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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Tetris Weightlifting

From the always excellent MAKE:

Tetris Weightlifting is a prototype entertainment fitness system that allows players to lift weights as the means of control for a modified version of Tetris. User testing with the device suggests great potential for combining casual games with exercise activity.
-- Tetris weightlifting

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Serenity Fans Versus Universal

The movie Serenity was many a Firefly fan's last best hope for a continuation of the great Joss Whedon series. Sadly, it was marred by budgetary expenses (since the television sets had been scrapped, the producers had to spend bucks rebuilding them) and pretty haphazard marketing. The latter was in part because Universal had hoped that fans of the show would spread the word for them.

Sadly, this was a dumb strategy. Not that Firefly fans didn't spread the word - it's just that every Firefly fan already knew of the movie and planned to see it. Universal failed to garner a demographic outside the loyal fanbase and the movie barely made a profit, sealing doom for a sequel.

Slashdot is reporting that Universal is threatening legal action against fans for utilizing the Serenity brand without a license. The irony here being that many of these fans were using to brand to ... perform viral marketing.

In response, the fans are submitting an invoice for their time to Universal.

The problem, of course, is that Universal probably has the legal high ground here. Still, there is possibly no greater example in current popular culture of fans being the bedrock of a franchise - outside of perhaps the return of Family Guy to broadcast television. They watched the show, they bought the DVD's and they went to the movie. They've done everything they've ever could to help out and certainly the spirit of Universal's actions, if not the letter, is in the wrong here.

Firefly was, in my opinion, where science fiction needs to tread. It was serious and mature while still appealing to a mainstream crowd. The show never relied on special effects or over-the-top scifi hocum pocum to deliver a point. It relied on solid acting and strong writing. The fact that it couldn't survive on either television or the silver screen is a sad statement on both our entertainment industry and our culture.

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Thompson's Brilliant Legal Tactics

As this video portrays (Joystiq via Destructiod), Batjack Thompson's real gift as a lawyer is annoying judges. The judge spends almost a good ten minutes giving Jack the smackdown while explaining why he isn't recusing himself from the restraining hearing on Bully (if I'm hearing the judges mumbling correctly). Thompson proceeds with a rather childish rant at the end and accuses the judge of violating his own order.

Remember that "great victory" Thompson got by getting the judge to review the game? Based on this, I don't think we have much to worry about. Thompson pissed off the judge in Alabama, pissed off the judge in Miami and will probably continue to think that a tirade is somehow a decent legal strategy.

And wtf was on that sign?

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Friday, October 27, 2006

A Marketer On Lost Season 3

I understand that there are Sci-Fi and spiritual forces at play on the island. I dig those. To a point. Now you're just becoming too high-maintenance for this marketer. We've now got so many hatches (above and below sea level), the "lucky" numbers, the damn Polar Bears, branded sharks and washed-up Pirate ships. And (oy!) the friggin' "others". I don't want to become attached to the "others". It was just perfect enough having the characters from the tail-end of the craft enter the scene last year. That made sense. All were stranded. All were connected somehow. All had endured the same fall-out-of-the-sky experience.

Now we have gated island communities...who hold book clubs? Not cute, too complicated. Too much of the wrong drama. When all I want are complex characters--and a true ensemble cast. I've been having to tell some clients lately that their offerings and business models are far too complicated. If I'm grappling with how to communicate them, how are the prospects going to feel?

That's right, overwhelmed. One could say...lost.
-- Is "Lost" Losing its Luster? Characters not plot. Complex not complicated

An interesting take on the show's rating drop. Also, I didn't realize that Lost slipped out of the Emmy running completely last year.

Still, I would disagree that it's not the amount of information we've been given - I think it's a matter that we don't know what to do with any of it. Season Two didn't leave the audience feeling empowered. I didn't feel rewarded for having tracked any clues except for the fact that I had caught them in the first place. The hatch situation resolved itself without a plausible explanation. Previous assumptions, some supported by the producers themselves, now seem completel off-base.

I agree with her other point completely - Lost has a lot of strength in the characters. But it can't be all flashbacks and inneundo. I think flipping Locke back to Hunter Mode might be the smartest thing the show has done this season to date. I'm just hoping the inclusion of Paolo and Nikki don't negate all that...

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Best Case Fan Ever

From PC-Doc's photostream.

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10 Worst PlayStation 3 Reports

As we near November and I go on a little writing vacation, let's go back in time and revisit some of the fine reporting that has been done on the PlayStation 3. Slowly as the console approaches launch - blogs and game sites seem to be warming up to the machine. For so long, though, it's been a punching bag. Let's peruse.

10. Gizmodo disapproves of the size of the PS3's package
I'm willing to chock this up as more funny than anything else, but I doubt we will see many holiday shoppers concerned about the heft of the PS3 box.

9. Peter Moore doesn't like the PlayStation 3
The above is a Eurogamer article on Moore dissing the PS3 controller, but that's because there are too many examples to pick from. To this day why anyone is suprised why a paid Microsoft shill might not like the PS3 is beyond me. I guess everyone just likes a good catfight. What's sad is watching a company utilize its headstart mostly to spread FUD around the blogosphere (and the blogosphere happily going along with it).

8. Joystiq decides ex-Nielsen analysts are "small and obscure"
Entirely not sure why the big J felt the need to belittle a perfectly respectable analysis firm putting out a valid survey, but I guess it's not kosher to report good news for Sony without doing such.

7. Sony's production delays are outrageous
It's true that Sony's launch is going to be kicked in the kneecaps with hardware shortages and supply problems. What's funny is how angry everyone is about this fact when they were so polite about Microsoft doing the same thing a year ago. On the last Next-Gen podcast it was even asserted that this behavior was simply unfair to the customer. It's odd how this console that much of the gamesphere insisted nobody would want will be such a problem not to have.

6. Kotaku estimates PS3 Games To Cost $60 - $90
This was actually widely reported - but I didn't want Kotaku to feel left out. Following a Japanese report, many people leapt to the conclusion that games would average out at about $80 or so. This turned out to be false ($60 is still in there though), but was fun while it lasted.

5. Gizmodo predicts PlayStation 3 flop - sees it in the LCD TV's
Citing a "snowball effect" from dropping their LCD TV line, Gizmodo assumes that Sony knows the PS3 will be a flop. Using similar logic, news about exploding batteries assumes the PS3 will self-combust after the first play. No ... wait, that one actually makes more sense.

4. Guardian reports PS3 may not play used games
To be clear, Aleks K of the the Guardian Gamesblog did the right thing and actually vetted this after they reported it - and found it to be completely false. Still, it was shocking to read a blog of the Guardian's stature fall for this rumor - which started when someone was bored and read a patent request for a completely unrelated (and to date unknown) product.

3. Boing Boing determines HDMI costs $100 (sans cables)
Cory Doctorow isn't a big fan of Sony, Apple, Microsoft or any other company which apparently uses any kind of DRM. He has a particular dislike for Blu-Ray. That's all well and good, but he instantly jumps to the conclusion that including HDMI is not only unfriendly to the customer - but also really expensive. Sadly, his math doesn't pan out since he ignores all the other differences between the two PS3 skus.

Which now both have HDMI, if I recall correctly.

2. LA Times reports PS3 may not play used games
I get to list this twice because nearly a year after the Guardian corrected itself, the L.A. Times returns to report virtually the exact same myth - only with more length and even less facts (the patent would appear to have been pulled at this time). Even G4's Attack of the Show would go to report this - ignoring that the concept behind it is physically impossible for the PlayStation 3.

1. Boing Boing declares that the PlayStation 3 won't play Blu-Ray movies
That's right, people - megablog Boing Boing read an article on C|Net about the troubles PC's might have with next-generation decoding for movies and assumed that meant Sony's PlayStation 3 would not be able to play Blu-Ray movies. Even though the article never mentions the PlayStation and it's clear to pretty much everyone on the planet that Sony has a major yen to get everyone playing Blu-Ray movies in their living room with the PS3. Cory would later go on to realize his mistake and post a correction - but I'm pretty certain he still used the word "cartel" a couple of times.

What's sad about this list is that there is so much to knock Sony about ... why go making stuff up? They have their crazy ad campaigns and absolutely boring press conferences. They decide to name their next generation online service nothing ... nothing at all ... and I can barely find a snarky comment on it anyway. What, a "Who's on first" comparison is too much of a stretch here? Sony is exploding laptops and once probably installed a rootkit on the machine of someone you know. Rootkit people -rootkit. Whenever you feel the need to kick Sony in the gut - and I know we've all been there - just say rootkit ... because honestly you can simply not beat a company enough for a mistake like that one.

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Mini Reviews: Killer 7, Rise of Sin Tzu and Hunter Wayward

Gamefly delivery last week and some free time contributed to a quick take on a few titles:

Killer 7
This was something of a darling of the review crowd for it's unique presentation style - which can best be decribed as somewhere in between blocky and cel-shaded. This is all well and good in my book, but the rest of the game's presentation was too incoherent to me. Perhaps this is one time that a manual would help explain why I walk into a building under the explanation that I'm "cleaning" it out ... only to find out that it's actually my ... home? Oh, and I'm somehow like five people at once and I can flip by changing the dial on the television.

Hey, I like weird - but this starts to go beyond that and enter into the prohibitively confusing. Can I get past the ghost who is somehow guarding an elevator by changing personas? No. Why? I don't know. Can I shoot the thing that I can see but apparently haven't proper "scanned"? No? Why? I don't know. And so on. Killer 7, honestly, feels like a game that is working with only half of a concept.

Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu
Batman: RoST is one of those games that doesn't really do anything wrong - but does very little exceptional. It's a very basic brawler - a kind of mildly updated Double Dragon with 3D graphics and some Batman flair. OK if you need a two player coop rental, I guess.

Hunter The Reckoning: Wayward
Not having played (or even really acknowledged the existence of) the original Hunter, Wayward came as a bit of a surprise to me. It hasn't been terribly well reviewed but I was trying to find new coop games for The Girl to try. Perhaps it was my lowered expectations, but I ended up having a lot of fun with this title.

As an action RPG - it's pretty limited, for sure. There isn't much character customization I can find ... essentially you just "upgrade" after so much experience. It's rather like the new Gauntlet without as much purchasing (none, in fact - there is no ingame store or anything). Where Wayward shines ... and I wish other action RPGs would liberally steal from it here - is it's combat system. Especially the melee which despite being mostly button mashing actually feels a little like swordplay. It's subtle, but being able to accurately pick your targets with the analog combined with a few movement features (jumping, etc.) gives the action a bit of versatility which is largely missing from most Diablo clones. It's simple - but it's fun.

Which is good because I'm not sure there's much more to the game. You hack apart incoming monsters, about 90% of them being zombies it seems, in rather sparse but well textured landscapes. Sometimes you have to find certain objects - which means destroying garbage cans and the like - and you can save "innocents" to get more continues. That seems to be the majority of the gameplay.

So I can see where someone might have been peeved for paying $50 for this title, but anything less than $30 and the game is pure gold I think. The Girl hasn't ventured into Zombieland with me yet, but I'm guessing two player mode is even more fun.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Lost: Women and Children First

Oh no, the episode was Every Man For Himself .... that's right. Personally I love a good con story so as a standalone piece of television, I'd rate this episode pretty highly. A little predictable perhaps - both the Warden twist and fakemaker was pretty well broadcasted I think. I am, however, glad it turned out to be a fakemaker. If the writers had wanted us to believe that Sawyer had chest surgery, recovered in a few hours and than survived being outside in a filthy cage and having the tar beaten out him ... I think they may have crashed their own plane of plausibility. That kind of sloppy writing would probably make me stop thinking about the show completely.

We didn't learn anything particularly new about Sawyer, other than he has a kid and fans of the show will now have another character to suggest that "maybe X is Sawyer's kid" to go with "maybe X is Him" or "maybe X is the real Sawyer" or "maybe X is Jack's dad's hooker" or "maybe X is the monster".

We learned Kate may or may not love Sawyer and that's it is good to be flat-chested sometimes. Personally, I'm just darn glad the whole episode didn't pan out as some kind of elaborate ruse to get Kate to profess an emotion.

Oh, and before I rail against the machine for a few paragraphs - some of the dialogue here was just top notch. Jack's scenes with Juliet were brilliant and Michael Emerson (Ben) is proving to be simply golden in nearly every moment he has.

Now, the questions, caveats and concerns:

Question: How could they not know Sawyer's age?
The have everyone's full names. They had a complete bio on Jack. They seem to know if you are bad or good - but they didn't have a birthdate for "James"? Seriously? It would have made more sense for Ben to walk up to Sawyer and state, "You are thirty five years old and weigh one ninety four." And then break into a comedy routine with Sawyer debating the obvious truth.

Caveat: No crash cart?
I'm assuming this is a plot point to be explained - but a co-worker this morning informed me I assume too much. She might be right. I mean, The Others have a book club, cartoons, tapes of recent baseball events, a submarine ... but not basic medical supplies? They've got the big freakin' needle from Pulp Fiction but they don't have a critical piece of hospital equipment?

Question/Concern: Why can't Bernard play golf? Or Rose? Who needs a Paolo?
The introduction of Paolo and Nikki feels forced and artificial - and sadly so does the delivery of most of their lines so far (all like five of them). Why the producers felt the need to pad an already large ensemble with a couple people that look like they wandered in from the set of a underwear ad really escapes me. The possibilites don't feel good - either they are tapping out on flashbacks for the main characters or Pool Boy and Hot Girl have been introduced just to get killed off ... which means the show has completely surrended its edge. Either way, doesn't feel good.

Concern: Desmond
Desmond was such a neat character - until he got crushed into a small ball by the implosion of several feet of concrete around him and was somehow transformed in the Messiah. These kinds of characters quickly devolve into a "thing" and not so much a "person". Desmond will become the "link to the island" or "the speaker of the true way" or some such. What sucks is that Desmond is now such a left turn from what most of us consider reality that the show hardly feels worth analyzing anymore. To quote from Green Wing - next week on Not Making Sense, I'll wax an owl. What's the point in trying to figure out what happened or will happen when miracle saves and precognition is on the table?

Concern: Why was Pickett so shocked and surprised?
No, I get that he was angry for losing his wife. That makes sense. There is, however, I think a fundamental contradiction with The Others. They do everything they can do to scare and intimidate the Losties. Kidnapping, killing, mind games and funky costumes. They're also smart, as Ben is often good about saying. They can think well in advance and form complicated tactics to meet their end goal. I wouldn't be surprised if Ben didn't get himself captured just to have the groundwork ready for Michael to betray Jack & Co.

So why do they constantly act shocked when the Losties defend themselves? They seem so annoyed that anyone might pull a gun to keep from being pulled into the jungle. They launch a stealth attack to steal a boat from frightened armed people - but it's the Losties fault that "Cole" died? How can they be so clever and fundamentally stupid at the same time?

Perhaps there is a twist down the way to help explain much of this. Problem with having faith in the show is it seems to be willing to bury the past pretty quickly. Much of Season One's questions seem to revolve about Walt and his relationship with The Island and his potential and whatnot. Then he disappears and later is whisked away on a boat. Season two is all about the hatch - but it implodes before we can get a full understanding of what was going on there. Both aspects seem to be completely left behind as we move on to understanding the Book Club now.

Hopefully we'll get more answers before they go imploding away onto a boat (or some such).

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Lost Podcast Postponed Due To ... Lost

The October 25th edition of the Official Lost Podcast is out (sorry, if can't cough up a link - neither can I) - but it's barely worth the download unless you are a big Eko fan. The producers took a pass on this week ... apparently to work on the show itself. So you get a brief interview with the actor who plays Eko and some advertisements.

Let's see - ratings are down (Season Three viewership is 20% lower than Season Two) and you start the season's podcast with a lame video edition and completely buries the normal podcast link (try iTunes itself I guess). ABC has also added a completely lame wiki which is redudant even with the Official Lost's own site for people rambling about their personal theories (which of course belongs on blogs) ... it really seems like things are off over there somehow. Maybe Ron Moore of Battlestar fame can give them a ring with some tips (excellent blog, commentary podcasts).

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Dalek Pumpkin

"We Evil Mad Scientists like Halloween. A lot. You might have already seen our old-school Cylon Jack-o-lantern. Here is another halloween electronics project, hopefully in time for you to make your own: It's a radio-controlled robotic Dalek that can move around and turn its head. Oh, and did I mention that it's a pumpkin?"
-- HOW TO - Build a robotic Dalek Pumpkin (MAKE)

The direct article on the How-To is over at

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"The Splatterbot twists at the waist and the arms can move up and down. The claws are interchangable with the hatchet or the laser weapon. The front of the chest opens to reveal large hidden teeth, there's a hidden compartment in the back (with visible electronics and wiring), and the head can be removed to reveal the hideous floating eye creature that controls this peculiar little machine.
-- Make your own paper Splatterbot (MAKE)

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TV Watch: Hooker Mom Sleeps At Night

Heroes is really walking a fine line with me. On one hand, it's an interesting take on a superhero-haunted world. In another, it feels disjointed and cobbled together. Funny Japanese Guy continues to get more interesting while Hooker Mom continues to get a little more annoying. Sensitive Guy and Flying Guy are about even money for my bet and Heroin Painter is pretty much just background noise at this point. Cute Cheerleader has potential if she would stop walking around looking pensive.

Thing is - it still feels like the show has plot holes you could send Flying Guy through. Is it me or is Creepy Dad the most jetsetting villain in TV history? I swear he has been evil in three different cities in two days and still had time to get Bald Black Guy to "hollow" someone out ... whatever that means. Plus, if Creepy Dad's goal is to stop these heroes and he know Hooker Mom is one of them - then he broke one of my cardinal rules of being the bad guy - never pass up the chance to kill a good guy while they're sleeping.

In short, the show has potential but the writing suffers from some awful convenience right now. Possibly because it's trying to loop too many subplots too quickly together. The show is clearly looking to capture some of Lost's "mystery" - but currently it's mostly hoping you won't look too hard. It's nice to see it picking up the pace, now it needs to watch its step.

Then we've got Veronica Mars. I firmly believe last night's episode was the best this season has had to offer - but I say that after having watched it with my recordable DVD clearly on its last legs. Half of the show The Girl and I would have to turn to each other and try and fill in the gaps. It felt like V was becoming ... well, unliked again. Which is good. It's the poor girl's lot in life to go against the grain. Veronica is one of the closest things to an anti-hero in teen drama and it should be embracing it. Logan still feels a bit like dead weight though and honestly I think the show is trying to pack too much into one episode. Season one was a slow dance around a central theme - season three feels like the show is trying to prove itself all in a single hour.


Comic Fan Reviews Marvel Alliance

When I first heard about "Marvel Ultimate Alliance," I was skeptical about how a game of that size could work. Now having played the game and spoken with the game's developers, I'm sold. The game has so many fun features and an amazing amount of depth. Personally, I can't wait to get my hands on a copy this week and send my own team of heroes out to save the Marvel Universe.

There's some tidbits about Raven's studio and a couple of specific points about the gameplay - like how health powerups now heal the weakest player automagically (although I wouldn't be surprised if that wasn't configurable). No word on whether they kept the stupid gear system.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

This Will Be Ugly

Has Sony really "assassinated Lik-Sang"? (why am I not surprised that Cory's reaction to this is more sanguine than sane).

Sure, Sony is big company with deep pockets and Lik-Sang is just little old retail import shop - so clearly Sony is in the wrong here, right? Obviously they are just using legal threats to pressure the innocent into submission as part of their "suicidal on-going war" (as Boing Boing puts it). Because of course, Lik-Sang was in the right here?

It's not like Sony "recently obtained a judgment in the High Court of London (England) rendering Lik-Sang's sales of PSP consoles unlawful..."

Wait ... dot dot dot?? A legal court renders Lik-Sang's sales illegal. So Lik-Sang was, technically, or at least quite likely, breaking the law. So Sony's real crime here is ... being a narc.

Now, one can debate the effectiveness and validity of these laws and their intent to death. But Lik-Sang isn't exactly all clad in white here, people. And no, I'm not saying Sony is being an angel here. But I think "assassination" is a bit overdramatic when in reality Lik-Sang pretty much got caught - not killed.

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Giant Working Commodore Logo

Complete with working monitor and hard drive. From FRanKy--'s photostreaM.

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Soon To Be Hiatus

I plan on doing NaNoWriMo again this year, following my previous entry a couple years ago. I took a stab last year at doing it with an interactive piece - but that turned into the last great battle with an IF parser. This time I'll be trying something new - but it will likely soak up all my free time as well as kill off that urge I've got to write.

I might chime in with the occasional Lost post or something - but more than likely I'll disappear until post-holidays.

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Rectango Updates

I've got most everything working - and under a pretty good clip even on the G3 at work - including controls, rendering and basic collision detection. I don't have scoring working - but that's because the core gameplay is still in flux. I was working with the "connect four" concept last night and it just wasn't clicking (in terms of fun). I may try the stacker concept next (balance all the squares in a row while catching more). Playing a puzzler concept is interesting. For one thing, I can see why Tetris style games prefer small playing fields - because larger ones simply become a chore (just while playtesting I found myself only being concerned with the middle of the screen).

What's nice is that because I've got not middleware at all - it is very quick to completely rewrite how the controls or collision detection works. If I want the player pawn to move 10 pixels at a time and no more - I just change a couple lines. Move constantly or accelerate? Couple more lines. Collide into each other or just the player? Change out some status calls. There's nothing in there that doesn't need to be in there, so there's no confusion about what needs to be changed.

Whether that gets me to actually finish it remains to be seen, of course. And making a universal binary looks like it will be a pain, so I'll have to recruit a co-worker with an Intel Mac to recompile for that branch before I can even worry about a Windows version.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

PlayStation 3 Complaining Apexes

Oh no! The box is too big!!! Sony is dooomed!

I don't think it's going to get any more stupid until someone complains that it's too difficult to plug into the wall. It's so stupid. There are some perfectly valid things to poke at concerning Sony's upcoming launch ... including the fact that 90% of us won't have one because they won't be in stock so we continue to flail wildly about a product which isn't in existence yet and won't properly launch until next year.

But by no means should that keep anyone from making commentary on the packaging.

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Violent Movies Decrease Violent Crime

From the flying in the face of conventional "wisdom" department:

Laboratory experiments in psychology find that exposure to media violence increases aggression.  In this paper, we provide field evidence on this question.  We exploit variation in violence of blockbuster movies between 1995 and 2002, and study the effect on same-day assaults.  We find that violent crime decreases on days with higher theater audiences for violent movies.  The effect is mostly driven by incapacitation: between 6PM and 12AM, an increase of one million in the audience for violent movies reduces violent crime by 1.5 to 2 percent.  After the exposure to the movie, between 12AM and 6AM, crime is still reduced but the effect is smaller and less robust.  We obtain similar, but noisier, results using data on DVD and VHS rentals.  Overall, we find no evidence of a temporary surge in violent crime due to exposure to movie violence.  Rather, our estimates suggest that in the short-run violent movies deter over 200 assaults daily.
-- Do violent movies cause violent crime?(Marginal Revolution)

Wonder what the results would be like for a Grand Theft Auto release. Once again, insane fanatics like BatJack like to point t to specific sections of papers to prove his point - but he's never been able to point to any stats for his cause. Likely because like his logic - they're non-existant.

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Two New PSP's Rumored

New Launches reports of analyst talk on two upcoming PSP models - although details are notably fuzzy. The biggest question would seem to be what kind of storage device the models will use. I keep thinking they'll drop UMD completly for a flash based setup. The PSP is a frustrating device, because it's very close to an elegant design and yet suffers from Sony's general love of controlling the format.

And really, would it kill someone to make a handheld console with a decent keyboard?

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Gollum MoCaps Heavenly Sword

Andy Serkis, known to hobbit lovers most everywhere now as the guy who brought Gollum to life, talks to CHUD about motion capturing between movies and games:

Serkis: I’m actually quite excited about the prospect of digital performance. I’ve been working all year on Heavenly Sword, a video game for the Playstation 3. We went back to Weta in New Zealand and I directed all the motion capture for that game, and performing in it as well. I got involved at an early stage in the story design element, then I went through and cast and was in charge of directing performance. I think it’s a fantastic portal at the moment. More and more films are going to use motion capture and I think it’s going to finally be recognized as performance. I really do imagine that in ten years’ time actors will come out of drama school and they’ll do theater and they’ll do TV and film and they’ll do video games as a matter of course. I think it’s beginning, I think it’s in its infancy.

So you see video games having a real future as a performance art.

Serkis: Totally. Again, it comes back to storytelling and script writing and script development. Obviously the technology has reached a point where the fusion between cinema and video games are there. The techniques we used for Heavenly Sword are no different from that for King Kong. It was exactly the same thing; it’s just the resolution of the digital characters. But in terms of the process, in terms of achieving performance, it was exactly the same. All it comes down to is engaging the game player or your audience member in a compelling set of characters in a compelling situation.
-- - Cinematic Happenings Under Development

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The Ins And Outs Of Voice Acting

"David is the voice of 'Halo's' Sgt. Johnson," Lopez says. "He even gets fan mail, just on account of his voice. 'Halo' is a pop cult now, like 'Star Trek' and 'Star Wars.' " (The sergeant died at the end of "Halo 1," but he was so popular that he was resurrected for "Halo 2.")

In the upcoming Peter Jackson feature film version of "Halo," however, Scully is not a casting contender. "Sgt. Johnson is really big, really muscular," Lopez notes, "a sort of Olympic sprinter type." Scully is short and wiry.
Actor/director Jeff Steitzer, for 20 years a conspicuous presence in Seattle theater, is featured in "Halo." He is billed as "The Voice of God."

Cortana, an artificial intelligence that is pretty much in charge of things in "Halo" 1 and 2, is played by Book-It Repertory Theatre regular Jen Taylor. Cortana, of course, is a necessary factor in "Halo 3," which is in the process of development. Taylor is in Australia working in a Seattle Children's Theatre co-production.
"It's not a problem being at the other end of the Earth," Taylor says. "All they need is the voice. I just find a recording studio in Sydney or Adelaide, and they patch you in."

A recurring role commands extra money. For "Halo 1" Taylor got about $500 for a four-hour session. For "Halo 2" she got twice that. "But the technicians had gotten so good at what they were doing," Taylor notes with some regret, "that they got twice the amount of work done in half the time. So my actual pay was about the same."
-- Video-game voiceovers are a lucrative sideline for local theater veterans

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Movie Watch: The Prestige

We saw it last night with a friend and just gotta say - it's amazingly good. Not the same kind of twistflick as say, Memento - but so very solid in its writing and presentation and simply constantly engaging. Great Halloween flick for people who want something more cerebral and less spooky as well.


For Sunday: Marvel Alliance Trailer

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Lost: More On Gaia

More thinking on the Gaia theory - two works of fiction - Foundation and Solaris take the concept of a living planet a little further. When they do, mental powers are associated with both. And the comparisons between Solaris and Lost are pretty straightforward (not to mention sharing a character named Kelvin).

I think if there is any curve ball to the theory - it's the Smoke Monster. You have to append something about a "nascent life form" or some such to make it fit. I think it could still fit, but it seems weird.

And again, I'm not sure I like the idea of the writers always having a "the island did it" excuse.

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Starfox: Command Brief Review

I actually rather liked Starfox on the N64, rail-style space shooter that it was. So I really thought the NDS version would be something of a no-brainer, but I guess I should have taken more heed on some of the negative press it had gotten - because it's sadly become the first Nintendo DS title I'm rather disappointed with.

On paper, it sounds great. Mix a rather simplistic space "sim" with some rail-style targeting and few basic real-time strategy concepts. On paper, it actually sounds like a very good idea. The execution is sadly not nearly as well thought out. In fact, two core mechanics manage to muck up almost the entire game.

The first is the concept of time. Battles in the game must be played out under a certain number of turns but all the action must also be accomplished under a certain amount of time or else you lose a fighter. Lose enough fighters and you fail the mission. Each fighter shares the same pool of time - so if you do poorly on one mission you've pretty much pre-spoiled the next mission. The whole "beat the clock" mechanic sucks a lot of the actual strategy one can use - because it really boils down to just completing missions quickly enough (or hoping to get more time powerups) and without taking much damage. Nothing else in the game matters nearly as much. It's confounded because the mechanic never seems to fit. If the fighters are fighting during turns - why the time limit? In particular - why a shared time limit ... aren't they capable of fighting at the same time? And if each turn had a specific time frame - shouldn't kills made under the limit still count? And why do boss fights - after all the rest of the "strategy" has taken place still fall under this concept?

If they had just distributed "time" as a component of the actual turn - instead of a clearly fake restriction simply designed to make the game tougher - Starfox: Command would be twice the game it is right now. As it is now, the game seems to unduly punish you for simply not being able to track down that final opponent fast enough.

Second is the "spin" mechanic. This is where you use the stylus to spin the fighter's wings around, like a barrel roll. Doing this wards off attacks and adds a bit time to the limit. Which is nice, except that during certain stages of the game there can be multiple enemies firing from offscreen. You don't know they're firing ... so you basically just end up spinning. Constantly. And if you stop, you might just get shot down much quicker than you'd expect. So much emphasis is placed on spinning the fighter that it begins to feel like it's the only move that matters. It drags down the gameplay rather quickly.

I'm not sure how far along in the game I am ... but I'm not sure I'm entirely decided to finish it. I certainly don't see any reason to go back and try the "alternate" endings. And for a change - multiplay doesn't really interest me that much.

Sadly, I'd vote for this one as a complete pass. Hopefully Nintendo can make a Starfox Wii game that doesn't suck.

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