This Week in Geekdom

Hey guys; hope you're all having a great weekend thus far. We've been busy gearing up for Thanksgiving (lots grinding away in the office, but the premise of pie looms large in the immediate future). Mmmmm, pie. With a bit of vacation time incoming, I'm hoping to put in some serious hours in Fallout 4 and start putting together the 2016 cosplay lineup. In the meantime though, let's get down to the Week in Geekdom.


Happy 30th birthday to Calvin and Hobbes!


On Friday Valve announced the dates for both its Fall and Winter Sales as well as a planned makeover for both daily and flash sales. <girds wallet>

Fans of the Starfox series may have to wait until 1Q16 to do their next barrel roll, but we can at least get a glimpse of what's inbound.

Are you the owner of a PS4 with a jones for solid indie titles? This list can point you in the right gaming direction.

Despite the prevalence and potential functionality of the bluntly direct "just attack your target" methodology inherent in so many games, there's a lot that can be said of taking a stealthy tack. Here are some of the best examples of the latter.


It's Mark Hamill's first official interview about some movie that's coming out next month or something.

Speaking of said franchise, if you could change one thing about any of the Star Wars movies what would it be?


It's a healthy baby...planet? The latest edition of Nature contains these observations from the Universities of Arizona and Sydney that may be the first-ever images of a planet being 'born'.

LG did not have the best of weeks. After only six days on the market the Watch Urbane (Second Edition) was cancelled due to an unspecified hardware issue.

In a less market-value-crushing move, Microsoft ended both the production of its music player Zune and the service that provided said player with tunes.

What if your cell phone could hold a battery charge for over a week at a time? Thanks to new research at the University of Glasgow, we may be very close to that possibility.

In what is likely another step towards the Singularity, AI developed by the National Institute of Informatics (Japan) was able to pass the infamously difficult exam associated with admission into Japan's universities.

It's one of the most enduring and analyzed quandaries that we, as a species, grapple with: why do we exist? According to one Harvard cosmologist, the answer may be dark matter.

We all share this ability, but why? We're are uncannily adept at sensing when another human is looking at us. Here comes the science.

The most recent version of Optics includes this research out of Stanford that details a microscope calibrating technique that allows individual molecules to be observed in real time and in three dimensions.

General Awesomeness/Feats of Nerdery

Do you love model-making? Are you a Star Wars fan? Do you have two or so years to dedicate to a single project? If you answered yes to all of those then this soon-to-be-released model kit may be the perfect holiday gift for you.

Pffft. Who wants a scaled down model of a Star Wars craft when you can sit in a full-sized version?

Ever wonder who is behind Albert Einstein's Twitter/Facebook/Instagram accounts? Meet Anthony Illiokostas.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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This Week in Geekdom

Happy weekend everyone! Hope you're all staying fed and hydrated among all the video game releases of this past week. If you're just now taking a break from your questing, here's the lowdown on the Week in Geekdom.


The World Fantasy award trophy will no longer feature the likeness of H.P. Lovecraft.


Extra Life may have been last weekend, but the charitable gaming continues! Watch here for the live stream of Desert Bus for Hope!

On Thursday fans of The Binding of Issac found that the latest bit of DLC for their beloved game was also the jump off point for an insane ARG. If you missed out on all the gaming goodness, PC Gamer covered the entire thing.

Nintendo announced its release schedule for the first and second quarter of 2016. Among the new titles was the introduction of Linkle, who will feature in Hyrule Warriors Legends on the 3DS.

Image Credit
It has long been the stuff of myth, but the Nintendo Playstation is entirely real (and fully functional!).


The Walking Dead will have its Negan and he will be portrayed by Mr. Jeffrey Dean Morgan.


It seems contradictory, but the latest research from a joint venture between China's ASIPP and the United States' General Atomics revealed that lowering the distance between pre-fusion plasma and the walls of the chamber said matter is confined in actually increasing the stability of the potential energy-producing system.

What do you do when you accidentally launch two satellites into the wrong orbit? Why, you use them to test the predictions made by the Theory of Relativity, of course.
Canadian neurosurgeon Dr. Todd Mainprize has done what modern medicine has attempted to do for decades: penetrated the blood-brain barrier.

Computer scientist Laszlo Babai has allegedly developed an algorithm that allows the user to determine if two networks are the same, regardless of their respective complexity.

In the latest installation of What Can't 3D Printing Do is this art installation that features a printed ear derived from the DNA of Vincent Van Gogh. Extra eyebrow-raising is the fact that the ear can 'listen' to sound waves emitted into it.

The latest edition of Nature Communications contains this research from the Imperial College London that may introduce the world to a brand new, super efficient type of laser.

Poor Phobos. Mars' oft-overlooked moon is being slowly dismantled by its celestial anchor.

On the subject of gravitational dismantling, have you ever wondered if it's possible to see the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy? Here's how you could.

General Awesomeness/Feats of Nerdery

It's just a tad more luxurious than Vault 111. Welcome to the Oppidum, the world's largest 'billionaire bunker' for all your apocalypse-surviving needs.

Speaking of things that might be fun to own if you have all the monies, the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is being converted into luxury condos.

It took Ian Martin the better part of a year to complete, but he successfully crafted this fully functional holochess board from Star Wars.

And while we're talking about Star Wars superfans, here's the handiwork of one California dad who constructed a replica Death Star on the roof of his own house.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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This Week in Geekdom

Happy weekend everyone and sweet dreams to everyone who's finishing Extra Life 2015. This year's gaming marathon has raised nearly $6.4 million USD and counting! So many kudos to everyone who participated this year, now go get some much-deserved rest. And rest is definitely needed, as this upcoming week is chock-full of much-anticipated releases. For those of you still conscious, let's get down to the week in geekdom.


Did Snoopy ruin the Peanuts?


Need a little post-apocalyptic pick-me-up to get you through to the release of Fallout 4? You got it.


We're approaching the t-minus one month mark in the countdown to Episode VII. If a month is still too much to bear, Den of Geek has put together this massive compilation of all the posters, trailers, and assorted images that have been released to the public.

Peter Capaldi is NOT happy about the way that the current incarnation of Doctor Who has played out on the BBC.

In happier BBC news, the network has greenlit an 8-part series based on Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials.

Oh hi there World of Warcraft trailer


A team of researchers comprised of participants from UC San Francisco, the University of Michigan, and Washington University at St. Louis have identified a compound that, when applied as an eye drop, may clear up cataracts in humans. Their findings can be found in the latest edition of Science

That same edition of Science also contains this research from the University of Toronto that may upend everything we thought we knew about how blood is made and maintained in the human body.

There are myriad examples in film and, increasingly, in real life wherein humans show more than a bit of disdain for AI programmed to be 'friendly' or otherwise helpful. As this sort of technology becomes more integrated into our lives, how will our behavior impact the way we relate to other humans?

NASA's JPL and the University of Texas at Austin have been working together to use satellites in order to observe patterns in the Earth's ocean currents. What they've found so far does not bode well in terms of the potential impacts of climate change.

This past Wednesday marked the exact centennial of Albert Einstein's historic, gravity-redefining lectures at the Prussian Academy of Sciences. Here's the story of how none of this would likely have come to pass were it not for the school of thought/obsession with a fictional planet. 

How is it that supermassive black holes are capable of of flaring? Thanks to NASA's Explorer mission Swift and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, we may be closer than ever to answering that question.

Image credit: NASA
Here is the brief, spirally history of the Strypi-type rocket. 

We've been following the development of a potential EM drive as best we can and, allegedly, there have been a few new details released into the interwebs concerning this physics-defying device.

Happy 15th birthday to the International Space Station!

If you think the Hubble is the be-all and end-all of telescopic prowess in the universe, check out what gravity itself is capable of.

General Awesomeness/Feats of Nerdery

These two 17-year-olds, communicating only through Facebook and Gchat, may have just paved the way for interstellar travel.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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GiR by GIR: Warhammer End Times - Vermintide

With over 350 hours played on Steam, Left4Dead2 constantly reminds me that, while I may be an RPG gamer at heart, it was this co-op FPS that became one of my greatest gaming loves. It's the game that I could never give up, that is until I got my hands on the recently released Warhammer End Times - Vermintide by Fatshark.

The End Times is the great cataclysmic apocalypse that was prophesied to bring about the end of the Warhammer Fantasy setting. Vermintide focuses on the city of Ubersreik which is being overrun by a horde of Rat-Men called Skaven. A group of five unlikely heroes must work together to try and save the city and, barring that, at least survive long enough to escape.  

Over the course of 13 different missions four players will battle their way through several richly detailed environments ranging from a Mage Tower built by MC Escher to the docks and sewers of the city to the surrounding countryside. Most missions follow the formula L4D soundly established: move along a mostly linear path until you get to a set piece where you have to hold out against waves or enemies, or collect something to deliver before you can advance further while being ambushed by hordes of adversaries. Sadly, the storyline itself isn't quite as detailed as the maps it pulls the players though. That said, the narrative is certainly serviceable, but doesn't quite seem to tap the full potential of Warhammer Fantasy lore.  
Being a Co-Op Action FPS, the core mechanics are the standard focus on melee and ranged weapons (with a light emphasis on the former) while battling hordes of basic enemies occasionally bolstered by special units. Unlike each of the survivors in L4D, in Vermintide each of the five playable hero classes has a unique skill, gear set, and specific roles they are best suited for. While other co-op games have you finding gear and loot throughout the levels and missions, Vermintide has a loot reward, inventory, and crafting system that allows you to tailor your chosen hero to best fit your play style.  

Everyone has a primary and secondary weapon slot as well as space for trinkets they can customize before you set out on a mission. For example, the Empire Soldier Markus or Bardin the Dwarf Ranger can use a one-hander plus a shield to get higher endurance which allows them to block melee damage or shove enemies away, giving them more durability. The Mage has a variety of staves that will change how her magic works, causing her flames to act like a beam, area explosion, or a javelin she can hurl.  The Elf Waywatcher has bow that can do poison damage over time or fire homing arrows.    

While this diversity in gear and loot is great for flexibility in terms of play style, it’s also a double edged sword (no pun intended). The reason behind this is that the only way to get much of this gear is the somewhat controversial loot system. At the end of each successful mission players get to “roll” a set of dice that will determine the reward you get from a list of options displayed to the right of the screen. The quality of loot available depends on the difficulty level of the mission, but there’s no guarantee the player will get something good if they roll poorly and, even if they do, it might not even be for the heroes they prefer to play. Ostensibly, the loot system was configured as a tactic to try and get people to try out all of the heroes instead of sticking to a single roll, but things rarely work out that way. I still have nothing but normal (white) gear for the class I wanted to play most, the Witch Hunter, but, as a Level 30 running hard, I am forced to play the role I have the best gear for or risk dragging down my allies. 

You can slightly improve the odds of better rewards by collecting hidden items called tomes or grimoires, both of which take up a healing item or buff slot so there’s a neat risk/reward aspect in play. The grimoires, in addition to taking up a potion slot, also reduce the entire teams Max Health and can’t be dropped or they are lost for the mission. Tomes, on the other hand, can be picked up and put down at will. This can be helpful, but not every mission even has them which leads to a somewhat lopsided server list in terms of what’s being hosted. I definitely enjoyed this mechanic, as it incentivizes players to work together and discuss if it’s worth doing none, one, or both grimoires based on map difficulty and current party health. That said, I do play with friends who communicate well. In public games with strangers people’s personal experiences may vary.     

To try and alleviate some of the grind, Vermintide has a crafting system that allows players to recycle useless or duplicate gear into a better quality item. The conversion rates in said system are 5 Whites = 1 Green, 5 green = 1 Blue, 5 Blue = 1 Orange. Despite this, the item crafted can still be bad so, like the dice, you're at the mercy of a random number generator. Even more frustrating are the trinkets and hats which can't be crafted or recycled for parts and, after playing long enough, you'll could end up with a heap of worthless clutter in your inventory.

Combat itself is good and engaging and, overall, the game is fairly challenging. The weapons really do feel responsive in that a one-handed mace will swing really fast compared to a hulking two-handed hammer; blades swish nicely as they cleave Skaven limbs from bodies, and shields thump under heavy Skaven assault. I know some people feel that the AI is no better than zombies of other games. but I strongly disagree. Full stealth is never an option but taking down a group of Skaven in a watchtower with a bow can allow a group to sneak past a larger group and save that precious healing for finales and recovering after ambushes. If the players go loud using guns and bombs on that same watch tower they will draw a larger horde, wasting time, healing, and other resources. Even the most basic units know not just to swarm, but to try and flank to get behind players. Also, unlike zombies, the Skaven will recoil in fear when players land critical kills or bring down special units. Sometimes that moment of respite is the difference between regaining enough stamina to block an incoming attack or getting dropped and leaving your allies a hero down as the tide of vermin continues to grow. 

For players familiar with L4D, the parallels in special unit types in Vermintide will be obvious and likely easily dealt with but, for the uninitiated, the challenge of learning how to deal with the tougher Skaven can be difficult but rewarding once a rhythm and pattern of blocking/parrying/counter striking is established. The 5 Specials are: Packmasters, which will latch on and drag players away from the group; Ratling Gunners, who lock onto a single player and unleash metal hell using a gatling gun; Poison Wind Globadir who hurl long range gas bombs which cloud vision and damage over time; Gutter Runners who teleport and pounce on players, eviscerating them; Rat Ogres that are basically like the Hulk and require the whole team to bring down; and Stormvermin, which are larger, heavily armored rats with heavy weapons. The last type is also unique in that patrols of about a dozen roam around on various maps and, again, players can use stealth to avoid these which on lower difficulties isn’t always necessary, but at higher level play is mandatory as even the best geared players will quickly be facing a TPK (Total Party Kill).

While the influence of L4D hangs heavy around Vermintide like the fog around Ubersreik, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Frantically fighting off hordes of enemies back-to-back with your friends as you wait for a gate to lower so you can escape a doomed city is the whole point right? Desperately trying to revive a downed ally while a Rat Ogre roars bearing down on you full speed will never stop being thrilling to me. It’s been 6 years since L4D and there has been no worthy successor. I’m here to say I now feel there is and it’s Vermintide. This is, hands down, the best FPS co-op experience a player can get today.  

Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide released on 10/23/15 and is available on Steam for $29.99.  Pick it up today and let’s save Ubersreik together, or die trying.
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Gias Games: Bernband [Free & Indie]

Have you ever had the urge to explore an alien city, walk down its alleyways, mingle with its crowds, and discover its night-life?  If so, you are about to be very happy.

Bernband is an ambulatory city exploration simulator created by Tom. It's free to download over on Gamejolt. Though the game was released in September 2014, I only became aware of it recently and decided to give it a shot; I'm very happy that I decided to do so.

The city you explore is known as "The Pff". Imagine you woke up in the Star Wars galaxy on Nar Shadaa, the Smuggler's Moon, Little Coruscant (Disney, make this happen dammit). You're in a sprawling alien city, neon lights and bars everywhere you go. But despite the night life attractions
this is still a city where people live. You find schools, music recitals, dance recitals, churches, convenience stores, restaurants, greenhouses, and, of course, bars. You'll also find bums down on there luck and drunk people urinating in dark corners, but that's really to be expected in any major city.  There are no humans to be found and I'm fairly certain you don't play as a human based on the appearance of the hands of your character. However, it does appear that the denizens of the city are aware of Earth since one night club is banging to a rap with English lyrics, there is an art gallery which depicts the denizens' strange fascination with Troll Dolls, and one convenience store owner apparently is a fan of Japanese television.

Graphical fidelity is low, akin to DOS-era graphics but slightly better, so imagine someone smeared Vaseline on your character's eyes.  The sounds of the city are very captivating despite this. You can't understand any of the alien languages or songs, but it's interesting to hear people in crowds talk to one another.  I could be content with just sitting in one of the bars and listening to the alien band jam for a while, or sitting in one of the concerts going on in the city.

The city itself feels like a city except for the lack of more doors and hallways to explore. Given the size of the simulation, it's easy to understand that there could not be infinite branching paths at every junction, but it's a bit disappointing when you consider the possibilities for such a simulation. Imagine if the city was built using a procedural generation akin to games like Noctis (one of my favorite games of all time despite its outdated graphics and terrible controls). Each intersection could have multiple branches and each branch could also have multiple branches ad infinitum.

Unfortunately, Bernband only lets you explore so much of its alien city, but that little taste was
enough to make me very happy. The low fidelity visuals accompanied by properly chosen sound effects did wonders for making the city seem real. The sounds of air cars whooshing below the bridge you're crossing and the murmurs of the crowds make the city feel alive. The thrum of generators and the hum of power flowing through walls make empty areas still feel a part of this living city.

There are a couple of minor issues with the simulation. You must touch the right spot in the middle of an elevator to get it to move.  You slow down while walking if you're touching a wall.  But the biggest oversight in my opinion was that there was no option to run, which meant exploring areas I had already visited took longer than I wanted it to.

Bernband is a simple simulation. There is no HUD, overlay, or options menu while in the simulation,
giving a more realistic feeling to the experience. However, this means that when you hit escape, you're closing the simulation and losing your position in the world, you will need to start from the beginning again. The city isn't massive, it'll take you about 20-30 minutes to visit every location, but you might want to spend a bit more time looking for the secret tunnels which I found very neat; they gave me the feeling of being a denizen of the city and knowing the city's back routes.

As an added layer, I feel that it would be very interesting to play this simulator with another person present and discuss the architectural choices of the alien city, their implications, and the psychological impact they might have on the denizens. But then again, I'm strange.

I highly recommend Bernband. If it had been sold for a couple of dollars I would have found it
worthwhile for the enjoyment I received, but since it is free I am willing to say that this simulation is fantastic for its price. Bernband won't be for everyone, if you need a game with interaction or story, this is not the right choice for you. But if you are interested in experiencing being a tourist on another world or the artistic possibility of indie digital media your should really give this a go.
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GiR by GIR: Jotun

After a brief Q&A with the developers, I felt it was time for a more formal review. Let me begin by stating that Jotun by Thunder Lotus Games is clearly a labor of love. An action-exploration hybrid, Jotun first caught my eye at PAX East and did not disappoint upon release. With a truly wonderful hand drawn art style reminiscent of The Banner Saga, the player is immediately and deeply immersed in a legendary journey through Norse mythology.   

Player’s control Thora, a fierce Viking who’s lost at sea and must prove her strength and courage to the Gods to claim her place in Valhalla. While some may find the pacing to be on the slow side, as Thora traverses gorgeous and varied elemental levels in search of Jotuns to defeat, I couldn’t imagine not taking the time to absorb and appreciate the majestic vistas. Aside from aesthetic reasons, it is definitely worth exploring every inch of a level to find the Norse Deity Shrines to grant Thora boons. For example, Thor's power increases Thora’s heavy-attack damage, Freya grants boosts of speed, Heimdall allows the use of a protective shield, and Frigg provides apples to extend her life bar; all of which players will assuredly need because Jotuns are seriously tough.  

Combat may be generously spaced, but each fight is an epic struggle in the vein of Shadows of the Colossus or Titan Souls. Thora, who is little more than a mosquito to the hulking Jotuns, must memorize an increasingly complex set of boss attack patterns to learn when and how best to capitalize on the few openings that exist. As vast and slow as exploration feels, combat is fast, frantic, and lethal. The environment itself can also often be as dangerous as the Jotun themselves.
While I was slightly put off by some of the puzzles I stumbled across during the exploration phases, I realize that is a bit of personal bias; like Thor I prefer to solve my puzzles by hitting them as hard as I can with a hammer until the pieces fit together. Unlike other games where puzzle sections can cause a disconnect and bring a player out of an experience, I can assure you that is not the case here. Like with all other aspects of Jotun, Thunder Lotus has gone to great lengths to forge the very essence of Norse mythology into the puzzles themselves to make sure the immersion and theme remains intact. The best of these moments to me was using lightning to recreate constellations. 

Jotun is a somewhat short game that can wrapped up in about 10 hours, but I felt was an appropriate length. It was just long enough to satisfy me but also keep me wanting more. Thora’s journey was a stoic and difficult, but worthwhile one and I’m glad I had the opportunity to accompany her on it. 
Jotun released last month and is available on Steam for $14.99. If you like 2D artistic games heavy on the atmosphere and a strong Norse theme I strongly recommend checking it out.

Full Disclosure: This review was written based off a review copy for the Steam version of the game provided by Thunder Lotus Games.   
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This Week in Geekdom

November what? Seriously? Sheesh. It's been kind of a hectic week over here at the Care and Feeding of Nerds but, fear not, for there are plenty of posts headed your way in the not-so-distant future. In the meantime, let's get down to the Week in Geekdom.


2015 has not been very good to Nintendo, and the immediate future doesn't seem to contain any respite for the beleaguered game maker. On Thursday Nintendo announced that its first mobile game would be delayed until March of 2016, preventing them from capturing any holiday season sales.


Heads up Whovians, a very familiar not-so-canine K9 companion will be getting the big screen treatment in 2017.

Jar Jar Binks: possibly the single most loathed character in the Star Wars universe. But what if we've been massively misjudging this Gungan all along?


How do you go about providing internet service to remote areas? Well, if you're Google, you develop these stratosphere-bound balloons and beam it in.

The latest edition of Nature includes the surprising data collected by the Rosetta spacecraft as it passed the comet 67P. The surprise was the quantity of molecular oxygen present around the comet, as this may indicate that the universe may not have been formed with a Big Bang after all.

On Tuesday the FDA approved the use of a genetically altered herpesvirus for the treatment of the skin cancer melanoma, paving the way for the use of similar virus-based treatments in the future.

It's not often we get a bit of good news on the climate change front, but this new study from NASA indicates that the ice and snow related mass gains on the Antarctic Ice Sheet are actually greater than the sum of the losses sustained on said Sheet due to melting.

Fresh out of the Tokyo Motor Show is this honest-to-goodness transforming car.

Sorry for the short round-up this week guys, but there's more headed your way (I promise!). As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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This Week in Geekdom

Why hello there Halloween. I didn't expect to see you quite so...soon? If faster-than-light travel were possible, I'd be inclined to say we've superseded Lorenz Transformations territory and gone straight to warp speed at the rate the second half of 2015 has gone. Just crazy. Anyhow, enough of my time-travelling ramblings and on to the Week in Geekdom!


We're only a few weeks away from the release of Fallout 4. If you aren't psyched yet, perhaps this trailer will get you in the post-apocalyptic mood.

Want a challenge? Try to name all 52 of these classic video games from individual screenshots.


Venturoos, we have a date for the premiere of Season 6! We'll finally be able to lay our eyes on fresh Venture Bros goodness on January 24, 2016! Can't wait that long? Perhaps the latest trailer will help tide us over.

Speaking of long-awaited trailers, we finally have a look at the upcoming season of Jessica Jones.


Who's ready for this week's awesome images from around the galaxy? Check out the most complete photograph of the Milky Way that we, as a species, have been able to take to date.

And take comfort in the fact that we have images like that one, as it turns out that some of the largest structures in the universe don' exist?

While we're on the subject of existence, a cadre of researchers believe they've come up with a viable response to Fermi's Paradox: up to 92% of all planets (and, by extension, the life on said structures) haven't actually been formed yet.

Are you a Windows user who has been patiently (or not-so-patiently) waiting for Firefox to release a 64-bit version of the browser? Well that long sojourn will come to an end on November 3rd.

The most recent printing of Physical Review Letters includes these details as to how a group of physicists were able to experimentally realize something that had only existed in the theoretical realm: a quantum Hilbert hotel.

Image source
When vocaloids and dancing around in the privacy of your living room just aren't scratching your idol itch anymore, Japanese robot-maker DMM will allow you to program your very own partner-in-fanaticism

File this under: What Can't 3D Printing Do? Researchers at the University of Groningen (Netherlands) have created a printable human tooth that destroys bacteria on contact with its surface, eliminating the accumulation of plaque and preventing the formation of cavities. 

Are you planning on paying a visit to a coral reef in the near future? The latest edition of Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology details why you should skip the sunscreen.

The just-discovered-three-weeks-ago Asteroid 2015 TB145 will be scoping out Earth this Halloween (presumably to observe the practice of trick-or-treating in action).

Is it possible to create your own time zone? Sort of. Read here for the story of two friends who set out to do exactly that.

General Awesomeness

The newly elected Prime Minister of Canada also happens to be a member of the Rebel Alliance.

Harry Potter will be getting the Broadway treatment next year when it becomes a two-part play debuting in London's West End.

Have an extra 60,000 GBP lying around? Perhaps you'd be interested in purchasing this newly-discovered map of Middle Earth fully annotated by J.R.R. Tolkien himself.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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Q & A With the Creators of Jotun; Thunder Lotus Games

Odin knows it's been far too long since I've managed to post a review, but I promise one for the recently released Jotun is forthcoming. Recently I had a chance to exchange a few words with William Dubéon, one of the developers at Thunder Lotus Games responsible for this inspired title. If you'd like to hear a bit about the motivations behind the game or what future additions to expect read on!

GIR: How has the full release of Jotun been treating you so far? 

Will: The release has been great! We’re super happy with the reception so far. Fans and press are loving the game!

GIR: What led you to choose Vikings and Norse Mythology as the theme of your game?  I could easily see this concept working just as well with say the Egyptian Or Greek mythos (which you cited your Team also had a fascination with).

Will: I’ve always been fascinated with old stories like Beowulf and The Divine Comedy. When I started reading Norse mythology, I knew we had to make a game in this setting.

GIR: Personally one of the things I enjoy most in Jotun is the hand-drawn art style which reminded me of The Banner Saga a great deal. What made you choose to take things in that direction artistically?

Will: The first and greatest reason was that I knew some amazing 2D artists! I was lucky to be surrounded by such talent.

GIR: While the exploration aspect of game play is influenced by games like Journey combat, as you have indicated in the past, is obviously inspired by games like Shadow of the Colossus, or Dark Souls boss fights. Was it difficult finding the balance between the heavy atmosphere and slow pacing of exploring with the often frantic challenge of combat?

Will: The difference in pacing was one of the biggest development challenges for Jotun. Even now, some players still find the exploration levels too slow for their taste. However, a lot of gamers really love this pacing so it’s definitely a recurring point of debate. Ultimately, I’m happy we stuck with our initial creative vision.

GIR: Your Kickstarter fully funded on back in August 2014, but you kept the option for donations and funding open through other methods such as Paypal, etc. Did enough additional contributions/funding come in to allow you to include some of the Stretch Goals you didn't hit during the original Kickstarter?

Will: We ended the external crowdfunding shortly after Kickstarter, so it did not have a big impact on getting us additional development resources.

GIR: Can people expect to see some of those game elements in the future via updates or DLC?  

Will: Steam Achievements, Trading Cards and Cloud Saves are already in our pipeline, as well as New Game+. We’ll also start console development this fall, so our plates are quite full!

GIR: On your Kickstarter you specifically noted: "We chose Kickstarter because we want to involve you in the development process," can you share what you felt the best idea/improvement to come from the backers was? 

Will: Being able to test the game during alpha and beta was one of the best things that came out of Kickstarter. We could test how players’ expectations were aligning with what we were actually developing. We made a lot of adjustments to the game during these periods.

GIR: Do you plan on using this approach(Kickstarter) for future projects?

Will: We would absolutely go to Kickstarter again.

GIR: Were there any aspects of the game you were forced to scale back/compromise/cut from your original vision? Do you regret having to do so?

Will: Very early in development we realized certain features promised during Kickstarter were over-scoped. For example, we quickly realized that have randomly generated levels would not be worth the effort. Being open and having good communication channels with our backers really helped us here, as they were very understanding of these changes. We have absolutely no regrets, as we were able to ship the game in the time-frame we had set on Kickstarter, a rare feat.

GIR: Is Thunder Lotus already looking forward to the next project on the horizon now that Jotun has been released? Or is a vacation in order?

Will: The team is taking some well-deserved time off right now, but we’ll be hard at work this fall working on Steam Achievements/Trading Cards/Cloud Saves, New Game+ and console ports!

GIR: When you do start your next project are you committed to producing games in a similar genre(thematically and/or mechanically)? Or do you think you'll want to explore in new directions?  

Will: Only the Norns know!

GIR: Congrats on a great launch and thank you again for your time!

Will: Thank you!

Jotun was released on September 29th.  You can get it on Steam for $14.99 USD.
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This Week in Geekdom

Happy weekend everyone and best wishes for a happy con to all you lucky nerds attending SPIEL  and New York City Comic Con right now. One of these days we really should make the trip over to Germany and see all that Essen has to offer or get down to New York to get our comic con fix. Things have been a bit on the slow here in terms of new content here on the Care and Feeding of Nerds, but all that will change in the not-so-distant future (I promise!). In the meantime, let's get down to the week in geekdom.


Bluepoint Games and Naughty Dog have pooled their resources to rebuild and release UNCHARTED: The Nathan Drake Collection for the newly repriced PS4. While this is, in itself, pretty exciting, it opened up the line of thought, "What other classic games should be rebooted for the PS4?"

Insurance policies, in my Metal Gear Solid Online? Here's the lowdown on this microtransaction and how it may impact future games.

Disappointed by Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5? Here's how EA is trying to learn from its competition and what it may have in store for Skate 4.


Marvel is gung-ho to keep plowing ahead with its plans for Phase 3. The latest planned addition to the cinematic universe is Ant Man and the Wasp, which is slated to hit theaters in 2018.


Some of the biggest headlines of the week came courtesy of the newest class of Nobel laureates. Meet your 2015 prize-winners in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, and all of the other awardable arenas.

Image Credit: NASA. Here's some additional detail about the research that captured this year's Physics Nobel
Turns out that Mars isn't the only one of our solar system siblings that plays host to water. Thanks to the image cache sent back from New Horizons, NASA has been able to confirm that Pluto not only contains ice, but boasts blue skies as well.

And that's not all. Here are the next five missions NASA would like to embark upon.

Construction isn't slated to begin until 2018, but scientists are already atwitter with excitement about the Square Kilometer Array (a.k.a. what may be our best tool in the search for intelligent alien life).

If you were ever a student in a U.S. high school, you likely had to make use of a TI-83 graphing calculator at some point in your academic career. The computational behemoths are still widely used throughout the country, and here's why.

The latest edition of Nature Communications contains the details of this effort out of MIT to produce the first fully-functional prototype of a miniature particle accelerator. 

Speaking of particles, ever wonder how photons experience time?

For decades astronomers and physicists used gravitational effects to determine the mass of celestial bodies. New research from the University of Amsterdam, however, indicates that other methods may be just as, if not more, effective.

The most recent edition of Science Advances sounds like something straight out of science-fiction. Researchers at Lehigh University were able to control a fly's heartbeat using a laser.

While we're on the subject of supervillain-esque research, Nature details the research of George Church, his Harvard brethren, and a clutch of geneticists in China who have edited the genomes of pigs in order to allow them to be the perfect organ donors for humans.

Peto's Paradox described the phenomenon of the incidence rate of cancer being inversely correlated to an animal's size. Here's how a trip to the zoo spawned a detailed study at the University of Utah investigating this phenomenon.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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This Week in Geekdom

Holy October Batman. I suppose that means that any costuming plans for Halloween need to be kicked into high gear. Quick, on to the crafting! If all goes well, there may be a fun new tutorial that comes from this year's costume (here's a hint: somehow I'm not completely burnt out on anything wing related). 


Betty of Archie Comics fame has a real-life counterpart.


Good gravy. As if Mario turning 30 this year wasn't enough to make you feel old, this past Monday the Nintendo Game Boy hit the quarter-century mark.

Speaking of Nintendo, the Wii U would like us to know that it still exists and there are at least 10 promising games that are forthcoming for the console.

We all know the kinds of angst that video games can instill in us, but is it possible for a game to teach us to manage or cope with stress? One intrepid developer believes that the answer to that question is a resounding yes.


The good news: there will be entire 'lands' in Disneyland dedicated to Star Wars. The bad news: the current Star Wars themed rides and attractions will be shut down in the near future to make way for the construction.

Speaking of theme park attractions, California's Great America will be getting a Mass Effect-themed ride beginning next year.


Arguably the biggest science story of the week came courtesy of NASA with this announcement that the agency was able to confirm that liquid water is currently flowing on and in the surface of Mars.

There's (liquid, briny) water in them thar hills
Are you ready for your weekly dose of incredible pictures from New Horizons? Check out these images of Pluto's moon, Charon.

In case you missed last weekend's lunar eclipse (or if you just want another glimpse), here's all the time-lapse picturesque goodness.

IBM to Moore's Law: pfft, sucks to your intrinsic limits; we can replace our silicon semiconductors with carbon nanotube transistors.

Google is upgrading its quantum computer (D-Wave). Why does that matter? This upgrade could have far-reaching implications for energy consumption and quantum computing as a field.

Crowdfundables for Your Consideration

Ever wanted to be a vengeful Earth spirit able to show that pesky upstart humanity who's boss? Spirit Island allows you and up to three friends to do just that. This cooperative area-control board game pits players (and the elemental powers that they are armed with) against invading colonists. There are twelve days remaining to get in on this beautifully executed Kickstarter.

8 Kingdoms gives you not one, not two, but four distinct card-based games. All of the games boast a lightening-fast set up time and can be modified to accommodate between two and eight players. Bonus: magical strawberries! The campaign for this mini-library will run until October 23rd.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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Cosplay: It's All on My Belt

Looking back on all the previous costumes that have been featured on site, we've comparatively spilled quite a bit of digital ink on Steampunk Hawkgirl, so it's a little bittersweet that her series is coming to an end. If you're just joining us now, you can see how the corset, the leggings, the giant feathers, the mace, the Worbla components, the wing harness, and the wings themselves came together by following the links. This final installment covers a critical, if not-so-very-glamorous component of the outfit: the utility belt. 

Wait, how could a belt be so important? 

Because, you see, the belt in this costume does far more than act as a repository for your badge and hotel key. The utility belt is the primary resting place for your wing harness and thus supports almost all of the weight of the wings themselves.

But isn't the wing harness almost like a backpack? Why not just let it hang from your shoulders?

Even though the wings were designed to be as light as possible, carrying anything around for an extended period of time gets uncomfortable. The idea is to minimize that discomfort by having the weight of the wings be borne by as many different points as possible. Your waist and hips end up being ideal for this task, as they not only provide a fair amount of surface area, but are inherently designed to be load-bearing (after all, they carry your torso around pretty well). Your shoulders will end up helping out, but having them play proverbial second fiddle to your hips will do wonders for the stability of your harness and your overall comfort level while you're walking around in costume.

Since the belt had to do some not-quite-heavy lifting, it needed to be made from a very sturdy material. The easiest way to ensure that the belt can do its job is to start with a piece designed to do similar work. After a bit of research and a lot of combing through the virtual aisles of Amazon, I came upon this weightlifting belt that seemed as though it would be up to the task. Weightlifting belts are a good choice for this sort of sartorial role not only for their supportive capabilities, but because they usually come in both a variety of styles and very neutral colors. What they also tend to come with, however, is a bit of a glazed finish on at least one side of the belt. If the color or the glazed finish on the belt don't meet with your costuming needs, you'll need to chemically strip one or both of those things off of the leather. Fortunately, that process is fairly easy; all you need is a bottle of this, a well-ventilated area, some elbow grease, and time.

Once I'd gotten the belt to a raw, as-unfinished-as-possible state, I covered it with a mixture of acrylic paints to give it a deep reddish-copper color. If you're in the process of making this utility belt using these same methods, don't panic if it takes you 3-5 coats of paint to get the belt to the color you want. A layer of gold-brown fabric paint sealed in the acrylics and gave the belt a nice matte finish, as steampunk is generally all about mostly-muted surfaces.

After the belt was the desired color, I added two of these weightlifting hooks onto the broad portion of leather that sat across the back of my hips by drilling through the belt and hanging the hooks with four of these rope clips (two clips per hook). I used a drill bit designed to punch holes in metal for this, but ended up having to carefully expand/finish the holes using one of the sanding bits on my Dremel. Determining where to hang the hooks was largely a bunch of trial and error, holding the wing harness up to my back while wearing the belt and adjusting until I was happy with the position. As a last step, I installed two slightly smaller versions of the rope clips into the front of the belt to hold the ends of the shoulder straps for the wing harness.

That gave me a solid utility belt that did pretty much everything I wanted it to (I'd wanted to add small pouches to give the belt, but ran out of time). The wing harness rested easily on the 'shelf' of the two weightlifting hooks and got additional support from the pair of shoulder straps attached to the rig and anchored with the rope clips on the front of the utility belt. Between those two sets of contact points, the rig was definitely secure and there were only one or two points during the day when I had the costume on where anything felt even a smidgen out of place.

The last bit of utility in the utility belt is as a fixation point for the paracord that opens and closes the wings. It only took a few minutes of walking around the halls of the Indianapolis Convention Center to realize that almost none of my fellow con-goers wanted pictures of the wings while they were in a closed position. To cater to this (and minimize wear-and-tear on the wings), I propped open the wings by extending them fully, then threading the draw cords down through the corset to wrap once around the belt itself, then anchor in the rope clips at the front.

Whew! So ends the series on Steampunk Hawkgirl. She was certainly a challenge, but I'll almost certainly be using or working to upgrade almost all of the components for a future convention. Now, on to Halloween!
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