Game designer at Naughty Dog, software engineer, Canadian abroad
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Fortnite Devs Completely Changed How Players Use Shotguns Without Actually Altering Them

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Sometimes, a weapon is only as strong as we believe it to be. Fortnite recently saw a game-wide shift in how people use a weapon type, and it’s all because people are thinking about those firearms in a different way. The developers didn’t actually change anything under the hood, but everyone is approaching the game…

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Gangles
2 days ago
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Game design is a dark art.
Santa Monica, California
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Extraordinary aerial photograph of Edinburgh circa 1920

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Alfred Buckham Edinburgh

I’d never seen this stunning aerial photograph of Edinburgh taken by Alfred Buckham circa 1920. Buckham was a pioneer of aerial photography, a profession he continued after getting discharged from the Royal Naval Air Service after crashing nine times and being declared “a hundred per cent disabled”. Very little slowed him down apparently, as Buckham himself wrote about his working setup:

It is not easy to tumble out of an aeroplane, unless you really want to, and on considerably more than a thousand flights I have used a safety belt only once and then it was thrust upon me. I always stand up to make an exposure and, taking the precaution to tie my right leg to the seat, I am free to move about rapidly, and easily, in any desired direction; and loop the loop and indulge in other such delights, with perfect safety.

But back to that photograph, it looks like a dang painting! Instant favorite…I can’t believe I’d never seen it before. (via sam potts)

Tags: Alfred Buckham   photography
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Gangles
11 days ago
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Santa Monica, California
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History

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HISTORIANS: We've decided to trim the past down to make things more manageable. Using BCE/CE, would you rather we lose the odd-numbered or even-numbered years?
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Gangles
11 days ago
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Santa Monica, California
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3 public comments
alt_text_bot
10 days ago
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HISTORIANS: We've decided to trim the past down to make things more manageable. Using BCE/CE, would you rather we lose the odd-numbered or even-numbered years?
austinstorm
12 days ago
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Someone send this to Jason Kottke and tell him everything's going to be alright.
Moscow, Idaho
alt_text_at_your_service
12 days ago
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HISTORIANS: We've decided to trim the past down to make things more manageable. Using BCE/CE, would you rather we lose the odd-numbered or even-numbered years?

This Video Explains Why 'Far Cry 2' Is Great Without Saying A Word

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It’s fair to say that my love for Far Cry 2 is well recorded. I take every chance I can to revisit it in streams, write about it in articles, and even delve into it more deeply in conference talks. Which is why, when people ask me why I fell in love with Far Cry 2, it’s easy to answer: It felt like it came from another world.

When it released in 2008, Far Cry 2 offered such a unique, different take on the first person shooter than the (then recently) ascendent model that Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare did. Though it still offered a familiar power fantasy--guy with gun gets over his head--it did so in ways that, to use a phrase from Cameron Kunzelman, “altered the conditions of that fantasy.”

By now, you probably already know how the rest of this conversation goes, right? I bring up the guns jamming, the malaria, the feeling of powerlessness and player-hostility, the Nietzsche quotes, the systemically driven anecdotes that the folks at Idle Thumbs succinctly summed up as “grenades rolling down hills.” If you love Far Cry 2 you’re probably nodding along to all of that. Yet time and again, the response I hear from non-fans is that most of those things are actually pains for them, and on paper I get it. But in action… none of it bothers me, and I’ve never quite been able to put a finger on why that is, besides vague allusions to subjective taste.

Now, thanks to a video entitled “Far Cry 2 details vs Far Cry 5” from YouTube user Crowbcat, I can get a little bit closer to understanding my own enjoyment of the game. Without saying a word, Crowbcat spends 20 minutes walking the viewer through literally dozens of little details that exist in Far Cry 2 but not in Far Cry 5.

Taken alone, none of these details seem that big: Is it that important that you can shoot through walls in Far Cry 2 but not in 5? Or that there’s a more frightening, first person drowning animation? Or that the grass gets totally flattened by roaming jeeps? Or that the fire propagation is less predictable as it spreads, and more thorough in its damage to nearby flora? Or that the clouds move in more realistic ways, breaking the sun’s light just so?

This sort of point-by-point argument for why Thing A is better than Thing B has always rubbed me the wrong way, especially when I’m a fan of Thing A. After all, any argument like this is going to be reductive, and Crowbcat even notes this in the description, writing “FC5 has its own attention to details that FC2 doesn't have, this comparison doesn't mean FC5 has nothing to show.” But because Crowbcat never speaks in the video, Far Cry 2 is able speak for itself, and as the details piled up, one after the other, I found myself aching to play Far Cry 2 again.

It builds to two high peaks, for me. The first comes early, just three-and-a-half minutes in. After being shot in the leg, an enemy falls to the ground, then struggles back up to a limping gait, dragging himself through the waving grass towards cover. They finally rest their back against a nearby rock, covered by the drifting shadow of a nearby tree. The ambient chirping and buzzing of insects and birds rises to crescendo in the absence of combat. Crowbcat approaches. Three gunshots.

Nothing ever felt like that for me in Far Cry 5, and I could never point to one specific reason why. What this video does is explain that there isn’t one reason, it’s about how all of these details come together in Far Cry 2. Each of those individual elements is one color in the systemic palette, a way that the developers were able to communicate something like a cinematographer's style or a novelist’s voice. There are even ways that aren’t explicitly compared in Crowbcat’s editing, but which still are noticeable here, like the rapid-fire, anxiety-inducing way that every character in Far Cry 2 speaks.

If there’s a through line in this video, it’s an unspoken argument that risk is real in Far Cry 2, for the player, their companions, and their enemies. Cover is only safe until it isn’t. Healing looks painful, and in the case of drowning, death looks even worse. Outside of its cynical endings, Far Cry 5 can’t conceive of this sort of risk or finality. Your guns will never break. Fire will not take leaves from the branches of its trees. AI companions, once earned, are yours forever. The way it communicates this risk of finality is part of what makes Far Cry 2 so powerful (and what made Ben Abraham’s “Permanent Death” such a great exploration of the game).

The second peak in “Far Cry 2 details vs Far Cry 5” is, of course, at the end. After demonstrating how, in Far Cry 5, the player can endlessly revive their AI-controlled “Guns for Hire,” Crowbcat jumps back to Far Cry 2 one last time. Xianyong Bai, Crowbcat’s in-game AI “buddy,” falls to one knee and gasps for breath. Then, one after another, Crowbcat shows the possible outcomes.

Maybe you have enough medical syrettes on you to bring Xianyong back. Or, maybe the damage is too severe for a boost of adrenaline to get him back onto his feet. Or, if you used up your healing items on yourself during the encounter, you might not have what you need to help him at all, and when you kneel down to help him, he will instead beg you to put him out of his misery. He slowly places his hand on the barrel of your pistol. A gunshot, and the video finally fades to to black.



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Gangles
16 days ago
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Santa Monica, California
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The Most Important TV Show In Quebec Has No Equivalent In English Canada

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This Sunday night at around 8 p.m., it’s a safe bet that hundreds of thousands of Quebecers, perhaps a million or more, will turn on their TVs or pop open a browser window to watch two former comedians share a bottle of wine with entertainers, athletes, politicians, citizen activists, and the occasional hypnotist. The resulting conversations will light up francophone Twitter and become fodder for Monday-morning water-cooler conversations across Quebec. Journalists for major morning papers and websites will analyze the show as if it were a leaders’ debate.

The talk show in question, Tout le monde en parle (Everyone’s Talking About It), has no real equivalent in English Canada. Influential columnist Patrick Lagacé has called it “Quebec’s TV confessional.” Public figures submit to a long line of questioning from former comedian Guy A. Lepage and his sidekick Dany Turcotte, the fou du roi (court jester). The Radio-Canada show’s mix of wide-ranging interviews, spontaneous debates, off-colour humour, quirky rituals (Turcotte gives each guest a personalized one-liner written on a card at the end of their appearance), and five-hour recording sessions with strategically placed alcohol makes it unique.

“We have nothing like it in English Canada, and it can make or break a politician,” says Brad Lavigne, a former NDP strategist who was with the party when Jack Layton made a much-hyped appearance on the show in 2011. “It had a tremendous impact on our [party’s] campaign.”

“The [guest list] balances people who have been in the news in the past week and people who are less high-profile,” says Université de Montréal political communication professor Frédérick Bastien. “Most of the [guests] are from art and culture, but there’s usually at least one public affairs item, with a politician, an academic, or a journalist who has broken an important story.”

Tout le monde en parle — “TLMEP” for its devotees — was originally adapted from a concept that had been successful in France. Its first season was in 2004, and its renewal for a fifteenth season was announced on air March 11. “After 14 seasons, it’s still drawing about a million people [each week],” says Bastien. “Considering the fragmented media landscape we have, that’s exceptional. It’s a huge opportunity if you’re a politician or a spokesperson for a cause.”

Although not all of the show’s two-hour-plus episodes feature a big political interview, Université Laval communications professor Guylaine Martel observes that those are the ones that get the most viewers. “Quebecers have two national sports, politics and hockey,” she says. “I don’t know if anglophones are quite so fascinated by [domestic politics].”

A good performance on TLMEP will stick in the minds of voters, and a bad one will take a long time to wash away. “The coverage it gets in the morning papers and websites amplifies its reach,” Bastien says. La Presse, Le Soleil (and its sister papers in smaller cities around Quebec), HuffPost Québec and the popular free daily Metro Montréal publish summaries of the show the morning after it airs, and its particularly contentious debates often spill over into other media outlets. “Everyone is talking about it” is of course an exaggeration — but not by much.

For aspiring leaders, TLMEP can be their biggest chance to win over a Quebec audience — not to mention the most high-stakes French test of their careers. Layton’s charming performance on the show in 2011 was widely credited with lighting the spark that led to his party’s massive gains in Quebec later that year. New NDP leader Jagmeet Singh got “the star of the match” from Le Soleil television critic Richard Therrien earlier this month for a “successful charm operation,” which stood out even more compared to the defensive performance of visibly exhausted Bloc Québécois leader Martine Ouellet on the same episode. Singh couldn’t have asked for a better mise en scène.

TLMEP host Guy A. Lepage pressing Bloc Québécois leader Martine Ouellet on the March 4 episode.

On the contrary, Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly’s robotic defence of the federal government’s tax agreement with Netflix in late 2017 “bogged her down even further,” in Therrien’s words. It was relentlessly savaged in the French-language press and contributed to growing media disenchantment with the Liberals.

One peculiarity of the show is Lepage’s catchphrase at the end of each interview — “Vous restez avec nous? (Are you staying with us?)” Guests are invited to stay on set and add their own perspective to each subsequent interview. Although guests who go on early in the show get off relatively easy (Layton was the first guest; Singh was surrounded by young Olympic athletes who seemed to pay attention only periodically), others end up submitting to rigorous and unexpected cross-examination from fellow guests. When Joly appeared on the show, she had the misfortune of being surrounded by financial journalists Gérald Filion and Pierre-Yves McSween and TV producer and entrepreneur Julie Snyder, all of whom seemed to know more about the intersection of fiscal and cultural policy than she did. “That was a tough week for Joly, and she just made everything worse,” recalls Therrien. “She kept repeating herself, and it really impacted the image people had of her. That’s one example of how an interview can bite you.”

To succeed on the show, guests have to be prepared to talk policy, but also to laugh at themselves and stickhandle through some potentially awkward moments, deliberately (and gleefully) engineered by Lepage and Turcotte. Layton, appearing on the show shortly after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, was asked a question about the link between masturbation and prostate health, to which he answered, “I’m with my wife tonight.” Singh responded with similar grace to an off-colour joke about media interest in his wedding night.

“Are we going to have an Instagram story at three in the morning? No pressure or anything,” Turcotte cracked.

“I don’t feel the pressure,” Singh said, laughing along with the blushing Olympic athletes. “But [balancing our public and private lives] is something we’ve talked about.”

The show has come under some criticism for focusing more on fluff than policy, but Bastien doesn’t see it that way. “On one hand, [the highly personal nature of the show] seems to increase the confidence that less politicized people have in politicians,” he says. “They think, so-and-so is kind of like me, so-and-so is a grandparent… but some people who are more engaged see it as avoiding the issues.”

“Studies have shown that shows like this are important because they allow us to get to know the person,” says Martel. “The person’s honesty and fidelity to their own ideas is important; so is whether they seem to be there for the right reasons. Also, it’s more friendly than a leadership debate; it’s a long interview, and the politicians are comfortable giving longer answers.”

“There’s no real preparing for it,” says Lavigne, the former strategist. “You can’t be scripted…you have to be entertaining, but you also have to know the issues.”

Tout le monde en parle is “kind of like the Rick Mercer Report, in that you can’t be afraid to laugh at yourself…and you have to have a certain knowledge of pop culture,” Bastien says. “Jack Layton was very good at that format, [former Liberal leader] Stéphane Dion not so much. He was like, ‘Do I have to?’”

Although Dion eventually took up the challenge, former prime minister Stephen Harper never went on the show. Harper’s laborious French might have had more to do with that than his tense, formal persona. An anglophone can’t go on Tout le monde en parle without having his or her language skills evaluated — by Therrien, other critics, and thousands of people on Twitter. Although Singh, a turbaned, practicing Sikh, is arguably fighting an uphill battle in secular Quebec, his surprisingly sure-footed performance in French on the show can only help.

The show’s actual effect on voter tendencies is difficult to pinpoint; no specific studies have been done. “We tend to overestimate the impact of media on voter tendencies to begin with,” says Bastien.

“I don’t want to talk about the show’s impact on the election just yet, when we’re 18 months away,” says Lavigne, who is no longer directly involved with NDP strategy. “As an introduction, though, [Singh] did very well because he came across as comfortable in his own skin. It was a strong performance, and it made a lot of people think.”

At the end of the interview, Turcotte handed Singh a card with an original one-liner written on it, a TLMEP tradition. The cards can be biting or encouraging. “If you want to recreate the Orange Wave,” Turcotte had written, “pull a rabbit out of your hat and name it Jack Layton.” If Singh does pull the rabbit out, he may look back on TLMEP as where the magic first happened.

Top image: TLMEP sidekick Dany Turcotte with NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.

The post The Most Important TV Show In Quebec Has No Equivalent In English Canada appeared first on CANADALAND.

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Gangles
23 days ago
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Santa Monica, California
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Our founder Benjamin Grant captured this crazy view of 432 Park...

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Our founder Benjamin Grant captured this crazy view of 432 Park Avenue in New York City from a helicopter. At a height of 1,396 ft (426 m), the building contains 104 condominium apartments and stands as the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere. The structure is so thin and so tall (1:15 width to height ratio) that in order to achieve stability, two levels are left completely exposed every 12 floors so that wind passes through and the building sways less.

Instagram: https://bit.ly/2pFWKg7

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Gangles
24 days ago
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Skyscrapers are pretty amazing when you stop to think about it.
Santa Monica, California
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