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Friday, March 25, 2005

Quality Off Topic #032405

Thanks to Blue's for finding this link about a guy who found the easy way to get your art shown ... hang it yourself.

Red Lake Killer "tied" to video games?

Ever since the tragic events at Red Lake occured, I've had this nagging feeling that eventually the media would find some way to tie it back to video games. I mean, surely this kid had at least one violent game, right? So when they find that violent game, the assumption will be instantly made that it "trained" this Manchurian child to kill.

Did I ever underestimate the media's ability to connect loose connections together in order to sensationalize a horrific story. MSNBC figured out how to make the connection even without a video game.

That's right. No video games were harmed in the creation of this myth. Instead, MSNBC is reporting that Weise followed a video-game like script based on ... a flash animation Weise uploaded last year. Stop blinking, you read correctly. They got sociologist Dr. Katherine Newman to state that he followed shooter "pathways" and as proof she points to a two-dimensional animation - proving once and for all that it must be getting easier and easier to get a PhD in this country. See, back when I was in college - we had to actually be able to prove something before making ridiculous statements.

I'm honestly not sure I need to describe how ridiculous this is ... in fact I'm somewhat at a loss to do so. But this is a major news site pulling out a Princeton professor. But is her explanation:

If you pick up the average video game, you're going to see sequences that look just like the animation this boy produced. It's not something that we look at and say, “Oh, I've never seen that before.” You will see it a million times if you pick up any of the common video games available to teenagers today.

Which simply proves that she's never looked at a video game in her life. I hate to suggest that one views Weise's flash animation. Number one - it's not good. It's just a violent doodle powered by flash. Number two - I don't think people's works should be viewed simply because they went psychotic. But let's just say that the only video game it reminded me of is Alien Hominid, and I haven't seen any mention that this psychopath was a yellow alien jumping on people's heads.

I'm not sure what is the best way to fight this culture of fear. Interviews like this one are rapidly pushing the issue into such irrational bounds that it's hard to think that pure logic will work. This kid had his dad commit suicide, his mother die in a car accident and was apparently the geek on campus to beat on ... but surely video games had to be a precipitating factor to violence, because we know he couldn't have seen violence any other way. Our media couldn't itself be a vehicle for kids to learn about death and violence? Never.

In the mortal words of Bill Hicks - to think otherwise would make you a liar and a communist.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Weekend Plans

This will be an odd weekend. Plan on trying to get a lot done, because the GF will be out of town, but then I've got this old friend coming into town - so obviously some outing will be planned.

I probably will be cracking open the Torque 2D SDK this weekend as well. This will mark a pointed departure from years of playing with 3D engines ... but I'm fairly jazzed. 2D art I can grok, whereas 3D is such a treadmill of detail that it's a bit insane. Look at an old 2D game from say, the Amiga ... good art still looks good. Now go try and play an old game of Doom. 3D doesn't stand the test of time nearly as well.

Still, my art skills are ... well, impaired, let's say ... so I doubt I'll be standing the test of time myself.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Less Brilliant

Every so often, the game industry seems to enter this phase where everyone has an opinion, but nobody seems to know what their talking about (myself included). For instance, everyone seems to be in an uproar that game publishers are threatening to raise prices on certain titles - despite the fact that game prices have been kept artificially low for years and the by the time any of us plunk $60 down on a title, it will probably be worth closer to the $50 we do now.

But of course, Mark Rein of Epic denounces this all as shenanigans and CliffyB says that $19.99 is the magic price point. Epic is trying to say that the problem is that people aren't using the right tools, and that with the right tools everything will be OK. Epic, of course, sells you that tool in the form of Unreal 3 - so they aren't like, biased or anything.

Then you've got Warren Spector and Greg Costikyan "burning down the house" so to speak, railing on the games industry for being too retail orientated, too profit motivated and reminding us that the budgets for games are reaching astronomical figures. Meanwhile a more indie community is still wondering what all the fuss is about (actually I think his response is more "don't burn down the house, some of us still live here").

And then finally you've for Microsoft mentioning microtransactions, and the world is a flutter. If it's the professional studios doing this, it sounds like nickel and diming to me - but the rumor is that they'll let users sell content as well. Course, I've been saying for years that profit killed the modification star, and so I'm fully expecting this to be one of the last nails in the coffin. Why do we have to leap from a console paradigm with virtually no user content to a marketplace?

Look - Alkabeth cost $35 and it was written by one guy (Lord British - you might have heard of him) back in 1980. Half-Life 2 took over a couple of dozen guys, professional voice talent and a state of the art graphics engine ... and it cost $49.99 ... so, I mean ... do the math. Games have become more and more hollywood everywhere. They've got hollywood timelines and hollywood budgets, and these movies last about ten times as long, are completely interactive and sell on a medium - but only cost 4 or 5 times more than a movie ticket. If people want blockbuster games with 20 million dollar budgets and recognizable voice acting and all the bells and whistles - they'll have to pay for it.

If you don't want to pay for it, it's not like there's not cheaper alternatives to be had.

Get Gamefly Go subscription, never pay for another title again. Gamefly gets the latest games, uses a Netflix style business model and will even sell you titles over the net with ease.

Get I've had a account for sometime. It doesn't get me the latest, greatest - but does let me catch up on titles I've missed but don't want to go buy. Were it not for this program, I wouldn't have played Anachronox ... and my life would be that much smaller.

Go indie I'm not even going to try and link to them all. Maybe in another post. Try Garage Games for now.

Zalman Rocks

Some time ago, I splurged part of my MSUC winnings on a new puter, complete with a top of the line motherboard with a shiny 64FX chip. First time I'd ever gone top of the line in a computer. I had a shop slap together about half the computer, then ship it to me so that I could salvage the parts of my old computer and shove it in there.

I don't know what these guys used as base set, but the fan that comes with it can be as noisy as they come. We're talking jet engine here. It's bad enough that I sometimes crack open the case or blow a fan in there.

So a while back I sought to remedy this by getting a Zalman Quiet CPU fan. This is one of those computer items that when you get it, you consider using it as a paperweight just to scare the neighbors. By that I mean - it's big and impressive. Sadly, I took a quick stab at installing it, failed ... and then apparently lost the brackets and mount in the process. Doh!

Last night I emailed Zalman to see if I could order just the mounting set. I got a response back in about an hour. Read that - in about an hour. Remember Matrix Online support? The guys who are supposed to have your back when you character deletes itself at 4 in the morning? They took days. In an hour I had this response:

Please provide us with your shipping address and we will have a replacement set mailed out to you.

And bam, just like that it's on it's way. That's good service folks.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Blackout Morning

Heh. Had the most brilliant post to send off, but work lost power early this AM. Trust me though, it was totally brilliant. I'm sure the second draft won't approach the eye popping brilliance of the first...