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[Space Monkey's ongoing quest to become me continues with his weekend update: a flowchart. I don't put these on the front page as they add large images to a page already full of the buggers, so here's the link.
Ah, it's that time of year when couples get all smoochy and call each other insipid nicknames while single people look on and flagellate themselves with hedgehogs on the ends of sticks. Yes, it's Valentine's Day, named after the famous massacre, and to commemorate it I've made an extra special Cowboy Comic. Go read it, you uncultured swine! Go! Go!
Your assignment for the weekend is to share an intimate moment with a member of the opposite sex. I am required by legal reasons to add that rape doesn't count.
Now that's over with, it's time for another...
Unappreciated Computer Game Character Of The Week!
This week, UCGCOTW goes far back into the mists of time to the days of the Spectrum and the Commodore 64. Our subject is a person who I grew up with, as one of his games was one of the first ones I ever owned. And yet, he remains tragically obscure, as his games were never released outside Europe. I'm talking, of course, about:
A white blob with stubby little arms and stubby little legs. His name was Dizzy.
He was an egg. I don't think this was intended to begin with, I think the designers were just making a little white blob character who bounced around and solved mysteries, but he ended up being egg-shaped. Since he was an egg, it's probably safe to assume that he was squeezed out of a chicken's bum at some point, but I don't think the smile ever left his face throughout.
You just couldn't piss Dizzy off. There were numerous ignoble and gorey fates awaiting the poor little ovulation everywhere he turned. You could get him burned to death in a fire, or drowned in water, or eaten by crocodiles, or impaled upon spikes, or roasted alive in molten lava, or crushed to death in an elevator mechanism, but you know what? He always appeared afterwards, minus another life, still smiling away and apparently none the worse for his ordeal. He was like a smiley Jason Voorhees, except he only had three lives and was full of yolk.
He was usually so full of joy that all you had to do was push the joystick up and to the left and he'd do a happy little sommersault. Nine times out of ten he'd roll too far and fall to his death, and the other one time he wouldn't roll far enough and fall to his death. But that never got him down. He was just happy to be useful. Even in his death throes, when his little face was shrinking away to nothing, he still wore a little smile, as if to say "Yes, I am being agonizingly dissolved by one of the infinite number of things in this world that is inexplicably hostile towards me, but that doesn't mean I can't spread a little happiness as I go by."
Dizzy's world was a strange one indeed. Quite apart from the whole two-dimensional thing, it was populated by such weird and wonderful characters as guards who can be bribed with soft fruit, and sixty-foot-high wizards who really have nothing better to do than victimise ambulatory eggs all day. A place where one can breathe underwater indefinitely with only a snorkel and where drawbridges are always jerry-built deathtraps.
Dizzy had a girlfriend, Daisy, who was muscling in on Princess Toadstool's territory. It was her job to get kidnapped. Then Dizzy would have to brave death, leap across chasms, defeat unstoppable dragons, use items on other items, before finally getting to her cell and setting her free. At which point she would usually say "Oh, you haven't collected all 30 coins yet!" and Dizzy would have to go brave death again looking for the 30 coins some joker hid in every nook and cranny of the game world before Daisy would finally let him get his little eggy end away. Yeah, I know what you're thinking: 24-carat gold digger. Dizzy either didn't know or didn't care, because she was shit-hot in bed. Hey, that's probably why Dizzy couldn't keep that idiot grin off his face. Whenever some nasty tried to gore him on spikes the size of flagpoles, little Dizzy would just think about his next blow job and suddenly the world was a much brighter and happier place.
So, here's this week's Unappreciated Computer Game Character Of The Week. Dizzy; Saviour of womanhood, bastion of optimism, delicious on toast.
It seems last week's 'tribute to the UK' feature scored me a record number of complaints (two). I dread to think how many Zach, the actual author of the piece, received. It might even have been as many as three. Well, to help bandage the wound that feature caused, and to further bridge the gap between our two countries, here's an update just for the Americans in the audience.
It occurs to me that, in writing this site, I may be alienating my treasured American readers every time I make some reference that only the British would understood, like "Robin Cook looks like a ginger gnome who's lost his razor", or "Charlie Dimmock; the woman for whom the word 'jumblies' was invented". While I can't give a complete list of British celebrities and politicians together with their well-known traits and quirks, I can provide some background to some of my favourite British cursewords.
So, this is my gift to you today, Americans: I'm going to explain the origins of some British slang. Hold onto your hats!
The adjective 'bloody', meaning 'not terribly nice', derives from a phonetic colloquialism dating from the 16th century. Back then, medical techniques were rather primitive. So primitive that they didn't have a name for all the different diseases one could get. What they did have was a single umbrella term, 'blerrh', which was supposed to be a phonetic interpretation of the noise someone makes when vomiting. Thusly, whether a person had typhoid, cholera or bubonic plague, the doctors would say that that person was "feeling a bit blerrh". Over time and use this became "feeling blerrh-dy", then "blurdy", then "bloody". Eventually the medical boffins started coming up with names for all the different illnesses, but people liked the word 'bloody' so much they kept using it as a generic exclamation.
'Bollocks', which can mean either the testicles or an exclamation of dissatisfaction, derives from a misunderstanding. In the late 19th century Lord Trumpton of Chiswick was trying to invent a new game which he envisioned as a sort of hybrid of tennis and badminton. Instead of a ball or a shuttlecock, he would use a feathered ball which he called a 'ballock'. Unfortunately his design for the ballock proved to be rather fragile, prone to shattering when hit too hard, so everyone had to play very gently. One day, Lord Trumpton's partner accidentally hit the ballock downwards instead of up and it hit Trumpton in the crotch. He was unharmed, as he was wearing a cricket box at the time, but he was so concerned that the ballock had been broken that he clutched it between his legs and cried "Oh! My ballocks!". A particularly gossipy serving maid overheard, and the rest is history.
Until the mid-twentieth century, 'wank' or 'whank' was thought to be the noise made when an anvil is hit by a hammer. That was until 1952, when the Langley twins, the two sons of the Langley farm, turned 14 and began taking a lively interest in their bodies. Knowing that their father would disapprove, the boys would hide up in the hayloft in one of the stables and masturbate to their hearts' content. Unfortunately, chickens and cows started getting too close and distracting them, so they started holding onto big hammers throughout the activity to gently tap any animal that became too intimate and scare it off. One day, though, the hayloft, having taken a lot of punishment from these two, collapsed, and the two boys fell. Their hammers hit the anvil that was kept below with a loud 'whank', which alerted their father, who burst in and shouted "who's doing the whanking?!" After the boys had been punished, when everyone could see the funny side, it became a family joke, and when the twins grew up to become famous dictionary publishers they slipped the word in.
This word, meaning either a foolish person or the female genitals, came about because of Captain Cook. It's a well known story that Cook misunderstood the native aboriginals and thought that 'kangaroo' was the name of an animal, but it's little known that the process repeated itself many times when Cook was exploring Australia. 'Kookaburra' actually means 'please stop talking so loudly, you're scaring the children', and 'koala' means 'who is this stupid white person who keeps ordering us around?'. The aboriginals then demonstrated that thing where you and a friend put your hands together, open them slightly and it's supposed to look like a vagina. Cook asked what they were doing, and they replied 'Twat', which means 'just ignore him'. Cook was later killed by the natives when they became sick to death of him, but not before all his men had adopted the word and were using it as often as possible in everyday conversation. Back in England, the new word was interpreted as a swear word, as most strange words being uttered by sailors tend to be rude.
Odysseus Kent eventually only won one of the seven AGS awards it was nominated for; Best Dialogue. I'm not sure who the others went to, but they probably didn't deserve them.
I think I mentioned yesterday that I've been working on a Duke Nukem Total Conversion. I suppose I should say something about it, so that when future generations happen upon the incomplete remnants on my antique hard drive there'll be something to refer to. I seem to work on it in short bursts then leave it alone for months on end. Recently I had to re-record all the custom sounds because my voice was much higher in pitch in the old files. Seriously.
Anyway, for the record, it's called Age of Evil. Standard zombie fare, really. The plot, what there is of one, is this: a great supernatural evil has spread throughout the world, corrupting all it touches. The dead become angry ghosts. The living become zombies. The only unaffected person is an ex-novelist living in the English countryside whose name is Christopher Quinn. Unfortunately, he's insane; confined to a mental institution. You start the game in his cell, and from there it's just a case of travelling through a series of levels blowing away the angry dead and hearing Chris make occasional one-liners. My particular favourite one is "I see dead people. They don't know they're dead. That's where I come in."
If it ever gets finished you'll need Duke3D Atomic Edition to run it, which shouldn't be a problem as I should think nearly the entire population of the Earth has a copy of that kicking around. I was making it for version 1.3, but the Atomic Edition lets you change the names of the episodes and stuff.
So anyway, there's the typical Total Conversion goodies; new monsters, new weapons. Let's deal with the monsters first.
Zombie (replaces Pigcop)
One of legions upon legions of grey-skinned shotgun-wielding shambling gits you'll encounter. They're weak as piss, but on the other hand, my girlfriend thinks they're cute. Looking at them, I'm inclined to agree. When they're not being mown down by the hundred, these chappies spend their time shambling about and moaning about wanting to die. And because etiquette is important, they say thank you when you do them in.
Rotgut (replaces Protozoid Slimer)
Have you ever seen that film Braindead? It was called Dead Alive in the States. There's a bit where some innards from a zombie escape and come to life. That's what I had in mind when I made this - self-propelled little piles of viscera that try to crawl up your body and strangle you with an intestine. They're essentially identical to the Protozoid Slimer, because the mean old gits at 3D Realms won't let you change much more than the slimer's artwork. The only difference is that sometimes, when you blow a zombie to bits, there'll be a Rotgut waiting for you after the dust settles.
Spectre (replaces Liztroop)
You know the good thing about flying enemies? You don't have to make walking animations. That's why I include as many as I can get away with. Spectres fly around and whisper about how tasty they'll find your soul, and they fling freezethrower blasts. Some can teleport. I'm trying to find a way to prevent them from bleeding when you shoot the little bastards.
Lardarse (replaces the first Boss)
Coming in either medium or oh-shit-I'm-fucked sizes, the Lardarse is a big fat zombie with no arms and a chaingun sticking out of its tummy. In theory, this was supposed to be a grotesque creature, bloated with hellish modifications that would surely intimidate any player. In practise, it ended up looking like an armless Honey Monster. Some subconscious desires at work there? Freud would probably have loved to meet me.
Poltergeist (replaces Octabrain)
This is where we enter dodgy territory; Monsters I Haven't Made Yet But Will At Some Point. Not physical themselves, the Poltergeist is just a floating cloud of debris. Occasionally it flings things at you. I haven't quite decided what it'll be flinging, but it probably won't be very nice.
That's all I have in mind for baddies. Now for new weapons!
Automatic Rifle (replaces Chaingun)
It acts like a chaingun, but it has new artwork! It's the Automatic Rifle! Oh, and it does a little bit more damage but comes with less ammunition. That's what they call 'game balancing'.
Disruptor (replaces Shrinker)
Not the Romulan variety. Who needs a Shrinker, Expander and a Freezethrower when you can have a gun that does the job of all three? Shoot an enemy with the Disruptor and he'll either be frozen, shrunk, expanded or just hurt a little. It's supposed to be random, but I swear it has favourites.
Book of Transformations (replaces Freezethrower)
Now, this is something I'm proud of. When you select this weapon, the only thing on screen is Chris' hand. When you fire, he shoots magic from his fingers. Shoot an enemy enough times, and they'll be transformed into a randomly chosen object. Could be ammo, or health, or even (rarely) another enemy. I'm working on trying to make the effect more impressive.
So, that's my mod in a nutshell. Don't ask me when I'm going to finish it. I'm only telling you about it 'cos I needed an update.
I've been spending so much time working on my Duke3D Total Conversion lately I keep sacrificing my precious article-writing time, and this weekend I realised to my dismay that I didn't have any ideas. So, what now? Do another text adventure update? I applied myself to the conundrum as I settled into my bath and turned on the waterproof radio. To my dismay, it was the news. I was about to find another station when the bulletin caught my interest.
"A ten year old boy is being questioned by police after the death of an elderly man. The man fell to his death after being squirted in the face with a water pistol."
And then I wondered if there really is some God of Webmasters looking down on me. If there is, his priorities are a bit fucked, because there are people who need help more than me.
But anyway, some kid killed an old man with a water pistol. As terrible as it sounds, it's certainly a refreshing change of pace. We've been hearing about these horrid, horrid gangs in the inner cities who blow each other away with illegal guns (not toy ones either!) and commit all sorts of crime just to prove how disillusioned they are. Strangely enough, the papers have been blaming rap music more than computer games. That kind of makes me want to form my own gang who listen to Beethoven and Bach. The gang uniform would be a tweed suit and bow tie, and we'd shoot people with antique shotguns while braying with laughter. But I digress.
A kid accidentally killing an old man with a water pistol. This sounds more like an unusually gritty Dennis the Menace story than a sign of the evils of mankind. It feels like only one step up from the things boys do in Just William stories, like steal pies that have been left to cool on a windowsill, or trespass in orchards to steal apples. Then, traditionally, they have to be told off by a big jolly fat policeman and sent to bed without supper while their mothers tut tolerantly and utter the phrase "boys will be boys".
This may be a blessing in disguise. On the one side, we have gangs loaded down with firearms shooting at each other because their stereos told them to. On the other, we have an old man with a dodgy heart killed by a water pistol. The kid who wielded the deadly bringer of fluidic doom will now be looked upon by the gangs with new respect, and then water pistols will suddenly gain credibility as a dangerous weapon. Real guns may be more effective, but they're a right bastard to get hold of in this country. Water pistols are now proven killers, and what's more, you can buy them in any high street toy shop! Before long, squads of gangs with Super Soakers will be able to settle their differences with squirty fights, and the losers have to go crying home with damp trousers rather than face the end of a short, wasted life. Then their parents will have to have a word with the winning gang's parents, but I feel that's a small price to pay.
Of course, this is only a temporary solution. It'll only be a matter of time before the novelty value wears off, and kids start to modify their Super Soakers. Swap the reservoir for a glass bottle, and you can spray deadly corrosive acid! Fill it with petrol, add a pilot light, instant flamethrower! Of course, Super Soakers used for these purposes will not last very long, so after a few gunfights they go in the bin and the gang members reach for their 9mm automatics.
Only they aren't there.
Because I and my gang of tweed-suited public schoolboys have stolen them all while they were all distracted by Super Soakers.
material not otherwise credited by Ben 'Yahtzee' Croshaw