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Friday, April 28, 2006

Interactive Fiction: The Case Of Randolph Carter

Harley. Harley Warren. The weird studies of Harley Warren were well known to you, and to some extent even shared. Of his vast collection of strange, rare books on forbidden subjects you have read all that were written in the languages of which you master; but these are few as compared with those in languages you do not understand.

"I do not know what has become of Harley Warren",you stammer,"though I think -- almost hope -- that he is in peaceful oblivion, if there be anywhere so blessed a thing. There are worse potentials for man out there than simply death."

Presenting The Case Of Randolph Carter, a short interactive work based on Lovecraft's The Statement of Randolph Carter. Instead of points, the goal here is to simply try and unlock all of the possible endings.

This is an open beta. There are probably errors, both grammatical and gameplay orientated. I might update the prose in general as well. I'll be out until Monday, probably, so this as good of a place as any to comment or point out problems. I might set up a wiki on hypergrafia later on.

Enjoy the weekend, everyone.

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Indie Gamer Flick

Saw this over at Red Bull Diary, Gamers is an indie comedy film with guest appearances by the likes of William Katt and Beverly D'Angelo. There are a handful of movie clips which are quite funny ... although a few you might not want turned up too loud in your cube. Red Bull found a few review links as well.

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Controlling Your Kids With The Wii

If only this were real. From ehavir's photostream.

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Nintendo Wii ... brilliant or just weird?

The Revolution has it's official name, Wii:

In any case, Kaplan admitted that some people won't know how to pronounce "Wii" but said Nintendo will embark on an ambitious campaign to ensure that's not a problem come the console's expected fourth-quarter launch.
-- Nintendo Revolution renamed 'Wii'

I am instantly reminded of this, from The Brother's blog:

So, this was the call that I got yesterday at work--

Confused sounding girl on line 1: You really need to help me. I need to find this thing for a class project and no other place in town carries it. Do you have potato nookie?

me: Potato nookie?

CSG: Yes, it's an Italian pasta made with potatoes.

me (after a pause): Oh, it's pronounced NO-chee. Yes, we have it.

CSG: Really? OMIGOD!! I'll be right there!!
-- Potato Nookie?

Best Buy employees everywhere - be prepared for the assault of potato nookie.

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Rushing Torrent Of Chattering Teeth

Your hand fumbles over the note far more than your words as a rushing torrent of chattering teeth begins to rush up the stairwell towards you, like a hoarde of bats except scratching and clawing instead of the batting of wings. You can't hear anything more from Warren as you lose all nerve and drop the book, which slaps against the soft mud.
-- The Case Of Randolph Carter

I will post the link to Randolph Carter, my Lovecraft interactive fiction, in the morning. I'm going to be gone this weekend, so it will be a good time to let comments and complaints pile up. Consider it an open beta. I'm happy with parts of it, and not so happy with other parts of it. I'm sure typos and grammatical errors remain, and I wouldn't be surprised if a couple of gameplay bugs aren't still sneaking around.

So it's not quite ready for primetime and probably won't be as good as I would have hoped ... but it's a start for playing around with a format not quite finished yet. Plus, I always work harder when my errors are out to hang for the public to see.

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I'm not spam, really

My responses to Corvus' and Brinstar's blogs are getting eaten by their spam filters (and probably others as well). Corvus found that I was being detected as spam, undoubtably the dastardly work of the corporate proxy being creative with how it reports our domain. Lovely.

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10 Easy Steps To Being A Game Journalist

I don't know jack about being a game journalist, but this bears truth to everything I've heard from game journalists:

Build a time machine

Ask anyone who was writing about games about 15-20 years ago what it was like, and you’ll see a happy look wash over them. It was joy. Games were better. Times were simpler. The whole thing was less corporate, and you could get away with writing copy that was funny and THE TRUTH. Those days have long gone, so the only way you’ll get paid to write about games without selling your soul is to climb into a Delorean and hit 88.
-- How To Be A Games Journalist - In 10 Easy Steps

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Network Neutrality

There's a battle going on in Congress, and it could effect any of us who use broadband internet today.

I'm guessing that's quite a few of you.

Personally, I'm getting tired of the victim excuse in American politics. You can't critique the Iraqi war, because it might hurt the feelings of our soldiers (but, apparently, getting them shot and blown up isn't a problem). You shouldn't talk about intelligence failures or illegal intelligence activities because it might hurt the morale of our intelligence agents (I'm so trying that one on my boss for my next review. It's not that I failed ... it's that you're insulting me).

And now, we have to let the telecoms charge for preferred internet traffic because the poor things have been doing all the dirty work while companies like Microsoft, Yahoo and Google have been getting a free ride.

That's right. The telecoms are victims now. That's precisely the argument Republican Joe Barton used in defending knocking out an amendment which would secure the internet as we know it now. Now, traffic on the internet is blind. Everything from that NiWiFi game you played last night to uploading pictures of your cat is treated exactly the same. The broadband pipes which ship it from one location to another could care less about the content, and everything gets treated differently.

The problem the telecoms have with that is that they don't control the traffic and hence, can't charge a premium. If they did, they could charge you more to have your grandmother's photo upload faster compared to your NiWiFi game. And some of the comparisons the proponents of this "preferred net" make sound not so bad. It's like FedEx, they say. If you want to be sure you grandma's photo gets their faster, you'll just pay a little more.

What's the harm in that? Everyone loves grandma.

The harm is that the comparison doesn't make any sense. Using a snail mail analogy to compare modern broadband delivery of content is idiotic. Consumers aren't the ones asking for this, big businesses are the ones asking for this. Nobody down here on Planet Earth is asking to pay $10 extra for grandma's photo to make it in nine seconds instead of twenty. People like AT&T are asking for it so that they can deal out who can deliver high def movies in the future ... and who can't. With AT&T, of course, making money hand over fist for every movie being downloaded.

Consumers are already getting more than they need. iTunes offers a robust method of delivering television shows and now movies, and yet it's overall market saturation is minimal. Technology and the industry is evolving fine with the Internet as it is ... which is exactly what has the telecoms worried. They see people like Skype being able to hone into their core business by running on top of their own broadband pipes and they really, really don't like it.

So they want Congress to make it OK for AT&T to be able to charge Skype ... or whoever AT&T chooses ... for better delivery. Once again, it's not that people can't use Skype with the current net ... it's just that the telecoms can't control it.

Republican Joe Barton needs a reminder that a lot of Congressmen need these days. He doesn't work for American business.

He works for Americans.

And I'd hope that he either gets an attitude adjustment or a new job.

By the by, same goes for Democrat Bobby Rush, of my homestate of Illinois.

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Why No Mission Impossible: III Game?

MTV would like to know:

This marks the second straight year when a Paramount blockbuster-to-be is conspicuously skipping out on console gaming. Last year's no-show was "War of the Worlds," a sci-fi hit that would seemingly have fit a gaming market that featured another 2005 aliens vs. humans epic, "Destroy All Humans."

The common link between both movies isn't just the studio behind them, but their star: Tom Cruise. He has never appeared in a video game or even on the box art for a game, neither for 1987's "Top Gun" NES game nor the 2006 game based on the same movie, not for the one "Mission: Impossible" game released since Cruise began starring in the movie series, and not in 2002's "Minority Report." In that game, Cruise's character was made to look so unlike him that he was blond.
-- Video Games Are One 'Mission' Tom Cruise Won't Accept

Tom Cruise not appearing in video games is nothing but a good thing in my book, since his PR campaign went from privately insane to full on public Nero-style why-is-there-a-horse-in-the-senate kind of insane. And Mission Impossible II was the first John Woo movie I didn't like, a fact I've never quite dealt with.

Still, these movies are ripe for game adaptation. Paramount, as the article notes, might be a little timid after previous Mission Impossible stinkers like the failed N64 project. I suppose it's better to have a Hollywood studio realize they don't have a decent interactive department than to produce crap.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Dalek Cake

I would totally exterminate that. From Brainless Angel's photostream.

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Slamdance Game Competition

The 2007 Slamdance Guerilla Gamemaker Competition Call for Entries

The Slamdance Guerilla Gamemaker Competition exists to help aspiring game developers showcase their work. The festival seeks to aid developers through industry connections, peer interaction and national exposure. The 2006 Competition was the first time the Slamdance was able to offer awards for Student Designed Games. Those awards were a resounding success. Driven by burgeoning independent and student developers the 2006 Competition showed a wonderful increase in the quality of entries for the competition. Slamdance recognizes the need for a competition with integrity that concentrates on the art of game design and not just the bottom line.

All Independent and Student Gamemakers are invited to submit their original games before September 29, 2006. In November, the finalists will be announced on Slamdance's website. The finalists will be invited to the 2007 Slamdance Guerilla Gamemaker Competition in Park City to showcase their games to the public and meet other independent designers and industry professionals.
-- 2007 Slamdance Guerilla Gamemaker Competition

I'm actually considering entering at least the new form interactive fiction, as it later states "Innovative and unusual formats, such as interactive fiction and drama, are encouraged to apply" on the page. I don't know if I'll have enough done with any of the 2D games by the end of the summer for them to be competitive.

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Create Your Own Virtual Pinball

Future Pinball is a real time Pinball Development System.
It allows you to design and play your very own pinball simulation in True real time 3D. It uses Advanced Physics to provide the best possible Simulation of a true to life pinball machine.

Tables are built up out of Standard components (Plastics, Pegs, Bumpers, Lights etc..) which are placed onto the playfield via the Editor. Objects like Surfaces, Lights and Rubbers are shapeable within the editor and generated real-time when the table is played. Other objects (Bumpers, Flippers, Gates, Triggers, Targets etc..) use pre-made 3d Models
(of which there is a nice selection of each type).
-- Future Pinball (digg it)

The Girl is a huge pinball nut. I might have to keep her away from this if I ever want any computer time in the future.

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STOB: One Opponent Down

Brinstar and I squared off in our first (and maybe the first, since I haven't seen any other matches played yet) battle in the Spring Tournament of Bloggers. We had some odd setup problems, namely that my connection didn't want to seem to host or something, which was resolved when Brin hosted the game. We went for a random arena and ended up with the desert one with the small rock spire in the middle (I can never remember the names of these maps because I actually play random most of the time).

The map is medium sized, but that actually worked out fairly well because it entailed a lot of stalking and the occasionally sniping rather than the all out deathmatch of smaller maps like Combat Hall. This was one of those times that sound really came into play during a match, because I could listen for Kanden's altform to see how close I was to Brin. It also allowed for evasion and escape, so the match went the whole seven minutes. The more I play Hunters, the more I find little details like this (for instance, you're warned that an opponent is powering up a shot because you can see their gun gathering energy) that makes me think it's simply a great title and easily the best handheld shooter I've seen.

I won, although I freely admit that it's partially because I just got used to Sylux's power coil usage and for a change didn't have to rely on getting in close and using his alt form for a (hopefully quick) kill. Since Sylux regens off the power coil, it kept me from having to run for health all the time and allowed me to keep the hunt on.

It was a lot of fun and a great reminder that 1v1 games can actually be pretty tense. I've gotten so used to large team style games like Onslaught or 8v8 CTF that I forgot how much work it was to track someone around a map.

So, gg Brin. We should continue some practice matches. I'll need them to go up against Thomas :)

Bethesda Denies PS3/PSP Oblivion

According to Peter Hines, VP of marketing, “At present we have no announced plans to bring Oblivion to any other platforms than PC or Xbox 360. We’ll certainly let folks know if that changes”.
-- Rumor Control #4: Oblivion for PS3 & PSP?

Yeah, that's not really a surprise. Honestly, I think there are three kinds of lies in the game industry - lie, damn lies and release schedules.

Like I said, not holding my breath on this one. Of course, if they could pull such a port in a short time ... they'd probably rake in a good amount of cash. Most companies doing the PC/Xbox combo, though, aren't terribly interested in such ports.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Great Half-Life 2 Screenshot

From TheGreenBunny's Flickr stream

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Will Oblivion Be A PS3 Launch Title?

The mumblevine, grown in from this mod which read on this forum that Oblivion for PS3 will be released in June, would seem to think so ... as well as a PSP port. Personally, I think release schedules are about as accurate as my grandma's last eye exam. Plus, it would be a decent effort to port an Xbox/PC title over to the Playstation 3 ... so even if this was the case, I wouldn't hold my breath for it to hit for launch.

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Hunting For Nude Mods

People love their skin. I still get many, many google searches here looking for nude mods related to anything from Link to Master Chief. Blogcritics decided to make this a little easier for people and did some of the legwork for them, making easy - albeit NSFW - links to nudie mods for everything from Sims to Unreal Tournament.

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Microsoft's New Die Job

Was the Xbox 360 too hot for consumers? The question, taken literally, seems to have a fairly singular answer at this point - yes. Apparently the device requires far more heat reduction than your average consumer electronic which leaves the box noisy from fans and still warm to the touch. Microsoft's response will be shrinking the die of the CPU to make the machine run faster at cooler speeds. Purportedly this will make for a more stable 360 at either the same price point or perhaps even cheaper.

Thanks to supply problems, heating concerns and the slow build-up of it's library, the 360's early start into the market has clearly made for a shaky beginning. Far from getting a headstart to put pressure on it's competitors, we clearly have barely begun the next generation of console wars. Early adopters of both the 360 and high definition television have enjoyed a peek ahead towards what general consumers will be playing in the future, but the real battle will begin this holiday season ... not the previous one.

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I Am So Legal

Web surfing at work? Protected under the law.

DVD Player + Game Boy Advance

The Visteon Dockable Entertainment at first glance appears to be your standard portable DVD player. Further inspection reveals a Game Boy Advance game slot on the device’s lid. Also included is multiplayer port to hook up an additional 3 GBA together, a DVD/CD drive, MP3 player, 10.2” flip screen, wireless headphones, and a wireless video game controller.
Game Boy Advanced DVD Player


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Monday, April 24, 2006

Games Blamed For Bad Movies

Found this via the always excellent Guardian Games Blog:

While popular movies were once dominated by ripe melodramas (All that Heaven Allows, Written on the Wind) and so-called 'women's pictures' (Now, Voyager, Stella Dallas, Mildred Pierce) which offered masterclasses in the art of storytelling, today's boy-friendly blockbusters often boast nothing more than a collection of spectacular interludes assembled in the manner of a catalogue rather than a chronicle. Even kids' movies have fallen foul of this decline. The biggest movie of the season is Ice Age: The Meltdown, a collection of slapstick animated episodes which not even the kindest critic could accuse of having anything vaguely resembling a story.

The decline of narrative has, of course, gone hand in hand with the rise of consumer test screenings, the grisly process through which Hollywood execs show a movie to a cross section of its imagined 'target audience' and then ask them what they would do to make it better. This is the one area in which audiences do actually get to 'play' movies like computer games, and the results are always terrible. It was dunderheaded audiences screaming 'kill the bitch!' at test screenings of Fatal Attraction who persuaded the film-makers to shoot a new ending in which Glenn Close's character became the victim of a shooting rather than a suicide, thus destroying whatever internal logic the film may have had. If it was left to the viewers, you can rest assured that Humphrey Bogart would have gotten on the plane with Ingrid Bergman at the end of Casablanca, or that Ali McGraw would have experienced a miraculous recovery in the closing moments of Love Story. Audiences cannot make movies - that's why they are audiences. Sadly, in the current marketplace, it seems that many film-makers can't make them either.
-- Why have so many movies lost the plot? I blame the video games

Man. Games are just the scapegoat for everything. I mean, one side says they aren't art and another says it's spoiling art. Sadly, Mark Kermode's op/ed rant in the Observer lacks the very thing he's looking for -- a cohesive narrative.

Video games are to blame for bad movies? Video games didn't create test screenings or focus groups, Marky boy. Focus groups are the toy of marketing agents, not the demand of a demographic that desperately wanted them or need to be able to "joystick" up their mvoies. Companies poured more money to reduce the risk of people not seeing their shows, which inevitably reduces the quality to the lowest common denominator as well. Simple math is to blame here, not a game console.

Sure, Doom was pretty bad and Resident Evil isn't going to win any Oscars ... but it's not like we didn't have B movies and bad narratives before the Age of the Atari. Has this guy honestly never seen Mystery Science Theater 3000? All the modern popcorn film has managed to do is cash in on all the fine special effects to make the bad movies prettier ... and hence even more entertaining.

Bad cinema is simply a staple of the culture, and just because video games have entered into the subgenre doesn't mean they created it. They couldn't, it is as old as movies themselves. Considering most companies are still waking up to the fact that your average gamer and your average thirtysomething is one and the same, this shouldn't surprise anyone.

Video game movies will go the same way comic movies have evolved. Once someone realizes that an older, more mature audience is into them ... someone will manage to make a decent movie to cash in on the deal. Hollywood isn't making a great video game movie because they can't ... because games have spoiled the industry somehow ... but because they can't be convinced it's worth the money just yet.

Look how long it took to get a decent Lord of the Rings produced. Trust me, it will be worth the wait.

In the meantime, the media needs to find a new bogeyman. This is getting beyond old now. It's getting ridiculous. Games cause people to kill, get fat, take drugs and make bad movies?

Get real.

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Mini Galaga

That's adorable. I so want one. The maker also points towards someone's Pac-Man model.

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Attack of the C

I'm being assaulted by code, condos and cobras today. I'll probably see you all later in the week.