Friday, 26 February 2016

Donald Trump for President

boingboing helpfully linked me to a Rolling Stone piece about Donald Trump's presidential run. It's an absolute treat to read, with brilliant turns of phrase like, "Cruz certainly has an odd face – it looks like someone sewed pieces of a waterlogged Reagan mask together at gunpoint," and many more. It was also offered a lot of insight into Trump.

This piece gave me a lot to think about. One thing I missed - and I can't believe I missed it - is that a lot of people support Trump just because the media tells them not to. But also it let me in on all of the Donald Trump quotes you don't normally hear. The ones about NAFTA being a failure, Iraq being a failure based on lies, insurance companies and drug companies being given semi-monopolistic powers.

For me, Donald Trump is an absolute no go because he is a huge racist who might credibly start another holocaust-like event. That is more important than everything else. Putting myself in the mind of the people at those rallies, though, and the people that other boingboing commenters have described as Trump supporters, it occurs to me: If you had to vote between 1) living in a colonialist-Africa-style kleptocracy where the lucky ones get sub-living wage jobs growing cash crops and the rest are totally dispossessed; 2) living in a racist-fascist society where there were jobs and wages and food on the table but an identifiable group you don't belong to were made to suffer; which would you vote for? And before you answer, do you really think that racism isn't a problem in (1)?

And that sounds too stark; Rubio isn't literally going to make America into scenario 1; and I don't think Trump will be able to have enough influence to quite do scenario 2 either. But look at Trump's apocalyptic rhetoric - $300B lost on bad drug prices? 40% unemployment? And plenty of people I know half-joke that this election seems like the end of America - I'm one of them.

Trump isn't just a magnet for overt racists who like his racism. And that explains why his demographics are as they are - as if it's just people selected at random from the population. People point out that 35% of the Republican primaries translates to a very small percentage of the electorate, but it his national favourability is also around 35%. That's about the portion</abbr> of Americans who believe that if the plutocrats have eight more years there will be nothing left of America to salvage and that it is worth doing <i>anything</i> to avoid that.<br /> <br /> I certainly think that Sanders is the answer, but I can forgive people for thinking Trump is better than <abbr title="Is Rubio great on race? he's probably exactly as racist as his donors tell him to be, plus a little for himself">Rubio</abbr>. What I do see, though, is that the establishment candidates and their masters seem to think that this is a war they can win. Winnow the field and Rubio will beat Trump and... what? Those 35% of people who think America is doomed will change their minds? There will be more of them next election and more next election.<br /> <br /> Geologists can predict earthquakes on a geological timetable. They know when an earthquake is coming - within the next 100,000 years, say - and they know it will be big. And they also know that the longer it takes, the bigger it will be. Political timelines are a lot shorter. Trump's presidency would be somewhere in the 8.0-9.0 range. If we have to wait another 8 or 12 or 16 years, America might get a president that will physically rip the country in half.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Not For Me

Years ago I donated to the Hospital for Sick Kids. I started after the 2004 tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands of people around the Indian Ocean. There were a lot of tsunami charities that year, and I thought it was probably a pretty bad year for fundraising for other charities as a result, so I called up Sick Kids and signed up for a monthly payment.

They used to send me these little cards in the mail with pictures of kids who had beaten cancer because of their research and treatment. There may have been things other than cancer, but that doesn't really matter. The card would have a smiling kid who looked sick - usually very thin - but happy and a short paragraph telling me how my donations were helping.

I called them and asked me to stop sending the cards to me.

I can't tell you what was so upsetting about getting those cards. Maybe I didn't like to look at pictures of children who beat cancer because they called to mind visions of the many children who don't beat cancer. Maybe I found it obnoxiously sycophantic. Whatever it was, those cards gave me a visceral negative reaction and I didn't want them, but they kept coming. I assume their system simply didn't have an "opt out of mailouts" box. Eventually I decided to stop giving them money because I just didn't want the cards anymore.

I know I can give money to sick kids without giving them my address, that isn't the point.

They send those cards out because they have to. If you want people to give you money, you really have to shill. You have to fawn over people and tell them how great it is. It's the same thing on a Twitch stream as it is for a major charity.

Things that motivate other people give me a fight or flight response. Things that make other people happy make me miserable. At the time I wished they would stop sending out the cards, but the reality is obviously that they make orders of magnitude more money because of the cards than they lost by sending me the cards. I'm certain that it would cost the more money to administrate a system that allowed people to opt out of receiving the cards than they were getting from me, and probably most than they would get from everyone who felt the same as I did.

I am told that I should stand up for my own feelings more, but this is a story of me standing up for my feelings. A story about me deciding not to give money to a charity to help sick children because it was upsetting. Economists like to say "people respond to incentives" but no matter what incentive you set up, there will be someone out there who responds in the opposite way you intended. So what do you do when you realize you are the person who lives in opposite land and that a vast swath of things that make you feel angry and upset are just plain good things?

Monday, 22 February 2016

My Project

I've been writing a browser game for a while now. To be clear, there is a particular browser game that I have been working on for a few months. It's intended to rival Sandcastle Builder in complexity but with the sense-making-ness of Kittens Game. It's similar to Kittens in a number of ways - getting workers, assigning them to jobs, expanding resources maximums, learning new techs, etc. I think of those as the basics of a town or civilization building game. It has a lot more room for complexity built in, though.

I'd get a lot further with these kinds of projects if I didn't keep starting over from scratch, but it's a compulsion that have a hard time kicking. For me it's really the coding, not the finished product that is of interest. I've set a goal for myself to have more techs than Civ 5 and I'm not only about a third of the way to that total, but I have 13 techs already that Civ 5 doesn't have. So I'm happy about that.

I think I'm pretty near the point that I could share an alpha version. Everything seems to be working, there are maybe three or four days of gameplay, and I checked to see if the browser running it continually used more and more memory.

Ultimately I want a game that is extremely complex and off-putting to play, and I'm not sure I'm achieving that. I keep sacrificing un-funness in the name of funness and playability. I'm caught in a space between my desire to have the game seem like a baffling slog and to have people actually play it.

Then again, I probably overestimate the playability because I know what I'm doing. Honestly some of the stuff you have to manage might be unintuitive enough to be a real hassle even though it isn't intentionally getting the monty haul problem wrong over and over to get enough goats for a bag of holding, or destroying enough temporal duplicates with achronal dragon to unlock crystal dragon before you get too many tools.

I'm always agonizing over the code and the size of the code. But I just compared my sh2data.js which has only about 2400 lines to Sandcastle Builder's badges.js which has over 13000 lines and decided I have plenty of room to grow.

Until I start it all over again, I guess.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Kittens Game

Over the years I've made a couple of references to Kitten's Game but never really talked much about it. Calling itself the Dark Souls of incremental gaming, Kittens Game is not quite as complex as Sandcastle Builder, but it's complex enough to be interesting by a good margin.

The game is a somewhat typical town-builder in that you generate a variety of resources like wood, minerals and gold, then you use those materials to build buildings in a sensible if very gamey way - a lumber mill uses wood, minerals and iron. An observatory uses scaffolds, iron and slabs and science.

The game contains a huge number of science upgrades that take you through all the ages of civilization you'll find in Civilization V plus a little bit more. It also has a no-so-hidden horror-themed parallel development tree.

Some interesting things about the game are its use of resource caps that I hadn't really seen in this kind of idle game before, and it's use of crafted resources. As you go through the game you increase your craft ratio so instead of using 175 wood to make a beam, you use 175 wood to make two or three or ten beams. This keeps the relationship between your resources changing as you play through. the prestige system also has features that really change the game dynamics, not just multiply your production by a fixed number.

I played through almost all the content a little over a year ago, but they've added more since, and since I got a new computer I started again. I've been playing since late November, I think. There's definitely a lot to do and a lot of play in the game. I don't know if it's quite as epic as Sandcastle Builder, but it definitely would be more appealing to those who like their games to make a vague amount of sense.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The Diablo Grind

My greater rift progress got stuck in the mid 50s. Wizards are doing fine on the solo leaderboards, so I did some checking on what builds they were using. I was a little confused by the energy twister builds - I couldn't see how you could possibly cast enough energy twisters to make the build work, especially since they didn't even seem overly focused on generating arcane power. Sure, they have Reapers Wraps and Power Hungry, but I don't recall greater rifts throwing healing orbs at me every two seconds. And if you do the math on twisters, they don't really come out ahead of arcane orbs unless you can actually spam them.

I tried it out and it played as well as I thought, that is, very badly.

Bright Cape Gamer fills in the blank on that one, the energy twister build is more for multi-player than single player. But I found the Delsere's / Arcane Orb at tier 84 on the leaderboards, so what I'm doing essentially works. What, then, am I doing wrong?

There are probably a few things. I'm using a non-optimal weapon mod in my cube. I'm using Focus and Restraint when apparently Convention of Elements and the Traveller's Pledge set are the way to go. I'm probably playing wrong and shouldn't be fighting fewer than at least about 10 enemies at a time.

But what occurred to me, looking over my stuff, is that I don't have an ancient weapon. That's a really big deal that significantly lowers my damage. So what do I do about that?

Well, I can reroll my weapon for 5 of each act item and 50 forgotten souls. That is, with 50 of each and 500 souls I could, on average, produce an ancient weapon for myself.

In my youth, this probably would have seemed like nothing. It takes perhaps an hour to clear out the bounties in all five acts on Torment VII, so 50 of each act item is probably less than seven hours of grinding, along that way I'm going to make significant headway towards the 500 souls - 60 some from boxes alone. But grinding up souls doesn't take that long either: you can get two or three every five minutes doing rifts, so 30 or more an hour is probably reasonable. If I was playing all day every day an ancient weapon of my choice wouldn't seem so far off.

Playing only a couple of hours a day makes that route to ancients seem obscenely cumbersome.

Last season I found an ancient Chantodo's wand with a very high damage roll, +10% damage, a high intelligence roll and max cooldown reduction pretty early into it. Since Archon was the best build, that was quite a find. This season I feel left behind, but I guess the reality is that I'm just not putting in the time.