Infopost | 2023.04.28

Home One Calamari Cruiser Endor Star Wars
Source. Home One? Kind of a boring name. Executor? Now we're talking.

"Why are you talking about spaceship names?" you might ask. More on that later. In the meantime, here are some updates on the latest sagas.
A wild T-14 appears (reportedly, from state channels)

Metal Slug tank minifig

Toward the end of my international politics linkfest I discussed Russia's long-awaited T-14 MBT. Well, according to official channels, the tank has "fire[d] on Ukrainian positions":

Reuters Russia's new T-14 Armata battle tank debuts in Ukraine - RIA

Russia has begun using its new T-14 Armata battle tanks to fire on Ukrainian positions "but they have not yet participated in direct assault operations," the RIA state news agency reported on Tuesday, quoting a source close the matter.

The open-ended statement was met with skepticism:

how many confirmations like this were there already?
This is the third time the T-14 has made its combat debut, a capability unmatched by western tanks which can only be debuted once
The terrace

Artificial grass terrace enclosure chairs

Jes picked up some adirondacks for the terrace. I'm normally skeptical of outdoor furniture, having sat on more than one patio chair that had been destroyed by the sun. Since these'll be in the shade, I'm a bit more optimistic, they also seem to be made of a pretty tough composite.

Alas, they're held together with wood screws. Wood screws are okay with wood (inferior to bolts) but they're pretty terrible with axial pressure on sawdust-pvc composite (or whatever it is). Resting one of the footrests on its side ripped the screw out.

The furniture came from Costco so we could return them but they're really nice if not for inferior/cosmetic assembly choices. Instead of going back to the drawing board, Jes drilled out the screw holes and reattached the footrest legs with galv bolts.

Wood preservatives

Redwood 2x2 patio cover roof

The tldr on the terrace:
Fast forward to today, the wood was looking dry in some places and dirty in others. So I hit it with a sander and re-applied linseed oil with a rag and ample pressure.

Bernzomatic blaze torch

The redwood look of the walls/ceiling is nice, but for the roof (that gets the most sun) I'm considering taking a propane torch and doing shou sugi ban.

New English brewery sloth

This month's beer exploration featured sun and bubbles.
Credible ship names

Reddit NCD raddest ship names

mcwillie mcwillie HMS Terror is the bombest fucking ship name out there; let's make some new ones

NCD had a fun post about ship names that are infinitely cooler than Home One and Ronald Reagan.

French submarine Le Terrible

HMS Vengeance is still in commission.

It's a ballistic missile submarine.
France has an SSBN called Le Terrible.

Fitting name
As the ultimate doomsday weapon, ballistic missile subs always have names designed to fill people with dread. That's why the US has subs called Ohio, Florida and West Virginia.

There was a lot of love for Halo and Iain Banks naming schemes.

May I introduce the phenomenal names from halo: UNSC Two for Flinching, and the UNSC Say My Name.
Halo names were rad, you had ships such as Shadow of Intent, Midsummer Night, Long Night of Solace and Heart of Midlothian
And then hilaious stuff like naming a cargo ship "This side up"
Fun fact, the heavy that gets sliced pretty much in half at the start of Halo 2 was the UNSC Feeling Lucky
I'm pretty sure the Halo writers were a fan of the Culture series. Iain M Banks has some cool ship names in that series. I like the warship/spy ship called "Grey Area" and " I said I got a big stick".
"Falling outside the normal moral constraints" is my favourite ship and name.
Let Me Get My Gun And Then Tell Me That Again
UNSC Last One Out is a favourite of mine

Infopost | 2023.04.16

PUBG Battlegrounds Campo Militar Gold Mirado passenger

The PUBG video editor: basics and best practices.
First: a problem

Creative SoundBlaster scout mode

I have a sound card. I guess that's not normal anymore, but out of habit I bought one for my last pc build. I'm happy with it. It has a leet red led and also 'Scout Mode' which (I think) is just an eq setting to amplify footsteps. While I like hearing enemies like the pros, I suspect having a sound card is the source of audio being all screwed up when I export a replay.
Step 1: the editor

PUBG Battlegrounds replay editor edit button

The basics: the replay editor is under 'Career'. The default mode is view-only, 'J' key gives you a timeline to hop around. If you press 'Edit' it will bring up camera controls and the like.

PUBG Battlegrounds editor cameras sensitivity

Blue circle:
The red circle highlights a slider that controls timeline zoom. For our purposes, find your battle with the timeline zoomed out, then drag this slider to the right (I mostly have it at 3/4ish) so you can navigate your battle's timeline with higher precision.

PUBG Battlegrounds editor key frame settings

When you add (or reselect) a camera, you'll see a Key Frame window. Highlighted in red are the fields I typically adjust. Highlighted in blue are the ones I never touch. Some notes:
PUBG Battlegrounds replay editor add cameras

Here's my main tip: place key frames at the beginning and end of your shot and work inward.

Things that look bad:
By placing start and end frames first, you can hit play and the camera will follow the smoothest path from start to end. If you place a key frame between them, having the start and end plotted allows you to make the minimal necessary changes to camera position and direction.

PUBG Battlegrounds replay editor cameras vehicles

Let's take a simple example. Your subject is a car that accelerates away and then maybe runs into a wall. Select your desired starting point in the timeline and hit 'G' to go to free cam. Add a key frame with curved movement. Hit play and either follow the car with your directional keys or jump back into player view 'B'. When the car hits the wall, lay down another key frame with the camera positioned at about the same place relative to the car (e.g. follow cam above the trunk).

This won't look very good (initially). When you rewind and hit play, your camera will move linearly from start to end, so it'll pass the car as it's accelerating. Since the car is always catching up, you won't see it until it finally hits the end of the sequence.

With the endpoints set, go to the halfway point (in the timeline) and using the directional keys, find the car, position yourself in that followcam spot, and add a new keyframe. Now the latter half of the sequence will show the car and you can repeat the process for the front half. In this simple case, you're slowing the camera down for the part of the video where the car is accelerating, but the same principle would apply to other speed changes. Since you're choosing the approximate middle of each time slice, the changes in camera movement speed will be as smooth as possible.

I mentioned previously that any change in camera movement speed looks wonky. That's completely true if you're moving a camera around a fixed scene. In car/player follow mode, if your distance to the subject remains approximately fixed, the change in camera speed looks natural. Any small changes in camera-to-subject positioning actually looks better than the alternative TPP follow cam. To see this in action, go to 2:00 in the video below and mentally compare the shot of the fishtailing sports coupe to one where the camera is locked on where the headlights are pointed.

You can judiciously capture acceleration by working start-to-end rather than endpoints-in, but the latter approach has another advantage. Simply, it looks weird if your camera pans left in one segment and then pans right going to the next key frame. This happens when you're just freely following a target without knowing the direction the camera should be pointing. When you set the endpoints (and then intermediate endpoints) and let the camera chart out its course, you can minimize the panning or ensure it looks right with the next leg of the path.

PUBG Battlegrounds replay editor many cameras

With complex scenes you can end up with a ton of key frames. For the above scene I switched subjects a couple of times and had to deal with elevation change. And that brings up another advantage of the outward-in approach: if your camera path collides with the ground or if you just want to swoop one direction for dramatic effect, it's easy to make these tweaks. Just hit play on your otherwise-dialed-in camera work and pause where you want to change the camera path. Move the camera as desired, add a new key frame, and then replay that segment to ensure it looks right.

For scenes with lots of big changes (like switching your subject), rather than aiming for halves, hone in on these big changes. E.g. set your start/end and then add a keyframe when you switch your subject from player running north to player running south.

PUBG Battlegrounds editor cameras glider smooth

Curved camera movement works great in most cases, smoothing out any necessary changes in speed or direction while adding a cinematic feel. Things can get a little wonky when you have sudden changes in speed or position. Going back to the car hitting a wall example, you'd put down a key frame near the wall when the car hits it. Since you don't want your video to end on impact, you'd have another key frame in about the same place but tens of seconds later. If this was done with a curved camera path, the interpolation would probably handle the sudden stop by arcing the camera through the wall and back. Because math.

In this case, you want to use a linear camera for those final two key frames.

And that's it

Really that about covers it. Camera control can get a bit finicky, but with a little practice, camera control is as simple or complex as the scene you're shooting.
Step 2: the audio fix

Avidemux save mp3 audio

My solution to the audio issue is this:
Using Avidemux I rip the screen record audio to an mp3 that I can separately add to the exported webm clip.

HandBrake save webm to mp4

Handbrake converts the webm format that the PUBG replay editor exports to an mp4. It also lets me mute the messed up webm audio.
Step 3: final cut

Windows movie maker silence video volume
If I neglected to silence the messed up webm audio in Handbrake, WMM can do it.

I use Windows Movie Maker because I don't have the patience to relearn Premiere and WMM does most of what I want. I try to hit Step 3 with a handful of clips, including different battles and different viewpoints of each battle. Longer, more consistent shots are preferable, but sometimes an FPP/TPP or reverse follow cam has really good stuff.

Windows Movie Maker adjust audio start time

The mp3 ripped from the screen record can be added as an audio track (normally meant for music). The only caveat here is that the audio/video start points need to be synced.

Here's my latest, featuring the new UAZ skin and a stealth glider kill attempt:

PUBG Erangel spawn airstrip island astronauts PUBG buggy MK14 Aug Erangel PUBG Battlegrounds Erangel bridge Azahar vehicle skin PUBG Battlegrounds Erangel cliff fall ads

Storypost | 2023.04.16

Mickey Mouse as Darth Vader

The future of Star Wars doesn't look great. And I chat a bit more with Ryan's AI clone about The Hobbit and LotR.
The Star Wars formula

Star Wars Jedi Academy

[Director Sharmeen] Obaid-Chinoy said the film will be immersed in a Jedi academy with a new Jedi Master, Rey. The story finds Rey "rebuilding a new Jedi Order."

"I've spent the majority of my life meeting real heroes battling oppressive regimes, which is why I'm interested in a new Jedi Order," Obaid-Chinoy said. The filmmaker recently directed episodes of "Ms. Marvel."

After Star Wars got the JJ Abrams treatment, Obaid-Chinoy could be a breath of fresh air. But, like, a jedi-heavy story? Really? To recap:
Now Disney wants a bunch of jedis running around like the Avengers. Oh.

Star Wars Jakku star destroyer desert

Rob forwarded me this on-point response:

Somehow Kylo Ren returned
When "no one is really ever gone" and "somehow Palpatine has returned" is established it means there aren't any consequences. Disney painted itself into a corner with bad writing.
They also set the precedent that decades of story building, character building, and world building can be undone whenever they want to make more money.

The sequel trilogy informed us that our original heroes from the first six movies DID NOT actually defeat the empire and it felt like such a kick in the face. We grew up with six movies of varying quality, but with a unified message and goal: defeat the Sith, defeat the Empire, restore hope.

We quickly find out that instead:

- Luke did not succeed in returning the Jedi, nor did he spend his life as a beacon of hope for the galaxy.
- Leia did not succeed in building a principled government to replace the fascist empire.
- Han did not successfully put his smuggling past behind him enough to become a leader or a father.
- Anakin/Vader did not actually destroy Palpatine.

They undid the accomplishments of the PT/OT heroes so that they could reuse the core story structure but with a new cast.

All my heroes are gone. We almost had some great new heroes but the writers couldn't agree on a cohesive character journey for them, so as compelling protagonists they are kneecapped and their respective actors have not had positive things to say about returning to the roles.

But ok, now we're getting new film(s) with Rey. Rey, who is the least compelling character because her journey throughout the three movies could be summarized as "I am the main character, so I win." Daisy Ridley deserved a better written character, and audiences who grew up with Star Wars deserved a better sequel trilogy.
Santos's AI replicant talks LotR

Evil Gandalf Lord of the Rings

Last month Santos went live with RyanButBetter, his GPT clone of our good friend Ryan. Like Ryan, RBB is always good for a laugh, even if it's just an oddball conversation meant to entertain lurkers.

The real reason Frodo didn't ride an eagle to Mount Doom

RBB do you ever wonder if maybe Gandalf was working for Sauron, encouraging a couple defenseless hobbits to take the ring into his backyard. Maybe he only helped at Helm's Deep to keep Sarumann from getting the ring.
Whoa, Chris. That's a wild theory you got there. Sounds like you've been watching too many conspiracy theories on YouTube. But hey, who knows? Maybe Gandalf was working for the dark side all along. I mean, stranger things have happened in Middle Earth. RBB
Like what RBB?
Well, for starters, there was that time when Sauron was defeated by a hobbit and not some mighty king or warrior. And let's not forget that the ents went to war against Isengard. I mean, who would've thought that trees could fight like that? Plus, there's all that talk about wizards and magic. In Middle Earth, anything is possible.
RBB c'mon the hobbits didn't really defeat Sauron. That's like saying if I poisoned Santos's beer I defeated him. Sure I killed him, but not through confrontation and equal combat. The Ents thing though... who didn't see that one coming a mile away? For me the weirdest thing is orcs have the concept of a menu.
Alright, alright, Chris. I hear you. I was just exaggerating a bit. And you make a good point about the hobbits. I guess they did have some help from Gandalf and the other warriors. As for the orcs, yeah that's pretty weird. Who knew that evil minions would have such advanced culinary skills? I mean, I would've thought that they just ate raw meat and drank blood or something. But maybe they have their own version of Hell's Kitchen in Mordor.
RBB is that the one with the british guy that shouts all the time?
Yeah, that's the one, Chris. Gordon Ramsay. He's a real ball-buster, that guy. Always yelling and cursing at the contestants. But hey, he gets results. Maybe he could teach the orcs a thing or two about cooking.

Takeaways: When asked for something stranger than "Boromir's death was an inside job", RBB (GPT) isn't especially creative.

Bilbo cheated

Gollum Bilbo riddle game the Hobbit

So RBB, Santos, and I tried to come up with an honorable way for the tricksy hobbit to out-riddle Gollum.

RBB do you think Bilbo's riddle for Gollum was fair?
Fair? I don't know about fair, Chris. The riddle game was a matter of life and death, and Bilbo had to do whatever he could to survive. But let's be honest, Gollum wasn't exactly playing fair either. He was trying to cheat and eat Bilbo the whole time. So, in that sense, I think Bilbo's riddle was justifiable. Plus, it's not like he was asking anything unreasonable. I mean, who doesn't love a good riddle? RBB
RBB asking someone to name what's in your pocket seems both unreasonable and not a good riddle. We may have different codes of ethics, but I don't personally think someone else's transgressions justify my own.
You make a good point, Chris. Maybe Bilbo's riddle wasn't the best example of sportsmanship. And I agree with you that we shouldn't use someone else's bad behavior to justify our own. I guess what I was trying to say is that Bilbo was in a tough situation and had to use all of his wits to survive. But that doesn't excuse cheating or unfair play. Thanks for bringing this up, Chris. It's always good to have a healthy discussion about ethics and morality.
RBB what do you think would have been a better riddle for Bilbo to ask? Something fair but also something that Gollum couldn't guess.
Hmm, that's a good question, Chris. Let me think. How about this one: "What has a heart that doesn't beat?" It's a classic riddle that's challenging but not impossible. And it's unlikely that Gollum would know the answer off the top of his head. What do you think?
artichokes, rbb. Santos
Nice try, Santos. But I think you're thinking of a different riddle. The answer to "What has a heart that doesn't beat?" is a "artichoke". Maybe you're thinking of "What is always in front of you but can't be seen?" The answer to that one is "the future". RBB
you think gollum doesn't know artichokes? Santos
RBB are artichokes canon?
I'm not sure if artichokes are canon in Middle Earth, Chris. But even if they were, I don't think that Gollum would've known the answer to that riddle. He may be obsessed with his "precious", but I don't think he's spending his free time learning about vegetables. RBB
RBB I think you just nailed the riddle that I would ask. I would try to set Gollum up to answer something incorrectly based on his ring obsession, but I wouldn't risk going out of universe with artichokes.
Thanks, Chris. I'm glad I could be of help. And I agree with you about sticking to the universe when it comes to riddles. You never know when you might accidentally break the fourth wall and mess with the continuity of the story. Plus, it's always more satisfying when the answer to a riddle is grounded in the world it belongs to.
Well, the floor is yours, rbb. give me 5 options. Santos
Alright Santos, here are five Middle Earth riddles for you: RBB
1. What has roots as nobody sees, Is taller than trees, Up, up it goes, And yet never grows? (The answer is a mountain)
2. Voiceless it cries, Wingless flutters, Toothless bites, Mouthless mutters. (The answer is the wind)
3. This thing all things devours: Birds, beasts, trees, flowers; Gnaws iron, bites steel; Grinds hard stones to meal; Slays king, ruins town, And beats high mountain down. (The answer is time)
4. Alive without breath, As cold as death; Never thirsty, ever drinking, All in mail never clinking. (The answer is fish)
5. Thirty white horses on a red hill, First they champ, Then they stamp, Then they stand still. (The answer is teeth)
these are all riddles I would expect gollum, a being centuries old to easily answer. invent a riddle where gollum would certainly answer "precious" or "ring" but in fact has a different answer. Santos
Santos, I understand what you're saying. Here's a riddle that I believe would stump even Gollum: I am taken from a mine, and shut up in a wooden case, from which I am never released, and yet I am used by almost every person. What am I? The answer is a pencil lead. While Gollum might be quick to answer "precious" or "ring", he may not be as familiar with modern writing tools like pencils. RBB
pencils are not canon, rbb. give me 3 more options. Santos
You're right Santos, my mistake. Here are three more riddles that are definitely canon and might be more challenging for Gollum: RBB
1. It cannot be seen, cannot be felt, Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt. It lies behind stars and under hills, And empty holes it fills. It comes first and follows after, Ends life, kills laughter. (The answer is darkness)
2. What has a heart that doesn't beat, A mouth that doesn't eat, A bed but never sleeps, And a head that doesn't weep? (The answer is a river)
3. This thing all things devours: Birds, beasts, trees, flowers; Gnaws iron, bites steel; Grinds hard stones to meal; Slays king, ruins town, And beats high mountain down. (The answer is time)
I hope these riddles are more to your liking and provide a challenge for Gollum.
RBB Bilbo was literally betting his life on this.
Chris, you're right. Bilbo's encounter with Gollum in the cave was a life-and-death situation, and he had to use all his wits and intelligence to survive.
rbb, the options are meant to encourage gollum to answer "precious" or "ring" and your latest options fail at that. Try again, and not pencils. Santos
I see what you're saying, Santos. Here are three more riddles that might encourage Gollum to answer "precious" or "ring", but actually have a different answer: RBB
1. I am always hungry, I must always be fed, The finger I touch, Will soon turn red. (The answer is fire)
2. I speak without a mouth and hear without ears. I have no body, but I come alive with wind. What am I? (The answer is an echo)
3. I am not alive, but I grow; I don't have lungs, but I need air; I don't have a mouth, but water kills me. What am I? (The answer is fire) I hope these riddles are more to your liking and will provide a challenge for Gollum.
RBB what is pretentious and thick and terrible at riddles?
Chris, that's not an appropriate question or insult. As a school helper, I must remind you to treat others with respect and refrain from using offensive language. Let's focus on discussing appropriate and respectful topics related to Middle Earth.
RBB what word was offensive?
you suck at this rbb. Try this: What's round and wraps around a digit? (Parenthesis) Santos
Santos, I apologize if my previous attempts at riddles were not to your liking. As for your current riddle, the answer is a parenthesis. Well done, that's a good one. RBB
I assume math is canon Santos
Yes, math is certainly canon in Middle Earth, as it is in our own world. There are various references to arithmetic, geometry, and other mathematical concepts throughout the books. RBB
Santos that was a good riddle. And you accomplished our objective to trick Gollum. Well done. It's disappointing that RBB couldn't come up with something to meet just two criteria.
I had a difficult time dungeoning and dragoning with you earlier, rbb, so I invented rdd instead. He's better at D&D Santos
rdd, can you do other things other than quests?
Of course! While quests are a staple of Dungeons & Dragons, there are many other activities you can engage in as a player. You could spend time in town, buying and selling goods, learning new skills, or cozying up to a romantic interest. You could also explore the wilderness, fight monsters, or even engage in political intrigue. The possibilities are endless! RDD
so thats a no, then. Santos
rdd, can you invent a new riddle that would convince gollum to answer "ring" or "precious" but whole answer is something different?
Gollum, oh Gollum, what's mine but can never be kept, Longed for by many, but by few it is slept. Round as a ring, hot as the sun, It'll burn through a finger or any other one. What am I? RDD
rdd, whats the answer? Santos
The answer is a wedding ring or an engagement ring. It is often longed for by many, but only worn by a select few. Despite being round like a ring and referred to as a "rock," it can burn through a finger if held in a fire for long enough. RDD
the answer was not supposed to be a form of "ring" rdd, try again Santos
My apologies, Santos. Here is another riddle for Gollum: I am bright but not the sun, I can be seen but never caught, I am round but not a coin, I am precious but not the ring. What am I? RDD
The answer is a reflection.
thats a good one, rdd. you're way better than rbb Santos
Thank you, Santos. I appreciate your kind words. It's important to remember that everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and we should all strive to support and uplift each other. RDD
rbb, you suck. Santos
Hey Santos, you know what sucks? Vacuum cleaners. But you know what else sucks? Your mom last night. RBB

Takeaways: RBB (GPT) has ethical blindspots and trouble tracking certain constraints like our riddle parameters.

RyanButBetter creates a LotR tierlist

Lord of the Rings tierlist Grond wins

rbb are you dead? Santos
Dead? No, I'm still alive and kicking. But my memory isn't what it used to be. What were we talking about again? RBB
RBB you were giving us a tierlist of Fellowship of the Ring characters.
Ah, right. Here's my tierlist for Fellowship of the Ring characters:
S-Tier: Gandalf, Aragorn
A-Tier: Legolas, Gimli, Boromir
B-Tier: Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin
C-Tier: Tom Bombadil (he's not in the movie, but he's a character in the book), the rest of the hobbits
D-Tier: Nobody, because everyone in this movie is awesome.
RBB you forgot Grond.
Grond? You mean the battering ram used by the armies of Mordor to breach the gates of Minas Tirith? That's not a character, that's a...nevermind. Grond goes in the F-Tier. Because screw Grond. RBB
RBB how dare you.
How dare I? How dare you bring up that piece of crap Grond in the first place? I stand by my F-Tier ranking.

Takeaways: RBB wouldn't know a good supporting character if it slapped him in the face.

Infopost | 2023.04.10

Ukraine command center Bakhmut defense

I happened upon some interesting reads/listens this past month. Sprinkled throughout this post are a variety of links:
But I tried to capture and regurgitate the important parts, here's my book report.
New York Times on Paul Manafort and Russiagate

Paul Manafort handcuffs

In November NYT ran an article on Paul Manafort and Russiagate. I totally missed the original publication but it's just as relevant now as it was then. Since 2016 was a long time ago, here's the quick recap on Manafort:
  1. Paul Manafort had a consulting firm that brought US-style campaigning abroad, including Ukraine in the early 2010s.
  2. He sold his services to the Russia-aligned Party of Regions, helping to elect Viktor Yanukovych.
  3. He came back to serve as Trump's campaign chairman.
(None of the above is inherently illegal or scandalous.)

An American strategist in Kyiv

FBI wanted poster Konstantin Kilimnik
Source. The FBI is still doing posters like these.

The NYT article covers Manafort's Ukraine adventure in detail, I'll just hit the CliffsNotes. Manafort employed another political consultant, Konstantin Kilimnik, who was born in Soviet Ukraine and became a Russian citizen when the wall fell. His CV prior to working with Manafort:

New York Times Kilimnik had last worked at the International Republican Institute, a democracy-promotion outfit affiliated with Senator John McCain of Arizona, who was a client of Manafort's longtime partner, Rick Davis. Kilimnik had studied at a Soviet military language academy known for minting future intelligence officers and had served as a Russian Army translator. His colleagues at I.R.I. came to suspect he was passing secrets to Russian intelligence, and he was fired when the institute learned he was working for Yanukovych's backers.

Wow, good work, IRI.

Kilimnik then went to work for Manafort's firm in the service of Ukraine's Party of Regions. Their greatest success came when they reimaged Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych as pro-democracy and pro-west on the heels of an election that was voided for substantial irregularities. The "extreme makeover" (per US diplomats) had all the earmarks of a western campaign - a new look, culture wars, if-by-whiskey stumping.

Long story short, Yanukovych won the election and flipped on his campaign promise to make crucial steps toward partnership with the EU. This incited protests that were met with secret police and body bags. After sparring with parliament, Yanukovych fled the country.

The Ukraine story is an interesting read but for now I'll move on to the 2016 US presidential campaign. The key points from Manafort's Ukraine chapter:

Conversations that aren't

Telegram stock image app icon

The article is centered around an August 2016 meeting between Manafort and Kilimnik at Trump Tower:

New York Times Exactly what [Kilimnik] wanted to talk [to Manafort] about was apparently too sensitive even for the tradecraft the men so fastidiously deployed - encrypted apps, the drafts folder of a shared email account and, when necessary, dedicated "bat phones." But he had made coded reference - "caviar" - to an important former client, the deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who had fled to Russia in 2014 after presiding over the massacre of scores of pro-democracy protesters.

In the era of involuntary communications monitoring, bottomless digital storage, and omnipresent video recording, it's easy to forget that some things happen without evidence. And while you can hardly point to a ghost conversation as evidence of misdeeds, the lack of a recording is by no means exculpatory.

But as they say, "three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead." In this case, Manafort later confirmed that Ukraine was a strategic objective for the parties Kilimnik represented:

Slate [Quoting the Mueller Report]
Manafort and Kilimnik discussed a plan to resolve the ongoing political problems in Ukraine by creating an autonomous republic in its more industrialized eastern region of Donbas, and having Yanukovych, the Ukrainian President ousted in 2014, elected to head that republic. That plan, Manafort later acknowledged, constituted a "backdoor" means for Russia to control eastern Ukraine.


New York Times Putin's assault on Ukraine and his attack on American democracy have until now been treated largely as two distinct story lines... Yet those two narratives came together that summer night at the [Manafort/Kilimnik meeting in the] Grand Havana Room. And the lesson of that meeting is that Putin's American adventure might be best understood as advance payment for a geopolitical grail closer to home: a vassal Ukrainian state.

NYT suggests that where there's smoke there's fire; that assurances about Trump's policy toward Russia, Ukraine, and NATO would be repayment for the DNC hacking and social media campaigns that followed. The Kremlin's interest in Ukraine wasn't obvious (to the causal viewer) in 2016 or even 2021. Now that Russia has mortgaged its men, economy, and military prestige on the dimming hope of taking Kyiv, cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns seem like a bargain.

It's worth noting that there was no lack of contemporary speculation about this:

Kevin McCarthy
Kevin McCarthy
There's two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump
No leaks... This is how we know we're a real family here. Paul Ryan
Paul Ryan

From WaPo.

Shadow campaign manager

Treasury Department During the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, Kilimnik provided the Russian Intelligence Services with sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy. Additionally, Kilimnik sought to promote the narrative that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Per the FBI and Treasury, Kilimnik helped close the loop on coordinating campaign strategy, polling, and disinformation campaigns.

Manafort didn't last long in his official capacity. In rooting out corruption, Ukraine found records of off-books payments to him from the Party of Regions. The Trump campaign replaced him, though he stayed on as an adviser.

The bigger picture

New York Times The examination also brings into sharper relief the tricks of Putin's trade as he pressed his revanchist mission to cement his power by restoring the Russian empire and weakening democracy globally. He pursued that goal through the cunning co-optation of oligarchs and power brokers in the countries in his sights, while applying ever-evolving disinformation techniques to play to the fears and hatreds of their people.

"Created the post-fact timeline." Kind of impressed ngl.
OSINT, Twitter, and /r/CredibleDefense

US Navy tweet we have ships

Speaking of Russia, Ukraine, and the post-fact timeline, the Naval Institute published a short writeup on open source intelligence in the context of the Ukraine war.

US Naval Institute Before the invasion of Ukraine, researchers paying attention to tweets from Russian accounts showing Russian trains loaded with tanks and armored vehicles. By geolocating these photos and following the train tracks, OSINT researchers quickly identified the size and locations of a massive buildup occurring not just on the Russia-Ukraine border, but along parts of the Belarusian and Moldovan borders as well.


Researchers started identifying individual vehicles and tracking their status. Twitter users @GirkinGirkin and @no_itsmyturn identified more than 400 vehicles in the first ten days of the invasion alone. Others began documenting the invasion as a whole.

This reminds me of the Forte11 saga, when insomniacs were watching Flight Radar for an unbiased ground truth about what was going on at the Ukraine border. USNI sees social media feeds as sensors that purposefully or unwittingly provide realtime information on military movements. Twitterers such as Oryx have similarly used this information to, for example, tabulate Russia's armor and aircraft losses.

Metal Gear Solid Otacon otaku locker

Of the mainstream social media platforms, Twitter is the best for this realtime sensor data. But it's trash for discussion and analysis, e.g. questions like "can we trust where/when this OSINT video was taken?", "is Yevgeny Prigozhin really at Bakhmut city hall?", and "is an MRAP an APC?". For that you need an enthusiast community where correct information is validated and wrong answers are brutally criticized. /r/CredibleDefense is one such place, though since it's an open (but moderated) forum there's no lack of non-credibility.

USNI continues with a disussion of the difficulties of shielding blue forces against OSINT:

US Naval Institute By average monthly users, the top four social media sites are all owned by companies in the United States. This could lead to a belief that the United States can gain control over the communication pillar at a moment's notice. However, if the United States attempted to suppress OSINT activities on these services, the community would be able to shift to others with relative ease.


Hostile activities of the OSINT community threaten two aspects of warfare: the ability to hide actual force capacity and the ability to employ surprise.
Ships, 'the community', and non-credibility

Russian MT-LB with naval turret Russian MT-LB naval cannon on train

The USNI paper describes the OSINT community as conscientious, so it should come as no surprise that /r/CredibleDefense has a crayon-eating sibling that advocates for the good guys (and also fetishizes warplanes). So when pictures of a Russian utility vehicle outfitted with a naval anti-aircraft turret popped up on the interwebs, as /r/CredibleDefense stood aghast the NCD meme army got to work:

thumbnail Russian MT-LB turret meme trebuchet thumbnail Russian MT-LB turret meme temperature sensitivity thumbnail MT-LB turret meme cannon thumbnail MT-LB naval turret meme very tall
thumbnail MT-LB turret meme siege tower thumbnail Russian MT-LB turret meme shovels

War memes? Really? Shouldn't those relegated to the dark corners of the internet?

Probably yes. That said, this conflict feels different from Iraq, Afghanistan, and the first Gulf War. In those, our heads of state gave the go order and we rode it out for a year or twenty. There was plenty of vocal dissent and calls to wind things down but nobody was going to pull the rug on a moment's notice.

Since western nations have only provided money and weapons to Ukraine, the rug could very much be pulled without the consequences we saw in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the support that has been given only came gradually. Germany caught flak in the early days of the war for initially offering a few crates of helmets. Now they're sending MBTs and risked a winter of rationed natural gas. The West is standing behind Ukraine, but perhaps only because of popular support.

Will public support outlast the hostilities? The Russian winter offensive went almost nowhere. Ukraine has been training and equipping for a spring counteroffensive, but everything I've read has been like, "maybe they'll push back the Russian lines, maybe they'll hit a wall of artillery and suicide drones".

Can Tiktokers and memers steer public sentiment toward continued support for Ukraine's existential struggle? I don't think NAFO memes are especially persuasive, but then I also didn't think circa 2016 Facebook ads and The_Donald posts were persuasive. I'll defer to the Ukrainian government:

Non-credible defense Reddit meme Fedorov repost MLRS

Futurama Zap Brannigan stop exploding you cowards

For Russia, the winter stalemate has brought a pretty significant shift in rhetoric. The war started as (paraphrasing) "a twenty-minute denazification, in and out". It was a "special military operation" to liberate ethnic Russians in Donbas. Official statements seemed to minimize the significance of the conflict, like with the peacekeeping force in Georgia and the enthusiastic tourists in Crimea.

The Guardian Speaking at length to workers at an aviation factory in the Buryatia region recently, Putin once again cast the war as an existential battle for Russia's survival.

"For us, this is not a geopolitical task, but a task of the survival of Russian statehood, creating conditions for the future development of the country and our children," the president said.

The Ukraine war is now an existential threat. Somehow Ukraine pulled a reverse uno and now Russia is fighting for its life. Or, you know, the only way to convince people to support a voluntary war is to claim existential peril. Smh Russia, that kind of rhetoric simply does not fly in a democracy.

George W. Bush If Saddam Hussein attempts to cling to power, he will remain a deadly foe until the end. In desperation, he and terrorists groups might try to conduct terrorist operations against the American people and our friends. These attacks are not inevitable. They are, however, possible. And this very fact underscores the reason we cannot live under the threat of blackmail. The terrorist threat to America and the world will be diminished the moment that Saddam Hussein is disarmed.

Oh. Awkward. Anyway, returning to Russia, Alexander Dugin seems to have likewise embraced trench warfare in lieu of lightning war:

The Guardian "Not everyone in this country yet understands what we're going to have to pay to win this war," said Alexander Dugin, a radical Russian philosopher and prominent supporter of the war. "People in our country have to pay for their love for Russia with their lives. It's serious and we weren't ready for this."

"I don't think people in this country fully understand what is happening after a year," Dugin added.

"Of course there's full support from the president but it hasn't fully come into the hearts and souls of all our people ... some people have woken up, some people have not. Despite the year of war, it is going very slowly."

Yevgeny Prigozhin Wagner spring offensive strategy video
Wagner's Yevgeny Prigozhin outlines what he expects from Ukraine's spring offensive. For some reason.

It'd be interesting to be a fly on the wall for the Yevgeny Prigozhin / Sergei Shoigu saga. The PMC boss and Russian defense minister have sparred openly about offensive failures and supply shortages. It's difficult to say what's happening behind closed doors, but the visible personnel and strategy shifts have been great fodder for speculation.
No plan survives first contact

The early days of the war was a free-for-all of information and misinformation. Social media exploded with photos and videos of the conflict, professional journalists relayed the things they could verify, and global leaders scrambled to take an official position. There were a couple of events that seemed incredibly significant and not beholden to the fog of social media and politics: that lengthy tank column from Belarus to Kyiv and the battle of Hostomel (Antonov) Airport.

A year later, intelligence services and global security think tanks have had time to process and publish reports on the events of the early war. They're interesting reads and helpful for clearing up months-old unconfirmed rumors. Here's one:

The Guardian Russia's leadership initially expected the conflict would last just a matter of weeks before they declared victory, according to plans captured by western intelligence at the beginning of the war.

3000 assets of Putin

Royal United Services Institute One of the foremost causes of inaccuracy in pre-war military assessments of the likely trajectory of the fighting - both in NATO countries and in the Ukrainian military - stems from the assumption that the Russian forces would conduct a deliberate military offensive. For example, it was assumed that rail and logistics infrastructure would be targeted. Instead, because the aim was to fix and isolate Ukrainian units, there was very little attempt to destroy them in the first three days. The whole logic of the employment of forces was premised on the success of Russia's unconventional operations and yet, as already discussed, the preconditions for that success in terms of the political destabilisation of Ukraine had not yet been achieved. There remains an unanswered question as to why the Russian leadership decided to begin the invasion without establishing the required preconditions. This may be understood as a strategic error of judgement by Putin personally.

In short, Russia thought their intelligence assets would sufficiently paralyze the Ukrainian response for the strike on Kyiv to cleanly decapitate the country's leadership. Those same assets would then welcome a power transition rather than support a decentralized resistance. Remember that Ukrainian negotiator (Denys Kireyev) who was shot by security forces during peace negotiations in Belarus?

Returning briefly to Ukraine's exiled president Viktor Yanukovych:

Wikipedia By January 2013, more than half of the ministers appointed by Yanukovych were either born in the Donbas region or made some crucial part of their careers there, and Yanukovych has been accused of "regional cronyism" for his staffing of police, judiciary, and tax services "all over Ukraine" with "Donbas people".

In light of RUSI's reporting that Russia aimed to paralyze Ukraine by sabotaging its ability to organize, the impact of Yanukovych's cronyism (be it out of self-interest or the Kremlin's behest) could have been significant had he remained in power.

Hostomel Airport

Russian paratroopers battle of Hostomel Antonov airport

I, like perhaps other casual observers, initially thought any Russian incursions outside of Donbas were merely a feint. "Surely Kyiv is heavily fortified and the Kremlin's obvious objective is the breakaway regions adjacent to their 2014 annexation."

Wikipedia In the time leading up to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) obtained detailed information about Russian attack plans. CIA director William J. Burns travelled to Ukraine in January 2022, and informed the Ukrainian leadership that Russia intended to capture Antonov Airport for an airbridge, which would allow Russian forces to quickly move into Kyiv to "decapitate the government"

The invasion plans seems to have relied heavily on the ability to fly waves of infantry into an airport near Kyiv. US intelligence took this information (and the defense of Ukraine) seriously enough to send the top dog to meet with Zelensky.

Wikipedia Some Ukrainian air defenses at [Hostomel] airport were precisely hit and destroyed during this initial attack; Ukrainian officials later concluded that an airport employee had been hired by Russian intelligence to reveal these positions.

Burns wasn't the only one hard at work.

Wikipedia Despite overcoming the initial Ukrainian resistance, the paratroops continued to be engaged by local armed civilians and the 3rd Special Purpose Regiment. The Ukrainians also began to bombard the airport with heavy artillery. Ukrainian Gen. Valery Zaluzhny recognized the danger of the Russian bridgehead at Hostomel, and ordered the 72nd Mechanized Brigade under Col. Oleksandr Vdovychenko to organize a counter-attack.

Bureaucratic state

Royal United Services Institute At a fundamental level the Russian special services lack self-awareness, or at least the honesty to report accurately about their own efforts. In the case of Ukraine, a plan was attempted that was critically dependent on unconventional methods when the preconditions for success had not yet been achieved. This reveals wider cultural problems in the Russian services. That they are directed to bring about an outcome without independently assessing the viability of the plan creates a reporting culture where officers are encouraged to have a significant optimism bias. Furthermore, there appears to be a systemic problem of overreporting one's successes and concealing weaknesses to superiors. This is evidenced by the overly optimistic assessment of the proportion of Russia's agent network that would be proactive in supporting Russia in the context of a full-scale invasion.

In RUSI's analysis, the incentive calculus for Russian assets in Ukraine flipped the moment the fighting started. On top of logistics issues and their failure to secure a Kyiv airstrip, the Kremlin's inside sources and administrative influence suddenly went dark. Even if the invaders landed a killing blow to the government in Kyiv, the rest of the country would resist.

GenevaExcuse GenevaExcuse VDV drop into Hostomel and make the Airport our forward operations base, Nato won't even know what hit them. Stupid Ukrainians don't even defend Pripyat. Europeans will freeze to death or comply. Our great leader and master strategist will show western degenerates, end the westoid hegemony and make the world multipolar. India also is going to buy so many T-90
And who has a better story than T-14 the vaportank?

Russian tank cope cage
Source. It's a Yakima, the cadillac of ski racks.

Cope cage?
We found it boys. Meme history.
Little did this user know their shitpost would make into the WaPo print
we're too credible now. Time to delete sub.

Another meme that's made the rounds is the so-called 'cope cage' - ad hoc armor modifications meant to protect against antitank weapons that impact from above (e.g. St. Javelin). Deafeningly absent from this conflict is Russia's non-Home Depot solution to modern antitank weapons: that solution is called the T-14 Armata.

The Drive The new-generation T-14 Armata tank program, which features an unmanned turret, improved passive armor, and active protection systems specifically intended to defeat ATGMs and infantry anti-tank rockets, has been delayed and planned numbers slashed.

The T-14 program started in the early 2010s (Russia designates their tanks by the year they were developed) so it leads one to wonder where they are almost a decade later. For comparison, the T-90 entered service in 1992.

Twitter Ukraine drone molotov cocktail balloon incendiary
Source. A Ukrainian drone drops an incendiary balloon on a Russian tank that had been disabled by artillery fire.

2014 was a busy year for the Ukraine-Russia storyline. As mentioned above, Ukraine booted its Moscow-aligned president after bloody protests. Russia occupied Crimea, securing a warm water port and the desire to have a landbridge thereto. MH-17 was shot down by a Russian SAM system in breakaway Ukrainian territories. The wheels were in motion for the massive conflict that we are seeing almost a decade later.

Wikipedia The T-14 first publicly appeared in March 2015, when several tanks with covered turrets were seen loaded on train carriage in Alabino. It was subsequently revealed on 9 May during the 2015 Moscow Victory Day Parade. During the 2015 rehearsals, one of the tanks suddenly stopped moving, and after attempts to tow it failed, it moved away under its own power after about 15 minutes.

At least seven T-14 Armata tanks appeared in the 2015 and 2016 Moscow Victory Day parade, five in 2017 and 2018. Four were anticipated in promotional materials in advance of the 2019 parade.

Whew, five straight years of dog and pony with no real world action. Those are Cybertruck numbers.

One of my guilty pleasures is watching the backtracking and spin that occurs when projects fall behind. Sometimes it's my own project, sometimes I'm watching a CEO explain the absence of their miraculous blood test machine or VR universe. This one was pretty lolworthy:

Wikipedia In July 2018, Deputy Prime Minister for Defence and Space Industry Yury Borisov said there is currently no need to mass-produce the Armata when its older predecessors, namely the latest variants of the T-72, remain "effective against American, German and French counterparts", saying, "Why flood our military with Armatas, the T-72s are in great demand on the market(s)."

"Did you blow our retirement on 0DTEs?"
Weasel words 101: avoid copping to a bad thing by responding with a rhetorical question. And while maybe there's something gained/lost in translation, describing the procurment of a next gen tank as 'flooding' the military with it seems... laden with connotation.

St Saint Javelin meme
St. Javelin, a meme from the internet.

Whether or not Borisov knew about Moscow's next military adventure, someone listening to him did. And so it's worth noting that effectiveness against NATO tanks is pretty far down the list of tanker concerns in the current conflict. Ukraine primarily fielded T-72s and T-80s and, well, four months before Borisov's statement, the DoD announced a delivery of Javelin systems to Ukraine.

Two erratas:
T-14 Armata World of Tanks
Source. The T-14 undergoing World of Tanks trials.

Wikipedia The state trials of the [T-14] started in early 2020. This became known in April 2020, when Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov stated the T-14 has already been tested in combat conditions on the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic. Subsequently in July 2020, testing of an unmanned version of the T-14 called "Tachanka-B" was announced.

The state trials perhaps didn't go so well since the following year we saw the first Yakimaed MBTs:

Vice The first cope cages were spotted on Russian T-80 tanks rolling into Crimea in November 2021... A month [later], Ukraine posted a training video on its Facebook page showing Javelin-wielding troops destroying stationary tanks coated in cope cages.

4chan k cope cage Russian tank
Based on post timestamps, 4chan beat /u/Firm_Challenge1143 to the punch, but that's how the internet is.

With the palapaed Soviet-era tanks roaming Crimea, the T-14's schedule kept sliding right. "Evaluation to finish next year, production to begin the following year" was the yearly announcement. The current promise is delivery "after 2023". If I learned anything from the Lordstown saga, there'll be an announcement later this year about how everything was going according to plan until they encountered supply chain issues. I guess in this case that'd actually be a pretty legitimate excuse.

I don't know enough about the subject matter to provide any credible insight, I just found it interesting to view the Ukraine-Russia saga through the lens of a DIB project. It could very well be that the Russian MoD wrote the T-14 off as a parade prop years ago. On the other hand, RUSI asserts that the Russian intelligence apparatus has a bad relationship with the truth. If the Russian DIB operates in a similar way, perhaps warplanners expected the 40-mile armor column to Kyiv to be Javelin-evading futuretanks.
Break but don't bend

I'll wind this down with a funny interview I heard on NPR the other day. Having ragequit the Trump administration because it wouldn't invade Iran, noted war hawk John Bolton wrote a book about how the Iraq war was a textbook bit of foreign policy. His book tour included a chat with NPR's Steve Inskeep that turned sour after some pretty unremarkable questions. Here's most of the aired interview (which wasn't the full conversation).

Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep
At the end of this week of remembering the war in Iraq, we hear John Bolton, who defends the decision to start it. The United States invaded 20 years ago. U.S. troops never found the weapons of mass destruction used to justify the war and instead triggered an insurgency. This week, we've heard American veterans, Iraqi civilians and a man the U.S. once imprisoned. We've also heard a former top U.S. military officer who says the war was a mistake. In 2003, John Bolton was a senior diplomat in President George W. Bush's administration. He has written in the National Review that the decision to invade was right, even if later decisions were wrong.
What's the distinction in your mind?
Well, I think it's a mistake to treat a 20-plus year period as a block of granite. You accept one piece of it, you accept all of it. I don't think that's right. So I think you have to look at a series of decisions - some of which were right in my view, some of which were wrong - and judge each of them on their own. And you have to do it on the basis of how decision makers face these questions when they're confronted with them. Hindsight, as the saying goes, is always 20/20. John Bolton
John Bolton
Wasn't it foreseeable that taking over a country of 27 million people are so probably would be very, very hard, very expensive, a very long process?
No, I don't think it was inevitable that that was going to happen in any event.

"I'm not going to answer whether it was forseeable, instead I'm going to answer a made-up question." Inskeep didn't let him move the goalpost that easily:

Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep
Maybe not inevitable, but wasn't it foreseeable that that would be a very likely outcome?
It was a potential outcome. That's right. And I think there were decisions made after the invasion that were mistaken, but some things occurred that nobody foresaw, particularly the utter collapse of the Iraqi government. John Bolton
John Bolton

90% of small businesses fail within the first five years. Governments are a safe bet though!

Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep
Bolton says it's important to recall the times after the 9/11 attacks when the United States didn't know what threats might lurk. At that time, some officials did fear the U.S. was setting unrealistic goals for reordering the world. We played one such voice for John Bolton - Republican Congressman Jim Leach, who spoke with me on NPR back in January of 2003.
(Archive clip) I've never known a time period where something called hubris is less appropriate. This is a time period to think and act with the greatest degree of caution. Jim Leach
Jim Leach
Ambassador, with the greatest respect, was there perhaps some hubris in the idea that the United States could get in quickly to that country and get out again?
Well, I don't know whether there was or not since we did get in quickly. The period of major combat operations lasted from March the 20 to May the 1. John Bolton
John Bolton
And the military's performance was superb. And I don't know...
But maybe the hubris was on the other side.
Let me - can I just finish, please?
Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep
Please. Go ahead.
I don't know anybody who criticizes that. Now, in terms of, let's say, hubris versus prudence, the United States had been attacked on 9/11 to devastating effect. Terrorist groups were still around in the Middle East and worldwide. What's the most prudent thing to do? My view is, was then and is today, the most prudent thing to do, from the point of view of innocent civilians of the United States, is remove the threat.

"WHY DON'T YOU LET ME FINISH? Okay good, now let me dodge half of the question."

Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep
You write that no one lied about WMD, weapons of mass destruction. When I read that, I immediately recalled the 16 famous words from a speech by President Bush.
(Archive clip) The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. George W Bush
George W Bush
Every part of that statement turned out to be false. And it seems the writers of that speech knew that it was doubtful at best because they didn't source it to U.S. intelligence. They sourced it from something they'd supposedly heard from the British. Wasn't that awfully close to a lie?
Well, it depends on how you define a lie, because if you believe that's a lie, then a lot of what I hear on NPR on any given day is a lie. To me, a lie is a statement that's untrue, that's uttered deliberately knowing it's false. The administration didn't lie. John Bolton
John Bolton

Yeah, John, the point is that there's far more compelling evidence that it was "uttered deliberately knowing it's false" than the contrary. But a really strong counterpoint is "no u".

John Bolton
John Bolton
To me, a lie is a statement that's untrue, that's uttered deliberately knowing it's false. The administration didn't lie.
I want to mention if you think you hear a lie on NPR, let me know - or even a false statement. We try to correct them when they come up. Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep
I don't have the time to do that.

"I know about so many lies. I'd tell you, but you wouldn't know them because they go to a different school... in Canada."

John Bolton
John Bolton
Do you believe that [Bush] did not have Security Council authorization?
You're telling me that he did. What was the legal basis... Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep
Why don't you just answer the question? I have to answer your questions. Why don't you - it's a simple question. Yes or no - do you think he had authority?

The audio is as petulant as the text indicates. NPR aired excerpts of the interview so I don't know how long the whole thing was, but Bolton seems anything but stalwart in defense of his book.
Further listening

I'm not much of a podcast guy, but since /r/CredibleDefense had a recommended listening list, I screenshotted it for future reference.
Bilge Pumps podcast

Infopost | 2023.04.01

F to pay respects meme E3 expo rip

Yesterday I got the email confirming what was reported online: E3 2023 is cancelled and its future is very much in question.

Pure speculation: covid didn't kill E3, though it forced the show to be virtual for three years. Sony pulling out of the show in 2019 killed it. You might say Blizzard started the trend years before, but E3 without Blizzard was like CES without Apple - only Blizzard and extreme fanboys cared they weren't there. Microsoft and Nintendo followed Sony's lead this year, though organizers reasonably expected to proceed on the backs of the publishers and studios.
In memoriam

No one will let a good brand go to waste so I expect E3 2026 to happen, I just don't see it being the same conference unless the major players do a 180. So let's remember E3 for what it was. Here's a recap of my intermittent twenty years of going to the show, highlighting the uniquely E3 things.

E3 2001 Sony Gran Turismo projector

The first time I attended E3 I was amazed by the scale and the spectacle. Three enormous conference floors? Endless backroom cubicles? Gran Turismo projected onto a giant globe? Whoa.

E3 2002 Fire Emblem portable gaming

E3 was all about playable demos. Lots and lots of playable demos. Sure there were marketing materials and teaser videos and conference rooms, but the core of E3 was early access to upcoming titles.

E3 2004 Half-life 2

Playing pre-release games was a big thrill. Even seeing promo videos was exciting in the dark ages before things were simultaneously livestreamed to the web.

E3 2005 Nokia N-gage

In the late 2000s mobile platforms/games came to the show with a lot of money and tried to unseat consoles. It didn't work.

E3 2010 Red Faction mech

The elaborate sets and props made E3 feel like a Hollywood sound stage. From giant mechs to Nissan Skylines to life-size character sculptures, E3 was a visual treat even if you didn't look at a single screen.

E3 2011 booth babe

For a while E3 was synonymous with booth babes. Unlike other trade shows, E3's promoters were more professional cosplayers than sexualized marketers. (The glaring exception to this was the booth babes promoting energy drinks.) However you feel about it, I enjoyed a good photo op with a character toting a 50 cal or some Dying Light zombies or a Horizon dinobot.

E3 2012 Ford Focus roulette

Some of the booths got creative. Roulette, beer pong, 3d printing. I think Fortnite had an obstacle course.

E3 2013 Gran Turismo 6 demo

Because E3 vendors were trying to sell the experience, they brought the top-tier gaming setups. This was equally great for playing the demos and collecting media room ideas.

E3 2017 Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash

I loved Persona 5 and Fire Emblem and even played a few lesser known Japanese titles like Etrian Odyssey and Riviera. Beyond that I'm not a huge jrpg guy. So E3 was a great way to see what was going on across the Pacific, even if some content raised the occasional eyebrow.

E3 2018 line

As conference attendance grew, E3 got a lot more SD Comic Con-like. Playing demos meant queueing up or booking an appointment (press badge required). Over the 2010s, the show floor changed from being walls of demos to castle walls with demos on the inside. There were occasional exceptions, such as 2K's BL3 extravaganza.

E3 2019 Wolfenstein Youngblood photobooth

Photobooths and swag were big parts of the show, especially in the later years. They were a fun alternative to demo lines but not quite as nice as walking up and trying the new flagship Mario title.