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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Nintendo As Competition

From our man in Siam (not really), Dean:

At that point, they will stop paying for more and more features in their products and then decide to buy a cheaper product that is good enough. The danger for both Sony and Microsoft is that the Nintendo Wii offers good enough graphics and some additional features that are missing from the other consoles, such as the new controller. This has happened in industry after industry, from steel to personal computers, according to Christensen. Now Christensen's book was a bestseller in the business book category and it has been cited by numerous executives such as former Intel CEO Andy Grove for its insights into the state of competition among tech companies.

Nintendo's bet is a big one. What if, for instance, the game developers come up with outstanding games that require all of the horsepower of the PlayStation 3 or the Xbox 360? Grove, in his own book, "Only the Paranoid Survive," says it's hard to judge when an industry reaches a point, which he dubs an "inflection point," where the trend in the industry changes. When people start to complain about too many features, devices that are too complicated, and technology that they just can't utilize, that may be the sign of the inflection point.
-- A+E Interactive: Does Nintendo Really Compete With Microsoft And Sony?

Pretty dead on, I'd say - although I'm not sure that the risks are quite as big this generation as everyone would like to make it seem. I could eat crow on this one a couple years from now, but I think singing funeral hymns for Sony or assuming Nintendo will suddenly capture a massive amount of the market is fairly premature.

If anything, each of the console makers has made a distinct strategy - but much of the strategy in any camp is merely defensive. Despite Microsoft's claim that half their 360 base is brand spanking new (that claim dubious at best, since they consider Target and Best Buy shelves to be "users") - the 360 is largely a replacement device for their earlier offering. Sony is trying desperately to defend their consumer electronics by hitching their post with Blu-Ray and Nintendo is capturing on the success they've had with the DS.

Plates might shift - in fact I'm sure they will. For instance, I'm hoping the DS will bring handheld games more into the mainstream (Dragon Quest DS is a start there). Evolutionary spikes, however, I'm not holding my breath to see.

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For Sunday: Darkon

Darkon is a real documentary about these guys - some kind of mix of extreme paintball, anachronistic societies and pure geekdom. Doesn't look to be out on DVD just yet.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Lucky Gamers Play Wii On Silver Screen

New Launches tells the tale of some ambitious Wii gamers bowling on a movie screen. They include a video of the battery powered sensor bar they had to use to get it running. Brilliant.

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Koster Talks Web 2.0 MMO

The fact is that Web 2.0 is increasingly encroaching on entertainment's turf. It tends to be shallower, less immersive entertainment than the big budget productions that the traditional publishers create, but it's still entertainment. There's now a massive and rapidly expanding ecology of games and game developers that bypass the mainstream industry altogether, and a lot of those folks are approaching it from the web side: stuff like Club Penguin, Gaia Online, Habbo Hotel, and so on, aren't the sort of thing that would ever be made only within the game industry.
-- Raph Koster talks Areae

Having worked in web developed since ... well, since about the web ... I've been wary of the whole Web 2.0 concept. That it is one part marketing to try and sell niche web services is honestly undeniable. However, it's also provided the web with some useful new ideas and some interesting new frameworks.

Personally, though, I think with the launch of Twitter, Web 2.0 has officially upgraded to Web 2.crazy. I don't believe that most people either need to know what all their friends are doing at a given instant nor do I think anyone needs to spend the time updating information so that all their friends who do not need to know could know. I'm a smartass - this is what my twitter will always be. The notion that social networking is the secret potion to better essentially any venture and that as long as you are sharing information into a group - it's viable - I find dubious at best.

It's not that I don't believe in the net's power to help organize and socialize people - I do. One still has to stay true to the core of their design, however. In e-commerce, for instance, I'm not convinced shifting that core to a social network would have any real benefit. User reviews are, as an example, a very mixed bag. When I go to NewEgg or BoardGameGeek ... I know I'm getting reviews from hardcore users of the material. When I go to Amazon, I'm quite possibly reading the mad rantings of a drunken fratboy coming down from a serious rave high. One useful, one not so much.

So when game developers start to grab for that secret potion, I get skeptical. For one thing, gaming is already very socially networked. Game forums are about as lively as television forums. When I admin'd a Counter-Strike server - all the admins essentialy did double duty as forum moderators as well. When people weren't playing, they were often online chatting or posting.

I don't mean this post to be a straight up "Koster is crazy". Let's not forget the flickr is the product of game design. Plus, considering I'm developing a roguelike with an emphasis on user content and content sharing ... I think that would be a tad hypocritical. Much to the contrary, I'm very interested in what he has in mind. I'm just always suspicious when Web 2.0 is the focus on the discussion and not the product itself. However, his blog post on what 2.0 has to teach games seems pretty right on.

I guess in the end I'll just know if I can be excited when I hear more about the actual game "later this year".

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TV Watch: Colbert And O'Reilly

I first saw Colbert interview someone on The Daily Show when Stewart was off for a week. It wasn't pretty. Stephen seemed unprepared, unable to bridge topics, and just outright nervous. It was clear when the Colbert Report first aired that he had gotten his game on and was becoming quite adept at it.

Last night, however, Stephen Colbert may have topped any interview I've ever seen on television. His parody of a right wing pundit met up with one of the grandpas of the form - Bill O'Reilly. This is an interview walking a razor's edge. When Colbert came out early with an inside jab about O'Reilly's history of sexually harassing his crew - it looked as if things were already going to tip over. O'Reilly even made a comment that he already regretted appearing.

Colbert, though, has gotten so well trained in his persona as faux Reilly that in moments he had wrapped Bill back into what must be Bill's favorite topic: Bill himself. With that, he ended with the best possible response to Bill he could have hoped for:

"If you're just an act, then what does that make me?"

Brilliant. Tip of the hat, Colbert. Tip of the hat.

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TV Watch: The Naked Trucker And T-Bones Show


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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Would A PSP2 Be Download Only?

Unfortunately, the inclusion of UMD, Memory Stick and 8GB of flash seems pretty far fetched -- either Sony loses the UMD and goes for all-downloadable games, or it sticks with its tried and true method of milking consumers on Memory Stick purchases, it's hard to imagine an all-in approach.
-- PSP2 "Cobalt" to feature dual analog, UMD, 8GB of flash? Don't count on it. [Engadget]

I've pondered for a bit that Sony might want to drop the old UMD format for good and make a slimmer, meaner (and mayber cheaper) PSP for the masses. I had assumed they'd replace it with a Memory Stick slot - but I never considered the possibility of having no slot at all and allow it purchase games online. Essentially it would work like the Wii's Virtual Console - you have an account which tracks what games you own and you're allowed to download however many of them will fit onto your console at a time.

It seems a bit like folly, but it's also kind of brilliant. Wifi is a lot more common these days - so anyplace with a wireless net connection is suddenly your own personal store. It would be similar to the synergy that made the iPod so popular (with being paired with iTunes). I'm not sure if it would make it more or less hack-proof in the long run - but it seems like it might make it more than less (much like iPods are today). Sony could rake in licensing fees while offering lower prices.

Of course, just like the DS downloading demos off the net, I don't see this happening. Sony seems pretty attaced to the PSP in its current incarnation and they still seem to defend UMD to the death. Still, an intriguing idea.

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Are Used Xbox's The Current Great Deal?

I'm not seriously contemplating getting one just yet, although I wouldn't object to hooking one up to the Mac's monitor instead of hooking the old PC backup. However, prices on eBay for some of the old black boxes seem to hit around $70, or you can grab some free games for more. That's some serious discount for a system with a decent library and the best online service of its generation. It's not quite as cheap as an old GameCube, but often cheaper than a used PS2. A couple used Xbox's and some copies of Halo might be the least expensive way to throw a LAN party in history.

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Turn Your PlayStation 3 Into A Linux DVR

Apparently you can update Linux on the PS3 to work with a MythTV DVR box (digg it). Honestly, I haven't been able to get my head around the real advantages for running Linux on your PS3. I'm assuming some dual boot juggling is required here (if you want it to be a DVR - be sure to reboot into Linux after playing, etc). Obviously, this is cuts above the Yaroze project which yielded few results. Sony seems mum on the possibilities - merely throwing it out there and not really trumpeting the idea of developing games or new media software for it. At one point it was rumored that all PS3's would have a Linux option installed, but Sony seems to have walked away from that option. I'm surprised that there isn't at least a portal site to support and showcase development efforts.

Hasn't really swayed me to or from the machine in any direction, but certainly makes one wonder if it will mature down the road.

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Why You Shouldn't Listen To Execs

I can't get to the video, but the account New Launches gives chalks up two big wrongs for Steve Ballmer. The first where he announces the iPhone is the most expensive phone in the world (not even close) and the second where he asserts that the Zune captured 25% of the "high end" MP3 market. Tack this onto Microsoft's constant inability to use the word "sold" (as opposed to "shipped") correctly, and I can't imagine why anyone pays attention to this kind of interview.

Not that I'm keen on listening too intently to Kaz or Reggie or any other suit when it comes to pretty much anything but broad business decisions. Sony simply can't figure out what "supercomputer" actually means and .... well, OK, actually Reggie is generally pretty blunder free.

His Jobness is, of course, entirely watchable - but it's always wise to keep your distortion field protection kit handy. Case in point - the debate on the open or closed nature of the iPhone platform is far more interesting and relevant than anything a CEO will ever say.

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Vista's ARG

Aleks brings tale of YAMARG ... or Yet Another Microsoft ARG (my terminology, not hers). Is it me ... or does every viral campagin Microsoft launch seem to get less compelling than the one before ... perhaps simply because now it's grown so expected that it lacks any kind of mystery or surprise? Remember when people were actually debating if ILB had anything to do with Halo? Oh, for the days.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Dev Diary: Roguelike Ups And Downs

I made some significant gains tonight. I actually have a loop working where you can go to page, design an ASCII dungeon on the fly on the page, save it, and load it into a page which translates it into a working, playable dungeon. The combat (kinda) works. There aren't any chests or doors yet.

Sadly, this isn't the real problem. The real problem is that once I shoved real data into the engine, performance crashed. Crashed big time. I'm not really sure what the problem is - I mean, I'm doing enough costly things like splits and element tossing that I'm not terribly surprised - but I wasn't expecting this much of a drop. It's so slow that I may need to rethink the entire premise for the UI.

But the data is there ... and the method for generating the data has a foothold. And that's certainly something.

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PS3 Demand

After reading numerous anecdotal reports from our beloved readers about PlayStation 3s in stock at retailers across the country, we were less than surprised to read analyst P.J. McNealy's take on the situation (we've heard almost zero reports on Wii stock recently). His firm took stock of 52 retailers, over half of which had PS3s in stock. Wiis? None. Nada.

Does this mean PlayStation 3 demand is softening? Is Sony doomed? Are pink slips being distributed worldwide? Maybe. No. And no.

According to Sony's David Karakker: "It isn't because demand has weakened, it is because we have kept the supply pipeline moving." Company line, true, but even McNealy says it's too early to tell if the console buying public has cooled on Sony's next-gen console.
-- Analyst: PS3 Demand "Softening"? [Kotaku]

Course, in comparison with this time last year, the 360 wasn't on shelves simply because Microsoft had none to deliver. And when March rolled around and they landed on shelves, I certainly don't remember people pointing to the sudden doom and gloom of the company. Fact is - eventually these things end up on shelves.

Still, I'm betting demand is soft. I was assuming it would be simply because demand for the PlayStation 3 is directly tied to demand for next generation television - more so than virtually any other consumer product out there other than HDTV's and well ... other HD players. Until Sony ups the library a little more, the gaming side of the PS3 is very much an early adopter purchase. So is the Blu-Ray side ... but it's an easier fiscal decision considering the choices out there right now.

However, until demand for the far more available and undoubtably more profitable PS2 flags ... I wouldn't be holding out for any nails in the Sony coffin. That might be a decent wait - with it's massive install base, I'm guessing we'll see decent PS2 titles through 2007. God of War II, anyone?

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Left Behind Spams Blogs

Apparently the critique that blogs have written against Left Behind's "religious time strategy" game (like that? just thought of it ... mmmm first cup of coffee in the morning) has stung them just a tad. In response, Left Behind Games has decided to wholesale spam virtually every blog that ever mentioned the game with a PR response, as can be seen here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and ... here.

And that, my dear readers, are just blogs from like page 35 of the Google search they used, "left behind games blog", so I'm guessing there's a lot more than just that. Like thirty times more.

I'm not going to get back into a diatribe about the controversy, I've been verbose enough. This kind of PR strategy is about as low of quality as the game is reported to be. For one thing, the spammed message has the wrong link in it, it points to "" not "" ... and the page itself just repeats a few choice quotes from a handful of sources.

If anyone were to be trying to engage me as a blogger and gamer - this would be about the worst way to do it.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Virtual Drugs For A Virtual World

Utherverse, the company behind Red Light Center, the world's second most populated virtual social world, has introduced a new feature that allows members and guests to visit an Amsterdam-style smoking room and toke from a hookah to experience a 'virtual high.'

Utherverse said that its move comes on the back of what it calls a new and highly controversial trend coming out of the video game industry, namely virtual drugs. It pointed out that, in 2005, the video game Narc was the first to introduce street drugs into video games to provide players with 'powers.'
-- Utherverse introduces virtual drugs to online game world

Firstly - I don't know if that's technically accurate. Drugs played a part in Deus Ex well before Narc and I'm sure that there were others before that. It might have cranked it up a notch, but I'm not sure by really how much.

Secondly - what's the point of "chemical enhancement" for a social game like RLC? Does it give you beer googgles? I have to really doubt that this:

Users of this feature have reported the experience of smoking marijuana in the game to be "surprisingly realistic."

"The response from our community has been overwhelmingly positive," noted Brian Shuster, CEO of Utherverse. "We're offering a neat experience that's totally safe and legal." really all that accurate. If it is - that's pretty impressive and I don't know why they'd waste their time supporting an MMO. Just sell a weed screensaver for $50 a pop and rake in the cash.

Which really leads to the obligatory David Walsh quote as making NIMF seem that much more out of touch:

For example, psychologist David Walsh, spokesman for the US National Institute on Family and the Media, claims drug use in games creates curiosity and allure for players. "Games are interactive and psychologically powerful. Now we have a game that glorifies drug use. Where do we draw the line?" he stated.

Generally, I respect what NIMF is trying to do - but sometimes it's like Walsh can't help but make connections between non-existent points. RLC is an adult only game not available in stores. I'm not sure what is probably little more than a graphics filter really counts as glorification. In the time it took me to write this, MTV probably aired at least 10 different things more "problematic" for kids than this ... and I've probably honestly given RLC just what it wanted - some free publicity.

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Kitten Fragger

From .J&J.'s photostream.

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TV Watch: 24 Is Military Porn

Spoilers follow (for the whole series). You've been warned.

I've watched 24 since it began. At this point, I honestly watch because as a show it has managed to push credulity to insane proportions and somehow manages to get away with it ... often without much more than a grim mumble from its protagonist, Jack Bauer. This, of course, being a man who has now been betrayed by internal spies, had his heart stopped, faked his own death, faked betraying the United States and now spent two years vacationing with the Chinese penal system only to come home and willingly sacrifice his life for a relatively chincy plan to stop terrorists.

And honestly, that's just scratching the surface. You'll be hard pressed to find a more ubermench style action hero on television today. Jack's not only fairly indestructible, he's often the only competent person in the room. Heck, in the whole nation. Take into account that during his absence, terrorist activity in the nation rose to crticial proportions and The President is now negotiating directly with terrorist cells. In the first couple hours he was back on American soil, Jack managed to correct virtually his entire line of command (who, of course, didn't listen to him).

Is the show good? It's hard to say. The writers are savvy enough that the show always feels a little smarter than it actually is. If you pay close attention to the details, nothing makes any sense. One moment the lead terrorist can spy on every satellite in orbit - the next he's completely blind to the advancing "tac team". It's almost like security through obscurity ... some decent dialogue, some military jargon and some truly impressive production values (read - explosions) ... and you don't even question why they didn't "think of that".

At it's core though - the show is essentialy military porn. We all know porn comes in lots of flavors - lots more than just sex. Virtually any performance that slips a gratiutous layer of something so thick that you can practically ignore the plot is porn. A Jet Li movie is kung fu porn. A Jackie Chan movie is funny kung fu porn.

And so on. The show's oblique attempts at social commentary generally just service more of this porn by setting up new situations to find terrorists and use terms like "cavity search". Let's not sidestep it ... 24 is violent. It is really, really violent.

Take this into account:

On tonight's season premiere of the much-praised "24,'' the hero escaped being tortured by biting through the neck of a terrorist with the fury of a wild animal. The scene featured as much pretend savagery, fake blood and dramatic emphasis as anything you'd see in a movie theater -- but this was on broadcast TV (Fox) BEFORE 9 p.m.

I'd bet a lot of money that this TV event generates little or no outrage of any significance. Keep that in mind when the next "Grand Theft Auto'' video game controversy erupts. Keep it in mind when somebody besides Janet Jackson lets slip a body part for a fleeting moment. Or whenever the next media-and-children discussion heats up.
-- "24" and media violence[Mike Antonucci - Mercury News]

By the end of last night's two episode run - tack on a knee stabbing, a horribly burned body, a gun shot to the lower neck (plenty of spurting blood there), and (major spoiler) a nuclear explosion.

Don't get me wrong - I like 24. I like my military porn. I love watching planes fly through downtown and make missile strikes. It's exciting. It's titillating. It blows things up. I'm with Mike, though, I think it's indicative of a moral hypocrisy. The kind of hypocrisy that attacks video games while embracing professional wrestling. Let's not pretend that someone stabbing a guy in the patella is somehow a mile's distance from anything in Grand Theft Auto, especially not during prime time television.

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Game Play: Family Guy

I was originally dismissive of Family Guy as a licensed title which seemed like it was trying to cram too much into one package since all the press seemed to suggest just that.

In execution, it's far better than it sounds. Not great, but fun for a while. The "combination" of platforming, stealth and fighting comes from the division of Stewie's, Brian's, and Peter's levels respectively (or for those unfamiliar with the show - the genius baby, the talking dog and the moron dad). By "fighting", I mean Double Dragon style combat ... not Mortal Kombat style combat. Of these, Stewie's feels the most complete as it's not just a straight up jumping game - but actually manages to have a decent Robotron style action feel to it as well. The controls have something to be desired - Stewie can't switch weapons must have to hold fire to alternate through too many options for such a mechanic.

However, Stewie is the one that escapes the basic flaw of either Brian's sneaking or Peter's brawling ... repetition. This is especially true of Peter's since his only variations seem to be new combat moves which get increasingly less useful. Brian's levels add in new tricks and traps - but largely uses a watered down version of Metal Gear Solid style design.

A saving grace is easily the production value itself - the writing and voice acting is very true to the show. The cel shaded models portray the Family Guy world extremely well. It's not Simpson's Hit and Run ... but it's an admirable second place.

For a true Family Guy fan, this would make a great gift. Otherwise, it's probably at least a sure bet for a rental.

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Game Play: Dark Cloud 2

Okami might have to go on the backburner for a little while ... I finally got the chance to put Dark Cloud 2 into the old PlayStation 2. I've clocked about an afternoon or so and clearly have barely scratched the surface of the game. I just started playing with the weapon enhancing and invention process. The invention process is a great example of building a mini-game (in this case, finding and photographing items) that is tightly woven into the actual gameplay.

I haven't yet unlocked any new characters or gone into the world building aspects of the game - but I can already see why this was being labeled a "Zelda killer". This is the kind of game the PlayStation 3 is sorely lacking.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Reasons Why iPhone May Fail

An op piece on Bloomberg breaks it down to three reasons: Apple is late to the phone game, it doesn't play well with others and the phone is meant to defend the iPod. Specifically:

It is mainly designed to protect the iPod, which is coming under attack from mobile manufacturers adding music players to their handsets. Yet defensive products don't usually work -- consumers are interested in new things, not reheated versions of old things. Likewise, who is it pitched at? The price and the e-mail features make it look like a business product. But Apple is a consumer company.

I get the point - but I'm not sure I agree. Take a look at the BlackJack ... Wired tried to use it as an MP3 replacement and it didn't fare so well. Other phones from people like Sony might be better equipped, but they have been out on the market for some time now and haven't mademuch of a dent into the iPod's market.

So perhaps Apple is afraid someone else will get it right - but considering nobody seems to have done that ... I'm not sure the iPhone is late or defensive. Remember, the iPod was by far not the first MP3 player on the market ... it was just the first to focus on user friendly features and easy online purchases. The iPhone is a mirror of this strategy.

I think the price factor is important. Since for $500 you could easily get both an iPod and a phone sepreately ... and without any of the proper smartphone features ... I'm not sure the iPhone will pull people away from a simple (and less expensive) alternative ... a cheaper iPod.

And here is a(nother) fine read on why Apple should allow third party apps.

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How Long Will "Lost" Run?

“The reality is, they can produce a sixth or seventh or eighth season, but would anyone be watching? Because the show would be so miserable by that time,” Lindelof said, who was reminded by one reporter that ABC could continue making the show without the involvement of the show’s current creative team.

“We were surprised when we went to ABC and started having that conversation,” Lindelof said. “As opposed to them saying, ‘Fine, we’ll bring on new people,’ they said, ‘Well, when do you think it should end?’ And the conversations began.

“Obviously they want the show to go on as long as possible,” Lindelof added. “And all that we can say is, ‘There’s a show with us running it and there’s a show without us running it, and if you want the show with us running it, this is when we think it should end.’ And like negotiation, therein lies the rub. I think you’ll find, if you talk to [ABC entertainment president] Steve [McPherson], in Steve’s vernacular, he’s begun to embrace the idea that the show needs to end. Now the question becomes when.”
-- 'Lost' producers talk about setting an end date and much more [Chicago Tribune]

Course, there's a bit a puzzle knot here. They'll only want to keep the show alive if it keeps getting great ratings and saturating the show with filler to make it last as long as possible seems to be siphoning those ratings off to other shows. The 100 episode number is out there, for syndication purposes, sure. But after that it seems the best thing for both art and business is to keep the show simple, tight and potentially ... short.

In the last podcast the producers seemed to give a nod to the concerns of many fans and promised that the next three episodes will show us more about the island, DHARMA, and more. They seem to brush off concerns about the rating and remain unapologetic about the PaoloNikkiGate.

Here's one thing I flatly disagree with, however:

“Joss Whedon said something very funny when he and I were talking. He basically said, the critics and the fans always hate the season that you’re in, and wish that it was like the season that preceded it. And it’s true. The reality is, when we were in Season 2, everybody hated it, everybody hated Michelle Rodriguez, hated the tail section stories. Now we find ourselves in Season 3, and everybody’s hating it, and they wish it was more like Season 2.”

Funny, sure, just not that accurate. I'm sure it's partially true - but personally I wish Lost Season 2 was more like Lost Season 1 .... and Lost Season 3 was even more like Lost Season 1. Same went with Buffy - when the show started to go downhill (hint: the more Spike is in it, sadly enough) ... the more I wish for the show's stride of the second and third seasons.

I acknowledge that a creative process can't be mandated by mob opinion. Most efforts wouldn't get out of the gate that way. They don't survive well in a bubble, however.

Two of my favorite shows of all time - Sports Night and Firefly were both cut short. Sports Night got two seasons and Firefly ... well, heck, Firefly wasn't even properly released until it hit DVD. Thing is - some of the best material within Sports Night features the show's struggle with itself. It knows it's the slow horse in a fast horse race and it does all it can to keep up. Would we have gotten that conflict if Sorkin wasn't dealing with it himself against the networks?

Firefly easily had another two seasons to go ... and it would have been amazing. We rewatched Serenity over the holidays and while it's a great two hour swan song for the show ... nothing really tops just sitting back and watching the whole series. It's tightly intergrated enough that it comes off as an epic movie on its own ... just without an end.

Lost has a similar conflict ... the show against itself. We'll see in a month how well it deals with it.

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Easter Egg Ads

Crouched in military fatigues, you peer through night-vision goggles and brandish a semiautomatic gun as you hunt down terrorists who've overtaken Las Vegas.

Incongruously, while patrolling a neon-decorated side street in the video game "Rainbow Six Vegas," you spot a jar of body wash. You spray the container with bullets, and voila! A 60-second video of whimsical bloopers pops up, and billboard advertisements of scantily clad women hawk Unilever Corp.'s Axe shower gel: "Score with Axe."
-- That Easter egg in video game may just unlock an ad

It's sad that when the game industry is showing record sales that they feel the need to bend over backwards to whore themselves out.

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Wired On Super Columbine

What strikes you, instead, is Ledonne's attention to narrative detail. He painstakingly researched the killers' life stories using publicly released police investigations of the pair, and the game thus includes all manner of detail I never knew. When I started off in Harris' house, I found a box of Luvox, an antidepressant he was on that prevented him getting into the Marines. When I met up with Klebold in a basement, we sat down in front of the VCR to watch the "I've seen the horror" speech from Apocalypse Now, a movie they apparently loved.

Ledonne actually reconstructed copious dialogue for the pair, pulled from real-life transcripts of what they said on the day of the shooting -- including survivor reports and their own videotapes of themselves. (He estimates 80 percent of the dialogue in the game is lifted from real life.) It's oddly mesmerizing: They wonder about what the reaction will be to the massacre ("pass more gun laws, probably"), reminisce about old times, gird themselves for battle and explicitly compare the attack to video games. "It's gonna be like Doom, man!" Dylan exults.

You're constantly reminded of how creepily unbalanced Harris and Klebold were. One minute they're tossing off nihilistic riffs: "When I'm in my human form, knowing I'm going to die, everything has a touch of triviality to it," Klebold muses. The next minute they're quoting Shakespeare: "Good wombs hath borne bad sons."
-- I, Columbine Killer

Also, they quote Peter Baxter not pointing the finger at sponsors but rather at himself:

...was simply too hot a potato. There were legal concerns, he told me (though he was vague about them); and "there was a question of our moral obligations to the families of the victims."

So which is it - external pressure or internal worries? Slamdance needs to get their act together here. If it was a sponsor's threats then they need to communicate expectations better with sponsors ... and get better contracts. If it's just cold feet ... then I think they need to rework the contest. Not, you know, court people that they'll be afraid to back later on.

Also, level the playing field. If Slamdance feels the need to add a "moral obligation" clause to entrants - it has to go for all forms of media ... not just games.

Bet that wouldn't go far.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

For Sunday: Invincible Iron Man

Direct to DVD, Iron Man Manga. Not exactly the summer blockbuster many would like to see, but looks pretty good.

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