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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Penny Arcade Accidentally Mails Off (And Recovers) Carmack DS


We didn't even open the DS that Electronic Arts sent. If we had, we would have seen that it was being offered up an an auction for Child's Play. It was, in fact, a Nintendo DS signed by John Carmack. As I said, we didn't even open the thing. If you have been doing this for almost a decade, as we have, you develop a very comprehensive and far reaching cynicism that applies to anything that a company sends you. We arm ourselves in this way because we think it will make us deliver you a more robust assessment of the medium. Also, we are assholes. Professionally.

What I am trying to say is that we fucked up bad. Bad. We actually sent that DS away as a prize in Gabriel's revolting cookie contest this morning, and pawing through the entrails of the box we found an absolutely genuine letter of support for both the site and for the mission of the charity. There is a portion of the letter dedicated to his pride in the game's custom wand-shaped stylus, and if you take pride in custom wand-styluses what that says to me is that you are a huge nerd. This was not some vile and crass manipulator. He wasn't trying to fly me out to gay Paris. He used his position to secure something incredible for the charity, and believed that I would be literate enough to read the enclosed letter. He was wrong.
-- Penny Arcade -- Not That We Mind

What's even more fubar is that accompanying comic mocks EA for sending it in the first place. I make a humble promise to John Carmack that should he sign a DS and send it to me, I would not mail to anyone ... ever. Even for charity, actually. Probably wouldn't even open the thing, just bronze it and hang it on the wall with a small plaque explaining why I can now die happy.


We were able to fish the signed DS out of the UPS bin in advance of the pickup, so that tender collectible will go up in an eBay auction on Wednesday - acting as a coda to this year's Child's Play. It's been replaced by a common, absolutely ordinary Nintendo DS, which isn't as cool, but what do you do? Hopefully their naughty cookies will be a comfort to them in this dark time.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

DVD Watch: Stardust

Stardust might be one of the best movie you've never heard of from 2007. It's got a story by Neil Gaiman and is directed by Matthew Vaughn (who apparently was raised thinking he as Robert Vaughn's kid, but isn't). It's solid directing, features a wide and talented cast and generally looks quite excellent. Ok, sometimes Claire Danes' accent slips one way or another - but she's still fun to watch when Michelle Pfeiffer isn't dominating (in a good, very good) the scene. Lots of fun, highly recommend.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Rails As A Ghetto

Via /. - I find this hilarious. It's basically a enormous rant by a guy pissed at the Ruby on Rails community. For those who haven't been acquainted, Ruby On Rails (Or ROR is you're hip) is a relatively new framework for writing websites. Personally, I have no opinion on ROR itself because it has never really come up for me professionally.

Why I find the rant so funny is because not so long ago the somewhat major retailer who likes to wrap your things in black in white boxes that I worked for was shopping around for design agencies. At the time, I was told this was because the design staff didn't have the bandwidth to handle the redesign they were wanting. The reality is a different story. Along the way, some small Chicago agency got into the interview process. I really, really don't remember their name.

They loved ROR. Oh, wow did they love rails. And when they found out that we were a .Net shop - boy, we they willing to preach us the gospel of rails. .Net was monolithic and slow. ROR was sleek and fast. .Net was your grandma. ROR was a cheerleader. I don't really exaggerate here - they had that kind of thing in bullet points for meetings.

So, for you little Ruby (or other bleeding edge tech) shops out there, here's some advice:

1) Don't go into a Fortune 500 company and announce that their framework is for crap when you've actually not been asked your opinion their framework. Unless you're another Fortune 500 company - here's a clue ... nobody gives a damn. Nobody. Seriously, I don't even care if you're right - you look like a damn idiot. Maybe if we'd still been using the ASP3 codebase purchased a half decade ago you might be able to make the occasional snide remark to a tech geek and hope to get a chortle - but the moment you start handing out papers on the subject ... you need to back the hell off.

2) If you do decide that for some reason a handout is the best thing for your client and your professional career - check your facts. You can be damned sure that in any sizeable organization, the person you handed it to probably has no idea what you're talking about (this is probably intentional). Your problem is that they, deep down inside, know this, and will get it into the hands of someone that does to cover their own ass (oddly, corporate bureaucracy works well in this regard). When that person does get that handout finally, you better be sure your facts are straight.

3) Companies the size of those of which we speak have lawyers. Some have a few, some have many, many, many more. State Farm, for instance, has one of the highest lawyer to employee ratios on the planet. If you really think they won't litigate you when those facts aren't straight and when your nubile little framework cracks under the weight of an enterprise e-commerce site ... well, maybe you ought to appreciate why tip 1 exists in the first place. And remember that handout will still be in someone's drawer when tip 2 failed them. Guess what? You're still screwed.

Seriously, I have nothing against Ruby, or Rails or well ... hell, nearly any web technology out there. I want them all to succeed like the super little children I'm sure their parents know they are. But for the love of all things holy - learn to behave in the first place. And when I read rants like this ... it reminds me that sometimes agencies forget this.

Sandals Honeymoon Vacation

This is just a post to recap our honeymoonicane. Currently we're debating with Sandals about whether they'll actually be honoring the vouchers for their hurricane insurance. Details to come.

Happy Apokalyptica 2008

Apokalyptica is winter holiday of celebrating the fact that the world has not, in fact, come to an end once again. Usually I'm more on top of promoting it during December, but that was one wild and crazy month for us. Apokalyptica has always been a bit of underdog as holidays go, being all removed from Wikipedia and stuff.

I'll try to get some updated posts for this holiday month when I get a chance, and maybe it will motivate me to finish at least a part of This Town Is Dead, the IF I'm working on.

Brainwaves Make Lousy Demos

I can see why the always excellent MAKE would find this interesting - it's pretty nifty when it comes to just pure gadgetry. I don't see why the gaming industry would care though:

I was like thinking that I had to be thinking about my thoughts and stuff. OK, sure, the kid's like seven and I'm thinking that I should be thinking that maybe he didn't take his ritalin or sometihng. These interfaces keep getting kicked around but keep missing the fact it's hard enough to make controllers with the kind of precision gamers need these days. Last night I died in a small pool of lava because the Wavebird knockoff we use for GameCube games decided to take a quick break. Would it be better to if could have thought about my momentary state of non-calmness to float? I mean, these things just register brainwaves and then report the to the computer. It's actually not that revolutionary nor useful - brainwaves don't actually have that many dimensions of information to them. Basically this is like being in a sleep study, but shoved in front of a monitor.

Until they can show a demo of a game that actually looks like a game ... I'll keep shaking my head at these. Nintendo has done far more with cheap electronics and a pair of IR beams.

Projects Into The New Year

Oh so many things left undone:

I'm still working on some interactive fiction using Adobe's AIR. This was to be my Text the Halls entry, but dog and holidays intervened. Right now the setup is a combination of HTML and keyboard input. Basically the user is granted letters by making their way through rooms and they can use these letters to perform actions in the room. It's a halfway point between the traditional parser where users might try random words and the interface in Randolph Carter where they were totally limited by what was on the screen. My biggest hangup here is, oddly enough, writer's block. I've got the framework back into a condition where I can mostly just write (my design goal for Carter) ... but now I'm unsure what to write.

Yesterday, I broke out WOTGreal and started poking around some of my remaining UT2004 code. I did this partially because the gametype I had in mind last week I knew I could get coded in UnrealScript in a few hours ... and got it coded in a few hours. Now I'm looking at what needs to be cleaned up and I'll probably release a pack of four or five gametypes. After that, I don't know if I'd try to finish up any of my larger unfinished projects (I still have a prototype for turn-based combat in Unreal) or move on to another engine. Thanks goes to Matt for pointing out the OpenArena project to me - it's an interesting codebase.

Outside of that I'd like to tap into playing with Facebook - realizing that social apps actually make web based games more interesting. Also, I wouldn't mind taking another stab at ASCII Adventurer using Flex instead of DHTML, since that might solve my performance problems.

In the dead pile is the old music shooter I had started way back when. Maybe if I could steal P's computer for a month I would get the Universal Binary stuff worked out. Otherwise I'd probably drop the music part and see how a shooter would work in AIR or Flex.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

More On Modding (Aside From UT3 PS3)

I've had an idea for a gametype mod for a little while, but was going to wait on UT3 before deciding on cracking it out. It's not a complicated design and shouldn't require any new maps or weapons or anything. It's basically just an streamlined version of the scoring system I used for my first mod, Bounty War.

But with the PS3 aspect of UT3 being such a snafu and the honestly just not running all that well on my PC in first place (based on the demo) - I wondered if I should worry about coding it for UT3 at all. So then I asked - if one was going to make a basic gametype mod today ... where would one do it?

It seems the answer is nearly nowhere. In fact, mods themselves are nearly a vanished species it seems. Now, I know GameSpy stats aren't exactly gospel ... but they're about the best you can get for looking across all the online games. For one thing, there seems to really be no active UT2004 mods ... a sad reflection on Epic's Make Something Unreal contest. Course, there are about as many people playing Team Fortress Classic as there are UT2k4's Onslaught mode ... which makes me wonder if there's still enough of an online populace for 2k4 to support even testing a multiplayer mod of any variety.

Half-Life 2 has a larger base, but of course now we're getting to the original sport where the concept that mods were best done as total conversions took root. Although even those are somewhat absent these days. Zombie Master looks pretty insteresting, but even it is cresting at just a few hundred people online.

So interestingly while the two companies which pushed the hardest to get viable total conversions up and running, Valve and Epic, they have very little to show for it at the moment. More interesting is that the company that maintained a strict hands off policy with mods - id - still has the last bastion of small, gameplay orientated mods. Quake 3 Arena currently has a couple thousand people playing gametype mods, strewn out between three or four of them - including old standbys like Excessive and Orange Smoothie. There was a version of Excessive for UT2k4, btw, and a fine one at that ... but like many other partial conversion mods - it got lost in the frenzy that was MSUC.

Course, I've never had more than twenty people playing any mod of mine at any given time and I think the mean average was usually more like five. It might just be best to go back to UT2k4 and pick up where I left off. It's not like I'd be any worse off than I was begging people to play Riftwar or trying to get beta testers for Freehold NG.