Monday, June 23, 2008

Google Image Labeler

There's a cute little game on Google called the Image Labeler. You're assigned a partner, and have 2 minutes to look at photos and type whatever comes to mind. If you match on a word, it saves it as a label used to mark that photo for future searches, gives you points based on the obscurity of the word, and moves to the next photo. It's a light game / puzzle that helps google find us photos more readily, and so, in theory, I'm happy to devote 10 minutes a day to a fairly enjoyable way to improve searches.

Problem is, everyone else who plays is a freakin' moron.
  • They all type really slowly. 9 times out of 10, I'll have made 3x the entries my partner has by game end.
  • They aren't very descriptive.
  • They can't spell. And/or they can't imagine that they could ever mistype.
  • And sometimes, they get really stupid. Here's some examples:
Example #1: There's a picture of waves crashing upon the rocky shore. I type rocks, shore, waves, crash, crest, surf, water, ocean, mist, beach, rocky. A minute and a half goes by, as I keep typing everything that appears in the picture, and every synonym I can think for them. In frustration I type "Ive entered 30 labels already". He never hits pass, he types only 4 labels. The game ends without a match on this, our second picture.
Partner's guesses: clouds, peak, pinnacle, point.
There are no clouds in the picture! They couldn't tell a shoreline from a mountaintop.

Example #2: There's a photo of a nazi rally, with hitler himself saluting the throngs of brownshirted swastika bearing thugs. I type nazi, nazis, hitler, brownshirts, soldiers, villains, army, germans, swastika, evil, rally, crowd, WW2, badguys, people.
Partner's guesses: soilders, march, guns, black and white, hill, people, man, men, boys, police, sun, lots of people
For the record, there was no sun visible, it was behind the "hill", which was really a building. The "police" were the freakin' gestapo.

Example #3: EDIT: NSFW example.

Example #4: The picture is a yellow arrow (with a zig-zag black stripe down the middle of it) emblazoned with words in purple saying "lowering your cholesterol". I type lowering your cholesterol, arrow, cholesterol, yellow, lowering, your, purple, black, zig zag, lowering your cholesterol.
Partner's guesses: lowering your cholesteral
And that's it, for over 30 seconds he sits there, no doubt wondering why I haven't typed the obvious phrase on the damn screen, and ignorant that he himself couldn't spell the word even when it was written there in front of him.

Example #5: The picture is Hadji. I'm all concerned with whether or not I'm spelling the names of the character's right, so I type in Haji, Hajji, Raji, Johny Quest, johnny quest, kid, tree, palm tree, turban, purple, india, cartoon
Partner's guesses: Terrorist.

I kid you not.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Who Can Beat Nixon?

A buddy of mine mentioned, in an old blog post (so old I can't add comments to it) about finding an old Avalon Hill game on his dad's shelf called "Who Can Beat Nixon?" Remarking on the crazy concept for a game, he suggested some other game ideas, one of which was:
Pedagogy Tycoon: navigate a semester of academic life; build an army of loyal undergrads; balance teaching, service, and research! For Mac and Windows. Also look for the Pedagogy Tycoon Expansion Pack: Search Committee.
I'm guessing he's never heard of "Survival Of The Witless: Tenure Is Everything!" a board game from Avalanche Press.

I've played Survival Of The Witless, and it really wasn't terribly good. Perhaps if I were a college professor it would have held more appeal, but the fairly weak humor grafted onto a lackluster mechanic and "supported" as it were by very low-budget components just didn't do anything for me.

I think I've played "Who Can Beat Nixon?" as well. It was years ago, and I can't be sure. I remember the blue monopoly-esque board, but I was thinking it had more artwork on the board itself. Might not have been the same game, though I'm pretty sure the thing we played was an Avalon Hill game - I recall being stupified at the audacity of the game*.

"Who Can Beat Nixon?" (or whatever the old Avalon Hill game I played was called if it turns out it wasn't that one) wasn't a good game, either, though perhaps that's 'cause the experience was marred by the group I played it with. There were 6 of us, I think, including 3 or 4 who'd never played it before and were willing to give it a shot just 'cause the concept was so bizarre. The other 2 had played it, a lot even. They taught us how to play, but made no mention of what they'd determined long ago was the best tactic in the game. And they played "for keeps" using that strategy to crush everyone else (for hours) once they'd established control of it. I remember being so upset with the two of them, that the game itself kinda blurred. The 3 or 4 new players all conceeded and the two "old pros" wanted to keep playing it out. (For the record, the buddy who's blog I referenced was NOT one of the guys I played this with. Wrong State, wrong year.)
Board Game Brainstorm! Come up with ideas for boardgames, pitch them to one another, choose the best idea and make it. Box includes three decks of blank cards; a foldable, laminated board; one Dry erase marker; one Board Game Brainstorm Idea NotePad 2000; One box of Sculpey.
I've played that too - or kinda played it. Tried to, anyway. Or something like it, but without the sculpey, and (obviously) unpublished - but I'll have to save that story for another day, as I have things to do right now.

These other two he mentioned I'm pretty certain don't exist:
Philately, the boardgame!

Assassinate McKinley: one player is Leon Czolgosz, the others are the security detail. Choose your moment at the Pan-American exposition. Get McKinley when he’s in a good mood, and maybe he’ll give you the famous “Go easy on him boys.”
If anyone ever makes it though, I'd be up for a round of that McKinley game. That's geeknuttery enough for me.

*: Later that was topped by Election USA, the game where winning the Republican Nomination means you win the general election (and thus the game) as well. From the back of the box, I wasn't certain if it was a pro-Republican game, or a game satirizing the rigging of elections, so I never bought or played Election USA.

Rolling the d20 in Rome

Kevin pointed me towards: Romans Used 20-Sided Dice Two Millennia Before D&D | Geekdad from

The article's pretty short, and just notable for it's cool picture of a ancient roman d20, made from glass, and used for a game that's been lost to the ages. Good education for anyone who thought polyhedrons were invented by modern nerds. The die in question sold in auction for over $17,000, totally putting my dice collection was shame.

It's good to know, too, that if my time-machine breaks down while I'm in Rome, there'll at least be gamers around I can hang with.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

McCain rocks the troll vote

Trolls - universally reviled by everyone that's ever legitimately logged in to a forum, message board, or blog - have finally found a candidate who represents their interests. In fact, Republican Presidential Nominee John McCain doesn't just represent Trolls, he encourages them. Here's the latest news on McCain's strategy in courting the Troll voting block, via Wired.

McCain Asks Supporters to Invade Liberal Blogs, But Few Respond

The McCain campaign in late May launched a new blogger outreach section on its website that encourages supporters to lobby for their candidate across 94 blogs
The strategy reinforces the central role that blogs have come to play in shaping and framing the issues in the 2008 presidential election. The question is whether sending supporters to do grassroots lobbying in the comments section of activist blogs like DailyKos, whose membership is dedicated to defeating the Republicans in the general election, will really benefit McCain's campaign.
No, it will just piss people off. But that's the point. Recent polls of Trolls have found that "pissing people off" is one of the key issues most likely to win the Troll vote.

According to a special gallup poll, here's what Trollish-Americans are most looking for in a Presidential Nominee:
95% of Trolls want a President who "Pisses people off, just 'cause he can."
82% seek a White House that will "defend our constitutional right to eat Dwarves."
63% of Trolls indicate the quality they value most in a political candidate is "Regeneration: 5".

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign has announced it's intention to appeal to Trollish Americans by selecting a running mate with neon hair that stands on end when you comb it.

If any portion of this went over your head, read the comments.

saddened by numbers on Scion Companion part 2

The section will contain:
* How to make a demigod or God at character creation
* 27 new Knacks (three for each Epic Attribute)
* 15 new Birthrights (three Creatures, three Followers, three Guides and six Relics)
* The complete Atlantean pantheon Purview (Scire) and Virtues
* 32 new All-Purpose Purview Boons (two for each Purview)
* 10 new Magic spells
What a let down. They'd previously announced 48 All-Purpose Boons and 20 Magic spells and an unspecified number of Knacks. I'd held off making more knacks and my own alternate boons largely because of the promise that there'd be lots in this book.

Secondary source of disappointment: The chapter releases about a week from now by most counts, having been pushed back from it's original late May release date. That means I won't get my hands on it till we're in the middle of our move, when I really won't have the time to read it or design new boons to fill the holes.

Flaming Bullets Suck

The second chapter of the Scion Companion keeps getting delayed, so they released some spoilers over at the forums. I was terribly disappointed by these spoilers.
Flamin’ Bullets (Fire ••••)
The weapon becomes wreathed in flames, and for the rest of the scene, the weapon belches blasts of Legend-fueled fire. The weapon still consumes normal ammunition, but the shots become imbued with “fire power,” so to speak. The fiery rounds also inflict lethal damage, even against creatures that normally take bashing damage from bullets, such as the walking dead. The fiery rounds add +1 Accuracy and Damage to the weapon and also allow it to light targets on fire. Shooting the gas tank of a car with a pistol really can produce an explosive ending when Flamin’ Bullets are used.
Not a good choice for a preview.

It overlaps heavily with Flare Missile (the existing Sun 4 boon), and doesn't compare well to it. Flamin' Bullets costs less (legend per scene, not per shot) and gives +1 die to accuracy. However, it's damage boost is +1 die, whereas Flare Missile gives at least +5 levels (roughly equivalent to 10 dice). Damage (not accuracy) is where guns need boosting in the system, since they don't get Epic Strength on their damage rolls but do get Epic Dex on attack rolls. What's more, Flare Missile lets you create ammo out of sunlight - so if your clip is empty, it'll let you keep shooting.

Worse yet, it also overlaps heavily with Blazing Weapon (the existing Fire 4 boon), and compares even worse to it. Blazing Weapon can only augment a melee weapon, not a ranged weapon like a gun, but it gives bonus dice equal to your legend, which you split up as you see fit. You can put +1 to accuracy and +1 to damage, and have at least 3 more dice to apply as you see fit. It also sets things on fire like Flamin' Bullets does.

Speaking of which, the vague "also allow it to light targets on fire" clause pisses me off too. It provides no rules, so you're completely at the whim of GM fiat as to whether or not you can ignite a person's clothes. I'm sure the authors thought that was best handled via Stunting, except they made this a level 4 boon - you have to be a Demigod to use Flamin' Bullets. The bonus dice given by stunts become laughable sometime mid demigod.

In short, Flamin' Bullets sucks. It does something the existing Fire 4 already does (it just changes the target from melee to ranged) but the new boon doesn't do it as well. Further, the two areas where guns could really have used improvement (damage and range) in the system aren't boosted (the former not significantly and the later not at all). While the Fire Purview could use more attack powers, what it really needed is a Hero-level attack boon. What's more, it's not fresh, and doesn't explore new design space at all - it just poorly mimics existing boons.

Flamin' Bullets would have been fine as a 3-dot Boon, but it's just nowhere near as powerful as the two very similar existing 4-dot boons.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Analyzing Movies

This started over at repeated expletives. I was blabbing about classic Bond films (and how they hadn't stood the test of time so well) and a couple gaming-related thoughts crossed my mind.

Thought #1: Action films are full of wandering monsters, yet I shy away from them in-game. There's tons of scenes in film history that have only the slightest tangential connection to the plot. If kept short, these provide spice and action in an otherwise slow moment. But if they run long, you start asking yourself "why is this happening?" I don't use In Media Res often enough - it's a great tool to get your game started.

Thought #2: Bond always has the right tool for the job. Q gives him only the devices he'll need for the mission. RPGs tend to a polar-opposite dynamic: the PCs pour over equipment lists, or power lists, and tend to have lots of stuff they don't need in any given session. Is there a way around that? You could just give the PCs the gieger-counter shoes, laser wristwatch, and pants made from jelly that will solve exactly the encounters planned for the game. Such a solution would, however, just feel like railroading in an RPG. Why does it work in the movies?

Thought #3: In general, I need to relax a little more as a GM. I work really hard to prevent plotholes and maintain verisimilitude. Recently, I've noticed that I do a better job of that than all the 007 movies, the latest Indiana Jones film, Buffy, Star Trek, and the new Battlestar Galactica. That's not just me being cocky. I put way too much time and effort into my games. Anyone who spent this amount of energy would get similar (some would get better) results. It's like that M Night Shyamalan quote about how any reasonably coordinated (ie: not painfully clumsy) individual in decent shape could play at the pro level if they were just given two years to really focus on their sport of choice. Same concept - time and practice is what gets results.