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Friday, June 30, 2006


Between work, home and holidays ... I probably won't get much time for bloggery until after the Fourth. So please take this dated screenshot as my fireworks to you and I'll see y'all next week.

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Opera DS Demo Clarification

I hadn't really expected my somewhat speculative idea on how web based demos would work to be picked up by like three or four sites ... but I do want to address one very valid point:

If the DS is running Opera, how could it run a demo ... it's not exactly a multitasking machine.

From what I can glean about how the DS works ... absolutely correct. And I don't know squat about the DS operating system, but all signs point to "I'm good at doing one thing at a time" and not "I'll run this in the background while you go play Tetris."

I had actually thought of this ... my assumption being that out of any browser out there in the world, Opera is very smart about maintaining state. It really likes to remember where you left off. Perhaps the DS version won't follow suit, but I would find that surprising. So I would guess that once the "plugin" kicked off, the browser would terminate. When the demo was done, the browser could be restarted where you left it. I would imagine most demos could even be smart enough to know to start the browser for you when you left.

Anyway, it's a good point and I wanted to address it.

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First Person In Real Life

This photostream shows a fake virtual reality, if you will.

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The Kotaku-IGN Blogjam

I totalled missed this apparent crossblog flamewar. The Gaming Hobo covers it quite well, but the short of it is that an IGN editor posted (rather someone posted) on his personal blog that he might be switching editorships, Kotaku ran with it as a story, it turned out to be a prank and then there was much, much gnashing of teeth.

It's funny, just this morning I wondered ... what if two major gaming sites I never read anymore got into a fight? Would anyone hear the noise?

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Opera DS: Downloadable Demos?

I want to start by saying I don't think this would happen. I could totally frame this as a "I heard from a dude who was sitting in between a Nintendo employee and a snake on a motherfckin' plane" ... but I wouldn't do that to you people. I respect you, you know, as a woman.

That said, I don't see why Nintendo couldn't capitalize on Opera DS to distribute downloadable demos. Technology wise, it seems like a slam dunk. The reason, I imagine, Opera DS won't support flash is that nobody wanted to write the third party application to support it. The way plugins work with a browser is pretty simple, albeit a little clumsy. If the browser tries to fetch a reference to a media type it doesn't understand, it looks for a plugin to handle it instead.

While it's understandable that Adobe didn't want to put in the effort for a DS Flash player, it's less understandable why Nintendo couldn't write a DS demo player. Click a link, Opera DS denotes the filetype as being a demo and kicks it off to the same code which Nintendo uses to download a demo from a wifi station. Now when you're sitting at home reading about a new game, you just browse to Nintendo's site and give it a try. Like downloading a demo from Xbox Live ... anywhere you have internet access.

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Cooperative Puzzle Play?

I was trying to get The Girl interested in Sims 2 on the PlayStation last night with some mixed results. It really does suffer in a few departments, not the least of which being control. You end up picking up and putting down the wrong thing constantly and cooking feels like a UI nightmare.

My main interest was to try out the two player mode, which we haven't tried yet (another fault is that I think we have to destroy this game and start a new one to try it). It got me thinking about cooperative forms of play which don't necessarily involve shooting. Atlas is being sidelined right now for a two player Defender clone, because the multiplayer concept is more important to me and I couldn't get past my own control issues with it. Still, that's just flying around and destroying stuff. Shooters, either 2D or 3D, lend themselves easily to coop because it's quite simple to duplicate out the mechanics for achieving the exact same goal.

What about puzzles though? Generally with adventure or logic style play, it's one person in control and the other one pointing things out verbally. Not really an integrated cooperative experience. I'm not familiar enough with Puzzle Pirates to know if there is any coop or if it's just competitive, but I'd think that would be one kind of format.

Are there other examples out there of two people actively trying to solve a problem or puzzle that doesn't involve firepower?

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Congress Fails The Internet

Despite net neutrality being advocated by the very people responsible for designing and developing the Internet, Congress can't muster up a decent defense for it. This is a modern day equivalent of not protecting drinkable water supplies from pollution because the manufacturing industry says you shouldn't. We've seen just how nearsighted our government can be before and they certainly aren't changing their stripes any time soon.


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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Dalek Made Her Cry

The Brother recounts how a Dalek's death can make one feel and other poignant moments of Doctor Who.

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Mario With Street Cred

Found while this rendition of Mario on PixelJoint while perusing:

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Comcast Technician Sleeps On Customer's Couch

Finkelstein posted video of the sleeping technician and told this story on, a site that lets users share videos:
His Comcast Internet connection had worked only intermittently since he moved to a new apartment June 1. A Comcast employee who came to Finkelstein's home June 14 to replace the modem called the company for help. Put on hold for more than an hour, he caught some shut-eye while he waited.
Finkelstein, a Georgetown University law student, picked up his video camera, added an Eels song with the lyrics "I need some sleep," and sent it to YouTube.
-- Comcast Employee Sleeps During House Call

You can see the video on YouTube. I personally hate Comcast to their dark stained corporate soul. My digital cable with them was a joke - constantly fuzzy and channels dropping off on me. Their technical support was, ironically to this, the only thing I liked about them. When I could finally get through customer support (I think I came close to napping myself) and get someone out to fix it, they'd always arrive on time and work promptly.

Then came the day I got a mail from Comcast gleefully stating that I'd get a few new channels (at a cost) ... real useful channels like ESPN Golf 3 (largely mini golf and senior citizen tournaments, I think). So now, I couldn't watch channels I wanted, could barely get anyone on the phone to complain and was getting to pay for new channels I never wanted.

I dropped them cheerfully shortly thereafter. Have had DirectTV at the new place and loved every minute of it.

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Answering Your Questions

Resolving some of the unanswered questions that people googled their way to this site:

Will I be able to make games for the Wii using Torque?
I would guess yes, considering the luck some have had with moving their Torque projects to platforms like Xbox Live and and the Palm OS. Naturally there might be some elbow grease involved in getting it running that way ... you couldn't just use TorqueScript and expect it to fly or anything. You'll have to write some C++ bridge code or hope someone else has some to share.

Note though that GarageGames has, I think, a seperate Console License for releasing onto any game console platform.

Wei-hwa's puzzles boring?
Well, they're certainly no fragfest.

Should i delete my pre searing character?
Totally dude. You haven't touched it since you reached Kryta and you know you're going to spend all your time with player versus player action these days anyway. Use the slot for a fresh PvP build and be happy.

Is Traci Melchior married?
Yes. And Rob's a SWAT officer and can totally kick your ass.

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Does Sony Have A Secret Weapon?

What could it be? Android cows? A death laser (as opposed to a life laser?)? Catapult? Android cow catapult? with lasers??

Rumor has it as another motion detection device:

While everyone is heaping praise on the Wii, (and rightly so) we've received a tip-off from one of our sources that is claiming to have inside information about an accessory that will be available at the launch of the PS3 in mid November. The secret hardware is reportedly being developed by an Israeli company called Prime Sense, with patent-pending technology that can "reconstruct 3D topography without assuming anything about the user or environmental conditions".

Prime Sense’s concept is a device, which allows a computer to perceive the world in 3D and derive an understanding of the world based on sight, just the way humans do.

The device includes a sensor, which sees a user (including their complete surroundings), and a digital component, or "brain" which learns and understands user movement within those surroundings.
-- PS3 Secret Weapon Revealed? (via EmBlog)

Yawn. Prime Sense's website is almost humorously devoid of information. At best, it sounds like an upgraded EyeToy. Which, you know, OK. But a $200 rebate would be more lethal.

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Top Ten Strangest NES Mods

If Nintendo came out with a Lego NES case, this would be it. Everything is 100% Lego - power/reset buttons, controller ports, LED light cover, and even the vents up top.
-- Top 10 Strangest NES Mods (digg it)

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What Opera DS Won't Have

According to IGN, the DS browser won't have Flash, PDF, audio or video capabilities. This really shouldn't surprise anyone. All four of those are generally handled by third party plugins within browsers and I can't imagine the nightmare trying coordinate all that software. Provided it supports plugins in general (and it very well might not), these could be added later.

The mumblevine seems uncertain about whether it will include JavaScript and CSS support to bring it to full Web 2.0 concepts like AJAX. I'm guessing it likely will since there seems to be some indications that it's based on the Opera 9 codeset, but that's unconfirmed. Provided it supports these standards at least moderately well, though, it would be theoretically possibly to design web pages specifically for the DS and possibly provide another medium for games.

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The Cathode Will Be Advertised

In the next week or so, ads might appear here and there. Don't be alarmed, but feel free to complain about them.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Mini-Game DS Homebrew and WiFiMe

I was talking to The Brother this weekend about DS hackery and the sort. I was actually bemoaning computer controllers (see dual mice below) and mentioned that the DS itself could make an excellent controller. From there I complained (I was really drunk and whiney apparently) about not being able to simply develop for the DS on a computer and offer software to the DS via wifi (we had just gotten done with a single card game of Metroid Hunters).

He mentioned that in reality you could, and by that he meant WiFiMe, a substitute wifi driver which allows for DS downloads from Windows XP. It's a shame that this kind of development has to be regulated to homebrew hackery. Homebrews follow a pretty hard road for development and, let's be honest, usually offer mixed results.

One game that might buck that trend is No Place To Hide (via GameSetWatch), a game of mini games that even boasts wifi and online stats.

But gosh darn it ... why make it so hard for people to do this? Ok yeah, the obvious answer is copy protection. So control the carts, I get that. I'd even be OK with some kind of online verification or certification setup. It's just frustrating to see the pieces of the puzzle so close together and yet the picture so far apart.

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Prey Demo Quickplay

Possibly the most impressive thing I can say about Prey is that it runs decently (albeit still mildly distracting low framerates) on my Radeon 9700, a card I purchased to play Unreal Tournament 2003 better and now, so many years later, can still push a few pixels.

Prey is intriguing, I'll give it that. I wish the demo didn't start with the now industry standard "first person cinema" which apparently has become doctrine. Sure, it worked in the first Half-Life. To a certain extent, it worked in Deus Ex. Here, I just felt like I was randomly wandering around waiting for the next timed event to get triggered. Jen's bar felt about as real to me as the back of Hollywood set. You know, the part the audience isn't supposed to see? Worse ... it follows up with a sequence which is at point third person and then first person?

I'll say it again ... cut-scenes aren't the worst thing in the world people. I would have taken a console style cinematic that dropped me into action quickly over this any old day.

In game, at least, much of the intro is left behind. In fact the ingame "events" or characters are much better. They remind me of the first Unreal game and lend a lot of strength to the game world. The world design overall is another great thing about Prey. New tricks to the Doom engine like flexible gravity and portals make the levels feel uniquely alien (even if we've seen some of this before from CroTeam). If I recall correctly, one of the original design ideas for Prey was portal technology to keep only a single room "loaded" at a time, so it's interesting to see this in the design.

Overall though, I'm not sure there was enough to grab me to get a purchase out of the deal. Yes, it's pretty and it sounds great. I just get the impression that without a power gaming rig, I'm not getting the real experience of out it. It looks good, but I'll probably hold out to see if a PS3 version is in the pipeline.

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Ode To A Two Mouse Control

I've noticed I have a lot of odes ... and few of them poem related.

I'm poking around with Torque Game Builder development with the main goal of creating something that could be played a) on a Mac Mini b) on a standard definition TV and c) with at least two people. A and B aren't really that difficult. Just don't push the processor or resolution too hard. C is a bit more difficult because PC's are largely solitary setups. Most people don't have a single game controller for a PC or Mac, let alone two.

If we had the capacity for multiple mice in an OS like OS X ... it would help quite a bit. A mouse is a wonderfully elegant controller. It's simple, easy to learn and extremely versatile. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes but largely maintain the same basic functions. They're comfortable for the player and predictable for the developer. One of my big hangups right now is that Atlas would mostly likely be best controlled by a mouse.

But I only get to use one. With dual mice, two players could both enjoy the same level of control and I could develop a standard scheme across the board. As it is, the best I can do is either design for one player with a mouse and another without ... or redesign the control scheme to a lower common denominator (keyboard control for both which could be later remapped).

I'm not alone in this. Grand Poobah Ryan Gordon has done some development with it that might provide some possibilities. What's odd is that apparently such support was native in DOS, but has been left aside in modern operating systems.

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DVD Watch: Night Watch

I think The Brother recommended Night Watch first, but I was surprised I didn't hear more about it from the Chicago crowd. The movie portrays an underground world deep wtih conflict between light and dark "Others" ... humans with special abilities like shapeshifting and sorcery. It reminds me slightly of the first Highlander ... one part low budget late night flick and another part arthouse noir. While Highlander may have leaned to the former, Night Watch leans towards the latter. It's trying to describe a richly layered world where the rules of the supernatural aren't always clearly defined. In fact the movie's largest flaw is that it can be a bit disjointed and difficult to follow at times. When the audience meets back up with Anton in the beginning of the film, so much has changed that you're almost struggling for clues as to his true nature.

In the end though, that's what makes the movie work. Nothing in Night Watch is straightforward - even the concept of good and evil is dragged into question. When a vampire dies in this world, there's serious ramifications for everyone ... unlike the multitude of dust fodder as portrayed in your average monster matinee. Highly recommended.

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Well, that was quick

My fanless 6800 just kicked the dust with absolutely no warning whatsoever. One moment it's showing me fileshack, the next it's a static kaliedoscope. Thankfully I had held on to my trusty Radeon 9700 Pro, which has remained one of the most steadfast computer purchases I've ever made. Heck, it's outlasted whole computers at this point.

Course, it's beyond showing it's age. I don't really know if there is a point in upgrading an AGP machine anymore these days. Probably wait for the holiday console wars before doing much of anything.

Shame though, it was a lot quieter without the Radeon's fan.

"Left Behind" With Spyware Ads

Left Behind Games (a publicly traded company, even) have added money-changers to their particular temple. The game comes fully loaded with what some would term built-in spyware, in the form of in-game advertising that tracks the amount of time ads are seen, how often the game is played, and the player's geographical and personal information. It then sends this data back to the advertiser's servers.
-- Religious video game leaves spyware behind

I wonder if they'll have an ingame billboard that says "God Is Watching".

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Click Ad To Continue Playing?

On the drive in this morning, NPR's All Things Considered had a bit on Massive's ingame advertising software. Mentioned, and I can't find much info about this elsewhere, is that one ad in Anarchy Online for a Toyota is actually integral to the game. If the player doesn't click on the ad to "unveil" the car ... the player doesn't continue playing the quest/mission/whatever Anarchy Online apparently employs.

Right now they're evaluating what kind of impact this had with gamers ... whether it was too intrusive. Does it scare anyone that they even feel the need to ask?

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Does Prey Set A New Level For Game Music?

Written and produced by BAFTA® award-winning composers Jeremy Soule and Julian Soule, the music in Prey is being hailed as featuring the first movie-length soundtrack for a video game. With a running time of over three hours, the release of a two-volume soundtrack album looks set to demonstrate how high the bar has now been raised in video game scoring practice.

So high, in fact, that Prey is destined to effect industry-wide change: from defining a new standard by which music commissions for flagship interactive titles can be judged, to sounding a welcome death knell for the use of through-composed material. It is a key milestone and one that is the culmination of a decade's work spent to bring the true sound of Hollywood into the home. The result: a soundtrack which breathes color into a monochrome landscape. Indeed, nothing quite like this has come before in the games industry and, when Prey ships, the dust is going to take a long time to settle. So, reload and pack some stims because if you want an answer to where video game music goes from here... it's arrived.
-- Prey: Video game music finally grows-up

Hrm. I didn't have high hopes for the demo to run on my cheap gaming rig, so I haven't bothered getting it. Perhaps once a bit of fervor dies down, I'll see how it plays ... or at least sounds.

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