Month: February 2016

System Sellers and Why I Bought a PS4

I recently bought a PS4, which is the main reason why I haven't been too active writing new articles for Twinstiq. Let's make one thing clear. This is not a console wars article. The thought of buying an Xbox One has never even crossed my mind. What I'd like to do here is to take a trip down to Memory Lane and remember the titles that sold me consoles since the 80's. Let's face it, it's all about the games.

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Games to play on Valentine’s Day

February 8th, 2016

Today I met this really cute girl Emily while waiting in line at McD and while I’m not planning on sharing many details about my private life, let’s just say I am THE MAN! We have a date on Valentine’s Day, which is about as cheesy as it can get, and I’m planning on making this a night to remember. Only issue: it’s been ages since I’ve been with a girl and I’ve never been on something that can be classified as a traditional date. Yes, I have quite a bit of catching up to do and what better way is there than using the medium of video games for it. Welcome to my Valentine’s Day Boot camp Diary, aka. Games to play on (or better before) Valentine’s Day.

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The Twinstiq Podcast – Episode 26: Uncommon Commons

Greywolfe, Matthew and me, Dr. S, talk about stuff that's happening in and mostly around like Firewatch, XCOM 2 and... well, mostly XCOM, i think... and that Amazon thing with the zombies. Yeah, Amazon is preparing their legal department for an upcoming zombie epidemic, doesn't that sound like something you want to know more about?
I'm sure you do, so no spoilers here, but it's really quite funny. Greywolfe disagrees with me on this, but he does that always so don't let that drag you down. I mean, fucking zombies, right?

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this episode. It's really short compared to how long these things tend to get! Better listen to two in a row. You will only slightly regret it and what is life without a little regret every now and then. It's like the little pieces of grime and shit you get on the food you order from that one filthy place you really like to eat at. In theory you really don't want them, but they actually help your immune system and make you stronger as a result, which, and i think we can all agree on this, is a good thing!
So, yeah: The Twinstiq Podcast!

A game from my past with more meaning than I knew at the time- Wings 2: Aces High

In keeping Greywolfe's theme of games played in childhood that surprise us now, I decided to revisit Namco's 1992 Super Nintendo title, Wings 2: Aces High. By the way this was sold in Europe as Blazing Skies, in case it looks familiar but the name doesn't quite fit for you.

I was twelve years old when I got to play this game for the first time and I fell in love with it because I got to fly a World War One biplane around and participate in dogfights and bomb buildings etc. However I never really payed attention to its historical significance. I only ever thought it was cool to be flying around in what was then a very highly detailed faux 3d environment battling with other planes.Wings 2 - Aces High (U)The story behind Wings 2 is that the player takes part as the leader of a British war plane squadron that's been tasked to hinder Kaiser Wilhelm the second's war efforts. The squadron consists of five pilots, though you'll only ever see one at a time, and if any of them fail a mission and manage to survive they're dishonorably discharged from the air corp. If the player dies during a mission the pilot is given a memorial scene and his medals are displayed if he's procured any from his trials. The whole thing takes place during 1917 in France, of course during World War one. Ultimately the player is confronted by the Red Baron himself, Manfred von Richthofen.

While fighting other planes the player has to search for enemies and perform acrobatic moves to keep them in their sights. Firing your planes machine guns shows a trail of glowing hot ammunition streaming from the front of the aircraft. When those shots connected with the enemy you'd see small bursts to indicate that you'd hit and after a few shots you'd see smoke frothing from the engine and eventually the enemy craft would spin and fall from the sky landing in a great fiery explosion below. Pretty great detail for a 20 plus year old cartridge title.

So when I was playing this at a young age I never took into consideration the fact that these were among some of the first planes to be used as tools of war. And as such carried some of the first pilots to fly in a war. Looking at it now it's amazing that these guys survived any mission they were sent on.

This is a 1917 Nieuport Fighter plane. Shown here in a colorized photo.

These guys were flying around in planes made of wood and covered in canvas. They were the covered wagons of the skies. There was little in the way of warmth for the pilot, perhaps a wool and leather jacket, gloves, a silk scarf and a cap and goggles, so flying in cold weather was as miserable as it was dangerous. The scarves themselves were very important, they were used to keep the pilots goggles clean of oil and exhaust soot and also helped keep chafing away while they had to constantly swivel their necks to keep sight of the enemy.

The planes guns had to be engineered to fire through the beats of the propeller or the pilot would shoot himself down. Bombs were carried on the floor of cockpit and the pilot dropped them by hand while leaning over the side of the aircraft. All while dodging incoming fire from other planes or ground troops depending on how close they had to be to the target, and doing so without a parachute. These guys were arguably the ballsiest, craziest people there were during those times. Each one of them willingly put themselves in control of a slow, under-powered, basically armorless flying target and expected to die during every mission they undertook. And these incredibly brave men were also -inventing- flight maneuvers that are still used today. Unbelievable.

Looking back on what I saw at the time as just a fun flight combat game made me realize that it was so much more. While it isn't a highly realistic simulator like we have today, Wings 2: Aces High did and still does salute the bravery of the pioneers of air warfare from all sides of the conflict.

If you haven't already, You can check out Grewolfe's article here.

[image credit for the 1917 Nieuport fighter here] [That beautiful feature image is by Gary Meyer] [In game screenshot credit here] [This site has a lot of information on WWI aircraft]

Trey had to suddenly cancel his #4iF because there was some urgent flaying business that we needed him for

Some people think that October is the true month of horror, some people are fools. No dear friends, the true month of terror belongs to the accursed February. February shows not only its contempt for humanity by being the shortest month of the year, but by also flogging us with the dreaded “Four in February”. It dares us to complete four games by the end of the month to sate its masochistic love of human degradation. This year I face its true horror and prepare to make the following sacrifices:

Legend of Grimrock
I will attempt to defeat this tile-based dungeon crawler for the first time. It has sat in that damnable Steam Library for far too long, god only knows what it has been plotting. I only hope that never ending dungeon landscapes do not drive me mad first.

Legend of Grimrock 2
Why stop with the first game in a series? Why not do BOTH? These are questions that I ask for no other reason than to fill space as I delay the inevitable. After completing the first game in the series I will also do attempt to crush its sequel set on an island for some reason. Maybe there will be a "Joe Versus the Volcano" joke I can squeeze out of it after completion?

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic:The Sith Lords:Escape From Peragus
I will make an offering to this hellish god with this classic game as well. I hope the eldritch beast chokes on the excessive colons.

Legacy of Dorn: Herald of Oblivion
A Warhammer 40K choose your own adventure/Chaos dating sim. It’s like Livingstone and Jackson went back to Games Workshop and made the “Fighting Fantasy” books even more grim dark.
I am also something of a charlatan, so I will include two backup options if I finally pick up a new 360 this week. These will be Dark Souls 2 and Space Marine.

Hearthstone: League of Explorers Review: BRB. Dodging A Collapsing Temple.

Hearthstone's solo adventures are always a pleasant change of pace. Instead of beating up on other people, we're beating up on imaginary bosses. These bosses are generally thematically linked through some crumbs of story that get doled out as each wing of the adventure unlocks.

In the case of League of Explorers, the story's wrapped around a kind of Indiana Jones-like concept, where you help both prominent Warcraft lore figures and newcomers alike to banish a thief named Rafaam from the current dig you're on.

It's simple and fun - for the most part. It also introduces new adventure mechanics, new cards with thematic ideas and my very favourite Murloc - something I thought I'd never say - in the form of Sir Finley Mrrgglton.

So, as Peter Molyneux might ask...what's inside the box? Read more

NonStiq: The Real Suicide Squad

By now we're probably all familiar with the up-coming DC film "Suicide Squad". Based on Detective Comics graphic novels of the same name, the Suicide Squad is comprised of a band of degenerate weirdos and misfit villains that are drafted into service as anti hero types meant to take on impossible tasks that they are not likely to survive.Suicide_Squad_in_the_2016_filmI'm pretty excited for the movie myself, especially after the last trailer I saw. We'll be expecting to see this in theaters August 5th of this year.

This article however, is about the true and real Suicide Squad comprised of some equally degenerate weirdos and just so happened to form the basis for what is now NASA's, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

Our story starts here:

In the interest of time I'm going to summarize some things until we get to the interesting bits after this paragraph. A talented self taught chemist at Caltech named John Whiteside Parsons (folks called him Jack) along with colleagues, Frank Malina and Edward Forman wanted to make a liquid fuel rocket motor. However they lacked the funding so they decided to approach Caltech with the idea. The head of GALCIT (Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory-Caltech), Theodore von Karman gave permission for the group to work together on the subject.

With some effort the men came up with the basic funding needed and secured a test site behind the Devil's Gate Dam in Pasadena CA. As it happens this site is pretty close to the JPL test site still used today. Soon the team was re-enforced by two more scientists from GALCIT: Weld Arnold and Hsue Shen Tsien. The Suicide Squad was now complete.tumblr_nx29y4uY0q1qap0k4o1_500

Why the name Suicide Squad? Well, as it turns out a lot of the small scale tests were done indoors and one of these tests went awry in 1937 that caused a cloud of nitrogen dioxide/alcohol to be released forming a thin rust layer on much of the team's lab equipment. This of course could have also been very unhealthy for the team members themselves, and afterward all tests were performed outside. Crazy huh?

Word got to the team in '38 of the National Academy of Science (NAS) interest in seeking a way to assist in the take off of heavily loaded planes and Caltech was awarded a $10,000 contract. The Suicide Squad got to work on development of rocket propulsion that would provide a large increase in performance for propeller aircraft to get up to speed quicker and thus take off quicker. The team referred to it as jet propulsion so as not to sound like a pulp sci-fi story that would never be taken seriously.

Theodor von Karman was set as the lead with Parsons, Forman and Malina being the major staff members. Arnold and Tsien had left the project several months earlier. Parsons quickly proved himself invaluable to the operation in 1940 by using knowledge from the failed experiment in 1937 to show that red-fuming nitric acid was better than liquid oxygen to be used as an oxidizer.

Now things start to get weird:

Jack Parsons had a second life, a very strange one in fact. In Los Angeles in 1939 he and his wife Helen had found an organization called the Ordo Templi Orientis international magical fraternity, or O.T.O. The order was lead and founded by a British man named Wilfred Talbot Smith who quickly formed a friendship with Parsons' wife. They formed the O.T.O. Gnostic Mass Temple in the attic of their house. This temple contained a book, the Egyptian 'Stele of Revealing' which was known widely by the followers of a famous magician by the name of Aleister Crowley. He was known for the mantra "Do what thou wilt shall be whole of the law". Information on Crowley can be found here.

Crowley eventually wrote an astrological research paper titled "Is Smith a god?" that convinced Wilfed Talbot Smith that he wasn't a human, but actually an incarnation of a deity. This event lead to Smith going into private practice, and that somehow brought Parsons up to be the new Head of the O.T.O. Lodge. Parsons' wife Helen eventually left him for Smith, but they managed to stay friends. Besides, Parsons was busy collecting money for the upkeep of the O.T.O. much of that coming from his own pockets.

Crowley was an accomplished fellow, a writer, mountain climber, and chess master, but his main focus was the practice of sexual magic "Magick" as he called it. Soon he was known as "the wickedest man in the world" and even compared to the "Great Beast 666". He of course felt that this was a misconstrued reference and countered with a quote "Within the memory of man we have had the Pagan period, the worship of Nature, of Isis, of the Mother, of the Past; the Christian period, the worship of Man, of Osiris, of the Present. The first period is simple, quiet, easy, and pleasant; the material ignores the spiritual; the second is of suffering and death: the spiritual strives to ignore the material.... The new Aeon is the worship of the spiritual made one with the material, of Horus, of the Child, of the Future." His books are still stocked in new age book stores.

Parsons would regularly perform prayers to the O.T.O. before testing new rockets and began to believe that it had a major effect of the Suicide Squad's success. Unfortunately he wasn't very successful very quickly and the many failures began to raise questions by the government financiers. Eventually however he was allowed to continue and the Suicide Squad built the first successful "Jet Assisted Take Off" (JATO) rockets just a few months later. And on August 12th 1941 [a date that coincides with new Suicide Squad movie release almost to the day] Parsons' team was involved in the very first American jet assisted takeoff. Magic or science? (For the record I say science coupled with a lot of trial and error)First_JATO_assisted_Flight_-_GPN-2000-001538 copyThe new JATO rocket utilized a fuel called GALCIT-27, it provided 28 pounds of thrust for 12 seconds. There were still problems however. This was a solid rocket fuel in powder form and during storage could settle and crack causing abnormalities that would produce inconsistent burns and even catastrophic failures. This was solved initially by only loading the rockets just prior to use, but they needed a more permanent solution.

So Parsons and two others credited for their help in development, Fred Miller, and Mark Mills, created a more stable version of the fuel called GALCIT-53 in June of '42. Around the same time others were working on Parsons liquid fuel idea from much earlier using red-fuming nitric acid and gasoline, this also turned out to be successful. Soon Parsons, Malina and Forman had their own company called, Aerojet Engineering Corporation, to produce and sell these rockets. Later this company came to be known as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

In the 1950's...

...Malina came under scrutiny for being an ex-Nazi (actually a few years earlier) and had moved to Paris, France where he joined UNESCO. Eventually in 1952 he returned to U.S. and with his shares of Aerojet managed a comfortable life. He became a sculptor and artist, even founded a magazine called Leonardo, it's still in publication today.

Also in 1952, Parsons was working on an experiment in his garage mixing "magick" and science. Supposedly he was trying to create a Homunculous, a magical artificial human. The experiment went wrong and he was killed in the resulting explosion.

I could find little information about Edward Forman, other than to say he left the team. Perhaps more research at a later time will yield more.

[Source info here] [and here]