Is This Why Google is On Top?

Ars Technica summarizes a report on search engine usage online, which finds that Google users are more loyal—they are less likely to use competitive search engines.

I think the more interesting number is the number of searches per month of the various users. Or, more specifically, the combination of these two numbers. Google searchers perform, on average, about twice as many searches as the users of their competitors. I find it hard to believe there isn’t a correlation between this, and their loyalty. The only question in my mind is the nature of the connection. Is it purely correlation (those who are more likely to use Google are also more likely to do many searches, for some 3rd reason)? Or is there a causal link?

Continue reading

Gen Con, pt 1

I’m not sure how new of a thing this is, but we went to a scheduled, ticketed event Wed night. I would’ve said that was “before the con”—and, in fact, we ran into an interesting dilemma: one of us forgot his badge at home, and had to have it FedExed overnight, so he was without for Wed night. So, could he play the Wed night game? It’s a ticketed event, but there’s no such thing as a badge for Wed admission, because the convention is Thurs-Sun. And the game was in one of the hotels, not the convention center. So it’s a little unclear whether they can actually demand that you have a badge—or have paid admission at all—to play a Wed night game. Arguably, a 4-day badge is for “the whole convention”, so I suppose that covers it. Though I wonder if they’d let someone with just a Thurs badge play in a Wed game? Anyway, I digress.

Wed night’s game, which we barely made it to (mostly my fault, though i’ll let the construction along the way take some of the blame), was Fairy Tale/Noir, a QAGS game (and unrelated to the RPG Fae Noir, other than topic). The basic premise was pretty much what the titile implies: a mash-up of film noir and faerie tale motifs. Though the “film noir” was really more hardboiled detective, and the faerie tale motifs were much more Grimm’s, Mother Goose, and Disney, than actual folktales. The game was set in Happily Ever After, the faerie noir equivalent of Las Vegas, and revolved around solving a murder.
Continue reading

Gen Con, pt 2

The first game of Thurs was Starblazer Adventures: Return of the Star Kings, pt 1. Starblazer Adventures is a massive tome, an extension of the Fate system based on an obscure 80s British comic. The comic itself was, as near as I can suss out, a pastiche of all the space opera that had come before. As such, it seems to have a lot of unique names and details, but the broad strokes look a lot like all the other space opera, both before and since, and thus rings very familiar. In both good and bad ways.

I’m not entirely sold on the setting of the game. It’s distinct enough that, to play in it, you would need to learn the setting. But, after all that effort (it’s a big book), you wouldn’t be using a particularly distinctive setting. It seems to me that a better way to do it would be to create your own pastiche, based on whatever settings the people you were playing with were already familiar with. You’d end up with roughly the same thing—a not-terribly-distinctive setting, evocative of larger-than-life space opera—but with much less effort, and probably greater familiarity. And, for that matter, it wouldn’t be at all hard to just take Spirit of the Century and adapt it to space opera.
Continue reading

Gen Con, pt 3

The next game on Thurs was one I was running: Four Colors al Fresco: Champion of the School. This one started with a snafu: a tournament-style event was scheduled for a dozen tables [the entire room] from noon to 8pm, but the tables had only been scheduled for 4 hours, ending at 4pm. So, when I found this out at about 3:50, the convention staff had about 10min to deal with nearly a dozen double-booked tables. Well, while just about every one of them had some sort of event scheduled to start before 8, on the upside only two of the tables were double-booked at 4pm, so they had a little extra time on the rest of them. But, still, a bit of an issue. After some discussion with the main HQ, the local volunteers did what I would’ve expected them to do in the first place: move some games. The delay was a little frustrating, as my game time loomed, but I’ve probably been doing this longer than they have—but, still, it seemed obvious to me what had happened: somebody entered the event duration into the scheduling software wrong, and the tables were, in fact, double-booked. And the only variable in the solution was whether to move the in-progress tournament (a dozen tables set up with various gear and materials, but only one event, and everybody affected was already there to notify) or the upcoming events (ten or so events over the next several hours, all of which would require notification). Neither is a great situation, but I thought it funny that he went back and forth comparing various databases, and then talked to the main HQ, which just said “yes, you have a problem—you solve it; just tell us how you solve it”, rather than simply jumping right to the solving-it step. In the end, they left the ongoing game in place, and moved the rest of us. Luckily, to a room just across the hall.
Continue reading

Gen Con, pt 4

Fri morning started with Best Friends: The Clique. Caitlin and I played with a couple, plus the GM. The game itself is a fun little exercise in exaggeration. But I think the GM should’ve had a bit more structure prepared, or scheduled a shorter game. We started out worrying about Homecoming and campaigning for Homecoming Queen, and then progressed from there, fairly naturally. But it really felt like it was starting to peter out a bit towards the end. And it was unclear to what degree the GM had any plans for challenges or situations, beyond Homecoming, and to what degree she was letting us create our own.

To be clear, even then the game was great fun. The woman playing, hmmm, Cyndi?, was a riot—something tells me her highschool experience wasn’t as far removed from the basis of Best Friends as one would hope. But I think it could’ve been even more fun with a goal large enough in scope to encompass the whole game session, against which our rivalries and jealousies and friendships could play out, instead of a series of smaller situations, with not much connection between them other than the PCs.

So, the game dragged a bit towards the end, but was great fun for the first few hours. Unfortunately for you, most of the fun was situational—I really can’t relay it in a meaningful way here, because my recollection isn’t good enough to provide the context that makes it funny/clever/surprising/horrifying/whatever. And I was definitely having too much fun to take notes.

Gen Con, pt 5

The Dis[sed ]Mounties

The next game on Friday was another QAGS game. Which should have been even more ‘next’ than it was, but I screwed up—more on that in a future post. Anyway, this game was “Life is Random”. The premise of this was to randomly generate, well, just about everything about the game, and then play it. So we randomly rolled setting, and opposition, and so on—even a theme. Even our characters were semi-random: we rolled what sorts of characters we were playing, and even the WWPHITM? (more on that later), but still chose job and schtick and so on ourselves, and allocated points in the usual way (which, though, is itself something involving random dice rolls).

This game also turned out to be my second-best of the con—Thurs’ al Fresco game topped it, and perhaps that only because of my pride in having run it. Like that game, this one had me laughing so hard that it left me sore.
Continue reading

Time for Unicycle Mechs?

I stumbled into this Popular Science retrospective of large-wheeled vehicles, and understood instantly why there’s the obsession: wheels bigger than the rest of your vehicle are cool! A single wheel that encompasses your entire vehicle is even cooler. Heck, it’s just about the only thing that Lucas got right in the prequel trilogy. While there are potential efficiencies due to the large wheel, and thus shallow curvature and ability to deal with obstacles, and maybe even some advantages in maneuverability, I suspect a lot of inventors over the years have been wooed simply by the coolness factor, and the mechanical advantages are just an added bonus that makes it plausible to even try the design. (Or to sell it to investors.)

So now I’m wondering if I can make some mechs in the right scale for Mechaton that still look cool, or if they’ll just end up looking tiny, and lose any semblance of scale. We’ll see.