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19 Mar 12:45

The Expendables: How Game Development Standards Are Inherently Harmful

In a way, you were the dream: someone who delivered high-quality work — or even perfection — without staying at the company long enough to get paid.
19 Mar 12:45

Harper Lee’s Forgotten True-Crime Project

In 1978, Lee travelled to Alexander City, Alabama, to research a murder trial that she planned to turn into a book. The family of a lawyer involved in the case still hopes that a manuscript might materialize.
19 Mar 21:10

Pride And Prejudice And Dragons?

by Charlie Jane Anders

Pride And Prejudice And Dragons? Naomi Novik won't ever have Jane Austen show up as a character in the Temeraire books — but she is working on a story about "the adventures of Captain Elizabeth Bennet and her dragon Wollstonecraft." HECK YEAH.


19 Mar 21:15

la-rinascente:smoothiesandbooks:MY LIFE WAS SO INCOMPLETE BEFORE...




A scene with three women of color including one massively influential and accomplished transwoman in a TV show about a woman of color who is well-educated, intelligent, and successful. Love it.

19 Mar 21:44

Report: Growing Workforce of People of Color Shoulders Growing Inequity

by Julianne Hing
Report: Growing Workforce of People of Color Shoulders Growing Inequity

The burdens of the working poor are increasingly borne by a growing class of people of color. That's the latest finding from a new report (PDF) from the Working Poor Families Project. 

This is the way it shakes out: in 2013, people of color made up 58 percent of the 10 million low-income working families in the U.S., even though people of color are just 40 percent of all working families across the country. The dynamic has only worsened since the start of the recession in 2007 and during a time when the nation's workforce has become more racially diverse. 

People of color are well on their way to constituting the majority of people in the U.S. As such, their share of the U.S. workforce is growing, even as white people's growth in the U.S. has stagnated. Between 2012 and 2022, the number of people of color in the U.S. workforce is expected to grow by 21 percent while the number of white people working in that same period is set to decline by 2 percent. The dropoff is due largely to white people's stagnating growth in the U.S. The year 2013 marked the first that white deaths in the country outnumbered white births, according to the Washington Post.

Given that people of color are the nation's fastest-growing groups, their economic well-being is of pressing concern to the nation's, the report argues. But while the country is celebrating signs of economic revival, low-income workers and people of color are being left behind. Between 2009 and 2013, the numbers of low-income families grew from 10.1 million to 10.6 million, with people of color making up a disproportionate amount of that growth. Today, the racial wealth gap between whites and blacks is at its highest level since 1989, and white households have a median net worth that's 13 times that of black families' net worth, and 10 times that of Latinos'. 

Different racial groups are also more likely to work in different kinds of low-wage jobs, report authors point out. Asians in the bottom rungs of the income scale are more likely to work in salons, or as retail workers. African-Americans are most likely to be concentrated among the ranks of health aides, cashiers, and as caregivers. Latinos, meanwhile, are more likely to work in cleaning and in restaurants.

"Racial/ethnic minorities are not disproportionately low-income because of a lack of work effort," according to the report, "but because they are more likely to be working in low-paying jobs." 

(h/t Los Angeles Times)

19 Mar 21:52

Kendrick's Only Competition is Himself

by Qimmah Saafir
Kendrick's Only Competition is Himself

Dropping his second studio album a week early has proven to be a brilliant move for Kendrick Lamar.

Today Billboard announced that "To Pimp a Butterfly" is set to become No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart next week. "Industry sources are forecasting the set to move over 325,000 equivalent album units in the week ending March 22," the publication reports. 

"To Pimp a Butterfly" broke the Spotify record for the album most streamed on on Monday, the day of its release. The spot was previously held by Drake's equally surprising premiere of "If You're Reading This It's Too Late" with 6.8 million streams. Lamar's album far surpassed the precedent collecting 9.6 million streams in its first 24 hours, according to the company's statement.

According to a tweet from TDE President Punch, the album racked up an additional, record breaking 9.8 million streams on Tuesday. 


19 Mar 21:21

How Did A Company Selling Rubber Tires Become The World’s Authority On Restaurants?

It actually makes a lot of sense. It’s also genius marketing. But really, how did the world’s most talented chefs and esteemed restaurants and come to be so concerned with the approval (and stars) of a company that sold rubber tires?
19 Mar 23:14

Death, Redesigned

A legendary design firm, a corporate executive, and a Buddhist-hospice director take on the end of life.
19 Mar 15:34

Nintendo To Announce Virtual Boy 2

by timothy


SlappingOysters writes Nintendo has officially unveiled the development of its next home console, codenamed the NX. This article at finder puts forward the case that Nintendo will be stepping back into the virtual realty game with a follow-up to its ill-fated 1995 peripheral, the Virtual Boy. It would be going head-to-head with the Vive, Project Morpheus and the much-rumoured, not yet announced, Microsoft VR unit.

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19 Mar 16:54

Filming cops from within a 25-foot radius could be illegal in Texas

by David Kravets

amputate Texas

A bill outlawing the filming of police within a 25-foot radius landed in a Texas legislative committee late Wednesday, a measure that carries a maximum 180-day jail term and $2,000 fine.

The proposed buffer would increase to 100 feet for individuals carrying firearms, according to the legislation proposed by Rep. Jason Villalba, a Dallas Republican whose measure was referred to the House Committee on Emerging Issues In Texas Law Enforcement. Maximum penalties for violating the gun restriction are a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

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19 Mar 19:43

Update: Clinton’s e-mail is on a hosted Exchange 2010 server, not in Chappaqua

by Sean Gallagher

There's been a lot of controversy over how Hillary Clinton apparently used a mail server running in her Chappaqua, New York, home when she started her tenure as secretary of state. But if you want to know what she's using now, all you have to do is point your browser at it—you'll get a login page for Outlook Web access from a Microsoft Exchange 2010 server. And so will anyone who wants to brute-force guess her e-mail password or simply take the server down with a denial-of-service attack. (This is not a suggestion that you should.)

Clinton has probably changed her e-mail address since the scandal began—particularly since the hdr22 account she used has been widely published and has likely become a magnet for all sorts of unwanted messages. And the hosted Exchange server is certainly an upgrade from her original server configuration—Until October of 2010, based on historic DNS records viewed by Ars, Clinton's e-mail server was in fact at a static IP address provided by Optimum, a Cablevision subsidiary, that corresponded to the Clintons' Chappaqua address. The domain was registered on January 13, 2009, just days before Clinton's confirmation as secretary of state—but it did not gain a certificate for secure client connections until March. The current certificate for was issued by GoDaddy in 2013 just as the original certificate was about to expire.

At some point shortly after the home server was dropped in 2010, the mail exchange record for was moved to a hosted Exchange server. Currently, that server appears to be running out of a data center in Huntsville, Alabama. The server uses McAfee's MXLogic e-mail filtering service to screen for malware and spam (though it's not certain when the service was added).

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19 Mar 20:49

Arcade Fire’s Win Butler is DJing at SXSW under the name DJ Windows 98, and this is what that’s like

by Emily Yoshida

"When he took a swig from a flask, the couple next to me gasped, scandalized."

Earlier yesterday, the second full day of SXSW music, I was talking to a friend in a bar about how there aren’t really any indie rock villains — and how, as a writer, that can make the genre less interesting to write about. I love writing and reading about EDM even if it isn’t what I’m listening to all the time, because so many of those dudes (yes, mostly dudes) are like real-life Bond villains, or drifting astronauts, cut free from the bonds of reality by their stupidly huge paychecks. Indie rock guys, publicly at least, tend to read, at worst, curt — at ultra-worst, a little pretentious. But mere hours later, as Arcade Fire’s Win Butler took the stage at the FLOOD fest showcase, wearing a black baseball cap and a black bandana over his face, I realized I had been terribly remiss.

Butler has the curious ability to get in beefs with some of The Worst people in music

When he’s just doing his own thing, whether that’s making jammy-jams with his Grammy award-winning band (which, for the record, I have very much liked at various points in their career) or dressing up in disco mariachi suits, Win Butler is okay. A little self-serious, maybe, but there are certainly greater sins. But Butler has the curious ability to get in beefs with some of the worst people in music — Wayne Coyne (another great candidate for indie rock villain), deadmau5 — and make them seem sane and decent by comparison. It’s such an uncanny yet consistent phenomenon, like the way orange juice tastes after you brush your teeth, that I’m tempted to call it a talent.

Butler’s feud with deadmau5 was around some boring anti-electronic music comments Butler made on stage last year at Coachella. ("Shout-out to all the bands still playing actual instruments at this festival," he said, I assume while peering out at the crowd disapprovingly through a tiny monocle.) But now, perhaps in an act of deviously clever irony, Butler himself has taken up the turntables and the knobs and is playing all week at SXSW under the name DJ Windows 98.

Let’s talk about that name: DJ Windows 98. If Butler is going to sully himself with computer music, he’s clearly going to align himself with a charmingly antiquated operating system — you know, back when computers still had a soul, man. (His set begins with the sound of a dial-up modem.) Butler actually began DJing at after parties during the Reflektor tour, so about the same time as his EDM kerfuffle. To read it as anything other than a response to a popular, and yes, completely oversaturated form of live performance would probably be disingenuous.

Let’s talk about that name: DJ Windows 98

As the static from the modem faded, Butler played about five seconds of Shania Twain’s 1999 hit "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" before launching into Joan Jett’s "Bad Reputation," during which time he he fussed despondently with his levels and repeatedly yelled to the stage managers, "Cut the lights. Cut the lights PLEASE." The house finally obliged, drenching the stage and audience in darkroom red. Then it was time to worry about sound. "Turn up the monitors," Butler intoned, calmly at first, then loudly, "TURN UP THE MONITORS, I BELIEVE IN YOU."

To be fair to Butler, the FLOOD fest stage was kind of a shitshow. The sound was mostly unintelligible, and the entire evening was about an hour behind schedule. But the sense that on some level this performance was a joke to Butler didn’t help the vibe, especially during the first half of the set, during which I could see several girls up in the VIP section side-eyeing the stage.

Of course, there will always be religious Arcade Fire fans willing to follow Butler down whatever side ventures he chooses to pursue, and the kid next to me was one such admirer, taking a photo of Butler on his own pocket computer and captioning it "GOLDEN GOD" before sending it out to all his friends. In the front few rows, all eyes and camera phones were fixed on Butler, despite his previous requests that people dance at his sets rather than try to watch him (which I’d echo for any DJ performance, golden-god-fronted or otherwise). When he took a swig from a flask, the couple next to me gasped, scandalized.

DJ Windows 98

DJ Windows 98

When Butler brought out a pair of Congo drummers and a dancer wearing round sunglasses and head-to-toe gold, the mood lifted considerably. According to the official SXSW listing, Butler’s set was entitled "Naïve Melodie" and, Joan and Shania aside, mostly featured African and Haitian soul music. In keeping with the vague Talking Heads theme, near the end Butler played a pitched-up version of "Slippery People," and for a few minutes the crowd got truly slippery and genuinely dancey. It reminded me of one particularly drunken college-break summer in my hometown, when someone put on "Power Out" at a house party, and everyone erupted into sweaty, stompy chaos.

Oh, DJ Windows 98, don’t you see the kids just want to dance? Some of them want to dance to authentic rare Haitian vinyl, and some of them want to rage to the latest DJ Mustard blorps. Some of them want to do both! You should have let that Shania song go on a little longer, though. People go nuts for the ’90s.

19 Mar 20:50

How Life360 won its patent war

by Joe Mullin

"Dear Piece of Shit"

In May 2014, Life360 CEO Chris Hulls received an aggressive patent demand letter. The letter, from lawyers representing a company called Advanced Ground Information Systems (AGIS), told him he needed to pay for a "royalty-bearing license" to its four patents, or Life360 and its customers would have to "cease and desist" from infringement.

In other words: pay up, or shut down your company. The letter demanded a response within three days. Hulls wrote back:

Dear Piece of Shit,

We are currently in the process of retaining counsel and investigating this matter. As a result, we will not be able to meet your Friday deadline. After reviewing this matter with our counsel, we will provide a prompt response.

I will pray tonight that karma is real, and that you are its worthy recipient,


On that Friday, Life360 got sued. The lawyers attached Hulls' "Dear Piece of Shit" letter as an exhibit.

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19 Mar 21:10

Trade groups, not Verizon, will reportedly sue FCC over net neutrality

by Jon Brodkin

all carriers suck forever

Reuters reported today that trade associations representing Internet service providers "are expected to take the lead in suing the Federal Communications Commission" over its new net neutrality rules.

Verizon sued after the FCC issued net neutrality regulations in 2010. The company ultimately won its case, but the victory backfired because the federal appeals court ruling paved the way for the FCC to impose even stronger rules.

"[A]t least some companies, including Verizon Communications Inc, are currently not planning to bring individual lawsuits and instead aim to participate through trade groups," Reuters reported, citing "several people familiar with the plan."

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19 Mar 21:15

NYC official wants Comcast to offer $10, 10Mbps Internet after merger

by Jon Brodkin

all carriers suck forever

New York City’s public advocate wants Comcast to promise “universal broadband for all New York City consumers” in exchange for buying Time Warner Cable.

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James.
New York City

NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, who has served in the elected position since January 2014 after a career on the city council and as a lawyer, urged the state Public Service Commission (PSC) to impose tough conditions on the merger in a new report. New York City can't stop the acquisition, but the PSC can approve or deny it because Time Warner Cable licenses would be transferred to Comcast.

James is concerned about the $45.2 billion merger, she told Ars in a phone interview, noting that "Comcast and Time Warner have the lowest customer satisfaction ratings of any Internet service provider in the United States."

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19 Mar 21:32

Obama: Maybe It's Time For Mandatory Voting In US

by timothy

yay writes CNN reports that when asked how to offset the influence of big money in politics, President Barack Obama suggested it's time to make voting a requirement. "Other countries have mandatory voting," said Obama "It would be transformative if everybody voted — that would counteract money more than anything," he said, adding it was the first time he had shared the idea publicly. "The people who tend not to vote are young, they're lower income, they're skewed more heavily towards immigrant groups and minority groups. There's a reason why some folks try to keep them away from the polls." At least 26 countries have compulsory voting, according to the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. Failure to vote is punishable by a fine in countries such as Australia and Belgium; if you fail to pay your fine in Belgium, you could go to prison. Less than 37% of eligible voters actually voted in the 2014 midterm elections, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts. That means about 144 million Americans — more than the population of Russia — skipped out. Critics of mandatory voting have questioned the practicality of passing and enforcing such a requirement; others say that freedom also means the freedom not to do something.

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19 Mar 22:16

Taxi Companies Sue Uber For False Advertising On Safety

by samzenpus
jfruh writes "A group of California taxi operators are suing Uber, claiming the ridehailing service is guilty of false advertising when it comes to rider safety. The taxi companies claim that Uber doesn't use a Live Scan fingerprint ID for drivers like they do, and that the $1 "safe rides" fee on every fare doesn't specifically go towards boosting safety. From the article: "The suit comes in the wake of problems Uber is facing in some countries. On Wednesday, the Frankfurt Regional Court issued a nationwide ban against the company’s UberPop service after declaring its business model illegal. Using a smartphone app to connect passengers with private drivers that use their own cars and don’t have the required licenses is illegal, the court observed."

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19 Mar 22:20

Google reportedly blackmailed websites into giving it content for free

by Colin Lecher

In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission investigated Google to determine whether the company's monopoly on the search market violated anti-trust laws. The Commission ultimately accepted a settlement with the search giant, but a confidential FTC report obtained by The Wall Street Journal reveals how deeply divided the Commission was over whether to sue.

As part of the settlement, Google agreed to make minor changes to its business practices and argued that the report did not show wrongdoing. But key FTC officials, after collecting nine million documents in the course of the investigation, wanted to take direct legal action against the company. The report reveals why.

Google "adopted a strategy of demoting, or refusing to display, links to certain vertical websites in highly commercial categories."

According to the report, for one example, Google took content from companies like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Amazon. In the latter case, Google lifted product rankings and placed them in their own search results for those products. When the companies complained to Google about the process, Google threatened to remove them entirely from results. The Journal quotes this section of the report: "It is clear that Google’s threat was intended to produce, and did produce, the desired effect, which was to coerce Yelp and TripAdvisor into backing down." The Commission ultimately had Google agree to let websites opt out of the process.

The Journal highlights two other concerns from the FTC. For one, Google reportedly restricted websites that published its search results from collaborating with competing search engines. In other cases, Google refused to allow data obtained from its ad campaigns to be used in campaigns with other services. According to the report, Larry Page personally asked this process to continue, before the FTC eventually convinced Google to shut it down. As for search results themselves, according to the report (as quoted in the Journal), Google "adopted a strategy of demoting, or refusing to display, links to certain vertical websites in highly commercial categories."

Google ultimately made only minor concessions after the FTC's investigation, and as the Commission decided against more forceful action, it was widely seen as a win for the company. But the report describes what happened more acutely: it was "a close call."

19 Mar 17:45

Art of the Scene: Raiders of the Lost Ark

by Bryant Frazer

Revisit the production of the 1981 Lucas-Spielberg classic Raiders of the Lost Ark with Cinefix's exhaustively researched audio and video commentary on the film's boulder-iffic opening sequence.

The post Art of the Scene: Raiders of the Lost Ark appeared first on Studio Daily.

19 Mar 19:10

tinycartridge:Why does Link look like he’s screaming whenever he...

by villeashell

via otters


Why does Link look like he’s screaming whenever he puts on a mask from the Happy Mask Salesman? ⊟

Well, here’s the answer to that question, straight from the Happy Mask Salesman! This comes from an interview with the Majora’s Mask character conducted on Miiverse last week. It’s a very creepy Q&A..

BUY Majora's Mask 3D, Link Wind Waker Nendoroid
19 Mar 20:06

Stephen A. Smith: 'What I dream is that for one election ... every black person in America vote Republican' - Yahoo News

by gguillotte


“Black folks in America are telling one party, 'We don’t give a damn about you,’” Smith said. “They’re telling the other party, ‘You’ve got our vote.’ Therefore, you have labeled yourself ‘disenfranchised’ because one party knows they’ve got you under their thumb, the other party knows they’ll never get you and nobody comes to address your interest[s].” Smith compared voting with “shopping around” to let store owners know they have to cater to you to win your business. “We don’t do that with politics, and then we blame white America for our disenfranchisement," he said.
16 Mar 16:27

"You don’t diminish your office by taking a selfie. You do it by sending a poorly written letter to..."


via Rosalind

“You don’t diminish your office by taking a selfie. You do it by sending a poorly written letter to Iran. Really. That wasn’t a joke.”

- Obama Says The GOP Has Just Shown How You Diminish Your Office
19 Mar 15:00

Barsik the Cat Plays Fetch Like a Dog


via Rosalind
Russian cat beat

In Russia, cats are actually dogs.

At least this little guy certainly seems to think so.

In the video above, Barsik the cat plays fetch with his owner, chasing a tiny ball and quickly bringing it back for more. He even pants afterwards with his tongue hanging out.

Back in January we also saw a Russian cat pull a "Lassie" and rescue an abandoned baby.

"I have a CatDog," the man says.

Yes, you do. Minus the second freakishly conjoined head.

Submitted by: (via The Daily What)

18 Mar 05:40

sixpenceee:Geometric Pond Ice in South Oregon. This occurs...


via Rosalind


Geometric Pond Ice in South Oregon. This occurs because of undisturbed slow freezing. The lake was kept just at or slightly below the freezing point for a significant amount of time. The center of each triangle is a nucleation site. The slower it cools the larger each one can grow before more nucleation sites form. 

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19 Mar 18:32

Daughter of Two Moms Comes Out Against Gay Marriage

by gguillotte

"I loved my mom’s partner, but another mom could never have replaced the father I lost.”

this isn't an argument against same-sex marriage

this is an argument that her dad is a piece of shit

if she got another dad instead of a second mom, would he "have replaced the father I lost"?

“Gay community, I am your daughter. My mom raised me with her same-sex partner back in the ’80s and ’90s,” writes Heather Barwick, a 31-year-old mother of four, in The Federalist. “I’m writing to you because I’m letting myself out of the closet: I don’t support gay marriage. But it might not be for the reasons that you think. It’s not because you’re gay. I love you, so much. It’s because of the nature of the same-sex relationship itself.” ... “Same-sex marriage and parenting withholds either a mother or father from a child while telling him or her that it doesn’t matter. That it’s all the same. But it’s not,” she writes. “A lot of us, a lot of your kids, are hurting. My father’s absence created a huge hole in me, and I ached every day for a dad. I loved my mom’s partner, but another mom could never have replaced the father I lost.”
19 Mar 16:08

Students Protest After Principal’s Racist Comment Caught on Camera

by gguillotte
The vice principal of a California middle school has been placed on administrative leave after he was caught on a student’s phone camera saying, “I just don’t like the black kids.” Joe DiFilippo, an 18-year vet of the Fresno Unified School District, is under investigation for the incident — and on Tuesday he was the target of a protest that had former students chanting, “I love black people,” and “Black power.”
18 Mar 20:58

Twitter Adds Tool To Report Tweets To the Police

by timothy
itwbennett writes Twitter is ramping up its efforts to combat harassment with a tool to help users report abusive content to law enforcement. The reports would include the flagged tweet and its URL, the time at which it was sent, the user name and account URL of the person who posted it, as well as a link to Twitter's guidelines on how authorities can request non-public user account information from Twitter. It is left up to the user to forward the report to law enforcement and left up to law enforcement to request the user information from Twitter.

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19 Mar 18:24

Lighting theory for 3D games, part 2: a formal approach to light design, and light as depth

by (Robert Yang)
Here's how I generally, theoretically, approach lighting in my games and game worlds. Part 2 is about light and function, mostly for level design.

In part 1, I talked about how different light sources have different connotations to the viewer, and these meanings are culturally constructed. In New York City today, an antique Edison bulb connotes trendy bourgeois expense, but 50 years ago it might've been merely eccentric, and 150 years ago it would've been a thrilling phenomenological novelty.

But people rarely intellectualize lighting this way, in, like, your own bedroom. In your daily middle class Western life you don't usually agonize over the existential quandaries of electricity, you just flip the light switch without looking. When in familiar places, we experience light as a resource or tool and take it for granted. So much of our everyday relationship with light concerns its functionality and what it enables us to do.

Lighting intended for a specific purpose is called task lighting, as opposed to merely cosmetic or decorative lighting. My thinking is that it's NOT about establishing a rigid binary of which lights are what, but rather it's to get you to imagine what particular tasks a particular light lets you do. Many lights can be both functional and decorative -- for instance, a candle flickering on a restaurant table is moodily dim and romantic, but it also helps you discern different tables and see your food.

In games, we are concerned with making the world readable (or selectively unreadable) for the player, to help them navigate and wayfind through a space, as well as discern different game objects. We also want to reassure the player that the world was competently constructed with some sort of intent, and that they aren't wasting their time and/or money.

For now, let's try thinking about light more formally. How does light let us read a game more easily, and what are some common patterns?

from Magnar Jenssen's excellent "Functional Lighting"
In 3D games, light gives us crucial depth cues and allows us to read the surface of an object. Without lighting, every square inch of an object will appear to have the same "value", which flattens the entire shape and emphasizes its silhouette instead of its surface.

Sometimes this flatness is a good thing that can simplify our scenes and make them easier to read, or sometimes we'll want to trick the player, but much of the time this is a distraction that prevents a player from understanding what they are seeing and interacting with your game -- and because we are trying to depict a 3D object on a flat 2D screen, we often need all the depth cues we can get.

Look at the round shapes below, and look at how relying only on silhouettes means they will LIE TO YOU:

(Again, lying to the player or viewer is great if you have a purpose in doing so... but purposeless lying is just some trolling bullshit.)

At "fullbright", or when a game engine renders models unlit at default 100% brightness, it is difficult to tell the difference between the cylinder and the sphere. To help read 3D depth into a 2D image, we need to use texture, fog, similar objects near us and far from us -- we need spatial context.

Light is the main tool for creating this context. With light, we can read the contour and a mesh's surface normals -- the direction(s) that a given 3D surface is pointing, whether it is concave / convex, round or flat, etc.

Reading this surface topology is often very important for playing 3D games. Is this hill too steep to climb, am I supposed to go here? If I throw a grenade, which way will it roll down, and how quickly? How far is it to the top or bottom of the room, can I jump up or fall down safely? A lot of this type of lighting is about signposting for the player to help them understand their surroundings.

The image above is a scene from Residue Processing in Half-Life 1. Note the hanging ceiling spotlights focus on the floor, leaving the wall relatively dim -- this helps emphasize the neon green splashes from the toxic sludge, which is an important hazard throughout this chapter. It also establishes visual hierarchy; the bottom of the room is much more important than the top of the room. (One criticism: the hidden light strips along the ceiling edges are lazy and thoughtless, and don't feel industrial to me. If they wanted to isolate the metal ceiling from the concrete shell, they should've used geometry to do that. And there's already a trim! As it stands, it's just a mostly flat plane separated for no reason.)

On the left, the exit out of this room is lit prominently, so we know where we're going and don't linger for too long. (The NPC also shoots the headcrab monsters and runs out that exit. Valve really wanted you to follow.) The simplest way to light a space is to light every crucial game object / affordance, and make sure the player can see where they want to go. If something isn't important, then don't bother lighting it.

The point of the Residue Processing chapter is low-combat platforming and weapon inventory build-up in an industrial setting that re-uses the silo art assets from Blast Pit -- the point is not to fumble in shadows or to stage elaborate story events where you're locked in a room as NPCs talk. Fittingly, the lighting is very functional and utilitarian, and you don't really stay still for too long.

In this scene from Half-Life 2 (d3_c17_03.bsp), most of the courtyard is in shadow except for a neon teal Combine spotlight, an orange fire giving off lots of smoke, and a friendly NPC shooting at nearby enemies. Gee, Batman, I wonder where we're supposed to go?

Traditional thinking about game lighting is that it is garnish on top of a strong floorplan, but I think lighting is so powerful that it can help compensate for an unclear floorplan too. This is technically just a long room that ends in a blind corner; this is the textbook wayfinding problem that Brendon Chung refers to in his wayfinding talk at GDC 2015. In cases of equal value and flat lighting, as in the fullbright frame above, you won't see anything. But if you put a light around the corner, then we can easily discern the corner. Valve's consistent use of Combine spotlights even lets players estimate how far the blind light source is, based on its intensity and falloff.

The keyword here is "contrast", between shadow and not-shadow, between static lighting and flickering lighting -- between complementary colors blue and orange which are opposite each other on a color wheel and help emphasize each other.

A master class in how NOT to light a game? Note the blorange, note lazy glowy bits everywhere, etc.
Note that these kinds of rules and guidelines can easily be abused, and so they often are. Blue-orange, or "blorange", is a mark of laziness in CG and video games. (Video games tend to avoid red-green contrast for weird Christmas connotations in the West / players with red-green color blindness.)

Similarly, "follow the flickering light" or "follow the perpetually burning trash fires" or "follow the red glowing thing" is barely a step up from "follow this giant glowing arrow" or "follow the word FOLLOW." These are not novel nor compelling ways to explore a world.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of tackiness and tastelessness.

... Except when I've seen that same kind of tastelessness over and over.

the evolution of video games; from Jack Monahan's "Visual Clarity in Character Design"
These same ideas about lighting spaces also apply to lighting characters and their gameplay affordances. Which way is the NPC looking? Where is its head, so I can headshot it? How can I headshoot it even when we're in the dark? The laziest solution is to make things glow and add lots of color contrast.

Sure, now we'll notice this thing, but at what cost?

When we focus too strongly on the functional aspects of lighting. and apply guidelines blindly, the result is often overly instrumental, emotionally hollow, and basically artless. This is the danger of any rule-making in art -- to assume what worked in what situation will work flawlessly in another situation and produce similar results.

For instance, players don't always flock toward light.

Thief 1, a first person stealth game about hiding in shadows, makes you afraid of light. Here, light makes you vulnerable to being spotted by hostile NPCs -- it doesn't just signify a hazard, it is also a hazard in itself. Every step toward a light source is a risk. Much of the gameplay in Thief consists of huddling in darkness, anxiously watching the well-lit doorway from a safe distance, wondering if there's a way for you to go around and avoid that lit area entirely. In this game, we gravitate toward shadows instead.

It makes sense that lighting in stealth games, or more broadly, games about avoiding direct conflict and confrontation, would operate very differently from games about fighting and gun battles. If you want to design light for function, you should be aware of what that function actually is.

from "Thief 1's Assassins and environmental storytelling."
Also, bad readability isn't always bad.

In the level "Assassins" from Thief 1, Looking Glass Studios used a raised blind corner on purpose to force you to hang back and rely more on the sound of NPC footsteps. The point of this setpiece was to be visually unreadable, and so make you panic about lingering too far behind the NPCs you're supposed to follow. Instead of following a breadcrumb trail of random trash fires, or red cage lights, or (ugh) bl-orange spotlights, we are instead following an invisible mental abstraction and all this fucking light is really unhelpful.

This is one of the most beautiful moments of that level, and it relies on purposeful, nearly transcendent confusion and uncertainty. If games like challenge so much, why not elevate perceptual challenges?

from "Dark Past, part 4: a valence theory of level design"
Before designer Donald Norman co-opted it, the concept of an "affordance" came from ecological psychology, where James Gibson defined it as "what [an environment] offers an animal, either for good or ill." Here, an affordance is a relationship that depends heavily on context, it is not a matter of internalizing supposed universal laws of good design, as several well-meaning but flawed design bibles might have you believe. For more on this ecological psychology approach to design and affordance, especially as it pertains to games, see Jonas Linderoth's 2011 DIGRA paper, "Beyond the digital divide: An ecological approach to gameplay"

Formal approaches to light help us think about the way we use light, but remember that form does NOT follow function. Rather, form follows worldview; much of the orthodoxy around game aesthetics presumes a certain function, certain player, and a certain type of game. That's why part 1 of this series started conceptually -- if you lose sight of what your thing is to different people, then even all the blorange exit spotlights in the world won't save you.

NEXT TIME: part 3, on three-point lighting and why it's kind of useless for 3D games.
19 Mar 18:34

Charles Foster, Offering to Moloch, Bible Pictures and What They...


man these are baller

Charles Foster, Offering to Moloch, Bible Pictures and What They Teach Us, 1897

19 Mar 18:34

Charles Foster, Moloch, 1897



Charles Foster, Moloch, 1897