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Friday, September 08, 2006

Will Sony Repeat The PS2's Online Strategy?

Forget hardware delays or high prices - this is far more impactful to Sony's PlayStation 3 than anything I've heard all year. It's a quote from Dave Jones, who worked on the Grand Theft Auto series:

His main concerns stem from what he sees as Sony's decision to force publishers to come up with their own online systems. "I seriously question Sony's policy of leaving it down to publishers to come up with their own standards for each [online] game," he said. "I completely disagree with it," Jones went on. "I'm not going to put my credit card details with five different companies for some bits of downloadable content."
-- The Escapist News Room : GTA Creator Criticizes Sony's Online Plans

Microsoft has to be given credit for at least one thing with the Xbox - they acknowledge a tech-savvy online demographic and worked hard to maximize them. They proved that you could make a pay-for-subscription framework viable, affordable and desirable. Sony, on the other hand, let developers languish and diversified their online setup for PS2 in exchange for not having to charge their customers any additional overhead.

While Microsoft's strategy has clearly worked, it would seem wise for Sony to follow step with the PlayStation 3 ... but that quote makes it sound like they haven't been taking notes. Sony shouldn't just emulate Microsoft, they should be outdoing them - perhaps by leveraging their media connections and offering more music and movies online.

They definately need to do something. More of the same won't do with the online offering for the next generation.

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Surrounded By Legos

Apparently Lego Star Wars: The Three Good Movies is pretty good. Not suprised. Nor am I shocked that Batman will get the brick treatment next, considering that it's another franchise Lego is already pretty buddy buddy with. I'll also be chomping at the bit for that to arrive, just like I'm anxious for next week.

If that wasn't enough, though, a friend of mine might stop by and pick up some lego sets I've been hoarding but honestly Post Move have no realistic place to keep them.

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History And The Text Based Gamer

At first, my forays into MU roleplay tended towards high fantasy, where elves and dwarves were considered the norm and humans, who allegedly made up a majority of the NPC population of these strange, alternate worlds, were rarely played. There was little based in history, but there were politics and in one instance, a culture built loosely around the concept of 17th century French courts. In response to this, I began to research what life was like for courtiers during this time period, learning such things as the language of fans, their mode of dress, and the intricate social network in which they were involved. It contributed a great deal to my character's believability, thus enriching the world for both myself and other players. Soon, I began to expand my knowledge apart from the game itself, reading about the monarchies of England in the middle ages, the life of moors in Muslim Spain, and eventually, when moving to another MU, the cultures of the ancient middle east. It was a fascinating foray for me back into my childhood, but with the technological addition of the internet to serve as a tool in this new form of intellectual excavation.
-- What I Learned About History as a Text-Based Gamer

Nifty reading.

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Custom Stikfa

Like our pic from yesterday, Zook74's photostream is chok ful of custom action figure goodness.

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When The Hype Bites

...we ran a post that generated an immense (and unexpected) amount of interest and speculation. Instead of defusing the prolonged PR tease that Nintendo has been escalating for the past year, we contributed to it. Instead of doing our readers a service, we added more confusion to the situation. The post was vague and left only room for disappointment which, inevitably, came at 12:01. The worst part is, we understand that it was our hard-earned credibility that contributed to this excitement cocktail. There are gaming websites that trade in hype, and we've always prided ourselves on avoiding it
-- Joystiq: An apology, and a note on hype

Joystiq's measured use of hype is why they are still on my RSS feed (and some other gaming blogs are not). I saw the "big announcement we can't tell you yet" post last night and to be honest was suspicious at that point. Still, I can't help but feel that the major gaming blogs, in general, have gotten more sensational than when I first moved from web forums for opinions and on to blogs.

In fact, blogs have gotten more and more forum like with an emphasis on hype and rumor and less on facts and analysis. Worse, I think when it comes to mainstream outlets some are actually deferring to the blogs for research and soundbites. That's the only way a rumor (which was physically impossible) gets echoed by the L.A. Times in both print and cable television.

That's not a good place to be going, people.

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Terri Irwin's Revenge

Certainly towards the height of bad taste, Destructoid has issued a game where Terri Irwin avenges her husband. (via techshout). No, the lack of a link to the game isn't an accident.

Look, Steve Irwin was a lot of things. Certainly a showboatter and a sensationalist, but he was also a fervent protector of animal life and a huge believer in humankind respecting the animal life around it ... and certainly not going on a rampage of revenge. He basically got his start by being known for going out and removing animals alive from areas where they and humans might not get along so peacefully.

His death was a tragic and bizarre accident - but it was the kind of thing he came up against so that he could bring wildlife in it's true sense closer to the living room. Let's give the guy a bit of respect if we're going to try and remember his name.

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Will Apple Make A Cube II?

We are starting to chafe from all the hype we must endure before every Apple announcement. But this one caught my eye. It seems that Apple recently filed a patent for what looks like round two of the Apple Cube. The Cube as you recall was marvelled over but soon gave way to complaints over cracks and overheating. (Where have we heard that before?)
-- Alice Hill: Is Apple About to Re-Launch the Apple Cube?

They're skeptical about it and so am I. I agree - the Mac Mini is the Cube II.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Custom Painted Action Figures

Geozilla's photostream consists largely of custom painted japanese toys .. many painted by Seattle artist H. Lee Porter and can be extremely beautiful ( the nice photography helps as well).

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Randolph Carter Updated

OK, in prep for possibly submitting it to Slamdance, I've updated Randolph Carter:

I've made the edits which Clamatius found (and major thanks goes to him what's hopefully the last of my errors). I've also updated the design a bit to match some suggestions Jason had made and corrected a couple of code bugs.

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Random Quotes On PlayStation 3 Delays/Shortages

Browsing around today makes it sound like Sony actually is powering the PS3 with a kitten:

"pointing out why Sony is bound to fall into the endless pitful of doom..."

"Today's dual nuclear strikes by Sony have apparently tipped some loyalists over the edge, causing them to finally sever that umbilical game cord that's been tattered and barely hanging on since last May."

"Did Sony PS3 just commit suicide? AGAIN!"

"It's already deemed to lose this generations console war because of the broken promises."

"That’s it! I knew it! Sony has officially killed themselves."

Funny, because when the Xbox 360 pulled the exact same trick about this time last year, it sounded more like:

"but Peter Moore (who we interviewed not long ago) wanted to let everyone at DICE and elsewhere know that apparently Microsoft's nicked their component supply problems, and that "within the next four to six weeks, anybody will be able to walk into a store and buy an Xbox 360."

"The idea seems to be that would-be Xbox 360 buyers will be less unhappy with a steady but limited supply of consoles than a massive sell-off followed buy a drought."

"While shortages were expected early on, by Christmas time it was clear that Microsoft had overstated its shipping goals. The question is: why? The answer is pretty simple: the company overestimated its production capabilities."

Funny, huh? I guess it's just so much more entertaining to bash Sony. Shame, since there's still plenty of defective 360s to make fun of ... really got to learn to pace oneself I suppose.

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Anti-Bully Game

According to Gamasutra and Wired, nine universities will be banding together to "look at various bullying scenarios and help children learn how various actions can create various subsequent outcomes between the bully and their victims."

I'm actually all for edutainment and even almost got involved in a project for one (until the design doc for the website alone scared me off). Still, this barely even sounds like a game concept ... mostly just a knee jerk reactionary statement to an unreleased title ... aka needless attention grabbing. Does anyone thing that a kid can learn how to avoid bullies via a multiple choice response system? It's not like bullies in school are some kind of singular problem with a singular solution - they're part of the complexities of going to school.

Once in my grade school, there was a kid who constantly bullied others. One day after he had pushed me down I chased him down the hall, pushed him to the ground and beat the tar out of him. Well, OK, didn't really beat the tar out of him so much as there was much waving and wailing of hands. Thing about grade school fights is that nobody really knows how to fight. Still, my only trip to the principal's office solved the problem pretty well.

And I bet that solution isn't in there...

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From Mommyblogger to Gamer...

To me screaming, "I hate this game. I hate geeks. I hate everything about this. I QUIT. I am totally deleting this game and you all can just SHUT UP!" Then I took my hissy-fit self into the other room ignoring the Males as they called me back to try to calm me down and chill out.

See, to them, it is all so SIMPLE. All so EASY. To me, it is being dumped in China with no one who speaks English around and trying to understand what the hell everyone is saying. Yeah. I am that dumb at this. However, I did manage to get a quest (in my new land and all) and finish it (after only being killed 3 times) AND level up. Oh, yes, Mama Marama rocks the WoW world with her brilliance.

(Shuddup. It was good for me!)
-- Aggroqueen: September 06, 2006

Aggroqueen is a blog from a woman previously known for simply blogging the trials of being a blogger. Now it's the trials of a blogger being a mother while trying to be a gamer.

I don't have anything else to say about that...

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Thelric's Commodore 64 Page

I'm not entirely sure how I stumbled onto this yesterday, but once I had I stayed hooked until I had revisited all my Commodore 64 nostalgia. Thelric's Commodore 64 Page covers many of the classics with screenshots, including the elusive ending to Paradroid shown here.

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My Spacing Video Games

Our Man In Siam (not really), reports the plan Big Fish Games has to mimic MySpace to sell more casual games:

Now Thelen wants to exploit his network of gamers the way that MySpace does. With this new My Big Fish Games system, the players can set up their own "game space," link to a network of friends and then cash in on them through referral rewards. The players set up their own page that talks about their favorite games and their own reviews of the games as well. The players can add friends and send them emails. They can all remain anonymous if they want, connected only by a shared love for games on the site. In contrast to MySpace, Big Fish Games targets consumers over 35. These consumers don't upload photos and prefer to remain anonymous. The players can push their recommendations for games to their friends.

If the friends actually buy the games, Big Fish gives a 25 percent cut, or $5 for a $20 game, to the player. You also get a cut of your friends' friends' purchases. It's kind of a pyramid scheme, but Thelen says it has none of the ill effects of that kind of marketing. In this case, the gamers are already making recommendations, since surveys show 87 percent of gamers have already referred friends to the site. Since it costs the company so little money to make its downloadable games, it can share more of the revenues with the players. (There are already 500 games on the site).  In essence, the players make money off their friends. If they don't want to make money, the company makes it easy for them to donate the money that they earn from their friends to charities. Some of the players who are already networking with large groups of friends stand to make a lot of money.
-- A+E Interactive: Big Fish Games Taps The MySpace Craze And Game Rewards To Come Up With An Interesting Business Model

Social networking and casual gaming have gone hand in hand for some time ... so I guess this was semi-inevitable.

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John Hodgman On All Things Considered

I heard John Hodgman on NPR discussing The Areas Of My Expertise, his new book about history, food, hobos and just about everything else. He reduced the interviewer (sorry, can't think of the name right now) to nothing but laughter as he detailed the secret history of hobo Americans ... including their coup which resulting in overtaking the Secretary of The Treasury.

Seriously funny stuff.


Second Launch Same As The First

So imagine my surprise face that the PlayStation 3 is delayed in Europe and short-sheeted over here and even in Japan after the launch of the Xbox 360 and PSP went oh so smoothly. Another reason to look forward to the Wii for this holiday season ... it's pretty much the only console to look forward to this holiday season.

So let's watch the eBay game again and read it with me people: the real PlayStation 3 launch is in 2007. Unless you're willing to toss your ring into the hat and pay 200-300% overhead for the pleasure of playing Resistance: Fall Of Man instead of visiting your folks.

Personally, I won't be looking at the PlayStation 3 until a) there's no more waiting in line for one and b) I either know the games work fine on SDTV or I've taken the HDTV plunge.

I'm guessing we'll also get no 360 revision nor a PSP revision until sometime 2007, maybe later. Why bother if there's nothing to really compete against? I do hope both happens in 2007 though. The 360 needs HDMI (remember, Sony might not give you the cable ... Microsoft isn't giving the capability) much worse than I think it wants to admit. See, I'm still using my 36" RCA SDTV that I bought about ten years ago. And it still works like a champ. In fact, I was watching Mindfreak off of iTunes on it just last night. I'm not about to dive into HDTV without knowing that it handles every possible resolution (and cable) I will want to throw at it for about another ten years.

Which means HDMI and 1080p. I mean sure, maybe the 360 + HD-DVD will be cheaper than the PlayStation 3 as a next gen solution ... but it's also looking like there's a reason for that ... and it's not Sony gouging it's customers.

Course if the format wars actually end up dividing the rental market five years from now, we'll probably all have both anyway. Damn, it's almost like that was their plan all along...

If there was a 360 v2 that generated less heat and sported HDMI, the 360 would be looking a lot more attractive to me.

The PSP needs a smaller cousin. Sans UMD drive and not so darn big and glossy. In fact, think Game Boy Advance SP with a wider screen and I'd be salivating. UMD has flopped, but if Sony wants to hold onto it ... keep both lines alive. For now. (Actually, I could also go for a form factor like these phones but with a QWERTY keyboard)

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Fox Totally Sucks

Damn do we miss Tivo. Especially when we miss premieres.

But tell me why ... oh why ... would Fox put Stacked on iTunes but not House. For the love of God and all things proper, what goram idiot is responsible for that?

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Would A Video AirPort Express Stream iTunes Video?

Sounds like a stupid question, right? Why wouldn't the rumored video enabled Airport Express support iTunes videos?

Well, because whatever deal Apple has going with the DCCA means that right now you can't burn them to DVD. Now if I could stream things from the Mac over to the television ... I'm literally single button away from burning my iTunes videos to DVD.

Of course ... that might be just fine with Apple. It's entirely possible that the DCCA regulations cover what content you can burn ... but not necessarily what you can broadcast. In other words, this is kind of like the wink and nod approach Apple has with CD's. Sure ... you can only burn those iTunes tracks so many times. But of course you can import those CD's as MP3's and do whatever you want with them after that. Convenient? No, but technically legal for Apple.

Naturally some people would rather assume that Apple lurves the DRM and will stick it to the customer if it ever means to sell a few more iPods. Sometimes, though, functionality is king ... and if the Airport Express Video Edition does everything I hope it does ... I'll be picking one up with gusto.

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Boing Boing Corrects Amazon Math

Yesterday's post about Bob Dylan's new album "Modern Times" contained an important error about the track-listing on the Deluxe CD version of the disc -- the Amazon listing for this disc erroneously listed it as a 14-track CD, while it is actually a 10-track disc with bonus videos on an accompanying DVD.
-- Boing Boing: Error in yesterday's Bob Dylan/iTunes post

This being the post where Cory ranted against the machine about not being able to burn iTunes video tracks to audio CD. He was accusing Apple of forcing four tracks to be in the "unrippable" video format, unlike the CD. Of course, I didn't need the Amazon link (which when I read the post was completely accurate) to know that Cory was off .. I just paid attention to the music video titles from iTunes. Five minutes of research later, I realized he was complaining about nothing.

What is it with major blogs not willing to do even five minutes of common sense fact checking? To date, Cory has said the PlayStation 3 would not support Blu-Ray (false), that HDMI support cost $100 in the PlayStation 3 (false) and that Apple was forcing users to play tracks off of Modern Times via video (false). Let's toss in that meme that just everyone was spreading about the PlayStation 3 not being able to play rental titles (false and physically impossible).

As a geek, I'm pretty used to people getting technical facts slightly wrong. I'm sure I've done it in the past. Some of this stuff gets pretty specific. But not any of the above. And if you make serious coin of your blog, can't you afford ten minutes here or there to check your facts? Not to mention if you get the kind of traffic Boing Boing gets ... don't you have some kind of obligation to the reader to do so? Several blogs repeated Cory's meme about iTunes and Bob Dylan ... will they understand how much the errata contradicts his argument?

Personally, I don't see where the blogosphere gets to rail against the mainstream media if misinformation is going to be a mainstay.


Quick Review: Teen Titans (PS2)

Rented Teen Titans via GameFly shortly before we moved and just got around to trying it out. It didn't get terribly good reviews, and there's some very good reasons as to why ... but more interesting is how close Teen Titans really is to being a very fun game.

The knocks are severe: too many cinematics which add nothing to the story but constantly break up the gameplay, camera angles which make following the action a lesson in squinting and a combo system which often means well but sometimes simply gets in the way.

And yet, in some ways the game offers serious improvements over similar and far more popular games like X-Men Legends. There is no inventory to worry about. You don't spend experience to learn new powers - you simply build up new combos as the game continues onward. There are temporary powerups throughout the game as opposed to sharing power tokens. This leads to a much more streamlined gameplay that doesn't toss in a bunch of mechanics which feel out of place (because really ... does Magneto need Adamantium Power Gloves Of Regeneration?).

Somewhere in between Teen Titans and X-Men Legends would be a great game. More of a descendant of Double Dragon or Golden Axe that Diablo or Nethack ... much like the old Avengers coin-op of old (which is still one of my favorite Sega retros).

Sadly I can't recommend Teen Titans just for fun, but there's some interesting points to it. It also sports some fairly decent design concepts (like how the character portraits are done in manga style) and could be a fun brawler. Right now it's mostly a testament as to how difficult the genre really can be.

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Woe Is My BlueTooth

I've been gadgeting up the joint now that we're getting mostly settled. The Mac Mini is back on jukebox duty (I ended up giving my old 50 CD player to charity). After some fussing with the Airport Extreme, iTunes is happily talking to the speakers in the living room. What I lack is control.

I've been using Sailing Clicker for some time now as a remote control for iTunes. At the old place, it worked exactly as I needed. The new condo, however, has old walls with plaster and drywall. We're going to need two inch long nails just to hang pictures. Both the wifi and bluetooth signals get seriously shortened across rooms.

Annoying, I can use the phone pretty easily in the foyer - just not two feet into the bedroom. The wifi extends pretty much condo-wide, although it struggles a bit. I would use something like a bluetooth repeater or extender, if such a thing really existed. Apparently the best I can do is jury-rig the Mac's internal antenna into something more Frankenstein.

Now I know part of Bluetooth's design is to be short range (a kind of odd security concept) ... but I'm surprised there is no way at all to at least double the range. If I could get buetooth to behave like wifi in terms of repeating/extending a signal - I'd be golden. Anyone know of a way?

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Monday, September 04, 2006

M. Bison Versus Mario World

Tee hee. Via ShadowCrest on YouTube.

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Cory Doctorow Must Be Stopped


Now he is ragging on iTunes for "selling unrippable music":

If you buy the latest Bob Dylan album from the iTunes Music Store, be prepared to lose four of the tracks when you burn it to CD. Four of the tracks on "Modern Times," which is only sold as a whole album on the iTMS, are only made available as video files, and iTunes isn't designed to allow you to burn the audio portion of a video when you burn your CD.

The CD version of "Modern Times" comes as a 14-track disc that includes the audio of the four iTunes videos; also included with the CD is a DVD carrying the four videos. In other words, if you buy the packaged good, you get the audio and the videos for the final four songs, if you buy the iTunes Store version, you only get the un-burnable videos for them.
-- Boing Boing: Bob Dylan and iTunes sell un-rippable music

Here's the thing. The four tracks Cory is referring to are music videos of older Dylan tunes. Yes, that's right, Apple is so very evil for having re-released Blood In My Eyes, Love Sick, Things Have Changed and Cold Irons Bound in a horrible tyrannical video format. Tracks you can find on such albums World Gone Wrong, Time Out Of Mind and The Essential Collection. The video for Things Have Changed is (no pun intended) unchanged from the last time I saw it as well.

And the CD version of Modern Times does not include the DVD extras ... that's the deluxe version which is about a tenspot more than buying it off of iTunes. So more evidence that Cory can't add, the CD comes with ten audio tracks, just like on iTMS, and the deluxe version tacks on an extra DVD with the four videos.

And of course, it's not up to Apple to have iTunes be able to burn videos to DVD - it's the deal with the DVD Copy Control Association (see DeCSS uproar). And soon enough that might change as well. Why Cory thinks Apple would be licensed to rip the audio portion and not the video is a complete mystery.

So yes, if you really want to listen to these videos and not watch them ... you'll have to buy the boxed CD/DVD deluxe set, purchase a special DVD audio ripper and rip them to a CD. Course, that DVD audio ripper will run you about $30 and buying the songs individually (and they'll probably sound better as well) from iTunes will cost you $8.

Since the iTMS version is $10 less than the boxed set, you would still save $2 if you just stayed within iTunes (even before running out and buying that audio ripper).

Go ahead, Cory. Stick it to the man. Clearly you've been wronged.

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For Sunday, BattleStar Galactica: The Resistance

I think we've talked about this before, but I thought I'd pop in with a reminder. To ease into the third season of Battlestar Galactica, SciFi Channel is airing ten webisodes called BattleStar Galactica: The Resistance. Oddly, even though it's already been advertised on television, it gets a bit confusing to hunt them down online. If you directly to the the BattleStar website, you'll see the "next episode" block is featuring The Resistance Part One, but when I click on it ... nothing loads.

Probably because it's not scheduled to appear until Tuesday. I wish this surprised me ... but I've been in webdev for a while and it's often a case of one hand designing a flash animation while the other hand is surfing the web.

Also of note is the studio debate that apparently raged behind the scenes on the webisode:

In August 2006, news began to leak out that the release of the webisodes would be delayed, though they were essentially finished at the time. NBC-Universal did not want to pay the writing team for webisodes content, holding that they were not actually covered under Guild contract, and were technically just promotional material. The Battlestar Galactica writing team embraced the new story opportunity, but other NBC-Universal series such as The Office felt that webisodes were nothing but extra filler they were being forced to crank out. According to Thompson, the writing team was given extra pay for vaguely described "extra work", but no long-term resolution was ever reached. The WGA is concerned about the long-term implications of online content: writers are not specifically compensated for their work on them, and NBC/Uni might argue that they have no claim on redistribution profits if they try to classify it as "promotional" material. In any event, by August 2006 the negotiations between the WGA and NBC/Uni broke down, and the WGA ordered all series producing webisodes (such as Battlestar Galactica and The Office) to refuse to physically deliver the webisodes to NBC/Uni for distribution online. NBC/Universal, who produces both shows, has filed a complaint with National Labor Relations Board, claiming that this writing is included in the current WGA contract and urging the NLRB to make the series release the material.
-- BattleStar Wiki on Battlestar Galactica: The Resistance

OK - despite not being able to make the official website too accurate ... in general BattleStar gets my award of really grokking the modern Internet. They have podcasts which serve as commentary. Ron Moore's blog is always an insightful read on the show. They're utilizing iTunes and when given the chance to develop some webisodes ... they insist on taking it as a serious production effort and not simply a marketing gag.

Honestly, I don't know of any show out there utilizing the Web quite so well.

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