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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Doom versus the Corpse Bride

The Girl is out of town this weekend, so I've got what the work crowd calls "unsupervised time". Last night I tried to save her from having to avoid bad movies by watching a few by myself. Doom made the short list, but the local video store was out of copies ... though they did have three copies of Tim Burton's Corpse Bride. Three copies.

So, that's the kind of world we live in ... where Doom is in higher demand than Corpse Bride.

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Does Nintendo Solve The Gore Gap?

The Brother is home sick with a cold, but he's being consoled by Animal Crossing: Wild World ... a game which oddly enough the Best Buys around here don't seem to acknowledge to exist. Like, they don't even have a placard to tell you it might be around should they happen to have any in stock. Which sucks because the only NiWiFi access I have to The Brother is then Mario Kart, a game which he's recently become quite adept at kicking my ass.

His description of why he likes WIld World is probably common to a lot of gamers our age ... that being that we've played so many Doom clones at this point, that it's harder and harder for them to interest us:

Now, don't get me wrong, I've played my share of bloody, violent games, and enjoyed them. I played Doom and Quake and Unreal and, well, those are the bloodiest I can think of off the top of my head. I think there was a trend in the industry as the graphics cards really made strides to show off who could be the bloodiest, and I think that's resulted in a glut of games that all look alike and play alike and really don't do anything new.
-- Still sick

Nintendo's "Blue Ocean" isn't meant to be as graphically powerful as the PlayStation 3 or the even the 360, but that just indicates that they've gotten around the "Gore Gap" by not really acknowledging it's existence. Which will appeal to players young, who don't need the gore in their diet, and quite a few old, who have had their fill.

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Friday, February 10, 2006

How To Teach Your Cat To Shake Hands

In case you were wondering.

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Bungie and Microsoft ... at it again

It took me awhile to accept the fact that Bungie's Halo would not, in fact, be a massive third person space war epic that would play as well on Mac as it would on the PC. I don't know where I go that idea, except from how Bungie described before Microsoft rolled up with their black SUVs which, from my sources, actually run on cash. Not gasoline.

I finally just accepted that were I in their shoes, I might likely do the same. I like money. I'm not, despite what some might think, a wide eyed idealist who just wants peace and love in the world. I want cash. I'm not even against the occasional bling. It's hard to find the right enormous gold J that works well with flannel is all.

Now, though, I gotta shout out a big WTF to Bungie. Halo 2 for the PC will only run on Vista? You've got to be frakkin' joking me. You guys need MORE cash? Or maybe the vaunted "Microsoft doesn't control us" phrase isn't quite as true as reported. Bungie insists that they need Vista in order to make Halo 2 run on a PC. Which is odd, since Halo and Halo 2 were both designed for the Xbox and Halo sure didn't need Vista. So, while I admit I'm completely uninformed on the secret ingredients that Bungie is putting into Halo 2 PC ... I call shenanigans.

And for the record, it's not going to work. Halo was a very good shooter and has an awesome backstory to it. But it wasn't enough to get me to buy an Xbox. I waited until it came for the PC, and I'm glad I did. This won't get me to buy Vista. In fact, I'm not likely to buy Microsoft's OS X knock off until it's absolutely necessary considering I only use my home Windows box to play Guild Wars these days.

In short ... whatever, Bungie. Hope it's worth the bling.

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A Few Incorrect Assumptions

As the details of how Blizzard's bizarre policies play out between them and the lawyers, some of the blogosphere continues to chew on the subject. Repeatedly, I keep hearing some arguments which usually get under my skin, but I will try to keep a civil tongue. Even if I think some of these ideas are really stupid.

Azeroth isn't a real place, it's Blizzard's creation and they can do what they want
That is an incorrect assumption. While it's true that Azeroth does not really exist, Blizzard is still a company which offers a service and just like any other company offering a service ... they are bound to the terms of agreements within that service as well as any state or federal law that might apply. World of Warcraft is an online game, not a fiefdom.

World of Warcraft is a fantasy world and real world topics aren't appropriate
Well, that's sort of an incorrect assumption. At least this assumption is somewhat in line with Blizzard's defense that "some topics are inappropriate for a high fantasy setting", although their distinctions of being appropriate is what landed them in trouble. And seriously, you can't tell me that everyone in WoW is a hardcore RPer who never talks about the real world. Obviously, there is some wiggle room here.

I don't want to hear about your sex life
You have an incorrect assumption that anyone wanted to tell you about their sex life. Saying "we're GLBT friendly" is hardly anything resembling a sex chat, or sex tips or talking about stroking swords or whatever. People need to get the idea out of their head that every chapter meeting of GALA is an orgy.

If you start a gay friendly guild, I get to start a nazi guild
You're an idiot. Oh, damn. Sorry. I mean, you have made an incorrect assumption about what's being debated here. The problem is not "we want people to advertise whatever they want", it's "people should be able to advertise as long as they aren't harassing other players". Since Blizzard's concern was not that stating GLBT friendly was harassment, but rather that it might direct harassment ... it doesn't qualify. Advertising that you are keen on white power and would enjoy playing with like-minded racist bastards, however, would. So, no, you don't get to start your nazi guild Sorry.

If I chafe a bit more at that last one, it's because I'm so freakin' tired of the "you can't support gay rights because of what will happen next" nonsense. You can't support gay marriage because then people will want to marry mules. Gays can't be open in the military because next everyone will to play dolls on the battlefield. You can't let two women both serve as mothers because next kids will be raised by wolves. Do people realize how ignorant they sound when they go on like that? And don't try and tell me you aren't a homophobe when you state that gay rights might somehow cause the decline of western civilization as we know it.

/soapbox. For now.

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NPR on Taxes and Video Games

NPR also had a bit about how selling virtual goods might effect your real life taxes. Taxation is inevitable, people, even if you try hiding your gold in a cave defended by a high level dragon.

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NPR on the Video Game Industry

Just as I'm pulling into work, NPR was about to talk about the rise of the video game industry and how it's "eclipsing" the movie industry. I didn't get a chance to, but they have the audio up already so I'll catch up to it in a bit.

Last I read though, the "video games are larger than movies" was all about the fuzzy numbers on which portions of the two industries you were comparing. Now, of course, I can't seem to dredge up that article.

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Gun, Apache Dynamite and Invincible Bosses

Gun isn't a bad game, but it has some of the most poorly designed boss fights in recent history.

I should have known things were bad when Reverend Snicker Evil (not sure of his Christian name mind you) was granted an invincible horse. Yes, his horse had been dipped into to the river Styx and despite whatever you might shoot it with, it didn't really care. Also, Snicker Evil would heal up all on his own while riding around on his magic horse ... which I suppose might make sense in a Zelda game or something, but hardly seems western.

But Fat One Eye, the "end" boss, he got a lot better deal. For one thing HE is invincible, which is much handier. Yes, he gets a magic metal vest which makes him impervious to all harm ... even hits to his extremely unprotected head. You might think your Apache Dynamite Arrows (yeah, they had those) might do some damage, but no ... it's mostly fireproof. Instead, you have to shoot your Apache Dynamite Arrows into the magic exploding mud (I'm really not making this up) in order to damage him at all.

And even that takes about five or six times.

And then he runs away to his platform. Now NOTHING can hurt him. Not even magic mud. So you're left to bringing down the previously-established-as-extremely-unstable cavern on his head. Once again, one might think Apache Dynamite Arrows might prove useful in this venture but no ... only his own large special mega dynamite will do that trick. And to get him throw that?

You have to shoot him in his invincible head.

And then shoot the dynamite out of the air.




and again.

Neversoft, I just killed ten men with two guns and a saber. I've dismembered people with a sniper rifle. I've played this game and collected more powerful guns, faster reloads and better bullets. In fact, one might say that much of Gun is ... well, about getting a better gun.

So why ... why ... WHY ... would you end with a fight that has zero to do with gunfighting?

Makes no sense. Extremely annoying. Not much fun. At one point, I realized that whatever cutscene had been designed to portray this ending was simply not worth actually getting there.

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Brief WebDev Rant

In my professional life, I've come across Seach Engine Optimization (SEO) issues more than a few times of late. We even have an insanely high priced consultant for the task, of whom I have ... well, let's just say a sanguine relationship with ... and it's becoming more and more intrusive.

One recent issue isn't their fault though. It's Google's. See, Google will parse a URL that has an underscore by combining the word. So "/Star_Wars/" will be seen as "StarWars". Hyphens, though, are parsed as spaces. So "/Star-Wars/" is "Star Wars". The latter would get better search results if you googled for "Star Wars".

So what's my beef? My beef is than an underscore is a completely legit method for indicating a space in a URL. Absolutely legal, follows the standards, no problems with it. Many files get named using this convention and it's fairly common among UNIX based systems as well. Of all the random files on my Mac's desktop here at work ... about fifteen or so ... more than half are multi-word filenames. One uses hyphens.

How is it then that Google, who supposedly employs some of the brightest people in the world, can simply decide that they aren't used that way? When they so clearly are used that way. I can think of no rational reason for this distinction other than Google simply making a preference.

And what really sucks? Google is so big now that we can just suck it. Rationale? Not really important. It's not like you can debate this with them. Just do it.

And hope they don't change their arbitrary preference in the future.

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Three for the Ladies

Just three female gamer related links I've stumbled on today:

  • Guilded Lilies (thanks Corvus) ... "Grown Women Playing Games."

  • New Game Plus's MMO Survey, talking about the kind of gender issues MMOs, particularly WoW, entail.

  • Eigth Carnival of Feminists ... "Babes in Geek-land"

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  • Adventures in Cell Phone Monopoly

    Ben (CPU) wants to give me Penn Avenue, which is mortgaged, and I don't need because I've already got buildings on over half the board. For this useless piece of property, he'd like a railroad and $420.

    I should do it, just because a roll later he'll just be giving it all back anyway.

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    Intel's IT Manager Game

    Intel has put up a free IT Manager Flash Game which is moderately entertaining. You have to manage a workroom, hire employees, and answer questions from the CEO (which Intel will happilly correct you on to infrom you on why the M class processor is the better choice...).

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    Will the PS3 Feature Too Much?

    BusinessWeek has an article on how the PlayStation 3's desire to be the ultimate convergence device might backfire with consumers. Corvus was just mentioning Nintendo's "Blue Ocean" strategy of carving out their niche and I wondered why it was that everyone assumes that consoles are a survival of the fittest type deal. It's not like this has been widely true in consumer electronics in the past. It's not usually the most powerful platform or format, just the one that reaches the right price point with the correct marketing.

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    House of the Dead 2 Writers Interview

    Rotten Tomatoes has an interview with the two writers for House of the Dead 2, which premiered recently on Sci-Fi. They talk about distancing themselves from the first one, which they admit disappointed fans of the game. Which some out say is an understatement since the movie disappointed anyone who came in a two mile radius of a showing.

    This sequel is 100% Boll free, though, so it might at least be worth a Saturday afternoon.

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    Lost: The Two Titles

    Might be the worst title I've ever written...

    Last night's episode was another that was pretty good as a standalone, but didn't offer much up to the "mystery". Still, it's hard to complain about a good Sawyer episode and I think we're definately seeing the slow decay of the resort lifestyle of the survivors. As Ana put it, the problem is that they aren't scared enough.

    But they sure are getting edgy. Charlie has gone all Darth Hobbit. Locke and Jack are in some weird power struggle ... oh and Jack is forming a militia. Sawyer just p0wnd everyone. Kate is imagining horses. That you can touch. One has to wonder if the Others, or the Other Others, or going to bother with them or just wait to see if they tear each other apart.

    That reminds me. If Bearded Guy's group are ex Hanso employees (assumed from the quote) ... then one would assume that they know where the hatch is and what it's purpose might be. They even eluded to such when addressing Locke.

    Well, if you had lived on an island with a machine capable of destroying the world (as Desmond insisted) ... and group of strangers just took up camp next to that deadman's swtich ... would you just sit idly by while they inevitable screw up and destroy the world?

    So, my guess is that whatever the countdown does ... might not be all that catastrophic.

    For the eagle eyed, two books were featured prominently. The first was "Owl Creek Bridge", which is actually "An Occurance At Owl Creek River", which is a short story by Ambrose Bierce about (spoiler) a man who has his life flashing before his eyes while being hung. One could easily take this as a hint that perhaps all the survivors are dead ... or dying ... and that this is some kind of near death shared phenomena. A kind sci fi purgatory as opposed to a religious one, if you will. Personally, I'm not buying it. It's even more of a stretch than just straight out purgatory ... so what would be the point.

    Also, The Girl pointed out that all the pages in the book are blank. Maybe a nod that there is nothing there? Or maybe the Dharma guys like fake books.

    The other one was the manuscript for Bad Twin, which is a mystery novel by "Gary Troup" ... a fictional writer who was on Flight 815. While this is kinda interesting from a metafiction point of view, I haven't seen anything indicating that Bad Twin really ties into the mystery well (considering the book was sent along before the crash, not surprising).

    So basically, it's advertisement so that ABC's sister Hyperion can cash in a bit on the success.

    This is still one of my favorite shows, but I just don't feel this season has had the tension of last season. I'd say next episode looks like it will get there, but I was saying that last week.

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    Wednesday, February 08, 2006

    Dinosaur-Human-Robot Hybrid Toy

    The creator of Furby is creating a new "animal", as it were. Called Pleo, it resembles a litttle four legged dino. Like all good robotic forms of artificial life, it follows Three Laws of Robotics. No, not those laws. I guess they aren't too afraid of Pleo going feral like Homer's furbies did. Instead, the Pleo must a) feel and convey emotion, b) show awareness of their physical environment and c) evolve.

    And our dear President was worried about the Island of Dr. Moreau. Silly President. We'll be overrun by highly evolved toy sauropods that can corner really well and cry for help way before then.

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    Adventures In Cell Phone Monopoly

    I just offered Cain (CPU) Tennessee for Short Line and Water Works. It would have given him the tan monopoly. I'm doing this because I've got the dark purple, light blue and purple properties already and the game seems to be heading to an inevitable victory. If Cain (CPU) got the tans, he might at least be able to build some house to keep afloat.

    He turned it down. I don't think the computer has a real winning attitude here.

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    Is Gun Worth The Protest?

    GamerGod argues that the protest against Gun is valid. There is a spoiler here, and well, I'll keep spoiling the plot ... so if you haven't played the game ... run away now.

    Although the violence is historically accurate, the content glorifies the experience of slaughtering Indians and attempts to make it permissible by having a main character with hidden indigenous heritage.
    -- GUN Misfires

    I've already attacked Gun for being a bit gratiutous in it's violence, but I hadn't really come to a decision about the American Indian portrayal. Part of me always thinks that any group has a right to define what is insulting to their people. Problem with this is that it's always hard to tell, does the Association for American Indian Development represent the Apache people? I tried to get more information about the group, but their website only shows a pretty background in my browser.

    Update: That's because it's all flash. The other box brings it up. Essentially an empowerment group for American Indians, not unlike the NAACP. So fairly general in scope.

    Let's assume that the depiction would be insulting. Is it inaccurate? The two main points I've heard against the game is that the Apache are represented as savage enemies and that you can scalp them. I've already agreed on the second part, but just because I think it's a useless feature in general. The first is more complicated, since the Apache were combatants in the west.

    The game portrays them in a wide variety of ways, which is glossed over in some of the arguments and even outright attacked in the GamerGod argument. At the beginning of the game, Apaches are brutal savages. Later, you have to ward off an onslaught on a bridge ... which means essentially killing a lot of Indians. Then, they become your allies and you are essentially working together with them. In short, Gun portrays almost the complete spectrum of how Indians have been shown in media.

    While GamerGod seems to argue that the latter half of the game is just an excuse for the first half, it seems to me that Neversoft has instead written a wide range of Western lore into a single narrative. The AAID wants a "correction in content", which I assume amounts to gutting the first part of the story. Is that really honest? Weren't there Indian raids on settlers?

    When I first played the game, having already heard of this protest, I thought there might be a point to it. Now that I'm probably over half done with the plot, I'm way more ambivalent. From a storytelling perspective, I don't think the second half would work as well without Colton's own conflict against the nature of the Apache.

    Even if we accept the first scenes of the game as a gross stereotype, there's a certain arc the player is forced to go through with this conflict that encourages them to reconsider the image of the American Indian. Instead of seeing the second half as a justification for the first, I see it as the conclusion of the first. From enemy, to ally, to family. Simply skipping to the end of that arc seems to curtail what might actually help people respect the Indians more ... not less.

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    Thomas, Electroplankton, Boing Boing

    While I've been a reader of Mile Zero for quite some time, Boing Boing apparently just discovered Thomas and his Electroplankton composing styles. Unfortunately the BB link is broken right now, but I'm sure the BB's crack team of mutant geeks will figure that out soon enough.

    The proper link to Thomas' tutorials on composing with Electroplankton can be found here, and really makes me think that I need to pick that title up.

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    Battlestar GDC

    Ron Moore will be talking about reinventing stories for a keynote at the upcoming GDC, so sayeth Gamasutra. Galactica is one of my current favorite shows and another one that I never thought would go anywhere and couldn't be happier to be wrong (the other is the Office). The Girl finds it overwrought and melodramatic, but I just tell her that her crazy is showing.

    Since I'm currently involved in taking an old Lovecraft story and appending it drastically, this is actually one speech I'd like to hear. And if anyone gets Ron into a corner, tell him a Galactica game better be out by 2007 ... or Fluffy gets it we'll be sad.

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    Ice Cream Man, Video Game Pirate

    I'm reading on TDTech that the latest in a series of Scottish piracy raids has scooped up a man caught selling pirated video games and other media out of his ice cream van.

    Great, now I've got the mental image of a brightly colored truck playing the Pac Man theme going through my head.

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    Tuesday, February 07, 2006

    Open Letter to Mayor Lang

    I don't normally respond to someone else's e-mail, but I'm willing to offer up an exception in this case. Over at Game Politics, they've posted a response from Mayor Lang, who just recently lumped video games into reasons for a murderous hate crime, and it goes a little something like this:

    Dear Andrew:

    When you get a chance please explain to me the social benefits behind police and military video games for the future of our children.

    While I am not familiar with these videos I have seen enough to know they can provide no healthy education for our children. Lastly, there is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Robida played these video games on a regular basis as he was completely obsessed with weapons, violence and destruction. See his my space website for more details. I sincerely appreciate your comments.

    Best regards.


    Scott W. Lang
    -- New Bedford Mayor e-mails GP Reader on Robida Game Connection

    Well, allow me to take that chance for a moment.

    To Scott Lang, Mayor:

    Kids often game as a social outlet, to be around friends and sometimes even with parents. Some "police" or "military" games, as you put them, may certainly sometimes contain content inappropriate for young players and yet some games with law enforcement or war themes can also build teamwork skills, strategic thinking and, once again, social skills. It's funny because people like yourself enjoy pointing out that the military uses video games for training, and yet you never bother to figure out what skills they actually train. I'll give you a hint: it's not how lock and load an assault rifle.

    Content of video games is currently being controlled by a ratings system that by nearly all evidence, does actually work. While some people like to point to the extremely specific examples of ten year olds buying M rated games, the truth is that the vast majority of all games rated above T are purchased by adults. Truth is, kids don't have to buy M rated games since some parents will simply buy the product anyway.

    And when this occurs? When kids play games outside of their content rating? Well, when you get a chance perhaps you can show me the evidence which makes any link between that and violent crimes. I've read plenty of material on this matter and the worst I've been able to find is a link between games and aggressive behavior. Of course, most rational people realize that there is a distinction between violent crime and aggressive behavior. You might encounter aggressive behavior nearly every day you go out into the public. Violent crime, however, is something distinct and in a class all on it's own. Many people go their whole life without witnessing one.

    Video games might make your teenager more unruly. It will not make them into a homicidal racist. And before you make such a connection again, I would challenge you to find any concrete proof to the contrary.

    In actuality, violent crime isn't much of a mystery. It's fairly obvious to most people that social factors like unemployment cause an increase in violent crimes. How does the city of New Bedford hold up in terms of unemployment? In December of 2005 it was 5.5%, well above the national average of 4.6%. Between the years of 2000 and 2003, New Bedford went from one murder annually to eleven and doubled the number of rapes.

    So I ask - why do politicians feel the need to seek out mythical reasons when the obvious ones are right in front of them? New Bedford is a predominately white community with a high unemployment rate, low median income and a high rate of crime for the state of Massachusetts. However, when something really bad happens ... something really tragic ... you claim it was video games?

    Do you think we're that stupid? For too long now, certain people with outlets to the media have assumed that video games and gamers are an easy target to for which to paint their problems. They'd do better to remember that a lot of gamers these days are eligible to vote.

    Best regards,

    I have not actually sent this along yet. Partially because I haven't bothered to dig up his email address, mostly because my track history of believing that the recipient will actually take this kind of correspondance seriously is pretty low. But there it is.

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    Scalping Gun

    From the title, you might think I haven't been enjoying my time with Neversoft's Gun ... but that's not really the case. Gun is actually pretty fun and in many ways a fairly well-designed title. The western landscape and motif is attractive and the production quality is quite high. One aspect, though, just seems odd. You can scalp people ... for just no good reason at all. When I first started the practice of scalping my kills, The Girl poked up from her book and asked about the noise. I told her I was scalping people. She asked if they had to scream when I did it and it turns out ... they do. You apparently can only scalp victims while they are still partially kicking. Which is obviously the meanest way to scalp just about anything. I defended my barbarism by saying that I thought you could trade scalps for money (thank god my Mom doesn't read this blog).

    However, you can't. There's no purpose to scalping people other than just getting them to scream. At least in GTA, you're beating your hooker for cash. You can rob people. In Gun, there is no robbing. You can test the town's patience by attacking innocent people, but other than that ... it's cheating at cards or torture. A very odd spectrum to give to the player. Especially when those are the only two points in the spectrum.

    Neversoft's odd concept of how knives work doesn't end there. It doesn't seem you can use your trusty blade to get pelts either. Also, they have a Grey Wolf hunt ... which is a pretty neat idea pretty poorly implemented. For one thing, the Wolf only seems to appear in a couple of places ... so it's not that hard to find. Second, the Wolf is apparently hopped up on meth ... because I put ten arrows into it's hindside and it just ran in circles. So when I put it out of it's misery by using my trusty blade ... the game complained that because the Wolf wasn't killed by an arrow ... the kill was ruined.

    Wait ... what should I have done ... wounded it repeatedly with my knife and then shot it with a bow? Anyone hunt like that?

    At it's core, Gun is a sound and fun game. The above is really mostly quirks which came to my attention while playing it at a brisk pace. The controls are slightly wonked and sometimes gunfights feel like you're spinning around. I would also have liked a deeper world, with more parlor games and the like. However, the scenery and the action are fun and slightly addictive. It's neat to play around in a western world, taking hits off the flask and defeating bandits single handedly. Just odd that I spent good money on this useless knife.

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    More Azeroth Fallout

    Just a brief recap after trying to smother dear Brinstar's new server with the link to her revelation of the GM same sex smackdown in World of Warcraft. Corvus has decided that maybe he and Blizzard should just go their seperate ways ... with the distinct overtone that it's "you, not me." Some people wonder just what the heck goes through the mind of some of the responders. I stumbled on this great ad which is WTB some common sense plz, which brings up the interesting point that maybe the pro-GLBT community brought some of this on themselves ... but at the same time notes that "if ANYONE now finds it strange that a man and a man are loving each other in this world, or a female night elf and a female human are doing the nasty in the hay behind the Goldshire Inn, that person has way more issues than he or she realizes" and vows that maybe the best recourse is to react ingame to ingame nonsense.

    And you're probably already aware that this whole thing got both Boing Boing'd and slashdotted. Word on the mumblevine is that it might make an appearance in a couple of print mags as well.

    As for where all of this is heading ... well, it's definately too early to say. However, all the people declaring that Blizzard is immune to legal action because Azeroth is it's own personal kingdom might end up being surprised. Mumblevine also declares that while it's quite possible they'll avoid the inside of a courtroom, Blizzard is going to have to concede some points to the lawyers.

    Update: Funny thing, when one does a quick blogroll after the morning stretch. Lambda's opening salvo is already up on Kotaku, so I gues it's not quite as mumblevine as it seemed a few minutes ago. Funniest thing about that link is watching some commenters still insist that the virtual world of Azeroth if free from litigation .... while it's clearly in the process of being litigated. By, you know, real lawyers and stuff.

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    User Content Evolves Media

    The Washington Post has a piece about the recent "Entertainment Gathering" in LA, which featured Dwight Yoakam and a 19 foot boa ... among other things. The article points out that while traditional media is declining, video games are something of a bright star:

    That became clear as leading game creators talked about how their industry is eyeing a new way to fund the future of entertainment -- by putting you to work building their virtual game worlds.

    The next generation of video games aims to give players a much bigger role in producing the look and feel of their own games, Microsoft's gaming vice president, J Allard, said Thursday. The gaming industry is copying the models of the community-created Wikipedia encyclopedia and open-source software. By giving players new tools to shape the design and action in more personal ways, the industry hopes to draw in a bigger audience while helping foot the bill for "skyrocketing" production costs, he said.

    So, take a bow. Gamers can probably take all manner of things to heart with this concept, since it's not entirely new. You've got Counter-Strike, Sims, Spore, etc. ... all chipping out sections of how the players themselves can be just as important as the game. Heck, the rise of MMO's could possibly be attributed to the fact that sometimes you just can't replicate a ton of people interacting with software.

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    Alice and Max Payne Movie Updates

    Yahoo! Games caught up with Hollywood producer Scott Faye about the Max Payne and Alice movei adaptations. Payne has been in development for eight years, which I could swear is a lot longer than the game itself required. Alice has Sarah "Buffy Died Again" Gellar on the hook and the direction from the recent Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Payne also apparently just signed on a new writer, although Faye wasn't at liberty to discuss.

    The ray of hope here is that Faye talks well of the upcoming Silent Hill treatment, which to be honest ... does look good, and considers Doom and Bloodrayne to be more of "learning experiences". He points out that even a best selling game like Doom can't guarantee a box office success. Darn tootin' Scott, some people pay money to see good movies.

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    Helping Darfur with Gaming

    Upon being asked why the contest focuses specifically on Darfur, Martin said that “millions of people are dead and homeless, and the genocide continues.” He recognizes that “there are lots of problems in the world, and this is one of them,” but feels that the Darfur situation is both something college students are concerned with and something they need to know more about.

    “I feel video games have an incredible ability to spread awareness and make a difference...,” Martin said. “[The finalist games] are actually sort of fun to play, and in the midst of that fun, you realize that the world you’re playing in is not so simple.... Each game becomes something that starts out as fun, and turns into a call for action.”
    -- Darfur is dying: save it with a video game

    That's from a bit on an mtvU compeition finalist which is trying to use their project to create more awareness about the situation in Darfur. I'm willing to bet that you hear about this one in the mainstream, since video games which try and help the world are apparently not breaking news.

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    Monday, February 06, 2006

    Wired on Vaporware

    Wired's got a great feature on the the vaporware of 2005. The fan favorite Optimus keyboard, Team Fortress 2 and Google's entire beta offering makes the list. And yes, a certain shooter from a certain company makes the list. Personally, I'm still hoping we can keep that joke going on forever.

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    Mayor Links Video Games to Murder

    All clergy, every church and synagogue in the City of New Bedford, must facilitate a positive, engaging dialogue with our young people and their families. This cycle of violence must stop. The guns have to come off the streets. The violent video games have to be taken out of our homes. Adults and children have to start coming forward with information, we must intervene to stop violence before it occurs. If you know someone who is exhibiting anti-social behavior please seek an adult, a teacher, or the authorities help. We need to know about the next Jacob Robida and stop him before it is too late.
    -- Mayor Lang's Statement Regarding the Events on February 4, 2006 (emphasis mine)

    Jacob Robida is a complete psycho who assaulted three customers of a bar with a hatchet and later a gun. The police chase to apprehend him ended in bloodshed, with Robida shooting his female companion in the head and a police officer before being shot himself. He died of his injuries at a Missouri hospital.

    Here is a picture of him:

    You might notice the backdrop. Jacob also had swastika tattoos. In addition to attempted murder, he was also being pursued for hate crimes since he had singled out a gay bar. In other words, everything points to this kid being a homicidal racist bastard.

    So how do video games fit into the picture?

    The simple answer is: they don't. They don't have anything to do with the story. They have no blame in the actions of Robida. They were not part of the investigation nor have they been even mentioned in any of the mainstream articles I've read on him. The closest I could get was a transcript purporting that he learned wrestling moves from games ... and let's make it clear ... Robida was not wanted for being a bad wrestler, but rather for being an insane killer.

    Quite like Devin Moore, this is a violent crime linked to video games only by people trying to make a case in the media. The honorable Mayor might have well proclaimed that we need to keep jazz music or horror movies out of the homes. When in fact, we probably need to examine his economic and social policies to get anywhere near a cause for these kinds of event.

    Blaming video games for a city's violent crime problems is a cheap PR tactic and as useless to the citizens as it is to the victims.

  • America's Most Wanted: Jacob Robida
  • Teen gunman's tie to woman probed
  • Shootout kills gay-bar attack suspect
  • New Bedford Mayor Cites Video Games In Recent Killings (Kotaku)

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  • Beyond Virtual Goes Indie

    According to the press release, GDGi is releasing an "indie" version of their Beyond Virtual cross-platform development environment. Their website doesn't go into a ton of detail on the distinction, other than the relatively obvious note that it's aimed at students and indie developers. I'm still a Torque fan myself, but it's always good to see another player on the field.

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    Your Assignment: Build A Mutant Squirrel

    Brian McCabe, a full-time student, is taking courses in art, math, physics and computer science.
    His homework: Make sure that Sparky, a radioactive squirrel, has the capabilities needed to defeat the evil aliens polluting his forest home.

    ‘‘It can be overwhelming at times," said McCabe, laughing. ‘‘But the fun parts make up for it."

    The 30-year-old, who wants to create video games, is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in game art and design from the Art Institute Online, a division of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

    These stories seem to be getting more prevalent, as the mainstream gets a good chuckle at the idea of someone being graded for creating teenage mutant protaganists. Course, as more programs get into the academia and more contests spark competition between them, colleges might become really good environments for keeping gaming innovative. These days, in fact, I think we're saying a lot more innovation from the school programs than from the mod community.

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    I Play Rez, Vibrate Self

    When I informed The Girl that the vector based landscape of sight and sound that I was floating through was, in fact, the game which made Game Girl Advance infamous when it talked about about the "Rez Vibrator" and the ... ahem ... experiences the devices was able to give ... ahem ... off, she seemed surprised.

    "Really? I don't see how that would work?"

    "Why not?"

    "Well, it just doesn't seem to shake all that much."

    "That's probably because I'm not very good."

    The only good thing about the conversation was that the whole thing was so dorky that it wouldn't occur to me how emasculating it was until the next day. I have, in fact, not really played the game enough to form a decent opinion about it. For the curious, it seems GameFly does now have a normal "Keep It" price attached to this game, although it's essentially full priced at $40. Expensive for a title released in 2002, sure, but the game sure seems worth it. Like Amplitude or the crowd pleasing Katamari (which The Brother got a healthy dose of this weekend), this game has the odd ability to relax and engage the user instead of just winding up and stressing out.

    I might not get, ahem, as much pleasure out of it as others, ahem, but darn glad I made the purchase all the same.

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    Sunday, February 05, 2006

    Viewtiful Joe: The Series?

    I just had no idea that Viewtiful Joe had been turned into a cartoon show. Has anyone seen this? I found the game interesting from a mechanics point of view, but to be honest ... didn't really grab me as much as I had hoped. Still, probably better than a Uwe Boll film.

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