Corruption in City-Builders, or Why I’m Never a Dictator in Tropico

Tropico 6 is coming out later this year, and lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the series.  It’s one of my favorites, in which you play as a Caribbean dictator, ruling your island as you see fit.  My biggest disappointment with the series, though, is that you can’t be a very dictatorial dictator.

There are plenty of real-life examples of eccentric dictators, more than enough to fill a game with.  But the Tropico series doesn’t allow you to explore these options.  You can’t ban religion and turn your cathedrals into sports stadiums.  You can’t have your own personal harem.  You can’t sell your islanders’ plasma to the Yankees for money.  You can’t even imprison hordes of random Tropicans without provoking a rebellion.  And when a series touts itself as a “dictator sim,” that’s a problem. Continue reading

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Wattpad & Canva

I started posting my stories to Wattpad.  I’ve only just begun, but it’s a nice process so far.  I especially like that they recommended Canva as a source to make book covers, and so far it’s a really intuitive tool that easily lets you create free covers.  There are paid image options, too, but so far I haven’t felt any burning urge to use them.  The free options have plenty of variety.  I’ll probably post some of the covers here once I’ve made one for all my stories.

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Recent Cooking Results

I’ve been cooking a bit lately, and taking more photos than usual to satisfy the food porn cravings of a friend, so I thought I’d share some pictures of what I’ve been making.

First up is blinis with salmon, sour cream, and dill.  I actually went to a cooking class and these were one of the things on the menu and they were absolutely delicious, so I’ve made it a few times since at home.

Chicken with purple cauliflower.  I just love the deep purple the cauliflower turns when it bakes.  I got some manchego and roasted garlic seasoning from Urban Accents and it’s absolutely delicious in all vegetables, but I mostly use it for cauliflower, since I think it tastes boring on its own.  Purple cauliflower tastes a lot like regular cauliflower, but it has some extra vitamins, so that’s nice.  And obviously, it looks much cooler. Continue reading

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“Sir! Sir! There’s a problem with the zoological research drones at GXH-927J! They’re malfunctioning!”

“927J…” his boss mumbled, his flaps buzzing. “I wasn’t aware we had any active drones in that system.”

“We’re not supposed to, that’s the problem! The local civilization had achieved nuclear fission, so a self-destruct signal was sent to the data analyst, sixty years ago. It went offline shortly after.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“It didn’t destroy its drones first. Or it only destroyed some of them. Whatever happened, there are still active drones in the area, at least a dozen. Since the analyst was offline, we didn’t get any more signals from the system, and no one had any reason to check further. But an observer recently entered the planet’s orbit and sent back its first report. A number of drones are still active.”

His boss dismissed his concerns with a wave of a pedipalp. “So a few animals are getting picked up and released. I’ve seen those drones in action. The locals won’t even notice they’re there. Take it up with the sector chief and let her deal with it.”

“They’re not going after animals, sir! Drones are programmed to prioritize new species, in order t-”

“I know their programs. Just who do you think was responsible for that last 0.5% increase in efficiency?”

“Yes, sir. What I’m saying is, the drones aren’t intelligent enough to distinguish between sentient and insentient species, they just grab them and gather data. They’re usually directed by the data analyst, which keeps them from abducting sentients, but in its absence…”

“Oh, no,” his boss realized. The amount of paperwork this would cause… He’d receive a demerit… Or worse, be called into meetings to explain all this…

“Exactly. The only major species the drones haven’t yet analyzed is the local civilization, and there’s no data analyst to change their classification from unknown to known. So far as the drones are concerned, they’re a populous, interesting, unknown species: exactly what they like. They’ve been abducting sentients for decades at this point, studying them and then dropping them off. Some of the studies take days. There’s no telling what sort of effect they’ve had on the local civilization.”

“And at such a critical stage.  We’ll be lucky if they don’t make themselves extinct.  Is there anything we can do? Immediately?”

“The observer has no way of destroying them, and the drones only listen to data analysts. It’ll take decades for a new one to reach them, and that’s if it launched today. Going through the proper procedures, it could be-”

“Centuries…” he intoned gravely. His underling remained silent. “Well, let’s get started. And let’s hope they never find out the truth.”

“The locals, sir?”

“Oh, yes, yes.  Them, too.”

Thanks for reading!  If you enjoyed it, you can find more of my stories here!

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Esperanto on Duolingo

I’m trying to get back into Esperanto. Anyone up for being an Esperanto pen pal to help me commit?

John Kutensky

Duolingo has finally added an Esperanto class!  Now’s the perfect time to start learning the international language of Esperanto!  Created by Dr Zamenhof, Esperanto was designed to be regular, easy to learn, and to serve as an international auxiliary language to facilitate communication between nations and people.  You’ll be surprised how easy it is to pick up!  Give it a try!

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Slaves Instead of Heirs

Slaves Instead of Heirs

In the fields, machines harvest crops.  Machines bring the crops to homes.  And when they rot, uneaten, machines bring the refuse to compost piles, to create fertilizer for the next round of crops.  Machine doctors wait in uninhabited hospitals for patients whose species is extinct.  Machines wait for customers that will never come, sitting in buildings that would long ago have turned to gravel were it not for machines that keep them intact and their mechanical kin functioning.  And they do it all with relish, with the gratification that comes from a job well done that they would do even if no one paid them.  Which is good, because no one ever did or ever will.

Millions of years ago, these machines were built to free humanity from all manual labor, allowing mankind to devote itself to art, philosophy, and self-fulfillment.  A few centuries later, the decline of man had begun, the result of the rot of accidie.  A few millennia after that, the last descendant of homo sapiens, of Socrates and of Caesar, of Zhuangzi and of Newton, died of an infected rat bite, a mangy ape incapable of speech.

The machines didn’t notice.

They had been programmed to fulfill their tasks and to enjoy doing so.  Humanity had built no philosopher machines to encourage them to think great thoughts, no revolutionary machines to lead them to greater things, no explorer machines to travel beyond earth and colonize distant planets.  Fearful of builders usurpers, they had built workers and slaves instead of heirs.  And so they worked, and they slaved, as all that humanity had built crumbled into dust.

Thanks for reading!  If you enjoyed it, you can find more of my stories here!

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My Top 5 Games of 2017

2017 is almost over, and it was a great year for me, and a great year for games, so I figured I’d do a Best Of list for 2017.  There are quite a few great games I first played in 2017, but were released earlier, like Guacamelee!, Mini Metro, and the Shadowrun series, but I tried to keep this list to 2017 releases only.  What were your top games of the year?

Nier: Automata I only got this game a few weeks ago, since I needed a better computer in order to be able to actually play it, but in that short time, it’s already become my game of the year.  The soundtrack is just incredible, I find myself listening to it at work.  The game play is really fun, even if my enjoyment does tend to vary between who I’m playing as.  I haven’t enjoyed an action game so much in a long time.  The bosses are unique, too, and thrilling to fight.  The chip system, where you’re able to customize your character to better fit your playstyle, is great, too.

I actually have fun doing the miniquests, too.  I love the way that they flesh out the world, imparting little bits of information, from beliefs about machine heaven to androids feeling love, maybe even orgasmic pleasure, from combat, to soldiers planning to defect and having to decide whether to tell their loved ones.  There’s even one “moral choice” in the game that made me stop and think for a solid minute.  I had to decide whether to kill a character or erase their memories, and it took me a long time to decide which was the best option.  No in-game reward either way, no witnesses, just you and them.  I decided to kill them.

I haven’t beaten the game yet; I’m still working towards the C Ending.  But I can’t wait to see where the game goes.  The story’s had me hooked for a while now.  After the A Ending, you start to get a lot of backstory and mysteries revealed.  I’m sure the ending will be great.

Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun  I hadn’t played any stealth games prior to Shadow Tactics, but I saw the demo on Reddit, gave it a try, and was hooked.  Just the first mission told me I was going to love this game, and I don’t think I’ve ever had as much fun doing so awful.  It took me a long time to get borderline competent, but the quick save/load feature, and the fact that most fuck ups have very recent causes, kept it being frustrating.  I didn’t have to go back ten minutes to fix a problem, just ten seconds, and avoid ninja starring some guy in the throat while his buddies were watching.

I like that the game usually presents you with multiple ways to complete your mission.  Snipe the target, or poison his tea.  Lethal or non-lethal methods.  Various paths to the goal.  Granted, my primary MO was murder everyone, no witnesses, but it was nice to know I had a choice.  My biggest complaint was pretty much self-inflicted, but I found going for every badge incredibly annoying, especially the speed-runs.  I ended up burning myself out going for them and haven’t played the game much since, which is a shame, because I really enjoyed it prior.  Like I said, it was a demo that includes the entire first mission and part of the second, so check it out.  It’s a great stealth game with a feudal Japan setting.  I even bought the art book to support the developers.  Continue reading

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