Christoph Stork’s photo libraries are overflowing. He owns a MacBook Pro with a 750GB drive, but has an iPhoto library that weighs in at 190GB and a Photos library that takes up 250GB. His drive is almost full and he’s not sure how to proceed.

How can I know whether the pictures in the iPhoto library are also in the Photos library? How can I move a portion of the older images away while keeping the last few years on the laptop?

If you followed the steps to import your iPhoto library into Photos whenever you started using Photos, all of the library’s full-resolution images weren’t duplicated. Instead, Apple chose to use “hard linking,” which Jason Snell explained back in April 2015. Instead of creating a copy of the iPhoto media, hard links just allow the same file to be linked in two or more places. Unlike an alias, which has a special icon and just points to another file, the hard link reference looks and acts exactly like it is a file.

This means that, in this case, the 190GB and 250GB iPhoto and Photos library likely contain a whole lot of overlap. Thumbnails, modified images, and other internal data structures aren’t duplicated from iPhoto, and take up separate space in each library. New images imported into Photos would explain its larger size.

My suggestion for proceeding in this and similar cases is to get an external 1TB (or larger) USB 3.0 drive, which are relatively cheap. Copy the iPhoto library there before deleting it. (Deleting a file that’s hard linked in other places only deletes a reference; the original file remains in place for its other uses, so don’t worry about that.)

For as long as older versions of iPhoto continue to work, you can open any library on a mounted volume by holding down Option at launch, and then navigating to the library and selecting it. The same is true for Photos, although Photos continues to be updated, and should work across many, many future macOS releases.

If you want to archive part of your Photos library, get PowerPhotos ($30), a third-party app that has a lot of features missing in Photos. It will let you create a new library and copy images over, rather than using an awkward export method.

To find just older images, I suggest creating a Smart Album with the criteria for the date range you want, and then selecting all the images in the Smart Album and creating a regular album from it. You can then use PowerPhotos to create a new Photos library, copy that regular album and all its contents to the new library, and delete the album and associated media from your main Photos library.

PowerPhotos includes a license for iPhoto Library Manager, which has similar features. Both apps can identify duplicates within a library to reduce a library’s size if you have many images that were imported multiple times or duplicated internally.

I highly recommend making more than one backup of the photos and libraries you migrate off your main drive. It can be cheap to store data you don’t plan to modify at Amazon S3, or you can use Google Drive, iCloud Drive, or other options.

Ask Mac 911

We’ve compiled a list of the most commonly asked questions we get, and the answers to them: read our super FAQ to see if you’re covered. If not, we’re always looking for new problems to solve! Email yours to including screen captures as appropriate. Mac 911 cannot reply to email with troubleshooting advice nor can we publish answers to every question.

An interesting read via Macworld

Waiting til Monday night did nothing to damper Samantha Bee’s awesome analysis of the Trump third debate flame-out.

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Five Republican Congressional candidates — Reps. Bob Dold (R-Ill.), Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), David Jolly (R-Fla.), John Katko (R-N.Y.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) — have threatened broadcasters with libel suits over Democratic campaign ads that tie the men to their own party’s presidential candidate, millionaire Donald J Trump.


Trump wants to end criticism of Trump. But more than that, he wants to silence the women he boasted about groping.Specifically, he wants America to be more like England, where “they actually have a system where you can sue if someone says something wrong.”


I wouldn’t vote for either of these jokers.

Geek Fuel is a subscription delivery service that caters to those of us that love comics, gaming, and general geek culture. Every month, Geek Fuel will assemble a box of goodies with a value of $50 or over. The specific items are a mystery, but you’ll always get an exclusive t-shirt not found anywhere else, a full […]

If you like to DIY and you like helicopters, you’re going to really love the Flexbot Hexacopter Kit. This copter blows traditional models out of the water: it includes everything you need to actually build your own hexacopter, and then pilot it like a pro, too.The construction is complicated enough to give you a challenge, […]

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An interesting read via Boing Boing

In the 15 years I worked at Toys “R” Us, I sometimes leaked information about video game sales and posted them on message boards. I even took games home early to try them and then post impressions, which was very much against the rules. I did this because I’ve always been excited about video games and because, frankly, when your job is a grind, you will take chances if you know it’ll get your fellow gamers online to like you.

My path toward becoming a gaming rule-breaker began in 2000, when I started working for Toys “R” Us. In the early and mid-2000’s I worked exclusively in the store’s electronic department, known internally as R-Zone. I experienced the craze that is Black Friday (the first and only time I ever got knocked on my ass by customers) and the Christmas shopping season. From time to time, my job duties would expand, a sign that the company liked the work I was doing. Retail is one of the industries that has mastered the art of making added work feel like a reward. Raises are rare, just given out on the employee’s work anniversary. At one point I was given additional responsibilities that gave me access to more information at the company, including instructions for future sales advertisements—basically the ad customers would find in the Sunday paper.

Around this time, I also started to participate in online game discussions.. I had disposable income, free time, and a lack of adult expenses, which gave me the opportunity to dive head first into gaming. But I didn’t have a lot of friends around me then, especially ones who enjoyed playing games. While I was able to buy systems and games for the first time in my life, I missed the excitement that came from talking about games with other people.

So in 2003 I ended up at the message boards of IGN. At the time they were a massive collection of sub-boards that covered video gaming, movies, sports, entertainment, and screaming into the void. Popularity on the boards had its own form of currency: the Watched User List, or WULs. The list was originally a way to keep track of users you enjoyed conversing with, but it also told the user how many people followed them. The higher the WUL number, the more famous, or infamous, a user was. WULs, as well as their post count, were prominent in community-driven posts called Member Updates. In some cases, you needed to be at a certain number of posts to even be on one of these lists.

I didn’t have much luck on the IGN boards. I would take the time to type out something of substance, only to see it be ignored because one of the community celebrities posted something close to me. My posts never seemed to get the recognition or acknowledgement I thought they deserved. I started treating message board posts like school papers, constantly checking for spelling and grammatical errors in an effort to make my point stand out. None of it seemed to make a difference, and my message board participation was just a one-way conversation.

But in October of 2003, something at my job presented an opportunity to get my foot in the door.

If you were a person who was buying a decent amount of games back in the first half of the 2000s, there’s a chance you’ve heard of Toys “R” Us’ annual “Buy two, get one free” sale on video games. Before the days of online shopping and price matching, this was the sale that benefitted the gaming consumer most. The sale was strategically positioned in October as a way to get people into the store before the holiday rush began and to help clear out some older inventory.

Sales and promotions the company ran were always played close the chest and kept from as many eyes as possible until the week prior to their start. Toys “R” Us was a market leader in the toy field, though at the time they were starting to see competition from Amazon, who were allowing other retailers to use their website as a storefront. Toys “R” Us would keep their sales secret so that competitors couldn’t run similar sales to try to undercut them.

I leaked the sale for the first time on October 1, 2003 in a post that revealed the sale would begin on October 26. The content of the post was slim. All I really had was the date, which I found out off-hand from a manager’s meeting, and the systems that would be eligible for the promotion. I trusted the information, though, so I tossed up the post on the old Gamecube General Board at IGN. I thought I was doing a service.

The first few people who commented in the thread took the information at face value and started to talk about which games they would pick up, but there were also people who had questions. I had approached the leak through the eyes of a sales associate, thinking about dealing face-to-face with customers who lived in a small community rather than the range of people I encountered online. Then, I learned that the information I had posted was partially wrong. The original date, October 26, ended up being for games for two of the three consoles, the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. The Gamecube games ended up being on sale the week prior, starting October 19.

Here I was, thinking I was doing a service and looking to garner some internet fame, and I looked like I’d screwed up. I couldn’t stop thinking about it: I was going to be one of those users who simply got ignored, or, worse, got called out for being a liar. I needed to find a way to save face.

I tapped Toys “R” Us’ Master Activity Planner, or MAP, to nail down what I was missing. The MAP was part of the company’s intranet that included detailed information on sales and other company-wide initiatives. I quickly learned the ins and outs of the ad process and picked the brains of more tenured staff. I learned the dates, about online sales, how Canadian stores were a different part of the company, and the ins and outs of the verbiage of the promotion. A couple days before the Gamecube sale started, I posted the new information I had collected in the thread.

My original suspicions were right: saving people money on video games would get them to notice you! Over the course of the sale I got private messages from users about how much money they’d saved or the cool games they’d gotten because they knew the sale was coming. It was an exciting new feeling. When I helped someone save money at work, it was solely to earn their trust so they’d continue shopping at our store. When I did it for these faceless folks on the internet, I got the personal pride of assisting someone who was a part of a community that I wanted to be a part of.

After that, I un-officially became the “TRU guy” (short for Toys “R” Us). I felt more accepted. I became a more active participant, and my posts got more attention. Every year when September rolled around, I would get bombarded with questions about the dates and details of the big sale. I happily obliged, and I posted the sale dates at IGN for several years.

In 2007, several users suggested that I share my information with a larger audience. So I decided to post the sale at Cheap Ass Gamer. CAG was known as the deals site. Their staff gathered all of the video game sales and promotions, leaked or otherwise, and presented them in an easy-to-read manner. The deals were posted on their message boards, and the best deals of the week were highlighted on the front page of the website. Their message boards also noted how many people viewed each thread. IGN only had the post count of a thread visible. Posting at CAG would let me see just how big my impact was.

The biggest draw to posting to CAG was that it was the site of the most famous retail leak in video game history, the first price drop of the PlayStation 3 via a Circuit City ad. That leak, and the threat of legal action from Circuit City afterwards, was a major news story at the time. Could my leaks get that big?

I posted for the first time at CAG in late September of that year. It was the lightest post I’d made in terms of content, but it was seen by more people than all of the sale posts I’d made prior to it combined. Its view count was well north of 150,000. The response was hugely positive, and I felt damn good about taking my leaks to the next level.

The next year, I put out the definitive FAQ of the promotion. Posted a mere nine days before the sale started, it appeared on the internet continually until the sales ended in 2013. It contained a detailed explanation of how the sale worked at the register. I also shared a placeholder strategy that my coworkers and I had come up with over the years to swap out games after the sale ended. My strategy involved encouraging consumers to return products after the sale. There wasn’t a process in place at the time to stop this from happening, but it definitely violated the terms of the promotion. Toys “R” Us would definitely not look too kindly on customers doing it, much less if they knew that store employees had put the idea in their heads.

During that holiday Toys “R” Us began looking the person who had leaked the information. While I was talking to my store manager about video games, he casually asked me if I was the one leaking sale information to the internet. I was quiet for a long moment. I knew that if they had enough to figure out it was me, lying about it would do no good. I said as much to my manager.

To my surprise, my manager laughed. He said he suspected it was me from my writing style, but they didn’t have enough evidence to go forward with what would have likely have been my termination. The store was a well-oiled machine in those years, and the management staff was close with the employees who worked hard. They didn’t want proof that I was the one doing the leaks because they didn’t want to have to let me go.

I knew I’d dodged a bullet, but I didn’t stop posting leaks to the internet. The attention and sense of belonging were just too good. Throughout 2009 I extended my posts to include vendor promotions. I announced dates of Pokémon downloads days before press releases and collaborated with others in retail to teach consumers how to find a Wii when demand was at its absolute greatest. But with the amount of people jumping in and turning leaking into a competition, I started to move away from posting about sales and promotions. It started to feel more like work, and I knew I needed to find the next new thing. Advance knowledge of sales was one thing, but what about advance impressions of the games themselves?

The nice thing about Toys “R” Us’ video game department was that it was a one person show most of the year. More people worked there during the Christmas holiday season. I had privacy and an intimate knowledge of the store security cameras, so I started taking new, unreleased games home before their on-sale street date. I’d slip the discs out of their cases and—to balance the karma of my actions and because I didn’t want to be called a thief—I’d slide the price of the game into the case. When the game was available for sale, I’d officially purchase it through the register and swap the sealed copy I’d bought with the one I’d opened a week prior. My unofficial sale became an official transaction. It was something that was against all company policies, but it seemed to work. I took home a few games and posted a few thoughts online. They were offhand affairs, one part information and two parts gloating.

On the afternoon of Friday, September 14, 2007, the last shift before I took a long vacation, we received several boxes of Halo 3 for the Xbox 360. The game’s release date was September 25, and the major advertising blitz had just rolled out two days prior with the “Believe” commercial. It was unheard of to receive a game this early. With my upcoming vacation, I knew I was going to be able to play this game early, and a lot.

There was a problem, though: Xbox 360 games were sealed differently than PlayStation 2 titles. All video games have a plastic wrap that is vacuumed sealed. PS2 and Xbox 360 games also had a sticker on the case of the game to let the buyer know if the game had been opened. The sticker on a PS2 game was on the top of the case, so when I took those games I would slice open the side of the plastic wrap where the case opened, pop open the case enough to get my fingers inside, and pull the disc out. The top seal was kept intact, and the damage to the plastic wrap was barely visible. The Xbox 360 seal, though, was on the side of the case. That made it difficult to pop the disc out without doing considerable damage to the seal and plastic wrap.

I didn’t care. I had to play this game. I sliced into the case, pulled the Halo 3 disc out, and popped it into my pocket. I couldn’t get cash inside without damaging the plastic wrap more, but my excitement quickly overcame my trepidation. This time, I wasn’t entirely motivated by stepping up my presence in the online gaming community. There was also the edge of playing something that only a privileged few had access to and that so many people were looking forward to. If I was caught, I knew there was no way I could talk my way out of being terminated, but I couldn’t resist. The risk was worth it.

As I headed home with my prize, I realized another problem. This would be the first time that I played a game on an online service. No one at the store knew my Xbox Live Gamertag, but it could easily be traced back to me. I talked a lot of ill about my job, but in the end, I still loved it. I didn’t want to lose it, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

I took my 360 offline and started playing the campaign. Eight hours later, I beat the game on normal difficulty. And then I did something I’d never done before. The next evening, I typed up something more substantial than my usual hints about pre-release games. I even took some pictures. I ended up posting the thread (the original thread is lost to the internet) on one of the smaller off-topic boards where I was a regular. The initial reaction from the community was the usual. A couple of the users posted how jealous they were, and the rest asked some questions.

Image of Halo title screen from original IGN thread.

But this time, word of me having the game leaked out to other boards at IGN. Soon names that I didn’t recognize were popping in with questions. My private message inbox filled up with demands. When I couldn’t answer everyone’s questions fast enough, some users started insulting me. I got so overwhelmed that I had to step away from the message boards and let things cool down.

I couldn’t stay away for long, though. I fleshed out my initial thoughts on the game some more, and a few days later I posted a more in-depth dive into the game. I also posted a review of the game using IGN’s now defunct Reader Review system, confusing some people into thinking it was IGN’s actual review. I spent the weekend before the game’s official release playing online with a small handful of others from England who had the game before people in the US.

Despite the stress and questions, it had been amazing to be maybe the first person to post Halo 3 impressions online. But once the game came out, traffic on my thread slowed to a halt. I wasn’t special now that everyone had the game. Attention turned to other commenters, and my high started to fade.

I found myself a strange mixed of sad and relieved, and I knew, especially given the risks I’d taken, that it might be time to hang up my hat. I no longer wanted to pursue internet fame. I would still take games home during the years that followed. The high of getting a copy of a game before everyone else was still there, but I never chased internet fame again.

The things I did were small in the grand scheme of things. I still take part in gaming discussions online, but its mostly at a private message board full of people who drifted away from IGN. The race to be the first with information has made its way to Twitter, and that is a competition I want no part of. The motivations of leakers today, though, are most likely just the same as they were then. I spent 15 years doing a job that the public boils down to stocking shelves and ringing a register. Even today, where there is a feeling of inadequate compensation and secret knowledge is placed in front of you, the leaks are not far behind.

Steven Ulakovich is Yinzer from Pittsburgh giving writing about what he loves a shot. He can be found on Twitter @GamingPessimist where he talks about Pittsburgh sports, video games, and professional wrestling.

An interesting read via Gizmodo

The emotions!

Last week, Fox released the first trailer for Logan, the third installment in the Wolverine franchise.

In it, we got our first look at Old Man Logan and his cross country trip in a world where mutants have diminished in numbers. There are shots of a weakened Logan, now suffering from chronic back pain and an inability to use his mutant abilities, as well as an aged Professor Charles Xavier and Laura Kinney. Kinney, better known as X-23, is a mutant clone of Weapon X, otherwise known as Wolverine.

The original trailer is pretty emotionally-driven, thanks to beautiful shots and Johnny Cash’s cover of "Hurt" playing in the background, but a new trailer cut by YouTube user "afauclair" brought in the entire X-Men cinematic saga to make it that much more impactful. There are scenes focusing on Weapon X’s birth, his relationship with other X-Men like Jean Grey and Scott, as well as his relationship with Rogue.

As far as fan edits go, the recut trailer manages to do a pretty good job of keeping the focus on Logan while also providing enough backstory to make each scene seem bigger and reflective.

Logan, directed by James Mangold, hits theaters March 3, 2017.

An interesting read via Polygon – Full


Duet Display is one of the most useful apps to come along in a while, letting users turn their iPad into a second screen for their Mac with virtually no latency via wired Lightning cable connection. Now, the app is getting an update and a Pro mode that lets it act as a fully pressure sensitive display-integrated drawing tablet with iPad Pro and Apple Pencil.

The update works sort of like Astropad for iOS, letting you use the Pencil as a pressure sensitive stylus for directly working in painting, drawing and other graphic apps including Photoshop and Illustrator. But Duet Display is actually more powerful, in that it acts very similar to what you’d expect from a Wacom tablet, giving you full use of an extended display as well as pressure sensitivity, palm rejection and both Mac and Windows support.

Alongside the new features, there’s a new business model: Duet Display is going subscription-based, at least for those who want access to the professional features including pressure sensitivity. Unlocking those will cost $20 per year, and Duet founder Rahul Dewan tells me he believes that will be a much more sustainable business model, both for his app and for other developers working on iOS software.


Sample doodle created with Duet Display, iPad Pro, Apple Pencil and Photoshop CC.

I used the beta version of Duet Display’s update, and found it had more latency than the Wacom 13HD that I typically use for working with graphic applications, but it was still very usable and much better than working with a tablet that doesn’t have a built-in display. It’s definitely a feature I could see myself using consistently when I’m on the road, and the pressure features do indeed work well for doing things like shading or digital painting.

Duet’s update is available now via the App Store, and as mentioned, the pressure sensitive features are part of the $20 per year subscription package, with a money-back guarantee if you don’t love the added features. The price of the app itself, which still has all the same features it offered before this update for a one-time purchase, is temporarily reduced to $10.

An interesting read via TechCrunch

European cities like Paris are much, much older than American cities like New York, and that age difference has led to many interesting differences in the layout of each city. For example, the wealthy population of America often live in suburbs away from the city while in Europe, the rich live inside the city. Why is that?

It’s because hundreds of years ago, there were no cars or trains to take people to the city. So people basically had to walk from where they lived to get to where they worked. Since the wealthy weren’t about to walk far, they settled as close to the city center as possible. Basically, if you look at an income map of Paris in the 1500’s, you’ll basically see different rings around the city center with the closest rings being the wealthiest areas and the areas farther away being the poorest.

But still, everyone wanted to be close to the city. That’s why the population density of European cities is so much denser than American cities. New York’s population density compares more to Lyon, France than it does to Paris. That’s because in America, cities were being built around the time when trains and cars could transport people around. Initially, those trains and cars were reserved for the very wealthy because they were expensive to use and buy. If you look at an income map of America around that time, you’ll see the rich living near the railway stations of the past. So the rich could settle in suburbs because they could afford the means to get to the city.

It’s a really interesting look at urban geography and how cities were built. Wendover Productions goes deeper into it by looking at how crime in the inner city is much more rampant than it is in European cities and how that helped drive the wealthy away too.

An interesting read via Gizmodo

The hot new amenity that NYC developers are building into their plans for luxury apartment buildings is a


, aka a fancy driveway. In fact, in Manhattan an opulent private drive may actually add more valuable to a new property than using that same real estate for additional living space. From Bloomberg:

The trend towards motor courts has accelerated notably in the last two years, according to Kent Security’s Alon Alexander, who has seen a major uptick in inquiries from luxury developers on how best to incorporate the feature in an architectural brief. They’re driven, of course, by twin concerns: privacy and security.

There’s also a less concrete allure to motor courts: in a city where developers want to wring maximum value from every square foot, there’s an extravagance in leaving such a large space empty. It tacitly telegraphs a developer’s largesse and indulgence, at least according to Alon Alexander’s twin brother, Oren. He is a sales executive for 565 Broome. “A regular developer might squeeze a retail site, or extra amenities like a larger lobby, from that space but a driveway is the definition of luxury,” Oren says by cellphone, “It’s space where you don’t typically get it.” Jasmine Mir, CMO of Corcoran Sunshine, puts its more simply. “Buying a penthouse at the top of a building is one thing, but the sense of extravagance and luxury associated with having space at street level in a congested place like New York? It gives an amazing sense of wow! to any arrival, a real grandeur,” she says by phone from her office.

"New York’s Latest Must-Have Luxury Apartment Craze Is Driveways"


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HOME: Stories From L.A., a member of the Boing Boing Podcast Network, is back for its fourth season. This week:What happens to a utopia that never got off the ground? Bits and pieces of one, an experiment in postwar living for the masses, are hiding in plain sight in the hills above Sunset Boulevard. Architect and […]


Maria Yablonina developed a system for wall-climbing robots to weave fibers into useful structures on vertical surfaces, like this hammock-like web that can support a human. The bots can even trade the threaded bobbin between units.

Courtesty of the Lowline, photo: Liz Ligon

Do you like the Highline park in Manhattan? There’s a subterranean version coming soon. The Lowline looks like it’s going to be amazing.

Geek Fuel is a subscription delivery service that caters to those of us that love comics, gaming, and general geek culture. Every month, Geek Fuel will assemble a box of goodies with a value of $50 or over. The specific items are a mystery, but you’ll always get an exclusive t-shirt not found anywhere else, a full […]

If you like to DIY and you like helicopters, you’re going to really love the Flexbot Hexacopter Kit. This copter blows traditional models out of the water: it includes everything you need to actually build your own hexacopter, and then pilot it like a pro, too.The construction is complicated enough to give you a challenge, […]

people-summer-garden-sitting (2)

This week’s top deals from the Boing Boing Store range from lobster to wine to desk organization. 1. Get Maine Lobster (50% Off)With these discounted packages from Get Maine Lobster, you can experience the sweet, fresh flavor of world-renowned Maine lobster right at your own dinner table. There are four options to choose from, each at […]

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An interesting read via Boing Boing

Soggy bottom crusts are the enemy of perfect apple pies, but just a bit of almond paste can prevent juicy filling from wreaking havoc on your precious pastry.

Simply make a double crust as usual (the link below has an excellent recipe) and, after you’ve rolled out the bottom crust, roll out some almond paste into a thin disk and press it onto the top of the dough. Fill the pie as usual, top with the other crust, and bake as usual. Not only will the bottom of your pie stay crisp, but the sweet, nutty taste of the almond paste will add depth and dimension to an already delicious fall treat.

Add This One Ingredient to Apple Pie, Say Goodbye to Soggy Pie Crust | Food52

Photo by David Legget.

An interesting read via Lifehacker

Few of the friendships in my life have been as enduring as the one I maintain with Civilization games. It began 20 years ago, with the release of Sid Meier’s Civilization 2 and has continued though each and every game since, right up to Civilization 6.

Like all good friends, Civilization is nice to me, it’s good fun, and it never really changes.

Each game offers the tantalizing prospect of deciding the fate of nations, cities, armies and individuals. It remakes us into kings.

I sit in my underpants eating Kit-Kats while presiding magisterially over my rolling domains and martial hordes. I may be 20 pounds overweight. I may not be able to pay my bills. But at least I can grind France into oblivion.

Power is comforting, especially when it comes with zero consequences. This is why Civ and I have been inseparable for so long.

Civilization 6 maintains and enhances the series’ traditions of making me feel like the boss of everything. I indulge the fantasy that I’m setting long-term ambitions and attaining those ambitions through a thousand decisions. I expand, accrue, dominate. When all’s said and done, veni, vidi, vici.

This new game takes the interlocking systems of previous games — most of which have been evolved over many years  — and rejigs them sufficiently to make a decent claim that this is a more advanced proposition than the one that came before, 2010’s Civilization 5.

But while Civ 6‘s engines sing at a slightly different pitch than its predecessor, it’s still steaming on an identical course to previous games, untroubled by any apparent desire for deep innovation. At its core, Civ 6 offers much the same experience Civilization games have for a quarter of a century.

civ 6 review screen 5

civ 6 review screen 5

In 1991’s original Civilization, Meier’s aim was nothing less than to simulate human history through the prism of great civilizations. Many of the depicted civilizations’ achievements were rooted in the acquisition of land, usually taken from someone else. Meier focused on colonization and conquest as the game’s central activities.

In all Civ games — including Civilization 6 — I am the leader of a weak village, isolated in a bubble of wild nature. I strike out into wildernesses populated only by pesky natives. I prosper through military might, scientific progress and a belief in my own manifest destiny.

I rake over the land, plundering riches through farms, mines and plantations. Ruthlessly, I press on, desperate to grab the best resources and keep them out of the hands of my rivals. I advance until I can advance no farther, until all the land is taken. My rivals are crushed, accommodated or pushed back. Hunter-gatherer barbarians are expunged from their good lands, left to rot on the margins.

My nation is gradually transformed into a hyper-modern lattice of cities that generate unspeakable wealth, beautiful buildings, scientific wonders, works of culture and arms. My country is safe from the malice of my enemies and from their alien ideas. I reach for the moon.

This tale of a virgin world conquered for the greater good of me and my kind is a particular view of what makes a civilization. Arguably, it’s a uniquely New World view. Few of history’s Old World empires grew in this way. The empires of Britain, Arabia, the Vikings, Japan et al. are incomprehensible in these terms.

You could make the case that only the American empire was begat in quite the manner envisioned by Civ. This is a game that celebrates American Western expansion, projecting Plymouth Rock back through time, from 1620 AD to 4000 BC.

A post-Columbian view permeates Meier’s Civ games, which are always about the exploitation and conquest of lush meadows, deflowered by my unique imprint, my cultural preferences, my religious beliefs, my swords and cannons.

In Civ, culture and ideas are bolted on as accessories and diversions from aggression. Without arms, there is no Michelangelo, Monet or Munch. It is not possible to win in Civilization 6 without killing people, usually in large numbers.

Right from the start of any game above the easiest levels, Civilization 6‘s primary concern is military. Playing at the reasonably advanced Emperor level almost always means intense early-game barbarian wars with a likely attack from a powerful neighboring civilization within the first 100 turns. It is very difficult to play this game against AIs as the peace-loving, minding-my-own-business-here type. This speaks not only to Meier’s design preferences but also to the lessons of history that he has imbued.

All the civilizations depicted in Civilization 6 expanded through intense military activity at some point in their history, usually accelerated by scientific, tactical and ideological advances. A by-product of military success was cultural expansion, which created legacy artifacts ranging from the Pyramids to Elvis Presley LPs. This is Meier’s core takeaway from aligning history with video games. Video games rely on peril in order to capture our attention. The threat of extinction prompts attention and action. The promise of victory encourages aggression, which is measured by a matrix of stats, conspiring to convince me of my worth as a leader.

civ 6 review screen 2

civ 6 review screen 2

Meier’s team understands all this, and so demand that I pay attention to exploration, expansion, exploitation and extermination, with experimentation as a bonus that encourages diversity of play through non-military means. But despite Civilization 6‘s best efforts, there are limits to this diversity.

I’m the sort of player who likes to build small, efficient civilizations that create lots of everything, but not too much of anything. I avoid constantly dealing with the chores of military engagement and mundane small city management. Once I’ve constructed enough cities to sustain self defense and I’ve achieved a certain level of military comfort over my neighbors — usually by the mid-game Renaissance period — I like to turn my attention more fully to alternative activities. Civilization 6 works hard to accommodate this focus on non-military activities which, judging from Civ chat rooms and forums, are just as popular as all-out conquest. But all these peaceable victory conditions are underpinned by martial success.

Victory conditions include the religious kind, which means building quasi-military missionary units who go out into the world and spread the word, conquering the hearts and minds of foreign cities, if not their actual territory. This is not unlike a military campaign, with Apostle units throwing bolts of lightning at one another in order to win theological arguments.

Another victory condition is scientific, in which I plough all my spare resources into research in order to build a technological lead over my rivals, so that I can eventually launch an advanced space program. Strategically, this always requires military survival, secure borders and a good number of advanced cities. None of these things are achieved without significant attention to military matters. The same can be said for cultural victory. Civilization 6 layers in complex, non-military routes to victory by expanding entertaining systems like Great People, Wonders, Religion and culture. But it is still a game that’s all about building military units and deploying them correctly.

Even so, great efforts have been made to elevate the individual elements of this complicated simulation. Everything works better and is more transparent, from city state management to diplomacy, from the tech tree to workers.

The biggest change from previous games is the transformation of city hexes into potential zones for city buildings, which provide huge boosts to fiscal income, research, military efficiency and more. Where barracks, markets, universities and temples were once all plopped into the city itself, now I must place them in specially constructed zones, on geographical hexes outside the city. This demands a more thoughtful approach to city development. Districts offer bonuses based on geography. A university next to a rain forest will generate more science, for example.

The number of districts a city can host is limited by its size. This mitigates a significant problem in previous games, in which players tended to always build their cities up according to the same pattern. With some cities unable to host, say, a military district and a commercial district, I have to make a choice. That choice will depend on my long-term strategic goals which are dictated by wider geo-political realities, like the kind of landscape where I’ve settled.

It’s a clever solution to a problem that Firaxis encountered when analyzing the data of Civilization 5 players, who rarely strayed from their preferred path. I found Civ 6 to be a refreshing update, one that rivals the last game’s seismic shift to one-unit-per-hex military update. This too has been tweaked, with some military units able to unite with others on a single hex. Powerful multi-unit armies have a big effect on late-game strategies, when giant civilizations use muscle to grind down rivals.

civ 6 review screen 1

civ 6 review screen 1

My favorite change is the elimination of the happy meter. This previous mechanism suppressed rapid population growth, forcing the player to build entertainment-based buildings or to secure luxury goods in order to maintain a happy populace, willing to produce goods. The desire to avoid production-limiting unhappy citizens often forced me into a zero sum game of luxury acquisition, generating needless and annoying conflict situations.

Happiness is now measured on an individual city level. If I fail to build the right buildings or secure the right goods, my city loses its power. But my entire civilization is no longer distracted by the need to secure wine, to build theaters or to make unequal trade deals with AI leaders.

This brings us to the matter of enemy AIs, the bugbear of all Civ players. The good news is that they have been improved over the previous game.

The bad news is that they are still barking mad.

Firaxis has opened up the enemy information screens, so I can see precisely what they want and what they don’t want. My Chinese neighbor likes it when I allow him to build all the nice wonders. My Viking friend is all chummy as long as I maintain a strong navy, which he admires. Unfortunately, I may not wish to build a strong navy, for the very good reason that I live on a large continent. Likewise, it is smart for me to build the odd wonder, when I have the opportunity. And so, I fall out of favor with these somewhat stringent adversaries, for no good reason other than that I exist.

This has always been the case with Civ’s AI’s. Now I am more aware of why they are declaring war on me, or generally behaving like spoiled children.

In Firaxis’ defense, the real great leaders of civilizations past were not exactly known for faultless reasoning or a liberal toleration of foreigners. The game’s frustrating inability to nail what we expect to see in human behavior kinda nails what we abhor in history’s conquerors. Still, these simulated humans have a tendency to contradict themselves — build ships but don’t use them too much, says the Viking – and to repeat themselves.

Those leaders have been rendered in a new art style along with Civilization 6’s landscape. It has a cartoonish aura that recalls Civilization Revolutions, the series’ console and mobile version. It works well with the wittily drawn individuals. Catherine de Medici of France may be my favorite. She scorns beautifully. But I think the lack of reality in the maps and units is a step backward. This game is supposed to simulate the world of real things. I don’t often say this about video games, but it ought to take itself more seriously.

An interesting read via Polygon – Full


It’s really hard to argue against policies that promote renewable energy. But people like Donald Trump will bend over backward to do it—like he did today on (failed presidential hopeful) Herman Cain’s radio show. Trump claims that wind turbines are a major threat to bird populations. But he’s just talking shit without any context.

From Herman Cain’s talk show today, quoted in the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

Trump: Our energy companies are a disaster right now. Coal. The coal business is – you know, there is such a thing as clean coal. Our miners are out of work–now they’re just attacking energy companies like I’ve never seen them attack anything before.

They want everything to be wind and solar. Unfortunately, it’s not working on large-scale. It’s just not working. Solar is very, very expensive. Wind is very, very expensive, and it only works when it’s windy.

Cain: Right.

Trump: Someone might need a little electricity–a lot of times, it’s the opposite season, actually. When they have it, that’s when you don’t need it. So wind is very problematic and–I’m not saying I’m against those things. I’m for everything. I’m for everything.

Cain: Right.

Trump: But they are destroying our energy companies with regulation. They’re absolutely destroying them.

Cain: But their viability has to be demonstrated before you shove it down the throats of the American people. That’s what you’re saying.

Trump: In all fairness, wind is fine. Sometimes you go–I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Palm Springs, California—it looks like a junkyard. They have all these different…

Cain: I have.

Trump: They have all these different companies and each one is made by a different group from, all from China and from Germany, by the way, not from here. And you look at all these windmills. Half of them are broken. They’re rusting and rotting. You know, you’re driving into Palm Springs, California, and it looks like a poor man’s version of Disneyland. It’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen.

And it kills all the birds. I don’t know if you know that… Thousands of birds are lying on the ground. And the eagle. You know, certain parts of California – they’ve killed so many eagles. You know, they put you in jail if you kill an eagle. And yet these windmills [kill] them by the hundreds.

If you hadn’t guessed already, Trump’s claims are misleading. Half of our wind turbines are not rusting and rotting. They’re built to withstand about 20 years and the vast majority are doing just fine, thank you very much.

So what about the birds? A study from 2014 found that between 214,000 and 368,000 birds per year are killed by wind turbines. How does that stack up against other threats? The same study found that 6.8 million birds die every year colliding with cellphone and radio towers.

Should we not invest in our communications infrastructure because millions of birds are dying every year smashing into it? Perhaps. Your smartphone is certainly a larger threat to the eagle population than a wind turbine, to say nothing of climate change—a legitimate threat to bald eagle populations around the country, and something that Trump has called a hoax invented by China.

So if you’re a Trump supporter, don’t be afraid to chuck your smartphone in the trash. It might save an eagle’s life.

[Atlanta Journal Constitution via Sopan Deb]

An interesting read via Gizmodo