Archive for September, 2010

Strutting Leo comes to KansasFest

September 9th, 2010 1:19 PM
Filed under Musings;
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At KansasFest 2010, I gave a session on Internet memes: those humorous artifacts of popular culture that spread virally. I suspected that the two I identified, “Double Rainbow” and “Old Spice“, would quickly fade away and be replaced by similarly ephemeral memes.

Though the former remains to be seen, new transitory memes have already surfaced, with one being Strutting Leo. (Note that though the meme is harmless, its URL is NSFW.) Much like the Tourist of Death, the meme revolves around the insertion of a gentleman — in this case, Leonardi DiCaprio from Inception — into photographs and scenes in which he obviously does not belong. The results are surprisingly funny.

Although my Photoshop skills are negligible, the provision of a transparent PNG combined with the most rudimentary familiarity with Photoshop Elements gave me the opportunity to create my own contributions to this meme. And where else would I want Leonardo DiCaprio to go except KansasFest?

A true artist could do much better, but I find my efforts adequate. Do you have your own Apple II scenes into which you’d like to see Leo appear? Drop me a line, and I’ll do my best!

(Hat tip to ROFLrazzi)

The physics of Tetris

September 6th, 2010 11:18 AM
Filed under Game trail, Software showcase;
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It wasn’t until 1989 that I first encountered what I identified as a puzzle game: Adventures of Lolo on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System. That was the same year as the release of the Nintendo Game Boy, whose pack-in title, Tetris, was a far more common introduction to the genre for most American gamers. And it was this game that the legendary Steve Wozniak became a master of, to the point of his high scores being printed in Nintendo Power magazine.

Though it was Nintendo’s handheld system that popularized the Russian puzzler, the software had already been making the rounds on various computer platforms. In 1988, Spectrum Holobyte (1983–1998) released the Apple II version, which actually came on three disks, one for each operating system: DOS 3.3, ProDOS, and GS/OS. No matter what version you played or what system you played it on, Tetris was an addictive experience, due in part to a variety of subtle yet effective psychological qualities that perfectly complement humans’ natural capabilities and limitations. Not only did gamers start seeing tetrads everywhere they looked, but the game had actual, physiological, positive impact on the human brain.

A game with so many scientific implications cries out for further study and applications. Software developer Maurice Guegan has answered that call with a fascinating and hilarious variation that he has dubbed Not Tetris. The game, a free download for Windows (and, when paired with a utility called LÖVE, for Mac and Linux), applies some degree of real-world physics to the falling blocks. Not only does this newfound inertia make it more difficult to rotate the pieces, but gravity makes it nearly impossible to form complete lines. In fact, Guegan has completely disabled that functionality, replacing it with a new goal of seeing how many game pieces you can stack before the inevitable game over.

Having a hard time visualizing this new spin on the classic formula? Here’s some gameplay footage.

Not Tetris is worth a play for its original and innovative take on Tetris. For more standard gameplay, the GNO Apple II Archive has entire folders in both its Apple II and Apple IIGS games directories dedicated to Tetris clones, including Dreamworld’s most excellent two-player DuelTris.

If that’s not quite retro enough for you, check out Tetris creator Alexey Pajitnov’s original Tetris. For more about Tetris’s tangled history, see the chapter “From Russia With Love” in David Sheff’s excellent history of Nintendo, Game Over: Press Start to Continue.

(Hat tip to Nintendo Life: Retro)

A Digg at the Oregon Trail

September 2nd, 2010 12:03 PM
Filed under Mainstream coverage;
1 comment.

If you follow social media, you may be aware that Digg, the social news site founded in 2004, launched the fourth iteration of its Web site last week. The previous incarnation had been around long enough to attract a devout following of users who voted stories up and down, determining what news would make the site’s front page and which stories would be buried. It was an inexact science, but it seemed to work.

As with any change to an established system, the new Digg is being widely criticized, with developers responding by fast-tracking several changes and additional resources to accommodate its new audience. In the meantime, it’s not unusual for the site to experience outages. Just as Twitter has the fail whale, Digg has its own custom error message:

Digg error message

Due to the colors and extreme pixelation of this image, I originally suspected this picture was derived from a version of Oregon Trail more primitive than the Apple II edition. But when compared to a screen shot from that game, I realized that what had thrown me was the size of the image. Digg has blown the picture up to more than 300% of its original resolution, creating its blocky appearance. For comparison, here’s an animated GIF I composed of the original picture and Digg’s take:

Digg error message (animated GIF)

That still leaves one puzzle, though: the meaning of the number of Diggs trailing behind the wagon. They would seem to be years, but I can’t discern their significance. Oregon Trail has had many versions (the first Apple II version was released in 1978) but none of them were published in 1984, according to Wikipedia. The game’s fictional family makes their way across the country in 1848, nearly a half-century before 1889. And 1955? What could that mean?