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Friday, December 30, 2005

Happy Apokalyptica

We're contemplating doing some festivities on the 1st, a holiday I'm christening Apokalyptica ... because "The World Still Exists Day" is plain too long.

Apokalyptica is a joyous event wherein one takes the time to remind their friends and loved ones about the fragile nature of our existence. It is best celebrated early in the new year with many events designed to illustrate this fact. Godzilla movies, zombie flicks, Resident Evil games ... heck in some ways even Katamari would pass as at least an appetizer.

We watched the director's cut of Donnie Darko last night as a kind of Apokalyptica moment. If you haven't seen it, I'd also recommend the recent War of the Worlds remake for your Apokalyptica party. Tom Cruise kinda sucks in it, but Spielberg still did a tremendous job. Also potentially on the docket is breaking out DOOM: The Board Game on Sunday and see who can survive Mars.

At any rate, this weekend looks busy, so this is probably my last pre-Apokalyptica post. I may get up early and sign into Guild Wars tomorrow morning if anyone wants to try and catch me there. I'll also be trying catch up to my brother on Mario Kart.

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Sony Settles BMG Suit

Sony is getting off with "a combination of cash, replacement music and free downloads" according to USA Today. Seems pretty cheap for someone who just hacked your computer. I bet my fine would be higher.

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Debunking Software Patents has an editorial which rips it's way through myths about software, and video game in particular, patents:

Myth #1. Video games are just computer programs, and you can’t patent those, right?

Many in the industry feel that games are simply software, and that they cannot be patented. This is untrue. To the contrary, patents may be obtained on “anything under the sun that is made by man,” and computer programs are no exception.

Indeed, the Patent and Trademark Office has expressly stated that “computer programs embodied in a tangible medium, such as floppy diskettes, are patentable subject matter.” This means that you can patent that game disc, or the computer system’s memory that has the game software loaded. You can also patent a method or process performed by a game, as instructed by the object code executing on a computer or game console.
-- Patent Myths Revealed

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He Watches The Bad Television that you don't have to...

I'm taking a moment to pimp The Futon Critic, one of the web's best television guides. It's like a Variety smoothee. I used to work with the guy who runs it back in the day. Whenever I find myself wondering things like, "When is Scrubs returning?" or "When is the Battlestar premiere?" or even "When the hell will they cancel War At Home and replace it with something watchable?", I turn to The Futon.

For instance, two out of three of those questions can be found on the january highlights calendar.

Nobody knows why Fox continues to air War At Home in between Simpsons and Family Guy. Not even Satan himself.


Thursday, December 29, 2005

Buddy Code

Added to the sidebar. Bring it.

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360 actually costs $715 to make?

The rumortree is branching out over at GamersHell, where they report that the Xbox 360 might cost a good bit more than some have previously guessed:

A high ranking friend at IBM, one that worked on the Xbox 360 chip design, tipped us regarding the real expenses involved in manufacturing the Xbox 360, and when we mentioned the $126 Microsoft loss, he said:

“$126? It costs Microsoft approximately $715 to make, the manufacturing costs are still too high, another reason why they’re producing relatively small quantities, Microsoft can take it though”
-- Xbox 360 Costs $715 to Make!

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BatJack Thompson Gets Investigated

GamePolitics is reporting that the Florida Bar Association has begun an investigation in Jack Thompson. Well, about friggin' time. Jack isn't so much of a lawyer is he is a mouthpiece for his own lunatic crusade. Lawyers have a bad enough rap without having licenses allowed to raving madmen who generally just get cases thrown out of court (or sometimes themselves).

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Nintendo DS Gage

So apparently my only problem with getting a Mario Kart DS NiWiFi game going was timing and patience. I got into several matches yesterday and it's really a complete blast. Mario Kart has always been such fun multiplayer title and the ability to simply turn something on and have human players at your fingertips is quite something.

This is where Nintendo is going to be cleaning up over the next year. This is precisely why all the people who are carving their tombstones should put down their knives. Or hammers. Or chisel. Whatever they're making the tombstone out of ... they should stop. Casual games that people can quickly connect with and play uncomplicated games that don't require hours and hours of practice to have fun with.

It's also where the N-Gage had it's most promise. Simple, multiplayer games that you could bounce into from anywhere. It's a shame that the first model took many design cues from a taco.

I think I ran into most of the problems others have had with NiWiFi. Slow lobby time to get into a game. People dropping out of races. No simple method to remember players. They're all real issues with the service, but none of it is too catastrophic. None of it gives me much worry. Since future games can have their own NiWiFi implementation, it could be easily remedied.

My worry is that there will be only a slow trickle of games to take serious advantage of it. The DS needs Metroid. It could really use a Phantasy Star Online or Diablo style game. A DS NiWiFi Mario Party or Smash Brothers could be spot on.

Mario Kart is great ... but it's real achievement will be showing other developers what can be done with the DS.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005


While being unable to follow some cafeteria dialogue about fantasy baseball this afternoon, my inner monologue came to the almost definate conclusion to start from scratch with the Cathan, the text adventure I've been writing. I'm constantly doing this to myself and I kinda hate it. I get so far into a project, but then I see how it's turning out and it I'm almos prematurely disappointed with the results. Frequently the urge to simply rewrite overwhelms the urge to hammer it out.

This is getting to be one of those times. I can definately salvage, and probably clean up, most of the AJAX engine that made it work. That was getting fairly workable, really. It's the actual story that annoys me. There's a distinct conflict between trying to create a narrative and trying to enable user choice. While the extent of this truth has been debated here and far, it's still true. Worse is when the usability starts to beat down on the actual voice you are trying to enforce on the story.

So I'm altering the setup a bit and modelling less on Zork and more on HitchHiker's. Zork is very free form, allowing to wander aimlessly for as long as you like. HitchHiker's will kill you for such meandering. I want somewhere in between, to be honest ... but I was starting out way too "classic" for my own tastes.

Hopefully this won't just amount to continued meandering and procrastination on my own part though.

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Bounty Writer Winners

The Game Chair decided upon the winners of the Bounty Writer contest recently. Entrants had to write the backstory explaining how one Samus Aran ended up in a pinball machine. Sadly I never got my own draft involving a backward talking midget, Deadpool and a penquin never got finished. A great idea for a contest though and made for some fun reading.

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Funny How That Goes

My mom and I had a conversation about how my dad kept reacting to the possibility of getting me and my brother Nintendo DS's for Xmas. Apparently he habitually mispronounced Nintendo in exceedingly strange ways.

Which is odd, I said, since he owns a GameCube. And it's not like he isn't familiar with GameBoys since the resident grand-daughter often has one in her hands. And it's not like he hasn't spent hours at a time trying to finish a GoldenEye level.

Besides, I got him a GameCube game. So I was hoping he still remembers that he plays these things.

Then, when he opened it ... he said, "Hey, it's the latest Need For Speed."

To which I thought, how did he know it was the latest?

Guess he pays attention to that Ninetendah stuff pretty well after all.

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GamerDad On

I interviewed Andrew Bub AKA GamerDad a little while back and had simply a jolly old time. The BBC just put him in their crosshairs for the holiday season and come up with some new cheer:

Mr Bub is sure that when his children do play games that the experience does them good.

For a start the mouse and keyboard skills it teaches will undoubtedly be useful in later life but, more importantly, because they encourage children to plan, think and co-ordinate.

"You cannot play a computer game without thinking," he said.

When parents see children playing computer games, he said, they criticise because they think they are being taught "Kill! Kill! Kill!".

"But," he said, "what any kid is doing is thinking 'Survive! Survive! Survive! You are not going to bring me down.'"

But, said Mr Bub, the hard decision to reach is not if or when to buy a game console for your children but to have the courage to let them play by themselves and with their friends.
-- Parents face video games dilemma

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Saga of KoolAidGuy has gotten more and more attention lately, and ZDNet has a rundown of just some of the insanity that the slashdotabee has run into:

But don't bother clicking on that link, because koolaidguy's blog has since been removed (it has a 404 error currently) and the only way I could view the post above was looking at Google's cache. What surprised me wasn't so much this person's post, but the intense reaction of the users to koolaidguy's exploits.
-- Gaming Digg: the KoolAidGuy saga

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Outsourcing Kali

BusinessWeek has an article about India's burgeoning video game market. The story sounds pretty familiar:

According to India's National Association of Software & Service Companies (NASSCOM), a PC game that would cost $6 million and $7 million to develop in the U.S. could be produced for only $500,000 to $3 million in India, thanks to lower salaries.
-- India's new export: video games

Funny. Most people are talking about the Hollywoodization of video games, but now we've got the Bollywoodization as well.

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And Another One's Over

Back in Chicago now after five days of holiday. No real property damage this time. Mother got engaged. The Girl lost another good soldier to a combination of cancer and old age. So needless to say ... it was eventful.

I'm a bit sorry I missed out on the Guild Wars Wintersday events, but thankfully Brinstar has the coverage. I can finally play We Love Katamari now and rejoin the rest of the modern gaming world. Along with that the Nintendo DS was added to the family, along with the everyone-says-its-time-to-get-a-DS-and-play-it Mario Kart. Which I have to say, after giving it a few test drives yesterday ... really reminds me just how much I enjoyed the original. Just honestly good gameplay.

For the longest time I would have thought I'd be a PSP owner before a DS. I'm really hoping Nintendo cashes in on the the WiFi angle and makes really compelling online play ... and I see that as more a possibility on the DS than the PSP. I couldn't seem to get an online game started last night for the life of me. I'm not sure if you have to unlock tracks in Mario Kart before you can play them online or what. I think my brother ended up with Animal Crossing, making it a true shame that these games can't figure out how to mashup one another. Driving Browser across a remote village sure seems like fun.

The Girl also hooked me up with Shadow of the Colossus, probably the only title other than Katamari that I've been chomping at the bit to get a chance to try. There's still more than a few I want to get in the relatively near future ... like Civ 4 and SWAT 4, but I've got plenty to hold me over for now.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005


I'm sneaking in because this is just too cool.

Ambrosia is coming out with a new 2D top down shooter called SketchFighter. The artistic style is literally ripped from someone's notebook. Check out the screenshots for yourself.

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Monday, December 19, 2005

Enjoy Your Pagan Tree

I'm going to be officially signing off here until possibly around the New Year. A few things to ponder while the War on Christmas goes on:

  • "Christmas" trees were actually considered pagan by most Americans as recently as the 1840's.

  • The term "yule" refers to large logs that the Nords would burn in celebration for surviving the winter season. Each spark of a yule log was meant to represent a better harvest.

  • The name "Santa Claus" is a wild Americanization of Dutch (Sint Nikolaas -> Sant Klaus -> Santa Claus) for Saint Nicholas, patron saint of children and sailors. One of Nick's miracles was to restore life to three children who had been quite literally butchered.

  • Jesus was almost certainly not born in the winter months.

  • The first person to know who was naughty or nice wasn't Santa ... but Odin. During the Yule it was widely believed by the Nordic folk that Odin would fly around at night and decide who would prosper and who would perish. Rather than risk being judged, most people simply stayed indoors.

  • Rudolph the Reindeer isn't just a recent American addition to Santa's posse, but was actually a mascot for Montgomery Ward department stores.

  • Recently, Christmas trees hung upside down have become more and more fasionable, almost certainly indicating that the holiday has somehow apexed.

    So, in the true spirit of the day when Christ wasn't born: I suggest burning a large log under your upside down tree ... keep your kids out of the meat market, buy a drink for your local sailor, sing a couple songs in honor of your local department store and try to avoid being seen by Odin if you dare go outside.

    Happy Holidays to you and yours, peeps. See you next year.

  • Friday, December 16, 2005

    Minions of Mirth Beta Released

    I've only got time for one post today, so this will be it.

    Being something of a lurker on the GarageGames forums, I know that the Prairie Games team have been working hard on their Torque powered MMO for some time. An MMO is always a pretty ballsy move for a small independant team, so it's great to see that they are releasing a demo.

    This press release has the overview.

    Features of Minions of Mirth include:

    -Auto-patcher that delivers immediate content and feature upgrades
    -Full single player support
    -Player vs Environment and Player vs Player multiplayer
    -No monthly service fees for multiplayer
    -Form your own party of up to 6 characters. Join other players in online alliances with up to 36 characters
    -16 playable classes, 12 playable races, Multiclass characters in three careers up to level 100
    -3 playable realms: Fellowship of Light, Minions of Darkness, and the Monster Realm
    -14 huge and diverse zones to explore
    -Unlock monster templates to create your own stable of monsters
    -Epic Battle System
    -A tremendous amount of unique NPC, creatures, items, and quests
    -2 hours of original music
    -Free dedicated world server with source code is available. Host your own persistent world with your own original content

    Right now, if you head over to the Prairie Games site, you can't go anywhere without stumbling on their download links. So stumble on down there and try it out. There are demo flavors for Windows and OS X, so very few of y'all have an excuse not to try it out.

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    Thursday, December 15, 2005

    LucasArts Publisher on Games Industry

    BusinessWeek has a column from a LucasArts exec on the current state of the industry with all this flux between consoles and whatnot:

    But even the well financed giants offer no guarantee of success in a hit driven business with minimal back end revenue streams and no assurance that your next "big" game will be the breakout hit necessary to please Wall Street.

    Of course the ugly secret in the industry is that there are always a few video game companies that take it in the neck during a platform transition, and the coming cycle will be no exception.

    The recent purchase of Pandemic and Bioware by Elevation Partners, two developers who have been both fiercely and vocally independent, are only the latest signs that industry consolidation is happening.

    As a result, the middle and bottom tier of publishers and developers are likely to shrink even further through acquisition, roll up, or even bankruptcy, as we've already begun to see.
    -- The Console Transition: A Publisher's Perspective

    Not much new or earth-shattering, but a fairly somber account of what a lot of industry watchers have been saying. He's not completely bullish on indie developers, saying that PC and handheld markets are still key. In fact, he interestingly seems to put his money on a stronger indie scene for handhelds in the future, which is something I've been hoping to find in my stocking for some time now.

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    Grinch Stolen, Irony Ensues

    Ihli said stealing the Grinch, worth $60, would not have been easy. It was staked down with cords and attached to a fan to keep it inflated, she said.
    Moszer also said it has a zipper on the side, not easy to see, to increase deflation time.
    "Even if you use the zipper, it still takes a good three or four minutes to deflate," he said.
    Ihli and Moszer said other decorations in their yard were left, including a large blow-up bear and the Grinch's dog.
    "I'm not going to take the other decorations down," Moszer said. "I'm not going to let something like this ruin Christmas."
    -- N.D. Police Seek Stolen 8-Foot Grinch

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    PC 360 Controller Review

    One thing that everyone seems to agree on with the 360 is that the new controller is a great design. Thankfully for PC owners, there is a USB version compatible with Windows (and also works peachy on the 360). Gamezone gives a full review.

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    Just to expand all those acronyms, the International Game Developers Association is adding an Alternate Reality Gaming Special Interest Group to their roster. They just kicked it off, so there isn't too much to see there just yet, but it's good to see IGDA add some interest to the genre.

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    DVD Watch: Fantastic Four

    The Girl and I had a superpowered night yesterday, which was fitting since I had gotten stuck in a Wikipedia induced comic book research frenzy yesterday. It's interesting to go from reading about The Darkness video game to reading an entire synopsis of the Crisis of Infinite Earths by continuity king Alan Kistler.

    So we ended up watching Fantastic Four. Talk about your mixed bag. The characters were handled fairly well. The special effects weren't too gratiutous. There was an actual attempt to bring some realism into the concept, with the world reacting to the mutations and Ben Grimm's handling of his somewhat horrific fate. Doom's makeover wasn't as bad as I dreaded, although it was fairly close.

    There were, however, plot points which completely made no sense. It was either poorly written or poorly edited at points. Some minor spoilers follow. Like how Doom's IPO goes south because of the accident on the space station. That accident where everyone comes back unharmed? Doom's financial officers must have been ex-Enron material, because that's one fast multi-billion dollar collapse.

    Or how about getting Sue Storm to strip in order to sneak her way into the crowd and then teleport everyone to the other side. Wait, Sue can't teleport people? Who cares! She took her shirt off!

    My favorite though is Reed's magic apartment. First, we know that Reed is completely broke ... and yet he can build and power toys unlike man has ever seen. Then he builds a magnificent device which can apparently give, remove, enhance, or simply dilate someone's powers no matter how technically inept or randomly they use it. Get into the container or just break it open ... Reed's made this one foolproof.

    I will say that despite some of the blatant silliness ... even the lower echelons of comic movies these days aren't so bad. I mean, yeah, some of the movie was groan-worthy ... but it was a decent popcorn film. It's a shame not every rendition can be Batman Begins ... but it could be worse. Heck, I'd watch this twice over compared to any of the Star Wars prequels.

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    Like complicated number puzzles that result in pictures? I have no idea if I do, but if that's your kind of cake ... is your place to be. I could try explain the concept, but to be honest it's easier if you just go to the site.

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    Ultima V: Lazarus

    For fans of the old-school RPG variety, there is a Dungeon Siege project to bring back Ultima V:

    Ultima V: Lazarus is an exceedingly ambitious project that will greatly improve the graphics and sound in the PC version of Ultima V. However, that's not all. Rather than releasing an "upgrade patch" as happened with U4, what we're doing is a true from-the-ground-up remake of the gaming classic, Ultima V.
    -- Ultima V: Lazarus site

    Insert normal comment about legality and whatnot here.

    Still, looks like another reason to pick up Dungeon Siege some day. I think the older Ultima games had a roaming quality to their gameplay which we didn't really see re-vitalized in games until Zelda or perhaps GTA. Morrowind was the one to really hold the candle on "world based" CRPGs and thank golly they've stuck to their guns. It would be interesting to see those concepts brought to other games, though. Elite, for instance, was a massively large game ... and yet somewhat limited in scenery.

    Ultima V: Lazarus is apparently going to launch in a few weeks, so one will have to wait to see how well the project captured the original game.

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    Thoughtcrime could be double plus good

    Thoughtcrime is a student project which aims to bring Orwell's 1984 into a literary virtual world:

    Thoughtcrime is a literary game designed for use in secondary literature classes reading the novel 1984. Played in a virtual world that brings the totalitarian regime of Big Brother to life, Thoughtcrime pits players against each other in a subtle struggle for survival.

    Thoughtcrime may be played with small or large classes, from school or home computers with Internet connections. Played over the Web in real time, a game of Thoughtcrime may begin at school but extend well beyond school hours. The game is currently being played in the Secondary Worlds MOO.
    -- Thoughtcrime website

    Pretty neat idea. Again, it's a reminder that as graphics have become more powerful game have become more cinematic ... and yet less literary in nature. Not everything that is possible with text is possible with a renderer. I'm not sure what kind of compelling gameplay would be needed to bring players into a textual world, but it would be interesting to see.

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    No HD-DVD for 360

    Despite earlier rumors, Microsoft has "no plans" to make an HD-DVD equipped Xbox 360 in the future, according to (quoting a Microsoft rep to IGN). Considering that rumor was started by a remark by Gates himself, one shouldn't feel bad about making the mistake.

    This is an interesting limitation for the 360, which hinges largely on those with HiDef televisions to get the full experience. It also doesn't bode well for the HD-DVD format since any player that supports it will have to go up against the PlayStation 3 and Sony's Blu-Ray format. The PS3 will insure that a large base will be capable of playing Blu-Ray movies, but no such unifying gadget looks like it's going to appear on the horizon for HD-DVD.

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    Wednesday, December 14, 2005

    Fake Or Foto Quiz

    Dreamy Gamer found this quiz which tests your ability to guage Computer Graphics against Real Life. Pretty neat.

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    I've Never Liked Ebert

    It's true, I'm a Chicagoan who has always found that one of it's stars is more bluster than luster. I've read too many Ebert reviews that I thought was off-base and heard too many accounts of the guy being something of a jerk in public. Not to recently, Ebert said that games were an inferior form of art due to their fundamentally complicated and interactive nature.

    Much bruhaha was made out of this.

    Ebert has since responded to comments about his comments more times than I imagine he desires, but the tone that sticks in my head is this response:

    I believe books and films are better mediums, and better uses of my time. But how can I say that when I admit I am unfamiliar with video games? Because I have recently seen classic films by Fassbinder, Ozu, Herzog, Scorsese and Kurosawa, and have recently read novels by Dickens, Cormac McCarthy, Bellow, Nabokov and Hugo, and if there were video games in the same league, someone somewhere who was familiar with the best work in all three mediums would have made a convincing argument in their defense.
    -- Roger Ebert's Answer Man

    Which, I think if we look in our heart of hearts we know is partially true. Ebert has said repeatedly that he's not a gamer and hence may not be the best equipped to judge. In other words, I doubt he spent a lot of time playing Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time or ever even tried to hack his way through the Infocom rendition of Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy, both games made clearly not just by technicians ... but artists. Also, it's easy to point out that he's completely ignoring every non-narrative aspect of games. I mean, Ico might not have been Citizen Kane, but it sure was pretty and emotive.

    Still, I'm not sure games have gotten their Citizen Kane. However, I think Ebert's mistake is assuming this makes the medium simply inferior. Just because a medium is technically complicated doesn't mean it lacks potential. At one point, making movies was terribly diffcult and it took revolutionary people to figure out how to make it work. Not even artists per se, just visionaries who could see how two cogs might fit together.

    Look at all the time we spend debating the Hollywoodization of games or ludology or the narrative capabilities of ingame avatars. If not art, games are clearly a medium with the potential for art that is trying desperately to find it's footing to become artistic.

    I don't think Ebert was wildy offbase on this one, just a bit of old timer. I'm guessing years down the way, we'll look back at his statements in way similar to how Bill Gates announced nobody needed more than 640k of RAM.

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    Journalistic Whoring

    Idle Thumbs has a great thread about the standards for game journalism going on. While I won't name any names, rubbing various gaming hardware against various body parts is a common theme.

    Ah whatsit, I will name names. Chobot has turned into a pinup hack and I've always thought Game Girl Advance was way overrated after the whole Rez incident. There. I said it.

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    UT2004 Mega Pack

    Gotta shout out to the old stomping grounds. A Mega Pack for Unreal Tournament 2004 has been released on the world with a ton of new maps. I was, however, kinda saddened to see no new mutators or mods in the pack. In fact, I haven't heard much about any realy neat new mods or mutes since the Make Something Unreal contest ended. Which was also about what I expected.

    Still, UT r0xx0rs your boXX0rs. So give these maps a try.

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    Star Wars Fans Fleeing The Galaxy?

    Wired has a feature about the apparent swarms of fans not terribly pleased with SOE's gameplay makeover:

    Players of the massively multiplayer online game Star Wars Galaxies are feeling a bit like the films' besieged rebel army these days. To them, LucasArts is the evil Empire, raining down terror in their alternate universe.

    Over the past month, countless longtime Galaxies players have quit playing the popular online take on the ubiquitous film franchise. Their grievance: a controversial, sweeping redesign of the structure of the game that they say has ruined the fun -- and made irrelevant the years of work they have invested into their in-game personas.
    -- Star Wars Fans Flee Net Galaxy

    Our man in Havana, Finster, has a more personal account of the sweeping changes over at Top Of Cool, highlighting the same article but with his added experience from the SWG beta.

    I had blogged earlier that the 10 day trial wore me out in just a couple of hours. Since the original never interested me in slightest, I can't say I'm not against the overhaul ... but I think they need to keep on hauling. With Guild Wars looking twice as good and playing better without a monthly fee ... SOE's got their work cut out for them.

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    Tuesday, December 13, 2005

    BatJack Finally Wins Something

    Having failed to press his case in courts numerous times, jail the Penny Arcade crowd and writing satire ... BatJack Thompson has finally found a task worthy of a man of his stature and cunning. A foe for which BatJack is equipped to properly handle.

    He got a sixteen year old arrested on charges of harassment. Well, at least now we know his boxing weight. Jack doesn't do so well in a courtroom against industry figures or, you know, facts ... but when a high school kid threatens him ... his handy tape recorder sure does come in handy.

    Course, it will be interesting if the lawyer for the boy brings up all the nasty things Jack has called gamers in the past. I mean, I certainly don't condone calling people up and threatening bodily harm ... but when you berate a whole group of people in rabidly insulting ways .... well, sometimes people get upset.

    Hey wait, can't this kid just blame Grand Theft Auto and wouldn't Jack be obligated to drop the charges? I mean, it's not his fault Take Two is allowed to publish a murder simulator on Sony's brainwashing box, is it?

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    Christmas Giving: South Asian Earthquake

    Following a massive earthquake, about 2.5 million homeless people in South Asia face a brutal winter. While gamers got plenty of donating possibilities with Katrina, victims of the Pakistan earthquakes haven't been so lucky. This is a tragedy of colossal scale wherein at one point there weren't enough tents manufactured in the world to keep up with the needs of the survivors. lists several donation possibilities for Americans, including the International Red Cross and Islamic Relief. I personally donated to WorldVision, rated four stars by Charity Navigator, for the cause.

    So while you have talking heads complaining that Christmas isn't being advertised enough and advertisements complaining that you aren't spending enough - remember that this season isn't about claim to a religion or waiting in line for the next game console. The west lives with a lot of luxuries ... and compassion should be a natural result of our well-being.

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    Classic Doom on Doom 3

    Flaming Sheep Software recently released a mod that puts classic Doom into the Doom 3 engine. Not sure of the legality here, but from some of the forum comments it looks like they built stuff from scratch, so it should be kosher. Haven't seen any screens either, so I'll have to wait to get home and see how it turned out.

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    Very Real CGI

    Fraggerock has a simply must see image which at first glance looks like a real person or at the very least a convincing model as opposed to a CGI render.

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    I Saw A Haggis

    The Scotsman is running their annual Haggis Hunt to try and spot the wiley animal, often mistaken for a sausage, in the wild. The wild haggis is somewhat related to the snark or sidehill gouger and can be quite elusive. Hunting one requires a grounded knowledge in haggis related zoology, like the fact that males only run clockwise and females counter-clockwise. A normal person can't catch up to one, but is best advised to run to the other side of the hill and wait.

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    Monday, December 12, 2005

    Happy Holidays

    As the Christmas season gets into full swing, I'll probably not be around much. Shopping, parties, hangovers, etc. Apparently I've missed the window to get things safely shipped from online for some things ... like the things I really need to get. Which kinda sucks, but living in Chicago I'm provided with a large number of alternate means of commerce.

    Speaking of, the web site which pays my bills has gotten an inordinate number of thank you notes about the fact that we actually mention "Christmas". Apparently there is a War On Christmas going on, and I wasn't even invited. I guess this War is going on despite the fact that I know nobody who is actually fighting it. I've never met a single person in all my years who actually hated Christmas enough to declare hostile actions, but according to Bill O'Rielly ... there's enough people to constitute warfare.

    I don't think it takes a college degree to see this for the cultural McCarthyism that it truly is. If you don't have a "Christmas" sign in neon light that clearly means you hate Christmas and are probably some commie pinko hippie who, by de facto rules, hates America. Happy Holidays might as well be Mein Fuhrer. The fact that one is simply trying to be all-inclusive in terms of a) there are people in this world that don't celebrate Christmas, and one still wishes them well and b) the holidays have been extended from Thanksgiving and last until Valentine's Day and therefore encompass far more than a single day is beyond these pinheads.

    So to them ... I have a simple solution. The conversation goes something like this.

    Me: Happy Holidays.
    Pinhead: Happy What? Why do you hate Christmas?
    Me: I never said I did.
    Pinhead: But you're afraid to say Christmas. That means you hate it.
    Me: You didn't say you loved Christ.
    Pinhead: What?
    Me: That's right, I heard it. You hate Christ.
    Pinhead: But...
    Me (pointing and screaming frantically): CHRIST HATER!

    And so on. See if they'll try that in public again.

    Later, just to show what an evil Scrooge McDuck who kicks kids I am ... I'll hunt down some links to help people donate to Pakistanis. Take that, Fox News.

    Till then, Merry Christmas to you and yours.


    Games Train For Disaster

    "These games let people train on their own schedules," said Eric Holdeman, an expert in disaster relief and director of Washington state's King County Office of Emergency Management. "And it gets us away from death by PowerPoint in the typical classroom environment. It's also cost-effective."

    The first game, which took three months to develop, trains health workers to respond to an anthrax outbreak. A massive flu pandemic simulation is in the works.

    Players learn how to set up MASH sites, evaluate patients and dispense drugs. They also are trained to distribute medications to health-care sites and notify the public, instructing people on what to do -- without instilling panic.
    -- Games Tackle Disaster Training

    Again, it's always good to see games doing some good. Course the antigame nuts also point to these examples and swear it's proof that it can train people to be a sniper.

    To which I would respond, "Your appendix has to come out. Your doctor was trained on a PlayStation 2. Any questions?"

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    Sunday, December 11, 2005

    Thompson Attacks Hilary

    The anti-game group is starting to look like a daytime soap opera. First everyone on that side of the fences loves BatJack. Then NIMF tell BatJack to take a hike. BatJack tells NIMF he didn't love them anyway. Now, in a column for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, BatJack is sticking it to his ex-bedmate Hilary Clinton.

    What did Clinton do then? Within days, she accepted the offer of the Entertainment Software Association to throw her a $1,000-a-plate campaign fund-raising breakfast attended by video game industry moguls! ESA President Doug Lowenstein, who organized the fund-raiser, is the lobbyist leading the charge against Clinton's video game bill. What goes on here?

    It's what former Clinton adviser Dick Morris calls "triangulation." Hillary is positioning herself "to the right" of the Republicans on this hot-button "culture war" issue while winking at the video game industry by proposing a bill that she and they know is unconstitutional and poses no threat. She wants to have her electoral cake and eat the industry's campaign contributions, too.

    "Too clever by half," as the Brits say, because some of us out here are not as dumb as she thinks.
    -- What kind of game is Hillary Clinton playing?

    News to Jack. You're aren't really a threat either, considering your nack for getting thrown off cases. So maybe you should take your own advice and let the adults work this out.

    And the email address to remind the Star-Telegram that Thompson is a mildy insane lawyer with his license recently removed in Alabama and only really good at arguing cases to a news camera would be

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    Friday, December 09, 2005

    360 Doesn't Like Your Ripped Music

    According to techbully ragblog Boing Boing, the 360 will only play audio from CDs it rips itself. Is this true? I could have sworn I've read hands on reports of people streaming MP3's big daddy style from their home computer network, but I could be insane.

    If true, that's a completely inane move on Microsoft's part. iTunes and iPods prove that people are moving to a digitally centric method of playing their music. Limiting the 360 to being a fancy jukebox rather than being able to communicate freely with the users' existing hardware just doesn't sound like much of a feature.

    For the record, I use an Airport Express to stream music from iTunes to the living room. Installed in a snap, works like a dream and has the handy feature of not requiring bludgeoning through customer lines to get one.

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    King's Quest IX Saved

    According to an email from the Phoenix Online Sutdion, Vivendi has agreed to grant a "fan license" to allow the continued development and release of "The Silver Lining" and usage of the King's Quest characters. It sounds like Vivendi doesn't necessarily want the King's Quest title to be used, which is actually fairly reasonable since it might cause confusion as to their relationship with the project.

    I like to think that my emotionally charged letter tipped the scales. Vivendi probably didn't even read it, but I still like to think that way.

    So head on over to the project's site and check out the work.

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    Thursday, December 08, 2005

    Luxinia - 3D Lua based engine

    The title mostly says it all, Luxinia is a 3D engine based on the Lua scripting language. It's got a sliding scale license from free to not-so-free depending on what your needs in terms of branding and source release might require. The screenshots look pretty good, although they won't be giving the high end engines any run for their money. Still, there are plenty of Lua fanatics out there that are probably glad to get their hands on it. (thanks

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    Over The Cubicle Wall

    I'm currently involuntarily listening in on some co-workers talk about various gaming issues. Hot topics like whether the PSP plays PS2 games, what that two screened thing is called and when Microsoft is releasing a new console.

    But what's cool is that it's spontaneously gone from just a couple of people to like five. Remember, these are your average white collar corporate professional types. It's really hard to buy into the "video-heads grow into social retards hellbent on destruction" prudish monotone crap when you hear an AS/400 programmer ask if anyone has played Super Monkey Ball.

    To all you ubermoralistic pansy whiners who honestly think games are the signs of decay in society. You're too late. Games are here. Games are culture. Games are society. Right now, you almost certainly have a friend who plays video games on at least a semi-regular basis.

    And nothing horrible has happened. So just deal with it.

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    Wednesday, December 07, 2005

    Video Games Can't Save The World

    I know, it's shocking.

    But it occurs to me after reading this drek (via Wonderland via apophenia) that those who are out of touch with gaming make this insane leaps of logic.

    Then proceed to bash gaming based on these leaps. It would fun to watch if it wasn't so inane. And annoying that these people actually expect to be taken seriously.

    Let's begin.

    Nourishing such behaviors are different genres of video games. One of the most common is the role-playing game in which the sole player is on a quest to save the world. Many of these games are medieval-themed because in these Dark Age games, it is easy to introduce every kind of fantastic magical element and demonic creatures as obstacles to a quest. What kid can refuse a quest?

    Unfortunately, these quests usually pass through ultraviolent challenges like tar pits, death holes, ax and sword combat, and catapulted stones, with enough blood and gore to spare. To paraphrase Little Alex, the protagonist of "A Clockwork Orange," why is it that blood and guts seem most colorful and real on the TV screen?

    Wow. How about that for a broad generalization? And what the hell is a death hole? Let's completely ignore the fact that most RPGs are fairly void of blood and many aren't much more violent than your average disney flick. This kind of gross condemnation is a clear indication of punditry who has never bothered with the subject material itself.

    If we're going to simply outright bash anything with a violent strain in it's blood - let's start the list. Football. Shakespeare. Cop Dramas. Plenty of operas. Clue (the board game). Hangman.

    You get the point.

    Players are deliberately placed in situations where only fighting can solve the problems. What does this teach the player? The answer to all problems is violence.

    See above. This is hardly unique in culture, sports and media. And yet all of us get through the day without punching anybody.

    In this connection, we recall the horror of Columbine High School in Colorado. Both Columbine shooters were drenched in the play of ultraviolent video games. At the time, the murders caused a backlash against violent video games, but nowadays, the old ultraviolence has returned like an old friend.

    Oh right, let's bring Columbine back into the fold. Let's forget the fact that no law enforcement agency ever believed such a connection nor did any judicial body. You can recall the horror all you like, but making an erroneous link between a tragic event and your pet peeve is irresponsible and dishonest.

    Graphic violence is not the only reason video games are a social problem. They are an obsession with many people. It's OK to play a game once in a while, but when the play is for hours on end, that is not healthy. Players become addicted, living to beat the game. Recently, there have been a number of deaths in Asia from playing video games for days at a time.

    Yes, it's true ... some players in Asia have died from what can only be considered overplaying.

    It's also the largest and most fervent, by several paradigm shifts, online gaming culture on the planet. Comparing your average gamer to someone who spends most of his time and money in Internet cafes playing Counter-Strike or StarCraft is bit like comparing someone who bought a dirty magazine with spending a full on week in a Bangkok whorehouse.

    Once you compare video games to actual addictive problems like gambling and alcoholism ... the cases and the rates of those cases clearly show that assuming games are a potential risk factor is complete and utter hyperbole.

    Some kids even dress up as characters for Halloween, but often players do it just to look like or be the character. Is this healthy?

    Just as healthy as American pie and baseball, broheim.

    How many of our youth have become emotionally stunted from years of seclusion, unable to relate in normal fashion to the demands of ordinary social relationships? Psychologists will be doing a brisk business.

    Eventually, the reclusive video-head must go to college, join the Army or get a job. But the only skill he or she possesses is the ability to rule a world littered with death and destruction — and perhaps a warped appreciation of classical music.

    This really grinds my gears, to quote Peter Griffin. This assumption that anyone into gaming is inherently an introverted, psychologically unstable, inept malcontent is insulting. Not only does it ignore all the social aspects involved in gaming, all of the games orientated towards these social aspects, but it also assumes that to enjoy games is to not enjoy the world.

    Hey, thanks to gaming I've had conversations with people in Britain, Canada and Germany .... on the same day. Wonder when the last time the authors of this piece could make a similar claim? I'm guessing never.

    Say, how about developing an Internet game called Peace in the Middle East. Let's project the energies of teens and tweens the world over in solving the most intractable problem of our age. Now that's a quest.

    And here it comes. The conviction that video games shouldn't be violent, because violence is bad. Video games should be peaceful, because peace is good. And if video games could only learn to be good, it could help the world be peaceful and cure cancer and perhaps even dance in the daisies from time to time.

    The fact that a professor of social science honestly thinks a video game is a plausible solution for the problems in the Middle East is more of a condemnation of this man's education than anything I could type. And the freshman who helped him with the column should stop cleaning erasers and go make a few friends his own age.

    Video games are no more likely to make peace in the world than they are to cause a violent uprising. This fear of new media is getting almost embarrassing in its luddism. Oh noes, the magic box in the living room is speaking!

    Holding video games to a moral standard higher than movies, higher than books, higher than sports, higher than anything else in culture is indicative of a complete misunderstanding of the medium. They aren't all-powerful constructs, they're just games. They are not a major revolution of entertainment, just a minor evolution.

    Hoping to "mitigate the scourge of ultraviolence" by complaining about games is nothing but boorish prudism. And usually shows more ignorance than it does illumination. If someone really wants to mitigate such a scourge, go protest the Iraq War or something. People are dying over there every day, but you want me to worry about Zelda?

    I don't think so.

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    Xbox 360 Hard Drives Smaller Than Advertised?

    Apparently, Microsoft keeps 1/3 of the 360 hard drive to itself:

    The Xbox 360 hard drive is certainly 20GB in total, but players can never access more than 13GB of storage space - just two thirds of the stated size.

    Obviously some space will always be required by the operating system, as true of everything from iPods to desktop computers, but it's rarely such a high proportion.

    The Windows XP operating system for PC, for instance, uses less than 2GB of hard disk space.

    -- 360 hard drive - a third smaller than advertised?

    Microsoft is just not doing a lot of things right with this launch. Shortages resulting in pre-orders going unfulfilled and the general feeling of "can't have" as opposed to "must have". Overheating charges. Scratched discs. Poor Low Def quality. Lackluster backwards compatibility. Now, a shrunken hard drive?

    I'm gonna guess someone in Redmond can't wait for Halo 3 to release.

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    The British based video game industry advocate ELSPA has launched, a site intended to help inform parents about those boxes their kids keep staring at. It's a positive slant on video games with information about genres, health risks, etc. The information feels pretty light ... for instance they don't even name first person shooter as a genre type and the "useful links" page is still "coming soon". Still, it's nice to see the industry try and help educate rather than listening to pundits attempt to scare people into submission.

    Web sites, though, seem a bit techy for your average soccer mommy. I don't know why it's such rocket science to publish a paper based media guide that stores could hand out, but I suppose it must be either too complicated or not enough television attention for the politicians to consider.

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    Tuesday, December 06, 2005

    (Assistant) Professor Chicken Little

    I wasn't going to read about this assistant professor from DePauw, but it seriously became impossible to ignore at one point. So now I have. And I gotta say.

    I'm so tired of hearing about how the sky is falling.

    Fifty years of research have established the negative consequences of watching violent television and movies. However, violent video games may have even stronger effects on children's aggression, because (1) the games are highly engaging and interactive; (2) the games reward violent behavior; and (3) children repeat these behaviors over and over as they play.
    -- Degrees in Video Game Design "Kidnap American Education"

    That quote is the crux of his argument. Children play video games. They like violent games. Violent games make them more violent. So we shouldn't teach people how to make games. Because that will make more violent kids. And that's bad.

    Course, he doesn't mention what the fify years of research concludes about all that. This guy, like so many others, like to leave the implication open that this all will end with blood and gore ... but once again, there's no such evidence. No crime has ever been successfully blamed on a joystick. No good kid ever went south solely based on his PlayStation. Nobody has ended up in prison because they played too many games. None. It's a non-existent epidemic, no more worth the worry than fearing a crack in the sky. This is psuedoscience at best, quite like here where psychologists try to make us all believe that every child is an innocent angel until he picks up a controller.

    Sorry, I'm not buying it. Nor am I buying an argument from a Poli Sci teacher about interactive media. I mean, it's not even a very solid argument even if he had a point about violence and kids. Colleges shouldn't teach video game design because they might make a violent game? Huh?

    Maybe colleges should stop teaching photography. Someone might shoot some porn.

    Or chemistry. You wouldn't want anyone inventing a new poison or anything.

    And dear sweet jeebus, don't teach the political science. They might start a war or something.

    Why would someone make an argument based on such bad facts and logic? Well, probably because he's a complete prude:

    In addition, the content of video games may influence children's atititudes toward gender roles. In Nintendo games, women are often depicted as victims. The covers of Nintendo games show males striking a dominant pose. Many games are based upon a scenario in which a woman is kidnapped or has to be rescued

    Oh. Right. Nintendo. Those rakish dogs, have they no manners?

    Yes. Strike that dominant pose, Mario.

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    Xbox Live Widget

    Honestly, all of this Xbox orientated posting is completely by coincidence.

    Still, I thought this Xbox Live Dashboard Widget for OS X was pretty neat (thanks TUAW). Not that I'll be using it anytime soon, but still ... getting realtime information about the people you play with on your Microsoft console while using your Apple computer? It's a weird, twisty, world we live in.

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    Monday, December 05, 2005

    Serenity Hand Puppet Script

    Bored? Feel like entertaining the kids? Got a lot of extra cloth laying around?

    Try re-enacting the movie Serenity for hand puppets. Feckin awesome.

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    Xbox 360 Lawsuit

    Console owners reported that some systems had crashed during regular use, as well as during online gameplay using the Xbox Live service. Problems included screens going black and the appearance of a variety of error messages.

    At the time, a Microsoft spokeswoman told Reuters: "We have received a few isolated reports of consoles not working as expected."

    She declined to say how many reports Microsoft had received and said that calls reporting the issue to the company represented a "very, very small fraction" of units sold.

    The lawsuit, filed on Friday in federal court in Illinois, seeks unspecified damages and litigation-related expenses, as well as the replacement or recall of Xbox 360 game consoles.
    -- Man sues Microsoft over alleged Xbox 360 glitch

    Wait. Uh. huh, um. What?

    OK, if I had waited on the frozen tundra for sixteen hours in order to get my Xbox 360 and all it did was overheat and crash ... I'd be pissed. I'd also completely expect it to be replaced under warranty. If that was refused for some reason, I might ... might call a lawyer if I had gotten one of these monster $1,000 bundles. OK, then I definately would.

    So far, though, there isn't any indication that this is a widespread or common design flaw. The news report doesn't comment on whether the man tried to return the console for a replacement first. I guess if there really is such a flaw, then this makes some sense ... but if that design flaw is just an overactive power supply which needs better ventilation ...

    There are just so many ways this seems frivolous to me or at least wildly premature.

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    The 360's Uncanny Valley

    My hat is off to whoever designed the new King Kong game for the Xbox 360, because they've crafted a genuinely horrific monster. When it first lurched out of the mysterious tropical cave and fixed its cadaverous eyes on me, I could barely look at the monstrosity.

    I'm speaking, of course, of Naomi Watts.


    This paradoxical effect has a name: the "Uncanny Valley." The concept comes from the Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori, who argued that simulacra of humans seem lively and convincing so long as they're relatively low-resolution. Think of history's best comic strips: With only a few quick sketches on a page, Bill Watterson can create vivid emotions for the characters in Calvin and Hobbes. When an avatar is cartoonish, our brains fill in the gaps in the presentation to help them seem real.
    -- Monsters of Photorealism

    A year ago I would have thought Uncanny Valley was a lost Anne McCaffery novel, but now I can't seem to leave the back yard without tripping over it. To be honest, that's not a terribly great descriptiong of the Valley. It's not really resolution so much as intimacy, as I understand it. A robot which looks nothing like a human is safe because you can easilly emotionally distance yourself from it. A robot which looks exactly like a human is comfortable because you're used to it. A robot which looks almost human is just creepy, because your head points out all the distinctions of non-human features.

    But the Wikipedia will do a better job than I will.

    Still, Ebert's made this connection to CG in movies and therefore the connection to games is appropriate. Course, this feels like impatience. Expecting too much evolution from a 360 launch title which was probably designed mostly for today's mainstream cross-platform market is jumping the gun. The next generation of graphics will take a whlie for the developers to work out the tricks of compression, etc., to get the kind of bang for buck we in current gen consoles.

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    Are Board Games Alt Games Culture Now?

    The event -- organized by local company North Star Games, the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington and the university -- drew more than 200 people, some, such as Chappell, novices to the alternative-game culture, others old hands, such as Jeanne Kramer-Smyth.

    Kramer-Smyth, who is pursuing a master's degree in library science at Maryland, called herself a "gamer." Her hobby began when she played Scrabble with her parents as a child. She married a gamer. And she wants her son to become one. "It's the next generation," she said.
    -- Little-Known Board Games Get Their Turn

    I never really consider board games to be "alternate", but I guess they have become increasingly more so. Even commercials for board games declare they are trying to "bring back game night" for the family. The Girl's family are huge devotees of board games, which lead to my crushing defeat at song, bible and nursery ryhme related trivia over Thanksgiving.

    I do kinda miss the old "dungeon" board games, of which I can barely think of a single title right now. However, they generally involved a lot of dice, combat and treasure hunting like a lite RPG ... only in board game form. Blood Bowl was also a huge favorite of my old high school crowd, and I'm saddened daily that nobody has brought it in a true form to the computer world. I've heard (even tried to help) a couple of mods wanting to bring it back. Personally, I'd think it would make a great turn based multiplayer game ... but I'm notably strange.

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    Saturday, December 03, 2005

    Weekend Gamery: F.E.A.R. Multiplayer

    Just got down with a few rounds of the F.E.A.R. multiplayer demo. The first verdict is that I kinda suck. Which is odd, since I'm usually pretty good at these kinds of games ... although my track record on Counter-Strike was only so-so ... so maybe there's a connection there.

    I like that the deathmatch is simple, straightforward, and easy to jump into. There wasn't a lot of map ownership required, although spawn camping could be a huge problem.

    I'm also really impressed with the performance enhancements Monolith has done between the two demos. I could average 45fps at 1024 or about 55fps on 800 with medium details. A much better performer than even looked better than the Quake 4 demo on the same machine. F.E.A.R. is much friendlier on cheaper boxes.

    This might have just made it to the old Christmas list.

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    Weekend Gamery: Quake 4

    I finally tweaked the Quake 4 demo to where it was acceptable on the CheapBox. Even with it's new fanless 6800 ... the CheapBox is hardly a performer. In fact, this 128MB 6800 is only marginally faster than my older 9700. However, it's fanless. It has reduced the PC noise in half, making me a much happier camper. I'll keep low details and 800x600 if it means I don't have a jet engine underneath me.

    As for the demo ... I was a bit meh. Graphics were good, the action was average and it's really like id and their cohorts just want to ignore the last few years of shooter evolution. I don't think there was any locational damage, no offhand grenades, no interesting inventory choices. All things the superior F.E.A.R. took note of ... and F.E.A.R. runs better on this box.

    Someday, when the hardware to run this in all it's glory is cheap enough to easily afford, Quake 4 will be a great bargain purchase. Honestly, the multiplayer wasn't too shabby ... but I just don't spend a lot time in fragfests anymore.

    Downloading the F.E.A.R. multiplayer demo now.

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    Weekend Gamery: Star Wars Galaxies

    I just got the 10 day trial for Star Wars Galaxies off of Fileshack.

    Good news? Unlike my FilePlanet experience with the World of Warcraft trial, I could actually download this and run it ... even if it did take a while.

    I was mostly intrigued by the all the new changes and what they might mean for my attitude of the game. I'm no fan of SOE games ... PlanetSide was one of the worst experiences I've ever had with a game. But I was willing to give this another try.

    Sadly, it went from kinda meh to just bad. Overall, it wasn't too shabby. It does feel a little more action orientated, but when the first real mission I had was essentially kill ten rats ... this doesn't feel like much evolution. I did like that messing up a conversation was leading me down the Dark Side (naturally, I was playing a Jedi ... what else?).

    The experience wasn't terribly pretty though. It was laggy and not terribly detailed. Compared to Guild Wars, it was approaching ugly.

    Worse was I ventured out into space. The overall interface isn't bad, but supposedly you can hit ALT to get your mouse to perform various options ... but not for me. So I was stuck outside a space station I was meant to chat with, and nothing could be done. I don't even know if could have docked or anything ... I just exited.

    Not awful, but this game has nothing on Guild Wars in my book ... and Guild Wars has no nasty monthly fee.

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    Safe Games Illinois Act Slapped Down

    Just read it on slashdot ... Rob Blagojevich not only can't get his facts straight, he can't sponsor a bill which comes anywhere near constitutional muster for the court. Ouch. Here's a couple blows to the idiotic bill:

    "It's unfortunate that the state of Illinois spent taxpayer money defending this statute. This is precisely what we told them would happen," said David Vite, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, one of the groups that sued over the law.


    Kennelly said the law would interfere with the First Amendment and there wasn't a compelling enough reason, such as preventing imminent violence, to allow that.

    "In this country, the state lacks the authority to ban protected speech on the ground that it affects the listener's or observer's thoughts and attitudes," the judge wrote.
    -- Judge: Game over for Illinois ban [CNN]

    Pay close attention to the lack of compelling reason or evidence. It won't be the last time you hear that about these stupid, frivolous laws.

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    Friday, December 02, 2005

    Video Games We Wouldn't Like To See

    Jen Sorenson's latest Slowpoke comic details some games better never made, although Cliche Combat might make a good IM game...

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    Evolution is cool

    More evidence has emerged that modern birds are living dinosaurs. Let that sink in for a second.

    It's one thing to consider an alligator or a croc to be the old guard of biological warfare ... they are big nasty beasts with rows of pointy teeth. Drag the snout out, add a bigger belly and swap out the legs ... whammo - you've got a dinosaur.

    The idea that the cardinal sitting in the tree outside your window is related to a large, wildly carnivorus lizard is a bit more mind boggling. Intelligent Design is a joke. Evolution is the bomb.

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    Illinois Gov Talks Games With Gamecloud

    It's a pretty decent interview, even if the good Governor spends a decent amount of time either being factually incorrect or just plain lying through his teeth ... depending on your current level of cynicism. Here's some points.

    Parents don’t need government to raise their kids. That’s their job. But government can help them protect their children from influences they may not want their kids exposed to. This law is all about empowering parents and giving them the tools they need to protect their kids, and giving them the ability to make decisions on the kinds of games their kids can play.

    Really? If the problem is that the parents aren't enabled to keep their kids from wandering into a Best Buy with $60 in their pocket ... then why is that the parents are largely buying the games for the kids? Ignoring this simple fact is one the biggest problems the anti-game legislation has ... they're offering a solution that doesn't fit the problem.

    Like drugs and alcohol, violent and sexually explicit video games can cause long-term harm to kids. As a society we’ve agreed that children do not have a right to certain things that pose a risk to their health or development, like cigarettes, alcohol, and pornography. We know that violent and sexually explicit video games pose a direct risk to kids, so we should make every effort to keep them out of kids’ hands. And we can do this while – at the same time – continuing our efforts to make sure every child in Illinois has healthcare, investing more in education and expecting more from our schools, and working to keep our communities safe.

    The "video games are a public safety issue" is completely fallacious. There is no justifiable science on the long term effects of interactive media on children, except of course all the thirty year old gamers reporting very little problems. The best support science has suggest potential behavioral issues ... but you can't quite compare that to lung cancer and drunk driving ... now can you?

    This is not a frame for an argument based on fact, but on desperation. Every time they've tried to compare video games to movies or literature, these measures get their asses kicked by the First Amendment. By framing it as a public safety concern, they hope to sidestep this fate. Just because no facts support this position would never stopped a politician from making it.

    Studies show that video games – because of their intense interactive nature – impact young people’s brains in a way that music and other more passive mediums do not. In addition, unlike the motion picture industry, the video game industry has not developed an effective self-regulation system that keeps adult material out of the hands of minors. A child can’t get into an R-rated movie without an adult, but they can easily walk into a store and buy an M-rated video game.

    This is an inverted argument, or at least a somewhat contradictory one. Rob begins by scaring you into thinking that video games impact your brains in a special way, then uses non-interactive media as a basis for comparison and gets both wrong in the process.

    First, studies have shown interactive medias have a different effect, but there's little hard science on what that really entails. Second, kids are just as capable of entering an R rated movie as purchasing an M rated game ... it's all about the guy behind the counter (apparently Rob isn't aware of current Illinois law ... unless I'm confused here).

    Our law enforcement officials will determine the best ways to enforce these laws. Our job is to make sure that these laws are on the books, and we have done that.

    Rob has apparently missed out on the news reports clearly stating the Illinois law enforcement has very little interest in enforcing these laws. In other words ... the best way to enforce a silly law is to not.

    Numerous studies have demonstrated the negative impact playing violent and sexually explicit video games has on minors. One such study, completed in 2003 by four experts, including Douglas Gentile from the National Institute on Media and the Family, concluded that adolescents who expose themselves to greater amounts of video game violence were more hostile, reported getting into arguments with teachers more frequently, were more likely to be involved in physical fights, and performed more poorly in school.

    This is probably the most respectable science out there right now. Sadly people like Rob are ruining the argument by making into a capital case of public safety. If you are trying to compare misbehaving children to kids dying of lung cancer ... you're blowing your own argument.

    Time and time again, people seem forced to use hyperbole in this discussion. I suppose it's because if they don't, these laws would be seen as stupid as they really are and people would lose their media coverage. It's sad because it's a distraction from the very real conversation we should be having.

    The problem parents are having today is keeping up with the media their children are being surrounded by. The problem is not a child buying God of War ... the problem is that mommy has no clue what that is and goes ahead and buys it anyway.

    When is the last time you heard someone in these interviews talk about trying to help educate parents about games and movies? Offer any kind of resource? Any kind of real help?

    Never, because it's not nearly as entertaining as just trying to scare people and make headlines. The problem with this debate is that there are too many attention whores and not enough rational thought.

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    Three Simple Questions

    Just a couple things on my mind.

    1. By some estimates, Microsoft is losing about $150 per 360. If that is so, then the $300 Core system actually costs about $450 to make. Roughly. Very roughly. Now, if that's true ... even roughly ... why do most game PC's still cost over a grand?.

    2. I keep hearing from various politicians that video games are more comparable to alcohol or tobacco, in terms of public safety, than movies or print media. Really? Now, if that's true ... which would the politican rather see a fourteen year old holding? A bottle of vodka or a copy of God of War? ... A pack of Marlboros or Doom 3?

    3. Joystiq points out better than I did that too many people feel that the problem with video game movies are the video gamers. It's the demographic's fault that the movies suck. Which is essentially a Hollywood way of saying "but, you see the way they dress." How hard is it to see that low budget, poorly directed, poorly written movies suck? It doesn't matter what audience you put in the theater. Jesus, didn't Spider-Man teach anyone anything? You can make geek movies for the mainstream if you don't try and do it on the cheap.

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    Wal-Mart's Can't Have 360

    Apparently Wal-Mart has declared the 360 a must have item for Christmas.

    This is of course funny because of the shortage of 360's, you more than likely can't get one until about Valentine's Day. So even though you must have it ... you can't have it.

    And humorously if you go to the site and try to "find similar items" that are in stock, Wal-Mart kindly suggests a GameBoy. Nark nark.

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    Thursday, December 01, 2005

    New Carnival Is Up

    The tents have been raised at the latest Carnival of Gamers. The Game Chair takes a creative "want ad" approach and looks like they managed to cajole one of the larger CoGs in it's history.

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    Charity Game Calendar

    The CCT Game Calendar features artwork from a variety of video games and apparently half of the profits go to charity. Kanifty.

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    CAD goes animated

    Ctrl+Alt+Del is going to get an animated version, which will be made available to premium members of the CAD website.


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    My fanless 6800 card has arrived.

    Lost Thoughts

    Great episode last night. Nice amount of details about Kate's past combined with some new facts about the "button".

    The horse was a bizarre addition. The whole thing with animals on the island seems like a huge clue. A polar bear isn't going to survive long in the jungle without cooling off on a regular basis. Their fur is designed to survive subfreezing temps and will overheat rapidly in a tropical/temperate environment. A horse could survive pretty well ... but there's no way it could get their without being transported on something.

    Add in the possibility that the bear came from Walt's comic and the horse from Kate's memory and you've got a whole bunch of strange. Stranger than seeing your dead father walk around? Probably not.

    It does make me wonder where Walt's dog really came from, however.

    And we discover that the "button" can't be pressed until the alarm countdown. Pretty amazing that it's been successfully pushed for so long. Would anyone really make a world-saving mechanism so precarious? Especially when it would take about a half hour to code a program to automate it? There is something about the isolation, the human intervention ... maybe even the blast doors ...

    Which comes down to (spoiler) ... who was Michael typing with at the end? Obviously, it has to be Walt. Who else would ever refer to him as dad? So Walt can possibly summon animals, appear Kenobi style and speak backwards ... and communicate via computer?

    One will get you ten that wherever the "Others" are camped, there's another station.

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    Business Week on PSP Hacking

    Hackers say they only created the online open-source system to remedy the PSP's shortcomings. Many initially complained about the device's limited compatibility with video and audio formats. Songs stored in an iTunes (AAPL) browser wouldn't play, and neither would MP4 videos. Converting videos to the memory sticks was a headache, and wirelessly shuttling data from the PSP to another device took a lot of creativity. Forget about hooking a PSP to a TV and playing movies, or running the library of Sony games made for the living-room consoles.
    -- Attack of the PlayStation Hackers

    A decent overview of the hacker-homebrew culture on the PSP side of things. Balances the need to maintain their licenses for profit against people who are trying to improve the platform, get their games out there and have some fun.

    I still say that the homebrew projects on the DS and PSP make it obvious there's a huge market for this kind of stuff. If only the big companies could figure out a way to make it legit and logical.

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    Bad Video Game Movies

    John Lyttle of the New Statesman has a small bit which essentially shakes it's head at video game movie adaptations:

    The video games transferred to cellu-loid are entitled Street Fighter, Resident Evil, House of the Dead, Mortal Kombat and Wing Commander, and Hollywood has been getting the hybrid wrong since the disastrous flop of Super Mario Brothers in 1993, when Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo brought unwelcome layers of insightful depth to their roles as Italian plumbers trapped in an alternative dimension ruled by Dennis Hopper (don't ask). Doom certainly doesn't make that mistake. How could it, when its leading man is called The Rock, a monicker that itself answers probably the most frequently asked question about the ex-World Federation wrestler: is he animal, vegetable or mineral?
    -- Shoot 'em up

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    Boycott Sony

    Big Daddy BoingBoing has a bit about boycotting Sony for Christmas since they've been naughty this year.

    And naughty they have been. Criminally so. I'm not sure it gets much worse. They apparently were aware of the rootkit prior to releasing it, they didn't admit to it when it was found and their clean-up effort has been laughable at best.

    Problem is - with something as ubiqitous as Sony, is boycotting really logical? Is not buying any PS2 games for Christmas a statement against Sony or a sure way to kick the games industry in the pants? What about all the movies and music Sony has it's hand in? It's similar to trying to boycott Microsoft ... what, you're going to stop using your computer?

    Still, I know from dealing with businesses of varying size that they all agree one thing - the bottom dollar is the great communicator. So before slipping anything with Sony's label into someone's stocking, definately think about this:

    They are company willing to sacrifice your personal security for their licensing fees. They'd rather make it easier for someone to steal your credit card number than risk more of their profit margin.

    So maybe a boycott is unrealistic. But at least think twice.

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    Wednesday, November 30, 2005

    Hello From Over Here

    Ever had one of those days where you realize you're just completely distracted ... no matter what you're doing? Jon o The Game Chair was actually kind enough to email me and ask if I had anything for the upcoming Carnival of Gamers ... which I swear I had actually remembered to remember this time. But obviously, no such luck.

    By the by, they are doing a sweet ass Bounty Writer Contest whereby writing a story explaining what the hell Samus is doing in that pinball machine could score you a Nintendo DS, Metroid Pinball and the oddest bragging rights this side of the meridian. I would definately enter, except, well, see above.

    Some times it's just good to take stock. Here is a current list of side projects I'm either working on or staring at on the shelf.

    Moonstone Serenade
    My iTunes arcade project. After a lot of success, this is tabled until GarageGames fixes a couple of OS X related bugs in Torque 2D.

    My Torque 2D asteroids style "wandering" space game. Basic arcade framework of controls, collision, rock creation, and the like is working peachy. I was designing the buy system when last I checked. After Cathan, this is probably my next priority.

    AJAX powered interactive fiction. Cathan is the story of a stranger who washes up on a mysterious island and finds it beset by demons ... and the decade or so that follows. Or so it might be, should I ever get past the first night. The basic parser is there, now I've just got to stop complicating it so much. Ever wonder what might happen in interactive lit if you have two characters who look exactly alike, but are completely seperate people? Multiple introductions, etc. Argh. I am my worst enemy.

    I should be working on this right now. Right as I type this. I shouldn't be typing this, I should be typing "inserting the iron key into the lock secures the front door" or "the dark hand plunges fully into your stomach as if it were no more resistant than jelly" ... but I'm not. Although that jelly line isn't bad, I might steal that.

    Problem is, I work on a web site for eight hours a day. Sometimes HTML or Javascript is the last thing I want to see.

    Thanks goes to Corvus for some classic IF hookup.

    Untitled Groupware Software
    Just something I started playing with during compiles. I've been toying with various asychronous methods lately, like AJAX. This actually explores dynamic javascript, which creates AJAX style transfers without molesting any XML or transport object, just DOM and standard Javascript. AJAX without AJAX, so to speak.

    It works. It's ugly. I haven't decided if it's any good.

    Of course, this list ignores Unreal Defense Squad or the other handful of mod project still on my Windows drive.


    Tomorrow, I talk about The Maxx. Be warned.

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