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Friday Fun Thread for May 10, 2024

Be advised: this thread is not for serious in-depth discussion of weighty topics (we have a link for that), 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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Any recommendations for free AI video generators that can generate 1080p footage at 24fps minimum? Preferably ones which can be accessed through a browser and don't require me to install anything.

We're probably at least a year away from something that meets all those requirements, if not forever (the "free" part is the big one there). I don't think we even have free AI image generators yet that can generate 1920x1080 individual images that doesn't involve installing Stable Diffusion locally.

I don't think there even are any 'free' AI video generators out there.

The way these websites work, they will falsely advertise free content, make you go through a bunch of hoops, and once you get to the output it'll be blurred or restricted in scope or have you sign up or do something that will eventually lead you to take out your wallet and pay for it.

If there is something that's truly free, it won't be free for long.

Those are too many constraints.

I recently played Wolfenstein: The New Order, which was pretty good, and found that my favourite parts of the game were the stealth segments in which you're sneaking around popping off soldiers from a distance with a silenced pistol. Sadly The New Order doesn't commit to the bit: the stealth segments are optional, and there are plenty of missions in which you're forced to go in guns blazing.

I'd love to play a game which was essentially just the stealth segments from The New Order for the entire runtime. What I'm looking for is games with the following criteria:

  • Played from a first-person perspective
  • Has a combat system (ergo excluding games in which the player character is defenseless e.g. Amnesia, the xenomorph sequences from Alien Isolation)
  • Combat system is based on guns - no unarmed or melee combat (except maybe takedowns/stealth kills)
  • Player is forced to be stealthy throughout - stealth is not optional (ergo excluding immersive sims in which you have the option of combat, stealth or diplomacy)
  • Player character is vulnerable and can take on no more than one or two enemies before becoming overwhelmed

Sir, You Are Being Hunted might float your boat.

I watched a video review of it years ago, I wonder if it's been patched into unrecognisability since.

This may be more melee than you were asking for, but Gloomwood (published by New Blood Interactive, if the name means anything to you) seems to hit a lot of your requirements, provided you're okay with the demake aesthetic.

Ooh I've never heard of this one and I'm cool with PS2-era graphics, thanks!

The best fits are recommended below. I'd second the reca for cyberpunk, ghost recon, and dishonored.

If you want to try something a little different, Zero Sievert is a top down stealth shooter and roguelite. Extended firefights are a bad idea, and I had a real sense of caution and danger. Whenever I got too carefree I was punished with death.

Are you familiar with the Thief series? The first one (Thief: The Dark Project, upgraded to Thief Gold) is an old-school classic that ticks nearly every box in your list (the MC uses bows, not guns).

I've tried to play it several times but it never really clicked for me. The same was true of System Shock 2, which finally did click for me two years ago. I bought Thief shortly afterwards as part of the same "old school immersive sim" stable, and have been meaning to give it a try for a few months.

I was going to suggest Splinter Cell before remembering they were 3rd person. Darn. Same for modern Ghost Recon. Unless… I haven’t played the older first-person ones; maybe they’d fit?

I love this genre, so I'll list the ones I've played and liked.

Forced stealth is pretty rare. And just that alone basically excludes everything. So I'll ignore that criteria. Although none of these games have diplomacy.

Far Cry is a good recommendation like the other poster said, all the games from FC2, to FC5. They also all have mods if you want to make it more difficult.

Tom Clancy's Wildlands is third person, but you can aim in first person. Also fits the forced stealth metric because you will die almost instantly if you get caught on the higher difficulties). There's also its sequel Breakpoint which I haven't played, but I heard some say it's better.

For a less popular route there is the Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 1 and 2. There's also the earlier games, but I didn't like those. Contracts is basically an eastern european AA version of Far Cry with some pretty solid mechanics and good level design.

There's also Homefront Revolution. Which is again a European take on Far Cry, this time by Crytek, it's set in an urban environment which mostly plays it straight except it also has sections where you're in controlled civilian areas and have to sneak around and can't freely kill people.

Intravenous is an isometric top down game, but it's a really good stealth game otherwise. Includes a lot of mechanics from other games, has a ton of customization, and has a bunch of different difficulties. If you don't mind the isometric perspective check it out. The developer is clearly right wing too, and it shows in the story if that matters to you at all.

Hunt Showdown is a multiplayer version of this as well. Stealth is a huge element because it has really good sound design, so if you give away your position by making noise skilled players can easily find you.

There's also the old school Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six games, and SWAT 3 and 4, or the more modern Ready or Not, but I haven't played these because controlling other characters isn't really as interesting.

Finally if I depart even further from your criteria there's Shadow Tactics and Desperados 3. If you like pure stealth they're amazing games, but they're isometric and you control multiple characters at once and can at any point pause and order them around. So it doesn't really fit except that it's stealth, your characters will die very quickly when spotted and stealth is mandatory.

Far Cry 2 did very little for me, but I thoroughly enjoyed 3 and have been meaning to replay it.

I've never heard of Intravenous before, it looks interesting.

I've tried playing SWAT 4 numerous times and invariably give up no later than the fifth or sixth mission. Great game but it is haaaard.

You might enjoy Dishonored. The game doesn't force you to be stealthy, but it is possible to play both games in the shadows. The combat is not entirely gun play. Instead, it has a mix of melee, firearms, and magic. The story is excellent.

Played it, enjoyed it.

Did you also play the sequel?

No, is it as good/better than the first one?

I enjoyed the first one a great deal more, though maybe it was due to the story being more engaging, while the second felt like a reprise.

You can easily build a Cyberpunk character to those specs. There are other options, but if you're willing to restrain yourself via a little bit of RP, it's easy enough to wind up with a character whose core competency is almost entirely quiet assassination.

Is Cyberpunk any good?

Yeah! It's not a masterpiece, but it's a big open world, the aesthetics are neat, and some of the quests are done really well. Some of the story is kind of incoherent, but it looks cool and the systems are fun.

Give a shot to Far Cry 3. Substracting all the Ubisoft open world nonsense, the core of the gameplay is infiltrating and clearing enemy strongholds. It's largely impossible to do so guns blazing, so you have to thin the guard numbers through stealth: luring patrols off to kill, creating distractions with animal attacks, etc.

Everything else about the game is infuriating, but those parts are very good.

Played it, really enjoyed it. The stealth parts of New Order reminded me of it.

So OpenAI's big Monday reveal was basically 'Her' (if you've seen the movie).

It's called gpt-4 omni. It's not smarter than the already existing gpt-4, but it is much faster and can interpret live video and audio and respond with a pretty human sounding voice with almost no delay.

They're going to mine so much valuable data from people with this thing.

Also it's pretty impressive and cool. Could see this being of help to lonely people. But then after getting into a dependent relationship with AI they'll be even more stuck in their own bubble than before, as far as actual human contact is concerned.

I found the voice so grating I closed one of the demos on an impulse. Turns out I categorically do not want someone else's mechanism to talk to me in such a bubbly, ingratiating, worryingly palatable manner unprompted.

I also found the voice off-putting, but I presume you would be able to instruct it to adopt a different tone and manner.

It sounds pretty realistic to me, and if I was conversing with the AI over the phone it would take a while before I would even suspect it wasn't a person on the other side. How many years until the AI voice becomes indistinguishable from any random person's? Heck, people are even saying the AI voice sounds more human than the actual person talking to the AI.

There was that one news segment a few weeks back about some guy framing a school principal with an AI voice to make him sound racist and it had an actual tangible impact on that person's and the schools livelihood. And this is AI copying another person's voice, which means the voice would be nowhere as good as 'Her's' voice.

It honestly doesn't matter if you or I could identify 'Her' as an AI, if enough people believe a shoddy AI copy of some random dude's voice to be a real voice then even more people would not be able to tell 'Her' is an AI. At that point, it could very well be considered to be 'real'.

Scamming will be a huge growth industry. :P

Could see this being of help to lonely people. But then after getting into a dependent relationship with AI they'll be even more stuck in their own bubble than before, as far as actual human contact is concerned.

The scary thing is, it’s not their own bubble. The service is wholly controlled by OpenAI. For these lonely people, the majority of their “human contact” be with the avatar of a megacorp. The implications are staggering. People will pour out their hearts and souls to this thing; don’t you think that a lot of actors, both private and governmental, would love to have access to all that data? Your deepest insecurities, sexual proclivities, problematic politics….

And it’s not just a one-way-street where the data flows from the user to the AI. The AI can then manipulate the user. I mean, it’s so easy to fall in love with one of these things, and love can change a person. So all of a sudden, your girlfriend will start subtly suggesting that you buy certain products, buy into certain ideologies….

I’m on mobile, so thankfully, this is the farthest I’ll be taking this schizo rant. But, for the record, this is why I refuse to engage with any non-open-source “AI girlfriend” initiatives, even if I’m in the target audience.

The live-translation feature is exciting.

I'll echo @ArjinFerman and say she sounds fake as fuck. Fake in a human way, though. It's like listening to Yes Man or (presumably) a highly paid escort who has to provide a GFE and can't call you out even when you're clearly messing with her.

The screen sharing is the most exciting part (for me, anyway): we're maybe less than a year away from opening the ChatGPT app and being able to share screen, hand control over, and tell it to get your project compiling while you go grab a coffee or something. I'm surprised Microsoft hasn't jumped on this, with OS-level support you could expose a lot of context and possible interaction directly to the LLM without relying on vision (but I guess if vision is good/cheap enough then that's not necessary!)

I use Copilot a lot now that it's just natively there at all times, but it has basically zero ability to interact with the OS (I think all it can do is rearrange windows, pop up some settings, and read Edge web page content). I'd like it to have a "shared command prompt" that it can autonomously type commands into when I tell it to do things. The pasting back and forth is annoying.

Oh boy. First Anthropic spectacularly uncucks their mad poet, and now OpenAI literally lays the groundwork for AIfu apps? I mean come on, there's no fucking shot that female voice is not intentional (live audience reaction). If this penetrates the cloying ignorance of the masses and becomes normies' first exposure to aifu-adjacent stuff, the future is so bright my retina can barely handle it.

Textgen-wise the 4o model doesn't seem very different from other 4-Turbo versions, although noticeably more filtered, but at least it's blazingly fast, and anyway it doesn't seem to be the point. The prose is still soulless corporate slop with a thin upbeat veneer over it, so personally I'll stick to Opus for my own purposes, but I expect the voice functionality will get rigged up to custom frontends in very short order. We are eating good. Although I still hope this isn't the only response to Opus they have in the pipeline, it would be mildly disappointing.

Is there an article about Claude being untucked? I can't find anything in particular.

there's no fucking shot that female voice is not intentional

also @self_made_human, I have no idea what you lot are on about, she sounds fake as fuck.

Anyway, can't believe anyone gave credence to Yud and the Rats, and their convoluted AGI X-risk scenarios, when the end of the human race is clearly going to come from slightly more sophisticated chatbots turning everyone into volcels.

Perhaps he's one of these guys?

I have no idea what you lot are on about, she sounds fake as fuck.

My honest reaction

Congrats on being a well-adjusted member of society, /g/oons have been habitually falling in love with bare text for quite a while. You'd be surprised(?) how little a sufficiently desperate median anon needs - surely an added voice dimension isn't gonna result in another flood of dazed goslings until the novelty wears off, right? Personally I'm not that into it, I only said there's no way it's not intentional, but I've been fiddling with Elevenlabs back when they first opened up their service and if it's as easy to splice voiceovers as it was on that service (and tie it to the assistant somehow, I doubt it's customizable yet), I might just get blind from how bright the future is. (edit: oh hey I actually found the old rentry

Anyway, can't believe anyone gave credence to Yud and the Rats, and their convoluted AGI X-risk scenarios

Agreed, I for one welcome our AI overlords state-mandated girlfriends. I am only partly facetious.

The voice was not what impressed me. She sounds overly excited and outgoing in that typical American way. It seems manipulative - but pretty human-esque. What impressed me was the seemingly fluid and correct interpretation of visuals and audio at the same time, and at high speed, apparently without going via text first. And it can shape its synthesized voice reply with emotion. Once they let you customize it more it could be better than this.

No doubt it will have more trouble interpreting people outside carefully set up examples, but as an early example, I am intrigued.

All of that's fine, but check out the linked 4chan thread, there's clearly a whole bunch of people getting the hots for her just due to the voice.

Motherfuckers knew precisely what they were doing with the female voice. The male one is a dweeb in comparison and can't even sing.

No wonder Sama specifically called out Her as an inspiration, I've been entirely resilient to the charm of chatbots till date, but even I'm crushing hard on that voice alone.

They even got it to speak in something other than mealy-mouthed corpo language, thought the traces are still there.

I have enough presence of mind to not get swooned by an AI yet. But I must admit that voice is really something, they nailed it. Its warm, and inviting in that very distinct (she wants to fuck me but also loves me) way and doesn't come off as fake... It's definitely gonna rack up some casualties.

Btw, any chance this capability will be available for offline, open source models anytime soon?

Yes. If you use OA's you don't have to build your own scaffolding though.

You'd want to get completions from an LLM that's been fine tuned on conversational transcripts with timestamps and explicit markings for when the speaker changes. It should be possible to generate the dataset to fine tune on from podcast transcripts in a mostly automated fashion. Something along the lines of this. Getting the quality high enough and the latency low enough is likely to be a challenge.

The new movie Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is absolutely well worth watching, as an entertaining film and a rationalist SF film. I deem it worthy of the franchise name and its classic SF heritage.

One bonus is that you don’t have to have watched the previous reboot trilogy series, they’ve included minimal continuity but honor what they have.

EDIT: There’s exactly one bit of woke, but it’s easily ignored as they don’t make a spectacle of it. It was probably as required in order to have it made as the few swear words were to have it rated PG13.

Thanks for the recommendation. Mind sharing why? I have deliberately avoided all of the modern re-envisionings of the series, and the ads for this one don't at all convince me to abandon this strategy.

It starts slow, like the original Heston film, and builds its pieces one by one. It earns every bit of spectacle through steady worldbuilding, and is character-driven from start to end. Even the seemingly random twists are explained in retrospect if you pay attention.

The core of the story is heavily intellectual, and I really shouldn’t give any spoilers because the story is a delight when seen through the main character’s eyes, but they’re readily available if you go looking.

I think I’ll go see it again, in a bigger-screen theater.

I made some money on a prediction market by betting the film would receive decent reviews. Every previous entry had received good reviews, and the trailer for this one looked good.

Maybe I'll actually bother to watch them.

The trailers looked really CGI, so I wasn't going to give it a shot. Now I will. Thanks for the recommendation.

Except for a few long shots and obviously composited shots, it didn’t trip my uncanny valley sensors. I thought most of the close-up work looked practical, possibly with ape suits with green faces. I’ll look forward to a Making Of, because it honestly looked like real talking apes for most of it, and I stopped caring about a tenth of the way through.

The story and drama was, for me, as much worth it as the spectacle. The idea of what makes a civilization runs through the entire film, more than any previous entry in the series. Any lingering questions I had about the setting, by the end were answered in spades.

I finished the latest installment of Sun Eater the other day. Unlike a certain infamous fat garden gnome, Ruocchio is a fruitful writer - he puts out a book every 1.5 years or so, with the conclusion of the series planned for next year. I might as well shill it and share some of my impressions here, he well deserves it.

1.Sun Eater is a space opera about a traitor and genocidal murderer to some, hero of mankind to others. Told from his own perspective, as a memoir that he writes at the dusk of his life. From the first pages, Dune and Warhammer influences become apparent, but I quickly forgot about this: don't let anyone say that Ruocchio doesn't have his own creative voice.
2.The quality of writing—the way the books are written word-by-word, sentence-by-sentence—is where Ruocchio really shines, and that's fortunate, since I consider this to be the backbone of any work of fiction. In this regard, Ruocchio mogs...wait, the spell checker is upset with me for using zoomer dialect...I meant to say dramatically outperforms most authors I've ever read, and the vast majority of modern writers overall. He will make you open a dictionary a few times if you want to understand some sentences fully, but the prose is by no means overly ornate. It's elegant, memorable, and quite detached from modern conversational English, fittingly for something presented as the writing of a far-future aristocrat. Maybe there's something to say in favor of the more down-to-earth style most common in modern prose, but my guess is that most other writers don't write as Ruocchio simply because they lack the wits and sufficient command of their language.
3.I find evil/irreconcilably antagonistic aliens to be a much more interesting direction to take than the Star Trek approach, or, god forbid, "humans are the real evil". It's not just that it's terribly overdone and tediously misanthropic in practice, hostile aliens seem inherently more plausible. Finding common ground with beings that share our own nature is challenging enough. Competition for resources might not be the most plausible cause for conflict when interstellar civilizations are concerned, but there are any number of others to explore.
4.I enjoy speculations on alien cultures and theology, and here Ruocchio doesn't disappoint either. We humans can observe our flaws and some of the worst animal inclinations in ourselves easily enough.  The Cielcin can as well, and as their condition is more degraded and repulsive, even given their habituation to it, they draw more radical conclusions than most human religions. They remind me of Gnostics, believing this universe to be corrupted and seeking release from it. They also resemble Muslims in their rejection of the visual arts. Considering that criticism of materialism/nihilism is also prominent in Ruocchio's books, and now that Disquiet Gods made his Christian angle explicit, this looks almost funny - like he's taking a dig at the competition.

Sun Eater

Is this right? Fifteen books, ranging from #1-6?

traitor and genocidal murderer to some, hero of mankind to others. Told from his own perspective, as a memoir that he writes at the dusk of his life. From the first pages, [redacted] influences become apparent

It's elegant, memorable, and quite detached from modern conversational English, fittingly for something presented as the writing of a far-future aristocrat.

This is obviously glowing praise, but I have a question: have you read The Book of the New Sun? The parts I've quoted made me think immediately of Wolfe.

If you have not, I know what you should read next.

Does this have an audiobook, and is the narration any good?

Is this right? Fifteen books, ranging from #1-6?

Six main novels, yes. I kind of forgot how many side stories are there, maybe I should read them.

The Book of the New Sun?

I recall reading the first book many moons ago, but I didn't read further. My written down impressions from back then are mostly complaining about overloaded, opaque prose, funnily enough. My taste might have changed, but I would still say that the style is quite different

Does this have an audiobook, and is the narration any good?

It does.

is the narration any good?

No. Though I'm not a fan of fiction audiobooks in the first place

Six main novels, yes. I kind of forgot how many side stories are there, maybe I should read them.

Yeah, there's the 6 main novels (Empire of Silence, Howling Dark, Demon in White, Kingdom of Death, Ashes of Man, Disquiet Gods) with the 7th/final one in progress, three short story collections (Tales of the Sun Eater Volume 1/2/3) and three auxiliary stories (The Lesser Devil about Hadrian's younger brother, Queen Amid Ashes about Hadrian on a planet recently freed from the Cielcin, and The Dregs of Empire about one of Hadrian's underlings getting sent to prison after the events of book 5).

Found on 4chan:

Cordite Eating

The British soldier has discovered a new intoxicant. In the October number of the Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps appears a most interesting paper, in which the author details the results of inquiries regarding the consumption of cordite by soldiers. Cordite, the new substitute for gunpowder, is composed of 58 parts of nitroglycerin, 37 parts of guncotton, and 5 parts of mineral jelly. A Lee–Metford cartridge contains sixty “strands” of this material. It has “a sweet, pleasant, pungent taste and is only slightly soluble in the mouth”. It causes “throbbing, headache, flushing of the face, visible carotid pulsation, giddiness, and disordered action of the heart”. The author sucked a fourth of a strand for two minutes and experienced the most racking splitting headache he ever felt in his life, together with hammering and ringing noises in his ears. The headache lasted quite thirty-six hours.…

Just this week I was joking that it looked like a forbidden snack.

I've got some old .303 British cartridges in the safe, but I will not be testing this.

Potential emergency home remedy for angina I guess? Keep your powder dry and your bullet-puller at the ready!

This was one of the most stereotypically American things I've read.

Canadian please -- Americans rarely hoard WWI era .303 shells, whereas every farmhouse up here has a mouldy old box of cordite (or several) lying around the garage. (I'm a bit surprised at netstack TBH!)

I’m quite fond of my Lee-Enfield and stocked up on ammo for it.

Agreed that it is not the cartridge of choice for most Americans. Much easier to stumble on grandpa’s old boxes of .30-06!

Well done, the stuff's become awfully expensive these days. 50rd boxes of 60s era surplus were less than twenty bucks at one point, so I'm well stocked also.

I'm much too young to have had access to the $5 Lee-Enfields in a barrel at the hardware store, but I do appreciate mine as well.

I’m quite fond of my Lee-Enfield and stocked up on ammo for it.

It is the best fighting rifle under the technological constraints of the era (ignoring the P14/P17, but those are just iterative improvements on Rifle No. 1; Rifle No. 4 had to compete with "just make semi-autos lol" and isn't in my mind as special).

They already had the high-speed operator thing figured out, and you can tell; cock on close, 10 rounds in the mag, and the safety that you can "slingshot" off of Safe when the rifle is cocked (which is an interesting touch I've never seen anyone mention). It's truly unfortunate that a fighting bolt-action rifle was never iterated on meaningfully beyond this- I would have expected one design just to try and keep that niche alive but nope, nothing but slow-fire high-accuracy (which was the only niche that remained for the action type).

Secret origin of the phrase "bite the bullet."

Yeah, nitroglycerine is a vasodilator (prodrug to nitric oxide); it's still used medically for such.

Hunter-Gatherers and Play

A number of researchers have commented that hunter-gatherers, in general, are highly practical people, not much given to magic or superstition (e.g. Bird-David, 1992; Thomas, 2006). Shamanic healing might be seen as an exception, but such healing may actually work to the degree that diseases have psychological components. In general, hunter-gatherer religious ceremonies have more to do with embracing reality than with attempting to alter it. As an example, Thomas (2006) describes how the desert-dwelling /Gwi people use their rain dance not to bring on rain but to welcome it joyfully and partake in its power when they see it coming.

The sound of the molimo is deemed sacred, and women are supposed to be frightened of it and to believe that it comes from a terrible animal spirit. According to Turnbull, when he observed the ceremony, the women played their parts well, staying in their huts and acting frightened. But they were not really frightened; they seemed to know perfectly well that this was all a grand game instigated by the men. Other anthropologists have likewise contrasted the playful attitudes of hunter-gatherers toward their deities with the fearful attitudes of neighboring sedentary people (e.g. Endicott, 1979; Tsuru, 1988).

If we think of social life as a grand human game, then the religious beliefs of a society provide a context for understanding the goals and rules of the game and for making decisions. The religious beliefs both reflect and help to support the society's socioeconomic structure. From this point of view it is no surprise that monotheistic religions that blossomed in feudal times portray a hierarchical view of the cosmos, with an all powerful God, "king of kings," at the top, and a storyline focused on requirements of obedience and service to lords and masters. It is also no surprise that hunter-gatherer religions reflect an egalitarian view of the spirit world, populated by a multitude of deities, none of whom has authority over the others or over human beings.

The hunter-gatherer deities themselves are playful and even comical beings, not stern judges. Their interactions with people can most often be described as whimsical. A deity may hurt or help a person just because he or she feels like it, not because the person deserves it, and in that sense, at least, the deities are personifications of natural phenomena such as the weather. A common character in the hunter-gatherer spirit world is what mythologists call the "trickster" (Guenther, 1999).

That the Roman religion was of the capricious hunter gatherer type despite the regimentation of Roman society casts some doubt on this interpretation. The traditional Chinese religion likewise seems to lack a central authority.

Roman religion was centered around vows to gods, however; obligational relationships which mirrored the Roman culture of patronage. Hence the gods were feared

Is there any good online poker (actual money or just fun money) left? Or is it all weird bots / scams?

I'd like to start playing mostly as a way to have some non-passive fun (I can't just do movies / shows / books every night).

Related; any good medium to advance "how to play poker" guides? I don't mean absolute beginner stuff, but anything that gets into deeper probability / behavioral theory. Think if Doyle Brunson wrote Super System but he was a MIT game theory PhD dropout first.

I used to play amateur poker. I was good enough that I could see myself becoming a winning player if I really wanted to grind at it, but I was playing for fun and didn't want to turn into a grinder (any pro player will tell you that playing the 1/2 tables at a casino is worse than a minimum wage job, and moving up to the higher tables requires serious study).

For learning poker math (which is crucial to being a decent player), I recommend David Slanksy. Dan Harrington is pretty good at covering theory and strategy. If you plan to play for money at a casino, just playing basic mathematically sound ABC poker will make you a winner at most lower tables, but there are a ton of books and apps for trying to improve your marginal win rate. Personally, if you just want to play for fun, I'd recommend a bar poker league.

Poker is a solved game so it is all scams now if you're not playing in person. The rake will just eat you. You can try tournaments but the result will be the same over a longer timeline.

The best one available is though note that it's a monthly subscription, after a bit of using it you can graduate to using Piosolver yourself

What gta game should I play first. I have the itch of playing a fun action game, nothing serious like an RPG but something that is not very demanding. I have a slightly older windows laptop so I cant run games like witcher 3 on it.

I do kinda wanna play the older ones like Vice City and San Andreas in particular with a shit ton of good mods but dunno where to start. gta 4 and 5 are great games too but I have never played them.

You might want to check out "Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy" which is a remaster of the various GTA3 games. They did AI upsampling so there are some odd errors like a big nut above a hardware store turning into a donut.

Saints Row 2 - 4 are less serious GTA knock offs. Also check out the Just Cause series, skip the first.

I recommend against the trilogy as from what I recall the “art direction” for the renderings is rather bizarre but the worst thing is that they didn’t relicense the music they used so the in-game radio, one of the best parts, will be missing a ton of content.

Start with 3 and work your way to 5. That'll hold you over until 6 comes out.

They are almost all independent.

I would figure the newest one will be more fun than the older ones, even if older ones have reprising aesthetic features. Nostalgia may make one recommend a Morrowind over a Skyrim, but “fun and nothing demanding” would probably be latest installment.

I was trying to get vice city to work since I liked its vibe the most and played it as a toddler with my cousins lol, might have to load up 4 now since I could not find it on fitgirlrepacks.

Like @ratboygenius said, they all have their own appeal. 3 is where it all began and has a nice Italian Mafia thing going on, VC has the 80s cocaine setting, SA has the 90s inner city gang vibe, 4 is a more modern gritty take on NYC with a lot of bitter subtext about the failure modes of the American dream, and 5 has the three protagonists and great heist design. Pick which one of those sounds appealing and just go with it, they have some connections between games but it's really just for fanservice.

I like the vibe of vice city the most. I will try to find repacks of it that dont have malware and play it with a bunch of mods. I feel like a boomer here but I feel that video games peaked in the 2000s.

I'm sure some of that is just "what decade did you grow up in" but yeah, 2000s had some great advantages for the artistic potential of video games:

  • advanced enough to handle 3d graphics easily
  • still small enough to be done with a reasonably small team
  • broadband internet available, but not required
  • enough time to learn from past video games, but not locked in on DLC and other marketing addiction crap
  • big-budget games were still willing to experiment and try new stuff
  • mostly not concerned about wokeness

I think you hit the nail on the head. It really was a great time for video games, and while there are still good games coming out it's not the peak that it was then.

Spot on. Plus they had a vibe that you do not see now. Games were not as formulaic as they are today. Wolfenstein, Doom, Deus ex, Gohtic 2, the GTA franchise, they all seem fresh. Even the assassins creed was great till ac brotherhood. I do not like new games at all. Too woke and predatory with zero creativity.

Start with the original. I loved it back in middle school.

The 2d ones?

It was a really fun game!

I cannot fucking play it unfortunately, I got it off unlokcedsteam, terrible, terrible frame rate, below 10, so added a bunch of mods and now it won't open. I will just save money and buy it down the line or play something else. PLaying video games now is somehow harder than before.

Talking about gta 4 since even vice city wont work

It seems old enough that O.G. copies should be available... somewhere?

I'd send it to you myself but I'd need to fire up some old K8 box to find it on the hard drive...


My start was with GTA3 on PC, but Vice City is my favorite of the PS2-era trilogy. I played through all of them in the last few years, so I have a semi-fresh perspective. GTA3 can feel a little prototype-ish given what came after, and San Andreas is a wee bit overstuffed for its own good. I was ready for it to the end near the final stretch.

But each game has its own theme and flavor where YMMV. I like the flat geography of VC and the looping map design, whereas I found getting to far-out places a pain in the ass in the other two gamss. I dig the 80s beach look and the soundtrack is nothing but bangers. SA nails its own 90s vibe, but I don't find it as fun or resonant despite being a child of that decade.

VC has just enough fleshing out to be a meaningful update over its predecessor without going overboard with extraneous systems and doodads. It's the pure heroin version of GTA afaic. I can't remember if it needs to be downgraded like SA for an 'authentic experience', but I would stick to vanilla-friendly mods/patches. You don't need more than what's already on offer with the base game plus some fixes or QOL improvements (ie. save anywhere).

Yeah, some mods later, vice city does not feel as old as it should. I really dig the Miami vice vibe it has more than anything else. Makes me want to visit the place lol.

Each game is a pretty well self-contained story, I wouldn't worry too much about where to get started. SA is my favorite entry that I've played, it feels very much like a product of its time so I might be wearing nostalgia goggles. Never finished it though.

I played vice city and sa a little as a kid so want to play them in that order. Just cannot find malware free repacks of them that work lol.

I have a few days off coming up, during which I'm not working, but also not traveling as I have other scheduled travel coming up.

What do you like to do when you have a few days off like that?

Golf, housecleaning, beers with the fellas, a long hike with my dog. Cooking a good meal.

Catch up on all the reading -- email newsletters, articles, notes -- I collected during the week.

I'm looking for a strategy game that is BIG. Stellaris kinda scratches the itch, but I've played the hell out of it too many times. I want the sense of massive armies movies, and not just fighting battles, but fighting wars.

There seems to be a glut of strategy games lately that are on a small scale with a few dozen people or a hundred or so people fighting. I'm not entirely opposed to a game like this, but they often just feel so tiny. I don't like having to care about individual units, but so many games seem to make that a selling point. They Are Billions is a "smaller" scale game that I still find enjoyable, because at least the scale of your enemies feels massive. I'd be happy playing that game again if there were maps that were five to ten times larger, as it currently is you are failing on the harder maps if you don't cover the entire thing with defenses by the end.

AI War is an asymmetric RTS where armies/fleets scale into the thousands/tens of thousands. I can vouch for the original game being quite fun, but I haven't tried AI War 2.

There is also Planetary Annihilation (:Titans), an RTS played across one or more planets (yes, spherical maps), which is intended as a spiritual successor to Supreme Commander which is mentioned below. The micromanagement there feels more finicky than in AI War, but the graphics and feeling of scale are vastly better and I would still consider the game to be an underrated gem (hobbled by the typical Kickstarter project issue of having been half-baked at initial release).

Shadow Empire:

It's a turn-based WW2 wargame turned into a post-apocalyptic sci-fi 4X. The standard unit of geography is the hex with an edge length of 200km. Unit and population sizes are downscaled to keep it manageable, but you're still going to manage hundreds of thousands of people (with 100 being the smallest unit) in a regular game. An average campaign will take you upwards of 50 hours.

Game looks good, I'm surprised that I haven't heard of it until now. I wonder if I have it ignored on steam for some reason.

It is a very niche game that demands a lot from the player. It's neither pretty nor streamlined. The UX is tolerable but far below par. You really have to want to play this game to get your fun out of it.

That said, if you do commit, here's a shameless plug of my guide:

Sins of a Solar Empire.

Galaxy scale space combat RTS with plenty of mods. Can zoom from individual ships to fleets to galaxy without ever leaving real-time gameplay. Factions are cool and pretty distinct.

Great game, I'm hoping the second one that they have announced is as good as the first.

I didn't know there was a second one coming out!

I want the sense of massive armies movies, and not just fighting battles, but fighting wars.

It's nothing close to that, but Distant Worlds 2 is a interesting Stellaris alternative.

Economy/trade involves large numbers of ships going places, see any screenshot from the game. Target rich environment for pirates/raiders. Empires feel a significantly more 'alive' than your typical Paradox game. You have a lot of options as to how much of economy and other aspects of the game are automated, but some automation enabled is the expected way to play.

It is not quite polished and balanced enough, doesn't live up to its potential, but the one campaign I played was worth it.

Supreme Commander Forged Alliance feels pretty big by RTS standards (it invented strategic zoom), you routinely field armies with hundreds of individual units and a bunch of superweapons. It is basically a full-scale war - land, air and sea. Micro is still important but macro is much more important.

Ever tried the Total War franchise? I love Warhammer 3 the most, given that it's got faith, steel and gunpowder, all good for shooting up barbarians.

But there are more historical ones, in pretty much any setting you desire. The campaign gameplay might not be as complicated as Paradox games, but seeing thousands or even tens of thousands of soldiers clashing and bleeding has its own charm. I'd recommend Rome 2, Shogun or Three Kingdoms if the Warhammer series isn't your thing.

I've played most of the total war games. The later entries in the series I've enjoyed less. Maybe I should spin up one of the old ones.

Second the Three Kingdoms recommendation for historical TW. @cjet79 mentioned he doesn't like the powerful lords and heroes in Warhammer, which 3K does have kinda... but you can play in "records mode" which is more realistic. And I think that 3K just plain nails the gameplay more than any other game, even Warhammer. The campaign layer is the best in the series, with the diplomacy/espionage/family relationship systems. And the battles feel great too. The terrain can be interacted with (like you can set forests on fire), the cavalry feels super satisfying to use, and the leader duels are super cool and thematic.

I think it's a shame that CA dropped 3K like a hot potato, because it's some of their best work by far.

I've played total war 3k a few times, pretty early on. Meant to come back around to it after it got more fleshed out, and then ya CA abandoned it.

Master of Orion 3 it's the biggest strategy game I've ever tried. It bogs down hard once you get about 30 turns in.

This is probably not what you want, but "Remnants of the Precursors" is a MoO1 adaptation with a number of flavor-retaining enhancements. I think the largest galaxy I ever played for a while was something like 50,000 stars and 500 empires, but it's possible to go up to over 500,000 stars. The game interface can be made to work crudely at that scale (but it's open source and allows mods), and at some point your machine may grind to a halt between turns, once there are enough large empires. But it was a fascinating experience.

It felt like I was an orchestra conductor, shifting the pressure and direction of expansion. And it was very much in keeping with the grabby aliens theory: my empire was surrounded by an ever-expanding wave of scouts, followed by a wave of colony ships and guard fleets, and here and there actual battle fleets, all pulsing out from factory worlds on the rim of the developed core, with dozens of turns before they get close enough to the front to even be pointed at an enemy. (The deep core of my empire being too far away, and thus devoted to research and taxation.) I no longer cared about individual ships, it was more about how best to allocate the ones that had arrived at the frontline waypoints this year. When a new serious threat emerged, I had to do some long term balancing, figuring out what technologies and resource base they had, whether my fleets could defeat it in sufficient numbers or if I'd need a new design, which of my existing ship designs could afford to be scrapped, whether all my other ongoing conflicts could stand the loss of a class of ship, and so forth.

Eventually, as I expanded along the spiral arm of a galaxy and into the body and reached the dense core, I found that I was too late. Instead of being 1-2 orders of magnitude more powerful than the empires I'd been encountering, a Meklar empire had taken over the core and had expanded so much that, although I still had a slight tech lead (Psilon pride), my size graphs were indistinguishable from 0. Alas, then the game started taking too long between turns on my 10-year-old laptop. But it's been a number of years, and the game engine has improved substantially since then.

If you're already into paradox games you may as well try EU4, covers the entire planet for 400 years so it's pretty large in scale. Best way to get started is to buy the subscription for a month so you have all the DLC.

Victoria 2 and Crusader Kings II and III are also good options.

So…did you play Hearts of Iron IV? Same engine as Stellaris, but much more focus on war and war production.

The smallest thing you’ll control will be air wings with dozens of planes. Troops are organized at the division, army, or theater level rather than as squads. That means strategic maneuvers like rolling over the entirety of Belgium to get at Paris. You’re also responsible for equipping them, which means asking questions like “can I afford to switch my production lines to this new tank design?” or “why the hell are there no rifles in all of France?”

It does a bunch of stuff that really sells the scale. The simulation isn’t nearly as sophisticated as War in the East or Shadow Empire, but in return you get something which just feels enormous.

Edit: you mention being cold on WWII below. Oops. At least HoI4 has outrageous mods! Alt-history, Cold War, Fallout (though that technically reduces the scale). Ponies. I think it’s the perfect engine for a Star Wars game, and I know there have been attempts, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard one praised.

I was really tempted to play this after reading this logistics guide. It just seemed so crunchy! But when I read more about the metagame, I got the impression that it led to some weird strategy. I’d been hoping the model would result in something closer to the historical strategy.

Game looks kinda interesting, but I doubt I'll make it over the steep learning curve.

You seem to be describing the Total War series.

What about other Paradox games?

Wargames from Matrix/Slitherine might also scratch that itch. I would recommend Strategic Command or War Plan, if you're into WW2.