Entries Tagged as 'Technophilia'

A Buncha Free Games, Vol. I

I’m mostly interested in writing about Things Worth Having, which make up for their cost in improved Quality of Life. I usually mean high-quality every-day objects when I say that but there’s also a bunch of intangible data worth having. Some people even give it away. Data (i.e. software) takes up no space, so when someone gives a piece of software away, it’s hard not to see it as Worth Having, even if it sucks. At first glance that’s how the math comes out. The cost, however, is the time you spend using it. And it is in that spirit that I give you A Buncha Free Games, Volume I.

Capt. Forever
I’m now officially belaboring this point, but it’s just so good. And now that Capt. Successor is out, you can play the original for free. Now. NOW. (Read the rest later, damn you. That link will open in a new tab.)

Cave Story (Doukutsu Monogatari)
When Darwinia+ finally comes out I’ll try and explain how much I hate genre-boundaries, because I hate them. Books, music, films, and games that transgress and can’t be classified are lots more fun. Cave Story is a fast, pixelated platformer with RPG-ish NPC development, a nice big inventory, and a story that just goes on and on. (Disclosure: I haven’t completed a single game in this post because they’re all so satisfyingly long.) My point is that if you haven’t played it before, you haven’t played it before. Its not Mario or Metroid, Duke Nukem (THE FIRST ONE) or Commander Keen. It’s cute, the music’s excellent, and the controls are flawless. It’s clearly a labor of love by the author, and you can download it for free and keep it forever. I think you should.
Win – Mac – Linux

03 Knytt
Every bit as atmospheric as Canabalt, but not nearly as intense. Well, that’s not fair. The little Knytt got abducted by an incompetent alien and now has to fix the broken spaceship without help. It’s a quiet, beautiful puzzle platform/adventure-thing that is massively cute in a way that makes the solitude of crawling around alone on an alien world seem all the more dire. Again, it’s an ingenious labor of love and totally downloadable, along with its extensible successor, Knytt Stories.
Win – and I run it on my CrunchBang Linux netbook through Wine

Monuments of Mars
This game is so old! Do you even know what CGA graphics are? It’s amazing what you can do with two bits-per-pixel, provided they’re the right two bits. These ones give you Black, Red, Orange, and Green. Monuments of Mars is my favorite exploration of just how much awesome can be gleaned from four colors, and I just found out that all four chapters have been released into the public domain.
YOUR COMPUTER CAN’T RUN THIS GAME! You need to get DOSBOX first so you both can pretend it’s 1992.

I know, I’m trying to run you over with my time machine. ZZT is another absurd blast-from-the-past. Think 4 colors looks primitive? ZZT is all ASCII characters. We care because Tim Sweeney released it almost 20 years ago, and now is still Head Morlock behind the Unreal Engine, which runs Mass Effect, BioShock, Dead Space, Gears of War, Borderlands, Mirror’s Edge, Deus Ex… It all started with ridiculous DOS text characters. In all seriousness, you don’t have to play this game, but it did have a really slick scripting system that made it really easy to build mods. The level editors in Lode Runner and Boulder Dash didn’t hold a candle.

An open letter to my dad about my relationship with Apple Computer

When I showed you my Ubuntu-based netbook and the CAD software I was running through WINE last summer, you almost seemed hurt when you asked if I had given up on Apple. At the time I quickly dismissed the possibility but looking at the intervening months (even as I compose this on my venerable MacBook Pro) I think the honest truth is a little less shiny.

We got that Apple IIgs in ’87 or ’88. Its capabilities were broad-ranging and we used it in every way possible short of compiling new software. Looking back now, though, its most compelling feature for me was its ability to accept and run BASIC programs, even without disk drives connected. Like the old Sinclair computers in England, there was an understanding that the most basic function of a computer was to run user-created code.
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We Now Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Broadcast: Pop!Tech ’09


If you’re not familiar with it, Pop!Tech is a yearly conference based in our very own Camden, Maine. It’s not a ‘Con, or and Event, but rather lives at a multidisciplinary corner somewhere North of Technology and East of Culture. Topics cover everything from the impact of technology on the arts, to the development and promotion of human culture, to recent developments in online security, to ideas around education reform. But what unites them all is a focus on thinking of the larger picture that any discipline can influence, and this year’s topic is billed as reimagining America. The design is to create a true synergistic environment to discuss art, culture, technology, and ideally motivate social change. The conference, which has been running for upwards of a decade,  is on through tomorrow. It’s gotten a bit pricey over the years, but luckily it’s also being streamed live as it happens, so hit the embed below. Any fan of big ideas will get a thrill out of this one, and after the jump are a few samples from previous years. Enjoy!

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Friday Night Anime Block: Serial Experiments Lain


We’ll bring it back a little tonight, to some of the more traditional themes cyberpunk was designed to address. Dystopia as an exploration of consciousness, being-ness, and the development of transhumanism. Nakamura‘s Serial Experiments Lain. The consequences of living in a post-human society; one in which we have moved beyond the constraints imposed upon by biology. In a cute Japanese anime form no less!

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You should be playing Captain Forever

Go to captainforever.com, read what Capt. Farbs has to say, pay your $15, and strap in because space is the terrifying place.

Quickly, you will find yourself at the helm of the dinkiest little ship ever loosed on The Great Emptiness Between The Stars. Lost and alone, you’ll be both relieved and frightened when a message buoy slides into view with a pile of spare parts and the message that other nearby vessels “may resort to piracy” in desperation born of some unexplained disaster.

Grab the chunks of armor, thrusters, and lasers. Dock them to your tiny pod (“The Nemesis”) and run like hell, because that message was the truth. For no apparent reason, everyone is coming for you. Assemble your makeshift warship cleverly, fly deftly, and you’ll find that taking out the command modules of enemy vessels releases new and improved bits to tack onto your own. Carefully consider your targets and improve your hardware gradually. Get in over your head and all that hard-won junk will get blown to bits. Soak up too much enemy fire with your module and, well…

Captain Forever is mercenary space combat, distilled. The graphics are perfectly simple, with all the iconic straightforwardness of a War-Room tactical display. There is no character-building, no tech tree, and no economy. The control scheme is as old as I am and as familiar as a favorite chair. Don’t let me mislead you, though: there is no comfort to be had here. The increasing pressure of more, faster Asteroids in each successive level had nothing on a message buoy zooming up with the cheerful alert that you’ve spent too much time dicking with your gear. The pirates have noticed you, they’re en route, and your pants are way, way down.

Get shot up without any protection and you’ll learn The Terrible Secret of Space: The Nemesis can’t be destroyed. It simply obliterates EVERYTHING nearby and then regenerates. Limited lives may have made Capt. Forever’s forebears aggravating quarter-munchers, but you’ll long for the cold embrace of death in deep space when the game’s never over.

YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE: the fact that I’m telling you to pay $15 for a Flash game with no demo. I also can’t seem to get mouse-scrollwheel-zooming to work on my Mac. Huh.

The good news is that the $15 gets you out of paying $20 when the REAL game is released and this Flash game becomes the demo. This is an Indy Game Development experiment wherein an unemployed developer gets to keep eating and paying rent while he polishes something great, and I support it. If that’s not enough reason for you, hold on until the full release and try it then.

YOU MIGHT LIKE: excellent neo-classic arcade game design, through and through. It looks great, sounds great, and plays great. It underscores over and over the kind of quality that can be created by a lone craftsman when technological ambition is kept in check.

And when you need a break, want to do something free, or feel that there still isn’t enough awesome minimalism in your life, go play Canabalt.