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Friday Fun Thread for September 16, 2022

Be advised; this thread is not for serious in depth discussion of weighty topics, this thread is not for anything Culture War related. This thread is for Fun. You got jokes? Share 'em. You got silly questions? Ask 'em.

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Two items of British humor.

Item 1 - TV episode - https://youtube.com/watch?v=pOlSHw_y0Lw

Harry and Paul's Story of the Twos.

A look back at the history of BBC two.

Item 2 - Video game - Not for Broadcast

I don't know how I never heard about this - made in 2018.

Be the producer on a live news show - choose the camera angle, bleep out the swearing, change cameras to avoid the nudist protestors at a sporting event.

1980s UK, with tyrannical far-left government just elected.

One of funniest games I ever played. Haven't finished it yet.

There are dreadful musical numbers that are extremely funny.

This is from 2008 but I only heard of it yesterday. Some animation company did claymation animations of a Northern Ireland radio show. All these are based on (allegedly) real calls to the phone-in show.

Here, for your delectation, the perils of hypnotising a hen.

Are non-contingent rewards (NCRs) an effective way of incentivizing behavior? I was surprised to read that there was controversy on this, then surprised to learn I had wrong beliefs about it.

A reward can be either contingent or non-contingent. Contingent means the reward can only be obtained from a behavior (or most easily obtained, more likely to be obtained). A non-contingent reward is a reward that comes after a behavior, but can also be obtained (easily) without the behavior. For an example, the contingent rewards of getting a good grade are pride, social esteem, competitive victory, future opportunities, and the intrinsic feeling of mastery involving the subject and the goal. A non-contingent reward might be treating yourself to a steak dinner afterward, buying nice clothes, certain kinds of pride that do not contingently follow from the behavior (general self-praise). You can enjoy NCRs without the preceding behavior, whereas CRs require the behavior.

Humans appear to be the only animal that attempts non-contingent rewards. Studies in pigeons that attempt to introduce NCRs by creating a habit involving reinforcement/punishment and then removing the reinforcement/punishment find that as soon as pigeons realize they can eat without the behavior, they do so rapidly. From the human studies I’ve read, NCRs are at best insignificantly beneficial, and this benefit is probably from the invisible residue of CRs.

A lot of things that people do to “reward themselves” may appear beneficial because they remind the person of the contingent rewards that follow, and not actually because the NCR is effecting anything. For instance, if you praise yourself with good self talk after a desired behavior, this is an NCR; however, the very words we use in this self-praise are also reminders of the whole world of social rewards that may come from the behavior. Let’s say you praise yourself after running a mile. If you tell yourself “great job, you did so well”, that is construed in the literature as an NCR. However, these words do not exist in isolation, and they will remind the runner of past social praise and the possibility of future social praise, which are contingent rewards. Self-talk is the most effective NCR in the literature and is also inextricably jumbled up with CRs; the NCR theory does not assert that cues to CRs increase behavior (of course they do), and so some self-talk should not be considered an NCR.

NCRs may also appear effective because they reduce baseline pain or increase baseline pleasure. If I have a yummy smoothie every time I work out, this would be an NCR. But the yummy smoothie might not be increasing my desire to run, and instead be allowing me to act on my desire to run by sufficiently reducing baseline pain. IE we’re in a good mood and not hungry we might be more likely to best somewhat unpleasant things.

tl;dr it is probably impossible to reward yourself; best to cling to the rewards that require your desired behavior

Most studies I've seen have such artificial settings, it's hard to take their conclusions at face value (if at all). Do you have any persuasive studies in mind? Or even better, just data sets/ narrative reviews of human behavior in the wild, w/t models and theories?

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005789417301004

https://www.pcmasolutions.com/PDF/YouCantReinforceYourselfweb.pdf

These were persuasive enough for me. And just some thoughts influenced my opinion: what is the likelihood that humans are the only animal that can trick themselves with a non-contingent reward? If I can trick myself with a non-contingent reward, I can just as well trick myself into no longer desiring the target behavior and instead just enjoying the NCR. Or, if I can trick myself into believing the NCR is the result of my behavior, I may as well trick myself into believing any enjoyment in life is a result of my behavior, so the NCR is unnecessary. The very idea of an NCR, when you think about it, requires a burden of proof that is not satisfied by any study I could find, because it doesn’t make sense given what we know from animal psychology.

There’s also that, if they worked, we would see their usage among top performers in a variety of domains, given how easy they are to implement over contingent rewards. We would expect all the best students to have the most NCRs at the end of a successful study session, but we don’t really find this. If anything, introducing NCRs (especially social media, video games) within a study session is highly discouraged, because top students spend hours in deliberate study sessions which are usually not NCR’ed. Studies on top violin performers show that they are more likely to nap after an afternoon session, whereas NCR theory holds that they would be better of eating skittles or watching their favorite show. The top students I know would care obsessively about their grades without trying to self-incentivize, and they would do things that enhance the salience of grades like making detailed plans and hoping in relevant future opportunities.

what is the likelihood that humans are the only animal that can trick themselves with a non-contingent reward?

Humans are also the only (or one of the very few) animals that can solve the Buridan's Ass problem. Lev Vygotsky in collaboration with Pavlov ran a series of experiments: a hungry dog was put in a room with food, separated from it by a section of metal floor giving it mild electric shocks. Dogs behaved according to Behaviorist theory: since at every moment the hunger stimulus is weaker than the stimulus from the electrified floor, so the dog cannot cross it, despite the fact that the unpleasantness of hunger over long time massively outweighs the unpleasantness of crossing the floor. IIRC dogs responded by either getting into a catatonic state or getting enraged, which sounds like second best possible responses to such kind of situations.

An adult human of course solves the problem with remarkable ease: you just decide that you want to cross and this internal stimulus adds its weight and lets you cross the electrified section. Vygotsky also claimed that we can see development of this ability in children or primitive peoples, where it first requires an external stimulus like divination (flipping a coin), but then gets internalized.

NCRs seem to fall into roughly the same category of external willpower amplifiers. So not surprising that it's not only uniquely human but also that highly successful people don't need it any more.

That’s an interesting study. There are other possibilities to human uniqueness, though: humans in a lab know that they are actually safe, and they know that the shock is removed when the food is accessed. An animal lacks the human knowledge of that the pain is transient and surpassable. So I wonder how transferable the experiment is from animal to human. Perhaps we would have to have an experiment where an animal sees another animal accessing the food and being okay. Otherwise the animal has no way of knowing that the pain is harmless and transient.

There are lots of mental disorders in humans where the pain surpasses the reward, like in anxiety disorders, OCD, and eating disorders; in these cases the subject has no actual belief in the transience of the pain, and so could literally starve to death from anorexia or hikkomori-ism before attempting a reward.

Some dogs definitely figure this out w.r.t. those wireless electric fence/shock collar thingies; basically in addition to shocking them as they approach the boundary wire, you need to also train them that the shock (+ audible cue) means they need to turn around and go back. Otherwise they just push past the boundary and enjoy their freedom.

Yeah, it's unfortunate that the whole thing kinda got forgotten due to the Iron Curtain, so I haven't heard about any attempts to replicate and further investigate it these days.

This stuff meshes very well with a lot of stuff when you begin to look at things from that angle. Consider for example this cute video of children subjected to the marshmallow test: https://youtube.com/watch?v=QX_oy9614HQ&t=16 . Forget about the controversy about whether it actually correlates with important life outcomes all that well, the interesting thing is that we can see how the children want to avoid eating the marshmallow, how they employ various external (to the mind) willpower aids like covering their mouth with their hands etc, and how we know that as adults we wouldn't need to.

Thank you!

Unexpectedly, very few studies met our inclusion criteria, despite the fact that we included both “self-incentive” and “self-reward” as search terms.

They took very narrow inclusion criteria. It might genuinely reflect their narrow research interest, but there is a vast overlapping terminological mess research on behavioral change and goal pursuit, which uses other notions: intrinsic/extrinsic motivation, self-control / effortless control / impulse control, reward processing/ neural economics, etc. After brief unsuccessful attempts to "get the whole picture", I now read mostly about specific techniques, which are easier to test empirically, and that seem to work for me. Are you researching out of scholarly interest or to enhance personal performance?

In equal parts interest and personal gain. Any recommended readings?

The following is a personal sample, I am not an expert. I prefer bottom-up control: to craft your environment and schedule in advance, so as to get the right stimulation and avoid dangerous cues - with minimal effort. This paper with sophisticated title is about addictive behaviors in general, I find it conceptually useful. In good environment attention still fluctuates and has to be restored: this paper outlines neurobiological mechanisms of attention and some techniques to control it.

This one is an attempt to integrate the extant terminological mess: it will give you many key words and a sense of despair.

I don't remember but has the sub talked about the TV show Devs? It was made in 2020 and was a small-budget sci-fi show using about AI as a predictive algorithm. There were some elements of disbelief, but I think it raises some neat questions regarding the application of advanced AI and it's ramifications. It's just a single season as well but it's rather well made though definitely small budget.

I'm probably late to the party, but I found it enjoyable, so I thought it's worth checking out.

As piece of entertainment, it wasn't bad. My major niggle, apart from the core conceit was the awkward diverse casting attempts - having a woman play a boy, shoehorning in a fat old black guy as a software dev..

Neat take on the clockwork universe idea, but we now know better.

I enjoyed it a lot, I wish there were more shows like it. It was quantum computing, not AI though.

I'm working on a playlist of Songs That Are Just Lists of Things. Songs where the lyrics are just lists of stuff, repetitive lines, if you know a few of the songs you'll get the theme pretty quick. So far:

Mambo No. 5 -- Lou Bega

People Who Died -- The Jim Carroll Band

I've Been Everywhere -- Johny Cash (As an aside, everyone here should listen to The One on The Right Was On the Left for some vintage CW Roundup content, TheMotte collectively being represented by the guy in the rear)

Area Codes -- Ludacris

Orgy For One -- Ninja Sex Party

Blood of the Kings -- Manowar

I'm Too Sexy -- Right Said Fred

We Didn't Star the Fire -- Billy Joel

Girls -- The Dare

10 Things I Hate About You -- Leah Kate

We Got Two Jealous Agains -- NOFX

So what other songs should I add to this one? I'm open to foreign language songs if the structure is obvious.

"Genau" by KMFDM is basically "List of German expressions in English" as a song.

"Firestarter" by The Prodigy - the lyrics are a list of traits possessed by the speaker.

"The Number Song" by DJ Shadow is a series of sampled count-offs from different songs.

"This Could Be Love" - Alkaline Trio - the chorus is a list of numbered instructions.

"Feel Good Hit of the Summer" - Queens of the Stone Age

I’ve been Everywhere also has an Australian version (some people say it’s the original, as it was released earlier than the US adaptation which was later covered by Johnny Cash) and there is a good list of foreign language adaptations, including (of course) multiple Czech versions.

https://secondhandsongs.com/work/35565/adaptations#nav-entity

The version I’m particularly attached to is Jackie Leven’s: https://www.flashlyrics.com/lyrics/jackie-leven/ive-been-everywhere-27

Not quite following the requirements, but Boards of Canada - Aquarius comes pretty close.

Listing point starts at about 3:00.

Yeah, it's maybe not exactly what the OP was looking for (hardly any Boards of Canada tracks can hardly be said to have anything resembling coherent "lyrics", apart from maybe In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country and 1969). That being said, Aquarius is a fucking fantastic track anyway so I heavily endorse its inclusion.

And along those lines, Gyroscope is another Boards of Canada track featuring a list of numbers.

Yakko's World- Animaniacs

Wakko's America is a good one too.

Lemon Demon - The Ultimate Showdown

https://youtube.com/watch?v=sTpW81xguME

The Alphabet Song traditional (or is this one Sesame Street)?

Some other Weird Al:

Since You've Been Gone

Your Horoscope for Today

You Make Me

And special mention to the middle part of Hardware Store where he lists all the things the store sells.

Some Swedish hipster choices:

Hållplatz -- Göteborgselektronikerna (list of tram stops in Gothenburg)

Hålla Din Hand -- Doktor Kosmos (list of activities for left-wing activists)

Like a Boss by Lonely Island?

Feel Good Hit of the Summer - Queens of the Stone Age is a list of drugs the singer is implying they have taken.

Would you consider "You don't call Wagga Wagga Wagga"? A list of Australian towns with double names you would not call by the singular abbreviation, as argument to say the singer's home town's name in full.

Thou Shalt Always Kill - Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip

My Favorite Things - Sound of Music

If I Had A Million Dollars by the Barenaked Ladies comes to mind.

Done Too Soon - Neil Diamond

The Name Game - Shirley Ellis

50 Ways to Leave Your Lover - Paul Simon

Do Right - Jimmie's Chicken Shack

Waters of March - Elis Regina and Tom Jobim

Also the Eclipse part of Dark Side of the Moon, though that's more like a coda to Bran Damage than a song in its own right.

50 Ways to Leave Your Lover - Paul Simon

Carol Brown - Flight of the Conchords

88 Lines About 44 Women - The Nails

It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) - R.E.M.

You have good taste in music my man, I was going to add Carol Brown, iteotwawki and fifty ways to leave your lover.

Maybe The Good Ship Lifestyle - Chumbawumba?

I feel incredibly stupid for suggesting this, but Lizzo - Boys actually fits the bill very well.

EDIT: And honestly, so does The Twelve Days of Christmas.

You shouldn't feel stupid, Lizzo is probably the greatest entertainer currently in the music business.

I found some magnificent explorables; I don't remember where I got the link from, but this is a breakdown of a how a mechanical watch works, and it is amazing.

every time he publishes one of these it gets frontpage on hacker news - they've been getting increasingly intricate, so this most recent one is the most complex, but the past ones are very good.

The code is very verbose though. Maybe it's generated? Or maybe he just codes it by hand, although given all the explicit numbers kinda hard to believe so idk.

In a Friday Fun coincidence, I recently helped a friend pick out a mechanical watch as a birthday gift for her significant other, and I got rediscover how much joy I have for the basics of watches. They really are incredible little devices and some of the detail work that's put in on pricey models is a thing of beauty. Owning them at this point is purely a point of fun and vanity, but they really are fun and beautiful.

Let's add the tourbillon as an interesting nugget of horology.

I'm working on a rust implementation of MIL-STD-1553B message parsing- 1553 is the serial bus communication standard used in US avionics systems. It's a dinky little project, but weirdly fun.

Any Fire Emblem people here? A new mainline game was finally announced this Tuesday, Fire Emblem Engage. It's been over three years since Three Houses released, unless you count the Dynasty Warriors game, which I don't.

There have been comments on the main characters' split color look. Specifically, his/her resemblance to the colors of a specific toothpaste brand. The character design has grown on me, but the clowning is well-deserved. The character designs of many of the side characters are more concerning for me, as many look like generic gacha fantasy art at first blush. I'll have to see them in more detail and how they grow on me. The game looks like it takes many leads from Awakening and Heroes, for better and worse.

Notably, it doesn't seem to have a route split, which the last two new (original) games did, and also seems to be rolling back some of the focus on the Persona elements of Three Houses. I'm lukewarm on route splits, since it's often obvious after you've played the routes where compromises in design and quality had to be made to support them. I liked the Monastery in Three Houses, but know it's not for everyone.

I'm also interested in how it will be built around permadeath. If you don't know, it is a staple mechanic in Fire Emblem that if a unit hits 0 HP, they die and are not usable for the rest of the campaign, unless you reload the map of course, potentially losing an hour of progress. You're supposed to play to keep your units alive and if someone is going to die, it better be for a damn good reason, because you won't have them for the rest of the run. Early games in the franchise drowned you with tons of recruitable characters with little personality to act as replacements, though you were still incentivized to keep your best alive as the replacements are often worse.

This mechanic has become more and more vestigial as time has gone on and the games add more RPG elements, to the point where it added nothing in Three Houses and actively tanked its storytelling. In a game with a small cast that puts a lot of focus on the story and relationships of each member, it kind of ruins the experience that only 3 of them can ever appear in cutscenes to account for the fact that the player may have lost them. It's... quite terrible, honestly, and I hope the devs re-evaluate the mechanic if they continue to go in that direction. On the other hand, I have nothing against permadeath as long as the game is built around it. I'm expecting Engage to be like Conquest, which in theory has permadeath but does not design around it at all.

I love Fire Emblem can't wait for January and I've been firing up 3 houses to finally beat maddening new game. My read of the trailer is that it's going to take some of the most popular mechanics from 3 houses (a calendar driven open area) and more of the classic fire emblem games.

I'm kind of a FE person I guess? I have played (but not finished Awakening, which I enjoyed very much and plan to finish some day. I regard the series pretty highly, but just haven't played much of it. I personally don't mind the main character designs. I don't like them, but I don't hate them either. I do agree that overall the art has a distinct mobile game feel to it, which isn't a good thing at all. Still, it will be interesting to see how the game pans out.

Definitely a lot of Genshin in the DNA of the art. I’ll probably get used to it thought

I got into the franchise with Three Houses so I don't have a good sense of what the game used to be like. I hate the new character designs, especially the MCS. Mika Pikazo has a very unique and distinctive artstyle and she was a very weird choice for FE. She's responsible for one of the weirder FGO servant designs but at least it fits the character there.

I'm disappointed about the routes too. I will probably just skip Engage.

There was a comment on the reveal trailer saying "this looks like it will be either an instant classic or feel like a mobile game" and I couldn't agree more. I'm trying to withhold judgement until I play it, but the character designs do leave something to be desired.

I actually got into the series with Three Houses as well! I downloaded it the day before release in anticipation of a 12-hour car ride and was not bored for a second on that trip. I've been working my way around the series over the last three years. You should give Echoes or Sacred Stones a shot if you liked Three Houses and are interested in playing another. Echoes is fully voiced and has some of the best art direction in the series. The story is simple but the presentation and details make it something special. Sacred Stones has really nice art and animations if you like the GBA pixel art. Great characters, solid map design, and good story.

clowning

Yeah...that's a fairly appropriate descriptor.

The other thing they remind me of is Gundam characters. As the FE team keeps experimenting with different military aesthetics I guess some end up closer to Napoleonic. The supporting cast looks much more traditional for (post-Awakening) Fire Emblem, which may or may not be a good thing. Which game would you say had your favorites?

rolling back the Persona elements

After a trailer featuring ghosts as equipment?

permadeath

Given the formula changes made in 3H, I'm optimistic that the design will at least gesture towards permadeath. Rewinding time was an attempt at letting permadeath stay in while signaling really hard that it can and should be avoided. They just...failed to follow up on the cases when it happened anyway.

Contrast games like XCOM (or X-COM) which offer "ironman" modes and little to nothing in the way of loss mitigation. They're appropriately designed to signal "yeah some dudes will die for the cause." I'd love to see a FE game handle that better, if only for thematic consistency, but I'm not so optimistic.

Wild guess: a band-aid solution where permadead characters show up as Personas or otherwise stick around for cutscenes?

My favorite character designs overall are in Genealogy and Three Houses. Certain characters in Awakening and Fates, like Robin, Tiki, Selena, Oboro, Niles. The heroes art for most of the Genealogy characters modernized their designs really well, even if it took away from some of that sick 90s artstyle.

After a trailer featuring ghosts as equipment?

Heh. If this is what it takes to get Sigurd in an English release...

Regarding permadeath, if the games are going to put a lot of work into the supporting cast as 3H did, then they should allow for some ludonarrative dissonance and let all of them show up in cutscenes and have a role in the story even if they "died" in battle. It is... frustrating to have characters as important as Seteth, Felix, Ingrid, and Sylvain barely do anything in the story. They should just write the story and let the supporting characters have actual roles and show up in cutscenes as if they hadn't died, even if losing them locks you out from using them. Basically, your second guess.

Some of the older games, mainly the Marth titles and Binding Blade, really make the mechanic work. More characters than you could ever use, so you tend to play past mistakes unless you lose someone really important. Few characters have any story to miss, so you don't feel like you're locking yourself out of important content by saving over their death. If the meat of the game is in its supports though, you're always going to be incentivized to reload on a character death, which just feels bad.

How long do these games take to complete, can I save scum? Also, for some reason I thought Fire Emblem was Golden Sun.

Depends on the game. The shorter ones you can probably finish in 25 hours or so. Most probably clock in closer to 50-60, and Three Houses can take you 90 if you're being thorough. The newer ones have mechanics that let you rewind turns a limited number of times per map to make up for mistakes. If you're emulating, and you will be for most of the older entries, you can savestate scum to your heart's content.

If you're looking to play one, a safe bet would be emulating Sacred Stones, which is excellent. If you like RPGs, start with Three Houses. If you're big on strategy games and don't mind holding your nose during anything story related, play Fates Conquest.

What is the most relaxing scent and tactile sensation?

Scent is heavily tied to memory, so it's going to be personal.

For example, weirdly I find mild sewage smells to be kind of uplifting, because I associate them strongly with the beach town we visited when I was a kid (the sewer backed up whenever it rained on the street we walked to get to the beach) and summer camp and stuff like that.

Freshly laundered, cold cotton, and freshly laundered, cold cotton.

I find mint and the smell of fresh-cut grass pretty relaxing.

Tactile for me is the feeling of taking off wet socks or of sitting by a fire/bundling up in warm clothes and blankets when it's cold inside. Nothing like it.

I don't know if I'm relaxed by scents per se, but specific scents tend to act as memory triggers for me. The pomegranate Burt's Bees chap stick takes me mentally to early college, since that's what I would use a lot back then. I had bought this white tea and sage candle and had it going while I was playing Elden Ring a few months ago, so now that's the Elden Ring scent.

So I'm continuing my journey through assembly programming and 8088/DOS programming specifically.

I wrote a pretty simple ascii object dodging game. I did it first using all standard DOS or BIOS interrupt calls for all the drawing. Then I did it again just directly accessing the memory for the screen, and writing my own interrupt handlers for system ticks and keyboard interrupts. It's been a fun proof of concept.

Next up, I'm going to try to dive into the vagaries of EGA, and replace all the ascii stuff with actual graphics. And probably tune the difficulty more as well. I haven't delved much into the nuts and bolts of how you write to the screen with EGA. I saw that supposedly there is a vertical retrace interrupt, which for the most part you should never use because not all EGA cards, and especially most VGA cards, actually implemented it. Apparently it's even a discrete pin on the ISA slot that you can check whether it was even wired or not? Also the specific hardware IRQ for it got reused a bunch later, so you can't even be certain the IRQ you are services is the vertical retrace? So there is a register you can poll instead, if the vertical retrace interval is important to you.

Aside from that, apparently EGA works by having 4 different bit planes overlapping the same memory space. By default the bit planes correspond to red, green, blue and intensity. I'm under the impression very few games bothered to change these defaults. Each bit is one pixel. So to write anything other than white to the screen, you need to set the plane masks and the bit masks to registers for the EGA card. I haven't delved into the nuts and bolts of implementation yet. They crow about how it allows you to more efficiently write to the screen with few calls, and that seems possible in theory. But for any image of any color complexity, I wonder if the overhead of constantly changed masks registers eats severely into that. We shall see.

Maybe at the end of this I'll start uploading all my shitty ASM to github or something for people to gawk at. But it's mostly practice for a retro style RPG I'm always planning on making using OSRIC, since it's open source and basically AD&D, my favorite rpg system of all time. And I'm not creative enough to come up with an RPG system from scratch, much as I want to create my own CRPG. At least not out the gate. Training wheels first.

... when I first filled screen screen with BIOS 10h paint pixel calls, I found it was very slow... I wondered why??? I had written it in assembly!...

don't you want to use VGA mode 13h, much simpler?

I may, but my target platform is a NuXT, which is basically a slightly suped up IBM XT SBC. Because of the Trident 9000I VGA chip they chose, it's technically capable of VGA. But from everything I've seen, the CPU really can't push the pixels for it. So I want to stick to EGA at least for now.

They crow about how it allows you to more efficiently write to the screen with few calls, and that seems possible in theory.

Planar (bit pane) video modes are actually about fast reads. Not for the CPU, but the hardware on a video card can read the data from multiple vram chips in parallel when outputting to a monitor. 320 x 200 x 4bits x 60Hz was a lot of bandwidth for 80s memory chips.

I kinda get your point, but it's orthogonal on how these bits are presented to CPU. You can use multiple chips without any of this color planes thing. Also, EGA also had 640x350x 4bits mode which would require >64 kb address space if not this trick. CGA which had less memory did not use color planes.

I have my department day today, basically it is like a small one evening fest where at the end people play a bunch of loud music and students dance. Usually just those of your department. I may drink but I stay away from substances usually, should be fun.

Recently, I have been playing the video game Medieval Dynasty. It might be classed as a "survival" game; it certainly stems from that lineage, but the survival is pretty basic. You must drink, but rivers are plentiful. You must eat, but craft a knife from a stone and a stick on the ground, chase down two rabbits, and you're fed for half of the three-day season (Each in-game day is about 30 minutes), and the meter refills on season change anyhow. Occasionally, you run into wolves unprepared. Your stamina bar is depleted from running, you cannot out-run them, and you're mauled to death and sent to the last autosave, ten minutes ago. You quickly learn to save before going out into the wild.

Instead, the main focus is building a village. Select a spot to build a house (each building is templated, not freeform), clear the area, craft or hold a hammer, have the right materials in your inventory (logs from chopping down trees, rocks and sticks from the ground) and hit it enough times for the meter to be filled. Different buildings grant different abilities in a tech-chain (the workshop builds items, the hunter supplies meat, the barn works your farms and so one) and you slowly move from wooden to copper to iron tools, which last longer and take less hits. You invite people into your village; you need a house for each new male or female villager - if you put them together, they are now married and produce exactly two children (unless you built a small house, in which case they produce one). Meanwhile, you need to woo a partner to have your exactly one son, and you must, for eventually you die of old age and play as him. Then, you spend a lot of time on a manager screen with a kind of clunky interface, ensuring you have enough food to feed everyone, and setting tasks for each building each season.

Is it a good game? Not really, it's a waste of time. I frequently have sat, playing on my phone, for 20 minutes waiting for a crafting meter to fill while I cook 160 soups or what-have-you. Vendors have limited funds, so you spend time each season selling your goods, only to become rich quickly and easily. If you're OCD like me, constantly trying to manage where your stuff is versus where your villages put it is aggravating. The game is quite easy, the only real challenge is optimising your day to be the most efficient. The main gameplay loop in that sense is the list of to-do tasks: "first, I'll cook as many of these as I can. Then I must repair my buildings. Oh look, the hunters need new knives, which means I need to go mining - I can stop at the town and sell on the way. I need to harvest before end of season, don't forget, which means I won't have time for this quest".

Yet the game is compelling; I've yet to put it down, with my plans of what to do next in the game frequently being my top thought. I plan for what I'll do years ahead of game time, and I'm constantly chasing after the next thing to do. I'm 88.8 hours in (Fun coincidence!) with half that in the past fortnight. There's some legitimately funny writing, and an optional main quest with a pretty decent storyline. The valley it takes place in has all the beauty you'd expect of the Unreal engine, and its nice to just be there, watching it change each season. There's a sense of creativity, getting your village looking nice and just how you like it, but it's not stifling with possibility, because the options are limited, and you can only do a bit at a time.

If not really a survival game, what shall we compare it to? The obvious answer is Minecraft, but as I've never played Minecraft, I suggest three games I've played recently for contrast: Stardew Valley, Valheim, and Subnautica.

Stardew Valley is the primary exemplar of the "Cozy game". I played Harvest Moon on SNES, I still have my Game Pak, which I bought after saving for weeks and planning on my family's once-a-year shopping excursion from the bush to the city. A little bit of me dies when I see the current fanbase, and how they would spurn me, and how they never would have played the original, but I digress. Stardew Valley was a must-buy, a truly beautiful game, polished and filled with love. I first played it at a difficult time in my life - stuck, alone, in the city, longing for my rural childhood, and the opening scene brought me to actual tears. How I wished my grandfather could have left me a farm! My grandfather was quite a man, and there are stories of him for another time, yet he passed in early elderly years, and my grandmother, becoming too old, had to sell the farm. Yet here was a fantasy of that same life. I made a character who looked like me, made friends and fell in love as I couldn't in real life. Until about 40 hours in, when the stress of trying to optimise for increasingly complex goals sent my anxiety haywire, and I stopped, never to return. I regret it, and look longingly at the game, but I just can't deal with going back. I've made twice that time in Medieval Dynasty, and it is yet to become anxiety-inducing. When I quit, it is more likely to be from boredom from the grind of unlocking new improvements.

Instead, let's compare Valheim. Valheim stole me for 50 hours; I enjoyed the exploration, the planning, the building of my designs (unlike in Dynasty, you can be truly creative with your modular building designs, and some epic designs can be seen online.). The combat added a nice bit of spice to the loop, but then I hit the swamp. The difficulty increase was too big a jump. I was killed far too many times trying to build a small shelter to sleep in near the swamp I'd found, and running back had become just too much of a chore. It felt like I needed to be playing together with friends, and while I HAD friends playing the game, I just wanted to go at my own pace and build my own thing, undisturbed - with combat as a spice, not as a danger. So, I looked at my lovingly crafted longhouse, with its loft bed and outside forges, and the bridges I was so proud of linking the nearby islands, and the small dock I had nearby, and bid them farewell. Nah, I ragequit and uninstalled. The game had made me feel unwelcome as a solo player. Medieval Dynasty is a single-player only game, and one where the threat of danger is minor. It is a peaceful valley.

Another single player only game is Subnautica. An underwater survival game, you must manage your oxygen, food and water meters, much like Dynasty. You build modular buildings, like Dynasty, although there's no management component. The central loop of identifying a crafting material required, going out of your base to go find it, then coming back to build is very familiar to Dynasty. Both games have hand-crafted, not procedural worlds. Yet Medieval Dynasty has no real exploration. The same materials you need are either grown in your village or available pretty much anywhere. There's always trees and stones and sticks nearby, same with herbs. Specific animals to hunt always spawn in the same place, and these places are marked on your map when you encounter them. You need to find one source of reeds early on, a couple of claypit locations, one cave for metal, and learn which village has which shopkeepers (or look in on the wiki, since its 2022 and games are collaborative experiences with the internet now and there's no joy in discovery). Otherwise, there's not much to find, although it is pretty. In contrast, Subnautica is filled with many biomes, and exploring these is the main thrust of the game. Each has different resources to obtain, and different tech blueprints to discover, and soon, you must go into the terrifying deeper waters to get what you need. Subnautica is accidentally a horror game. I loved it, even though I hate horror, and I finished it, but only with my girlfriend holding my hand in the deepest and scariest parts of the ocean.

Cont.

Is it a good game? Not really, it's a waste of time. I frequently have sat, playing on my phone, for 20 minutes waiting for a crafting meter to fill while I cook 160 soups or what-have-you. Vendors have limited funds, so you spend time each season selling your goods, only to become rich quickly and easily. If you're OCD like me, constantly trying to manage where your stuff is versus where your villages put it is aggravating. The game is quite easy, the only real challenge is optimising your day to be the most efficient. The main gameplay loop in that sense is the list of to-do tasks: "first, I'll cook as many of these as I can. Then I must repair my buildings. Oh look, the hunters need new knives, which means I need to go mining - I can stop at the town and sell on the way. I need to harvest before end of season, don't forget, which means I won't have time for this quest".

Yet the game is compelling; I've yet to put it down, with my plans of what to do next in the game frequently being my top thought.

I find the combination of simple, tedious and compelling to be far more worrisome than e.g. infinitely complex, aggravating and compelling.

E.g. as an underemployed adult I spent maybe 6k hours playing Ark: Survival, but at the very least I had to learn to get along with people, improved my English tremendously and learned to "not do it again".

I had read bad things about MMORPGs- people wasting their time on them. "It's not an RPG, it's an FPS and looks cool. Try it out".

Turns out, even if a game is inadvertently designed to be absolutely repulsive to almost everyone (think Valheim, except you are getting randomly invaded by other human players 24x7), it can still be immensely interesting once you find your people in there and start playing as a team.

I love the swamp. So freaking dangerous at first. The first time I found it was a disaster. Got caught in a little bay on a sand bar between a pack of skeletons and a troll, died and lost the boat, too. Then I came in much more carefully, slipped gently in, and the first mob I encountered was a 2 star draugur archer. That was a spicy corpse run. All that to explore a Chile-shaped swamp that did not have a single crypt.

Second run through, co-op with my son, I went nuts and built walking platforms in the sky through the entire swamp we cleared.

Third run through, going as slow and carefully as I want, I have just been using to hoe to flatten it all out. Just got back with my first karve full of iron, and have not died once so far.

Cont. from above

I have always felt a sense of "place" in video games. The levels I've played over and over, I could draw a map, I know the environments. When I got a VR headset, I discovered people had taken places from games I like (such as Zelda: The Ocarina of Time) and imported them, so you could see them in full realisation. It's fantastic. I have the same sense of place in my dreams - I think I always have. Off the main street of my city, go down the stairs that don't exist, there's a bookstore with piles and piles of dusty archives. Across the basement, up the stairs, you're in a street from another city I've been in, and there's another book store here that doesn't exist in real life, this one selling RPG manuals. There's a non-existent game shop on the other side of the city, which sells a non-existent miniature game with inch-scale modern jet fighters in pewter, and I want to play it. But more than the people or events in my dreams, it's the places I remember. I could map them out, if they didn't follow non-euclidean dream logic. Sometimes I return to them in dreams years later.

When I looked at some videos of Medieval Dynasty (since its 2022 and games are collaborative experiences with the internet now and there's no joy in discovery), it was strange seeing the other villages that had been built by other players. You can build your village wherever you like, flat ground notwithstanding (and there's plenty around) - mine is near a lake in a forest. I've slowly clearcut the forest to provide the logs to build it, and it's nice and central to everything, with a great view. Others put theirs on the plains northeast, or in another forest - but all are different. Yet the whole game takes place in the village! So when I remember Mario 64, I remember surfing on a Koopa shell around Bob-omb Battlefield and the slide on Tall Tall Mountain. But when I think back to Medieval Dynasty, I remember my village. I remember running to the other side to get to my barn, farm and animals, then back across the entire thing to get to my smithy. I remember I can go to my storage, get out goods for the kitchen, smithy, workshop, food storage, and tailor, and I can run a clockwise circle around my village and visit those buildings in order. But to another player, the layout will be entirely different.

Have I left a mark on a virtual world that no-one else will ever see? Did the others really play the same game if they never visited the places I did?

I discovered people had taken places from games I like (such as Zelda: The Ocarina of Time) and imported them, so you could see them in full realisation.

Was this in VRChat somewhere? Where can one go to see this?

Steam VR Home Environments on the workshop for Steam VR. Some of them are recreations, and some seem to be ripped from the original game and imported. For example, you can find Zelda's Castle, the lakeside laboratory, Peach's Castle (both inside and out) from Mario 64, and the campfire scene from FFX - it was interesting seeing the varying heights of the characters. You don't notice on a regular screen, but Kimahri Ronso is a huge guy. The environments themselves are static, but its neat to BE in a place you've been in.

I don't know if there's a way to import them into VR chat (I only spent 5 minutes in VR chat) but it seems plausible.

I would recommend Minecraft, given what you've described here. The vanilla game has no serious management ecosystem (villagers are useless idiots you stick in boxes), but Minecolonies adds a very robust one that gives a pretty interesting progression loop. Combat can be involved at start, especially before you have armor or a sufficient area cleared to avoid skeletons finding you, but it pretty quickly reaches the point where most monsters are resources to be harvested rather than challenges to be scaled.

These games fit into a rare category. There's a lot of Civ Builders, ranging from classics like Dwarf Fortress to ZorbaTHut's own work in Rimworld, but they're usually treating the player as an eye in the sky rather than part of the world. There's a lot of Harvest Moon (well, Story of Seasons/Rune Factory-likes), but they're usually not about customizing or varying your world that much -- usually you're limited to changing farm plots and the inside of a house, and maybe a story progression marker. Animal Crossing doesn't even really get that. Games focusing on roving bands like Kenshi or Blade And Mount have even less world customization, even if they have the NPC management bit, and tend to be too high-strung on the combat side. Meanwhile, dedicated Base Builders like ARK, Factorio or Planet Explorers leave the world feeling and being very empty.

Some of that's because meaningful pathfinding AI is hard, and widespread 3d customizable worlds is Hard (so hard, in fact, Subnautica built and then stripped out the system), and mixing those things and then adding meaningful NPCs on top of that is even harder. But it also just feels like a really underexplored space.

And that's a pity, because it's a really fun space.

Some of that's because meaningful pathfinding AI is hard

Could this be resolved in part by having the player design routines for the AI? Like a Minecraft/Dwarf-Fortress/Factorio hybrid thing where you have a colony of NPCs and deformable terrain and you map out what paths you want them to take and what areas to go to for each activity and how to get there. Hand hold the NPC through a daily routine, and then let it copy it and/or adapt based on modular subroutines or something. It would be more effort for the player to have to manage a bunch of stuff every time they changed the terrain, but the player designing the area is going to have a better idea of what they intend than the AI is going to, and if the NPC management and automation was a core part of the gameplay experience and well-fleshed out then it wouldn't be pointless hassle for the player.

It's a solution, and not an unpopular one for games with a heavier RTS inspiration. There are tradeoffs -- having to 'program' the NPCs can get unwieldy if either job complexity or NPC count go too high, for one example, and you generally need to cap path complexity or duration -- but they're not entirely unsolvable ones, especially if NPCs have relatively simple 'complete' paths. It can be difficult as a fit thematically, though, unless your NPCs are intentionally robotic or very habitual, or if you have a lot of NPCs.

Minecolonies tries to compromise by considering workstations (or beds, etc) as automatic waypoints while leaving the option of manually-inserting additional user-defined ones, and then doing path-calculation between those nodes (with some range and other considerations). But this does have its own issues. There's still an absolute mess of special-cases that have to be considered even while expecting players to handle most severe breaks, and a number of annoying and subtle problems that can pop up.

((And there's still some bizarre cases that break it.))

It's the Friday Funk Thread now! Hit me with everything funky that's not James Brown.

Does Rage Against the Machine count?

I’m a big fan of the band Vulfpeck. Here’s some song recommendations to start off with:

  • Cory Wong

  • Disco Ulysses (Instrumental)

  • It Gets Funkier

Have you ever used the platform Mixcloud? When I ran a gym I'd just throw on their mixes for like ten-12 hours a day of funk and classic punk rock depending on the crowd.

This was a solid funk mix, while this is a really unique one.

Have you heard Thundercat? Great 2010s funk, “Them Changes” is prob his most well-known

Are folks here familiar with Scary Pockets? They do a lot of funkified covers, e.g., "Crazy", "I Want It That Way", "Toxic", and many, many others.

Is this funk?

On a more serious note, man, this is one of those games from my childhood that neatly nestled into this one period of time when I was unable to play recent games. I remember looking at it and wanting to play it and thinking that I'd never get a chance to.

But read this description:

It's 1976... a different '76. Stretched out before you are thousands of miles of desert - the American Southwest. The massive engine roars as you slam down the throttle. It's time to get funked up...

You are Groove Champion, auto-vigilante. Your agenda: payback for your dead sister. Your weapon: A 425-horsepower '72 Picard Piranha with two 50-caliber machine guns on the roof and a flamethrower on the side. You're one mean dude in an even meaner ride.

Your name is Groove Champion. How badass is that?

It's on Gog. I'm gonna play this damn game finally.

It's on my to play list as well. Have a hard copy and a stable of vintage machines that could run it. Trying not to distract myself from Xenoblade Chronicles 3 yet though. I really want to try to finish that game before I let my attention wonder.

I really need to set up some way for people to visibly superupvote things.

Most of what immediately comes to mind at the moment is strictly speaking more disco than funk-oriented, but the two genres are very related and you did say "everything funky that's not James Brown", so...

Daft Punk - Give Life Back To Music

Bill Withers - Just The Two Of Us

The Alan Parsons Project - I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You

Parcels - Tieduprightnow

Daft Punk - Fragments Of Time

Earth, Wind & Fire - Boogie Wonderland

All that Daft Punk, and you didn't include "Da Funk"?

I didn't include it because I wanted to stick a little closer to the prompt and that track's straight up electronic/acid house, but yes, it's absolutely fantastic (and is one of the first things that comes to mind when I think "Daft Punk" too).

Regarding Daft Punk in general I'd say anyone who isn't already familiar with their album Discovery should also check out Aerodynamic and Face to Face. Oh, and if anyone has the time, their Alive 2007 live show is very worth a listen (for those who can't take audience sound, here's a pretty good remake of their live show without it).

Thanks for that last link. I hadn't seen that before

Ohh yeah, that's some fly tunes my brother. For those not sure what to do here, Charles Wright has the answer.