The waiting is the hardest part.
kitten   December 31, 2003

At the toll of midnight, I guess I'll be caught between the moon and New York City.

Three frags left.
kitten   December 27, 2003

It's no secret that I enjoy Quake III a great deal. Single-player mode sees you testing your mettle against bots that fight with an admirable degree of skill, make witty remarks, and generally prepare you for the main focus of the game, which is multi-player online combat.

I've racked up quite a few victories in my day. Playing against your friends is extremely fun, not to mention a great way of resolving disputes. If you're lucky enough to have a group of friends and a dedicated server you can spend hours honing your skills as you blast your way through the arenas.

However, most people don't have dedicated servers and groups of people they normally play with (or perhaps nobody is around when you want to play). Quake incorporates an inbuilt searching utility that scans for public servers. You run it, find a server that's running the type of game you want and has a good ping, connect, and go toe-to-toe with total strangers.

And this is where the game becomes annoying and frustrating instead of fun.

Playing against people you know or at least have passing familiarity with means there's some degree of civility amongst the players, along with common courtesy. You'll cut each other some slack if someone is typing, rather than taking advantage of their immobility and pumping them full of lead. You'll engage in some good-natured trash talking, come up with after-the-game jokes, and generally have a good time while you play.

Not so on public servers. Suddenly there's twelve people packed into an arena meant for four or five players, and gameplay takes a backseat to bedlam and mayhem. Strategy becomes "fire at random into the thick of the fray" and skill is replaced by luck against numbers.

There are plenty of pages out there about how to play Quake online and generally accepted rules of engagement but none that I've seen bother covering anything beyond the basics of "connect and frag". The problems of online combat are the fault of both the players and the server admins, so for your convenience and reference I have created this brief guide to some finer points of Arena warfare.

Admins


  • If you run a popular server, you know it's popular. Stop putting small arenas meant for three players in the rotation.

  • Unlike it's predecessors, Quake III has voting options so the collective group can make decisions. Don't turn that option off. Nobody wants to deal with a tiny-ass map when there's fifteen players, or put up with some camping coward who won't behave. Keep the voting options available so we can deal with the situation.

  • Weapon respawn - another problem in heavily populated servers. How long does it take for a weapon to reappear? Timing is a huge part of the game, but if I have to dance around for twenty seconds waiting for a weapon, something is wrong, especially because half a dozen other people are also dancing around. If your server has a large population, lower the respawn time.

  • Player spawn shields. Turn that crap off. When a player re-enters the arena after being killed, some servers give the player a few seconds of near-invulnerability. It's a good idea in theory, to keep spawn-campers at bay and cut down on bullshit cheap shots before you can take two steps, but in practice all it does is give the newly-spawned player a free license to smash his opponents while they can't realistically defend. By default Quake III starts spawned players with 125 units of health anyway - this is enough protection. Invulnerability shields cause more problems than they solve.

  • Ads. Yes, I'm sure your server is great and you want to tell us all about what other servers you run, what features this server has, admin contact information and all sorts of other great news, but for fuck's sake, get that out of my face. When I start a game I don't want to see 36 point text obscuring the entire screen for twenty seconds while I run around blind.

  • "Prepare To Fight". Turn that shit off too. When the next map starts, many servers have a "prepare to fight" sequence that lasts anywhere from thirty seconds to a minute. The players can all run around and blow each other up, but none of it counts until the bell rings signifying the beginning of the actual game. What's the point of this? It's like dealing with Colonel Sanders on Spaceballs: "Prepare to fight!" "Preparing to fight, sir!" Why are we preparing? Just GO.

Players


  • Have some common courtesy. If you see someone with the big blue "I'm Typing" icon above their heads, give them a break, don't just blast them. Go around the corner and wait until they're done yapping, and then blast them. Of course this doesn't apply to someone who never shuts up, but if it's an occasional thing, be a sport about it.

  • Camping. Don't do it. This has been rehashed ten billion times on any number of how-to pages, but apparently it doesn't sink in. Not only is it a cowardly move, but it doesn't work. It's not going to take long for people to realize what you're doing and put the hurt on you, so why bother? If you're going to play that way, go back to single-player mode and hassle the bots.

  • The same goes for those of you that flit around and fire endless amounts of ammo at weapon spawn points, knowing that you'll rack up kills by the numbers of people going to get the weapons. If you're not here to play the game - and this strategy isn't "playing" - don't bother connecting. You're accomplishing nothing and just annoying people, who, as before, will quickly put the hurt on you or vote to kick you out.

  • The gauntlet is a close-range melee weapon that deals a decent amount of damage, but you actually have to touch the other player with it. For this reason it's generally considered a weapon of absolute last resort, when your ammo is exhausted and you have no other options.
    However, some braintrusts got the great idea that instead of aiming weapons, dodging incoming fire, and generally playing the damned game, they're just going to turn the gauntlet on and run around mindlessly into crowds of players hoping to get a few lucky hits. This is unbelievably annoying, and as before, it just plain doesn't fucking work. You'll get a few lucky strikes and the satisfactory "Humiliation" award now and then, but nine times out of ten you're going to be put the fuck down by someone with a real weapon, so why bother? You're not scoring any points, you're not really accomplishing anything, and you keep getting killed. Turn the damned gauntlet off and play the game. This "strategy" is on par with grenade-spamming as a cowardly, obnoxious, and wholly ineffective tactic. Again, if you're not here to play, then get lost.

  • We all have our favorite public servers we like to play on, but if you see one that's already hosting a large number of people, do everyone a favor and find somewhere else to go. We'll have the benefit of having a less crowded arena, which results in actual gameplay rather than "fire and forget", and you'll have the benefit of joining a less crowded server so that you can play, too.

  • In CTF games, the /say_team command exists for a reason. Use it. The whole point of team-based CTF is that you're no longer a lone warrior gunning for your own personal glory. Don't just go charging off leaving your base completely undefended; take a few seconds before the game to organize yourselves and figure out who's on offense and defense. And then, stick to it. I realize that defense can be boring at times while you're waiting for some ne'er-do-well from the other team to show up, but without defenders you're going to lose the game, no matter how many frags you personally acquire. If your only goal is to get the most kills, go back to the free-for-all games. If you're here to play a team game, then be a team player.

  • And while we're at it, if you see your teammate with the enemy flag, stop what you're doing and escort him. Nothing is more irritating than grabbing the flag and fighting off a pack of rabid enemy defenders while your own teammates screw around and don't lend a hand. By escorting the flag carrier you not only provide cover fire and defense, but if he gets killed you're right there to grab the flag and keep going instead of having it returned to the enemy base. In CTF your one and only goal is to ensure that your team gets the most flag captures - if it means sacrificing yourself to defend the flag carrier, so be it. Once again, if you're playing a team game, then be a team player. Otherwise, piss off and go back to the general deathmatch.

That's about it for the moment. This covers the largest and most pervasive annoyances, and if everyone would stick to these very simple and common-sense guidelines, the experience will be much more enjoyable for everyone, including you.

Why are you dancing when you could be alone?

In all things, I feel confusion.

"All I ask," she says, "is that you be straight with me."

People come, people go.

Throughout the years I have been contacted by dozens upon dozens of people in regards to the things I've written here. The majority of them had no intention of establishing any sort of dialogue - they merely wished to drop a message stating their opinion, support, or disagreement with something I've said. Sometimes, they offer their sympathy and understanding. Sometimes, they offer bits of their lives to me in condensed format, sort of a turnabout for the life they've read about here.

These people send their messages and are done with it; they have nothing further. They say what they have to say and that's all there is to it.

But some engaged in a sort of dialogue with me, exchanging emails or IMs or other modes of communication. Most of them, I've lost touch with through time, after only a few brief exchanges. Sometimes I think that they, too, have said all they have to say to me, but usually I think they just got bored with me and moved along, vanishing back into the digital ether. It's not a bad analogy for most of my real-life associations, really.

Sometimes I wonder where they came from, why they chose to talk to me, and why they left.

People come. People go.

I am the very model of a modern Major General.
kitten   December 26, 2003

As per usual the media has been propegating yet another inane buzzword designed to show how hip and in your face the crazy world of the glitterati can be.

Nine times out of ten I can dismiss such stupidity out-of-hand as being another short-lived fad that will quickly vanish into the bowels of the Powerbook-toting masses from whence it came. This task is made easier for me by the fact that most people around me, whether I associate with them or not, also pay little attention to whatever Hollywood scandal or catchphrase is cool this month.

But recently a new word has cropped up and with it an entire population of I Want To Believe, shallow, vapid yokels eagerly grab at it as though it has been handed down from Mount Sinai to enlighten the rest of us miserable wretches. It's a word you may be familiar with already thanks to incessent whining about it from media outlets and, more importantly, people who care what the media says is popular.

Metrosexual.

According to popular myth this "phenomenon" is a fairly recent one, tracing its roots back to people like David Beckham or Ben Affleck, media icons who worry about their hair and try to dress well and generally look and act like stereotypical gay men - but are not, in fact, gay.

This "new breed of man" isn't afraid to embrace his feminine side, as represented by his fussiness over hair-care products, fondness for shopping, and his attention to his wardrobe, among other things.

Ladies and gentlemen, hear me and hear me well: There is no such thing as a "metrosexual". It is not a "new phenonmenon" or a "new breed of man". Back in the day we had a word for such people: pretty boy. Inventing a new terminology for it and then acting like you've discovered or created a crazy new trend is utterly moronic.

Some women like riding motorcycles, playing video games, watching action flicks, hate shopping, like basketball, don't care about shoes, and put a minimum of effort into their hair. Typically we call them "one of the guys". Maybe in a few months someone will invent a slick-sounding compound word for them and we can all act like these women suddenly materialized out of nowhere and constitute a "new breed of woman".

The "metrosexual" concept stems from the stereotype that since all men are, of course, loathesome, slobbering, offensive brutes and boorish louts, any man who spends more than three seconds getting ready in the morning must be something new and extraordinary.

Here's the reality, folks: Some men like football. Some don't. Some men like flowers. Some don't. Some like beer, some like wine, some like Banana Republic and Gap, some don't. Some style their hair, others just wash and go. Some like tinkering with car engines, some would rather redecorate their house. Some like going to the gym, some watch their weight, some are focused on their careers, some like reading, some like computers, some like building entertainment centers, some like ordering things from Ikea.

In other words, people are people. They do different things, they like different things. This includes men and always has. It's nothing new.

Nor is the idea of pretty-boys new, unless by "new" you mean "since the Roman Empire". Men throughout history have been worrying about their apperance. King Louis XIV was noted for his fashion sense. Shakespeare's Hamlet declared, "The attire oft proclaims the man." Chinese emperor Shih Huang Ti invented the necktie as early as 210 BC. The English in the 1800s popularized the term "dandy" for men who behave like what are suddenly "metrosexuals", the suave and urbane hipsters of modern society. Spare me. This has been going on forever.

George Costanza, by definition of the media, must be a "metrosexual". He does, after all, worry about his hair, use body lotion and moisturizer, dress according to mood and fashion, and carefully manicure his nails. Hell, almost every hair-metal singer from the 80s fits the description too. Suddenly makes the "phenomenon" a lot less cool, doesn't it?

I myself have been accused of being "metrosexual" several times recently. Now, since this is so new, I must be following some kind of media-fueled trend, desiring nothing more than to join the ranks of Johnny Depp and other pretty-boys, right? Makes sense until you realize my style hasn't changed significantly since high school, six years ago.

Dressing well is not a trend. Styling your hair does not equate with a "new breed". Men have been using moisturizer forever, for the same reason women do, without being a "phenomenon". Yet somehow all of this is some recently discovered concept that the media has drawn attention to so that it can congratulate itself for having gritty street cred while everyone holds their hands up and shouts "Eureka, some men don't like the same things other men do!"

Call them pretty boys, call them dandys, or just call them men doing what people everywhere do, namely, whatever they want.

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.
kitten   December 24, 2003

Although we at mirrorshades.org may seem a wild, unruly bunch of godless heathens, we have not forgotten the spirit of Christmas.

Our staff has prepared several greeting cards for the holiday season, with our tidings of cheer, Yuletide joy, and a prosperous new year. Simply click the "More" link below to view the cards.

Share and enjoy.

More...

Ruminations.
kitten   December 17, 2003

rantingkitten: We can get girlfriends.
packetdump: No we can't.
rantingkitten: We might.
rantingkitten: Like, there could be girls.
packetdump: Yeah?
rantingkitten: Yeah.
rantingkitten: Well, that's as far as I've gotten with this plan.

Remember me not.

Could it really have been two years ago, give or take, that I was, relatively speaking, stable?

Only two years between then and now, between contentment and apathy?

It's amazing how quickly you gear into action when presented with a crisis, and try to do anything you can to haul yourself out as quickly as possible. You analyze the situation, consider your options, map out a plan, and execute it. Likely as not, all goes as expected - not always well, but you minimize the damage through instant motivation and the immediate, looming sense of a life gone to hell.

It's equally amazing how you let yourself slide downhill when the problems gather their forces slowly and mount their offensive one trivial bit at a time, instead of arriving en masse with all the grace of a pair of mafiosos pounding on your door, providing you with that adrenaline rush and clarity of thought needed to resolve the situation as efficiently as you can.

Slow-motion tumble, over the course of two years, little by little.

And it was only two years ago things were going so well. Shit.

This is why I'm still awake at 6am on a Tuesday night, or Wednesday morning, however you want to slice it, writing crappy, meandering, overly verbose stories that I'll likely as not delete anyway - or pretending to do so, since I've really been staring idly at the ugly wallpaper in the kitchen for the past half hour or so, wondering where in the living fuck I went wrong with my high-minded idealism and contemptuous cycnism wrestling for control of my latest bout of self-pitying blatherings.

Her lips curved, and she kissed my neck, and that would make it all better if it actually happened, but it didn't.

Don't forget.
kitten   December 14, 2003

Before you Bush-worshipping Republicans start beating your victory drums about Saddam's capture, let's not forget who put Saddam in power in the first place, who gave him billions in weapons and financial support: Ronald Reagan.

Don't forget who propped up the Taliban, all in the name of oil (pay close attention to the dates on these articles): Your hero George Bush.

Bush is no hero. He's an incompetent buffoon and an outright liar who brings these problems on himself, and innocent people pay the price.

It was Republicans who supported Saddam Hussein. It was Repubicans who gave bin Laden his weapons, money, and training. It was Republicans who aided the Taliban. It was Republicans who have been pitting the countries of the Middle East against each other for over two and a half decades. And now it's Republicans who bask in their own pomp-and-circumstance glory, for "solving" the problems they created by lying, cheating, and killing.

Congratulations.

Also, wry commentary from 6am regarding the pre-announcement media hype.

Two and a half megs of CRAP.

This is a game review. I never write these, but I'm doing it this time mostly to annoy Bryan. If you don't like game reviews, move along.

BZ Flag is an arcade-style multiplayer game in which you control a tank through a pseudo-first-person perspective. The object of the game is as simple as it gets and the successful formula of dozens of deathmatch-style games: Destroy your enemy.

Your enemy in this case are your friends or anyone else who is connected to the server; they roam about in their tanks as you roam in yours, and the hunt is afoot. One shot results in the instant destruction of your tank, at which point you'll respawn in a random area on the gameboard and continue, hopefully a little wiser for your misfortune.

BZ Flag is not a game for those who like eye candy. This screenshot is about as impressive as the graphics get. That yellow sphere of light in the middle there is the projectile you fire. By no means am I suggesting that a game must be visually stunning in order to be fun, but as you can see, the poor graphics are a serious detriment in this game: Distance is nearly impossible to gauge unless you're right on top of your opponent, so you really have no way of knowing exactly where to lead your shots for an accurate hit. Your goal therefore is to rake suppressive fire across the general direction of the enemy, hoping like hell to make a lucky hit. Skill is not a particularly valued factor in this endeavor.

When being fired upon by your merciless friends, you have very few options of evasive manuevering. Tanks don't strafe, which is a common means of evading incoming fire in most first-person games, so the best you can do is roll forward and wave back and forth hoping to throw their aim off before they fire. Unfortunately this is an almost utterly useless gesture, since your opponent can fire half a dozen or more shots in rapid succession, and all he has to do is rake fire laterally across your path to be assured of a kill - there's literally nothing you can do to get out of the way of a few shots placed in a line across you.

You have but one option left: Jumping. Tanks, in this game, are apparently Olympic-calibre jumpers and can clear obstacles and walls with a single bound. Inertia takes its toll, however, so if you are rotating when you initiate your jump, you'll continue rotating in that direction, at that speed, until you hit the grond again. Your jump will also describe a predictable parabola, and since you're unable to move at all while airborn, your enemy knows exactly where to place his next shot to destroy you as soon as you're down on terra firma, which makes jumping not only pointless but completely counterproductive as an evasive strategy.

From this description thus far it would seem that this is quite a stupid game to play: Kills involve little more than firing full spreads of missiles, evasive action is almost nonexistant except for jumping which only makes the situation worse, and the tanks are clunky, agonizingly slow, and sluggish. Even jumping takes ages; the entire game feels like it's being played in slow-motion. Being destroyed means your tank sails ito the air in pieces, and not until it alights can you respawn; this process seems to take forever while you sit helplessly at your keyboard wondering why the hell you're playing this in the first place.

But there is another aspect to the game which can be seen in this screenshot. This tank is carrying a flag, and others wave languidly in the breeze on the horizon. These flags provide various power-ups and occasional deleterious effects to the tank that picks them up.

A scarce few are mildly useful, such as "High Speed" which makes your tank infinitesimally faster. Most are essentially useless, such as "Laser" which provides you with an instant-on beam of destruction rather than the slow-moving projectiles, but has such a limited range that it's often not worth it, or "Identify" which allows you to determine whose tank you're looking at (who cares?) and requires you to press a special button each time you want to do this, thus taking your hands off other, more valuable, controls.

Still others are detrimental, such as "Left Turn Only" which does exactly what it sounds like, or "Radar Jam" which fills your radar screen with static. Your radar screen is almost completely worthless in determining what the hell is going on anyway, so this is a small loss, but seeing a large white block in the corner of your screen instead of the usual radar is sufficiently obnoxious.

A good number of the flags, however, are completely incomprehensible. When you pick up a flag, tiny 5-point text in the bottom of the screen tells you what you just picked up, but provides only the name, not a description of what it does. Most people picking up "Oscillation Overdrive" will have no clue what it does unless they are familiar with Buckaroo Bonzai, and even then it requires quite a stretch to figure out the effect of the flag. "Narrow" makes your tank thinner from front to back, so that when viewing an enemy head-on, you are almost invisible to them. Unfortunately, you have no way of knowing this, because there's no way to see your own tank, nor does the flag name "Narrow" provide any insight. There is, I'm told, a way to turn on flag identification, at least when you pick up a flag, but so far I've been unable to find this option, and there is no way to tell what a flag is before picking it up.

Out of the box, the controls are infuriatingly illogical and next to impossible to work with. If you want to play this game (god only knows why), you'll want to spend a few minutes configuring the keymap, but this writer has thus far found no really playable setup. Most games these days - and by "these days" I mean "since the time of antiquity" - allow what is called "mouselook", where the movement of the mouse controls the direction you look, allowing for much faster and responsive controlling of your movement, not to mention the added accuracy, rather than using the keyboard to turn and aim.

If you play FPS games at all, you probably have a button either on the mouse or the keyboard which means "go forward" and another that means "go backward", and you simply press these as appopriate while maintaining your direction with the mouse. Turning mouselook on in BZ Flag, however, means that the mouse itself controls your forwards and backwards motion. In other words, to move forward, you have to shove the mouse forward, and as soon as you stop, so does your tank, at which point you lift the mouse off the surface, move it back, and shove it forward again. This rapidly becomes frustrating beyond belief and compeltely eliminates any benefits afforded by the mouselook feature, so your only realistic option is to use the keyboard to aim and move about, which means you'll have time for a round of golf before your tank completes one 360 degree turn.

Overall, BZ Flag is a horrid, dreary mess - a slow-moving, no-skill, low-resolution game with no real "playing" going on, gameplay instead replaced by the simple tactic of rotating while firing to ensure your enemy can't realistically evade. If you want old-school FPS-style multiplayer games you're better off downloading a copy of Doom or Duke Nukem than wasting your time with this abomination of what is laughingly termed "entertainment".

GRADE: D-

BZ Flag can be obtained at bzflag.org, but don't bother.

Miiiister Anderson!
kitten   December 10, 2003

< bda> http://thematrixonline.ubi.com/ss/newscreen0101011.jpg
< kitten> Fuck is that?
< bda> Matrix Online.
< bda> Fucker looks like you.
< bda> Only not a stick.
< kitten> You're an idiot.
< kitten> You think everyone looks like me.
< kitten> I'm starting to wonder if this isn't some sort of obsession.
< bda> It's because you haunt my dreams.
< kitten> See above.

It is with appalling frequency that Bryan finds random pictures of random people and insists they look like me. I implore you.

The fallout.
kitten   December 9, 2003

In writing, I have two particular problems which, paradoxically, could solve each other if ever the twain were to meet, but alas.

On occasion, I come up with a good starting point or brief dialogue that I'd like to do something with. The issue then lies in, what next? To get the idea out involves creating an entire scenario to incorporate the idea into, else I just have a few useless fragments that go nowhere, and it seems that I'm unable to do this. I get the idea itself down and sometimes it works beautifully, and then it's "Er, so.. what now?"

Other times I'm able to create semi-decent filler without any real point - just aimless character interplay or descriptive verse. There's no rhyme or reason for it, and no structure to speak of. I have never been able to put the two issues together to mutually solve the problem. The sole exception is when I write stories that involve Bryan getting killed in some way, but mostly because I don't take it seriously enough to care what I'm doing.

They say that in writing, the best thing to do is to write what you know.

So what happens when you don't know anything?

The truth will set you free.
kitten   December 7, 2003

* ubernostrum points to kitten's never-ending Debian installation process
< sknight> thats cuz he wasnt familiar with it
< ubernostrum> kitten: prior to your current attempt, had you ever used Debian before?
< kitten> Yes, twice. In Compton, as well as O-Town.
< kitten> Oh.
< kitten> Debian?
< kitten> I thought you said "shot a guy".
< kitten> Yeah, I ran Debian on a p133 laptop for a while.
< ubernostrum> I see.

Because we're dorks.
kitten   December 6, 2003

This little exchange had me giggling like an idiot, and then I actually looked at it and realized.. there are very few who would find it funny. At all.


* kitten gets on the Internet and puts out a major distress signal.
< _Lasar> Heh
< kitten> Hackers of the world, unite.
< _Lasar> * kitten writes into every guestbook he can find.
< kitten> haha.
* kitten posts to Slashdot.
< _Lasar> Haha
< kitten> "ATTACKING GIBSON PLZ HELP!" Score: +1 Informative
* _Lasar votes kitten down -1, redunant
< kitten> What the fuck is an "Internet distress call" anyway.
< kitten> http://www.tripod.com/members/kitten219886/gibson.html
< _Lasar> Er.
< kitten> < font="6">PLEASE HELP ATTACK GIBSON< /font>
< kitten> < /html>
< kitten> That's my dstress signal.
<_Lasar> < marquee>< blink>PLS HELP!< /marquee>< /blink>
< kitten> < scroll>
<_Lasar> Wait.
<_Lasar> You're not using state of the art Java applets ?
< kitten> Oh, the Java applets aren't for that.
< kitten> Those are for "Click here to send OOB data to the Gibson's 135 port!"
< _Lasar> Are they for the animated crucifixes?
< _Lasar> Haha
< kitten> Help Support This Site!

You're the brain, and central nervous system.
kitten   December 4, 2003

Now that the gods of winter have opened the gates of December, I realized today what an utter and complete waste 2003 has been. Which, considering the non-epic of my life thus far, is saying quite a bit. This year I have met no one, gone nowhere, done nothing, and what I learned you could fit into a matchbox without taking out the matches.

What if this is as good as it gets?