Friday, June 10, 2005
OK, not really ... but the robot in this CNN article totally looks like it. And man, the future is getting creepy:
A model called InterAnimal is a teddy bear about 120 cm (four feet) tall that moves its arms and nods in synch to the sound the human voice. Developers claim it helps children who have problems talking with adults.
Yeah, that's what a shy child need. That teddy bear from an Outer Limits episode.
How nonsensical is that? Sure, other operating systems can run on it. If someone wants to pony up the money to develop it. Now let's see ... will Microsoft spend oodles of money to make their OS run on a competitor's console? I doubt it. Will Apple add in more pain to their current OS migration by developing for the Cell? Nah uh. And can Lindows really do much magic without WINE being ported anyway? Probably not.
I think it's very nifty that you can buy an extra HD for the PS3 and it will mysteriously have a version of Linux on it. But unless you want to talk about the tools I'll need on my Mac, or someone else will need to on their Windows box, to develop new software for it ... I don't know why we're talking crazy.
This is how fanboys get born. Right now, some poor chap is arguing some other guy about how his PS3 is going to run Tiger. Instead of hype or mythical applications - let's talk about seriously giving users an open framework to use their PS3 as a computer. Because a supercomputer doesn't run on empty words, Kutagari.
If you want the voice actors perspective, then this is probably going to be one of the more informed blogopinions of the SAG deal that just went down recently, averting a potential voice actor strike in the games industry. I hate to spoil the ending for you ... but I'm going to spoil the end for you:
Developers: We're on the same side, guys, and by playing into "Actors vs. Developers," you've let the game producers divide and conquer us. If you're getting screwed, why not organize a union? I seriously doubt they could replace programmers, designers, and developers with Becky and Don from ad sales. You've got to believe in yourself, and not undervalue the importance of your contribution to the final product. We should be talking about the common goals we have, and how we can reach then, rather than arguing about who is more important.
He explains residuals quite well and how they differ from profit-sharing, and you should read it for that ... but I kinda thought the white flag of truce is important to highlight here. It's not a simple issue with clear bad guys and good guys, and it's easy for the little guys to be the ones who lose out. Definately worth the full read. Also, I didn't know Wil did game reviews. Huh, maybe a certain magazine should change freelancers...
Kotaku's reporting that there may be a hidden sex game in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (this link actually SFW, but not where it leads ... although it's not as graphic as one might
hope expect). Kotaku seems suspicious, and I'm calling bogus on this one. The models don't look right, the places don't look right (I mean, there's a really logical location in the game for this and it's not shown), and if Rockstar was going to do something like that - it would be more graphic. They don't really pull their punches, ya know?
However, it looks like if it's true it was planned to be a rhythm game. Which is kinda ingenious, in that totally perveted way.
Virus writers have started to generate a rumor of Jacko's Suicide to lure people into opening their (infected) mail.
Of course, it's totally evil antisocial behavior. At the same time, it's clever social engineering. This isn't really new, these criminals are always trying to figure out what's the latest hollywood gossip that will trigger a Pavlovian response to click ... but it's just a shame that games can't figure out a way to have that same obediant behavior without, you know, totally selling one's soul.
OK, having now had time to collect my thoughts ... and read the analysis of much smarter people, this is what I'm guessing with Apple's plans with Intel.
No Apple WINE
The more I think about my comment that WINE might help kill Longhorn, the more I realized how wrong it was. History has proven that you can't beat a platform by simply emulating that platform. It's handy to have - and I think some company like Transgaming will pay attention to it - but it won't be Apple.
And maybe they don't need to...
Mostly, it's about compatibility
Apptels would be cheaper, but possibly not by much. Without the benefits of a massive clone hardware framework, and considering Apple's small market, and that Apple's desire to have OSX be Mac only will require custom mobos, I wouldn't expect it to go down much. We'll get more powerful computers for about the same buck we're spending now, I'd think.
Also, I think the optimism that in a few months, someone will hack OSX to any Intel box may be optimistic. Times have changed for motherboards and there is a lot more interaction these days. I had to call Microsoft just to reinstall Windows onto a new box for god's sake. Not saying it definately won't happen, but I wouldn't assume it's inevitable.
But the real boon is bringing the Apple software under the same architecture as the Windows world. It removes a serious layer when it comes to writing cross-platform apps. For gaming, this could be major. I agree that the current port companies are probably in trouble - they won't be able to charge an arm and a leg anymore to port a single title. In their place, I think, we'll see more portable middleware and companies which handle more small jobs. If Apple allows it, some applications might be Intel only. If they did allow that, it might pave the way for publishers to release Mac and Windows versions of their games on a single DVD. With an Intel based OSX, publishers would have a cheaper solution than porting to PPC and a larger user base than Linux - making the costs of a port much more reasonable.
Intel only, you ask?
Rosetta may be Dumbo's feather
But let's face it, that doesn't sound nearly as good. However, having software translate code from one architecture layer to another sure sounds like good science fiction - but one shouldn't expect too much from it in reality. I would think of Rosetta as more of a crutch than a miracle. And I'm prepared to lump the Universal Binary into that. Apple's done this crazy stuff before - with the introduction of OS X. They know how to make enormous transitions work, and this isn't as drastic as going from Classic to Carbon.
But I don't think anyone should fool themselves into thinking that the goal is anything short of native Macintosh apps running on Intel iron. Apple will support their PPC brethren only as much as they need to in order to avoid stabbing their loyalists in the back. And that's not to say that efforts like Rosetta aren't impressives steps for supporting the user ... but we should view it for the temporary security blanket that it is.
Apple won big with the mini, and Intel's hardware is much more impressive at running small than IBM. One thing that has been oddly missing from Apple's bag of tricks has been a more mobile edition of their OS. Windows has it. Linux has it. Why can't I run OSX on a PDA, anyway? Granted, handhelds don't use the x86 framework. But they do use Intel.
At the very least...
We're not done yet
The whole announcement was odd. No specifics on the chips, no mention of anything rhyming with "entium". Cringely asks a valid question - why not AMD? Why is the developer box so slow? The whole thing looks like Jobs has his fist clenched, ready for a follow up left hook. Partnering with Intel for some serious custom chipwork? Apple's always been fun to watch for announcements, and this should keep us entertained for a while.
That wonderful ability to use your cell phone during flights? Might keep us from looking into the stars:
EDN has this excellent piece on dissecting a Nintendo DS, and then commenting on it's naughty bits in both overtly geeky ways and in layman's words on what it all means:
The combination of dual displays and touch input would seem like a big win for Nintendo. The dual displays support many new game modes. For instance, a player could use the lower screen for navigation in a first-person-shooter game while the action takes place on the upper screen.
Thursday, June 09, 2005
You have to hand it to Robert X. Cringely, he doesn't fish in barrels. This guy aims big:
Is the guy really going to stand up at some future MacWorld and tout a new Mac as being the world's most advanced obsolete computer?
He goes on to explain how the marriage between Apple and Intel has more to due with desktop domination than DRM, performance or ... well, anything else. An excellent read.
Continually, handheld hame developers feel that their hardware should only be developed by those culturally keen enough to bribe them for a development kit. Just as continually, a fanatic mass of talented coders figure out how put their mark on the machines anyway. Thanks goes to insert credit for noticing GBAX2005, "around 60 games/demos/utils entered for GBA, GP32, PSP, DS and Zodiac".
Saw this bit on MacNN about The Unity Engine:
There is an indie license for $250. Looks fairly promising, so check out the product page.
There is a point about gaming in this ... bear with me.
Someone is trying the old 3D web again. Gogofrog.com just issued a new press release trumpeting itself. It's interesting technology that does, indeed, resolve some of the mistakes of the past. There's no cumbersome client, this works via Flash and they're promoting their site as an accessible tool for generating content.
However, and this is where gaming comes in, it just seems so unnecessary. Do I really need a virtual world to browse a gallery of pictures when a 2D layout of thumbnails is so much easier to navigate? The predatory positioning of our eyes makes the assumption the depth is the way to tackle the world, but is it always needed? The assumption in game design these days really seems to make that assumption, as we can't even resist the urge to update classic titles in a manner befitting all three dimensions.
There are times, I guess. Like I have an old mod Grind which I'd love to redo at some point. It's one part Jet Set Radio and one part deathmatch. I've thought about how I would do it in 2D, and it just doesn't work. It's not really the deathmatch part, that's been done 2D for some time (Combat for the 2600 anyone?). It's the motion of skating itself.
But I do wonder if we evolved games too quickly and have left design concepts of the 2D world completely untouched.
Hat's off to Thomas for his Infocom flavored Carnival of Gamers. Truly inspirational and goes quite well with a morning cup of joe. I'm quite glad nobody's really thought about buckling under the pressure to editoralize the process just to appease a couple of squeeky wheels. I've only managed to scan through about half of them, but it seems like an entertaining assortment.
In honor of his task, I've grabbed the gmail account "carniegrue", and will talk to Tony about using it as a global email for future carnivals.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
This is the latest screenshot from UTC (Untitled Tempest Clone). The weird blobby thing in the middle isn't important. That's a static image. What's important are those barely visible flecks coming out from the middle (you'll have to click on the image). They are one pixel PNG images that I'm totally messing with in code. They begin life as white, but they don't stay like that long.
Next, to make my own blobby thing. Ah, the minor victories...
I've been meaning to talk about Future Perfect and Lego Star Wars for a bit, but it's actually been busy in the world of gaming, what being in the middle of controversy and all. I love how I devote an entire week to the impact of a law on gaming but one tasking of a "writer" gets ten times the attention. I guess it's true - if it bleeds it leads. Next time I talk body politic, I'll throw in a good sex scandal.
Any rate, let's not touch that tangent. TimeSplitters came via GameFly before the Girl's sister came into town and my brother got me Lego Star Wars for surviving another year in this world. Both merit attention.
TimeSplitters: Future Perfect
This game is more evolution than anything else. It comes from the same blokes who did the other Splitters games as well as some of the guys responsible for that N64 classic GoldenEye. In fact, I've found the TimeSplitters series to be the most spritual descendant of that great game than virtually any other, including the fairly decent The World Is Not Enough. It's not that other people who have followed the "GoldenEye Killer" path before have really done things wrong, it's just that there's an intangible style that these guys keep a grip on ... even when their focus goes from hardcore spy shooter to the more tounge-in-cheek scifi of TimeSplitters.
The short review: if you've like any other TimeSplitters, you'll love this one ... and if you like console shooters in general you should definately give it a try. The single player isn't really Halo, mostly because the AI doesn't feel as tight, and in some ways it's not even GoldenEye because I don't feel the singleplayer has the same level of replayability. But you still get a very tightly delivered package with tons and tons of options. While the SP mode itself might not have as many hours as GoldenEye (though it's still decent for this day and age, probably in the 15 hour range ... but more on that later) - the challenge modes alone can occupy you for some time. I spent one afternoon going through these, including the excellent "kill zombies by throwing a box" challenge, where you have to fling objects with the Uplink's new grabber ability (think gravgun) since you have no weapons to fight with.
Because of this, there's enough to do in Future Perfect that it merits a purchase instead of a rental ... which is great in the age of short, cinematic games. For comparison: Half-Life 2 was better designed and developed, but I'll have put more hours into Future Perfect in the long run. Me and the Girl's sister spent all day and most of a night and managed to complete the cooperative game on easy in probably about twelve hours ... and I would imagine higher difficulties would increase that time. Throw in a map editor and online play and this is one dense package.
It's not without flaws. The AI is underwhelming. The coop mode is plagued by these odd moments where your partner is teleported against their will, presumably to keep players in places for cinematics and transitions. A few of the puzzles are more confusing than entertaining and sometimes descend into the old "OK, what room did I miss" problem. Also, fans of the series may feel that the weapon and character design is feeling a little too familiar.
However for anyone who enjoys a shooter using the PS2 controller, this one belongs in your library.
Lego Star Wars
It's funny to find someone's geek limit. The Girl, god bless her soul, allows her inner geek to enjoy the PlayStation on any random evening and has plowed through virtually every rendition of the Dark Alliance engine ever produced. This is a girl that fell asleep, controller in hand, while making through a late night session of Return to Arms.
However, Lego Star Wars was too much at first. It really is a geek's marvel. It's oozing with geekdom. It's overwhelming with it's mighty geek whallop. Usually a single license is too much for one game to bear gracefully, but this title manages to juggle both with ease. By now I'm sure most readers will have heard about being able assemble things with the Force and some of the beautiful Lego cinematics (I found Episode III much more enjoyable this way).
What is truly impressive about Lego Star Wars isn't just the great dedication to the licenses, but the underlying design as well. This is a playground for nostalgic adults who grew up with these things. Yeah, it's very kid friendly right down to the accessible controls and lack of sexy gore ... but this gives the mature gamer an excuse to play with toys they've neglected in the closet for too long.
There's a lot of replayability here, done a la platformer rules not unlike Mario 64. You'll find yourself going back to old levels, which are generally quite well designed, to find hidden items to earn "studs", which is apparently the new currency of this joint world. These studs can be swapped for unlockable cheats, characters and eventually opens a mysteriously locked door. You bounce from level to level in one of the best hub worlds ever created, Dexter's Diner ... which is fairly fun on it's own. Using the Force to pop open salt shakers, turn over stools and just cause general mayhem is both entertaining and proves my theory that sometimes Jedis are just jerks. Honestly, you wonder why Dexter puts up with that kind of crap.
The two player action is handled quite well (eventually, The Girl was coaxed). There's a decent party system which allows people to either tag or swap characters at will, depending on if it's story mode or just free play. In free play you can take evil characters to play ... and there's nothing quite like watching three Darth Mauls go at it for a fun afternoon.
In summary, if you like Legos, or Star Wars, or just a solid action platformer with great two player options - you won't go wrong here.
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
Seen on the cliffs of games.slashdot would be this excellent set of perspectives from real life Mac developers:
I vaguely remember Ryan popping up on the Unreal support lists sometimes and remember thinking that he seemed hella smart. His perspective alone forced about three blinks while reading it, but the gamut of talent speaking up is impressive. Makes my silly iconographic math look like all that kind of children's scrawling, that's for sure. So stop reading this drek and go read them instead. This could impact all computer games as it starts shift the old teutonic plates of the market.
Update: Can't believe I scanned past this quote from Ryan the first time:
Yup. Hella smart.
Gamedev.net is holding a "Four Elements" contest. Entrants must create a Windows compatible (browser/downloadable fine) game which uses robots, pirates, ninjas and zombies. Any game not using at least two of those is disqualified.
Fun concept. I'll probably forward this to the GarageGames set, but don't think I'll have time to participate myself. Particularly in my current non-Windows state.
Over the last few days this corner of the blogosphere has had what Amit at Damned Machines appropriately coined "A Very Slight Controversy". While Amit and some others have managed to roll this into some healthy conversations about what the mainstream does and what bloggers do and the nature of reviews, etc., there's still this meme going around that this was a brawl between the bloggers and the pros, so to speak.
Everyone loves a conspiracy. In one corner you have the upstart bloggers pointing out all the industry connections the mainstream has and in turn you have the mainstream pointing out how the bloggers don't have all the facts and just complain about the industry. It's fun, it's salacious, it's the kind of thing that Dynasty was made of ... a shame both sides don't really exist.
First off, the mainstream media being nothing but corrupt shills. Well, I've heard that one for a while. I've tried to defend titles like Doom 3 or Deus Ex 2 to the masses and used professional reviews as sources. Oh, but of course you can't trust professional reviews because reviewers are paid by companies which make their money by advertising which is paid by the gaming industry. So anyone in the professional gaming media is somehow on the take.
Heck, I even remember debating Unreal Tournament 2003 and being told that Mark Rein promised there would be vehicles and of course Gamespy was just his unwilling patsy.
So let's go to the core of this myth and illustrate one very specific fact.
Advertising makes for horrible bribes. And if you think differently, you've never worked anywhere near anything published. Advertising is costly and somewhat risky. You pay for production and you pay for exposure and you aren't really guaranteed squat. Compare that to a bribe, where you pay specifically for something and if you don't get it you break someone's legs. Trust me when I say the ROI is much better on bribes.
Yeah, the gaming media gets other perks. Free access to titles, previews, information, etc. And here is where the other myth blows up. The blogosphere can't hate the mainstream media because they need a resource for that kind of thing. Sure, bloggers have been getting into E3 and sometimes have their own sources and whatnot - but nothing beats working for the establishment if you want the industry to talk to you. And bloggers feed off that. I personally use about five different sets of RSS feeds to try and figure out what I think might be interesting in a day. How sparse would that be if I decided the mainstream was too corrupt to pay attention to?
So why did I bring up getting free titles in my post to Matthew? Well, mostly I wanted to point to his lousy logic skills. But I also wanted to illustrate that while there's plenty to disagree with the Tea Leaves post that there are some points. Look, I have conversations with lots and lots of people about gaming ... some industry and some not. They are wildly different. It's good to have these different perspectives. For instance, when I focused on how some reviews suck, the main leap was from large sites like IGN to smaller sites like RPGamer.
Now, does that mean the RPGamer is more honest and credible than IGN? Well, probably not more honest - but it did give a better review ... so perhaps more credible. Of course, IGN has about 100x more content, scoops, previews, etc. And which do I read more often? IGN covers a wide net, but you can bet the next RPG review I want I'll look at both sites.
So let us be clear. The "Carnival of Gamers" has nothing against the mainstream media. Never had, never will. It's just a method of collecting links together and moving that collection from one blog to another. It's not an entity or a collective thought. There is no manifesto. Any perception that there was one should be removed. There is no conspiracy. Not on either side. From here on out if someone has something to say about about another, take it up with each other and leave the rest of us alone.
Monday, June 06, 2005
...you have to learn how to fall. At least that's my old Aikido sensei taught me. It's actually pretty defeatist logic, when you think about it. Sure, it makes sense on the old tatami, but if you assume you're going down in a fight - you've probably already lost.
Well, in my recent dealings with C++ ... I recall how wise the words really are. In my expirements with procedural texturing I just got a single pixel to not turn the color I want, but instead a very ugly shade of grey.
And I consider that an overwhelming success for the evening.
Apple + Intel + WINE = Dead Longhorn?
That's probably wildly unrealistic. WINE hasn't been able to topple Windows gaming through Linux ... but then again OSX really is a different kind of beast. Apple has been insanely good at hiding the tech underbelly of BSD within it's products. If they were able to make a really solid, user-friendly version of WINE part of the OS ... could help swing things in their favor.
By way of Corvus via slashdot comes this excellent 1UP double header with crazyman Jack Thompson and MIT video games nut Henry Jenkins.
Readers have grown accustomed to me taking Jack to task or at least highlighting his insanity. I'll engage in a little of both here.
Now we should note that the question was "how often do M-rated games end up in the hands of kids in stores?" ... which Jack didn't answer. He just quoted some successful stings. They must teach that kind of flimflammery at flimflam law school. Jenkins notes, as I've mentioned before, that the overwhelming number of purchases for minors are made by adults anyway:
Boggles me too, Henry. What Jack & Company are doing, quite flagrantly, is ignoring the real problem here. We don't have a corrupt games industry out to brainwash our youth, we have irresponsible parents who rely on Best Buy to tell them what they should or should not buy. Now, a more cynical person might suspect that the reason for that is because many in the games industry have lots of money compared to parents ... and therefore make much more lucrative lawsuits.
But I'm not that cynical. I don't think Jack is all that greedy. I think he's insane. Here's a brilliant exchange which shows his mental state:
EGM: You once compared Doug Lowenstein, president of the Entertainment Software Association, to Saddam Hussein.
JT: If I did, I want to apologize to Saddam Hussein. Doug is a propagandist to whom the facts don't matter. He's paid to lie and he does it very well. Doug is paid a handsome salary, probably seven figures, to say there are no studies that indicate [violent games have] an effect on anyone. If this is true, why is the military using them to create killing simulators?
Let's repeat that statement for the viewing public:
That's right, people ... according to Jack Thomspon - Doug Lowenstein is worse than the Butcher of Baghdad. Of course, Jack also called Lowenstein a Nazi, so this shouldn't be any surprise. Parents ... is this the guy you want as your advocate?
This is my favorite, however. This is the cake. The bomb, as it were. Jack's been suing people left and right over video games. How has he been doing? Well, so far his track record is zero and whatever number of cases he's had. Yes, he's been utterly and completely unsuccessful when it comes making his argument in any sort of legal sense. He's real good at sound bites, but apparently falls short at the ... law. How does Jack account for this?
Ah yes, those cranky activist judges who keep defending that old First Amendment. Naturally, the best line is "mental molestation of children with murder simulators". That's right, Rockstar is raping the minds of teenagers. That's a mental image for your morning coffee.
Jenkins sounds a little more ... sane:
Now, lets focus back on Demuzio for a second. There are two things that should worry us. Number one, the Demuzio Law was framed in a way that it avoids the First Amendment, clearly trying to sidestep what has been to date the most successful defense for video games in the courts. Number two, the Demuzio Law puts Thompson's diatribes about murder simulators into legal text ... which will give Thompson a leg up should he ever need a precedence to show that yes, video games killed someone.
These people have fabricated a crisis. There is no rash of youth violence caused by video games, in fact ... the opposite:
So let's ask that all important question ... what problem are we trying to solve? It can't be lowering violent crime ... we already have that. It seems the real problem here are these parents who can't be bothered to do so much as a google search on a title before getting it for their kid. Thompson mentions education - but it's all lip service. Nothing he has said or done would help educate parents one iota.
Instead, all that is happening is false hysteria and an attack on free speech. Look, I'm all for parents deciding not to buy Manhunt for their nine year old. Heck, I thought Manhunt was bad enough that I'd be OK to decide that nobody play the game. But I'm certainly not going to sue Rockstar to make sure it happens.
All this said, I think I have come to a decision. Thompson is a nutjob with a microphone. I'm beginning to think that the worse anyone can do is actually pay attention to the man. He's had his chance to prove his case in sensible, logical ways - and every time he rambles off phrases like "mental molestation" or "cranial menu". He's insane, he's paranoid and he's got a bit of a messiah complex.
So I think there should just be a moratorium on interviewing the guy. All he does his generate frenzied quotes which informed people will laugh at, but the niave will get actually spooked. And that's how he works. He's trying to scare parents into supporting him. He's like those antibacterial commercials where if you don't buy their products, little Jimmy will surely die of some avian flu he caught off a slide ... all because you didn't spray it down first.
As such this will probably be the last post I give to the guy. It's getting redundant anyway and I don't want him to have any more stage than he deserves.
Call it the rumor that would not die, but the buzz really seems to believe that the House of Steve is looking to go with Intel chips in the somewhat near future. Apple Matters takes a great look at the pros and cons of such a deal.