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

Saturday, April 05, 2008

TV Watch: Battlestar Galactica, He That Believeth in Me

Personally what I like about Battlestar Galactica is its ability to reduce itself to very discernible bits.

In this episode - that would space dogfights and mistrust. From the view of the cockpit and the command center, you get the gritty military SF that has made the series so unique in the genre, comparable to Firefly in this regard, and then in the hallways and various rooms of the Battlestar - what's almost something of an inverse murder mystery. We're not trying to figure who was killed - we're trying to figure out who never was really alive.

Firstly, the ambush and the retreat is fairly telling of the Cylon fleet. There has been a lot of indication that the race sees themselves as essentially the hand of God. Here - it is practically the only explanation. It's not that they're out to exterminate the entire human race, they're playing their part in man's morality play. They're the flood to God's Noah. So while the whole show probably could have ended in the first half hour of this episode, the Cylons retreat as soon as they realize that the new forms have been activated.

Which brings us to what well definately be huge theme for this final season, as clearly laid out by the show's intro text ... who is the final Cylon?

Obvious suspect right now is Kara. It's hard to explain her ability to be blown to bits and return in a flashy new ride with a free round trip to Earth thrown in to boot. Of course, that pre-supposes that the Cylons are sitting there waiting on Earth and the counter-argument to the Noah theory above is that the Cylons are intentionally allowing a weak group of humans to limp back to Earth to finish the entire job (or, as we've seen, there are factions of both). It also assumes that the Cylons would have some reason to make a big show of infiltrating BSG ... something they haven't really done before.

My guess? Kara's something else. I think the show is quickly moving into a stage where atheism isn't really much of an option in the mythos and Kara's seeming rescue may be more of an act of divine intervention than anything else.

So our next most likely candidate would be Baltar. He's already suspected it, he seems to share the visions that Cylons are capable of having (although Kara might now fit that as well) and he seems to be preaching the religion of the Cylons as well. He might be their messenger and their messiah. Yet, if anything, Baltar is far too obvious - a traitor and opportunist on an epic scale. If Baltar would be "revealed" as a Cylon - it would be essentially anticlimatic.

I think this leaves three likely candidates: The Old Man, Lee and The President. Out of these, I'd say Roslin is my favorite. She has visions, she shared a vision with Six, she's been cured by Cylon hybrid blood and she's potentially leading the fleet away from Earth.

Perhaps this episode set up what will be the arching conflict of the final season - Starbuck versus Roslin.

Friday, April 04, 2008

For Sunday: Misheard Lyrics

Thanks, SueZilla.

Samsung's New Plasmas Are "3D Ready"

Ok, so I've had my eye on the "old" 5064 model because you can get it for just over a grand if you time it right on Amazon and it's gotten pretty stellar reviews. Just how gimmicky is this (as someone who games quite a lot) and is it worth a couple extra hundred?

Get Your Cylon Detection Kit Handy

Here's your public service announcement that tonight kicks off the last season of Galactica. While I'm a huge fan, I'm all for the curtain being closed on this portion of the the Battlestar mythos. I think they've milked it for a decent story and a decent story deserves a decent ending.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Here We Go Again: Make Something Unreal

Apparently Epic and Intel will pony up a total of a million smackers to push modding for the Unreal engine.

Firstly, a quick preface. Despite how the tone of this post might sound, I think is Epic is kickass game company run by the virtually equivalent of ninjas. And I know their heart is in the right place and I know that I have never, ever, corresponded with anyone employed with the company who didn't honestly love modding, modders and the whole idea of embracing modding. Heck, half of them are modders themselves.

Now that the lovefest is out of the way, though, let's look at the results.

Every generation of the Unreal engine has resulted in a mod community which is smaller and more closeted than one before it. What was one a diverse group of people who openly shared ideas on a cornucopia of projects is essentially now a series of teams varying in size with little contact to each other and punctuated by a few lucky developers who have the resources to either a) code and map or b) code and model or c) both a & b. Other than that and it's mostly either quasi-professional people or people pushing into the quasi-professional realm and their main interest isn't necessarily to push the envelope of game design but in all honesty to get a damn job.

And if you think I'm being melodramatic, well, I look at the past 500 changes to the Unreal wiki and I kinda want to cry a bit (at least, of course, at the time of this writing). I mean, there was a time I used the recent changes pages to track new code that would come into the wiki and keep an eye out for new development - but those days seem to be dying.

Let's face it - modding games is a withering vine. Thankfully it's being replaced by indie game development in ways, but doesn't make it less a bitter fruit. Last year's Make Something Unreal winner was "Red Orchestra" a big rotating door of developers that honestly didn't have a lot of communication with the community and in the ned, from how I hear it, turned into a licensing deal and a nightmare of knots determining who was owed what. The Next Gen article for the next MSUC refers to it as "criticially acclaimed" and let's face it - that's being somewhat kind. If anyone on the team thought they were making the next Counter-Strike, I can assume reality has been added to their coffee now.

There is no next Counter-Strike. It will not happen. Counter-Strike was as much of a product of the times as of the code and those times have been gone for some time. I'm not saying that a plucky group of developers can't make a hit - I'm just saying you aren't going to do it by trying to appease a much larger company whose sole interest is adding value to an already published product.

And for the record, if you're the much larger company and you're reading this ... the same goes for you.

The problem with these contests is that they put a lot of resources into producing market pressured products. Even if someone gets a little attention for being creative - it's get lost into the ebb and tide of what is essentially a microscopic version of the annual Game Of The Year debate for which the whole industry flogs itself. A mod like Air Buccaneers (ever heard of it?) might catch the eye of a few seriously enthralled by the process - but will never get allocated the kind of love and attention to actually survive.

Course it is a lot harder to get resources to do the kinds of things that would be needed to really revive the mod community - like foster intercommunication, testing and feedback. But you might actually get something into the gaming gene pool other than another World War II shooter which would be quickly eclipsed by a handful of other, even more professional, offerings.

Flickr Began As Game, Now Gets Game

TechCrunch is reporting that Flickr is launching the game that was actually the inspiration for Flick itself. I mentioned this factoid way back when and it serves as an example as game design concepts can exist outside of the world of game design itself.

Course, the site is down for now so for all I know this is just a belated April Fools' joke...

Totally Random Combination Of Stuff

I'm really just trying to resist the hypnotic glow of the iTunes Jelly visualizer ... something which is additionally hypnotic as my usual retinal focus today has been on either random lines of XML or code which generates it - neither being something which is terribly more interesting than dried paint.

The MacBook Pro has now been joined by an iPhone, also courtesy of the mother company in the run to, well, iPhone development - so it actually makes a considerable amount of sense one put that way. I'm still a little creeped out by how the iPhone made the old 8525 whine when it took it's AT&T connection away. It was just a little too chipper about it, if you ask me. Still, the thing is just so sleek and sexy you really, really can't stay angry with it for too long.

I actually have a decent idea for an iPhone game as well, although nothing formative enough to really blog enough (but if a citizen of the Intertubes has my other contact information, feel free to ping me on it). Short version is that it's nearly zero player, rules based and will involve me doing very little graphic work. Is that the short version? Now I'm not sure. But look at these pretty colors...

Sorry, that thing is a the bastard love child of an eye exam and some Open GL acid trip. Back to XML.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

DVD Watch: No Country For Old Men

Another thing about having a fever for a few days - it makes one want to just sit back and watch movies. So I've got like a few of these to catch up on.

No Country For Old Men is a Coen Brothers movie which is Swedish for "I was going to see it sooner or later". Country is an excellent outing for them and a pretty fresh one as well. It doesn't have the odd sense of humor or the usual cast of characters ... no this is a slow and thoughtful movie adapted from a Cormac McCarthy (The Road) novel.

The plot and cadence are about as far from mainstream as you can get. When you think you have your bearings on where the film is going, it likes to duck and dive in another direction. These aren't twists, per se, they aren't setups which are later revealed to be tricks or anything - it's just that Country is set in a brutal fictional world where nearly any character could show up and find a way to kill another at some given point. Javier Bardem is simply chilling as the "psychopath with his own code" and the Brothers milk ever ounce of his creepiness through the movie.

The flipside, of course, is that Country doesn't have anything remotely resembling a Hollywood ending and if anyone was expecting a huge climatic flourish - well, feel forewarned. However, missing this film because there's no explosion to clear everything up in the end would simply be a crime against movies themselves.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Halo 1 For iPhone Being Homebrewed

Some eagle-eyed readers picked this up from the iDev forums. Looks like some industrious hackers are defying the iPhone SDK, copyright issues and the grand task of bridging DirectX to OpenGL and are trying to bring the original Halo to the popular iPhone.

Good luck to them, and keep an eye on your calendars for a release.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

My iPhone Ate My Xcode!

Sure, I finally feel well enough to look at code for more than 10 minutes and so I go to load up Xcode (OS X's development environment).

Except it's not there. I try Spotlight to search for it and all I can find is references to project files I can no longer open. It seems the iPhone SDK uninstalled it without telling me, possibly to add the new Interface Builder ... although I don't quite see how it can *add* something to something which is *no longer there*.

Update ... doh, nevermind. I found the rascal. The SDK update had locked the process while asking nicely if I would quit Xcode ... except it was hidden on some other screen while doing so. Course it also currently says it will be done in 258 hours? WTF?

Sigh. Also, this SDK apparently updates a few object names which should be a big flag to anyone hitting the ground running with the iPhone that it is in some pretty serious flux. Changing class names can wreck havok on existing projects.

Double sigh. Guess I'll go play with some Flex.