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Saturday, May 07, 2005

Cue Spooky Antimusic

While Doom 3 seemed to be a loveithateit type game (I loved it), it would be hard to argue that the game didn't have merits on a lot of it's production values. For instance, the music:

I experimented with defining this new antimusic we were set on using. Doom³'s score would feature no traditional instruments except for a bit of piano and choir. Otherwise the entire score is purely electronic in nature. My sounds were built from various sources, including the FS1R and CS6X from Yamaha, Korg's M1, WaveStation and X5DR synths, an Emu Audity 2000 and an Alesis DMPro on the hardware side. In software, sources included countless sample libraries running on two GigaStudio machines, Native Instruments' Reaktor, Absynth, and Vokator, Atmosphere from Spectrasonics, and many custom recorded and designed sounds.

Interested? Check out the full postmortem at Music 4 Games. It gets pretty technical, from that audio geek point of view, but worth a scan.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Stuffed Kittens

Google ads are a wondrous thing. Trust me, I don't have them because they make me any money. I have them because they are freakin' hilarious.

Don't believe me? They're trying to sell me stuffed kittens. People, that's comic gold.

Kitten Powered Goodness

Found this wonderful rant on console hype via, although I'd like to point out that this is perhaps the best comment I've ever read in response to any blog post anywhere, ever:

Maybe the Playstation 3 will have a kitten inside it. An adorable, tiny kitten.

It's spooky to watch the hype machine in action. I almost got embroiled in a deep conversation about the XBox being a "media station" and all the insane jazz that would mean, until I reminded my friend about all the hubub about the PS2 being a DVD player.

How many people do you know actually use their PS2 as their DVD player? I know one. Everyone else I know got, you know, DVD players with features they actually wanted. Like a remote that wasn't optional.

These consoles will make our eyes water, I'm sure. All of em. What they won't do is change our lives, no matter how many pictures of a power button Microsoft publishes.

Friend Closet

Tycho said something on PA that I found notable. Not that there's a chance that anyone, anywhere would read this *before* seeing it on Penny Arcade, but still:

I love unlocking things, don't get me wrong, but God dammit when I buy a game with multiplayer features I basically expect to leverage those features in a non-crippled fashion from the moment I spin up your expensive game. If you want me to unlock different scarfs or whatever, fine. If you want me to unlock bonus courses or tracks, hey, whatever. But let us utilize the social functionality out the gate. Wipeout did it right - a handful of tracks upfront. That's some olive branch shit.

Seriously - WTF is with that? I started to notice it with some Japanese developers way back when (I think Zone of the Enders?) and it's only gotten more prevalent. Yes, I understand that you want me to play the single player version. Yes, I appreciate the need to learn the rules. But it's not like there is some friend closet available to pull players from just because you unlocked something (although, if any mad scientists are reading ... there's an idea).

If I rent a game that advertises two person play for the express purpose of playing it with my girlfriend upon receipt - you damn well better be sure that the game will be returned before I bother unlocking squat.

It gets better.

I tried to send the following email to Technology Review. If I didn't mention your name, please don't yell or anything - I was really trying to make more of a point than a shout out.

This is in response to Eric Hellweg's article on gaming blogs. It seems that Eric could have done a little more research on what blogs ARE actually out there, even if the Blogmaster of Google was out of office for a while.

So for his benefit, here's a quick primer.

Penny Arcade is a comic that posts also posts a blog with oodles of gaming op/ed:

Game Girl Advance is a fairly old gaming blog, infamous for it's Rez column on vibration (google it):

One of my personal faves is gewgaw - the personal blog of Robin Hunicke, who studies game design at Northwestern:

Kotaku is part of the gawker group:

GameDevBlog is specifically from an insider's look at how games get designed:

The Independant Gaming Source covers the indie scene quite well:

Dreamy Gamer is also from a developer's point of view: ... she may be moving her website soon

I'm missing tons here. Grumpy Gamer. The Ludologist. Costik's site. I mean, there's tons. There's and I personally write one from both the angle of both an avid gamer and hobbyist developer at ...

See, the annoyance here is that these blogs don't have a lot of exposure angles. By announcing that there's a dirge of them and then not even bothering to try and spotlight those that DO exist, Eric does an injustice to the game blog community that is out there.

Hope this is going to the right inbox ... wasn't sure from your contact page.

Now here is the punchline. The Contact Us page at MIT's Technology Review doesn't work You got that? It's broked. It returns nothing but "document contains no data". These guys are writing commentary on internet technology and they can't even keep an email form running.

Seriously, it could make a grown man weep. Or at least groan a little. Try sending Brad King, their Web Editor a message yourself and see what happens.

I do not exist

Found this interesting column on Technology Review decrying the non-existence of gaming blogs

OK, on a very very small scale there's a point to be made here. Gaming blogs aren't exactly a dime a dozen. Not compared to political blogs or "look what my cat ate last night" type blogs. But this guy just didn't bother doing his research. Does he mention Penny Arcade or Game Girl Advance? Did he bother googling, to see just what's out there? He mentions Joystiq ... and well ... Gamespot?

There's a pretty sizeable game blog community, it's just a little hard to see. Eric seriously misses an opportunity to do some decent digging and spotlight a few of them here, posting instead something of a fluff piece apparently based on some conversation he had at a bar:

The idea for this column came about as a result of a conversation I had at South by Southwest with Jason Goldman, chief of staff at Google's Blogger. He was very interested in the intersection of videogames and blogs. I pitched the idea to Brad and expected the story to revolve heavily around a conversation I would have with Jason to go on the record and learn more about his efforts. Unfortunately, Jason's on vacation for two weeks -- well outside my deadline.

What the? Hey Eric ... there's this marvelous research tool called the Internet you might be familiar with. Google even has a web interface, so you don't have to go all person to person to get information from them.

We're out here Eric. You don't have to wait for Microsoft or some other corporation to own the blogspace of gaming for us to emerge. We're here. Many of us would be happy to chat in fact.

EDIT: Funny thing is - that article has no trackback, comment post or even email link to the author. I think maybe Technology Review needs to do a little light reading on the last five years.

Thursday, May 05, 2005


Points to this and simply mutters that I've got a similar idea, but without the 90% recycled goods. I don't normally talk about stuff until I have it working though, but the traffic here shouldn't raise much complaints about unfinished projects (remember Unreal Defense Squad? Right then.)

Anyway, my latest has been writing/adapting an XMLRPC server for iTunes called iSiam which would open the audio data for other apps to use. Most notably games. I've got two projects lined up for this tech, the first one with some game logic (using Torque) down.

It's just always neat to pencil out an idea thinking, "wonder why nobody thought of that" ... and then realizing that naturally someone has.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

It's like being at Delphi

Stuff's been going eirely predictable lately, like some kind of bad Volkswagen commercial.

Tapwave is "transitioning", and surely the reasons are numerous but some kinda obvious. Gizmodo probably says it best:

But the Zodiac, for all its shortcomings (namely, not being the PSP), is a pretty neat device, especially if you just want a Palm PDA that can occasionally play games. What’s sad, though, is that this all happened a week ago and we just now noticed.

Cross Hip-Hop with Game Culture? I'll bite.

Add two turn tables, a canadian, some blokes and whatyaget? Head over to Intelligent Artifice for the read-see, yo. There is so much culture clashing going on here that I might have to get dizzy.

OK, I'll stop now.

I got Jak'd

One of the great things about Gamefly is the ability to rent something, beat on it for a while and then send it on home - all in about a night, fairly easily and with no guilt about wasting money.

I'm not sure why I wanted to try the original Jak and Daxter, I guess it's because I keep hearing about how the franchise has grown. The problem is - I hate platformers. Hate them. I liked Mario 64 and there hasn't been a single one to interest or entertain me since (I only played that game because at the time Nintendo left little choice ... though I found it compelling in the end). The thing is - platformers represent what I think is one of the worst user experiences in modern gaming. This is where the gamer knows what they're supposed to do ... knows exactly how they're supposed to do it ... and yet after twenty attempts isn't even close to completion because they haven't either a) figured out the lousy controls enough to accomplish the task or b) hasn't hit the random sequence of events to accomplish the task.

Take this as evidence. Capturing the "muse" on Misty Island is about as much fun as those old games where you try to make all the balls fall into a hole - except the latter has better camera control. I know the muse is a chase and that I have to beat the muse's time to a spot. I know I can use special moves to increase my speed. I found out there are shortcuts. Course - none of that matters when I can't see where I'm going because Naughty Dog apparently forgot to code in a way to force the camera to stay behind Jak, which means that the screwy circular path the muse takes is mostly a lesson in trying to see where you're going AND that the movement controls are so clumsy that at least four times I went past said muse instead of capturing it.

About a half hour of that was all I could take before I knew I had better things to do with my time. I was getting pretty close - but that was only making things more frustrating. It got down to that "keep trying until you hit that lucky moment where you accidentally succeed" part. Bah. Back in the sleeve ya go.

To it's credit - Jak's got some awesome design behind in terms of art production, story, and certainly an original bent on the platformer genre in general. Many of the mechanics work splendidly and for someone without a serious aversion to the platformer way of life would probably love it.

If you're that person - just do me a favor and wringe the muse's neck once you catch it.

Update: Oddly, the old GameDevBlog has some Notes on Psychonauts, which it decries as "the best Jak & Daxter-like game I've ever seen" ... so perhaps I should just be shooting for the pinnacle of the genre.

Post Post Script ... only now noticed that I typo'd the main character half the time. Need more coffee. Excuse me, I have to clean this egg off now.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Costik and the Meme

Oh, well. What I take away from both Dvorak and Elixir is that the meme is spreading; the lack of creativity in gaming is starting to bother a lot more people than me... Even if, in some cases, the people who adopt the meme strike me as a little off key.

-- Greg Costikyan

I think that kinda nails it. I've certainly been guilty of ringing the gloom bell when it comes to the dearth of innovation in games and how the "hollywood" influence is edging out the original design theories that pushed games forward. However, it's important to strike a balance when railing on about this. Dvorak's clumsy take on it somewhat shows that it's very easy to take a glib stance and decry that nobody out there is trying. And while it's easy to take the Elixir closing as a sign of gloom, it should also stand as a reminder that market pressures aren't conspiracy - they're a cold hard fact of any industry. Both Elixir and Troika had a fundamental problem with their games ... they didn't sell as well as they should have.

So we can't focus on just the meme. We gotta look at it from all the angles if we're to try and find a way out.

Sunday, May 01, 2005


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