Hideous screeching monstrosities borne on the irradiated embers of the old world lurch forth and attack!

3 ÜBER-MUTANTS appear at 5 feet.

PLISS SNAKEKIN attacks ÜBER-MUTANT A with his PHOTON CANNON and misses.

MAD MAXINE attacks ÜBER-MUTANT B with her MEGA UZI. She rips through a clip, the bullets peppering ÜBER-MUTANT B like a cheap steak for 15 points of damage.

DOG ABOYANDHIS
attacks ÜBER-MUTANT C with his Laser Rifle. A flash of ionized light and a whiff of ozone lances forth, searing ÜBER-MUTANT C like a Father’s Day bratwurst for 20 points of damage.

LADY HUMUNGA attacks ÜBER-MUTANT A with her CHAINSAW SWORD. Blood and ichor spout like the Trevi Fountain as ÜBER-MUTANT A takes 30 points of damage, reducing it to a red smear and a sky-high dry cleaning bill.

ÜBER-MUTANT B shambles toward PLISS SNAKEKIN and rakes him with its claws for 20 points of damage.

ÜBER-MUTANT C shambles toward PLISS SNAKEKIN and rakes him with its claws for 15 points of damage.

PLISS SNAKEKIN attacks ÜBER-MUTANT B with his PHOTON CANNON and misses.

MAD MAXINE
reloads her MEGA UZI.

DOG ABOYANDHIS
attacks ÜBER-MUTANT C with his LASER RIFLE. Tasty, tubular waves of plasma ripple forth and ionizing key parts of ÜBER-MUTANT C‘s anatomy for 20 points of damage, bursting it like a blood sausage in a convenience store microwave.

LADY HUMUNGA attacks ÜBER-MUTANT B with her CHAINSAW SWORD. A glancing blow, it only severs a single writhing appendage in a spray of biohazardous fluids for 5 points of damage.

ÜBER-MUTANT B shambles toward PLISS SNAKEKIN and rakes him with its claws for 10 points of damage. PLISS SNAKEKIN is poisoned! PLISS SNAKEKIN‘s health is critical!

PLISS SNAKEKIN tries to reload his PHOTON CANNON and misses.

DOG ABOYANDHIS attacks ÜBER-MUTANT B with his LASER RIFLE. Critical hit! Coherent packets of photons more organized than the Library of Congress arrive at the speed of light, inviting ÜBER-MUTANT B‘s torso to emigrate to Smoking Holeville for 35 points of damage. Covalent bonds between ÜBER-MUTANT B‘s constituent atoms break down, and it crumbles to ashy goo.

PLISS SNAKEKIN gains 0 EXP and 0 AP.

MAD MAXINE gains 50 EXP and 5 AP.

DOG ABOYANDHIS gains 200 EXP and 20 AP.

LADY HUMUNGA gains 100 EXP and 10 AP.

The enemies dropped something! You gain 2 DISCOMBOBULATED MUTANT GIZZARDS, 2 BUCKETS OF RIGHTEOUS GIBS, 2 BRICKS OF 9MM AMMO, and 1 set of MUTANT CHITIN ARMOR.

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It was kind of a love-hate thing, really. People saw it on his resume or on the internet that Simon Mullins had worked on Megabot 3, the third and best-received in the long running Megabot series, and they invited him to conferences and other events, often with an honorarium. It was tough for someone who only made web design money to turn the offer down, even if the same thing inevitably happened.

Someone would ask a specific question about Megabot 3: “Did you know about the endless hitbox bug when using Seabot’s Salt Trident on Professor Wild’s third boss robot?”

Simon would answer: “Well, I worked on the PC version of the game.”

“There was a PC version?” That was the most common response. If anyone had actually heard of it–which, thanks to the internet, an increasing number did–the comments were usually along the line of “The PC version sucked.”

And that was it. The actual designers of Megabot 3 lived in Japan and spoke no English (in addition to using pseudonyms like “Pan Pan” or “Nobuo-Kun’s Daddy” in the credits). So there was no chance they’d ever show up at Nerdicon. And the PC version of the game was notorious for its perceived low quality, if anyone had even heard of or played it.

No one ever asked or wanted to hear about how Simon had wrangled the Megabot license out of Kapcami Ltd by spending half a day on a long distance phone call to Honshu and sending a cashier’s check for ¥49,065 (about 500 bucks). No one wanted to know how he had carefully, and legally, copied assets from a frame-by-frame study of a Megabot 3 cartridge. No one wanted to know how he painstakingly coded–by himself–an engine that would produce a comparable effect to a console game, with original levels and Botmasters that would work on DOS-based machines.

In that era before multiple platform releases and emulators, the Mullins Laboratories Megabot 3 had been the only thing close to a Megabot game on the PC. It had even reaped about $10,000 in profits, enough to pay off one of Mullins’ student loans. But that wasn’t enough to keep him from being tarred as the “guy behind the crappy PC port.”

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Ethical Question the Fifth:

You are in a store and a nearby customer drops a cheap glass cup, which shatters. They pretend to ignore it, and no one witnessed the accident except you. Do you:

A. Confront the customer and demand that they take responsibility for their actions?
They can easily afford to pay for a cheap piece of glass and should learn a lesson about honesty.

B. Report the customer to the store? It is the store’s merchandise and they should be the ones to decide what action to take, if any, against the customer.

C. Report the breakage to the store but not mention the customer?
The broken glass could injure someone and its cleanup is the main priority.

D. Do nothing? The glass is not valuable enough to justify doing anything; the story will discover it in time and confrontation with the customer is pointless.

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I’ve decided that I hate MMORPGs, despite the fact that, once upon a time, I poured dozens of hours and bushels of dollars into their gaping maws.

Look at what happened to 38 Studios. The company was created from the get-go to make an MMORPG. It retained R. A. Salvatore to write 1000 (!) years of backstory and hired Todd MacFarlane as art director, to say nothing of the talent that was attracted from all over the industry. The studio put out (almost as an afterthought) a single-player game using those assets that was a success, but given the amount of money being shoveled into the MMORPG dev furnace almost no amount of cash flow would have been enough. Just imagine what kind of single-player game, or single-player game with a multiplayer component, that could have been made with that talent for the reported $500 million debt the company rang up.

Worse, when an MMORPG fails–as 90% of them do–there is nothing left. The game is useless and can no longer be played and all player progress is lost forever. If there’s a particularly dedicated fanbase a few pirate servers might be set up, but that’s it. Given the relatively short lifespan of some of these incredibly expensive projects, like Tabula Rasa (2007-2009) or The Matrix Online (2005-2009) or Earth and Beyond (2002-2004), all that money might as well have been piled up and burned. But because Blizzard has had such success with World of Warcraft, as well as a few other niche players, developers and financiers with dollar signs in their eyes keep trying.

From a narrative standpoint, too, the games leave much to be desired. Star Wars: The Old Republic has been lauded for creating an experience that feels almost like a single-player adventure (in other words, like the single-player Knights of the Old Republic) but that came at the cost of $200 million, the most expensive video game price tag of all time. Developers without that kind of muscle are severely limited in the kind of story they can tell, often falling back on repetitive fetch/kill quests or dungeon grinding. And it goes without saying that there can never be any kind of narrative payoff, as the games have no end. When you inevitably lose interest and cancel your subscription you don’t even have the satisfaction of a narrative well-concluded.

Just imagine if some of that money and talent had been spent on a game like Mass Effect or Skyrim.