Thursday, August 16, 2007

Skeptics' Circle #67: Giant Robot Edition

Welcome to the 67th meeting of the Skeptics' Circle. Each of you should have a PADD in front of you on the table. Be sure to pay attention, because you'll need to know who you'll be teamed up with, as well as their capabilities. Chances are you'll be going into combat together so good teamwork is a must.

Why combat, you ask? Because, believe it or not, woos have managed to weaponize fallacies. Bad arguments are now very physical and woos can pump anyone full of them. It won't cause direct physical damage, but the resulting foolishness can be very harmful. Thankfully, I've been secretly working on a way to weaponize good logic, and I've had a breakthrough. It involves one of the few things cooler than ninjas, pirates, and pirate ninjas: Giant robots.

Team #1: Altie Resistance Squad

Alties ruled over medicine before the rigorous scientific method was brought to the field. They've tried reclaiming their former glory by appealing to tradition, religion, and so forth. In the past, they've resorted to attacking the FDA, the large pharmaceutical companies, the Illuminati, and any organization, real or imaginary, that apparently stood in their way. Now they're resorting to physical attacks with giant robots. They may not take the time and care to fire well-aimed shots, but they've often got a screaming passion and lots of repeating fallacy firearms.

This is the team I've formed to combat this menace.

First up is Orac of Respectful Insolence, whose machine I've designed to take into account his particular talents. This unit has had its cockpit modified to accept an artificial intelligence as its pilot, and thus be able to deal with issues impersonally. Anyway, given Orac's advanced AI and the fine motor precision of this unit, its laser blades can strike an opponent with surgical precision. He's not afraid to get his feet wet.

Serving as the rear artillery in this unit is Dean Moyer whose mech I've equipped with powerful aft cannons. He'll be serving as the backbone of this unit, willing and able to take down incoming specious arguments, aided by a system that carefully monitors his endorphin levels to measure their benefit in combat. This allows his comrades to pile red hot data onto their opponents.

Freshly assigned to the team is my brother, who's shown some potential in a mission in which he was paid by the fashion industry, food barons, Big Pharma, and pop-up blockers to shoot down WoolongTM Tea. He's new to the field, but armed with this mech's baloney-detecting radar and his natural instincts, he can be of benefit to nearly any team.

Serving as the team's scout will be kiembe, whose long-range mech is powered by good old fashioned nuclear physics, not chi. He knows that gravity won't help him move easily, so his machine has been equipped with powerful boosters and a durable generator. Nothing too fanciful.

This machine is equipped with a pair of fast-firing rifles that allow Christian Bachmann to drill into his opponent's logical fallacies in regards to vaccines. He's a little embarrassed to rely on the thick armor of a heavyweight, but he's learning to deal with it.

New to the Skeptics' Circle is PalMD, who will be spending this mission as the team's rear guard. Emphasizing turning speed, this unit can instantly respond to incoming threats head-on.

Team #2: Counter-Intelligence (Design) Platoon

Once upon a time, there were "Scientific" Creationists who tried to use quantum mechanics to explain how so many animals could fit on a boat and such. But that was too overtly religious to get into schools, so they watered everything down until we got "Intelligent Design," which tried to prove everything was designed because designed things look designed. Or something. They're usually hazy on the details. Anyway, our intelligence tells us that they're working on a massive cannon designed to unconstitutionally fire "revised" textbooks into public schools. We need to take it out before it's operational. Naturally, this weapon is protected by giant robots.

Using the latest evolutionary algorithms, these machines have been optimized to strike at the heart of this organization.

Wherever Intelligent Design shows up, you just know Michael Behe and his allegedly intelligently designed robot are going to be there. Blake Stacey knows all his evasive maneuvers and so has been given a mech able to keep up with him and always appropriate weapon for each circumstance.

One of the real heavyweights of this counter-ID team is PZ Myers, whose multi-appendaged machine is more than able to shoot down multiple incoming Creationist claims at once. Or multiple Creationists making the same stupid claim.

Always with his head in the clouds and his eyes toward the stars, Phil Plait, AKA the Bad Astronomer, has this special aerial sniper model that will allow him to rain DOOM from low orbit onto McLeroy's textbook cannon.

Ron Britton, known for his service in the Battle of the Bay of the Fundie, has an insectine machine with compound eyes able to readily distinguish real science from Creation "science" and take the latter out quickly.

Evil Bender has had his AI uploaded into a significantly larger frame, including a variety of scanners to instantly detect the underground quote mines used by Creationists to fill their "revised" textbooks.

Team #3: Team Heresy

There was once a time when any crazy idea for explaining the universe seemed plausible. Without the scientific method, they were all on equal terms, and equally deserving of ridicule. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people whose brains are stuck in that era and gasp in horror when we engage in that ridicule. Thankfully they haven't brought back burning at the stake... yet. But in case they do, we'll have a team ready for them.

Assigned at point for once using his PA rectifier to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow of an incoming Pascal's Wager and returning it to the enemy combatants. He wrote his report on the clever action with a nice bit of literary flourish.

Attacking prayer with cutting sarcasm (in the form of an arm-mounted laser sword) is Barry Leiba of Staring at Empty Pages.

Equipped with dual machine guns and clips full of pointed-out Bible contradictions, Mike O'Risal is rumored to have reduced Jesus into a greasy spot on some garage floor. Supposedly, Jesus got back up, which, considered with contradictions in the story, leads the whole incident into question. But thankfully, the rest of his record speaks for itself.

The Reserves:

The most important thing with being a skeptic is eternal vigilance. You never know where a new problem can occur or what direction it'll take. That's why we maintain a number of operatives who can be on call at a moment's notice to deal with unexpected skeptical issues.

Mark Hoofnagle of Denialism has taken on woos who have been busy attacking our food supply. For those worried about that microwave rifle he's carrying, no, it didn't nuke the nutrients in our supplies.

Previously deployed in Africa, Dr. Vitelli knows a thing or two about mass hysteria and has an equally massive mech to calm things down. Before you ask, no, his mech isn't compensating for anything.

Recently, Shalini's mech has been slightly retooled with a magnetic repulsion gun to combat Secretards trying to pull people into their moneymaking scheme with the Law of Attraction.

Thursday came across a rather strange combination: Someone apparently hobbled together some bits of Astrology with a chain email and assaulted his inbox. The assailant was quickly and mercilessly dealt with.

Xenophile's gotten himself quite the record with his current mech, winning a number of duels. Due to clerical errors, however, we're not terribly sure how many of them were fought against AIs in a simulator.

Internal Operations & Home Base Defense:

Skeptico's generalized mech is equipped with a variety of situations in mind. He's known for his critical eye, and knows that just because you agree with a report's conclusions doesn't mean you can give it a good review.

With a light, mobile, and almost unarmored mech, An Anonymous Coward doesn't quite live up to his name. His machine has been equipped with a large variety of weapons to allow for a multitude of defensive tactics so he can decide upon the one with the most evidence for effectiveness under existing circumstances. He knows what it truly means to have an open mind.

Alright, that should cover everything for the initial briefing. You'll be receiving further mission orders via black helicopter. Once you've completed your assignments, rendevous at Aardvarkology for the 68th meeting on August 30th. Some of you should ready your base for hosting further meetings. Dismissed.

Disclaimers and notes:
1. You can get your Next AC schematic, emblem, decals, and so forth from me if you've got a PS3 and Armored Core 4. I make no guarantees about combat quality.
2. You think I'm advocating violence? With giant, impractical, energy inefficient, undeniably cool fighting machines armed with pure logic? You're silly.
3. My options for taking screen shots lowered considerably at the last minute. I can try to give you better quality images if you like.
4. Some of the emblems look weird because AC4 has only a certain number of shapes available. I think they're trying to prevent people from slapping excessively dirty pictures on their ACs.


Infophile said...

Very creative, and awesome execution! I guess even the Skeptic's Circle isn't immune to the law of narrative that there are always giant robots.

Thursday said...



200cc of G Force/Battle of the Planets and a Hockey Hair wig, STAT!

Great images, Dog!

Anonymous said...

What? No EVA's? For shame! For shaaaaaaame!

Unknown said...

Dagnabbit. Now I want a PS3.

Not that I'm going to shell out for one any time soon, mind you.

Bronze Dog said...

Potentially good for you, Karel: They have an Xbox 360 version of AC4 that's nearly identical from all accounts. No between-system compatibility, though.

You might want to search the blog here for all references to Armored Core, so you can get some idea of what it's like. I've got a fair number of complaints, but I love the game for its customization regardless.

I hope they come up with one that has downloadable expansions, co-op missions, and such.

Aerik said...

Mecha metaphors? Now that's spectacularly geeky.

What's with the one panel you linked to Pharyngula? It looks like the mecha is break–dancing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the inclusion (I think). And, no, I'm not compensating for anything.

Bronze Dog said...

What's with the one panel you linked to Pharyngula? It looks like the mecha is break–dancing.

Mere humanoid forms cannot hope to capture PZ's essence.

Not that I did all that good a job.

Mechalith said...

To Matthew:

*swat with a rolled up newspaper* Yes, by all means lets involve a massive killing machine constructed from the body of a homicidal monster that needs an extension cord to run and can only be piloted by insane 14 year old children. Awesome idea....


That out of my system, the EVA designs and fight scenes are cool, but I loathe NGE as a series. It's nedlessly depressing and maketh no sense at all. Gimme Robotech any day, Minmei and all.

Anonymous said...

This is fantastic. Can't read it without grinning like a fool. You really put some work into this one, BD. Excellent. Really, really excellent.

Thanks for including me. I love my armament. Makes me feel like I'm ready for mortal combat.


PalMD said...

Thanks for having me! I love exercising my 2nd amendment right to blow things up with my new robot suit.

Anonymous said...

Very creative and well done! Just for educational purposes, why do submissions get rejected? Beginning to take rejection personally. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm huge fan of Steal battalion. How different (besides the obvious controller difference) is the game play. I'm looking for something to really put my PS3 to good use. Is the custom mech builder a start up feature or do you have to beat the game first?

Vlad from Orac's site

Bronze Dog said...

I haven't played Steel Battalion, so I can't really compare.

If you've got an Xbox 360, they've got a nearly identical version for it.

Anyway: Mech customization: That's what the game is centered around. For the first mission in AC4, you pick one of the six starter Nexts (the next generation Armored Cores, the local term for the mechs). After you beat it, new parts start pouring into the shops. You can get more from progressing in the story, beating certain missions, or beating AI opponents in the simulator. Different missions often call for different configurations.

Parts you pick:

Head, Core (Torso), Legs (Humanoid, reverse joint, quads, tank), Arms (Normal and arms that are weapons themselves), FCS (Fire control system, handles targetting), Generator, Boosters (Main, Side, Reverse, Over), Arm weapons (L/R), Back Weapons (L/R), Shoulder Weapons, Hangar weapons (L/R), Stabilizers (Balance out your AC if it's heavy to one side), and tuning (boost some abilities)

It's generally easier than it sounds to build one. Just have to find your style.

As for gameplay: It's something like FPS shooters, only you're behind your AC. You can take a beating, so no one-shot kills unless you're inept enough to get in the way of someone's MADNESS Kojima Particle Cannon arms (rare, and any decent tap on the user ruins the charge)

Armored Core is one of the faster paced mech games in that you probably won't be walking on the legs you use during combat: You're pretty much going to be using your boosters all the time.

Online play: Pretty good: Wide variety of skill levels for opponents. Takes some doing to get a real 2v2 match sometimes.

Weaknesses: Plot. Armored Core never really has much of one. AC4's pretty bad at the end because I have no idea who the final boss is or why he hates me so. Missions tend to be recycled fairly often, too, but if you're new to the series, you might not notice.

The main thing going against AC is that it's a niche market game. If you don't drool over mechs and the customization thereof, there probably won't be much to keep your attention.

Hope they'll let me transfer over all my parts and such when they come out with AC4: Something Something. (Previous games would sometimes let you load your data from earlier games)

Bronze Dog said...

Oh, and as for the submissions that got passed over: Some of them were in categories I felt I had covered well enough already, or kind of fell into the category of 'beating a dead horse', such as with Oscar the Harbinger of Doom Cat submissions.

It wasn't really a matter of lack of quality, just overabundance of quantity, and I was already pushing the deadline getting everything here up. If you don't see your stuff here, don't take it personally.