Five years ago, I sold t-shirts commemorating my first podcast, Hypercritical, which ran for 100 episodes in 2011–2012. The shirts also celebrated this website, which is updated nearly once per year. Thanks to everyone who purchased a shirt all those years ago.
Since then, I've gotten many requests to sell the shirts again, either to replace old shirts or because someone missed the previous sale entirely. Today, the time has come for the triumphant return of the Hypercritical t-shirt. The sale ends on Friday, June 29th at 8 p.m. EDT, so if you want a shirt, don't delay. It may be five years—or longer—before they're sold again.
The shirts are available in men's and women's styles and in light and dark colors:
My sincere thanks to everyone who has purchased a shirt, past and present, and to all the people who continue to listen to my podcasts and read this site.
Fumito Ueda’s first game, Ico, was a beautiful, moody masterpiece. Its spare depiction of a boy attempting to escape from a vast castle with the help of a mysterious companion discarded the gameplay and interface conventions of its day, delivering an almost meditative sense of immersion. Ueda’s next game, Shadow of the Colossus, added the bare minimum of status indicators to the screen to support its complex boss battles that required the player to clamber up and onto a succession of giant creatures.
In terms of both gameplay and mood, Ueda’s latest game, The Last Guardian, is a straightforward combination of its predecessors. It features a boy attempting to escape from a mysterious castle with the help of a giant creature. Like Ico, it eschews a conventional HUD, save system, inventory management, power-ups, and nearly every other modern gaming convention. And as in Shadow of the Colossus, players will find themselves scrambling up the back of a large, often uncooperative, incredibly life-like beast (cheekily named Trico).
Ico was able to deliver on the promise of its design by reducing complexity in other areas. It’s set in a largely rectilinear castle that the player navigates on foot. It has a small number of enemies. Its environmental puzzles are mechanically and conceptually simple. Similarly, Shadow of the Colossus manages to pull off its extremely ambitious boss battles by removing nearly everything from the game except those creatures.
While The Last Guardian attempts to combine the strengths of its predecessors, it’s burdened by the combination of their features. The environment and the player’s movement through it is far more complex than in Ico. The puzzles play fast and loose with their own rules at a few critical points. The giant creature, no longer confined to a limited engagement in a boss arena, sometimes pushes the game mechanics past their limits.
Nothing kills immersion more than an acute awareness of the game engine itself. In The Last Guardian, the camera often gets stuck on walls or briefly shows the view from inside Trico. (Spoiler alert: like all your favorite 3D-rendered characters, he’s hollow.) Arguably, Shadow of the Colossus had an even more frustrating camera and control scheme, but that game was released eleven years ago on a far less powerful console. The Last Guardian has made tremendous strides since then, but it’s still not quite enough to avoid illusion-breaking lapses.
These shortcomings are compounded by an uncharacteristic lack of faith in its design. Traditional (read: oppressive) on-screen prompts describing the control scheme mar the opening of the game and are impossible to completely banish. A voice-over extends beyond its narrative role to provide a dynamic hint system that is often too quick to reveal solutions. Several brief cutscenes in quick succession at the start of the game undercut player agency. It's tempting to attribute these lapses to Ueda’s departure from the project several years before its release, but the reason is less important than the result.
Castle in the Sky
All of that said, it’s important to remember the context of these criticisms. Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are two of the greatest video games ever created. Both pushed the limits of the hardware they were released on, and both have influenced video game designers, filmmakers, and other creative professionals far out of proportion with their modest sales numbers. That The Last Guardian fails to resoundingly best its distinguished parents is only disappointing because of how close it comes.
Let’s start with the obvious. The Last Guardian is a gorgeous game. The world design is in line with Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, but the increased fidelity of the PlayStation 4 really makes it shine. (PlayStation 4 Pro running at 1080p is recommended for best frame rates.) Lighting effects that Ico could only dream of add a poignancy to already majestic vistas. At so many points, I wished this game had the photo mode from Uncharted 4.
Trico is an amazing achievement: a building-sized NPC that truly feels alive. Its animations rarely feel canned or repetitive. Its behavioral inscrutability is completely in keeping with its character. Learning to read Trico’s moods and signals is a core part of the game. The experience smoothly transitions from frustration to a deep, intuitive understanding by the end.
Anyone who has finished Ico and Shadow of the Colossus will have no trouble completing The Last Guardian. I found the environmental puzzles a bit more challenging than those in Ico, but I never had to go to the Internet to look up a solution. Anyone who got stuck in Ico will almost certainly be even more stymied by The Last Guardian, however. The hand-eye coordination required is substantially lower than in Shadow of the Colossus, but the camera management and overall control-scheme finesse is much more demanding than in Ico.
Also keep in mind that these are comparisons to the difficulty of two much older games. The Last Guardian has a significant skill-barrier to enjoyment when compared to contemporary console games, especially those with such an artistic bent. Inexperienced gamers looking for a better match for their skills should try Journey instead.
Longtime console gamers who have never played Ico or Shadow of the Colossus should definitely do so, preferably before playing The Last Guardian. High-definition remakes of both games are available for the PlayStation 3 on a single game disc for a combined price of $25. If your taste in games is anything like mine, it is absolutely worth buying or borrowing a PlayStation 3 console just to play these two games. (Plus Journey for just $15 more.) [Update: Both games are also available on the PS4 and Windows PC via the PlayStation Now cloud gaming service, though I have not tried playing them this way.]
If you loved Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, The Last Guardian is well worth playing, but it bears the scars of its nearly decade-long development. Like The Force Awakens, there’s almost no way The Last Guardian could have lived up to the expectations accumulated during the long wait for its release. In the end, its reach exceeds its grasp, if only slightly. But, oh, what a reach it was. Like its star creature, The Last Guardian occupies a lofty perch—defiantly idiosyncratic and occasionally inscrutable, but a towering achievement nonetheless.
These are the canonical bagel flavors:
- Cinnamon Raisin
- Egg Everything
Nearly 15 years ago, I wrote my first review of Mac OS X for a nascent “PC enthusiast’s" website called Ars Technica. Last fall, I wrote my last. Though Apple will presumably announce the next major version of OS X at WWDC this coming June, I won’t be reviewing it for Ars Technica or any other publication, including the website you’re reading now.
Those who listen to the ATP, the weekly podcast I host with Marco Arment and Casey Liss, know that I’ve been contemplating hanging up my OS X reviewer’s hat for some time now. Producing thousands of words (and hundreds of screenshots) about each major release of OS X was my first real claim to fame on the Internet. The prospect of stopping has made me reconsider my public identity and sense of self. Who am I if I’m not “that guy who writes those OS X reviews”? But when I finally decided, the relief I felt let me know I’d made the right choice.
There is no single, dramatic reason behind this. It’s an accumulation of small things—the time investment, the (admittedly, self-imposed) mental anguish, the pressure to meet my own expectations and those of my readers year after year—but it all boils down to a simple, pervasive feeling that this is the time to stop. I’ve done this. It is done.
When I started, I was at the forefront of long-form nerd-centric tech writing. Today, the world has moved on. I might have stopped with my OS X 10.9 review in 2013 if not for my love of round numbers and my expectation that OS X 10.10 would bring a complete interface overhaul that I really wanted to write about.
While OS X reviews were my public debut, the Hypercritical podcast brought me to a new audience starting in 2011. Hypercritical ran for 100 episodes, and in the years that followed I’ve recorded at least one podcast every week. (I’m currently a co-host of the weekly Accidental Tech Podcast and a regular guest on The Incomparable.) The one, long article I wrote about OS X for Ars Technica every year or two has long since been dwarfed by the volume of my audio output.
I still love OS X—and I still have many complaints about it. I will certainly talk about OS X 10.11 (whatever it’s called) at length on ATP, and I’ll read the many great reviews written by others when it’s released. But neither podcasting nor writing have ever been full-time jobs for me. I’ve always had to fit them into my life alongside my actual job and my family. Right now, I’m looking forward to my first summer in many years that won’t be dominated by stolen daytime minutes and long, sleepless nights in front of a screen with a noisy air conditioner blowing behind me. I’m content to have reviewed 10.0 through 10.10. Someone else can pick up the baton for the next 15 years.
- OS X 10.10 Yosemite – October 16, 2014
- OS X 10.9 Mavericks – October 22, 2013
- OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion – July 25, 2012
- Mac OS X 10.7 Lion – July 20, 2011
- Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard – August 31, 2009
- Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard – October 28, 2007
- Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger – April 28, 2005
- Mac OS X 10.3 Panther – November 9, 2003
- Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar – September 5, 2002
- Mac OS X 10.1 (Puma) – October 15, 2001
- Mac OS X 10.0 (Cheetah) – April 2, 2001
- Here’s to the crazy ones: a decade of Mac OS X reviews – May 12, 2011
- Five years of Mac OS X – March 24, 2006
- Read it for free on the web
- Buy it from Apple’s iBookstore for $4.99
- Buy it from Amazon’s Kindle store for $4.99
- Subscribe to Ars Premier for a month for $5 and get all of these options:
- Read it on a single, ad-free web page
- Download an iBooks-compatible EPUB file
- Download a Kindle ebook: two versions, one made especially for iOS
Here are my thoughts on the various reading options. This is mostly a repeat of last year’s post about Mavericks, with some text carried over verbatim, but there is some new information.
The Web Version
The web version of my review is the canonical version. It has the best formatting, the biggest images, and includes mouse-over image toggle effects that can't be done in an ebook. It's also the most up-to-date. I believe that good writing for the web includes many links. A web browser is the best place to inspect and follow those links.
All the images in my review are Retina resolution. To see all the detail in the images, read the review on a screen with at least 1,920 “native” pixels of horizontal resolution. Most images are 1,280 pixels wide (presented to the browser with a width value of 640), but the “full-width” images are 1,920 pixels wide (presented to the browser with a width value of 960).
The free web version has ads, and it’s split up into multiple “pages” (which are usually much longer than a single printed page). This kind of pagination annoys some people. I actually like it for very long articles because it helps me keep my place across multiple reading sessions. I can remember I was on page 8 instead of remembering the exact point in a very long, scrolling web page.
That said, I also really like how an Ars Premier subscription eliminates all ads from the Ars Technica website and gives me the option to view any article on a single page. I use single-page view on very long articles when I’m searching for some text using my web browser’s “Find…” feature. I use it all the time on short articles.
Some people think Ars Technica forces me to break my article up into many tiny pages. That’s not the case. I choose how to paginate the article. I like to break it up on logical section boundaries, which means that the “pages” vary widely in length. I do try to keep any single “page” from being too short, however.
The Kindle and iBooks readers for OS X and iOS have their own strengths and weaknesses, but I think the iBooks version of my review has a slight edge over the Kindle version. Amazon adds a “delivery” charge of $0.15 per megabyte (varying a bit for different countries). This can really eat into the price of a $4.99 book. Like the web version, both ebook versions include Retina-resolution images, making them quite large. To control the size of the Kindle ebook, I used JPEG images throughout.
Unlike Amazon, Apple does not charge a per-megabyte fee in its ebook store. Since both ebooks are the same price, this means I make slightly more money from each iBookstore purchase than I do from each Kindle purchase. But there’s something in it for you, too. The iBookstore version of my review uses lossless PNG images throughout. (Kindle version: 5 MB; iBookstore version: 25 MB.) In practice, I doubt most people will be able to tell the difference between the JPEG and PNG images, but I know which one I’d choose.
I've tried to make both ebooks available for purchase in as many countries as possible, but there are some limits on this that are beyond my control. If the ebook is not available in your country, remember that you can get both versions of the ebook by subscribing to Ars Premier.
- 26,485 words.
- 113 images (54.3 MB)
- 479 original screenshots (3.56 GB)
- 8,283 words of research notes.
- 2,534 lines of Perl code across 12 scripts to generate three different formats from the canonical HTML source: Ars CMS, EPUB, and Kindle.
- All three formats were generated 171 times.
- I saved the document 3,525 times while writing it in BBEdit.
- The article content was constantly backed up onto 7 different hard drives on three different Macs in two different locations (thanks to Dropbox, Time Machine, and SuperDuper), and pushed up to two different online backup services (Backblaze and CrashPlan).
- Applications used: BBEdit, Dragon Dictate, TextEdit, Simplenote, Photoshop CS6, VMware Fusion, xScope, Xcode, Yojimbo.
My sincere thanks to everyone who reads the review, in any form, in whole or in part. You’re the reason I’ve been doing this for the past fifteen years.
It's been a while since I wrote a blog post, I guess in general, but also a blog post about video games. Video games are probably the single thing most attributable to my career as a programmer, and everything else I've done professionally after that. I still feel video games
We've read so many sad stories about communities that were fatally compromised or destroyed due to security exploits. We took that lesson to heart when we founded the Discourse project; we endeavor to build open source software that is secure and safe for communities by default, even if there are
When I wrote about The Golden Age of x86 Gaming, I implied that, in the future, it might be an interesting, albeit expensive, idea to upgrade your video card via an external Thunderbolt 3 enclosure.
I'm here to report that the future is now.
Yes, that's right, I paid $500
Record-setting commercial satellite awaits blastoff from Cape Canaveral
A huge U.S.-built, Canadian-owned communications satellite weighing 15,600 pounds, the heaviest spacecraft of its kind ever launched, is mounted to a Falcon 9 rocket for liftoff early Sunday from Cape Canaveral on a heavy-lifting mission that ...
Starting this weekend, SpaceX is about to land a whole lot more rockets
Saturday night live: SpaceX to attempt second launch of Block 5 rocket
Watch Live Tonight: SpaceX Launches Telstar Communications Satellite
Fortnite Summer Skirmish Winner Accused Of Cheating, Defended By Epic
Fortnite's Summer Skirmish is an invite-only esports event that boasts over $8 million in total prize payout across the summer. A winner from Friday's tournament has been accused of cheating, and developer Epic has come to the player's defense. In a ...
Epic addresses Fortnite cheating allegations against Summer Skirmish winner
'Fortnite' Summer Skirmish Winner iDropz_Bodies Didn't Cheat, Epic Says
Fortnite Summer Skirmish Standings (July 21): Who Won The Week 2 Tournament?
Boeing faces a significant setback with the spacecraft it is designing to fly NASA astronauts
The spacecraft Boeing plans to use to fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station suffered a significant setback when, during a test of its emergency abort system in June, officials discovered a propellant leak, the company confirmed. In a ...
Boeing suffers a setback with Starliner's pad abort test [Updated]
Who owns the moon? A space lawyer answers
Most likely, this is the best-known picture of a flag ever taken: Buzz Aldrin standing next to the first U.S. flag planted on the Moon. For those who knew their world history, it also rang some alarm bells. Only less than a century ago, back on Earth ...
This Is What Michael Collins Did During The Apollo 11 Moon Landing
Makings of Moon Landing: 50 Years Ago, Apollo 11 Was One Year From 'Giant Leap'
160 beats per minute: The final, frantic moments before the historic moon landing
Watch Ninja compete in, stream the Red Bull Rise Till Dawn Fortnite event
Ninja is ready to go all night from way above Chicago in the first big event in his partnership with Red Bull. Not that you didn't already know this, but it's good to be Tyler 'Ninja' Blevins. Not only does he make a very sweet living as the world's ...
Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat lights fuse in brand's first behind-the-scenes holiday video
Pick any holiday, big or small, and you'll find car enthusiasts swarming online to watch videos of their favorite Dodge revving up and rooster tailing down the road. From the “Sprinkles Optional” short film for National Donut Day to the “Cupid's Arrow ...
1969 Dodge Charger customized with 707HP Hellcat engine
Feds want reimbursement for Gwinnett sheriff's $70K muscle car
Happy Anniversary, Viking 1! What Early Landers Taught Us About Mars
You may know that humanity first set foot on the moon 49 years ago today. But July 20 looms large in spaceflight history for another reason as well: It's the date, in 1976, when NASA's Viking 1 Mars lander pulled off the first American touchdown on the ...
Here's How NASA Is Dealing With the Massive Martian Dust Storm
Get Outside And See Mars At Its Brightest
'Storm chasers' on Mars searching for dusty secrets
Overwatch Nerf Line Reveals First Gun
Too bad the first gun in the Overwatch Nerf line wasn't revealed to be a D.Va weapon, because then we could say "NERF this!" and her voice line would make sense. Still, "Reaper here" in a grizzly voice has its own appeal, and the phrase "die, die, die ...
Overwatch Hellfire Shotgun Nerf Gun Revealed
Reaper's Hellfire shotgun is getting Nerfed. Literally
Nintendo Sues ROM Sites In Massive $100 Million Lawsuit To Prevent Piracy, Illegal Emulation
With the huge popularity of their retro inspired NES and SNES Classic consoles, Nintendo seems to be more protective of their content. Peter Gudella / Shutterstock Gaming. Nicholas Morine. With the huge popularity of their retro inspired NES and SNES ...
How Do You Follow Sergio Marchionne
At the close of a now famous presentation in which he chided the auto industry for its profligate ways, Sergio Marchionne quoted a telling passage from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass. The Red Queen tells a frustrated and exhausted Alice that ...
Fiat Chrysler Taps Jeep Head as New CEO to Replace Ailing Marchionne
An Inside View On Fiat Chrysler's New CEO Mike Manley: Tough, Focused And Right For The Job
Fiat Chrysler Taps New CEO After Marchionne Abruptly Resigns
An arcane pilot union rule will make flying (a little) more comfortable on United
United Airlines' latest aircraft order comes with a rare perk in an age of increasingly cramped commercial flights: more space. The cabins of the 25 regional Embraer E-175 jets that United agreed to buy this week, an order worth more than $1.1 billion ...
Home Depot Backtracks After Firing Employee Who Says He Stood Up To Racist Customer
Lucy Nicholson / Reuters The company backtracked on Friday, telling HuffPost that they “taken another look at this situation and we are offering Maurice his job back.” Home Depot is offering an employee in Albany, New York, his job back after the ...
Former employee says Home Depot fired him over response to racist customer
Churchill: After outrage, Home Depot reverses course, rehires Albany man
Home Depot Reverses Course and Offers Employee Fired for Responding to Customer's Racist Rant His Job Back ...
Trump will regret criticizing the Federal Reserve
In retrospect, the most surprising thing about President Trump breaking the unwritten rule against presidents criticizing the Federal Reserve might be that it's taken him this long to do it. Trump, after all, is a self-described “low-interest-rate ...
Trump Lines Up Fed Chairman as Fall Guy If Tax, Trade Moves Sour
The Fed must be insulated from Trump's political objectives
Dick Bove: Trump poised to take control of the Federal Reserve
Wall Street Journal
Facebook Suspends Analytics Firm on Concerns About Sharing of Public User-Data
Wall Street Journal
Facebook Inc. suspended another company that harvested data from its site and said it was investigating whether the analytics firm's contracts with the U.S. government and a Russian nonprofit tied to the Kremlin violate the platform's policies. Crimson ...
Facebook suspends analytics firm Crimson Hexagon over data use concerns
Facebook suspends another analytics firm amid investigation into data usage
Facebook suspends firm over concerns it inappropriately shared user data with US government
The First 24 Hours In Our Tesla Model 3 (#CleanTechnica Review)
July 21st, 2018 by Kyle Field. The Tesla Model 3 is the defining car of this generation. The first car to truly set the bar for what an affordable electric car can be. The only problem is that … well, it isn't that affordable. Yet. Let's rewind for a ...
Tesla's Model 3 Performance has an experimental 'Track Mode'
Tesla Model 3 profits, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV review, electric car battery reuse: The Week in Reverse
Tesla Climbs Automaker Ranks For Vehicle Production In North America
The Elon Musk Impersonators of the Internet
The summer of Elon Musk making headlines for his controversial tweets continues apace, and the last several days have been particularly scorching. This time, the topic was Musk's attempt to help rescue the teenage soccer players and their coach trapped ...
Why Elon Musk isn't the hero we imagined
Tech analyst: We want people to see the real Elon Musk
Elon Musk's farting unicorn fight settled
Elon Musk denies early orders being canceled for Model 3 – but new demand may be slipping anyway
Recently, Elon Musk lashed out at a new analysis claiming that nearly a quarter of the more than 400,000 advance reservations for Tesla's Model 3 battery-sedan have been canceled. But a closer look at Musk's comment raises a different reason for ...
A Tsunami of money could be headed Tesla's way in the next year — and that's bad news for the bears
Tesla Earnings: 3 Questions for Elon Musk
Tesla Can Kiss Any Model Y Deposits In 2019 Goodbye
Driver for Uber and Lyft live-streamed hundreds of riders on Twitch without their consent
An Uber and Lyft driver in St. Louis, Missouri has given around 700 rides since March 2018, and nearly all of them have been live-streamed on Twitch, without passenger consent. In a lengthy report, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch detailed the actions of ...
Ridesharing livestreams on Twitch raise privacy worries (update: Uber cuts access)))