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Friday, May 04, 2007

Darth Vader In Tokyo


Guy Loses His Job Over Firearms Comment

Just during my web comic browse, I stumbled on this over at Little Gamers:

Matt (you know, the guy that writes machall and three panel soul) was talking to one of his co-workers about buying a gun, and seeing as he's a "comedian" like the rest of us, he added a joke when talking about it (I guess that's the conversation that actually took place more or less). As you can see, someone at the office heard it and got scared, so he got called into the office and fired, he later did a comic about that too. This was the day of the V-tech shootings, but Matt hadn't heard about that when the conversation took place, and I actually don't think that's even related.
-- Matt.. oh Matt []

I didn't see a permalink, so that quote will probably get lost when this archives. Regardless, the resulting Three Panel Soul comic is at least bitterly funny if it weren't that the whole thing is insane. So now you can get arrested for writing essays and fired for water cooler talk.

I'm sorry - what country do I live in again? I know Virginia Tech was a frightening travesty - but our culture seems to be almost flailing into confusion over how to handle itself. That handle quickly becoming the one we're flying off of.

Breast Pong

How often do you get to use a title like that?

Jenny started her research by crafting a pong controller made from a bra. Touching the left breast made the pong paddle go left and the right breast made the paddle go right. I then found out about a phenomenon called gamer widowhood where men essentially abandoned their wives to play video games night and day. I wanted to create a type of video game play that would center around a couple's intimacy and where two people would touch each other in order to play the game.
-- Intimate Game Controllers [we make money not art]

Yes, ladies, there's also a version designed for men's shorts. Once again showing that the couple that games together stays together.

Dev Diary: Text and Zombies

I haven't done a dev diary in a while so I'm sure it seems like I'm just not getting anything done. That's partially true, actually, as I have a lot of pokers in the fire right now, so to speak. I figured this was a good time to update a bit since I didn't want my only post of the day to have "Gilmore Girls" in the title.

The ASCII/AJAX roguelike is utterly tabled at this point. I just couldn't figure out how to tweak out the performance I wanted. Instead I'm melding some of the ideas I had into a new work that will use an updated version of the Carter framework. I'd like to tackle the common annoyances of Carter - too much guesswork in finding nows, too little causality, and some of the interface concepts. I'm willing to call Carter a success simply because I've been able to get all manner of feedback - and honestly when you're writing a completely new setup like that ... it's about the best you can hope for.

I'm in the writing phase of the new story - which means I'm not worrying about coding anything at all. I'm just writing the narrative out like anyone would a short or medium piece of fiction. The only real difference is that instead of being concerned with linear plot movement or concise descriptions, I try and add in as much detail as possible. Later I'll fold that into the actual interface. This time there will be a concept of inventory, puzzle solving and combat. My goal is to release in "chapters" will actually refer to locations. I have a backstory mildly fleshed out - but it's fairly shallow. The main story will be pretty simple too - think cabin story format with zombies essentially. Light horror - not comical or anything though. If it works I'll update with multiple starting points - each around the same concept of a lone character trapped in a small town where things have gone horribly wrong.

It's just hard to get stuff done because outside of normal job of building three sites at once - I'm also building about three web sites at once.

TV Watch: Gilmore Girls & Veronica Mars

Gilmore Girls is calling it quits after seven seasons. While it might surprise some that I would even make note of that, not having once ever mentioned the show even in passing - it doesn't bode well for Veronica Mars getting another season. Veronica's increased ratings have been often attributed to having a strong follow through from being positioned after Gilmore Girls.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Lost: The Brig

Once again Lost proves that they can change up their format to good effect with The Brig. In lieu of a normal flashback, we again take a look back on what happened elsewhere on the island. Very much a bridge episode - this is at least a bridge episode with lots of information and events to chew on. The highlight reel:

The island is still pretty hidden
Confusion of the "purple sky" event is even more apparent now since Naomi confirmed that she could not see the island until she was essentially right over it (and then falling out of the sky). No word on a co-pilot or other parachutist on the island, though, so maybe Naomi is a lone soldier after all. Desmond's look of glee at Sayid's skepticism though? Priceless.

The satphone
A lot of forumgoers will be making much ado over Sayid's statement that he has "never seen technology so sophisticated", which will support some people's pet theories that the island is on a different timeline and that the outside world is set to the future. I'd remind them, however, that the Iraqi army probably doesn't own a lot of cutting edge satellite phones and it might just be that Sayid's never played with one before.

There is, however, some sound trains of thought that this satphone sporting an iPhone style interface may be more advanced than what's even currently available - so the theory still floats.

At any rate, the island is still protecting itself from being found ... and from people leaving.

In Hell
Maybe the reason a satphone doesn't work is because, as Anthony Cooper stated, they're all dead and in hell. Or purgatory. Dead at least. It sure would explain a lot, right? Like anything weird on the island and the inability to leave it. Anyone buying into this? I'm still not. It's not consistent for one thing - people "die" on the island for lots of reasons. Boone, Shannon and Ana Lucia may have had similar "epiphanies" prior to dying, but what about Libbey? Or Pickett? And should we now believe that the Others not only have a massive intelligence network ... but a direct line to the material plane? It's hard enough to buy that they have dossiers on all the survivors days after the crash - harder to buy that it comes from some supernatural detective agency.

I'm not sure what gave Anthony Cooper the notion he had died - it wasn't really explained. I guess seeing his "dead" son might give him that idea, but he seemed to have it prior to seeing Locke. I suppose I'd say that if this is how the producers are leaning - it's not better than a Dallas or snowglobe explanation.

And how does him getting drugged and shanghai'd amount to Locke's "magic box"? The magic box seems to be people with hypodermic needles.

The Real Sawyer
Speaking of Cooper - so he was the Real Sawyer all along. Can't say I'm terribly surprised, he was the only real conman to rival Sawyer on the show and clearly sociopathic enough to pull off the kind of tragedy Sawyer experienced. So Cooper was bad. And now he's ... dead. And the Others wanted him killed. But wait...

Good and Bad
Weren't these the same Others that took Juliet to task for shooting Pickett? OK, that might have been a cover so that she could later infilitrate the Lostie camp - but they had seemed to take life and death extremely serious. So how is it a cardinal sin in some instances and a mandatory gang iniation in others?

As an aside, it's also interesting that Locke gets Sawyer to kill Cooper, Others get Michael to free Ben/kil Ana Lucia, Ben gets Juliet to kill Pickett, Juliet was trying to get Jack to kill Ben. As The Girl put it - the "good" need the "bad" to get things done.

The reason why "good" and "bad" have been so hard to track on the island is because the Others aren't clearly defining it - and they're writing the rulebook on it. Locke is hardly "good" by most standards, but he's being considered the next messiah or something. So "good" to the Others seems to be evaluated by one thing - however the island evaluates it.

Why were they so happy to have him along? Because they heard the island cured his crippled legs. Not because he saved a kitten or anything. I'm guessing the island is a manifestation of God and the Others worship the island.

Well, OK maybe. What if there is a neutral zone between the purgatory angle, time angle, crash angle, etc. The island isn't just some scientific sanctuary - but more akin to the actual Garden of Eden. Some science might be tossed on top of it - but this is still God's playground.

Enough theory. What about Jack and Juliet?
Totally in cohoots. But to what end? Has Juliet warned Jack of the coming raid (and if so - when)? The raid is planned for just a couple of days so what is Juliet waiting for? And why continue doing real intelligence gathering she doesn't want to do? Jack's interest in the frieghter seemed like he wanted another route out of their problem - get to the frieghter and maybe they don't have to try whatever scheme they have cooking.

Jack versus Locke ... predictions galore.
I'm wouldn't be surprised if Locke surplants Ben by the end of the season. Jack will regain his position as camp leader after he gets them out of whatever jam Ben has cooking. Sun and/or Kate will get kidnapped. Charlie dies. In season four we start to see the camp divide between Lock and Jack and the next battle between science (DHARMA) and faith (Others) begins.

Emerald City
A while back I had wondered if there wasn't a large portion of the island left hidden to us which would be more advanced and/or civilized than the rest of the island. Otherville was kinda like that - but next week's episode is titled "Oz" ... so we'll see how much closer we can get.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Veronica Mars: Un-American Graffiti

Our girl V returned with a new episode last night. Still fighting for a fourth season, there are only four unaired episodes left at this point. Season three hasn't been the greatest ... in fact it's probably been the worst season so far ... but the show was showing some signs of life before the hiatus.

This episode hits a few high notes. Keith actually has a strong role in a subplot which seems to make sense for the show (as opposed to being an intersecting character who seemed to almost randomly appear). We get both Wallace and Mac - which honestly should be a requirement for every episode. Still miss Weevil though ... although Weevil hasn't properly been Weevil that much. Veronica actually seems to solve a case on her own terms and using logic instead of randomly accusing people and stumbling on information. The social/drama/romantic angle ... which is still feeding off of V's feelings for Logan ... was actually humorous and interesting.

In short, a solid episode which is at least reminscent of what was good in the second season although still short of the sweet greatness that was the first. There's a lot of talk of retooling the show to get the fourth season done ... although this season isn't a great result of trying to retool the show in the first place. I say focus on the present and let's hope this season ends on a high note.

Hardware: The React and Nerf Controllers

Some workmen blame their tools. Most programmers do, at least. Many gamers end up pointing at their hardware. Heck, some circles of PC gaming are practically based on the concept.

So when The Girl and I started to get back into Tiger Woods PGA 2005 we needed something to blame all that shanking on. When we visited her sister and used brand spanky new controllers ... we found our mark. Surely, it was the controllers.

Yesterday I got one Nerf controller (because The Girl likes to threaten violence on her hardware) and the React Tilt controllers (which proposes to bring SIXAXIS like control to the PS2). As I noted on the earlier post - I assumed one of these would turn out somewhat stupid. I wasn't sure which.

The Girl actually gave the Nerf controller pretty decent marks. She didn't like that the shoulder buttons were close together and completely identical - making it hard to guess which is the top and bottom on the fly. This is actually problematic in Tiger Woods as you need to flip between the usage quickly. Still, she got the hang of it and enjoyed being able to crush the controller in her hands. She didn't actually try throwing it - yet. It looks like it would survive the trip though. My only complaint is that the battery case has a tiny screw that might thread if you beat the controller enough. Should be easy to replace though.

Point to Nerf.

I tried driving using the React's tilt sensor. Originally I just held up the controller and then brought it back down on my knee. This worked a little - but not really. For one thing the tilt sensor seems to confuse the shoulder buttons, which as noted are somewhat important during the game. Plus there didn't seem to be any consistent method to swinging the controller that would appease the swing. In the end, the analog stick was much easier and more precise.

No point to React. The documentation and box state that the tilt is best suiting for flying and driving games. I don't really have any flying games, so I'll try it on Need For Speed sometime and report back. The good news is that it's no more expensive than your average wireless controller and sans tilt function, it's a decent gamepad. So not really wasted money.

But still the loser in terms of money spent. I think the tilt function's best use would be as a practical joke on your drunk gaming friends. I'm still happily using it, just with the function turned off.

Dog Walking Arcade Game

Lisa Katayama o' Tokyomango found (and played) this gem:

This is arguably the most challenging arcade game I have ever played. Much more so than Beatmania or DDR (j/k, I so don't play DDR) or Street Fighter II. Basically you have to walk on a treadmill while holding this white dog's leash. Walk too fast, and he'll get tired. Walk too slow, and he'll get bored. And when obstacles like the neighborhood bully dog or a oncoming car shows up on the screen, you better steer clear! If you mess up, your dog dies.
-- Virtual Dog-Walking Arcade Game [TOKYOMANGO]

Wow, if The Girl played a game where a dog died every time she failed - it might turn into a kind of therapy moment. Animal injuries and needles top the list of things she needs proper protection from seeing.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Last Word On The Shelf Theory

My local (suburb) Best Buy has a stack of 360 Elites right next to a stack of PlayStation 3's. By the Guitar Hero II stand, there's an equally large stack of 360 Premiums.

So whenever the blogosphere would like to begin screaming irrationally about how nobody wants the Elite, that would be fine. I'm walking away from this one now.

On a side and potentially more constructive note, I got a Nerf PS2 controller and the React PS2 motion controller (which has a tilt sensor). One of these is a really dumb idea and the other one isn't - but I'm not sure which.

TV Watch: Hustle Versus The Riches

I had previously compared The Riches and Hustle, two very different shows about con artists, to musical styles. Last night was somewhat interesting though as the Rich family pulled off a real long con (the most ambitious thing they'd ever tried) - in a very similar style to the early episodes of Hustle.

On the other side of things, Hustle is struggling with its third season. The actor who played Mickey Briggs is gone and Mickey's confident and calculating methods of handling complicated cons is sorely missed on the show. Danny Blue's character still had a lot of growing up to do before assuming a leadership post - something the show had repeatedly made clear and is now seeming to conveniently forget. The first two episodes of the season hardly feel like the same show and the rationale for Mickey's absence is rather paper thin.

They're still very different shows - but it is always interesting to see where they intersect. I can't say this episode of The Riches was as good as a season one Hustle heist, but it came close. Maybe Hustle should be trying to learn a few new tricks to navigate out of its current mess.

Heroes: String Theory (AKA Five Years Gone)

String Theory appropriately managed to culminate all the good work that Heroes has managed produce over the last month or so. When the show started I was rather concerned with its ability to open plot gaps and jump right through them - where this episode showed a remarkable sense of itelf, the characters and the events that had lead up to it. It even managed to do one thing I think the show hasn't been able to provide to date - prove that Sylar can not only be a formidable villain but a rather interesting one at that.

Linderman was noticeably absent from his own mad scheme - although we might guess that a certain watch repairman didn't necessarily feel he should be around. Heroes now officially echoes some of the best concepts of the comic genre it emulates - from Moore's concepts of evil to the Claremont's fear of mutants.

It's also beginning to feel like this season is going to end with a ... well, proper ending. I had assumed that a la Lost the show would drag out the conclusion of New York for at least a season or two, but it seems like they might wrap up the concept of stopping the tragedy and the next season would be a whole new storyline.

Which would be nice.

Veronica Mars MIis

Michigan gaming blog MLive offers up a slew of Miis from the show Veronica Mars including, naturally. Kristen Bell herself. The rational is that Bell is Michigan native, a gamer and they'd really, really like to see a season four from the show. Good enough for me.

Monday, April 30, 2007


Sony is getting in all kinds of hot water for their display of a goat sacrifice complete with topless women. The Mail, which I gather is a paper for people who like to be outraged at things, is so completely and utterly astonished that anyone would dare have the indignity to stage such event in public has responded by offering up this image on the Internet - so that the thousands and thousands of people who wouldn't normally have seen the spectacle can now make it their desktop wallpaper.

Well. How utterly brilliant is that. What a better way to take a moral stand than to broadcast the thing that shocks you to even more people. I wish my parents had used a similar philosophy with their feelings on me watching porn.

For record, I think this is rather brilliant on Sony's part. OK, having to pull a bunch of magazines is a bunch dense - but the publicity is amazing.

Problems In The Land Of Downloads

A pair of articles from Ars Technica tosses a dash of cold water on one of the better reasons to own a new console these days, downloadable content. The first indicates that Microsoft's latest attempt to make a more expensive console is having a bit of a DRM issue:

I moved my Live account from my old system to the Elite easily enough, and then I started to redownload all my Arcade games. This is kind of a process since I have over 20 games and the system only lets you queue up to six downloads at a time. I sat down and played some Geometry Wars, and then I remembered hearing about the problems people had with migrating their games. I rarely have my system away from my home network, so I reached back and unplugged the cable to see if I could play the games without the online authentication. 

All the games, all of them, turned into demos that asked me to download the full version. This is very unhappy making. I plug my cable back in and get on the phone.
-- If you upgrade into an Elite, your Arcade games have a surprise for you

For those too lazy to follow that link, the phone call doesn't go well.

The second reports that the Wii's Virtual Console is getting sluggish sales as of late:

As of January 24, over 1.5 million games had been downloaded from the Virtual Console. Given the low cost for Nintendo inherent in the Virtual Console system, this was a remarkable show for a collection of age-old games that would have otherwise been mere memories. From February until now, though, sales were in the 1.8 million range; a strange occurrence given that the console's user base has grown substantially since early January. Iwata's comments suggest that in the first two months Nintendo was selling 750,000 titles each month, but that has dipped to 600,000/month since February. Those aren't bad sales numbers, but with many more Wiis in use today than in December, the downturn is surprising.
-- Nostalgia getting old? Virtual Console sales heading south

I think the real problem here is that until the Wii's library significantly improves, the VC is one of the better reasons to own the machine. Since most people probably buy a Wii due the hype surrounding the controller, I doubt this could lead to a decline in overall hardware sales for the big N - but it's not a shiny moment for them.

Frisbee and Katamari

Frisbee has, as a game, some interesting mechanics. There are no points. It's not competitive because, well, sans points there can be no loser and no winner. It's not really cooperative because of said points and also a complete lack of a shared goal. Even catching the frisbee is ratehr optional - so even any goal. Of any kind. In fact, frisbee has no endgame. Frisbee is over when a majority of participants decides the game is over.

In other words - on paper ... frisbee is pretty weak. However, even though nobody expects it to enter the Olympics any time in the near future, it's a pretty popular game. And most people would describe it as a game - they say "play some frisbee" or "a game of frisbee" easily in place or in preference to "throw a frisbee".

We had some housesitters over the weekend and invited them to try out Katamari Damarcy while they were around. After talking about the game when we returned, it occured to me that Katamari's popularity is cut from much of the same cloth. Yes, there are more tangible goals (unlockable content) and there are real points to score. However there isn't really an endgame to Katamari (more like a finite number of cinematics) and the game couldn't really be considered cooperative or competitive ... you're mostly just playing against yourself but there is little harm in being "bad" at the game. It's only cooperative (and of course I'm ignoring the 2P mode) in the sense that another person increases your chances of clearing a level - which is actually a pretty potent form of couch coop on its own.

Like frisbee, I'm not sure

Notes From Management: Back In Town

Been out of the city since Friday, just got back in yesterday night. Exhausted as hell with little inertia to speak of right now. Alter expectations accordingly.