Paul O'Brian writes about Watchmen, trivia, albums, interactive fiction, and more.


Tag: web

Earth And Sky — live transcripts

I wrote a series of superhero-themed interactive fiction games called Earth And Sky. If you’re interested in learning what the games are like without actually, y’know, playing them, you may be in luck.

Recently, a group of IF enthusiasts over at ifMUD played through all three games in a chatroom environment, as part of a venture called Club Floyd. Floyd is a bot on the mud who can act as a game interpreter, so a group of people can (virtually) gather to play a game in Floyd’s room. This makes for a lovely combination of playing, kibitzing, snarking, and even the occasional insight or analysis. I showed up for the sessions, so I was sometimes able to offer a bit of information about the making of the games.

Transcripts are here:

Part 1: Earth And Sky

Part 2: Another Earth, Another Sky

Part 3: Luminous Horizon

Replacing LAUNCHcast

I’ve mentioned here a few times before that I love my LAUNCHcast station. I created a custom station there (after being driven from the previously shuttered radio.sonicnet, and Imagine Radio before that) in 2003, and over the course of the next five years rated a total of 25,094 artists, albums, and songs.

Imagine my chagrin when I was informed via email at the end of last year that CBS Radio is taking over LAUNCHcast, and that customized stations will be eliminated. After a quick trip through the stages of grief, I started in on the project of finding a new fix for my internet radio jones.

I had a few requirements:

  • I want to be able to construct a station based on a fixed list of artists, with the occasional movie or show soundtrack thrown in, e.g. Rocky Horror or West Side Story. I’d try to put it together using the list of artists I’d added to my LAUNCHcast station.
  • I want to be able to adjust that station at will.
  • I want to hear new artists, ones that aren’t on my list but that I have a chance of liking based on who is on the list.

Based on a bit of Googling, I identified five candidates:, Slacker, Pandora, mystrands, and Jango. Then I tried them out, one by one. I took a lot of notes during that process. On the off chance that those might be worthwhile to somebody, I post them here:

1893 review

It occurs to me, albeit many years later than it should have, that when I have some writing appear elsewhere on the net I should probably post a pointer to it here.

So, in that spirit: I’ve written a review of Peter Nepstad’s epic IF game 1893: A World’s Fair Mystery for IF-Review.

[Note from 2024: IF-Review is sadly long gone, but I’ve resurrected the review to live on >INVENTORY, the site that houses all my IF writing. I’ve switched the link in this post to point there.]

Update to the Dr. Horrible Update

Well, that was a downer. I mean, great to avoid cliches and all, but still: kind of a downer.

And I was having so much fun, too.

Plus, the guy’s kinda-girlfriend is dying, and I’m thinking, “Dude! You have a freeze ray! Can’t you stop time until the paramedics arrive?” I guess maybe it was out of power.

I am still filled with love for parts I and II. I am filled with ambivalence about part III.

Dr. Horrible update

Re: Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

I love, love, love it.

Love Neil Patrick Harris. Love Nathan Fillion. Now have crush on Felicia Day. Ridiculously in love with Joss Whedon.

Love the funny. Love the songs. I love, love, love it all. I am filled with love for it.

Gratis Oryza Sativa

Trrish pointed me to a nifty little site called FreeRice, and the experience was satisfying on several levels. FreeRice offers an unending stream of multiple-choice vocabulary questions: given a word, choose which of four options is its synonym. For every word you get right, 20 grains of rice are donated via the United Nations World Food Program. The money for this comes from fairly unobtrusive banner ads that appear below the test area. I enjoy a vocabulary challenge, so the opportunity to play a fun game while effortlessly doing a little bit of good was a double pleasure. In addition, the site ranks your vocabulary level, so there’s a scoring element, which helps encourage replay. The scores range from 0 to 55, but according to the site, “it is rare for people to get much above level 48.”

Your initial vocab level gets set after you answer your first four questions, and then advances by one for every three words you get right. The first time I played the game, my initial level was set at 40. Almost immediately, I was being given unfamiliar words, trying to piece together their etymological roots, narrowing down options by process of elimination, and generally having a fine time. However, the next time I played, I started out hasty and careless, so I got the first word wrong. Well, my initial level got set at 10 that time, and I then slowly crawled up to my former level.

This got me thinking: what’s the real score on FreeRice? Because I am all game-playey and test-takey, I immediately focused on the vocab level as the place to focus my achievement efforts. However, the session I played when I bombed my first question most certainly contributed more rice, and during that session I came to see that the real score isn’t vocab level, but rather grains of rice donated. I was reminded a bit of games like A Change In The Weather and Little Blue Men; these games offer an initial “win” state early on, but if you accept that win, you’ve missed the point of the game. It was yet another level of satisfaction: not only was I building my word power and donating food, I got to think a little bit about clever game mechanics as well.

After getting my first question wrong, I donated 2340 grains of rice and built my vocab level to 48 before getting another question wrong. Can you beat that?

New term

In the spirit of “blog = web log”, I give you:

blush = blog crush

I’m not referring to a boy-girl, “let’s go on dates” kind of crush, but rather the feeling you get after reading someone’s blog who is just so so so cool and smart and funny and awesome that you really should be friends with them, except why would somebody as awesome as them be friends with a nobody like you?

My friend Trish has a blush on Derek of Penmachine. For a while there I had a little blush on Jefito.

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