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Monday, July 31, 2006

Superman Returns

We saw Superman Returns at the IMax on Friday. It's one of the most expensive movies in the history of movies and yet it doesn't feel like a Jurassic Park or even Spider-Man where every special effect is chasing down every scene. Instead of huge explosions or giant robots the movie dedicates the enormous amount of special effects to simply making the movie look good. There's some impressive transitions between live and CG actors, CG backgrounds, etc., which all lend the movie a hand in making the reality and fantasy of the movie blend.

The story is pretty good. It's actually a bonus that this movie is a sequel to the previous Superman films because it serves as a kind of homage to those movies while updating the material fairly intelligently. The plot is similar, except that we're dealing with a more modern "supermom" version of Lois. The dialogue is similar, except that most of the tired cliches are used as jokes instead of served cold (side note: conservative nutcases who got all pissy at this film need to STFU and take their culture war elsewhere). It's a lot like the revival of Doctor Who - it doesn't shy away from the corniness that makes the foundation of Superman's long media history, it simply takes advantage of it. Singer also pulls excellent performances from everyone involved.

Much of the drama goes towards proving just how hard it is to be Superman ... even if you're tall, handsome and invincible. It works fairly well, although we never get much of the backstory or too awful in depth into any character. I hate to use the comic book card as an excuse, but for the genre it more than gets the job done.



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Dalek Attacks



And yet ... nobody seems to be afraid of the overgrown pepperpot.


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More On Nintendo's Wide Net

I am, of course, drawing upon the new book The Long Tail, by Wired magazine editor in chief Chris Anderson, which presents the idea that combining sales from one company's many, lesser-known products would actually account for more revenue than the sales of its most popular products.

Mario has sold nearly 3 million units, but nine more productivity applications that sell only as well as O-Ryouri Navi would equal that amount. And because the development cycle of something like an interactive cookbook is significantly shorter than that of a sprawling, epic adventure game, Nintendo could churn out a number of different products with little difficulty.

Nintendo is also in an excellent position to capitalize on Long Tail economics with its upcoming home game console, Wii. Specifically, the company's planned digital delivery service, which will allow users to download games from the company's 20-year back catalog, has some advantages over Microsoft's competing Xbox Live Arcade service.

The Xbox system requires that every downloadable arcade game feature a bevy of upgrades, from new high-definition visuals (even for Frogger!), online leaderboards, and even head-to-head online play for two-player games. This means that a great deal of effort has to be put into each game release; thus, only the games with the broadest appeal will be chosen for the service. That's why Namco's classic Pac-Man will be available on the 360 next month, but their 1987 schoolgirl superheroine adventure Wonder Momo will never, ever see the light of day again. Nintendo's service will have no such upgrade prerequisites -- the games will appear exactly as they did in 1985, warts and all. This means Nintendo can fill its service with as much downloadable content as it wants without needing to rely on any one specific product being a hit.
-- Cooking Up a Gaming Revolution

Nintendo's looking pretty smart these days. It almost begs the question - can the Wii fail? I mean, the DS is a lock for the foreseeable future (although I wouldn't put it pass Nintendo to release another update). The Wii is inexpensive and has great hype behind it. The only trip I can see is if there's a consumer revolt against the "revolution" itself - i.e. people don't like swinging their arms around like chimps if they want to play a tennis game.

Still, if they keep this strategy up ... their goal will be to find something on the console for everyone. Even the chimp haters.



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E3's Exaggerated Death

Contrary to reports across the web, E3 has not been cancelled. Next-Gen had hoped that they would blow the lid off of a hot story by revealing that the show had been cancelled, but some quick fact checking shows that they are simply incorrect. Sources close to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) tell Ars Technica that the show can and will go on, but that big changes are planned. The "Electronic Entertainment Expo" (hence E3) started in 1995 as a small but interesting annual convention for gaming, following roughly six months after the once-popular annual COMDEX computer trade-show in Las Vegas. The show has grown immensely in popularity, and that appears to be the problem.
-- E3 game trade show not cancelled, but will be downsized

Wow, a major gaming news site getting their facts completely wrong and making a big splash with it? Color me shocked. Points go to Ars Technica for actually, you know, researching a story.

As for E3, I'm not sure I can muster enough energy to care whether it lives and breathes. It's early. It's Monday. The Girl and I got caught up in a late night BuffyFest and the size of my cranium indicates that my key lime absente mixes were a tad more powerful than I reckoned. E3? E3 has turned into little more than a press release orgasm. It's always giving people that false sense of reality. Didn't E3 promise us Duke Nukem Forever? And Sony's showing at the last E3 is what started the downward spiral of "OMG THE PLAYSTATION IS DOOMED" meme. I mean, talk about hangovers ... E3 always seems to leave the gaming world a little overexcited, somewhat dehydrated and quite often a bit embarrased about what might have been said the night before.

I think I could survive without.





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Friday, July 28, 2006

More Canvas Tag Gamery

Checking out this canvas breakout example made me wonder why it works so much faster than my current tests. The code is almost completely identical. We even ended up calling out collision routine the same thing.

The reason? The canvas tag's performance is directly related to the size of the canvas itself, despite what you're putting on it. A large canvas requries more resources than a small one, even if they both are doing the exact same amount of drawing. 250x250 seems to produce pretty good results. Course, that's fairly small if you're trying to create enough space for two players. I may be able to get better performance by clipping the sections of canvas I'm not actually using when specific elements are being drawn ... not sure.


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Adver-ARG-ing

The commercial’s voiceover intoned: “Since the dawn of time, man has been curious, imagining all that is possible. The Hanso Foundation: reaching out to a better tomorrow. Discover the experience for yourself. Call 877-HANSORG.” If the intrigued were able to get past the busy signal, they came across several obscure Lost-related references (Widmore Corp., Geronimo Jackson) before their touch-tone navigation led to a warning from Persephone, an anti-Hanso activist who had hacked in to leave the password “breaking strain” to get into protected areas of the Hanso Foundation website. The Lost Experience was off and running.

This intricate and interactive alternate reality game (ARG) is about blurring the line between fiction and reality. But it’s also a bold exercise in viral marketing for a medium desperately in need of a new business model now that so many DVR-owning viewers fast-forward through advertisements. It’s no coincidence the game’s first clue came in the middle of a commercial break.
-- Media: Lost In Alternate Reality Gaming

To date, most successful ARGs - ilovebees, Lost Experience, etc. - are really advertising. Is this fair, though, in the case of Lost Experience, which ties online media to tube media? Well, yes, because they're still tying you into Jeep or Monster.com or whatever. Jamie Kane is possibly the most successful ARG I can think of that wasn't tied to any single brand (except for the BBC). Course - Kane was pretty odd ... mostly mini-games and singular experiences with chatterbots as opposed to the communal sleuthing with "traditional" ARGs.

It poses plenty of unanswerable questions - can ARGs create a sustainable revenue stream for next gen media? Can they ever replace the forced space of regular ads? Are ARGs sustainable without being hitched to a advertising revenue?

I also wonder if all the back and forth the interliterati crowd has on structure and format is sidestepping ARGs as a viable platform for new interactive stories. They're not overburdened by complicated AI or emotion routines. They're completely capable of support complex narratives (which can be adjusted for player actions). They're probably a lot cheaper to produce than Facade.






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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Video Game With Sticker And Tape Levels


With EdgeBomber, players can use tape, stickers and scissors to create their own playground on a wall. The system grabs the scenery and creates a virtual level for a jump'n'run video game. The playground is extended with items and enemies and is projected back to the original scenery. Add or remove stickers to decide the levels of the game. In the mixed media environment, the hero "Oskar" has to resist the attacks of Hubert and the Evil Sausage.
-- we make money not art: Sticking and video gaming

That's sweet. Take the idea back to the concept of couch coop - and it gets even neater. Players not just sitting in the same room, playing the same game - but actualy being involved in on-the-fly edits of how the game is played.



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Canvas Collision Test

Having gotten some preliminary motion out of the canvas tag (that fancy HTML which helps build things like OS X widgets and the like), the next logical problem to solve would be collision. After all, games are mostly just objects ramming into each other. So, here's a really basic collision test which works like a busted version of Space Invaders. Ironically, it doesn't work on Safari - because of the fact that button events will pause Safari's canvad rendering. I was going to utilize a key event handler anyway, so that might be next.

Update: Key controls work now. A=Left, D=Right, Space=fire.


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Robot Dolls




babyart lists a series of Shinichi Yamashita models, haunting female "robots" (via we make money not art). Nifty and creepy, if one isn't offended by all the uncovered plastic nipples.



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PSP Video Podcasts

Video podcast support is coming to the PlayStation Portable thanks to a firmware update Sony published in Japan on Thursday. The update, which pushes the PSP firmware to version 2.80, allows the PSP to receive video clips through RSS feeds from blogs and other websites. Sony first added RSS and podcast support in November 2005 and expanded it in April this year. Additionally, the firmware update adds compatibility for the .3gp audio format used by some mobile phones, and greater access to content stored on Memory Stick memory cards.
-- Now the PSP does video podcasts

The PSP has taken some ribbing, but Sony is clearly maintaining support for it. I lump it into the same hardware category as the 360 - this first revision feels a bit rough, but the next generation of it might be well worthwhile.



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IE7 As Automatic Update

Microsoft will deliver IE7, the next version of Internet Explorer, to consumers via its Automatic Updates (AU) service, but the company will give enterprises a tool to make corporate desktops bypass the update.
-- Microsoft to release IE7 as automatic update


I blog this only to offer my 100% support for it. It's difficult to describe just how out of sync IE6 is with modern browser design. The only excuse, unless Microsoft has mucked up IE7 something major, to not upgrade is sheer laziness.


Course, I still find ie7.com quite excellent.


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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

LA Times Repeats "PlayStation Rental" Meme

So this was that woman spouting nonsense on Attack Of The Show:

Sony Corp. has patented technology that would prevent its PlayStation consoles from playing used, rented or borrowed video games — raising questions about whether the electronics and entertainment giant may attempt to redefine what it means to own something in the digital age.
-- Furor Over Sony Patent

Actually, as I've said repeatedly - I've read the patent and it doesn't say anything about the PlayStation. It's related to recordable media.

Sony has said little about the technology, patented in Japan in 2000, or how it might be deployed. But speculation over Sony's plans has sparked a furor online as game fans and consumer advocates fret that the company may incorporate it into the upcoming PlayStation 3 console, due to hit stores this fall.


Actually, they've come right out and said it's not true. Sadly, no "journalist" seems to care (since it would deep six this juicy rumor). You can read it here if you can't be bothered to take the two seconds to google it. Which you shouldn't feel bad about, since a professional journalist can't either.

Documents filed in April 2000 with the U.S. Patent Office describe a method of copy protection by which the game system would verify a disc as legitimate, register the disc to that particular game console, then wipe out verification data so the disc would be rendered unreadable in other PlayStations.


Where does this verification reside? On the disc? Once again, that would require a recordable Blu-Ray drive and a rewritable game medium ... neither of which the PlayStation 3 will have nor will it likely ever have. Maybe if the PS3 was using carts, I could buy into this. As it is, it doesn't take much logic to realize it doesn't fit. The original link to the patent is now long gone, so it's possibly even been withdrawn at this point.

My original post from almost a year ago outlines how something like this goes from rumor to news report ... and now the L.A. Times has kicked in as well.

Every time I read this ... I hear that screeching sound of game journalism scratching the bottom yet again. If a professional can't be bothered with ten minutes of actual fact checking, I don't know why I should expect anything more from anyone else on the subject.

Addendum: Let me be clear on this, just in case anyone gets it confused with any previous posts about Sony, etc. This isn't about Sony. Sony doesn't even factor into this. This is about the entire world of game news - from blogs to newspapers to television - getting facts so wrong that they can't adhere to the laws of physics. Unless someone else can explain how a non-recordable disc-based medium could possibly be so altered short of the console being armed with a straight edge razor to cut out the verification data ... because that's about what it would take. I would love to be wrong on this ... because much of the game "journalism" is trying to say that water is actually dry ... and most everyone is just nodding without much of an afterthought on it.



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One For My Homies

Lemme guess ... the demo is coming in two weeks?


(trust me, to some that's hilarious)


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What We're Watching

Game-wise, The Girl and I are pretty focused on Sims 2. I finished Resident Evil 4 and even played some of the extra content, but I think it's about to get sent back to the great GameFly in the sky.

Television-wise, it's an odd time of the year. We had pretty much nothing there for a while, which sent us back to renting old Buffy reruns. Now, we've got a bigger list:

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia
We caught this show for it's first season and loved it. It's what Cheers would have been if it were mashed with South Park. Much of the comedy stems from how low the main characters are willing to sink and hits such themes (wtih delightful 50's style muzak as it's overture) as underage drinking and crack addiction. It's indie, low-budget feel works well to it's advantage, focusing strongly on the performances of the ensemble which carry the show.

Stargate, Stargate Atlantis
I never really got into Farscape, once referring to it as the best episode of "Muppets In Space" ever produced. Browder and Black, however, manage the impossible - filling a gap left by Richard Dean Anderson. His absence is still felt and to be honest, the show is getting long in the tooth in that "what's the plural of apocalypse" way ... but it's still quite enjoyable. Atlantis seems to be finally getting it's stride as well.

Hustle
I've talked about it before, but Hustle is still amazing television to me. It uses it's cast brilliantly and features smart and fun plotlines. A constant source of fun.

The 4400
I can quite put my finger on the 4400 ... which is why I think it's still watchable. It's one of those shows that could flop if the writers haven't built a decent premise to unfold. At times it feels like it's missed it's real mark - a drama about people supplanted from their past- for a Lost style mystery. It's still fun to watch, but it will be interesting to see which goal works or doesn't.




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Great Tasting Fruit



From lawerence evil's photostream.


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Pinatas Having Sex?

Wait, there's "mating dances" in Viva Pinata? Right down to some Barry White or soft jazz? Isn't this primarily aimed for kids? Sure, it's not explicit ... but I'm still in a bit of huh on this one.

It's odd ... Sims is often the posterboy of clean interactive media living whereas San Andreas is Lucifer. Yet, I've managed to bed nearly every woman in Sims 2 and have two spouses ... a man and a woman. Lots of sex in Sims 2 is actually the easiest way to make friends in the game ... a pretty important goal. By comparison, the girlfriends in San Andreas bored me so much that I eventually just shot one of them.

OK, that didn't come out so much of a defense of San Andreas as questioning Sims 2...





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Lik-Sang's PlayStation 3 "Pre-Orders"

They're not exactly pre-orders as much as a virtual ticket to get in line. I'm not sure pre-orders do much but add to the insanity of these launches ... especially with rumors afloat that some European retailers may require a 150 pounds just for the priviledge of some adolescent stock boy stealing your new shiny toy.



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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Canvas Tag Speed Run

This is probably largely a confession on how much more likely I am to toy with technology than actually utilize. In playing with the Torque Game Builder this afternoon, I was compelled to play with the HTML canvas tag ... which will sound to most as a kind of folly. And indeed, it probably is. TGB is mature code based on production worthy C++ and the canvas tag was mostly designed for web widgets and graphs.

But to paraphrase Crow T. Robot, I did all the calculations and decided to go with it anyway. My biggest concern with using a browser is performance. I've long bemoaned plugin tech as a reasonable game platform because it's inefficent in terms of speed - you have an engine within an engine within a platform. Compare that to your average native game which at least tries to set aside most of it's resources to your goal and you can guess the difference. My only defense is that I'm hoping a structured tag within a browser beats that back a few layers.

Does it work? Well, this is a quick initial test with a dynamic number of objects running at a dynamic speed (with no other physics, collision or other game related code running, obviously). Of note is: 1) the browser will set aside space for an initial max number. This is currently 150. So if you hit 151, you'll notice a quick slowdown. But this is fixed by raising the initial number. 2) In Safari at least, event handling itself will proceed the entire performance of the canvas tag. Each button click is a pause.

Part of this is certainly a part of me just drawn to what I know. I know web tech. Really, really well. Can you make a decent couch-coop arcade game with it?

Honestly, I don't really know.

EDIT: Oh right, you'll need recent versions of FireFox or Safari to make this work. I'm going to test Opera in a bit, in a hope against hope that the DS will become a gaming browser of sorts. Internet Explorer? Look, Microsoft is at least a generation behind at this point. Trust me when I say that IE7 can't come fast enough for you lot loyal to browser. It's way past due.

And: Opera's not pretty. Doesn't like to add new objects. It's pretty much OK with the brief beta of the card-based fiction I've got running though, and I was mostly hoping that would work with the DS anyway. If I can do arcade in Safari/Firefox and IF in DS Opera ... I'll be happy.




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Google Maps Mobile Rocks

Dang. I just downloaded and tried out the mobile version of Google Maps for my 6230. Woah. I can store directions, view current traffic problems and show people exactly where the potential new condo is with just a few clicks. It's fast and easy to use. There have been many times I wished I could pull up a map while tootling (read: horrifically lost) in the car. This will now likely be a daily app for me.




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Nintendo's Revenge

Nintendo just boosted their profit estimates for the coming year by $150 million from over half a billion dollars, indicating that the company might be one of the unlikely winners in the console wars.
-- Revenge Of Nintendo



Not so long ago, I remember witnessing forum wars about how Nintendo was dead. The GameCube was a coffin and the PSP would be the nails. The DS was a schtick device with little appeal (a belief I partially adhered to myself) and with the 360 launch - Nintendo would likely pull a Sega and ditch the console hardware completely.

Now they're on the verge of launching a console with massive appeal and low cost point ... poising them to possibly even take the "lead" in terms of sales. I use the word lightly because I really think the Console Wars are more like a Console Street Fight where there's never going to be a clear "winner". But we're Americans and we like contests ... and so someone has to come out in the front.

I think it's important to remember this hubris when it comes to Sony, though. Lots of people are poking any potential hole into the electronics giant ... while forgetting they're an electronics giant. Sony is neither a fly by night garage company nor are they the sum of the eccentric executives who seem to be prone to bizarre PR events. Nobody predicted the 360's stumbles or the potential of the Wii's popularity. Predicting Sony's sudden downfall is equally hazardous.

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Kieron On Demuzio

You remember Senator Demuzio, right? She championed video game legislation on the auspices that games are akin to pornography and tobacco. It ended up potentially costing Illinois taxpayers thousands of dollars. Nearly half a million, if I recall correctly (and I do).

Patrick points to Kieron Gillen's excellent rant-essay which largely uses the Senator's feeble grip on reality as a launching point:


Let's put aside the question, exactly in which imminent conflict the armed forces expect to utilize their finely-honed gold-coin-collecting skills. Let's take the good Senator at her word - games are almost military simulators, so not expression - and move forward

By an odd quirk of fate, I found myself in Prague a few weeks back, visiting Bohemia Interactive. They're best known for their breakthrough soldier-sim Operation Flashpoint, critically acclaimed for its extreme devotion to realism. The critics weren't the only ones who noticed. After its release, they were approached by cheery governmental bodies to transform the game into a training simulator for soldiers. The resultant VBS1 is used by the US Marines and National Guard, among others, as part of their training.

So, in the case of Flashpoint, Senator Demuzio is very much right. Flashpoint is exactly the sort of game she was thinking about when making her statement, with the game and the war-simulator merely tweaked versions of one another. Where she's entirely wrong is arguing that this somehow makes the game not a form of expression.

Bohemia is actually one of the more idealistic groups of developers I've met. They talk about their moral discomfort in creating a game about a real conflict, recalling a specific project based on Vietnam. The team disposed of months of work because they thought it impossible to make a game that was both accurate and enjoyable. They spoke of adding destructible buildings to their engine for future games, explaining the addition isn't because they want to give people the visceral thrill of seeing a building fall apart. Rather, it is because they want to create a persistent world where your successes and failures remain to remind you of your errors. Fail to defend a farm, and that burnt out shell is going to be sitting there for the rest of the game.
-- Culture Wargames

With things like Clinton's potential media tax and continued unrealistic portrayals about games in the press, this kind of frisking can't come nearly often enough.

See ya in November, Senator.



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Monopoly Goes Plastic

Gizmodo reports that Monopoly will be taking credit, not cash in the days to follow. Some may bemoan this as an end of an era and that it betrays of the fun of hoarding a fistful of fake money over your friends. I mean, how menacing is it to shake a plastic card in lieu of a stack of $500 bills?

Nay, I say they aren't going far enough. Add in new rules for the modern age:

Identity Theft
Swap credit cards with the person of your choice for three turns.

Balloon Payments
Pay $5 for any property on the board, but pay ten times the list price ten turns later.

Spam
Turn lost, simply read five random cards outloud to players. Any player who wants you to stop can pay you $10, but is instantly a victim of the identity theft rule.




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Human Hamster Wheel





Sims 2 invading your reality, story at nine. (via newlaunches.com)


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Monday, July 24, 2006

Gamer Kitten



Continuing the cat-related zeitgeist, from Arryll's photostream.


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Why Zune Is Doomed

Wired is whistling a dirge for Microsoft's upcoming PMP:

But its grand plan to play musical Switzerland to a host of third-party vendors, as it has done in the PC market, has proven as popular as Swiss music. (Cue accordions and alpenhorns.) No slight to the Swiss; I'm a big fan of the music-subscription idea. But the companies that use it, like Rhapsody, Napster and iRiver, have so far failed to dent Apple's lead. The system, while great in theory, is unwieldy in practice. Microsoft has to roll out changes to each and every partner, rather than implementing them itself, the way Apple does. One manufacturer told me it had to delay the launch of a player because it was waiting for Microsoft to send out the USB-2.0 spec. And the situation appears to be similar when it comes to digital rights management. Updates to Microsoft's complicated DRM schemes can cause serious compatibility problems, because the chain between Microsoft and supported MP3 hardware is so long. Changes to its online music stores can cause files not to transfer to "PlaysForSure" MP3 players, and so on.
-- Microsoft IPod 'Killer' Is Doomed

It goes on to say that while the additional features are nice, they're not likely to detract people from the iPod brand. I'm inclined to agree. Zune, actually, reminds me of Origami. For weeks people talked about how Microsoft would be rolling out a PC-level portable gaming machine which would knock the socks off the DS and PSP. Instead, we get a rehashed Tablet PC with a flip-phone sensibility. I think Wired's being a little too gloomy here, perhaps, because they're ignoring the role the 360 might play in the device's popularity. I don't see Microsoft taking the next Walkman crown, though.




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"Shooter", "Gamers": LAN Party Portraits

The two-part work "Shooter" by the artist duo Geissler and Sann consists of a video and photo documentation of LAN parties organised by the artists in their studio over a period of a year and a half. Both the video sequences and the photo documentations show the players front-on against a neutral background from a constant camera angle.The video, on show at the exhibition, observes the players during a fight scene, i.e. while they are killing or getting killed in the virtual world of the network while sitting in the same room as their adversaries. The video shows moments of intense concentration of a temporary tension characterised by inner drama. According to the artists, "The viewer … witnesses a life-and-death game with no consequences".
-- Shooter (via we make money not art)

Unfortunately the site listed there 404's and I can't find a better sampling of the images online. Not so true of Gamers, a series by Todd Deutsch, from that same WMNA post. This isn't exactly the kind of stuff I'd hang on my wall, but it's interesting to see someone take an artistic slant on the gamer culture.


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AMD Possibly Buying ATI

From just a quick breeze around the net, it would seem to be true. Globe and Mail notes that it would be "a breathtakingly bad idea from a strategic perspective."

I'm not really an adherent to either company. My box is currently a Celeron D with an aging Radeon 9700 ... because my nVidia card's fanless design was apparently not cool enough. Literally.



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Saturday, July 22, 2006

For Sunday: Irie The Kitten And Metroid Too

Before anyone complains about it not being Sunday, let's remember the Robot Bastard Rule For Sunday Posts. The Girl and I will be travelling around Chicagoland for the next 48 hours ... and just between you and me I'm not sure we'll make it back alive.

So, just for you:






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Friday, July 21, 2006

Wheeling Intelligencer On Stem Cells

I'm not familiar with the Wheeling Intelligencer or it's audience, but this support for Bush's seminal veto action is what I'd call typical for the course:

Feinstein’s newfound concern for the fate of “embryos” is almost touching, considering her otherwise nonchalant attitude toward the destruction of unborn children in abortions. Almost — until one seriously considers the hard fact that embryonic stem-cell research reduces tiny human beings to mere instrumentalities of “research.”
-- Bush Right About Stem Cell Bill Veto

Of course, anyone who supports the a woman's right to choose is simply "nonchalant" about the destruction of children. I understand Dianne regularly feeds on the young of illegal immigrants, just to keep them in line. This is the constant stance of the uber-righteous ... if you aren't with us, you're clearly a sinner who loves death. As The Intelligencer writes later (that's right, this editorial isn't written by a person but by an actual periodical), there is no grey zone.

Problem is ... the "hard fact" is actually just an opinon. To cancer patients, stem-cell research reduces embyros to mere instumentalities of hope. Clearly, The Intellgencer hates cancer patients.

See, a solid irrational finger-pointing can work both ways.

This is not some mere “dilemma” or “problem” that politicians can or ought to solve. There is no real middle ground.


Told ya.

Advocates of stem cell research prefer to dodge the uncomfortable facts in favor of fuzzy, emotive promises of future cures for dreaded diseases. That is because they have a pretty good idea of how the issue would be settled if people objectively considered the notion of whether little human lives should be sacrificed in the name of science. To those familiar with the uglier aspects of 20th century history, the name Mengele unavoidably comes to mind.


Mengele operated on living humans to perform experiments which to this day would confound even the coldest mad scientist to determine any real scientific value.

Embryonic stem cell supporters want experiments performed on frozen embryos already harvested from willing patients that will only be discarded anyway in the hopes of curing things like cancer.

Anyone who has actually looked at the issue objectively and can honestly make any reasonable comparison between the two, feel free to speak up.

President Bush was right to hand down his first-ever veto on this issue. It is worthy of presidential intervention. Congressional GOP leaders, for their part, once again are showing their distant drift from the principles that got them elected. Indeed, in purely political terms, it is difficult to fathom why, with full knowledge that the president will unwrap his veto pen, congressional leaders would so boldly betray pro-life advocates who they desperately need to volunteer in electoral campaigns and to vote come November.


Instead of trying to curb the budget, Bush waited to use his veto to defy the public will of mainstream America and, just as The Intelligencer freely admits here, panders to the religious demographic. It's an abuse of Presidential power to further only one cause - votes for Republicans in November from the same people who are afraid of gay people and are probably right now hoping for The Rapture to occur.

I'll take "fuzzy, emotive promises of future cures for dreaded diseases" over that any day of the week, "Intelligencer".



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Great Bumper Sticker



From ginatrapani's photostream.



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ABC Family To Produce ARG

Hot in pursuit of the internet audience, ABC's sister network, ABC Family, has announced their plans for an alternate reality game based on their upcoming television show, Fallen. Announced today in a press release found on SciFi Wire, the game is set to launch following the 2-hour premire on July 23rd. Spearheading the project is Matt Wolf, designer of games for other media features, including The Bourne Identity.
-- ARGN: ABC Family Announces Upcoming ARG

Via's Wonderland's del.icio.us links. Are ARG's simply the ultimate form of advergaming at this point? Can the genre ever move more towards the mainstream? The last one I played was Jamie Kane, a far cry from my ilovebees obsession ... but not at all an unwelcome one. I'd love to see more accessible designs for the casual player.



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Best. Shoutout. Ever.



With friends like that, who needs magazines? From Female Tech's photostream.

And clearly the answer to the question - is Josh above posting such things? is now clearly no. No, Josh is not above posting such things.



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Microsoft Hit Estimate With 360

The company had expected to sell between 4.5 and 5.5 million units by the end of its fiscal year. The Home and Entertainment division said that “approximately” 5 million units were sold in the last fiscal year. 1.8 million of those were shipped during the fourth quarter.
-- Microsoft Ships 1.8 Million Xbox 360s in Q4, 5 million for Fiscal Year

I would think, considering the supply and manufacturing problems which has plagued the console, that some Microsoft execs must be very happy right about now. This would give credence to their early launch. Eventually the XBox 360 v1.5 will appear (Xbox 540?) which should resolve the manufacturing issues (but probably create anew the supply issues). In the meanwhile, Sony will be banking on it's long standing desire for convergence in the living room.




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Animal Crossing Movie

It doesn't take a working understanding of Japanese to recognize what this movie is about, provided you've played the game. To some, an Animal Crossing movie might just seem like Pokemon without the violence. To me, though, I'm hoping it may finally lay to rest all those disturbing questions. How did the world get to be populated with huge talking animals? Why do humans seem to be so very rare? Is your mom actually alive or did she perish in the apocalyptic fires which gave rise to such monstrous creatures? Is Tom Nook a pimp?

I can't wait to find out.




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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Samsung's New Gaming Phone

Samsung Korea has launched the SCH-B450 a S-DMB phone with a 2.2 inch 180 degree swivelling display. The phone concentrates more on gaming than multimedia it has a 1 Million Polygon 3D processor for detailed and realistic graphics. If this was not enough for immersive gaming the phone incorporates vibration solution by 'Vibe Tonz' which makes sure you feel all the twists and turns. It includes 3D motion recognition games which correspond to the phone's movement so if you move the phone to the left the car in the game steers to the left much like the PS3 remote control.
-- Samsung SCH-B450 the gaming phone

Pics at the link. Oh, and btw newlaunches.com - those new poplink ads are seriously annoying.



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Your MMO Style Family Vacation

Alice Hill has a bit about MagiQuest ... the family vacation mashed up with EverCrack:

How it works: Instead of giving your kids some dollars for the hotel video arcade, you take them to MagiQuest and the whole family must participate in problem solving, duels, magic spells, and so on. Worse for your wallet is the MagiQuest Marketplace shop where you must first buy and customize your wand - the more features the greater powers and tricks it does. The shop is where you also adorn your kids in capes and hats, and basically get fleeced like you do at Disneyland or any other place that caters to parents trying to entertain their families once a year. Ca-ching.
-- SPECIAL REPORT: MagiQuest’s Family Vacation Inside a Video Game

I can't tell you how many tourist traps The Brother and I got my parents to try. There were was one that I don't think we could try because it was closed, but it essentially a giant version of rooms to make you feel small. Probably a couple hundred dollars worth of plywood and paint, but it sure looked cool at the time.

This? This has magic spells. This we would have begged hard, puppy dog eyes and all. Damn I'm glad I don't have kids sometimes.



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Buffy's New Gig

The Slayer from Sunnydale will return in a new comic, previewed briefly by EW.com and should you want to pile on with comments about the cover, go see Alice.

Personally, the Buffy series died for me after Once More With Feeling - which I still contend was the last great episode. The early seasons constantly edge towards and occasionally break into brilliance. A healthy hiatus and some serious writing from Whedon would do the franchise well, no matter what the medium.




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Game Informer's Top 10 Handheld Games

The editors of Game Informer magazine rank the top 10 hand-held games (for Nintendo DS and Sony PSP):

1 "New Super Mario Bros." (DS)
2 "Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror" (PSP)
3 "Tetris DS"
4 "Daxter" (PSP)
5 "Brain Age" (DS)
6 "Metroid Prime: Hunters" (DS)
7 "Tomb Raider: Legend" (PSP)
8 "Mega Man Powered Up" (PSP)
9 "Capcom Classics Remixed" (PSP)
10 "Gradius Collection" (PSP)
-- Game Informer Top 10

PSP actually has one more title than the DS. Common wisdom these days is that Sony can do no right and therefore should have zero games in the lineup. Is the so-called derth of decent PSP titles justified or is Game Informer getting checks signed by Kutaragi? If they are, can they please tell me how to sign up? These blog ads aren't doing anything for my impending mortgage.



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Evil Dead On Broadway

What could be better?

Modelling a Broadway show on a popular movie is cool, but when the movie is Evil Dead it’s just plain bizarre. George Reinblatt, Christopher Bond and Frank Cipolla will be opening Evil Dead: The Musical (can I get a WTF please?), based on Sam Raimi’s 1981 cult horror flick. The show will be directed by Bond and Hinton Battle.
-- Moneycontrol Tech Blog > Deadites on Broadway?

I would pay mucho dinero to see a cadre of singing deadites. Oh yes I would.




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More Spore For You

Next Gen, a la Business Week, gets a little more hands on with SimMicrobiology ... AKA Spore:

Next Generation had a unique chance to get some hands-on Spore action, so we can offer some insight. A note of caution is required, however. Thanks to careful planning that ensured that the game’s most innovative aspects, such as the procedural animation engine and the super-friendly editors, have been in design and prototyping for years, all the building blocks of the game are now functional. Even so, it is clearly going to take Maxis at least a year to stitch all the elements into a coherent whole. But it is already fun to play.
-- Spore Lives Up to the Hype

There's scant new details, though, just a few new bits about reproduction, space travel and terraforming. The hype on this game is reach astronomical levels. Wright's clearly a solid leader for such projects ... but I certainly hope they remember how brutal gamer culture can be on titles which don't walk the walk.

Still, having now wasted hours in front of Sims 2 ... I'm certainly hoping that it does.



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The Nintendo Cone?



Forget the Wiimote ... what's that orange thing the guy on the left is holding in this Nintendo PR shot? A dunce cap? Safety cone? Japanese beer bong?



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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Resident Evil 4 Merchant Skit

Great video of the Resident Evil merchant let loose on the world.


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Me On That Portal Thing

Recent AIM with a friend and fellow gamer (names changed to protect from spam):


him: have you seen the crazy valve portal video?
me: can't see videos here
me: what's it like?
him: it's a fps gun, that shoots portals
him: shoot 1 wall, creates start portal, shoot 2nd wall, creates 2nd, 2 are linked
him: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wb7aDZeO_MQ&eurl=
me: oh, shoot one portal one thing ... shot another... then you can step through
him: yep
him: you can step through, you can make objects fall through, etc.
me: so it's a translocator
me: from Unreal
me: but with a door
me: I swear there was a mutator for that a year or so ago :)
him: except it works with anything
me: but you have to shoot a wall?
him: ie: I shoot a portal under a baddy, or an object, it comes out the other one
him: wall, floor, ceiling
me: yeah I think the mutator worked similar. You couldn't shoot a hole in the floor, but you could toss one in front someone and zap them across the map
me: sucked hardcore for CTF
me: funny as hell though
him: ah, i think this is unique in that it basically allows you to create a new door that opens from anywhere to anywhere, including seeing the other side of the portal through where you shot
him: and that any object is succeptible to falling through
me: yeah, UE2 didn't allow you to view other sections of the map remotely
him: i'd imagine it would make ctf a lot diff
me: I think it would generally be banned. Four guys with that kind of gun could wall off the flag pretty quickly
him: it's most intersting, and in the demo, appears to also function like the grav gun
me: You can move the doors around?
him: no, you can grab objects with it
him: they could have been swapping weapons or using something else for the grabby stuff, but, that's not the important part
me: damn Valve ... everything's the damn grav gun
him: lol
me: "oooo I can move stuff" .... what ever happened to the Cerebral Bore?
me: OK, that was Turok
me: but still...




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No Morality In Stem Cell Veto

Going to go politico for a bit. Lighthearted readers looking for funny pictures and snarky analysis related to electronics, please standy by.

President Bush is poised to veto a bill which would effectively overturn his own executive decision to limit funds for stem cell research. He does this despite being far removed of the mainstream on the decision. He says he does it out of moral imperative.

Let's get one thing clear: his veto will not save a single embryo. Not a one. Thousands of embryos will be discarded in fertility clinics around America regardless of his actions. Bush may claim his actions aren't political, but it doesn't take much to realize that's all his decision actually amounts to being. A political show of force for the political fringe which has tipped elections in his favor.

Not many people, even in real life, know this - but I'm a spiritual agnostic. This will seem to many a contradiction of terms. That's why not many people know this about me. It's not that I'm shy about it - it's that I'm generally too lazy to explain it. The most succinct description I can give is that I feel that fundamentally speaking the supernatural is beyond normal understanding. I would even suggest that it's in the definition of supernatural. If I can claim complete understanding of something - it's probably natural. Spiritually this is something of a double edged sword. I disavow being enough of an authority to believe completely ... but I also don't accept anyone else's authority.

It's not that I think everyone else is wrong. I just certainly don't think they're completely right. Again, it's easy to confuse this with athiesm ... simply because there is a healthy does of cynicism involved. I can only assure you that in my heart of hearts I hold the opposite. I am highly respectful of deeply spiritual people and quite often somewhat envious of their faith. For me, devout faith would be a kind of resignation. However, I don't deny that someone else out there might still be more of an authority than I am ... so for all I know I'm missing out on one giant religious party.

That rambling explanation is meant to explain one thing: death freaks me out. I know that's not a terribly unique position. Death is pretty scary stuff. Many people, though, have the comfort of faith. Dogs go to heaven. Sinners will get what they deserve. Nirvana is pretty nice this time of year. That kind of thing.

I have none.

So when I say that I think this is one of the most immoral actions Bush can take - I don't want anyone to be confused that I'm some ultra-rational liberal who has never given thought to the loss of life. I don't even like killing bugs, people, and not because I'm afraid of them ... but because I think it's cruel. No, I say that because to stop research which has any potential to solve problems like cancer and Parkinson's is nothing short of barbarism. To do so simply to bank political credit is outright sinful.

Bush and his kind often like to speak of the "slippery slope", especially when logic and facts stand before them. They talk about harvesting embryos and women farming off their young. Despite the fact that nobody is realistically considering this ... it's their defense. It's similar to the gay marriage defense of "we don't want people to think they can go marry a dog". Well, thanks. Way to defend the nonexistent line.

Years from now ... that defense may be responsible for killing a cancer patient. Bush accuses the proponents of this bill of exchanging human life for science. Clearly, he has no problems with exchanging human life for his own political agenda. Science versus faith? I live in that grey zone.

Science versus Bush's agenda? Not even a contest.





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Tetris Building



From EPIDEMIA_'s photostream.




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Vista's Potential Security Problems

Researchers at Cupertino, Calif.-based Symantec examined the new networking technology in recent test releases of Vista, Microsoft's next major operating system release, according to the report. They found several security bugs and determined that Vista's networking technology will be less stable, at least in the short run, than Windows XP's, the report said.
-- Symantec sees an Achilles' heel in Vista

Will Microsoft ever be able to shake the security bug? It honestly doesn't seem likely, even if one wants to give them an A for effort. Vista is probably as close to rewriting their OS as they can get, and it doesn't look like it will make the cut. Apple completely shed it's old code for newer, more robust and tested code.

I don't know if we'll ever see a Windows slide similar to the slow decay of Internet Explorer's dominance. Microsoft has, I believe, grown more user unfriendly over the years. PC gaming is prime for a decline (partially thanks to Microsoft itself). Cheaper convergence devices are on the rise. Still, consumers have almost equated Windows to computing like Kleenex to tissue. I'm probably firmly in the OS X camp for the foreseeable future - but I don't have many delusions about getting a lot of company there.



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Clive Barker To Return To Games

Now after a long sabbatical, Barker’s back with Clive Barker’s Jericho, a game that’s all set to scare the crap out of gamers when it releases in 2007 for the PC and next gen consoles. The game will follow the exploits of a team of a special-forces team as they strive to uncover the mystery behind a place called Jericho, the humble abode of evil itself.
-- Moneycontrol Tech Blog > Clive Barker Working on a New Game

I loved Undying, although I sadly never got around to finishing it. It's easily one of those titles that should have been examined harder and cloned for later entertainment. Fear is really hard in games. Heck, fear is hard period. It's not a rational reaction - so you reallly have to trick the audience into being scared. Most games do this by having something jump out of a box or the shadows ... but Barker employed a lot of ambience in his game to make it spooky, so it's great to see him around for this generation of games.



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iPod To Game?

Whether Apple will use that 3D acceleration - assuming Nvidia has won the contract - remains to be seen. The claim made by an anonymous MacRumours source that upcoming iPods will play old Nintendo games makes for a striking parallel, though the 'classic' tag suggests these are SNES-era titles, for which 3D acceleration wouldn't be needed.
-- Future iPods to morph into games consoles?

I have to say that I find this unlikely and possibly undesirable. Unlikely because Jobs is not generally in the business of adding risky new directions to his breadwinners. Undesirable because it fragments the iPod's functionality. I'm all for Apple getting their game on, but I think their focus should be on the Mini and iMac lines and not the iPod.




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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Dark Castle Cell Phone Game

Originally developed for the Macintosh in 1986 by Silicon Beach Software, Dark Castle was one of the early Mac platform’s biggest gaming hits. The platform action game put you in the role of a young hero named Prince Duncan who must make his way through a haunted castle to confront the evil Black Knight. Duncan squared off against bats, birds, walking suits of armor, and monsters galore, armed with little more than a sack of rocks.

The original Mac game featured bit-mapped black and white graphics that may seem primitive by today’s standards, but at the time were very cutting-edge. Another thing that made Dark Castle stand out from the pack was its use of sampled audio files for the sound effects. Dark Castle was ultimately ported to several other platforms, and spawned sequels as well. Delta Tao claims the current incarnation as its own, although the game has been in development for years on end.
-- Dark Castle game resurrected for cell phones


My carrier doesn't seem to offer it ... drat. That and the Doom RPG not being available for my phone helps explain why I think the mobile game market is widly overblown.




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Satellite Of Love

If you've got a few grand just lying around and a significant other you're willing to blow it on ... consider blasting some of your love into orbit:

The MySat-1 satellites will take up a low-earth orbit (LEO) between 600km and 800km above the Earth. That means their position in the sky will constantly change relative to the ground. Although they won't be visible to the naked eye, a beacon on each satellite will allow Astro Research to track them and let customers know where they are and at what time they'll pass overhead each day.
-- Send your love into space on a personal satellite

What in the world would one shoot into space ... never to be seen again?

Human Space Invaders

I would imagine this is pretty funny, a bunch of student playing out space invaders (via gengaming).


Pong as well, according to NewLaunches.


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I'm Not Waiting For Lester Bangs

I didn't get into the whole "OMG who is Lester Bangs?!?" freakout of the gamesphere from a few weeks ago, since I truly feel it's a very apple to oranges comparison of media and was so bored with it I'm already tired of talking about it.

Then last night I'm watching G4's Attack Of The Show, because I had mistakenly thought I had taped the episode where an old friend would appear. Guess what story they're running with...

That the Sony PlayStation 3 may have a feature to disable games from being replayed on other machines, hereby dismantling the PS3 rental and resale market. Their illustrious panel included Seanbaby, some chick from the L.A. Times and a guy - I honestly didn't bother to remember his name. They're basically all taking turns nodding with male host's insightful analysis of the situation.

To recap: this is a completely unfounded Internet rumor. It started with one of the many patent crawls people perform to dredge up "news". The patent was for copy protection on recordable mediums (which the PS3 does not have). Someone theorized Sony must be using this for the PS3 (because Sony, being one of the world's largest producers of consumer goods couldn't possibly use such a patent anywhere else). Few people bothered actually reading the patent, it hit the mumblevine and many forgot it was even attached to a patent and just reported it as fact.

It never made much sense. Sony has officially denied it. Nobody seems to care. None of the producers or staff of this show did any research on it. It took me about half an hour or so to read through the patent and find the points about recordable mediums. Apparently when you have a show which highlights people wearing televisions on their heads, it leaves little room for fact checking.

Lester Bangs? Yeah, right. I'm still waiting for mainstream game journalism to wake up to the same concept many of us want politicians and lawyers to recognize: many gamers out there aren't cola-addicted tweens who read Tiger Beat magazine. We're adults who read the news and occasionally even vote. I'm not a journalist. Let's get that clear before some smartass thinks that pointing out some error in this post will in any way highlight my "hypocrisy". I'm not a journalist. I make no promises on this blog about veracity. Or even good grammar.

All I can say is that I do generally think about what I put out there. Which is more than G4 can say.

So world - the next time I'm introducing myself as a gamer ... do not ask me if I watch Attack Of The Show.




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Microsoft Registers ZuneLive.com

Feeding more into the mumblevine that the Xpod-boy-thing is actually named Zune and will be roped into the Windows Live fervor:

However, ZuneNation has been investigating and we have verified that ZuneLive.com is real and it is coming soon. Looking through old WhoIs records, we found that Microsoft's Live.com and MicrosoftGadgets.com were both originally registered by this same guy, Jack Spurr.
-- ZuneNation.com - Zune and ZuneLive.com Confirmed!

Ironically, Zune is also the name of a Amiga OS GUI toolkit.





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Movie Rentals on iTunes

With three weeks until Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, Think Secret has learned exclusively that CEO Steve Jobs will use his keynote address to announce the debut of movie rentals through the iTunes Music Store. While the announcement will undoubtedly be billed as a further extension of iTunes' dominance in digital media downloads, it represents a coup for the movie industry, which will have succeeded in standing its ground against Apple's pressures to offer consumers the option of owning movie downloads.
-- Think Secret - WWDC surprise: Apple to announce iTunes movie rentals

The Girl and I have seriously considered a more digital download orientated living room. When we move, we're not entirely sure what we'll do about cable, Tivo, etc. Between iTunes and Netflix, we've got a pretty wide array of things to watch .... and moves like this might even collapse something like that.



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Monday, July 17, 2006

Google Battleship

I've started working on a bit of summer laboratory experiment to see how Google Earth could become a platform for realtime mobile gaming. (Follow the link on the Flickr photo page to the URL you can load in your Google Earth client to see the game board in its current state.)

With Google Earth open enough to place objects dynamically using the tag, a bit of SketchUp modeling and borrowing an enormous battleship model that construction dude uploaded to the SketchUp/Google 3D Warehouse, I started plugging away at a simple game mechanic based on the old Milton Bradley Battleship game.
-- Battleship:GoogleEarth (a 1st Life/2nd Life mashup) (via techmeme)

The guy is blogging his efforts at the above link. Kind of project I wish I had time for.



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EA Talks UCAP and Tiger Woods

The San Francisco Chronicle talks with D.J. Powers of EA and some of their next gen tech:

"The details of creating art assets for the next-generation platforms are much greater," said Powers. "With the Xbox and PS2 we had it down. But with the next- gen titles, we're having to relearn new hardware systems. It's a burden and there's more learning on the art side."

The new systems, while generating myriad challenges, are also creating plenty of new opportunities to outdo past games. For example, the advanced hardware has enabled Tiger Woods' facial features to come alive through a new technological leap EA has mastered called UCAP, short for universal capture. A mixture of more traditional motion-capture photography and video imaging, the program charts points on Woods' face and blends it together with actual video from three different camera angles, providing the most accurate portrait of a player ever, Powers said.

The UCAP technology is making its premiere on Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 but it will soon make its way to other titles.
-- Gamemakers keep pushing the envelope

EA's ability to maximize this kind of tech is big money for it's huge library of titles, if they can utlitize it all correctly. Tiger Woods and Sims might seem like completely different games ... but obviously GameFace and dressing your Sim is extremely similar. If EA can package that so that developers can use the same code repeatedly, it would make for a powerful toolset for it's games.

And obviously no article like this can go without a reference to the Uncanny Valley. So here it is:

Uncanny Valley.






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The Wisdom Of Senator Stevens

The senator’s gaffes — “an Internet was sent by my staff at 10 o’clock in the morning on Friday; I just got it yesterday” — are not just oratorical blunders akin to Dan Quayle’s spelling of “potatoe.” As chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, he has significant sway over telecommunications policies.

That may explain why his comments circulated so quickly through the Internet (or “tubes”), especially among those in favor of a net neutrality provision. Adam Green, blogging on the DailyKos, sarcastically called Mr. Stevens “one cool dude” and said he had “genuine information superhighway cred.”
-- Senator’s Slip of the Tongue Keeps on Truckin’ Over the Web

It's all funny until election day, Senator Stevens.



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Monsters and Critics Looking For Game Editor

If you like to both write and get your game on, this might be for you:

Monsters and Critics motto is Watch It, Read It, Play It. However, currently our gaming section is mothballed. This resulted from a number of reasons, not least our need to prioritize areas where we already had staff in position.

We are now ready to move ahead with a comprehensive gaming section, indeed we envisage this might end up the largest section on the site. As such we require an editor to manage the section and give it some direction.
-- Current Vacancies on Monsters and Critics

I would totally love to apply for something like this to garner some side work. Sadly I live a chaotic life and deadlines outside of my normal work week can be hard to promise.




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Wiimote To Use AA Batteries

According to Joystiq, the Wiimote will use two AA batteries which should last about 30-60 hours. This is a bit of a disappointment. We leave the vibration off of our Logitech wireless PS2 controller because the battery life is so much better. With it, it's about 50-70 (guestimate) and feels pretty short.

I'll have to wait for some hands-on reviews to appear to see how it works out, but I really hate throwing batteries at devices in this day and age. Give me something that recharges and a dock anyday of the week. I would have thought that after the GBASP, this would be a lesson Nintendo would agree with. Course, this is Nintendo ... so they'll probably introduce a more elegant design the following year...



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Treyarch's Bond Title

It has been revealed that Treyarch has been handed another high-profile franchise under Activision - reports Gamespot. A job listing on the Activision Web site is currently accepting applications for the position of "Gameplay Designer, Bond." "Treyarch is looking for a Gameplay Designer for our upcoming Bond title," reads the listing.
-- Activision`s Treyarch studio to create James Bond licenced videogames

I've often liked, but not loved, Treyarch's work. I love the Bond franchise, but it seems doomed to live in the shadow of GoldenEye forever.



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Mario Pinball



From jonchan's photostream.


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Evil Printer

In order to keep up with the flood of paperwork that's required to juggle for home ownership, The Girl and I picked up a printer on the way home last night. I used to have an aging HP deskjet, but the parallel cable just gets to clumsy to tote around. I was going to get a portable printer with bluetooth, so that I could easily put the printer anywhere I needed ... but we really needed the ability to fax.

So we got an OfficeJet 43 ... 15? I don't know, Hewlett Packard seems to release seventeen models for every line ... but only two at a time or something. When I got it home and opened it up, the quick installation card had in large bold letters "To Insure The Printer Is Detected Properly, Do Not Plug In USB Cable Until Step 17."

Which was easy, because HP had neglected to include a USB cable in the box.

A round trip to Best Buy later, the fax-printer was at least connected. Before it would do anything, it would complain about how it needed it's cartridges or how it didn't have paper or how it wanted to align some paper .... no wait, that didn't align ... please feed paper again ... nope, sorry ... try again ... hmmmm .... nope .... try.

I swear behind this stupid LCD screen is Marvin from Hitchhiker's Guide, only without the enormous brain.

When it was finally appeased, I tried to print out the PDF's from our lender. No go. The Mac Mini can see the printer and identify it, but refuses to talk to it. It seems that out of the 327 drivers installed from Hewlett Packard on the OS, none are suitable for this printer. This shouldn't surprise me ... it happened with my old HP printer and my old HP computer. It seems HP only releases drivers for printers nobody buys.

So I go through the lengthy install process. I don't even know what's on there. I wanted the ability to print and fax, but I think I have like eight new programs on the Mac now. They're all horrific. One is supposed to be an easy shortcut to doing things like "Scanning to PDF" or "Sending A Fax" ... but click on any of them simply launches one of the eight new programs into the background and does nothing else. "Sending A PDF" must do something, because the actual HP scan management doesn't include a PDF option anywhere ... even though it clearly supports it because if you run the "shortcut" first, it will magically save to PDF (provided you don't change anything else).

I tried to fax a PDF straight from the computer, only to realize that the front plastic hopper isn't for any paper ... but clearly to defend the printer from my wailing fists.

Seriously hate this thing.

Texas Indie Game Conference

As an independent game developer you already know how hard it is to survive in an increasingly competitive market. The Texas Independent Game Conference program features leading independent game developers covering the challenges and issues you are facing: * Where is the industry heading – what are the drivers and what can you do to win? * Where are the best opportunities, what is the timing and the likely rewards? * What’s happening in the mobile game market, is the party over? * How can I get funds for my ideas and my company? * What’s the future for casual games? * What are the trends in on-line distribution? * How can I keep protect my games and my IP? * How do I get a good Publisher/Distribution deal? …and lots more.
-- Texas Independent Game Conference

Warren Spector and Greg Costikyan to keynote.



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Tips For Breaking Into Game QA

Zachary Slater is a game quality assurance engineer. This would be that breed of cat that mythically just plays games all day ... complains about them ... and gets paid for it. In reality, being a QA person can be a brutal career. I know, I've caned more than a few myself.

Know some games you like, beyond just "Metal Gear Solid is awesome!". Talk about how you think that perhaps Hideo Kojima should have gone a little bit easier on the story arc and made it less confusing. Or about how Halo 2 has obvious Level of Detail errors during the cutscenes. People you talk to at your prospective employer will want to hear about your real interest in games, if they don't hear it, they will think you're just there because you think the job is easy (regardless of you saying exactly the opposite). You must sound interested and well-prepared.
-- So, You've Decided to Interview For Game QA (digg it)



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Get Your Guy To Game

Tired of your man not having any interest in television related activities? This guide may help. (digg it)


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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Your Irregularly Scheduled Broadcast


If you ever wanted an excuse to dredge up virtually every financial document that you've ever had in your adult life and fax legal contracts to at least three people ... I highly recommend buying a condo in Chicago. Otherwise, I recommend a small drill bit and some salt, because it's really just about as much fun.

The Girl and I are heading for Hometown sometime today, her trip having been delayed by the previous paragraph. It's unlikely that I'll be seeing you lot until Sunday, so remember to wash regularly and waste a little time with your favorite electronic distraction.

In the meantime, I see we have some colorful new ads for everyone to click on. Seriously people, I got a down payment to worry about. Click!




Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Sony Pulls PSP "White" Ad

Sony's pulled the plug on their "PSP White is coming" ad campaign in the Netherlands, which depicted, well, you know. We're not gonna call it an admission of guilt or anything (and neither did they, read on), but Sony did apologize to those offended by the campaign, also stating, "We recognize that the subject matter of one specific image may have caused concern in some countries not directly affected by the advertising. As a result, we have now withdrawn the campaign." We're quite well aware of the cultural context in which advertising must be taken, but it's apparent the world holds a company like Sony to a higher standard, and Sony can apparently recognize this as well.
-- Sony pulls "PSP White is coming" ads in Netherlands

I only have this to say about the apparent brouhaha - I've been to Amsterdam and trust me ... there's a lot of ads there that would offend the average American. Some even feature nipples.

Still, if any company should be aware of the growing globalization of advertising, including print, it should be Sony.



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Rein Dismisses Episodic Content As Competition

He explained, “Customers are supposed to buy half a game after 20 months, then wait six months for an episode? When I put a game down, I want to try a new one. Episodic games that offer faster turnaround will inevitably be using a lot of recycled content, walking through the same environments and shooting the same enemies with the same weapons.”

He said that episodic games could never compete will full-priced products. “They’re competing against massive marketing budgets. Distribution without marketing is worthless. You can’t buy retail marketing with a wholesale price of $15.” He added, “Full-price games have a cohesive start, middle and end.”
-- Rein Pours Scorn on Episodic(digg it)

Hrm. As a semi-reformed Unreal fanboy, I gotta tell you that Rein's track record for foot and mouth correlation isn't so hot. His statement that a release would be out "in two weeks" is probably still getting guffaws on the forums. I get the impression that Mark's a pretty good guy ... and having seen him in action on mass IRC chats I'd definately say I'd have a few beers with him ... but occasionally he gets quoted in the news and it makes one groan.

That as it may be, I think he's got a point here. His mistake is making a blanket statement about all potential episodic content. Yes, it might be re-use a lot of existing content. I would certainly think it would. Sure, if all other factors for games remain the same ... it's potential for some suck. Cheap redundant content is not superior to expensive unique content.

What he's missing, though, is that some of us hope that developers will use episodes for the power of good. Think of it as the difference between television and movies. TV might have lower production values, but they allow a lot more canvas to paint a big picture. Television shows can carry more characters and more plotlines whereas movies require a lens focused enough to film within their time limit.

I haven't seen that it will happen yet, but I'm hopeful that's the kind of difference developers can make with a new publishing format.





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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Interactive Fiction First Time Foibles

From kevan.org, I stumbled on this list of stumbles one person finds in some interactive fiction:

The following list is made up of a few things I've noticed in a lot of the interactive fiction games I've tested or tried out. I've tried these games for reasons I can't entirely fathom; admittedly, it's easier and leaves fewer disfiguring scars than self-flagellation. It is not necessarily any less painful though.
-- First-Timer Foibles

Things like "examine me" and uninspired locations rightfully make the list.



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That Xpod-Boy-Thing ...

Game|Life talks a bit more on the Xpod-Boy-Thing "rumors", which are starting to resemble Origami rumors in about every possible way. Even if it doesn't happen this holiday (and it probably will), here's why it will probably will eventually:

Microsoft has the hardware bug
With the 360, Microsoft is starting to learn how to actually make profitable hardware. It's not quite there yet, mind you, but it's learning the margin between power and profit. We should remember that the iPod is insanely profitable hardware-wise and now that MS has gotten it's feet wet somewhat, that's gotta look like an attractive goal.

Keeping Up With The Joneses
And the Sonys and Nintendos too. They both have game portables which can, in some capacity, double as net devices and media players. We know Nintendo plans on integrating the DS tightly and Sony will probably follow with the PSP. Even if Microsoft doesn't set the world on fire with the Xpod-Boy-Thing (XBT) ... it will want to put the 360 on equal footing with the competitors.

Microsoft Loves Media
Microsoft has a long standing foot war with people like Apple and Real on the hegemony of digital media. Apple has delivered a massive salvo in this war with iTunes and the iPod and just because Sony has been unable to mount a reasonable response doesn't mean that Microsoft wouldn't want to try.



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Sims 2 Dreaming

I actually did last night. Have a Sims 2 dream, that is. I don't recommend it. It's like have a fantasy world encapsulated by someone else's depressing isometric socially stunted life. And trying to relax in a SimBed while trying to sleep in your own? Really, just wrong.

The Girl heads to Hometown tonight, so I'll probably return to the comfortable surroundings of Resident Evil 4.




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End Of The Line MUD Rememberence

The races don’t seem all that weird (save for: chicken, pig, squid, and teddy bear), its the areas that you fight in that are truly great. You can walk around and kill everything from StarTrek characters to Smurfs, typical fantasy creatures to hillbillies, John Madden to Billy Ray Sirus. There are a multitude of guilds (which are basically character classes) and specializations to truly customize your character.
-- Uber-Geeks » Blog Archive » End of the Line MUD (EotL)

I never got terribly into MUDs ... it was one of those things that seems just on the edge of what I played ... somewhere in between BBS door games (like that statement doesn't age me) and standard CRPG's. Descriptions like this support my theory that some lessons from the last few generations are getting forgotten. I'd love to play a modern day RPG where a pig can attack a teddy bear over a Smurf's gold. I mean, who wouldn't?



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The Simpler Side Of Cosplay



Almost like cheating. From nmalaguti's photstream.



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Hellgate Code Theft?

It seems an individual of Chinese origin has stolen the source code for Flagship Studio’s upcoming action RPG Hellgate London and is probably planning on selling it on a personal website. When contacted, Flagship Studio’s CEO Bill Roper had this to say, “We’ve heard the same rumors. Obviously this is of concern to us and we’ve been looking into it, but we haven’t been able to ascertain any further information to substantiate those rumors.”
-- Hellgate London source code stolen?

Ouch. Would really suck to think maybe, possibly your code had been stolen ... somewhere.



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Fallout 3 Lives?

But then, a voice in the dark cried forth. Fallout 3 lives! And the warden that would revive it from the brink of nothingness would be Bethesda Softworks! Rejoice! Yes, makers of Morrowind and Oblivion are now hard at work on the next vault dweller's journeys, and we couldn't have picked a better suitor.
-- Fallout 3 - 2006 Games Guide - UGO.com Gaming Evolution (digg it)

It would make for an interesting marriage. Fallout and Elder Scrolls are both milestones in free form RPG play ... so perhaps it is like peanut butter in your chocolate (or the other way around). Still, turn based combat is becoming even more of a dying breed and to see Fallout go this way would just be another nail in the coffin. Not that it wouldn't make a great game, but it seems different than what many a Fallout fan was probably wanting.




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