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Friday, April 07, 2006

This is the sound ... when a 360 dies ...

Is a Prince reference too 80's for a Friday? Yes. Yes it is.

Stumbled on this interesting description of 360 death on

Alright, it’s official, my XBox 360 just died. I’m having the infamous 3 flashing red lights. This isn’t the first time my XBox 360 has had this problem, but before, unplugging the machine, removing the hard drive and memory cards, giving it some time, and booting back up used to fix. However, this time, nothing could save my XBox.

Three flashing lights. How very HAL of you, Microsoft.

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Massive Sex Game Media Assault

Have you heard about Naughty America ... the game where "players will assume the forms of alluring but cartoonish people who meet, flirt and have sex with other player characters". No? Chances are you will shortly, if you read anything that pulls in AP news. Just doing some quick, relatively generic, news searches brings up the same AP story about upcoming adult video games on, BusinessWeek, San Diego News 8,, The News Sentinel, Chicago Tribune and Canoe Money.

Sadly, there's not much new here that hasn't been covered better previously. They do point out that the once hotly controversial "Spend The Night" is now icily on hold. Honestly, I still don't know why this is newsworthy to anyone. Unless there are still plenty of folk out there that think video games are the sole domain of pre-teens. Which, judging by the astonished look of shock on some politicians faces that anyone would want to play a violent game, I guess there are.

Still, I can't tell you how many google hits I get daily looking for some kind of nekkid fun. It's a capitalistic society, and if enough people want it ... someone will make it.

And honestly ... why do we think so many news agencies run with this story? Sex sells.

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Baskin Robbins' Office Invaders

I don't quite see the clear line of brand distinction from ice cream to cubicle wars, but I guess a frosty gelato has never been on my shortlist of work breaks. Actually, this is my work break. However, if you are in the mood for an office themed space invaders game ... Baskin Robbins is there for you (via AdJab).

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Did Metroid: Hunters Fail The Franchise?

Wired really thinks so:

But for all its technical merit, Hunters has turned a unique and compelling series into something generic and boring. When Metroid fans got worried five years ago that the series was going first-person, this is exactly what they were afraid of.
-- Metroid: Almost a Great Notion

Anyone else out there agree? I haven't played much of the Metroid series, to be honest, so I'm probably not the best to judge. I've played through some of Zero Mission and now Hunters and toyed around with the original Prime on other's Gamecubes. I've been perfectly happy with the single player on Hunters and it does tend to remind me of Zero Mission, so I never really thought anything about it. Is Wired being uberharsh here or are they simply more on point?

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Mixed Blessings

Boot Camp has brought a lot of talk lately, and there is probably more than one person finding joy in running PC games on a Mac. Short version is that they run a lot better than their Mac counterparts. To some extent, that's a good thing ... because now Macheads can keep pace with Windows gamers without having to shell out for another slab of hardware.

Then again ... it leads me to want more for native OS X gaming. I won't expect modern ports to behave at the exact same speed as the platform they were originally developed for, sure, but I want to think that OS X can run games with the best of them ... or at least could be made to run games with the best of them. And I'm not sure dual booting Macbooks will help force game developers or Apple to get there.

Course, it's raining outside. So maybe I'm just daydreaming.

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Metroid Hunters Tips

I came across this forum posting for Metroid Prime: Hunters detailing some quick tips for each hunter, particularly when it comes to niwifi battles. Presented for my fellow gamebloggers who may enter Corvus' tourney. I got some practice time last night and found I can consistently win a deathmatch with a two star bot an two one stars, so I'll probably up the AI to a couple two stars this weekend. I should be playing online more, though, to get a better feel for human players. The botmatches are great though, and a huge plus for the title.

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Another Carnival

A new Carnival of Gamers has set up tent over at n3rfed and props must go to the MMO message stylings of this new one.

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Lost: More On The BlackLight Map

Found the Lost And Gone Forever Blog discussing the BlackLight Map, and has an even cleaner version of the text it contains. Bet Locke wishes he could google right about now.

A few of note:

The Final Resting Place of Magnus Hanso / Black Rock ... does this mean that a relative of Alvo Hanso's perished with the Black Rock? Seems an odd choice for a post-shipwreck burial, given all that TNT and such. Was this how Hanso discovered the island? Did an ancestor crash here and his search lead him to the island?

Cerebus: Generally assumed to be the official title of the Smoke Monster, which befits the assumed watchdog role of the "creature".

DIHG: Seems to be an acronym for whatever entity first started the island (indicated by DIHG survey teams). Dharma Institute Something Something? Is DHARMA both an acryonym and just a name for something? If so, then the "HG Inspection Delegation" in 81 might have been one of the initial teams? Could the facility be only a couple of decades old?

de-territorial of ursus maritimus: So it was a goal to make a polar capable of living in well, non-polar, environments and maybe not a creature pulled from Walt's ether. Sometimes coincidence is just coincidence? Why make a polar bear that can live in a jungle? I guess because it's a badass that could live anywhere then ... a ready to transport apex predator. Bet it had a fancy tattoo, too.

Estimated Travel Time incompatible with 108 OK. So if we assume this is all written by the perspective of a Swan Hatch Employee during a lockdown, then it would seem that the person didn't want to risk going to this point (which might be the Staff Station) and back before missing the countdown. Would seem to suggest that at this point, there was only one person in the hatch and that they believed the countdown to be vital.

Lots of other odd acronyms and the definate feel that 1) something really bad went down and 2) whoever wrote this was gathering information about what was happening at DHARMA, but probably had some initial knowledge of the facility (otherwise why use all the acronyms?).

Theory: The author of the BlackLight Map is Kelvin, Desmond's former hatchmate. Kelvin worked for DHARMA prior to everything going wrong. Probably the last recipient of the orientation film. He realizes that things aren't quite right and starts to try and to write everything down, and assumes the lockdowns are a safe time to do it. He must have told Desmond enough about what was going on that Desmond knew to be looking for "Him" (the great and powerful Oz?) when Jack and Locke show up.

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"hamster wheel game controller"

Best keyword search to make it's way to this site ... evah.

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Should Oblivion Get An Adults Only Rating?

Apparently the author of the newly released nude skins is using Bethesda's skins for the mod. At least in the European version they're just "covered by underwear" later. I don't have Oblivion so I've got no idea how bad the naughty bits get here ... but it seems like we're walking dangerously close to the Hot Coffee arena once again. The game, as sold, is clearly not an AO title. But if everyone in the game were naked, then it probably would.

Since I think GTA:SA got a raw deal, I certainly don't think Oblivion should share the same fate, since it seems even less graphic. However, since video games are the corruptors of young children everywhere ... some might think it should be sold with a label saying "BEWARE BEWARE".

Again, though, I use my mod logic here. If you buy something and then install something else to make it pornographic - that's your business. It's like googling for "tan hotties" and then complaining that you got something less than innocent on your screen.

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Video Games Cause Lung Cancer

Well, no, but New Scientist is running with this story about how video games are just as bad a cigarettes:

Research shows that exposure can increase obesity, tobacco and alcohol use, risky sexual behaviours, violence and social isolation, say Dimitri Christakis and Frederick Zimmerman, from the University of Washington in Seattle, in a controversial editorial. The data linking violent media to aggression, for instance, are “just as strong” as those linking smoking and lung cancer, says Christakis.

US children over eight years old spend more time watching TV and playing videos than any other activity except sleeping. More than a third of those under six have TVs in their bedrooms. And things are only set to get worse, as every child with a cellphone will soon to be toting a TV in his pocket, says Christakis.

This is clearly a bit of a straw man argument. Kids aren't getting out and exercising and instead eat fast food and drink cola. Of course, it's not their diet or their parents to blame ... it's the idiot box which ensares them with it's mind altering powers. Parents, naturally, are unable to control their kids against the awesome mental powers of a PlayStation.

That violent media is linked to violent behavior, once again, is a lesson of semantics. When researchers say things like "aggression", they mean things like "will hit a bar more frequently". Or in this case, "assumed people thought they were cheating." Of course, politicians and nutcase lawyers will paraphrase this as "more likely to rob a liqour store" or "shoot a police officer".

Of course, obesity is a major health issue. It's one of the top health issues for Americans today, young or old. Shifting blame, however, will not reduce calories. If you can't figure out how to get your kid outside to play every now and then - maybe you shouldn't have kids. Seriously. "My child is fat because he watches too much television" should be a slappable offense in our society. Your kid is fat because that's how you've raised the thing. If you can't figure out that sitting on the couch ... doing anything aside from aerobics ... is unlikely to burn calories, you need to go back to bio class.

Next, they'll be complaining that books are hypnotic and keep kids from power walking.

Another thought... I just remembered that when I was a kid, Lazer Tag was the rage for a while. Course, there was some chattering about how having kids running around with toy guns would turn them violent. Just can't win, I guess. These people won't be happy until all kids are doing nothing but playing badminton.

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Mumbles and Grumbles about PS3 Price

I'm not sure which is more bizarre, that a Sony exec went off and said how much the PS3 might be in Europe, or that every gaming site immeadiately assumed it was a) true and b) amounted to a direct conversion to the US market ... since neither of those are usually the case. The Guardian blog offhandedly points out that devices which cost such and such pounds often go for the same numerical, not dollar, amount here in the States ... as is the case with the 360.

And it's not like Sony hasn't pulled the "oh this will cost over $500 ... prepare yourselves" con before. Heck, people ... they've always done it. Fact is, Sony probably doesn't even know how much the PS3 will cost right now.

But should it surprise us if it costs $500? Really? Most people were paying almost a grand for 360's off of eBay when it launched. $500 for a console is definately overpriced for us normal working schlubs, but we live in the day and age of bundles, baby! Nobody buys a launch console for it's list price these days. Instead, you apparently set aside $600-$1,000 to get the thing with bells and whistles. Was true for the PSP, true for 360 and will be true for the PS3. The question is how much it will cost when the supply chain lets us average folk get one without the wait.

Update: Joystiq reports that the whole thing was lost in translation in the first place and that a more accurate speculation of price is "about anything". Go fig.

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Indie Mac Game Compilation

Blogcritics has an overview of Freeverse Software's OMG Volume 1, a collection of game from indie Mac developers:

Given that these are smaller games studios, the quality of titles offered lands squarely in the "slick shareware" camp; and in fact all the titles compiled are also available individually as shareware (or the current equivalent: demo downloads). Don't expect Halo, don't even expect Katamari... but these days there is some extremely addictive and polished work coming from the DIY sub-world (as titles like Alien Hominid have shown us). But let's get on to the games!

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Lost: What's The Important Question?

Last night's episode was the first in a while that made me think that Season Two could get back to being as good as Season One at some point. There is a great contrast between Hurley's possible imagining of Dave in the past, and his possible imagining of Dave in the future. Even as you become relatively certain that Dave is part of Hurley's psychosis while in the asylum, you aren't real sure of Dave's origins on the island. Currently Sawyer, Kate, Jack, and Charlie have all clearly had very realistic illusions/hallucinations/manifestations appear to them ... not to mention Boone (his sister) and Shannon and Sayid (Walt).

So what was throwing coconuts at Hurley? Was it completely imagined like Dave slapping him in the asylum? We should be able to assume Dave was originally imaginary from Libbey's perspective at the end. But on the island ... since so many people have had these manifestations, why can't Hurley?

And if it is some kind of manifestation ... what kind of phenomena willingly throws itself off a cliff in an effort to test someone?

As much as the producers have denied the "nanobot" theory, or a smartcloud which can take any shape, I think it's getting hard to deny that something on the island can take the shape of things based on people's thoughts.

Unless, of course, something out there is just stealthily dropping fascimile off. How does a supply drop go without anyone noticing a plane, anyway? Have the losties gotten that lax about being shipwrecked? And why didn't the supply plane crash? Was the klaxon drill related to the drop, as some random character suggested?

But most importantly, I think ... is what the truth is about Henry Gale. From previous episodes, I think we can accept that there is "Him" and it's probably not Zeke, The Bearded Guy. In fact, his response concerning Zeke makes me think even more that Zeke is somehow separate from the "Others". So perhaps "Gale" started to tell the truth towards the end.

So did he push the button? This makes for another odd contradiction. If he did push the button last week, why lie about this week? Why try and trick Locke into not pushing it? If the button really is important, it seems like an odd bluff. If the button isn't important, why push it? Perhaps Gale pushed the button in the first place to get Locke's trust, knowing full well it doesn't really do anything.

But I guess I'm just suspicious that the button does nothing.

Most importantly, though, I think is Gale's question - What would make him go through all this? What is out there that Gale prefers being locked up and tortured rather than betraying?

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Apple's Boot Camp: Windows XP on Intel Macs

After letting hackers spend many a night figuring out how to get Windows XP to run on Intel based Macs ... Apple has released Boot Camp to officially allow dual booting into both environments.

I'm not sure if this is a smart move or simply a realistic one. People were going to do it anyway, so it seems in Apple's best interest to capitalize on it and make it a friendly portion of the OS. On the other hand, this might reduce the urge for people to port software to the Macs in the future, especially games, since developers might simply assume Mac users will have access to a PC anyway. And clearly Vista is a wild card here.

As I've been winding up the IF development, I've been looking over my own shoulder on what to play with next. Working with HTML and JavaScript has left me with the urge to compile something, so it will either be a simple Unreal mod for Windows or one of my Mac game projects.

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Fighting Fantasy

While box-diving at Mom's, I discovered my old Sorcery! books, which were part of the Fighting Fantasy series by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. While usually portrayed in it's role for popularizing dice based role playing systems, particularly ones with simple mechanics, this format is also a kind of interactive narrative ... so I'm curious about implementing a similar RPG system into the IF engine (which still has no name, but might get called "Cathan" for the original story for which I wrote the first engine). Sorcery! is not the kind of thing I'd be likely to flip through now, but if there was a casual web-based version of it ... well, then maybe.

On a side note, we also found an old copy of Toon, written by Costik and Warren Spector. Funny to just run across those names on a cover somewhere.

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Wild World Flea Market

I forgot to brag, I think, about the success The Girl and I had over last weekend with our Animal Crossing flea market. For those looking to make serious bells in Wild World, there's a fairly simple plan. Basically, clear out your main room as soon as you hear about the market and then stock it with as much expensive fish as possible. If you've already got some extra rooms, fill those up as well. The Happy Room Academy isn't going to happy with your decor, but your bank account will thank you once you sell a room full of red snappers at 8,750 bells a pop. On an average, the animals pay about 250% what Nook will pay, sometimes more. Once you empty out all your rooms, just fish some more and sell whatever you can. We cleared about 400,000 bells by the morning.

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What's In An Indie?

On the footsteps of Brinstar's discussion of whether Darwinia justifies it's GDC accolades comes this article at Tom's Hardware about what makes an indie ... an indie?

"Firstly in order to say that a game is or is not "Indie" you need a definition of the term, and the IGF rules offer no such definition that we can use. Indeed Half-Life 2 would have been eligible [sic] - funded internally by a privately-owned dev company who owned all the IP, and then distributed digitally online direct to consumers. We don't pretend to know what the definition of "Indie" is, but we believe any definition that rules out Darwinia is worthy of immediate dismissal - four guys working from their bedrooms for three years including 18 months of open experimentation, funded by real-world jobs and bank loans, releasing a game that is entirely their own creation and property - Darwinia's development IS the definition of an Indie Game. To suggest that signing a deal with the Steam system six months after launch somehow strips Darwinia of its Indie status is bordering on ridiculous."
-- GDC 2006: The True Indy Developer

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Phosphor - a Shockwave FPS

If you're just dying to try some virtual fragging at the workplace but can't get Quake installed, there is now Phosphor, a first person shooter in Shockwave. Impressive but blocky would probably be the easiest way to describe it, this latest effort in browser shooter technology even includes multiplayer. (thanks fosfor gadgets)

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Michigan Game Law Struck Down

No surprise here, not after the Illinois ruling. Wonder how much in legal fees that cost the fine citizens of Michigan.

And yet, Congress holds committee on this topic which again and again can't find any scientific footing and even less legal foundation. An excellent waste of taxpayer money.

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Why Do We Care About Mark Ecko?

I'm fascinated by BusinessWeek's fascination with Mark Ecko. Sure, before the game was released I could see where a graf artist turned fasion designer turned game developer might have been an interesting perspective.

But, I'm sorry to be blunt ... isn't the game out and it's simply not very good? I haven't read a single review, either from the mainstream sites or blogs, which has been favorable to the game. People wanting a good graf game should hunt down a copy of Jet Grind Radio. Heck, anyone should hunt down a copy of Jet Grind Radio if they haven't played it. Why should we concern ourselves with someone who had the money to design a short game with average graphics and subpar mechanics?

Games require a lot more than some cash and free time to develop, and giving celebrity game developers free advertising simply because they're a celebrity is hardly beneficial ... or even interesting. The BusinessWeek article goes to length about Ecko's thoughts on the game, but only mentions that reviewers didn't like the game's length ... not that they didn't like the game. And they even let Ecko try to explain the 15 hour gameplay length as a good thing.

Meanwhile, I'm playing Mercenaries into what must be like hour 50 or something. Wonder when Pandemic gets their closeup.

Update: The metacritic reviews seem to suggest that it's at least above average, I guess, although I sure didn't get that impression when I previously drifted through reviews. I still hold to the theory that a slightly above average game is anything more than just that, despite who floated the checks.

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TV Teaches Sex Is Cool

Wait, isn't it?

Regardless, a new study shows that teens exposed to sexually charged media are more likely to have sex by the time they are sixteen. Why? This is rich. Because they don't get the proper sexual education elsewhere.

You know. Like their parents. Or school.

So once again, TV is the villian ... because you left it alone with your kids. Expect this to bleed into the anti-game witchhunt as well, of course.

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Monday, April 03, 2006

Counter-Strike: Text Edition

Since I'm all into an interactive fiction mood today, here is some funny from Extralife.

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CTF in Metroid Hunters

The Brother brought his DS to the weekend fun and we managed to get a few rounds of multiplay out of the deal. He had, apparently, been practicing all week in an effort to school me. And learned I became. It wasn't for a few games that I started to get the hang of the mechanics in the game and remember at least some of the maps. I finally managed to tweak out a narrow victory in Capture The Flag.

Which is a very impressive gametype for Hunters. CTF is often team based to a fault. It's easy in a pickup game to have too many flag runners and too few defenders. With just 2v2, I wasn't expecting much from my bot teammate. I actually expected to be defending all the time while he went on his merry bot way. Instead, I never had to worry about the bot much and it behaved quite admirably. I often acted hoping that the bot would either handle the runner or pick up the flag I had just dropped or whatnot ... and it usually did. About four or five times, the bot really came through for me. The maps are also well suited, not claustrophobic but decently spaced.

GG, Nintendo.

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Quick Grue Updates

I updated the Grue Demo with Clamatius' edits as well as removing the action penalty for "misses" and accordingly adding in a "cancel" option to the interaction prompt (to keep from forcing the player to choose an unwanted action). Soon, I'll probably make "you" a globally recognized noun for holding things like "wait" and perhaps other common function. I might put out another demo to illustrate other possible concepts like time-based text and dynamic character interactions. I've considered making The Tell-Tale Heart my next target and it might be a good place to explore both of those ideas.

It's nice, though, to be able to use Grue as a sandbox. Moving the changes to Randolph Carter is as simple as copying a file.

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I Missed April Fool's

My mom's computer is still in some kind of Internet time warp ... the "Oh my god I'm trapped in the Dark Ages!" kind, not the "Gee, Dinosaurs are cute!" kind. For the world out there trying to stay on the information superhighway with 28.8 dialup - I feel for you.

I normally love April Fool's day. Although to be honest, I think the net takes it to frivolously at times. Good hoaxes are hard to come by these days, which is sad because a good hoax reminds us that we shouldn't take nickels without biting into them and sometimes, just sometimes ... those land bridges aren't what they seem.

So you won't see the news that Jack Thompsons Quits The Bar, Joins Missionary Group or that Hillary Clinton Asks for Ban on Light Guns or that Apple Bought Nintendo until next year.

Curse You Visual Studio

Damn, Visual Studio bites. Hard. I get to work this morning, still weary from a weekend long combination of Christmas, moving and a flea market and boot up the work PC. I open the project we've been working on for the last month or so, just like I have every day for the last month or so and .... Visual Studio has lost the bindings. It's just not quite sure what it did with them and apparently is having some kind of spat with Source Safe and isn't talking to it anymore.

Nothing's changed on the project since I left on Friday. Nothing has changed in source control. The only difference is that I turned my computer off. Apparently Windows is unstable enough that it can screw up your productivity ... even when it's off. That's quality.

So it took me about a half hour of futile pleading with Studio to do what it's supposed to, and then another twenty minutes or so getting the project set back up ... in order to fix a problem that should have taken five minutes.


Oh, and Outlook crashed. By trying to load. Brilliant.