New Monkey Island game coming soon!

The original Monkey Island, a classic point-and-click adventure game, was released in 1990, but I didn’t play it myself until 1997 when I was 11 or 12 years old. It was part of the LucasArts Archive Volume III, a box set of classic LucasArts games rereleased on CD-ROM. Ah, the good old days when computer games came in oversized boxes and included instruction manuals and registration postcards. Downloading games is surely convenient, but there was some magic to browsing a store shelf full of games, gazing at the latest greatest computer graphics in the screenshots on the back, and being able to carry home something tangible. Our family had just bought our first Windows computer a year or so before (Windows 95), and I can still remember the excitement of that box of adventure games:1

That box included both the original game, The Secret of Monkey Island, and the sequel released a year later, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge.

I loved those games. Ridiculous cartoony humor, fun little adventure story, and a bunch of engaging story puzzles.

But the second game ended on a really weird note, teasing yet another game in the series. But before that game was created, the game’s creator, Ron Gilbert, left LucasArts to co-found Humongous Entertainment, which also made point-and-click adventure games for younger children, such as Putt-Putt Saves the Zoo (which my younger sister used to play constantly).

With Gilbert gone, LucasArts went ahead and made another Monkey Island game anyway, The Curse of Monkey Island, released in 1997. I probably bought it in 98 or 99, after I beat the first two games.

This installment introduced a more cartoony look (the first two games featured pixel art) and full-cast voice acting. It was fun, but didn’t really answer the questions left by the previous game or continue its story, instead telling its own story.

This happened again when LucasArts put out a fourth installment, Esape from Monkey Island in 2000, around the time I was heading off to high school. This installment introduced 3D graphics with 2D backgrounds, which look rather primitive by today standards, but at the time it was quite a fancy updgrade.

I remember being so excited for the game that I would dream about it. Unfortunately, I was not so impressed with it. The story was just weird, the puzzles were awful, the interface and controls felt clunky, and the whole thing just didn’t feel very polished. In fact, I never even finished the game. I grew bored and didn’t even bother to look up puzzle solutions.

Nine years later, in 2009, a year after I had graduated from college with a scarred mind and broken dreams, Telltale Games licensed the Monkey Island IP from LucasArts and released Tales of Monkey Island. It was 3D again, with some better graphics but still a very simple and cartoony design, and was released in monthly installments (a model Telltale Games tried to make work, and it seemed to for a while, but they ultimately went out of business2).

While this new installment was definitely more polished than the last, I still thought it grew a bit boring. I confess, I never finished this one either.

Around this time, the original two games were “remastered” and rereleased with better graphics and voice acting.

So, three Monkey Island games released after Monkey Island 2. But without the original creator at the helm, none of them felt quite “official”, and the strange end of that second game remains an unanswered enigma.

Disney bought LucasArts when they bought their parent company, Lucasfilms (primarily so they could ruin Star Wars by making sequels that made no sense), and LucasArts turned into Lucasfilm Games. As far as I can tell, they now mostly just handle licensing IP to other developers.

One of those developers is none other than Ron Gilbert, who is now finally able to finish the Monkey Island story as he intended all those years ago. Return to Monkey Island was just recently announced:

I’m definitely looking forward to it and crossing my fingers that the questions left by the second game might finally be answered. (Though I’ll probably need to replay those first two games to refresh my memory.)

Random thoughts on Gödel

Last year I blogged about fiction books I wanted to read that year. I only ended up reading three of them. I finished reading War and Peace, which was very long but very good, Stands a Shadow by Col Buchanan, and The Vindication of Man by John C. Wright. Point is, I ultimately didn’t read that much fiction, but read more non-fiction instead.

I’ll probably continue reading more non-fiction than fiction this year as well; there just seem to be more non-fiction books capturing my interest.

I recently finished reading Journey to the Edge of Reason : The Life of Kurt Gödel by Stephen Budiansky. It’s short, less than 300 pages, but provides a very good overview of his life and important mathematical contributions. I wouldn’t have minded if it went deeper into the math, but that’s something I can keep exploring on my own.

A good explanation of Gödel’s most famous contribution, his Incompleteness Theorem, can be found at the 15:16 mark of this YouTube video, though while the video makes the main idea understandable, it still glosses over the finer details of the proof that make it definitive.

To quote page 241 of the book:

Both of Incompleteness Theorems proved that no finite process of inference from axioms within a well-defined system can capture of all mathematics. But that, Gödel pointed out, leads to an interesting either-or choice: either the human mind can perceive evident axioms of mathematics that can never be reduced to a finite rule — which means the human mind “infinitely surpasses the powers of any finite machine” — or there exist problems that are not merely undecidable within a specific formal system, but that are “absolutely” undecidable.

Both choices point to a conclusion “decidedly opposed to materialistic philosophy,” Gödel observed. If the mind is not a machine, then the human spirit cannot be reduced to the mechanistic operation of the brain, with its finite collection of working parts consisting of neurons and their interconnections. If, however, the mind is nothing but a calculating machine, then it is subject to the limitations of the Incompleteness Theorem, which leads to the thorny fact that numbers possess at least some properties that are beyond the power of the human mind to establish: “So this alternative seems to imply that mathematical objects and facts (or at least something in them) exist objectively and independently of our mental acts and decisions, that is to say some form or other of Platonism or ‘realism’ as to the mathematical objects.”

Of course, none of this should be mind-blowing to anyone who already believes in God and has already rejected the notion of materialism, but I still find it thought-provoking. As to whether or not the human brain is nothing but a calculating machine, I don’t know. But even if it were, it would not be inconsistent with religious belief, as it would still point to metaphysical truths beyond itself. (This also states nothing about consciousness or the nature of Free Will. Is Free Will born from a necessary limitation of the Incompleteness Theorem?)

While Gödel was not open about whatever he believed regarding God (especially in the more atheistic-leaning circles in which he worked), he did write a letter revealing he certainly believed in an afterlife (from page 267-268):

You pose in your last letter the momentous question, whether I believe we shall meet in the hereafter. About that I can only say the following: If the world is constructed rationally and has a meaning, then that must be so. For what kind of a sense would there be in bringing forth a creature (man), who has such a broad field of possibilities of his own development and of relationships, and then not allow him to achieve 1/1000 of it. That would be approximately as if someone laid the foundations for a house with much effort and expenditure of money, then let everything go to ruin again. Does one have a reason to assume that the world is set up rationally? I believe so. For it is certainly not chaotic and arbitrary, but rather, as science shows, the greatest regularity and order reign in everything. . . . So, it follows directly that our earthly existence, since it in and of itself has at most a very dubious meaning, can only be a means to an end for another existence.

This of course to me echoes C.S. Lewis’s famous quote: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

That said, Gödel seems to not have been fond of organized religion. He also says, “… according to Catholic dogma omnibenevolent God created most human beings exclusively for the purpose of sending them to Hell for all eternity.” This is, of course, completely wrong; he obviously spent no time looking for an honest understanding of Catholic dogma.

Gödel was also plagued with mental disorders. He suffered from hypochondria, obsessive-compulsiveness, and harsh periods of maniacal fear and paranoia. While it may be tempting to regard these mental instabilities as an unfortunately side effect of his brilliant mathetical logician’s mind, as the contrast seems starkly ironic, I believe they are more likely unrelated. It would seem more likely to me that his mental disorders arose from emotional overreactions in his assessment of various perceptions. That is, assessing the meaning of a troubled stomach, for instance, has nothing to do with logic, so being a genius logician is perfectly compatible with overreacting to such a thing. He probably would have been able to received better psychological treatment had he been born decades later. Also, if he had been more open to the implications of the teachings of religion, he may have been less inclined to obsess over his social status and whether or not he “achieved” anything, another source of excessive worry and doubt for him.

Overall, it was a very interesting biography, and I would definitely like to explore more of his work and better understand his theorems, especially in how they apply to computer science and AI. Recommended to anyone with similar interests!

Trailer for Jurassic World: Dominion released!

The trailer for the final installment of the Jurassic World trilogy was recently released!

The film at long last reunites the characters Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler, and Ian Malcolm for the first time since the original Jurassic Park film as they join Owen Grady, Claire Dearing, and Maisie Lockwood in a game of seeing how close they can get to dinosaurs without being eaten. (The trick is to always have children by your side, because dinosaurs never eat children.)

Hopefully evil mad scientist Dr. Henry Wu will get his comeuppance and suffer a grisly dino death.

The film is set to be released on June 10, 2022; audiences are advised to watch it in 3D for the best experience. I hope they will also release it on Blu-ray 3D as well, as I already have Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom on Blu-ray 3D, and I would like my collection to be complete. (Studios are sadly reluctant to release films on Blu-ray 3D in the USA anymore, it’s really awful. Woe, is me!)