My name is Matthew and I'm the reason my dad's not been blogging lately.
See more pics of me here.
Dad will be back blogging in the near future...
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Saw this on Kotaku today:
Ritual Entertainment Bought by Casual Games Dev Mumbo Jumbo.
Mumbo Jumbo are the makers of the popular casual game as Luxor, among others.
That's got to have a lot of people in hard-core games land going "huh? by who?!"
I probably shouldn't comment too much given that I have a professional relationship with these guys and others like them in the space.
I will point out one thing though. The press release states:
"The combination of Ritual's(TM) high-end, multi-platform expertise and our own industry-leading publishing model will set the bar for quality and sophistication in casual games and create a major industry powerhouse. The casual games market is beginning to mature as evidenced by an increase in consumer expectations. Ultimately, the companies providing the best content will win, which is why we are investing so heavily in the development of technology and original IP."
I have to agree with the assertion that consumer expectations are rising in terms of quality, and eventually, some of that translates to production costs. Developers that think that the cost of casual game development is going to remain as conservative as it is today may be mistaken. At the very least it will split into different strata (the MMO space is probably a good example. there is room for targetted, niche, and/or quirky low-production-cost MMOs, but those developers are very concious of the fact that they are flying under the radar of the big guys. If you want World of Warcraft's customers, you better pony up on production costs to compete.
Ben Mattes has a good post on The Crossing, an FPS from Arkane Studios coming to the PC.
The Crossing is a HL2-engine based shooter, and it's very pretty. I'd best sum up the story as "Guys with guns are no match against the medieval knights that continue to live as part of a secret society, and who have kick-ass swords and a frikkin' grappling hook!"
Apart from the pretty visuals and the oh-where-was-that-when-I-needed-it-in-HL2 grappling hook, they have one very unique thing they are trying to do, which they've deemed "Cross-play". Singleplayer meets multiplayer.
The idea is that individual players playing through the single player game, rather than playing against a hoarde of dumb AI players, will be plowing through hoards of human players that have logged on to play the multiplayer game. For those logging in to play multiplayer, the single-player players will appear to be grossly overpowered, hard to take-down enemies that you will need to use squad tactics to try and beat. The hoards of enemies for the single player *can* be AI-driven, and multiplayer players can 'take over' their bodies a la Agent Smith.
From the 1up interview:
"Skirmish maps have two contexts: either populated by skirmish players only -- the multiplayer people -- or populated by both skirmish players and story players, the "Elites." When there are no Elites around, the skirmish players play a team deathmatch game that can include various rules, such as land conquest or flag conquest. Meanwhile, the Elite players are playing their story maps -- in co-op, usually -- once they're supposed to join a skirmish map, as part of their story."
It's a really compelling idea. Not sure they'll be able to pull it off. I hope they can though!
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Today I read this post on Seth Godin's blog. It's talking about a PR campaign to discredit PETA, one pillar of which is this site. The PR campaign is being run by something called The Center for Consumer Freedom, a generic lobby group name.
Usually, the a lobby group's level of evil is inversely proportional to that of it's name. i.e. A group called "Cute children for the adding of flowery scents to cuddly puppies" would probably turn out to be pro-consumer-rocket-launchers AND pro-S&M-porn-in-schools).
Digging on the CCF's site digs up this generic and innocent sounding description of it's backers, but wikipedia nets you more detail, and it turns out that the group is funded by a cigarette company, some fast food companies (owners of Burger King, Wendy's, etc), among others.
Seth's points in his post was that as a corporate sponsor, you are very very visible these days, and that people's opinion on the PR changes once they know who's doing the talking (thus the need to hide behind the generic answer to 'who we are?').
I have two points to add:
1) I *CAN* *NOT* *BELEIVE* that consumers would fall for this garbage. I suppose there are some dumb people out there, but hey, the fact that they group "petakillsanimals.com", "trans-fatfacts.com", and "mercuryfacts.org" all on the same site ought to be a HINT that there's something awry here. Fer krissake! MERCURYFACTS.ORG?!? Sheesh! For a look at something really scary, go look at "activistcash.com". Holy cow.
2) Most suprising to me? They have GAMES! Click here to go see fun online games such as "Does the Government Think You're Fat?" (anti-Transfat-ban), "Lawsuit Fabricator" (anti-anti-fastfood-lawsuits), "Obesity News Generator" (anti-anti-fat campaign AND anti-liberal-media - it's two games in one!), and of course "Attack of the Nanny" and "Nanny Bowling" (anti-nagging-nannies-tellin' ya what not to eat!).
OK, I know there are some hungry game developers out there, but man. People critique developers of FPS games? How do you sleep at night having made this Flash propaganda-game garbage.
Ugh. Pass the pepto.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Two different sentence fragments from my past week:
The first was my son Tom, when he and I were looking for one of his toys.
"Maybe the robot sucked it up. Can you look inside him?", he said. He was talking about (and personifying!) Roomba of course. It occurred to me that even 10 years ago this might have seemed like science fiction. My kids are growing up with a robot member of the household.
The second was one I uttered to a co-worker. A while ago Wired mag had a series of 6-word science fiction very short stories from known authors (e.g. "The baby’s blood type? Human, mostly." - Orson Scott Card).
I found myself saying something this week that would stand on it's own among those in that article, even if it's a bit longer than six words; "Loan me a memory stick, before I forget".
Saturday, January 20, 2007
OMG. Truly, the Internet never ceases to amaze.
Saints Row is a fun GTA-3 clone. I've sunk a lot of time into it. It's also buggy. I have seen the bugs. They have, well, bugged me. However, never did it occur to me to make a musical out of it:
Hi res version here.
Friday, January 19, 2007
Last night the Bellevue school district had one of a series of 'roadshow' nights that they do, to talk to parents and the community about stuff going on in their schools. Last night's event was about the use of technology in schools, and since the twins will be in Kindergarten in the not so near future, I thought I'd attend.
I had extremely low expectations for two reasons. First, because generally speaking, we are priveledged enough to work in an industry of very smart people, the caliber of presentations 'out in the real world' is often lower than that which I'm used to (e.g. city council meetings, homeowners association meetings, etc, are normally like pulling teeth to me). Secondly, because my history of use of computers in schools has been that they are outdated, underused, and that the staff is usually so inept at using the technology, in comparison with the students, that it ends up being relegated to the simplest uses, or in dedicated 'computer class' type uses.
I couldn't have been more wrong. I was just *gobsmacked* at what I saw. A few examples (not all of these are in every school yet, but they are agressively rolling them out):
- Their whole curriculum is online. The publicly viewable one (here) is just high level, but the one behind the firewall that the teachers use has every lesson, every exercise, and all that will be parent-accessible within the next year. Even just the high level helps parents better understand what their kids are working on, but long term, it means things like report cards are obsolete because you can get a snapshot of your kid's progress as often as you want, instantly.
- Smartboards installed in every classroom. At first I thought "ok, it's a high tech blackboard", but these projector/touchscreen combinations are being embraced by teachers who are devising custom lesson exercises that use the technology. I saw one teacher demonstrating her dynamic editing of a sample book report, circling and dragging and dropping sentence fragments to let the class try different approaches, saving off two different versions and putting them side-by-side to compare, etc. At the very least, it's a massive timesaver (no more waiting 5 minutes for the teacher to write out the lesson on the board), but more importantly, it adds interactivity to the exercises.
(crappy cell-cam pic of the smartboard - no, the class isn't in a darkroom -that's my phone)
- All of these custom lessons and exercises that teachers come up with, they can save up on the web as custom materials for that class unit, and then any teacher teaching that unit can grab it, improve on it, and use it (think of a giant version of this). They gave me an example of how teachers are using this between units, where an art teacher one day decided they'd do art about their science topic, went over and looked at that day's science class exercise, which was about bugs, and said "ok, let's take those bugs you saw in your last class and see if we can do drawings of them in nature", borrowing the materials from the other class as a starting point.
- Teachers can choose to record whole lessons, or just segments or excercises, and put the whole video on the site. Once parents have access (next year), they'll be able to better help kids with homework, catch up from sick days, etc.
- 'Student Response System': Think of TV game shows "everyone in our studio audience, use your buttons to vote NOW!". Teachers can turn any question into an impromptu survey, displaying the results on the screen ("ok, only half of you got that right, maybe we should go over that again"). Kids can click their answers in from their desk.
- Document cameras, so that if a teacher sees a student taking a novel approach at solving a problem during an exercise, she can grab the document, put it up on screen instantly and say "let's all look at how Susie did this...". Also useful to demonstrate details of an art or science project without the 20 kids crowded around the teachers desk.
- I even saw a new music class they are adding to the curriculum in which they use SW to do composition, both of the traditional variety, as well as using Fruityloops to have kids do their own electronica type stuff.
Overall, I was really impressed. With my generation's teachers, I remember feeling that they were getting access to technology but had no idea how to use it (remember schools saying "we are getting computers this year." but there was no talk of implications?). In contrast, I felt that with these teachers and administrators, there was a palpable sense of passion and excitement about the opporunity before them; that they'd just started to grok the possibilities before them, and couldn't wait to put it to use and push the system to it's limits.
I'm fully aware that this level of tech in public schools is probably the exception, not the norm. It can't be just coincidence that it falls within the Microsoft campus 'blast radius of money'. Regardless, if this type of thing proves effective, other schools will adopt the same technologies and approaches. It improves the speed and effectiveness of teaching which at the end of the day is a good thing.
More importantly, it is, more than ever, empowering teachers to contribute to one another's teaching. It's putting teachers behind the wheel... and this schoolbus is supercharged.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
BoingBoing points out that Neal Stephenson's Diamond Age is being made into a mini-series.
Insert sexual-arousal metaphor here.
Man do I love that book. I am so very excited.
I really hope they do it justice. A mini-series is the right direction given the amount of content needed to do the story right.
Hopefully, it performs well and will lead to them licensing the rights to The Baroque Cycle, which would then be made into a long-running series of, five fourteen-episode seasons, with each week's episode running for a contiguous eight hours. The whole thing would ship in a "crate set" because a box wouldn't do it. :-)
I've written before about my dislike of Second Life (perhaps now that they've open sourced the client someone will fix their crappy renderer), but that doesn't mean I don't find all the happenings therein to be fascinating. This occurrence is no exception.
From Wagner James Au (via BoingBoing), on a French far-right political party setting up shop in SL, and the resulting political protest, which escalated to violence of a very surreal nature.
"And so it raged, a ponderous and dreamlike conflict of machine guns, sirens, police cars, 'rez cages' (which can trap an unsuspecting avatar), explosions, and flickering holograms of marijuana leaves and kids' TV characters, and more. By California time, the battles often culminated at 2am, 3am, and even later into the small hours of the American clock, when Residents in Europe are most active. So amid the exchange of salvos, the chat log was choked over with pro and anti-Le Pen curses, most in French. And when the lag was not too overwhelming to stream audio, the whole fracas was accompanied by bursts of European techno."
(I'm surprised by the lack of flying penii)
It's a fascinating read. Go check it out.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
A little mail list started internally connecting some of the game-bloggers within Microsoft.
I'll probably add a few to the blogroll once I read them for a while, but in the meantime, here's a list for those curious (in addition to David's and Andre's blogs, already on the list'o'links on the right):
- Brian Benicasa's (a former co-worker): I Killed Your Dude.
- David Weller (also a former co-worker, on the XNA team): Let's Kill Dave.
- Andrea Contino (Italian, no less!): Lost Garden. <-- Dan wins bonus points for his game design analysis of the Five Things meme. Kudos!
- Michael Gannotti's blog.
- Julien Ellie (on XNA team): Reflections.
- Randy Rants.
Friday, January 12, 2007
Having not heard anything from the guys at Id in a while (then again, I don't follow the hardcore space so closely anymore), a long interview with him popped up on Game Informer.
I've always been a fan of Id's games, and of Carmack as a developer. While they seem to have fallen behind guys like Valve and Epic in terms of their development model (old skool small team vs large team w modular development, etc), I secretly (not so secretly, I guess) root for Carmack to come out and ship something that kicks everybody's ass.
Of note, this quote about Gfx HW, and when and what users should upgrade to:
I don’t think that there’s any huge need for people to jump right now. All the high-end video cards right now—video cards across the board—are great nowadays. This is not like it was years ago, where they’d say, “This one’s poison, stay away from this. You really need to go for this.” Both ATI and Nvidia are going a great job on the high end.
Wow. It's not just me then. If HE doesn't care about the latest and greatest graphics, then who does?
Also, a game-biz-101 bit from Todd Hollenshead for those that think that digital distribution will make their publisher-dependence woes go away (Steam is the topic of discussion, but to be fair, they are just a proxy here for all digital distribution services):
there were serious flaws in the economic analysis that [Valve] laid out for developers. The problem for most developers is not one of not getting paid enough once the game is out, it’s that they don’t have the seed funding necessary to internally fund development of their titles. That’s why they work for publishers on milestone schedules and advances against future royalties, and Steam offers no solution for that. It also doesn’t offer any solution for the marketing spend question, where if developers don’t even have enough money to fund themselves internally to develop their product, then they’re not going to be able to pay for a multimillion dollar marketing campaign, which is a huge amount of risk that as an industry standpoint is offloaded from developers to publishers.
Posted 12:37 AM
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Let me know if you see any errors with the blog. I moved to Blogger's new system and did a few things while I was at it (modded my template, moved things under my domain, etc).
Overall, they've added some nice stuff, but there's still some proprietary stuff ('labels'? WTF? Can we just call it a tag and move on please?) that isn't quite in the spirit of 'don't be evil'.
[Update: Google now seems to offer a proper feed, so I'm not sure what to do about people getting the feed from Feedburner. Guess they'll exist in parallel]
They may emerge with something like this site (caution, some images NSFW), that scoures the internets, doing algorithmic analysis of images for matches of corporate logos. Very cool, but the possible uses make me shudder.
I agree with Seth Godin's thoughts on it:
"I love the spectacular use of technology on this web page. I hate the twisted use of the periodic table (because the relationships between the types isn't natural or elegant the way chemicals are) but it's worth it, because it will certainly inspire you to figure out how to get out of your text rut."
After reading it, you can kind of grok why they placed things in the rows/columns they did, but it doesn't intuitively leap off the page as to why they are related. Feels like some were kind of 'plugged into leftover spots'.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Eric Prydz vs Floyd - Proper Education
Techno + Parcour + Environmentalism =
Pink Floyd Remix
Awesome. (Originally pointed to by Souris at hustlerofculture.com)
Posted 11:24 AM
Bert Decker's blog, 'Create Your Communications Experience', a pretty good blog for those interested in public speaking, has a post contrasting the Steve Jobs MacWorld keynote vs the Bill Gates CES keynote. Ouch. According to him, no contest, and I have to agree.
I followed his pointer to the engadget coverage of the Jobs keynote, and was stunned. The pictures are fabulous, and the slides that were presented were awesome. It doesn't get much more simple and clear than that. The most crowded of all the slides had less than 40 words on it. Most had none.
Anyhow, it's worth looking at even if you don't care about the subject matter (though I gotta say, that phone is pretty sexy).
I'm surprised that no one commented on what I thought was a real shocker. Jobs wore a BROWN mock turtleneck. WTF?! This change in wardrobe is as surprising as the Pope popping out the window to address his followers with a baseball cap on!
What's next? The Queen in gothic lolita getup? I guess brown really is the new black. Perhaps he did it to match his Zune? :-)
[update: Doh! False alarm. I watched the keynote video and he's in black as usual. This appears to be the result of some image color adjustment on the part of Engadget. (Serves me right for snarfing their pic :-)]
Posted 9:28 AM
Tonights evening news had a brief alarmist piece about how "your kids might be watching porn on their game console!", referring to the web browsers available for the Nintendo Wii (great Kotaku headline!) and Sony PS3.
I'm not sure the PS3 has to have anything special done to any of the multitude of porn sites out there, but it is interesting that some of them are doing "Wii-friendly" web pages for people surfing with their *ahem* Wiimote in hand.
Between that and the free games content that Robin points us to, I wonder whether they'll do anything to lock it down, or if they think the premium (more importantly, royalty-yielding) content will not suffer as a result. Less of an issue for Nintendo, who claim to be profitable on HW sales from day one. Still has to be raising some discussions internally though. What if one of those indie games were a pornographic cartoon game starring *gasp* Mario himself!
Posted 12:28 AM
Tuesday, January 9, 2007
the Slamdance snowball that is.
Good synopsis on Water Cooler Games.
Three more finalists (Toblo, Once Upon a Time, Book and Volume) pull out of the competition. There are now 7 games in the competition from the original 13.
Also, USC Interactive Media program pulled their sponsorship in protest.
Posted 10:16 PM
Monday, January 8, 2007
Bowie on Extras
Hysterical. I haven't seen 'Extras', but I want to check it out now.
Posted 11:08 PM
ILike.com is a new social network + recommendation engine + distribution service + network of trust, that parasitically, um, I mean craftily sits on top of your iTunes usage to supplement it.
Fuck. I hate it when people have crazy obvious ideas before I have them :-)
This has all the trappings of a killer app. I'm not an iTunes user (Zune, baby!) but if I were, it seems this would be a no-brainer to sign up for.
For the Zune folks (if they are listening), could this be the app that bridges the gap between Zune users and their iPod-toting friends? I'd be engaging them in a hurry.
Posted 10:29 PM
Sunday, January 7, 2007
I'd been meaning to post about the Slamdance/ColumbineRPG thing for a while, but am glad I held off, as the plot has thickened.
- Slamdance is an indie film festival that has a games competition component to it.
- There's been a bit of a brouhaha about the fact that the organizers first nominated/invited Super Columbine Massacre RPG, and then recently, removed it.
- Kotaku reported on this, citing that Danny Ledonne, the game's creator had been told by festival organizers that pressure from financial backers had been the cause.
- This was followed up by a piece saying that the festival's organizers had clarified that it was pulled on moral grounds (though the same piece says the organizer of the games portion of the festival was strongly opposed to it's removal).
- N'Gai Croal was among many to point out the double standard applied when films addressing the same or even more risquee subject matter are never pulled from such festivals. Greg Costikyan's post on the subject does so as well, and is worth reading.
Raph has also posted a lengthy piece on the subject here, in which I learned the latest twist: That Jon Blow has pulled Braid from the competition in protest. Braid, a game I blogged about briefly in my GDC post (which I really liked plain, despite the fact that it made my brain hurt!), was one of the other nominees.
Now a skeptic might say that this is good publicity for Jon, and that he was going to have a hard time winning against games like Flow, Toribash and Plasma Pong (revolutionary, no, but it's pretty), and that this move will get him FAR more press love. However, I know Jon, and I know this is not the case. He's the real deal. His statement on the subject is worth reading.
Plus, he's already won something out of this competition: I intend to buy him drinks when/if I see him at GDC this year, as a token of my appreciation for his taking a stand. :-)
Nicely done Jon! Cheers!
Posted 12:28 AM
Friday, January 5, 2007
Thursday, January 4, 2007
A recent post on the Freakonomics blog, regarding the debate behind the hypothesized positive/negative impact of used book sales on sales of new books, may help shed some light on the used games sales debate.
The arguments in both industries are similar:
Anti-used: If customers can re-sell their media, they end up paying less for it, and it cannibalized new media sales, as the second and subsequent buyers didn't have to buy new. Furthermore, the channel makes all the used-media money, with copyright holder getting none of it.
Pro-used: If customers can re-sell their media, they use the proceeds to pour back into the market and thus buy more. This makes up for the cannibalization, and in turn, artists also benefit from wider distribution and exposure.
The problem with BOTH arguments is that it has been SO hard to definitively prove either case in an open market.
ANyhow the blog post links to this paper by some folks at NYU and Carnegie Mellon, which is the best analysis I've seen of it to date. At least it seems so. I confess I haven't even tried to grok all the math.
Anyhow, their conclusion supports the 'pro' side of the argument, concluding that cannibalization is insignificant, and that used book sales may actually help grow the new book market, since a used book is more likely to retain value to the customer.
Would be interesting for someone to apply the same model(s) to the used games space and prove the same thing.
Posted 10:33 PM
Wednesday, January 3, 2007
Seen at the local Fry's. It's a Dance pad/Software combo for the PC.
"Dance Praise: Turn Your Computer Into a Dance Arcade with Top Christian Hits!"
Some might say "targeting a substantial niche"; but *I* say strategically timed product given that the Godfather of Soul just passed away!
[BTW, a James Brown themed DDR-style game would totally rock. It would have to ship with a dance pad that was 15x15 feet with analog sensors to measure your bad-ass-electric-slide-skillz, and a crotch peripheral to score bonus points when jumping into a splits position and contacting the floor]
Posted 12:10 AM
Monday, January 1, 2007
A while back I was guilty of tagging others with a '4 things' meme. Karma is having it's way with me, and now Raph has tagged me with a '5 Things' meme.
Ok, I'll bite, but this time the buck stops here. I'm refusing to tag others. Thou shalt not dirty the internets and all of that.
So, here goes. Five things you don't know about me:
- I was kicked out of college and became a ski-bum for a period of time. Quebec has a system where you finish high-school at 16 and go to something called CEGEP, a kind of interim college or community college before either entering the work force or going to university. At 16 I found girls, beer and the local pool hall far more compelling than my compsci classes and paid the price for it. I subsequently went and worked in a ski town in Alberta for a season before coming back and returning to school.
- French was my first language, though you'd never know it now. I actually learned both at once (dad's a Brit, mum's French Canadian), but my French was stronger because I was babysat by another francophone while mum and dad worked. At age 3 we moved to an English suburb where I lost most of it until much later.
- I didn't get a driver's license till I was in my early twenties. I owned and drove a motorcycle and a car before that time, but never got around to actually getting my license till quite late (see number 4).
- The police once bestowed a nickname upon me. My friends and I had a significant number of *ahem* encounters with the local law enforcement when we were teens. Enough so that they new a few of us by name. One night one of them gave me a nickname and it stuck for a while.
- The number of drinks someone needs to buy me in order to learn the nickname in #4 is... well... ask it not, for it is legion.
Posted 8:54 PM