Stardew Valley is Both Cute and Dark as Hell…

Posted in Grumblings on December 8, 2016 by chemiclord

Underneath the surface of this game, I swear is the West answer to those moe harem anime dating sims.

From the adorable and cheery artist, struggling so badly that she has to forage for food while being stalked by a creepy ex-boyfriend…

Or the shy bookworm tutor, who lives with her alcoholic mom in a trailer where she is constantly shamed..

Or the unusually peppy “goth” girl, who wants to be an adventurer and discouraged at every turn because it’s not a proper woman’s work…

Or the man returning from a war and has PTSD so bad that the sound of popcorn popping causes him to have anxiety attacks…

And all of it lurking underneath this veneer of quaint community charm.

I’m not sure whether to be impressed by the developer’s subtle writing talents or a little bit concerned for his mental state.

On Political Fallout

Posted in Grumblings on November 10, 2016 by chemiclord

I’ve been mostly silent on this USA election cycle mostly because anything I really could offer had been said time after time already.  But now, in the aftermath, I think I see a niche where the opinions of this rather moderate Midwestern boy might be able to add to the discussion rather than parrot it.

So here goes.

(Warning: This is going to be long, and no I’m not going to give any tl;dr versions.  Part of the problem with the discourse in this country has been in chopping everything into 140-character text bites.)

An Open Letter to Many Different Groups

Dear Liberal Voters

(Don’t worry, I’ll be getting to many different people in time, I’m not going to spend this whole time picking on you.  Be patient and I’ll get to the rest of the class.)

I know this is going to be very hard for a good many of you.  Even if you aren’t a member of a minority group, chances are you know someone who is, and you know how scared they are.  I understand this, and I don’t want to make you think that I am trying to wave away their fear.

Now, with that said, I want you to form a picture with me.  For now, just remove any thoughts of race, gender, sexual identity, religion, or anything else from it.  Feel perfectly free to put anyone you want in any of the roles.

Picture a country where you need just one income to provide for your family.  You can either be that income maker or the person who cares for the home.  It doesn’t really matter which one you are.

You are in a country where you are comfortable leaving your front door unlocked because you know the people in the neighborhood, they’ve been a part of that neighborhood for years, and while you don’t always agree you’ve never doubted that if your house was on fire, they’d be the first people with a hose coming to help you.

In this country, life isn’t easy, but it never feels hopeless.  Your children can literally choose any path without terribly much worry.  If they were smart enough, they could attend college without much difficulty or financial burden.  And even if they weren’t, they would still relatively easily have the means to provide for themselves and their families in turn.

That would be pretty cool right?  Wouldn’t you want that?  Don’t lie.  You absolutely would, because that’s a really good place to be.

That’s the country that “Middle America” vaguely remembers.  And for a certain section of that voter base, that world actually happened.

And the reason I wanted you to remove race, gender, sexual identity, religion, etc. from it?  Because much of Middle America doesn’t see it either.  Their vision of when America was great is not bigoted as much as it is incomplete.

Perhaps that’s merely a different kind of terrible, one born of ignorance and a bit of selfishness rather than malice.  But the difference is that this kind of terrible is one you can reason with.  It’s one where you can acknowledge, “Yeah, that would have been really cool, but…”

These are people that don’t hate, they just don’t understand, and when you lump them all in with the “basket of deplorables” the only thing they do is feel unjustly attacked.  And you know what happens when you feel attacked?  You tend to dig your heels in, and push back.  The people of Middle America aren’t any different on that score.

I know the cool rhetoric is “black and white”, “good vs. evil”, or “you’re either with us or against us.”  And I also know that liberals are hardly the only side responsible for this level of discourse.  We live in a world where “trolling” is an art form, where people (usually of the alt-right) consider a “win” scenario to be as intentionally and blatantly offensive as possible in order to get people angry and break discourse.  There is no reasoning with those people, and I am certainly not asking you to try.

But you don’t know who is a troll and who is simply angry and desperate until you actually try to engage them.  And I know it’s really hard, especially right now, to put yourself in that position.  But you have to, at least if you want a chance to turn the tables as quickly as possible.  You need more allies, and the allies you can easily reach are the ones that are just as scared as you are, but for different reasons.

Dear Conservative Voters

Okay, now it’s your turn.

Ignorance isn’t much of an excuse, especially now that you’re seeing the fallout from a lot of people that are crying and upset and scared.  I see it quite frequently in this social media of people who deny white privilege up and down, dismissing these fears as overreaction, of people simply in grieving because “their team” lost.

Firstly, you need to accept one thing right now.  White privilege is real.  Don’t deny it any more.  Okay?  When someone says you have “white privilege” they aren’t dismissing your pain.  They aren’t dismissing your fears or your troubles.  They are saying that you inherently will not experience certain things.  You will not be exposed to certain, unique concerns, simply because you happened to be born with your specific skin color.

That privilege is part of the reason this happened, but it’s not inherently your fault.  But you need to just believe me, and believe them, when I say that their fear is not entirely unfounded.

See… you handed the keys to this country to people that have spent a good long time telling them just what would happen if this exact scenario occurred.  You have a coming Vice-President who has displayed support of “shock conversion therapy” for gay people (if you don’t know what that is, please look it up, or at least believe me when I say it is exactly how it sounds).

These are people who have had to deal with backwards leaders at the state level, much like the ones that have been elected, who have gone out of their way to make the lives of these minority people miserable, to let them know they aren’t welcome.

You have put the cards on the table that make this possible on a national level.  You may not have intended that, in fact I do believe that most of you absolutely didn’t intend that.  But if you truly meant these minorities no harm (as I hear repeatedly on social media)… then for the next two years at the very least you need to stand up for them, and let the people you elected know that you will not stand for it if they try to push their social agenda on the nation (and I’ll get to this later, but they will).  You need to make it very clear with your voice and your actions that when they try, their reign will be very short.

This election, more than any other, is not something you can set and forget if you are earnest in your repeated claims that you aren’t racist, or sexist, or bigoted.  This is one that will need constant vigilance, because I know what the people you elected are going to try to do the minute they think no one’s watching.

To the Democratic Party

Okay.  Are you finally listening now?

Or are you just gonna bury your head in the sand and continue to suggest that anyone screaming, “It’s the economy!” is a racist piece of trash?

Are you going to examine your nomination process and decide that “maybe it isn’t such a good idea to predetermine a favorite for 2016 in 2008?”

Or are you simply going to fan the flames that say anyone who didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton is a misogynistic neanderthal?

Because ya know what?  I’m going to come clean and admit that I voted for Hillary Clinton, but did not do so terribly excitedly.  She was, in my opinion, the least rancid pile of dung among the four piles of dung I had to choose from.  But I did not forget that I was still choosing a pile of dung.

And no, I don’t care that Trump was just as bad, or that the GOP is worse.  I’m not talking to them right now (but I will, don’t worry).

You kept asking “what was wrong with Hillary Clinton?” then promptly ignoring any of the answers.  Well, I’m going to give you some to ignore as well (and guess what… none of them are going to have to do with e-mails).

Firstly, she was secretive and withdrawn to the point of absurdity. Now, I get why.  She had been a part of a not-at-all subtle smear campaign from the GOP for the last oh… thirty years.  Okay?  I get that.

But maybe, just maybe, putting someone that gunshy of public transparency was a bad idea?

Her complete reluctance to reveal what she said to Wall Street bankers was absurd to begin with, and even more so when we finally figured out that it was completely banal.  How can you expect people to trust someone who is so absolutely distrustful of the general public?

Even if it’s horribly unfair to dismiss an otherwise qualified person for a job because of something they didn’t have much control over, you probably shouldn’t push that person into a role in which at least the appearance of transparency is vital.

Which leads to…

Secondly, her optics were terrible.  I mean, pretty much the day after it was discovered that the DNC had been not-so-secretly doing everything they can short of outright rigging the nomination process… she invites the leader of that into her campaign!

Did anyone in the party think that might look bad?  Did anyone tap Hillary on the shoulder and say, “Hey… uh… this is a really awful idea.  You might seriously wanna rethink it.”?

Thirdly, she came to represent a more “incorporated” version of the Democratic Party that your own registered voters are growing less and less excited about supporting with each passing election.

America isn’t exactly the most liberal country in the world, okay?  We’ve spent the better part of seventy years being beaten over the head of the evils of communism.  I honestly think it’s ingrained in this country’s DNA at this point.

And yet a man who openly calls himself a socialist gave Hillary Clinton a run for her money.  Wrap your head around that please.  That’s like if Germany today had a candidate run as a member of the Nazi Party and Germans went, “Yeah… I know… but look at what the alternative is!”

Listen, your party is a mess, okay?  And it’s not going to get any better the longer you blame everyone else for why your predestined candidate from eight years ago didn’t really resonate with voters now.  Start listening to the people who support you, for chrissake.  Maybe you’ll learn something.

Or don’t.  Blaming others for your failings has kinda become the DNC’s hallmark at this point.

To the Republican Party

I’m not even really going to talk about Trump.  There’s nothing that I can say about that fetid gasbag that hasn’t already been said a thousand times.  It clearly doesn’t matter anyway.

But I’m here to try and give you some earnest advice; because I honestly want to see a small government, low overhead, low spending, low red-tape, low bullshit approach work.  I want to see a government that focuses on oversight rather than regulation work.  There’s so much this government can do that it doesn’t do because it keeps getting lost in the forest for all the trees.

Please… please… PLEASE… let the social war go.

Please accept that this is a war you have already lost.  Accept that it is a war you cannot possibly win in the scope that you are trying to fight it.  Please let your social agenda focus on letting people live how they want.  If they want to live a Puritan-style “traditional family values” way, great.  If they want to live lavishly with people of the same gender or want to become a different gender entirely?  Let them.  Accept that it has nothing to do with you and let people be as they are.

I’ll even let you keep the abortion fight because ya know, it is a nuanced one and there is something to be said for a voice that is more emphatic for the unborn.  Okay?  You have something there.  Not much, and you should be much more careful on how you try to throw your weight around, but something.


Now as I say this, I know you won’t… because the Evangelical base that you sold your souls to won’t let you.  Even though public favor for these social issues are at all time lows, and will only get lower, you’re going to push this fight, it’s going to blow up in your face, and you’ll effectively lose all the ground you’ve gained within four years.

Because that’s what you clowns do.  You people are masters at clutching defeat from the jaws of victory.

And ya know what, don’t feel at all comfortable about maintaining your “conservative control” of the Supreme Court.  Let me remind you that it was supposedly “conservative” courts that approved civil rights, legal access to ready abortions, and gay marriage (all considered very liberal things).  Because by and large, these justices are going to defend the Constitution above all else, and they’re going to by and large side with public sentiment more than they won’t, regardless of what Senate confirms them.

You have two years to live up to the promises Trump made; to revitalize the infrastructure of this country, to restore or at least replace decently paying jobs to people that are hurting… before this country turns on you like the hounds of Hell.  You don’t have time to be fighting battles fewer and fewer people in this country want to see you fight.

But you will.  Because you’re idiots.

To Everyone

Thank you to all of you that made it this far.  Whew, huh?  This is one hell of a time, and not in the good way.  There’s a lot of anger, a lot of distrust, a lot of negative emotions swirling everywhere because honestly?  Most people, be they Trump of Clinton voter, wasn’t particularly happy about this election.  It was just ugly, and brought out the worst in all of us.

How do we recover from this?  I honestly don’t know.  I’d suggest listening, empathy, and just not treating anyone who disagrees with you like they’re Satan.  But at the same time, I know that’s never particularly been a trait of humanity as a species, much less this country.

For what it’s worth, whoever you are… wherever you are… I’m pulling for ya.  Whether you’re a lesbian black Muslim slumming it in some shanty downtown, or a poor, white Christian former factory worker wondering where the hell his job went… hell, even if you’re some rich socialite sitting on a billion dollars of fiat money completely oblivious to the fact that it’s not if the people you stepped on pull your palace out from under you but when… I’m pulling for ya.  I hope you get through this.

We’ve have enough people hurt, okay?  Let’s not actively try and make any more casualties.

Think we can do that?

Don’t answer that.  I’m depressed enough as it is.


Thomas Knapp

Writer hack and general poor example of living life to the fullest

The Big Time

Posted in Grumblings on November 3, 2016 by chemiclord


Seeing your co-worker’s art displayed for damn near all of Detroit to see makes me feel awesome by proxy.

Congratulations, Fred.  Bask in this.

Getting Ready for Youmacon!

Posted in Grumblings on October 17, 2016 by chemiclord

Another year, another trip to Detroit, and another weekend of peddling books.

I know I made that sound far more dreadful than it really is.

There is a small difference of note this time around though, and it’s working me into no small amount of social anxiety, that I’ll be taking part in at least two convention panels (as opposed to the one or none that had been more common).  On top of that, one of those panels is “prime-time” Saturday evening.

So pardon me while I huddle into a corner and sob it out so I’ll be coherent in about two and a half week’s time.

More Transcendent Teasers!

Posted in Updates with tags on September 18, 2016 by chemiclord

Here’s a little something-something about our heroine for you all to mull over as you await Transcendent‘s release in November.

Yes, there actually is stuff written under all that black. It will be revealed as it becomes pertinent within the story upon release, so make sure you drop in every month or so, because I might reveal clues there before they are revealed in story!

Data Dump: Alyssia Elaine Cunningham

Introducing “Transcendent”…

Posted in Updates with tags , on September 4, 2016 by chemiclord

About a week and a half ago, Fred Gallagher showed me a free sketch he had made, specifically as an “iterative development” thing for me to form a story around.

It worked… very well.

So well, that by Youmacon (Nov. 3-6 in Detroit, Michigan) we should have the first “episode” of that story, titled Transcendent, ready for convention goers to look at.  At about that same time, that episode should launch on Kindle and Nook readers.

If anyone remembers the Megatokyo: Endgames short story “Behind the Masque”, that’s the sort of length, format, and pricing we’re looking at; a whopping $0.99 for each episode.  Then, as enough content is released (hopefully one episode a month), those episodes will be compiled into “seasons” and the volumes released in print for those of you who like them dead trees.

But in the meantime, whet your whistle on this short teaser of the first episode of  Transcendent.

No Man’s Hype

Posted in Grumblings with tags , , , , on August 28, 2016 by chemiclord

As a disclosure, I have not purchased or played No Man’s Sky, and have no intention to, either.  I suspect I’d lose a year of my life playing that game that I really need to spend doing other things.

It’s bad enough I’ve already poured 155 hours into Starbound.

But this isn’t a game review, nor would one be worthwhile at this point.  Depending on who you talk to, No Man’s Sky is either a pioneering attempt into a “universe” sized gaming experience, with easily $60 worth of exploration and discovery to do, or it’s a ham-fisted failure at both exploration and survival that was advertised as something completely different and a lie of an experience that should be punished for fraud.

No, I’m writing about the runaway hype train, and inevitable crash into the wall of disappointment, it became.  Bear with me, because there really isn’t any “good” guys here.  From developers to players, everyone bears their little sins in the flameout and rage this game has inspired.

Let’s start with Sean Murray and the crew at Hello Games.  Perhaps they’re new to the industry, and didn’t quite understand that when you say something in the pre-release period, it effectively becomes a promise.  “What we want to do” becomes “What we will do”, and by God will the fans let you know if they think you broke a “promise.”

Gamers as a rule don’t really understand iterative development, nor do they particularly care.  In some ways, they shouldn’t be expected to either.  There’s a reason why more and more experienced game developers aren’t saying anything until the project or feature is damn near finished, and Hello Games seemed to miss that memo down the line.

Whether that is fair or not, that’s the reality of the gamer population, and to press on up to four months before release with trailers that didn’t live up to the product was dooming your game to a very bitter reception.

On top of that, when Murray tried to walk some of the expectations back, it was in a very tepid and passive manner that gamers were nigh certain to ignore.  Most people don’t read the 10pt font correction of yesterday’s headline on page 19A of today’s paper, and very quiet attempts to correct the rails on the train (because you don’t want to scare off sales) only led to a bitter blowback that hurt future sales (and future titles) even more.

If you’re going to make a correction, it needs to be as firm and declarative as any of the prior hype, if not more so.  If you’re going to try and direct the train, you can’t be wishy-washy about it, because the fans will take the controls and drive it straight into a wall, then scream at you for months for letting them do it.

Which brings me to the fans, and their own culpability in the process.  Gamers can be some of the most fickle, entitled, and obnoxiously demanding people on the planet, and there was no greater example of this than with the hype of No Man’s Sky.  They demand “transparency” then get angry when said “transparency” tells them things they don’t want to hear.  Then get angrier when developers go silent because gamers demand “transparency.”

It helps to understand that gamers don’t really want transparency or a dialogue.  They don’t really just want to talk.  “Transparency” is a dog whistle for “I want to yell at the developers and threaten them because they ruined my fun.”

And even if you decide not to engage in the hype train, they’ll build that train and drive it themselves.  There is no small amount of conjecture (not just with No Man’s Sky, but with damn near any game that gets significant attention) that increasingly has nothing to do with any official or even unofficial statement… and guess who they blame when the final product doesn’t deliver on their runaway speculation?

Here’s a hint; it’s not themselves.

To players, I don’t know how to say this gently, but if you actually want a healthy dialogue, you as a whole need to learn how to dial it back.  Not everything is a promise.

You don’t improve gaming when you turn into a bitter mob ready to torch the Internet whole because you didn’t get everything you wanted.  You make it harder to get the sort of products you want because when you start sounding like a perpetually unsatisfied conglomerate of voices… eventually your targeted audience is going to hit the mute button, and stop talking entirely.