Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Raph has liveblogged Danah Boyd's Etech talk entited "Incantations for Muggles". Its awesome. Wish I'd been there for it, but Raph's thorough notetaking are a nice substitute. Really interesting stuff on changing social norms due to impact of technology, and on the use of technology by different people at different stages in life (and the costs of trying to make one size fit all).
"Expansion has costs. One of the costs is that you get people angry with you. The common response is lock-in: you have to stay even if you don’t want to, which goes against what people really value. Unhappy users do not make products stick, cf Friendster."
" Twitter is the most fascinating example of complete cognitive overload. Is it really building meaningful social realitions? Do we really gain anything? I know way too many details about Angelina Jolie. She won’t be there for me when I have a crisis. Will Twitter friends be there for you?"
One of the closing comments of the talk is particularly relevant in the context of my earlier post about Kathy Sierra.
"What does it mean to pay attention to the spells cast in both directions? The accidental spells? The Star Wars kid? The student who gets kicked out of college because of their Facebook? We think it’s all positive. Are we always happy with that? Do we even think about it, or do we forget that people’s lives are at stake."
Creating Passionate Users is a fantastic blog. A real gem, and definitely on the short list on my blogroll.
Which is why its extra disappointing that Kathy Sierra, the blog's owner, was recently threatened by some anonymous posters on another blog (warning: that link is disturbing to read). Threatened to the point where she feels forced to hide, forced to cancel speaking engagements, etc.
If she decides to quit blogging, the world will be poorer for it.
It saddens me that mysogynist trolls like this still exist in this day and age. I guess I'm not surprised, but it's a sad reminder.
The anonymity afforded by the internet just fuels it further of course, and it's got me thinking about anonymity some.
Two subjects get confused in many of the posts on this topic come up: Free speech and anonymity.
Free speech is a good thing. People should be allowed to share ideas, but as Kathy points out, death threats are not protected speech, nor should they be.
There are reasons to allow for and protect anonymity: press sources, whistleblowers, etc.
Its the combination of the two that disturbs me. It seems teh price of free speech should at the least be assignment of your name to your statements, and that you be held accountable for your words.
I've been pretty lucky in that most posts on this blog have been reasonable, but there have been a few examples where someone disagreed with a point, told me I was wrong, etc, without making an argument, and without identifying themselves.
"'cuz I said so" doesn't count for much when I don't know who "I" is.
Not sure I have any constructive suggestions here. I'm just saddened by it all, is all.
Monday, March 26, 2007
This video of seniors bowling on Wii is just awesome. Kudos again to Nintendo.
(Have to add this though, from a coworker: I like the last sentence in the article… “That isn’t the case with Millicent, his wife of 55 years. She sticks with bridge”. Hmm… I wonder if she plays on our site? )
I have both Kotaku and Joystiq on the blogroll. The seem to both tackle the same type of content (humorous take on game industry news and game culture), and seem to cover most of the same news. So I guess they are competitors of sorts.
I'm not sure who beats who to the punch more often, but these days, does it matter when a 'scoop' is a lead of hours or minutes?
Lately, I've been frequenting Kotaku more. On the one hand I feel they 'chase the headline' a little more (I should come up with some hard examples to back this up later. For now call it an impression I'm left with); but on the other hand, I'm really digging their sense of humor.
So it was Kotaku up by a point for that, but today I was out running some errands and had some time to kill so I brought up both sites on my phone and found that Joystiq was very mobile-friendly formatted, while Kotaku was not. Perhaps just on windows mobile (which I'm running)? Maybe others are seeing the same?
Anyhow, score one for Joystiq, tieing it up.
I was surprised by this, give that of Kotaku's numerous Brians, at least one lives in Japan, where they likes dem lil'phones.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Awesome, remarkable, "purple cow" if you will, recruitment effort by Red5, pointed out to us by Ben Mattes:
"... FedEx parcel arrives for you. [snip]. So you open the box and find inside a series of 'Russian Doll' type nested boxes, each more beautiful then the last. Written on each box a section of what appears to be a riddle.Of course, as you open each subsequent box the attention to detail in this package is sure to start to attract attention. Some of your coworkers would certainly be drawn to the affair and hover around to know more.So finally you reach the fifth and last box, open it up, and find...."
Go to Ben's blog to find out the rest. I don't want to steal his thunder. (just realized this is also covered in detail in this escapist article here. PIctures of the nested boxes and surprise inside are here)
This is a great example of how recruiting - if you really want top notch, cream of the crop people, should be viewed as wooing. You need to go above and beyond to stand out from the other suitors, and make the person feel special, wanted, etc.
I forgot one more highlight that was worth mentioning.
Justin introduced me to Don Hopkins who gave me a demo of SimCity running on the OLPC (one laptop per child). Was nifty to actually hold one of them and fondle it (uhh... the OLPC that is. I didn't fondle nor hold Don or Justin).
Pic of Don, Justin, and the OLPC here.
Steve Lacey, ex-microsoftie, now a googlite, is a pretty proficient amateur photographer... usually.
However, I think he harbors some malicious intent toward me, as he is now responsible for two of the three worst photos ever taken of me. This one, taken at CES a year+ back, and this one, taken just before GDC at the b-day party of a mutual friend's toddler, which clearly shows the state I was in in the weeks leading up to GDC, looking like a meth-addicted hobbit or something.
Steve, from now on I'm running from your camera. Either that or going all 'Sean Penn' on you!
Monday, March 19, 2007
I've had to bite my lip for a long time about Popcap's Peggle, a game I've really been excited about. It's really slick. It's easy, it's polished, it has wide appeal (my 3 year olds are equally hooked, and my son may be better at it than I am by the week's end).
Congrats to the gang at Popcap for such a great piece of work. I'd be very suprised if this isn't every bit as successful as Zuma over the next year.
Via Raph comes this awesome pointer to a couple Kongregate titles.
Just as Understanding Comics is to comics, Understanding Games is (attempting to be) to games. An interactive game that explains the fundamentals of the medium. Brilliant. Andreas Zecher is the creator.
It's ambitious, but he's starting simple and I applaud the effort.
OK, final post on GDC (I think. No promises). Some miscellanous notes on the conference this year, and some thoughts on directions for GDC.
- I was looking at a friend's GDC blog post and realized that - Holy Cow! - I never even set foot on the show floor this year. Was it in the west hall? north hall? I don't even know! I did walk through one of hte smaller booth areas on the way to/from the MS suite, but that's it. First time in the 13 years I've attended (of course, my first year the show floor was about a dozen 8' draped tables and that's it).
- Something weird happened over the past year to where about one third of the time people introduced me to someone they knew by saying "This is Kim, he blogs at...", and the other two thirds of the time was "This is Kim, he works at Microsoft doing...". That totally threw me for a loop. I thought there were only a couple dozen people that read this thing. Anyhow, neat.
- Greg Costikyan's Maverick Award acceptance speech is a thing of beauty.
- Justin's 'Passively Multiplayer Online Game' poster session. Lots of unsolved problems (he griped about how many times he was asked "how can it be monetized?"), but the guy is onto something.
- I attended the Second Life party. OK, the second lifers are as nuts in person as in the metaverse. The piped-in-dj-from-second-life was kinda cool. Being lewdly accosted by a second lifer at the bar was strangely uncool (uh, "I love you" is no way to greet a nice canadian boy like me!). I have a theory that some of the attendees were from of SL's more questionable online 'businesses'. Makes for interesting parties anyway.
- The minna mingle (casual games assoc party) was cool, but the hidden secret was the rockin DJ/guitarist combo (Chris Clouse and DJ Solomon) and ensuing party playing at Slide next door. Way better than any show party :-).
- Espetus is most awesome restaurant every for low-carb folk. "You sit at a table. A river of unending charbroiled meats approaches. You have a green and red wheel, a cocktail, and a fried plantain." Sounds like it should be a snippet from Kingdom of Loathing.
Thoughts on GDC
Overall, Raph sums it up nicely, and I agree with his points.
- The "infusion of E3" that happened came in three forms. (1) E3-esque booths and product exhibits (I have to wonder whether some people really think through WHY they are exhibiting at a show and considering who their audience is). (2) Press looking for hints as to next Xmas' stuff have always been interested in GDC, but perhaps now are thinking this is last chance for a while, and (3) all the E3 business meetings just packed up and moved to GDC. It's this last one that is killing GDC for me. I really want to attend GDC for the sessions and networking. Not to spend more than half the time in a meeting room. Now, granted, that's my job, but a balance needs to be struck, or I need to find somewhere else to get the mind-expanding bit of GDC.
- The size of the conference is making the networking/social bits difficult. Spreading things out to a couple halls doesn't help. GDC Prime doesn't help.
- GDC Prime rubbed me the wrong way for a couple reasons. I heard mixed reviews from the couple attendees I spoke to, but am curious what others thought.
One more thing: I hinted at it in a softball way in the news.com article, still think that GDC is at real risk of super-nova'ing like E3, Comdex, and other shows have. It's getting very expensive to attend, exhibit at, or cover. Segment- or market-specific conferences may be a better spend for many here. The issue isn't whether it's a valuable show. The question is whether it's the BEST use of money given teh choice.
As an example, GDC next year is moving to Feb. Which means there's a very real risk of it overlapping with Casual Connect (FKA Casuality) in Amsterdam. If that's the case, I very likely will NOT attend GDC for the first time in 14 years. Casuality is a better bang-for-the-buck show for me. (Of course MS as a corporation would likely do both, but I'm speaking from my personal POV).
Now, to Jamil, Kathy, and the others at GDC, this will seem like lunacy coming off the heels of the biggest-gdc-ever. Of course, that's the same kind of hubris that the owners of E3 had up until a year ago...
Sunday, March 18, 2007
As I stated earlier, I only attended a small number of sessions. In ranked order, they were:
1. Clint Hocking's presentation on (self) Exploration in Games.
Clint's own post-mortem on the session, along with the slides and accompanying paper, can be found here. (Note that the talk was written as a paper first, like I did here, and like he, I and some others discussed here).
Clint is the awesome. At some point I decided that if I'm going to a conference where he's speaking, I block that time to attend and schedule around that. The guy takes some hard topic ideas, dives after them, and does some serious work on both the research and the resulting presentation. Clint is my presentation hero :-). Go read the paper, or get the short version in the gamasutra coverage here. (or buy the Mp3 version here, if reading is more painful to you than parting with $8 :-)
2. How Casual Games Will Kill the Console (and Why That's a Good Thing)
John Welch, President of Playfirst, gave a really good session that I'm surprised wasn't blogged more widely. John subscribes to the same Geoffrey Moore school of thought that I do, and he led the audience through a well thought-out argument about how open markets win, and how games will be no exception. Plenty of good analogies from other mediums & markets, and a good presentation style to boot. I beleive his pitch was right on the money, and is the long-term light at the end of the tunnel that Greg Costikyan presented during the rant session. Speaking of which:
3. Burning Mad: Game Publishers Rant
The rant session is always entertaining, enlightening, and provocative. This year's was a little more mixed, which is why this falls midpoint on my list. Some rants fell flat, while others were well prepared and thought through. Details on the sessions here. My short comments on each:
- Great: Chris Hecker's Anti-Wii rant. Already blogged in detail around the web. I agree, and he's my hero for having stones to get up and say it, even if he regrets the way in which it was taken.
- Great: Nicole Bradford's "excite the young'uns using games" rant. It was a strong message, well written, and well rehearsed. A lot of similarities (and no, I am not refering to race nor gender similarities) to Majora Carter's TED speech I blogged about a while back. Perhaps that's the style/effect she was aiming for? The only thing making me rate this one second is that it was perhaps a bit TOO rehearsed for the GDC rant session. It's supposed to come off as a rant; a little rough around the edges. That commentary aside, she was very good.
- Good: Greg Costikyan's "wolf in digital distribution clothing" aka "the consoles will be our new overlords" rant. Greg is always a little understated in presentation style, but I beleive his to be the most insightful of all the rants. I beleive his argument is absolutely on the money and one that developers/publishers should keep in mind. And yeah, I say that despite his bagging on Arcade, and despite his misnaming Arcade 'Xbox Live Arena'.
- Good: Richard Hilleman's Leadership rant. Spot on topic, well delivered, if a little understated for the flavor of gdc rant.
- Good: Lee Jacobson's "some devs pull some funky sh*t" rant. A good look at walking in the other man's shoe that hopefully let devs understand why the evil publisher sometimes needs to be as evil as he is :-)
- Poor: Jason Della Rocca's "I read some books this year" rant. Uh, sorry J, you're a friend, but that was a pretty shoddy rant. (a) it was more or less a repeat of Seamus' rant from last year, and (b) it was far less specific. It also made a pretty big assumption: That the rest of the industry doesn't already dabble in other media by reading books, viewing movies, etc. I don't know what your IGDA polls are telling you, but many of the devs I hang with are the biggest renaissance men & women I know, reading far more, and far more varied fare, than most folk I know outside the industry. Gotta ding you for this one buddy, sorry.
- Poor: Alex St John's yet-another-vista-rant. I've addressed this in the IGDA Casual Games Sig Q&A, but I think he's overstating the issue, and came off looking that way. No real call to action anyway, though I'm sure he's pitching his company's product as a solution in other sessions/meetings. Whatever.
An interesting and entertaining panel during the Indie games track. I commented to Jon Blow after the session that he came off as the time-tempered old veteran of the panel, whereas just a few years ago it seems he would very much have filled the raging, stand by your principles and damn-the-torpedos role that this year was filled by Jonathan Mak (creator of the brilliant Everyday Shooter). A summary of the session can be found here.
5. Jeff Minter 'keynote' from Indie Games Summit
Hrm. Jeff's a pretty poor speaker, didn't have a well thought out message to give people (other than perhaps "do your own thing") and labored through a bunch of demos of old games saying "I didn't want this to be a clone of X", and then would show us a clone of X where some element had been replaced by a bunch of wildlife. Sorry dude, but replacing a space ship with a camel doesn't exactly make it innovative. To boot, he was rude during Q&A by ignoring audience member questions while playing his own games on screen.
There were a couple highlights: (1) Space Giraffe does look to be an LSD-like trippy game. (2) I like than an equally, ahem, alternate substance afficionado got up to ask a question along the lines of "so, this is a game where I can take alternate substances and trip out while I play?" and he answered "alternate substances are optional, but yeah". Kindred spirits. (3) Clever wordplay when he said his small indie games that are visual-rich but not aimed at the commercial big time were "about electronic art, not Electronic Arts".
6. Sony PS3 keynote
This has been covered to death elsewhere, and I'm not listing it last because I'm a microsoft guy. I just wasn't wowed. I have two things to say:
I was asked *a lot* what I thought about PS3 'Home' while at GDC. Here's my opinion: It looked like the software embodiment of a knee-jerk reaction. It was a feature list, implemented, and wrapped into a demo. It's basically like someone said "Go do Xbox Live, Mii's, Habbo Hotel, and some of the better bits of Second Life". They concatenated those feature lists and then built it. Only then did it seem they said "what might we then do with it?". Rather than starting with "what do we want people to be able to do?". Many of the demos were about technically impressive things as a result. Few were 'omygosh gotta have!'. Mostly, I saw things that would be HARDER to do/use as a result of having been done prettier or in 3D.
On the other hand, LittleBigWorld looks *really* good. I really would like to have a go at playing it.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
I sat on two panels, and also gave a sponsored session. Here's my thoughts on each and the results thereof.
Console/PC Distribution Gatekeepers
I sat on this panel moderated by Simon Carless. Other panelists included people from Sony,
Manifesto games, and Gametap. There was supposed to be someone from Nintendo but he backed out. The panel got covered here, here, and here, and if interested, you can buy an audio transcript here.
I think I did OK, though I gave pretty middle-of-the-road answers. Panels are more entertaining when provocative, and several people afterward picked up on the fact that I failed to bite on some obvious opportunities to stir things up a bit (e.g. I've griped about GameTap before). This was a case where I felt I was more "the Microsoft guy" on the panel, rather than just "kim pallister", and so had to take the high (less-risky-but-less-entertaining) road. Oh well.
I do think I acheived the goal of letting the indie games track attendees better understand how to get their titles on Xbox Live Arcade and MSN Games, which was the main reason I was there. We had a few hundred people in the room and I was swamped by about 20 people afterward with questions about just that.
I give myself a B+.
Casual Games and Windows Vista: The Real Story on What It Means For Casual Games
This was a sponsored session braindump on Vista, Games explorer, GDF files, etc, etc, from the perspective of casual games. Very much along the lines of what my Q&A with the IGDA Casual Games SIG Quarterly covered.
The session got covered at Josh Bancroft's blog (Intel bloggers? WTF? when did that happen. bully for them).
This type of session is a brain dump and while you can try to convey the information in an engaging manner, it's never quite as fun to give as a more creative presentation (see my post about my MIGS06 presentation for more on this).
While I think I helped some attendees, and had some positive feedback after the talk, I still give myself a B- on this one.
This panel was moderated by David Edery, a co-worker of mine. However, he wasn't a coworker at the time he set up the panel and invited me. I certainly had less business being on the panel than the others up there (Raph Koster, Ray Muzyka, Matt Brown...), but pinged David about it when he was putting together the panel because at the time we were working on the details around hosting Cranium's Pop5 game - a web-based casual game featuring user-created content.
So, I was about to contribute and I think I got some positive reaction out of the audience and brought a different perspective to the table. I was happy with it overall. I give myself an A-.
The highlight for me was that I used my MIGS05 UGC anecdote, and the guy that gave the Mona Lisa comment at the MIGS session was in the audience for this panel and came up afterward to point out that he was the guy. Cool!
The session got covered here.
I was inspired by a post by Mark Deloura about his trip to to DICE in which he tracked stats about how he was spending his time. I decided to do the same at GDC. I carried a little notepad with me and made a few tickmarks about how I spent my time over the course of the week. Here are the details:
Over 5 days, I met & had conversations (I counted anything beyond a 2 minute discussion as a 'conversation') with 232 people.
108 of those were people I already knew, and 124 of those were people I met for the first time (or didn't recall meeting previously). I had 22 meetings with developers/publishers (more on this in a later post)
The 5 days were pretty much 8am to midnight (or much later) every day, so roughly 80 hours. Of that, I spent 22 hours in meetings, 3 hours presenting and/or panels, 8 hours preparing for sessions, and 7 hours attending sessions. I slept 21 hours over 5 nights, which pretty much explains how I felt Saturday morning, and also why I caught a cold that followed me home.
I spent 4 hours at parties. Pretty conservative compared to past years. I logged another 4 at the CMP suite, which given the caliber of conversation was arguably a productive use of time, at least I think it was, but I'm a little foggy. :-/
OK, so what did I learn from my scribbles? First off, I hope that I do the same next year and can use it as a benchmark of sorts. Second, I either need to attend more sessions, or share my pass with someone. I had a speaker pass, so it didn't cost me anything, but still, I didn't get much use out of it. Finally, time spent prepping for sessions was ineffective, and should have been done ahead of time. Part of this was thrust upon me fairly late in the days leading up to GDC. Still though, that 8 hours could have been spent doing business or doing general elbow-rubbing.
Next year, I have to carry a pedometer with me so I can measure my TFF.
OK, a day late and a dollar short (well, a week late and only my 2c worth), I have a series of GDC-related posts. Other than the previous "In defense of Hecker" post, I was a little to burnt out post-gdc to do any of these. I took the week off and spent most of it running kids around to school, optometrist, ballet class, gym, etc, etc.
Anyhow, I have a bunch of stuff to say about GDC but figured I'd break it up.
First off, my post in defense of Chris Hecker's GDC rant got Joystiq'd, and if the amount of fanboi wrath I incurred is any indicatin of the heat he's taking, then wow, I feel for the guy.
Hope it all blows over and we can put it behind us.
Anyhow, onto the gdc posts...
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Just got back from GDC last night. A day has passed and I am still *spent*. Didn't help to get back to the airport to find my car battery dead either. *sigh*. A half-hour and a pair of jumper cables later and I was on my way home.
I plan on doing a pretty lengthy post about GDC, sessions, impressions, etc, but I wanted to first post my thoughts on the Chris Hecker, Wii-rant debacle.
So, for those coming up to speed, here's the short version:
GDC has had a 'rant' session three years running (summary of 2005, 2006, 2007 ). In one of the rants from this year's session, Chris Hecker (who works for EA/Maxis) gave a rant about the Nintendo Wii in which he called it a 'piece of sh**', also claiming that Nintendo doesn't care about games as art. The short version of the fallout is that the game bloggers all had a simultaneous blogo-gasm over the provided provocative headline, the Nintendo fanboys decended upon the internet with torches and pitchforks, and I'd imagine that EA's PR depart told them to get in line and wait till they were done getting medievel on his heiney. Hecker issued an apology the next day, but the torches and pitchforks continue to flame/poke on the web, and I'd imagine there are many calling for his head on a pike around the EA PR office. Perhaps they'll end up getting it.
With all the noise on the subject, I'm not sure my two cents is worth even that, but I'm going to give my opinion on the subject for those who care.
First off, I think it's clear he made a huge mistake, not knowing the weight and impact his statement would have, and more importantly, how it would be associated with his role at EA. Chris has spent the past (10? more?) years working as an indie. He's well known (more on this later), but it's different when the press can say "Spore Developer says...". Now, while I think he made a mistake not thinking about impact, I *agree* with what he said - at least if taken in the context of the talk as well as the rant session.
Chris' talk and it's intent have to be taken with the Rant session's setting in mind. People over state for purposes of firing up the room and to bring issues to the surface in hopes that people will consider those issues, discuss them, and perhaps do something about them.
My own read on Chris' intent with his talk was as follows:
- That while people have raved about their innovative controller and the more risk-taking games they have brought to market, this should not give them a 'get out of jail free card' on the fact that they have delivered an underpowered machine.
- That while it is certainly possible to deliver works of art in a minimalist fashion, artists shouldn't be REQUIRED to do so. (Just because it's possible to render fantastic art using only a piece of charcoal, that doesn't mean artists can't also accomplish a more varied spectrum of work using color, if you'll pardon the pun). This is as valid an argument as that of the people saying that "high def doesn't mean better games". Amen. [Worth noting that Hecker's rant last year was anti-Sony and anti-MS, chastising the two platforms for being graphics-heavy and general-computation-light]
- The other part of his talk was chastising Nintendo's focus on lighter-weight fare and on 'fun' as being detrimental to the industry's efforts on getting games taken seriously as art. While I agree less with this one, I do think it was valuable to state, if for no other reason to get people having the conversation.
Since the talk, Chris has taken a lot of heat, and a lot of people have said some not-so-nice things about him. He's got thick skin, but it's got to be tough to have that many people coming down on you.
The Nintendo fanboys and others that are responsible for coming down on him like that should at the very least put this one rant in perspective with the rest of Chris' work. He won the IGDA community contribution award last year, and a ton of people said fantastic things about him. I still beleive those things are true. I respect Chris a great deal and would ask that those that are reacting to this one rant try to look past it and at the bigger picture.
Friday, March 2, 2007
Thursday, March 1, 2007
...Kotaku, on their posting an email from Sony's PR group, blacklisting them due to posting/commenting on rumors, and the subsequent fallout.
Sigh. Where to begin?
This post sums up the story from Kotaku's side. In short, Kotaku posted on a rumor of what may be in Phil Harrison's GDC keynote. Sony's PR freaked out, Kotaku stood their ground (way to go Brian C) and posted Sony's reaction to boot, and then the Internet imploded.
Presumably, at this point Howard Stringer got a call from Al Gore saying "leggo my Internet", and Sony backed off and apologized. The Internet is back up, and the various Brians and such at Kotaku can attend Sony's GDC functions and eat expensive puff pastries while getting dirty looks from PR guys in striped shirts.
OK, kids, what have we learned?
- Refusing to comment on rumor is moderately effective. It's neutral. Reacting to rumor this way is essentially the equivalent of posting a rehearsal of the keynote on GooTube. If I didn't feel confident it was true before, I sure do now.
- The internets & the press, *especially* the blogging press, love a good scandal. It's way bigger story than whatever your keynote is going to contain, and customers aren't going to like it.
- People at a big company can get so wound up about self-importance that things get out of perspective. The keynote will still go fine, and even if you yourself leaked what was going to be in the keynote, people would still show up to see it. Perhaps more so. Don't kid yourself. I personally doubt the value of 'the reveal' in this case. I think the keynote would get 10x coverage if they put out a press release that was 7 words long: "avatars, acheivements, more. Show up and see"
Now, PR fustercluck aside, the rumored Sony offering of 'Gamerscore + achievements + Mii's + Habbo Hotel' sounds pretty compelling. I'm looking forward to seeing it... and competing against it.