We all know that strange meat is soylent green).

I haven’t investigated the camp / home building menu yet, however it seems that if you are hoping to re-create your Sanctuary Mega Fortress, that’s not going to happen as the build limit is apparently very small. That, I think, is going to be a major issue for some players; and not without reason either – the stated mission of the game is essentially to rebuild America. That’s going to take a very long time if we’re going to do it one-room-shack-per-person at a time.

Some weapons and armor are level dependent too, for example you can find a 10mm pistol at any level, but can’t use it until you are Level 5. People will find that annoying. It seems to be the new way of incorporating leveled gear into the game, it’s probably to prevent one lucky low-leveled player from overpowering other beginners. I don’t know if I like it though – I’m not sure yet.

There are lots of quests, almost too many at the outset of the game. Although there are virtually no NPCs in the game unless you count Vendortrons, quests arrive through journals and broadcasts and notes. Many are area dependent and some appear to be similar to the random encounters and radiant quest systems used in previous Fallout games. Eventually though, you will probably want to ignore the quests for a while and head off and explore. So far the quests don’t seem to be particularly gripping, but I was barely out of the starter area so I can’t claim to have a good overview of them yet. Although there is a ‘main’ questline, I get the feeling though that there isn’t going to be any grand mission on the level of finding your kidnapped child or saving the Wasteland.

Do I have any concerns?

Yes. So far the quests are a weak point and as a (most likely) single-player I am worried that this game may not provide me with the same sort of lure that previous Fallout games have. Once I have explored the map, will there be any reason to hang around? (I fear this game is going to miss not having a Fawkes or a Nick Valentine to regale you with acerbic commentary on your shortcomings.) We’ll have to see.

Will you have fun?

So far my verdict is: if you enjoy playing Minecraft on a shared server, you’ll enjoy this. If you have a group of friends to play with, you will have a lot of fun with this. If you like playing survival mode in an open world, you will love this.

Can you play alone? Yes, you absolutely can, Bethesda appear to have taken to heart the concerns of single-players and made sure that you can head out alone if you want. If you do run into my bleach-haired* character in-game, do come and say hi. She’ll be the one wielding a machete.

* Hair may or may not actually be bleached and the machete may have been exchanged for a Gauss rifle. The name will stay the same though.





Vote for the kakapo Lego set

June 18, 2018 • 1:30 pm

Kakapos (Strigops habroptila), as you should know by now, are the world’s only flightless parrot, and as such—and being residents of once-predator-free New Zealand—are highly endangered, and have been moved to predator-free islands to try to keep the species going. They are also adorable, as well as being horny. Here is perhaps the most popular video of any parrot: Sirocco, the “spokesparrot” for kakapos.

As Heather Hastie points out in her latest post, there’s a campaign afoot to have Lego create a Kakapo Kit, which will produce moveable bird replicas that look like this:

and this:

I’m pretty sure that if Lego builds this thing, part of the proceeds will be used to save this wonderful bird. They need 10,000 votes to get Lego to put it up for serious consideration, and they already have 2209 votes with 600 days to go (see the proposal here).

You can join and register to vote simply by giving your name and a password, which you can do here. Let’s put the kakapo set over the top!

Heather called this to my attention, and I’m on board with her campaign. Remember, our votes helped get the new Monopoly set to adopt a cat token, and I’m hoping we can get Lego to make a kakapo set. Think of how much it will teach kids about nature and conservation!

Multitasking to the max: Weather reporter solves Rubik’s cube while giving the forecast

June 14, 2018 • 2:00 pm
This woman has got it going on. Look how well she delivers the weather report while solving a Rubik’s cube. I am sure that even if I could solve the puzzle (and I haven’t tried), I couldn’t do it while delivering a coherent report. The YouTube notes say this:
Reporter Lauren Olesky with Florida news station WPEC proved she can multi-task like few others, delivering her Friday weather report while also solving a Rubik’s Cube.

Google Doodle celebrates ICC Cricket Championship

June 13, 2017 • 7:00 am

Today’s interactive Google Doodle celebrates the ICC Champions Trophy, and I have no idea what that is. (I’m sure many readers will!), You can play cricket yourself (as an animal) by simply pressing the button to swing when the ball approaches you, and score runs! I haven’t time to play a lot, but I’ll try later. Watch out for those googlys!

Here’s Google’s explanation:

Ah, summer: the sound of leather on willow, and the spectacle of cricket … cricket! As the tournament begins in the Oval cricket ground, something buzzes outside. A team of crickets sans tickets have set up their own wickets for a game of pest cricket! As they face their archrivals, the snails, it’s sure to be a match for the centuries. Don’t be fooled by their sluggish looks — these fielders can be fast on their feet!

To celebrate the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy, we’re inviting everyone to tap/click and take a swing at our pocket-size game!

We know that cricket is loved worldwide, so we wanted to make sure our Doodle works for everyone, including those on slower mobile networks. We kept the file size fly-sized, and the result is our smallest interactive Doodle ever — even snail networks can load it in seconds.

Go to the game by clicking on the screenshot below:

Curiously, Google’s map of this Doodle’s reach doesn’t reach the US, but I can see it fine. Note that it’s all cricket-loving nations, but. . . Cuba?????

A new game that I’d play

April 11, 2017 • 4:15 pm

I don’t think I’ve ever played a video game in my life. I won’t give my reasons as I don’t want to offend readers who like them and would disagree with me. To each their own!

But this is one game I really would play: it’s called “HK”, and is in development; in fact, they just got funding. It’s about the stray cats of Hong Kong, and I love the graphics. I don’t even know what the game is really about! I do know it’ll be a while, since the developers are two guys and (they say) their cat. There’s a bit of information here:

But this game is about more than just being a cat. This is about being a cat in Hong Kong. More specifically it’s about being a cat in Kowloon Walled City, a crazily populated area of Hong Kong that is pretty much ungoverned. That’s just an astonishingly interesting high concept for a video game.

Watch their Twitter page and Facebook page for further developments:

There are more graphics on the “devblog“,


A game: where would you go in a time machine?

February 24, 2017 • 8:30 am

When I was younger, I would invent a game for myself involving a time machine. The rules were these: you were given a time machine, and you could set it to go back to just a single place and time in the history of the Earth, and stay there for 24 hours. You would then be returned to the present. You would be allowed one notebook and pencils, but no cameras, video or otherwise, or recording devices.

And you could do this for two reasons: to answer as many scientific questions as you could by being in one place and time (you were allowed to bring your notebook back), or to simply satisfy your own curiosity.

There was one more provision: you could also specify to be set down in a single area where there were specific things you wanted to see, like a band of Neanderthals or a T. rex, for of course you wouldn’t know where or when you could see them in advance.

I never resolved this question for myself, even to the extent of seeing whether I wanted to answer scientific questions or just see what a T. rex really looked like.

I’m asking readers here (and I hope I’ve been sufficiently specific) this question: where would you want to be taken for 24 hours in your time machine?  Please state your reasons, too. 

Cat game!

January 18, 2016 • 12:00 pm

For reasons I don’t understand, many secularists and atheists are also gamers. While I can appreciate their enthusiasm, I don’t really share it, as I’d rather read a book or go to a good movie than play a video game. However, here’s an exception that I enjoyed for about 15 minutes.

It’s called Chat Noir (black cat), and your object is to trap the cat before it leaves the playing field. Try to encircle the cat with dark green dots (click on them with your mouse or its equivalent, one at a time) before it can escape to an outer dot.

Click on the screenshot below to begin. I never even came close to winning. The cat is too damn wily! After you’ve lost, press “reset” at the bottom to have another go.

Screen Shot 2015-12-23 at 6.15.20 AM

Diane G. (who has succeeded), sent me a screenshot of two of her successes. There are two ways to win, she says. The first is to simply trap the cat by blocking out the outer circles (once the cat gets on an outer dot, you’ve lost):

cat game pic 2The other way is simply via fusillade: blocking the cat by completely encircling it with black dots. You have to be quick on the mouse for this oneL

cat game pic

Did anyone win?