ThreeMachines's recent activity

  1. Comment on Trump’s Stonewalling Pushes House Democrats Towards Impeachment in ~news

    ThreeMachines Link Parent
    I think Tom Nichols has the right of it: There has been a fundamental shift in this country’s cultural expectations about who laws really apply to, and although there’s still a possibility of...

    I think Tom Nichols has the right of it:

    At some point, not impeaching means that nothing matters in our constitutional life, and that nothing ever will matter. Impeachment, if it follows a careful rollout and debate, can negate that legacy.
    And maybe, years from now, what we need is an asterisk in the history books that says: "There was a penalty for violating the oath of office, and engaging in these high crimes. And President Trump survived due only to the corruption of a single party."

    There has been a fundamental shift in this country’s cultural expectations about who laws really apply to, and although there’s still a possibility of walking that back in coming decades, I think that possibility dwindles if we only try to apply the law when we expect it to stick.

    5 votes
  2. Comment on How do you find new books to read? in ~books

    ThreeMachines Link
    I rely heavily on recommendations from people I know, either from personal conversations or via Twitter. I've also had great success in finding authors I like by reading about authors I already...

    I rely heavily on recommendations from people I know, either from personal conversations or via Twitter. I've also had great success in finding authors I like by reading about authors I already like and seeing who they claim as influences. (This was my introduction to Borges.)

    3 votes
  3. Comment on Should harder games have "Easy modes"? in ~games

    ThreeMachines Link Parent
    I think it's weird that you thought I was making an argument at all, much less a general case argument about long-term boss design trends.

    I think it's weird that you thought I was making an argument at all, much less a general case argument about long-term boss design trends.

  4. Comment on Should harder games have "Easy modes"? in ~games

    ThreeMachines Link Parent
    I’m not making any statements about overall trends of MMO complexity; I’ve never even played another MMO. I’m saying that, personally, WOTLK Naxx was a huge letdown after having seen fights like...

    I’m not making any statements about overall trends of MMO complexity; I’ve never even played another MMO. I’m saying that, personally, WOTLK Naxx was a huge letdown after having seen fights like Lady Vashj, and it felt to me like the letdown was attributable to adding an easy mode. (It’s also possible that I’m totally wrong and those fights would have been uninteresting even if Blizzard hadn’t tried to open up raiding. Who knows?)

    It’s true that I’m considering “making the game easier by default and adding a hard mode that’s as hard as the game used to be” equivalent to “adding an easy mode”. I don’t think I see the distinction you do. It used to have one difficulty; now it has two.

    (Edit: I did really like the Thaddius fight in Naxx.)

    2 votes
  5. Comment on Should harder games have "Easy modes"? in ~games

    ThreeMachines Link Parent
    I’ve had a game ruined (for me) by making it easier. I started playing World of Warcraft late in the Burning Crusade expansion, for one reason: end-game raiding. Forty (ish) people, each with a...

    I’ve had a game ruined (for me) by making it easier.

    I started playing World of Warcraft late in the Burning Crusade expansion, for one reason: end-game raiding. Forty (ish) people, each with a part to play and a responsibility, working together in an elaborate choreography to take down an enormous and challenging foe. The progression was serious and merit-based; if you weren’t fundamentally good at the game, if you didn't know your class mechanics and your role in the fight and what was going on around you, you wouldn't last long in any decent raid guild. You couldn't get to later raids without the gear from earlier raids. You had to be top-tier to play new content. It was the absolute coolest thing and I wanted in.

    It also meant that a vanishingly small percentage of the player base ever experienced end-game raiding, because most players weren't good enough, and/or weren't sufficiently interested to spend their game time getting their character optimized for raiding.

    Starting with the next expansion (Wrath of the Lich King), Blizzard made two major changes to raiding to make it more accessible. One, they made all raids playable with 10 or 25 players, instead of 40. (Which I wasn't too torn up about; 40 people was just too many people to organize. Although I still did 25-mans, because I liked the scale.) Two, they designed and tuned the raids to be generally easier, and added optional "hard modes" for guilds who were up for the challenge.

    Unfortunately, this involved reducing the complexity of the fights. Plenty of raid wipes happened because people just didn't have strong enough gear, but beyond a certain point, wipes happened because people did the wrong thing – stood in the wrong place, chose the wrong target, got the wrong timing on a key ability, didn't watch aggro, and so on. An astonishing number of people just never figure out to not stand in the fire. The only way to accommodate those players was to make the fights less complicated (or to make the punishment for failure minor, which let you ignore the complexity, which meant it wasn't there).

    The complexity of the fights, and the necessity of mastering that complexity to progress, was what I played for. When the mechanics degenerated to "it's straightforward, but if you make it more complicated you get an achievement", I stopped caring. Sometimes I miss it, but the game I was playing doesn't really exist anymore.

    2 votes
  6. Comment on Should harder games have "Easy modes"? in ~games

    ThreeMachines Link
    Do people have a right to be able to finish the games they buy? If so, what does it mean to “finish” a game? Are we okay with achievements that are locked to super-high difficulties? What about...

    Do people have a right to be able to finish the games they buy? If so, what does it mean to “finish” a game? Are we okay with achievements that are locked to super-high difficulties? What about secret endings locked the same way? What about games where replaying on escalating difficulties is the game progression?

    Personally: I play games on easy. (Sometimes on normal if the game tells me I can change the difficulty at any time.) There are a lot of game mechanics that I don’t particularly enjoy. There are a lot of games that I don’t buy, because I know that they’re designed for me to engage with them in ways that I’ll struggle with, and I won’t enjoy that struggle. It’s fine. Not everything needs to be tailored to my needs and desires.

    5 votes
  7. Comment on Megathread: April Fools' Day 2019 on the internet in ~misc

    ThreeMachines Link
    There's a pull request on the OCaml repo to add three null types, in order to make it more popular. It's a pretty airtight argument.

    There's a pull request on the OCaml repo to add three null types, in order to make it more popular. It's a pretty airtight argument.

    9 votes
  8. Comment on What are you reading these days? #16 in ~books

    ThreeMachines Link Parent
    Good to know. I don’t recall that final bit off the top of my head, so I’ll have to go back and reread for it.

    Good to know. I don’t recall that final bit off the top of my head, so I’ll have to go back and reread for it.

  9. Comment on What are you reading these days? #16 in ~books

    ThreeMachines Link
    I’m about a third through Nemesis Games, the fifth Expanse book. I forever swore off unfinished multi-novel epics after I experimented with Wheel of Time in high school, but a friend talked me...

    I’m about a third through Nemesis Games, the fifth Expanse book. I forever swore off unfinished multi-novel epics after I experimented with Wheel of Time in high school, but a friend talked me into the Expanse by two merits: the series has a planned ending, and all the books to date have been released with a pretty consistent size and schedule. Reading so far, it also feels like the plot moves forward, instead of just getting bigger.

    Honestly, the fourth book was a slog; I set it down halfway through, and a couple weeks later just skimmed the rest of the book in two sittings just to get past it. But I’ve heard it’s the weakest in the series, and book five is making up for lost time so far, so I’m feeling like I’ll probably stick with it from here on out.

    2 votes
  10. Comment on Two upcoming Nintendo Switch models inspired by 3DS's split evolution, sources say in ~games

    ThreeMachines Link Parent
    I think the New 3DS was the only time Nintendo actually locked games to a new model of an existing system, and that was more about squeezing current-gen games onto last-gen hardware. (I understand...

    I think the New 3DS was the only time Nintendo actually locked games to a new model of an existing system, and that was more about squeezing current-gen games onto last-gen hardware. (I understand that some games were technically not exclusive to the New 3DS, but had such terrible frame drops on earlier hardware that they were effectively exclusive.)

    Having said that, the line sometimes blurs between “new model of an existing system” and “new system that’s a lot like the old one and has perfect backwards compatibility” – namely, the Game Boy Color and the 3DS. But in both cases, there was a specific and pretty obviously significant technical differentiating factor. Nintendo has locked specific game features to individual models – think NFC support, GBA slots on the DS, etc.

    There’s no possibility that Nintendo would already increment the entire system and make a new generation of “only for Switch Pro” games. I would expect improved features in some games (better resolutions/framerates) and no changes in others.

    2 votes
  11. Comment on Can anyone help me remember a sci-fi short story about disintegrating weapons and nuclear winter? in ~books

    ThreeMachines Link
    This sounds like Bradbury’s “A Piece Of Wood”, except for the nuclear winter part. You may have conflated that element.

    This sounds like Bradbury’s “A Piece Of Wood”, except for the nuclear winter part. You may have conflated that element.

    2 votes
  12. Comment on I regret not seeing Solo in theaters in ~movies

    ThreeMachines Link Parent
    No, I know why he's alive now, because I read his Wookiepedia article after the movie. But it's absurd that somebody who has seen all previous movies in a series needs to either pull up a wiki...

    No, I know why he's alive now, because I read his Wookiepedia article after the movie. But it's absurd that somebody who has seen all previous movies in a series needs to either pull up a wiki page or have watched six seasons of a spin-off cartoon to understand a (pretty significant) plot point.

    2 votes
  13. Comment on I regret not seeing Solo in theaters in ~movies

    ThreeMachines Link
    I also skipped it in theaters, and watched it over the weekend. Counterpoint: "Solo" is not a very good movie. In its defense, it's a very difficult sort of prequel to make; you know most of the...

    I also skipped it in theaters, and watched it over the weekend.

    Counterpoint: "Solo" is not a very good movie.

    In its defense, it's a very difficult sort of prequel to make; you know most of the characters will be dead by the end of the movie, because you've never seen them in later events. Similarly, you know that Han, Chewbacca, Lando, and the Falcon will all make it out alive and unscarred (except the Falcon, which you know from the moment you see it will make it out very scarred). So, I'll give the movie a bit of a pass on the overall plot and pacing.

    Another issue is that it works a little too hard to explain Han Solo's background; we see him get his name, his gun, his ship, his best friend, his best frenemy, his career, his catchphrase... I'm honestly amazed they had the restraint to not also explain him getting his vest. One or two of these would have been great, but trying to fit them all in one adventure is lazy storytelling. The best defense for this is that Star Wars has always had this problem, where everything that gets four frames of screentime has a novella backstory. (This is also a broader cultural problem in "fandom" multimedia franchises; Harry Potter is another prime example of strip-mining the source material for backstory tie-ins.)

    But the real dealbreaker, the thing that actually totally sinks this film for me: why is Darth Maul in it? I honestly missed most of the rest of the movie because I was so distracted by trying to figure out 1) is that really Darth Maul? Didn't that dude get bisected at the torso? And why does his lightsaber have a blade thing on it? 2) Why is he in this movie? Now, apparently this would have been an incredibly satisfying twist if I had been watching "Clone Wars", but you really, really can't make movies with the presumption that everybody's seen the cartoon tie-in!

    What kills me about this is that they made this exact same mistake before, except somehow they made it worse this time. A lot of people were really underwhelmed by General Grievous in Episode 2 because of his weird asthmatic voice – because very few people had been watching "Clone Wars" to know that Mace Windu had injured his (organic) lungs.

    This movie was made by a committee of continuity wonks and it doesn't have much to show for it.

    6 votes
  14. Comment on What have you been watching/reading this week? (Anime/Manga) in ~anime

    ThreeMachines Link
    This week I read "Maiden Railways", which Denpa just released. It's a single volume collection of short romance stories which all involve trains. It's absolutely delightful and I'm probably going...

    This week I read "Maiden Railways", which Denpa just released. It's a single volume collection of short romance stories which all involve trains. It's absolutely delightful and I'm probably going to loan it to like five people.

  15. Comment on What do you think will be the next big innovation to smart phones? in ~tech

    ThreeMachines Link Parent
    Oh, it'll be miserable, and even once the hardware and OS support is decent it'll be months before there's wide app support. Even if foldable goes anywhere, it'll be at least two years before it's...

    Oh, it'll be miserable, and even once the hardware and OS support is decent it'll be months before there's wide app support. Even if foldable goes anywhere, it'll be at least two years before it's great.

    1 vote
  16. Comment on What do you think will be the next big innovation to smart phones? in ~tech

    ThreeMachines Link Parent
    Right now the phone landscape has an irreconcilable divide around device size – people who value pocketability and one-hand usability (and mourn the iPhone SE), and people who want a phablet...

    Right now the phone landscape has an irreconcilable divide around device size – people who value pocketability and one-hand usability (and mourn the iPhone SE), and people who want a phablet screen and damn the inconvenience. The promise of foldable displays, I think, is bridging that gap: it’s a slender one-hand usable phone, and then you unfold it, and now it has the screen size of a phablet. Best of both worlds.

    5 votes
  17. Comment on Facing financial pressures, GOG quietly lays off at least a dozen staff in ~games

    ThreeMachines Link Parent
    Activision Blizzard made 1.5 billion USD net revenue in Q3 2018. CD Projekt made a net revenue of about $4 million USD in the same period, which is pretty good for a studio that hadn't released a...

    Activision Blizzard made 1.5 billion USD net revenue in Q3 2018. CD Projekt made a net revenue of about $4 million USD in the same period, which is pretty good for a studio that hadn't released a game in two years. (Gwent was released in Q4, although I believe it had purchasables in beta.)

    All these companies are making very healthy profits. Actiblizzion could have retained everybody they laid off, given everybody in the company a raise, and still made a profit. And it sounds like, although CD Projekt themselves are probably fine, GOG might not be doing so well. (Alexis Kennedy's sales numbers would seem to back this up, if you read his Weather Factory report.) It's possible that CD Projekt is recognizing that they missed their window of relevance to be a serious Steam competitor, now that Epic and Discord are also getting into it. (And Telltale really and truly just ran themselves into the ground, by all accounts.)

    6 votes
  18. Comment on Future of personal security and privacy, upcoming trends. in ~tech

  19. Comment on War over being nice in ~misc

    ThreeMachines Link
    This feels like a remarkably sloppy dichotomy. Maybe everybody can try to not hurt other people’s feelings and also try to be responsible for their own feelings.

    This feels like a remarkably sloppy dichotomy. Maybe everybody can try to not hurt other people’s feelings and also try to be responsible for their own feelings.

    2 votes
  20. Comment on Fortnite's Appropriation Issue Isn't About Copyright Law, It's About Ethics in ~games

    ThreeMachines Link Parent
    Okay, so, two things. First, patents are for inventions and not works of art, and creative works don’t need to be registered for copyright to attach. They’re different kinds of intellectual...

    Okay, so, two things.

    First, patents are for inventions and not works of art, and creative works don’t need to be registered for copyright to attach. They’re different kinds of intellectual property and they work differently.

    Second, I can’t imagine what your idea of “documenting” a dance is, if you don’t think a (professionally produced and edited!) music video is documentation of deliberate, creative intent. This is much more like the Thriller zombie-dance than the Electric Slide.

    2 votes