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Friday, July 28, 2006

More Canvas Tag Gamery

Checking out this canvas breakout example made me wonder why it works so much faster than my current tests. The code is almost completely identical. We even ended up calling out collision routine the same thing.

The reason? The canvas tag's performance is directly related to the size of the canvas itself, despite what you're putting on it. A large canvas requries more resources than a small one, even if they both are doing the exact same amount of drawing. 250x250 seems to produce pretty good results. Course, that's fairly small if you're trying to create enough space for two players. I may be able to get better performance by clipping the sections of canvas I'm not actually using when specific elements are being drawn ... not sure.

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The commercial’s voiceover intoned: “Since the dawn of time, man has been curious, imagining all that is possible. The Hanso Foundation: reaching out to a better tomorrow. Discover the experience for yourself. Call 877-HANSORG.” If the intrigued were able to get past the busy signal, they came across several obscure Lost-related references (Widmore Corp., Geronimo Jackson) before their touch-tone navigation led to a warning from Persephone, an anti-Hanso activist who had hacked in to leave the password “breaking strain” to get into protected areas of the Hanso Foundation website. The Lost Experience was off and running.

This intricate and interactive alternate reality game (ARG) is about blurring the line between fiction and reality. But it’s also a bold exercise in viral marketing for a medium desperately in need of a new business model now that so many DVR-owning viewers fast-forward through advertisements. It’s no coincidence the game’s first clue came in the middle of a commercial break.
-- Media: Lost In Alternate Reality Gaming

To date, most successful ARGs - ilovebees, Lost Experience, etc. - are really advertising. Is this fair, though, in the case of Lost Experience, which ties online media to tube media? Well, yes, because they're still tying you into Jeep or or whatever. Jamie Kane is possibly the most successful ARG I can think of that wasn't tied to any single brand (except for the BBC). Course - Kane was pretty odd ... mostly mini-games and singular experiences with chatterbots as opposed to the communal sleuthing with "traditional" ARGs.

It poses plenty of unanswerable questions - can ARGs create a sustainable revenue stream for next gen media? Can they ever replace the forced space of regular ads? Are ARGs sustainable without being hitched to a advertising revenue?

I also wonder if all the back and forth the interliterati crowd has on structure and format is sidestepping ARGs as a viable platform for new interactive stories. They're not overburdened by complicated AI or emotion routines. They're completely capable of support complex narratives (which can be adjusted for player actions). They're probably a lot cheaper to produce than Facade.

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Video Game With Sticker And Tape Levels

With EdgeBomber, players can use tape, stickers and scissors to create their own playground on a wall. The system grabs the scenery and creates a virtual level for a jump'n'run video game. The playground is extended with items and enemies and is projected back to the original scenery. Add or remove stickers to decide the levels of the game. In the mixed media environment, the hero "Oskar" has to resist the attacks of Hubert and the Evil Sausage.
-- we make money not art: Sticking and video gaming

That's sweet. Take the idea back to the concept of couch coop - and it gets even neater. Players not just sitting in the same room, playing the same game - but actualy being involved in on-the-fly edits of how the game is played.

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Canvas Collision Test

Having gotten some preliminary motion out of the canvas tag (that fancy HTML which helps build things like OS X widgets and the like), the next logical problem to solve would be collision. After all, games are mostly just objects ramming into each other. So, here's a really basic collision test which works like a busted version of Space Invaders. Ironically, it doesn't work on Safari - because of the fact that button events will pause Safari's canvad rendering. I was going to utilize a key event handler anyway, so that might be next.

Update: Key controls work now. A=Left, D=Right, Space=fire.

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Robot Dolls

babyart lists a series of Shinichi Yamashita models, haunting female "robots" (via we make money not art). Nifty and creepy, if one isn't offended by all the uncovered plastic nipples.

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PSP Video Podcasts

Video podcast support is coming to the PlayStation Portable thanks to a firmware update Sony published in Japan on Thursday. The update, which pushes the PSP firmware to version 2.80, allows the PSP to receive video clips through RSS feeds from blogs and other websites. Sony first added RSS and podcast support in November 2005 and expanded it in April this year. Additionally, the firmware update adds compatibility for the .3gp audio format used by some mobile phones, and greater access to content stored on Memory Stick memory cards.
-- Now the PSP does video podcasts

The PSP has taken some ribbing, but Sony is clearly maintaining support for it. I lump it into the same hardware category as the 360 - this first revision feels a bit rough, but the next generation of it might be well worthwhile.

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IE7 As Automatic Update

Microsoft will deliver IE7, the next version of Internet Explorer, to consumers via its Automatic Updates (AU) service, but the company will give enterprises a tool to make corporate desktops bypass the update.
-- Microsoft to release IE7 as automatic update

I blog this only to offer my 100% support for it. It's difficult to describe just how out of sync IE6 is with modern browser design. The only excuse, unless Microsoft has mucked up IE7 something major, to not upgrade is sheer laziness.

Course, I still find quite excellent.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

LA Times Repeats "PlayStation Rental" Meme

So this was that woman spouting nonsense on Attack Of The Show:

Sony Corp. has patented technology that would prevent its PlayStation consoles from playing used, rented or borrowed video games — raising questions about whether the electronics and entertainment giant may attempt to redefine what it means to own something in the digital age.
-- Furor Over Sony Patent

Actually, as I've said repeatedly - I've read the patent and it doesn't say anything about the PlayStation. It's related to recordable media.

Sony has said little about the technology, patented in Japan in 2000, or how it might be deployed. But speculation over Sony's plans has sparked a furor online as game fans and consumer advocates fret that the company may incorporate it into the upcoming PlayStation 3 console, due to hit stores this fall.

Actually, they've come right out and said it's not true. Sadly, no "journalist" seems to care (since it would deep six this juicy rumor). You can read it here if you can't be bothered to take the two seconds to google it. Which you shouldn't feel bad about, since a professional journalist can't either.

Documents filed in April 2000 with the U.S. Patent Office describe a method of copy protection by which the game system would verify a disc as legitimate, register the disc to that particular game console, then wipe out verification data so the disc would be rendered unreadable in other PlayStations.

Where does this verification reside? On the disc? Once again, that would require a recordable Blu-Ray drive and a rewritable game medium ... neither of which the PlayStation 3 will have nor will it likely ever have. Maybe if the PS3 was using carts, I could buy into this. As it is, it doesn't take much logic to realize it doesn't fit. The original link to the patent is now long gone, so it's possibly even been withdrawn at this point.

My original post from almost a year ago outlines how something like this goes from rumor to news report ... and now the L.A. Times has kicked in as well.

Every time I read this ... I hear that screeching sound of game journalism scratching the bottom yet again. If a professional can't be bothered with ten minutes of actual fact checking, I don't know why I should expect anything more from anyone else on the subject.

Addendum: Let me be clear on this, just in case anyone gets it confused with any previous posts about Sony, etc. This isn't about Sony. Sony doesn't even factor into this. This is about the entire world of game news - from blogs to newspapers to television - getting facts so wrong that they can't adhere to the laws of physics. Unless someone else can explain how a non-recordable disc-based medium could possibly be so altered short of the console being armed with a straight edge razor to cut out the verification data ... because that's about what it would take. I would love to be wrong on this ... because much of the game "journalism" is trying to say that water is actually dry ... and most everyone is just nodding without much of an afterthought on it.

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One For My Homies

Lemme guess ... the demo is coming in two weeks?

(trust me, to some that's hilarious)

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What We're Watching

Game-wise, The Girl and I are pretty focused on Sims 2. I finished Resident Evil 4 and even played some of the extra content, but I think it's about to get sent back to the great GameFly in the sky.

Television-wise, it's an odd time of the year. We had pretty much nothing there for a while, which sent us back to renting old Buffy reruns. Now, we've got a bigger list:

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia
We caught this show for it's first season and loved it. It's what Cheers would have been if it were mashed with South Park. Much of the comedy stems from how low the main characters are willing to sink and hits such themes (wtih delightful 50's style muzak as it's overture) as underage drinking and crack addiction. It's indie, low-budget feel works well to it's advantage, focusing strongly on the performances of the ensemble which carry the show.

Stargate, Stargate Atlantis
I never really got into Farscape, once referring to it as the best episode of "Muppets In Space" ever produced. Browder and Black, however, manage the impossible - filling a gap left by Richard Dean Anderson. His absence is still felt and to be honest, the show is getting long in the tooth in that "what's the plural of apocalypse" way ... but it's still quite enjoyable. Atlantis seems to be finally getting it's stride as well.

I've talked about it before, but Hustle is still amazing television to me. It uses it's cast brilliantly and features smart and fun plotlines. A constant source of fun.

The 4400
I can quite put my finger on the 4400 ... which is why I think it's still watchable. It's one of those shows that could flop if the writers haven't built a decent premise to unfold. At times it feels like it's missed it's real mark - a drama about people supplanted from their past- for a Lost style mystery. It's still fun to watch, but it will be interesting to see which goal works or doesn't.


Great Tasting Fruit

From lawerence evil's photostream.

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Pinatas Having Sex?

Wait, there's "mating dances" in Viva Pinata? Right down to some Barry White or soft jazz? Isn't this primarily aimed for kids? Sure, it's not explicit ... but I'm still in a bit of huh on this one.

It's odd ... Sims is often the posterboy of clean interactive media living whereas San Andreas is Lucifer. Yet, I've managed to bed nearly every woman in Sims 2 and have two spouses ... a man and a woman. Lots of sex in Sims 2 is actually the easiest way to make friends in the game ... a pretty important goal. By comparison, the girlfriends in San Andreas bored me so much that I eventually just shot one of them.

OK, that didn't come out so much of a defense of San Andreas as questioning Sims 2...

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Lik-Sang's PlayStation 3 "Pre-Orders"

They're not exactly pre-orders as much as a virtual ticket to get in line. I'm not sure pre-orders do much but add to the insanity of these launches ... especially with rumors afloat that some European retailers may require a 150 pounds just for the priviledge of some adolescent stock boy stealing your new shiny toy.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Canvas Tag Speed Run

This is probably largely a confession on how much more likely I am to toy with technology than actually utilize. In playing with the Torque Game Builder this afternoon, I was compelled to play with the HTML canvas tag ... which will sound to most as a kind of folly. And indeed, it probably is. TGB is mature code based on production worthy C++ and the canvas tag was mostly designed for web widgets and graphs.

But to paraphrase Crow T. Robot, I did all the calculations and decided to go with it anyway. My biggest concern with using a browser is performance. I've long bemoaned plugin tech as a reasonable game platform because it's inefficent in terms of speed - you have an engine within an engine within a platform. Compare that to your average native game which at least tries to set aside most of it's resources to your goal and you can guess the difference. My only defense is that I'm hoping a structured tag within a browser beats that back a few layers.

Does it work? Well, this is a quick initial test with a dynamic number of objects running at a dynamic speed (with no other physics, collision or other game related code running, obviously). Of note is: 1) the browser will set aside space for an initial max number. This is currently 150. So if you hit 151, you'll notice a quick slowdown. But this is fixed by raising the initial number. 2) In Safari at least, event handling itself will proceed the entire performance of the canvas tag. Each button click is a pause.

Part of this is certainly a part of me just drawn to what I know. I know web tech. Really, really well. Can you make a decent couch-coop arcade game with it?

Honestly, I don't really know.

EDIT: Oh right, you'll need recent versions of FireFox or Safari to make this work. I'm going to test Opera in a bit, in a hope against hope that the DS will become a gaming browser of sorts. Internet Explorer? Look, Microsoft is at least a generation behind at this point. Trust me when I say that IE7 can't come fast enough for you lot loyal to browser. It's way past due.

And: Opera's not pretty. Doesn't like to add new objects. It's pretty much OK with the brief beta of the card-based fiction I've got running though, and I was mostly hoping that would work with the DS anyway. If I can do arcade in Safari/Firefox and IF in DS Opera ... I'll be happy.

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Google Maps Mobile Rocks

Dang. I just downloaded and tried out the mobile version of Google Maps for my 6230. Woah. I can store directions, view current traffic problems and show people exactly where the potential new condo is with just a few clicks. It's fast and easy to use. There have been many times I wished I could pull up a map while tootling (read: horrifically lost) in the car. This will now likely be a daily app for me.

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Nintendo's Revenge

Nintendo just boosted their profit estimates for the coming year by $150 million from over half a billion dollars, indicating that the company might be one of the unlikely winners in the console wars.
-- Revenge Of Nintendo

Not so long ago, I remember witnessing forum wars about how Nintendo was dead. The GameCube was a coffin and the PSP would be the nails. The DS was a schtick device with little appeal (a belief I partially adhered to myself) and with the 360 launch - Nintendo would likely pull a Sega and ditch the console hardware completely.

Now they're on the verge of launching a console with massive appeal and low cost point ... poising them to possibly even take the "lead" in terms of sales. I use the word lightly because I really think the Console Wars are more like a Console Street Fight where there's never going to be a clear "winner". But we're Americans and we like contests ... and so someone has to come out in the front.

I think it's important to remember this hubris when it comes to Sony, though. Lots of people are poking any potential hole into the electronics giant ... while forgetting they're an electronics giant. Sony is neither a fly by night garage company nor are they the sum of the eccentric executives who seem to be prone to bizarre PR events. Nobody predicted the 360's stumbles or the potential of the Wii's popularity. Predicting Sony's sudden downfall is equally hazardous.

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Kieron On Demuzio

You remember Senator Demuzio, right? She championed video game legislation on the auspices that games are akin to pornography and tobacco. It ended up potentially costing Illinois taxpayers thousands of dollars. Nearly half a million, if I recall correctly (and I do).

Patrick points to Kieron Gillen's excellent rant-essay which largely uses the Senator's feeble grip on reality as a launching point:

Let's put aside the question, exactly in which imminent conflict the armed forces expect to utilize their finely-honed gold-coin-collecting skills. Let's take the good Senator at her word - games are almost military simulators, so not expression - and move forward

By an odd quirk of fate, I found myself in Prague a few weeks back, visiting Bohemia Interactive. They're best known for their breakthrough soldier-sim Operation Flashpoint, critically acclaimed for its extreme devotion to realism. The critics weren't the only ones who noticed. After its release, they were approached by cheery governmental bodies to transform the game into a training simulator for soldiers. The resultant VBS1 is used by the US Marines and National Guard, among others, as part of their training.

So, in the case of Flashpoint, Senator Demuzio is very much right. Flashpoint is exactly the sort of game she was thinking about when making her statement, with the game and the war-simulator merely tweaked versions of one another. Where she's entirely wrong is arguing that this somehow makes the game not a form of expression.

Bohemia is actually one of the more idealistic groups of developers I've met. They talk about their moral discomfort in creating a game about a real conflict, recalling a specific project based on Vietnam. The team disposed of months of work because they thought it impossible to make a game that was both accurate and enjoyable. They spoke of adding destructible buildings to their engine for future games, explaining the addition isn't because they want to give people the visceral thrill of seeing a building fall apart. Rather, it is because they want to create a persistent world where your successes and failures remain to remind you of your errors. Fail to defend a farm, and that burnt out shell is going to be sitting there for the rest of the game.
-- Culture Wargames

With things like Clinton's potential media tax and continued unrealistic portrayals about games in the press, this kind of frisking can't come nearly often enough.

See ya in November, Senator.

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Monopoly Goes Plastic

Gizmodo reports that Monopoly will be taking credit, not cash in the days to follow. Some may bemoan this as an end of an era and that it betrays of the fun of hoarding a fistful of fake money over your friends. I mean, how menacing is it to shake a plastic card in lieu of a stack of $500 bills?

Nay, I say they aren't going far enough. Add in new rules for the modern age:

Identity Theft
Swap credit cards with the person of your choice for three turns.

Balloon Payments
Pay $5 for any property on the board, but pay ten times the list price ten turns later.

Turn lost, simply read five random cards outloud to players. Any player who wants you to stop can pay you $10, but is instantly a victim of the identity theft rule.

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Human Hamster Wheel

Sims 2 invading your reality, story at nine. (via

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Monday, July 24, 2006

Gamer Kitten

Continuing the cat-related zeitgeist, from Arryll's photostream.

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Why Zune Is Doomed

Wired is whistling a dirge for Microsoft's upcoming PMP:

But its grand plan to play musical Switzerland to a host of third-party vendors, as it has done in the PC market, has proven as popular as Swiss music. (Cue accordions and alpenhorns.) No slight to the Swiss; I'm a big fan of the music-subscription idea. But the companies that use it, like Rhapsody, Napster and iRiver, have so far failed to dent Apple's lead. The system, while great in theory, is unwieldy in practice. Microsoft has to roll out changes to each and every partner, rather than implementing them itself, the way Apple does. One manufacturer told me it had to delay the launch of a player because it was waiting for Microsoft to send out the USB-2.0 spec. And the situation appears to be similar when it comes to digital rights management. Updates to Microsoft's complicated DRM schemes can cause serious compatibility problems, because the chain between Microsoft and supported MP3 hardware is so long. Changes to its online music stores can cause files not to transfer to "PlaysForSure" MP3 players, and so on.
-- Microsoft IPod 'Killer' Is Doomed

It goes on to say that while the additional features are nice, they're not likely to detract people from the iPod brand. I'm inclined to agree. Zune, actually, reminds me of Origami. For weeks people talked about how Microsoft would be rolling out a PC-level portable gaming machine which would knock the socks off the DS and PSP. Instead, we get a rehashed Tablet PC with a flip-phone sensibility. I think Wired's being a little too gloomy here, perhaps, because they're ignoring the role the 360 might play in the device's popularity. I don't see Microsoft taking the next Walkman crown, though.

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"Shooter", "Gamers": LAN Party Portraits

The two-part work "Shooter" by the artist duo Geissler and Sann consists of a video and photo documentation of LAN parties organised by the artists in their studio over a period of a year and a half. Both the video sequences and the photo documentations show the players front-on against a neutral background from a constant camera angle.The video, on show at the exhibition, observes the players during a fight scene, i.e. while they are killing or getting killed in the virtual world of the network while sitting in the same room as their adversaries. The video shows moments of intense concentration of a temporary tension characterised by inner drama. According to the artists, "The viewer … witnesses a life-and-death game with no consequences".
-- Shooter (via we make money not art)

Unfortunately the site listed there 404's and I can't find a better sampling of the images online. Not so true of Gamers, a series by Todd Deutsch, from that same WMNA post. This isn't exactly the kind of stuff I'd hang on my wall, but it's interesting to see someone take an artistic slant on the gamer culture.

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AMD Possibly Buying ATI

From just a quick breeze around the net, it would seem to be true. Globe and Mail notes that it would be "a breathtakingly bad idea from a strategic perspective."

I'm not really an adherent to either company. My box is currently a Celeron D with an aging Radeon 9700 ... because my nVidia card's fanless design was apparently not cool enough. Literally.

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