Helpful PHP Guide

Nobody likes frames. But if you’re not using frames, you have to update every page of your site every time you modify your menu. Don’t you wish there was another way? Well, there is. Simple PHP includes allow you to create a professional, frameless site without too much work. Want to learn how? Read on…

PHP includes are very simple and really practical. How they are used is they allow you to use one line of code in every page that you want your menu on in place of say 30 – 50. Also, you never have to edit this code once it’s there, you can just edit your menu file. They work by taking all the content of a file and putting it into the file being viewed at the location where the INCLUDE tag is.
I’ll start off by teaching you how to create a basic site that uses a menu in tables. Run Notepad and create a file for your menu, in a table. It might look something like this:

<table border=0 bordercolor=”black” cellspacing=0 cellpadding=0 width=780
height=100%>
<tr>
<td width=100 valign=”top”>
<img src=”main.jpg”><br><Br>
<a href=”index.php”>News/Home</a><Br>
<a href=”index.php?page=stuff”>Stuff</a><Br>
Blah<Br>
Blah<Br>
Blah<Br>
Blah<Br>
Blah<Br>
Blah<Br>
</td>

Make sure that you do not close the table!! Now save this file as menu.php and start a new one. It’ll have the code for you main page. It should look something like this:

<? include(“menu.php”) ?>
<td width=580 valign=top>
<?
if(!$page) {
include(“http://www.hobbiton.org/~zeroone/test/news.txt”);
}<Br>
else{
include(“http://www.hobbiton.org/~zeroone/test/files/” . “$page” . “.php”);
}<Br>
?><Br>
</td>
</tr>
</table>

There are two vital things you should notice here. First, we have the <? include(“menu.php”) ?>. This tells the computer to include the menu file. The second thing is this code:

<?
if(!$page) {
include(“http://www.hobbiton.org/~zeroone/test/news.txt”);<Br>
}<Br>
else{
include(“http://www.hobbiton.org/~zeroone/test/files/” . “$page” . “.php”);
}
?>

Make sure you change the URLs to URLs on your server. This code tells the computer that if the url is something like “www.yourpage.com/index.php” then it will include the news file, in this case (since I’ve set it to the URL of my test site’s news file).
IF, however, the URL is something like “www.yourpage.com/index.php?page=stuff” then it will change the content of the page to whatever is in the file “stuff.php”. At this point, there is something I should mention. When you have links on a php page, they will be something like “www.yourpage.com/index.php?whatever=pagename” instead of something like “www.yourpage.com/pagename.php”.

This is because the web browser is actually displaying the index file, but it’s including content from another file on the index file. The “whatever=pagename” tells the computer that the variable “whatever” is set to the name of the page, “pagename” in this case. That variable tells what page’s content should be displayed, using the code above.

Next, create another file. Just type some nonsense in it and name it “stuff.php”. In your menu file, make sure you have a link to “stuff.php”. The link should be something like “http://www.yoursite.com/index.php?stuff” because of the reasons I mentioned above.
Now, upload those files and see what it looks like. It SHOULD look a little bit like the site http://www.hobbiton.org/~zeroone/test – please note the server that site is on is going down permanently soon, so you may not be able to access it.

If that all worked out, you’ve got a simple PHP layout. Play with it a bit, and you’ll be able to implement it into your site’s design to make being a webmaster easier. I hope this tutorial was helpful. Please send your comments to me at wipeoutgc@hotmail.com.

 

How To Shave Your Ass

It’s real good to employ an electric razor in this area. Less chance of cutting your self in blind areas. And the narrower profile (Braun makes a thin razor) of the cutting head is ideal for getting into the gluttial crevice (butt crack). Use the electric razor first if you plan on also using a disposable razor. Electric razors work best on dry area.

If you’re going to use a disposable razor take a long, warm bath beforehand.

Before applying shaving cream, rinse area with cool water.

Apply shaving cream a few minutes before shaving to soften hairs. Consider using a sensitive product like Coochy Shave or Skintimate.

Be sure to use a sharp blade. You might try using two new blades if you are shaving a large area (no pun intended).

When shaving, stroke an area no more than twice to reduce skin irritation. On the first stroke, go “with the grain” to remove most of the hair, then go “against the grain” for a smooth, close shave.

Be sure to clean the area afterwards with soap and water to reduce the risk of infection. Ideally, give the area a second cleansing using cotton balls and rubbing alcohol.

Some people find daily applying baby powder or talcum powder especially helpful after shaving to keep the area dry and irritation free.

Go as long as possible between shavings to reduce skin irritation.

A great alternative is to use a product such as Nair or Neet. Waxing is possible, but you’ll likely need an assistant. See my instruction pages for these process’.

 

#8: BAA -> OddiZ

BAA: hello how ar eu tonight im from york area can i ask ur a/l/s

OddiZ: 16/f/pa

BAA: hows ur night

OddiZ: boring

OddiZ: how about u?

BAA: same alittle in asexy mood is that ok

OddiZ: yeah

OddiZ: are u

OddiZ: not really, I am just tired, that’s all

OddiZ: want to suck my dick?

OddiZ: I’m waiting

OddiZ: fine then, donkey dick

OddiZ: i will go n play with mr slave

BAA: what

OddiZ: ta ta

 

#7: AWSSkater -> SheMaleHo

AWSSkater: i need a new one

SheMaleHo: your “Moo Moo’s” a fag!!!

SheMaleHo: i killed it and nailed it to a crucifix!!!

AWSSkater: FAGGOT

AWSSkater: are you talking to cait?

SheMaleHo: then i barbequed it

SheMaleHo: no

SheMaleHo: im watching you

AWSSkater: ask her why it keeps saying i cant talk to her

SheMaleHo: whA?

SheMaleHo: i can see you out my window…

AWSSkater: cool

AWSSkater: what am i doing

SheMaleHo: i nailed “Moo Moo’s” head on the hood of my car

AWSSkater: what room am i in

SheMaleHo: theone with the computer

SheMaleHo: am i right?

AWSSkater: yes

AWSSkater: and what room is that

SheMaleHo: the one with the keyboard in it

SheMaleHo: it also has a door

SheMaleHo: am i right?

AWSSkater: caits name doesnt work anymore

SheMaleHo: your house is brown

AWSSkater: yes

AWSSkater: you cheated

SheMaleHo: and its on a corner

AWSSkater: you cheated again

SheMaleHo: your upstairs

SheMaleHo: your typing from your bed

AWSSkater: yes

AWSSkater: you’re still cheating

SheMaleHo: you have long black hair

SheMaleHo: ooooh you look so nice

AWSSkater: anything else you’d like to add

AWSSkater: when is my birthday?

SheMaleHo: im gonna feel you….

SheMaleHo: i dont know, i can just see you

AWSSkater: what color is my shirt

SheMaleHo: you know what color it is

AWSSkater: yes, but do you

SheMaleHo: of course! i can see you silly

SheMaleHo: oooh im taking off my pants to look at you

AWSSkater: you’re gay

SheMaleHo: you got it! :-*

AWSSkater: wow

AWSSkater: im right

SheMaleHo: i wish you had no shirt

SheMaleHo: 😛

AWSSkater: but i do

AWSSkater: ask cait why i cant talk to her, i know you can

SheMaleHo: i know

SheMaleHo: i can?

AWSSkater: unless this is her in disguise

AWSSkater: she tricked me like that before, you know

AWSSkater: well she didnt trick me

SheMaleHo: this isnt a trick

AWSSkater: i knew it was her

SheMaleHo: take off your shirt

SheMaleHo: oh c’mon

AWSSkater: um…

AWSSkater: no?

SheMaleHo: my pants are already off, dont waste my time

AWSSkater: im back, ugly

SheMaleHo: i like it when you talk dirty

AWSSkater: oh

AWSSkater: okay

SheMaleHo: say it again

AWSSkater: okay

SheMaleHo: Cryin’ Ryan

AWSSkater: shutup

AWSSkater: Trunks Briefs

SheMaleHo: Cryyyyyyyin’ Ryyyyyyyyan

AWSSkater: ho

SheMaleHo: oooh, Briefs, you wear briefs?

AWSSkater: no actually i wear boxers

AWSSkater: either you keep asking cait stuff or you are her in disguise,
which is it

SheMaleHo: disquise?

SheMaleHo: ooooh kinky, role playing

AWSSkater: what?

SheMaleHo: ok, ill me the bad dog and you be my master, discipline me

AWSSkater: um…

AWSSkater: go in the corner while i piss on your head

SheMaleHo: soooo kinky

AWSSkater: you’re weird

SheMaleHo: lemme get the whip and handcuffs

AWSSkater: that would be okay if you were female, but you arent

AWSSkater: as far as i know

SheMaleHo: y’know, i have a dog, i can bring him over with some whipped cream and peanut butter

AWSSkater: that’s okay

SheMaleHo: we can be a sandwich!

AWSSkater: no

SheMaleHo: well…still want my thong?

AWSSkater: what?

AWSSkater: you scare me

SheMaleHo: im going to throw my purple thong at your window, catch it

AWSSkater: k

SheMaleHo: wait, ill keep them

SheMaleHo: theyre edible

AWSSkater: k

SheMaleHo: and im hungry

AWSSkater: lol

AWSSkater: how many dogs do i have>

AWSSkater: ?

SheMaleHo: oh, Caaiiiiite

AWSSkater: shutup

SheMaleHo: OMG!!! shes flashing me again!

AWSSkater: shutup

SheMaleHo: theres a sign

SheMaleHo: it says….I…..want….you….Ch…whats that?

SheMaleHo: her boob is blocking it

AWSSkater: what?

SheMaleHo: Ch….r….i…damn nipple

SheMaleHo: Chris!

SheMaleHo: me!

AWSSkater: shutup

SheMaleHo: whats the matter Cryin’ Ryan

SheMaleHo: jealous?

AWSSkater: nothing of that sort is happening so it doesnt matter

SheMaleHo: it is

AWSSkater: riiiiigggghhhht, and my name is blowjob

SheMaleHo: oooooooooh sexy

AWSSkater: hey

AWSSkater: no

SheMaleHo: come over to my place, my nickname is…snoow blow

AWSSkater: LOL

AWSSkater: how many cats do i have

SheMaleHo: lemme count

SheMaleHo: hmmmm

SheMaleHo: hmmm

SheMaleHo: not counting the one i nailed to a crucufix…1…

SheMaleHo: Moo moo and Mickey

SheMaleHo: or Kittie

SheMaleHo: whatever

AWSSkater: what color is mickey

SheMaleHo: ummm…

AWSSkater: lol

SheMaleHo: Dark brown…and black striped

SheMaleHo: Ewwww, whats that scab on his head?

AWSSkater: scap is a funny word

SheMaleHo: so is homo…oh wait

AWSSkater: here is a tough question

AWSSkater: where is my birthmark

SheMaleHo: take off all your clothes first

SheMaleHo: i think i see it on your…wait…im to distracted by Caites boob

SheMaleHo: wait…its on…your arm i think

SheMaleHo: am i right?

AWSSkater: yeah

AWSSkater: where

SheMaleHo: Caite…

AWSSkater: what

SheMaleHo: nipple

SheMaleHo: nipple

AWSSkater: boobie

SheMaleHo: nipple

AWSSkater: boobie

SheMaleHo: y’know…im actually…your uncle

SheMaleHo: your long lost uncle

SheMaleHo: and im attracted to you….im a hillbilly

AWSSkater: ::says in a hillbilly accent:: get on yer knees and take down them suspender boy!!

SheMaleHo: Ok sailor!!!

AWSSkater: lol

AWSSkater: or are you a female

AWSSkater: im not sure

SheMaleHo: well lets see….im your uncle!! so could i be male…or female

AWSSkater: lol

AWSSkater: im messing around

SheMaleHo: want some weed from your ol’ uncle?

SheMaleHo: its the herb of the earth

AWSSkater: i hate drugs

SheMaleHo: the herb will set your mind free!, man!!!

AWSSkater: so will spinning around in circles

SheMaleHo: so is doing anal…

AWSSkater: weird

SheMaleHo: you..think anal is weird?

SheMaleHo: obviously youve never tried it

SheMaleHo: come over to my house

SheMaleHo: its the pink frilly one on fudgepacker avenue

AWSSkater: i dont pack fudge

AWSSkater: im not a poopie dick

AWSSkater: by the way, how do you see my room with the curtain closed

SheMaleHo: im your uncle…Clark Kent, i have X-ray Vision

AWSSkater: clark kent doesnt have X-ray vision

SheMaleHo: who would know better? Clark Kent or you Cryin’ Ryan?

AWSSkater: who would know what better

SheMaleHo: who would know better if i had X-ray vision?

SheMaleHo: to tell you a secret, Im superman

SheMaleHo: doesnt it all make sense?

AWSSkater: yeah, but clark kent doesnt have x-ray vision only superman

SheMaleHo: i live in the country, so im a hilbilly, i wear redish tights
so i must have a purple thong SOMEWHERE, and i can see through your curtains

AWSSkater: so that makes you very weird

SheMaleHo: im a hillbilly and i have a shotgun

AWSSkater: what color is the bracelet im wearing

SheMaleHo: hmmmm

SheMaleHo: X-ray visios is kinda color blind but lemme try

AWSSkater: okay

SheMaleHo: its kinda silver…

SheMaleHo: with a purplish tint

SheMaleHo: am i right?

AWSSkater: yes

AWSSkater: actaully pink

AWSSkater: what color are my eyes

SheMaleHo: hmmmm

SheMaleHo: purple…right?

AWSSkater: no

SheMaleHo: oh wait, i was staring at Caites nipple again, sorry

SheMaleHo: brown

AWSSkater: lol

AWSSkater: what color is my real hair

SheMaleHo: hmmmm

SheMaleHo: medium brown

SheMaleHo: just like your pubes…i mean!! your…

AWSSkater: lol

AWSSkater: now you wont know stuff, cait signed off

SheMaleHo: she was online?

AWSSkater: maybe

SheMaleHo: puuuubes

SheMaleHo: nipple

SheMaleHo: Cryin’ Ryan

AWSSkater: that was an old nickname, you dont have to call me that anymore

SheMaleHo: im related to the king of Bahrain

AWSSkater: hey

AWSSkater: i know him

AWSSkater: the poo guy

SheMaleHo: Clark Kents, the hillbilly, purple thong wearing, attracted to his nephew cryin Ryan, prince of Bahrain

AWSSkater: hehe

AWSSkater: so you know the poo guy too

AWSSkater: thats probably you

SheMaleHo: oh yes

SheMaleHo: hes a VERY good freind

AWSSkater: the guy i beat with a wifflle ball bat

SheMaleHo: why did you do that?

SheMaleHo: hes the king of Bahrain!

SheMaleHo: you cant do that to him!!!

AWSSkater: but i did

SheMaleHo: this is an outrage! you must come to my house for your….punishment :Þ

AWSSkater: where do you live then

SheMaleHo: Bahrain but a ihave a house…near you

AWSSkater: where is that

SheMaleHo: its right next to Saudi Arabia, its too small to be on the map anyway

AWSSkater: that’s pretty far away

SheMaleHo: 600 people live there

AWSSkater: lol

 

#6: angelina -> Mugen Guy

angelina: Hi, would you like to chat?

Mugen Guy: ok

Mugen Guy: indeed

angelina: I’m 20/F/CA 🙂

Mugen Guy: im19/m/cali

angelina: might have to run, do you want to see my pics?

Mugen Guy: are you in track?

angelina: alright no problem have a good one, check out my profile if you want!

Mugen Guy: good one what

angelina: bye

Mugen Guy: i want to see your pics not your profile you dumb broad

Mugen Guy: fine then bleotch later

 

Red Jets (PC): The Editorial!

One Sunday afternoon about a month ago, I sat down at my computer to review a game called Red Jets. It’s a budget dogfighting game from Graffiti Entertainment, where you pilot Russian planes in mortal konflikt against fighter jets flown by people who are presumably not Russian. I’m a little fuzzy on the details, you see, because I never got to play Red Jets. I sort of skimmed through the manual and looked at the box art and then wrote a couple of paragraphs to review it. “But Dominic,” you say. “You are a game reviewer. How dare you review a game you did not play?” It’s actually pretty easy to do when you have an ego the size of a former Soviet Republic.

You see, Graffiti Entertainment shipped me a copy of Red Jets that was nigh-useless. The setup.exe file hard-locked my PC repeatedly, the copy protection accused me of using a duplicate disc, and not even a No-CD crack of dubious legality could help me break into Red Jets. I spent a few hours trying to get the game to run, until finally I gave up. I decided that if Graffiti Entertainment could not be bothered to send me a working game, I could not be bothered to review it.

However, Dear Reader, that would be too easy. I have received preview copies of games that chug along on my computer, or simply refuse to run. Europa Universalis III, for instance, was an unpolished gem in alpha form, when it first graced my hard drive. I don’t fault games or game companies that have less than perfect alphas. (Fun fact: EU3 cleaned up real nice, and is about to get a damn fine review from me.) But Red Jets arrived in a retail box, replete with UPC and MSRP. This was, officially, Graffiti Entertainment saying “all done!” They were going to charge you for trying to play this. My colleagues have pointed out that patches may be forthcoming, but I harbor an antiquated, Leave It To Beaver-esque belief that a man buys a game to play it, not to wait for it to be patched up to functionality. A game that arrives in a retail box is a sign to me from the publisher that I am free to take the kiddie gloves off.

So I did what any self-respecting journalist would do: I ripped Red Jets like an overweight gym teacher’s short-shorts when he bends over to pick up his clipboard. Let us be very clear: my original review did not make a single qualitative claim about Red Jets. The more educated among my readers will note that my “review” of Red Jets was an account of my attempts to install and subsequently run the game, during which I fail to state a single fact about Red Jets the game. I mentioned vomiting in a fictional white-water rafting game, I stated that I pounded nails into my thighbone, I “considered” burning down my apartment, and I professed to cursing so loudly that my dog now runs at the mere sight of me.

But I did not defame Red Jets. To do so without having played it would be irresponsible. The reader with even the most tenuous grasp on reality this side of a cult leader’s paper cup of Kool-aid will likely understand that none of those relate to Red Jets at all. The only parts of Red Jets I reviewed were the install CD crashing my computer, the license agreement, the copy protection refusing to let me play the game, and the No-CD crack not working. I explicitly stated on both pages of my review that I never played Red Jets. I felt secure in the knowledge that no one of sound mind and/or body could mistake my satire for a real review.

Fast forward to my receiving word that Gamer’s Mark is pulling my review at the behest of one Linda Shannon from Over the Moon Management; apparently, she takes exception to a negative review of a product she represents. Her claim revolves around the fact that I never played the game: she refuses to consider that I might be entitled to review other aspects of Red Jets beyond the graphics or controls or the sound or the adrenaline rush I get from engaging in thrilling air-to-air combat. You know, like the fact that it won’t do silly little things like “install” or “play.” The pluck of those kids at Gamer’s Mark!

I am disappointed that Graffiti Entertainment sent me a game that was unplayable. I am disappointed that Linda played the “how dare you” card about my review of their bargain-bin production. I am disappointed that Gamer’s Mark ultimately chose to react in the manner in which they did, and I am disappointed that this situation warrants this defense of a lackluster review of a lackluster video game.

So, in an effort to avoid this sort of e-drama in the future, here are some new ground rules from which I advise all publishers to take notes. Consider these words verily chiseled into stone hewn from the living rock of Mount Sinai’s bowels; such is their sacrosanctity and general awesomeness.

  1. Thou shalt not send me games that I have to try more than three times to install. This is because I have better things to do with my time than stare, slack of jaw, at a frozen setup program.
  2. Thou shalt recognize that everything you send me is fair game for review. This includes, but is not limited to the box art, game manual, poorly worded license agreements, the description on the back of the box, the screenshots in the manual, the way the box smells, the lame font on the CD, and the actual game itself. Attempts to apply this ex post facto have failed, but you may consider this fair warning.
  3. Thou shall not beget thy panties unto a bunched state if my review takes your game to task for its shortcomings. If your product isn’t very good, it will not get a very good review. This isn’t IGN.

In conclusion, I would like to announce my undiluted rage will be directed against the following people at a time and place of my choosing, but probably the next time a game company does something stupid like sending me coasters they plan to charge $20 for: these jerks. Also, maybe some of these people, too.

You can see the original review, re-posted, here:

http://squackle.com/24355/supchron/games/red-jets-pc-review/

 

 

Red Jets (PC) Review

Developer: InterActive Vision | Publisher: Graffiti Entertainment || Overall: 2.6/10

Editor’s Note: the following article is our reviewer’s account of his attempts to install and play Red Jets. At the request of the publisher, GamersMark would like to clarify that at no point was our reviewer actually able to play Red Jets.

The least satisfying part of white-water rafting down the Nukutaku rapids 12,000 feet above sea level is when the guy right behind you in the raft gets sick to his stomach and vomits on you, and it drips down your life jacket and you can feel it every time you move. At least, that’s what I’ve been told, because I’m terrified of flying anywhere, and if I did manage to walk (not over any bridges) to white-water rapids, I’d be too afraid to hop in the raft for fear of drowning/vomiting on someone.

I’m much more the armchair type. I sit in a comfortable armchair, install Microsoft White Water Rafting Simulator ’98 (the apex of the genre, in my expert opinion), and hit the “vomit” button over and over again until my character passes out from dehydration. As an aside, I’m fairly sure that there are entire fetish magazines devoted to this very scenario in Amsterdam. Of course, why shouldn’t there be? Sometimes, a man just wants to vomit his way into unconsciousness.

And this is precisely what happens when he installs Red Jets, the hip new combat flight simulator (which, for my money is no MS WWRS ’98) from developer InterActive Vision. Now, don’t misunderstand me – I haven’t played this game. It might be great fun. The idea of pulling massive Gs and doing a barrel roll shortly before screaming “GOOOOOOOOSE!” and shooting down like thirty tangos with a slingshot is pretty thrilling. But installing Red Jets is an exercise in vomiting on the guy in front of you while simultaneously being vomited on by the guy behind you.

You see, upon inserting the CD into my computer, the autoplay mechanism started the install process. This is normal. The setup.exe file hard-locked my computer and I was forced to reboot. This is not normal. When I restarted and double-clicked on the setup.exe file, my computer locked up again. My third attempt was to copy the file onto my hard drive and try the setup file from a different location, because perhaps I had incurred some vile “bad mojo” (the technical term) that had secured itself in my CD-ROM tray.

Finally, I was able to run the installer, and I was greeted with the traditional EULA screen. For one reason or another, I skimmed the first paragraph, which I can only assume was written by a Nigerian scam artist, as it was of dubious grammar and unending capital letters. “MOST WISE PURCHASER,” it began, “WE WILL LICENSE THIS GAME TO YOUR PERSON ONLY UNDER ALL THESE TERMS.” It went on to say that if I did not accept all the terms of the agreement, I should return the unopened CD at once.

When my “oh god I’m surrounded by idiots” laugh subsided, I had enough presence of mind to check the manual: perhaps this was just making sure I had a chance to read the terms. Sadly, my first impression was correct. I had to insert the CD into my computer to find out the license terms, and if I did not accept those terms, I was to return the unopened CD. Of course, everyone ignores those terms, but after my problems just trying to run the installer, I felt like I had wandered into an episode of Rocko’s Modern Life.

The game was finally successfully installed; exhausted, I walked off to do something more entertaining than attempting to outwit a game into letting me install it, like hammering nails into my thighbone and seeing how many I could do before I passed out. When I awoke in a pool of my own blood, I went back to Red Jets like a beaten spouse who desperately wants children and says to herself “maybe he hits me because he really loves me; maybe when we have children, he’ll stop.” Maybe, just maybe, I would find happiness instead of an unwanted cameo on Cops, sobbing on my front lawn with mascara running down my face as Officer Moustache asks me over and over if I want to press charges.

I sat down at my chair, again, and double-clicked the Red Jets icon. SecuROM, the game’s copy protection tool, informed me that I was using a duplicate CD, and that I ought to insert the real CD into my drive if I wanted to play. I contemplated burning my apartment to the ground and painting pagan symbols of ancient woe on my body with the ashes of my computer, but then I decided it might violate my lease. So, I followed SecuROM’s instructions for making sure my drive wasn’t malfunctioning.

Sadly, the instructions were written for a different version of Windows, as my version of Device Manager had none of the options or tabs listed by SecuROM’s walkthrough. That’s okay – I was fourteen six months ago once, and I know where to find what are referred to as “crackz” and “warez.” Yes, that’s right, dear reader. Such is my devotion to reviewing this game for you that I ventured into that unseemly corner of the internet to hack my way into this goddamn game for you.

Of course, the crack was for version 1.0 of the game, and I have, well, not version 1.0. So I never did play Red Jets, but I did look at the box art and skim the instruction manual. What follows is my review for Red Jets.

Do you like to fly around and shoot down enemy planes in an adrenaline-fueled dogfight with tracers lighting up your plane like a piñata on Christmas Eve? Dodging missiles like they were phone calls from one-night stands and pulling so many Gs that your testicles touch your toes more authoritatively than you have since you were 8? Well, for the love of all that is good and holy in this world, buy something else, because this game is not for you.

The graphics in this game are probably pretty good, but the screenshots on the back of the box look kind of muddy, like someone didn’t know how to resize a JPG file or something. That’s a pretty easy concept, so I wouldn’t trust InterActive Vision to be able to do the complicated stuff like vertex shaders or volumetric smoke or installation. There were a lot of things the manual had to explain about the HUD, and I think the game would probably have been a little more fun if it were easier to pick up and start flying, but fighter jets are kind of complicated, so it’s forgivable. Still, the screenshots in the manual were even more fuzzy than the ones on the box, so that didn’t help their case.

There were a lot of files in the “sound” folder, so I’m going to assume that they put a lot of effort into the music and sound effects of missiles screeching by you. It was probably pretty exciting. As for the controls, well, those were just laughable. I mean, I kept hitting the “eject” button, but I still had to reach down and hit the button on my drive. I think I kept dropping F-bombs, which seemed to do a lot of environmental damage, because my dog keeps running away from me now. Overall, the game is a pretty lousy value, because installing games is the least fun part of actually playing them, even if that is the big challenge.

In conclusion, thanks for wasting my time, InterActive Vision. Your game makes a fine coaster, and your manual kept me and my family warm during the first cold snap of the new year – the cheap ink used on the pages burns long and brightly.

(Note: this game, while a triumph of incompetence, still receives a higher score than The Star and The Crescent, purely out of spite.)

 

Star and the Crescent, The (PC) Review

Developer: ProSIM Company | Publisher: Shrapnel Games || Overall: 2.5/10

Some guy in some movie with guns and really handsome actors pretending to be ordinary soldiers once said “war is hell.” Which, as I’ve been told, is pretty accurate. I mean, sure, it looks good when Matt Damon shoots some guy in the face, but any soldier who has been there will tell you that war is long stretches of boredom broken up by brief moments of sheer terror. Kinda like spending Thanksgiving with your girlfriend’s family: you can’t really remember why you signed up to be there, the person next to you won’t stop yelling, and some morbid part of your brain hopes that a lunatic in a fighter jet will drop napalm on your location and end your misery.

But I digress.

The Star and The Crescent is ProSIM Company’s newest tactical simulation for the die-hard war-game aficionado. Published by Shrapnel Games, it comes with the brazen proclamation that the realism of their game is such that both a helmet and flak jacket ought to be included in the package – fortunately for my local postal carrier, there’s just the manual and the installation CD. It zeros its sights, compensates for windage and bullet drop, leads it target, and shoots for realism: is The Star and The Crescent a hit?

Set in the Middle East, The Star and The Crescent offers players the chance to step into the boots of an officer in the Israeli army, commanding platoons, companies, and brigades of tanks and infantry in epic battles against a variety of foes. When you first start the game, you can begin one of the four campaigns ranging from the historic (like the Yom Kippur War) to the future (now try to imagine that there might be a war in the Middle East sometime this century). In keeping with the other Armored Task Force-engine games, when you’ve completed all the missions the game comes with, you can import new scenarios and continue the carnage; similarly, the included mission builder gives the game virtually unlimited re-playability.

The actual game boasts unparalleled realism. Before you even move your tanks, you have the option to set no fewer than eleven different formations, nine different ammunition types, and commit each of your units to ten different varieties of fire mission from “company attack to breach” to “platoon breach.” Your troops are arranged quite authentically in heirarchies denoted with real military abbreviation like “2/3 Bde / 11th Ugda,” and instead of graphics for any of the tanks or jeeps or soldiers, the actual N.A.T.O. symbols are used.

Cartographically speaking, you get your choice between a topographical or geographical map. You have your pick of eight different Standard Operation Procedures, governing how your units react to enemy contact. You can control each platoon separately, plotting out assigned paths down to the individual tank if you choose, or create custom hierarchies among your companies with brigades of units hand-picked to compliment one another, taking into consideration seemingly obscure factors like the reverse speed of a T72 Main Battle Tank, or the turning radius of a jeep when affixed with a 104mm rocket launcher.

Now, this next part is important. I have absolutely no idea what I said in those last two paragraphs. None. I spent hours trying to decipher the manual enough to follow along with the tutorial, but there’s a certain level of knowledge that is presupposed by the game designers. For instance, I had no idea which was bigger, a platoon or a company. The manual doesn’t bring it up at all. Further, that whole military abbreviation stuff, like “2/2 Bde / 12th Ugda” – I haven’t a clue what any of those numbers mean. I’m pretty sure that Bde stands for “brigade,” but the rest of it’s a mystery.

And while Wikipedia can be of some use for simple questions like whether a platoon is made of companies or vice versa, and while I don’t mind a game that’s going to teach me new things about stuff I’m not knowledgeable about (hello Gran Turismo), there’s only so much you can excuse from being absent in the manual. In a game that touts the ability to devise your own companies out of platoons and units from other companies, please, guys: don’t skimp on the explanation. Some of us didn’t go through boot camp. Now it’s not like these are all arcane concepts that are beyond comprehension: no military designs a command structure to be incomprehensible to those within it. The manual is, to put it bluntly, woefully inadequate.

If you’ve ever played one of ProSIM’s games on the ATF engine, you’ll be pretty well-prepared. For one, you may have already called your local armed forces recruiting office for some much needed explication. Or, if you’re halfway through a furious email to me, explaining the difference between an all-out enfilade and an entrenched defilade, you’re probably sleeping with a loaded AK-47 under your pillow more than ready to play this game. And hell, the manual isn’t completely useless – like the Rosetta Stone, someone of a keener intellect and sharper wit than myself could probably make use of it. But a game of this magnitude and complexity absolutely needs to have a much better helping hand for new players.

But really, you don’t play a game with your nose in the manual forever, so let’s move on to the other travesties of The Star and The Crescent. The next sentence is one that all the die-hard fans and the designers and the publishers and my grandmother who can’t even turn on a computer will see coming. The graphics are horrible. Now, I spent the better part of my afternoon today playing Final Fantasy for the original NES. I prefer the original X-COM to any other title in the series. I prefer an obscure and graphically sub-par boxing game to any Fight Night on any console. My last review was a glowing endorsement of a 2D side-scroller without a polygon in sight. I am not a 16x AA/AS diva, nor do I thump my chest and cry for HDR and the omnipresent Bloom in today’s titles. My point is that I firmly believe in gameplay superseding graphics. But oh. My. God. These graphics are horrible.

ProSIM has always focused their effort on creating sophisticated AI (more on this later), a ridiculously robust damage modeling system, and simply the deepest military sim I’ve ever seen. It was a monumental task, and all Armored Task Force-engine games bear the proud heritage of the process. But the graphics are unbelievably dated and present a further challenge in surmounting the already steep learning curve that poor documentation creates.

Blue boxes are the good guys, and red boxes are the bad guys. Got it. How do I tell all my blue guys apart? Some of them have ovals, some of them have ovals with dots, or ovals with a slash, or ovals with two slashes. Some other ones have three dots above the box, which probably means they’re captains or corporals or commanders or something. I dunno. To add to the realism, and so that the player may further appreciate the skill of the commanders in the actual historical battles represented in The Star and The Crescent, the icons you’ll use are the real N.A.T.O. symbols. This means they don’t make any sense.

Eventually, I got it down, but I’m a gamer. Call me a prima donna, but ever since 1988 or so, I’ve been spoiled by software that tries to represent an object’s function with its appearance. The Star and The Crescent thumbs its nose at this convention, and the learning curve suffers for it. That’s okay, right? Just remember that you’re the blue guys and you want the red guys to die, right? Sadly, no. Because the unit/formation icons, as unwieldy as they are, actually look good compared to interface. Graphically, the interface is a series of all but unintelligible 16x16px buttons lined up in a single bar that grows and shrinks when you press certain buttons. Confused? Wait till you actually try using it.

Firstly, as I said, the buttons are too small. The minimum requirements for this game are a 700 Mhz processor, 64 MB of RAM, and Windows 95. On a computer that old, the screen resolution would be adequate for 16x16px buttons. But on a computer built in this millennium, you’ll want to turn down your resolution while playing so you can actually see the buttons. Of course, you’d probably do about as well squinting like Great Aunt Gertrude doing needlepoint at the buttons: they suffer from the same sort of graphical malaise that your unit icons do. When you can see them, however, the buttons do a good job of representing functions for the most part. And really, I can’t blame ProSIM for not knowing how to express “defilade” in 256 pixels. Hell, I didn’t even know what it means, so even if they could represent it in a tiny little icon, it’d be lost on me.

This brings me to the least excusable facet of The Star and The Crescent yet: the interface. Say for the sake of argument, that you actually figure out which blue boxes are which, and you’re the world’s greatest tactical genius, who could actually pull off a land war in Asia. None of that matters, because the interface to this game feels like an afterthought. It’s a brilliant piece of work, really: there’s a whole hell of a lot going on behind the scenes, and I’d love to take a peak at the source code and see what this tactical orchestra of precision calculation is doing while it’s busy destroying my tanks over and over. But when you play this game, you get the sense that all the programmers signed up to design the game engine, and afterwards, they realized that one of them might actually have to design and interface and they all drew straws to determine the unlucky sod.

Simply put, I have never played a game with more than sixteen colors that has a less intuitive interface, full stop. At some point, it’s probably true that I’ve played a game with an even more incomprehensible means of controlling the action, but I find it hard to believe it was in either of the last two decades. Here we are in the year 2006, I have 104 keys on my keyboard, I have 8 buttons on my mouse, and I have almost two million pixels of screen real estate at your disposal, gentlemen. Please, please, please spend more than an afternoon designing and implementing an interface.

I love the idea of being able to custom-craft missions for my units, and the ability to copy-paste unit paths amongst all your units is mercifully well thought-out, but the actual implementation feels like a cold, uncaring spouse that has slowly grown apart from you over the years; she no longer cares about what you want, because fifteen years ago you forgot to call before you were going to be late coming home from the office, and now she’s convinced you’ve been cheating on her, so she goes out of her way to “forget” that you asked her for whole milk, and not this skim milk bullshit every week for the last decade.

If it seems like I’m harboring a grudge, I am. The interface is beyond counter-intuitive, the manual was crafted in an alien tongue, and the graphics looked bad when I was still in puberty. If you’ve been paying attention, all of these are not problems for real generals experienced players. But if you’re new, by now the learning “curve” is about as curvy as Lindsay Lohan on a coke binge running the Boston Marathon (i.e. not), and you’re banging your head against your monitor, screaming “Why?! Why didn’t you shoot? Why did you just drive up to them? Oh god the agony!” And the game has one last brick through your living room window for you.

The A.I. is vicious. While you’re trying to learn how to actually play (not how to win, how to actually play), the computer is going to make the strongest possible case that you should never be drafted and put in command of anything more complex than a dishwasher. And a damn fine case it is. Remember that “land war in Asia” crack? I think the computer could do just fine where Napoleon and Hitler failed: there is an absolutely savage beatdown that it’ll place on your units. Get ready to write thousands of letters home to some very distraught ladies, and tell them why Little Johnny is coming home in a box, because this game is hard. Having defeated poor gameplay design, lackadaisical (at best) graphics, a manual that’s little more help than a solar-powered umbrella, and the toughest A.I. this side of Deep Blue, the satisfaction you get from beating even the tutorial is unparalleled.

The bottom line? This game is not for you unless you have never played a strategy game worthy of your clearly superhuman tactical forebrain. This game is not for you if you’ve ever put down a strategy game for having too many damage tables to remember. This game is not for you if you do not seriously entertain notions of enlisting for the armed forces and studying four hundred years of tactical theory and practice. But if you’ve played ProSIM’s games before, and you know what you’re getting into, this is more of the same (unpolished) gem that you know and love, with an authentic historical vibe that can’t be beat. Of course, if this is your first foray into the world of ruthless military sims by ProSIM, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

Squackle Guestbook #20647

Sunday 08/15/2004 12:06:23am
Name: Bethany
Homepage:
E-Mail:
I like to Go to Squackle.com!!! Whoot
I like Squackle!: Yes
Comments: I am not a guest. I am a squackle newbie. But i wanted to sign the guestbook anyways. Because i never got a chance to. *Sniff*
But now i did! So all better. ^.^
 

Squackle Guestbook #20643

Friday 07/02/2004 10:58:19am
Name: Happy the otter
Homepage: http://not here yet…it will be called a box of tofu and a barrel of monkeyz tho
E-Mail: hyperhyperskwerl@aol.com
I like to dream about spinning ^^
I like Squackle!: Yes
Comments: WHEEE! I AM A SKWERL-OTTER-TYPE-THING!!! GO MEEEEEEEEEEEE
 

Squackle Guestbook #20577

Sunday 10/06/2002 3:00:02pm
Name: shock the monkey
Homepage: http://www.supermoose.cjb.net
E-Mail:
I like to poke badgers with spoons
addapt to new habitats
flick stuff
I like Squackle!: Yes
Comments: cute site, your like the american us, but biggger. well that figures coz england is the size of dingos thingo. lil mands and aileens hands, bare fands and bormans grans. gugh.
 

Squackle Guestbook #20547

MorzyMagic dung beetle 27/Jun/2002:11:42:58
I once let davepoobond play bass with my band, but he didn’t know how
so i told him to shut up you dumb idion learn how to play!!! i think he
just sits at home and works on this website all day. one time his mom
took away his mouse ball because he used the computer to much and he
was angry. this website has come a really long way since he first
started it, yeah… it used to be really dumb, one time i saw it
accidentally eat it’s own poo!