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Friday, June 02, 2006

Wii Will Download DS Demos ... while you sleep

I like my Wii, and I haven't bought it yet. It's already planning on doing nice things for me ... even before it's packaged:

But check this out. In a new interview with Nikkei BP, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata says that the Wii will be able to download demos of new Nintendo DS games -- Nintendo DS games! while you sleep:

"I'll give you a specific example we are planning for. Let's say your Wii is connected to the Internet in a mode that allows activation on a 24-hour basis. This would allow Nintendo to send monthly promotional demos for the DS, during the night, to the Wii consoles in each household. Users would wake up each morning, find the LED lamp on their Wii flashing, and know that Nintendo has sent them something. They would then be able to download the promotional demo from their Wii's to their Nintendo DS's."
-- Wii to Download DS Demos While You Sleep


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Crazy Flash Resume

You just need to to see it for yourself. Via Dreamy Gamer.

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Japanese Kids Get The Cool Guns

This shot was grabbed n a tiny little toy store in Ise. When planning my visit to Japan, I was totally expecting to find video games and giant robots. The wide array of extremely realistic-looking toy guns I was not. If I'd thought for a second I could get them on the plane, I might have bought a couple for movie props.
-- From Geoffrey's photostream

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Yeah, Apple should set the example

Joystiq's synopsis of a Business Week article on Mac gaming ends on particularly sound note ... "However, it's true that one game does not always make a system a decent gaming platform, and the message is clear -- if Apple wants to get its game on, then perhaps it should set the example."

That's a good summation of what I've thought of Apple for some time. Windows will, by sheer size, remain the mainstream PC gaming platform despite what Microsoft does (like releasing a competing product or tying it to demanding software upgrades). Apple won't be able to hope for much more than what they have now out of the Doom III's and Word of Warcraft's of the world.

Unless they step up and take a stance in creating game content which exists nowhere but OS X ... the Mac will continue to be the ugly stepchild of the gaming world.

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Visual Library Of Halo 2 Glitches

FPS Gaming has cataloged Halo 2 glitches with screenshots and videos to boot (via Gaming Uncensored News). I wonder if Bungie will address these for the upcoming Halo 2 PC or if altering the maps and code would cause interoperability issues.

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Guardian GamesBlog On "Lost Planet"

Lost Planet is a 360 title which got some pretty good E3 press:

Okay, the visuals are astonishing in places. The way your character's feet sink into the snow as blizzards blow flakes around you. The astonishingly realistic explosions. The intricately detailed glacial majesty of the environments. All as you would expect from a next-gen machine.

But the gameplay is pure this-gen. Actually, it's more-or-less previous-gen. Pick up (extremely familiar) weapons, blast aliens, encounter bosses sporting clear weak spots, activate computer terminals, pick up bigger weapons, sneak about a bit, shoot a bit more.

There were a couple of nice touches - the way you could either clamber into huge mech walkers, or take off their enormous machine guns and use them as your primary weapons. The way your energy bar is always going down and must continually be topped up (but guess what? energy orbs come from... yes... dead enemies). I also liked the flying aliens that swoop at you in formation - not because it was an interesting idea, but because it looked cool.
-- Lost Planet. Lost interest?

Honestly, though, is this any different from early titles in any generation's library? At first, the eye candy will be in the forefront because nobody's played anything with those visuals on their television before. Then, before people start figuring out their compression and data schemes to improve those visuals significantly ... you'll get better gameplay.

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Mitsubishi's Tabletop PC

A new technology from Mitsubishi Electric Corp. aims to make such collaboration easier by borrowing some ideas from a common piece of furniture: the table.

Mitsubishi's DiamondTouch displays a PC screen on a high-tech tabletop. People sitting around it use their fingers to create and manipulate projected virtual objects, with the system knowing whose fingers did what thanks to small currents of electricity that flow through the chairs.
-- Mitsubishi Unveils High-Tech Tabletop

Well, I doubt we'll have nifty electric chairs in all our living rooms any time soon. But while that pic has a lot of suits groping Excel documents, imagine the kind of group RPG or strategy game you could have with that thing.

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Cheap PS3 And HDMI

Everyone's been pointing to the Speigel interview with Sony's Phil Harrison and kavetching that either a) he called the PlayStation 3 a "computer" or b) he defended the PS3 controller as not being a Nintendo rip. To which a) I could care less, it essentially is a computer and b) I could care less because it's not really the same controller.

But this was of note:

The PS3 will play Blu-ray-discs. The movie industry, including Sony pictures, wants HDMI-interface and HDCP copy protection, which is now pushed back because Microsoft's HD-add-on-drive doesn't have the necessary interface. And now the cheaper version of the PS3 will also come without an HDMI-interface. So you're basically jeopardizing the strategy of Sony Pictures and other film studios to protect their content. Sounds like the decision may have been contentious at Sony?
-- Interview With Sony-Exec Phil Harrison

With that controller though, Phil notes "now for the first time we can read both the primary input, which might be through the sticks, and learn what the player is doing through the secondary movement, and add the two together." So to belabor the point a bit more, while Nintendo is trying to make their controller simpler and less scary ... Sony has just complicated theirs a bit more. See the lack of resemblence now?

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Name That Variant Monopoly Contest

The above pic shows an in-progress game of Monopoly being played with some variant rules.

Your task: Provide any portion of the rules for this variant. You can explain the presence of just one of the added components, or all.
-- BoardGameGeek Contest Thread (via Abort, Retry, Fail?)

To me, it's clearly Monkey Island Monopoly played with the "Banker As Dungeon Master" rules with a dash of "Scrabble will defeat Mahjongg" side game.

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Barrow Hill Versus Da Vinci Code

Barrow Hill is an indie adventure game title which, to be honest, I've only heard in passing. The Da Vinci Code is a licensed game based on a multimillion dollar movie. For your money, says the New York Times, go with Barrow Hill:

Barrow Hill is decidedly low budget, using a node-based interface popularized years ago by Myst in which the player can stand only in certain spots and look in certain directions. But while the graphics are only serviceable, the game has a strong sense of atmosphere. The woods are filled with the sounds of rustling leaves and snapping twigs, the pay phone whispers eerily when you lift the receiver, and despite its mainly static graphics, the game offers a couple of genuine scares.

Barrow Hill's well-done puzzles and story make it far closer in spirit to Dan Brown's novel than the game based on it. While the vast publicity machine supporting the Da Vinci book would advise you to read the book and see the movie and play the game based on it, I have a different suggestion: read the book, then play the game that isn't based on it. I leave the movie up to you.

Score one for the indies. Oddly, the author states "that a story as complex and compelling as Mr. Brown's book cannot be told in a game" ... which makes me wonder if I read the same book they did.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Next Generation Level Creation

Much like The Game Chair's Jake, my first foray into 3D level building was manipulating Doom levels. With good old DoomEd I created an nine room deathmatch map with barrels and funky lighting galore. It was grand fun for my college mates until someone came around and remade our fraternity badge into a Doom level ... then it was merely old hat.

Oh, those silly days of yore. Behold level editing Far Cry on the 360:

Even with inspirational ease of PC Crytek editing, I wasn’t expecting much from the Far Cry Instincts Predator level editor. Surely the console interface would destroy any possibility of a decent creation tool. Boy was I wrong. In many ways, the Xbox 360 version of the Crytek editor is another leap forward in intuitive ease. Every button of the controller is used, but Ubisoft keeps the interface manageable by leaving one word descriptions of each button press sitting on the screen at all times. I quickly discovered that additional functions are found under popup menus accessed by pulling the right or left trigger. Some notable features are the handy undo button, and the very fast shadow generator which recalculated world lighting based on the time of day I selected.
-- Far Cry Instincts Predator - Second Play - Level Creation for the Next Generation

And to think I once spent hours just trying to find the bugs when I recreated my old office for Unreal Tournament. And there was still a hall of mirrors bug when I was done. Trust me, this gen has it easy.

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For Sunday: Robot Bastard!

But Josh, you say ... it's not Sunday. It's true. But it was never written that posts for Sunday had to be made on Sunday. And this Sunday I'll be out of town and busy, so here you go.

Robot Bastard! is a short film by Rob Schram. "It's a film made by and for grown-up boys who never get laid." It also happens to feature Robia LaMorte who was both "Miss Calendar" for Buffy and "Pearl" for Prince (as in "Diamonds And Pearls"). So consider this a tangent from some portion of your cultural psyche, whether you realize it or not. Free to download, excellent to watch.

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Da Vinci Code Quest: Is There A Winner?

I had thought Google and/or Sony was to announce the winner of their Da Vinci Code Quest Challenge on May 26th. The website is down, solutions were spoiled for the finalist well before the deadline and I can't seem to find any announcements. Did all of the cheating literally spoil the contest? IIRC, Sony had a third option available should a winner not be determined, something with an essay contest instead of the brainteasers.

Either they're oddly hush about it (isn't this all about publicity?) or something has gone a bit odd.

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Break Into Games Competition Site

Sean sent along a link to the official Break Into Games site: Currently it simply says:

Full rules and other details will be posted on this site June 5, 2006.
All entries will be using Torque Game Builder (TGB) to make their game prototypes.
A free trial version of TGB will be available at within the same week that the contest launches.
Prototypes will be due by August 25, 2006.
Finalists will be announced August 26, 2006 at Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) and will be flown out to IndieGamesCon (IGC) on October 6 for the final showdown.

Thanks Sean!

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Jack Thompson Hates Left Behind Game

Via grand poobah Boing Boing we see that religious zealot Jack Thompson doesn't like violent games ... even if they are about religous zealotry. "It breaks my heart to realize that the culture has basically transformed the church rather than the church confronting the culture and trying to transform it," Thompson told the Associated Press. Interestingly, he's abandoned his publisher Tyndale House, who publishes both the Left Behind series as well as Thompson's egomaniacal manifesto Out of Harm's Way Tyndale House probably regrets losing both sales of the book predicted this year.

The Talk 2 Action story Boing Boing found describes the game in a fairly scary manner:

Imagine: you are a foot soldier in a paramilitary group whose purpose is to remake America as a Christian theocracy, and establish its worldly vision of the dominion of Christ over all aspects of life. You are issued high-tech military weaponry, and instructed to engage the infidel on the streets of New York City. You are on a mission - both a religious mission and a military mission -- to convert or kill Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, gays, and anyone who advocates the separation of church and state - especially moderate, mainstream Christians.
-- The Purpose Driven Life Takers (Updated)

Yikes. Jack's personal brand of insanity against this? Talk about fire against fire.

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Ars Technica: Should PS3 Have Had Optional Blu-Ray?

Ars Technica takes a wide overview of the coming holiday console war (digg it) between the 360 and the PlayStation 3 and ponders whether the Blu-Ray drive was completely necessary. In the op/ed, Ken Fisher examines some pretty key points and includes the fact that while BD discs are much, much larger than the 360's DVD9 format, cross-platform titles will be constrained to the DVD9 format anyway. Plus, DVD9 is the equivalent of about 10 CD's ... or still above most modern PC game installs.

The underlying issue, I think, will be how Sony takes advantage of all this space. Nobody can deny the role that the PlayStation's disc-based media had in the console's popularity - it allowed games to have pre-rendered cinematics and backgrounds the most other hardware simply couldn't touch at the time. Consider when the problems N64 games got with ports simply on this bandwidth issue alone. While a game for the 360 might easily fit on a DVD9 disc ... the same game for the PS3 may have higher res textures, better sound files and a full length feature movie.

The counter-argument to that is ... who will be willing to produce a full length movie in addition to a complete game just for another console? The PlayStation 3's real capacity limit might not the amount of storage it has on a hard drive or high definition disc ... but rather the production throughput of the teams delivering the games.

Perhaps, though, what Sony has in mind is that when you buy the next James Bond movie ... you also get the game licensed for the movie as well.

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Halo Movie In 2008?

According to Cinematical, the Master Chief biopic has been delayed to 2008. Citing possible "development hell", it will be interesting to see how this one goes. Best intentions between Hollywood and game studios don't always end up with the best results, as the incredibly subpar Doom movie proves.

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CNN On Sony's Fate

Conceding that the PS3 is "very expensive," Ken Kutaragi, head of Sony's games business, told a Japanese Web site earlier this year that he expects "consumers to think to themselves, 'I will work more hours to buy one.' We want people to feel that they want it, irrespective of anything else."

He has also said the PS3 is "not a game machine." Rather, he says, it is a "machine with supercomputer calculation capabilities for home entertainment."

If Kutaragi-san's calculations are wrong, the big game could be over. If he's right, Sony could once again become the world's dominant consumer electronics giant.
-- The PS3: More than a game

I'm not sure Sony's big game will be over if the PlayStation 3 doesn't sell out on it's first run. And honestly, while it's not that I don't disagree that it's an insanely high price tag ... I'm not sure why we think it won't sell out on it's first run. I mean, the 360 launched with little in the way of a library and not much backwards compatability and people were paying over a grand for one on eBay.

The real test of the PlayStation 3 will be it's longevity. Will the console continue to sell well after the initial frenzy. Ebay prices for a 360 have returned to sanity at this point and stocks of the console are beginning to become actually available. When that time comes for the PS3, Kutaragi will either have to prove his words right, find cheaper manufacturing, or ride out the storm.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Lost: Finale Podcast Notes

Just listening to the producer's official podcast for the Lost finale. Some interesting points:

The Monster
When asked why the monster has been less visible "post-Ecko", the producers said it was part technical constraints (simply narrative bandwidth) but that also that "you've probably seen it, but just haven't realized it".

White Sky
One of them, I think Damon, continously made reference to the shutdown specifically with the "white sky" aspect. They seem to confirm that it makes the island visible and that it happened once before, with the other time being when 815 crashed. Evidently just what happened when Desmond turned the key will be a core mystery for the next season.

Hurley and The Three
Another core mystery will be just why Jack, Sawyer and Kate were taken (and, I assume, what happens to them). Hurley was apparently brought along just to be the messenger.

The Statue
The producers mostly just confirm that it's an indication of what (probably who) existed prior to DHARMA.

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A Quick Customer Service Lesson

As The Girl and I have moved on with the condo hunt, we've left behind tons of realtor leads, online mortgage offers and related third party deals.

One doesn't seem to get the message. They continue to send us an email reminding us that their great offer is still on the table. The reason we didn't take them up on their offer is because we never got a human to call us back. I think I know why. All of their correspondance is signed:


A Client Care Team Member

Perhaps their entire company is run by form letters? Seriously, people, if you want to do "Client Care" ... at least assign a name to the letter. Nobody wants to talk to your mail daemon.

Is Apple Finally Taking Games Seriously?

Ars Technica does a fine job of providing an overview of the current facts and rumors on Apple's plan for games. Since the day I brought my Mac Mini home, I've bemoaned the lack of an orchestrated effort on Apple's part to vitalize games across their hardware, so it would be interesting to see them finally take a stab at it. I just hope they don't follow in Microsoft's footsteps, who recently announced that Direct X is for Vista users only. To be honest, there's never been much about Microsoft's gaming strategy which has really appealed me and in recent years they seem to be happy to practically gut PC gaming for the needs of the Xbox.

If Apple's going to do it ... I hope they do it their own way. Come out with a revolutionary controller. Create games which use the iSight. Design games for people who have Macs on the road or hooked up to the television. Something distinctive to force people to rethink how Macs game.

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Memorial Day Mini Reviews

Just doing some spring catchup here.

Devil May Cry
Yeah, I know ... it's been out for like ever. But someone is going to have to explain to me what I was supposed to see in this game, because after a moderately cheesy cinematic and some incredibly annoying jumping "puzzles", it went back to GameFly in a hurry. It was supposed to have stupendous combat I believe? Then why did it begin with me jumping like a gazelle off of statues?

Resident Evil 4
Again, I realize everyone and their mom has finished this game and moved on. I originally waited to see if I was going to get a cheap GameCube or wait for the Revolution/Wii. Since I'm waiting, it finally earned some game time. I haven't gotten terribly far into the game just yet, but it's impressive to see the franchise finally emerge from it' pre-rendered backdrop roots with some grace. I can't tell if the shooting controls are a might goofy or if I just haven't gotten the hang of it yet. Next up are a gang of crazy villagers, so I'll find out soon enough.

Titan Quest (demo)
Tried this on my cheap PC. With the settings down, it played admirably enough. Largely it's a Diablo clone without much new to offer to the format except for better graphics and some new tricks (like day cycles and the like). Were it a 2-4 player game on the PS2, I'd have bought already. Being just on the PC, that's probably not going to happen.

Black actually took up a decent portion of my weekend. Well, about a day. It took longer than it should have because a smudge on the disc kept one of the cinematics from playing. In fact, I probably spent a third of my time with the game cleaning the disc. It's really that short. The final battle barely even feels climatic ... in fact it feels undercooked. It was the only time I noticed a real bug (some baddie firing an RPG through a floor) and was the least plausible with weird spawns from monster closets and the like.

That doesn't mean the game isn't good. It's stunningly beautiful. Having just finished KillZone I would have thought my bar couldn't be raised much more for the PS2. Black pours on the detail, down to it's lovely destructible walls and props. The environment is most likely the cause for the game's length ... every column probably took as long as it used to take to do a single room.

Black is one of the last unapologetic shooters to be made, I imagine. You are gleefully rewarded for causing as much damage in as short of a period of time as possible. Stealth is an afterthought. There are no buttons, key cards or puzzles. Heck, you open doors with your shotgun - a design aspect which captures Black's mood entirely. Is it completely practical? No, but it sure is fun.

It's way too short for a purchase, although it's tempting to play it again to uncover all the hidden "treasures" and bonus material. Definately a rental though.

I was close to dropping Gamefly's rental service because they couldn't seem to mail anything to me in short order unless I actually purchased the game. Black arrived in just a couple days, however. It's probably too late for its redemption, however. Once we get a shiny new mortgage, gratutious monthly expenses like Gamefly will likely go away.

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

For Sunday: Star Trek Karaoke Promo