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Friday, June 03, 2005

Grumpy on SAG

Somehow I thought that title would come out sounding lewd, but it totally didn't.

Any way, witness Grumpy Gamer taking on SAG:

The Developer won't make royalties until they've paid back what they spent, but they are getting a much smaller cut than the Publisher is. It is very common for the Publisher to break-even on a game, and the Developer is nowhere near recouping the advance on the royalties.

What does this have to do with paying Actors royalties? That depends on who's cut the extra royalties come from. If the Developers have to pay these royalties out of the development budget, then the Publisher gets away close to scott-free, while the Developer takes it in the...

This has been drifting around a bit, but I think Grumpy manages to more or less nail it on the proverbial head. I personally think professional voice actors can add a lot to a cinematic experience ... but c'mon, games once survived on less. Plus, there's a wide berth of talented voice actors out there that aren't hardcode hollywood talent. Using A-list talent is a luxury. As soon as the big publishing houses really give into these kind of forces, a part of the gaming industry will be swallowed into the games-are-movies dark side.

But wait, what does Wesley Crusher have to say?

Yeah -- $275 an hour would be a huge amount if actors did that kind of work several times a week but the average, working-class actor is lucky to get four of those jobs a year.
-- Wil Wheaton []

Wil supports the strike, and let's face it ... he's got a valid perspective. But I don't see where the fact that voice actors are underpaid really takes any wind out of Grumpy's arguments. What seems to be needed here is way for quality talent - whether that's a coder, artist or actor, to be paid justly without stealing from each other's pockets. I don't think Grumpy is saying that's impossible ... just don't trust the publishing houses to do it that way.

Especially remembering that the next generation of titles are probably going to cost you an extra $10.

Oh look. The PC Sky is Falling. Again.

Gosh darnit, no sooner than a minute after someone sends me this does it echo around the blogosphore like a drunken bat in large party cave:

So there's a still lot of jockeying in store for both Microsoft and Sony as we head toward next year's E3, where, in all probability, comparisons will abound when we get to compare all the new games side by side.

What I am willing to predict, however, even at this early stage, is that the real loser in all of this will be PC gaming. Let's start with Quake 4, which uses the "old" Doom 3 engine but still came across as one of the more impressive PC titles I saw at the show. Id, Quake 4's developer, was also showing an Xbox 360 version of the same game behind closed doors, and those reporters I polled at the show confirmed what I thought: they really couldn't discern any difference between the two versions.
-- Death to PC Gaming? [C|NET]

Yes, let's start with the Doom 3 engine. And let's reflect on a few facts. 1) The Doom 3 engine is one of the most powerful on the planet. 2) When Doom 3 was released, there was virtually not a computer on the planet which could utilize it to it's full capacity (unless you went into the future and brought back a 512MB video card). 3) When consoles are released, they have to pack enough hardware to survive several years of serious technology addiction.

So ... now, let's poll some more reporters and ask: Should anyone be surprised that the 360 version and PC version of Quake 4 look almost identical? I mean, I was playing Time Splitters: Future Perfect earlier this week and can tell you - it looks better on my PS2 than the original Unreal Tournament looked on my old PC. So ... what does that mean?

It doesn't mean anything. I've never been sure why people feel this compelling need to lump PC gaming with console gaming and see who a la cockfight will survive the longest. Virtually every console gamer I know also owns a PC. Maybe one has an outdated computer that wouldn't play UT2004. The truth is - PC gaming and console gaming are really oceans apart. They have different hardware timelines, different cultures and different markets. Consoles rely heavily on rentals, a concept virtually non-existent on PC's (except for, etc.). PC's have a thriving indie and mod community whereas consoles have homebrews. The genres are even slanted. PC's have a field of MMO's whereas consoles a scant few. Consoles rage at the latest sports genre, but it's mostly some CEO playing Links on his laptop for the PC crowd. And don't get me started on the last really decent strategy game that came out for a console.

With so much different between the two markets, why should anyone jump to the conclusion that one will kill of the other?

My prediction? I used to have this age old debate with my old boss about which would become the dominant form of handheld - a cell phone or a PDA. I said the PDA. He said cell phone. Anyone who has been to a Cingular store lately would know we were both right. If PC's and consoles will ever kill each other off - it will be via convergence and not dominance.

And we're probably a few generations away from that.

Why tease us, Nintendo?

Via games.slashdot, I read:

This is a clever move by Nintendo: regardless of the final power of Revolution and the frequency of new titles, Nintendo knows that its loyal fans will cry tears of joy over a free service that lets them download previous Nintendo classics straight out of the box.

Third-party developers could charge for the privilege to download though. Or, alternatively, they could offer downloadable classics as an incentive to buy their next-gen full price releases. Either way, classic Nintendo titles such as Castlevania and MegaMan may not be immediately accessible.
-- Nintendo Vice President Speaks [gamesradar]

OK. So we know that they'll have robust internet capabilities. We know they are going to be banking on downloadable games. We know it will have some kind of transaction capability. So when will the big N answer the question on the minds of several small developers --

What will it take to be invited to the table?

Embracing a really solid online market, for any of the console makers, and not making the system as open as reasonably possible, seems like a huge missed opportunity. Even with the PSP gaining speed when it comes to downloadable content and the emu community storms that platform, it leaves one wondering - why can't I download an app to my PSP like I could to my Palm.

Palm is probably a good example here. While Microsoft and others have been throwing hardware at the problem, Palm's software library helps keep it afloat. And there's some truly quality titles made by small studios or even individuals. Why shouldn't Sony leverage off the same group to achieve a similar effect. I suspect the PSP is harder to develop for, but with the right tools and if they removed their $15k dev kit from the equation - they'd get the games into the community ... and from the community.

So stop with the teasing, Nintendo. You got a lot of press from that one blurb during E3, but haven't come out to clarify. If you're going to ask someone to dance, just get up the courage to do it. The industry needs to stop being a wallflower on this one.

Dev Night Diary: Events and Sockets

Haven't had one of these in a bit, so I thought I would raise the notice that yeah, I am still developing. My biggest concern is that the XMLRPC code I'm using within the game itself will violate the LGPL because Torque 2D is closed source. The iTunes visualizer is pretty much all open source, so it's not an issue there. Theoretically - no big deal, because all the client needs to do is format a request and parse the response. For HTTP transactions, it would only be simpler if the RPC server was using GET instead of POST ... but that's not much of a leap.

Problem I have right now is that I can't seem to get any of the T2D events from their net classes to trigger. They run, but they don't seem to tell anyone. I'm not sure if this is a problem with the Mac build, because the code seems to work elsewhere. I'd rather be playing with procedural textures, but it's hard to justify that when I couldn't even release this to anyone, even for free, until this code is replaced.

Costik on G4

How to spot the modern day adult gamer:

Second, I'm a televisionophone; my ex-wife says I used to sneer at her whenever she turned on the TV, and since the divorce (ten years ago), I've never had cable, on the theory that the kids have the TV turned on all the damn time when they're with her, and when they're with me they can play games or read books. I have a TV, but it's attached to my 10 console systems (with a switchbox so you can move from one to the other at the push of a button without having to fiddle with cables), and we do watch the occasional movie or South Park episode on DVD (via the PS 2), but given all the EM traffic hereabouts generated by investment banks and brokers, OTA reception sucks. So there's no practical way to watch TV. And I like it like that.
-- Greg Costikyan

Greg was just on G4, and there he talks about his rationale, like any blue-blooded American needs a reason to be on TV. In actuality, I can understand his doubts. After seeing Hatsumi on the same show, wherein they mostly talked about licking and then had her, you know lick things, as if that's pretty much her use on the net... yeah, OK ... it was just humor and everyone had a good time. Just don't ask me to take the show seriously, ya know?

But when you get a glass in hand, raise it to Greg for fighting the good fight. He talks about the three problems he sees for the gaming industry and is willing to fly twelve hours to push the effort four minutes into the future.

Thursday, June 02, 2005


Overheard on AIM:

as soon as Paige gets in the shower, I'm sneaking on the PlayStation 2

Worse part? It was to play Legos Star Wars. There's not many moments geekier than that. However, it's a damn fine game that I'll talk about more in the morning.

Dress Steve Jobs

After a long day of swatting flies, it's good to have a laugh.

So I pimped out Steve Jobs.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Try Again, Matthew

Matthew Gallant over at Computer Games Magazine wrote up a review of the recent Carnival of Gamers that Senor Buttonmasher organized. I'd like to take a moment to help Matthew with his reading skills. Let me start you with what my grade school teacher taught me: Read everything completely and thoroughly.

Seems simple? Well, Matt dismissed the Carnival completely because he didn't like the first blog that was linked, which happened to be Tea Leaves' dissection of an honest review ...

I didn't bother with any of the other articles; if that's what they're going to lead with, then I can just go to the local middle school playground and ask for the hippest in gaming editorial there. I guess that since I've written for the sites that he slams, my words are immediately suspect, but I don't really care; I'm going to argue anyway.
-- Matthew Gallant, CGOnline

Wow. I feel bad, because I meant to e-mail Tony and remind him that "if it bleeds it leads" was the rule for real journalism since clearly the idea of the Carnival was to order the blogs in the most interesting manner. Then I remembered that was idiotic since the whole goal was just to let people submit what they wanted and not rank or judge them individually. Silly me.

Of course, if I used Matt's harsh method of reading, I wouldn't get past his first sentence:

Slashdot and other sites have thrown a link the way of this thing called "The Carnival of Gamers", a blog that collects articles posted on other gaming blogs.

Actually Matt ... there isn't any blog called "The Carnival of Gamers". There is a blog which does what you what you describe (gameblogs) ... but is the blog, the Carnival was just a post and next time it will be posted somewhere else. So, tell me, Mr. Gallant - if you can't even make your first sentence factually correct ... why should I bother reading anything after that? What's funny, of course, if that if Matthew had just bothered reading the whole post, that would be evident to him. I guess reading one page is too time-consuming for his busy day of, you know, not reading things.

And what's Matthew's big beef with Tea Leaves? Well, since Tea Leaves buys their own games and they consider that a point of integrity ... they clearly just don't get the industry:

Our paladin of game reviewing trots out the standby that he's got more integrity than any reviewer at any major site or mag because he buys his games. What the guy doesn't know is that half the time your editor will tell you to go buy the game, and you get the price of the game added on to your fee for the review. What the guy doesn't know (and should because it's so completely obvious) is that publishers send review copies to sites and magazines because it costs them virtually nothing to do so, and if they don't it's because they just forget.

Is it me or does he seems to try to dismiss the point that purchasing games for review is honest by bragging about how he gets his for free? Yeah, that makes sense.

Having read all of Tea Leaves' post, there are things I kinda disagree with (for instance, that Roger Ebert is truly credible), but towards the end he brings home a fine point:

All that's needed to write (and edit) great reviews is a commitment to clear writing, a desire to be something other than an industry shill, and the strength of character to keep your published words consistent with that desire.
-- The Best Review A Money Can Buy

And is probably something Matthew should read again, considering I'm now far more likely to read the Tea Leaves blog than any of his columns.

Speaking of - why is a professional game reviewer getting paid to review a blog? Particularly one they don't like? That's like devoting a magazine review to a mod that just sucks. You're more likely to get people to play it than not.

I thought the games.slashdot responses were odd - but at least those were just bored geeks, not someone taking a check.

Oh right, magazines need filler from time to time. I forget.

Workplace Distraction: Sith Sense

As much as I disliked the film, this flash game is somewhat fun. It's a promo for BK where Darth Vader tries to guess what object you're thinking of ... and I'll go ahead and tell you he doesn't seem to understand "lightsaber" although he got "satellite" right quick.

Kicking the PC (?)

I've been a PC gamer since those two terms got slapped together. Actually, to get real old school I was a TI gamer before that. While the Atari 2600 is probably responsible for making me a junkie, and the Intellivision for making me a believer ... the PC was always home for me in the end. Nothing could beat the horsepower and versatility of a PC game.

So why is it now, a month after I stupidly broke my rig, am I contemplating just trying to get the data off the hard drives and not getting it running again?

Well my cheapest solution is to buy a really low end 939 chip and just use the old, insufficient, cooling system I had before. That would run around $200. Course, that wouldn't solve any of the original problems which made the PC a pain and probably not long for this world (noise = open case, open case = cat hair + electricity ... do the math). Plus, I've clearly shown an inability to handle CPU installation well, so I'm taking a gamble. So the reasonable solution would be to replace the case, mobo and ventilation system as well - which brings us closer to $600 on the low end (but still using quality, quiet PC parts).

Now, here's the problem with that. I have an old Radeon 9700 which I hold dear to my heart. Course, that's an AGP card. Everything now is moving to PCI-E. nVidia just released SLI technology and ATI is following suit. So I could spend $600 on a setup which could become obsolete in about a year. Previously my rationale for having a high end machine was that I did development work on it ... but now I've grown accustomed to doing that work on the Mini. So the PC would mostly be for games now.

And for $600 I could get an XBox, a GameCube, a hefty amount of games and still set some aside for one of the upcoming consoles. That's about three times the current gaming power that I would have.

Chances are, I'll probably cave in - since I have some stuff invested with Windows XP anyway. However, I gotta say that the PC world doesn't do itself any favors by re-inventing the framework so often. I don't even think there's much out there that really uses the power of my AGP card yet. In other words, PC technology can become obsolete even before it's fully utilized. Consoles, on the other hand, continue to max out their technology until the next generation comes along.

This isn't a "Peecees drroool" rant, it's just a statement of frustration. In the next couple of months, the current consoles are going to plummet in price while the new kids come into town. The 360 and PS3 are, for a little while, lay shame to PC graphics for a fraction of the cost. Then, when dual core chips and dual video cards come down to reasonable levels, the PCs will probably be back towards the top. The advantage of PC's is supposed to be their "standards based architecture" as I keep hearing it called, and yet those standards change like the tides. So people trying to assemble a PC are always stuck in between this issue of "what's acceptable right now" and "what's a path for the future" ... and the rewards for both seem somewhat limited.

RebelStar Diary

I'm a little late on posting this, so loyal readers of Gamespy will be bored. However, since this is probably the closest I'll get to my poorly crafted list of demands, I'm fairly jazzed:

It is an evolution of the original Rebelstar and also our classic PC game X-Com: UFO Defense. I will explain a little about how we created the game design, but first I need pay homage to a GBA title that made it possible for us to develop Rebelstar for the system in the first place.

I first played Nintendo's Advance Wars a couple of years ago, and I was hooked immediately.
-- RebelStar Dev Diary

Yeah. He just used the words X-Com and Advance Wars in the same breath. This is just the kind of title I need to keep paying attention to my GBA for a while longer.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

XBox 360 and Procedural Generation

I've been researching procedural generation of art assets for my current projects, but those are 2D. According to Ars Technica, the 360 is geared to do it for 3D worlds ( thanks Blues ).

Remember Will Wright's talk about Spore? Well this is that idea but with the help of some hardware. Basically it's a workaround for the bottleneck of art production having to be done by hand. Pretty smart stuff, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it take off across the board.

Something Completely Different: Comics

Just to prove that I haven't completely lost my sense of humor:

See! And I didn't even mention that Japan just banned GTA.

...and I didn't even pimp Corvus' excellent comic on the Illinois Bill....

Demuzio Law Review

Just one final word(s) on this before I try to ignore it forever (until it effects me directly).

Of all the things which are somewhat disturbing about the Illinois Law, and there are several, the one I find the most is that it's still almost completely unknown to the general gaming public. Blogs have picked up on it far more the mainstream media ... and the gaming media is just completely void on the issue from what I can see. The problem with that is this was a law made for political reasons and unless we remind these people that gamers are parents AND voters in more and more numbers every day then this issue will continue to just steamroll on until the industry starts to actually assume self-censorship.

Much of what the law is about is ill-informed and some parts are just plain wrong. It passed not based on it's merits - but based on it's feel-good nature (think of the kids!) and almost complete lack of opposition from the public.

Will it destroy mods and indies? OK, probably not. I agree with the consensus that some relatively basic consent agreements can probably shield those not already protected. Course, there's a couple logistical problems there. One - people need to be aware that they should be doing that, and the same failure to communicate which allowed this bill probably won't be there to pass that message along. Then, of course, there will be those who won't believe they need to do it.

Heck, many modders are minors ... so how complicated would that get?

Hopefully the ESA will be able to slap this down. It's vague, it's relatively hard to enforce and it's pretty ineffective. I don't think ESA will be able to fight this on First Amendment grounds but I think the public safety stuff won't stick together the way it's framed this time around.

What's disturbing about the general lack of hurrumph on this issue is that there will be another time around and I don't know if anyone will be watching or caring. If most attitudes are "those kinds of law will never be upheld" or even "the industry deserves it" and big press game media don't even want to touch it, this will always be a fluff issue politicians and lawyers will use to make their case, career or election year.

And if we aren't careful, they'll eventually slip it right past us. And when some small studio gets served for taking part in some youth crime in a state they've never set foot in ... we'll probably have to blame ourselves.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Boxing and Sex

The Illinois law is about to take the gaming industry into unfamiliar waters. Man Bytes Blog points us towards Wired for the optimistic thought that it will go away. I'll probably focus more on that in the morning when I wrap all this coverage up. However, more importantly, he also gives us a blueprint on how to treat the situation:

If the receiving party is made aware of the transaction they are about to engage in and agree that it is legal, proper, and the consequences are not the responsibility of the other party, that’s consent. The example the site uses is boxing. If you walk up to someone on the street and beat the holy living poop out of them, that’s a crime. If you get into a boxing ring with someone and beat them until they’ll never be able to think straight again, that’s consent.
- Man Bytes Blog's Nature of Consent

Where is he getting this ideas from? Well, the adult film industry of course. Even if Demuzio doesn't want to treat video games like an ethical issue, the problem from a distribution portion is the same. Make 100% clear that your material is not for minors (if desired or required) and force the user to recognize that fact. Yeah, little Timmy can probably just click a few keys to get to your information, but you can force him to agree to your terms.

It might not be as water-tight as a credit card check, but it's probably tighter than law that's about to be signed.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Demuzio Bill is now Law

But supporters insisted the government has a duty to help parents shield children from violence and sexuality. "Don't let them become the monsters that we see in these violent games," Democratic Rep. Monique Davis said.

- Ill. Lawmakers Seek Video Game Sales Ban

Sorry, I would have something to say ... but I just vomited in my own mouth.