The end of week 1

So the last part of our introductory tekkit week is finished, and we’ve progressed…. ish. Things will only get more crazy from here on out as we’re almost ready for machines, explosions and full on maceration. Weekly updates from here on out, and don’t forget the other awesome blog!

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Kongregations

Hey guys,

I think it’s time for me to introduce what will probably be a very common style of game review on this blog – Kongregate flash games. For those who don’t obsessively play flash games know, http://www.kongregate.com is one of the largest free game portals on the interwebs, with loads of great (free) games for all to become horribly addicted to play. Even better, you can get your daily dopamine dose with an on-site ‘Badges’ system.

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I’ve been on the site for a few years now and times are changing. Games increasingly have systems for paying for ‘optional’ extras, but these extras are becoming increasingly vital to the gameplay itself. Hundreds of cloned games are being produced which copy excellent old titles just to be able to develop a product that can be sold as an App (Don’t even get me started on Angry Birds – you should play Crush the Castle). That being said there is a mass of great games on the site and my objective is to help you sift through the dross to find the diamonds. Here are a few old favourites:

1: Gamezhero’s  Tentacle Wars

In Brief: Simple gameplay but complex strategy for those who love thinking while they play.

No, it’s not any kind of crazy hentai, it’s a perfect example of an unfortunately quite rare type of strategy game. You compete for control of stationary cells by sending units from your own cells in the form of tentacles. Cells passively produce more units (so more cells means more units) but can be taken over if their unit count is too low. The objective is to take over all of your opponent’s cells.

Other games use the same mechanic – Pixel Legions, Civilization Wars, Phage Wars 2, Nano War – but what makes this game so perfect is the tentacle function (oh gods, I can’t believe I just said that). Depending on where you choose to cut an arm it can either be a dose of reinforcements for a beleaguered cell, or a sudden and shocking attack on an opponent.While the precise gameplay is quite hard to describe (go play it for yourself!) it is incredibly easy to pick up the basic principles.

2: Gameinabottle’s Gemcraft Labyrinth

In Brief: The ultimate, all-time champion of tower defence.

The latest incarnation of a very successful TD series, Gemcraft narrowly beats Bubble Tanks TD as my favourite TD game. GCL has literally everything you could want – a wide variety of enemies, different tower types, beautiful top-down graphics and literally hundreds of different level designs and options. It even has a pretty good (if also pretty sparse) story! The game is well balanced, but if you’re kicking ass try ramping up the difficulty. The endless mode will be totally impossible without a good strategy, but it is beatable ending at wave 1337 (which is a nice touch for those who g37 th3 j0k3).

Gemcraft also brings something new to the table in its way of distinguishing tower types. Towers themselves are just neutral passive buildings, but you can craft gems (duh) to put in them to make them act. The gems are what determines the property of the tower – high crit, poison, slow etc., and the gems can be combined and upgraded to your personal tastes (mine was always bloodbound-critical-lightning, the GCL equivalent of a chainsaw to the face). Gems can also be used in other ways – as one-off bombs, sold for mana, put into traps etc. The flexibility this gives the game is incredible as there are hundreds of ways to beat every level.

Also, a new one is coming out soon, so better get some practice in!

3: Silen Games’ Granny Strikes Back

In Brief: The unfortunate effect of too much codliver oil

This one is both adorably silly and a wonderful shooter. Take control of your ex-Special Services granny (everyone has one) and use vegetables (?) to attack the aliens (?) attacking your house with snowmen (?). Sounds ridiculous, but its got everything a good shooter needs – different objectives in different levels, different weaponry (the shotgun peas are my favourite) and a real sense of just good fun.

Also, as with all of Silen Games’ games the graphics are superb. Even without utilizing the Unity3d options for flash this game makes everything look and feel real even though its top-down – just like Warcraft3 did back in the day. Genuinely fun for all ages (so basically the exact opposite of monopoly).

4: AdamAtomic’s Canabalt

In Brief: Parkour apocalypse!

This one comes last because I don’t think its for everyone, and to be honest I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship with it. It literally feeds of rage quitting, growing every stronger in its quest to drive players insane.

Gameplay wise its a pretty straightforward running game. Your character runs endlessly to the right and you use the jump button (AKA the only button) to avoid pits and such. The speed gradually increases and the gaps get wider and wider, until in the end you are flying across the screen, nerves frayed, finger twitching frantically, screaming when you mistime a jump and get flattened against a wall. The gameplay in this type of game isn’t complicated, but Canabalt gets a perfect difficulty curve which gives it massive replayability.

The thing that really sets it apart however are the graphics and sound. A monochrome 8-bit apocalypse is going on in the background the whole time and the music fits in perfectly.

5: Senekis’ Badgemaster

In Brief: A hook on a line

OK This one isn’t really a game – its a tool for organizing the badges on the Kongregate site. Once your hooked on the site your hooked, and Badgemaster makes finding a fresh new unearned badge to go for easy. Like a crack dealer delivering to the doorstep. It can also give you your stats – see mine above!

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Quick announcement: Due to a bout of flu, ep5 of the Tekkit quest won’t be up today, but you’ll get 2 episodes tomorrow, so hang on in there.

Episode 4: Hat tricks and plan hatching

Hey guys, episode 4 of our quest to get to the end of Minecraft is online! In a gesture of pure unadulterated self-sacrifice I give Cheeesetoastie my hat, and get locked in the cellar for my troubles when she “Goes All Joffrey”. Enjoy!

Ways to Enhance Your Sorry Self

Who doesn’t like to imagine themselves with super powers? No-one, that’s who. Even young Superman, as he flew around rural America shooting communists with his laser eyes, had a dream of someday being able to talk to animals.

Oh how I envy Doctor Dolittle…

Such dreams are no longer in the realm of comics however. Paradigm-shattering advances are being made in various fields of human augmentation, so here’s a list of my favourite ways to go ‘Homo-Sapien++’.

1: Powerful Prosthetics

Literally since life began losing a limb has sucked. Evolution spent millions of years giving you that damn appendage so you could feed yourself and once its gone eating/living/procreating becomes that much harder. The extent to which a society can mitigate the physical disadvantage is a good measure of how advanced it is, since it means your relying more on brain and less on brawn. We (humans) have been getting better and better at this, but the loss of a limb will always remain a tragedy.

Until now (or at least, soon). A threshold is being crossed as increasingly prosthetics are being designed which in many ways exceed the capabilities of natural limbs. Most recently: The ‘Terminator Arm – A prosthetic arm which operates basically as a regular hand. Take it a step further and we’ve got tiny hands for small-scale work, strong arms for heavy lifting and ridiculously fast running blades for legs (cf. Oscar Pistorius – his first mention anywhere this week which didn’t reference the trial… Ooops…). And why stop there? Flamethrower arms  projector eyes and sonar ears are just around the corner, and that means that increasingly people will see having a limb amputated as a better option than keeping a healthy limb.

Sounds wonderful for those who choose it, however there is one concern. If practical effectiveness is increased by prosthetic enhancement (as it inevitably will be) then the competitive market will begin to favour workers who sacrifice limbs in order to increase productivity. We’re a long way off from evil overlords grabbing babies and experimenting on them, but we’re pretty close to the point where some job somewhere will be done better by an amputee with a prosthetic and people competing for that job will confront an awkward choice.

2: Smarter, Quicker, Less Defective!

A recent Royal Society publication entitled ‘Human Enhancement and the future of work’ (the Academy of Medical Sciences, Royal Academy of Engineering and British Academy helped too) outlines various ways to enhance the workforce. Prosthetics and exoskeletons are covered for the physical stuff, but it also details various ways to make workers smarter, such as cognitive training via computers (I know Kung Fu!), collective cognition (What did you just think to me?!?), brain stimulation to increase learning and (this last one seems a little crude) drugs for old people.

Equal parts terrifying and amazing. So much could go wrong! So much could go right! Mental enhancement offers possibilities that are literally undreamed of (since our brains aren’t advanced enough yet… see what I did there?) and will undoubtedly shape the future of this sorry rock.

It seems pointless to harp on about the details of a recent publicly-available publication so I’ll just point out some salient facts. One conclusion of the report was that policy makers need to be thinking about this stuff NOW if not sooner – mind-enhancing drugs are already available in chemists and the rest of these technologies are not far off. This is not a distant reality to ponder over, it is something that will happen within our life time (possibly in the next decade) and the people alive today will determine how our first steps into mental enhancement go. These are delicate issues, and once human/computer interfaces are a practical reality there will be hundreds of dangers, but if these technologies are used sensibly for the benefit of all we’ll be in Utopia before we know it.

Read the report! : http://royalsociety.org/news/2012/human-enhancement/

3: Telekinetic Tattoos*

*NOT ACTUALLY TATTOOS – I’m not sure why they called it that. This is basically a new tech the size of a hair which you can stick to your scalp and it’ll read your brainwaves. Tie an emitter to the end and set it to transmit wireless to some machinery and BAM – you are controlling stuff with your mind. Harry Potter can go back to Hogwarts.

This one is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand being able to control stuff with your mind is cool, but it seems to require a great deal of set-up time so would only be used for certain tasks – not much of a multi-purpose upgrade. The tasks which would be controlled in this way would probably be the boring/repetitive/simple tasks we hate anyway, and this just gives you the option to do them while sitting quietly and thinking about them. Fun.

If the tech became pervasive and was standardized though it would be awesome – walking through a city where your little ‘Tattoo’ was rigged to open doors, hail taxis, and make purchases would be amazing. Equally, since they are so small and removable, you could have a selection (one for the office, one for the car, one for the deluxe orbital asteroid condo) to get almost the same effect.

Another big advantage this enhancement has is it isn’t permanent – no ethical concerns like with the prosthetics. Since you can take it off at any time if you felt like having a real stone age style weekend you could unplug the phone, take off the ‘Tattoo’ and play Xbox360 on a 37″ Plasma like your Grand Pappy used to.

Full Report: http://txchnologist.com/post/43496630304/temporary-tattoos-could-make-electronic-telepathy

Say NO to teleportation!

I just can’t let this go. This will be a very short post on why teleportation, as presented in a great deal of sci-fi, amounts to ignorant and self-destructive suicide. Even Sheldon Cooper agrees.

The reason for a post devoted to this one, lone topic? If I don’t rant and rave about it here, my open-mouthed astonishment at Captain Kirk’s Lemming-esque leap into the Automatic Death Machine will infect all my other posts with its rage. So.

Most teleportation systems, most notably Star Trek, involve the following steps:

1: Target is scanned, composition is recorded

2: Target is broken down into component atoms and sent flying across the universe

3: Target is reconstructed at the destination.

Let’s put number 2 in a different context:

1: Target defies the Great Cthulu

2: Target is broken down into component atoms and sent flying across the universe

3: Cthulu feasts on the soul of the puny mortal.

See the problem? Step 2 is unavoidably lethal. The illusion that Kirk is ‘appearing’ elsewhere stems from the fact that what appears at the other end is a perfect copy of the original – right down to the patterns of atoms which make up his thoughts/feelings/ability to speak like a Shakespearean comedy and tragedy at the same time. But it isn’t the same Kirk!

Even worse, step 2 is simply unnecessary. If you have the technology to assemble a living human copy at the destination, then all you need to do is rig it up to some vats of carbon, hydrogen etc. and it can make you a million Kirks – without the need to blast the original apart. Of course, these perfect copies present some interesting ethical problems and I recommend Richard Morgan’s “Altered Carbon” for anyone who wants a look at the ‘double sleeving’ issue (and everyone else).

I almost feel guilty pointing this out. Next time you watch the good old OST its no longer a silly space romp, its a heartbreaking tragedy about the Admiralty’s least favourite bumbling captain, and their cruel prank which leads him to die a thousand deaths. Things are improving these days as sci-fi increasingly uses faster-than-light travel to zip around or bending space to accomplish the travel. Even so, I advise you keep this little ditty close to your heart during the next millennium:

“FTL drives can keep you alive,

Bends space and time? Teleport’s fine!

Blast me to Atoms? Fuck Off!”