Friday, January 28, 2005

It was bound to happen...

Last year at Digital Hollywood, I chaired a panel discussion on the future of MMOG's. I asked panelists to close with some bold predictions of the future for the next 5 years.

3 of 5 panelists had one of their predictions as something along the lines of "There will be a big successful of sex-theme based MMOG".

Now there's Sociolotron. Brought to my attention via Jane at GameGirlAdvance. Not sure it's going to be successful, but it's a step in that direction.

Not sure how I feel about it. I'm glad to see experimentation within the genre - something beyond 'men in tights', but I'm also worried this will further add to the negative perception that games have (i.e. more GTA3-style grief).

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Jon Stewart is da man

OK, I've been busy with work and GPG5, so I'm probably the last person on earth to hear this but CNN cancelled crossfire, citing, among other things, Jon Stewarts feedback when he was on the show.

Read more here.

Mr. Klein specifically cited the criticism that the comedian Jon Stewart leveled at "Crossfire" when he was a guest on the program during the presidential campaign. Mr. Stewart said that ranting partisan political shows on cable were "hurting America."


Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Final Gems push - and this time I mean it!

The second rev of the CD for the book shipped to the publisher end of last week. I made a correction to the text today. I *THINK* (knock on wood, pinch of salt over shoulder, etc) that we're done!!!!

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Ride the Math!

Mark posted a link to this really sweet game called Torus Trooper:

Posted by Hello

You can download the game here.

It's a very typical japanese scroller-shooter, but in 3D. By "typical" I mean "has so much stuff flying at me that I can't possibly tell what's going on". I've never been a huge fan of the genre, but this is a really pretty one.

Two comments:

1) the track is clearly procedurally generated. A number of years ago, a collegue and I did a paper and sample app on generating procedural content. The result looked something like this. It's horribly dated but at teh time I was quite proud of it. Anyhow, the point I'm getting to is that the result we were going for was procedural generation of natural-looking content. Torus Trooper reminded me that procedurally generated procedural-looking content can look beautiful too. Play it, and somewhere inside you a giddy mathematician will come out from his hiding place.

2) It reminded me less of a game and more of some nightclubs I've been to. Combination of the music and the color schemes. It was only missing those kids with the glow-sticks and that one guy with the whistle (why does every dance club have one of those?).

Go play it! It's a quick try and worth a look.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Aouai! Je m'suis gelee le cul!

Translation: Ack! I froze my butt!

I did a whirlwind tour in and out of Montreal this week for a customer visit. Found time to see some family and friends. It was -24 degrees celsius the evening I got there and only warmed slightly while I was there.

It was good to have a reminder of why the pacific northwest's rain ain't so bad.

One interesting thing: Canada has 2 MTV sister stations. MuchMusic and MusiquePlus, english and french stations respectively. Unlike MTV, they play music. Like MTV, the experiment with different shows and content. Current day MTV seems to be about pushing the "reality show" and "dating game" genres of shows in new ways.

Anyhow, I saw a show on MusiquePlus that was kind of a G4-style games & tech show. They reviewed games, reviewed PC software products (e.g. an anti-spam software review), and even had a letter answering section where people got their questions answered ("how can I create a boot floppy for XP").

The interesting thing was (a) that they'd consider this acceptably hip content for their MTV-like audience, (b) that PC's and PC software got more coverage time-wise than consoles, and (c) that game reviews sound way cooler in thick slang-drenched quebec french :-). E.g. In reviewing Viewtiful Joe 2, the review said "Quand les Japonais font des jeux, Ils sont fou comme il faut" - "When Japonese make games, they are crazy like they need to be" is the literal translation, but it's really more of a "..they dont mess around" intent. Either way, the show was better than another "room raiders".

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Iced in! Officer Jenny to the rescue!

Freezing rain here in Portland this weekend meant we couldn't get out of the house all day saturday.

On sunday, we made it out, and purchased an awesome new police motorbike rocker for the kids.

Below, Officer Jenny gets training from Sargent Tom.

Can she handle herself on the road? You bet!
Posted by Hello

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Behold my N-ness

Is this sad? Is it bad? Posted by Hello

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

I am a high-nerd

Mark beat me, but I still have a ranking to be proud of:

I am nerdier than 89% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

This just in: Giving consumers what they want is bad!

Just saw this on gamasutra (sign-in required), where Activision CEO Bobby Kotick was quoted from a speach in which he...

'branded Take-Two’s budget-priced ESPN sports titles as “irresponsible” and “disruptive”. Although highly successful for Take-Two and developer Sega, Kotick commented that “we find [the budget pricing] entirely unnecessary, and I think that as you move towards more exclusive content, you will be able to eliminate that as an issue.” '

Disruptive? Yes. Irresponsible? Please!

How is giving consumers a product they are happy with at an attractive price irresponsible. Along this lines of thinking, $50 "good enough" word processors are irresponsible, as are Linux, budget CPUs (e.g. Celeron), no-frills flights, no-frills automobiles, and no-name-brand breakfast cereal.

Look, if Sega/Take-Two want to price their games at $20, that's great. If activision wants to price theirs at $50, that's great too. However, if they can't give the end user a good reason to pay the delta of $30, then that's their fault. Get with the program and compete. Either offer more, or sell for less. Welcome to the free enterprise system!


Big Gems Push

Pushing through final review of all the GPG5 pages. It's 1:45 and I'm a little cross-eyed. Will finish tommorrow. Couple changes to make to the CD rom then I'm *DONE*.

Finished HL2 last night (finally - it'd been sitting for a while as I was too busy).

Only 2 months till sabbatical! Booked a ski-place today. Getting Excited!

Sunday, January 9, 2005


I spoke on this panel this week at CES's GamePower track, along with reps from IBM, Nvidia, National Semiconductor, Freescale Semiconductor, THX, and 3D Labs. We opened with a few minutes each and then turned it over to questions.

People don't come to panels to hear product pitches. They come to hear industry insiders say dramatic and/or controversial things. So I figured I'd better do that :-). I did a mini presentation called:

5 Fluxions in Gaming
for the Next 5 years
... In the next 5 minutes

Catchy, n'est ce pas?

[Andy Grove was a big fan of the term "strategic inflection point". Since I don't think any of these happens at a "point", I called them fluxions. (Forces of change)]

Here were the 5 in short version:

1. The quest for parallelism: I talked about how thermal & other constraints are forcing everyone to go parallel. This is happening both through multi-threading & streaming architectures, and all platforms (Xbox2,PS3, PC) are converging on a hybrid of the two. PC's already there (CPU + GPU). I discussed some of the challenges, and asserted that this will be the most challenging transition facing the game development community since the move from 2D to 3D.

2. A Focus Beyond Graphics: Graphics has been the focal point of gaming for 10 years. It will continue to evolve but is no longer the 'weakest link' in titles. People will focus on physics, character animation, and character behavior (I'd like to call the latter AI, but Robin would bust out some of her AI-fu kick my terminologically-challenged ass). There are big challenges on developing the technology and the taxonomy to go with it. If you think this is wrong, consider some of the most talked about titles of the past years, and what people have been saying about them (e.g. Half-Life 2's physics; GTA3 & Battlefield 1942 "sandbox gameplay"; MMO's despite a usual lag in the graphics dept)

3. Cell phone gaming: OK, no big surprise here. My only interesting assertion here was that compute power/display res/batter life are not the limiting factors here. The limiting factor is that no one has figured out what a "phone game" really is. All games on cell phones today are implementations of gameplay models designed for other devices, and as such, are compromises. What is a "phone game"? There's the catch. No one's figured it out yet!

4. Growth in Asia: Another no-brainer. My assertion here was this: >300M broadband users coming on line in the next 4-5 years. Assume 1/3 of them play games. You have the makings of the emergence of not only a new market segment of gamers, but THE BIGGEST SEGMENT... Virtually overnight! It's going to dramatically affect the industry.

5. Collapse of the Vertical: I asserted that the vertical biz model of the consoles will collapse, and be replaced by a horizontal model. It happens to all verticals, it's only a matter of when. I'd expain why, but this entry is getting long. If interested, I highly recommend Geoffrey Moore's Inside the Tornado - possibly the best biz book I've ever read.

Anyhoo. That was my piece of the panel It went pretty well. About 70 people or so attended, and I was bogged in the hallway for about 40 minutes afterward with questions, so I'm guessing that's a good sign.

Other than that, I experience one of the *best* dinners ever to hit my belly, with folks from Epic, Sony, Nvidia, & Logitech. Yummy yummy yummy. Thanks Mark & Jay!

(Clockwise: Logitech rep, Mark from Sony, Mark from Epic, Jay from Epic, Nvidia rep)
I also had a day to roam the show floor and check stuff out. Saw a nifty game phone from LG, and saw many BIG TV's that gave me serious TV envy. There was other work-related stuff I saw and heard that I won't talk about here. I also went to a party hosted by Real with a bunch of Intellites. Smashmouth played. They seem to do a lot of these corporate gigs. Hmm... Hard up for cash?

On the day I flew out, it was snowing in Vegas. Blech.
dinner Posted by Hello

Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Xmas trip pics

I posted some pics of our recent trip back to see family in Toronto. You can see them here.

Posted by Hello

Monday, January 3, 2005

More Games!

Just when I thought I was going to be productive, someone pointed me to Insaniquarium on yahoo games. Interesting because it's all the trappings of an RTS masquerading as a casual browser-based game title. Good news is I unlocked all 10 creatures in the free version so now I can try hard to stay away from it!

Ok, now back to work.


Well, break's over. Back to work... as soon as I post some thoughts on games I played over the break.

I spent 10 days visiting family in Toronto, so most of this was before I left, and a little bit after I got back:

Half Life 2:

Well, everyone else has said it, I'll say it too. It's a really fantastic piece of work. It's a *really* well executed FPS game. Blah blah blah fancy graphics, great audio, level design is pretty well done, etc. You've read this all before.

Some stuff I liked:

- I liked the wide variety of 'feel' between the different chapters. At GameTech, Jay Stelley talked about how different teams worked independently on the chapters with the input being a basic design, rules, and the main story line. It really shows here, in that the chapters are so different. It's like buying many FPS games in one (so go give Valve your $50).

- Gravity gun. I'm looking forward to see original ways in which people mod it. Golf interface anyone? Fishing interface?

Some stuff I didn't like:

- It crashed. A few times. And I'm playing on a state of the art >3Ghz machine with all the trimmings and a fairly clean windows install. Discouraging because the PC games biz needs to get this fixed, and if Valve can't do it then who can? Granted, part of it comes with ambition and pushing the envelope and all that. Still, it's discouraging. [For what it's worth, the crashes were limited to 2 particular ones, both of which happened 3-4 times during the entire time I played the game: (1) A video-got-botched problem that perhaps could be my ATI drivers, and (2) a resource loading problem that I'm guessing is some race condition with their file loading perhaps being on anohter thread or something? It finds the file next time around so... anyhoo. just guessing.]

- Characters only on one side. Valve put some great effort into the characters that fight on your side and that help the story along. Not sure they are at the "get the player emotionally attached" level yet, but it's miles beyond what anyone else in the genre is doing. However, the baddies are still drones of faceless minions. Aside from 2 characters that you only see on video now and again, everyone else is guy in a gas mask. Wolfenstein 3D had mini-bosses that struck some fear in you.

Those comments aside, it's a must-play. Valve has waited 5 long years for your money. Now go give it to them! [BTW, I'm still not finished the game yet. Not a lot of time for games these days!]


The good news: I have finally kicked my Jumpman Under Construction habit. Bad News: It was N that did it. It's best described as a flash-based, Lode-Runner-esque, Jumpman-esque (add a pinch of Major Havoc), platformer that incorporates physics to breathe some new life into the genre.

What I liked:

- The physics adds a really awesome 'feel' to the game. And games like this (for me anyway) have been about 'feel'. Remember jumpman almost not making a big jump and then just barely 'grabbing' the bottom of a climbing rope? Lots of that type of feel. Sorry for not having a better descriptive term. Just go play it.

- The parallel paths of progression. The game gets crazy-hard, crazy-fast. The learning curve is steep. NOrmally you'd get to a certain level, get stuck, and give up. They give you a number of different paths (think they call them episodes) along which to progress and unlock levels. Get stuck on one, give up, try anohter for a while. Works out nicely.

What I didn't like:

- Too hard! No time to play and get better at it! Argh!

Saturday, January 1, 2005

New Year, New Blog

I've been meaning to do this for a while, so here goes. Let's hope I stick to it better than other resolutions ;-)

Just getting things together for tonight. More interesting post when time allows. Perhaps after CES, where I'll be speaking on a panel, and seeing lots of consumer electronics gizmos and gadgets.