Let’s Play! Toiletworld

Bog standard Friday lunchtime post.

I won’t lie. One of the main reasons I bought the game Virginia is because someone told me it had toilets in it. That is genuinely true. Yes, I’d heard other good things too, but it went like this:

People: That Virginia is good. It’s a bit like Firewatch or Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture 1.
Me: Oh, that sounds interesting. I might get it.
People: Hey, did you know it had toilets in i–
Me: TAKE MY MONEY

Earlier this week, someone tweeted this at me:

I had to check it out because my god, if that isn’t a title written just for me I don’t know what is. Unless it was “Helly Kitty and Barbie Go To Toiletland on Motorbikes and Play With Explosives”.

Toiletworld is an Interactive Fiction game. You know, those games that used to be called Text Adventures. Some magazine called ugvm did an article on them 13 years ago and broke the internet. Remember that? Because there are Clever People, the tools to create such games are now very easy to use, and you can play the results in a web browser. It’s like living in the past and the future at the same time.

Toiletworld
You are in the toiletworld. As far as you can see, there is toilet; all toilet, all the time, all the places, each and every point in the whole of the world, across the whole yawning, infinite cosmos its own toilet, each with toilets inside it, each further with toilets inside it, further and further inside towards some unimaginable limit. To the west is a toilet. To the east is probably also a toilet. (TODO: add eastern toilet or whatever)

If you’ve not played this sort of game before then I suggest you go and learn how to, then come back.

Back? Excellent. Now play! (If the iframe below doesn’t play nice in your browser, play it here instead)

Notes:

  1. Note: Both these games had toilets in them.

Google AMP: A Rant

The day Google did what that large bottomed lady failed to do.

Google AMP, or rather, the Google AMP Cache, is rolling out to users right now. It’s been in use for Google News searches for a little while, but now general Google searches are becoming infected by it, and there’s no way to turn it off.

The intention of the AMP project is noble enough: Make mobile pages work faster. On the webmaster side of the project, some work needs to be done in order to make mobile versions of their pages AMP compliant. For many folk, this is little more than triggering a plugin for their CMS, but for those who code sites a little closer to the metal, there are specific AMP HTML pages to create and check. You know how HTML5 and the likes of Bootstrap helped unify devices, so they only need a single page regardless of screen type or viewport size? Well, it seems AMP reverses that.

I don’t pretend to understand it all. But I don’t need to in order to find faults with Google AMP Cache. What this does, is (as the name implies) cache AMP pages. It rolls them up and spits them out quickly to your phone when you access them.

The Google AMP Cache is a proxy-based content delivery network for delivering all valid AMP documents. It fetches AMP HTML pages, caches them, and improves page performance automatically. When using the Google AMP Cache, the document, all JS files and all images load from the same origin that is using HTTP 2.0 for maximum efficiency.

(That’s from here)

Which would be good, only it isn’t. When you use Google on your mobile device to search now, AMP pages are preferred in the results list so generally appear at the top – even if the content is “better” on a non-AMP page. When you tap the link, you get Google’s cache of the page, and herein lie most of the issues.

It’s cached, so inherently isn’t necessarily the newest content. You also don’t get the correct link from the page – the URL bar shows a Google URL. For example, instead of:

https://pokemondb.net/pokedex/umbreon

you get

https://www.google.co.uk/amp/pokemondb.net/amp/pokedex/umbreon

If you then decide to pass this link on to someone not on a mobile device, then you end up passing on the AMP’d link instead, only it doesn’t work. Just copy and paste that second link into your desktop web browser URL bar and see. Not only do you not get taken to the page, you get sent to a page of search results for which the top match isn’t even the correct site 1:

google amp
In fact, at the time of writing for this example, NONE of the sites in ANY of the results are the correct one.

It’s even worse than that. Without hacking apart the AMP Cache URL, you can’t even find a link to the correct “real” page to pass on or save. The cached pages also tend to strip out certain content, such as adverts or input forms. This may be a bonus, or may be because of the ineptitude of the webmaster, but it doesn’t matter either way: Content is not served up correctly and that is a problem.

But things are worse still. Because the Google AMP Cache is, by their own definition, “a proxy-based content delivery network” it can be used to bypass web filters and restrictions. Page blocked by your school? Just access the AMP Cache version of it on your mobile device. In fact, you’ll bypass the filter automatically and inadvertently, potentially breaching an acceptable use policy.

The worst bit of all? You can’t turn it off. There’s no switch in your browser or your Google account settings. You can block access to google.com/amp (or .co.uk/amp, or other country specific variations), but that stops search from working properly. You can ask webmasters to disable AMP support, but there are so many using it now that isn’t going to happen. I do wonder if many webmasters were hoodwinked into this: They saw the benefits of AMP, so embraced it, and now Google have screwed them over by forcing the cache and breaking their content. How does advert revenue work now for those people, if the adverts are cached? Clickthroughs and hits? Did webmasters realise this was the endgame, because when I looked into AMP a while back for WordPress I certainly didn’t. Is there a legal issue with Google AMP Cache essentially cloning your content and serving it up from their server? It’s a mess.

And what if you do manage to convince a webmaster to turn it off? What happens then? This: 404s everywhere. That’s Google’s answer.

The situation now is that mobile search, via Google, is effectively broken just so we can get a page on the screen a few milliseconds faster. This is not progress.

Notes:

  1. Note that it’s Google who redirected to this search – I didn’t stupidly just put the URL in the search box!

The Earth is Flat

That Michael Palin is a damn dirty liar.

The Earth, as in, the planet that we all live on, is flat. It must be true because I read it on the internet. Bafflingly, in an age of science and space travel, there are people who still insist that we are indeed living on a spinning disc rather than a football. All those people who went into space and saw it was round? Liars 1. Explorers? Misled. Evidence? Hokum.

There is a movement at the moment to believe what you’re told by popular (but wrong) people, and dismiss proof and insight given by those qualified to impart such information. As Pob-faced political vote-monkey Michael Gove said himself – “people in this country have had enough of experts”. That’s right, Mickey. Should we listen to you? If you’re not an expert you have no insight, and if you are, we’ve had enough.

The International Flat Earth Society have been around lot longer than Gove, though, peddling their modern interpretations of facts since 1956 but having roots back to the 1800s. However, since we now live in a Post-Truth world, perhaps it’s time for them to become a bigger power? Anything goes these days, it seems, so faith in such a blatantly illogical statement could well become the norm.

When you’ve accepted that the Earth is indeed flat, then you also have to believe some other “alternative truths” for it to work, and this raises questions. How do day and night happen, if there’s no globe to spin round the sun? How come the horizon exists, if the planet doesn’t curve away? What happens when you reach the edge of the disc? Was Terry Pratchett right all along? And what about gravity?

Gravity as a theory is false. Objects simply fall.

Oh, right. That explains it then. Why they fall is seemingly unknown, but so long as Flat Earthers are telling us that’s the case, then it’s fine. The same goes for the other questions above – the sun just does days. There is no edge. The horizon can’t work if the world is curved, and so on. The Truth is what you’re told, silly. Stop asking questions.

Somehow, despite the Earth itself being flat, the FES proclaim that the moon is a sphere. But then, they’re the experts and we’ve had enough of them.

Notes:

  1. “Most Flat Earthers think Astronauts have been bribed or coerced into their testimonies. Some believe they have been fooled or are mistaken.”

Let’s Play! Advanced Lawnmower Simul8or

Mow grass mow money

Like many Your Sinclair readers, I have a strange attraction to one of the Spectrum’s most creative games: Advanced Lawnmower Simulator. In the past, I’ve written versions of it for the Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, Amstrad NC100, the Codebug, the BBC Microbit, a Casio calculator, and various other things.

Today I bring to you my latest port: a version for the PICO-8 virtual console. It’s called “Advanced Lawnmower Simul8or” because of the 8, you see.

als

The PICO-8 doesn’t actually exist. It’s a fabricated retro console with 8bit style limitations intentionally imposed, and a built-in development environment complete with sound tracker, sprite and map editors, and a “compiler” of sorts which uses Dark Magic to somehow squeeze your program into a PNG file for distribution. Like this one:

advanced lawnmower simul8or
No, it’s not just a picture – is a cartridge too.

I’ve posted a few games on here before, like Hug Arena and Duck Duck on the Loose, but this is the first I’ve created myself. The code is horrible. The game barely registers as one. Play it now!

Continue reading “Let’s Play! Advanced Lawnmower Simul8or”

Video Game Bugs

I don’t mean surveillance bugs.

I love a good bug. Not the sort of bug that utterly ruins your game by deleting your save file or prevents some event from occurring meaning you have to start from 60 hours prior just to progress. Not those.

Silly bugs though, and baffling bugs – I like them. Here, however, are bugs of all kinds from games I’ve played recently:

Grim Fandango is difficult enough with it’s obtuse and sometimes nonsensical puzzle solutions, but when you finally figure out how to solve one and this happens? Annoying.

I’m not sure this is so much a bug in Disney Infinity 3.0 or bad design, but it’s possible to get stuck in a pit. You see, you can get out of it if you’re driving a car, but what if you fell in it without one? My daughter was player 2 and was howling with laughter at my plight, teasing me by driving into the pit herself and then out.

Disney Infinity 3.0 is actually full of bugs. This one is less of an issue, but is a bit odd. I beat General Grievous, but the game left his empty healthbar on the screen for aaaaages:

This bug in Broforce was actually rather useful. I’d been struggling to beat this giant alien worm thing boss, but then somehow glitched inside him for massive damage. To him, I mean. I was completely shielded and safe:

Sadly, this was offset by the near-final boss. I managed to defeat him, eventually, in one of his forms but then the game refused to recognise this and wouldn’t progress. I had to quit the game!

This bug in The Swindle is neither good nor bad. It’s just a bit strange. If you try selecting bombs while jumping, you float upwards. And it would appear you can do this indefinitely!

Finally, this bug in Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee New ‘n’ Tasty was so frustrating. It took ages for me to realise it was a bug – I thought I was just doing it wrong. Abe warped to a lever every time I pressed Square on the pad, regardless of where he was, meaning I couldn’t progress until I died. Grr!

Let’s Play! Alien

Or in this case, perhaps Let’s Not?

SupervisionThe Watara Supervision was a terrible machine. Released in the UK under the Quickshot brand, it was a cheap Game Boy knock-off with lower specs, a nasty screen and virtually no games. But it was just £30 with a game in my local game shop, and a Game Boy was £99 without. I wanted one.

Of course, I didn’t get one back then. It was many years before I did, and when I did, boy was I glad I hadn’t before then. Awful games and stiff input buttons combined with that more-blur-than-screen display to create something any child would have murdered their parents for come the Worst Christmas Day Ever. Those poor sods who got a Quickshot Supervision instead of a Game Boy. They’re all in prison now.

Alien
Despite the suggestion this is R-Type, this isn’t R-Type.

Anyway! One of the games I’ve got for mine is Generic Space Shooter Game, also known on the box as Alien. Which is an even more generic name than Generic Space Shooter Game, actually, and has nothing to do with the film of the same name.

The box art borrows from Dune and R-Type but the game is neither of these things. You can charge your shot as if you were playing R-Type, but this does nothing but make your bullet slightly larger and delay the shot: It’s no more powerful, so utterly pointless.

So would you like to play? Yes, of course you would!

Controls are: 1 (Start), left CTRL (shoot), arrow keys (move).

Supervision emulator provided is MESS via archive.org.

Gin, Rummy

They’d cheated the game by watering down their own rum and using a cow in a buffalo suit.

Famous Crap Games Throughout History

Everyone who is of a certain age and social class will have heard of, and probably played, Gin Rummy. That two player card game where each person has to create sets of cards – runs and matching values, rather like Mahjongg for children. This is not Gin, Rummy.

To play Gin, Rummy (the comma is important) each player had a number of shot glasses and several bottles of both gin and rum. Any number of people can play, although local laws may dictate that players are over the age of 18, 21, or not from alcohol barring religious orders.

The game is quite simple: in Round One, each player downs enough rum to kill a buffalo. Any survivors move onto Round Two. In Round Two, all remaining players simultaneously down one shot of gin at a time. The last person alive wins, and can help themselves to the contents of the losers’ pockets/handbags/pants as appropriate.

You would think there is perhaps nothing crap about this game at all, but there is a sad side to all the fun. Since 1960 more than 7 million people have died from liver related diseases, every single one of which has been irrefutably linked to playing Gin, Rummy. Even worse, two men were arrested in 2006 having between them stolen more than £3.50 in change from the pockets of their friends. They’d cheated the game by watering down their own rum and using a cow in a buffalo suit as their reference measure.

Gin, Rummy is now illegal in 27 US states and is outlawed in Ghana and Denmark. In 2013 Essex County Council attempted to ban the game in the county’s pubs, against fierce opposition from members of the local heavy drinking industry. They unwisely chose to ban or not based on the outcome of, you guessed it, a game of Gin, Rummy. Three councillors died, a buffalo was arrested, and two publicans woke up in Zeebrugge with very dry mouths.


This article was originally published as part of the CSSCGC 2015 celebrations.

Incontinental Circus

The S key is right next to the IT key on Japanese keyboards.

Famous Crap Games Throughout History

It is well known that in the late 1980s the Japanese game company Taito made a slight error with one of their titles, releasing an F1 racer called “Continental Circus” after a poor translation of “Continental Circuit”. It was an easy mistake to make, I mean, the S key is right next to the IT key on Japanese keyboards.

What is less well known is a far more interesting story and it started two years before Continental Circus, with Incontinental Circuit.

Taito (back then, known as Potaito) had developed what they thought was bound to be the next big thing in gaming – two player head-to-head motor racing with bladder control. Literally. A pair of huge arcade cabinets, each housing a large screen, a reclining chair, a steering wheel, foot pedals, and a number of straps and sensors that needed to be attached to the player. A drinking fountain was angled towards the player’s mouth, and after inserting a few 100 Yen coins, the game began.

Much like in most other motor racing games, the aim was to win the race, but the twist with Incontinental Circuit was that your car’s engine power increased as you, the player, physically filled their bladder. The more you drank, the higher your vehicle’s top speed. Don’t drink, and your car loses power. The first to pass the Chequered Flag was the winner, the first to pass urine was disqualified. That’s right – moisture sensors in the seat would alert the game to your embarrassing release.

Unfortunately for Potaito, they were hit from all sides with issues. The main one that hit the headlines was over gamers sitting in a pool of other peoples’ fluids as arcade staff failed to mop up after disqualifications, and all the associated health risks that came with it. This was the 1980s, remember, and popular myth at the time was how easy it was to contract AIDS from arcade machines. Other problems just made things worse. The water fountains needed to be connected to a water supply, which was something most arcades struggled to accommodate. All that water (and “previously drunk” water) in close proximity to electricity caused several shocking deaths, and one unfortunate individual managed to drown when his water fountain malfunctioned and he couldn’t get out of the seat straps quickly enough.

What really killed the game off, however, was the cheating. Players soon found that by wearing adult nappies, they could thwart the sensors and wet themselves all they liked without the game noticing.

Finally, and perhaps most damning of all, was when the game was produced, the translator at Potaito managed to name the game as Incontinental Circus, rather than Incontinental Circuit, confusing gamers everywhere.

With the game an expensive flop (all those proprietary and unusual components almost bankrupted Potaito before the cabinets even hit the arcades), Potaito gutted the core game and repurposed it as a more standard F1 racing game. No water, drinking or sensors. They called it Continental Circuit, but somehow the same translator made the same mistake again. He never found translating work after that, and the entire fiasco was blamed on him and him alone.


This article was originally published as part of the CSSCGC 2015 celebrations.