Friday, December 31, 2010
After reading Brian Ashcraft's great book on the Japanese arcade gaming scene, I figured I'd like his next book on Japanese schoolgirl culture. It didn't disappoint.
Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential is a pretty deep dive on a number of different aspects of what can only be called a phenomena: The idolization, monetization, and 'fetishization' of the Japanese schoolgirl look and surrounding culture.
I picked this one up as an audio book for our recent ski-trip, looking for some different stuff that my wife and I would both enjoy. Enjoyed it somewhat, but I'm not putting it at the top of any lists.
Don't Get Too Comfortable: The Indignities of Coach Class, The Torments of Low Thread Count, The Never- Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil, and Other First World Problems
Monday, December 20, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
I have it on good authority that Mr Claus may be depositing an iPad under the tree for me on Xmas morn.
- Best Feedreader? (Would like it to sync feeds between PC/iPad/iPhone, allow offline viewing, set refresh frequency, etc. I've used RSSBandit and others in the past. Currently using IE8 because I like the Outlook integration, but I'm guessing it's not an option on iPad)
- Best eReader app? (Would like it to have top-notch typography, support for EPUB and other formats, bonus for PDF support, should be able to keep multiple bookmarks support for annotations and the like)
- Best document-sync apps? (I'm thinking of apps to let me view and/or edit Word & Powerpoint files off my PC)
- Best sketching/drawing app? (keeping in mind I'll have a stylus)
- Best notetaking/sketching/brainstorming app? (e.g. Onenote equivalent)
- Best GPS app?
- Best Browser? (Is the stock one sufficient?)
- Best Wikipedia client? (I use Wikiamo on iPhone - is there something better?)
- Best magazines/news site apps?
- Best cookbook-type apps?
- Best Twitter client/aggregator? (Yes, my opt-out experiment is over and I'll become a Twit in the new year)
- finally, recommendations on best stylus?
Thursday, December 16, 2010
My friend and former co-blogger & co-worker Vlad Cole has started a new blog where he's documenting 99 days of moving to an all-cloud model and using a Chrome OS laptop.
Vlad used to blog for Joystick, and we jointly worked on VGVC.net for a year. He's tech savvy, and definitely a guy that walks his talk, so it'll be a good experiment to follow:
The runtime rendering being done here doesn't look like anything that far beyond what we're seeing in other titles. However, the content authoring - combining a high-end mocap rig with recognizable actors and whats likely to be TONS of dialog - is clearly going to be a huge cost increase.
Monday, December 13, 2010
So, back in 2006, Microsoft did a deal with Burger King to do 3 BK-branded titles and distribute them with value meals at a nominal fee ($3.99). The fee aside, these were essentially free advertising-subsidized game titles for the console.
If only people don't assume that they get what they pay for.
Friday, December 10, 2010
I've been doing a lot of non-fic reading as of late, and so with a long flight giving me a reading opportunity (I spoke at GDC China in Shanghai last week), I picked up Boneshaker for the flight.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
I got pointers to a couple music videos doing some really nice kinetic typography. In the future all the examples here should be possible to do using HTML5 & related tech. (Would be a cool to see someone tack a crack at doing a Chrome Experiment at implementing the Shopvac video below in realtime).
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Brian David Johnson is a fellow Intellite, though he works in group pretty distant from mine, we both have future-forecasting type roles.
- The book has numerous typos, grammatical, and technical/terminology errors. I'm not sure who proofed it, but being an Intel Press book I'd expect them to do a better job especially on the latter of these.
- There are places where Brian opts to "go deep" on how something might work, but stays at a high level powerpoint-ish description that hand-waves around a lot of the how, and so it's not clear these pieces actually add any value. (i.e. Just saying "assume this all works" is no less valuable than the approach of "you'd have to have Box A talk to Box B using a protocol - assume that just works".
- While some of the book talks about business models and business issues, the book is way too limited in this respect. Also, it doesn't talk about issues around intellectual property rights and how they will have impact (e.g. DMCA's impact on innovation).
- Brian has lined up some REALLY good interviews with folks in the book, from around the globe. Henry Jenkins, Stephen Conroy (Australian Senator revamping their broadband and broadcast policies), Amy Reinhard (Director of Strategic Planning at Paramount), and numerous others. Some of the riffing these folks do around the topic are alone worth the price of admission.*
- The book has a global perspective - and is not just US-only like other views on the entertainment business tend to be
- Despite my complaint about the under-served business discussion, the book does attempt to cross technical, business, and cultural boundaries, not just treating it as a technical subject.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Craig Mod, who wrote a couple really awesome pieces on the future of book publishing on the iPad, and whom I linked to in a couple previous posts, and who I recently coincidentally ended up driving across the Mexican desert with (a long story), has a video up of talk he gave at a conference called 'the Do Lectures'.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
A few good finds this week to read over your morning coffee, or over turkey hangover:
- Tim Berners-Lee (inventer of The Web) in Scientific American: Long Live the Web: A Call for Continued Open Standards and Neutrality. A lengthy dissertation on open standards vs walled gardens, Net Neutrality, and Electronic Human Rights. Much of it covers known problem, but it's good to see them called out so eloquently.
- iReaderReview has a piece examining What Impact are Kindle Exclusives Having. There are some parallels with games here. In a crowded market like books (or, say, small downloadable games), does having an exclusive on even a significant number of titles make any difference for the platform's appeal.
- Gamasutra has a good piece up on Console Hardware Trends in the Bundle Era. I find the title a bit misleading, and would rather label it "Hey Guys, how goes the mid-life booster rocket?". Title aside, though it's interesting. The table of 360 HW sales by month is interesting, showing 2010 to be a banner year thus far, and that was BEFORE the Kinect and its bundles launched.
- Good CNET piece on Netflix's Secret Sauce for Acquiring Content. Good lessons here on being a good partner.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
The author spent a year doing a stint of low-wage jobs in a number of cities around the country, trying to see if she could support herself on a minimum wage job. She spents time working as a waitress, a cleaning lady, a Walmart clerk, and a number of other positions, sometimes working two jobs while also apartment hunting or dealing with other administrivia.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
I picked this up on a whim when my eye happened upon it at the local library.
Monday, November 8, 2010
This was one of a number of books I referenced in a talk I gave at the IGDA Leadership Forum last week.
The book breaks down both requirements for successful intrapreneuring, as well as methods for leaders to build more entrepreneurial culture within their organizations. In both of these the book can be a very fast read as his approach is very structured, to the point of section headers basically containing the core idea most of the time. I found that only some pieces benefitted me if I read through them in depth.
Monday, October 25, 2010
I've been talking to a lot of folks about HTML5 recently, and always find myself struggling with the conversations actually including areas that aren't technically part of the HTML5 spec but are referred to in the same sentence 90% of the time.
"Everything that is in the formal W3C HTML5 spec; everything that used to be in there but was broken out for various reasons; sibling and related technologies and developments like CSS3, SVG, EcmaScript 5, etc.; and experimental explorations that are pushing the boundaries."
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Dive Into HTML5 is a free e-book by Google's Mark Pilgrim. I read it before the HTML5 book I recently reviewed, and found Pilgrim's to be much better.
If you are looking for a quick read to get up to speed, it's a great place to start. (One downside is that it would have been nice if he'd made an offline version available as a e-book or PDF.
This was the second of a couple books I've read on HTML5. The other review is coming next.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Game Dev Story is a fun little iphone sim about running a games studio. I found a lot of developer friends talking about how enamored they are with it.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
As I've mentioned in a few recent posts, I've been spending some time thinking about e-readers, and reading up on things like typography and the ebook format. Anyhow, while the last typography book that I read was interesting, it wasn't the soup-to-nuts book on "all things typographical" I needed.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Dave Edery's finally able to talk about one of his hush-hush projects: Games for the Kindle.
While travelling this week I finished Nassim Teleb's The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, and I give it a rating of... well... so-so.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
One part dark comedy, one part Slumdog Millionaire, The White Tiger is a story of an poor Indian boy whose opportunism-cloaked-in-entrepreneurism lets him ascend the social order - to a point - from which further ascension requires a much darker undertaking.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Monday, September 20, 2010
In a previous post, I mentioned how I've been spending some thinking about ebooks and digital readers. As well, I've been reading a bunch about typography and things having to do with print on screens.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
- http://www.kimpallister.com/2009/09/its-complicated-or-beating-facebook.html: Apple has ~150M iTunes users and can piggyback a social network into that installed base with an iTunes update. Also, they could offer any number of incentives to connect with friends.
- The relationship Apple has with those 150M people is already a trusted and trained relationship with a tie to content people care about (music, movies, games...). Another way to think about this is that the majority of those 150M people have asked Apple to keep their credit card numbers on file.
- The iTunes economy may be bigger than the Facebook economy. Not sure about ad revenue on both side, but one way people should be looking at #1 above is asking ($150 iTunes users * Avg User Yearly iTunes Spend) > (500M FB users * Avg User Yearly FB Spend).
- Apple has a warchest of $40B. Yes, FB has real revenue and it's estimated to be as high as $2B for 2010, but at the same time, Apple made in excess of that number every two weeks through the last quarter.
- Apple has a better relationship and level of interest with the developer community. Neither platform has been perfect, but Apple's been improving their policies over time, where FB's recent gaffs seem to show developer satisfaction is pretty low on their list.
- Ping is shop-centric instead of user-centric. Too much thinking around "how can people help other people BUY", not just "how can people connect and share".
- Arrogance. Just as FB's arrogance could be their downfall, Apple's arrogance could be their guarantee of failure. Saying things like "Privacy is easy", are a clear indicator that they either don't take it seriously or haven't thought about it. Allowing users to view, grok, control, and evolve the exposure of information and content over their entire network is a really hard problem that is not going to get easier.
- Closed Ecosystem mentality (vs open). It's on their software, their devices and adding features as they see fit. As opposed to a liberal policy embracing 3rd party platform vendors to accelerate your platforms development.
- Fragmented effort from Apple. To me it seems that simultaneously launching Ping while also launching Game Center is indicative of a fragmented strategy at best, or a complete lack of one at worst. Ideally (for them anyway) Apple would have a SN for their iTunes platform, and then all activity over your SN could be tapped by their music services, game services, etc. Instead we have two different systems?
Monday, September 6, 2010
Craig Mod (whom I recently had the pleasure of traversing the Mexican desert with - but that's another story) posted a great write up of his (successful) efforts to use Kickstartr to raise money to fund a print run of his book.
Monday, August 30, 2010
Dot Font Talking About Fonts is a collection of essays culled from CreativePro.com, the website run by John D Berry, the author. The essays focus on typography, design, fonts, their creators, and a good measure of history on the subject, of which he has prolific knowledge.
I've been reading a lot about typography lately, mostly related to the subject of eBooks and eReaders. I beleive they are going to usher in a whole new era in digital typography, and thought it wise to start versing myself in some of the challenges there.
The book offers a great deal, but also disappoints on a couple fronts. Here are the pros/cons and also an interesting games-related takeaway:
Pro: As I said the author's knowledge and respect for the art of typography are top notch. So he's able to draw connections across time and continents to show how modern day type developments have roots going back hundreds of years.
Pro: I learned a ton about nuances of type design, including things like ascenders and descenders, ears, swelled strokes, and light traps, where previously I knew only what a serif was.
Pro: I learned about some of the challenges and resulting compromises made to type designs because they had to adhere to multiple technology platforms (e.g. Sabon was a font commissioned to work in hand-set type systems as well as linotype and monotype hot metal printing systems). there are some parallels to draw with multi-platform games today.
Con: As a neophyte, I might have done better with an introductory text vs this series of expert columns.
Con: The editing done in assembling the book was not top notch. For example, there are reference numbers on occasion with no references. Additionally, Some of the illustrations taken from his column, when shrunk to the size for this small book, are hard to see. Bring a magnifiying glass.
If you are interested in this subject and already somewhat well versed on it and want to go deeper, this book may be for you. Otherwise go with a more structured text.
Dot Font Talking About Fonts
One last note related to games: The author talks about a challenge they had when the industry was granting awards for font designs, when increasing numbers of submissions were just remakes of fonts that'd been culled from some 200 year old italian manuscript, etc. The design was not the submitor's and yet substantial challenge lay in adapting these to the new digital technologies. They created a new category and dubbed it 'font revival'. Anyhow, struck me as similar to some of the discussion about game remakes, sequels, etc. Food for thought.
Friday, August 20, 2010
I recently got done reading The Big Lie: Spying, Scandal, and Ethical Collapse at Hewlett Packard. I enjoyed it for a couple reasons which I’ll get into in a minute.
The Big Lie is a behind-the-scenes account of the “Spygate” scandal that rocked Hewlett-Packard a few years back, and resulted in stepping down of Patty Dunn, the chairman of the board, not to mention criminal prosecution, senate hearings, and all kinds of other goodies.
The Spygate scandal in a nutshell is this: The HP board, in trying to find the source of several leaks to the press of confidential information, authorized a number of security investigations to be conducted by their own security personel as well as some outside contractors. Some of these folks used methods for obtaining phone records and other information that were at minimum highly unethical, and at worst illegal. The information about the investigation became public after a disgruntled board member decided to inform the press. Before any explanation could be proferred, the media had framed the story assuming the worst and from that point it was no longer possible to put the toothpaste back in the tube.
Its important to note that this is an accounting of the story from one point of view, one sympathetic to Patty Dunn. In this one she’s painted as the board chair that tried to institute modern day governance on HP’s board, and that stopping leaks was part of that. From that point, it was part putting trust in others, part not sufficiently monitoring methods used by underlings and contractors, and one part trusting her cohorts even as they were stirring the tar and buying feathers by the bagful.
Other books exist on the subject. Tom Perkins has one out that paints him as the board member whos moral compass impelled him to blow the whistle. The Big Lie paints him as a vindictive bully who’s disagreements with Dunn led him to wanting to destroy her. Other accounts paint CEO Mark Hurd as being distant from the workings of the investigation, where The Big Lie paints him as an intimately involved player who fed Dunn to the wolves to save his own skin.
I’m not sure which account is accurate, though The Big Lie seems very well researched. Chances are that all three of these players has their own version of the truth and that the real truth lies somewhere in between. No matter though, because the book has value regardless who’s story you believe. Here’s why:
1 – It’s a great view into the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) politics that take place on a board of directors. There are detailed quotes from email passages back and forth, along with interview commentary about why certain things were said or how they were phrased, etc.
2 – It’s a good lesson in how – especially in the age of the Internet – a media spark or two of a story can start a firestorm that is out of control. Having been involved in a few (far less serious than this one!) PR damage control exercises, this one gave me the heeby jeebies!
3 – Most of all, it’s a fascinating look at how highly professional, seemingly ethical people can embark on a well-intentioned course that inch-by-inch one day results in them on the other side of the law, or at least clearly on the side of wrong. It made me think about some people I’ve known that have gotten divorced. They start out as loving each other and well intentioned, and slide down a slope a bit at a time until one day they are hating each other and you wonder “how could they have come to this?”. Anyhow, it’s an interesting look at this facet of people’s character and behavior.
Overall, a good read and recommended for those interested in these types of topics.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
- Let me layer my some or all of my reading on top of *ALL* my existing social networks. I might want to share my sci-fi reading with everybody, my kids' books with my local PTA and also family, and my business reading with my linkedin group.
- Virtual book clubs are an obvious idea. One could imagine extending this to having discussion topics around particular passages - supported by annotations people make while reading (more on this later).
- Group together findings based on these networks and reading histories ("of the group of you that agreed with this passage, we find you evenly divided on whether you agree on this related work...")
- Let the author engage in conversations directly with the reader if they so choose. "What did you mean by this section here?", "This passage moved me!", etc.
- Let me select a ~100 character quote from a book and automatically tweet it to friends with the source and a shortened URL to the book itself.
- Give the author the ability to dynamically update books - and provide the reader with the ability to know about that change. A hybrid of footnotes and edit history like you see on wikipedia. One could imagine examples where the original version might be a matter of preference (say a novel or poem) and examples where this history is itself informative (say views on String Theory in a physics text).
- Citations and references to papers could now be forward-looking, not only backward.
- There are whole classes of types of annotations that could be imagined. Imagine a progress-slider on an equation to show it's derivation as a step by step animation. Or a time-line slider for a murder mystery that would let me leap around the text. Or a social graph or family tree of all the characters in Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, etc. Of course each of these things could be author-driven or crowd-sourced/authored by fans.
- Books could evolve to leverage web-based application platforms. Letting someone view a location in a book (say Normandy beach on D-day) and let the reader get a first person look at the landscape involved in the story.
- There's room for a whole meta-game around books, reading and an individual or social network's collectively library. Xbox Live acheivements for the librarian set. Better yet would be to have an open platform for building meta-games. Think of teachers making scavenger hunts through the texts of their students are assigned.
- Books in the age of the iPad, Craig Mod, March 2010: A ton of thoughts on layout, typography, and purposes books serve. Among other things I thank him for crystalizing in my mind the idea of "Formless" vs "Definite" content, a concept I'd been thinking about but couldn't nail down the way he did. His follow-up piece is also must-read.
- Random Thoughts about the Kindle, Seth Godin, June 2008: First of his two posts riffing on what Kindle is and what it could be. Money quote: "Kindle does a fine job of being a book reader, and a horrible job of actually improving the act of reading a book"
- Reinventing the Kindle (part II), Seth Godin, February 2009: His second post on the subject, conceived mainly while wearing his marketing hat, with a sprinkle of 'how could social networks make this better'.
- In addition, it was Dave Edery who opened my eyes to thinking of the Kindle as a game platform, which of course it can and will be.
- Also, this presentation summarizing Portical's research project into the usage of books and ebooks had a few ah-ha's that make it worth reading.
- Additional fuel the the fire from Cory Doctorow's many posts on the Kindle and the iPad. Many of them related to the other topic I alluded to above, but some of which pertain to things I'd very much want in an eReader. (1,2)
Thursday, August 5, 2010
I bought this book on a recommendation*, and it turned out to be a bad call. I was expecting something like a cross between Freakonomics and Jim Blinn's Corner series, taking every day observations and taking a mathematician's view of the subjects. The author sets out to do this, but they bulk of topics are far too lightweight. Ranging from geometry to solve carpet area (really?) to a high level view of fractals. I did manage to glean a bit of info from it (e.g. why it takes four rather than three satellites to accurately triangulate a GPS location), but mostly it wasn't of use to me.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Sighted today, two different - but related - items on digital distribution:
"While our hardcover sales continue to grow, the Kindle format has now overtaken the hardcover format. Amazon.com customers now purchase more Kindle books than hardcover books--astonishing when you consider that we've been selling hardcover books for 15 years, and Kindle books for 33 months "Bezos says
Still think people won't give up their shiny DVD?
And the money quote:
"...The world won't be all digital tomorrow, even though that's what people are claiming. In this business, users still want physical content." said CEO Paul Raines.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
I have a few of the better (I think they are, anyway) VC blogs on my feed reader, and just recently did some catching up.
...the first attempts to build applications in the cloud from companies such as Corio simply fork-lifted the leading on premise software and moved it into the hosted environment. While this sounded like a good idea to many VCs at the time, it turned out to miss important details and advantages of the cloud...Reading this should spin your gears if you are thinking lately about OnLive, Gaikai et al. (And thinking about it further, you might see why I was saying early on that MMOs are a really good customer for these services - Already architected for the cloud, just the network stack sits at a different point in the pipeline). Regardless, key point is that content that is ported is always second-rate compared to content authored from the outset for a platform.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
I've been very busy at work. Other than taking some time to write a few notes up about E3, the blog's taken a back seat right now.
- The time is right for a explosion of funding models. Over the past few years, we've seen things like funding disaggregated from the other facets of publishing, we've seen government grants, Indiefund, Kickstarter, and others. But when on one hand projects can raise $10-20k on Kickstarter based only on a good pitch - and large projects can do retail pre-orders for millions, months in advance (GoW3 went on pre-sale *10* months before release!!), it seems there's a lot of play in the middle. If gamers are willing to part with $60 6+ months in advance just to ensure they get a copy on release day, are they willing to part with $100 a year in advance if it gets them an advanced copy and possible repayment from the developer? Seems there's a lot of room for play (and opportunity) in between these two extremes. (Right now pre-orders are rewarded, if at all, with a piece of DLC. Couldn't they come with a royalty or dividend check?)
- There's a new wave of growth coming. While down at E3, I ran into a number of industry veteran friends who've quit posts at large companies to pursue their indie interests. Then in the few weeks since E3, I've had four different friends (from very different areas of the tech industry) call me for feedback on their startup pitches. Maybe this is just symptomatic of post-recession exuberance? I don't know, but I put it to a friend that I felt like I was seeing a bunch of surfers waiting on the right wave. I'm suddenly seeing a bunch of people paddling hard to catch a wave I don't yet see, but there must be one coming.
- An explosion of graphics capabilities is good and bad for game devs. This deserves a much longer post, but the short version goes like this: People are becoming accustomed to sexy UI (iphone, ipad, win7, consoles - all doing UI leveraging GPU transistors to do visuals). As this trend continues, graphics vendors are going to be putting more graphics power into devices across the board (good for devs) but the 'top customer' dictating the requirements for these things is not always going to be the game developer (bad for devs?) and there will be wide variance in solutions (not just performance, sometimes DIFFERENT - like the stereo3D gap I mentioned in my E3 post).
- We are vastly underestimating the 'next wave of social'. Alice touched on this in her post, talking about how current social network games are only touching the basic 'slot machine/food pellet' buttons in folks. However, here are a couple things to think about: (a) There's a lot of money being poured into chasing Zynga's tail lights. Some companies will pour that into game design, production quality, and technical innovation - all of which will explode genres and offerings. (b) The console vendors have all learned a lot from MS's effort with Live. Last round we got a very basic stab at social with friends list, acheivements, messages, multiplayer, etc. Remember, this was a console shipped in 2005 and shipped before that. Pre-facebook-hysteria. The set of capabilities to trump that next time around has to be a pretty high bar. OnLive had some early glimpses of this at E3, but you could riff on this one all day. Forget Gamerscore and MS Points. Give me GamerWhuffie.
- This time the phone is for real. By that I mean that we've been hearing for years that "The phone will be the leading device connecting people to the Internet". To which many have replied, "well sure, if you count texting, or very basic services, or voip". The reality is that Apple reset everyone on what high-end phones are expected to do, and low-end phones will follow in short order. First-world, money-spending consumers are going to use phones more than PCs in many cases, and so there's a real market there. The Apple vs Android will look like a blip when we look at the bigger picture years from now.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
E3's been over a little while, but work's been *crazy* lately so I'm only now getting around to posting some thoughts.
Monday, June 14, 2010
This is a really solid presentation from Netflix on their business (via Techcrunch).
It's also good because it's a really well crafted presentation. Straightforward, simple, yet solid.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Someone put this on my radar on Facebook today:
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
I love this presentation from Daniel at LostGarden on the design of RibbonHero, his MS Office learning game plug-in. I love the point about culling features and complexity being an answer, but the wrong answer. The right, but difficult, answer is to help people to master the complexity.