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Friday, January 12, 2007

Sony Bans Porn On Blu-Ray

Honestly, the dumbest thing I've heard from Sony regarding their current fortunes:

German Heise has interviewed Joone the founder of Digital Playgrounds at the AVN 2007 show in Las Vegas. Joone says actually said last year he is committed to Blu-ray. Now they announced four HD DVD titles in the United States. In the interview Joone says he was forced to use HD DVD, because no Blu-ray disc manufacturer would make his discs, because Sony was against it and they would loose their license.
-- No Porn On Sony HD-DVD Blu-ray?

I mean, in the short term I don't see a lot of people buying $1,000 players just to watch porn. However, there's just no questioning how much porn sells. In the long run, this just seems like bad business. I don't see the basis for this. Morality? A stamp of quality? Please, I just saw an ad for Employee Of The Month out for Blu-Ray.

Update: Ars Technica contacted the Blu Ray Association and they denied any official ban based on subject material. Is this an industry pointing the attention away from their own indecision or Sony pulling strings in the background?

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Jobs Confirms: iPhone Closed Off

Officially confirming what Dan reported earlier, Jobs told Newsweek (at the bottom) that the iPhone will indeed be a closed platform. He is quoted as saying: "You don't want your phone to be an open platform.... You need it to work when you need it to work. Cingular doesn't want to see their West Coast network go down because some application messed up."
-- Jobs Confirms iPhone is a Closed Platform

Huh. Odd. Nokia has an entire list of SDK's for their phones.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Great Quote On Super Columbine Controversy

As far as videogame scandals go, this is a hell of a lot more interesting and relevant than Hot Coffee.
-- Keith Stuart


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Dev Diary: Combat System Premise

I just got done coding a rough outline for what might be the start of the roguelike's combat system.

Design Goals:

- Must be fast. While I'd love to basically re-use a system I had of dice management which allowed very precise control of initiative, aim and damage - I want minimal input demands. I'm not looking for a strategy feel, just a step above the average walk into monsters to swing.

- Should be more than random. Nothing wrong with a little random, but the player should feel like they are in some control of the combat and their actions.

- Should be customizable. Players should be able to choose if magic, or agility or skill or whatever is their flavor.


Players setup their attacks by equipping particular weapons (and possibly even specific attacks offered by those weapons). There is a Hit Ratio of the opponent determined by a combination of armor, strength, agility and even the weapon they carry. The attacker first rolls to hit against this defense ratio. If successful, the attacker will take down first the opponent's energy, then agility, then strength.

When an opponent hits zero strength, they die. For magic, replace strength with wisdom. Attackers may expend energy to make a more powerful attack, but obviously they do so by placing themselves at a higher risk of more severe damage.

Weapon choices will help determine chances of defense over offense. For example, staves may not be overly offensive weapons - they provide better defense. Axes may have a high offense, but low defense. Ranged weapons would offer no defense. There may be other tradeoffs - like better armor reduces overall energy (because its heavier).

On a "miss", the game will determine the reason based on the defense matrix and produce likely feedback like "dodged" versus "blocked".

Advantages: Forces players to think about defense with offense. Equipment choices become vital to play.

Disadvantages: May still be overly simplistic. Will take a while to tweak the math so that it's not unbalanced.

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iPhone Summation: SDK, PSP and Me

The idea of an open platform on the iPhone is tearing up the blogosphere. The form factor alone has people wanting to pair up against the PSP and the DS.

Oh, if either was going to be true.

Firstly, the more I think about it the more I doubt we'll see any kind of extensible architecture on the iPhone. Apple is keenly protective of the iPod and the iPhone is merely an extension of that brand (enough that Apple is willing to go to courts to get the name to match up). Apple sidestepped well known Mac game developers like Freeverse when it opted to go for iPod games - and I'm betting we're going to see a similar strategy with the "widgets" the iPhone will run.

Secondly, Apple has about as much desire to pit the iPhone against the PSP as it does pitting OS X against Windows. And if that's an acceptable statement, you can bet it doesn't want to throw down with a powerhouse like the DS. The PSP is a plausible competitor because of it's more in-depth media features - but that's about the only feature set that Apple will want comparisons made. They'll trumpet the audio player and movie player. When it comes to games, though, Sony and Nintendo can probably breath easy. You won't see Apple trying to court Capcom or Konami or id or Valve or any other major third party game developer.

You'll see EA, maybe, get a phone call. I'm not saying there won't be games. Phones have games. I'm pretty certain Steve Jobs got that memo.

Just how unfortunate this really is ... honestly too much to measure. What's so great about having a phone that can run OS X apps and widgets when Apple will choose what's written? It might as well be running some customized version of ... oh, I dunno, anything, because it hardly matters to me what the OS is if I can't really talk with it. And I mean talk, not sync.

I love my Mac because it's my first computer since my Amiga that is truly as powerful as I need, when I need it. If I need to write a script which can move files around and FTP them after compiling a project - I do. If I wanted to write a Dashboard widget to monitor my own special television feeds, I would (I might). When I don't need it to be complicated - it's so wonderfully non-intrusive that I get the simple stuff done fast. In short, it's a speedway when I need a speedway, a touring road when I want to see the sights, and a construction crew for when I want to build my own roads.

This isn't a Mac vs. PC rant - this is just how I use my computer. It's the kind of relationship I'd love to have with my phone. Considering the phone isn't much cheaper than my Mac Mini - I don't see why I shouldn't be able to have that.

It really does sound like a lovely phone. The Girl and I will definately check them out when they hit, because she's been talking about an iPod anyway. Maybe if I was an iPod fan instead of a Mac fan, I'd be more excited.

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2007 IGF Mod Winners

IGF has announced their 2007 mod winners:

"The IGF Modding Competition and Student Showcase are both vibrant
competitions in their own right which show the amazing state of indie
gaming," said Simon Carless, IGF chairman. "Modifying existing games can
create creative, spectacular results, and today's game students are making
ever more stand-out games, so we're delighted to honor them both in the

The four winners of the IGF Modding Categories which will be considered for the 2007 Best Mod Award are:

Best Singleplayer FPS Mod -- Weekday Warrior mod for Half-Life 2, by Cut Corner Company Productions

Best RPG Mod -- Darkness over Daggerford mod for Neverwinter Nights, by Ossian Studios

Best Multiplayer FPS Mod -- Eternal Silence mod for Half-Life 2, by ES Team

Best Other Mod -- Spawn of Deflebub mod for Unreal Tournament 2004, by Ludocraft
-- Ninth Annual Independent Games Festival Names 2007 Mod Competition and Student Showcase Finalists

Dang, I've never heard of any of them. Either I've gotten that removed from mods in general or ... no, that's probably it.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Will There Be An iPhone SDK?

I have my doubts. Check out this:

Brian Jepson added:

I ran across something else. This is pretty depressing:

"It's not extensible by third parties, only Apple. The means at the moment no RSS readers, no Slingplayers."

Phil Torrone replied:


its 6 months away, a lot will change. plus, part of the keynote said this...

"'[OSX] let us create desktop class applications and networking, not the crippled stuff you find on most phones, these are real desktop applications.' He's quoting Alan Kay - 'People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.' 'So we're bringing breakthrough software to a mobile device for the first time.'"

technically there are rss readers, since you can make widgets for it, id rather have someone have a MAKE app on their phone than a general rss reader - branding and all..

any hoo, 6m is a long time and apple isnt going to screw up, everyone is watching, closely.
-- O'Reilly Radar > Back channel O'Reilly editors chatter on iphone

I dunno what to make of that. I wouldn't have thought Apple would keep the iPod SDK under such wraps for so long. I mean, I get it's their crown jewel and all (someone at work pointed out that the Macworld keynote was rather devoid of Macs).

I have my doubts, but I'll keep my hopes around.

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Electronic Games 1982

Colecovision the next big thing! You bet!

From wardomatic's photostream.

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Peter Baxter On Slamdance: "Unfair"

Peter Baxter being of Slamdance and talking to MTV:

The man who made that decision is Peter Baxter, the co-founder of the Slamdance Festival. On Tuesday (January 9) he explained his call to MTV News: "Is this unfair to the game maker? Yes. Is it unfair to the game jury? Yes it is. It's a hard decision. In my mind we really struggled with this."
-- Columbine Game Yanked From Slamdance Festival Amid Controversy, Protest

The official statement on the Slamdance site reads:

The Super Columbine Massacre RPG game has been withdrawn from Slamdance '07. While understanding the different positions people have already taken with the game, we want to express the struggle we had with ours. On one hand, a jury selected a game they believed merited programming, a decision that always leads to our organization supporting the creator's independent vision and freedom of expression. On the other, there are moral obligations to consider with this particular game and the interests and welfare of the Slamdance organization and its community. Ultimately, after much internal conflict and debate, we decided to pull this game and hope a choice like it will never have to be made again.

Gah. How can a contest looking to showcase the outer edges of game development think that it can avoid such decisions in the future?

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Will Vista Just Make PC Gaming Worse?

I've tried to think positive on the whole Vista/Games For Windows thing. I still can't get around the notion that Microsoft is kicking PC games aside for the Xbox. Or if not aside, at least in the teeth. PC games can be complicated and troublesome beasts. Console games largely (although it seems to be changing for the worse) aren't. Gaming PC's are crazy expensive. Consoles are generally subsidized hardware.

It doesn't sound like Vista will be a step in the right direction:

Vista’s obstructive security architecture extends into the new Vista Game Explorer and parental control system. The Vista Game Explorer is a top level Start Menu link to a new specialized folder in Vista specifically designed for managing games. It is intended to be the analog to the My Pictures and My Music folders found in Windows XP. Instead of being a link to a standard folder that happens to contain games, Microsoft “added some value” to the Game Explorer by binding it to a new parental control system in Vista.

The problem starts with installing your game and Vista and registering it with the Game Explorer. Unlike the parental control system, the Game Explorer is extremely prominent to consumers who are likely to expect to find the games they install in Vista listed there after installation. Microsoft has supplied compatibility listings for legacy games which will automatically recognize and register them with the Game Explorer when they are installed.
-- Gamasutra - Opinion: 'Vista Casts A Pall On PC Gaming'

And that's Alex St. John. Works for WildTangent now. Used to work on, um, DirectX. It's a great op/ed piece with even more details, worth the full read.

P.S.: Angered game developers can find a home on a Macintosh. Easiest installation of software I've ever had on any operating system ... ever.

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Paste On CliffyB

Bleszinski cut his design teeth on a PC game called Jazz Jackrabbit. It was 1994 and he was in his last year of high school. “There were three guys working on that game,” he says. “It was me doing the majority of the artwork, the design and 90 percent of the levels. Gears of War is more of a collaborative process.” He’s not kidding. Development teams for modern games tap the talents of hundreds of programmers and artists. The sheer scale of an undertaking like Gears of War has transformed Cliff’s job from nuts-and-bolts designer to something more managerial. “I don’t have the time every day to completely micromanage every last bit of the game,” he admits.
-- Paste Magazine :: Department :: Touching the Enemy :: A Video-game Designer Shoots For More (Page 1)

A nice inter/overview of Bleszinski, although it doesn't mention his pimp hat like even once.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Site Info

Kotaku worms its way back into the RSS feed.

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What do the Wii and iPhone have in common?

Virtually nothing ... except for the potential that maybe anyone in the world can code games for them.


There's a decent amount of excitement about coding games for the Wii via the Opera browser. Well, the iPhone can apparently run widgets - those things that are constantly surfing the web for you in the background of OS X.

First, some disclosure. I spent the better part of the day coding a Dashboard widget today. And one thing - it rocks. Really, I wish Apple had this good of sample code setup for games and iTunes plugins. They are very versatile and sparkle with that AJAX clean. Safari is very sophisticated browser - and the Dashboard environment is an enhanced version just for widgets. I never thought I'd want to code one, but now that I've mostly completed one - I kinda want to code one again.

So how well would it work for games? Well, honestly a lot better than some alternatives. Widgets have access to plugins like Flash and Cocoa objects (remember that the Unity engine is capable of porting out to a widget). Even without rich media, though, you can take advantage of DHTML and a version of the canvas tag.

Course the flip side is performance. Remember, I played with canvas tags before. And I'm just not a big fan of Flash games. Something about playing something in a box that's in a box. And we're talking about a phone here - I can't imagine it would have much juice.

Course, not all game design requires high perfomance. Working on a roguelike definately emphasizes this fact. Plus, nobody even has this thing in their hands yet. For all we know, it will be a choice number of widgets that Apple selects and lets iPhone users download.

I do know this - if that iPhone plays iTunes games before my Mac does ... I may well scream.

Apple has a decent selection of Dashboard games which I'll have to investigate further. I think a lack of keyboard might hurt this as well.

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Dev Diary: Examining RPG concepts

I've got diagonal movement, proper obstacles, and the map is now "player centric" or keeps the player in the middle of the map. I'm almost to the point where I need to make real decisions about the RPG framework itself. I actually have an old pen and paper RPG that I wrote in college - but it required a heavy amount of dice management. Fine when you are rolling a handful of dice, not so much for the quick point and click action I'm looking to get. I'll probably review it tonight to see what I can steal, but I thought I'd take today and ponder on some of the classics of RPG design and see if they make sense for me.

That and wait for the Macworld keynote.

So let's see:

Hit Points
I've honestly never understood HP. I mean, the basics make some sense. Creatures have health which can be decremented. More powerful attacks decrement more readily. Zero equals death. There's some simplicity of math there. What I don't get is the concept that more experienced creatures can automatically take more damage. I mean, was my level 10 thief that much more healthy than when he was a level 1? Surely a goblin sword to his kidney would have about the same effect either way?

It seems like overall health would be more of a measure of endurance and size rather than wisdom and training. Since a lot of RPG systems don't favor overall stat increases - why should the overall health sky rocket?

To Hit Ratios
"To Hit Armor Class 0" or "THACO" is the prime concept of D&D style combat. It actually seems confusing at first because a big and slow palading in full plate might be harder to hit than a mouse. But it really factors in a mulititude of aspects like speed, armor, experience, etc.

If you want to dwindle everything down to a couple of dice rolls, it's a pretty solid method. However, in doing so, you've also reduced all your action down to the same concept. Your ability to dodge is intertwined with your armor and so on.

Random Critical Hits
I find it interesting that even Marvel Alliance uses this concept. It certainly raises a characters's overall ability to deal out damage - the problem is that might not be when they really need it. Dealing double damage to a spider sucks when your facing the Troll King.

Food and Ammo Management
This is so totally a design thing. Realism versus action. Do you want to force heroes to face starvation? An empty quiver? Since I want to streamline as much as possible, these things probably aren't on my plate. I was going to consider light management, but I'm thinking that will get ditched as well.

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Et tu, Blogger?

As I was trying to do a morning post, Blogger's ever friendly "Cannot Connect To Blogger" message kept appearing. There's this link to click and test your connection. Since I was done, I clicked it.

Apparently it spammed the server so hard trying to confirm said server's existence that the server first locked my account for being spyware (that spyware being Blogger itself) and then just died for a while (at least for me).

Nice. No, I can't move to Blogger 2.0 yet. I haven't been offered the chance to port. Probably because Cathode Tan has a lot of archives.

Grrrr. Thankfully I saved the text of the post elsewhere. Coming soon.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Dev Diary: ASCII Dungeons

I continue to toy with ASCII Adventurer (although to be frank, I'm not sure how crazy I am about the title). So far I've got a basic javascript engine which can draw a grid, place the player and two monsters, allow the player to move vertically and horizontally via the mouse, control the monsters to move closer to the player and combat so rudimentary it would make your nose bleed.

Next I'll worry about diagonal movement, basic obstacle detection and then, most importantly, actual map generation (since user defined dungeons will be a centerpiece).

I'm toying around with a system of unlockable content. So new players would have access to a few races, archtypes (classes) and items. Playing through specific dungeons will unlock new features that can be used to create new characters. I don't want to limit people in what dungeons they can play, though, so there might be a conflict there. However, I'd like to emphasize replayability by variety rather than just brute force level grinding. In fact, stats might not get raised as much as new skills and items.

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Gaming In Iraq

It was hard, and continues to be, to find interview subjects. "A lot of people are very, very scared to talk on camera in Baghdad," Abdullah said. "You don't know who's your enemy. You don't know who's your friend. Shia killing Sunnis. Sunnis killing Shia. Sunnis fighting the U.S. military. They'll go on in one circle."

Abdullah came up with one workable idea that was close to his heart. A gaming aficionado who reads GameSpot, regularly raves about "Metal Gear Solid" and will voluntarily stop talking about sectarian violence to rant about the graphics in "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas," he suggested talking to people about games. Wisam was willing.

It turns out that Wisam is often willing to talk about games. He sat for Omar's camera and agreed to talk about that aspect of his life in his war-torn country to MTV News. But in both cases, despite the seemingly innocuous subject matter, he asked that his last name not be used out of concerns for his safety.
-- Mortal Combat: An Iraqi Gamer Shares His Harrowing Story

Sorry if MTV's flash interface offends anyone's eyes. The gamers in question were featured on the Alive In Baghdad blog on a post entitled "Baghdad Is Like Grand Theft Auto". It's insanely fascinating reading material for those of us so removed from the conflict.

It also serves to proves what the Liebermans and Thompsons of the world want to deny - that gaming is culture. Gaming is part of culture. Not just American youngsters - it's part of a global culture. It's a uniting experience between people. It's something many people can understand across the normal divides.

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TV Watch: Fox Post-Game

I actually rather like football, but I'm not huge follower of the sport. Or any sport, rather. The Girl knows the teams and players much more than I do. Not to mention the rules, calls, and jargon. Still, I enjoy watching it from time to time, even without the in-depth knowledge that people use for fantasy drafts.

So you'll excuse if I always get extremely annoyed that while waiting for The Simpsons I actually have to listen to Terry Bradshaw say ... well anything at all. The game's over. You'll have a whole week to talk about that play. Your time is up. Futurama got clobbered by Fox because most of the time people who wanted to watch it ended up watching ... Terry Bradshaw. Who may have a passing resemblence to Bender - isn't nearly as entertaining.

At least last night they started the show at the beginning instead of cutting in the middle. Really, though, when the game's over and you're risking cutting into your normal broadcast schedule - just cut the yabber short and roll the credits.


Sunday, January 07, 2007

Curmudgeon's Gamer Shopping Shirt

Most excellent idea.

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