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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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