Cathode Tan - Games, Media and Geek Stuff
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Saturday, October 27, 2007

For Sunday: Kitty Alarm Clock

Pretty accurate.

Friday, October 26, 2007

What I Like About The UT3 Newsletter

The alt tag for one of the images is just "Blood Streak". You know that's some badass news coming your way.

Apparently they're going to update the PC version soon? I assume that means the demo, but haven't seen any feeds indicating a new release.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Nolan Continues His Rant

GameTap called for some clarification, and Nolan continued bashing the industry he helped spawn:

GameTap: So why do you think it got picked up so widely?

Nolan Bushnell: What I have consistently been concerned about is sort of the repetition and the lack of innovation. Innovation is one of those things that I value very highly, and I just find that as much as I applaud the beautiful, fantastic production guys of Halo 3, it’s really Doom 1 in different clothing. Clothing or not, the clothing is nicer, but the game is the same. And so is it an economic success to do Halo 3? Absolutely. Is the network connecting architecture fantastic? Yes, it’s wonderful. Is there real innovation? Not a lot.

And then, I’ve been for a long time extremely critical of the Grand Theft Auto series, which, to me, really, and they can say it’s R-rated and what have you. But the reality is kids play that game, and it really not only doesn’t teach you anything [of value], it teaches you the wrong things. It values antisocial behavior, and God knows we’ve got a certain amount of problem with that in the United States or in the world today. I just feel like, you know, these things that you can make a buck on should be chastised.

I think that there’s a time that people shouldn’t keep their mouths shut about stuff that’s really sh--ty.
-- Kill the Editors!

That last line seems to ring a little hypocritical to me. Nolan lumps praise for pretty much any game with a physical movement component (DDR, Guitar Hero) and complains that editors kill all the good ideas.

I'm certainly one to argue that the mainstream of the gaming industry does not breed innovation, but I'm also realistic enough to know that some of it just the nature of business - risk versus reward. Things have changed a bit since Nolan sold Atari.

And for someone who wants to get a lot of press bitching about things, I don't see what old Nolan is doing to innovate himself. Putting Pong into a kiosk at a dinner table isn't exactly revolution in design.

His hate for GTA highlights a huge flaw with this argument. GTA did manage to innovate - its one of the reasons for its success. But because he doesn't like the subject material, he wants it to go away.

Look - if movies, television, books, comics or virtually any medium out there followed Nolan's critique that if it can possibly get into a child's hands then it should be child friendly, art would be a pretty boring landscape. This "games are all kid's play" attitude might have fit in the Atari 2600 age - but not anymore.

For someone who is complaining an awful lot about innovation, the real problems seems to be that Nolan can't keep up with the times.

Let's Go NaNo

NaNoWriMo, or the National Novel Writing Month to the uninitiated, is just a week away. I plan on trying my luck again this year - I won last year by the skin of my teeth by essentially by rewriting large portions of the story for the last 10,000 words. I hope to have the new IF in a demo mode by then, because I probably won't be writing on it during NaNo, but a totally different story instead. I had thought about doing a screenplay for BlindSight, but have reconsidered.

My biggest problem will be if my allergies keep up. It's been hard to remain focused when I'm having trouble breathing and/or high on Sudafed. Either way, NaNo isn't about the winning, it's about having the excuse to write. It doesn't have to be good, or complete, or even readable - it's a good goal just to have something there. Critics of NaNo claim they belittle the apparently high art of novel writing.

I say it's better to have anything rather than just having a blank page and anyone who thinks that building a community around writing should be exclusive only to those serious enough about it to want it as a profession should shut the hell up and worry about their deadlines.

Which reminds me, The Girl forwarded Write Around The Block yesterday and it looks worthy of investigation. It's a reader review collective that explicitly leaves commercial aspects aside - so no worrying about spam or people pushing you to POD everything. There are entry fees, but also prizes, so take it for what it is.

So consider this my usual disclaimer. If Cathode Tan looks a little abandoned, check your calendar. It's probably November. I'll post a link to the new novel blog later.

TV Watch: Pushing Daisies

If Bionic Woman is the slow kid on the Wednesday lineup, Pushing Daisies is something like the artistic savant. The Girl really wanted to check out it and to be honest, I was somewhat luke warm towards the premise. Actually, I think I was luke warm to get another Dead Like Me experience, which started out clever and fun but quickly just got confusing, mixed up and melodramatic.

There are two things which makes this show a winner: the handling of the premise and the framing of the story. The latter composes the show like a modern day fairy tale, from the voice over narration to the vibrant colors and set design. The premise, a pie maker who can raise the dead with a touch but will permanently kill those he raises if he touches them again, could have turned out pure schtick or messy plot device (much like Dead Like Me's reaper mechanics turned out to be). It's not only neither, but is used superbly to accent an ongoing subplot about human contact.

I mean - if the scene where a boy can't pet his incredible dog doesn't click with you - you might need to get your frontal lobe checked.

Add in Chi McBride (the principle from Boston Public) as a stern, hard-boiled detective who likes to knit and Kristin Chenoweth as a spurned it-doesn't-really-matter because she's cute as a button and gets to sing ... and the show really takes off.

Hopefully the show will have considerably more longevity than Dead Like Me got, because at the moment it's a real gem.

Bionic Woman Goes From Mediocre To Bad

So let's pretend you're a project manager for an ultra secret, mysteriously funded, covert operation whose stated goal is to save the world, rescue the princess, beat up guys wearing black hats and eat apple pie (probably in that order). You have a budget which comfortably includes a secret mountain lair and a multi-million dollar bionics program (although presumably that price is cheap because you're importing a lot of widgets from China).

You prime asset is a bionic woman. She's an ex-bartender and most of her training came with her ROM. The last time you sent her out on assignment you forgot to give her a cover story so she went with an old standby that doesn't work as well when you're covering up a trip to Paraguay as it does when you're lying to your sister about a late Friday night.

So this time you come up with a cover story. But for kicks and giggle, just for a lark - you decide that she should come from someplace which requires a thick accent. If this ex-bartender with less training than a minister who got his license from the back of the Weekly World New can't pull off this accent, she's pretty much hosed and the whole mission will fail and you won't get any pie.

Regretfully by the time you realize your totally boneheaded mistake the ID cards have already been printed with the word "England" on them - so really, what's a highly paid professional to do?

Thankfully the actress hired to portray your bionic woman actually comes from England so she can pull it off without a hitch. Mind you that realizing that she's an actress and not actually bionic is the result of some completely craptacular writing.

And honestly, it didn't end there last night. Then you get the happy serendipity that is Jamie's roomie. Hey, she just happens to have a James Joyce assignment? Really? Wow, that's amazing because she was just talking about that before the commercial break.

In an age of television where shows like Damages and West Wing exist, the writing on Bionic Woman amounts to no less than criminal negligence. The staff should not be fired, they should be locked up for the safety and preservation of a free society. I wanted to like the show, to forgive its faults, but ... I just can't. And neither should anyone else.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Jack Thompson On Fox

The Brother sent along this clip:

I love how Jack tries to state that this is the only game he thinks should be banned - even though his list includes pretty much everything Rockstar ever developed. It's pretty typical Fox counteryelling all in all - and enjoy the fact that the clips of the ultraviolence are usually about three times larger than the talking heads themselves.

Jack complains that the rating change was meaningless since their wasn't enough development time to make the change, but as NintendoWiiFanboy points out - he has no idea what he's talking about.

TV Schedules On The Wii

If you head over here, you'll see a page which lists the shows The Girl and I are interested for the evening. It's formatted (albeit crudely, hey - I did it during commercial breaks for House and Damages last night) for the Wii. The buttons on the top and bottom will scroll when clicked on.

To enjoy this for yourself, you'll need to do the following:

1. Get a Wii (plus access to some kind of HTML editor and a web server)
2. Go sign up for an account at
3. Search or browse the schedule and get some favorites (shown by the heart). Note that you can also fave by genre, which is handy when you just want to know what westerns play on Saturday.
4. Head to their services and find your RSS link
5. Add this feed to Google Reader under the tag/folder "tv"
6. Go into the settings of Google Reader and under "tags" make "tv" public
7. Right click, or head over and "view source" and save my current page onto your computer.
8. On the tags page of Google Reader's settings, go to tv's public page
9. In the URL of the public page will be a large number, copy that.
10. In the source of my page, there will be script tag with a src that looks similar to the public page. Paste your large number over my large number.
11. Upload your page to a web server and point your Wii to it.

That's it. Just eleven moderately technical steps. Honestly the best use of the Wii's Internet Channel I could think of and MeeVee's normal page doesn't work in Opera Wii. Sadly, I didn't realize Opera Wii also only has Flash 7 support, so you can see my original Flex implementation is much prettier, took like ten minutes to write and uses the normal RSS feed - but won't run on the Wii. I know Adobe is anxious to get Flash 9 working on non-PC devices - and now so am I.

The Simpsons GTA Parody

Here's the trailer to Mob Rules, part of The Simpsons game that parodies GTA. As rumor has it, Rockstar wasn't thrilled with it and the original "Grand Theft Scratchy" moniker was dropped. Meh.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Thing With Nolan Bushnell...

Nolan Bushnell, popularly revered as the father of electronic games, is still inventing and dreaming of new ways for people to use technology for fun. In fact, he is forging a different direction from today's shoot 'em up, beat 'em down, tear 'em apart electronic diversions. He sees a generation of video games that foster fun, social interaction, and education.

"Video games today are a race to the bottom. They are pure, unadulterated trash and I'm sad for that," says Bushnell.

To create the shift, Bushnell is taking his experience as an amusement park game barker, inventor of Pong, and founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese Pizza Time restaurants and rolling it all into a new pursuit - uWink. Instead of creating games primarily played by one lone player, or occasionally two players, Bushnell wants to create an environment for families or groups of adults to have fun.

His first step in that direction was the fall 2006 opening of uWink in Woodland Hills, Calif. It is an entertainment dining experience where people can play tabletop games, interact, and enjoy tasty, reasonably priced meals.
-- Nolan Bushnell: Serious Thoughts About Fun And Games

The easy response here is that Nolan has just grown wildly out of touch with modern gaming. I mean, really, uWink's games offering includes a Pong clone, a trivia game and something his daughter thought was cool. We're not exactly talking evolution here.

And the things he hits on as talking points - more positive, social gaming ... is exactly what the Wii has been using for branding since it was named the Wii.

But hey, the guy helped start the gaming industry, so let's just chalk up a generalized quote in a story as just that and let him try and run a business.

Venn Diagram Of PlayStation 3 Models

Chris Kohler of Wired's Game|Life blog breaks down the PlayStation 3 models in a handy Venn diagram for the class. I don't see how this isn't a problem for Sony. It's a bit of a weirdness for Microsoft - but they have a much more streamlined lineup with variants basically being hard drive space and HDMI output. Oh, and color.

I also noted over at Curmudgeon that I think Sony's other problem is the slow rate of HDTV adoption, since there's no way any PS3 is preceeding such a purchase. Based on recent news, only 36% of homes will have an HDTV by year's end - and certainly not 100% of those will be gamers.

Tweaks I'd Make: Super Monkey Ball, Team Fortress 2, Red Steel

There's a combination you'd probably never see in a sentence. They happen to be the games I'm alternating through whenever I get the chance.

No, I haven't played Portal yet.

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz
This is a Wii title The Brother recommended, and I'm quite glad he did. It wouldn't normally have made my radar and it's really a ton of fun. The tilt-a-ball play of the single player suits the wiimote perfectly and they have a barrel full of multiplayer mini-game modes.

What would I tweak? Honestly I find the boss fights pretty jarring. I just spent ten minutes trying to rotate from A to B and now I'm worried about targeting a beak?

On the multiplayer side - I wished they had shaved down the number of games and increased the framework around it. Why don't all of these minigame collections allow you to log in a group of people once and then perform some kind of tournament mode?

Red Steel
Ah, poor Red Steel. So ambitious, so the target of kicks and jibes. So deserving of it too. Weird as it might sound, when I play this game I just wish they had made it a rails shooter. The level design is very reminiscent of them anyway and it would instantly resolve the control problem. The sword play essentially is on rails anyway - so why not make the whole game follow suit?

Team Fortress 2
There's an old IT saying - this network would be fine if it weren't for all the users. Goes for online games too - these teams would be fine if it weren't for all the players. The biggest problem online games, and especially team based ones, have is that they run counter to human nature.

Case in point - last night the red team was just getting trashed. Our highest scorer was like a third of half the other team. Four of our number hadn't scored at all and two of those had just joined. So what does the new guy do? He complains about how much the team sucks and then flips over to blue. Wow, what a strategy - when you can't win - just hit a key and bam! You're a winner.

Or a point whore. I've seen it multiple times. One team is just overwhelming the other, and mysteriously people from the losing team either disconnect or magically appear in a different color.

This problem has always existed and was, when not chasing cheaters, one of the key problems that existed with administrating a Counter-Strike server. When do you try and balance a team because the game has gotten so off-balanced that it just isn't fun for half the players. Not easy for a human, and hence certainly not for a server - but that doesn't mean in the last five years people shouldn't have been trying to solve it. When a match goes 5-0 in under twenty minutes and the top five guys on one team have five times the score of the top five guys on the other team? Time to mix up the teams.

And there should be a flag to make that mandatory - because trust me, you can't generally trust the players.

Monday, October 22, 2007

DVD Watch: 28 Weeks Later

28 Weeks Later is the sequel to Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later and falls into one of those "the movie made money but the director doesn't want to really do a sequel so takes a producer credit instead" sort of deals.

These deals are usually bad. Weeks Later succeeds at least as much as it fails, sometimes being capable of delivering truly frightening situations and some very solid acting from everyone involved. The directing and cinematography proves that sometimes imitation is flattery as occasionally the look of the film drifts back into Boyle's territory. As simply a horror film, the movie works quite well.

Unless you pay too much attention to the plot. The movie adds a new layer to the concept - that being a view of the global reaction to the viral outbreak. Somehow this reaction manages to be far, far more chaotic and, well to be honest, stupid than what we didn't really see in the first movie. The only reason there is any action in this movie is through the complete blundering of those responsible to stop it from happening.

Plus there are a few liberties taken with the viral concept - like having a singular "zombie" as a nemesis throughout the movie which never, ever, entirely clicks.

If you liked the first movie, I think this one is a safe recommendation - it's fun and scary even if not terribly smart.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

For Sunday: Super Mario Galaxy Trailer

Oddly a For Sunday post ... on Sunday. Via WiiFanboy. Do I see there's a two player coop mode? Sweet.