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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Why I Hate Windows

It's just about six here. I'm two hours past the clock now because I'm trying to finish up some work before I take off early for the weekend. There's been a minor calvacade of things to slow me down, but nothing major.

Just now, as I was trying to fix the last few things ... Windows decides it's not going to serve web pages anymore. A few minutes ago it was there. Now it's not. Nothing, no response. Localhost who? Sorry, we don't know anyone by that name. Try down the way. I restart IIS. Nothing. I try accessing my dev site remotely. Nothing. I try swapping out the various configs for another site. Nope. Nada.

So I think to myself ... what could possibly have changed? How could I have broken IIS? Oh yeah, I installed iTunes. Maybe somehow iTunes could break IIS.

Sure enough, I uninstall iTunes and (naturally) reboot the machine. Swap back out config files ... and localhost boots right up.

Hurrah, right? I mean after all, iTunes isn't all that important. It's not vital to development.

Unless you're developing a podcast

Yeah. So before anyone tries to defend Windows lemme spell this one out for you. I will now have uninstall iTunes to run my web server and reinstall it to test the podcast ... only that won't work because the podcast feed is hosted on my dev server.

Thank god right next to this evil box is a very trusty Mac. Otherwise I'd be screwed right now.

Hates Windows. Hates it.

Update: It's better. It's not iTunes. I guess it just trashes itself and refuses to right itself unless I reboot twice. Not once. TWICE. Because sometimes Windows craps on itself so hard, one reboot apparently ain't enough.

Maslow's Ziggurat

Heh. Naked child butt. From Fixed Image's photostream.

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Of Questionable Intelligence

Actual sight on the drive into work this morning: a man walking down the road with a can of gasoline in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other.

Loom Flashback

The Dust Forms Words blog takes a look back at the classic game Loom:

The story is simple, and yet rich, creating an intriguing world, and then deliberately not explaining more than it has to so as to retain an illusion of vastness that isn't borne out by the actual scope of the game. A lot of very elegant foreshadowing occurs. The very first spells that you learn play an important role in the climax of the game, giving you a nice sense of your victory coming from the nature of your origins.

The art is fantastic; the soundtrack (Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake) is well suited and well executed (in part by prolific 90s game composer George Alistair "The Fat Man" Sanger); the plot is coherent and well dialogued by Orson Scott Card. There's very nearly nothing that this game leaves you wanting.
-- Loom Post-Mortem

Definately filed under "they don't make em like that anymore". Which, if you read that synopsis again, makes one a little sad. I never played Loom and I still miss it.

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Wikipedia Lists Confirmed Wii Games

Curious about the upcoming Wii launch library? Check out the good old Wikipedia entry on Wii games which also notes if they're launch titles and references the source for the information.

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Unreal Crate Match

I was once working on a mod for Unreal Tournament 2004 called "Blink" ... where you would be more invisible the slower you went. The idea being that people could play slowly and try and scan for people on the move for powerups/position/etc.

Someone very cleverly had a similar idea, but a much simpler (and in a way more elegant) solution:

Essentially, everyone is in a big room full of crates, and everybody looks like... a crate. So, as long as you dont move you can't be seen. The only problem is you need to get a gun so that you can kill the other crates. It is fantastic fun, especially with quite a few people playing.
-- Crate Death Match UT2K4


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Cell Phone As Gaming Controller?

Researchers are turning cell phones into motion-detection game controllers similar to Nintendo's new Wii device.

In a recent demonstration, the Human Interface Technology Laboratory in New Zealand used a pair of Nokia Series 60 phones in a game of AR Tennis.

Play takes place on the video displays of mobile phones, overlaid with a virtual tennis court of the space between the players. A piece of paper laid out on a table serves as the framework for the virtual game space, and Bluetooth is used to synchronize the ball movement between the phones.
-- Next Game Controller: Your Phone

A Wii Phone? Interesting. My only complaint is that it seems like we're skipping a few steps here. The article ends:

"I think the real win will be games that aren't knockoffs of things we already 'know' how to do, since they will have the advantage of actually being designed to the strengths of the interface," MacIntyre said.

Yeah, OK. It's just that I've got a pretty decent cell phone and I gotta say ... most cell phone games suck something hard. So when you have a version of Monopoly Tycoon that you can win by not really playing, I'm not real sure the mobile industry does "know" how to do knock-offs. Did I mention that in my version of Sims 2 Mobile, my sim is a green bisexual who just married and divorced the same guy five times in a night to try and get a profit?

Worse, I could totally use phones as a normal old gaming controller right about now. I'm poking with casual interfaces on the Apple and the closest I'm coming up with is a PS2 controller shoved into a USB interface. I've considered trying to use the excellent Sailing Clicker to implement a cell phone as a controller ... but I don't think I can get two player support that way. So when I read this headline, I'm hoping for some kind of software package that might support what I need ... but instead there's just a bunch of people trying to leapfrog into the next great thing.

Not that it doesn't sound grand, it's just ... baby steps people ... baby steps. Last thing I need is a virtual tennis game on my cell phone that I can win without swinging.

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Daily Show On Gaming Legislation

If you can find a torrent or video of last night's Daily Show, proceed immediately to downloading it. The show brilliantly covered the Congressional talks on video game violence. One of the most easily noticeable facts is just how out of touch lawmakers are with modern entertainment. One claimed, jokingly I suppose, that he was an avid video gamer because he really liked Pong.

Seriously, though, how can we expect the government to regulate something it has no real concept of? One lawmaker bemoaned how much his kids loved games and himself sounded powerless against the forces that would compel him to buy whatever they wanted. Curse the ESRB for not making the rating "Mature" clear enough for parents shopping for their eleven year old child ... curse them!

I do feel for parents trying to navigate today's media ... but if they're looking at Congress to help ... well, that's just the blind leading the blind.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

This Spartan Life On Net Neutrality

As part of's Save The Net viral ad contest, This Spartan Life covered net neutrality in one episode. This was a month ago so clearly avid fans have already seen it ... but if you haven't and care about the rape and pillaging of the Internet as we know it, give it a view and pass the link on. That's how these viral ad things are supposed to work, I hear.
(seen via These Damned Machines Are Killing Me)

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Some Games "Don't Deserve Free Speech Protection"

Oh really?

Committee Chairman Cliff Stearns, a Florida Republican, and others also suggested that certain explicit games don't deserve traditional free speech protections. "Building a video game around a premise based on very realistic, cold-blooded assassinations of innocent bystanders and police" is "more akin to hate speech, not free speech," he said.
-- Politicians lash out at video game industry

So, media which portrays the death of law enforcement agents or innocent children constitutes a hate crime? Does the honorable chairman even watch television? Or hell, read Shakespeare? We're to assume that it's never OK to portray the criminal?

I can see it now, thanks to Congressional oversight, the next Rockstar game will be Grand Theft Auto: Rehabilitation Clinic ... where the only possible actions will be for the player to realize his life mistakes and try to make amends. Press "A" to make an affirmation and "X" to take your methadone.

Oh wait, maybe instead it should be Grand Theft Auto: Capitol City. Instead of a life of crime within urban sprawl, the player instead trades wasteful pork barrel projects in exchange for "donations". Press "Y" to sneak in legislation on a bill to feed AIDS victims and "Z" to keep the black man down.

Seriously, we're in the age of Abramoff and Congress actually has the balls to try and tell us what's moral? Pah-lease.

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Wii Dev Kit For $1700?

Rumors suggest that the Wii Development Kit will ring in to a tune "as low as $1,732", which would be sweet as hell (digg it). I would still love to see Nintendo develop a PC based DS SDK which uses the Wii as a deployment device (homegrown demo downloads if you will), but a cheap Wii Dev Kit's a good start. This would help expand the Wii's base greatly and if Nintendo can learn from Live Arcade in general, the Wii could be a great indie platform.

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More On Metroid Prime 3's story, mechanics

The main gimmick behind the corruption is the idea of hyper mode. Hyper mode has been something that we've used in the Prime series before, but it's also been in Super Metroid at the very end. Well, because of this Phazon corruptionm we're giving the player the ability to go into that mode at any time and become very powerful, which open up a subset of abilities that Samus will have based on this Phazoncorruption. The caveat to that is while you're extremely powerful for a period of time, you also have the possibilty of dying. So you're kind of balancing the system at the same time. You would naturally time out of the system or you would use up all your Phazon while you're shooting your weapons and things like that. Your corruption fuels this hyper mode, so you shoot weapons your health bar switches to a different type of management system.
-- Metroid Prime 3 Corruption Interview (digg it)

Not sure if calling a chief mechanic a "gimmick" is such a great idea, but I appreciate the honesty. There's also some details on the storyline and the role other bounty hunters might play. Personally, I just want to see how well a Wii shooter will play.

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Lego'd Games

This photostream features game vignettes done up in Legos, including this great Katamari pic. This might be old, actually, but I felt I should put it up in respect to Lego's layoff woes.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

OK, Time To Cancel Duke Nukem Forever

This grand list of world changes since Duke Nukem Forever started development has been making the rounds ... and it's quite the read. "Every Unreal, every Unreal Tournament, and every game that has used any of the Unreal engines" hits pretty close to home for me, considering just how many hours I've wasted on those titles (and to some extent, developing with them).

Soon the title will be a decade's worth of effort and currently there's nothing 3D Realms is willing to show for it. No demos, no screen caps, no videos. The last E3 presentation is now terribly dated. The best thing to come out from the franchise in all this time is quite likely Megadeth's cover of the theme song.

Duke Nukem Forever has transcended the normal concept of hype for a game. It's practically urban legend. Nothing that could be produced will live up to the expectations that will be thrusted upon the game. And we've seen with Doom III and Deus Ex 2 just how much high expectations can lead to a gamer rebellion on a title.

Despite my constant request to never release it so that the constant calvacade of Duke jokes and release rumors can continue, I'd say it's time to cut the losses. Cancel the game, change the title and release under a completely different name. Make the next Duke title a different genre, like RTS or MMO ... because it's hard to imagine the next Duke shooter surviving the forum flame wars. Because that's one thing not on that list ... just how saturated the FPS market has truly become. Not even heavies like id can always hit the home runs these days. Upstarts like CroTeam are just as likely to make a splash as someone like Epic.

Who needs Daikatana like baggage on a release? Is the Duke name really worth all that? I think the last Duke title I played was on the N64. Games like Project: Snowblind prove that seperating yourself from a franchise is sometimes better than staying hitched to it.

It's been fun ... and funny ... but it's time to let it die.

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Mean Mac Ads?

Apparently both Boing Boing and Slate feel the recent switch ads for Macs are somewhat mean in nature. TUAW asks if they're productive. The basic premise seems to be that since the man playing the part of a PC, John Hodgman, is rather likable fellow ... that the Mac is just picking on the guy.

Honestly, I'm not sure I've read a more oddly nuanced view of a Mac ad since people debated if that girl was stoned or on cough medicine. I rather find making the PC "character" likable turns the ad affable rather than confrontrational and not the other way around. If the PC was portrayed as some sniveling uncharasmatic suit ... well, then Apple would be guilty of just erecting a large straw man to beat on. In other words, you aren't supposed to choose Mac because the other guy is an assclown but rather because when the features are laid out side by side, you can see the benefits.

So by making the PC persona someone actually warm and funny just brings to light that Apple understands that people don't really hate Windows. Heck, if people are really going to go buy a computer based on personality, they'll probably get a Mac anyway. I bought my Mini before these ads came out ... and trust me when I say it's every bit as personable as Mr. Hodgman himself.

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False Mario Idol

From est0al's photostream. Taken at an exhibition about the history of videogames called "From Cardgame to Game Boy". You can even ride the trippy Pikachu bus to praise the grand statue of Mario.

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Neverball: MacBook MonkeyBall

Neverball is a GPL version of Super MonkeyBall. Apparently on a MacBook, you can use the computer's tilt sensor as a control. Reason #237 to buy a MacBook... Check out Dee's Planet for a vid (that I can't see).

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Adorable Bear Plays With Tiny Nintendo

Cutest thing I've ever posted. From tiramisu_addict's photostream.

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Jeremiah Palecek's Video Game Art

Jeremiah is an artist in Prague whose apparent obession with video games blends into his paintings in a keen and almost surreal way. He's got a blog where he posts a painting a day. (via Cool Hunting)

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PC World's High Def Format Showdown

If all the hype and spin between Sony and Microsoft on why their upcoming high definition format makes so much more sense than the other guys has your head aching, try giving PC World's article a good slow read. It breaks down the different devices and formats in some detail and while it doesn't declare a victor (because seriously ... it's too close to call) ... it's a great overview.

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Sure, Let's Beat On Take Two Some More...

Because really, it's the kind of fun nobody can ever get enough of, right?

Mind you, I'm responding not to the actual op/ed by noted Take Two hater ... because right now I can't read it ... but rather Joystiq's read on the matter. Apparently even after the FTC has settled with Take Two ... Dennis McCauley wants them to be dragged in front of Congress.

First, Dennis, let's be honest. Congress is posing a straw man debate in the first place ... so why would you expect them to bring up anyone specifically related to the argument? It completely goes against the grain of the concept. Why worry about experts when you get some guy who lost his brother to a teenage shooter? Who needs facts or logic when the Jack Thompson approach is oh so much more interesting.

Second, the obvious answer to things like "Who created the animations?" must be "who the hell still cares?" Since the FTC has settled on the matter, why do we think a good old fasioned Congressional hearing on the matter would do anything at all? We've seen just how much it's cleaned up baseball.

Why can't anyone answer the prominent question of this issue: "Why should parents make the distinction between altered game code which uncovers assets and altered game code which adds assets?" I know, it's a lot dryer than asking something like "Why did they try to blame the mess on their biggest fans, the GTA mod community?" ... which isn't entirely accurate or fair. In fact, it desperately tries to ignore the actual issue at foot here ... how much can the game industry be expected to regulate the mod community?

We're talking about a ratings system to which the nuances between "Mature" and "Teen" is apparently lost on many parents, but we expect them to care whether some modders found a nipple hidden on a disc or figured out a way to add nipple later on? It's the first disconnect which is a problem for the industry, not the second.

But go ahead, drag this out for as long as possible. I'm sure it's good for traffic.

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Stevens' "Compromise" On Net Neutrality

If I'm reading the article right ... and mind you I'm not operating at full cycles right now ... the this "compromise" offers no ban on telecoms playing traffic cop to the content you're trying to access on the Internet ... but rather "a complaint process through the FCC if consumers believe their access rights were violated and the agency would be authorized to adjudicate complaints with penalties" to control abuse.

In other words, this would be the kind of compromise which is best compared to gutting a fish with a very large knife.

And we're the fish.

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Real Life Gaming: Tips For Realtors

The Girl and I have been actively homeshopping. This is something of an understatement as the manhours put into this effort would be now approaching the invasion of Normandy. Our own realtor is something of a business friend and normally does commercial work, so we're willing to cut him some slack. If only every other residential realtor had a similar excuse. So should anyone out there happen to be in the realty business, allow me to offer some friendly advice:

If you advertise an open house ... actually have an open house
I know ... bizarre concept. It seems that if one were to examine, etymologically speaking, the phrase "open house" it actually implies that someone ... and I mean a literal physical person and not some kind of spiritual presence ... will open the house for others to view. I thought it was just euphemism, but apparently not. If you spend all that money for a Chicago Tribune listing that you'll show a place to the general public, doing so might help sell the property.

If you schedule a viewing, actually show up to the viewing
Again ... bizarre!! But the phrase "viewing" is not some kind of sly reference to paranormal activities. It's not a "seance" so much of a "get your ass out of your bed and show up to this appointment".

If you schedule a viewing, actually show up on time
If that last one was confusing, this will completely blow your mind. Sometimes people have these things called "schedules". Now from what I've seen, many realtors don't employ this concept and hence find it very foreign when they run into others that organize their life around them. See, the usual viewing only takes about fifteen to twenty minutes. So if you show up fifteen minutes late to a viewing ... well by gosh it's almost like there wasn't a viewing at all. Isn't math fun?

Cell phones are fun
More important than that pretty expensive car to impress clients ... is the cell phone. It's a magical device that allows people to call you when you didn't show up to your viewing/open house/whatever on time so that you might be able to toss together some kind of feeble excuse like "my assistant forgot to add that to my schedule" or "I don't know what a schedule is" ...

ZIP codes are not relative
Funny thing ... ZIP codes are used to define a specific area of space. One might consider them to subjective ... as in "perhaps I can get people to view my hellhole of a condo in the ghetto if I use a trendy ZIP code." It's actually "advertising a different ZIP code than reality might constitute fraud." Weird, huh?

Knowledge is your friend
It's a frightening concept ... but people who show up to your viewing might need more substantial information than "my ... doesn't that duvet compliment the room!" or "did you know this is a king sized bed? Because it is!" In fact things like utility payments, pet policies, condo reserves and parking options could potentially be factors in someone's purchase. And if you can't answer those things ... they might wonder what the hell you're doing there at all.

Don't pit your properties against each other
In general it's best not to badmouth the property you happened to represent three weeks ago to the same people you're showing a different property to this week. In actuality, it possibly won't effect any decisions that much ... but it really makes you look like an asshole.

All true stories, of course. Far more common than one could possibly hope in fact.

Slow News Days

And well, slow me as well. I've been under the weather since last Thursday and whatever brain cloud is afflicting me isn't completely done yet. Currently the symptoms read more like something from a hex than a virus. More like "you shall get a spotted tongue and walk in a haze" as opposed to "fever", although that hasn't stopped whatever it is from carrying on with all three. So if I'm not so prolific of late, please forgive.

I have been trying to push ahead with Atlas since trying to write fiction with the plague on you is less than desirable, despite what Hunter Thompson imagery it might create. I've got the old asteroid creation code working and the new Torque engine does seem to be able to handle higher volumes of objects fairly well. I'm having some problems with the keybind ... as in if I use the only format which apparently works anymore it crashes the application. Which is, you know, bad. Still the biggest hurdle will be making the two player mechanics work and seeing if it can survive at 800x600 on SDTV.

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Great Video Game Poster

Thanks to Figerrific's photostream.

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Wired On Episodic Content

A good TV series is a well-honed machine. This is particularly true of a mystery or action series like 24 or Lost: Each week you get fiendish plot twists, Elizabethan character conspiracies, hinted-at clues -- then an agonizing cliffhanger. No wonder we wind up planning our schedules around these shows, plunking down on the couch to get our weekly fix.
What if video games worked that way too?
-- Tune in Next Week for Gaming Fun

A well done episodic game seems to almost be like that elusive "convergence" device that dominated gadget talk for so long -- everyone is certain it's a great idea and yet nobody seems to be able to make it work really well. Half-Life and Sin episodes seem to have both been met with a resounding "meh". Not really bad, but not really world blazing either.

Course, no big surprise since the gaming industry still seems to be unwilling to take steps to integrate really good storylines. Not to sound like an English major snob or anything, but even the heralded Indigo Prophecy left me much wanting in terms of a decent narrative. I'm moving through Resident Evil 4 and while it's a great game, I swear this is the same storyline they've used in a dozen other Capcom games.

It coincides with my argument about interactive lit. There's a lot of theories about how to make the mechanisms for computerized storytelling more complicated, more in-depth, more feature intensive. And yet, we've barely been able to get up to steam with the basics. Take Max Payne. Payne had a pretty decent story ... and most of it was told through nothing more than comic style panels ... which virtually any game could utilize. Great storytelling doesn't actually need anything more complicated than text.

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