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Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Calm Before The Storm

It's 7:48. We stayed a bit too late watching SciFi since soon enough there will be no Tivo and no DirectTV. In the next couple hours we've got to break down our bed, run by the store and then head over to the new place for the first round of moving. Then the real movers arrive a couple hours after that and the real chaos begins.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Opera DS and Plugins

They acknowledged that the concept of touch screen-based Web browsing is sound, and that navigation within the browser proper is actually quite good, but, for some reason, actually connecting to a Web site is a slow (like, trying-to-download-porn-on-a-14.4K-modem slow), nigh-painful process. The lack of support for common Web standards, like Flash and Java, is also a curiosity.
-- IGN Calls DS Opera Web Browser 'Unusable' - Gizmodo

If Opera DS is slow and clunky - that will very much suck. But as someone with a decade or so of experience with web development ... lemme explain something:

Flash and Java aren't technically web standards. They are more akin to PDF - they're a completely seperate application from standard web apps that only work in browsers because they support plugins. These days it's fairly common to support Flash and Java - but that's just because the plugins have become regularly available on both Windows, Macintosh and Linux. If you aren't on those platforms (or even, in the case of Linux or Windows ... the same platforms but wildly different hardware) ... it gets dicey.

A web standard would be supported (in theory) by every web browser. A plugin is only supported by browsers which have access to native applications to handle the different code. So expecting Opera to write either a Java or Flash plugin isn't just unreasonable ... it's actually impossible. Only Sun and Macromedia, respectively, can write the code to make those plugins work on whatever the DS considers an operating system. There's nothing Opera could have done in this situation.

Another way to explain it - let's say the PS3 browser supports Flash (I'm not sure, but I've heard such rumors). That doesn't mean that Sony has the code laying around to shove it into the PSP. It would be up to Macromedia (or AdobeMedia or whatever they're called these days) to help get that port in.

When you can't run Flash - which site do you head to ... Macromedia or Microsoft or Netscape or what? Always Macromedia. Why? Because it's their code.

Perhaps if those plugins existed ... and Opera didn't support plugins ... we could put the blame on Opera. That's not the case here. The fact is ... nobody should be expecting these plugins in completely nascent browser markets. There's completely no incentive to create them.

So, to be accurate, it's not curiosity. It's actually precisely what should be expected from such a browser. If you want to see these plugins - buy the browser. Only market share will put the lean on the right people.

I can see where the confusion could arise - but Flash and Java support is likely not in Opera's control. Just a bit of info ... from me to you.

(For the record: I've been doing web development for about a decade or so. When I first started getting serious with it, Netscape not only didn't support Flash ... there was no such thing as Flash and Netscape didn't go by any kind of like "version" or anything)

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Duke Nukem Forever Covers

One from 1997, the other 1999. Via UnLogikal's photostream.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Funny As Hell Coke GTA Commercial

Just go and watch it

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Obey Your Robot Dance Commander...

... should I not be around much. They are evil and powerful, but honestly quite funky. (via Digital World Tokyo)

Thoughts On Justice League Heroes

This is based on Joystiq's preview since I'm not blessed with advance copy powers.

"Streamlining" the coop down to two players seems like a bad idea. The four player system of X-Men Legends was easily one of it's strong points. It was great that someone could jump in at nearly any time and play on and then jump out if they so needed. As I noted on Corvus' thoughts on casual gaming, easy starts and exits really help the couch co-op experience.

Maybe I'm speaking too much as someone who has often played games like Champions Of Norrath with a full complement of people - but going from four to two is a downgrade, plain and simple.

It also doesn't sound like they've changed their minds about upgrading superpowers. Boo. What, Superman will need to "learn" his ice breath again? What is this, the N64 version? Superhero powers are something which, if at all, modify at very slow rates over their life story. Wonder if they'll include "gear" as well. Does Superman really need better gloves to punch better? Can't he already, like, punch through a planet?

And speaking of - if they handle Superman just like any other character then I'd say they've missed a design mark. Bad enough to have Juggernaught (who is invulnerable) and Rogue (also pretty much invulnerable) going down like pansies in the X-Men game .... the big cape himself having to worry about hit points?

Meh. Granted, I'm a sucker for the genre. I've got Teen Titans in the pipe from GameFly and that's supposed to totally suck.

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Video Games For Sickness And Health

The project is one example of an emerging trend: health-related applications of video-game technologies, mostly aimed at children. Ben's Game, launched in 2004, was probably the first developed specifically for sick kids (see, 5/13/04, "Game for a Little Therapy?"). What sets the new crop of health-related games apart from earlier examples is their increasingly sophisticated graphics and game-play, and the fact that they are catching the attention of commercial publishers.

The first big focus of health-related games was pain relief. "We knew that kids are engrossed by video games. So we offered games as a distraction alongside music, books, cartoons, and other options like hypnosis or guided visualization," says Dr. Madhumita Sinha, an emergency-room physician at Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix, Ariz. Sinha co-authored a study on nondrug distraction methods for children being treated in the ER at Children's Hospital in Akron, Ohio. "Music was the favorite distraction among the kids (52.5%), video games (23.4%) came in second, and cartoon videos (27%) third," says Sinha of the findings, which were published in the April, 2006, issue of the journal Pediatrics.

The designers of Free Dive, which is still in development, believe games can become a greater distraction than music. "Our goal is to provide a visual and auditory shield that will deflect the experience of scary and painful routine procedures—like shots or IV insertions," says Brian Morisson of Believe in Tomorrow.
-- Harnessing the Power of Video Games

No need to overanalyze here ... it's just good to know that while a certain portion of American culture still thinks of video games as the hobby of the damned, people still can see it for what it is and invent some benefit out of the medium.

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Left Behind Versus Grand Theft Auto

This is funny. Right from the creator of Left Behind: Eternal Forces:

"If you have two games and one has a good theme and one has a bad theme, people are generally going to reach for the one with the good theme," he said.

The Grand Theft Auto games are well-designed but have a bad theme, in his view. Lyndon intends for the Left Behind games (follow-ups to Eternal Forces are already in the works) to contain a religious theme that is "not preachy or dogmatic."

An early version of Eternal Forces has already won respect in write-ups on gamer Web sites. Until now, religion-oriented video games have tended to be relatively weak efforts -- far from cutting-edge and more the sort of lame thing Ned Flanders's kids might play on "The Simpsons."
-- Fire and Brimstone, Guns and Ammo

Right ... that "good theme" being the end of the world and utter annihilation of all non-believers. That's not preachy at all. In other words, a great theme for American ubervangelists ... not so much for the gays. Hookers, at least, get shot equally.

And I don't know what early version the Post is talking about here. It's been routinely panned by most gaming sites as little more than religious propaganda propped up on Starcraft's dying frame.

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Still here ... kinda

Morning business is much slower than I'd thought. Probably will blog a bit before disappearing. I might investigate using the cell phone as a modem trick to keep the lights on at home. Still, I slept like none at all last night and the craziness which is my current hobo lifestyle isn't going to let up anytime soon.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Dark ... so dark

This might be my last post for a few days, maybe more. Work has exploded and I know tomorrow will be completely insane. Soon the home computer will have to be unplugged and hauled off. So I'll be turning the lights out for just a little bit. But I'll keep a night light on in the bedroom, just for you.

Facade For OS X

insert credit by way of Grand Text Auto:

Speaking of interactive fiction, GrandTextAuto reports that the experimental project Façade is now available for those pesky Mac users as well! It seems the current build needs a pretty powerful machine, so check the specs before downloading. Once this is done, you can go here for the completely legal torrent file. We briefly mentioned the game when it came out on PC. Apparently you should thank Ryan C.Gordon for porting the game to Mac.
-- News: Façade for Mac

Try and grab it here after checking out those specs. Once again, Ryan is proving himself to be "teh man".

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Spammer Gold

Widely reported, but I can't pass this up:

To win a judge's permission for the search, AOL submitted receipts reflecting large purchases by Hawke of gold and platinum bars, Graham said. The company indicated it believes Hawke buried the loot on his parents' property using a shovel.
-- Boing Boing: AOL will dig for buried platinum and gold in spammer's Mom's yard

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Life Size Hitman

As Brainless Angel's photostream suggests, this might deter shoplifting.

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The Darkness Adds Exclusive Blu-Ray Content

Speaking of the PlayStation 3, 2K was very forthcoming during our demo when it came to discussing the benefits of the new system and how it would affect The Darkness. Because of the Blu-ray format, for example, Starbreeze plans to include additional videos that exploit the "television watching" feature which currently consists of the classic "Nosferatu" vampire silent film (in its entirety) and five 30-minute Popeye cartoons. The publisher isn't sure what the PS3-exclusive videos will be just yet, but we suggested an episode of Top Cow's old Witchblade TV series -- not because we think every game should have a moment of pure and total horridness, but because we think it would be funny. Send your damnation letters now.

Additionally, Starbreeze is also looking into taking advantage of the PS3's tilt controller and is considering some possible changes with another feature we can't talk about yet. Xbox 360 fans shouldn't worry about feeling left out with all this talk about PS3 exclusives, though, as other than what's mentioned above, the game should be damn-near identical in every way.
-- IGN: The Darkness Preview

Was wondering when we'd satart seeing this. In some ways, it's kinda nostalgic - with CD-ROMs we saw early development shoving tons of video into games with extremely mixed results. Now Blu-Ray offers developers enough space to include interesting exclusive content (or make similar mistakes).

I'm still wondering when we will see the first hybrid movie/game Blu-Ray disc. DVD's have already toyed with this path, so I can't see why anyone wouldn't, except that consumers may not want the theoretical $80 price tag to go with. Course, since so many movie game tie-ins are bargain bin material anyway...

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Gaming Overtaking Television And Movies?

I doubt it, but this is interesting:

A substantial minority of American adults would rather spend their free time playing casual games -- such online diversions as "Bejeweled" and "TextTwist" -- than watch television.

A study by Harris Interactive set for release Monday found that 31 percent of the over-18 set preferred the games to TV for whiling away a spare hour. Watching movies at home fared better, with 21 percent choosing games instead, but going to the movie theater did slightly worse with 35 percent.

RealNetworks commissioned the study to understand its customers better, company senior vice president worldwide games Michael Schutzler said. He added that they were very surprised by some of the findings, particularly when the report broke out the numbers for women older than 40.

Nearly half (49 percent) would play casual games rather than go to the movie theater, 32 percent opted for them over movies at home, and 37 percent chose them over watching TV.
-- Casual gaming taking places of daily activities

I probably spend more hours with television than gaming, but it's close. I'd say the three kinds of media are split about evenly for myself. With television shows arriving to the 360 and Blu-Ray around the corner, one has to wonder just how much these activities are going to start converging. Suddenly playing Halo during the SuperBowl doesn't sound so geeky-weird anymore.

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Dirty Computer Gallery

These are pretty impressive. I have cats with fur like something out of a Herculean quest, but I've never had anything quite that bad. A shallow carpet surrounding and occasionally within the case and a couple fans which will never be the same again ... but some of these pics make the computer barely look operable.

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Already Gaming

From Camille S.' photostream.

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Apple's Parental Restrictions in Leopard

Joystiq has a post which takes a jab at Apple for singling out World of Warcraft on their Leopard preview page:

More flexible parental controls in Leopard mean you can place restrictions on use of the Internet. You can, say, specify a time of day and duration for your child to play World of Warcraft. And with new remote setup, you can set parental controls from anywhere.
-- Apple - Apple - Mac OS X - Leopard Sneak Peek

OK, well ... boo hoo hoo for World of Warcraft. Because nobody ever plays that game way too much. Let's focus here, people ... we can't bitch and moan about people decrying video games and then poke fun at companies trying to help parents control them. I would much rather have Apple build in controls that makes parents feel better about their kids gaming than listen to jackass lawyers who probably still have a cell phone the size of brick rail on the evils of playing. I really hope Vista includes something similar and wouldn't mind seeing the next-gen consoles follow suit as well. Most of the parents I know who are really involved and in touch with what their kids do with computers - limiting the when and how much is generally job one.

So, congrats to Apple for taking the right step forward.

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200+ PlayStation 3 Games In Development

Clearly the PlayStation 3 is too expensive and too difficult for anyone to bother actually coding a game for ... especially since it's obviously going to flop at launch because of the price tag so nobody would play such a game.

Except, of course, for all these titles current in development for the platform (on GameSpot, via PS3 News Resource). Surely some of these will drop out as well, but it looks to be an average list of games one would expect. Remember that Wikipedia also lists the proposed launch titles.

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Wii Marketing: "Hands-On"

USA Today had a sit-down with Nintendo's Reginald Fils-Aime. Not much new to those who keep their ear to the ground on this kind of thing, but this was interesting:

It's going to be massive amounts of hands-on activity, as well as showcasing exactly how Wii games are different. We're going to create advocacy. We're going to make it so that everyone who tries the Wii experience talks to their friends and neighbors. It's going to be a really provocative sight to be seeing teens and 20-year-olds and 40-year-olds and 50-year-olds talking about how different this experience is.
-- - Nintendo hopes Wii spells wiinner

Hands-On? Perhaps they'll have more of a presence in the stores ... but not many 40 year olds wander into GameSpot. Perhaps they'll utilize street teams. It also sounds like they might have a viral bent with the whole thing. I'll be OK if they forego creepy grafitti and websites featuring trees, however.

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Torque Engine and XNA

With GarageGames' partnership with Microsoft, an indie could get a jump start on their desired Xbox 360 title:

You might ask, "Torque? Does that mean Torque Game Builder,Torque Game Engine, or Torque Shader Engine?"

The answer is some of each.  We are porting key portions of our 2D and 3D technology and tools over to XNA. We already have much of the Torque Game Builder engine, and several components of our 3D technology, including artist-friendly shader support, up and running solidly in Torque X. The working environment will be similar to that of our other Torque products, so if you're familiar with Torque you should have no trouble hitting the ground running with Torque X.

Furthermore, since the entire functionality of Torque Game Builder will be included in Torque X,you can start building your game in Torque Game Builder now, then port it over to Torque X when it's available and use it in conjunction with XNA Game Studio Express to run it on the Xbox 360!

I'd still recommend Torque and it's flavors to friends and family, even though I haven't been wildly thrilled with it's performance on the Mac Mini. I'm relatively sure that shouldn't be a problem on the 360 and it's really a very friendly engine to work with on both the TorqueScript and C++ side of things (TGB at least, I can't speak for the full engine). Plus, the GG crowd is pretty hardcore about making this stuff successful.

On a side note, I dearly wish Apple would follow suit with this concept. Sure, they don't have a fancy game console to promote, but if they made a custom version of XCode just for gamers - perhaps with trial versions of PTK and TGB shoved right in ...

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Massively Miniature

Check out these huge displays of miniature on miniature action:

From yowzer's and Arvedui_jp's photostreams (more of the same at both).

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XNA, 360 Development And You

In the 30 years of video game development, the art of making console games has been reserved for those with big projects, big budgets and the backing of big game labels. Now Microsoft is bringing this art to the masses with a revolutionary new set of tools, called XNA Game Studio Express, based on the XNA platform. XNA Game Studio Express will democratize game development by delivering the necessary tools to hobbyists, students, indie developers and studios alike to help them bring their creative game ideas to life while nurturing game development talent, collaboration and sharing that will benefit the entire industry.

During his keynote presentation at Gamefest 2006, a Microsoft game developer event hosted by Microsoft in Seattle, Chris Satchell, general manager of the Game Developer Group at Microsoft, announced details of the new technology, which will be broadly available this holiday season. XNA Game Studio Express will be available for free to anyone with a Windows XP-based PC and will provide them with Microsoft’s next-generation platform for game development. By joining a “creators club” for an annual subscription fee of $99, users will be able to build, test and share their games on Xbox 360 and access a wealth of materials to help speed the game development progress.

This represents the first significant opportunity for novice developers to make a console game without a significant investment in resources. During his keynote, Satchell talked about academic institutions that are lining up to include XNA Game Studio Express in their course offerings. Also showcased was the work of key XNA supporters Autodesk Inc. and GarageGames. XNA Game Studio Express makes game development easier to accomplish for smaller projects, strongly increasing the chance for great game ideas to make it out of the concept stage and into the hands of gamers everywhere.
-- Create Your Own Xbox 360 Games at Ministry of Tech

This is quite possibly the most brilliant thing I've heard from Microsoft in a good long while.

It's not just an acknowledgement that hobbyist game developers exist, it openly embraces them in a fairly realistic way. It takes the 360 out of being a purely homebrew environment for amatuers who don't want to spend thousands on SDKs and licenses. If it's anywhere as good as it sounds, it could also provide fuel for Xbox Live Arcade for years to come.

If Sony and Nintendo don't wake up to this kind of thing, they could easily see the market share of people want to design, develop and play go to Microsoft. I'm going to do more digging on this, but this is the kind of thing that would put me much closer to getting a 360 (and upgrading rather than mothballing my PC).

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The High Def Stalemate?

Researchers have predicted that the ongoing High Definition (HD) DVD format war will end in a stalemate with neither format getting an upper hand in the global market. Studies have concluded that both formats could either achieve a ‘knock-out’ position of market dominance and both coexist until they come up with a compatible solution or neither format will be successful.

Presently, HD DVD which is developed and supported by the DVD Forum is not compatible with the revolutionary Blu-ray Disc (BD) format, developed by Sony and Philips. With DVD prices falling rapidly in the market, there is increasing industry pressure for a next generation video format to accompany TV’s shift to high definition. However, the format war is expected to cause damage to the market for high-def DVDs overall.
-- Moneycontrol Tech Blog > HD DVD Format War To End In Draw?

Short version: the winner of the format war will be the peeps who invent a really cheap, really functional dual format player. To date, neither Sony nor Toshiba have given consumers a reason to give a damn about one format over the other and hence, we don't.

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No Dev Diary

If you ever want to get anything done - do not purchase a new condo and attempt a move two weeks aftwards. Except to check email, I haven't even touched the computer at home. Which sucks because I'm reasonably certain I know the precise lines I need to change in order to get my code to be recognized by iTunes. Possibly (probably) wrong ... but it's annoying because I can practically change the code in my head - but it's really hard to compile that way.

Living with The Girl makes it even worse ... for dev I mean ... it's great for packing. With someone else there, you always feel like you should be packing and you're constantly goading each other into helping for this and that. The end result is a kind of uberproductive synergy which can only be penetrated by the occasional slurg of beer and perhaps a really funny line from the bad movie running the background. The result is that we've gotten a lot done ... a lot done ... but we're now at the part of the project which, quite like software development, feels like an endless mile of discovering new things to accomplish. They're small - but they're plentiful.

So assuming we don't just snap and tear the place down - we should be done sometime Friday and ready for the move on Saturday. Course, I don't even have a desk to put my computer on yet - so even that sigh of relief might not be enough to get back to work.

It seems like having such a good excuse to not get development done should feel better than the "I ran into Guild Wars" one ... but it oddly doesn't.

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