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Friday, September 01, 2006


Wow, I'm an idiot. While I was correcting Boing Boing on their lousy math I guess I should have been should have been freaking out about the lack of cable. Gee, how silly of me.

Hey, lemme go grab that S-Video cable my PlayStation 2 came with real fast. Oh wait, it didn't arrive with one. I'm sure some console did? Nope? OK, well, HDMI is the way of the future anyway. Well, no problem - I'm sure someone out there with an Xbox 360 has an HDMI cable? Oh, apparently not. Huh. How weird.

OK, well, let's just freak out about this complete non-issue for a little while longer. It might be fun until some console actually launches or something. If that gets bored, how about worrying about whether the low end PlayStation 3 will or will not support that resolution not even many HDTV's support. That could be a blast or three.

Jesus people - calm the hell down. I'm a lot more annoyed that Sony is squashing the idea of a PSP revision. I don't even need a PSP2, Sony. Just admit UMD flopped and redesign the mofo around that very simple idea. Hell, keep it the same and make it cheaper ... I don't care. The PSP is a solid idea up against a very powerful competitor.

Right now, if Sony is doomed for any reason - it's because they seem to be trying to survive solely on the basis of their own steam. The PlayStation 3 is worth the money because we say it's worth the money. The PSP doesn't need a redesign. Everyone will love Blu-Ray.

While much of the blogogamesphere seems to like to strike TNT whenever anything Sony is announced - I'm much more bothered by the complete opposite. It's the lack of substance from Sony right now that bugs me. There's a distinct lack of splash and honestly it feels like the launch could echo that resounding silence. Right now, both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD are proving to be losers.

If Sony is hoping early adopters will cary them until next May, they might find an audience of crickets.

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Boing Boing Math On the PlayStation 3

Lemme just preface that I have a lot of respect for Cory Doctorow. Really, I do.

I just don't think math is his strong point. He's now bashing Sony for not including an expensive HDMI cable with the 60GB version of the PlayStation 3. He also accuses them of charging 20% more just for the pleasure of having HDMI.

Which if the 60GB version's only difference from the 20GB version would be HDMI, he would be 100% accurate. $600 is 20% more than $500. What he forgets to subtract is that 40GB difference between the 60GB and 20GB version. Not to mention the flash card reader, wifi card, and that lovely silver trim.

Now quickly, someone go buy a 40GB hard drive, card reader and wifi card. I come up with $40, $10 , and $25 respectively from a completely unscientific and very fast NewEgg crawl. So that HDMI support cost me $25. Roughly. I mean, it's all nonsense anyway since it's not like Sony does it's shopping at NewEgg. Sony can probably get the extra components at about $65 OEM or such, but of course there is also the extra cost of having two manufacturing lines and whatnot ... but I think you get the point. HDMI might be making the 60GB version more expensive, but whatever it is ... it's the shallow part of $100 ... not the whole enchilda.

Why should I be surprised? Not too long ago, Cory announced that the PlayStation 3 wouldn't play Blu-Ray movies (which is not true if you were curious). Honestly, I don't think he is a Sony hater as much as a crazed DRM hater.

But dear god man, do a little a research or you know, talk to Xeni before posting this crap. It's getting embarrasing.

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Zombie City Tactics

Anyhow, IC regular Professor Scissors has posted the full version of Zombie City Tactics, his game which he describes as "a turn-based strategy game about outsmarting and defeating massively superior enemy forces... perhaps!" Sure, the art is a little programmer-y, but the gameplay is entirely present and correct, so you should check it out.
-- Insert Credit on Zombie City Tactics

Sounds pretty brilliant to me ... if I ever get the Windows box running again I might give it a whirl. I'd much rather see more games like this than yet-another-real-time-strategy-but-this-time-we-brought-God (should such a thing exist....).

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StarForce blocked by Vista RC1

Duly lifted from Windows Vista Magazine. Not that it would stay this way (nor would a gamer want it to ... as hated as StarForce is ... it's still better to at least be able to try and run it).

And besides, I'm guessing XP will be the Windows 98 of 2007 and perhaps 2008. People will keep it around in order to play their games that don't run quite right in Vista.

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Does WiFi bring online gaming to the masses?

When I was in college, a fraternity brother of mine liberated some random network equipment, drilled a few holes in various walls and floors and we had the absolute greatest way to play Doom ... against each other. It was brilliant. People would lock themselves into the house for days. Some grew psychologically averse to sunlight. A couple of us even dived into mapediting (fairly daunting for the Doom engine) and that just fed the beast all that much more.

By the time Quake III rolled around, the Internet had extended it's pipes and tubes to many more houses and serious fragging could be thrown down. Course, along came broadband and suddenly playing Counter-Strike was more like LPW v HPB warfare.

Now we've got WiFi and the BBC says it could be responsible for a whole new generation of online gamers. With public WiFi networks starting to go live, it's becoming a literal walk in the park to get networked with other gamers. I've said it before, but this is what the N-Gage tried to zero in on ... but Nintendo did it so much better. While Xbox Live is a revamp of existing services - portable networked gaming is really a brand new bag.

I'm hoping that with the Wii Nintendo doesn't lose it's focus on the DS. Course, since it sounds like Nintendo won't even be rolling out their Wii network for third parties until sometime 2007 - I guess I won't have to worry too much.

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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Push Dumpr

Apparently created with From grace*c*'s photostream

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DVD Watch: Negadon, The Monster From Mars

I covered Negadon briefly with a previous For Sunday post. Well, last week Netflix delivered it upon us and I steathily jammed into into the DVD (She's been a bit tortured by Destroyed All Monsters I fear ... completely not my fault ... of course).

Short synopsis: Negadon is a short CG film dripping with homage and nostalgia of the great latex monster movies of old. How well does it work? Well, like any good homage - as well as you loved the originals. It doesn't skip any beat - from the ridiculously simple setup (Pod arrives from Mars ... what will happen next??) to the melodrama to the heroic beatdown.

If anything, I'd say the heroic beatdown wasn't long enough. There's quite a built of build-up to the showdown (which is also, to be honest, true to form) and the fight itself feels a little quick. It's fairly well directed, however, and definately ends with a bang. I'm not sure I could say you should run out and buy - unless you feel altruistic enough to support some great computer animation (and the animation and rendering is very, very good) but at the very least run out and rent it.

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Numbers On The PSP's Camera and GPS

Sony has officially announced the Camera and GPS receiver add on for the PSP. The camera is basic one and can take pictures at 640 x 480 or 480 x 272 pixels it has a 1.3 megapixel sensor. Video recording is done in 480 x 272 pixels at 30 fps with a limit of 15 seconds per clip in Motion JPEG. The camera supports audio recording via the mono microphone, it has macro mode of 7 cms and digital zoom. The camera measures 45 x 27 x x 16mm and weighs just 15 grams. The GPS receiver on the other hand has a Determination renewal time of 1 second with a 5 meter precision.
-- More details on Sony PSP Camera and GPS

It's hard to tell how compelling either product really is, actually. The GPS might be useful if someone is going to write some killer software for it. The camera might actually be more useful when the PS3 rolls around (assuming it's got any interconnectivity). I skipped the PSP largely because I don't really need any more mobile media than my phone (although it was close) and the DS's online abilities royally spanked it. Still, it's good to see Sony still supporting the platform and I'd love to see a revision.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

UT2007 Statue At Leipzig

From Captain Dude's photostream. I guess technically this could be for any Unreal Tournament...

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Gaming: The New Drug Culture?

Why am I instantly suspicious of this:

Marijuana and video games have been a popular combination for years, but more recently gamers relied on such energy drinks as Red Bull, Rockstar and Monster and then rapidly progressed to amphetamines and nootropics -- so-called "smart drugs" that boost cognitive abilities. The shift from recreational drugs and caffeinated stimulants to the more potent and effective narcotics does not surprise Dr. Maressa Orzack, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School and the founder and coordinator of the Computer Addiction Services clinic at McLean Hospital in Newton, Massachusetts.

Orzack treats video game addiction and believes that frequent game playing can lead to many gamers trying illicit substances to enhance and prolong their play. "Amphetamines and methamphetamines are becoming popular and can certainly help you stay up for long hours and probably helps enhance the excitement," Orzack says. "A lot of gamers, particularly the addicted ones, try to find ways to avoid sleep and keep their concentration."

In an ongoing series of articles, TwitchGuru will explore gaming's new drug culture and examine how it will affect the social LAN parties as well as the future of professional gaming competitions. Filing the first report from gaming's frontlines, TwitchGuru's Aaron McKenna attends a LAN party where snorting Ritalin and consuming other stimulants is commonplace in the quest for ultimate endurance.
-- TwitchGuru Exposes Video Gaming's Dirty Secret: Narcotic Drug Use Among Players at Tournaments and LAN Parties on the Rise: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance

You can catch the whole nine page expose if you so desire (I'll have to wait till I get home).

I guess first I'm a bit taken back by the "marijuana and video games have been a popular combination for years" line. I have never seen any evidence to any truth that in all my gaming years. And it's not that I haven't been around both elements - it's just that most stoned people I think find video games actually really annoying. Apathy and zero attention span don't really go well with interactive forms of entertainment, you know?

The suggestion that somehow Red Bull is a gateway drug to crack also sounds like pop psychology tailored for the "OMG YOUR KID DRINKS COKE??" kind of analysis.

Which leaves only the chewy center - do players who find themselves gaming in marathon sessions turn to anything heavy to keep playing? Again, I can't see this becoming a trend. Playing Quake on crack can't do much for your game except perhaps keep you completely tweaked for hours on end.

My guess is that this a kind of "the cork also rises" situation. The gaming demographic is broadening in just about every possible direction. Certainly, some people already into drugs will also get more involved in gaming. As LAN parties get more commonplace, you're going to see differences among them - drug use undoubtably being a variable.

But a "Timmy thought World of Warcraft was innocent enough ... UNTIL HE GOT ADDICTED TO THE HEROIN" type thing - I'm just not buying it.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Five Gestures For Wii Marvel Alliance

The Wii version of Marvel: Ultimate Alliance will be based on five distinct gestures of the wiimote:

Mike Chrzanowski wants you to try to break the Marvel superhero game he's working on. Just try. He expects you to fail.

Flick your wrist to shoot Spider-Man's webs and shake your hand to spin Thor's hammer. Five gestures trigger the moves of any one of the pantheon of Marvel heroes included in this fall's "Marvel: Ultimate Alliance." The Nintendo Wii game is published by Activision and developed by Vicarious Visions in upstate New York, where the tall, long-haired Chrzanowski serves as an associate designer.

Five moves do it all, from hurling Captain America's shield to throwing a Wolverine-clawed uppercut. Shake the Wii remote. Jab it forward. Lift it up. Press it down. Or cut it sharply to the side, left or right. On an Xbox 360, the same moves can be triggered with a press of a button or a staccato press of a few. If the Wii controls sound imprecise, well that was a problem a few weeks ago. But on the day of the interview, and the day the game comes out, there will be no — OK, almost no — fooling the Wii.

"Now in some cases people will do something that's not going to work right, and in that case they're probably going to have to adjust the way they do it," said Chrzanowski, a black Wii development controller in hand. "But that's a rare case."

He wasn't talking idly. He said a system developed by a Vicarious colleague, Jesse Raymond, a few weeks ago has been crunching the data of dozens of players who have tested the game on the Wii, analyzing the results of requests for players to do 10 swipes in a row or 10 stabs in a row, recognizing which moves the current version of the game fails to recognize as the intended gesture, tweaking the code, checking the pool of data from the gesture trials again for any new misunderstandings, repeat and recode, again and again. The result? "Within a week it went from being 60 to 70 percent reliable to 97 percent reliable," Chrzanowski said.

Like he said, don't expect the Wii to get confused.
-- GameFile: Fooling The Wii, 'Marvel: Ultimate Alliance,' 'StarFox Command,' Bob Marley Video Game And More

This is kinda interesting, methinks. Already some Wii versions of ported games will have a fundamentally different control setup which could rather deeply effect the gameplay. If Ultimate Alliance is following the X-men Legends model, then it's pretty significant - because you're taking a complete button masher and forcing the player to perform (repeatedly) something more drawn out. I'm guessing the basic attacks will still be button based, but using the powers will be gestured and that still a big shift.

Also, this could change the player's setup. With the current setup, you have to assign powers to available buttons ... so you're limited to what's free (usually 2 buttons). Now you'll always have five possible motions (although it sounds like specific heroes will only use a subset of them?)

Food for thought. Even if the Wii turns into an embarrassing usability failure ... it sounds like it will be fun to wave the Wiimote around.

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Swarovski Blinged Nintendo DS

Via New Launches. No word on price, but it looks pretty hideous to me.

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Penny Arcade Case Mod: Completed

From I Am Adam's photostream. Very impressive. Last night, I actually installed a stock heatsink fan with thermal paste and reformatted a hard drive for a fresh Windows XP box.

Just doesn't really compare, now does it.

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The Adventures Of [GM]Dave

Thanks goes to Tampa Forums for introducing me to the great world of [GM]Dave, the Bastard Operator From Hell of the MMO age:

[GM]Dave>> Hey, mom.
Mom>> Mom? Who's that?
Mom>> You can't mean me. I have no children.
[GM]Dave>> Knock it off, Mom.
Mom>> I can't be your mother.
Mom>> No one would ban their own mother.
Mom>> Therefore, you cannot possibly be my son.
[GM]Dave>> Are you going to keep going with this?
[GM]Dave>> It's getting really old.
Mom>> Oh, I'm sorry.
Mom>> I did not mean to bother you. Please forgive me...
Mom>> You soulless monster.
[GM]Dave>> Mom, it's good news.
[GM]Dave>> I'm unbanning you.
Mom>> Well, goody goody gumdrops.
Mom>> That totally makes up for the first two times you banned me.
[GM]Dave>> Oh, stop it.
[GM]Dave>> I had to ban you those times.
[GM]Dave>> You are pure evil.
Mom>> You didn't have to ban me.
Mom>> You wanted to.
Mom>> You enjoyed it.
[GM]Dave>> That's completely unt...
[GM]Dave>> Yeah, I did like it a bit.
-- Bannable Offenses

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Wired On the PlayStation 3 Release

Wired offers up a fairly honest overview of what could be Sony's most precipitous launch in recent history:

The PS3 is much more than a game box. Kutaragi likes to say it's actually a computer, one that's designed to lie at the center of the networked home, serving up films, navigating the Internet, doing nearly everything a PC can do, and delivering jaw-dropping videogames besides. The new console relies on two extremely ambitious yet untested technologies. At its core is a highly sophisticated microchip that can cruise at teraflop speeds (equal to the fastest supercomputers of less than a decade ago) and that might someday revolutionize home electronics. Also built into the machine is Sony's new Blu-ray hi-def disc player, which is proudly incompatible with a rival format from Toshiba – and which represents a bold, some would say reckless, attempt to control the multibillion-dollar market in next-generation video discs.

All this makes for a daring strategy, but not one that plays to Sony's strengths. Sony has always been at its best as a personal hardware company, coming up with nifty gadgets that delight consumers. In recent decades, though, it's become oddly fixated on imposing its own standards – Betamax for VCRs, the Mini-Disc for digital music players, the Universal Media Disc for PlayStation Portable, the Memory Stick for anything you can think of – despite the world's unwavering rejection of those standards. And Sony has never displayed an aptitude for software or had great success with networking, the key feature Microsoft has built into the Xbox. Yet Sony has to face Microsoft not just in videogames but across the entire panoply of home electronics, which Microsoft is determined to control through software. And Sony has to do this with cash reserves of $6 billion – compared to Microsoft's $38 billion hoard – while losing hundreds of dollars in manufacturing costs alone for every PS3 sold. Eventually, Sony's costs will come down. But in the meantime, Goldman Sachs projects, Sony will lose nearly $2 billion on the PS3 by the end of this fiscal year in March.

Sony lovers – and they are legion – have been watching all of this with awe and trepidation. It's not every day that a $64 billion-a-year corporation puts its future on the line. "It's very un-Japanese," observes Rishad Tobaccowala, who tracks the entertainment business as a future-of-media specialist at the global ad giant Publicis. "It's betting the company. If this thing bombs, there is no second coming. Everything else about Sony is a sideshow. This is the show."
-- Can the PS3 Save Sony 

It's four pages and worth every word. Avoids all of the "OMG TEH CELL SUX" reporting which has become way too common. Just a couple extra thoughts:

It's Not The Launch Price
If you were to stick one thing onto the blogosphere bulletin board on this topic - it's the price of the PlayStation 3. I still gotta say that it's a pretty narrow and reactive little sticky. $600 is still cheap for a Blu-Ray (and likely an HD-DVD player) and dirt cheap for a PC gaming rig. It's not cheap for the mainstream consumer gamer, it's true.

Sony could, however, overcome this by appealing to the power rig set, the early adopter crowd or to showcase a truly killer app or game upon launch. The problem isn't the launch price, per se, it's Sony's almost oblivious trumpeting that the price isn't an issue - without trying to do any of the above. Except, perhaps, the early adopter crowd - but that crowd won't sustain a full lifespan.

Eventually the price will drop, of course. Probably not soon enough for Sony if they try and compensate somehow, however (and let's not forget how little control there really is over that).

Blu-Ray isn't the crippling technology here
Everyone loves to bemoan the fact that they are being forced to buy a player which supports Sony's format to play Sony's game. Of course, every game console utilizes it's own format for games anyway. And you can blame Blu-Ray for the price, but as this article points out - you can't even blame it on the delay of the console. That's the DRM being paraded out with these new formats (HD-DVD included and is already causing problems with Vista and Toshiba drives). Plus, there's the slow adoption of HDTV in general. By the time Sony runs out of early adopters, not even half of households will have HDTV's. Gamers may disporportionately purchase the equipment needed to view (and let's get specific here and stop using verbs like "appreciate", games like Dead Rising show that HDTV is not optional equipment) ... but we again go back to the first problem of Sony appealing beyond the common gamer.

If that $600 purchase would look great on my SDTV and then truly excellent when I finally upgrade ... I might consider it. There's no way I'm stacking the two together (and I'm something of a common gamer).

And yet, here Sony's size will definately hurt them. How can they pass up making their PlayStation 3 only really compatible with HDTV screens when the company makes both? Microsoft went this route and they don't even have any stock in selling HDTV's.

It's all about the timing
In many ways, this holiday season doesn't even feel terribly important. This feels like Sony is seeding the ground for perhaps a year or two away. Before the PS3 can become the commonplace living room product that the PS2 attained, it will need:

1) A lower price point. This is out of Sony's hands and probably can't occur until a year or so after launch.
2) Mass HDTV adoption. Again, before HDTV saturation hits the average living ... set you calendar for at least another 365 days.
3) Blu-Ray acceptance (be it dominance or co-existence). Right now, neight HD-DVD or Blu-Ray has a library to speak of ... so who cares about these formats? The people spending $1,000 on burners?
4) Cell processor excellence. Some developers seem to think that the PlayStation 3 has the capacity to clearly have the graphical edge ... but nobody quite knows how to make it dance like that yet. So first gen titles are likely to resemble 360 titles and Sony fanboys will have to wait for at least the second gen for any kind of bragging rights (unless Sony has an ace up it's sleeve - which is highly unlikely).

All four of these are entirely possible, if not probable. Just not anytime before the next holiday season (or the one after that).

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Monday, August 28, 2006

Snopes Examines The Madden Curse

Legend:   Players whose pictures grace the covers of Madden NFL video games are doomed by a curse to injury or subsequent obscurity.

Origins:   We often use superstition to help us understand unusual patterns that have no logical explanation, and to help us assert some feeling of regulation over phenomena we cannot control. Not surprisingly, superstition is something we see regularly in the world of sports — how else to explain why a few teams come up short of winning championships for decades on end, why some players suddenly experience precipitous drop-offs in performance, or why a particularly good player makes the bad play that end his team's championship hopes? With the application of superstition, all is explainable; we can attribute these kinds of events to factors such as "the Curse of the Bambino," the "sophomore jinx," or a player's unwise decision to wear a jersey bearing the number 13.
-- Urban Legends Reference Pages: The Madden Curse

The whole article gives a blow by blow of the recent Madden games and their victims.

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Once More With Randolph Carter

I think I will try and polish Randolph Carter and submit it to Slamdance. To be honest, I'm not entirely thrilled with the outcome - although it accomplishes some groundwork that could prove vital. I've got two other textual projects I'm at least contemplating at this point. Both would actually move away from Carter's "highlighted text" design and go into something more card-like in an interface, although there might be more similarity than that sounds.

So if anyone wants to try it out again and offer more feedback, it's at:

There will probably be a redesign from the drab HTML, updated docs and possibly a couple story tweaks at the very least.

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FluxBits - Literally A Universal Adaptor?

Take gaming to the next level with FluxBits, the wearable game interface. FluxBits is able to turn everyday objects into in-game controls, where a whole new world of opportunities open up with an Open Design approach to gaming. FluxBits are worn by the gamer, who can then use a clipboard as a proxy steering wheel, while an umbrella could stand in for the joystick, depending on the user's preferences.
-- FluxBits opens up new ways to play

Seriously ... huh? This sounds a bit familiar, but no less strange the second time around.

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Great Work Poster

Too true. Way too true. From karamchedu's photostream.

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Cold Beer

During one of the many cross-town trips The Girl and I have had since the beginning of The Move, we stopped by Sam's Winery for whiskey and beer. The Girl discovered she actually liked Three Floyd's Gumballhead, but when I went to the shelf I was surprised to find it .... cold.

Now I've always thought that once cold, beer should be kept cold. According to the experts, it won't hurt beer much to be shifted from cold to warm and back to cold. Light and extended exposure to temperatures (particularly above room temperature) can respectively "skunk" or stale beer flavor, however. And sure enough, last night the Gumballhead just tasted a bit off ... it's normally a dry wheat with an almost spicy taste ... but this was flat and a bit sharp.

So I'm not sure what they've been doing with their beer, but we'll head back to Binney's for a while.

While researching this very important topic, I stumbled on this great list of beer cozies, including the feature Lego cozy. So when you've got to keep you beer cool, don't be afraid to use common household items...

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Slamdance Deadline Approaching

Sam of the Slamdance Guerrila Gamemaker competition sent this along:

Finalists will be announced in December and will be shown at the Games Venue
during the Slamdance Film Festival, which occurs in Park City, Utah, January
19 - 27, 2006. Developers of all varieties of interactive electronic
storytelling and play are encouraged to submit. The GGC features several
award categories, including a Grand Jury Prize, and Audience Award, and two
awards recognizing student achievement in Art and Technology. We offer two
student awards so that we do not exclude students from purely technical
programs or purely artistic programs. All awards offer exceptional prize
packages and participation in the award ceremony on the last day of the
Games Festival.

"Slamdance is an indie game festival in the truest sense of the word -- a
diverse gathering of passionate, scrappy gamemakers hell-bent on creating
innovative interactive entertainment. We contestants connected with each
other as much as competed, playing and discussing each other's works
throughout our time at Park City," said Andrew Stern, one of Fa├žade¹s two

Game submissions have an early-postmarked deadline of September 1, 2006 and
a final postmarked deadline of September 29, 2006. Extensions may be
provided, dependent on circumstance. The entrance fee is $30 for games that
meet the early deadline, and $40 for others. Accommodations will be made
for students who cannot manage this financial burden. Entrants must submit 3
hard copies of their game and provide a URL for the game site. Entry forms
and application information are available through the Slamdance website at

I was going to try and get some interactive fiction into the fray, but then The Purchase and The Move occured and time went a slipping away. I still have some demo work in that vein, so maybe I'll poke into it some more (or maybe just enter Randolph Carter after a little more scrubbing on it).

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