B.J. Blascowicz Joins the Sozialistisches Patientenkollektiv

When I started working on this post I was going to spoil it but it's been so long and the game has totally faded from the news cycle, so there's no risk in saying: Blascowicz dies.

Icycalm a while ago wrote an essay facetiously titled "Are Cutscenes Art?" which was actually about movies, but, Wolfenstein: The New Order raises the question seriously: it has three hours of cutscenes. I watched all of em and this game is fucking nuts. Here are my thoughts on the cutscenes and the game overall.

two visions

There are two main competing visions of what the world would have looked like if the Nazis had won. There's the apocalyptic version the new Wolfenstein presents, with absurd occult-infused technology, mindless repression, flags flying everywhere, bodies piled in heaps, etc. And then there's the vision from Phillip K. Dick's The Man In The High Castle, which is considerably more nuanced. I like Dick's vision better because it's more realistic. It predicts that the outright repression would have lessened after the war and not intensified, it implicitly understands that the Nazi regime made use of slave labor, starvation plans, concentration camps and the rest of it only at the absolute height of its desperation. It implicitly understands that there were actual reasons why the Nazis fired up the ovens, even if it doesn't name them. It makes the Nazis (and Japanese) human beings with motivations and interests instead of cardboard cutouts. The Japanese and their fetish for Old West memorabilia in The Man In The High Castle is a particularly clever example of this. And the careful consideration of human biology, and the possibility of 'passing' as Aryan, is explored, and the parallels to the civil rights struggle being waged at the time are pretty obvious. Dick, even though he was pretty checked out at times, manages to bring the Nazis and their world closer to reality than the new Wolfenstein does.

The obvious protest at this point is that Wolfenstein is supposed to be over the top, and the series has always had a focus on the occult side of the Nazi regime, like Raiders of the Lost Ark and a lot of other Hollywood movies. But whoever is responsible for the writing in this game went well out of their way to humanize BJ and create a Cast of Memorable Characters, something that has never existed in any other Wolfenstein game. There is an attention to visual detail as well, which implies a fair amount of research and a real attempt to think through what the logical result of Nazi architecture and industry would have been, had it been triumphant and had the whole world's resources at its disposal. The game attempts to place BJ in a wider context of 'resistance' to the Nazis as well, whereas in other games the focus was on the lone wolf, secret missions, damp castles, dark corners, etc. The Wolfenstein narrative is intended to be more realistic and the world the developers imagined was supposed to be believable. It's fair to pick out their glaring flaws in historical interpretation.

The third interpretation of Nazi history, separate from the Hollywood and the PKD ones, is based on comparing the Nazis to other large western countries of the same period. And a third vision of what the world would have looked like if these Nazis, the historical Nazis, had won, can be compared with the Wolfenstein vision. Let's do that for a while.

the Nazi movement

The first problem is that the Nazis were a large movement made up of several currents, some of which were sidelined or suppressed at different times, and not a monolithic force. There were the Albert Speer types, creative, thoroughly capitalist technocrats with a taste for slave labor, there were the farmers, led by Walther Darre, who was probably even more racist than Hitler, there were the Ernst Rohm types, who expected a 'socialist' (for Aryans exclusively) revolution following the Nazi seizure of power, and then there were the careerists who latched on to the party or the SS and swallowed the ideology wholesale out of a simple desire to belong to something and to be comfortable. This was the Hans Martin Schleyer type- not committed, but having no qualms either.

What happened over the course of the Nazi journey to oblivion was that all of these various factions were sidelined, if they had any influence to begin with. Ernst Rohm and his hapless socialists were executed, Darre was kept on as an empty suit after he organized the north German peasantry to support the Nazis and implemented measures like organic farming and co-ops to increase yields and reduce the amount of petroleum needed for agriculture, but his interest in human biology and selective breeding of humans was never popular, and he was opposed to the war with Russia because he feared that the needs of war would dilute the Aryan stock. Even the scientists and engineers who proposed the sort of wild new technology you see in the new Wolfenstein were sidelined. The obsolete BF 109 was produced years after far better designs were available, simply because it was cheap and it was all the Nazis could afford. The spectacular advances the Nazis did manage to eke out - the jet airplane, the rocket, the beginnings of modern armor, the assult rifle, came way too late to make a difference. And as we now know, they never got anywhere near the most critical WW2 discovery: atom bomb. That leaves us with Albert Speer and the careerists, with a thin crust of Aryan tribal-warrior true believers at the very top. But even at the top, their hands were tied. The Nazi army conscripted all sorts of lesser races, the German people actively resisted the euthanasia of the mentally ill (they turned in their Jewish neighbors though), and Darre's almost Jeffersonian utopia of small, local farmers authentically sharing organic vegetables with each other (ahem...) was drowned in a wave of industrialization made necessary to prosecute the war in the East.

Which brings us to the glowing half-electrical metal undead golem-Elephant in the room: The East. The game starts in Poland but rapidly moves west, south, north, any direction other than East. Blaskowitz, understandably concerned about America on waking from his coma, never once asks about the Soviet Union or any of America's allies. There are references to "the African front" and to America surrendering, but the East is a big empty spot on the map. We go literally to Atlantis before we go to the Soviet Union.

This is very appropriate, because the future the new Wolfenstein imagines is sort of like a thought experiment: what if there were no such thing as Communism, or the Soviet Union? The horror of this game partially comes from the complete lack of the radical alternative that actually prevented the Nazis from bringing to fruition most of their horrendous plans. And its gigantic historical blind spot is responsible for most of its problems. Let's examine the real Second World War and the real West Germany to see exactly where the game goes wrong.

the real West Germany and the New Order

One aspect of the game's marketing was to commission a series of covers of popular 60s-era songs done in German to play ironically over footage of people being shot. Here's what I mean:

Happiness perversely contrasted with violence, cheery sentimentality and brutality juxtaposed. It sounds pretty much exactly the same as real West German pop in the 60s. West German musicians such as those involved in the more radical fringes of Krautrock frequently put their opposition to what was called 'Schlager' music and the still-not-De-Nazified West German state in the same terms. Krautrock and the counter-culture in Germany in the 1960s was about smoking dope and free love, but it also had a political tinge that was galvanized by the presence of unprosecuted collaborators at all levels of German (West German) society. The Red Army Faction (many of whom were friends with some of the prominent members of the Krautrock scene) would take this insight all the way to terrorism.

The Red Army Faction were demonized in the popular press, gained no significant political support even from their close friends or the East German state (which, by the way, was thoroughly de-Nazified), and died in prison under mysterious circumstances. The situation of the 'resistance' in New Order postwar Germany is, again, similar: 'squatting' in abandoned corners of the squeaky-clean-yet-murderous city, running from the cops, stealing weapons, being corralled and trapped and harried at every turn, and eventually (in BJ's case) dying. BJ never reads a newspaper but he does hear propaganda directed at him, and he is yelled at by the evil, evil Nazi bosses he's fighting. What they say is that BJ is a terrorist, that he is merely a destroyer whereas the Nazis are creators (job creators, perhaps??), that everyone the resistance has killed has left a family behind, and, most crucially, BJ is also told to "cease [his] criminal activity."

Whether or not this is intended to call into question the morality of terrorism whatever it's inspiration, or to merely serve as a foil for the obvious righteousness of the cause of the resistance, comes down to your interpretation. I think the writers were too clever for their own good. In giving the Nazis a voice to explain themselves and their horrendous deeds, they ended up cribbing from Thatcher: she said "crime is crime, it is not political" and the game obviously disagrees. And in putting the player in the shoes of an insurgent, fighting a monstrous enemy who attempts to shift the blame for violence and destruction away from the violent and destructive system to the individual who fights back, the writers, whether or not they've intended to, vindicate even the most hopeless terrorism. I can't wait for the sequel where an alt-RAF fights the Nazis in a fake 1970s Germany with a Krautrock soundtrack commissioned by the developers. I even have in mind the band they could hire.

the real WW2

The real WW2 was a cynical geopolitical contest and not a clash of opposing ideologies, except perhaps on the Eastern Front. The election of Hitler was recognized immediately and even heralded in the West, whereas the Soviet Union's diplomatic existence wasn't even acknowledged by the United States until 1933. The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was only reached at the eleventh hour after the Soviet Union had been told that no alliance would be forthcoming from the western democracies. American companies worked hand-in-glove with the Nazi's rearmament effort, every diplomatic effort was made to placate Hitler, and the British strategy on the continent was balance - not the principle of anti-racism or anti-colonialism. A common refrain during the run-up to war in Europe was "we hope the Nazis murder lots of Communists and vice versa." The Allies were prepared to intervene on either side depending on who seemed to be winning. The grudging nature of their alliance with the Soviet Union is indicated by the fact that they were planning to isolate it globally well before the war ended and saw wartime aid as an extremely temporary, conditional arrangement and not indication of a moral alliance against Hitlerism. And then theres the matter that the western front, where almost the entire Wolfenstein game takes place in, was a side show next to the East. It's inaccurate to say that the Soviet Union defeated the Nazis without any help (not that inaccurate). But it's highly suspect to ignore the Soviets completely like Wolfenstein does. And it's wrong to characterize the west as inimically opposed to the values of Nazi Germany in the way Wolfenstein does incessantly, down to its cloying ending cutscene when Blascowicz recites "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses" as he bleeds out. The actual history was that the west grudgingly went to war with the Nazis and their "occult" capitalism and would have preferred them to the Soviets in almost all cases. And would have even made peace with them. But socialism, the real alternative, had to be fought to the bitter end.

side note: is Wolfenstein anti-semitic?

The west's total indifference to anti-Semitism before WW2 is mirrored in the game in a bizarre way, in that the game is actually anti-Semitic. One of the things that puts the Nazis over the top in Wolfenstein is that they discover a long-hidden cache of ancient technology that has been husbanded by a mysterious cloister of scientists (the Da'at Yichud, in case there was any doubt about the identity of this clandestine global council) for millennia. This is straight-up Protocols of the Elders of Zion stuff, except from the opposite side: it's so good that there are secret Jews manipulating science and technology somewhere. We have to make friends with them! If the Jew representative of the Da'at Yichud that you meet were a normal character and not a hunched-over meek scientist who constantly praises BJ's strength (calling him 'Samson' even), then maybe the developers couldn't be accused of checking all of the anti-Semitic stereotype boxes.

As an aside, this need to construct something like the Da'at Yichud to explain the Nazi persecution of the Jews (by the way, doesn't the existence of the Da'at Yichud actually sort of exonerate the Holocaust and prove a major part of the anti-Semitic narrative from the 20th century correct? is that a smart thing to do?) results from the long-standing liberal confusion over the Holocaust. The fact that the death camps and the drive to the East were eminently capitalist processes, and were presented (and accepted) as solutions to a Germany in a capitalist crisis, can never be admitted or even entertained. The Nazis did what they did to Jews (and Poles, Russians, Roma, the mentally ill, etc) because they were crazy, and that's it. Bordiga's "Auschwitz, or, The Great Alibi" is a good response to this type of thinking.


Price Theory and Videogames

A price theory is at the core of economics. The question of 'what is produced, and for whom' is decided, under capitalism, by prices. The signals prices send to producers and consumers coordinate economic activity. You can pick Marx, who argued that producers set prices based on the cost of variable (current labor) and fixed (past labor) costs, you can pick Walras, where a hypothetical auctioneer unites people at agreeable prices for both producers and consumers, or some flavor of one of these basic types, or someone totally different like Sraffa. In all cases your goal is (or should be) not just to fit reality in the sense of fitting a curve to data but fitting the psychology of the people involved in the transaction, and the real process itself. That's why Marx's theory makes much more sense to me- he says that businessmen set prices based on their costs, which are determined by labor, and attempt to capture a greater share of the social surplus via the medium of money prices. Mobility of capital leads to a uniform rate of profit, changes in the organic composition of capital (more machine, less human) lead to a decline in the rate of profit because the social surplus that is available to be appropriated is gradually less and less because only current labor can produce real value, etc. etc. down to the final crisis.

Additionally, Marx is more useful for video games because video games, unlike academic papers or data summaries, are all about the process. If the process of an economy growing and producing things feels weird even if the end results are similar to what we observe in the real world (as with some of the games we're going to talk about below) then the theory has no explanatory power whatsoever, and this is obvious. It is less obvious in a paper or book where a theory that has little relationship to reality appears to have the same conclusion as reality: we sort of gloss over the process and skip to the results, and if those are justified we ignore the 'sausage making' that led to them. In a video game this bad science is put to the test. The results are almost meaningless- we're spending all of our time in the middle of things, in the real process that produces those results. And we spend a lot of time thinking about that process and picking it apart. If it has holes they are ruthlessly exploited. That's how video games can serve as a crucible of economic theory in general and price theory in particular. Let's look at a few video games and how they deal with price, and what the consequences are for the mechanics of the game.

Video games that deal with economics even in a grazing way have to make a similar choice. In the first Victoria there was a fixed list of prices: however many canned goods were being produced, they would all be sold to the computer and tossed into the sea (deleted from memory) at a fixed price which would change over time according to a table. Machine parts in 1836 are absurdly expensive and if you're lucky enough to be in a position to build a machine parts plant (lucky enough to be Britain, basically) your national treasury will go buckwild. But towards the end of the century, the price declines, coincidental with, but not because of, the fact that more countries can produce machine parts. Even if only one machine parts factory were ever built, the price would follow the same path.

Age of Empires 2 has a market where the player can buy scarce resources from the computer- they are added to his stockpile out of thin air. And the price changes over time depending on how the player uses the market. If you need a lot of stone in the Castle age, the price of stone will go up every time you buy some of it (all prices are in gold, by the way, and gold can be mined or gained in trade with other players, by sending carts to them) and will go down every time you sell. Prices are more than 'sticky' - they are completely permanent absent direct intervention by the player. And every player has his own set of prices for stone- there's no opportunity for arbitrage, unless during multiplayer you were to coordinate a sale of stone or something else using the 'tribute' function. But that's not what the tribute function was intended for and I've never seen it used that way, even in competitive AOE2. And of course the labor units in AOE games are slaves and require zero upkeep, so the 'value' of gold or stone can be expressed in the seconds it takes to mine or gather it, because the cost of the laborer's upkeep is nominal (a flat one-time 50 food payment). Additionally, there is a fixed amount of stone, wood and gold on the map, and only food can be regenerated indefinitely (as long as you can get wood to build farms over and over again). So after everything's been mined and chopped, an entirely different economy comes into force, with food as the basic commodity that determines the production of all the others. I've never played a game long enough to investigate this, I think, scientifically, it's impossible to get this far because you would pass out from boredom before you got there.

The second Victoria added global supply and demand to the game. Now, the price of canned goods and machine parts would be determined by the supply for those goods and the demand for them in the game. This requires minute tweaking of 'needs,' however. If the capacity of an individual plant to produce cement and the global demand for cement are out of wack (as they almost always are) then your cement will go unsold and the factory will go bankrupt. It's also interesting to note that there was no way to scale down production except in a drastic fashion: as long as a factory is open it will produce as much as it possibly can, and the factory owner (if it's the state, or an individual capitalist) has no power whatsoever to set their own price. They don't even submit possible prices to a theoretical Walrasian auctioneer: they get the price that the computer figures out a priori.

It's interesting that all of these games, even the ones that have a more 'free-market' veneer, rely on the autonomous and unaccountable actions of a computer. Agents (even simulated ones, like AI) have no effect whatsoever on their ability to run the economy. This actually mirrors the Walrasian auctioneer, who functions like a computer in matching mutual price desires automatically, with no input beyond an initial list from actual producers and consumers. But nobody has tried to give producers and consumers autonomy and the freedom to set their own prices for commodities, like Marx (and the real world) does.

It's also interesting to note that only one of these games, the Victoria series, deals with debt, but in a really bizarre way: debt is automatically public regardless of the economic system in place (laissez-faire capitalism, state capitalism, communism), and is not connected to the factories or RGO (farm, pasture, mine, etc). Capitalists save for factories and plop down their money in big chunks, but never go bankrupt, and never take out loans: they can only run out of money to fulfill their commodity needs and then demote to other types of pops, none of which are able to save towards the construction of factories like capitalists are. Your national bank can make loans to other countries but these (and the loans you take yourself, if your country is not state-capitalist) can only be used to pay for schools, the army, etc. When you build factories in foreign countries you do it out of state coffers, as well, or individual capitalists pool their funds and do it themselves once they've saved up enough.

Victoria's incoherent finance and price theory, and the absurdity of most of the rest of video games' engagements with economics, are a product of not doing it the Right, meaning the Marxian, way. Prices in the real world are not computed ahead of time according to a formula, however complex, they are set by people with their own motivations, chief among which is to stay in business and make a profit. Prices have a real basis, not in the completely abstract and useless raw quantity of something demanded but the price of the things that went into that something. An economy where prices really were determined by supply and demand alone would look something like an economy in Victoria II- very weird, not at all like any sort of capitalism any of us would recognize. And an economy based on the one from the Age of Empires series would be a complete hellscape, like I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream except with the player in the place of the malevolent computer and the last remaining tortured humans as the farmers endlessly stabbing the dirt with tiny shovels, their magically appearing product being turned into ever smaller amounts of gold, ever tinier amounts of wood and stone, until building a single barracks takes five years and the construction of a castle would take millenia. A video game that tries to match the complexity of real situations and the decisions that real people face has a better chance of not turning out this way, and being more fun and more engrossing. And maybe even reflecting on poor science in the real world.


Miroslav Tichý's Patreon Page

A Miroslav Tichy original

I like reading about people like this- the life of "losers" behind the Iron Curtain. The latest one I came across is photographer (anti-photographer?) Miroslav Tichý, who lived in the Czech Republic during the communist period.
I often wonder what his life would have been like if the Communists had not taken power. Would Tichý have remained at the Academy or would he have left for Paris? Would he then have ever discovered photography? We shall never know. But, as Harald Szeemann said when he first looked through Tichý’s originals, “Intensity will always find its medium.” - Roman Buxbaum, on his friend Miroslav

Tichy was harassed, sent to state psychiatry clinics and probably subjected to electro-shock therapy, like Limonov in Russia at around the same time. Tichy wasn't executed or sent to a camp, but policemen watched him (and arrested and beat him on one occasion), and he was subjected to a trial where they attempted to convict him of poor hygiene (he got off), and he was tossed out of his attic studio (after it was nationalized...) and forced to live on a meager pension.

One detail accounts of Tichy's life always gloss over is that little pension. The fact that someone was able to not work for fifty years, and was still given chances to participate in the official art world, and rebuffed them at every opportunity, and was hated by the state, but went on creating idiosyncratic art he didn't show to anyone, is all because of that pension. If the Communists hadn't taken over in 1948 there would have been no Tichy to speculate over. He would have had a career in the gutter or in a dead end job. He would have had no education, and no support. In the article above, there is a breathless account of Tichy being rounded up on May Day and driven to a clinic to spend time out of the public eye so he wouldn't disrupt the proceedings. In other words, for one day, he's treated like the homeless or the poor are treated every day in a city like L.A. or Sao Paulo: cleaned out of sight, if they don't resist, and if they're lucky. It's also worth noting that in order to put him on trial the authorities had to try to trump up charges based on his hygiene- and not on the fact that he was behind on his rent, or scamming benefits, or a vagrant. Because most of the traditional legal clubs with which outsiders and the poor are traditionally beaten in capitalist countries didn't exist, because the structure of society was different in a real way.

Of course it's not defensible to harass outsiders or the poor in Moravia or Los Angeles. Tichy should have been left alone. And political control over the arts should have been relaxed, and real democracy should have been allowed to flourish in Eastern Europe. That didn't happen for various reasons, and now all of these states have collapsed. But Tichy's photographs, thanks to his pension, persist.

Tichy's career came during the years of Khrushchev and Brezhnev, the stagnation period, when the state's repressive apparatus was relaxed, the growth rate came down a bit, and the economy settled into the ossified form that would sluggishly persist until the plunder of privatization in the 90s. Definitely after the terror, but with many of its remnants still there, and with a socialist economy that was supposed to provide for everyone, but was unresponsive to many new needs. His frankly minor troubles with the law, and the smallness of his pension, are the echo of the Stalinist terror and the Khrushchev-era promise of 'cornucopism,' both of them attenuated considerably.

A portrait of the artist. Lookin good!

A fellow traveler of Tichy's, however, had a more drastic career, with higher highs and a fatal low. Leonid Dobychin was a provincial accountant who aspired to being a writer. He was apparently very well-read, even though he had no formal education in literature and next to no contact with fellow artists. He was private, weird, bitter, all of the things that are not marketable or endearing. His art even has a similar leering quality to Tichy's- his short story "Encounters with Liz" is about a frustrated, alienated protagonist catching glimpses of a beautiful New Woman about town, heading into the communal bath-house (a place where Tichy would have hung out with his camera), buying fruit in the street, shouting slogans with fellow cadres, etc. The protagonist is on the sidelines. Sort of like Olesha's sleepy, unmotivated Kavalerov (cavalier, knight) from Envy, except with a harder edge, less humor and a much more, uh, scattered perspective (when Dobychin was denounced his similarity to Joyce was used as evidence against him!)

Dobychin was trained in statistics and would have stayed a statistician probably his whole life except for the Revolution, which established a writers union and allowed him to relocate to St. Petersburg, write full-time, and gain access to publishing houses and a circle of writers in Leningrad who would keep his memory alive after his stress-induced suicide. His body was pulled out of the Neva river a few months after a meeting of the Writers' Union in 1936 at which he was harshly criticized. Dobychin was in the first wave of artistic purge victims, probably because his obvious depression and cynicism, his discussion in not-entirely-negative terms of the past, as well as his intricate style, were unsuited to the emerging Stalinist society, which would promote trash like Cement over the wilder, more experimental works of the 20s. Again, the Tichy paradox rears its ugly head: we are free to speculate about and mourn over the career Dobychin was prevented from continuing, but we have to acknowledge that the Writers Union gave us a Dobychin to mourn over in the first place. Unconditional support, freedom to relocate, access not only to knowledge but publishers and the time to write freely, the real conditions of freedom of speech, were all possible for that short period after and because of the Bolsheviks seizure of power. Even for someone who was probably opposed to the Bolsheviks and major parts of the world they had created. Someone who refused to participate in the new culture of enthusiasm. This is the socialist form of "I don't agree with what you say, but I'll defend your right to say it" with the added qualifier that "the right to say it" means "the time and the resources and the support" to say it.

Support for the Dobychins and the Tichys of the world is probably the best criteria of how real a society's commitment to art and culture is.

Ultimately, for its immense flaws and short duration, that fuller understanding of the freedom of speech and of the arts is still a powerful idea, worth revisiting in the wretched era of video game music acapella on Patreon, ad-supported 'criticism' and sweet, fawning young artists standing hopefully next to their student pieces at a gallery show.


A Year of Corn

I didnt keep track of when exactly I started working on Corn, my game, and when I looked at the files today the earliest date I could find was July of last year, which I know isn't right. For a while last year I was developing the game on my computer at home and in the library, where I would go when there were too many distractions, and I stored the game on a flash drive and would copy the game from that drive to a folder on my computer to keep working on it. I did find a screenshot from late February of 2013 though, which does have a valid timestamp. So the 19th of February, or this last Wednesday, marks the probable one year anniversary of development of Corn: The Game of Classical Political Economy. I will celebrate by doing what I do on Saturdays: drink at the computer and code a bit.

I've been taking screenshots of the game at regular intervals, which, since I've switched LOVE 2d versions, is now the only convenient way for me to see how far I've actually come since I started. The code has been on GitHub since July but if I were to download a snapshot from then I would have to install an old version of Lua and LOVE 2d in order to get it to run and I cant be bothered. So I've been flipping through screens of the game to remind myself of what I've been doing.

I started from an extremely low level, literally copying a tutorial for a scrolling map (I haven't improved on that code). Since that inauspicous start I've done a few major things.

  • Created a UI.
  • Implemented units and Dijkstra pathfinding
  • Created my world, a bunch of towns and mines and forests and ocean.
  • Put together most of the major parts of an economy, from the production side.

The list isnt too long and even though the differences between now and then are drastic, I did hope I would be further along. Specifically, there are some fundamental parts of the game I would liked to have finished by the one-year mark. They are still basically unfinished, some of them are not even properly designed or theoried-out yet.

  • A dynamic map system (as in, not a jpg that stores no information except the type of a terrain tile)
  • A full economy, with a yearly market, physical distribution, the concept of money and input-output relationships.
  • Multiple systems of production and multiple nations on the same map

These are kind of the biggest parts of Corn, even though the AI and the interface and the years-away multiplayer component (which is probably going to require a simpler game focused purely on MP first) are what will determine if these elements have any meaning. I wanted there to be an actual game to play after a year and there really isn't yet. I released a verison of the game in late October, when there was even less to do in the game than there is now, and I planned to release more frequently, as a device to commit me to higher levels of productivity, but I don't really see the point in continuing to do that at this point. People have been extremely supportive of the game and seem very interested, which is a huge help, but they're not interested in vanity builds.

Obviously one reason for the delay is the fact that I work, and that I'm finishing a degree finally, and that takes up a good chunk of my time. Another reason is distractions- I spent several months in early 2013 without internet because I was convinced that it was the only way to make me get to work. The results were pretty good but I have to have internet so the experiment didn't last that long. But the real and most intractable reason why I'm struggling with Corn is the design.

Originally I was working with an academic paper in one window and the code in the other, or with a book open in front of me. Now I do the proper humanities major thing, and churn through books and papers, produce notes out of them, and then design from the notes. My understanding of the history of the 19th century, political economy, and economics generally, has improved slightly less drastically than the game has. The idea of using money and a yearly market, key parts of that second unfinished bullet point above, have only just emerged. I have a number of concrete ideas for the interface. And the other side of the game- the workers side, the colonial side, has come more sharply into focus even though I still think it's going to be weird. The capitalist will probably have all the fun and the player unfortunate enough to be leading a colonial country or a workers movement can only look forward to getting crushed (but that relies on multiplayer, years in the future).

Ultimately though this project has already outlived anything else I've ever worked on by several months. And I recently broke a long stretch of not doing anything with a short productive period. It's exciting to work on and the support of other people (an artist has started working on some proper graphics) is doubly exciting, and there's no timeline or schedule beyond the one I set for myself. Some people at work know I'm about to graduate and they've asked me what my plans are- management, another job, grad school- and I've kind of shrugged my shoulders, but I do have a plan, and it is: work, read and grow Corn.