The Red Bull Diary   Recent Posts
RSSRSS Friday Free Games
"Your 'reality', sir, is lies and balderdash and I'm delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever."
— Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von Münchhausen

Friday Free Game: The Traveler IQ Challenge

For mainly philosophical reasons that I am developing into a separate post, I do not like trivia games very much. I am a big believer in games being self-contained systems of rules, and trivia games rely on knowledge outside of the game system itself. This doesn't mean trivia games aren't fun, but they're a different sort of thing than what I would rightly call a game in the sense that Chess or San Juan is a game.

But the Friday Free Game isn't about philosophical purism. It's about sharing games that are quick to pick up and hard to put down. And while The Traveler IQ Challenge is a kind of trivia game, it's so well done and I had so much fun playing it that I felt compelled to recommend it as this week's game. A big shout-out to Miz Salem-Shadow for sharing the link.

The game presents a map of the world with different colors denoting different countries. The game then asks you the names of various places around the world and asks you to click as close to the exact spot named as possible. Speed and accuracy both count. Sure, you may know that Melbourne is in Australia, but Australia's a big place! Is it on the east coast or the west coast? Guess wrong and it'll cost you points. If you score well enough, you will move on to successively harder levels, asking you to locate such exotic places as Valletta and Rapa Nui.

This is the kind of game that anyone at all can enjoy. On my second game, the game informed me that I had, in fact, "Kicked Butt!" See if you can beat my score of 289,836. Enjoy!

Labels: , , ,

Jesse Jubilee James

"The Life and Death of Jesse James" is downright fascinating reading, a twisted tale of Internet love gone horribly wrong.

Labels: , , ,

Square Inside

A high school senior in Alton, Illinois wrote this two weeks before he committed suicide:

He drew... the things inside that needed saying. Beautiful pictures he kept under his pillow.
When he started school he brought them...
To have along like a friend.
It was funny about school, he sat at a square brown desk Like all the other square brown desks... and his room Was a square brown room like all the other rooms, tight And close and stiff.

He hated to hold the pencil and chalk, his arms stiff
His feet flat on the floor, stiff, the teacher watching
And watching. She told him to wear a tie like
All the other boys, he said he didn't like them.
She said it didn't matter what he liked. After that the class drew.
He drew all yellow. It was the way he felt about Morning. The Teacher came and smiled, "What's this?
Why don't you draw something like Ken's drawing?"
After that his mother bought him a tie, and he always Drew airplanes and rocketships like everyone else.
He was square inside and brown and his hands were stiff. The things inside that needed saying didn't need it
Anymore, they had stopped pushing... crushed, stiff
Like everything else.
Everyone should go and read this article because this man is speaking the truth. It's a powerful and fascinating look at school as a tool of social indoctrination He's brilliant. Please, Miz Salem-Shadow and everybody read and comment.

Labels: , ,


I am spending Thanksgiving with my in-laws this year and so will be away from my blog until next week.

I am thankful for many, many things this year.

For my fellow Americans: Be safe, eat well, and enjoy your holiday.

For my non-American readers: enjoy your free health care, strong currency and less-evil leaders.

Labels: ,

The Unalterable, Perfectly Preserved Word

Does anyone else think it's sorta ridiculous to prove that the King James Bible is the true and unalterable Word of God preserved-for-ever-and-ever by looking at the Bible itself to prove it? And mainly from a book of poetry? That's just a reassertion, not a proof.

Labels: , , , , ,

Metal n' More Meth Minute: A Sunday Rant

Dan Meth explores an important question: is Rush heavy metal.

Okay, Rush isn't Dethklok, but... let's see... "Working Man"? "Finding my Way"? "Witch Hunt"? "Stick It Out"? "2112"?! Okay, let me break it down.

Rush was in the 70's was old-school metal, like Led Zepplin, like Black Sabbath. I think I remember reading that Geddy and Alex played Clapton covers at coffee shops in Canada. Rush, like many great bands that produce more than a score of albums, wrote a lot of different kinds of music. Rush became Rush by transcending those other influences and becoming the defining band of the progressive rock movement. Rush became the musical force that it is when it transcended those influences and produced albums like Moving Pictures, Permanent Waves, and Counterparts. And all of those albums have songs that are definitely metal.

And yet take a poll of old-school Metallica fans, and you will find a strong corresponding love for Rush. Their early body of work has a more viscerally rock sound, something we'd more often associate with a metal sound.

Name the qualities of metal?

Funny enough, due to my personal agony over a band I call Disappointica, I've thought a lot about what "metal" is. I think it goes like this:

  • 70's: Sabbath. Metal.
  • 80's: Metallica. Metal.
  • 90's: Pantera. Metal.
It is my firm belief that Geddy Lee wanted to be Robert Plant when they first started. Listen to Rush's first album. Rush has strong and complex riffs early on, but of course that mellowed some when their sound reached its electronic peak sometime around Power Windows. It is this technical emphasis that made Rush develop alongside bands like Genesis, Kansas and Yes in the progressive movement later on.

Metal is three things: distortion, aggression, and virtuosity. The distorted sound of the electric guitar is arguably what created "rock", and I think that "metal" is ultimately just an exaggeration of that. Metal music sounds "heavy" because it is distorted and low. Metal means aggressive music. And virtuosity has long been its defining characteristic that separates it from its similar-looking-but-entirely-different cousin, punk.

So: is Rush metal?

To come back to my original statement, yes, of course Rush was metal, in the 70's. Like Zepplin, Sabbath and Cream, Rush had heavy distortion and played with great virtuosity. They were not particularly aggressive, more imaginative, but the fiercely independent lyrical voice of Neil Peart creates several angry moments in their corpus.

Rush's first few albums are decidedly 70's metal, and they continued to produce "metal" music throughout their career, even if their overall focus was elsewhere in progressive rock.

After all, look at Rush's most immediate successors: Queensrÿche and Dream Theater. That umlaut in Queensrÿche metal enough for you?

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

The Meth Minute 39

There's this awesome little cartoon series that I stumbled upon, called The Meth Minute 39. It is several irrevrant and downright laugh-out-loud-worthy cartoons. Some of my favorites and the top line from each:

  • Dog Video Dating
    "My idea of a perfect date is for you to take a crap right in front of me... and then I'll smell your ass."
  • The Music Nerds
  • Mike Tyson's Brunch-Out
    "I wish you had children and so that I could step on their genitals"
Not very safe for work, obviously, but hilarious.

Labels: , , ,

Friday Free Game: Dead of Night

Dead of Night is an isometric tactical game about surviving an onslaught of flesh-eating zombies. It's just you, your high-powered sniper rifle, and a few buddies against the never-ending tide of undead bent on devouring your brains.

The board is a simple rectangle. You begin the game with two special characters that you must protect: a medic, who will heal your men each day if he is alive, and a scientist, who will increase your damage while he's around. When the night comes, the zombies rise from the ground in a great swarm, slowly advancing towards your avatar. You can use your sniper rifle that can pick off zombies anywhere on the board, but it reloads very slowly and its damage is often not enough to take out an enemy in a single shot, so this can become a frustrating part of the game as you watch the zombies shamble inexorably through and around your defenses.

Of course, you can upgrade your reload speed and damage on your sniper rifle, but you can only stay ahead of the brutal damage curve for so long. Placement of barricades follow strange rules, so don't assume you can just hide. The land mines are cool but ultimately pretty useless. Lose either your medic or your scientist and you're on an express train to painsville, because you're pretty much out of luck trying to fight off the zombies in the later stages without them.

I only made it so far as the fifth night (10.03 minutes); five gunmen fighting in loose formation out in front seemed to work pretty well, but then they somehow managed to just avoid my defenses and swarm my sniper.

This isn't a very fast-moving game, but this just makes it more cerebral than twitchy. The slow gameplay manages to build tension instead of creating frustration. Ultimately, the game is a a turn-based resource-management game masquerading as a real-time action/tactical game, as the primary challenge is maximizing overall damage over time, balancing your expenditures between rifle upgrades, extra gunmen and strategically-placed barriers. But the design manages to achieve a nice balance between the two styles of play. Perfect for a half-hour free game fix. Play Dead of Night.

Labels: , , ,

My Blog's New Look

My blog has been around for two and a half years now with the same look. So I decided to update a little bit to highlight some of the better content (note I didn't go so far as to call any of it "good"). For those of you who may be reading my blog via a feed reader, please stop by and let me know what you think.

New features include:

  • A prominent link to the Friday Free Games
  • The convenient Free Game Search box,
  • A fixed-width layout to provide a more consistent look, and
  • A super-cool watermark of the twin bulls
One thing that I let go with a little bit of sadness was the quote from The Last Unicorn that has been at the top of the blog for the majority of its lifetime:
When the wine drinks itself, when the skull speaks, when the clock strikes the right time, only then will you find the tunnel that leads to the Red Bull.
—Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn
I put it there to illustrate that the "Red Bull" I was referring to was more mystical-bad-ass-animal-that-eats-unicorns and less kitschy-marketing-for-an-energy-drink. Actually, the story behind the name is a bit more interesting than that, but that's a story for another post....

Anyway, I replaced the quote because it didn't provide the visitor any sort of context for my work, and arguably just confused them. Instead I opted for a sort of rambling description of what the blog is all about, figuring that this would help a new reader understand where I was coming from. So I lose a few nostalgia points and hopefully may gain some stickiness. But we'll see how it goes.

Any and all criticisms, witiicisms and atticisms are welcome.

Labels: ,

Minotaur vs. Centaur

Now this just warms my cockles: Minotaur vs. Centaur is geek love at its best. And like so many other things, it began with some guy named "Al":

This is where the whole Minotaur Versus Centaur thing started. "Weird Al" was coming into the office for an interview. We waited our whole lives to meet Al and this was the opportunity of a lifetime. We wanted to ask him things he's never been asked before and as we spiraled into the abyss of the absurd trying to come up with clever things to ask him, our Managing Editor Chris Radtke, in a moment of clarity had the only stroke of genius he'll ever have in his lifetime. "I know," he said with his mouth full of Twinkie, "how about we ask him who would win in a fight: a minotaur armed with a trident or a centaur armed with a crossbow?" UGO's Editorial staff was silent for a moment, and then everybody started to riff on thier answers. Two hours later the debate was still raging and life as we know it was changed forever. Like so many other things, it all begins with "Weird Al" Yankovic.
—The "official" explanation of how an interview with "Weird" Al spawned a phenomenon
Like the inimitable "Al", the Red Bull's obviously going to say the emotional favorite is the minotaur. But the centaur, of course, has range.

Like me, the more "certifiable" geeks who weighed in on what is recently an age-old question, did the geeky thing and overanalyzed. The D&D guy made a compelling case for the minotaur, too, but noted that the battlefield was of supreme importance in deciding the matter. Ethan Suplee asked the important questions: A barroom brawl or football field? Assuming the minotaur can take that first hit and grab him, Mr. Centaur is might have a tough time. But assuming he can run, the smart centaur should be able to turn him into a pin cushion.

Neil Gaiman and Ridley Scott gave the edge to the centaur. Clive Barker and Rob Zombie went minotaur. Malcolm McDowell very explicitly would not take a side.

Go check out Minotaur vs. Centaur. Because I believe that every important question you may ever have in life can be phrased in the form of: "who do you think would win in a fight...?"

Labels: ,

Friday Free Game: Sushi Go Round

This week's Friday Free Game reminds me an awful lot of Tapper, the classic arcade game the featured a beer tap beside your joystick. You'd have to run from counter to counter, filling frosty mugs and flinging them at customers, but the tricky part was catching the glasses as they threw them back. I personally don't think Tapper gets nearly the respect it deserves. In 1983 it had in-game advertising (Budweiser and Mountain Dew have prominent logos in-game) and compelling casual gameplay, including a mini-game bonus round. It's one of my favorite of the classic arcade games.

This modern-day, Flash equivalent is called Sushi Go Round. Customers appear and demand different kinds of sushi. You have to assemble the rolls from the proper ingredients and send them down the conveyor belt to them. Just to make your life difficult, this sushi bar is a one-man show: you are the production-line sushi chef slinging the fish, the beleaguered manager re-ordering fish eggs to stay ahead of customer demand, and you're even the busboy. You have to click on the plates to clear them for new customers.

Each round introduces a new kind of sushi that you have to remember how to make, but remembering the sushi recipes is the easy part. The game gets hard as you juggle the making and ordering, and it generates that same kind of tension that Tapper did as you find yourself going back and forth, barely keeping up as the game throws obstacles at you. The game is a lot of fun for a few plays, but I found myself wishing they had simplified the sushi-reordering part a bit more. But the system hangs together nicely, and Sushi Go Round is liable to keep you busy for a few hours if you're not careful.

Labels: , , ,

Obviously Right-Brained

This clever little animation is making its rounds at my job, so I figured I'd share. It's an animation of a dancer spinning, and according to the article some people see it spinning clockwise, and others counter-clockwise, and this is supposed to tell you whether you're right-brained or left-brained.

That's what they claim, but to be honest, this looks to me like it's obviously spinning clockwise. Most optical illusions will shift if you concentrate or look at it askance, but not this one. The woman is absolutely and only spinning clockwise.

Anyone who says differently is a left-brained communist.


A Letter to the Author of Snow Crash

Dear Mr. Stephenson,

I have just finished reading the first half of your incredibly engaging, tremendously stylish and mostly-awesomely paced novel, Snow Crash, and I think it's one of the greatest things I've ever read. But it seems that for some reason, the edition that I have ends rather abruptly. You see, the slapdash, thrown-together ending I read can't be the actual end to the book, otherwise you will have squandered one of the most brilliant openings of a science fiction story ever.

The story of Hiro Protagonist, Y.T. and Raven is, I'm sure, a thousand-page monster epic that does justice to its author's vision of a dystopic future where the cyber-world is no longer safe. I will avoid spoilers since I am writing this letter to you on my blog, Mr. Stephenson, but I'm sure your actual book doesn't end on page 468.

I'm sure anyone brilliant enough to write those first four-hundred-some pages can do better than those last fifty or so. I know that the version I read must be incomplete, because it's just a fake ending in the middle of a larger epic, because one of the most original and fantastically-told tales of the world's greatest swordsman and the man with an atom bomb wired to him ends in a triumphant blaze of glory, not because it felt like it ran out of steam.

So, where's the other half of Snow Crash, Mr. Stephenson?

Labels: , , , ,

D&D, Past and Present

By way of a forum sig, I found this little gem of a rant by Charlie Martin that sums up the commercial and political history of Dungeons and Dragons, the grand-daddy of all roleplaying games; the gaming phenomenon arguably responsible for all modern, medieval-themed games, from Ultima to Golden Axe to Diablo to World of Warcraft.

As a longtime D&D player and an amateur historian of the gaming hobby, I'm surprised at how little of the infighting I actually knew about, as well as who was responsible for which innovations. Surprising tidbits I picked up:

  • It was Dave Arneson, not Gary Gygax, who came up with the idea of role-playing as we know it: each player is responsible for playing a single character instead of commanding entire platoons in a wargame.
  • The original release of Dungeons and Dragons required both Gygax's older game Chainmail and Avalon Hill's Outdoor Survival rules to supplement it.
  • Tactical Studies Rules, Inc.'s original founders were Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson, Don Kaye, and Brian Blume. After the falling-out between Arneson and Gygax, Gygax created TSR, Inc. with Brian and Kevin Blume. Thus, TSR and Tactical Studies Rules are two different companies, albeit with some common owners.
  • The split between "Basic" and "Advanced" D&D in 1977 was primarily an effort to appease Dave Arneson, who had sued for both recognition and royalties. Gyagx continued to churn out material for AD&D while relegating the basic D&D line to other authors.
  • Lorraine Williams, who took over TSR after the Blume family had basically run it into the ground, was a financial consultant who despised gamers. It was under Williams that the second edition was produced.
Martin sagely notes that "every single person who has tried to screw someone over in the name of getting more money out of Dungeons & Dragons has got what was coming to them. It’s quite a nice bit of justice that is rarely found in the real world."

And for those of you who may not keep up with all the latest happenings in the world of role-playing games, you may have missed this one: Fourth Edition D&D was announced at GenCon Indy 2007. According to the latest scuttlebut, the three core books (new cover art here: PHB, DMG, MM) will be released in June, 2008.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Friday Free Game: Chat Noir

Have you ever heard that expression about herding cats? Game designer Taro Ito (who also brought us Dice Wars, FFG 08/18/06) seems to have taken the idea to heart. Chat Noir is a game about corralling a black cat by surrounding it with darkened dots.

I first read about the game on Jay is Games (the wellspring from which all casual games flow) a few weeks ago and only got the chance to play it this past weekend. Ever since, I have been sort of obsessed with this devilishly clever little game. It sounds so easy: click the spots to darken them and make them impassable to the cat. Keep doing this until you successfully given the cat nowhere to go or the cat escapes, scampering off the edge of the board. Your first few games may be a bit frustrating, and I'm pretty sure that there are some starting configurations that are unbeatable, but once you get the hang of the game, when you find that flow, the game becomes a thing of impressive tactical beauty.

Chat Noir is everything that a Friday Free Game should be. It has a short play time, super-simple mechanics and engaging gameplay that keeps you coming back for more. One bit of advice: you'll have more success trying to build barricades further away from the cat, so stick closer to the edges. Also, if you find you're chasing the cat around the board, you've probably already lost. Give it a try and tell me that you didn't give a little "w00t!" when you beat it the first time.

Labels: , , , , ,

Random Quote: On Badassery

These have to be some of the greatest lines ever written in a novel:

Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world. If I moved to a martial-arts monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. If my family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, devoted it to wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad.

Hiro used to feel that way, too, but then he ran into Raven. In a way, this is liberating. He no longer has to worry about trying to be the baddest motherfucker in the world. The position is taken.

—Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash
The book kicks all kinds of ass. Full review when I finish. Monday most likely.

Labels: , , ,

Pandora: My Favorite New Songs
LibraryThing: What I'm Currently Reading
Archive Links
Friends of the Red Bull

Sinfest by Tatsuya Ishida

Order of the Stick by Rich Burlew
The Red Bull Diary Is
The Red Bull Diary is the personal pulpit and intellectual dumping-ground for its author, an amateur game designer, professional programmer, political centrist and incurable skeptic. The Red Bull Diary is gaming, game design, politics, development, geek culture, and other such nonsense.