Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Super Furry, Super Funny

Best Music Vid EVAR! From the Super Furry Animals.

It's Neo-Geo-riffic! It's music vid goodSNES!

Quote of the day

Love this quote I stumbled upon today:

“Don’t think that sticking your boobs out and trying to look f***able will help. Remember you’re in a rock ‘n’ roll band. It’s not ‘f*** me’, it’s ‘F*** You!’ ”

-CHRISSIE HYNDE’S advice to female rockers

I'll leave it to you readers as to whether it applies to game clans and such.

Face-off

This is the craziest, creepiest thing I've read for a while:

Woman has First Face Transplant

From the article:

In the controversial operation, tissues, muscles, arteries and veins were taken from a brain-dead donor and attached to the patient's lower face.

Doctors stress the woman will not look like her donor, but nor will she look like she did before the attack - instead she will have a "hybrid" face.


I am going to have separate nightmares about both those sentences.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Leading by example

Janel's got a great story up on her blog about going to the Wisconsin hearing on their proposed marriage amendment (i.e. another of the "one man, one woman" ones), and, six week old baby in t0w, waited in line to say her piece.

The best bit was this:

The chairman then asked what his name is, which was quite an openning:

His name is Turing after Alan Turing, the cryptoanalyst in World War II who broke the German U-boat code. He was also gay and for saving the modern world he was persecuted by his own country so much that he ended up killing himself.

Rock on Janel!

Get with the program

The surest sign that the music industry is behind the times is that those little flash programs that often start up when you pop a CD into a PC share many of the same design principals of web sites in the late nineties.

Monday, November 28, 2005

"The Movies" King Kong remake

This is a very clever remake of King Kong done in The Movies. Clever use of camera tweaks, custome backgrounds, etc, to make a giant-sized gorilla in the app (which doesn't allow for scaling characters beyond human-size.

Also a good example of how the quality is going up. This has a 3-person voice-over.

On the subject of The Movies, I was talking to a friend about it yesterday and we were saying it would be fun to do a thing where you create a movie and lay it out, and send individual character scripts to friends and ahve them read them into a wave file and mail them to you. The script would be ad-lib style, where they don't know the full story or other character lines. Then compile the result and show it off at a party when they'll all be present. Maybe could be made simpler via a mod?

Copyrights and wrongs

Gamasutra has an article by Ernest Adams entitled 'The End of Copyright" which is a good read.

Personally, I think it's got numerous flaws with it. Despite that, it's a good read and makes some good points. Don't take this as a personal stand on the "I'm for copyright" soapbox. I just think the article has some flaws and feel like pointing them out.

On the 'flaws' side of things:

  • The argument that the 'fair use' laws of copyrighted materials eventually leads to demise of copyrights altogether is a slippery slope arguement. Outright copying of copyrighted materials is still not considered fair use.
  • On there being 'no intrinsic reason someone should continue to get paid for something long after it's completion', there are two issues there: (1) Part of the problem today is that people sometimes aren't getting paid for something THE DAY it comes out - or even BEFORE it comes out (as we see with leaked Star Wars movies, for example - or games for that matter). (2) "Hollywood fatcat" arguements aside, the market bears the price it will, and so the economic model factors in the long-term earning potential of the product. To take the argument to the limit: If Half-Life 2 were FREE 3 months after release, they'd either make less money (making such games unfeasible to make?) or have to put a higher premium on being the first to experience it.
  • On "architects not getting paid every time someone steps into one of their buildings", there's a flawed metaphor here. The architect created the design, which is a tool the builder used. Much as Photoshop is a tool used to create things. Adobe doesn't get paid for every image you edit, but they do want to get paid for every copy of the software. The architects *PLANS* are indeed copyrightable materials. The fact that there is a market for resale and re-use of plans is part of what has contributed to more affordable housing in the modern age (cookie-cutter as it might be).
  • The later section of the article talks about a number of different business models enabled by the Internet. Totally feasible, but it's neither here nor there in the discussion about copyright. If you offer software as a service, for example, you still don't want people copying the service itself and allowing the client to connect to another's cloned service. Adams notes that the biz model thing is a separate issue, but the fact that it's in there at all is kind of hinting that they 'fix the problem'.
  • Saying that "Metallica makes too much money" (paraphrased) and that games are different cause they cost a lot is kind of flawed argument as well. 1 game in 5 makes money (big budget console titles - PC's worse), so 1 has to float the costs of the other 4. In music, one album in many (what, maybe a thousand?) makes money and so has to costs the costs -minimal as they might be- of floating that band's album & promotion, etc. While *making* the album may be cheap, *bringing it to market* certainly is not. Getting America to gulp down more Backstreet Boys style pablum costs cold hard cash. Sad fact, but it's a fact.

OK, ranting aside, the article makes some good points:

  • The laws of any given society are a concrete embodiment of that societies values. As values change, so do the laws. As an aside, there's a realted Dilbert comic about this from today, which you can see here. Or I guess I can just link to it (wonder if that's fair use? :-):

  • The current "tolerance" for piracy & other copyright violation among the general public may act as a force to drive down pricing. (As another aside: I saw a very similar concrete version of this type of action-reaction when high cigarette taxes in Quebec reached a point where the mob was involved in cigarette trafficking. It got to a point where biker gangs were blowing one another up over it, and finally the government said "alright already - cheap smokes for everyone!" and that was that).
  • The fact that these alternative business models may allow for different styles of distribution and different levels of rights-restriction may indeed mean that content developers just don't make rock-star style money. I agree whole heartedly. We see a lot of this in casual games space. Keep in mind though, that not everyone wants original indie films, games and music. Power to those that do, but for better or worse, a large number of consumers want rockstar content from Spielberg & Nicholson, Metallica & Britney, EA and well, Rockstar.

One more thought: The fight against copyright abuse may just be a "checks and balances" thing keeping the practice in the hands of the most die-hard, while the bulk of consumers pay for content. And it may just stay that way.

On the other hand, if society really evolves to where they don't beleive in copyright, and that music, games, and movies should be freely copied, then you get a situation like we've seen in China, where major publishers just don't even bother showing up to sell product. And if it happens worldwide, then they don't even bother making it.

Which maybe wouldn't be so bad if it meant no more Backstreet Boys & Britney CD's.

Sci-fi life

You know those "non-machine-readable" verification codes people have on web forms (such as the comments section on this very blog)? Sometimes I have problems reading them.

I was struggling with a difficult-to-decypher one earlier this afternoon when it hit me:

If this were a sci-fi movie, this would be the point where I began to suspect that perhaps *I* was one of *THEM*!

Bill Hill on cavemen and typography

A great video from a while back on Channel 9. Great lessons in the history of typography, the complexities of rendering readable fonts on screens, and on how people learned to read thousands of years before they learned to write. Well, what did they read then? You'll have to watch the video to find out.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Network adventures continue: Da network shuffle

OK, Xbox moved up to bedroom, Media center PC moved from office to media room. The latter may move back to the office when I can get my hands on an Xbox360 which might be a while.

I bought print server and ran the cable for it into the crawlspace, but didn't get into the crawlspace to do the final run to the media panel. Saving that for next weekend.

The media center PC is going from what I guess was my 'beta test' (using it to record and watch movies and one or two shows) to the full 'field test' (using it as the family's primary DVR). If all goes well for a few weeks, I'll be putting the ReplayTV up for sale on Ebay (which should just about cover all the money I've sunk into the home networking project :-)

Friday, November 25, 2005

Network adventures continue: Wired in da boudoir!

...well, the bedroom anyway.

This was the second-to-last cable run, one of the longer ones, and certainly a tricky one.

Man, I'm getting good at this cable-fishing business. One part of it required running the fish through a 1/2 inch hole, 4 feet up a diagonal (underside of a staircase) and then catching a string I'd lowered in from the top of the diagonal - catching it blind of course!

Anyhow, only one cable run to go. Then some clean up, tie-wrapping of cables, move the xbox up to the bedroom and move the media-center PC down to the family room. Also going to get a print server for the two printers so we can access them from any PC. Then I'm done!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Tom's Hardware interviews some suicide girls

Erm... whereas I knew my last post's subject was BAD for gaming, this one I'm not so sure.

I don't know quite what to make of the whole suicide girls thing (remove the space between e and g and add a www. Warning: Inappropriate for work, children, etc etc). How much is genuine vs how much is 'what the fanbase wants to hear'...

Same goes for this Tom's Hardware interview. It certainly didn't need the cleavage pix on each interview page. That aside, it's an interesting interview with some 'girl gamers' and more voices to the dialog can't be all bad, right?

Fave quote:

Interviewer: OK open mic. What do you want game developers to know when they make the next blockbuster game?

Interviewee: MAKE. A F******G. SIDESCROLLER.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Monday, November 21, 2005

Argh! Ye EFF be wagin' war and boardin' Sony!

This rootkit thing is getting way out of control. Certainly fun to watch and makes for interesting discussion at the lunch table.

The latest is that the EFF is filing suit against Sony for the installation of spyware-ish SW on users machines without their consent, etc. Details in the announcement here.

I don't know much about the Electronic Frontier Foundation but I love their name. Has such a rogue, adventursome ring to it. Makes me picture a bunch of guys with bandanas and eye-patches in a scene somewhere between a Dr Who episode and Monty Python's Crimson Permanent Assurance.

[Update: Holy crapperoo! According to this, the Texas attorney general has joined the fray! Don't mess with Texas! Of course, Sony's back-up plan? Attack of the dancing robots!]

MS Fountain dyed "360 Green"

Walked over to lunch today and noticed something odd about the fountain outside of the building I work in. At first, being a pool owner, I thought "Algae!".

But no! They've dyed the fountain green in celebration of the 360 launch.

(note to peta-nuts: The fountain's heavily chlorinated to begin with, so no dyed-green-from-the-inside geese will be seen in the skies overhead. No need to worry)

On a related note, While I (a) hate FPS games on consoles, and (b) have been among those commenting that next-gen consoles (360 included) are going to have a hard time living up to the "next-gen" expectations of end users, I saw Call of Duty 2 being demo'd on a 360 at Fry's this weekend have to say, it' looked pretty effing good! The gameplay looked pretty similar to existing WWII shooters, but the amount of debris/particles/general chaos/etc going on made it feel a lot more "Saving Private Ryan". Anyhoo, they're on display in stores, so check one out and judge for yourself!

Jack Thompson's Alabama temp license revoked!

This popped up on the news this morning. Not an outright disbarrment, given that he's actually licensed in Florida, but at least it's a blow to his credibility (personal, I can't beleive he has any at all, given the crazy things he's done and said).

Via Gamastra.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Bruce Campbell speaks at MSR

I was perusing the library of MSR talks that get recorded and put online, and amongst the speakers they had was none other than Bruce Cambell of zombie-killin' fame.

He's actually a pretty articulate and amusing speaker.

Amongst some choice answers during his Q&A:

Q: What was your favorite movie to make?
A: Difficult question. I have a beleif that movies that are easy to make are difficult to watch.

Q: (Something about hollywood vs b-movies)
A: War of the Worlds, Bewitched, Spiderman, Batman Begins (again!?!).... Hollywood IS making B-movies. Just with more money. Then they wonder why no one's going to the theaters.

He's also not afraid to mince words about his thoughts about various hollywood celebrities.

Too bad it's not linked externally, but for MS-ites, it's worth a look. Some observations about the indie film scene have some insights that will be useful for the games world as well.

Network adventures continue: Home Stretch

Yesterday evening I did what will probably be the longest cable run in my home networking adventure. From the main panel to my wife's workstation, which is on the far end of the house.

Because the house has been expanded from it's original size, there are multiple crawlspaces, and this required doing full-on commando crawls through two of them. I'm sore today! Plus my forearms are embedded with fiberglass insulation. Should have worn sleeves!

Anyhow, those two connections added means eight down, four to go. And those four are in three runs, so not long to go now.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Five-alarm flame war!

Related to the last post.

Seems Gramma's grandson wrote Mr Chris Crawford about his piece in The Escapist on Women in Games. I guess Gramma had some issues with it, or her son did, or... well who cares.

I don't know who's right or wrong. I don't know if I care.

What I do know is that a gen-ewe-wine, blue-ribbon, class-A, five-alarm flame war between Son-o-son-o-gramma & Mr Crawford ensued. And I likes me a flame war! Yee haw!

link

Ol' Grandma Hardcore

If you ain't seen her yet, you're gonna:

MTV Interview
Blog

Not sure if this "exception" breaks the stereotype, or just reinforces it (in that it's such an exception).

Either way, there's something funny about a little old lady swearing like sailor at Psychonauts or GTA3.

Karma and the Corporate Machine

Earl was right. Carson Daily is really onto something with this whole Karma thing he came up with.

I got an email the other day from someone at Intel looking for a forwarding address, since a Game Gems royalty check showed up at my old Intel work address. So we sorted that out, and my shiny pennies are on their way to Bellevue.

I get home, and there's a letter in my mailbox. It's from an accounting nanobot in the Intel machine that seems to think they overpaid me by a few hundred bucks on my last paycheck, and oh, we'd like the money back, thank you. No explanation of WHY they think this was an error, just "please send us money".

Anyhoo. Funny how these things happened in such close proximity to one another.

[Yeah, I know I'm using 'karma' as accurately as Alanis Morrisette uses 'irony', the word I should in fact be using, but hey, whatdayawant?]

Thursday, November 17, 2005

iNumBloggers--; a.k.a. My blog needs an enema.

Will (linked over on the right) has opted out of the "blogosphere" (shudder - hate that term).

Not sure his reasons, but oh well, so be it. Will, we hardly knew ye!

This led to an impossible slippery slope of to-do's on my part.

- Should remove link to Will's blog from my template.

- Hmm... should probably update that whole list. Some are rarely updated (Jane, Jen...) or impossibly slow (Tim, what are you hosted on? an abacus?) , and there are others whose feeds are on my www.start.com page but whom I haven't gotten around to linking to on my blog. (aside, I guess start.com was the predecessor for www.live.com ? Should probably start using that but there doesn't seem to be a migration tool...)

- So then I start thinking that other bits of my blog are out of date: Book lists (those were NOT the last books I read, btw).

- Which leads me to a bunch of other things I've been meaning to do regarding my online presence: register a domain, more powerful blogging service and/or software, book reviews, photo repository (flickr? host my own?), have been thinking about dabbling in podcasting... the list goes on. For that matter, the name should change. I don't write much code anymore, and the pitching manure thing was a tongue in cheek comment about my former life as an evangelist.

Now all that being said, let's get back to fundamentals: I'm busy; I enjoy doing this but don't want it to suck too much time (and I just don't want it to suck too much, period); and I want to create as much content as I like while learning as little about the plumbing as I need to. I have very little interest in authoring scripts, become a .NETophile, etc.

So, what to do?

Tentative plan now is to spend some spare cycles over the next month studying different options. Over Xmas break I can probably migrate stuff if I in fact decide to do so. KimBlog2.0 anyone?

In the meantime, I welcome suggestions on content, likes/dislikes, and what options y'all use. Also, anyone tried migrating from blogger to something else and taken all their content with them? Possible?

Katamari Damacy theme rock cover

OMG!

Some days, all is right with the world.

Corey vs Corey Katamari rock cover MP3.

Via I'm a Human Inbox.

Multi-threading article

Adam Lake has an article that just popped up on Gamastura on game engine multi-threading basics. I know a little about the background since it was started while I was at Intel (nice to see the gears of the Intel & CMP machines still mesh with lightning speed) and expect it will be a good read, though I haven't given it a read yet.

Elevators

Sumit Mehra, a soon-to-be-microsoftie making games in India (which I didn't know we even did!?) came across my blog and dropped me some mail. I went over and looked at his, and he had a post talking about what people do in elevators. Stare at floor, ceiling, read, whistle, etc. He also talked about what he thinks about and asked what others do. I'm cut-n-pasting my response because, well, I'm rather fond of it.

---
I like to think about elevator design. And for that matter, marketing. And construction. And maintenance...

Who built this elevator? Why did the builder choose this company over another? Why did they pick this design over what was probably a catalog of options? Was it strictly capacity? Aesthetics? Technical Features?

Oh boy, how I love to think about the design side. Many pet peeves here. Algorithms: Is each elevator autonomous, or do they know "elevator number 2 is stopping at floor 5, so I don't need to" or do they work independantly? How could it be made more efficient and convenient? If it's a really tall building, do they factor in acceleration and velocity into the algorithm, or just on/off?

Design Peeve: In North America, if someone accidentally presses a button for the wrong floor, then everyone must stop at that floor and wait akwardly while doors open & close. In Japan, if you hit the wrong button, you can PRESS IT AGAIN TO SWITCH IT OFF!! What a simple design improvement!! Why has that not been adopted world-wide? Is it patented or something? :-)

I guess in short, I think about how this elevator got here, and how, if I were to build one, how would I build it cheaper, better, lower-maintenance, etc. How would I improve the world around me given the chance.

Plenty of stuff to do in elevators beside stare at the floor...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Fight the Power!(ful deodorant advergame)

OK, people have had enough of sophmoric game content, but who expected this:

  • "Deodorant manufacturer AXE met with protests at the University of Oregon, where it was using game kiosks running PC game Mojo Master, which drew the ire of student groups. The promotional game, developed by WildTangent, involves weakening successive stages where the player must weaken a woman's resistance and obtain her phone number. Protestors decried what they saw as the sexist message of the game, carrying signs that said "F*ck the white, patriarchal, heterosexist, capitalist PARADIGM" and "My body is NOT a game!", according to the Oregon Daily Emerald student paper. "Pretty much all I can say is nothing like this ever happened before," said spokesman Nick Ferrara of the protests."

(From Gamasutra)

One has to wonder if the person holding the "my body is not a game" sign was a woman offended by the sexism, or a man who takes his personal hygiene *very* seriously... :-)

Plus, how dot-commed have we all become that protesters carry signs saying "F*ck the PARADIGM!"?

The world is a crazy place.

Maniacal Machine!

My friend Marty send me a link to this and I cannot look away!!!

The music totally makes it. Need to get a soundtrack like that for my next The Movies project!

Thanks Marty. Thanks a lot.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

RSS feed link added

Thanks to Steve Lacey for pointing out that I was just linking to an Atom feed and not an RSS feed. I now have both. See lower right. Pardon my net-ignorance. We now return you to regularly scheduled programming.

To be a fly on the wall...

...at this dinner would have been awesome.

More details here.

I shouldn't complain though. One of the privileges of my job is that I get to go on the road and have dinners with a bunch of interesting people - several of whom are linked to on the right. Go ahead, click!

The Destiny of Online Games

I'll be one of a thousand people to link to this, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't

Raph Koster's presentation from the Korean dev conference is a must read/view.

10 minutes of your time will be time well spent.

Link.

I've been thinking about how a bunch of things he mentions (evolution of web; services; niche proliferation) are going to affect gaming (already are), but he puts a different spin on it and as usual, tells a lovely story in the process.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Media goodness!

OK, media center extender now set up. Able to watch movies in one room that were recorded in another room. Rock! (Oh sorry. Rawk! Have to obfuscate everything now that I'm so L337!)

Network adventures continue: IT'S ALIVE!!!

After Sunday's NINE (!) hour marathon session of fishing ethernet cable from my media panel (through crawlspace, up through wall, outside house, through conduit, into walls...) to the office, I finally went "live" with the network yesterday.

Media panel now houses the cable modem, wireless access point & router, and 10/100 switch (which will be swapped for a gigabit switch when money allows). Six of the eventual 12-ish ports are live, and my gaming rig, Media Center PC, Xbox, ReplayTV and work laptop are all connected.

Still much work to do, but it's nice to FINALLY have something connected, and things are a lot more clean looking with cables just plugged into the walls and not running along floors with routers & switches sitting around on desktops.

I'm going to hook up the media extender kit for the xbox now, cause I wants to see me some networked DVR action!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Attention Podders

I don't own an iPod ('cause dat's treason), but for those that do, I got an email from a friend about a new biz they started up:

http://www.upgrademyipod.com/

It's "Pimp my Ride" for pods!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

MGIS: 'Sex in Games' Game Design Challenge

[A week ago I attended the Montreal Game Summit. I'm only getting around now to posting some notes from the sessions, and will do the posts, one-per]

Taking the GDChallenge format from GDC, this closing session pitted four designers (Eric Zimmerman, Ubisoft’s Heather Kelley, AreaCode’s Frank Lantz, and a fourth competitor who’s name escapes me and who’s design wasn’t that great anyway) against each other, challenging them to design a game involving sex as a core gameplay element.

o Zimmerman’s design was a cop-out, in that it wasn’t a game design at all. However, he gets points for the Carrottop-like prop-comic show that he put on. His opening statement (and thus the copout) was something akin to “what if rather than a game with sex in it… what if games themselves had sex?”. He then picked volunteers out of the audience, had them wear nametags like Donkey Kong and Asteroids, gave them each a “DNA strand” which was a clothes-hanger-scool-project type of thing with all the core game elements of these game titles on cue cards. He then had them hold a mock-fornication behind a shower curtain, while an assistant randomly mixed the DNA elements. Madlib-style game designs were born. His idea was to auto-generate and release these designs out on the internet and do a selective breeding thing to keep only those that were deemed fun. It was a great, humourous presentation, but a copout nonetheless.

o Heather Kelley’s design was for a game for the DS called “Lapis”, aimed at teenage girls. The goal of the game was to ‘stimulate’ a cartoon bunny in a rhythmic fashion generating (on the second screen) ever more elaborate fantasy imagery (supposedly things that might go through one’s head during, ahem, stimulation: Ice cream. Shoes. Etc. etc. Culminating in fireworks if successful. The idea was that the game would teach young girls a thing or two about sex *without their even realizing it* (reminiscent of Neal Stephenson’s Diamond Age, I might add). I give her points for that part, and picking the DS as a platform because “a game about sex should be personal and private”). However, I wasn’t a fan of the design because (a) she reduced it all physical stimulation of certain locale (when viewed from above, the bunny looked like something else entirely, and (b) it really didn’t look that fun after all. Heather won, but I think this was partly due to home turf advantage (large Ubisoft contingent in the crowd) and partly due to, quite frankly, a largely male game developer audience being quite excited about a female designer talking about how to properly stimulate the female, ahem, anatomy.

o Frank Lantz’s design was also well received, and I think it should have won. Frank designed a mod for Spore, called ‘Sporgy’. The premise was that the procedurally-generated creatures in Spore meet in a secret underground club to participate in wonton sex escapades as an escape from the mundane lives they lead. The multiple limbs and joints generated in the rest of the game would suddenly turn out to serve as different erogenous zones. Two player’s creatures would couple and it would become a kind of beat-matching game, with both players needing to exercise a kind of rhythmic thrusting with the mouse, and do so with matching rhythms. Doing so would unlock more ‘zones’ and score points. I thought it was a brilliant design, and the most in keeping with the theme of the challenge.

MGIS: Eric Zimmerman on "Game Design as Critical Practice"

[A week ago I attended the Montreal Game Summit. I'm only getting around now to posting some notes from the sessions, and will do the posts, one-per]

GameLab’s Eric Zimmerman on ‘Game Design as Critical Practice’. Eric is an interesting speaker. Best known for some of his GameLab titles (Loop, DinerDash, to name a couple), Eric also wrote Rules of Play, an academic text on game design. Eric spoke about problems facing the medium, the industry, and the culture, and asked whether the same rules that apply to game design can apply to these systems as well. Games at their root are comprised of rules. “play” happens when we experiment with the results of taking different courses of action within those rules, not breaking them, but perhaps exploiting them or pushing their limits. If this results in interesting gameplay, can the same not be said for the ‘rules’ by which the business operates? He raised some interesting ideas, but I’m not quite sure which can be put into action. I did really like his demonstration of rules systems: He did a 600 person MMRPS tourney (massive multiplayer rock paper scissors). I was eliminated first round.

MGIS: Kideki Konno keynote

[A week ago I attended the Montreal Game Summit. I'm only getting around now to posting some notes from the sessions, and will do the posts, one-per]

Nintendo’s Hideki Konno “What we have learned from Nintendogs”. This was an interesting look into how Nintendogs went from concept (Miyamoto said “do something with dogs”) to retail product, and gave some insight into Nintendo and how they work. The biggest eye-opener for me was the fact that the game designers themselves (not the game PM or marketing team – the actual designer) sits down with the marketing folk to talk about how the game should be sold. Nintendogs multiple SKUs didn’t start out as a money-making scheme. It started out as the designers saying “we want the area of the store to feel like a pet store”. The original plan called for fifteen different SKUs but it was decided that three-to-five would be manageable.

MGIS: Clint Hocking's "Next: The Game Designers Generation"

[A week ago I attended the Montreal Game Summit. I'm only getting around now to posting some notes from the sessions, and will do the posts, one-per]

Clint Hocking’s “Next… The Game Designer’s Generation”. Was this a presentation, or was this performance art? Without a doubt my favorite session of the conference. Clint gave a first rate scripted performance set to slides, very much in the “beyond bullet points” style (BTW, while I don’t have a recording of this presentation, a similarly styled presentation about another subject altogether is Dick Hardt’s Identity 2.0 Presentation which you can see here. A must view for all PPT-fu wannabes). In his presentation, Clint talked about Hollywood vs games, military history from the Hippolytes through to current day, game design and player freedom, evolution of the industry, ludology & game academics, weather phenomena, the Apollo program, JFK, and… well it really went over quite a bit, but all of it was used to make some good points:
o Games have grown up and become a viable medium in which artists can express themselves and consumers can choose to spend their money and time. Because of this, we very much compete with movies.
o The industry’s response has been to become more like movies.
o The movie industry is better at being movies than we are. They are also bigger. They will crush us like a grape.
o We can learn from military history and many examples of how smaller forces won through being more nimble and using new technology & tactics to gain the advantage.
o Interactivity and player agency are our advantage. We must use them to be nimble. This means giving player CHOICE.
o Games are evolving in some cases to give players LESS choice (guide them through a story), not more.
o The imperative for designers to SURRENDER AUTHORSHIP AND CONTROL! The more you put it in the hands of players, the more we let consumers do what Hollywood never can never let them do.
o Artists and Programmers have gotten us to where we are today. It is the game designers turn to take the lead role in the next battle in the war against Hollywood over the next decade.
o There was some good ludology background on different “strata” on the spectrum between authored experience and player agency, and Clint put many games up against this litmus strip to illustrate examples.

MGIS: Neil Young keynote

[A week ago I attended the Montreal Game Summit. I'm only getting around now to posting some notes from the sessions, and will do the posts, one-per]
Neil’s keynote was named “Can a Game Make You Cry?”. In it, he talked about the fact that (his assertion) emotional involvement requires believable characters, and believable characters require high quality character technology (i.e. money). Therefore, you need to make stuff that appeals to mainstream audiences (broad-appeal genres, popular licenses) to justify the volume, and “innovation” to make critics salivate. I believe the EA approach is AN approach, but to say it’s the only approach is ludicrous. Two issues I have with his talk:
o I’d argue that what he was claiming was “innovation” was really “controlled innovation on the micro-level”. i.e. one new mechanic or technology in a very proven formula. If you want to claim that’s innovation, well, fine. I think it’s bull. Don’t get me wrong, I believe it’s an absolutely sound business decision to NOT innovate and instead be a “fast follower”, but don’t claim the ‘innovator’ title.
o Waterworld was big-budget. I didn’t empathize with the characters, and it didn’t affect me. Bambi didn’t have believable characters. At no point did I say “I think that’s a REAL DEER!!!”, and yet it moves everyone that sees it. Big budget production can help but is NOT a pre-requisite nor a guarantee of emotional involvement of the player. This was best summed up by what, for me, was the best moment of the conference: The guy holding up his kid's drawing (which I blogged last week).

MGIS: Doug Church AI talk

[A week ago I attended the Montreal Game Summit. I'm only getting around now to posting some notes from the sessions, and will do the posts, one-per]

EA’s Doug Church on Artifical Intelligence: I've known Doug a while and this was an updated version of a talk I’ve seen him give before (an older version can be found here). Still, there was new content and some illuminating discussion afterward. The talk wasn’t a technical one so much as a summary of the ‘state of the union’, and thoughts on future directions. Here are the takeaway points:
o Game AI can been thought of at multiple levels (e.g. getting a character to do something immediate like ‘pick up a wrench’, do a higher level action like ‘pick up a wrench in order to hit a player’, or do even higher level actions/goals like ‘find a way to get money’ which might mean picking up a wrench to hit someone that looks like they might have money).
o Advances in the rest of game tech has meant that TREMENDOUS advances in AI have “left us standing still”. i.e. moving a sprite from x1,y1 to x2,y2 is far easier than moving an articulated, IK-driven 3D character across an arbitrary 3D landscape to a destination. We can now do that. However, we’ve only still moved a character from Point 1 to Point 2.
o Even if we were able to work on some of the higher level problems (he lists several like NPC motivation, goals, etc), we’ve bragged & marketed our way out of any meaningful claims – so how do you sell it? i.e. the business of games works against advances in game AI
o One area he’s sees as promising is the development of AI to guide/accentuate “supporting actor” type characters. Ones that accompany the lead actor (the player) through story, allowing them to grow better vested in the story. (Think HL2). Flaws in these characters stand out even more, so better that they behave well. (Personal note: Success in this area won’t lead to marketing of “best AI ever!”, but rather “best story ever!” and “best game ever!”, since the AI if well done will just lead to the player being better vested in the story).

MGIS: Warren Spector keynote

[A week ago I attended the Montreal Game Summit. I'm only getting around now to posting some notes from the sessions, and will do the posts, one-per]

Warren Spector’s Opening Keynote: Warren covered a number of issues facing the industry ranging from violence in games, lack of innovation, lack of alternative business models, lack of genres & content to appeal to non-gamers. He tied these all together under a unifying message of the industry being at an inflection point on many fronts, and that the outcome would determine whether we become an accepted mainstream cultural medium like movies & music, or whether we become marginalized like comic books, radio drama, or vaudeville. The most interesting part in my opinion was that he made the point that we need to aggressively tackle the issue of violence in games. “If we don’t, it will be legislated FOR us, by those who fear it”. In other words, it’s not just a problem we have to deal with – it’s a problem we are creating and shaping. We have a responsibility to address it. Warren’s presentation can be downloaded here.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Celeb likenesses in the movies


If things weren't crazy enough... people are using the 'StarMaker' tool to do celeb likenesses:

Eg. Pretty good Tom Cruise, Peter Molyneux likenesses. Those forums have attempts at everyone from Jesus to Hitler, Dubya to Cleese.

Way cool!

Disturbing movies

I've watched a bunch of movies on Lionhead's site and have seen at least two (Life and Times of a Pharmaceutical rep, Le Cornucopia et Odium - man that clown dude FREAKS ME OUT) movies about people going postal.

Maybe the Movies will be the next PostSecret?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Kim's review of The Movies

There are plenty of detailed reviews out there, so I'll keep this short:

It's really two apps in one: A tycoon game with a"movie mogul" setting; and a consumer-level machinima tool. You can play the game without really caring about your movies (you actually arent required to view them if you don't want to). You can *kind of* use the machinima side of it without playing the game. However, you do need to know how the UI works, and certain 'eras' of film making are only unlocked after playing.

  • As a tycoon game, it's first rate. I'm not personally a fan of games that require too much micromanagement, something most of this genre is guilty of. However, that being said, the tutorials, user-interface, and interactivity are an absolute triumph. I'm REALLY impressed.
  • As a machinima tool, it seems REALLY powerful. Despite that, it's very easy to use. After playing the game part for 2 hrs, I went back, did the 'sandbox' mode to unlock a bunch of stuff, and created a 4 minute vignette subtitled film in about 15 minutes and was quite impressed with the results. (note, I didn't even view the tutorials for this part, so was lucky to find out that you need to build a post-production facility if you want to add audio or subtitle, and that is also where you export to WMV.

I'm running it on a beta of Windows Vista, and had no bugs or crashes, though the ingame movie viewer was running a little choppy.

9 on 10 for The Movies. My only complaints are too much micromanagement (typical for this genre), and the problems I had with the speed of the ingame movie player. Otherwise, I loved it!

PSP ads

Alice Taylor points us to these PSP ads.

- The Talkman ads show exactly the type of "SPEAK TO MY AVATAR!!!" scenarios I was eluding to after TGS. Funny.

- The logan's-run-esque "playstation portable" slogan at the end of each is funny.

More on The Movies

I went and bought it at lunch. Can't wait to get home and try it out.

Meanwhile, Lionhead's community site has plenty of flicks getting posted (as in 'per minute' plenty). Some are quite clever. I liked this one, which definitely has some Looney Tunes influences.

Movies reviews are in

Metacritic reviews for The Movies are in and looking pretty good. The average is being dragged down a bit by a 70 score from Gamespy. The rest are all 80-100.

The gamespy review is worth looking at though, since they post a couple movies the reviewer created with the game.

I'm soooo going to buy this game!

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Creative applications

I love the Flash-based attention getters that some job applicants are doing these days. Not a substitute for knowledge & experience, but certainly shows some panache.

Saw this "Mr Vista" one today off of JobsBlog. Still doesn't beat my favorite though!

Smartbomb book reading & (ahem) the sky is falling!

There was a book reading at University bookstore in Bellevue tonight for Smartbomb by Heather Chaplin and Aaron Ruby. Ed Fries is one of the people covered in the book and was also there for the reading and Q&A. I figured I'd go because there might be some good conversation to be had and it's a ten minute drive from home.

First off, I envy those people that have photographic face/name memories. I met Ed Fries something like 6 or 8 months ago, pre-lasik, in a meeting for an hour, and he remembered my name. I was impressed. Anyhoo.

So, there was some interesting conversation about the (gag) 'arrival' of games into mainstream culture over the past few years, the rock star phenomena (two words, not capitalized), and other such things.

I asked why the book focused mainly on the past decade, and not on the earlier rise and fall(s) of the industry (arcade, 1st wave home console & computer, etc). They said they did discuss it a bit in the first chapter, but that that first wave didn't have the same kind of culture impact that games are having today. I thought they skirted the question, since that first wave definitely impacted pop culture. Anyone that has seen a tuxedo-clad Bond wandering between the Pacman and Galaxian machines in Never Say Never Again can tell you that! (Did people ever wear tuxedos and evening gowns to arcades? :-)

Then there was other conversation, and I bought a book to be polite and because I have an addiction to buying books.

On the way home, I was thinking more about the 'first era' thing. I'm sure I'm not the first to say it but I beleive there are a huge number of parallels between our industry today and the state of the industry at that time. e.g.

  • A variety of innovative games giving way to an abundance of clones within established mega-genres (then: Mortal combat clones, 2D scrolling shooters, racing games; today: FPS, RTS, 3D fighters...)
  • Consolidation lead to market dominance of a few major vendors (then: Namco, Taito, Williams on the HW front, today Sony & MS on the HW front; a similar then/now story for publishers)
  • Most importantly, and related to the first point: How many of you reading this ('cept for the young'uns) STOPPED going to arcades around that time? Now ask yourself this: Have you recently found yourself asking friends "played anything good lately?" and not getting encouraging answers? Are you staying home from the store? I know I am. Perhaps I'm the exception?

I'm not saying that I beleive another arcade-industry or early-console-industry style crash is on the horizon. I'm actually not a beleiver in the "innovation is dead" rant-du-jour that Costikiyan and co have made de rigeur as of late.

However, I do beleive there's risk there. I do think it's worth asking what happens if either this Xmas or next, people look at the games on their next-gen consoles and say "hmm... kinda looks the same. don't think I'll bother".

Again, I don't think the risk is high that this is going to happen. I *do* think, though, that like any risk, we should ask ourselves "...what if?"

Brand Bifurcation

The level of line extension in consumer goods these days is just out of control.

Line extension (i.e. "ChunkyCake is very successful - let's do Diet ChunkyCake for fat people and those that fear becoming them, and ExtremeChunkyCake for Extreme People(tm)") has it's place. It can let you take a particular brand in one segment and either further tap that segment or tap into a new segment.

However, taken too far, you just start confusing people and cannibalizing your own market share. Cases in point from the grocery store run this evening:

  • My wife asked me to get some "Trader Joe Organic Crushed Wheat Sourdough Bread". Then I almost bought - I am not kidding you - "Trader Joe Organic Cracked Wheat Sourdough Bread". PULLLEEEZZZ! Is it not enough that my bread can be made with sourdough or not, wheat or not, organic or not, and be associated with a particular manufacturer? Now I have to worry about what method was used to render the grain itself into submission?!?
  • Attention Coca-cola corporation. WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING!?!? There is coke and diet coke. Regular and C2Variations of diet and non- with vanilla, lemon, lime, or cherry. There is diet coke, 'zero', and diet coke with Splenda-brand sweetener, because now the diet category is being further subdivided into three groups. Crazy enough?! Wait, there's more! There's caffeine free permutations of many of those brands! I went to the cocacola.com web site and counted 14 variations on their "brand fact sheet" (hint - if you need one, you have a problem!). Now, the soft drink (that's what we call them in Canada) market is GIGANTIC, so maybe this is a feasible number of derivatives to sustain, but as a consumer, I'm confused. Maybe I'll just go have a Mr Pibb (which will suit CC just fine, since they own that brand too).

Anyhow. Rant over, but perhaps there's a lesson to be learned here for our industry? Sims folk, take heed!

Monday, November 7, 2005

The Movies is (are?) coming

I dropped by EB games today before a lunch meeting (had a few minutes to kill) and was surprised to see that Lionhead's "The Movies" goes on sale later this week. They said they'd have it in Wednesday.

I'm really looking forward to seeing how it turned out following the demo I got last E3. Not sure if I should play it out of the gate or wait for the sure-to-be-released patch people have claimed I should expect with Lionhead titles :-)

Jack Thompson may (finally) lose his license

This item on GamesIndustry.biz reports that Jack Thompson has had to appear in court to defend his right to practice law in Alabama, where he's licensed.

Lawyer jokes aside, lawyers have to comport themselves with a level of integrity and civility. Something Thompson has CLEARLY been far out of bounds on.

I hope he gets disbarred so the violence-in-games debate can come back to earth and perhaps reach reasonable levels of discourse.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

MGS highlight

During yesterday's Neil Young keynote, he talked about "innovation" (more rant on this later - innovation my ass) and the keynote was titled "can a game make you cry?"

The basic message was "immersion requires big budget high quality HD-type content if people are going to buy it".

During the Q&A, a french canadian developer got up there. Not a wimpy looking guy, your typical tatoo'd programmeur-du-jour, and said the following (written in phonetic-quebecois-english for full effect)

"You talk about de need for critical acclaim. And you talk about de need for de big boodget. Der is a painting in France called de monah-leesah. It is famous. It might be very expensif too, if you can buy it, but you can't buy it."

Then he pulls out a peice of loose leaf paper from his pocket and unfolds it, holding it up in front of 600+ people, to show a cartoon drawing. Noticably choked up, he says, "Dis is a picture dat my son drawed for me. This drawing makes me cry, and de monah leesah doesn't effect me one damn bit".

I think that Neil thought he was a crackpot, and gave a tepid answer. I thought it was the most profoud comment of the conference. Spore team, you listening? User-created content has a whole lot more impact if you love the creator.

Enter private equity funding

Or as Casey Muratori would put it - And now the dancing turns German.

There was an announcement today that Pandemic & Bioware merged, that Elevation is sinking $300M into them, and they'll aim to become a new 'uber studio'.

There's a lot of talk at the game summit about this announcement.

It may be premature to say, but this looks like it may be looked back upon as a defining moment for the industry.

Attention publishing oligopoly: You are no longer the only belle at the ball!

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Montreal Game Summit

Day one was awesome. Really top notch content for a "regional" show. Warren Spector's talk was great, as was Doug Church's. Neil Young's talk was pretty good (better than I was expecting)

Clint Hocking's talk was first rate performance art. I hope to hell someone filmed it.

Katherine Isbister's talk was pretty good too.

I'll write up a detailed accounting in the next few days, but I am really jazzed about teh quality of the sessions. Hope day two is as good.