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The Existential Terror of Battle Royale

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It's been a while since I wrote a blog post, I guess in general, but also a blog post about video games. Video games are probably the single thing most attributable to my career as a programmer, and everything else I've done professionally after that. I still feel video games are one of the best ways to learn and teach programming, if properly scoped, and furthermore I take many cues from video games in building software.

I would generally characterize my state of mind for the last six to eight months as … poor. Not just because of current events in the United States, though the neverending barrage of bad news weighs heavily on my mind, and I continue to be profoundly disturbed by the erosion of core values that I thought most of us stood for as Americans. Didn't we used to look out for each other, care about each other, and fight to protect those that can't protect themselves?

In times like these, I sometimes turn to video games for escapist entertainment. One game in particular caught my attention because of its unprecedented rise in player count over the last year.

pubg-steam-stats-nov-2017

That game is Player Unknown's Battlegrounds. I was increasingly curious why it was so popular, and kept getting more popular every month. Calling it a mere phenomenon seems like underselling it. Something truly unprecedented is happening here. I finally broke down and bought a copy for $30 in September.

player-unknown-battleground

After a few hours in, I had major flashbacks to the first time I played Counter-Strike in 1998. I realized that we are witnessing the birth of an entirely new genre of game: the Battle Royale. I absolutely believe that huge numbers of people will still be playing some form of this game 20 years from now.

steam-top-games-by-player-count-nov-2017

I've seen the Japanese movie, and it's true that there were a few Battle Royale games before PUBG, but this is clearly the defining moment and game for the genre, the one that sets a precedent for everyone else to follow.

It's hard to explain why Battlegrounds is so compelling, but let's start with the loneliness.

Although you can play in squads (and I recommend it), the purest original form of the game is 100 players, last man standing. You begin with nothing but the clothes on your back, in a cargo aircraft, flying over an unknown island in a random trajectory.

battlegrounds-cargo-plane

It's up to you to decide when to drop, and where to land on this huge island, full of incredibly detailed cities, buildings and houses – but strangely devoid of all life. What happened to everyone? Where did they go? The sense of apocalypse is overwhelming. It's just you versus the world, but where did the world go?

playerunknown-battleground-drop

You'll wander this vast deserted island, scavenging for weapons and armor in near complete silence. You'll hear nothing but the wind blowing and the occasional buzzing of flies. But then, suddenly the jarring pak-pak-pak of gunfire off in the distance, reminding you that other people are here. And they aren't your friends.

battle-royale-vista

the dread of never knowing when another of the 100 players on this enormous island is going to suddenly appear around a corner or over a hill is intense. You'll find yourself wearing headphones, cranking the volume, constantly on edge listening for the implied threat of footfalls. Wait, did I hear someone just now, or was that just me? You clench, and wait. I've had so many visceral panic moments playing this game, to the point that I had to stop playing just to calm down.

pubg-combat

PUBG is, in its way, the scariest zombie movie I've ever seen, though it lacks a single zombie. It dispenses with the pretense of a story, so you can realize much sooner that the zombies, as terrible as they may be, are nowhere as dangerous to you as your fellow man.

Meanwile, that huge cargo airplane still roars overhead every so often, impassive, indifferent, occasionally dropping supply crates with high powered items to fight over. Airstrikes randomly target areas circled in red on the map, masking footfalls, and forcing movement while raining arbitrary death and terror.

pubg-map

Although the island is huge and you can land anywhere, after a few minutes a random circle is overlaid on the map, and a slowly moving wall of deadly energy starts closing in on that circle. Stay outside that circle at your peril; if you find yourself far on the opposite side of the map from a circle, you better start hunting for a vehicle or boat (they're present, but rare) quickly. These terrordome areas are always shrinking, always impending, in an ever narrowing cone, forcing the remaining survivors closer and closer together. These circles get smaller and deadlier and quicker as the game progresses, ratcheting up the tension and conflict.

Eventually the circle becomes so small that it's impossible for the handful of remaining survivors to avoid contact, and one person, one out of the hundred that originally dropped out of the cargo plane, is the winner. I've never won solo, but I have won squad, and even finishing first out of 25 squads is an unreal, euphoric experience. The odds are so incredibly against you from the outset, plus you quickly discover that 85% of the game is straight up chance: someone happens to roll up behind you, a sniper gets the drop on you, or you get caught in the open with few options. Wrong place, wrong time, game over. Sucks to be you.

pubg-vehicle-shooting

You definitely learn to be careful, but there's only so careful you can be. Death comes quickly, without warning, and often at random. What else can you expect from a game mode where there are 100 players but only 1 eventual winner?

There haven't been many Battle Royale games, so this game mode is a relatively new phenomenon. If you'd like to give it a try for free, I highly recommend Fortnite's Battle Royale mode which is 100% free, a near-clone of PUBG, and quite good in its own right. They added their Battle Royale mode well after the fact; the core single player "save the world" gameplay of building stuff and fighting zombie hordes is quite fun too, though a bit shallow. It also has what is, in my opinion, some of the most outstanding visual style I've ever seen in a game – a cool, hyperbolic cartoon mix of Chuck Jones, Sam & Max, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. It's also delightfully diverse in its character models.

fortnite-battle-royale

(The only things you'll give up over PUBG are the realistic art style, vehicles, and going prone. But the superb structure building system in Fortnite almost makes up for that. If nothing else it is a demonstration of how incredibly compelling the Battle Royale game mode is, because that part of the game is wildly successful in a a way that the core game, uh, wasn't. Also it's free!)

I didn't intend for this to happen, but to me, the Battle Royale game mode perfectly captures the zeitgeist of the current moment, and matches my current state of mind to a disturbing degree. It's an absolutely terrifying experience of every human for themselves, winner takes all, with impossible odds. There are moments it can be thrilling, even inspiring, but mostly it's harsh and unforgiving. To succeed you need to be exceedingly cautious, highly skilled, and just plain lucky. Roll the dice again, but know that everyone will run towards the sound of gunfire in hopes of picking off survivors and looting their corpses. Including you.

Battle Royale is not the game mode we wanted, it's not the game mode we needed, it's the game mode we all deserve. And the best part is, when we're done playing, we can turn it off.

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lukeburrage
18 days ago
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Got my first chicken dinner yesterday. Easily the highest peak of any experience I've had playing video games.
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Faviconographer: Tab Favicons in Safari for Mac

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Daniel Alm (developer of the excellent time-tracking app [Timing]):

Faviconographer asks Safari.app for a list of all visible tabs (and their positions) in the current window, and for the URLs of those tabs.

It then uses that information to fetch the corresponding icons from Safari’s Favicon cache (WebpageIcons.db), and draws them above the Safari window.

It’s a “hack” — the cleanest solution would be Apple implementing Favicons in Safari — but it works surprisingly well.

Note: Faviconographer does not “hack” your system. It does not inject code into other apps or manipulate system files. In fact, it doesn’t even require Administrator access!

Daniel sent me a beta of this a few weeks ago, and I was dubious, to say the least. But it really does work surprisingly well. It’s not as good as true per-tab favicon support in Safari would be, but it’s closer than you think. And, importantly, it really is a clean hack, insofar as it doesn’t inject code or anything like that. And it’s free. If you use Safari you should try it.

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lukeburrage
73 days ago
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This works so great.
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Roger Federer’s Long, Strange Road in New York Comes to an End

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Embed from Getty Images

I had a strange thought about Roger Federer this week. No, not that kind of thought. Let’s back up. Earlier this week, Complex released a video where Roger Federer does that Roger Federer thing — telling self-deprecating stories about his rebellious youth and his life as a hapless dad, geeking out over Michael Jordan, and marveling about getting to work with Nike on his own sneakers. And, then he set off to buy some sneakers for the video segment. Smiling, he took a pair and asked the salesman, “could I have these in an 11.5?”

And I thought to myself, what a thing that is. That Federer is a guy with feet, who wears shoes of a particular size. It’s not as if I’d never seen the feet or the shoes before, but it was so strange to see Federer, a creature who seems to be made of Swiss chocolate, motivational posters and giggles, thinking about something so mundane as feet.

I don’t blame myself for this strange thinking. After all, for years, and particularly this year, Federer has traveled in what I can only describe as a cloud of rapture. I have to think at least three-quarters of his interactions as a professional tennis player consist of people waxing rhapsodic at him about his own greatness. Just a couple of days ago, he stopped by the ESPN set for a post-match interview, and the interview seemed to consist of a little bit of talk about his match, and then the other questions which can best be summed up as “how do you like New York?” “did you see any shows?” “do you remember that time you came here and told us about how you cried at a Broadway show and how disarming that was?” “what do you think of the ladies’ match that we’re cutting away from to talk to you?” “let’s make sure we reference your prediction during the rest of this match, because you’re really great.” I don’t blame the ESPN crew — this is pretty much standard operating procedure for much of the Federer coverage these days. It’s not necessarily unwarranted — he is oddly disarming — but it is poor preparation for thinking of Federer as, well, a guy with size 11.5 feet.

Embed from Getty Images

But, against Juan Martin del Potro at the US Open, Federer often looked like a guy with feet, feet of clay, as the expression goes. It was his determination to win that kept him in the match with a surging del Potro, not the magic tricks that he often seems to pull out at night in New York. Too often, his shots disobeyed his racquet, landing in the net, or many feet outside the lines. And, even his serve let him down — after all, he gave up the first set with a double fault and then a serve that missed its mark and provided the perfect target for del Potro’s thundering forehand. But this may have been one of Federer’s better matches in this year’s US Open — for a player so lauded for the beauty of his game, his five matches at the 2017 US Open were decidedly ugly. The first two five setters against Francis Tiafoe and Mikhail Youzhny would be pronounced unwatchable if he weren’t on the court, and were only called thrillers because too many confuse long matches with great matches. I was there for those matches — trust me, they were long, but definitely not great.

That Federer took fewer sets to move through the next two rounds says more about his favorable match-ups with Feliciano Lopez and Philipp Kohlschreiber than his ability to produce the tennis that started all that rapture to begin with. There were highlights, to be sure — he can’t avoid producing them. But the highlights were separated by swathes of tennis that was ok at best to painful at worst. The quarterfinal against del Potro was more of the same, except that del Potro had the tools to take advantage of a less-than-virtuostic Federer.

I wouldn’t say that the party is over for Federer fans — surely, with rest and practice, there’s no reason why he can’t bring his level up yet again during the indoor swing. But I’ll remember this US Open as the one where Federer was a guy with his feet on the ground, in size 11.5 shoes.

The post Roger Federer’s Long, Strange Road in New York Comes to an End appeared first on The Changeover.

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lukeburrage
76 days ago
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He'll bounce back.
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Nick and Griffin Reach The End — CAR BOYS, Episode 38

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From: polygon
Duration: 30:55

The final episode of Car Boys.
SUBSCRIBE for more videos! https://goo.gl/D8prdf

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Polygon is an entertainment website founded in 2012 in partnership with Vox Media. Our mission is to cover not only games but the artists who make them, the fans who love them, and the culture surrounding them.

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lukeburrage
188 days ago
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Go back to episode 1 and watch all 41 videos in this series. It's like they invented and perfected a whole new form of improvised epic comedy storytelling.
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Joy of Tech®, The Internet of Ransomware Things

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via the eponymous noggins of Nitrozac and Snaggy at The Joy of Tech®!

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lukeburrage
188 days ago
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This scene is something Philip K Dick wrote in (I think) Ubik. A door and a fridge holding their owner hostage.
josephwebster
187 days ago
Haven't read that one, but it certainly sound like something PKD would come up with.
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1 public comment
josephwebster
188 days ago
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Love the broom.
Denver, CO, USA

May 12th, 2017: Giant Squid is Giant

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This picture of a three day dead specimen, which washed up on Seran Island, Maluku, Indonesia, shows why they named it Giant Squid.
Wiki says;
Quote:

Recent estimates put the maximum size at 13 m (43 ft) for females and 10 m (33 ft) for males from the posterior fins to the tip of the two long tentacles. The mantle is about 2 m (6.6 ft) long, and the length of the squid excluding its tentacles (but including head and arms) rarely exceeds 5 m (16 ft). Claims of specimens measuring 20 m (66 ft) or more have not been scientifically documented.


Quote:

The colossal squid is believed to be the largest squid species in terms of mass. It is known from only a few specimens, and current estimates put its maximum size at 12–14 m (39–46 ft) long and weighing possibly up to 750 kg (1,650 lb), based on analysis of smaller and immature specimens, making it the largest known invertebrate.
But that’s a guess, the biggest caught weighed 495 kg (1,091 lb) and was initially estimated to measure 4.5 m (15 ft) in total length.
Just be thankful Asian restaurants that serve dishes where the squid/octopi try to grab you, use the little ones.:worried:

link
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lukeburrage
191 days ago
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I saw an expert say this is pretty clearly a dead whale, not a squid. Turns out invertebrates don't have backbones and ribs.
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