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User Journal

Journal Journal: Javascript Frameworks are Broken 1

Hint for any advertising-supported blog or news site: Cut back on the number of your Javascript framework supported advertisements.

Yes, the average client computer has more than 4GB of memory nowadays, but that doesn't mean people's browsers can re-download the same framework elements 20,000 times and hope that the article they're trying to read will ever load.

Instead, use static, text and image based adverts. If you must have animation, use animated GIF. Stop abusing the memory resources of the viewers of your websites.

In the end, more page views will translate to more clicks, even with older technology.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Games of the Year 2016

So, another year gone, and another opportunity to talk to myself about my favorite (and otherwise) games of the year. It's not been a particularly bad year, all told, with plenty of perfectly solid games and just enough surprises (pleasant and otherwise) to keep things interesting. I've missed a few of the year's big releases: Civilization VI (I've learned not to touch this series until the first few expansions are out) and Dishonoured 2 (the original is still on my backlog-of-shame) in particular. But I think I've still seen the bulk of the games worth talking about this year. So with no further ado, on with the top-10 list.

Top 10

10: Fire Emblem Fates: Awakening (3DS) - I'll get out of the way upfront that I don't much care for how this game was sold. The fact that all three campaigns are on a single cartridge but expensive further purchases are required to unlock two of them does not please me. However, despite that, there is still a very solid game here, with some fun character work, a decent enough storyline (Conquest in particular) and some strong strategy mechanics at the core of the gameplay.

9: Battlefleet Gothic: Armada (PC) - This one's a bit obscure, having been somewhat lost among the slew of Warhammer 40K games released this year. It is, however, definitely the best of the bunch. An adaptation of an old space-combat wargame, it's a smart, well presented tactics game, which reminded me more than anything of the old Starfleet Command games. That's probably no coincidence, as those were also based on a boardgame.

8: Overwatch (PC, also PS4 and XB1) - The shooter that got me to play online shooters again (for a while at least). Fast, fun and, for a while at least, refreshingly free of the usual angst and drama of online shooters. Sadly, the community soured from around October onwards, with even Quick Play becoming toxic, so I dropped out of playing. However, Blizzard deserve real credit for managing to blend so many gameplay innovations with such good gunplay.

7: Dark Souls 3 (PC, also PS4 and XB1) - To my mind, the weakest game in the Dark Souls series, leaning too heavily on past glories and requiring too rigid a conformity to a particular dodge-roll-based playstyle. That said, even Dark Souls at its worst is better than most other franchises at their best, so this is still a very good game. Except for the first DLC, which was just plain rubbish.

6: Tokyo Mirage Sessions: FE (Wii-U) - I'd probably rank this as the best game on the Wii-U and it makes a fairly good swan-song for the system as it vanishes into (mostly deserved) obscurity. This isn't quite a full-fledged new Persona game, but it is a pretty good way of tiding things over until next year's Persona 5. As with Atlus's best games, it holds to a very distinctive tone and style. The battle system gets a bit repetitive towards the end, but the aesthetic keeps things from getting too tired.

5: Total War: Warhammer (PC) - I've always found the Total War system strangely inconsistent, capable of swinging from greatness (Shogun 2) to mediocrity (Rome 2) remarkably quickly. Warhammer is a pretty big departure for the series, but it works out very well indeed, with a pleasing blend of familiar elements and novel innovations. Now if only we could have a Horus Heresy-themed 40K version...

4: Final Fantasy XV (PS4, also XB1) - Despite being much-delayed, this came out remarkably well in the end (despite some technical issues - give us a PC version already!). It doesn't feel like Final Fantasy, but then, that's something that was said about all of the best Final Fantasy games when they first released. A couple of the sidequests could do with being a little bit less fetch-questy, but other than that, this is good fun, with a battle system that has a lot more depth than is initially apparent. The Americana-infused aesthetic is also glorious.

3: XCom 2 (PC, also PS4 and XB1) - A really strong sequel to the modern reboot of the classic series. The strategic-game is slightly terrifying for the first few hours, with a bewildering array of options and very little guidance, but push past that point and this opens out into a really satisfying game. The best bit, of course, is what's teased after the final credits...

2: Forza Horizon 3 (PC, also XB1) - A glorious evolution of the open-world arcade-infused spin-off to the Forza series (a spin-off which has now arguably surpassed its progenitor). The availability of PC version is a welcome addition to the series. I was slightly annoyed by the over-focus on off-road racing (and particularly those bloody buggies), but this is still fantastic.

1: Doom (PC, also PS4 and XB1) - By far the best first person shooter I've played for years. It takes every hateful convention that Halo and Call of Duty slammed into the genre (2-weapon limits, regenerating health, linear levels) and throws them in the bin. Fast, gory, frequently ludicrous and insane amounts of fun. Somehow it manages to take the look and, more importantly, feel of the old Doom games and translate them successfully onto cutting-edge 2016 technology. I'm told it has a multiplayer mode, but I haven't bothered to check.

Good but not top-10 material - alphabetical order

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (PC, also PS4 and XB1) - I seem to be in a small minority for having quite liked this year's installment of Activision-flavoured spunkgargleweewee. The series seems to continue its "shite game, ok game" annual alternation. Don't get me wrong, it's not great (and the space combat bits are awful), but there is still some fun to be had in this ludicrously overblown sci-fi adventure. I also find something curiously endearing in the way it aims for Battlestar Galactica reboot-style gritty sci-fi but misses the mark and ends up as Space: Above & Beyond high camp.

Darkest Dungeon (PC) - I really enjoyed the opening few hours of this strange semi-roguelike RPG. It does get quite tired quite quickly, particularly due to the degree of randomness involved, but those opening hours basically justify the purchase price.

Far Cry Primal (PC, also PS4 and XB1) - A fun attempt to do something different with the Far Cry formula. The generic Ubisoft underpinnings still shine through a little too strongly, but full marks for effort certainly due here.

Gears of War 4 (PC, also XB1) - I enjoyed the campaign gameplay quite a lot here, as well as those bits of the plot that cast of the old games is present for. The new cast is a hateful bunch of millennial tosspots in need of a damned good lancer-chainsawing, but they don't quite manage to ruin the game.

Homefront: The Revolution (PC, also PS4 and XB1) - Yes, you found the only person in the world who will admit to having quite enjoyed this. Admittedly, I picked it up dirt cheap in a Steam sale, after the worst of the technical issues had been patched. It wasn't great (and the setting, which felt just-about-plausible for the original game, has become ludicrous now), but it offered up a reasonable amount of entertainment.

Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak (PC) - It's been a good year for strategy games, hasn't it? This only just missed out on my top 10. A well designed and well-presented spin-off from the Homeworld series, which manages to look and feel like a Homeworld game despite the shift to land-based combat. The aesthetic is fantastic.

I am Setsuna (PC, also PS4) - Interesting twist on the classic JRPG formula. Quite short and very story-focussed. Could have done with a bit more visual variety, but still an engaging little game.

Megadimension Neptunia V-II (PC, also PS4) - It's not fantastic, of course, but it is much better than Omega Quintet (Compile Heart's first attempt at leaving the PS3 behind). A perfectly good way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Mirror's Edge: Catalyst (PC, also PS4 and XB1) - I agree entirely with those who complain this lost a lot of what was distinctive about the original. But the moment-to-moment gameplay is still generally solid.

Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir (PS4, also Vita) - The best remake of the year and another game which only just missed my top 10. Very much a remake, rather than a remaster, this substantially improves on the original, by reducing the level grind and improving the flow of combat. The story and visuals remain as amazing as ever, many years after this game was first released.

Pokemon Sun and Moon (3DS) - The first Pokemon game I've stuck with for more than a couple of hours since Silver/Gold. Shakes up a rather stale formula just enough to keep things interesting without compromising the core (and iconic) gameplay. Now if only Nintendo could bring the series to a proper console, rather than handhelds.

Ratchet & Clank (PS4) - A fun remake of the very first Ratchet & Clank game. The weapons and gunplay are as fun as ever, although the decision to drop to 30fps was clearly the wrong one.

Senran Kagura: Estival Versus (PS4, also Vita) - A guilty pleasure. Despite the rather dubious trappings, this is actually a really good game. Tightly tuned, well paced brawler gameplay, with surprising depth and an impressive roster of characters with different playstyles. A story mode which wisely lowers the stakes from previous installments, focussing more on comedic escapades with less potential for mood-whiplash. And exploding clothes.

Thumper (PC, also PS4) - Strange, unsettling rhythm game. I've not got a VR headset yet, so I've been playing it on a regular monitor for now. It's a freaky enough experience that way - god only knows what it must be like on VR.

Titanfall 2 (PC, also PS4 and XB1) - Yet another that was a near-miss top 10 contender. The campaign is a lot of fun. Unfortunately, it happened to release in the same year as Doom, which just did a lot of the same things better. Hope this gets a sequel, though. If it can ditch the 2-weapon limits and other Halo conventions and embrace the over-the-top lunacy that it often seems tempted by, it could be truly great.

Tyranny (PC) - The most uncomfortable game of the year - an RPG with no way to be "good", only different shades of evil. A decent game, which builds on the gameplay foundations laid by Pillars of Eternity with better writing and world-building. Still a bit heavy on the big-text-loredumps and maybe a bit short, but still very good.

World of Final Fantasy (PS4, also Vita) - AKA "Final Fantasy does Pokemon". A fun, albeit grindy, lightweight Final Fantasy game, which is a real nostalgia trip for series veterans.

Yomawari: Night Alone (PC, also PS4, Vita) - Incredibly creepy top-down survival horror game. Gets the prize for "best tutorial of the year" by a country mile. Seriously.

Not-outright-bad-but-disappointing

Battlefield 1 (PC, also PS4 and XB1) - Yes, I thought this was worse (significantly worse) than CoD: Infinite Warfare. The worst campaign I've played in a long time (oh my god that armoured train level) combined with a terrible attempt at WW1 storytelling, which combines Spielberg-saccharine aesthetics with ahistorical attempts to make WW1 look and feel like WW2. This could have been so much more.

Bravely Second: End Layer (3DS) - The original Bravely Default got a lot of goodwill for being "just like the old Final Fantasy games". That schtick has worn thin now and the sequel just comes over as dull and grindy (like like the old Final Fantasy games). The fact that half the sidequests were butchered to incomprehensibility for the Western release via the worst localisation effort in recent history did not help at all.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (PC, also PS4 and XB1) - A by-the-numbers follow-up to Mankind Divided. The main plot's a mess, the clunking, heavy-handed morality is a million miles from the subtlety of the very first game and the stealth mechanics are often dubious at best. Some well-written sidequests save it from outright disappointment, but it's still not what it should have been.

Mighty No. 9 (PC, also loads of other platforms) - Much hyped advert for the whole Kickstarter thing turns out to be a bit crap. Lifeless visuals, poor level design, cringe-worthy plot and bizarre technical issues. Not fantastic.

Nights of Azure (PS4) - This JRPG looked quite promising pre-release, with an interesting "dark" storyline. Sadly, very poor graphics and dull gameplay frustrate the game's ambitions. The occasional ray of potential shines through, but nothing like enough.

No Man's SKy (PC, also PS4) - One of the most hyped titles of the year, turned into a big pile of "meh". It's not awful and had it been a Steam early-access title for half the price, it would probably have been very well received. As it is, it ended up embarrassing for everybody.

Space Hulk: Deathwing (PC) - This one hurts a bit, because it has so much potential. However, when it slipped out the door just before Christmas, it was in an almost unplayably broken state. Singleplayer functions, but is dull. Multiplayer is effectively unworkable for the moment. Fingers crossed this gets fixed by patches, because the idea of Space Hulk meets Left 4 Dead is an appealing one.

The Division (PC, also PS4 and XB1) - Concentrated mediocrity.

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (PS4) - So yeah, I'm out of line with the consensus on this one (though that's nothing to what's coming below). Uncharted 4 a boring, over-wrought story, told in a po-faced "look how grown up we are" style, with plodding narrative beats, and a few on-rails sequences of gameplay grundgingly hammered in between them. Also, Nathan Drake and his shite, unfunny "quips" need to be fired into the sun.

The Outright Bad

The Last Guardian (PS4) - If only it had never come out. Like Duke Nukem Forever, this was a game that was great to have hovering as a cloud of "might be great" unreleased vapourware. Once released, it quickly coalesced into an absolute turd, with poor controls, bland visuals, terrible performance, near non-existent gameplay, endless frustrations and a storyline whose "emotional" impact is cheap sentimentality based on children and animals. Kill it with fire.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Thoughts on leaving the computer industry. 3

I got my first job writing code right out of high school, working on games for a cable TV company at a startup called Pegasus Systems in Falls Church, Virginia. That was in 1982.

Since that time, every couple of years I've carefully considered what specialty I thought would be most interesting to work in for the near future. In 1982, it was computer graphics. In 1984, it was the Mac. In 1989, it was NeXTSTEP.

I'm a far better coder now than I ever expected to be, and that's due to what I've been able to learn from the incredibly smart people I've worked with in this industry. Seriously, some of those guys are scary smart.

I've worked in businesses ranging from three-man startups to the most valuable company in the world, I've had some great bosses (and smattering of idiots), and learned a lot about management from them.

In my first stint at Apple, I was an engineer in a marketing department, and from what I can see, Apple's marketing is the best in the world, and I'm grateful for what I learned there, too.

So now, I have an opportunity to get into an entirely different line of work, developing technologies that will make a major difference in the amount of energy we all use for heating and cooling. I'm a complete beginner in this field, but once again I've got some brilliant colleagues to show me the ropes. 2017 is going to be an exciting year for me, and I can't wait to see how it turns out.

-jcr

User Journal

Journal Journal: Christian Distributism, explained 62

The capitalist solution is to allow one man to own most of the hens and turn to distribute eggs to workers who prepare the nests for him. The Communist solution is putting all the eggs into the hands of the dictator cook, who makes an omelet which is bound to be unsatisfying because not all the people like omelets, and some do not like the way the dictator cook prepares them anyway. The Christian solution is to distribute the hens so that every man can cook his eggs the way he likes them, and even eat them raw if that is his definition of freedom.

-- Fulton J. Sheen, Freedom under God, Economic Guarantee of Human Liberty, 1940/2013 (PAGE 129 -130)

User Journal

Journal Journal: By Fulton Sheen's Standards, Trump and Clinton are Communist 3

"MOST LEGISLATIVE PROGRAMS, political slogans, and radical catchwords of our times are concerned with the satisfaction of material wants. The Communist catchword is âoejobsâ âoejobsâ âoejobsâ; the politicianâ(TM)s slogan is âoeworkâ âoeworkâ âoeworkâ; the legislatorâ(TM)s promise is âoe[more] material security.â Add to this the sad fact that millions of citizens, whose bodies and souls have been ravaged by a materialist civilization, have reached a point where they are willing to sacrifice the last crumb of liberty for a piece of the cake of security. Reformers [and community organizers] have not understood their cry. Because man make demands for security, our reformers have neglected to inquire what they really want. A starving man asks for bread, when he really wants life. âoeThe body is more than the raiment, and life is more than the food.â The unemployed, the socially disinherited, the poor broken earthenware of humanity ask for âoework,â but what they really want is independence. The normal man does not want to be fed either by a social agency or a state; he wants to be able to feed himself. In other words, he wants liberty. But, as we said in the last chapter, there is only one solid economic foundation for individual liberty and that is a wider distribution of property.
Property is here understood primarily as productive property, such as land, or a share in the profits, management or ownership of industry. Property does not mean a distribution of created wealth [past savings] such as bread, circuses, and jobs, but a redistribution of creative wealth [future earnings]; not rations handed out by an agency or an employer, but a shared ownership of productive goods. Liberty to be real, concrete, and practicable must have a foundation in the economic order; namely, independence."
~ Fulton J. Sheen, Freedom under God, Economic Guarantee of Human Liberty, 1940/2013, (page 49).

User Journal

Journal Journal: Secret Files of the Inquisition 2

http://www.pbs.org/inquisition/

After 700 years, the files of the Inquisition are being released, and like with the German Holocaust during WWII, they turn out to be a treasure trove for historians, since one of the primary functions of the Inquisition was to introduce better record keeping and rule of evidence to the judicial system.

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