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Saturday, January 06, 2007

For Sunday: Mario Rap

I apologize in advance.

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Super Columbine Pulled From Slamdance

Via Patrick:

Super Columbine Massacre RPG!, by a wide margin the most controversial game ever made (Mortal Kombat looks like Seasame Street Learning Adventures 3 by comparison) has been pulled from the Slamdance Film festival due to sponsor pressure. You can read about it at Watercooler, Game Politics, Kotaku and most exhaustively (in comments) at Slashdot.

I disseminate so you don't have to.

First, the facts:SCMRPG! was pulled because of financial pressures on a private entity - it was a business decision. To quote Lebowski, "come on man, this is not a first amendment thing."

This is the first time a film/game/media work was pulled from the Festival since its inception.
-- Super Columbine Pulled From Slamdance

Patrick has a lot more to say at that post - so first you should go read the whole thing.

I rather like the guys from Slamdance, after having gone through multiple layers of strike through to correct my presumptions about the contest. This seems to be a clash of tragic forces at work. I'm certain that they would not have made the game a finalist if they didn't think that it squarely met their standards. I know these guys played the entrants and really analyzed them. So nobody can argue that on its merits, the game didn't belong. I don't think they would have gotten it wrong.

Likewise, I can't imagine they went down without a fight. And to me - the fight's the point. I know the gamesphere will use this as another reason to throw down over the good and bad about the game's content. That's not the point. The game was already a finalist. Despite what you may think about the game - it was already judged.

No, I'd say this is idealism in helping push the limits of gaming and the reality of having sponsors mash headlong into each other. I'm sure there are a lot of sponsors which don't want to be positioned with the game. I'm guessing it was not any of the indie game companies like Manifesto or the Texas Independent Games Conference. I'm guessing rather that it's a company that didn't quite realize just how cutting edge games can really get.

Indeed, I'm guessing the idea of a game as political or social statement never even crossed their minds. I don't want to take any company who was willing to back the competition to task too harshly - but I would think that they shouldn't come back around next year. I would hope that in the future, Slamdance protects themselves from this kind of threat by keeping sponsors contractually obligated despite the material featured in the contest.

Because if they don't - it spells trouble for the concept in general. If designers feel they can't send submissions because the content crosses some moral line that won't attract companies ... well we simply won't know where that line exists. All art needs the cutting edge, the vanguard, and the radical. The mod community used to be a vast pool for this stuff, but commercialism has almost completely dried up that well.

I'm not sure how many more gaming can stand to lose.

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Virtual Milgram

Stanley Milgram's 1960s experimental findings that people would administer apparently lethal electric shocks to a stranger at the behest of an authority figure remain critical for understanding obedience. Due to ethical reasons, it is nowadays impossible to carry out direct experimental studies in this area.

Mel Slater and his colleagues at University College London have used VR to reenact the Milgram's experiment. Their objective was to uncover the extent to which participants would respond to the situation as if it were real in spite of their knowledge that no real events were taking place.

Participants were invited to administer memory tests to an avatar. When she gave an incorrect answer, the participants were instructed to administer an ‘electric shock’ to her, augmenting the voltage each time. She responded with increasing discomfort and protests. Of the 34 participants, 23 saw and heard the virtual human, and 11 communicated with her only through a text interface.

The participants who saw and heard her tended to respond to the situation at the subjective, behavioural and physiological levels as if it were real. Six of them chose to stop the experiment before it was due to end. A further 6 said it had occurred to them to stop early because they had negative feelings about what was happening. By contrast, of the eleven participants who only interacted with the (unseen) woman by text, just one stopped the experiment early, and no others said it had occurred to them to stop.
-- Virtual reenactment of the Milgram Obedience Experiments [we make money not art]

Milgram is pretty much required reading for psych 201. It also became a major premise for a subplot during Veronica Mars ... so you know it must be pretty important. It's core to many discussions about people being cruel to people. This is kind of a fascinating twist to the concept and might open some doors to performing such studies without the nasty side effects of actually shocking people.

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9/11 and Flight Simulators

Penny Arcade notes that the phrase seen in the Moral Kombat trailer about terrorists using computer games to train for 9/11 is a little questionable. This seems like the kind of thing that merits a little digging.

Let's start with what is known. On page 5 of staff statement 4 of the 9/11 commision report, it notes that " the existence of computer-based software programs that provides cockpit simulation available on the open market to the general public. According to experts at the FAA such computer-based training packages, including products that simulate cockpit controls of the Boeing 757 and 767, provided effective training opportunities." Also, in statement 16, it notes that they "also used flight simulator computer games and analyzed airline schedules to figure out flights that would be in the air at the same time."

Section five of the report details this more specifically: "They used the game software to increase their familiarity with aircraft models and functions,and to highlight gaps in cabin security."

So we can all agree that PC flight simulator software was used during the planning. What about actually flying the planes? Atta, the pilot of Flight 11, was instrument certified, had flight deck videos to preview and clocked time on a real 727 simulator. al-Shehhi, who flew Flight 175, travelled and trained with Atta. The pilot of Flight 77, Hanjour, took flying lessons and was FAA certified for a time but had several complaints about his poor skills and English. Jarrah, who flew Flight 93, was licensed to fly small planes and had training for large jets.

In other words - none of the pilots of the 9/11 attacks relied ... even remotely ... on PC game software to launch their attacks. To state otherwise is completely ignore the facts surrounding the men and the training they did recieve.

Of course, this is common sense. It goes to the core problem with the logic that games are capable of wetwiring people to perform precision tasks - nobody actually believes it will work. Cops don't train on Dreamcasts alone. No soldier ever hit the field with nothing but Doom under his (or her) belt. The "virtual" of virtual reality is still so broad of a gap that it's simply not realistic.

I doubt games will ever get that realistic. Simply because it isn't much fun. I have fired handguns and I completely suck at it. By comparison, I can instantly be a highly trained space marine anytime I want ... because it's a game.

The discussion of the day is over morals and behavior - but training is simply not the current issue.

And as a footnote - Lieberman's off the table as a legitmate speaker on this issue since he's fine with violence and kids as long as it line his pockets with cold hard cash.

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Boris Johnson: Games Rot The Brain

It's the snarl that gives the game away. It's the sobbing and the shrieking and the horrible pleading -- that's how you know your children are undergoing a sudden narcotic withdrawal. As the strobing colours die away and the screen goes black, you listen to the wail of protest from the offspring and you know that you have just turned off their drug, and you know that, to a greater or lesser extent, they are addicts.

Some children have it bad. Some are miraculously unaffected. But millions of seven- to 15-year-olds are hooked, especially boys, and it is time someone had the guts to stand up, cross the room and just say no to Nintendo. It is time to garrotte the Game Boy and paralyse the PlayStation, and it is about time, as a society, that we admitted the catastrophic effect these blasted gizmos are having on the literacy and the prospects of young males.
-- Boris Johnson MP: Computer Games (via Next Gen)

Yeah, expect any statement which declares millions of kids to be addicted to video games which is in turn akin to crack cocaine to be a beacon of reasonable discourse. He goes on and on, bemoaning how computers are keeping kids from reading and being "properly programmed" for real life. Just in case you had mistaken the rant for something close to rational - he finishes by suggesting everyone take sledgehammer to their Christmas presents.

This will in turn, apparently, free us from our bla h bl snoooore. Oh sorry - I must have nodded off there for a bit. Yeesh, what a dope. My grandmother used the Atari 2600 to trick us kids into spending more time at her place. And get this - it worked. And we didn't play Pitfall all day ... we also spent time making pancakes and counting pennies. I've clocked lots of hours with my parents playing Intellivision games. And some folks these days, like Jeff Freeman, chum up with their kids over games.

Games are a tool - not a drug. It's up to parents to regulate their time with kids. To monitor what kinds of games and how much of them kids are spending playing with them. Yes, I think kids should read, skip, have imaginary friends and go play in the yard sometime.

I do not think a sledgehammer is a worthy replacement for good parenting.

Note to Boris: get a Wii and chill the hell out.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

ASCII Adventurer Design Doc

The problem with posting something like a project todo list for a guy like me is that it's a sure way to think of another project to completely eclipse everything else. Seriously, I'm like that guy who washes his car just to watch it rain.

Instead of going into big detail (because I hate to do that before I have anything working) ... this is the overall design concept.

No promises - but it's the shiny that catches my eye right now.

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5 Things You May Not Know About Me

I'm really not a big fan of blog memes, but when Brinstar throws down it's hard not to respond. And often, trash talk a bit - but not this time.

I hated programming all the way through college.
I mean hated. I used to put those BASIC programs that they had in the back of computer magazines in and never got anything to work (yes, I realize how much that dates me). My LOGO class in college was a complete joke - I wrote a progam to convert roman and arabic numerals that would crash the parser on the third try. I only took it because I knew I would suck at math even more. I didn't orient my way to scripts and compilers until I got into web development professionally and PERL was the only way I could get a calendar to run. PERL was perfect for me, actually, since it focused so much on wrangling text and not so much PEEK and POKE.

Funny thing is that if I didn't have this early reaction to it - I'd probably be a professional game developer today. My early interest in coding was always about games.

I almost drowned during lifeguard training.
And the irony has never been lost on me.

I wasn't just in a fraternity, I was once the Vice President.
Which, by the way, also made me the PledgeMaster. This tidbit usually freaks people out if they've met me personally. My house, Acacia, though, was pretty non-conformative in general. Still, I loved those guys and my time with them. Plus, a fraternity brother helped me get my first job at State Farm and got my career in web development off the ground.

I've been circled by a shark.
Whitetipped ( I think ) in the Virgin Islands. Cousteau called this breed "the most dangerous". This one, though, was a local that frequently scared swimmers out of its favorite eating areas but had never hurt anyone.

My best writing professor was David Foster Wallace.
I took his class when he was teaching at ISU. I wasn't enrolled - I knew Dave socially and he invited me to sneak into the class. Best writing experience I've ever had. Lynn DeVore of Wesleyan was pretty great too and got me to just write tons and tons of material which I probably wouldn't normally have - but Dave taught me two great lessons: just write and expect rejection. I hate bringing this one up because there's no way that it doesn't sound like name dropping - but Dave was just a friend I knew for a while in college. I love his short stories but I've never even managed to finish Infinite Jest.

There you have it. Instead of tagging others specifically (I think most I know have been thusly tagged), I'll just say that if you've commented here or I've commented at your place - tag.

Laptops For Vista Bloggers Debate Continues

Interesting take from Dave Taylor:

Let me be direct: There is no ethical issue associated with a vendor giving product to thought and opinion leaders in a marketplace.

In fact, the ethical firestorm is trivially solved by something we've all talked about before, the idea of a blogger disclosure best practices agreement that we subscribe to collectively. [see my earlier articles pay me to blog and Edelman screws up, for example] If I had received a laptop, all I have to do is say "hey, got a laptop and here's what I found..."
-- Vista laptops for bloggers furor misses the real story

I'll get back to that in a minute. Here's what next:

hink about this: Microsoft dropped about $1500/laptop * 90 laptops + shipping (my rough estimate puts that at a little less than $150,000) to get some positive digital ink. That's a fairly expensive campaign for the blogosphere, and by comparison if we assume that their boxed Vista product costs them about $20/unit, that same $150,000 could have been spent on seeding Vista to about 7500 bloggers.

Microsoft and Edelman didn't send out boxes with the OS DVD, though, did they?

And so, the question that I'm amazed that no blogger seems to have asked is why didn't they send out the OS and let us install it on our own computers?

The answer, once you think about things this way, is obvious, and that's the real story here:

Microsoft Vista is in fact a bear to install and has prohibitive hardware requirements.
-- Vista laptops for bloggers furor misses the real story

Well, that point wasn't lost on me. And the laptops cost more than $2,000 a pop, not $1,500. So I not only agree, but raise it a little. Why wasn't Microsoft willing to let people review Vista on more generic laptops? Truth is, outside of the ethical problem, this just makes Vista look bad for people not willing drop a couple grand on a new piece of hardware.

But I don't think we can dismiss the ethical issue. I don't think disclosure simply whisks it away. If your congressman said, "Hey, I just got $50,000 from these guys and now I have to go vote" ... would your response be "Oh. At least you told me."? Disclosure just allows us oversight into the process - it's not a blank check to dismiss everything that is disclosed.

Let me put this into a comparable gaming analogy. Microsoft sends me a $2,000 gaming rig with Halo Adventures Or The Like pre-loaded on the box. I write a semi-positive review of the game. When I'm done with the game, I get to keep it. Here's the problems with that scenario:

1) It's MS's hardware and software. They got to do all kinds of tweaking and testing to make sure that the game would fly on the box. I didn't have to worry about installation, driver incompabilities or other common issues.

2) Since MS would assuredly use the recommended specs and could tweak it - I couldn't guarantee what the performance would be like in a real world scenario.

3) People like getting expensive things. And they like to keep getting them. $2,000 is an expensive gift for anyone. Could you be certain that even a semi-positive review wasn't skewed by this? Heck, the gamesphere has had this debate on just software alone. If I had to send the rig back, it might not be as bad - but getting swag like that makes anyone blush.

If this scenario happened - would you trust me as a blogger?

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Gameplay: Phantasy Star Universe (PS2)

Calling this a "gameplay" post is a bit of a misnomer - I didn't really play Phantasy Star Universe. My disappointment for it peaked before I really could get into the game.

I didn't realize that the only offline mode is a lame story mode which barely resembles Phantasy Star Online. There's no character creation - you start out as some futuristic sk8ter boi off to see his girly. Look, I popped this game in because my real girlfriend was out for a walk and I just wanted to jump in, slash some monsters, collect some swag and jump out. If I wanted to run around with wide-eyed long-eared girls, I'd play Final Fantasy.

So that almost did it in - but I decided to see if the network mode had an offline option. No such luck. If your PS2 isn't jacked into the net - you don't get jack.

Compared to the GameCube version of Phantasy Star Online which offers four player splitscreen - this thing is a coaster.

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DVD Watch: Cars

Cars is a Pixar film. Honestly, that's about as long of a review as you really need. I'd say it's easily not as good as nearly any Pixar to come before it - but it's still solid entertainment. Also, the animation and rendering is occasionally jaw-dropping (even compared to previous films).

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Moral Kombat

Spencer Halpin has been working on Moral Kombat, a documentary on video game violence, for a long time. He's finished the film and has posted this trailer for it on YouTube. Spence, the brother of Entertainment Consumers Association founder Hal Halpin, interviewed me for this film a while back at the Dice Summit in Las Vegas with a green screen behind me. I talked about the loss of my brother to real-life violence and how I can reconcile that with playing violent games. He's made the film a visual wonder by splicing in game footage in the background behind the interviewees. What's cool is not just the discussion but the melding of visual images that relate to what the interviewees are saying.
-- A+E Interactive: Moral Kombat: Spencer Halpin's Documentary On Game Violence

The trailer makes it seem anti-game, but the buzz makes it sound a little more balanced. Honestly, this is the kind of film that I wish would draw a line in the sand and not put a guy like Jack Thompson in front of the camera. The man has drifted too far from reality to be considered an expert on this topic anymore. Hopefully more rational voices get in there as well.

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Holiday Console Sales Fact Checking

The amazing things people do by picking up the phone:

When I saw the reports yesterday, I was intrigued, but decided to contact NPD in hopes of getting some firsthand information about their figures. My query was quickly answered by an analyst at NPD who gave me some suprising news: NPD hadn't released any numbers. In fact, the information cited by the outlets reporting the story was "simply incorrect," according to NPD.
-- Holiday console sales figure stories miss the mark

It goes on to quote that to date, the December numbers from NPD haven't left the calculator just yet. There was a lot of crowing about how Microsoft won holdiay 2006. I'm not sure if that's just fanboy journalism, grossly simplifying the situation or a little of both.

For one thing - I don't expect the estimations to be very off. I think the order will be Microsoft, Nintendo and then Sony. I also think this has the most to with that being the same order of supply potential for the three companies. And of course - we're ignoring the "other" sales like the PS2 and the NDS - which I think decidedly makes it Nintendo, Sony and then Microsoft.

So declaring anyone a "winner" is as needless as it is futile. Nintendo probably came out the most sparkly with big sales, a great Wii launch and plent of positive PR. Course, they are still behind the overall demographics of the other two and a couple of black eyes. Like the legal troubles the black eyes they've given players (literally) they've earned. Microsoft can tout an early lead which isn't exactly small but nor is it likely to hit the figures they've been wanting. Sony has a Safety Blanket +3 in the PlayStation 2 but more than a fair share of problems to shake out with the PlayStation 3 - including backwards compatibility bugs, price gap and not having any PlayStation 3's to sell.

I think the term "next generation" is really confusing people - especially the media. Consoles aren't like cars. At least - not anymore. Just because one model hits doesn't mean people stop using the rest. If journalists aren't willing to examine the entire picture - I don't know what will divide them from the forum fodder that I used to read.

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DVD Watch: Clerks 2

In 1994, Kevin Smith gave us Clerks and it was good. He maxed out credit cards, sold off his comics and dipped into his college fund to pay for the film - shot in black and white and a cast flushed out with family and friends. Its status as a cult classic is undeniable and the movie easily stands the test of time with its absurdity, grit and heart.

To date, Smith's success hasn't made any better films with the possible exception of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Clerks 2 falls somewhere in between. It's staple Smith work, but it's hard to capture the attraction of an indie movie without actually being an indie movie. If Jay and Silent Bob delivered big budget parodies and in-jokes of Smith's own work ... Clerks 2 offers an almost sentimental reflection on the movie that started it all.

The addition of Rosario Dawson to the set was most wise of Smith. In truth, nobody could assume the roles of Dante and Randall other than O'Halloran and Anderson and they fit back into the story seamlessly. Dawson, however, serves as a centerpiece who carries the movie with more range and depth than any other character in the movie. She alone makes the film a step above a simple color rehash of the previous characters.

I'm not sorry I missed this film in the theatres but I am still darn glad to have seen it on DVD. Even if it lacks the snap that made the first film so great, it has a lot of heart and tons of over-the-top humor. I would also heavily recommend the animated series for those that managed to miss out when it aired briefly.

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Wii Sports Tops Time's Top Ten Video Games

Time's list of the 10 best 2006 games is solid, if not somewhat predictable, except that (as kottke notes) - Wii Sports leads the list. Is this Time pandering to the tech crowd, trying to illustrate its geeky know-how, or is it truly a nod that gameplay is taking the lead over graphics in the coming generation of games?

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PS2 Likely To Outsell PS3, Wii, 360

I don't know how long I've been saying this, so its nice to hear some analysts back me:

"The PS2 will have legs well into 2008," says Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Morgan Securities in Los Angeles. And while Nintendo Co.'s Wii console is getting most of the industry buzz, and the Xbox 360 from Microsoft Corp. has racked up big sales in its year on the market, some say the PS2 might even beat out each of those offerings in 2007. "The PS2 probably has the capacity to sell more than any other gaming" console, says Simon Jeffrey, chief operating officer at game maker Sega of America.

Despite all the hype Wii gets from the media these days and notwithstanding Xbox 360’s strong momentum on the market, the PS2 is clearly the holder of all-times record: more than 103 million consoles sold by the end of March 2006. Sony’s target is to sell even more PS2s by end of March this year- around 11 million consoles, reaching an impressive overall of 114 million pieces worldwide. By comparison, the sluggish sales for PS3 (determined by the Blu-Ray integration and manufacturing issues) have determined Sony to downgrade their estimates for the same date this year to only 4 million pieces sold.

The same trend will apparently be visible in 2008 too. According to research by rating agency Standard & Poor's Sony will ship another bulk of 11 million PS2s, while PS3s will only manage to have around 7 million owners.
-- PS2 Likely to Outsell PS3 in 2007 and 2008 - Tech News - - Science & Technology

Course, they don't mention that the DS may continue to outsell them all. I'm not sure if that will lead to an unexpected boost to the Wii or not - but regardless the popularity of the PlayStation 2 isn't likely to slow down dramatically any time soon. This is really Sony's game to lose. If they collapse the development tent for it, refuse to service or whatever - it could steal the ace out of their sleeves. The PS2, however, is the yin to the PS3's yang. It's cheap, plays great on SDTV and has an enormous and successful library.

It might not play Blu-Ray ... but gosh darn it plays Duckman DVD's just fine.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Lieberman Loves Wrestling

And, again in 2006, Lieberman indulged in another yearly ritual: taking campaign money from the entertainment industry.

An analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan watchdog group, found that the Connecticut Democrat, who won re-election last month as an independent, received about $73,000 from a variety of industry sources over the past two years.

Among the donors were Linda McMahon, chief executive officer of Stamford-based WWE Entertainment. McMahon said in an e-mail that she gave money to Lieberman because "I make contributions to a variety of candidates whom I respect."
-- | Lieberman Defends Video-Game Money

I'm not the biggest fan of wrestling - but I'm not really the biggest critic either. It's incredibly machoistic and violent. It's basically a grandiose stage production of a schoolyard fight combined with the worst of soap operas - all drugged up on 'roids and rage. But hey - if its your cup of tea ... have at it. I still catch the occasional B-movie slasher film ... so I'm certainly not going to get into any kettle and pot kind of conflict.

Just don't try to take any kind of moral high ground with it. To viciously attack the video game market while handing wrestling a free pass is just plain old hypocrisy. To whine and moan about Bully while getting a check from a McMahon is clearly an act of pandering and soapboxing. I'm not sure I need any more indication that certain politicians are doing nothing more than engaging in fearmongering to gain points with soccer moms.

Honestly, if Joe Lieberman actually believed what NIMF writes - he would give that money back.

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Gameplay: Okami

Surely, I'm a little late in picking up Okami. Surely most people have ogled Sakuya's bum plenty by now. I got about an hour's worth of time with it last night and walked away with mostly good impressions.

The much hyped artwork definately lives up to the praise. This is stunning work. This is where the cutscene haters can bite me. I love watching Okami's animations and I have no problem waiting for them to get done so that I can play again. Actually, the art presentation in general - from textures to the animation to the sound effects - is exceedingly well done.

I can definately see the comparisons made to Ocarina of Time as well. It has that feel of a rich fantasy world welcoming you to wander around and explore. Sadly, though, it shares some of the "obtuse" nature of the Zelda (as Thomas would put it). A couple of times my wandering in the village was a bit aimless. Nothing provoking any controller throwing behavior, but a mild annoyance all the same.

I'm still debating about the "ink drawing powers" of the game. I love how it fits into design, sure, but I'm not sure it really adds a lot of entertainment value. On paper it sounds great - but in execution it feels like a odd version of connect the dots or the like. Especially in combat - where you can "strike out" baddies - it feels intrusive more than adding depth.

Also, there seems like there might be a lot of character management. I'm already trying to keep track of health, food, ink and ... money? God wolves need money?

All the same, I'm pretty psyched about it. Hopefully I can clock some hours in this week.

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DVD Watch: Duckman

I can't generate an Amazon link to the Duckman DVD's because technically - they don't exist. Despite having a four year run and a few Ace awards under its belt - this cartoon series has never been released on DVD's. Which is a shame, because the show is brilliant and original.

Duckman stars a neurotic, hyperactive, belligerent duck "private dick/family guy" who is more than simply incompetent ... he's usually outright catastrophic. Were it not for his porcine partner, Cornfed, he'd probably be dead by now. Hated by his sister-in-law Bernice (voiced by Nancy Travis) and not much more loved by his kids ... his family life is about as bad as his professsional one. Insane rants, killing stuffed teddy bears and a surplus of sex jokes round out the show. Not intended for small children barely covers a warning for the show. It's not quite as sophomoric as South Park (no talking poo) but the humor is definately aimed at adults.

And Jason Alexander certainly deserves some award for being the voice of Duckman (he probably has one). Duckman will occasionally break into five minute curses or rants which I could only assume would be the bane of such work - but Alexander carries it extremely well.

The fact that we have bootlegs is really the only problem. Occasionally the video will skip out and then get out of sync with the audio. Fortunately, the show is 99% funny with just audio alone - so this isn't really a problem. Video quality varies - but again the show's art style (best describe as a frantic kind of Picasso) doesn't really require the best resolution.

The real crime is that the show is sliding into obscurity and there doesn't seem to be any plans for a DVD release. This is a fine example where piracy simply wins out.

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2007 To Do List

I'm generally about the worst about getting things done. I've considering inventing a new t-shirt with a writable area so that I can simply keep my current task list in public view. It's one of the reasons I started the blog, actually, to make dev diaries more of a public record so that I might have more of an impetus to finish things. If you go back into the archives, you'll see that I've left a couple of Unreal mods unfinished (and at this point we can probably considered abandoned). Out of the projects since - only Carter got to see the light of day.

I preface this in a such a way to put a "to do list" in a relative light. These are the gaming related project I may or may not be finishing:

Carter 2.0
For lack of a better term. I'm still working on inter-hyper-whatever fiction. I don't know what to call it - just "IF" seems simple and abbreviated. I want to put back in enough aspects of a "storyworld" that the player feels more in control while maintaining the core concept of being able to "write out" the story without much interference with a filter or parser. This will probably have more DHTML elements and quite possibly more straight up RPG elements as well (perhaps even the inclusion of a character sheet with skills and inventory).

The biggest shift here is the basic interface. Carter was based on the concept of the player "poking" at the story - often somewhat blindly. Find nouns, add verbs, see what happens. I'll remove the "find" completely - active nouns will be highlighted in some manner and probably to indicate what kind of actions will be possible against it. Actions will probably be organized as cards or some cardlike manner so that they're easy to identify and understand. There might be a stock set of cards like "examine" and "use", while "Fire Gun" would be reliant on the player having a gun (so basically the character sheet will control the card set).

Of course, part of the problem of using writing as a core is ... you have to write. I started one narrative - but I might scrap it for now and try another that might be a little less expiremental and easier to fit into a game style framework (more straight up genre). Even with all of this reworking - the biggest challenge remains the conflict between elements of story and elements of gameplay.

It's also possible that I'll gear a version for the Wii, DS and/or PS3 browser (pending the ability to test on any of those).

iTunes Game
This is still a major interest for me. The controls have caused the most problem because iTunes doesn't support a key up event. Moving to mouse control would mean leaving the concept of coop behind - but I think it will be the way to go. The more I try and game on the Mac I gotta say - I really hate about 99% of keyboard control scheme. Yes, they're great for shooters and when you need an abundance of keys. It just sucks when you're doing constant movement. When you're button mashing. Maybe this is the carpal tunnel talking - but I don't find typing repeatedly much fun ... even if it does cause explosions.

Mouse control imposes new technical problems, of course. I don't have nearly as good of sample code and I'm not sure how geared iTunes is for it either. Still, I think it's compelling gamespace. You have access to one of the best kinds of random data possible, an application window geared for entertainment and a user who is possibly looking to chill out a bit. There's a technical ceiling, sure - but you're also free from worry about things like sound effects.

I'd like to do just more writing in the non-interactive realm. This year of NaNoWriMo made me miss the days of being able to write near constantly. Course, that was college and I was essentially an unemployed beatnik. I'm actually having fun with the spam poetry project - even though it must be the least marketable thing I've ever done. Might be right for a downloadable PDF or the like.

Getting something publishable would be the long term goal. It's not a necessity for writing - writing can be simply a hobby. But I do think that convincing someone else to pay for your work is a perfectly noble goal.

Well, that's the plan at least. Two out of three would be nice. Course, this is pending any other crazy ideas I hatch between now and the completion of anything else.

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