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Friday, July 07, 2006

Columbine Revisited, New Documents Released

More on the Columbine tragedy has made the news, following a new set of documents made public. They illustrate even more clearly just how pre-meditated their actions were:

The documents offer a chilling insight into the killers in the months before the attack. Klebold and Harris had "to do" lists, with each purchase of a gasoline or a weapon marked off, and they had a hit list with at least 42 entries (all redacted).
-- Columbine diary: 'Set up ... gear up ... HAHAHA'

Columbine became a cultural flashpoint moment which is often still difficult to grasp. Some have tried to capitalize their personal vendetta targets, like video games, by attaching them to the event. Documents like these prove how moronic it is to simply try and point to one thing and yell "Doom did it".




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Opera's "Opera For Nintendo" Section

Opera has published a new section on the site for their upcoming Nintendo browsers dubbed Opera For Nintendo.

It's got some interesting tidbits, like confirmation on some kind of handwriting recognition, as well as screenshots and tips for using the browser. No word on standards compatibility or AJAX support.




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Real World Monopoly



Funny. From Katie Dickinson's photostream. Would make a great game, actually...



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PSP Homebrew Versus Sony

Are Sony's constant attempts to lock down the homebrew community actually detrimental to the platform in general? MSNBC reports that many PSP users avoid buying new games or getting updates to keep their homebrews a-brewin':

So lively is the homebrew scene that some PSP fans — it's impossible to say how many — say they don't buy or play new games because they don't want to upgrade their gadgets and lose their homebrew software. There's even a circulating joke slogan: "Friends don't let friends upgrade their PSPs."Unable to break through recent versions of the Sony software, PSP homebrewers have moved on to another trick: downgrading their PSPs to earlier versions.Thanks to a new file recently posted on the Web, PSP owners with version 2.6 software are able to roll back their devices to the more hacker-friendly software version 1.5. And if any recent game title for the Sony device has generated as much excitement online as this underground developer's announcement, I missed it.
-- 'Homebrew' community blends hackers, gamers

Perhaps it's a sign of the PSP's lackluster library that people would prefer their homebrews ... but it's clearly a sign of the popular nature of the trend. How long can the companies keep fighting the hobbyist if it still hurts sales to lock down the system?





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Konami's Upcoming Dating Sim

Dating sims have never really caught on here in the States ... probably because they're kind of a bizarre evolutionary offshoot of old adventure games ... only without the adventure. Konami is trying to bring the genre to the PSP with Brooktown High: Senior Year, a game about getting a date to the prom. My favorite part is how the lead developer tried to get his research on:

In press releases, Konami has classified the characters as jocks, nerds, preps and the like, but internally, the development team is using a more nuanced system. One character is considered a jock-jock, another a jock-nerd. There's a rebel-prep and a nerd-honey. The first term is their primary leaning; the second is added flavor. It can be hard to define, McCormick acknowledged, even when team members try to classify themselves for kicks. The game's lead programmer claims to be a rebel-nerd, according to McCormick. "We all think he's a nerd-rebel."

In terms of real-world research, McCormick's 18-year-old stepdaughter just went to her prom, and he asked her if he could come along and take some notes. "She said, 'No way!' " he recalled. "She thought it was a terrible idea to make a game about high school anyway. It hit too close to home."

These are sensitive years being re-created for a video game. It won't be for everyone.
-- Forget Beating The Bad Guy — This Game's Goal Is A Date To Prom




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More On The xPod

Ars Technica pours over the latest news of Microsoft's apparently impending Personal Media Player:

While details are sparse—not even a name—the Microsoft player will be in the stores in time for Christmas. What is known is that it will boast a larger, "more advanced" screen than the current video iPod, and that it will have WiFi, presumably for downloading content directly to the player. There is also a pitch towards "Connected Entertainment" and social networking, possibly in conjunction with Xbox Live and/or Windows Mobile handsets.
-- Microsoft to introduce portable media player to compete with iPod

Apparently it will also suck in your existing iTunes library, which will cost Microsoft a bundle but clearly they hope to pull the proverbial carpet out. I doubt Microsoft will be able to knock the iPod off it's equally proverbial pedestal though, but it should be interesting. If it's got WiFi perhaps it could have more interoperability with the 360 than just Xbox Live? Would be nice, but I wouldn't hold my breath.




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Treating ADHD With Video Games

This is rich ... a disorder usually associated with being caused by too much video games is actually being treated by it:

As much as 6 percent of the American population has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, a disorder that makes it hard to focus. The usual treatment is medication that can have serious side effects. But now, some doctors are successfully treating ADHD with video games. What is remarkable about this scene is not what is happening, but what is not. "The kids aren't fighting. They're playing games together," Jill Mathur notices of her own children. That's unusual for children like Julia and Janelle Mathur, who both have ADHD.
-- Ivanhoe's Medical Breakthroughs - Video Games for ADHD (digg it)



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Thursday, July 06, 2006

PeaceNik

PeaceNik is a javascript bookmarklet I just got working. It's essentially greasemonkey without greasemonkey. It makes peace, I guess you could say, between a site and your remote javascript code. I'm not sure how many Cathode tan readers would have an interest in this kind of thing. I plan on using it to make some handy blogging functions, though, so I might have more useful stuff down the way.

You need FireFox or Safari, doesn't seem to work in IE right now. To test it, simply create a new bookmark. Make the name of the bookmark "PeaceNik" or something similar and make the following the location:



Make sure it's all one line.

Then just travel to some site and click the bookmark. You should see "BG GREEN" in the upper corner. Clicking on that will change the bg color of the body tag of that current site to green.

Granted, that's not too thrilling. Green is a nice color and all, but not that great. The gist here though is that you can run pretty much whatever javascript you want. Here is the bgtest.js sample:


var pbtn = document.createElement("div");
var pbtntxt = document.createTextNode("PeaceNik");
var bmenu = false;

function actions() {
pbtn.appendChild(pbtntxt);

with(pbtn.style) {
position = "absolute";
top = "0px";
left = "0px";
color = "black";
background = "white";
border = "1px solid";
padding = "3px";
font = "10px sans-serif";
cursor = "pointer";
MozOpacity = ".4";
}

document.body.appendChild(pbtn);
AddNewMenuItem("BG Green",MakeBGGreen);
}



function AddNewMenuItem(title,afunction) {
newdiv = document.createElement("div");
newdiv.innerHTML = title;
with(newdiv.style) {
color = "white";
background = "black";
border = "1px solid #009";
padding = "3px";
font = "10px sans-serif";
cursor = "pointer";
}
pbtn.appendChild(newdiv);
newdiv.onmousedown = afunction;
}

function MakeBGGreen() {
document.getElementsByTagName("body")[0].style.background = "green";
}


The actions function is what PeaceNik eventually triggers, so you can toss your custom javascript in there. You'll need access to your own web server, of couse, and you'll have to update the "nikloc" var in the bookmarklet to point to your script. With that, though, you could write your own custom library for dealing with sites, similar to how FireFox extensions work. Except these could be extremely site specific as to reference elements just for that page. For example, you could build a textarea which would report all the headlines on Cathode Tan by running through H elements and pushing them into another div.

Bloggery wise, I could use some functions which make a handy quote section for me based on highlighted text on a page and perhaps send that to the Blogger post page in a new window.

edit: just noticed that humorously, the sample doesn't work so well on blogspot.com if it has that tool div at the top...

Breaking News: Iron Man Hits Oceanic Flight




"Nursing more than the usual walloping hangover, Stark ruefully admitted it to himself.

He'd been drunk while flying the armour again.

Last night, returning from an International mission, weaving his way across the sky he'd collided with something out over the ocean..."

From zero g's photostream. More on the "mishap" there.




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Video Gamer Graphic Novel

Bitcritic reports that a new graphic novel, Side-Scrollers will feature a cast of gamers ... not to mention "Rock N' Roll, Junk food, a bunch of lobsters, and a cat that is possessed by the devil". (digg it)

I didn't even know my cat was auditioning for the role, to be honest.




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Gawking at Gawker

Blogospherical shaped enterprise Gawker shuffles some blogs around and notes that the "turned around" Kotaku gets five million page views monthly. Which is almost five million more than Cathode Tan gets, I might add. Odd, I think, that most of the game bloggers I read have turned sour on the "enhancements". I've sometimes accused Kotaku of turning to appeal to a lower common denominator by publishing more mumblevine and flame fodder recently ... but I guess if numbers is what you're after ... numbers is what you get.




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A Gold For Gaming?

Again, we hear tale of trying to get video games into the olympics. Is anyone outside of the serious pro gaming crowd clamoring for this? I love gaming and feel it deserves all the respect in the world ... but this still feels like advertising stunt rather than activism to me. The Olympics is a world of athletics. Gaming can be competitive, for sure, but so can suduko, chess, math and spelling.

I would love to see gaming competitions with a more Olympic feel to them, for them to get some exposure and maybe find a better way to draw actual audiences ... but expecting the torch out of the deal feels a bit much.




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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Cost Of War

Everyone knows I don't try and drag politics into here (bad timing to defend myself, I know, having just called a state senator an idiot ) ... but when I read things like this clearly immoral example of filling out the ranks, I feel the least I can do is link to it.



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Ted Stevens Is An Idiot

I just the other day got, an internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday. Why?

Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the internet commercially.
-- Your Own Personal Internet

It would be funny if he wasn't a senator who speaks for the people on policies regarding "the internet". Next time I send someone "an internet", I'll make sure to compress it because all that data would probably slow down your standard government Exchange server for at least a few hours.

By the time he gets to the "tubes", you realize just how clueless our government is on this issue.



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Sony's Real Problem: Software

I went into this article (via joystiq) expecting another "OMG Sony is Doooomed!" style reaction from some comment about the cell processors or the cost of Sony's hardware or some other such thing. And sure enough, they landblast Sony's pricing pretty hard. But it's these points that hit home for me:

Current Software including Software Diversity, Third Party Support, Exclusives and Big Hits.
Current Software for the Competition looking at all the above factors.
Expected Upcoming Software looking at all the above factors.
Expected Upcoming Software for the Competition looking at all the above factors.


It's not like people won't plunk down $600 or $700 for a gaming rig. People do it all the time. Go hunt down the eBay sales from the 360's launch if you want to see just how much of a factor the cost isn't at launch. I agree they'll have to get the prices down quicker than previous generations to reach the kind of numbers I'm Sony's after ... but for the near future prices just isn't the problem.

The problem is that Sony hasn't illustrated any software which makes the PlayStation 3 a killer appliance. They keep commenting on how it's a supercomputer - but to the tech crowd (of which their early adopters will largely be comprised), that's meaningless unless there's something super to run on the supercomputer.

Imagine someone trying to sell you the ultimate all terrain sports car, but you can only test drive it on city streets and under the speed limit. Why not just buy a Civic?

Worse - unlike the many of other tribbles people have assaulted Sony about, there's no excuse not to be displaying the software. Complaining about processor performance or overheating is ridiculous when the machine isn't even built yet. Software, though, can be prototyped and demoed without the final product. I'm not talking games here, mind you. It's not that Sony is missing it's Halo or Mario 64. They're missing their Xbox Live. Except they need something more integral to the digital convergence generation.

They're missing their iTunes, if you will.




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Metroid Hunters ... Hacked and Tired?

I'm a pretty big fan of Metroid Hunters on the DS. Since I stopped playing Unreal (and by that, I mean pretty much the whole series), I was left thinking that shooters needed to think outside of just bigger and more complicated games. When I was a modder, it was hard enough to get a good eight player game going, much less thirty two or whatever. Best games I had were with 3-4 other people that I knew fairly well, not twenty other strangers. Hunters, following the Mario Kart design, captures this concept: nobody has to worry about starting a server or finding enough players ... just load up and go play.

Not that it doesn't have it's faults ... as Thomas recently described ... and they're definately detrimental to long term play on the game. The Brother reports that it's even worse than that because apparently someone has created a homebrew app to cheat online ... and it works just fine over wifi.

Is there a panacea to be had when it comes to playing with complete strangers online? There doesn't seem to be ... the better the game is ... the more popular it becomes ... and the cheaters and griefers move into the hood. I swear it's the same plague that's killing off small town America. Should we hold out for a technological solution or just come up with a social one?

Is the only way to maintain a decent online experience to give people the ability to seek out like-minded players and maintain their relationshop? I was a Counter-Strike admin back in the days when you could only get a good game if you could find a good admin. Maybe we should be finding ways to match up the good players and keep them matched.







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Where it all began...



Almost makes me weepy to see a pic of this, the original basic D&D book (from hollesdottir's photostream). If I recall correctly, The Brother and I got ours on a family vacation in Canada. Our parents were unsure about the game, but I think we had saved up enough money to buy it on our own ... a move which probably surprised all of us.



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Impressive Hoth Display



Apparently taken at the Origins con, from Andy and Michele's photostream.



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Profane Adventures

I had seen this a while back, so it might very will be a redigg, but it's humorous all the same. Someone collected screenshots of swearing in text adventures and just how the game reacts to such a tongue. It's a great range from simply ending the game as punishment to remaining staunchly literal (as in what's biologically possible).




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Monday, July 03, 2006

Serious Guitar Hero



From studlyspam's photostream.



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Sims 2 And Cooperative Gameplay

The Girl and I burned several hours over the weekend playing Sims 2 on the PlayStation 2. It has a two player split screen mode which is more or less serviceable. Basically you each get a sim to control at the same time. Some downtime is inevitable as one of you will be sleeping or working while the other is trying to chat up some local tart. It's a perfectly fun way to play a very fun game (even if, as The Girl puts it, you do little else but worry about the toilet and sleep).

It illustrates, though, how difficult two player gameplay really can be to develop. Also this weeked I started to put down some foundation on a Defender clone which would be centered around two players. Simple right? Well, because of the speed of the game it would also need to be split screen and that causes new questions like do you also design a different experience for one player, how would any "campaign" portions of the game work, etc.

For me, coop breaks down like this:

Similar Experience
Basically, two people happen to be playing the same game. They don't necessarily share much in the game. This is how I would classify Sims 2. I'm not helping The Girl in her pursuit of getting abducted by aliens in the game, but I'll happen to be around when it happens.

Shared Experience
Here you're fighting the same fight, more or less. It's like the similar experience but it's got the added bonus of sharing goals. Most coop falls into this sort, even if it does somewhat shabbily. Two player Diablo would fall into this example.

Gestalt Experience
This is the holy grail of coop play. It's fun because the experience relies on both people being active not just with the game, but with each other. You're aren't simply rushing ahead to the same goal ... you're forming new goals in between which rely on the other playing. Diversification is key here. One player saving the other from impending doom or boosting their stats during a really difficult fight, or one player solving a puzzle while the other fends off the incoming hoarde. Guild Wars breaches into this category from time to time, albeit sometimes clumsily (often because the group isn't aware enough of the surroundings to know when to be organized).

Right now I've been able to envision how the second one works in my projects, but I'd like to get the third going. Closest I had, I think, was my Riftwar mod which featured three teams and often required coordinated offensives or defensive strategies ... but that's certainly on the weak side of the fence.








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NightWatch: The Game

I tried out the demo of the official Night Watch game from Nival Interactive, the same fine Russian folks who brought you Silent Storm. The game seems to follow that formula, a mission-based turn-based strategy game. This time, though, with shapeshifters and mages. Having only seen the one movie, I can't say quite how faithful it remains to the source material, but you'll shoot people with flashlights and step into the gloom a plenty. In fact, much of the combat happens in the "twilight" ... the invisible (to normal humans) parrallel dimension of the fictional world.

For the most part it played quite well and I'd guess that fans of Silent Storm will have something new to enjoy. The cinematics can be a little painful - they feel clunky and slow. In fact, I'd say it's a great example of when not to employ engine-based cutscenes. It hardly detracts from the core gameplay, though, which feels tight and looks like it could have serious potential.




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Angel Kitty Keyboard

Found via newlaunches.com. All I can say is: seriously, wtf? Who actually thought ... well maybe some people out there could use a hot Asian model keyboard holder? OK, I can see someone saying that ... but to actually take it to product takes some brain damage.



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My Problem With Addiction

It's not that I have one, per se, it's that I'm afraid people will start to think it's a possibility:

Too much gaming may seem relatively harmless compared with the dangers of a drug overdose, but Bakker says video game addiction can ruin lives. Children who play four to five hours per day have no time for socializing, doing homework, or playing sports, he says. “That takes away from normal social development. You can get a 21-year-old with the emotional intelligence of a 12-year-old. He’s never learned to talk to girls. He’s never learned to play a sport.”

In older addicts, compulsive gaming can jeopardize jobs or relationships. Howard, a 33-year-old project manager who asked to be identified only by his first name, started playing an online role-playing game about six months ago. He plays for three to four hours almost every day — more on weekends — occasionally putting off meals or sleep. His fiancĂ©e says he’s addicted.
-- Detox For Video Game Addiction?

To clarify, I've never doubted that for some people out there - gaming is a bad habit. And by bad habit, I mean they're being detrimental to their health. The thing is ... this can be true of many things and I don't think building focus on a singular topic like games is beneficial to anyone. I mean, examine these "symptoms":


Playing for increasing amounts of time
Thinking about gaming during other activities
Gaming to escape from real-life problems, anxiety, or depression


OMG that was just last week!

But in truth, you can pull this apart and define it just like any other addictive behavior. Withdrawal from social actity. Distraction from everyday tasks. Most importantly is the same definition used to diagnose serious depression or other emotional issue ... what's the impact on your daily life? Are you sleeping? eating? For me, probably the most "addictive" thing I ever did in my life occupied nearly eighty hours a week for several months and disrupted not just my afternoon naps, but also my diet and social life.

Course, that was my job at the time. So you can see where none of this is cut and dry.

I'm all for people getting treatment. My fear is that moms will read an article like this and assume that if their twelve year old wants Mario for their birthday that they're some kind of budding dope fiend.




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Sonic PaperCraft



From mishumishi's photostream.



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