Cathode Tan - Games, Media and Geek Stuff
logo design by man bytes blog

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Apple's Third Party Game Engine Rundown

My Apple Developer Connection came with a link to Apple's page for third party game engines. It overviews Torque, Torque Game Builder, Unity and PTK - all very strong choices for building your games on a Mac. I've largely hitched my wagon to Torque largely because of the cross-platform abilities, but for anyone thinking of placing that Mac Mini in the living room to play games you wrote ... it's worth a look.

tagged: ,

Computex Video Wrap

In case you missed E3 booth babes, Digital World Tokyo has you back for the Computex show. "Cheerleaders going ape over Nvidia graphics cards? Geek-baiting models in bikinis? Misbehaving mascots? We've got 'em all and more in our Computex video roundup," they claim. Oh ... they claim.

tagged: ,

Japanese Airlines To Offer In-Flight DS

Japan Airlines (JAL) has introduced a new service which offers Nintendo DS Lite and compatible games free for in-flight play. The limited camapign ends on August 31st 2006. The applicable routes are flights from Tokyo to LA, NY, Chicago, San Francisco, London, Bejing and Guanghzou. For now only four game titles are available including Mario Kart and DS Golf. The DS Lites on JAL flights are specially manufactured without wireless capabilities as use of wireless devices on airplanes is prohibited, so you can forget about multiplayer fun. Here are some bad news you will be eligible for this service if you are flying Executive or First Class only.
-- Japan Airlines to offer Nintendo DS Lite in-flight

Great idea, wrong target audience. Get this into the hands of annoying kids and make for a happier flight for the whole plane and probably sell a few Nintendos once on the ground.

tagged: ,

Friday, June 09, 2006

Don't Fear The Reaper: Permadeath in Gaming

The concept of permadeath did, for a while, enjoy a center stage when it came to gaming debates. As computer role-playing games and multi-user dungeons were shambling their way into massively multiplayer genres, the idea that when your online avatar dies .... it's not coming back was still a pretty viable concept.

Today it might sound like as much as a game design throwback as extra lives. As coin-ops stopped being the main arena for gaming, the idea of having a set number of lives has also been minimized. Who cares how many lives you get when you don't have to pay for them? Sure, some games like Viewtiful Joe or Alien Hominid maintain this concept strictly, but that itself is an indication of the old school designs they've championed.

Next time you're around someone who plays World of Warcraft or Guild Wars ... float this idea past them: if you die somewhere unreachable by a priest ... that character is dead and can't be played anymore. After insuring them you're serious, you'll likely be met with a look which is something like utter terror. How could anyone possibly wish to spend hours and hours building up a character only to have them vanish if they get overwhelmed?

When this debate was still open, pro-permadeath players had several decent reasons. For one thing, it's an instant source of tension. Combat has a completely new dimension when everything is on the line. Another concept is that it would increase the prestige of high-level characters. No longer are they simply people who have logged many hours ... they're players who have survived many hours.

Clearly it's not always feasible. In the common first person shooter, nobody wants to start from scratch because they died. Most players (myself included) don't want to play the last five minutes over. Add in a jumping puzzle into the scene and you have a game I'm far more likely to never finish.

In some ways though ... I do miss the concept. One of my biggest complaints of the Grand Theft Auto III and it's sequels is the ease in which the player can save. Get a better gun? Run to the hideout. Get a good car? Run to the hideout? Make a load of cash? Run to the hideout. Success in GTA3 becomes largely a factor of hoarding the right stuff. But it's a crime story. It's a gangster story. Pain and loss should be part of it. No reloads, that's how it should be played.

With permadeath, you can ask the player to make real investments into their avatar. Two of the best examples I can think of would be Scorched Earth or Nethack (or their various clones). Scorched Earth might not seem to fit, since it's a repeating turn based game. Once you croak in SE, though, you've lost the round. You better decide well on how to spend that money, because it's an investment which could either pay off or leave you broke until you win again.

Nethack is, however, the epitome of how permadeath simply works sometimes. Of course it feels cruel and unfair sometimes ... but what should we expect from the lives of avatars entering a perilous dungeon day in and day out? I think Diablo made a grave injustice when it removed permadeath from it's take on the genre. It could have been the difference from an adventure which was great to something which could have been epic. Can you imagine the feeling of finally beating Diablo with a character who had survived the whole time? Suddenly the terror of the townspeople would have been your own ... and you would have overcome it.

I fear as a design concept, however, permadeath is meeting it's own maker. Not even compromises, such as extra lives (or clones/rebirths/ressurections) or, as I read once somewhere in the MMO blogosphere, the notion of inheritance so that players can retain some of their former wealth. As innovation becomes a risk in game development, permadeath will continually sound like a bad gamble.

My 2D project right now is something of a mix between Asteroids and Nethack, but I'm not sure what parts of which will be used just yet. Permadeath? Perhaps. Thankfully as simply a hobbyist in this game, I don't have to fear either the marketplace or The Reaper.

tagged: ,

Quake Port for Nintendo DS

Via the recently relaunched Flicker Gaming, I found DSQuake. It doesn't look like there is a release yet, but the development blog is full of technical details of trying to cram the engine into the handheld.

While I don't think we'll see Quake over NiWiFi anytime soon ... one can always dream a little dream about it anyway.

tagged: ,

Ultimate Spider-Man ... ultimately disappointing

I rented Ultimate Spider-Man for the Playstation 2 via GameFly (which has recently fixed it's turnaround issues it would seem). I had enjoyed Treyarch's previous outing with the webhead and I've like what I've read of the ultimate series ... so I was rather looking forward to it.

At first glance, it seemed to entertain. I practically made baby noises at the excellent use of comic rendering, clever cinematics and even Spidey's voice overs. I got past the first Venom story goal and thought the fight with Wolverine was fairly decent if not mostly random button mashing.

And then everything just kinda started to go to hell. Spidey's fight with Rhino, his first major boss match, was unenjoyable if you will. Before the actual match, you end up randomly beating up thugs (again, random button mashing), saving hanging people (random camera wrangling) or moving cars (semi-random shoulder button mashing). Rather than a standard third person action feel, it almost felt like the designers were invoking Indigo Prophecy and I was mostly following a kind of "simon says" gameplay.

Once you catch up to Rhino, it only get worse. First, you need to trick Rhino into a field of wet cement. Oddly, the only way to do this is to walk on the wet cement. Since I didn't normally think of wet cement as a good thing to walk on, this actually took me some time to figure out. The designers, however, clearly had a very specific and limited solution. Solving this part of the game wasn't really about figuring out the puzzle ... but ascertaining that specific and limited solution.

This is repeated, but worsened, during the last stage of the fight. Rhino is rampaging around a small used car lot. Spidey must stay within the confines of the used car lot because apparently someone has created some invisible force field around the used car lot. Or something. You can only hurt Rhino for a very small amount of time and the rest of the time you can't fight him. Instead, you fight the camera angles which can't keep up with all your dodging ... which actually makes you dodging Rhino's attacks ... counter-productive because if you can't keep him in view you'll end up getting blindsided. During the brief time he's vulnerable, you again must specifically jump on his back (difficult largely because of the camera). You must repeat this many, many times, all the time hoping you don't get blindsided to death.

Could I throw cars or create elaborate webs to ensare or lead him back to that previous wet cement or anything? No. You must stay in the little invisible cage and repeat precisely what the developers intended again and again and again until either you're dead or Rhino is dead.

Or, as I did, put the game back into GameFly's envelope for a return.

It's sad because really ... much of the presentation is completely brilliant. I would love, actually, to see comic rendered game in the same vein as Indigo Prophecy seamlessly blend panelled cinematics and gameplay. Think Max Payne with reaction games instead of shooting.

But alas, I just got frustrating camera angles and brutally repetitive gameplay.

tagged: ,

Duke Nukem Forever in 2006? (yeah, right)

Heh. A STALKER post and a DNF post in one day? Still my beating vaporware.

This digg post points out that half a million dollars of DNF's $6 million dollar development costs is a bonus if they can ship before the end of 2006. I'm having troubles finding the exact text, but I flunked legalese in college.

The question is ... has DNF been enough of a money hole that half a mill is enough incentive for 3D Realms to ship for the holidays?

Nope, I don't think so either.

tagged: ,

PPC Mac Mini On SDTV

Actually played with this last weekend, but keep forgetting to mention. I hooked my PowerPC based Mac Mini to my old 36" RCA CRT just to see how it might fair as a media computer. The short version: pretty good. DVDs played quite well, although not quite as well as my aging Toshiba CinemaSeries player. No Front Row means relying on Sailing Clicker as a cell phone remote, but that's extremely functional so there's no worries there. The only real problem was trying to do things like web surf and read email ... activities sorely limited by the fuzzines inherent in the SDTV resolution.

So it didn't earn a place next to the television just yet, because it doesn't add anything we don't already have. However, I'm still playing with some Torque based 2D games, so the Mac Mini Game Console might just see the light of day after all.

tagged: ,

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. C.H.A.N.G.E.S.

Outside of a certain Duke Nukem title and possibly a sword-named game, STALKER might be my favorite target to bash. It's just so easy. When it was first announced, it was clear that the scope and breadth of the title would be contradictory to it's successful release. A massive, impressivey rendered and dynamic world filling out a single player experience with a robust and diverse multiplayer section as well?

Sure enough, the game was delayed and delayed again. Now the team is coming clean a bit, saying they're removing some features like the wide use of vehicles and the ability to sleep. When it comes to their long delay, they're pretty honest:

Why so long and what are the reasons? The most correct answer would be - it is very big and complex. 5 years ago nobody on the team had experience to create a project of such level, and “experience is a son of tough mistakes” as the saying goes. After all, however, we are on the finishing line. We want to release S.T.A.L.K.E.R. in a way to bring you fun and justify the long wait. Thanks to everyone genuinely supporting the project. We love S.T.A.L.K.E.R. It’s our child. A problem child. And you will meet it soon.
-- S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl PC game changes (digg it)

Harder to be hard on them when they're being all upfront about it. I'm guessing it slips on more time, sheds a few more features and will ship as a decent, but not overwhelming title. It will take a reviewer twenty minutes to type the words "maybe if the title had shipped when planned".

tagged: ,

Net Neutrality Protection Rejected

US politicians have rejected attempts to enshrine the principle of net neutrality in legislation.
Some fear the decision will mean net providers start deciding on behalf of customers which websites and services they can visit and use.

The vote is a defeat for Google, eBay and Amazon which wanted the net neutrality principle protected by law.

All three mounted vigorous lobbying campaigns prior to the vote in the House of Representatives.
-- Defeat for net neutrality backers

That's the American Congress for you ... thinking they understand the net more than the people who invented it. I'll try to get a list of names of those who voted it down, so that we can better determine who not to vote for in a few months. Between this and the idiotic video game legislation going around, I'm thinking the technology gap is pretty wide in lawmaker circles.

tagged: ,

Take Two, the FTC, and episodic content

Take Two is taking a pretty decent hammering in the wake of an FTC settlement and having Oblivion re-rated:

"While their game portfolio for their fiscal 2007 period appears strong, their stock performance will most likely be hindered from Management's inability to quantify that strength," said Mike Hickey, analyst with Janco Partners, who rates Take-Two a buy. Hickey mentions that much of the sales for "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City" for PlayStation Portable will fall in early fiscal 2007, while "Grand Theft Auto IV" sales will come at its tail-end. The analyst also has high expectations for "Bioshock," "Bully" and the next version of "Red Dead Revolver."

In a bright spot, Eibeler said that he expects the price points for next-generation games to remain high throughout the year, with the average selling price of its 2K Sports titles to exceed around $45 per unit.
And as new online revenue streams take hold, Take-Two said that in its next quarter it will being deferring revenue for online content, in-game ads, and licensing of intellectual property. The company said that it has already received approximately $35 million of payments in its third quarter, and expects to receive additional payments this year.
Looking ahead, Eibeler was bullish on the revenue opportunity that downloadable, episodic content provides in extending the lifecycle of a game. In May, Take-Two's Rockstar Games division said that it would provide exclusive content for "Grand Theft Auto IV" for the Xbox Live online marketplace when the game launches for the Xbox 360 console in October of 2007.
Hickey speculates that the downloadable content for GTA IV, which might cost $5 per episode, could command margins of 50% per unit.

GTA still remains Take Two's tentpost, despite (or because) of it's controversy. And 50% margin on episodic content? Wow. Hopefully nobody takes one of those episodes and removes the clothes.

tagged: ,

Massive 2007 PC Game List

It's apparently a screenshot-filled look at upcoming PC games for 2007. (digg it)I can't read it! Yay. Well, it sounds delicious, so someone tell me what I should try and look forward to running on the CheapBox.

tagged: ,

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Damn Blogger

I apologize for Blogger. It's been having an off week. Hopefully some smart tech out there can beat it into submission.

PSP Indie Title: Visiting Day

Gnomes Lair ran across a new PSP title (digg it) called Visiting Game, which is being developed independently by Mike Bithell:

Synopsis of Plot
A small Welsh primary school is invaded by evil aliens, halfway between assembly and reading time. The children must fight off the aliens using whatever skills they have in order to save their beloved school, and by extension the whole of Gwent.

Play the parts of the school's inhabitants. Help the football team to keep bombs out of the school field or help the dinnerladies ward off the aliens with a particularly strong brand of custard fueled justice. Play on your own or compete with friends to see who is best prepared for the terrible future which awaits us. Visiting Day is al about fun, fast gameplay. Oh, and no loading times.

Message to console makers, be they handheld or not, people will try to homebrew your platform. Might as well make money off of a dev kit than not.

tagged: ,

Cry Engine Or Reality?

The competition between gaming companies keeps them on the edge of Computer graphics development. The holy grail for them is of course to render live computer graphics that looks real.

The pictures below from Infinity Labs show a real scenario photo and it's computer generated equivalent from Cry Engine 2. Cry Engine 2 is the next generation grapics engine made by Ubisoft, the company behind FarCry and many other hits.

We numbered the photos and leave it to you to guess which one is the real one and which is the computer generated one. Answers at the bottom.
-- Real or Computer Generated? ( digg it )

I wonder ... when game developers finally achieve photorealism in a three dimensional game ... are they just going to have a big party or something? It's been such an ardent goal for so long. Maybe once they achieve that, they'll start worrying about the storylines.

Man, I am snarky this morning. Snnnaaaaarky.

tagged: ,

Gabe Newell: They all sucked!

Movie scripts that is...

Eurogamer: Talking of Hollywood, has anyone from the movie world come up with a decent Half-Life movie script yet?

Gabe Newell: They all sucked!

Eurogamer: In what way did they suck?

Gabe Newell: They're just bad movies - movies that shouldn't get made. I'm a huge fan of movies, I love going to movies and we have absolutely no reason to do it. It's not like they've offered us these giant buckets of cash and said "let us go and ruin your game" [laughs]. They offer you little tiny amounts of cash, so it's like they've not even tried to bribe us to go and make a bad movie. So it's the one thing we're going to hold on to. Unless it's a great movie, unless it's as exciting a movie as the game was a game then it will never get made.

Eurogamer: Could you not just go and handpick a script writer and director and approach it that way?

Gabe Newell: We've tried that, but we've ended up with really uninspired scripts. It's just not going to happen until we think that there's a director and a cast and a script and can say this is a movie we'd like to go and see, and not just some vanity piece. We've seen what happens to those sorts of movies and the world would be a better place if nine tenths of those projects had never happened.
-- Interview - Opening the Valve

I could be really snarky here and say that it's evidence that Half-Life's story isn't really good enough to support a great movie script ... but instead I'll take the high road and appreciate that Valve is taking the concept seriously and not just tossing it out to the Hollywood fodder mill or hiring talentless directors.

What would be the foundation of a good Half-Life script though? Going back to the snarky ... how do you define a protaganist which was created to be undefined?

tagged: ,

Wii Retro Library Pricing

Nintendo President Saturo Iwata spoke yesterday at a Japanese marketing event (Japanese source), revealing information about "virtual console" pricing and the Wii's relationship with the DS. Iwata revealed that games for Nintendo's "virtual console" that will allow Wii owners to play old titles on their consoles will be priced at ¥500 and ¥1,000, roughly US$4.50 to US$8.99. For reference, classic retro games for the Nintendo GameBoy sold for upwards of US$35 for some titles, US$19.99 for others. Uptake was understandably low, as gamers were reticent to pay that much for old content.

Retro gaming may prove to be a big boon for Nintendo. Microsoft's Xbox Live Marketplace has already captured the attention of many gamers with games costing 400 to 1,200 Microsoft "points," which translates to US$5 to US$12.50. Nintendo's pricing is roughly competitive with Microsoft's, but the ability to launch with a massive library of retro games could easily overshadow Microsoft's service, which has been anemic in terms of new titles since launch (though we wait in anticipation for Paperboy, Contra, and others). Are gamers more likely to buy Zuma for US$10, or Majora's Mask?
-- Wii's classic games to be priced less than US$10

Hands down ... Majora's Mask. Still, Nintendo hasn't proven it's willing to open a door for indie development just yet, aside from some very mild rumblings. I mean, being able to load up old games for a lark is great and all ... but there's clearly a market for new casual games as well. Hopefully the big N won't be relying soley on pre-existing franchises and titles to get by on the Wii.

tagged: ,

Fan Films Of The Whedonverse

A few feet away is the sound stage, a converted three-car garage and sometimes-bar that currently serves as the main set for Cherub, a fan-made parody of Joss Whedon's popular TV series Angel.

Basil Harris, who plays Cherub's title character, stands on the lawn in a robe and bunny slippers waiting for his next scene. "The set of Cherub is structured like a low-budget film," he says, gesturing at the prop guys running around with a Christmas tree and scimitars. "In fact, a lot of the equipment is actually better."

Now filming its second season in a whirlwind 10-day, $10,000 shoot, Cherub caught fans' attention last November. The first season consisted of 12 installments of three to five minutes, posted weekly, and within months the show's audience had grown from a few theater geeks in Seattle to tens of thousands online. There have now been roughly 100,000 downloads of Cherub episodes.

Cherub's popularity is exceptional, but its subject matter isn't: The show is one of several fan-created online films and TV series set in the so-called Whedonverse, the special land where Joss Whedon's three canceled shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly, take place. With the official Whedonverse put out to pasture, fans have taken the reins on a stable of unofficial spinoffs.


Like Angel, Cherub is the story of a vampire with a conscience who fights crime with a ragtag team of outcasts and nerds. But that's where the resemblance ends. Cherub is pure slapstick -- the title character is doomed to wear cursed bunny slippers and spends most of Season 1 crossing swords with two monkey-obsessed villains called Johnny Mildly-Irritating (Paul Gude) and Princess Valium (Jennifer Pratt). The future of the world hinges on the fate of the Eggplant of Mystery. And Barney (Brynn Hambly), one of Cherub's crime-fighting team, joined the group after narrowly escaping a life of eternal pie-eating in the lemon meringue dimension.
-- Fan Films Reclaim the Whedonverse

The Girl and I are rewatching Buffy now that the normal television season has gone into slump. I had forgotten how much Whedon managed to cram into Season 2. Like half the stuff I thought was actually in Season 3. According to this Wired article, there's a post-Buffy fan film which has gotten considerable attention. For me, though, nothing happened in the Buffyverse after Once More With Feeling.

tagged: ,

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Untitled Card Game Prototype

OK, the prototype of the card game I'll likely be using for my next interactive story can be found here:

I think it's more or less complete. The story may give you tokens which allow you to do things like draw extra cards as an award for playing the story through and through. There may be other variants to the rules during the story and possibly other side games as well.

tagged: ,

Untitled Card Game Updates

Some new comments in the original post.

BlogCritics Rave on Xbox Live Arcade

The Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) is, without a doubt, a big selling point for the Xbox 360. Some people might not look at it this way, but it has been one of the best reasons to own the system.

Far be it from Microsoft to turn "hardcore" gamers into "casual' gamers, but that is exactly what they have done. Xbox Live Arcade appeals to both hardcore and casual crowds, and is also a big reason for its success.
-- Xbox Live Arcade: The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread, Fire

Good read with some interesting tidbits. I didn't know, for instance, that some Unreal powered games will be making their way to XBLA. Hands down I think this is the best thing Microsoft has done for gaming in quite some time. As I just wrote with the Wii dev kit pic, the concept of PC based developed being easily transferred over to a console platform is quite powerful for the hobby and homebrew crowd. The missing link here would be the ability to serve up games on your 360 without Microsoft's interference.

tagged: ,

Wii Dev Kit

Via Digital Battle. I'd love to have one of those, although I would settle for a PC (or Mac) based IDE for the DS that could use the Wii to broadcast games (instead of burning them to carts).

tagged: ,

Chris Morris Rambles About Snow and ... stuff

The common wisdom of the week is that Take Two has decided to cancel Snow, which sounded like a cel-shaded rendition of the classic Drug Wars if anything else, because it's decided to try and lower it's profile somewhat. Chris Morris over at CNN hints to this himself and like any other mainstream journalist, can't resist kicking Take Two over Hot Coffee yet again, stating that they "probably got off easier than it should have" ... despite a 40% drop in stock price.

He then goes on to defend the Oblivion from it's re-rating in that it's nudity was well, stretched thin:

...wireframe models (which determine body shape) and 'skins' which are stretched over those models. The nudity in "Oblivion" basically came by stretching a renamed version of the male 'skin' over the female model, which was only possible by using a modification created by a player (presumably a particularly lonely one). That's a bit of an oversimplification, but even the technical version is hardly the stuff of scandal. Still, because of Take Two's history, it was enough.

Ah right. Take Two's still the bad guy. Even when it's not their game on the table. Seriously ... at times I wonder whose dog Take Two killed.

Dog or no dog, the ESRB shot itself in the foot with the Hot Coffee ruling will proceed to shoot more feet until it develops a stance on modified game content which makes any sense in the real world. As for Snow, I suppose it's possible Take Two decided to drop a title for fear of upcoming controversy. Except that to date, such controversy has only increased the sales of whatever game was being targeted and I certainly don't see them changing their stripes anytime soon. Maybe if they dropped Bully, I'd buy that they were falling to public opinion. But a game most people had barely seen or heard of? I have to kinda doubt it.

tagged: ,

Minnesota Sued Over Game Law

The trade group representing the video game industry sued the state of Minnesota on Tuesday to overturn a new bill that would fine children and teens for buying or renting mature or adults-only games.

The Entertainment Software Assn. (ESA) filed the suit in Minnesota Federal District Court, arguing that the bill attempted to substitute governmental judgment for parental supervision.

The ESA has successfully convinced courts to strike down six similar bills during the past five years, usually by arguing that the prohibitions on certain video games were unconstitutional.
-- Minnesota sued over video game clampdown ( digg it )

I've gotten out of touch with this stuff ... I didn't realize they had framed a law which punished the consumer. I do think a compromise focusing on Adults Only titles will probably be the way to go for both sides, even if it's a non-solution to a non-problem.

tagged: ,

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

ECW on Sci Fi?

"Research tells us that there's a healthy appetite for wrestling among SCI FI viewers," said Bonnie Hammer, President, USA and SCI FI Channel. "With ECW, we're able to deliver to those fans unique action with a twist that's perfect for SCI FI."

“ECW on SCI FI will push the boundaries of sports entertainment in new and unexpected ways,” said Vince McMahon, Chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment.

State sponsored bigotry aside, that might be the dumbest thing I'll read this week.


Untitled Card Game Rules

Follows are how the card game I've devising for the next try at interactive fiction might work. The card game will more or less represent combat in the game. At one point I was playing around with extremely custom cards ... almost like Magic: The Gathering kind of deal. In explaining those mechanics to The Girl, I got a little mockery and confusion in response. At first I thought it might be the explanation but in prototyping I think it was the mechanics themselves.

So now, I moved to a more traditional card game. Players will maintain a hand of cards during the story and at certain times they will either play comptetively against the computer or play cards to control the direction of the narrative. The card game will keep the player's hand dynamic as well as introduce both skill and luck into the narrative flow.

Here's how the game breaks down ... and again this is rough:

Take a standard deck of cards and remove the jacks, queens and kings (and jokers). Aces are low. Shuffle the remaining cards and deal six cards to the player, six cards to the opponent (computer in the game, other player here).

Take three cards from the deck and place them in a row between the two players, face down. The middle card will determine the trump suit. Player gets to chose which of the other two cards to take, remaining card goes to opponent. Flip all three cards. The suit of the middle card is now officially trump. Of the two cards, the higher number will determine who throws first unless only one card is trump ... and then it automatically wins.

A hand consists of three turns with the players alternating who throws first. The rules here coincide with the "initiative" cards - higher card wins unless only one card is of the trump suit. The player who wins the turn can select which card to keep in their hand and is awarded the point difference between the two cards. If the card only wins because of trump, no points are rewarded but the player may still select a card. The other card is placed in a discard pile. The loser of the turn must draw a card from the original pile.

If the cards are both not trump and are tied, both cards are discarded and both players must draw.

The player with the most points at the end of the hand wins. In the case of a tie, another hand is played.

tagged: ,

Single Slot SLI Card

Tom's Hardware takes a good hard look at the GeForce 7950 GX2, a dual SLI solution that only requires a single PCI-E slot. Of all the recent "let's see how much PCB board we can cram into the case" philosophy which has gone into recent computer design, this one actually seems to make some sense. Rather than simply seeing how expensive a gaming rig can get ... this makes for a fairly affordable solution since rigs with a single PCI-E are more reasonable to purchase in the first place.

Still, one of these puppies is about the same price ballpark as a Playstation 3. Funny how that how price war thing looks different from the PC side of computing.

tagged: ,

Unintentionally Funny Girl Transformation Guide

Is your "chick" just not into the hours you spend in front of the television ignoring her? Change her in five easy steps!

Step 4: Slowly Introduce Her to Gaming
The key to turning a regular chick into a gamer chick is taking it slow and playing games that she is interested in and that are at her skill level. If your girl has never played before, or is slow to pick it up, throwing her head first into a first person shooter or 40 hour RPG is not the way to go. The trick is easing her into it with “chick friendly” games. Once she masters the “chick” games, then let her determine when she is ready to move on to more challenging games. She will progress at her own pace. Don’t push her too fast or she will only get frustrated with her skill (or lack thereof.) I know this may be boring as hell for you at times, but believe me, it will all be worth it. Here is a list of games that are great intros for her:

1. Anything Starring Mario
Unless she grew up living under a rock, she has probably played at least one game of Super Mario Bros. on NES. This gives you the advantage of having a familiar face for her to identify with. Besides that, most Mario games air on the novice side and have pretty simple controls. Plus they have fun, bright graphics and a chick in a pink dress…what girl wouldn’t love that. I would recommend any of the Mario Kart or Mario Party games for a novice player, Luigi’s Mansion or Super Smash Brothers for an intermediate player, or Paper Mario for a more advanced player who might want to put in more time (ie-30+ hours) with a game.

You know, I'm sure they meant well.

tagged: ,

Ars Technica On "Left Behind"

An excellent question:

With violence in games being such a hot news item, will this game get a pass because of its Christian underpinnings, or will it simply polarize Christians based on its depictions of violence? This isn't the last time we're going to hear about the game, and I'm looking forward to playing it to see just how delicately and tastefully these issues are dealt with. In that way the game is already a success, it has gotten us talking about religious issues and the use of violence, it just may not be in the way that some Christians would have wanted.

We were in talks with Left Behind games to answer some of our questions about this title, but after six days we haven't received answers.
-- Christians with guns and tanks: Are we ready for Left Behind?

tagged: ,

Response To Senator Brownback

“The institution of marriage has been weakened in this country,” said Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.

He said the attempt to redefine it as something other than one man and one woman “is harmful to the future of the republic.”


Republicans argued that the state of marriage and the American family was exactly the sort of fundamental issue that Congress should take up. "It is not bigotry to define marriage as a union of a man and a woman," said Senator Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas.
-- Brownback: Gay marriage ban "imperative," "not bigotry"

So, if I said something like "white people getting married to black people would be harmful to the future of the republic" ... that would not be considered bigotry? Or if I claimed that a Christian woman married out of her faith ... that could destroy Western civilization .... that would not be considered bigotry?

Or if I said that religious zealots are destroying personal freedom in this country? Oh wait, that one's true.

I'm tired of polictians acting like they can arbitrarily segregrate the country along their moralistic lines and pretend like they are not bigots.

Of course, this is the same political party which recently took a pro-cancer stance ... so nothing surprises me anymore.

Monday, June 05, 2006

MIA: Decent DS Wifi RPG Coop

Sorry for the abuse of acronyms.

I was perusing the upcoming NiWiFi titles for the DS and while there might be some decent candy there, I still bemoan the lack of a decent 2-4 player Diablo clone. While comparing Metroid notes, The Brother and I often wish there was a good coop title of any flavor (perhaps like Dead And Rising) but particularly we miss the good old days of Phantasy Star Online we had on the Dreamcast.

At one point you couldn't walk two feet without crushing some Diablo clone under your heel ... now where one's really needed it's nowhere in sight.

tagged: ,


Thanks goes to Brinstar for noticing Sakey's latest Culture Clash column, which takes on the ESRB:

Frustratingly, their responses are limited, because short of I know you are, but what am I? , it's hard to rebut baseless assaults. The fact is ESRB ratings are extremely prominent and contain more information than what's found on most other media. Yet it's labeled a “failure,” and so far it has countered by saying “No we're not,” because that's all it really can say.

I admire the ESRB. My only true complaint is that they're over-sensitive post-Hot Coffee and a little too quick to re-rate games. The fact that Kim Possible shows more skin than the unhacked version of Oblivion, and the effort involved with hacking it, should have had more bearing on their decision to re-rate that game. After all, enterprising modders could make Reader Rabbit into hardcore porn. To hold the rating systems responsible for the actions of outsiders would be disastrous.

I've been saying it for a while now, but it doesn't hurt to hear someone else agree...

tagged: ,

More On "Left Behind" Game

I do hate giving what will likely be a sub-par title free advertising by writing about it, but "Left Behind" does foster some consideration. Consider Johnny Pi's take:

And like so many forms of propaganda, it is not so much a seed to grow a mental state as it is a reflection of someone's mental reality. People believe in an oncoming conflict, even if they have to bring it about themselves, and what they produce will reflect that internal state.

I have yet to encounter any hate-mongering public figures who developed their hatred and racism from videogaming. Sure, we'll start to see more and more bigotry in games, because games are now a part of our greater cultural landscape. But those same bigots will still print up pamphlets, write blogs, hold recruitment rallies and use every tool available. This is how propagandists work. The only way to stop them is to ban the use of every single medium. Y'know, revoke that freedom of expression that Dick Cheney finds so irksome.
-- Faith as an Excuse

And (linked from that post) ... Orcinus:

The Dominionist -- or, if you like, Christian nationalist -- faction at work here is deliberately targeting young people, as in the recent Battle Cry rallies attracting young audiences in the thousands to their particularly martial brand of Christianity.

And gaming offers a particularly vulnerable recruitment window, because of the immersive qualities of richer, well-designed games like this. The strangely Manichean worldview -- you are either with the theocrats or against them -- combined with the overt eliminationism of the actual play involved seems to suggest the authors are intent on inculcating a deeply totalist mindset.

My friend Mrs. Robinson, a Silicon Valley refugee who comments frequently here, sent me a note along with the link to this piece:

"I spent eleven years in the games business. I left in large part because I realized that most of what was being turned out by the mid-'90s were games designed to desensitize kids to killing, either covertly or very overtly. I felt like I was helping the right-wing train its next generation of soldiers. It wasn't a good feeling. I needed to do something else.

When something like Abu Ghraib or Haditha happens, I feel the weight of that all over again. This game...well, I guess it speaks for itself.

Here it is: your at-home training camp for the next generation of eliminationists."
-- Elimination Gaming

It's interesting to note that even a whackjob like BatJack Thompson can see the forest for the trees on this one. When that guy can't get behind your propaganda, you've seriously crossed some line.

What's sad though is the current state of affairs here in America which is combining an assault on radical fundamentalism with an overdeveloped feeling of morality on videogames which is all too frighteningly producing silence on this game. Here we're paying some company untold sums of money to blame a Battlefield 2 mod which references Team America as an evil subversive al-Qaeda recruitment tool ... but turns a blind eye to a perfectly obvious example of the real thing being developed on our shores.

Between this and Bush's nationalistic gay-bashing, we're broiling up a pretty disgusting culture of fear in this country. We denounce fundamentalism as a plague upon this world, and yet turn a blind eye to the disctintive traits of our own.

Meanwhile, the mainstream media tries to find another excuse to show a dozen screenshots of Grand Theft Auto on the air while decrying violence in the media as poison to the children.

tagged: ,

A Why Me Rhyme Cheat

For those trying to solve Wei-Hwa's latest brainteaser ... here is a tip:

When you think you have one word which fits the clue, try mistyping it into ... the resulting list could provide clues to the answer.

More proof that I'm not really smart, just smart enough to cheat well.

tagged: ,

Card Games And Stories

After Randolph Carter I had every intention of taking pretty much the same format and altering it into more of a puzzle story using the Tell Tale Heart as the basis. However, as I got starting planning it (acknowledging Carter is still unfinished an unrefined), I started to critique myself on some of the points which remained with the format.

For one thing, there was still no control over the story. One of my caveats with the traditional style of interactive lit is that at one point the plot, as it were, often grinds to a halt while the reader must use trial and error to unlock whatever puzzle the author has left behind (and often to even discover what the puzzle might be in the first place). Carter may not have used any classic puzzle designs, but there was still plenty of trial and error involved. I wanted exploration more than expirementation.

I'm currently working on a new story which echews the noun-verb interaction completely. Instead, interaction takes place by the reader intervening at various point with cards. There are two styles of card interaction - one is a simple curse/bless upon a character which will branch out that character's plotline (and those around them). Another is an actual card game played against the computer which represents actual combat (or possibly conflict in general). The interactive layer is essentially played out on top of the narrative layer, rather than combined directly as in Randolph Carter. While the reader might still not have direct control over what will happen next, there's more of a direct association between the cards they play and the outcome.

Another change is that I'm removing the second person perspective. I've never really gotten along with it. It's a decent voice for a conversation, as in pen and paper relationships between a Game Master and a player. I'm not sure it's the best choice for the representation of a reader to a character, though. You is an insistent word of your role. You know who you are. The third person allows for the distinction between the reader and the character being controlled.

Later, I'll post the current card rules (for the combat version) as it plays in my head right now.

tagged: ,

The Rise Of Muslim Gaming

Via Christian Science Monitor:

Set to be released in September, "Al-Quraysh" is a strategy game that tells the story of the first 100 years of Islam's history from the viewpoint of four different nations - Bedouins, Arabs, Persians, and Romans.

One can choose to command any of the armies of the four nations or lead the army of the main character, Khaled Ibn Waleed, a Muslim warrior who defeated the Roman and Persian empires and never lost a battle. Or one can play the role of the Bedouin sheikh, who must earn the respect of his tribe. The player has the task of building and protecting trade routes and water sources, building armies, conducting battles, and freeing slaves.

It's just one of several new games produced in the Middle East with the idea that video games, like other media, play a role in shaping young minds and impacting self-esteem. The makers hope "Al-Quraysh," named after the prophet Muhammad's tribe, will help to correct the image of Islam, alleviate tensions with the West, and stoke pride among young Muslims.
-- Muslims craft their own video games

tagged: ,

"4 x 4" Gaming ... why?

"4 x 4" is the term coined by AMD to describe a platform a two duo chips and four GPUs. Since multiple card systems have become more fasionable these days, it really seems like they are crazy ahead of the curve. Granted, my little Celeron D with a fanless 6800 can barely cough up a decent session of Doom III, but it's not like I'd need any of that insanity to run the current crop of PC games.

As was pointed out to me this weekend though, I don't play competively online. I do remember the old days of Counter-Strike where it was frustrating to see the LPB's rack up the kills. This makes me like online gaming with the Nintendo DS all the more though. It's a solid, stable platform that everyone shares. Unless I can blame a win because someone has one of those fancy new Lite models...

tagged: ,

Wei-Hwa's Second Puzzle (and hints)

Before the weeekend, Wei-Hwa released another puzzler. This time, it's a series of Why Me Rhymes ... which are a pair of words that differ only by the first letter but don't actually rhyme. I haven't really had a chance to look at it, although it would seem to be a mind game of running through potential nouns and then trying to combine them with another noun. More entertaining than the first puzzle, in my opinion.

I was disappointed to see that last week's solution was not posted. So once a puzzle disappears, I guess you might as well stop trying?

To add Wei-Hwa's puzzles, try here

To see some hints (basically first letter for the solutions) ... try the google puzzles blog

tagged: ,

Thompson Insists On Only Video Gamers And Hit Men

Oh wow. Someone definately forgot to take their anti-crazy one morning:

“Nobody shoots anybody in the face unless you’re a hit man or a video gamer,” Thompson said.
-- Only "Gamers and hit men" shoot people in the face, says Jack Thompson

Right. This is just like that episode of CSI where Warrick says that "clearly this was the work of a professional, highly trained mafia assassin" and Grissom corrects him by saying "or maybe someone who play Halo". That show is always spot on with the forensics and stuff.

It's unclear if police actually raided the kid's place for games on Thompson's behalf or if they were just taking evidence as per procedure. The police did say it was "more of a debate for the living room rather than the courtroom."

tagged: ,

The Politics Of Hate

Brief political rant here. Then regular programming.

Considering all the issues America faces today, that George Bush would decide it's time again to gay bash from high above just to bring out the homophobe vote for November is beyond reproach. He's started two wars, authorized torture and domestic spying, handed out wealth welfare at the expense of the national budget and yet he's never quite satisifed. I'm amazed anyone still considers this person to be anything which could defined as "moral" in a modern society.

This is waste of taxpayer money and time in order to pull of a PR stunt for the fringe of American religion. It represents a true low in American politics.

While I'm on the soapbox:

* An Inconvenient Truth (
* Hijacking Catastrophe (what F 9/11 should have been)
* Stephen Colbert's White House Correspondent's Dinner (a must see)