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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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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

NIMF Grades ESRB With Nonsense

I've got nothing against NIMF. That's why I have a link to them on my site.

But if you read their latest video game industry report card, they fail the ESRB on accuracy of their ratings. This is largely rationalized because of the uber-idiotic Hot Coffee scandal of recent history.

Note, however, later down when they release the lists of the good and the bad:

Parent Alert! Games to avoid for your children and teens
1. Far Cry M
2. F.E.A.R. M
3. The Warriors M
4. Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse M
5. True Crime: New York City M
6. Blitz: The League M
7. Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories M
8. God of War M
9. Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil M
10. Urban Reign T
11. Conker: Live and Reloaded M
12. Resident Evil 4 M

MediaWise recommended games for children and teens
1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire E 10+
2. The Incredibles: Rise of the Underminer E 10+
3. Peter Jackson's King Kong E
4. Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap E
5. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe E
6. Sly 3: Honor Amongst Thieves E 10+
7. We Love Katamari E
8. Sid Meier's Pirates! E
9. Dance Dance Revolution ULTRAMIX3 E 10+
10. Backyard Baseball 2005 E

Those letters off to the side of the titles would be the ESRB ratings.

Anyone else notice something? Only one game on the list breaks the expected rating ... Urban Reign. Not having played the game, I can't comment as to why it would be on their bad list. Seems like if the ESRB can maintain a standard which keeps that much in line with NIMF's own recommendations ... they can't be doing that bad.

NIMF, stop the damn grandstanding. Hot Coffee is yesterday's news and it was never very accurate or well played out to begin with. Failing the ESRB here feels more like a publicity stunt than any proper critique.

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Bonus: I'm apparently not the only one who sees it this way.

High School Gets MoCap

Dang, when I was in high school, we thought Apple II's were something of a luxury. Now, schools are getting their own motion capture system:

McKinley Technology High School (MTHS) has become the first-ever secondary school to install a Vicon motion capture system. The new install will support the school's three departments of study: Biotechnology, Interactive Media, and Digital Broadcasting, and will be integrated into its Institute of Video Game Development, a Saturday morning program educating teenagers in videogame development from over 40 schools throughout the DC metropolitan area. McKinley Technology High School has installed a Vicon V6 system, offering its students truly state of the art performance capture capabilities.
-- McKinley Is First High School To Install Vicon MoCap System

This, I predict, will be followed by the first wedgie ever digitized.

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Monday, November 28, 2005

Playing Catch Up

Been busy. Been gone. Here's a quick rundown on all the stuff I've been ignoring.

Xbox 360s are overheating/crashing/misbehaving
I'll say the same thing I said when the people were saying that the PSPs had massive dead pixel problems. A couple of screenshots on the the internet aren't a massive problem. At worse, it's completely expected for a first run of a brand new complicated piece of electronic. So, consider that the next time you wait in the cold for ten hours to get one.

50 Cent says violence is for kids
Well, he's an idiot. What do you expect from someone who has made a career out of the fact that he got shot several times? While he might be the worst PR for the game industry, it's not that big of a deal. If you are listening to a gangster rapper for advice about raising your kids, you're an idiot too.

Something costs this much, and this other thing that much more
Lots of articles coming about concerning the cost of manufacturing of the 360, the original Xbox, the PS3, your stove, etc.

Here's the thing.

1. Unless the articles making these estimates have some inside sources, they are probably wrong. The production cost for a unit isn't the same as just adding up the seperate pieces, as anyone who has ever built a computer should know.

2. I'd be amazed if the 360 is more subsidized than the original Xbox. Microsoft is aiming for more profits each iteration and you can't do that by sinking into the red right away. This article suggests it was $125 a loss per original Xbox, not counting non-manufacturing costs and I recall some estimates closer to $200.

It was a lot, it will still be a lot and surely the PS3 will be sold at a decent loss too. Trying to determine precise numbers is probably a lesson in futility though.

There is a Dead Or Alive movie trailer
Seriously, avert your eyes. After watching this I half expected the phone to ring with a raspy voice proclaiming I had seven days to live.

Sony is still being a jerk
About their rootkit. They absolutely deserve your hatred. I feel like I should be making more an issue out of this, but I don't know how to expand on they fact that they are utterly in the wrong, the RIAA is utterly wrong for supporting them, and every consumer out there should be pissed as hell at them for their action. There is no complicated analysis or insight required here, just anger.

I'll put it this way. Am I re-thinking a PS3 or PSP purchase over this?

Yes. Yes I am.

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Thompson Heads To Tennessee

Actually, I'm not sure he is physically going there, but his continuing crusade to find a legal case which is actually winnable heads off to Tennessee, where he once again blames Grand Theft Auto for training a violent teenager:

This is how lousy Jack is at his job:

Now well-known Florida Lawyer Jack Thompson, who previously linked Rockstar game Manhunt to the murder of 14-year-old Stefan Pakeerah in Leicester last year, has reportedly said teenager Ken Bartley Jr, who shot three high school staff in Tennessee earlier this month, was trained to kill by Grand Theft Auto.


In a statement, the lawyer said: "As has happened in other instances, as in the triple homicide in Fayette, Alabama, by an 18-year-old obsessive player of the cop-killing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, a highly-charged emotional event can serve as a trigger for such a shooting."
-- City-designed violent video game blamed for US murder

What's interesting about those two sections of the article? Well, in the first one ... the connection between the kid and the video game was dismissed because it was the victim who was a fan of the game, not the killer (and the police never took the link seriously) ... and in the second one Thompson was forcibly removed from the case and then had his temporary Alabama legal license revoked ... largely because he would do things like call the family of the killer and suggest publically that it was factually sound that their child was brainwashed by a video game.

Any betting man knows how this one will go. Media will make frenzy out of nothing, eventually rational people will look at the evidence and realize how crazy it really is and then the whole thing will get laughed out of court.

In other words, Jack Thompson is becoming a professional failure.

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Revolution Roundtable

I'm not fully back yet (body kinda, mind and soul ... still sleeping off the tryptophan) ... but I thought this six page developer roundtable on the Nintendo Revolution was interesting enough to jot down.

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