I’ve been blogging for years. I’ve used three different blogging platforms in that time. I started on Blogger (aka Blogspot) a few years back, and moved to Tumblr a year or two later. That’s when I really started blogging like crazy.
Now, Twitter is the place I go to share small thoughts that I normally would have shared on Tumblr. As a result, I’ve been doing more long-form writing here on Tumblr. Lately, I’ve really been getting aggravated with Tumblr’s text editor. It just isn’t cut out for the type of writing I’m trying to do here. I can’t even center text or images.
Starting today, I am moving my blog to a self-hosted Wordpress site. I think (hope) Wordpress will better suit my needs. If you’d like to subscribe to my blog posts, Wordpress doesn’t have a “follow” feature like Tumblr does, but there are RSS feeds and each new post is automatically published to my Twitter.
Update: there’s an email subscription option in the sidebar, if you’re into that sort of thing.
On the new blog, you can expect long-form writing about video games, politics, technology, and more. I can’t say exactly how often these posts will happen, but they will definitely happen.
I’ve really enjoyed Tumblr, and their new iPhone app is fantastic. Sadly, I rarely share anything to Tumblr from my iPhone anymore, since I mostly do that type of stuff on Twitter now.
I’ll still login every few days and check my dashboard. I do follow quite a few (41) people on here and I’ll still be interested in what they have to say.
And I had just picked out this great new theme, too. Oh well, nothing lasts forever.
My new blog will be at the same web address, blog.mikebeas.com, to make things easy. My Tumblr will live on here at mikebeas.tumblr.com.
I am not sure if I will continue updating i.mikebeas.com, or if I’ll roll that into my main blog. If I do, I’ll try to import all the good posts from that blog to Wordpress, as you’ll see I’ve done with my recent, longer posts.
Goodbye, Tumblr. You’ve been really good to me. I think I’ll miss you quite a bit. Wordpress just doesn’t have that “fun” feel to it. Still, it’s better-suited for what I need, so I don’t have much of a choice.
Oh you fancy, huh?
A few days ago, a secret settings panel was discovered in Tweetbot, a popular Twitter client for iOS. One of the settings in that panel was for changing the Consumer Key and Consumer Secret the app uses to authenticate with Apple. Most people didn’t know what that was for. Most still don’t. And those who do seemed to be having issues getting it to work. Well, thanks to Dakota Allen, I’ve gotten it working on my phone, and I’m going to show you how to do it, too. All you’ll need is Tweetbot (iPhone, iPad) and a Twitter account.
First, go to http://dev.twitter.com and sign in using your Twitter account. Once you’re logged in, roll over your username in the upper-right corner and click on “My Applications”.
Next, click on “Create a new application” and choose a name for the app. This is what will be displayed as the client name when people look at your tweet. You can change this later if you want.
Next, enter a description and a website. Neither of these will be seen by anyone, so you don’t really have to put anything real in these boxes. Just make sure your website starts with http:// and your description is at least ten characters long.
The last block, the callback URL, is very important. If you skip this step you won’t be able to login with Tweetbot. If you accidentally skip this, it’s OK. You can always go back and fix it later. (This is the part Dakota helped me with, thanks!) For the callback URL, just paste this link: http://localhost.com/twitter_login.php
Finally, fill in the captcha, agree to the terms, and click the button to create your application.
Now we have some more work to do. This stuff is easy though. If you’re redirected to a list of your applications, click on the app you just created. Then click on the Settings tab. Scroll down to the section called “Application Type” and set it to “Read, Write and Access direct messages”. The rest of the info on this page is totally optional. Next, click the save button and then go to the Reset Keys tab. Hit the button to reset your keys.
Go to the Details tab and scroll all the way to the bottom. There should be a button that says “create my token” or something similar. Click it.
We’re almost done now, I promise. The last thing to do is put the appropriate codes into Tweetbot. Open up Tweetbot on your iDevice and go to the settings page. Scroll all the way to the bottom and tap both of the bottom corners simultaneously three times in a row. This will open the secret settings.
The top section is where you’ll need to put in the codes from Twitter’s site. Go to the Details page of your newly-created app and look for the Consumer Key and the Consumer Secret. Don’t share these codes with other people. Just put those numbers EXACTLY as they appear on the page. I found it was easiest to just email them to myself and paste them into Tweetbot.
After that, there’s one last step. Go back to your account in Tweetbot and try to refresh the Direct Messages tab. It will tell you to login again with Twitter. You’ll notice when you login again that instead of asking you to login to Tweetbot, the webpage that appears is asking you to login to the app you just created. Type in your password and hit the blue button. Send a test tweet. You should be good now. You’ll need to login on all of your accounts again. There is no way to have each account use a different client name, so if you run any parody accounts or whatever, they’re also going to use the client name you just chose.
If you get an error that Tweetbot couldn’t contact Twitter, there are two possibilities. You either typed in your Consumer Key/Secret wrong, or you forgot to set the callback URL (or you typed it wrong/included an extra space).
Yes, I know, you see what I did there.
The Genre as We Know It
The zombie game genre has been getting a lot of attention lately. Between the Resident Evil games,the Left 4 Dead series, Dead Island, The Walking Dead, and even Nintendo’s new ZombiU game for the Wii U, zombies have been and are continuing to be a centerpiece for a large selection of games. What’s interesting about all of the above-mentioned games is the lack of similarity between titles. Sure, the Resident Evil games are similar, and the Left 4 Dead games bear a striking resemblance to one another, but that’s to be expected. The big difference lies in the gap between Resident Evil and Left 4 Dead, or any other title above.
What’s really interesting, though, is that none of the games have what matters most: realism. Sure, some of them have realistic graphics and gore, or realistic character movements, or even realistic AI, but in a real zombie apocalypse, I certainly don’t plan on standing around saying, “Wow, look at how well that zombie moves! It’s so great!”
The Missing Element
So what are they all missing? For the answer, we have to look at the prime example of what a zombie story should be: The Walking Dead (the TV show on AMC, not the game. The game looks awful, but we’ll discuss why later).
What is so intriguing about The Walking Dead that keeps people tuning in each week? Is it the high-quality special effects? Sure, maybe some people watch to see the cool zombie makeup. But there isn’t a whole lot of zombie action every week. Is it the chance to see zombies move realistically across a landscape? Again, no. The reason people keep watching is because they want to see what happens next to the characters. They want to see what the humans will do next. Not just where they’ll find shelter, but who they’ll befriend, who they’ll alienate, and what moral dilemmas they’ll find themselves in this week. In a real zombie apocalypse, the choices of people are what matter the most. It’s the drama and tension created by real people making real choices that impact other people.
Now, of course The Walking Dead isn’t a true story. The people in it are actors, but their parts are all written by humans who have to put themselves in the characters’ shoes and determine what choices those people would make, then script them in a believable way, and ensure that the outcome makes sense in a real-world kind of way.
For example, say the main group of survivors find themselves in a cabin surrounded by walkers. They can’t just have a dragon come out of nowhere and kill all the zombies. That doesn’t make sense, even in a world where zombies exist. What they can have is a group of passing survivors who stop and help the main cast escape their impending doom. That does make sense. Of course, the passing survivors could always decide it was too dangerous to help the main group and just go on their own way. That would also make sense.
So what am I saying here? I’m saying that the reason people tune in to a zombie show isn’t just for the zombies. It’s just as much, if not more, for the humans. And that is what makes a true zombie story.
Back to the Point
OK, so let’s bring this back to the gaming world. So far, zombie games basically consist of heroic characters shooting big guns, blowing off zombies’ heads, and always making the easy call (which is usually just “shoot it”). The Walking Dead game does do some interesting things with making you choose which members of your party you want to help and things like that, but the rest of the game is unfortunately no good (again, we’ll talk more about why shortly).
I know what you’re wondering now. So Mike, what does it take to make a good zombie game, then? Well, I obviously wouldn’t pose this question if I didn’t have an answer, so let’s go ahead and talk about that.
To make a good zombie game, all of the important elements of a real zombie apocalypse need to be in place, and they need to be balanced. A lot of games make the mistake of including some or all of these, but failing to balance them properly, ending up with a lopsided, repetitive game.
Keys to a Successful Zombie Apocalypse
The key elements of a successful zombie apocalypse are as follows:
- Humanity: People are getting desperate; watch out
- Survival: Food, water, and shelter are all scarce; find them or die
- Combat: Zombies (and, sadly, other humans) will try to kill you; don’t let them
- Narrative: The story will (supposedly) drive everything; control it
The problem, again, is that these elements are wildly unbalanced in many cases. I’ve listed them in order of importance according to a real-life zombie apocalypse. If real zombies actually come to kill us, that is the order that would dominate our daily lives.
Other people would become our biggest threat, and our only ally. As mankind struggles to survive, people will change, morals will disappear, and nothing will be off-limits.
When we finally get in with a safe group of people and don’t have to worry about other survivors harming us, we face the problem of survival. We need food. We need water. We need a place to hide at night. We need transportation. We need to stay alive.
While sneaking around and hiding would obviously be preferable, there is a nearly 100% chance of facing a zombie or a fellow man to the death. Someone will die. Don’t let it be you.
And finally, when all is said and done, look back at the story you’ve created. Do you care about that? Probably not so much.
This is Not a Simulation
You see? The four elements of a realistic zombie game are right there. Now you can compare those to the games above and see what’s wrong with each of them. Now, let’s break this down even further. Let’s take the strengths of the existing zombie games and apply them to the framework I’ve laid out.
There’s a game called Arma II that very few people have every heard of. One of the most popular mods for it is a zombie mod called DayZ. This mod basically creates and open, online world and lets you go wherever you want and do whatever you please. You have to scavenge for food, transportation, shelter, and more. You can fight other humans. You have to fight zombies. It almost seems perfect. But it isn’t.
DayZ is built on an existing military simulation game. Military simulations don’t make great zombie games. I want a game built from the ground up. Sure, the weapons are nice, but they aren’t exactly suited for zombie warfare. And to be honest, the combat system seems a bit wonky, even for a military sim. The world could also use some expansion, in my opinion. While it is huge, it’s very monotonous. Lots of trees and countrysides. Location is important, too.
Location, Location, Location
OK, enough of what’s bad. Let’s go with what’s good. First, let’s establish a setting. In my opinion, there are a lot of great places to be when a zombie apocalypse starts, at least for the purpose of creating a compelling game.
The setting will be a giant open world. There will be different cities, which will all have a different look, feel, and way of life. You’ll get to pick your starting area, and from there you’ll have to make it on your own. A few of the environments would include a large city (a fictional New York City lookalike), full of skyscrapers and shops to hide out in; a nearby rural area, complete with a few farms, barns, and other fun places to hide; and a small town with lots of open road and a few heavily populated areas. Each of these cities (and more) will be connected by long, dangerous highways. Obviously, you’ll need to gain some sort of transportation if you’re going to make the journey.
Survival of the Fittest
If you’re going to survive, you’ll need food, water, shelter, and supplies. DayZ has a great inventory system (although the actual management could use some work). Limiting inventory space depending on what kind of backpack you have, forces you to make the decision between that bottle of water, those bandages, and that extra clip for your pistol. It makes things very real and very intense. Food should take time to consume. A bandaging system like DayZ has would be nice, but could frustrate some players.
Other elements impacting survival could include things outside the player’s control, such as weather conditions (occasionally flood parts of the map for additional fun).
Fight Me Like a Man!
Another important feature is the combat system. If the combat sucks, you’re probably going to be screwed no matter what you do. For this purpose, simply take the excellent combat system in Left 4 Dead II and implement it. First-person, fast-paced, with lots of realistic gore. The weapons choice needs to be a little more limited to start out, and then work up to more powerful weapons as you progress (Left 4 Dead II is really good about this, too, despite the linear nature of the game). There would also need to be a few more zombies than DayZ has.
Oh, and all fallen survivors should come back as zombies after a certain period of time, based on things like how the virus causing the apocalypse reacted with the current weather conditions.
Keep it Secret, Keep it Safe
The ability to setup camp in abandoned buildings would be key. It would give players a safe place to hide, store their goods, and respawn.
Oh, the Humanity!
You’ve probably noticed that I left out the top item on my list of key elements. Yeah, I was saving it for last. You know what isn’t human? An AI bot. It can’t argue with you outside of its programming, if at all. It can’t betray you outside of its programming. It can’t do anything outside of its programming. Programming is lame.
This game would have to be an MMO (I vote we call it The Walking Dead Online due to the large role of the human element, like in the show). There’s no other way it could work. The human factor is the most important factor. Fight together, or fight each other. Shoot the living. Loot the dead. Keep your hideout hidden, or someone might walk in and raid the place. Hide those bodies, or zombies might be attracted to them. As long as the gunshot didn’t already bring them swarming your way, that is.
Allow Me to Demonstrate
The beauty of the human element is that in the zombie apocalypse, things go from black and white to shades of gray. Something that is wrong in today’s society may become acceptable, encouraged, or even necessary to survive.
Let’s say someone in your group is being reckless. He’s walking around shouting, threatening to fire his weapon. Do you talk him down, or put him down? Do you attempt to talk him out of his foolishness, possibly at risk to yourself and your group? Or do protect yourselves by turning on him? Do you shoot him, drawing the attention of the horde, or get close enough to kill him silently, possibly endangering yourself as you approach the madman? If you do get near him, will he shoot first? If he does, will he attract a horde? What do you do?
It’s choices like that that keep people flocking back to The Walking Dead. It’s choices like that that make a zombie game truly terrifying.
The undead aren’t scary. The living are.
In the event that someone at a major game studio reads this and wants to make it, please get in touch with me. I’d really like to work on this as a producer or director or something. I have no technical or programming abilities, but hey, you guys didn’t come up with this idea, so no offense, but I don’t trust you to get it right. Just let me handle that, OK?
There’s been a lot of discussion about the amount of violence on display at E3 this year. From God of War: Ascension to Call of Duty: Black Ops II, to Tomb Raider, and Assassin’s Creed III, violence seems to be one of the most pervasive themes at E3 this year. Even the usually-tame Nintendo jumped in on the gore-fest with the trailer for their zombie shooter ZombiU (yes, that’s an awful name). In fact, Nintendo’s trailer was so graphically violent that I couldn’t even find a single screenshot suitable for including here illustrate my point . If you’ve ever watched AMC’s zombie-drama The Walking Dead you won’t really mind the ZombiU trailer, but most people will probably find it quite disturbing. And this is Nintendo. They made Mario, people. Mario.
Everyone has said it. I’ll say it, too. There sure was a lot of violence at E3 this year. But why are people shocked? Is this new? No, it isn’t. Violence has been used as entertainment for centuries. The Romans had the Colosseum. We have Call of Duty.
I think a lot of the reason people are starting to notice the violence at E3 is because so many of the genres are starting to look alike. Tomb Railer has suddenly adopted Splinter Cell game mechanics. Splinter Cell hasn’t changed game mechanics. The excellent-looking Watch Dogs is also using a very similar combat mechanic. Lines are being blurred. Suddenly, a lot of popular and (formerly-)unique franchises and many more new and (seemingly-)unique games are all becoming unoriginal. Games like Gears of War, Dead Space 3, and Dead Island, are designed to be graphic, gory, and violent. That’s really their only selling point for many people. The problem is that they all function basically the same. Now, I realize they’re first-person shooters, and there’s not a lot you can do to set apart a game in that genre, but that’s kind of my point.
We’ve achieved gaming singularity. Everything is the same. Everything is a first-person or third-person action/shooter that’s rated M for violence, blood and gore, and strong language. Listen to me: if even Nintendo is finally jumping on this bandwagon, you know it’s completely saturated the market. Ninety percent of what was revealed over the past three days fits the above description. Games that don’t fit that stereotype are not featured in keynote presentations. They are instead relegated to press releases and in-booth demos. They’re completely discounted even by the studios who make them, deemed unworthy of showing off at a major event.
Don’t get me wrong. I love games like Watch Dogs and The Last of Us. I fully intend to get Call of Duty: Black Ops II when it comes out, and probably Watch Dogs, too. (Unfortunately, I don’t have a PS3, so I won’t get to play The Last of Us, which looks amazing.) I like shooting stuff in games just as much as the next person. But can we please stop acting like it was some sort of shocking revelation that the vast majority of the games unveiled this week are violent shoot-‘em-ups (or slash-‘em-up in the case of God of War)? It’s not new. This is what we’ve been doing since the dawn of man. Violence has always been turned into entertainment. Just be glad that in 2012 we’re sophisticated enough to do it in a video game rather than real life.
Gross. I’d have to write someone in.
Asked by Anonymous
Add “seeing an R-rated movie” to this list, too. Liberals can’t understand that requiring an ID helps everyone by protecting legitimate voters. Of course, then Democrats would lose a lot of votes that are currently coming from fraudulent voters, like illegal immigrants and people voting multiple times.
Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed, as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword, because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States.
Yep. I’m 100% definitely going to see this movie as soon as it comes out.
(This is the UK trailer. Can’t find the US one on YouTube. For some reason they’re calling it “Marvel Avengers Assemble” over there. The US title is just “The Avengers”.)
Asked by Anonymous
Nope to all of the above.
Asked by Anonymous
Haha, I don’t know why Eminem is on there. Somebody told me one time “you should like Eminem” and other people have told me I sounded like different people so I just listed all those on there. That block on Soundclick used to say “sounds like” so that’s why that’s there I guess. To be honest I haven’t updated that page in over a year, maybe longer.
I chose rap because I love rap. I don’t like any other genres. Also I’m not good at any other genres. I don’t ever really feel confined by the “rap” part of it because I don’t want to do any other genres. As far as the “Christian” part goes, that’s definitely not confining. I still do songs about other topics (parodies, general funny songs, etc) so there’s really no reason for me to feel confined!
Asked by Anonymous