Category: Software

Live VJing

Here is some live VJing I did for the International Orchestra of the United Kingdom of Goats @ Waldeck Freakquenz 2014. I used Avenue.

Sorry for the poor sound quality, there are some things a GoPro can’t do.


Robert Yang makes weird games (or are they?)

You are a man alone in a fitsness studio shower. Two guys walk in, talking, ignoring you. You just stand under the spray wondering what the hell it is this game is all about. Then with a great flourish enters this naked dude with sunglasses, walking up to you, asking you to give him a hand… washing his back. By this time, I have giggled and flushed a bit. Is this some kind of sex sim? You do as well as you can, and then he’s just like “Well, ‘ta for that, see you next time.” The game tells you that you have to wait for a few hours until you can have a go at it again… What the hell just happened?

You just had a game experience created by Robert Yang. It’s called Rinse and repeat. He has made all these other short weird indie games that make profound statements about sex, BDSM and denial like Cobra Club, Hurt me plenty and Stick Shift.

Each is an intricately crafted work full of deliberate detail. Each has a meaning deeper (yet entirely dependent on) its surface, in-your-face interactions. Each packs more significance into its five or so minutes of playing than you will find spread across many an eighty-hour blockbuster game and, taken together, the games present a fascinating oeuvre (a word video game critics rarely have an opportunity to use).

(Brenden Keogh from

It questions your expectations as a gamer, influenced by instant gratification the internet has to offer, and you end up weirded out by yourself more than by the actual game. I haven’t looked at all the other games yet (though they sound pretty great:Intimate, Infinite: literary murder / chess / garden simulator!) but if I find myself with five minutes downtime before the Fallout 4 frenzy starts, I’ll definitely check them out.

Papers, please: A political game

“Papers, Please” is a “Dystopian Document Thriller” by Lucas Pope. I played it yesterday and it really gives you a sort of feeling what it must be like to live in totalitarian state. Here’s the description from Pope’s page:
The communist state of Arstotzka has ended a 6-year war with neighboring Kolechia and reclaimed its rightful half of the border town, Grestin.
Your job as immigration inspector is to control the flow of people entering the Arstotzkan side of Grestin from Kolechia. Among the throngs of immigrants and visitors looking for work are hidden smugglers, spies, and terrorists. Using only the documents provided by travelers and the Ministry of Admission’s primitive inspect, search, and fingerprint systems you must decide who can enter Arstotzka and who will be turned away or arrested.
You are basically a hardcore TSA Agent. Also, you have a family to care for, rent to pay, food to buy and heat your apartment. Your income is dependent on how many people you process in a day’s time. And I must say, working under pressure and being faced with the decision to help a total stranger while thinking about what the government might do to you family in return… Whoa. The family members are displayed as mere icons. If there were pictures … it’s not even necessary.
No matter what you try to do, even if you know what the right thing to do is, you start thinking twice about it and it’s terrifying to watch yourself make these decisions.

Here are some lectures given @29c3 that I have watched (many more to come!) and found noteworthy – so far.

The keynote “Not my department” by Jacob Applebaum

Security nightmares “Damit Sie auch morgen schlecht von Ihrem Computer träumen” by  Frank Rieger and Ron (in German).

Also, Everycook. As one member of the audience put it: “Shut up and take my money!”

More selective bits will follow.


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Just a quick reminder: Chaos Computer Club hosts its annual conference, Chaos Communication Congress, for the 29th time this year, from 27th to 30th December for the first time in Hamburg @CCH. Sadly I couldn’t go, but you can stream the talks and lectures in various formats or watch them later online.

Here is the schedule, watch for updates!

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Zork creators are being honored adequately

Marc Blank and Dave Lebling, two of the co-founders of Infocom and co-creators of Zork, will be honored with the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences’ Pioneer Award.

Me playing ‘Zork’ at Computerspielemuseum Berlin.

Wired reporter Chris Kohler covered the story, and spoke to Dave Lebling, as well as another Infocom designer.  Just when I read the post on Boingboing I thought “Oh man, I so want to play ‘Zork’ right now just reading about it …”, my wish was sort of granted, because he took writing an article up one notch. “But in honor of their achievements and their medium of choice, we’ve decided to present the results of our interviews in a text adventure of our own, below.”

In this short work of interactive fiction, your goal is to interview one of the 2013 Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences Pioneer Award winners, Dave Lebling. He’s the co-creator of the seminal text adventure Zork and co-founder of Infocom. You also need to present Dave with a worthy treasure. And get another quote from somebody else for your story. Commands in text adventures like this can be constructed of short sentences. Just tell me what to do: OPEN MAILBOX, for instance, might be a good start. Then TAKE everything you find in there.

Click on the link to start playing.

Interview with Dave Lebling

via BoingBoing

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Tørnquist will develop “Dreamfall Chapters”

Ragnar Tørnquist has founded his own studio, Red Thread Games, and is working on a new installment of “The Longest Journey” franchise. As you might know, “The Longest Journey” and “The Longest Journey: Dreamfall” are two of my favorite adventure games.

The Secret World developer Funcom today announced that it reached a licensing deal with Red Thread that will see the studio develop Dreamfall Chapters, the sequel to 2006’s Dreamfall: The Longest Journey and 2000’s original The Longest Journey.

As part of the agreement, Red Thread will fund and produce the game on its own, while Funcom will take a share of the revenues. Tørnquist has already confirmed through Twitter that the studio has received 1 million NOK (a little over $175,000) from the Norwegian Film Institute to fund pre-production. During development of Dreamfall Chapters, Tørnquist will also continue working with Funcom in an advisory capacity on The Secret World, though he will have the title of creative director. (Source:

As long as “The Secret World” won’t suffer in quality, I’m looking forward to continue playing the haunting storyline of Arcadia and Stark.

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The Secret World

We did not get much sleep this weekend because we signed up for “The Secret World” beta.

Trailer 1

TSW is an MMORPG, set in a modern day time, which makes it an ARG (alternate reality game). You can find out more here. As you recall, we started wanting this in 2011. What”s interesting about this is the absence of the usual MMORPG classes and levels. It gives you complete freedom to be whoever you want to be and play however you want to play.

The artwork had us salivating when they first announced the game.

We loved the beta phase of the game; actually, I expected nothing less of Funcom, who also made “Dreamfall” and “Anarchy Online“. Did you know we played “Anarchy Online” for a shockingly long time? I guess this was my MMO of choice, others never took a hold of me like AO did.

So TSW is what I expect a MMORPG to look like in 2012. And being Funcom, it has (like all their precious games had) an epic story-line, subtle yet snazzy design, mind-blowing settings and character. Sorry, I don’t want to sound like an advertising machine and your mileage may vary, but this just really hits my sweet gaming spot. I promised I would never start another one of these time-consuming monster games. Unless… unless it was this.

Usually, I quickly scan quest texts and forget about them just as quick. You’d soon come to regret that in TSW, because the story being told is quite unusual. All of the secret societies are there. I won’t describe that here, other gaming mags have probably done that better. Elaborate cutscenes give the feel of playing a single player, with lots of cool non-generic characters (NPCs). My farvorite was the nanny with the shotgun.

Just when you think you have a setting, a feel of the place and a mood – a genre – it goes all steampunk all of a sudden, then it looks like “Dreamfall” at its best and then it’s all “Left 4 Dead“… What a ride. I only tell you this much: Expect some serious genre-mash-up!

We experienced some minor glitches in the beta playing phase (like respawn bugs in an SP instance dungeon etc.). Probably eveything will run smoothly at launch time. I could only play with the lowest settings. As soon as I update my hardware, I bet it’s going to look fantastic.

Trailer 2

If you want some taste of secret:  Go to, click anywhere on the page that isn’t a link, and hit “33.” It’s a rabbit hole that goes deep.

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The power of Power Point and poultry

I’m going to give a lecture with a lot of slides in two hours. I’m a little nervous, and I’m sharing with you what I think of when I’m nervous before a speech. Then I’m not so “chicken” anymore and it never fails to put a smile on my face. Here is Doug Zongker’s presentation at the AAAS session, February 16, 2007.


Oh, and here’s the paper.


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We just finished “Mass Effect 3”, the third and last part of a game that – think we can say without hesitating – is certainly one of a kind.The emotional upheaval during this scifi saga is pretty hard to match.

When we first started playing “Mass Effect” in 2008, it was still a little rough around the edges. But we were hooked instantly.


Lene: I just love creating my own character’s looks. I spent an evening an making my first Shepard. Actually, I always do that when I have the chance. My Skyrim-char took several hours as well. My first Shepard was female and sort of Eurasian-looking. She was a tough cookie and I liked her instantly.

Thias: Oh yeah, she LOOOOVES character creation. I mean: it is fun and I take my time, too. But Lene… we often start games in two different rooms at the same time, but under no circumstances am I allowed to start playing before her character is done. Sometimes feels like I could have finished a whole other game waiting for her. 😛
Anyway: My shepard was a male soldier, handsome, role-model, blablabla.

Class conflicts

Lene: I played a Sentinel with my FemShep. It is just me, or does being a Sentinel not really have any edges in 3? As a Sentinel, you are a biotic tec. In 1, that used to make it easier to hack things likes wall safes or computers and such. But this element completely vasnished in 3, you just pick up stuff as you go and you don’t have to do anything except look for it. If you usually don’t bother with this kind of explorations you probably won’t miss it, but I kinda like decoding things. So playing this class doesn’t give you any real edge. I was thinking about changing to pure biotic… Well, this is a minor inconsistency anyway.

Thias: I totally forgot about the hacking stuff and I’m usually really into that kinda stuff. Didn’t miss it in ME3, though. Played the “IMMMAA FIRIN’ MA LAZZOOORR”-type-a-guy, if you know what I mean.

ME3 in relation to…

Lene: Replaying ME1: I hated driving that buggie, the mako, they call it. I call it a pain in the ass. Still hate it! Mission level designs are tuby at best. Now, playing ME1 again after ME3 you can just see how much gameplay has improved over the series. Adding jumping makes it feel more shooter-y.

Thias: I actually missed the mako. Did so in ME2 already. And why they dumbed down the planet scanning game even more…. come on guys, if you make it so simple, why not leave it out. Or bring back the mako for a few missions. Speaking of which: the missions are still very linear in ME3 with only a little bit more room to the right/left before you run into something that prevents you from hitting the invisble wall. But hey, this is no open world shooter, no hard feelings. I will play through the whole saga again in a year or so, being less of a saint and write about it then…


Lene: The affection you can develop to your NPC friends in “Mass Effect” is incredible. If you haven’t played it: Half of the time of the game is talking to people. You can have relationships, you can flirt, intimidate, bribe, consult, betray… And it all looks so nice. Why does this differ from any other RPG then? This is not news.

Bioware spent a great deal inventing new ways to animate the characters. For example in ME2 the facial emotions are AI created in relation to the recorded voice performance. The characters you encounter really come to life, have an intricate background story, their own thoughts and goals and pursue them, too.

Thias: What I found really amazing is how it often felt as if Lene and I were playing two completely different games. Characters and missions changed so much  based on our interactions and decisions that we often found us talking about the things that happened in our last gaming sessions, having a lot of “What? HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?”-moments.

A history of violence

Lene: Alien races have a complex history and genealogy as a rule. Of course, every race has its issues. E.g. one race created another race, then tried to annihilate it (because they were getting “too clever”); another race enslaved another race and than neutered it (because they were getting “too strong”); and pretty much every other race thinks humans are stupid (because they are “too young”) and have to be convinced otherwise before they do anything for you… You get my drift. It’s all about superiority in the galaxy, basically. There is a ton to learn and the history is very sophisticated and intricate; it’s hard to find a ‘blank spot’. Some of the non-council races are just adorable, like the Elcor. Here is one example.

Thias: LOVE the Elcor. And besides being adorable: this is a very grave, intelligent and alien species with a long history..

Lene: Personally, I demand a diploma in “‘Mass Effect’-related cultural Xenology and History” that you get as an achievement once you finish all the games. It would be *.pdf instant print and it would go right to my wall.

Thias: And I even read ALL of the background information. Seriously, I know popular sci-fi universes which give less background on their inhabitants. A+ for creating a whole new, rich setting from scratch!

Tragic Deaths and Loving

Lene: Sadly, in ME2, many of my Shepard’s crew died. I lost Thane, Tali, Wrex and Morden. I could never get over it and neither could she. She romanced Liara in ME1, I didn’t have savegame for ME2. So Liara was amnesic and couldn’t remember her at all. That was sad! Then Shepard went after Jack, but apparently she is not into women. Me not wiki-ing everything, nothing happened there. In ME3, she finally realized she had fallen in love with Garrus, but got distracted by her sexy secretary Traynor, so that didn’t happen either. All in all, I am not very satisfied with how that went down.

Thias: I don’t remember who I romanced in ME1 (might have been Liara, too), but I totally went for Jack in ME2 (and ME3 for that matter). Lene was quite envious as I recall. Har!

Liara T’Soni is simply the sweetest mono-gendered blue alien. How can you not love her?

Returning to the Citadel

Lene: As I mentioned earlier: Now I will play “Mass Effect 1” again, and this time, it will be different. My FemShep was a hard-ass, but she was basically friendly. Like, 90% Paragon (the goodie points you get) and 10% Renegade (the baddie points) when someone really pissed her off or threatened the ones she loved. And the one time she punched this Quarian captain in the nuts was a total accident, I swear it!

For my replays, I am playing an ugly old man. This is him:

There’s a new Shepard in town now. He will be a bit like Admiral Adama. Feared by his enemies, loved by his crew. Maybe not loved by all of them equally, but still one hell of a guy. Definitely more Renegade actions for him. He’s a Vanguard, I just can’t do it without biotic power – maybe I liked the sound design of warping, too.

This time, I am going to keep Ashley instead of Kaidan (at one point in ME1, you have to decide either/or), because frankly, Kaidan is annoying. “Oh noo, I’m an outdated biotic with an implant that gives me headaches and I am so emo all the time … Sheppy-Weppy, my brainz hurtz, please tell me it’s going to be okay everything is terrible and my head hurts noo…” Boo-fucking-hoo, get over it. Is what the new Shepard would say. Yes. Not the old one. He’s just going to be nice to all the young pretty women and antagonize everyone else except maybe Wrex, they might become buddies.

Thias: And as I already mentioned: I will take some time, but will definetly come back to the saga again. But definitely not before “Bioshock Infinite”.

Lene: And, yes you have just read a highly subjective post about personal “Mass Effect” experiences that contains a lot of spoilers and opions. But telling you that I am replaying it as someone else might give you an idea about the many shades and course of events this detailed universe has to offer. I’m simply curious what butterfly effect it might have if I sneezed in a Quarian’s general direction. Thank you, makers, for a unique gaming experience.

Thias: Indeed, hurp durp.

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