Google Reader was officially stopped last summer and with it – many claim – the death of RSS. Which brings me to a question: how do we distribute things?

So. The internet is made up of islands, websites, with bridges in between them, links. It’s a crude metaphor because you’re essentially able to link any island to any other island which makes an awful mess of bridges if you try to think of it literally and physically. But, anyway. The tricky thing is either having a website that people purposefully visit on their own every so often (because they assume there is new content) or have a method that links the islands in a sort of tour group, a stream of new content from all the different sources at once. A pull and a push, if you will.

I’ve been fairly successful with the first here at Acrylo, and my few experiments with RSS really didn’t seem to pick up speed. This tells me my audience doesn’t know about / want RSS or they don’t have any good way of reading it. But, that’s fine. They can plug in Acrylo.ca and see new stuff. Easy enough. But is it good enough?

Social media has been the push in recent years, but I still don’t think it’s really there yet. It’s more like a blimp that hovers over all of these islands: the content is hosted off-site for the most part (although Facebook is trying to fix that) and what’s left is a stream of links to content. It’s not a stream of content itself, really. Twitter could be called content, but any look down the stream proves it’s a majority of links to things that aren’t contained solely in those tweets. There are some people for whom Tweets are the draw, but it largely seems to be a little pithy intro and a shortened link that goes who knows where. You follow the link and you repel from the blimp onto some other island where you can explore and move on from there via the bridges. When those run out, you teleport back up and start again. You see a master list of things that might interest you and you follow them with the assumption that they continue to post things you’ll like. But it’s not terribly good at long form text. Tweets themselves are 140 characters short but constantly linking to an external site with your long thoughts seems self-promotey and spam like.

Facebook is a bizarre hybrid of things. There are some feeds that use it almost exclusively, but for the most part it’s also a blimp, a blimp that has a picture and a blurb from each island. You might be able to get the entire content from just that picture (and don’t need to click through) but for any longer amount of content and you’re going to the source still. Probablematically, it’s also not very good for text. Although it allows you to write as much as you want, I haven’t seen anyone who uses it like that. People assume it’s a place for short thoughts and funny pictures. It’s primarily a visual exchange, with text and tags and people / friends tacked onto that. It’s also different in audience to Twitter: Facebook is for real life friends who you probably don’t like or care about, Twitter is for strangers that you do like and grow increasingly caring about. Which brings us to the strange hivemind that is Tumblr:

Tumblr is photocentric. There’s no way around that. My photo Tumblr: very popular. My short story Tumblr has followers in the two-digit variety. It’s a ghost town. And I can’t blame them because I’m guilty of it myself. I’ve found the small pocket of short writing Tumblrs and admittedly when they come up in my stream I usually scroll past them. I’ve gotten in this terrible habit of using the middle-mouse scroll thing to automatically scroll down rapidly. I’m consuming pictures in what could basically be called a strobe light waterfall. I feel like this cheapens everything, but the signal to noise ratio sort of allows for it; there are very few good, good Tumblrs and when you add in all the other blogs, you’re adding noise to even the purest feed. Inevitably, since you can’t follow a mass of 100% perfect streams, you have to concede quality.

The cool thing about this system is it’s almost entirely self contained. Tumblr hosts everything and everyone either reblogs from the inside or brings things from the outside in to reblog. Maybe 5% of them are consistently OC and the author is making the things that show up in the stream. This seem to be webcomics and artists moving over from DeviantArt. Cool, but it doesn’t help the long form text thing. It doesn’t really help writers.

These three are good, but they are communities made for something else, and while they can be good at distribution of the content itself, the people have to be willing to see those things come up in those places, and unfortunately, those are not the places. I’m a little unusual in that my FB is largely outside sources, but the people that I’ve talked to don’t want that – they want to see their friends and family show up. I can respect that, and I understand it, but it’s a shame because it takes Facebook out of the game from being a serious method of getting outside thing to people. Twitter is better, but you have to balance tweets and links. Some people can manage that, but it takes away from being just a longform writer. Tumblr has the perfect setup but the demographic of short attention spans.

Medium is sort of what I’m looking for, but I’m not sure about it yet. I can’t really articulate why, but it’s just missing something. Maybe I’ll find it later. Maybe they’ll add it later. It’s still young, so we’ll just have to wait and see. So far, the demographic of the writership seems uninterestingly “interesting” in the way TED talks have been going downhill. They’re pruned to be “radical” but it reads like the one doing the pruning is over 40 and so the definition of what is radical becomes slightly out of touch. One thing I’m not a fan of (even if I was invited to) is the permission to post thing. I understand that they’re trying to cultivate only the best, but like Twitter or Tumblr (or even WordPress), let the best rise to the top. Allow everyone to go for it, and if they remain in obscurity then that’s fine too. Being allowed to post is a silly metric for goodness in the first place. Give people a free platform and allow them to rise to the challenge.

In the meantime, welcome to Acrylo Island. We’ll figure out a way to bring our sunshine to you one of these days.

Batman Arkham Origins

I struggle to call this a review – it is at best a biased opinion and at worst a rant about everything that is wrong with video games as a modern media. I started complaining on Twitter and I think people were getting annoyed, so I’ll write it out more long form here.

Disclaimer: I have not yet finished. I may never finish. Frankly, the amount of gameplay I’ve gone through so far to get mere percentage points of completion is ridiculous. Congrats for making a long game, and given the AAA pricetag, probably for the better. Fortunately, I received the game packaged with a new GPU I bought for rendering (okay, and gaming, you caught me) and I say fortunately because I wouldn’t have bought it otherwise. I would have waited several years and then hesitated about pulling the trigger when it’s a $10 Steam sale like I did with the first two games.

But First, Let’s Do This…

This is the main catchphrase of all the missions. Everything seems so simple and then it folds inwards, adding more new sidetracks at every turn. Some of these are big things, major missions and events to deal with (you could argue that every mission is merely a distraction from the ultimate game arch) but then there are the things that I wonder about, the things that feel placed there merely to add time or make us feel like we did more. Conveniently, everything that pops up is at the other end of town. This would be no problem as we’ve introduced the Batjet fast travel to get around… two open zones. Oh. Right. You need to do these other little side annoyances to unlock the other zones for fast travel use. You can run around everywhere freely (which turns into a sloppy Spider-Man wannabe repetitive cable swinging action if you want any speed) but you have to do work to get to use the jet. And by work I mean:

Henchmen #1-5, Again and Again

This was my main complaint with the first two games. I can see how the melee brawling was praised in the first game for it’s fluid action and dynamic use of takedowns based on where you and the enemies were relative to each other. Some of the fights still do feel really satisfying. Most, however, do not. It’s a lot of “Go here, Batman, but look out for those goons guarding the door!” over and over. Same mob of guys, same button mashing, same drop in interest. Everywhere you go there’s just a convenient group of baddies waiting for you. I realize that’s what the game is, but I feel like it’s detracting from what the game could – nay, should be.

Boss fights are similar: a blend of quick time events, button mashing and quick time events that require you to button mash. Bad guys make ludicrous taunts the whole time and you prove them wrong provided you hit the dodge button quick enough every time it pops up. At best they’re tedious, at worst they’re inducing carpal tunnel syndrome into my right thumb.

Choose A or A

I can’t figure this one out. It’s not really a game that’s supposed to have choice, but it’s free roam. But the levels are linear. But there’s a few different upgrade trees you can take advantage of. But it won’t let you advance the plot unless you do everything their specified way. But they reward you for doing those things in a variety of ways.

For example, there’s a laptop on a rooftop I needed to hack or access or whatever and beating up the same baddies seemed trite so I opted to sneak around carefully and just do it with them still alive and unaware. Masterfully get to the laptop and nothing. It won’t allow me to access it. So, I sneak back over to each guy and silently take them out one by one. Now I can access the laptop. Why did I have to break everyone’s legs to get that to work? I opted for the sneaky-sneak bonuses on the upgrades tree and they won’t even let me finish the objective being completely sneaky. I literally have no other choice but to go through the human mob roadblocks at every location.

There’s more meta-choice problems too. I’m on Penguin’s ship and some Anarky fellow hacks the TV screens with a message for me (how he knows I’m there or accomplishes this is never mentioned) about how he’s set up a bomb and it’s my choice to let it go off and kill innocents or disarm it. He actually says in the dialogue that my choice will affect how he treats me in the future. “Okay, cool” I thought “This could be a novel thing: getting on certain villains’ good sides” thinking that it would affect the later game. So I ignore the bomb and redirect my compass to the more main mission. The timer ticks away but I’ve chosen to ignore it. It clicks down to zero and… I’ve failed the mission. I have to repeat it from the checkpoint. Wait, what? So I can choose to disarm it or… disarm it. Great. And guess who was waiting for me at the bomb location. Henchmen #1-5.

Batman the Merciful Arm Breaker

This is bigger than just this game. Batman doesn’t carry a gun and refuses to murder even the most psychotic of villains even when their death would save countless others. Yet he will happily punch everything in his way to a bloody pulp. What kind of bizarre morals are those? You leave, as Batman, swaths of gang members with any number of broken limbs laying face down in the snow or in industrial factories or underground lairs or in cavernous sewers and somehow that wake of violence is better than shooting the villains who lead these gangs and kill the civilians? I just don’t understand him, and that adds into the bigger mosaic of immersion that comes from the story: would I actually behave like this? Not in the ‘would I dress up in a silly costume and run around at night beat up crims for fun in real life’ sense, but in the ‘does this character’s actions make any sense’ sense. Much the same way as we watch horror movies screaming “DON’T GO DOWN THE STAIRS, BECKY” we sit and watch Batman with a “Why are you even doing this?” firmly planted in our brains. This goes for the movies too, by the way. The entire character is hand-waved away with his graveling voice in some confused “Well, because I’m Bah-man” reasoning.

What I Did Like

The CSI thing was cool. They’re playing up the Detective Comics thing here and the crime scene reenactment actually has some cool features, like a simulated playthrough of the crime that you can scrub and look for clues. They’re really rather linear and Batman talks to himself to lead you through it, but if they used that same engine they could actually make a pretty cool straight up crime scene game (Castle game, anyone?). Oh, I should mention, the Batman talking to himself thing is awful and appears everywhere. You’re standing in front of the only door around, the only progression through the level and he chimes in “Those are Black Mask’s men. I bet I can make them tell me where he went” yeah, okay Batman. I wasn’t sure what I should do next, but you really helped me out. Worlds Greatest Detective indeed. They’re just silly and unnecessary and I don’t understand why they’re there.

The narrative sections of the story are actually pretty good. If you remember the scene from Arkham Asylum where Bruce is remembering the alley with his parents and the world around him starts to shift into that memory, it’s more of that style. The Joker > Harley interview is a remarkably elegant way for him to narrate a deeper inner emotion without relying on just the voice acting or just staring at him talk the whole time. As far as plot devices, this is where the game should go. Beating up another group of dudes doesn’t do anything for the story. Give us more of this. Go into the characters. Flesh them out.

Graphically lovely. The PhysX support is really neat with foggy hallways that flow around as you move and papers that flutter in the wind. The cape is still dynamic and the snow leaves actual footprints. Environments are much the same as earlier, but with sheer amounts of them (the game is 16.2 GB to download). The world feels empty, but it is Christmas Eve, so I guess there aren’t civilians just wandering about.


More of the same if you liked the first two. I can’t say I did.

80’s Halloween

I know I’m a week early on the Hallow’s Eve thing, but I was playing around with some old skull models for a different reason and had the idea.

My favorite part is the glossy shine running down the orange sunglasses:

Not sure if I’ve posted this before, but I did do some quick Freestyle tests with the same model (which comes to us from the repository) a few months back when that was first revealed:

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