Posts Tagged ‘city’

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Review: Omerta – City of Gangsters

March 14, 2013

Annnd we’re back. Things are starting to stabilize here, so it looks like updates are going to start coming again, but more importantly, Steam demos. Today: Omerta – City of Gangsters. The story, or at least what I got of it from the demo, is the standard gangster boilerplate – Sicilian man leaves for the East Coast of the United States during the prohibition era. The story isn’t really the important part. Where the game really starts getting my attention is in the mechanics.

Being a game from Kalypso and Haemont, half of this game bears a striking resemblance to the Tropico series, except, y’know, Atlantic City. You have x amount of gangsters who you can send to buy from (or raid to steal from) home breweries, sell the alcohol you’ve acquired by various means, conduct jobs for people outside the gang, investigate buildings around town, et cetera, et cetera.

The part I really, really find interesting is that once you get into combat, the mechanics are surprisingly similar to the first and second games of the Fallout series. Each of your characters have a certain number of Action Points and Movement Points, which really clicked with me because having a single pool of points was one of the few things I disliked about Fallout II.

Anyway, the Action Points are strictly used for, appropriately enough, actions – basically, using guns, melee weapons, and sending your meaty fist gangster-ward. And Movement Points are, equally appropriately, used only for moving. In addition, there are different attacks that your character can use based on the weapon you’re using – or lack thereof. For example, my boss character was using his meaty fists and had three options: throw a punch, sweep the legs, or a kick to the dangly bits.

If I’m being completely honest, it’s a little rough. But it definitely has potential. Right now it’s $40 on Steam, but I would wait for it to go down another five or ten dollars before it’s really worth the money you’d be spending on it.

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Let’s Play SimCity 4! (Part 3: Power and Pipes)

December 21, 2011

And now, the long-awaited part three of the SimCity 4 Let’s Play!

The front door slammed, and that was just enough to jolt me out of my best coma imitation ever. I pushed myself
up from the couch, wondering whose house I was in and when I’d got there when the past year of my life came flooding back to
me. Moving to Germany, setting up a city and becoming de facto mayor, working with seven complete strangers,
all of them completely insane in their own ways. The last eighteen hours, on the other hand, were a complete blur.

: Oh, stone me bloody crows…what happened last night?
: Mornin’, boss.

It took a few moments for my eyes to focus and tell me that was Jamil, offering me a glass of water and two anti-
inflamitories for my throbbing head. I took them with a weak smile, appreciating the gesture, and started surveying the
room. Besides Jamil and myself, there were at least eight other citizens; Some completely passed out, others groaning, and
one was actively vomiting.

: What time is it?
: About half past seven.

Can’t I get just one New Years Day where I can sleep in?

: Can’t I get just one New Years Day where I can sleep in? What happened last night?
: Well, after the festival, you invited everyone there to watch the ball drop and celebrate with champagne.
: And then what?
: Well, when we ran out of champagne, you decided to break out the vodka and whiskey. And when those ran out, you broke out the tequila.
: That would explain a lot of this, yes. Where’s Bettina? I need to get her phone book.
: She and Sam went upstairs about three this morning.

I let out a heavy sigh. If there was one thing I didn’t need it was this hangover, but if there was a second thing I didn’t
need, it was an intra-office romance.

: Well, where’d she leave her purse?
: I think it’s in the kitchen.

I went to check, and I’ll be damned, there it was. I pulled out her phone book, and most of the rest of the purse came with
it. I now had gum, car keys, and a huge stack of pay stubs scattered all over my floor. And the noise sure didn’t help
matters.

: Ah, here we go. Dr. Mediziner…Yes, doctor? We’ve got a situation at the mansion. We need you to set up triage for a
bunch of drunks…I understand. When can you be here?…That’s fine. See you then.

I hung up and then bent down to pick up the purse swag, and I felt the throbbing in my head getting worse. Or that’s what I
thought at the time. It was a few hours later when I found out that a few of the locals had decided to start the party back
up. Say what you want about the Germans, they sure can handle their liquor.

: Doctor will be here in fifteen. So what’s the rest of the story? What happened last night? To everyone?
: Well, let me think. I already told you about Sam and Bettina…Jonas had two glasses of champaign, three shots of whiskey
and a shot of vodka before running off with his tool box…Camile didn’t partake, and just left for her morning walk…Neil
had two shots of whiskey, shouted “Woo” and passed out on the lawn, and Monique got drunk and decided to go in the back to
devise a new accounting method. Last thing I heard out of it was a thump and snoring. And you drank just as much as Neil,
but with more spinning around on office chairs and falling on the couch.
: Huh. Sounds like a hell of a party. How is it you remember all this?
: I’m Muslim. Don’t drink.
: Oh. Good thing you’ve got a good memory, too. I take it we’re on standstill until the doc gets here?
: Well, if you really want something to do, I do have some plans drawn up for a bus system.
: As exciting as that sounds, I think I’m going to get some more sleep before the doctor shows.

: Hey Kevin. Wake up, the doctor’s here.
: Ughh. How long have I been out?
: About fifteen minutes.
: Geez. Feels like three months.
: He’s started working on people already.
: Good. Get everyone else taken care of first.

The party had been over for about a month, but people were still talking about it like it’d just happened. It seemed like
every day I’d have people coming up to me on the street, telling me it was the biggest blowout they’d ever seen. Neil called
me in to his office to go over some plans for a new commercial district over by the church.

: Some party, huh?
: Yeah, it sure was. What have you got for me?
: Some of the churchgoers were telling me that they didn’t have anywhere to go to eat after services.
: I think we can do that.

There was a brief pause in the conversation. There was something I wanted to bring up to Neil, but I wasn’t sure the time
was right. Ultimately, I decided the hell with it, and went ahead.

: Neil, I’ve been thinking…
: Uh-oh. I’m not going to like this, am I?
: You might. I’d like to zone for some medium density housing on the west side of the river. Maybe get some apartments put up.
: That’s…actually not half bad. Maybe up by the residential and commercial towards the bridge.
: See, that’s why I wanted to bring it up. You always know exactly where to put things. Get some plans drawn up, and I’ll
sign them.

We spent something like two hours setting the whole thing up. It wound up being five blocks by three, surrounding the fire
station and near the elementary school and clinic. We ended up calling it the Greenbriar Estates. I’m still not enturely
sure why.

: Was that the only thing you had in mind?
: Well, no. If we’re being completely honest, I was thinking of starting the city on a more…industrial path.
: Are you telling me you want to pave over the farms and put up factories?!
: No! What? God no! I’m just saying that maybe it would be a good idea to zone some area for more heavy industry. I mean, it’s not like we can have everyone work on farms forever.
: I suppose you’re right. Where were you planning on putting it?
: I was considering near the power plant.
: Yeah, that could work.

Neil’s phone started ringing, so while he took care of whatever crisis was on the other end, I started sketching out the new
industrial park. I’d leave it to Neil to work out the fine details. By the time he was done, I’d finished and began doodling
pictures of solar flares and dinosaurs.

: We’ve got a problem.
: What is it, Neil?
: The dead.

I paused for a moment, unsure if I’d heard him right.

: I think the sun was in my ears, could you repeat that?
: There are too many dead people.
: All right; Soylent Green it is!
: Would you please take this seriously? The church courtyard is full and so are the mortuaries.
: Alright, alright. I’m sorry, the joke was too easy. What do we do?
: The best thing would probably be a municipal graveyard.

Before I had a chance to answer Neil, Jonas walked in with a serious look on his face.

: We got a problem.
: Take a number, Jonas.
: It’s important.
: Alright Jonas, what is it?
: I’ve been on the horn with the utilities man down in Konradshohe. Their mayor has offered to take some trash off our
hands.
: How much?

Suddenly, Monique popped around the corner.

: What are you spending money on now?

By this time, I’d had enough of the random interruptions.

: You know what, let’s just make this our monthly staff meeting.

I mashed the button on the intercom with my entire hand in sheer frustration.

: Everybody get in here!

Slowly but surely, Jamil, Bettina, Sam, and Camile filtered into the room.

: What’s going on here?
: We’re having the monthly staff meeting because half the staff was in here anyway. Jonas, I believe you were telling us how much Konradshohe is charging for garbage removal.
: A little less than one simoleon per ton per month.
: Monique, how’s the budget?
: Not too bad. At our current rate, we are bringing in slightly more than two hundred simoleons per month than we spend.

: Jonas, anything else you want to bring up?
: Well, there are reports of areas without water connections. Normally this wouldn’t be too much of an issue, but apartments and cleaner industry can’t survive on wells alone.

: And we are generating far more power than we need. Besides being wasteful, what with all the natural gas we’re using
without benefit, it makes for a dangerous situation. The current could build up in the generators and if someone gets too
close right then, the shock could kill them.

It was the first time in a long time I’d been shocked into silence. Someone could die? Shit. I’d have to deal with the
situation, and soon.

: Shit. Jonas, what do you suggest?
: Well, we could either cut back on production and lay off a bunch of workers, or we could run power line out to the city
limits and shop out power.

: Okay, we’ll run line down to the border with Konradshohe. Talk to their utilities man down there, tell them we’ll send
them thirty nine tons a month. While you’re at it, ask if they could use some extra power.

: Neil, we’ll put the cemetary on the east side of the river, over by where the commercial area meets the farm land.

: There’s also a fair bit of demand for low-density residential, so I thought over on the other side of the farms.
: Sounds like a plan.

: Alright, that’s the major crises taken care of. Anyone with new business? Jamil?
: No, everything’s cherry on my end.
: Bettina?
: No problems in medicine or education.
: Sam?
: Everything seems quiet for the time being.
: Jonas, Neil, I believe we’ve covered your sections. Monique?
: No budgetary problems.
: Good. Meeting adjourned. Geez, it’s eight already?
: Mr. Mayor, I have some issues to take up.
: Oh, Camile. I’m sorry, I forgot all about you. What’s on your mind.
: Firstly, I’ve been contacted by local green activist Flora Fauna.

: Oh, no way is that a real name.
: Not by birth, no, but that is her legal name. She suggests that it would be in our best interests to take on a campaign of
city beautification by way of planting efforts and setting aside parklands. I would advise against ignoring her.
: Alright, once the issues with power and water have been take care of, I’ll get right on that. What else?

: Results have come back from the water test I ordered last week. All contaminant levels are well within federal and state
mandated guidelines.
: Good.
: Finally, I’m concerned by the increasing ratio of paved area to green space. Not only is it detrimental from the
standpoint of attractiveness to businesses and tourists, it’s also the cause of a recent spike in air pollution levels.

: Again, I’ll get on that after the critical issues are fixed. Meeting adjourned.

Diary Entry #4 – Restaurant Syrtaki, Hennigsdorf, December 13, 2001, 10:18 pm.

What a year.

We eventually got the troubles with the power plant generating too much. After we ran power lines to the edge of the city,
Jonas had the idea to hook the lines directly to the transmission tower and then ground it until Konradshohe gets back to us
about our offer. We just yesterday got the last of the PVC water pipes hooked up, and everything seems to be running
smoothly so far. Pressure is good and people are happy to be hooked up to the city water mains instead of relying on wells
and septic tanks. Jonas even gave me a before-and-after of the plans for me to hang up in my office.

Also, note to self: No tequila at this years New Years Eve party.

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Let’s Play SimCity 4! (Part 2.5: Mental Outpatient)

September 29, 2011

From the files of Dr. Michelle Neustadt, Ph.D, Dec. 29 2000.

As part of a required annual analysis of  public officials, I interviewed the mayor of Henningsdorf and his staff. While it is not uncommon for those with power to be somewhat off, I was hoping for at least one of them to be mentally healthy. This was sadly not the case.

Mayor Kevin Dixon

As all of the staff had  been in a meeting at the mayoral mansion, I decided to do all of the interviews there. I met the mayor in his upstairs office, leaning back in his office chair with his feet up, apparently engrossed in his music. Once he noticed me, he took a more professional posture. “Oh, I’m sorry. I hope you weren’t waiting too long. I just got the new Elton John album, it’s pretty good.”l

I replied that I wasn’t, and the interview began. We talked about just how an American became the mayor of a German city, his impression of his staff, all the while he was eyeing the liquor cabinet. After our interview, I heard keys jingling and and the sound of glass against glass.

ANALYSIS: Mayor Dixon clearly has a case of alcoholism, judging by his trembling and how he went for the liquor cabinet the second I left. Despite this, he seems to be able to act in a timely manner when situations demanding his attention occur.

Neil Fairbanks

I met with Neil Fairbanks over the kitchen table, where I found him reviewing, revising, and re-revising plans for future city expansion. We talked of his past career experience, where he got his start and things of that nature, all the while he was shifting about his papers and twirling his pen in his fingers. Even while he was answering my questions, his eyes kept darting down to his papers. Seconds after I left him, he was back to his revisions.

ANALYSIS: Mr. Fairbanks clearly suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and perfectionism, manifesting in his job as city planner. If what Mr. Dixon has told me is true, add to that hypomania. However, none of these adversely affect his job performance.

Monique Diamond

I found Monique Diamond in the study, going over her ledgers and looking for anywhere to make cuts in order to balance the budget. We talked about her experience keeping the books, looking after the finances of the city, and dealing with the quirks of her coworkers. She seemed particularly irked with Mayor Dixon, although after looking over the budget there wasn’t much cause for concern.

ANALYSIS: Ms. Diamond shows textbook signs of being a workaholic, as evidenced by her obsession with figures and budgets. She also seems to have trust issues, possibly stemming from difficulty with a previous employer or family member. My main concern is with her physical health, as the constant reviews and revisions of finances will eventually lead to immune system and/or heart problems.

Jonas Sparks

Jonas Sparks was out in a workshop behind the mansion. Out of all of his team, Mr. Sparks was the one that the mayor had been the most worried about. After seeing him, I wasn’t quite sure why. He invited me in, offered me a bottle of soda, and began to show me the various inventions he’d been working on. One which he seemed especially proud of was a way for entire buildings to be packed into a box the size of a shipping crate that would, when struck with a wrench, unfold into the fully formed and functional building.

He told me about his past, growing up in rural Texas, spending his summers with his aunt and uncle and his inventions. It was all very…creative, possibly a flight of fancy born of boredom.

ANALYSIS: Mr. Sparks shows signs of perfectionism and seems to hold his uncle in high regard, elevating him to an almost idol-like status. He has occasional fantastic ideas that he seems to be convinced are possible, but none of these threaten his job performance in any appreciable way.

Sam Armstrong

Sam Armstrong was in his own study, going over crime statistics. He seemed a little distant during the interview, distracted by a picture on his desk. Mr. Armstrong had a very long career – coming up through the ranks of the police force in Bridgeport to become chief of police and later public safety advisor. Having such a high-stress position was difficult, he admitted, but he’d found the challenge invigorating, even if it didn’t leave any time for romance.

ANALYSIS: Mayor Dixon mentioned that he believes that he accidentally caught Mr. Armstrong trying to look at Ms. Dean while she was dressing. At first I didn’t believe him, but after the interview, I’m not ready to rule out voyeurism and/or social disorders.

Bettina Dean

I am intimately familiar with Bettina Dean. Many years ago, we worked together on a case study about public health for the city of Chicago. Back in those days, she was always very professional, if a little uptight. Judging by our interview, not much has changed. She seems to have loosened up considerably from those days, and admitted to being infatuated with Mr. Armstrong.

ANALYSIS: Ms. Dean and Mr. Armstrong both have high-stress jobs, and it seems only natural that they would be attracted to each other. She seems to have a minor obsession with her work, but not to the level that it would interfere with her on a day to day basis.

Jamil Heard

For Mr. Heard, I had to travel out into the field, where he was directing recently-approved road expansions. He seemed to have a genuine enthusiasm for the work, going so far as to help the road crew spread asphalt, even if his appreciation for the smell was slightly troubling. He revealed that he too had been educated in Chicago, and was Jordanian by birth. He admitted that what Mayor Dixon told me was true about his being upset at the approvals needed.

Given the composition of the rest of the cabinet, Mr. Heard may prove a useful contact in the event that the others get completely drunk.

ANALYSIS: Mr. Heard shows a minor case of bipolar disorder, which seems to be triggered by work difficulties. His aversion to alcohol is a result of his religion, and given the rest of the advisors, is a refreshing change of pace.

Camile Meadows

In order to meet with Ms. Meadows, I needed to take a jeep out into the German wilderness. A very solitary one, her. She told me of her works promoting recycling efforts and alternate energy programs in England, and how she needed to get somewhere remote after the hustle and bustle of London. She prefers to go on solitary walks to be with nature and to, as she put it, “get away from everything”.

ANALYSIS: She shows signs of depersonalization disorder, combined with possible delusions of grandeur. Her personality and desire for solitude are also indicative of introversion or an aversion of  personal relationships.

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Let’s Play SimCity 4! (Part 2: Freshman Year)

September 18, 2011

: Okay. We go with natural gas.

: Aah, the cost!

: It costs 9,000 up front and 400 a month. We have 500,000 in the treasury, so unless we dip below 150,000 or we start hemorrhaging cash, I don’t want to hear about it. Neil, we need to get some zones set up. What do you suggest?

: You should zone for farms down south. There are a couple of ways we could go about this. We could start on this side of the river, we could bridge it and start on the other side, or if you’re feeling particularly ambitious, we could develop both sides of the river at once.

: I think we’re up to the challenge. I assume we should put the houses further up river?

: Got it in one.

: Jamil, how do we get them connected?

: Standard grid should suffice for now. Later we can put in subways and bus stations as the need arises.

: You’re going to need to bridge the river, too.

: And it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to bridge further up river by the housing developments, too.

: Good. Jonas, what’s your take on this?
: Well, you’re gonna have to run line out to the city…

: …and across the river, but that shouldn’t be a problem.

: Alright then. Neil, start drawing up some zoning maps. Think small, we’re looking for family farms, not agribusiness. Jonas, you need an extra pair of hands working on the lines?

: Naw, we can put the gypsy crew that comes to put up the plant on it.

: …Gypsy crew?

: Yeah, they don’t specialize in anything – they just go to where they’re needed.

I worry about Jonas sometimes.

: Okay then. Jamil, how about you, you need some help?

: Sure, I could always use a willing shovel.

Diary Entry #3 – Henningsdorf, January 6th, 2000, 9:54 AM GDT
The wandering crew came and went. It was remarkable, they did in a few days what would take any other crew at least a year. German manufacturing at its finest, I suppose. All the pieces showed up on trucks, and they just bolted the whole thing together. Amazing. We’ve been putting out the word about the new city, but so far we haven’t had any-

: Hey, Kevin? You might want to take a look at this.
: What’s up, Neil?
: Just come take a look.

My God, it was beautiful. There were finally signs of life in our fair city Henningsdorf, and not just in the farmlands.

: So, I guess our days of camping out are nearly over, huh?
: I guess so. Keep me updated, I’ve got to finish this entry.

Diary Entry #3 (cont’d.)
Scratch that. Neil just stopped by, showed me that people are moving in now. Henningsdorf is going to get on its feet and soon.

I leaned back and put my feet up, feeling like I’d earned a brief moment of rest when that little PDA I’d been given started to buzz. When I pulled it out, I saw the RCI icon blinking. I opened the app, figuring that it’d been updated.

I had moved into a house for rent as soon as one was available, and I was just getting settled in when Neil stopped by.

: Hey, boss, one of our new residents made a good point about there being nowhere to shop, and more importantly, nowhere to work except for the farms. You might want to start zoning for commercial buildings, maybe put it
somewhere between the houses and farms.
: I think I know just the place. Good lookin’ out, Neil.
: …Good lookin’ out?
: I don’t know, I heard it somewhere.

I called up Jamil, asked him to get the boys together to lay some new road. He got them on it, and I headed over to
Neil’s place to work out the new commercial zoning.

What I wasn’t expecting was for him to tell me that the townspeople had voted to build me a goddamn mansion.

: You’re never going to believe the news I just got!
: Well, what is it?
: Everyone had a meeting last night out at one of the farms. Seems like you’re pretty popular around here.
: What makes you say that?
: They’ve set aside money for you to build a mayoral mansion.
: Yeah, good one Neil. What’s the real story?
: That is the real story. Now that our population is over 500, the residents are opening their arms to you. We
don’t want them thinking you’re going to take off for greener pastures anytime soon, so think of this as a chance
to show you’re invested in the success of the community. Something like that gets you votes in an election.

I dropped the pen I was using to draw up plans for the new commercial zones. I really couldn’t believe this. They
were really paying for a mansion for me?

: Really?
: Really. All you need to do is pick a spot, get the plan together, and we’ll get the crew out there to build it.
: I’ve got some ideas. For one, I’ve always wanted to live by a river…

We spent the rest of the day working out the details with one of Neil’s architect friends.

: Ladies and gentlemen of Henningsdorf, let me start by thanking you for this gift you’ve seen fit to give me. It’s touching to see how you feel about me as your mayor given life. And now, without further ado, come in!

I don’t remember much beyond that.

After I got settled in, I invited Neil over to work out the details on the new commercial zones, and he mentioned something that I’d forgotten about.

: The town’s progressing, but there’s just something missing. We need some schools for the residential zones.
: Oh, crap! I completely forgot! Come on, let’s head out there and scout locations.

We decided to go with two schools. East Henningsdorf and West Henningsdorf, start creating the kinds of geographic rivalries that fueled high school sports teams and gang wars. While we were at it, we added some more residential zoning around my house. I was fiddling with the funding on one of the schools when Neil interrupted to show me an e-mail he’d just gotten.

: Seems like we’re starting to attract a few religious scholars.
: What makes you say that?
: Got an e-mail here, from a religious group asking for a zoning variance to put up their house of worship.

: I think we can accommodate them. I’ve got just the place in mind.

We were getting close to our first anniversary, and the city was starting to be able to take care of itself on a day-to-day basis, so most of my time was occupied planning the first annual festival. I’d had the whole team assembled to decide how to proceed.

: I recommend a street harvest festival. We just took in all those crops a couple of months ago, and it would be good for the town to remember the industry that got them all going.
: I can support that. It’d take some stress off the grid, and bein’ a country boy it’d give me a taste of home.
: It could also help with environmental awareness. Sounds like a perfectly reasonable event.
: Well, it’s unlikely to have any hidden costs, in fact, it might serve to provide revenues with sales taxes.
: There’s plenty of space by the mansion, and any overflow can go on the lawn, assuming you’re cool with that.
: Hey, it was my idea. Just make sure that we don’t block off the bridge.
: I think we can spare one of the side streets up there. Just make sure to let everyone living along that stretch plenty of advance warning so they can arrange their schedules accordingly. Oh, hell, that’s my phone. I’ve gotta take this.
: It would be a chance for the school kids to learn a little about the agricultural process. And the fresh air couldn’t hurt the masses either.
: It’d give the police volunteers a chance to make connections in the community too. Maybe get some leads about things in the works.
: Alright then. How does the saturday before New Year’s Eve sound?

Everyone nodded their agreement, all except for Jamil who was still on his phone. He flipped it closed and asked to talk to me in private.

: So, what’s up?
: My guys just compiled a survey we made of one of the roads on the east side of town. It’s not looking good.
: Lot of traffic?
: Too much. The volume is just too high for the cold mix asphalt and the thirty-five mile an hour zone and constant stop signs are really feeding into the congestion.
: Man…can you do anything about it?
: Not without approval from the city planner and mayor.

: Look, it’s cool. I want the congestion down just as much as you do. Draft a plan for me and get it on my desk. I’ll run through it with Neil, and we’ll get your guys working on an upgrade in no time.

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Late August Clusterf**k Über-Review – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, The Fifth Element, Tycoon City: New York, Poker Night At the Inventory, Chrono Trigger

August 31, 2011

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is based on a novel (written in two parts for Rolling Stone magazine), itself based on two trips taken by Hunter S. Thompson and his lawyer, Oscar Zeta Acosta (going by the pseudonyms Raul Duke and Dr. Gonzo, respectively) into Las Vegas. The first, a job for Sports Illustrated to cover the Mint 400 desert race, quickly devolves into a festival of an array of drugs, alcohol, hallucination, paranoia, and the freakish neon of the American Sin City. The second trip, to cover the National DA’s Association conference on drugs for Rolling Stone, gets out of hand when Dr. Gonzo brings along a young lady named Lucy who he gave LSD while on the plane.

They put her up in a hotel before her trip ends, and do their best to avoid her while attending the speech about the dangers of marijuana and covertly doing cocaine. They head back to their hotel, where Gonzo deals with Lucy over the phone by pretending to be beaten by thugs while Duke tries to unwind by doing some of Gonzo’s adrenochrome, which turns him into a babbling, incoherent mess before collapsing.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Let’s Play SimCity 4! (Part 1: Meet the Team)

August 5, 2011

 There is audience participation in this part! 

I remember it started on New Years Day, 2000. I was hung to the over because I, like every person on the face of the Earth save a few, drink heavily during New Years Eve. In fact, the phone call came at about five in the morning, at which point I’d been asleep for about two hours.

: Wha…wazza…ugh…hello?
: Yes, is this Kevin Dixon?
: Not for at least another three hours. What is it?
: You’ve been chosen by the Berlin State Counicl to develop a plot of land north of Konradshöhe into a new city. Don’t you remember us calling last week?
: Last night was New Years Eve. You’re lucky I remember my name.
: Well, your flight leaves in an hour. Your car should be there in twenty minutes.
: …
: Hello?
: I hate you.
: I know, sir. I’ll see you in about sixteen hours.
: Tell your driver he may need to wake me.

I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I grabbed a bunch of clothes and threw them in a suitcase. I figured I’d have time to iron anything that got wrinkled when I got to wherever this new city was.

: Mr. Dixon? It’s time to go.
: Alright, alright. I’m coming.
: Need some help with your bags?
: Yeah, sure.
: *grunt* What have you got in here?
: About a weeks worth of clothes, a couple of suits, a few pounds of coffee, a coffee maker, my laptop and accessories.
: So where are you going at such an ungodly hour?
: Berlin.

Diary Entry #1 – Somewhere over the Atlantic, Jan. 1, 2000, 1:48 PM EDT
Now I’m on a private jet, heading to a country I’ve neve been to before, to build a new city from scratch. Piece of cake. How do I get myself into these things? I’ve got to stop clicking on every free thing I find on the internet. Or at the very least start using Chrome. At least it translates the pages for you. I thought I was just getting ready to download some kind of weird German porn involving city planners.

: Mr. Dixon! Welcome to Germany!
: …
: Why are you touching my face?
: Oh, good. You’re real. I though I might be hallucinating from lack of sleep again. What time is it here?
: About four in the morning.
: Does the car we’re taking have a bench seat in the back?
: I think so, yeah.
: Good. I’ll be asleep.

________________________________________________________________________________

: Well, here we are.
: Hmm…Oh. Where’s *yawn* where’s here?
: This is what will eventually be Henningsdorf.


: Hnngh…looks nice. Where am I going to sleep tonight?
: Don’t worry, we brought along tents and diesel geneerators for you and your advisors.
: Well, that’s…convenient. Wait, advisors? Who are these advisors?
: Meet them yourself. They’re just now pulling up.

And sure enough, an old M35 left over from the cold war pulled up and a man in his late forties hopped out the back with a briefcase. He was wearing a nicely tailored blue suit and starting to gray a little, and he seemed infinitely enthusiastic.

: Ah! So I assume you’re the new mayor! I’m Neil Fairbanks, your new city planner!
: Nice to meet you, Neil. I’d be more enthusiastic, but I’m running on naps. Any advice for me?
: Well, you’re probably going to want to get some residential and industrial areas zoned. Be sure to give them some space, but not too much so the commute isn’t too long.
: Thanks for the advice. You might want to go get your tent set up.
: Hot damn, a tent!

He rushed off to start with his tent, and my focus was drawn back to the truck, where a dark haired woman was getting out of the passenger side. She, too, was wearing a well-tailored suit, dark gray, and was carrying a pair of ledgers. She carried herself confidently, with just a hint of pretention.

: Would you happen to be the one in charge of this madhouse?
: I…don’t know? Maybe? I’m the appointed mayor but-
: Wonderful. I’m Monique Diamond, your new finance advisor. I’m here to keep you in line when you start to get a little too pen happy with the checkbook. Now where can I set up?
: Well, we have tents…
: I guess that will have to do. Come find me when you find out what our budget is.

She brushed by me and I saw someone new hop off the truck. He must’ve been in his late thirties, but he still had a youthful air around him. He had a tube full of blueprints around his shoulder and a toolbox under his left arm. When he shook my hand, it felt like it was going to pop right off.

: Well, nice to meet you! I’m Jonas Sparks, utilities.
: Your accent sounds so familiar. Are you from Texas somewhere?
: Damn straight, Bee Cave, Texas! Uncle of mine, Dell, invennted a teleporter.
: So, any advice for starting from scratch?
: You’re gonna want to get up a power plant soon, and then run lines to the zones. You won’t have to worry about water for a while ’cause they’ll drill their own wells at first. You’ll need it for higher density buildngs though.
: Good to know. You should probably get your tent set up.
: Heh, can’t see that being a problem.

He pats his toolbox and heads off to the tents as someone else hops from the back of the truck. He’s clearly a police officer, with his hair high and tight and just enough moustache to give him authority.

: I assume you’re in charge here?
: I…guess? No one’s really given me any specifics.
: Sam Armstrong, public safety. I’m here to make sure the people don’t get robbed and the houses don’t catch fire.
: Nice to meet you Sam. Any thoughts?
: Start with firehouses. Crime should stay low for a while, what with people getting settled. Speaking of which…
: We have tents until we can get some proper houses built.
: That’ll work.

Something from the truck caught his eye, and mine as well. A young doctor was struggling to get off the truck.

: I should probably go help her.
: Alright. I’ll be over talking to our benefactors if either of you need me.

________________________________________________________________________________

: Hey, whatever your name is, I have a few questions.
: Anneliese Kirschner. Mrs. Kirschner to you.
: Yeah, whatever. Is there anything you might have neglected to tell me?
: No. But there are a few things that I was waiting for the right moment for. Here.

She handed me an odd-looking PDA that had apps like “Mayor Rating”, and “RCI”, whatever that meant.

: Ar-se-ee? What the hell does that mean?
: That’s R-C-I, you blithering dolt. It measures demand for residential, commercial, and industrial buildings based on factors like regional population growth, local unemployment, world and local economics, and the like.
: What kind of money is this?
: They’re simoleans. It’s an experimental new currency introduced by the EU for large transactions, like between cities and corporations, or in inter-city trade.
: What about this one that looks like a skyscraper?
: That’s an opinion poll. It measures how the people feel about various factors in the city. Anything else?
: No, that should about cover it.

________________________________________________________________________________

: Monique? I found out how much is in the treasury.
: Great. How much?
: Five hundred thousand.
: Euros!? We can’t possibly be expected to start a city on that! A power plant with the capacity we need would cost on the order of trillions of Euros!
: It’s not Euros. It’s a new experimental high-value currency the EU is trying out. Here, they gave me a price list.
: Oh. Well, could you give me a few minutes? I need to study this.
: Sure. I should probably go meet the rest of the team.

Sure enough, the moment I stepped out of her tent, there wer another three people milling around, waiting for me. The first one to approach was the doctor Sam went over to help out of the truck. She looked to be in her late thirties with brown hair and a lab coat.

: So, you must be the one in charge of this experiment. Bettina Dean, double major in health administration and education.
: Kevin Dixon. Shouldn’t assume things about the German language.
: What does that mean?
: It’s a long story. I assume your advice is to build hospitals and schools?
: Well, clinics. And you’re going to have to build a high school eventually.
: Eventually. Do you know about the tents?
: Sam-Mr. Armstrong told me the situation. He offered to help set mine up.

Next was a Middle Eastern man in a light blue shirt, bald with a goatee. He had a laptop bag with a slide rule sticking out, and went straight for my hand.

: You must be the mayor of this plot of land. Jamil Herd, transportation advisor.
: Kevin Dixon, nice to meet you. Where are you from?
: Jordan, by way of Chicago. Studied pre-engineering at Loyola Chicago and civil engineering at University of Illinois Urbana.
: Can you put up a tent?
: Is the space pope reptilian?
: Good. See you in a bit.

The last advisor…well, she looked like a park ranger, what with the hat, the khaki shirt and close cropped hair. I assumed that she was the environmental advisor. Also, the hiking backpack and sleeping bag were a dead giveaway.

: You would be my environment advisor, correct?
: Yes. How did you know?
: Your manner of dress, the hiking backpack, and the fact that environment advisor is the only position left.
: Well. I must say I was quite ready to take on a new challenge.
: What part of England are you from?
: North Yorkshire. Camile Meadows, doctorate in environmental studies.
: We have a tent for you if you need it.
: Really, now, I did prepare to sleep outdoors for a time.

Well, this is going to be fun. I can tell already that I’m going to regret clicking on that link.

Diary Entry #2 – North of Konradshöhe, Jan. 2, 2000, 6:21 AM GDT
If nothing else, at least I’m not in this alone. I’ve got seven advisors with me, and they’re…uh…unique. The city planner is happier than any man should be in the early morning in the woods in Germany, my financial advisor is on the verge of a nervous breakdown, my utilities man is a good ol’ boy from Texas whose uncle invented a teleporter, there’s something going on between my public safety advisor and my health and education advisor, my transportaton manager is a Jordanian from Chicago and by far the most normal of the bunch, and my environment advisor is a Yorkie who is ready to camp out at a moment’s notice. If I survive this, I’m giving up German porn forever.

: Neil? We’ve got a common tent set up. Could you meet me there in five? There are some things I want to go over.
: Sure thing, bossman.

________________________________________________________________________________

: Monique? Could you meet me in the common tent we’ve got set up in about five? I want to go over some things with everyone.
: I’ll only come if I can bring my books.
: …Okay? You can bring whatever you want.

________________________________________________________________________________

: Hey, Jonas, I wanted to ask if-what in God’s name is that thing?
: First of all, don’t take the Lord’s name in vain. It ain’t proper. And this is one of those gadgets my uncle cooked up. It makes metal fer me to upgrade things with.
: Oh. How’s it work?
: Not a clue. What’d you come in here for?
: Oh, right! I wanted to know if you can meet me in the common tent in about five minutes.
: Sure, I’ll be there.

________________________________________________________________________________

: Sam, I-
: What? I wasn’t spying on anybody, honest!
: …Wasn’t going to ask, but okay. We’re having a staff meeting in the common tent in about five minutes to discuss how we’re going to set up the town.
: Oh, yeah. See you there.

________________________________________________________________________________

: Hey, Bettina, we’re-Oh! I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were changing!
: That’s all right, I should have put up a sign or something. What do you want?
: We’re havng a staff meeting in a few minutes about how to set up the town.
: Where?
: In the common tent, right in the middle of all the rest.
: All right.

________________________________________________________________________________

: Jamil, we’re-Oh, I’m sorry. Am I interrupting?
: No, no, it’s fine. Just finishing up the morning prayer. What’s up?
: Staff meeting in the common tent in five, all about getting this place up and running.
: Great. I’ll meet you there.

________________________________________________________________________________

: Camile, staff meeting in five in what would have been your tent. Camile?
: What is it?
: YAHHH! Geez, where’d you go?!
: I went for my morning hike. What do you want?
: Staff meeting in five, out in the common tent.
: Fine.

________________________________________________________________________________

: Looks like everyone’s here. Where do we start?
: The obvious place is with a power plant. You’ve got a few options: there’s wind power, natural gas, coal power, or oil power. Natural gas is probably the best bet: that way we won’t be generating power we’re not using.
: I don’t know if I can agree with that. Yes, it’s less of an initial outlay, but it’s nearly double the monthly cost of coal.
: Wind is only fifty a month. For the same cost as coal we could get a thousand megawats with none of the pollution.
: The wind plants take up a lot less space, as well. Think of everything we could fit near one!

Well everyone? How do we want to generate our power? The options at this point are:

 
Wind power, inexpensive and clean, but not much output.


 Natural gas, more expensive monthly than coal, but lower pollution and output.

 
Coal power, inexpensive and powerful, but belches smoke like a 70s record exec.

 
Or oil power, expensive and polluting but generates like a pro.