Spaceplan

Spaceplan

Spaceplan is a fantastic free idle clicker for your web browser from Jake Hollands. It’s similar in style to the original popular idle clicker, Orteil’s Cookie Clicker. Cookie Clicker is probably inspired by Progress Quest, which involved no clicking and instead was more of a parody of your classic online MMORPG.

These are games where numbers increase in response to some minimal set of actions on your part, usually while you’re not paying much attention to it, and some small amount of strategy to decide what upgrades you would like to help make which numbers increase quicker. That strategy is vanishingly small in Spaceplan because Spaceplan actually has a story and an ending. Which is very unusual for this type of game. You can restart with the same equipment and keep going, but the payoff at the end is very much worth your time.

Prefixing things with the word space is still cool, you should give Spaceplan a shot.

Update Your iPhones and iPads Now

IMG 0083New exploits were found in the wild, being used to target human rights activists, that could take over your phone with one click on a link in a text message or through another vector.

Unlike Google’s Android, Apple was able to roll out a fix for this issue very quickly to affected devices running iOS 9 once it was discovered. iOS 9.3.5 is now available. Launch the Settings app and go to General -> Software Update -> Tap on Download and Install and install the update if you have not done so already.

The exploit was able to completely hijack a target device according to security researchers at Lookout who were interviewed by Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai:

“It basically steals all the information on your phone, it intercepts every call, it intercepts every text message, it steals all the emails, the contacts, the FaceTime calls. It also basically backdoors every communications mechanism you have on the phone,” Murray explained. “It steals all the information in the Gmail app, all the Facebook messages, all the Facebook information, your Facebook contacts, everything from Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, WeChat, Telegram—you name it.”

Apple recently announced a new bug bounty program that rewards those who find issues which could lead to exploits such as this one.

No Man’s Sky Notes

No Man's Sky

No Man’s Sky is such a strange game, I love it, but it really is odd. The trailers before the game was released advertised it as featuring different types of gameplay, but what I’ve played so far makes it clear that this is a sci-fi exploration game with a major element of resource gathering. There isn’t really that much crafting with those resources yet, the developers have said they will add base-building in a future update. That’s a huge change to a game that already is out there, but what you’re doing so far with the resources you gather is put together components for your spaceship and exosuit, as well as fueling those.

There is a storyline, but I haven’t seen much of it yet, and it is entirely optional. Because the universe of No Man’s Sky is procedurally generated, and so huge, you could bypass it completely and just explore different worlds and their inhabitants. Procedural generation was a hot buzzword a while ago, but it ended up making some terrible environments. The procedurally generated worlds and creatures of No Man’s Sky are more fun and lead to some incredibly wacky things, what you see in the game is most likely going to be incredibly different from anyone else. I’ve found dinosaur dogs with wings on their legs and I’m kind of surprised at how different each world is. One planet I just landed on had strange bracket-shaped plateaus dotting the landscape as I hovered over it in my ship.

It’s clear that different parts of the game have different parameters to whatever algorithms generate each thing. Some are better than others. The ships are generated this way and almost universally look incredible or like a believable garbage scow, but some of the worlds have flaws that are obviously due to the process that made them. One that I landed on last night had a gap in the terrain that if you fell through put you outside of the game’s geometry. The only way to recover was to reload from a recent save.

Minecraft is something that I see people comparing No Man’s Sky to, but while it is a useful comparison they’re very different games.

Minecraft has no story if you ignore Telltale Games’ Minecraft Story Mode since it doesn’t ship with Minecraft. Minecraft also more clearly has the different gameplay types that No Man’s Sky advertised. It’s a viable option in Minecraft to just build in creative mode, or play to explore and survive in survival and hardcore mode. No Man’s Sky feels like more of game because it has an optional storyline and polish to its world. There’s more intent to it as opposed to the lego-like blocks that make up Minecraft’s world.

I’m enjoying No Man’s Sky for the exploration, and although I typically hate resource gathering it is actually enjoyable here. Resources are visually interesting in plants or as other kinds of terrain features that provide them.

The combat in No Man’s Sky is insufferable and the biggest drawback to the game. If you’re in space combat, and your ship is under attack by 10 different ships as mine was the first time I answered a distress signal, you’re going to die not because of a higher skill from the opponents but because all of your systems require fueling and repair, manually, through the inventory screen while you’re being pummeled in real-time.

Combat on-foot is the same, although maybe slightly less concerning since you have less to lose and are more likely to have saved recently. It’s still incredibly awful to be in the middle of a fight with three or more flying drones and need to recharge a weapon manually via the inventory in real-time.

I can understand the impetus to want to retain the same interfaces and not make an entirely new one just for fighting. I also have a great deal of respect for Hello Games, they were incredibly interested in supporting Linux for their Joe Danger games back when I wrote for the now-defunct LinuxGames.com. But it is difficult to imagine anyone thinking that this real-time inventory management during combat was a good idea. It could have been interesting in a kind of FTL systems-management under-fire perspective, but that isn’t what this is. 

It could be that as you progress in the game your gear will change and provide more benefits during combat, there are some hints of that after the few hours I’ve put in so far, but I don’t see it ever changing to completely remove the burden.

My hope is that the game is updated to pause while you’re in the inventory or just does something else entirely with the combat because this one part of the game is dreadful.

I’m still enjoying NMS and I feel like I’m about to indoctrinated into a cult as I follow the Atlas quest. This isn’t a review because I haven’t had a chance to play more of it yet, but I would still recommend No Man’s Sky to anyone interested in living in the universe of a 1950’s sci-fi novel cover.

Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky has been out for a week now on the Playstation 4, and I’ve been playing it since Friday on Windows.

The Katering Show Season 2 on YouTube

Did you watch The Katering Show’s first season when I linked to it, and then were too lazy to pirate season 2 when you found out that it was only on services that were either for pay or for Australians? Good news, the second “seasoning” of this “cooking” show is finally on YouTube.

Tech Companies Don’t Hire Minorities or Promote Women

Nick Heer, whose Pixel Envy is one of the best sites in my feed reader these days, has completely dismantled any notion you might have that diversity is an issue that big tech companies are working on resolving. Heer has been looking at the stats for years and his annual report for 2016 is now available. It shows minimal improvements from Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft, and how the numbers don’t match those of the overall workforce in the United States.

Particularly interesting is the Gender Diversity in Leadership/Executive Positions section, which clearly shows how in tech women might be hired, but they are never promoted into leadership roles.

Getting back to ethnic diversity, one of the biggest lies I’ve heard repeated is that the issue preventing minorities from being hired is that they don’t study computer science in school. This is complete bullshit for minorities as Heer points out in his footnotes:

I will reiterate that one of the excuses most frequently cited by tech companies for their lack of diversity is a small selection of underrepresented prospective employees coming out of colleges and universities in the United States. This is false.

However, the pipeline argument has been true for women in computer science, as an episode of Planet Money from 2014 points out, in 1984 women started being  shoved out of the computer science door at every point in the process. Ads for computers were targeted towards males and the culture at schools became male-dominated and exclusionary, which then moved into the workplace.

Evan Lahti Calls C-Key Crouchers Hopeless Degenerates

Evan Lahti has an article up titled “Anyone who uses the C key to crouch is a hopeless degenerate“:

However someone who uses the C key to crouch is not welcome, and they do not deserve our respect. The C key is the bastion of fools, and as a community we need to shame its use.

I don’t disagree with his conclusions, it is uncomfortable to swap to the C key from WASD, and I’m probably going to configure more games to use the ctrl key for crouch as I have been one of those degenerates who goes with the default, but this is coming from someone using sentence case in the title of an article. Come on.

September 7th is Going to be a Busy Day

Now we know where Patrick Klepek went. In a post for Vice Gaming, with fellow Giant Bomb alumnus Austin Walker, Klepek confirms that the rumored variation of the Playstation 4 with improved horsepower would be announced on a very busy September 7th:

Sony will reveal the first details on an upgraded PlayStation 4 at a September 7 event in New York, French gaming website Gameblog reported today. VICE Gaming can confirm that it’s heard the same information from multiple sources familiar with the planned rollout for the new machine. These sources chose to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to speak publicly about Sony’s plans.

Previously, previously, previously.

That’s not the only announcement that is rumored to occur on the 7th, the iPhone 7 should be announced on the same day.

Nintendo Power Archived

Nintendo Power
The NES was the premier gaming console when I was growing up, and Nintendo Power was the outlet for all of our interest in games for years.

I don’t think it ever crossed anyone’s mind how strange it was that the only source of information was directly from the console maker who also created each issue of the magazine up until 2007 when Future took over.

Not that there weren’t other gaming magazines, but this was pretty much it for many people.

It’s an interesting correlation to today’s in-house corporate media reaching out to their communities. Nintendo’s videos, Sony’s has their Playstation blog and podcast. Microsoft has their Major Nelson, whose podcast I listened to up until he started saying that HDMI wasn’t an improvement over component cables back when the 360 didn’t have an HDMI port.

Archive.org has been hosting incredible collections of random stuff for years. I just found a functioning version of one of my favorite Windows 3.1 games, WinTrek, that is emulated directly in your browser. They have now collected 145 scanned issues of Nintendo Power spanning from 1988 through 2002.

The Signal From Tölva

The signal from Sir, You Are Being Hunted developer Big Robot is that they are working on a new game called The Signal From Tölva.

The last we heard from Big Robot they had added networked trombones to Sir, You Are Being Hunted. I’m not kidding.

Now, they’ve announced the new open-world FPS, The Signal From Tölva. Big Robot have ditched the procedural generation when you launch the game in change for pre-procedural and handcrafted artisanal world to explore. This time Signal will be available for macOS and Windows. Last time Sir was available for those as well as Linux. I’ve shot an email off to the plus-sized metal creature asking if they’ll be doing Linux this time as well.

Big Robot have more information about The Signal From Tölva on their blog. It’ll be pushed out the door next year in 2017.