Beautiful Sky

Saw this on my walk this morning. Just wanted to share. Have a good.

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Make time to loaf yourself

I use this Keto Almond Bread recipe with some modifications.

— SGHF, Eran

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Just wanted to let you know our dogs are cute floofs

— SGHF, Eran.

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Found this outside one day

Looks like James Bond hopped in for a visit.

That’s it for today.

— SGHF, Eran.

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Far Cry 6, PETA, and are Games Educational?

Recently, PETA criticised Ubisoft for including a cockfighting mini-game in their recent franchise title Far Cry 6. And that got me thinking about what is ok or not ok to include in a game.

I completely understand why Far Cry 6, which occurs in a Cuban-esque island country called Yara, includes that aspect. Cuba, a country under heavy sanctions, makes due with whatever they have at hand. And, as far as entertainment goes, while cockfighting is a horrible practice in your regular western-aligned countries, it is not exactly frowned upon in Cuba. So, Far Cry 6 appropriating this symbol for immersion purposes is understandable.

On the other hand, I also completely understand why PETA would criticise this. Far Cry is a very popular franchise. At the time of writing, it has sold poorer than its predecessor but that still puts it above 10 million units moved. That’s a lot of people being exposed to this segment, engaging with cockfighting in a way that might be unhealthy in the future. In the game itself, you do play the cockfighting mini-game in a fighting game style, as a animal encouraged to viciously peck, rip, and tear another animal, both of which were probably forced into this against their will.

So, think about that 13-year-old kid who just got his hands on the new, popular AAA title all their friends are playing and this is the first time they sees something like cockfighting. If that’s the first time they engaged with that sort of thing, they might take it for granted that you can pit animals against each other in a ruthless battle (hopefully not) to the death. And that could lead to animal cruelty in real-life. Not a thing us as a society, hopefully, want to encourage.

I recently saw segments of a Bollywood movie that had a cancer warning at the bottom, but prominently, on screen every time someone on screen even just held a cigarette in their hands. It seems silly but them’s the rules in India. I totally get it. I think it’s totally appropriate, for immersion, to have something like a cock-fighting mini-game in Far Cry 6. But it should be accompanied by an advisory warning, when you engage with it or, at least, every time you start the game.

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My Foundry Setup

I have been asked about my Foundry setup and what I did to make everything so smooth, easy, and cool. I decided to not do a video about it because most of the modules I use already do a very fine job explaining themselves and Encounter Library already has an extensive set of tutorial videos.
So, here are the modules I use with a short explanation of what exactly they do.

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Villains, bullies, dicks, and Hanlon’s Razor

I’ve recently read an article that was actually about work environment and building and maintaining a supportive team but one sentence struck me in a way that made me think about real life bullies and how villains are portrayed in media.

[…] Management expert and author Douglas W. Hubbard [in his] book The Failure of Risk Management: Why it’s Broken and How to Fix It [rewrote Hanlon’s Razor as]: “Never attribute to malice or stupidity that which can be explained by moderately rational individuals following incentives in a complex system of interactions.”

[…] not only are people’s actions rarely malicious, they’re most likely not about you at all. Malice is simply not a probable explanation for people’s actions, and it’s not reasonable to assume it is.

So, if you take that to the realm of story villains, the best ones are not just there to be an antagonist but would exist and do their thing even if the hero wasn’t there at all. A good villain is not about the hero. A good villain is only about themselves and what they want to achieve. Think about that when you craft your next villain for your story or game, either forwards as who they are, what’s their motivations and what incentives exist that they will follow down the wrong path; or backwards as what you need the villain to be and come up with the system of incentives that could put someone in that position.

But this same conversation got me thinking about bullies and generally dickish people. Because people in all walks of life just follow the incentives that fit their world view: the guy going into a particular field of work just because of the money or the people who cut you off on the highway who are probably stressed enough to get somewhere on time that they’re willing to take that risk because they have a baby on the way or they had a hard day at work and just really want to get home. The bullies who had such a stunted development that the only way they know how to express themselves or get any interaction is by hurting someone.

I’ve learned all of this by talking to professional people about my communication and social skills and it changed the way I think about people. I’m not saying it completely cured my misanthropy but now I try to think about that when someone annoys me: what happened to them in life or this week or this day that got them to that point? Because, I know that sometimes I get to that point too. It’s not fun and a system should be put in place to handle young bullies or hurtful children in a supportive and accepting way. A competent adult that breaks a law should be punished because they know what they did. A child who hurts someone should have someone to talk to about the troubles that brought them there.

In Marvel’s What If, episode 2 (spoiler warning), we see Thanos as part of T’Challa’s crew and he says that they talked about his plan and found a way to fix the problem that doesn’t result in wiping out half the universe. It’s amusing in the moment but it also make sense if you think about it. A villain usually becomes a villain because their goal, that they think is just is unachievable through normal means (and fixing societal ailments is usually very hard and is heavily opposed) but they have the drive, the ambition, and the dire need to get it done so they break societal norms and go off the rails to do it. But if the heroes could focus on finding the root of the issue and pushing the fix through normal means, maybe the whole ‘boss battle’ thing can be avoided?

P.S. Small comfort: If you have a bully in your life and they seem fixated on you then they are making it about you. They are playing an antagonist role, an NPC, in your story. You could use that to your advantage.

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Bloodhunt, Battle Royals, and Onboarding

I want to talk a bit about Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodhunt.

Let’s put aside for now the fact that this game tries to take Vampire: The Masquerade, a deeply dramatic, gothic horror RPG that deals much more with social interactions and tries to make it about vampires shooting other vampires with exploding crossbow bolts. What I want to talk about is onboarding.

Battle Royale focused games are very popular right now. Such games are always on the top spots of Twitch’s most popular directory. The problem is usually with the new ones. Every once in a while, a new one comes out and very few of them actually penetrate and even fewer dethrone the big players, even if just a little bit. And I think it’s rarely about the theme, even more rarely about the mechanics. I think it’s mostly about the onboarding.

What do I mean by onboarding? For those not fluent with the lingo, onboarding is “the action or process of […] familiarizing a new customer or client with one’s products or services.” In more plain language, a game’s onboarding is the experience a new player gets when they install and run the game for the first time. It’s the main menu, it’s the tutorial, it’s the first 10 minutes to the first few hours of the game. If you’re a known popular developer, you usually get the latter but, if not, you get the former as the time you have to convince players to actually play your game.

This is especially important when the game is free to play. This makes your game easy to get into but also easy to leave. If it’s premium game and you got a player bought in, they already paid money for it, no matter how they got there, and so they will be determined, at first, to get their money’s worth. But, with Fortnite leading the pack, it’s hard to get people invested in a premium BR.

Which is all to say that onboarding is important. That’s the general sentiment. What is it specifically about Battle Royales? I’m getting to it now.

Let’s say you’re a game studio developing a new Battle Royale. You’re getting into a red ocean market, a market that is big and wide but also saturated with a lot of other players in the space. Competition will be hard. So, who is your target audience? Most likely players of other Battle Royales or similar games. While it is often the case that a player will pick the BR they like and stick to it, it is not unlikely that players might like several of them for different reasons at the same time or try a new one to see if they should switch. That is where you should fit in. You should entice them with new mechanics, a new interesting theme, or doing the same thing significantly better with better quality of life. That’s your hard battle.

But your customer-base is also other players of the same genre, and even random players who might want to pick up a new, cool-looking free game. So, your job might also be: How do I convince a random person to play my game? That’s where I come in. I’m not really into BRs but if a new game comes out that is good-looking, based on a known franchise, or just exciting to get into, I’ll definitely try it.

And you need to think about those people because, in a red ocean, it’s usually easier to make the playground bigger than try to steal what space is already occupied. That’s why I mentioned Bloodhunt. That game looks like it tried to meld the known tropes floating in the genre right now, lean more into the verticality seen in Hyper Scape and use The Masquerade’s vampire classes as sort of hero templates, but except using blood feeding as a boost or an upgrade, which isn’t a lot, this game did nothing new that I could see. I also think it was a great misstep to use V:TM as the theme because it’s about as different as you can be from a casual deathmatch; On top of regular ludo-narrative dissonance, this generates more narrative-narrative dissonance.

My guess is that they tried to pull in fans of the theme, gothic lovers, and general White Wolf enthusiasts (White Wolf being the owners of the V:TM franchise) but this game feels like a slap in the face to the reason why those same people enjoy White Wolf products in the first place. As a tabletop RPG, Vampire is one of the big differentiators from the pillar of the hobby, Dungeons & Dragons. In D&D you, basically, kill monsters to get gold and loot so you can get better at killing monsters, etc. but Vampire is the kind of game that says, ‘If you want less murder-hoboing and more deep, dark roleplaying, we’ve got you covered’. You can probably make a BR based on the D&D franchise but Vampire? It doesn’t jive.

In the end, this game feels like an afterthought of design with no real effort put into it, thematically and mechanically, except making it a good looking BR. And that, my friends, is not enough today.

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Is there such a thing as a Super Perceptor?

A while back, a good friend of mine told me they’re a super-taster. I’m not sure if he’s officially diagnosed but what he described to me is that everything he tastes is very vivid and he can’t stand any kind of spicy food because even the mildest one is very spicy. Recently, this got me thinking: Is Super-Perceptor a thing? One of the things about me that I find is quite out of the ordinary is my really high perception. I can come back home and, even unintentionally, see what changed in the kitchen and know exactly what my wife had for lunch and sometimes even roughly when. I think this might be something borne out of my martial arts experience. When you train, you’re taught to notice even the subtlest muscle movements so you can counter appropriately at the right time, not too early and not too late. You’re probably thinking to yourself that this sounds like Sherlock Holmes and, yes, what is portrayed in the miniseries with Benedict Cumberbatch comes very close and what defines Sherlock, especially in that series, is that he is the best there is at percieving and analysing evidence. Unfortunately, it’s not all good. I think the same core cause is what also makes me very susceptible to motion and simulation sickness, it’s why touching most organic matter feels very uncomfortable for me, why Mindfulness Meditation just doesn’t work for me, why any subtle movement of the screen I’m looking at feels like a ship in stormy seas, and why anything around my neck feels like I’m about to choke. It also makes me wonder if it’s connected to my propensity for multi-tasking. I can and like to do several things at once, context switching a lot allows me to progress when I get stuck. Maybe it’s why I like having lots of spices in my food because, where others feel a convoluted mess of a dish, I can taste every individual piece. If only there was some way to test for this.
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מחוננים – אואטר: זיקית (3), חלק ז’

אואטר ישב על כיסא קשה במשרד מפקד הנוטרים. הוא הספיק להחליף בגדים למשהו יותר נוח למרות שלא היה קל להשיג משהו שמתאים למידות החדשות שלו. הוא לא הספיק להתרחץ או לישון אבל, לפחות, הוא נפטר מנעלי העקב הבלתי אפשריות ההן. לידו עמדו סטטית ומפקד היחידה ושניהם הסתכלו עליו באופן שכבר התחיל להיות מטריד.
“ככה זיקית נראית?” המפקד שאל לבסוף.
“ככה זיקית נראתה,” סטטית תיקנה אותו. “עכשיו זה אואטר.”
המפקד התכופף כדי להסתכל לו בפנים. “אתה בסדר, ילד?”
“עד כמה שאפשר, המפקד,” אואטר ענה, עדיין לא מסוגל לקבל את הקול הגבוה. “שיווי המשקל שלי מוזר עכשיו.”
“אתה יכול להשתנות לגוף המקורי שלך?”
“עוד לא. זה בדרך כלל לוקח קצת זמן להתרגל וללמוד עד שאני מצליח להשתלט על זה.”
“אואטר עשה עבודה מצוינת, המפקד,” סטטית הוסיפה. “הוא לקח יוזמה וסיכון על עצמו שמאוד השתלם ו–”
המפקד הרים את ידו וסטטית השתתקה. רגע מתוח עבר בחדר כשסטטית ואואטר חיכו שיגיד משהו.
“אתה,” הוא הסתכל על אואטר, “לך למגורים. תתרחץ. לך לישון.” הוא הסתכל על שעון היד שלו והחמיץ פרצוף על השעה. “אתה לא חייב לקום לתדריך בוקר. אבל, ברגע שאתה יכול, תתייצב אצל דוקטור ליבנשטיין לבדיקה מלאה. בסדר?”
“כן, המפקד,” אואטר אמר חלושות, נעמד ופיהק.
“משוחרר. ואת,” אואטר שמע את המפקד פונה לסטטית כשהלך אל הדלת, “אני רוצה סיכום מלא של מה קרה הלילה. ואל תדלגי על שום פרט.”

“נו, מה פספסנו?” דממה שאל כשאייל הגיע למגורים. הדף עמדה לידו, זרועותיה משולבות, מסתכלת על אייל.
“לא משהו נורא חשוב, אהמ,” אייל כחכח בגרונו, כאילו זה יעזור לו להוריד אוקטבה. “כנראה שסטטית עכשיו מקבלת שטיפה אבל אני חושב שיהיה בסדר. אני רק צריך למצוא דרך לשלוט בגוף הזה. בינתיים, אני בעיקר רוצה לישון.”
“רעיון טוב,” הדף אומרת ומיד מסתובבת והולכת, נכנסת לאחד החדרים.
“כן,” דממה מוסיף. “נראה מה יהיה המצב בבוקר.”

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