The Stanley Parable

Yay for experimental first person narrative! Download is here – you don’t need HL2 to play. If you don’t have 300 free megs or the time, here’s some gameplay… pretty interesting!


A Mile Underground and a Boat Ride from Hell – Welcome to the Echo Bazaar

The year is 1889. Three decades ago, London was stolen. The Who, Why and How of it are mysteries – and these days only revolutionaries and anarchists say ‘stolen’ any more. The sun is gone and the city is lit only by glowing fungus, bioluminescent insects and by the gas-light of Mr. Fires.

 But Londoners can get used to anything. It’s quiet down here with the devils and the darkness and the mushroom wine. And a fantastic Bazaar has sprung up in the middle of Fallen London where anything can be bought or sold if you know what to ask for. Hell has established an embassy. Death isn’t so bad after all.

 The Bazaar is located at the heart of Fallen London, in the Neath, a cavern of impossible size, by the Unterzee, a tremendous saltwater lake. They say it’s the skull of some defunct pagan god. That doesn’t sound very likely. Although it would explain the dreams.

 Echo Bazaar is a browser-based text adventure game by Failbetter Games You have a limited set of actions you can take right now (10), and a limited amount of total actions per day (70). Once you use an action, you’ll get another in 7 minutes, and another 7 minutes after that, until you’re back to ten, or you use all your actions for the day. Like many such games, you use your actions to undertake challenges and grind your statistics. With each challenge, you learn more about the world of Echo Bazaar.

You start out as a Mysterious Stranger being held in New Newgate Prison. Right from the get-go Echo Bazaar allows you to determine how you escape and as the game progresses you’ll have the opportunity to decide who you were before your capture.

The game is loaded with ‘storylets‘, short narratives that drip-feed you a little more of the Neath with each click. Storylets generally involve one or more steps, each of which usually offers at least two ways of doing things and allows you to tailor your experience to play to your stronger Qualities (which determine how Dangerous, Watchful, Persuasive and Shadowy you are). There’s no combat in the traditional sense – you will be told how difficult the challenge is relative to your Quality level, and if you decide to give it a whirl, the game makes some behind-the-scenes calculations and tells you the result.

Choose - but choose wisely.

For example, you decide to explore a storylet in which local police want you to learn more about the activities of a Person of Interest. You have two choices: you can follow them around and observe their activities (a Watchful-based challenge), or you can try breaking into their apartment (a Shadowy challenge). Attempting a challenge always increases the associated skill, even if you fail. In many cases, you can re-try the challenge (at the cost of an action).

On top of that, there’s also a deck of Opportunity Cards, which provide diversions, developments and plot twists to improve your Qualities or expand your story.

So what’s the point? Well, there’s no single over-arching storyline that everyone has to work through. But there are several longer plot lines that you can work through. Maybe you’ll try to track down the people who killed your lover. Maybe you’ll gamble your soul against the Devil. Or maybe you’ll just spend some time exploring Fallen London and experiencing the cool lore. It doesn’t really feel like a game that’s about winning or losing – consider this blurb regarding death:

Death in the Fifth City isn’t necessarily the end. If you’re stabbed or shot, someone may come along and sew you back together soon enough. If you’re drowned, you’ll wake with a hangover. If you die of old age or disease, or if you’re hacked to pieces, it’s a more serious matter. But in any case, once you die and return to life down here, you’ll never be permitted to return to the surface…unless you’re one of the few who find a way to immortality.

Consider my current game: I play the part of Mr. Ricochet, a Watchful and Persuasive gentleman who left a string of broken hearts on the surface when he came to the Neath. He is recently escaped from New Newgate Prison and his ambition is to win the infamous card game known as Heart’s Desire – but first he has to find somewhere to play it. In spite of himself, he is falling for a young model and is trying to determine the best way to make his feelings known. He lives in the guest-room of a modest dwelling belonging to a kind-hearted widow in Ladybones Road, and is currently investigating the suspicious activities of a struggling poet. He is also nursing a couple of nasty injuries suffered during his participation in last week’s mushroom forest race. Oh, and the nightmares are starting to get pretty bad.

Sign up requires a Twitter or Facebook account (and you can link them if you have both). While that might get some people’s hackles up, it’s worth noting that you don’t actually have to use your social media in the game. If you wish, you can tweet or post some trivia from the game once per day to replenish your actions, but it’s not mandatory. On the other hand, you can invite people from your Friends Lists to join you for social activities that can help ease your character’s troubled mind or give them a hand with challenges.

Fallen London

Echo Bazaar offers strong and clever story-telling in a unique setting thick with flavour and atmosphere. The desire to know what happens next – and the feeling that you are in control – makes for a delightfully addictive experience. Check it out.

This Week In Miscellanea: “Going Cyanobacterial”

1. How long has it been since the last “Miscellanea” post? Ages, but like a long dormant virus, Miscellanea keeps coming back. Want to know how? Play Phage Wars 2. Imagine you’re a biochemist, recently hired by the Betz Biosystems metanational. Your objective? The creation of the most lethal virus imaginable. While soothing and vaguely eerie background music plays, test your virus against those created by the geniuses who came before you. Discover new proteins by analyzing your creation’s performance, and carefully re-sequence those genes into your virus to meet the threats presented by advanced testing environments. Can you make a virus strong enough to thrive in a living system?

2. William Gibson, one of my absolutely favorite writers, has concluded the Bigend Trilogy with the recently released Zero History. Check out Gibson’s site for review blurbs, a synopsis, and a quick video that includes the author reading from his work. Now you all know what to buy Rusty for his birthday.

3. Soundgarden are getting back together. I’m not sure how much I care, but having a new video directed by Brendon Small doesn’t hurt.

4. updated: this animated movie is really awesome.

Ataque de Pánico!

“Robots gigantes invaden Montevideo!  Un cortometraje de 5 minutos dirigido y animado por Fede Alvarez.”

This video – which was apparently made for the equivalent of US$500, has just landed Uruguayan director and animator Fede Alvarez a cool million dollars to direct a feature length, thirty million dollar version. Enjoy!

I Will Call Nothing Fair, Unless it be Her Panties

The title will make sense in a moment – first, a little preamble. “What is PH posting now?” you ask yourself, “That last post was silly. Why would he do such a thing?” The answer is two fold: I love you, and I am awesome in the biblical sense of the word. What follows is, as near as I can tell, the end credit sequence to a very new anime series called Sora no Otoshimono. The title translates as something like  “Lost Property of the Sky” and is about fallen angels and high-school kids. “Typical!” you think, “I can go on youtube and watch hours of crap like this set to Linkin Park!”

You would be mistaken. If not about kids and the band… about the breasts. And the panties… ah yes, the panties.

Yes, that just happened. Things will never really be the same, I know, but I’m not done with you yet. Now, you shall watch the highly generic preview. It is highly generic! Until about 2 minutes in when it becomes totally fucking sweet. You shall enjoy it, because your equine lord compels you. Love him, and despair etc.

This Week In Miscellanea: “Dropping Off The Grid”

1. Rusty is going on vacation! What kind of vacation? The sunning by a lake and reading books kind, of course! You would be forgiven for thinking he was going on a different sort of vacation, however.

You Are A Pirate!

You Are A Pirate!

Point 1 proposal: a feature film with “you are a pirate” as the theme song. The film stars a bunch of Somalian pirates, and starts with the protagonist getting wasted on hash and being press-ganged in Puntland. Later, they are ambushed by russians, brave toxic wate, steal Ukranian tanks, get paid off $USD millions, and then sink (along with the money) on the way home when all the other pirates swamp them. Madcap humor, poignant social commentary, and plenty of RPK 74

2. What crazy creatures might Rusty encounter on vacation? Probably not any of these horrific monstrosities!

Holy Shit, Get That Fucking Giant Isopod Away From Me!

Holy Shit, Get That Fucking Giant Isopod Away From Me!

 Point 2 proposal: Choose and comment upon the one that horrifies you the most!

3. The internet is a communications device. Proof is in the pudding, and the pudding is the Japanese band Sour, and all the web fans who contributed to their latest video:

Point 3 proposal: That was awesome!

4. New comix: Subnormality, Questionable Content, and Girl Genius – in case you haven’t already read them – and SE has been added to the blogroll!

Point 4 proposal: see y’all in 17 days, homies!


Update: Let Us Now Praise Awesome Dinosaurs in an amusing short story by Leonard Richardson.

Update 2: Biomass-eating zombie warbots.

This Week In Miscellanea: “Lobsters”

This Image Is Related To Lobsters. Really.

1. Lobsters. Specifically, Charles Stross’ “Lobsters,” an excellent piece of short fiction epitomizing a few interesting trends in modern cyberpunk. A lot of traditional CP focuses on renegade heroes with little in the way of family; in their post-post-industrial world connections are typically forged rather than inherited, and no one talks about having kids. Stross’ story, on the other hand, focuses on family in the most genuine possible way, all the while proposing a new techno-social order… and worrying about what happened to all those Soviet lobsters left over from the cold war. Reccomended reading!

2. In case your attention span demands more instant gratification, here are links to an episode of the original Iron Chef in which Tokyo-Chinese style challenger Kobe engages Iron Chef Italian Osada in a Giant Lobster Battle!

Part 1, Part 2Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.

This epic conflict includes a rare opportunity to see Iron Chef Italian in action, strangely erudite commentary from actress Naomi Hosokawa (see above), a worthy challenge from Kobe, and a fortune teller who presumably knew how the battle would end before she tasted the food. Reccomended viewing!

3. The history of Afghanistan, in the form of impossibly cute manga.

Thank You, Japan.