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Saturday, August 05, 2006

For Sunday: Negadon

In the year 2025, a pod is discovered on Mars and brought back to Earth. One man and his robot must fight the inevitable question: when will mankind learn not to bring mystrious pods to Earth??

Negadon is a CG monster movie dripping with homage to the old latex lizard days of moviemaking. View the trailer and read a quick review before running out and getting it.

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Microsoft Translated

Joystiq's got the Microsoft marketspeak on why they'll own Christmas, from a MCV interview.

Lemme break this down for you.

We'll have an installed base of around ten million plus before they launch.

We barely made our estimates ... so yay!

We had a terrific E3 that showed what a great future Xbox 360 has, that we're the only place for the breadth and depth of choice for games and it dispelled a lot of the myths around PS3.

Nobody really noticed us and everyone's still talking about the Wii...but at least they don't hate our price anymore!

We've got so much to talk about: 160 high definition games on 360. A ten million plus installed base head start. Games for everyone including Gears of War, Pro Evolution Soccer, Viva PiƱata, Xbox Live Arcade, Forza 2, Rainbow Six and Dead or Alive Extreme 2, to name but a few. Then there's the promise of being the only place to get Halo 3.

Halo 3. Halo 3. Halo 3.

Xbox 360 is the only place gamers can have such a great choice of gaming and entertainment and we intend to sing about that very loudly from the roof tops.

We've got no presence in Japan, no next-gen media format yet, and if you don't have a high def television ... we're probably not worth the time. But for those ten million that don't care about all that, we salute you.

I'm very confident this is going to be another Xbox Xmas.

What else would you expect me to say? I work here. Halo 3.

Thank you. Thank you. The nine o' clock show is the same as the seven.

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Friday, August 04, 2006

Brit Gaming Blog On Dead Rising Demo

Overall, this game is gold – absolute fun. I don’t care what types of games you like, how squeamish you are or how full your hard drive is, if you have an Xbox 360 – Get.This.Demo.
-- BGB Preview: Dead Rising Demo

They said a bunch of other stuff, but it sounds like it's mostly one of those preview which would rather have you play it than read about it. It's pretty much the kind of title which makes me think about getting a 360, but I'm still going to hold out for the next revision of the hardware.

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Functional Tachikoma Droid

It walks on four legs and can move its arms. It can also talk the voice is given by the same artist as in the TV series. It has around 19 joints in its body making its movement life like. Currently there are no plans of selling the four legged robot
-- SAC (Stand Alone Complex) Robot

Nice day for manga droids, apparently. There's also a video off that link. The cats would freakin' love this.

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List Of Game Failures

Wikipedia tracks a list of commercially failed gaming ventures, from the Atari 7800 to Psychonauts and an awful lot in between. While probably not completely exhaustive ... it's chock full of fun facts and history.

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Dev Night Diary

Significantly more success last night. I'm actually quite impressed with GLUT - it completely works as advertised. Not that I have much to right home about - but I do have two spinning triangles in 800 by 600 window and one triangle that will rotate on player input, namely the "a" and "d" keys.

The theory here is that while it's harder to do all this stuff without a net ... and by net I mean actual game engine ... I'll hopefully keep the scale so small that it won't really matter. Right now, you can write a decent iTunes visualizer by piping audio data into OpenGL animations. So technically the only systems I'm really missing are player control, collision and scoring. So unlike Untitled Tempest Clone, this won't require any client-server to bridge the audio data, it will just run off the live feed (and within iTunes).

So why didn't I do this before? Well, it's not trivial. You really get an appreciation for games like Asteroids when you realize that your code has no understanding of say .... direction. That's not a triangle with a proper top or bottom or anything - it's just a shape that OpenGL is being told to draw (and occasionally rotate). Which is end is up? And what's the proper coordinate to move "forward"?

Clearly, these questions are answerable ... it will just take a little more thought and research than simply spinning some shapes around.

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Huge Gundam Models Being Deployed

GUNDAM fans and other anime fetishists will likely be blessing Bandai this Xmas, as the toy company is going to release its completely enormous (read: 1/12 scale) HYPER HYBRID MODEL.

The 150cm-tall, 35kg DIY kit of the RX-78-2 GUNDAM figure will surely please otaku, given its width and girth (90 x 50cm). There are 14 moving bits to fiddle with, an infrared remote control and all sorts of goofy sound effects and flashing lights.
-- Bandai to release giant GUNDAM bots at Xmas

That would look badass in the new condo. Not sure I can convince the girl it would match the woodwork though...


External Video Cards?

Much of the geek world is drooling over Nvidia's monster video .... block, which cases a massive amount of power in a big external chassis. Alice Hill thinks we might see more of this:

It was inevitable. Plus, all the cool kids are getting them. Ok, so $17,500 is not a number we plan on settling on. And you still need to open the case. But consider this your first glimpse at a real hardware trend. I’ll predict that external boards in a more affordable range will start hitting store shelves by 2008.
-- Trend Alert: The External Graphics Card

I gotta say I kinda doubt it. I mean, the Quadro Plex is so much hardware it couldn't be internal ... but otherwise I wouldn't be surpised if someone wanted it that way. Video graphics rely so much on speed that I'm more suprised we haven't seen more Amiga style computers which jam the GPU right next to the CPU. Well, not really considering the speed of AGP and PCI-E slots ... but who is going to throttle down their graphics processing to the speed of a USB cable?

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Bush Back Rub Game

I can't get to it from work, The Mercury A+E digs this flash game of the President trying to relax his cohorts.

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

TransGaming's Cider: Windows Games For OS X

TransGaming, which several years ago dipped its toes in the Mac game market with conversions from leading Mac game publishers, is taking another step into the Mac market, this time adopting their Cedega technology for Linux to run on Intel-based Macs. The result is a forthcoming series of games from PC game publishers that TransGaming’s CEO Vikas Gupta calls a “transparent” experience for Mac gamers.

“Cider games will run as if they were made for Mac OS X,” Gupta told Macworld in a recent interview.
-- 'Cider' makes Windows games run on Intel Macs

That's pretty nifty news. I will take great delight in someday running a "Game For Windows" on my Mac.

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Another Great GLUT Tutorial

Lighthouse 3D also has a great GLUT tutorial which breaks down stuff like animation and keyboard control extremely well.

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Dev Night Diary

Last night was weird. By any tangible evidence it was a complete failure. After following a few tutorials, I succeeded in merely getting an OS X application which would open some random window named, well, "Window". No triangles or anything would show up and I couldn't even seem to get the size of the window to change. Nothing that I had thought I had coded worked. At all.

And yet - I came away with a pretty decent stock. I'm more familiar with XCode and setting up projects - a bit of a nuisance before since I was dealing with prefabbed projects. I get the general gist of setting up and initializing a GLUT display and a primer on how it deals with generating things like triangles, etc. In short, I don't really know how to draw terribly well but I've got a basic idea of how to setup a canvas and how it works.

I even know why it failed ... or at least I'm pretty sure. One of the tutorials had me start the project as a Cocoa application - Apple's Objective C language. Cocoa uses a totally different entry point than the C I was writing and hence ... none of my code was even being run. It would compile ... just not run.

So for a dry run it was a flop ... but as a training exercise it wasn't so bad.

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Hi-Def Formats Copy Protection Brute Forced

Via Alice Hill, via Ars Technica:

The screen capture feature of the operating system allowed each frame to be digitally captured exactly as it was displayed on-screen. Since it would be impractical to sit around advancing movies frame by frame and hitting PrintScreen all day, a script was used to automate the process. Each frame resulted in a 2 MB image. The computers used were fast enough to capture 30 frames per second, enabling real-time capturing of the movies without dropped frames. For a 90-minute movie, this is 162,000 frames, or approximately 324 GB in total storage, so if you try this, make sure you have lots of free hard disk space!
-- HD-DVD, Blu-Ray Copy Protection Defeated by “Low-Tech High-Tech” Method

For a brief few months in a previous life, I was a data security analyst. Essentially it was my job to design secure authentication methods for various inter-intra-extranets that were forming. Parts of me loved it because it was different and challenging and I got to compile stuff for a change. Lots more of me hated it because it makes you a paranoid freak. Maybe you only want specific people to be able to even see a page exists, so you have those pages looking for specific IP and credential information ... but of course all of that can be faked so you need to make sure the communication is secure regardless and so .... and so on.

Trying to copy protect movies, music and software in these ways is similar ... except it's even more futile because you have a large audience with a high demand (surprisingly few people actually want to break into someone else's insurance records). Eventually something needs to get that media into a format which is playable and then bam ... someone's going to figure out a way to snag that.

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Defining Games Of Virtual Boy

Right now, Nintendo is sitting pretty with everyone waiting to try out the Wii. And why shouldn't they be? This is the company that brought us the Power Glove and Virtual Boy. Remember the Virtual Boy?

Well, Racket Boy does and offers up the definitive games for the system. It's quite the list and makes you realize why there's still interest in this black sheep of the Nintendo flock. Dorky and a strain on the eyes? Sure, but it was virtual reality baby ... and people still want it.

Seriously, the Virtual Boy shows a bit of why Nintendo succeeds and why they fail: they're willing to take the occasional risk. Both Sony and Microsoft are doing little more than applying engineers to an established project plan and marketing the hell out of it. Nintendo's actually trying something completely different .... which even if it fails is good for the industry.

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LARPing Meets Reality TV

The Girl and I watched "Who Wants To Be A Superhero" last night (spoilers cometh on who gets kicked in the first episode). In general, I hate reality television because it's basically just watching some producers mess with people for a few hours, edited down to the most frightening bits. WWTBAS isn't much better - but it's got to be the biggest public display of live action role-playing ever put to broadcast.

In fact, role-playing could make or break someone on this show. Take the already eliminated Levity, who made the mistake of admitting that he made custom action figures and wanted to use the show to make a line for himself. If he had just stayed in character - he'd still be in the show. Zero G got eliminated in part because he didn't ham up the "get in your costume like Clark Kent" part of his task.

Because of this. my money is on Monkey Woman, whose "secret identity" (AKA their real personage) is listed as being an investor ... but she's actually an aspiring actress. Girl is going to keep to the script no matter what.

Edit: On second thought, it's probably Fat Momma to win. I mean ... she is Fat Momma. No role-playing required. Plus, she's fearless, tough and has a heart of gold.

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Microsoft's "Renaissance" ... Just Branding?

Games for Windows: the Official Magazine will incorporate much of Computer Gaming World's best-of-class editorial style and tone, while broadening its reach, influence and editorial content to complement the coming renaissance in gaming on Windows PCs. To ensure clear market leadership position, upon the launch of Games for Windows: the Official Magazine, Ziff Davis will no longer publish Computer Gaming World. The new magazine and web initiative will carry on the editorial, production and art staff of Computer Gaming World.
-- Goodbye Computer Gaming World, hello Games for Windows magazine

I can't tell you how unimpressed I am with Microsoft's latest efforts to revive Windows as a gaming platform. A sticker, a website and a new logo isn't going to help ... even if you manage to shove all three down a major print magazine. In the meantime, they'll also be trying to hook as many titles into being Vista exclusive as they possibly can ... and I already know the CheapBox would choke on that beast of an OS.

So what, I'll run out and spend a grand or more on a computer that can keep up with the "renaissance" ... or a few hundred to get a new console? I mean, what will telling everyone that there are games for Windows actually do for games on Windows? What we need is better titles that don't require a $500 graphics cards and less lousy console ports.

But I can see where "Games That Don't Need A $500 Card And Less Lousy Console Ports" takes a lot more room than "Games For Windows". Perhaps if they used a smaller font...

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Billions On The Line With Net Neutrality

While those providers have said they would not block access to the open internet, companies that sell products or services online want Congress to adopt stricter safeguards to ensure they are not pushed into a slower lane of the internet if they do not pay more for dedicated network service.

For the financial services sector, which is expected to spend $117 billion on information technology this year, tiered pricing could add billions more in expenses to maintain online banking services and other web offerings, according to a memo circulating among financial services lobbyists. Those costs could hit the bottom line or be passed on to customers.

But it's a fight the financial sector almost missed.

"Net neutrality is an issue that (financial services) firms ignore at their peril," Philip Corwin, a partner at Washington law firm Butera & Andrews, wrote in the memo.
-- 'Net Neutrality' Battle Widens

Once again, nobody wins but the telco giants if net neutrality isn't protected.

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First Colossus Statue

From Japanese maker Kotobukiya. Stands 19.5 centimeters high and will apparently not collapse if glowing spots are stuck with toothpicks. Via insert credit.

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OS X OpenGL and Quartz Links

I might be going right down to the bones of coding for the Mac - OGL and Quartz. Here's a series of links I've uncovered to get started:

- (lots of tutorials ... haven't had time to parse 'em)
- (great setup tutorial)
- (straightforward examples)
- (another list of links)
- (very specific Quartz related code, including some performance tweaking)
- (just a good general gamedev site)

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Japan's Got No Xbox Love

I'll just let the number speak for themselves:

Microsoft's Xbox and Xbox 360 game consoles accounted for less than 1% of Japan's game console market in July. Sales of the Microsoft's next gen Xbox 360 during the week of July 17-23 totaled only 1,472 units which is nowhere near to 22,288 units of the PS2 and a staggering 262,453 units for the Nintendo DS Lite. The Top 10 list of games played in Japan is dominated by the Nintendo DS with six games. On the other hand no title for the Xbox 360 even makes it to the top-50 list.
-- Xbox 360 sucks in Japan

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NASCAR Warms Up With Computer Game

So Hamlin warms up with Sierra NASCAR 2003, an auto-racing game so realistic that many fans prefer to call it a driving simulator, or sim.

It's Hamlin's first full year on NASCAR's Nextel Cup circuit, yet he's won two races in just over a month, both at the Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania. Hamlin gives part of the credit to the hours he's spent "simracing" at a virtual Pocono. "I think it definitely has helped me," said Hamlin. "It's given me a lot of great experience, and it never hurts to go out there and get on the track a little bit earlier than the competition."

Hamlin's one of many drivers who use video games to warm up for race day. The reason is realism. Today's games go to remarkable lengths to reproduce the major auto racing tracks with exceptional accuracy. A driver who hasn't driven at Bristol, Talladega, or Darlington for months can get an instant refresher course by just booting up.
-- A computer game is a learning tool

Something of a credit to the level of realism the genre has achieved. Hamlin's apparently got a wicked cool steering control to boot, and I bet's he's totally geeked out with those foot pedal things.

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Colbert Nation Invades Wikipedia

I can't believe I missed this. Apparently on Monday, Colbert's "Word" segment was on "Wikipediality" ...:

Colbert goes on to declare that he doesn't believe George Washington had slaves.

"If I want to say he didn't that's my right, and now, thanks to Wikipedia *taps keyboard* it's also a fact."

Here's the fun part - Colbert actually did this. The Wikipedia articles on his show and George Washington were both edited by the user Stephencolbert to reflect the changes he declared on air as he tapped at his computer around 23:35 UTC - which is 6:35pm on the East Coast, during the taping of his show, hours before it aired.

It gets better.

Colbert then urged his audience to find the Wikipedia entry on elephants and create an entry that stated their population had tripled in the last six months, a fact he freely stated to not know if it was "actually true," with his sidebar stating "it isn't."

Guess what happened next? Scores of internet users took Colbert's bait, repeatedly vandalizing approximately 20 articles on elephants before all being placed under a lock. The move also subsequently caused Wikipedia administrator Tawker to block Stephen Colbert from the website, reportedly to verify his identity.
-- Stephen Colbert Causes Chaos on Wikipedia, Gets Blocked from Site

It's good to note that the Wikipedia seems to have survived the assault. Funny as hell, just probably not to the fine folks who admin the place.

Update: speaking of things I missed - I'll have to find this on the net later.

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Spam Poetry

The only good thing about the odd prose that some spammers use to circumvent bayesian filters is how oddly entertaining it can be:

He stood there stupidly, his breath coming quickly, his bouquet quivering in his hands. Otherwise there is no knowing what she might have done to Dorothy. Its the lonesome place around here widout the liddle dancing fate and the dear laugh av her. Its what weall have to be larning, me jewel, if we want to be living wid folkspaceable. This isPat Gardiner, he finished awkwardly. And yet Jingle liked to hear Dorothy play on the piano. I just feel asif I wanted you there, too, Pat. Theres no accounting for the freaksav the craturs. Ive taken out and read the telegram a hundred times just tobe sure. Otherwisethere is no knowing what she might have done to Dorothy. This is Pat Gardiner, he finished awkwardly. Anyway theres one word I never want to hear again as long as Ilive, Judy, and thats quaint.

They condescended to Aunt Edith and Aunt Barbara, too . You would be, too, if your hair wasnt so long and terribly straight. But the min same to like that sort Im telling ye. AndIll always be here and well always be together. Pat liked Dorothy well enough but Joan was a blow. Jingle had a knack of making delightful bird-houses. I cant visit your Happiness, Jingle-baby . Their touch unloosedthe floods of Jingles bitterness. And she had also laughed at Uncle Toms beard and Judys book of UsefulKnowledge. It ought to be clearedout, said Dorothy as they left it. That way she has av smiling at ye as if therewas some nice liddle joke atween yell carry her far. If I did itwould mean missing the steamer at San Francisco. Pat knew his mother had spoiled the name for him. In the end Pat went, thrilling from head to foot with excitement. Exciting andpleasant things were so rare in Jingles life, poor fellow.

Theres no accounting for the freaksav the craturs. There is one about a ghost on a farm belonging to Sylvia Cyrillas uncle who haswhiskers. Jingle, take them off before your mother comes. Ive written some of it every day for a week and just put downeverything that came into my head.

I still remember the one that was about building a time machine.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Might Be Cobbling A PC

I ran into an odd bit of dumpster diving a couple days ago. Just taking out the trash, I saw the back end of a computer in the alley bin. So I pulled it out. Looked like it had been tossed down a flight of stairs. Someone had taken the side panel off, but left the CPU, RAM, hard drive and DVD players. So I took inside, pulled everything but the HDD (too hard to access) and tossed the rest.

I don't know if any of it works, but I might pick up a AOpen Cube case just to have something to shove it in and find out. Worse case scenario is that I have a case should I ever upgrade down the road. Odd because I had almost sworn off PC's completely, but when a couple hundred bucks worth of components falls in you lap, it's hard to pass up.

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Next-Gen, E3 and Good Writing

I perhaps judged Next-Gen a bit harshly, both here and elsewhere. I'm a big man, I can admit that.

But I don't detract it completely. If the cache is still valid, check out the opening line from Next-Gen's original draft:

Senior industry sources have revealed to Next-Gen.Biz that the E3 industry event, in its present form, has been cancelled for next year and the foreseeable future.

OK, so they did caveat it with "in it's present form". And later they state "It's possible that the ESA will seek to limit the damage by organizing some form of lesser event in May". So, what's the big deal?

So, Next-Gen knew E3 wasn't being cancelled - but changed. Or at least they knew it was possible and by their text it seems like they were assuming it was probable. The opening sentence is misleading at best and contradictory at worse. If I go and eat lunch, have I "cancelled" myself? I was hungry and now that state is gone ... so using Next-Gen logic ... yes. Josh, in his present form, has been cancelled. If by "cancelled" we mean, well, not cancelled and merely changed.

Remember - the title is "E3 Finished" ... do the facts really support that? No. But it's got flair.

The more accurate way to have written the story would have been something like, "Sources have revealed that E3 may be undergoing serious changes and significant downsizing which would result in a show much diminished and of a different nature". Or if they really needed kick, "E3 as we know it may be a thing of the past, replaced by a much smaller event without major publisher support." They include some information, but neglect to tell the reader the heart of the story.

Why? Because gaming journalism isn't all that interested in the facts ... they're interested in getting a thousand forum goers to link to their article as quickly as possible. Truth and accuracy ... it's so old school. So mainstream. Why bother getting it right the first time when you can just upload later?

A lot of industry blogs seem to be almost glad for the change. Check out These Damned Machines:

Scope out the competition / consumer reaction to competition? Well, yes, I suppose, but since everyone is only showing select bits, this is quite limited.

Conversely, we break our backs all trying to make the E3 deadline for our software only to get it overshadowed by a non-interactive three minute Halo cinematic. It's in every company that shows best interest to release all their hot info on their own terms.

I totally 100% agree that the downsizing of E3 is a bummer because I've had a lot of fun there. It was a blast getting to play stuff before it comes out and getting to see friends from other companies.

But as I stood there for three days talking myself hoarse, I only really networked with maybe half a dozen people whose opinion my corporate masters actually care about. Consider that these people also came to our summer showcase and why are we spending tens of millions again? I spent way too much time being nice to drones from mall Gamespots and independent bloggers (irony noted).

Let's spend that money on giving me a raise and putting out some quality products.
-- E3 is Dead, Oh Noes!, Long Live E3!

In other words, clearly stating that E3 is being gutted and downsized isn't as interesting as saying it's cancelled for the foreseeable future. E3 being changed is probably mostly a matter for insider blogs to reminisce about since 99% of gamers aren't really going to feel the rub (you don't really think you'll avoid a hype tsunami, do you?). But OMG ... E3 IS DEAD!

That's news. Well, gaming news at least.

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Know A Good iTunes Plugin Tutorial?

Since I might dive back into more serious OS X development, I remember it was hard to find really solid sample code for iTunes visualizers. If any fellow geeks out there have any leads, lemme know.

Possibly Final Canvas Thoughts

Last night I tried removing the main canvas tag and making the canvas behave more like an image - small canvases just large enough to occupy the image I would need. Idea being that lots of small areas would take up less floor space than one big one ... hence, less processing.

That and the discovery that window.setInterval is much, much slower than setTimeout (at least in Safari) alleviated a lot of problems, but I think the final prognosis is that the browser is just too low performance in general to handle a serious action-orientated arcade-style game. In general, browsers are more feature rich than performance heavy ... and anything you try to animate within the browser has to accept those limitations. That means that even basic concepts like setting a smooth framerate is virtually impossible.

It's not that you couldn't make a game with it - it's just that my demands are pretty high. You could easily use this stuff to make a puzzler or card game or something like that. If you're playing tetris and the blocks aren't completely smooth all the time - it's not that big of a deal. I'm looking for two players coop though ... speed is essential because you have more action and more users. But if there wasn't the need to have a lot happening on the screen at one time, it could work.

I downloaded PTK, so I might try that. I also might dust off my old iTunes visualizer code and see about adding controls and graphics to that. I've decided to hold off on the card-story game until Opera DS lands (or I get antsy and import it). Course, moving day is rapidly approaching ... so time will soon be on short supply.

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Wii Virtual Console Promo

Nifty. From Figerrific's photostream.

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Minnesota Game Law Struck Down

"We are pleased that the court has so quickly overturned this ill-conceived law," said Bo Andersen, president of the Entertainment Merchants Association, one of the plaintiffs in the case.

U.S. District Judge James Rosenbaum ruled that the law violated free-speech rights. He also concluded research failed to back up the state's claims that the law would protect the psychological well being of youngsters and foster their moral and ethical development.

"The state itself acknowledges … that it is entirely incapable of showing a causal link between the playing of video games and any deleterious effect on the psychological, moral, or ethical well-being of minors," Rosenbaum wrote.
-- U.S. judge throws out Minnesota video game law

That article is pretty sad though, leading off with the typical sensational nonsense about how the law is to "fine youngsters who get their hands on the smuttiest, bloodiest and most violent video games" and how in God of War " players gouge out eyes, sever limbs and make human sacrifices." Man ... one human sacrifice in a game and you are branded for life. Even after the quote above, which one might think is a pretty sound case for not regulating it, it goes on for another half page to moan about how terrible games are.

Cheers to David Walsh though, for laying it down simply, "Parents need to be media wise and watch what our kids watch. We can't always look to law to solve this problem."

Darn tootin'. Instead of wasting taxpayer money trying to solve a non-existent crisis ... let's try to find the kind of communication and education that will let parents make rational choices. Isn't that what parents are for anyway?

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Nethack Porn

Seriously, there's a Nethack fetish gallery (via Negatendo's Livejournal) (NSFW)... complete with the ASCII representation of the creature involved and well ... I dunno. I mean, I've heard of tentacle porn before - but to fantasize doing it with a quantum mechanic that's usually a single character on the screen? There's levels upon levels of issues there..

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More Microsoft FUD

And although Wii is almost a GameCube with a DVD drive, is Nintendo going to have enough quantity to satisfy the demand?
-- Microsoft EU exec: Wii is almost a GameCube with a DVD drive - CD (digg it)

And the 360 is almost a high end gaming rig that overheats, what's your point?

I'll confess, Sony's PR has been insane. Microsoft is just getting damn annoying though. "They suck, he sucks, it's slow, we're cool, Xbox LIVE! wooh!, wah, wah, wah". Jesus, no wonder gaming news is immature - when game execs in interviews act like four year olds, what should we expect?

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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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