“Rational” Management Models

I’ve been reading a lot about management, supply chain, production, and other models of businesses. I’ve also read a lot of bad stories, including the infamous Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality fanfiction. One excellent mock can be found here.

Key to author Eliezer Yudkowsky’s philosophy is a belief in science as a secret mystery cult. This will (supposedly) shield the world from the dangers of science, while at the same time enhancing its appeal-it’s something secret and therefore more interesting than pedestrian publishing.

So I had “fun” applying that theory to business. To be fair, I had to tailor it to a form of organization that it is especially ill-suited for. Something either low-end (where skills aren’t needed as much) or small high-end (where a few “geniuses” can indeed do everything by themselves) doesn’t quite work.

Something massively complex.

So I thought-who would this “rationalist CEO” resemble? What’s the most historical precedent?

Roger Smith of GM. Yes, that Roger Smith.

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Smith was obsessed with technology and spent billions on robotics and computers (including Ross Perot’s Electronic Data Systems), integrating them in exactly the worst fashion possible (stuffing the plants full immediately rather than easing them in, which made the inevitable screwups and bugs damaging). This in many ways reminded me of someone with just enough knowledge to get into the field, but not enough to know its shortcomings.

There was also Saturn, which is unclear. Was it a good-natured but ultimately futile attempt to save the company from itself by setting up the only way an alternative to its overwhelming culture could exist, or was it just as big a gimmick as the robots and diversification, an attempt to find a shortcut rather than take the hard task of changing the business?

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Now, there are notable differences. Smith was a finance person, which was both bad compared to this hypothetical “rationalist” (Financial gimmicks, cost-savings that led to all the cars looking alike and boring, etc..) and good (Knowing the basics of accounting and cost control at all compared to someone who sadly would just throw money at everything to build the Perfect Widget). And, a lot of it was due to circumstance. GM could get away with this because it had the money to do that. A small startup or just smaller overall business would be limited.

Also, Smith did not seem to be an overbearing authoritarian beyond the norm for a big-business CEO. Saturn was in part designed to provide a labor model that would be more cooperative and empowering to the workers, not to crack the whip and, like foreign manufacturers, run to non-union territory. While some rationalists would not be this, the full-blown neoreactionaries seem like they would go straight back to the bad old days and beyond.

Finally, there’s one thing that Yudkowsky’s writing shows about the setting-an utter contempt for it. Applied to industry (and it’s something Smith, an organization man through and through would never have, in spite of his known weaknesses), it seems like it would lead to a wave of not-invented-here waste, amplified from its known existing issues in the motor vehicle business.

So the “rationalist” car company would make overengineered cars, have more automation purely for its own sake without a purpose, and be totally indifferent at best to its workers (what do they know? Do they have ____?) at best and hostile at worst (Those idiots-do they have ____?).

Maybe a mix of the worst of Smith, a supercar developer, and Henry Ford seems like it would be more appropriate.

 

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Attack of the Mosaics Lives-As A Campaign

So, I shelved Attack of the Mosaics in favor of a story that I also shelved. Thankfully, I can return the former to service-as a Command scenario set/campaign. Right now it’s still nothing more than basic editor strength experiments, and like many other campaigns, it could very well end up as part of the giant trash pile. But I’m oddly attached to it because the setting works well with Command.

  • The most obvious is the setting involving military equipment.
  • The “multiversal” nature of the setting means I can include anything I want.
  • The (REDACTED) “rules” mean I can go from semi-realistic surplus fleets to superpowered aircraft carriers launching A-12s, all controlled by the seemingly private army.
  • Similarly, the antagonists can be as plausible or implausible as can be.
  • Mosaic has a general “No nation-states, please”, approach to contracts, except in unusual circumstances. They don’t like the political wranglings of fighting nations, and will resort to training and support-even that is iffy if their would-be client has gotten into something it can’t handle.
  • Of course, there are exceptions…

So, I can theoretically make something only somewhat exaggerated, and I can make something as out-there as the old “Ancient Armies, Modern Weapons” I did, all in the same campaign. What’s not to like?

Who Could Be A Fitting “Sans”?

First, an obligatory spoiler warning for Undertale (even if this is like closing the barn door long after every single horse has left).

 

 

So, one of the most interesting and challenging characters in Undertale is Sans the skeleton. At first seeming to be just a silly, lazy character (in contrast to his overexcited, bumbling brother, Papyrus), he’s later revealed to know about the timeline changes caused by the main character/player saving and restarting the game, and becoming apathetic to the world because of it.

Unlike his brother, Sans never fights the player on either a “normal” route or a pacifist route. However, on the so-called “genocide route”, where the player must go out of their way to keep killing literally every single monster in every single area throughout the game, Sans finally rouses himself into action and serves as what is generally considered by far the hardest boss in the game.

The Sans battle in its entirety.
Sans is jokingly referred to in the game’s “check” screen as the “easiest enemy”, having only one HP (but dodging every attack), and only doing one damage (per frame).
Now, I goofily wondered what a rough counterpart to Sans would be in other games. Not in terms of the character (either lazy or uncaring), nor even in terms of being an incredibly hard battle (the mechanics would be different). No, what I was thinking of was the style. To be a Sans-equivalent, said character would have to:
  • Be established throughout the main storyline, regardless of what path the player takes.
  • At the same time, having a good justification not to fight the player unless they go to a terrible extreme.
  • Nonetheless, in that extreme case, going to action.

 

For the most literal example, from my favorite RPG of all time, Fallout New Vegas, the replacement for Sans would be none other than-Yes Man.

Yes Man is a robot/computer program that is programmed to enthusiastically obey any order given to it by anyone. The character is a clear plot device, intended to serve as a bailout for players who fail the other three main quest lines. Yes Man obviously can’t say no, and their inability to be permanently killed (even if contrived) is to prevent the the player from losing that way.

New Vegas’ own pseudo-genocide route requires the player to use Yes Man (after all, even the crazed Caesar’s Legion needs you to spare them). 

The psycho ending.
So, while clearly not existing in the real game, my fanon would involve the Yes Man battle. Throughout the game, not only will he not oppose you, but he can’t. (If you went down that path in the fanon, you’d see hints of indecision and warning start to pop up in his speeches).
Then, after the normal final bosses are dealt with, Yes Man comes, and instead of his congratulations and statement of “assertiveness” (misinterpreted as him going rogue, but another plot device to make him just loyal to the player), he’d (with a changed voice tone and image from the silly smile), say “Do you really want to rule?”, and have a short conversation about how the Lucky 38’s computer installed a defense protocol inside him (the same one that largely spared the area from the nuclear war).
(The player can do a speech or science check, which doesn’t do anything even if passed-the implication being “Ha, now you’re trying to bypass fighting, sorry nope”).
From there, the player has to fight through waves of upgraded Securitrons (all with the “Yes Man” angry face) until they blow up the Lucky 38’s reactor, which destroys the entire area in a giant mushroom cloud and kills them. The end.
Ok, that was still pretty dumb, and me trying to shoehorn in too exact an analogy.
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From my childhood RPG dream, there’s a lower-stakes but much easier way to include a “Sans”. That setting would be Pokemon, and the metaphorical skeleton is obvious-the professor that gives you your starter.
Give the player the option of evil shortcuts (stealing trainer Pokemon, using dubious power-ups)-and then, should they use said shortcuts, have them face the disappointed professor with a team of six level 100 fully evolved Pokemon.
The boss would say things like “Do you really care about loving your Pokemon, or just winning at all costs?”

 

(Even Rare Candies might technically qualify, given the number of people who used the item duplication glitches to munchkin their way to the top.)

There are undoubtedly more ways, both as contrived as my Fallout example and natural-seeming as my Pokemon one, to give the player a bad time throughout numerous games. This is one of those silly speculations I love thinking about way too much.

 

Saltybet

Not only is there Video Game Championship Wrestling, there is also Saltybet. Saltybet is a long-running psuedo-betting service where members watch and bet (fake) currency on AI vs. AI matches in the classic MUGEN fighting game engine.

There is no attempt at a plot, just watching as a character that has no business being in a fighting game launches projectile after projectile over their tiny opponent.

So, the clock is ticking down, only a short time to place your virtual bet. The opponents are there-one fairly conventional fighting game character (or at least looking that way), against a tiny pixelated figure.

You take your chance on the small-hitbox. After all, the AI could just punch over their head.

So, then the fight starts. The small competitor jumps right into their opponent’s attacks. Looks like it can go both ways. The winner of that round’s betting was not you.
That is a typical Saltybet experience. I’m a ridiculously cautious bettor, unlike many users. In many cases it’s fun to just watch the silliness without even the tiny stress the betting provides.

Five Minutes of Typing

This is an exercise to see how much of a story I can type in five minutes.

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The acquisitions didn’t make sense. They were just prestige ones, ones for the people at Berill to say they’d gotten a piece of their old enemy. Wilson doubted the plants would be producing for much longer-a few years, before either being sold off again or closed down.

Even if they lasted, they were still being downsized-that much was certain. Berill needed them to be profitable, or at least try to be. And it was harder than ever to manage such an unwieldy conglomerate.

So, Wilson left.

Captain N revisited

There was a show starting in 1989, at the height of the NES boom. This show was sloppy and nonsensical even by the standards of toy commercial tie-in cartoons, and featured “adaptations” of numerous NES characters alongside a wish-fulfillment protagonist.

The show was called Captain N: The Game Master.

Naturally, the question was asked on Spacebattles as to what a modern Captain N would be like. Some answered, not unjustifiably, “Wreck-it Ralph”. I disagree.

Wreck-it Ralph actually avoided the pitfalls it might have encountered. The references are used as references before going to a story taking place almost entirely in an original game, making it a fun movie rather than the mix of brainless slapstick and references it could have been.

The context has changed, thanks to Nintendo’s iron-fisted approach to adaptations following the Super Mario Bros. film debacle and an increasingly aware internet. Everything is so different that including modern gamers (who are far more diverse than the stereotypical Kevin Keene), would just be anthetical to the show’s original character.

So, my reboot idea would be an 80s NES hero-gamer-in a set of more modern games, from deep-plot ones to sports games to grey dark to quirky. The poor hero would find out just how everything has grown and changed.

I would take care to keep the references in check, and not have it be “silly for its own sake”.

 

Black Closet Completed

I finished Black Closet, the game I’ve talked about repeatedly on the blog. The game itself is very good, although it does have a few cases that A: can only be solved via a combination of item-munchkining and total luck, and B: are necessary to win.

Thankfully, a few tries later and I won.
Next I might do a Let’s Play of a custom campaign, which involves your own creations and has no real story to it. I already have a few “backstories” planned out, and I’ll assign the portraits to the stats that seem best (they’re randomly generated).

Weird Wrestling

So, I have a new bizarre diversion-that strange diversion being Video Game Championship Wrestling.

Last night, I saw a VCGW stream in its entirety for the first time. And it is hilarious. Using WWE 2K14’s “create-a-wrestler” mode to make impressions of various fictional characters, and then leaving them to the game’s questionable AI, the result is one of those goofy diversions that keeps you diverted-

-And that’s without the plot. Yes, there’s a plot, and the plot itself is a work of skill. This is because unlike in actual professional wrestling, the match outcomes are not predetermined, so the storyline has to be made up on a week-by-week basis.

So, take a look at the show archives and see everything from the names the announcer programming can’t manage to the sight of cartoon goofballs and guys in bad costumes fighting it out.

Very enjoyable.

When a scenario is too balanced

Here it goes.

I’ve been having less fun making Command scenarios than I did when I first made a few. They haven’t become unfun, just less fun. I didn’t know why, until a Tasteful Understated Nerdrage (excellent video series, btw) video described it.

The games were described as “too balanced”, and having “too much choice”, and the video explained why that was the case. To me, I emphasized with “too balanced”-and the mindset that made games shift from unbalanced to the opposite extreme.

I missed the original Infinity Engine games almost-OK, totally completely. But in other games of that era, I can see the imbalances described at work-the original Pokemon, with its overpowered Psychic type, the stuffing of “poison” to all but one grass-type, the glitches, and so forth.

So, exploring Command, exploring the editor, exploring the circumstances, and, without the clearest picture, making something, was an experience that was majestic. This was also an experience that could only happen once. Even if I made an unbalanced scenario, it would be a calculated one-one of “Ok, let me handicap the Italians with third-gen fighters”, not “Ok, what do they have, hmm, F-104s, ok, I’ll use those”. I know too much about the context and the game mechanics to repeat my initial experience-and that’s both a good and bad thing.

Time Travel

Now, I have one simple “rule” regarding time travel in fiction. It’s not really a rule, and there are exceptions (as in anything involving writing). That being said, the rule is this: With time travel, either you center the entire work around it, or you don’t include it at all.

Why? In short, because it becomes too much of a contrivance thanks to its incredible power.