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

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Your Irregularly Scheduled Broadcast

If you ever wanted an excuse to dredge up virtually every financial document that you've ever had in your adult life and fax legal contracts to at least three people ... I highly recommend buying a condo in Chicago. Otherwise, I recommend a small drill bit and some salt, because it's really just about as much fun.

The Girl and I are heading for Hometown sometime today, her trip having been delayed by the previous paragraph. It's unlikely that I'll be seeing you lot until Sunday, so remember to wash regularly and waste a little time with your favorite electronic distraction.

In the meantime, I see we have some colorful new ads for everyone to click on. Seriously people, I got a down payment to worry about. Click!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Sony Pulls PSP "White" Ad

Sony's pulled the plug on their "PSP White is coming" ad campaign in the Netherlands, which depicted, well, you know. We're not gonna call it an admission of guilt or anything (and neither did they, read on), but Sony did apologize to those offended by the campaign, also stating, "We recognize that the subject matter of one specific image may have caused concern in some countries not directly affected by the advertising. As a result, we have now withdrawn the campaign." We're quite well aware of the cultural context in which advertising must be taken, but it's apparent the world holds a company like Sony to a higher standard, and Sony can apparently recognize this as well.
-- Sony pulls "PSP White is coming" ads in Netherlands

I only have this to say about the apparent brouhaha - I've been to Amsterdam and trust me ... there's a lot of ads there that would offend the average American. Some even feature nipples.

Still, if any company should be aware of the growing globalization of advertising, including print, it should be Sony.

tagged: ,

Rein Dismisses Episodic Content As Competition

He explained, “Customers are supposed to buy half a game after 20 months, then wait six months for an episode? When I put a game down, I want to try a new one. Episodic games that offer faster turnaround will inevitably be using a lot of recycled content, walking through the same environments and shooting the same enemies with the same weapons.”

He said that episodic games could never compete will full-priced products. “They’re competing against massive marketing budgets. Distribution without marketing is worthless. You can’t buy retail marketing with a wholesale price of $15.” He added, “Full-price games have a cohesive start, middle and end.”
-- Rein Pours Scorn on Episodic(digg it)

Hrm. As a semi-reformed Unreal fanboy, I gotta tell you that Rein's track record for foot and mouth correlation isn't so hot. His statement that a release would be out "in two weeks" is probably still getting guffaws on the forums. I get the impression that Mark's a pretty good guy ... and having seen him in action on mass IRC chats I'd definately say I'd have a few beers with him ... but occasionally he gets quoted in the news and it makes one groan.

That as it may be, I think he's got a point here. His mistake is making a blanket statement about all potential episodic content. Yes, it might be re-use a lot of existing content. I would certainly think it would. Sure, if all other factors for games remain the same ... it's potential for some suck. Cheap redundant content is not superior to expensive unique content.

What he's missing, though, is that some of us hope that developers will use episodes for the power of good. Think of it as the difference between television and movies. TV might have lower production values, but they allow a lot more canvas to paint a big picture. Television shows can carry more characters and more plotlines whereas movies require a lens focused enough to film within their time limit.

I haven't seen that it will happen yet, but I'm hopeful that's the kind of difference developers can make with a new publishing format.

tagged: ,

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Interactive Fiction First Time Foibles

From, I stumbled on this list of stumbles one person finds in some interactive fiction:

The following list is made up of a few things I've noticed in a lot of the interactive fiction games I've tested or tried out. I've tried these games for reasons I can't entirely fathom; admittedly, it's easier and leaves fewer disfiguring scars than self-flagellation. It is not necessarily any less painful though.
-- First-Timer Foibles

Things like "examine me" and uninspired locations rightfully make the list.

tagged: ,

That Xpod-Boy-Thing ...

Game|Life talks a bit more on the Xpod-Boy-Thing "rumors", which are starting to resemble Origami rumors in about every possible way. Even if it doesn't happen this holiday (and it probably will), here's why it will probably will eventually:

Microsoft has the hardware bug
With the 360, Microsoft is starting to learn how to actually make profitable hardware. It's not quite there yet, mind you, but it's learning the margin between power and profit. We should remember that the iPod is insanely profitable hardware-wise and now that MS has gotten it's feet wet somewhat, that's gotta look like an attractive goal.

Keeping Up With The Joneses
And the Sonys and Nintendos too. They both have game portables which can, in some capacity, double as net devices and media players. We know Nintendo plans on integrating the DS tightly and Sony will probably follow with the PSP. Even if Microsoft doesn't set the world on fire with the Xpod-Boy-Thing (XBT) ... it will want to put the 360 on equal footing with the competitors.

Microsoft Loves Media
Microsoft has a long standing foot war with people like Apple and Real on the hegemony of digital media. Apple has delivered a massive salvo in this war with iTunes and the iPod and just because Sony has been unable to mount a reasonable response doesn't mean that Microsoft wouldn't want to try.

tagged: ,

Sims 2 Dreaming

I actually did last night. Have a Sims 2 dream, that is. I don't recommend it. It's like have a fantasy world encapsulated by someone else's depressing isometric socially stunted life. And trying to relax in a SimBed while trying to sleep in your own? Really, just wrong.

The Girl heads to Hometown tonight, so I'll probably return to the comfortable surroundings of Resident Evil 4.

tagged: ,

End Of The Line MUD Rememberence

The races don’t seem all that weird (save for: chicken, pig, squid, and teddy bear), its the areas that you fight in that are truly great. You can walk around and kill everything from StarTrek characters to Smurfs, typical fantasy creatures to hillbillies, John Madden to Billy Ray Sirus. There are a multitude of guilds (which are basically character classes) and specializations to truly customize your character.
-- Uber-Geeks » Blog Archive » End of the Line MUD (EotL)

I never got terribly into MUDs ... it was one of those things that seems just on the edge of what I played ... somewhere in between BBS door games (like that statement doesn't age me) and standard CRPG's. Descriptions like this support my theory that some lessons from the last few generations are getting forgotten. I'd love to play a modern day RPG where a pig can attack a teddy bear over a Smurf's gold. I mean, who wouldn't?

tagged: ,

The Simpler Side Of Cosplay

Almost like cheating. From nmalaguti's photstream.

tagged: ,

Hellgate Code Theft?

It seems an individual of Chinese origin has stolen the source code for Flagship Studio’s upcoming action RPG Hellgate London and is probably planning on selling it on a personal website. When contacted, Flagship Studio’s CEO Bill Roper had this to say, “We’ve heard the same rumors. Obviously this is of concern to us and we’ve been looking into it, but we haven’t been able to ascertain any further information to substantiate those rumors.”
-- Hellgate London source code stolen?

Ouch. Would really suck to think maybe, possibly your code had been stolen ... somewhere.

tagged: ,

Fallout 3 Lives?

But then, a voice in the dark cried forth. Fallout 3 lives! And the warden that would revive it from the brink of nothingness would be Bethesda Softworks! Rejoice! Yes, makers of Morrowind and Oblivion are now hard at work on the next vault dweller's journeys, and we couldn't have picked a better suitor.
-- Fallout 3 - 2006 Games Guide - Gaming Evolution (digg it)

It would make for an interesting marriage. Fallout and Elder Scrolls are both milestones in free form RPG play ... so perhaps it is like peanut butter in your chocolate (or the other way around). Still, turn based combat is becoming even more of a dying breed and to see Fallout go this way would just be another nail in the coffin. Not that it wouldn't make a great game, but it seems different than what many a Fallout fan was probably wanting.

tagged: ,

Monday, July 10, 2006

California Extreme Pinball/Arcade Show

California Extreme is "the awkwardly-named yearly arcade/pinball show", according to Waxy:

Plus, the speakers they've lined up this year are great. Eugene Jarvis (creator of Defender, NARC, and Cruis'n USA) will be talking about the making of Robotron, Kevin Tiell will be showing his pinball's-eye-view photography, and director Greg Maletic will be screening parts of his Future of Pinball documentary.
-- Daily Log: California Extreme 2006

Metal Slug X? Four player Warlords? Hmmm, makes me miss the old days of the mall arcade.

tagged: ,

X-Men 3: Wolverine's Long Closeup

We went to see X-Men 3 this weekend. If I may don my comic geek hat for a moment, allow me to disclose why it sucks. This will be terribly, horribly spoilerific. By the end of this post, I'll have divulged all the big surprises in the movie. I do this knowingly and willing with the hope that if so spoiled, you won't go see it.

You mean that much to me.

X3, as I'll lazily refer to the movie from here, drags up some of the worst aspects of the X-Men mythos. It's not that some of it doesn't have reference in the canon - it's just that it's really bad, bad, bad parts of the series. Here are some points.

Wolverine's not a real good leader. He's a lone wolf. He's not really a team player. Not to mention the fact that .... he's an ass. Sure, he seems to be every Marvel fan's favorite anti-hero, but that doesn't mean he should be taking charge. He might do something like, oh I dunno, line up everyone in the face of a powerful army and almost get them killed. See?

Wolverine's not invulnerable. Yeah, I know ... the comics more or less make this case at some point. That doesn't mean it makes any sense, unfortunately. The first movie disavowed the bright costumes for a touch of realism. The latest one openly embraces one of the silliest aspects in the comic's history. You have one person capable of atomizing anything with the power of her mind. Another heals real fast. Somehow, from this, the writers think they have a "irresistible force meets unmovable object" type conflict ... when any rational person knows you have an atomized Wolverine.

If Hollywood wants to make a Wolverine movie ... by god just make one. There is plenty in his long history for a solo appearance. Turning the final movie into little more than a 90 minute Wolverine fest with the occasional cameo from others just isn't worth the price of admission. I was really hoping for a treatment on the Phoenix Saga and instead got reminded of some of the very reasons I stopped reading X-Men in the first place.

Now for your spoilers. Last warning. Avert your eyes. .... ok .... Professor X dies, Rogue voluntarily loses her powers, Magneto involuntarily loses his powers and the Juggernaught is the British football goon from EuroTrip.

Now save your money and spend some time with loved ones.

tagged: ,

The Problem With Superman

I haven't seen the new Supes in action yet ... but Keith Stuart talks about the problem Superman has with games and himself:

As far as the traditional videogaming demographic goes, Superman also has an image problem. He's too nice, too pure, too unreconstructed for our post-modern tastes. Batman is a goth (although admittedly he's had his fare share of stinky games), Spider-Man is a confused adolescent with a hot girlfriend, Wolverine has claws and mental health problems, but Superman wears blue and red lycra and stands resolutely for truth, justice and... well, that's all now. He belongs to a different era - an era that wasn't embarrassed about 'the American way'.
-- Superman, poor games and the collapse of Western civilisation

That "American Way" tidbit is apparently a reference to some furor over dropping that from a catchphrase whose origins I can't even remember ... but I'm guessing it's from the 50's TV serials (i.e. pinko commies beware). Apparently it's not even Clark who makes the statement in the movie, but Perry White ... but facts never got in the way of angry conservative pundits before, so why start now? These people won't be happy until they get a superhero flying off crying, "For Rush Limbaugh!"

Well, maybe not now that Rush is a euphemism, but you get the point.

I would argue with Keith's point, though. As a character for both film and games, Superman has potential. The point has been made elsewhere that unlike most superheroes, Clark Kent is the real identity and Superman is the secret. Not necessarily in the same way as like The Hulk, where the "hero" figure is an outcast or Batman where it's a dark aspect of one's personality. Clark has an identity ... Superman is just an ideal figure. As a hero, he is more icon than persona. One of Smallville's more poignant successes is drawing out Clark as a figure almost embarrassed by his potential.

For games, Superman could show us that you don't always need to have lives and a health bar to frame the content. Superman can have challenges far removed from simply surviving. For him ... the loss of any life, even that of a criminal's, is a horrible failure. It's not what Superman can do which defines him as a hero, but what he restrains himself from doing. It provides developers with a completely new strategy for desiging a game.

And what could be more post-modern than that? Well ... don't answer that actually ... I'm not sure we're ready for that just yet.

tagged: ,

Sims 2: Bizarre Socialization

The Girl and I have been playing PS2 Sims 2 ... fervently. It's a lovely kind of mindless fun that we can both get into at the same time. And for the most part, I can see why it's such a high selling game. It's a great example of sandbox style play and has tons of production quality to it. I can't imagine what the master list of animations looks like for this project.

Still, it's also the darling of the interactive lit crowd and that part has me a little curious. I get that emergent storytelling is nifty and all ... but I can't see anyone making the justifcation that it's good storytelling at work here. Sure, the fact that The Girl's avatar went a ghostly in a horrific kitchen fire and that my sim, on autopilot, chose to steal the roast she was preparing rather than save her is humorous ... but largely because it's so nonsensical. It's like mad libs or something.

Socializations in Sims 2 in general is pretty odd ... if not down right annoying. We were having a hard time keeping friends until we realized one basic fact: sims are, as a race, bipolar antisocial codependent freaks. The easiest way to get and maintain a friendship in the game is to call someone into bed, chat them up until they're all nice ... and then have sex with them repeatedly. Try and talk to them two seconds later, though, and so much as kiss on the cheek could ruin the relationship ... and that hug is often downright catastrophic.

Is this narrative building? Repeatedly coaxing a person who general hates you into bed only to have them disown you an hour later because they didn't like your joke and you beat them at a portable game?

I would imagine the literati would defend it with "well, you've got to start somewhere." I would agree. Apparently in the game, that somewhere will be in a six person hot tub where there's no chance of a card trick going awry.

tagged: ,


OMFG, if I read this nonsense one more time I will scream. Even though this forum post debunks itself, the idea that Sony would lock down PlayStation 3 rentals is still making the rounds.

tagged: ,

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Lens Capable of Both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD

New Launches reports that Ricoh has developed a hybrid lens for all your next-gen television viewing needs, perhaps creating a panacea for fence-sitters and perhaps just another step in introducing the most expensive way to watch Spider-Man 2 ever.

tagged: ,

Bizarre PlayStation 2 Video

Franck, a Cathode reader from France, passes along this tre bizarre video, which I think is an official French PS2 spot ... but my babel is a bit rusty so I'm not 100% sure. There is an conveyor belt of breasts at one point, should that offend any American sensibilities ... you've been warned.

He also forwards along Abdel Bounane's excellent French gaming blog, from which I've already discovered that the Park Ridge Public Library, here in ChicagoLand, is offering a selection of games for young adults. Excellent! or perhaps very excels!

Thanks Franck!

tagged: ,