Keyboard Geniuses


“Spellcasting: C-O-M-M-E-N-T C-A-T”

Highlights from the week’s comment threads.

By Matt Kodner • November 30, 2012

Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.

War(d) Games

Following an interview with Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward, Derrick Sanskrit reviewed its mouthful of an adaptation, Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?! for the 3DS. Derrick found that the game focused too much on Adventure Time superfans without welcoming newcomers into the mix. For the uninitiated, Kevin The Beast King provided an apt analogy for getting into Adventure Time:

Being an Adventure Time fan is a lot like being into prog. On the surface, it seems hopelessly goofy, but then one day, you catch a glimpse of a dragon on a mountain doing something crazy, and you think “This seems like harmless fun. I might as well give it a try.” Before you know it, you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole, and you end up checking all the animators’ Tumblrs for unused sketches and spend hours discussing what it all means, man.

Hey, speaking of Tumblrs, have you checked out the Gameological Tumblr? It has fun stuff like this gallery of the time the interns, the editor, and the comment cat made automatically generated Miis. And we will be doing some more Tumblr stuff soon. Tell your friends. All of them.

Landon Mii Kodner Mii Teti Mii Soupy Mii

Steve Heisler did not particularly enjoy Epic Mickey 2: The Power Of Two, not just for its repetitive reimagining of the Disney universe as a barren wasteland, but for its incessant need to shout at the player. Moonside Malcontent agreed and was reminded of an era of comic books where every devious rascal or superpowered ne’er-do-well screamed at one another:

These games where everything is said at MAXIMUM VOLUME remind me of those old Marvel comics from the early 1960s where every sentence was completed with an exclamation point. This isn’t hyperbolic, go back and look. Doesn’t matter if the X-Men are facing down the Master Mold or if the Beast wants to know if Bobby Drake is hiding an ice cream soda in the X-Mansion (that scamp!), gotta have that intensifier at that end. At first you wonder if it’s for Professor X’s benefit, if he’s going deaf in his old age. But he can read minds. That can’t be it. Too many sessions in the Danger Room, my favorite theory went. When you spend too much time in a simulated hellscape, how do you know when the room has ended and the real world has come back? Are the echoes of your tortured, forced pronouncements the only feedback that assures you that you aren’t trapped in some psychological test for the famously unstable Professor’s cold, clinical judgment? CAN YOU KNOW???Ahem.

Sidestep of Doom

Ellie Gibson revisited the late ’80s/early ’90s British game show Knightmare in a special feature this week. Knightmare blended live-action role-playing with blue-screen technology to create an interactive program where its young contestants entered a virtual dungeon, guided by a trusted (hopefully) team of three friends. Andy Best recounted his experience just barely missing out on his own quest:

Me and three friends got through the audition process for this and were one of the 10 teams for the first season. We had to go up to Manchester for a second audition, which involved playing a mockup of the game.

Finally, a team won it and took up 4 or 5 episodes, so a couple of teams, including ours, were bumped. And then for the next season, we were over the age limit they had. Boo hoo.

We got the first audition on the basis of a letter I wrote in, talking about our love for dungeons and dragons. Dungeons & Dragons was a big deal in the U.K. at that time and the show was a good bet.

On the bright side, at least it wasn’t Andy making an indescribable blunder in this must-see clip Afghamistam linked us to:

This article is not complete without Knightmare’s all time most legendary epic moment. God dammit, Simon.

Poor Simon. Elsewhere, Captain Internet drew a paralell between the limited degree of control the guides had over the adventurer—”Forward two steps!”—to his experience learning how to move a mechanical turtle with Logo, the educational programming language:

At the same time as this was on, one of my first introductions to the world of computer science was the language Logo. Logo was about moving a robot equipped with a pen around a sheet of paper, and there’s a number of connections between it and Knightmare in my mind.

Firstly, where Logo let me move an actual robot by typing something into a computer, Knightmare was a computer game made real. I remember that both seemed like things that had fallen out of the future.

And secondly, both mainly revolved around saying: “Take a step to the left. Take another step to the left. Take another step to the left. OK, now go forward…”

Of course, technically the idea of “stepping left” doesn’t exist in Logo, as the robot can only rotate, move forward, and move backward. “Left,” “Right,” and “Forward” are also all primitive commands, so you could never define a “Step” function and give it a direction without the computer showing an error. You’d have to write something like:

to stepLeft

left 90

forward 10

right 90


repeat 3 [stepLeft]

foward 10

If you want more behind-the-scenes Knightmare dirt, Brig Bother mentioned an interview with Knightmare’s producer Tim Child, conducted by the Brig himself. It offers further details into how the show was made, and it has a handful of hilarious quotes from Child.

No Absolution To This Problem

Reviewing the fifth title in the series, John Teti was reasonably impressed by Hitman: Absolution, despite its lackluster storyline and the questionable presence of sexy, gun-hungry nuns. While John was pleased with the different enjoyable ways to complete a mission, Kid van Danzig was unhappy with the changes made from previous entries, which he felt left the game feeling unnecessarily cramped and overly slick:

Absolution is a really disheartening devolution for Hitman, which had only gotten better with every iteration before this. It would be baffling if it weren’t so obvious—they wanted to make this one sexier, and trendier.

I don’t really throw out those accusations readily—it’s like saying a band’s “sold out,” it’s so overplayed as to border on meaningless—but the design decisions they made for this one are really, really bad, improving the gunplay over everything else. The biggest problem is that new engine—it cranks up visual fidelity but at the cost of maximum level size.

The huge levels were one of the biggest strengths of the series before this point—they allowed a lot of breathing room and expanded the options available to the player. Absolution’s areas are minuscule by comparison—the early Chinatown level tips its hat to the classic Mardi Gras mission from Hitman: Blood Money but it couldn’t really touch it in terms of versatility. They employ tricks to make it seem bigger (alleyways, and small segmented areas), but it isn’t. The biggest practical effect is that you don’t really get the sense of Agent 47 being creative in approach—areas cannot be circumscribed; you always have to go through guards.

Special Agent X Double Seven

Joe Keiser argued that “addiction” in games has become familiar and dull. Joe made a strong example out of Dishonored, a recent game that spurns addictive methods of play, and rewards inventive strategies. Enkidum elaborated on the tricky methods developers use to make their games addictive:

The reason why the addictive games model is so popular is of course very simple: it makes a shit-ton of money, especially when combined with micro-purchases. Diablo III and pretty much anything Zynga has ever made are the best examples of this. And like “real” gambling, Zynga makes almost all of its profit from a tiny fraction of players—I’m not sure how many it is, but it’s somewhere on the order of 5 percent of people who will pump dozens or hundreds of dollars a week into Farmville, or hundreds or thousands of dollars a day into a slot machine. Depressingly, they’re the real profit engines, these poor bastards whose psyches make them easy to exploit.

Sorry if I’m repeating myself, because I think I mentioned this here before a few months back. But I attended this very cool lecture by Mike Dixon from the University Of Waterloo on another trick slot machine designers use to make them more addictive. The big jackpot occurs when you get a 7-7-7, right? Well it turns out that something that really motivates players to continue is when the get a 7-7-almost 7, but the third value ends up being just in front or just behind the 7. This occurs 12 times more often than it would by chance—and only 7-7-X, not X-7-7 or 7-X-7, because the latter two don’t generate the same tension. Dixon was looking at precisely why this motivates people to keep playing, and his results suggest it’s a matter of frustration—people get kind of annoyed, but in a way that makes them want to have another shot—much like a missed layup in basketball or whatever makes you want to do it again right away.

Modern slots also do really clever things like having independent touch-screen “stop” buttons for each of the three wheels. This gives players the sense of control, but of course this is entirely illusory—exactly the same algorithm determines where the wheel is likely to stop, but because you’ve pressed the button you feel like you bear responsibility, and it feels like more of a matter of skill or choice.

Red Stipe Bear

And finally, Derrick Sanskrit put together another rad Alternate Soundtrack feature, juxtaposing A Flock Of Seagulls’ debut album with Jamestown: Legend Of The Lost Colony. Responding to a commenter who offered up a pairing of REM and Carmageddon, Mercenary Security Number 4 offered up the non-sequitur of the week as he recounted this bizarre dream (nightmare?):

I once had a dream in which Northern Exposure had a spin-off called Near Wild Heaven. It starred Michael Stipe as a horse rancher. He lived in a boarding house in an otherwise abandoned Cicely with an old lady and a wild grizzly bear who had also somehow become the mayor. That doesn’t have anything to do with video games, but it certainly changed what I think of when I hear that song.

Okay, cool! And with that, thanks again for reading and commenting. We’ll see you next week!

Share this with your friends and enemies

Write a scintillating comment

1,041 Responses to ““Spellcasting: C-O-M-M-E-N-T C-A-T””

  1. HobbesMkii says:

    Jeez, Teti, smile for your Mii. Look how pissed off it turned out.

    • Jackbert322 says:

      Soupy’s Mii looks exactly like my friend’s mom. It’s freakin’ uncanny.

      • Citric says:

        Now I’m thinking of a Wolf’s Rain-inspired show where all the cats disguise themselves as people’s moms.

    • Moonside_Malcontent says:

      John Teti’s Mii believes you have his stapler.

    • stakkalee says:

      I love how it keeps Matt Kodner clean-shaven but gives the pencil-stache to John.  He looks like a sleepy Lothario!

      • HobbesMkii says:

         On further inspection, Teti, the only one without facial hair, is the only Mii with facial hair of the 4.

    • GaryX says:

      I dunno. He got a sick stache out of it.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      Maybe this’ll make him smile:

      I know it put a smirk on my countenance.

      • Girard says:

         Well, to be fair, LucasArts hasn’t really shown any of those franchises any respect in, like, a decade – apart from that brief moment a few years back when they half-heartedly threw a few games up on Steam and made some seriously ugly bargain-basement Monkey Island re-releases. I have zero love (less than zero love) for Disney, but I can’t imagine them treating those classic games with much less respect than LucasArts has.

        • Effigy_Power says:

          Valid point. I just wish Telltale Games had gotten the full license instead of just a temporary one to make their fairly good S&M and MI games.
          But you are right, it’s not like Lucasarts has done anything with their IPs in years.

        • Girard says:

           I can imagine Telltale still has a fair shot at using those properties in the future, if they want. I doubt Disney has big plans for them personally (they’ve already produced the spec script of the MI movie as PotC*), and Telltale’s track record is fairly strong with those properties. The fact that the creator of Sam & Max works for Pixar might also help grease the wheels (in fact, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure that while Hit the Road is owned by LucasArts, Sam & Max are still entirely Purcell’s, so Telltale can revisit those anytime they like, anyway).


        • Effigy_Power says:

          Well, considering Disney… they are prone to hoard intellectual property and sit on it for years, sometimes only to cut out competition.
          I guess we’ll see how that’s gonna go.

  2. stakkalee says:

    Happy last week of November folks!  Before we get started, I feel the need to offer a bit of warning.  Now, we’re all just a bunch of weirdo Internet friends here, talking about our video game obsessions, but there are times when our obsessions get the better of us.  Times when our judgement is impaired, and we’re tempted to reveal just how high our freak flags fly.  And that’s a healthy feeling!  Really!  But there’s a time and a place, and that time and place is most assuredly NOT your wedding day.  Ladies, gentlemen, don’t be this guy.  Moving on…
    Top most-commented article this week was, unsurprisingly, the WAYPTW thread, which is up to 174 comments as of 3:30PM.  Actually, no other article even broke the 100+ comment mark this week, which is unusual.  It must be aftereffects from all the gorging some of us did last week.
    Now, the Top 5 Most Liked (non-KG) comments:
    1) – With 25 likes, @Captain_Internet:disqus channels some Knightmare.
    2) – It’s Captain Internet again, this time with 21 likes on this comment where he runs out of options.
    3) – @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus get 15 likes for expressing his appreciation for Adventure Time.
    4) – For the double-double, Spacemonkey Mafia comes in fourth, getting 14 likes for this pun.
    5) – And last but certainly not least, @Fluka:disqus gets 13 likes for going Ye Olde Schoole.
    Good work everybody!
    We’re welcoming 4 new members today – @Afghamistam:disqus, @Andy_Best:disqus, @Kevin_The_Beast_King:disqus and @KidvanDanzig:disqus!  Welcome aboard one and all!  Pick up your plaid jacket and your surly, unshaven moustache from John Teti!
    And our returning members – @Moonside_Malcontent:disqus is up to 3, @Mercenary_Security_Number_4:disqus and @Enkidum:disqus are each at 4, and @Captain_Internet:disqus gets to 5!  Nicely done!  And congratulations for instilling some existential angst into Girard’s Friday afternoon!
    For the linkdump, in honor of @GaryX:disqus bringing the new MoMA announcement to our attention, I have several game-related art links.  First, a piece called Angry Birds All Levels, a visualization of the finger-strokes necessary to complete every level of Angry Birds.  I also have another installation titled STYN, that uses a modified pinball machine to trace the path of the ball on a sheet of graph paper; the idea is that the better you are at the game, the more complex of a drawing you’ll be able to create.  Some stunning stuff at both links.  Also, I was holding onto this to see if it might get reviewed in Sawbuck Gamer, but since I haven’t seen it this week I’ll throw it out there – Circle The Cat is a very simple, VERY addictive game.
    Th-th-th-that’s all folks!  Enjoy your gaming, and remember to keep it scintillating!

    • KidvanDanzig says:

      I’ve made it. I’ve finally made it

    • Matt Kodner says:

      That pinball concept is beautiful. Reminds me of the sequence in King of Kong where they highlight the insane amount of trajectories Steve Wiebe had to memorize playing Donkey Kong. 

      Also, without any understanding of how I did it, I beat Circle The Cat on my third try. Cool!

    • Matt Kodner says:

      re: Circle The Cat, I poked around the internet a little, and found that it’s been around for at least five years. 

      We don’t generally review older flash games for Sawbucks, but consider this the Intern Mark of Approval. That game rules. 

      • stakkalee says:

        I love when old Internet links get recycled.  Who knows how many times Circle The Cat has made the rounds?

    • caspiancomic says:

      I think Fluka’s Canterbury Adventure is my personal favourite comment this week.

      Also, so help me God, I am going to circle this cat.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      In a lousy bit of self-aggrandizement, I was take enough with the thought of myself extolling the greatness of Adventure Time in a Barbarian yurt that I drew this self portrait.
         It’s a fair likeness, to be sure.

      • Effigy_Power says:

        -eyes @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus warily-
        You steppin’ on my turf, boy?

        • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

          Psh.  I’ve been stepping on your turf since before you were born.
             Wait.  That doesn’t make any sense.

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

          @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus Very Adventure Time-y of you! I wholeheartedly approve of this comment and of that drawing. 

    • Electric Dragon says:

      Can I lay claim to a pin/half pin/honorary pin for getting to the headline first? (Ok, it’s not a difficult one to come up with, but I got there first! Not that I care. Ahem.)

    • Fluka says:

      Aha!  Circled ’em in 5 tries!
      This reminds me that Fluka and her brother need to go in for a rabies booster next week.  This is a good simulation of trying to get them into a cat carrier.

      • Chum Joely says:

        You mean, it fails 19 times out of 20 and even when you succeed, you have no idea how you’ll ever do it again?

        Or do you just have really psychedelic carpets?

        • Fluka says:

          Yes to the first one, and because they run in the other direction when you start to block off one route of escape.

          My mother’s cat is much worse.  She has solved the algorithm, though.  She puts the cat carrier in the upstairs bathroom, and closes every other single door in the house to make a single path.  When it’s VET TIME, the cat naturally flees into the bathroom, where she shuts the door.  Of course, it then tries to get out through the window…

    • Kevin_The_Beast_King says:

      Does the moustache have to be surly? I don’t know how to do that without a tiny comb. 

  3. GaryX says:


    Just a heads up to everyone that tonight at midnight the nomination ballots for The AV Club Commies will close, so if you still want to fill one out head over to to do so!

    Then come back after 12:00am Monday, December 3 for the final round of voting! It’ll go all week.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

      I haven’t submitted my nominations yet even though I started to twice already. There are way too many categories for me, and way to many spots in each category. I’ll vote later, but I am way too lazy to fill this in.

  4. Captain Internet says:

    I knew writing software would get me somewhere eventually.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      A reasonable origin story for a hero named Captain Internet.

      • Effigy_Power says:

        That Word Paperclip told him:

        “It looks like you’re trying to write a piffy comment for an off-color gaming website, in order to be chosen to excellence by a surprisingly sentient cat. Would you like some help with that?”

        • Sleverin says:

          If only that paperclip would help me with achieving such an admired status…I remember listening to an endless loop of FFV/VI soundtrack while typing essays and doing English homework in general with that little bastard being my only company.  Oh entertaining graphic, you amused me when I was bored.

  5. Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

    It was no nightmare.  In fact, its one of my favorite dreams ever.  The quirkiness of Northern Exposure mixed with the sexiness of Michael Stipe and a vague post-apocalyptic vibe?  That’s my idea of television heaven.

    • Sleverin says:

       I remember watching Northern Exposure with my grandparents as a wee, wee child.  Loved, the theme music, I used to do a little “Moose Dance” because of the moose in the opening.  Every once in a while I hear the song in a store and my heart jumps, reminding me of those old times dancing on my grandparents fireplace.

      • Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

        Its an authentically wonderful show that the AVClub should cover in their classic shows section, and would if I had my druthers.

  6. yifu490 says: