Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Beat match

Progress on Guitar Hero continues. I got past my last stall, and knocked off 3 more songs. Stuck now on both Cowboys from Hell (the fingering is not too hard but the half-beats that occasionally pop in screw me up) and Bark at the Moon (though I only tried this one a couple times).

To mix it up a bit I went back and played through the first group of songs on Hard setting. Adding the fifth 'fret' adds a small level of difficulty as your left hand can no longer stay stationary, but other than that it's not much different. Will have to try expert tommorrow.

After I was all done playing and needed to get some work done, only then did I notice the shipping package at the front door..... my Kraft Dance Pad had arrived! I didn't get a chance to try it yet, but will write it up once I do.

Had dinner with a couple good friends that were both in from out of town on separate biz trips. Good sushi was had by all at Flo in Bellevue.

Some good biz reads

Thinking a lot lately about the 'Web 2.0' movement (or bubble, for you skeptics) and it's implications to the game biz. Anyhow, I've come across a number of good reads, so I'll post them here. My thoughts on how this all affects the games biz specifically later, but I didn't want to wait to post.

  • Privacy as a Property Right - good mechanical argument that your personal information is not just yours by right of privacy - it's property and thus protected under a number of other rights.
  • The NewEconomics of Media - by Umair Haque - a great PPT on media economics in the new age. This does a MUCH better job of capturing what I was trying to say about the media value chain in my game industry 2.0 post. Read it once, bang your head on your desk, read it again. It's pretty deep, so not for when the brain is drifting.
  • Death by Risk Aversion - on Creating Passionate Users Blog. Not really '2.0' related, but a good read for anyone at large risk-averse companies (MS, Intel, EA, etc). As a bonus, the graphics scattered throughout the text are *wonderful*.

Now you've got something to do over that morning latte. :-)

Monday, January 30, 2006

East vs West Coast

Now even rap parodies have an east-vs-west battle going on.


Oh the humanity. When will it all end. Can't we just get along?

Knowin' your gamer

Robin posted a good anecdote that serves as a reminder that those of us in the games biz often forget what it's like for the rest of the customer base that isn't.

This is especially true for casual games, where the audience is so varied that falling into the "develop for yourself" trap can be far more dangerous than it is in first-person-shooter-land.

Anyhow, that got me thinking. As you may have noticed from recent posts, I've been playing Guitar Hero. Who else is playing it? if I were teh developer of that game, and had developed it for the MTV crowd (assumption) would I know if the audience strayed from that demographic? Would I know HOW people played it?

And then I hit upon a nifty thing, at least for "performance" games like DDR and GH. I typed "guitar hero" into Google Video.


Well, you can do the same yourself and see the result, but here are a few choice bits:

Webcam looking down fretboard.

Playing with the feet.

This kid needs a wireless peripheral so the cord won't interfere with his playing while spinning on his back!

And here's a crazy DDR vid for good measure. Compare to how I've seen it played in Japan (I'm not sure if it gets played that way in the US, but I've seen it in arcades in Japan). The former is about beating the game, the latter is about doing it in style (hitting the pads with knees and hands, not just feet, and also turning the back to the screen at times. Here's another, with two guys sometimes climbing the machine itself. I guess the competitive angle is worldwide, but there certainly seems to be a difference in styles.

Anyhow, there's some cool, free non-quantifiable market research for you! Check it out!

'tis the season to link to vids

time-wasting giggle vids that is:

James Lipton recites Kevin Federline's Papazao on Conan (very similar but not quite as good as Jesse Jackson's appearance on SNL a few years back to recite Green Eggs and Ham, but still funny).

David Hasselhoff is Hooked on a Feeling. OMG. Did he produce this himself on his mac or something? Such cheeze. Such low-budget video production. Such lack of shame. There must be Germans behind this.

Enjoy, and now go back to work.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

MS gets bloggers

Thomas Hawk has a cool write up of a dinner MS's PR firm organized for select bloggers with Jim Allchin and some other execs.

It contains a good write-up of some of Vista's cool features, but also some good thoughts on DRM, the CableCard announcement a while back, thoughts on Apple, and tons more. A good read.

Also contains this quote which made me happy:

"it is very cool that Microsoft is willing to open up senior management to bloggers. Whether because of Scoble or Waggener Edstrom or whatever, Microsoft gets blogging -- really like no other big company out there. Not only does Microsoft have more employee bloggers than any other company, but I have found the employees at Microsoft and their PR firm Waggener Edstrom very accessible."

Go Scoble go!

Bleeding fingers

...is what you get when you first take up guitar if you are really, really into it.

With Guitar Hero, that is instead replaced by really sore wrists and forearms. AIYEE!!!

Cream's Crossroads is KICKING MY BUTT!

Of course have making it through like ~25 songs in medium mode did I then learn that they have "hammer ons" and "pull offs" (they don't work exactly like the real ones, but they are similar in that they don't require you to pick/strum the note with the right hand. I guess they are they same if you consider the peripheral a one-stringed guitar with five frets). Anyhow, I should be able to nail that one tommorrow and unlock the next five songs.

Sunday's vids

Videos for your viewing pleasure:

Fear of Girls, a mockumetary is more like it of D&D players. Good for a giggle.

On a more serious note, Ha Ha Ha America. Best just to view. Go now.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Four Things

It's meme-riffic!

Going of Kottke's blog, I for some reason felt compelled to do this myself:

Four Jobs I've had:

  • Garment Factory Worker (one winter, while a student)
  • Bike Courier (one summer while a student)
  • Developer Relations, Matrox, then Intel
  • Business Development, Microsoft

Four Movies I can watch over and over:

  • The Great Escape
  • The Blues Brothers
  • Braveheart
  • Dogma

Four Places I've Lived:

  • Montreal, Quebec
  • Lake Louise, Alberta
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Seattle, Washington (how sad that if this category was 'five places', I'd have left one blank!)

Four TV Shows I Love(d):

  • West Wing
  • Hustle
  • Junkyard Wars (pre-format-change)
  • Kids in the Hall
  • (adding a fifth) Richard Branson's Rebel Billionaire

Ten highly regarded and recommended TV shows that I've never watched a single episode of (1):

  • Miami Vice
  • Twin Peaks
  • Deep Space Nine
  • Doctor Who
  • Desperate Housewives
  • 24
  • Lost
  • Arrested Development
  • Battlestar Galactica (the old one OR the new one)
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Four places I've Vacationed:

  • Zermatt Switzerland
  • Maui Hawaii
  • Paris France
  • Australia

Four of my Favorite Dishes:

  • Pastamore's Gnocci with Gigi Sauce.
  • Roast Beef and Yorkshire pudding
  • The "thousand pork products drowning in maple syrop' that is 'sugaring off'
  • Chicken Tikka Masala

Four sites I visit daily:

  • Gamasutra.com
  • (lately) digg.com
  • www.start.com (which I use as my homepage)
  • Robin Hunicke's blog (cause her feed's busted and thus can't fit into my aggregator!)

Four places I'd rather be right now:

  • Snowboarding (preferrably in Zermatt, but any number of places would be OK)
  • Hawaii
  • Paris
  • Sailing on the Great Barrier Reef

Four people I'm tagging with this (and for which I will dirty):

  • Adam Lake
  • Mark Deloura
  • Souris Hong Ponsetta
  • Robin Hunicke

(1) I changed this from 'single minute of' to 'single episode of, because there are several that I've flipped across them, watched 5 minutes, and then abandoned.

Powerpoint, papers, and pinpointing problems

Adam Lake recently posted a gripe about Powerpoint, and it's abuse in corporations. If you work at Intel (like Adam does and I used to) you are familiar with this gripe as Intel is a prime example of a company in which Powerpoint has become the second most common form of information communication. Exactly the type of 'powerpoint cancer' of which Adam's post speaks.

I posted a response on his blog, but in giving it some more thought, figured it deserved it's own post here, so here goes.

After joining MS, there were a couple things that struck me as similar to Intel, and a couple things that struck me as significantly different. One of the most significant differences was this: The majority of proposals outlined in powerpoint are also outlined in a document.

So why is that a big deal?

Couple reasons. First off, it's a lot harder to hand-wave in a document, or at least it's immediately apparent if you do. Second, Powerpoints are not required to 'stand alone' for offline reading, and thus can become that for which they were intended: Presentations that are meant to accompany... a speaker! They are for use in assisting a speaker, not as a substitute for one.

I've been reading Guy Kowasaki's Art of the Start lately, and in it he suggests a 10/20/30 rule: 10 slides, 20 minutes, minimum 30 point font. If you follow it, you simply have no choice but to (a) exclude BS and (b) use your slides as aids, not as containers for 100% of your material. No room, so most of it has to come out of your mouth. I'm also a fan of Cliff Atkinson's Beyond Bullet Points, and while the budget there isn't as strict, there's definitely an alignment with it's recommendation that we should tell a story first and foremost when presenting.

So anyhow, this got me thinking: In a corporate culture where the "paper" is the norm, at least to pack up a proposal of some kind, is there an analogous optimal format? One that would be enough to get to the meat of what's being proposed, while still being narrow enough to not allow for gratuitous hand-waving and jargon-laden obfuscation?

Let me start by trying to be clever and draw analogous split of material too. We'll see if it stands up to scrutiny (this is very much work in progress and I welcome feedback). I'm going to suggest the 1/2/3 format:

  • 1 Page "Complete Story". I didn't call this an "executive summary" because it's not just a summary, it's the story. Also it's not just for executives, it's for anyone that reads it. It should, in the clearest, most jargon-free language possible, explain what's being proposed (size & relevance of opportunity), what's required, who's involved, how and when it will get done (which might be the summary but not detailed description of the business model/technology solution/target market/etc), and why it will succeed.
  • One way to think of it: There can only be three outcomes following someone reading this page: They are uninterested (in which case you've losted them anyway, and another 5 pages won't change things), second, they are immediately sold on it and have stopped reading to call you and offer to enlist, or third, they are intrigued but skeptical or puzzled about a particular detail or hingepoint. The last 5 pages is only for this audience. Everyone else has stopped reading.
  • 2 Page "Core Details": Drawing heavily on Kowasaki's breakdown, think a couple hundred words each on the problem you are trying to solve (you've mentioned it already, but maybe size it, explain the 'pain level' of the problem), the business model (you've mentioned WHAT model, but maybe here you explain the breakdown of who gets what when), etc. Omit the statistics, quotes, etc from this section in order to keep it breif.
  • 3 pages of backup material: The technical explanation of how it works; the statistics from which you derived , etc. If someone needs to fact check or understand how you got to a number, they can go find it back here, but otherwise they should stay out of this section.

Anyhow, just an idea. I'll have to see if this format stands the test when I actually try using it. In the meantime, I welcome feedback!

Guitar Hero

First off, let me say this: Anyone who complains to me about "complete lack of innovation in games today" runs the risk of being beaten to death with my Guitar Hero peripheral.

Why would I resort to violence? Because I am a raging-against-the-machine guitar-weilding rock super star, that's why!

OK. Calming down now.

I picked up Guitar Hero today first chance I got and played it for some time tonight. Not having the patience to struggle with it too much, I played it on medium and when through the first dozen songs without too much struggle. Alisa liked the game too, making it through a couple tunes, dancin' and rockin' out while doing so. She wasn't crazy about the selection of songs (not to her taste) so she asked that I play more and unlock some for her to play tommorrow).

There is something very special about this game if it can get my wife rockin' out to Iron Maiden, let me tell you.

Surprisingly, on medium level, the only songs I struggled with were the couple that I actually know how to play on the real guitar. They simplify the riffs some, dropping a couple notes out, which I'd re-introduce out of habit and get penalized for (of course you don't make actual 'notes' with the fret buttons, but I'd hit the right hand peripheral where there should have been a note but wasn't).

Brilliant game. Go buy!

Friday, January 27, 2006

2006 predictions

I know, I know, you are supposed to do this around Jan 1, right?

Well, I had a little time to kill on the plane and reading some other folks' feeds I'd aggregated, I decided to do my own top 10 list. Only mine only has 5.

Also, it’s never interesting if they are too milquetoast, so I’m going to go out on a limb and make some bold predictions. In a year, you can come back and say I was way off (but you'll forget) or if any are right, I can say "I told you so" (and I'll remember) :-)

  1. Playstation 3 will not ship in 2006. Not in North America, not in Japan, nowhere. It'll be a Q1 or even Q2 2007 launch. No, I don't have anything to back this up. I just think that things have been too quiet recently, and am interpreting that to mean that some things are behind schedule. Combine that with the fact that Sony can’t afford to have a lack-luster launch, and I think they’ll hold off until their line-up is stellar. (I just bet someone $20 on this one today).
  2. Another Sony prediction: Howard Stringer will be removed as CEO. A lot of people have hypothesized that he was just brought in as an axe-man (he has experience in this area), however, I think he will also take the fall for a delayed PS3 launch. Who will replace him? I think Kutaragi will be be given the helm, positioning it as a Steve-Jobs-like “The Man is Back” tale of daring-do. This will distract shareholders to some degree, and make analysts all giddy in their nether regions, what with his quotes of +4 extreme bravado.
  3. (I credit Terra Nova for this one, but I agree completely) World of Warcraft will end 2006 will fewer subscribers (or 'users' or 'customers' or whatever) than it started the year with.
  4. "Casual Games" will continue to grow and will bifurcate into multiple distinct markets (this is already true to some degree, but it will be better understood and recognized).
  5. (The only one of these I really hope I'm incorrect on). EA's Spore will ship to overwhelming critical acclaim but underwhelming sales figures.

That's it. My bold-ass predictions for 2006.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Good friends and Guitar Heros

Since I was in LA with an evening free, I arranged to meet up with some local friends. Souris and Sylvio were nice enough to host, Stefanie and Justin also attended, as did Sylvio's friend visiting from France,

Hearty Lasagna, good wine and stinky cheese were had by all. (At least we thought the wine was good, but who can tell what with the cheese and all).

A good time was had by all. We played some Xbox 360 titles (I'd brought a couple gifts) but most importantly: I finally tried the most awesome goodness that is Guitar Hero. And I am in full agreement. It is the fully overlapping Venn diagram that is Awesome + Goodness.

Comments and nits about the game: It's pretty cool and does an OK job of simulating the very basics of the feeling of playing guitar. The 'strum' part of the peripheral is well done, and the fret buttons are ok.

I'd have liked it if it differentiated between up and down strokes as it could make a difference on advanced levels. Also, at first glance it appears that advanced levels just means 'more notes faster'. Would have been nice if they'd done a variancy in error tolerance on button accuracy, maybe lag on the controller?

Also, other than appearance, it wasn't apparent what the difference was between characters and different guitars. If they did vary stats (e.g. accuracy vs endurance), they should have showed the difference. If they didn't vary stats, well, opportunity lost

end aside.]

Anyhow. Was fun, but I have to get to bed now!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Sights for the eyes today.

I had to get up before 4 am to make my 6am fligth out of SeaTac (yawn). My Alaskan flight left on time (surprise) out of SUPER thick fog. When we got about 100 feet up, we shot out of it, revealing a thick blanket that covered the landscape. The traffic lights and buildings left eerie colored glowing patches in the fog that looked really cool. Unfortunately, the cell-phone cam wasn't up to the task.

About 30 minutes later, we were flying directly over the crater of St Helens, which was fantastically lit because of it's coat of snow and the blue glow of early dawn.

Two hours after that I was cruising around Marina Del Rey on my way to a meeting, seeing all the pretty boats under a strange yellow orb in the sky (Seattle just ended a ~40 day streak of no sun appearance :-(

Anyhow, lots of variety in the eye candy dept. Can't wait until phone cams get up to dedicated-device quality of today.

Monday, January 23, 2006

It's still all about mad skilz

I occasionally get questions about employment requirements in the tech industry or in the games industry specifically. Some come from relatives or friends, some come from people that come across my blog, others from speaking events.

In the past, I've said that while a college degree helped, it wasn't a requirement, and that it was more about your skill set and what you've accomplished. In the past couple years though, I've waivered on that, as more and more people, especially at the larger companies, tend to not look past the "no college degree" point.

So I was really tickled to see that Jenna over at JobsBlog posted this gem today, throwing down the tech challenge gauntlet, where they'll mail programmers a programming challenge and give them one hour to mail back a response. And I quote:

  • Are you a Master Coder?? Here is your chance. For one week (starting today), I will send you a coding exercise, and your results will be personally evaluated by a team of engineers. No more worrying about if you have the right title, degree or job ... just proving your core smarts will have us rolling out the red carpet.
  • ... and if you are the dragon slayer of syntax and you impress my team with some high performing, elegantly written code, I am happy to post your name/picture here (with your permission of course) and name you the Grand Master. (Oh yeah ... and if you want a new job you can likely get that, too.)

I think it will be fun for people to participate even if they aren't job hunting! (did you hear that, programmer/readers? Yes, it was the slap that resulted in that gauntlet-shaped red mark on your cheek!)

Anyhow, it's nice to see that there are still some folks at MS that beleive that, at the end of the day, it's the skills that matter, not the letters after your name.

Video of 60 Minutes story on Fatal1ty

If you missed it, you can see it here.

Worth viewing just for footage of the INSANE turn-out at Korean game tourneys. Nuts. I've seen pro sports events with smaller turn out!

Also a good pointer to those friends and family that "still don't get it" that games are a real business.

TV Comes, TV Goes...

Argh! I just read that they've cancelled West Wing, one of the few pieces of decent, well produced television on air these days. Oh well, I guess I'll get 40 minutes of my week back...

... which I can spend watching Hustle, a new drama/comedy on AMC. Great show. I've only caught the debut episode but loved it. It's a weekly comedic drama about a gang of con artists and the cons they put together. Very Guy-Ritchie-esque in style, it's a one hour "heist movie" every week. Good characters, and good cons (at least the debut episode had that twist-you-didnt-expect at the end that are must-haves for any good con or heist flick). Make sure to put this one on your Tivo list (or whatever your PVR solution is).

More on the MMO numbers game

Man, my WoW related post struck a nerve, both with feedback by email, and on an internal thread at work where I'd posted a similar comment. I guess for many, WoW is almost religion, and you don't go pokin' fun at someone's religion!

While the post centered on WoW, the frustration I was (poorly) trying to express was really about the hype around MMO numbers and the apparent lack of questioning people give them.

It's not unlike the website stats quoted in the dot-com bubble era. Remember all the confusion of page loads vs unique users vs registered users vs user minutes, etc, etc?

Anyhow, someone pointed me to an interesting post by Mike Sellers on Terra Nova, in which they also throw another spanner into the works: That different MMOs have different mechanics in which the frequency & length of play may differ (so concurrent users isn't the thing) and which may use different subscription models vary the revenue per user (so large number of registered users may not matter either, if few of them pay anything). [I can attest to the latter being a concern based on some recent conversations with Korean MMO vendors claiming *crazy* numbers for in-game item sale-based MMO's.]

Anyhow, Sellers and those he interviews, conclude that ARPU/Month or Average Revenue Per User/Month is the best metric, as it lets subscription revenue be compared with game-room revenue or in-game item sale revenue.

I think that's *definitely* better, but it's still not the whole story, for two reasons:

  • Revenue != Profit. I might make $12 per player per month, but my operating costs might eat all of that. Now, perhaps they are assuming (or know) that operating costs are a constant from one MMO to the next, thus it's factored out. However, it's worth including because I'd imagine it will vary as types of games and platforms they are played on change over time. (e.g. An MMO played on phones might have MORE infrastructure to handshake with carriers, and then might need to hand over 40% of the subscription revenues to the phone company. Not sure it's the case, just making an example)
  • Second, and more importantly, there *is* value to the raw audience size, for two reasons. (1) There's a 'critical mass' threshold at which point you get enough users so that they all run into other people on a regular basis, and (2) there's a 'phenomena mass' at which point your app becomes part of pop culture and gets talked about outside it's core audience. (e.g. Justin's post on WoW is the New Golf)

Anyhow, the post is an interesting read. Check it out!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

WoW and the fine print

Mini-rant beginneth:
Man, oh man.

There have been just too many posts about WoW and how everyone on planet earth is happily questing away while direct-depositing their paychecks into Blizzard's coffers. In particular, I'm talking about the recent announcement about WoW's "5 Million Customers", and the more recent one about their "1 million european customers" in which they state 5.5M as the WW number.

Most of the game *ahem* "journalists" *ahem* happily leap all over this number (e.g. gamasutra), sometimes feeling necesary to pepper their article with a few laser-like insights along the lines of "Man, those d00ds are just rollin in munny!". I decided to instead skip past one of the headlines and went directly to Blizzard's own press release and read the not-so-fine print. Far from hidden, in fact just half way down the page, you find the following (emphasis added by me):

  • World of Warcraft's Customer Definition: World of Warcraft customers include individuals who have paid a subscription fee OR purchased a prepaid card to play World of Warcraft, AS WELL AS THOSE who have purchased the installation box bundled with one free month access. Internet Game Room players that have accessed the game over the last seven days are also counted as customers. The above definition excludes all players under free promotional subscriptions, expired or cancelled subscriptions, and expired pre-paid cards. Customers in licensees' territories are defined along the same rules.
By Blizzard's own definition, there's at least a 2:1 overlap. The vast majority of subscribers also purchased the retail box, so that's a 2:1 count. There has to be some number of players without credit cards who are playing via pre-paid cards, say in once-a-quarter increments, so they drag the ratio up a bit.

Those that purchased (or were given as a Xmas gift, etc) the retail box, but then never subscribed after the first month or did for a while and then let their subcription lapse, well, they are also included, even though they may not be a current subscriber. That drags the ratio up a bit.

As a very rough estimate, I'd guess the number of subcribers is closer to 2.5M, not 5.5M. That's still *incredibly* successful, and very cool for PC gaming. I'm not trying to poo-poo Blizzard here. Wow is a wonderful game (or so I hear. Can't say I've ever played :-)

I'm trying to make a couple points here. The first is that Blizzard does not have 5.5M subscibers. Blizzard's own PR says that, at least it does if you read it, which leads me to my next point:

Game journalism really has hit a low when press releases are not only regurgitated, and not only go unquestioned, they AREN'T EVEN READ THROUGH!!!! Tabarnaque, c'est mal commode!

That's it. I've worked it out of my system. We now return you to regularly scheduled programming :-)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

VIIV-Matrix mockery

Ross Rubin over at Engadget has a funny post that is a parody of The Matrix talking about Intel's VIIV brand/platform/etc.

He takes a few pokes at Microsoft too, but I'm still linking to it. It's a good read.


I own some Starbucks shares, and so I just got their annual report in the mail and just got done going through it. There's some interesting stuff in there.

First off, here's to the little things: Starbucks sends out a card with $3.50 on it to every one of it's shareholders. Does it cost them much? No. (I'm guessing COGS on that coffee is peanuts, that not all of them get used, not all of the $3.50 gets used on those that do, and that in some cases it spurs other purchases), but it's a nice touch of customer service. Kudos.

Back to the report. Interesting things:

  • While they break down their retail vs licensed businesses, and US vs other countries, they do not break down, say, coffee vs music. Or for that matter, how many of those uber-high-end espresso machines do they actually move? This is interesting because I've heard many people leap to the assumption that they've become a major force in music retailing, but I couldn't find anything in there on it. Also telling is that their list of risk factors includes NOTHING related to the music part of their business, but rather is all about coffee-impacting stuff. e.g. nothing about increases in cost of music licensing, competition from digital music distribution, etc. A search online found some estimates that music accounts for less than 2% of their US revenue and less abroad. That'd make it - at most - a $100M business. Not chump change, but I'm not sure Mr Goody's quaking in his boots just yet.
  • The number one risk factor they list is "A regional or global health pandemic could severely affect business". Hmm.... This is interesting for two reasons. (1) Is it really what they are considering their first and foremost risk, or is the bird-flu concern that is so de rigeur today just a convenient pin with which to pop the high expectations balloon (high market expectations, btw, they risk as the number two risk factor), (2) it's an interesting tell because the paragraph that follows it explains their strategic goal, which is to be the number three place (after home and work) where"gather for human connection". Hmm...
  • Reasons #3 and #5 are 'we are highly dependant on our financial performance in the US' and 'we are highly dependant on our financial performance outside the US'. Hmm... I think I've seen this game played before, usually with some walnut shells and a pea. :-)
  • Buried further down the list is an item about "adverse public or medical opinions about the health affects..." which goes on to say that, basically, if someone comes out with a study saying that latte's cause impotence in rats or something, they are screwed. Personally, I think this one needs to be way higher on the list. I'd worry about this more than the bird-flu thing, if I were them.

Anyhoo. Interesting read.

Canadian Political Satire Game!

OMG! This is toooooo funny.

Someone pointed me to Joe Rhino, a Flash based game of brilliant Canadian political Satire. You play (you guessed it) Joe Rhino, the leader of the Rhino party.

For you non-Canucks, the Rhino party was a bona-fide Canadian political party from the 60's to the 90's, originally started by separatists to contest the federal election, it eventually came to represent the measure of disenchanted voters across the country. When asked to describe their platform, their leader once said "about two feet tall and made of wood". I remember them once promising to (a) chop off the rocky mountains and use them to make sloping bicycle paths from Vancouver to Newfoundland and back, and (b) to empty the lachine canal in Montreal and fill it with champagne. Not that those promises mattered, since they always vowed to never keep any promises they made, since the other parties never did anyway.

Anyhow, the Joe Rhino game is not the greatest game, but there's a ton of variety, and the content is brilliantly funny. I made it through level one dodging falling pieces of the olympic stadium while dodging reporters questions, level two "smash the NDP", level three "nab the undecided voter", only to be defeated in the boss fight against the risen-from-the-grave spectre of Rene Levesque!

Must-play for all canadians and ex-pats!

Time to sweat off those cheezy-poofs!

GameSetWatch had a post about Kraft foods new 'ActiveGaming' effort which is pretty cool.

They've commissioned a couple DDR-style titles (one dancing-themed, another whack-a-mole style) and are selling a USB game pad for 9.99 (for shipping/handling).

I was of course very cynical at first, thinking it was (a) blatant advergaming, and (b) just a 'look, we're doing something about our cheese snacks' type of effort to pre-empt inclusion in obesity-related lawsuits.

However, having looked at the site (one of the games has a Flash version playable by mouse), the advergaming is subdued to say the least. And offering up gamepads at or below cost is certainly putting your money where your mouth is. So, kudos to Kraft.

I'll post a follow up after my gamepad arrives (hey, it was only ten bucks!)

Big is the new small, and google is the new evil

Was bound to happen sooner or later, but Google is the new Evil.

There will always be those that rag on any company that gets to be big and successful, but man, it seems Google-haters/critics are just coming out of the woodwork.

Listening to the diggnation podcast, they just *WAILED* on both the "GooglePak" software bundle (crapware, was I beleive the term used), and also discussed the "Embarrasment of a Video Store" announced at CES. More than just ranting, they make some really good points about why both are sub-par, ill-conceived efforts.

There are even sites like "Google: Evil or not?" :-)

And of course Henry Blodget's "Google: The Bear Case" post is getting a ton of linkage.

Welcome to success, I guess.

Yikes! Here we go!

Post-dot-com-bubble-pop jitters maybe, but it makes me nervous when I log in to all these articles/posts popping up at the same time:

Wall Street punishes Intel & Yahoo
Scoble on all ad-based stocks down in after-hours
Selling panic closes Tokyo market

Ugh. Not going to look pretty tommorrow on the markets. Best I just not look as I don't plan on selling anything any time soon anyway.

Monday, January 16, 2006

End of Moore's Law? BAH!

A few folks around linking to Costikyan's "End of Moore's Law" post, or to Mark Cuban's related post that makes a brief reference to same.

Umm... bah humbug.

OK, maybe too many years at Intel drinking the Koolaid, but I have to disagree with this one on a number of fronts.

1) Moore's law was never about Mhz or Ghz. It was about the number of transistors on a piece of silicon doubling every 18 months. The Mhz just came for free along with that. Though the Mhz train may have come off the track so to speak, the number of transistors keeps on increasing. Yes, it's via more cores, and I'll get to that, but the point is, it's still increasing.

2) The "how to apply the gates" problem is nothing new either. It was via deeper pipelines (which ran out of gas), instruction level parallelism (which ran out of gas), SIMD processing like MMX, SSE, 3DNow (which ran out of gas)... and now it's via more cores. Will that run out of gas? I'll get to that. Whether it does or not is kind of irrelevant. You know why? Because there's something that doesn't run out of gas: Human ingenuity. People will find a way to apply more gates to problems. Gates will get cheaper and people will find a way to make use of them.

3) The "parallel processing is hard and doesn't scale" problem. There's a lot of unsolved problems here. Again, I point you toward that 'human ingenuity' thing. I have faith these problems will be solved. There are still many places that parallel processing can be applied quite readily and where we aren't running out of gas any time soon. Graphics is one example. The Internet infrastructure is another. And by the latter I mean everything from MMO servers to search engines to the wee bits of silicon in them routers and switches. Will it mean thin clients and server processing and "Sun was right all along those guys really get to say 'I told you so'!"? Maybe. Who cares. The point being that there's still plenty of places to apply the mips.

I guess my point here is this: The MIPS-fatigue arguement has been made incessantly for 20 years. Every time, human ingenuity has come to the rescue. There may be bumps along the way (e.g. the move from 16 to 32-bit was a bump, the move to OOO execution was a bump, and the move to parallel systems may be a bigger bump still). But to assume that "yeah, this time we really have it right and it's all over"? Well, that's not only myopic. It's just freakin' arrogant.

I won't be dumping my INTC just yet! I still have faith in the smart guys over there (yes, Mr Dean, that means you! Now stop reading my blog and go solve Mr Costikyan's problem, OK!)

Sticky IP wickets

That'd be a clever title if this was about cricket video games and IP, but it's not, it's about Poker IP, so it's not so clever. Read on anyhow.

Wil Wheaton (yeah, the star trek dude) has an interesting article on 'Card Squad' about the trouble brewing over Poker-related IP with the World Poker Tour (WPT).

Seems those that play in the WSP must sign releases that give away all their rights to use their likenesses (in games, books, TV, etc). Not an issue for no-names signing up, but in a market where brand names are developed overnight (e.g. no-name dude plays online, makes enough to qualify for the big tourney, takes home a million), and where those brand names are *very* marketable (books, games, videos, not to mention the money involved in advertising for offshore gambling sites and their on-shore "schools"), it certainly matters.

It'll be interesting to see how this plays out (there, that was a bit more clever) and which side will blink first (oh, again!). There are probably some lessons to be learned from it that will apply to the ever-looming user-created-content-future of gaming that we keep hearing about.

The Super-Enron: The US Gov't

Catchin up on feeds after lunch, I came across this little gem on Accounting methods and the impact on the stated vs real US deficit and it scared the heck out of me.


There seems to be a lot of post-Macworld gossip & water-cooler talk about whether or not the new Intel-based Macs will run Windows (some say no, some say Vista only, some say Vista or XP).

Let me first qualify my comments by saying this: I have no idea, I am talking out of my.... well, suffice it to say it's sheer conjecture.

OK, that being said... A couple thoughts:

First off, why has no one tried it? Lots of machines around Apple, probably a couple around Intel, and maybe a few in the hands of some software vendors. Not one leak somewhere? Surprising.

Secondly, and most importantly, why is everyone focusing on whether or not it's *technically* feasible? Instead they should be asking "What would you do if you were Steve Jobs?"

The answer of course, is "I'd mix up the wardrobe a bit, fer gawdsakes!" but after that, the answer I come up with is "I'd prevent Macs from running other operating systems.

I could of course be wrong, but Apple seems to me to have The Vertical Model firmly entrenched in their DNA. The few instances of their software running on other systems (iTunes for the PC; Quicktime for the PC) are paths toward critical mass for those apps, and aimed at drawing consumers into their vertical universe (iTunes on PC as a path toward getting people to buy iPods; Quicktime on PC as a path to getting content producers to produce on Macs with Quicktime - and to get iTunes installed on consumer machines).

One advantage MacOS has over Windows, according to pundits anyway, is "sexier machines". Would Steve Jobs want to give up this bullet point, whether or not there are others?

So while it might be technically feasible - and indeed even if not, it might be hacked into submission by a kid in scandinavia eventually - I just can't imagine Mr Jobs would want it to happen.

But who knows. I could be wrong of course :-)

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Ladies in Charge

Seems both Chile and Liberia have elected female presidents, firsts for Africa and (I think) South America.

Which, and I may be wrong about this, leaves our continent in a dead heat with Antartica for 'last continent to elect a female leader'.

Almost makes ya want to root for Hillary, don't it? ;-)

Best pics of 2005

Someone pointed me to this Flickr set of the best photos of 2005. Caution, you'll loose an hour here, and also be reminded that we could all be way better photographers.

For what it's worth, here's my best photo of 2005 (though to be honest, I don't remember if I took it or if Alisa did):

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Tripod video

Just in case you missed the thousand other people linking to this must-see comedy routine, here it is:


The best companies to work for

Fortune put out their annual "best companies to work for" list again. It's interesting to give it a once-over. It was also interesting for me, having moved from Intel to Microsoft, both of which appear on the list. Some thoughts:

  • Intel, who's HR folk (while I was there anyway) tooted the horn pretty loudly whenever this list was published, had better watch out. They've slipped to #97 on the list, and so stand a chance of dropping off it. (This may not be due to any decrease in their quality of employment, but just that others have progressed around them?). Not sure how they ranked last year.
  • Microsoft came in at #42 (a rank that will no doubt please many geeky engineers) which isn't top ten, but I guess it means I made a good move :-)
  • I was surprised to see both MS and Intel having roughly the same percentage of women (1 in 4). The group I'm in at MS certainly feels like *WAY* more than that. Maybe it varies widely from one team to the other. I wonder if Intel's numbers were thrown one way or the other due to fab workers vs engineers?
  • Yahoo made the list (#74). The most common job is "senior technical yahoo" with an avg salary of $117k. They also have free lattes, which for me would amount to a $2k/yr benefit. :-)
  • Autodesk (#81) has their sabbaticals every FOUR years, and they still allow employees to bring their dogs to work (which RAWKS!). I've seen dogs running around our Microsoft building a couple times but I don't think it's *officially* allowed :-)

A couple issues with methodology:

  1. The company's state is listed by headquarters. Not sure how much this affects things. For example: Intel avg salary was 101k/yr. Msft, 107k/yr. Not sure if they compared it to cost of living though. The majority of Msft employees are in WA. Intel's headquarters is in silicon valley, but only a minority of employees are there, with large numbers in Arizona, Folsom CA, and Portland OR - with Portland probably being the largest and having a lower cost of living. State income tax also varies across those these states (e.g. WA doesn't have any - WOOHOO!)
  2. Google didn't make the list. Didn't deserve to? or does stock compensation not make it into compensation calculation? Other reasons? Maybe you have to have been public over N years?
  3. Starbucks came in #29, despite having an avg salary of $43k, and a 14% turnover. Both not surprising given their business, but that means they rank #29?!? There must be too the methodology in the actual article in print. Which is a nice segueway to my final point:

Probably my biggest concern overall, however, is it didn't seem to incorporate any element of *job satisfaction* into the survey. To me, and I think to many others, this should be THE most important factor: Do you love what you do, do you feel you have the chance to make a difference, and does your employer empower you to do so?

The best place to work is the one where you wake up in the morning and are eager to get to the office and change the world.

Friday, January 13, 2006

2005 - the year in books

While I'm on a roll, here's my reading list from last year. I'd meant to write up full reviews, but instead will just give a quick note on some. Highly recommended books in bold. (and yes, they are all associates links, so maybe I can make myself latte money :-).

  • The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman (started in '04, finished in '05). 3/5
  • System of the World by Neal Stephenson (started in '04, finished in '05) 4/5
  • Theory of Fun for Game Design by Raph Koster. Awesome book. 5/5. Must buy. Go now.
  • Difficult Questions about Video Games by Newman and Simons. Also a great read, if you can find it. Search around, it's worth it! 5/5
  • The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries. Good quick read. 4/5
  • The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding by Al Ries. A lot of repeat with the above, but enough material to make it worth the additional read. 3/5
  • Savage Pastimes by Harold Schechter. 3/5
  • Strategy Bites Back by Henry Mintzberg et al. Hard to rate this one. It's a 'gems' style book about business strategy. While some of the essays in includes are five-star ones, many are just the opposite. Also, about half of them are by the authors themselves, giving the feeling that they couldn't gather enough contributions from external authors. I'll give it a 3/5, but if you pick it up, skip straight to essays from Michael Porter, Hans Christian Anderson, and Peter Drucker. I also really liked the "Strategy as 'Little Black Dress' by Jeanne Leidtka.
  • Our Band Could Be Your Life by ... I linked to this one a while back in my 'game industry 2.0' rant. It's a great history of the indie punk rock scene of the eighties, but I'd argue it's a great blueprint (maybe more of a treasure map - it'll require some decoding) for all the indie game developers out there (which was the reason Elliot G over at Intel recommended it to me during a conversation about the game industry). 4/5
  • Losing my Virginity by Richard Branson. Great inspiring read. Fun and there are some lessons in there to boot. I didn't read many novels this year but this one felt like one with all the romping adventure. Still it's a good read from a biz book perspective as well. 5/5.
  • In Search of Stupidity by Merrill Chapman. Picked this up on a whim and did I find stupidity? Yes! In me, for buying this book! The author looks back at various blunders in the tech industry, and instead of saying "this is why idea A *seemed* like a good idea at the time" and explaining how we might look to our own times and ideas and look for parallels, he instead just says "It was marketing's fault! What the hell were they thinking?!". It should play well to programmers with limited empathy for those outside their ilk, but I think the book's a dud. 1/5
  • Beyond Bullet Points by Cliff Atkinson. Definitely recommended. Powerpoint gets used TOO MUCH in corp communication these days, and instead of a tool it's often used as a crutch. If you ever have to give any kind of presentations, whether to groups or 1:1, it's worthwhile picking this up. 4.5/5.
  • The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins. Figured this would be a good read when starting the new job. Can't say I followed his instruction 100%, but I still think it was valuable from a couple points. 3.5/5
  • The Rules of Work by Richard Templar. Ugh. Did not finish this one. It was awful. The author takes such a "you vs everyone" approach to how you should "attack" the corporate ladder. He should have stuck to watching Wall Street re-runs. 1/5
  • Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. What an awesome and fun read. Though provoking and very analogous in many ways to the gaming medium. Plus the whole thing is in comic book form! 5/5, or rather *****/*****
  • Smartbomb by Heather Chaplin. Did not finish. I give this one a 2/5 (for what I read of it) since some folks might find it of use, but definitely not of interest for game industry folk.
  • The Meaning Of It All by Richard Feynman. I wrote up a review here. Good quick read. Thought provoking reading. 4/5 only because it's so short!

So, not bad. I felt like I didn't do enough reading, but in retrospect, not so bad. 17 books started, 14 finished. I've already got an eye on a few for this year.

2005 - the year in cities

Noticed over on www.kottke.org that this is becoming a bit of a meme.

Go ahead, blog your cities for 2005. Anywhere you were at least overnight. Here's mine:

Toronto, Ontario
Las Vegas, NV
San Jose, CA
Annaheim, CA
Montreal, Quebec
San Francisco, CA
Big White, BC
Seattle, WA
Los Angeles, CA
Montreal, CA
Tokyo, Japan

Definitely a smaller list than past years. I'd like to think it's because I've chosen to travel less due to family, but truth is that's only part of the reason. The job change and move was a big part of it too. We'll see what it looks like in 2006.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Attention! Artist at work!

Along the lines of the MGS story I posted a while back....

Behold... The Artist. Note the intense concentration. Note the precision execution:

Ladies and Gentlemen! I give you...

"Le Visage Content" (The Happy Face)

To look into his pinhole eyes are to look into your own soul. Your inner despair cannot cry out loud enough for his tiny ears to hear you. This is why he smiles his crooked wry smile, despite your unhappiness. The Happy Face turns up it's disproportionately large nose-scribble at you. He cares not.

Looking out for #1- whoever that might be

Jason Kottke, who's blog is a great read on a regular basis, posted this gem regarding the USPTO's announcement yesterday of the top 10 companies granted patents in 2005.

The undersecretary of Commerce for IP was quoted:
"America's technological and economic strength is the result of its tremendous ingenuity. The USPTO has taken and will continue to take aggressive steps that will enhance quality and improve productivity to ensure that U.S. intellectual property protection remains the best in the world, protecting American innovation and sustaining economic growth."

The problem? Six of the top ten companies are not American ones. So much for protecting *american* innovation.

Anyhow, it's interesting if you think about it. We live in a global economy, but is it America's job (and that of the tax payer by extension) to protect foreign companies against their IP being violated by American companies? Guess you need to treat everyone fairly in the courts. Anyhow, food for thought.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Best CES moment

I haven't had time to write up notes about CES yet (next day or two) but thought I'd share this gem with you all. Definitely best moment of the show for me.

I spent 4 days there demo'ing Windows Vista. Mostly, I was supposed to be showing the new graphics user interface and it's various bells and whistles, and a bunch of the stuff we've done for improving gaming on the PC (Games Explorer, game-related metadata files, parental controls, Xbox360 controller for Windows, and the new inbox games - updated versions of Solitaire, Minesweeper, etc, plus a few new ones).

About 90% of the time though, people just came up and said "show me Vista" and I'd walk them through a ton of other stuff (desktop gui navigation, desktop search, new features in IE, navigation of folders, etc, etc).

10% of the time, they'd have game- or graphics-specific questions. Now and again, they'd say "oh, that version of Solitaire looks fancy" or something.

Then on day 3, I had these two little old ladies come up to my station. They looked really out of place at CES. I swear I kid you not when I say that one had a shawl of some sort and the both had the 'neck chain' hanging off their glasses and around their necks.

"Can I answer any questions for you?"

"We want to see the new Freecell!" was the reply in stereo.

So I walk them through a demo, and they ask a bunch of feature questions (can I change the background color?, can I save my game?, etc)

I tell them when it's coming out, and ask whether they want to see anything else.

"Nope, I'm gonna buy it to upgrade my computer. That looks really nice."

Pay attention, casual game devs. That's a target customer right there.

To think that people are debating whether the casual games market is elastic enough to support $29 ASPs. According to my sampling (albeit not exactly scientific, I pitched maybe 400 people at CES) shows that 0.25% of the population is willing to pay several hundred dollars for a casual game.


Crazy Car

Check this out. Especially the guy's face around the 3-minute-30 mark.

Wow. Santa's only getting one item on my list next year!

More on Video Podcasts, machinima

Someone pointed out to me that there's overlap between some of the Machinima being done today and the video podcasting space. I have to agree. Certainly things like This Spartan Life, the Halo-based talk show, qualify. Episodic, off-line viewable, news'n'views style video content. Same goes for drama, comedy, etc.

If you are looking for an example, I think the Peggy Ahwesh interview from Episode 1 is a great example. Interviews taking place while wandering a virtual world have to be more interesting that just sitting on Leno's couch, no?

1up show's a no-go, game podcasts

I'd been meaning to do a write-up of the 1up show, 1up's downloadable game-industry-insider vodcast (video podcast? vodcast? camcast? No concensus on lingo here). Anyhow, I'd been meaning to do a write-up of it, but Robin beat me to it, and I couldn't have said it better myself:

  • "The overarching in-club pose of this stuff just makes me ill. It’s so closed, so pointless… so niche. So name-droppy and needlessly self-directed."
  • "I believe the gaming press has a serious job to do! It needs to educate and inspire our users so they continue to explore new games! New players need tools to help them appreciate execution AND experimentation alike, and to help them look beyond muzzle flashes, explosions and crisp sound - to the messages and experiences possible in this medium. How does spouting about PR visits, release dates or feature deadline drama help accomplish this???"
Couldn't have said it better myself.

And boy oh boy did I *want* to like it. With my new Media Center setup at home, I was hoping to set up a podcatcher to just download the latest shows as they became available, and just have them show up in my list of media like any other recorded show.

But alas, I shant be subscribing.

On a related note, I only became aware of the show (sorry, I don't frequent 1up.com) through a gaming podcast called the CAGcast (cheap ass gamer podcast). A while back I had some airplane time lined up so I downloaded a bunch of gaming-related podcasts to sample. Those I checked out were rough around the edges, but there is gold in them thar hills. Here's a short list for those interested:
  • CAGCast: Two gamers, one located in NY, the other in Tokyo, collaborate virtually to produce a show that reviews game titles, HW, and media (mags, shows, and other podcasts). They even highlight sales and promotions at US and Japanese retailers or online, telling folks where to get a bargain. On the down-side, the humor is sophmoric (e.g. "heh heh... it sounded like you said Call of Doodie"), and one of the two podcasters (the one in NY) *regularly* doesn't do his homework. However, the guy in Tokyo definitely does, and it's overall a pretty good podcast and worth giving a listen to.
  • Gaming Uncensored: Ugh. If the above review seemed someone wishy-washy, this one will seem downright bi-polar. On the plus side: It's gaming related, it's fairly well produced (maybe access to college radio equipment and resources?) and one of the podcasters is pretty savvy and well spoken. On the downside, the other DJ is *so* intolerably annoying that I just can't advocate listening to the show. He sounds like a college kid that's partaken of the wacky weed to a point where he thinks it will be funny to do a bad impersonation of someone afflicted with Down's syndrome. He sounds more like he belongs in Howard Stern's circus-side-show posse.
  • GameOn! Chris Melissinos' podcast which I wrote a review of here. Chris has only done one so far, but I expect this at least to develop into a good podcast for those with a taste for retro-gaming, and at best to be a good place for discussion about the industry as a whole.
  • [EDIT: Someone pointed out to me that there's another GameOn! podcast that has 50 episodes already, located here. I'll be checking that one out soon]
  • Gaming Steve: Pretty good show. About a 50-50 mix of game reviews/commentary and game industry discussion. Occasionally some interviews with industry personalities as well. This is like a verbal mix of gamasutra and gamespot over audio. Only downside: An opening jingle/theme song worth of the worst of 70's sitcoms (think 'and then there's MAUDE!!!...' ugh).

Anyhow, I expect we'll see more over time, and that vidcasts will follow, and that some of them may actually be good.

Go ahead, the opportunity is out there for someone to become the Rocketboom of the game industry! It could be you! (Trivia: You can see half my head in a fraction of a second segment of Rocketboom's CES parody bit)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Jim asks, "no haiku?"
It seems I've fallen behind
Spring into action

word verify stumps
seems Dean's been Turing tested
and failed. What's it mean?

Could Haiku whole blog
Get five seven five dot com?
That would be cool, man.

Checked, it's taken
maybe spell it out instead
drat, foiled again

Get back to work Kim!
Get artsy on your own time!
You total slacker!

Monday, January 9, 2006

It's de-lurking week! Speak up!

I learned from Janel that this week is De-Lurking week!

Do you frequent this blog, but don't chime in? Speak up! Leave a comment, give me a topic you'd like to hear my thoughts on, or just say hello!

SoC rendering interview

Robin points us to this translation of an article from Fumito Ueda & team who did Shadow of the Colossus. The article contains some art & graphics how-to, with some interesting bits about how the worked around some of the capabilities they didn't have on PS2 (e.g. HDR, fur shaders, volume particles, etc).

Interesting read, and maybe useful for folks trying to scale back designs for older GPUs on PC titles.

Sunday, January 8, 2006

Scoble points us to this very cool story about one person's digital lifestyle earning them a free first class upgrade. What an awesome time to be alive.

Coolest product at CES

OK, I agree with everyone else.

THIS is the coolest thing that was shown at CES.

Adios, Las Vegas!

If you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME.

I was in the Vegas airport squinting at friends blogs on my smart phone when I read on Steve Lacey's site that the Vegas airport has free wi-fi. Duh. Pull out laptop. I'd just assumed that they'd charge for it, since you pay for EVERYTHING in vegas.

So I've survived another trip to vegas. I definitely took it easier than in my younger days, but it still takes it's toll on you. Average day at one of these big conferences tends to go something like this:

- 7am - get up, shower, dress
- 8am - Futile attempt to get hotel wifi to work
- 9am - grab coffee, head to show
- 8 hours of walking and standing. Generally no lunch
- 6pm - 30 minutes of figuring out what to do
- 6:30 pm - 40 minute wait in a line for some kind of shuttle/cab/etc to get to where you are supposed to meet for dinner
- 8:00 pm drinks to tie you over until your earliest-we-can-do-is-10pm dinner reservation
- long dinner, more drinks, back to hotel

Guess I shouldn't complain. I don't clean out septic tanks for a living.

Anyhow, it was cool that I was able to see so many friends from around the industry while I was here, even if only for a few minutes on the show floor. I saw Razid, Adam and about 10 other Intel former co-workers, Steve, Souris, Jane, Alexis, and of course a bunch of microsoft collegues, some of whom I don't get the chance to see much up in Redmond.

I'll post some pics and writeups of a couple CES things I thought were interesting, as soon as I get the chance. In the meantime, time to go catch a plane!

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

CES keynote

Scoble's got a nice play-by-play of Bill G's CES keynote that you can read in 2 minutes.

One of the main things shown was Vista. After showing off the OS & GUI functionality in the core OS, the *first* usage they talked about was gaming. Very big focus for Vista and there's a ton of cool stuff happening for it (my group is a big part of it, though much of the work was done long before I got here).

I'm heading out on a 6am flight tommorrow and will be working the booth in the afternoon. Drop by and say hi if you are there!

Tuesday, January 3, 2006


Thinking a bit about future directions for the blog. More extensive post on that later, but in the meantime, a couple things:

I noticed that I head 10k visits today. Yippee. I guess that's some kind of milestone. So I poked around Sitemeter a bit and noted a few things:

- I've definitely passed the mark where friends & family have been surpassed by people I don't know. Not that that's good or bad, just interesting. May change how I word some posts and such.

- Surprising number of international visitors, even not counting those visiting from globetrotting vacations!

- Traffic's gone up steadily over the year, so I guess I'm doing something right. Bully for me.

Victory in hand

Robin has a nifty cartoon and a pointer to an article about Nintendo's DS and it's continued leadership in handheld over Sony's PSP.

While it's too early to declare the handheld war over (indeed, there may be two winners possible), it's certainly not the Sony-dominant picture many forecasted over the past couple years.

The most amusing part is that Nintendo, despite having done some innovative things with the DS platform, is winning more or less with the same formula they used to kick GameGear's butt a decade ago: Have a lower ASP + focus on content.

The games are what everybody's talking about, but you have to think the ASP is a big factor for handheld too.

And they haven't even hit $99 yet. That should show a huge spike in unit sales. Maybe in the spring?

Qwerty's quirkiness

This article over on cnet caught my eye about a new keyboard being shown at CES that is taking on Qwerty-style keyboards. Good idea, right? I agree, but blech! Look at it!

I just CANNOT beleive that strict alphabetical order is the right answer here.

I think that Dvorak had the right approach (design for usage patterns, vs qwerty, which was designed to slow down typists so that Underwood-style typewriter letter-hammers wouldn't stick), but:

- Dvorak was aiming for speed - a modern approach would aim to balance speed with comfort (RSI-prevention)
- computer keyboards have more keys and different usages than typewriters in teh 20's (e.g. CTRL, Windows key, etc).
- Software today could be used to instrument different designs.

I think the best idea would be to build a keyboard with a small LCD built into each and every key, and have the layout be reprogrammable. It could default to qwerty, but different optimal designs could be devised and used by different classes of users (e.g. programmers might end up with thesemi-colon on their home-row index or middle finger position).

Any PC's keyboard could defaul tot qwerty, but users could log in and have their profile update the keyboard layout.

OK, enough crazy ideas. I'm off to bed!

Monday, January 2, 2006

Ask not of my yo-yo-fu, for it is legion.

Alice posted this about a cool new toy called Kodai Djinns. What is it? Take a yo-yo, embed a tamagochi-style game in it, let it communicate via infrared with other units and what do you get? A head-to-head wireless battle where your Kodai Djinn warriors are levelled-up by your spinning them up to power and playing the on-device games.

It's been a while since I've spun the yo, but I was pretty good at it back in the day. I wonder if they sense the length of spin at the end of the string, or if tricks are being done. Would be very cool if you could unlock powers by doing a Man-on-the-Trapeze (which was about the limit to my abilities)

Mind you, that was back on a standard Duncan ol'school wood yo yo. In MY day we din't have no fancy-shmancy magnesium, ball-bearing-axle, high-end yo yo's! (BTW, a cool thing to do would be to light that magnesium yo yo on FIRE while doing 3-leaf clovers with it!

Maybe if I got one of those fancy new yo yo's, I'd be able to compete with THIS GUY. Holy cow, that guy is so awesome.

Jay Bibby's Top 20

Jay's posted his top 20 games of 2005 over on his site. Anyone in game design and/or the casual games business should definitely make a point of checking out each and every one. I know I intend to.

I've played more than half of them over the course of the year, and was pleased to see two of my favorites up there: Kingdom of Loathing (#6) and N (#8). I have to confess that I blew more hours playing N than I did playing Half-Life 2. It's both maddening and brilliant.

Taking potshots at Smartbomb

Just finished reading this Newsweek interview with Smartbomb authors Aaron Ruby & Heather Chaplin.

While I'm not a huge fan of the book (might be of interest to some, but I echo Dellaro's sentiments on it), I felt bad for the authors as they were definitely facing a confrontational interviewer for this. It's one thing to ask difficult questions; It's another thing to approach an interview with a bias, which is clearly the case here.

An aside: At one point Chaplin compares the animosity toward games to that of other media, and states "Socrates thought the oral tradition would die because of the printed world". I'm no history buff, but didn't Socrates live something like 1200 years before the Chinese invented printing? Did she mean the written world, or did she mean someone other than Socrates?

Good DVD rental: The Aviator

I just got done watching the Aviator which I'd rented at BBuster (yeah, I'm a netflix-luddite), and highly recommend it.

- Good movie
- 3hrs because it covers a lot of ground (not LOTR-3Hrs, which is "3hrs cause that's what an epic's supposed to be so let's pack in more hobbits-staring-longingly-at-one-another-shots" long)
- More DVD-extras than I've ever noticed packed on a disk, and some of them are actually interesting (interviews with OCD doctors and patients, Discovery channel documentery on Hughes, etc)

So anyhoo. I recommend it.

Also rented "The 40 year old virgin". It had it's moments but certainly didn't deserve the hype it was getting.

The Obligatory New Year Post

Well, Jan 1 has come and gone, and I didn't accomplish nearly as much over the holidays as I'd hoped to. Were and still are on my to-do list:
- Updated blog with more functionality and more focused purpose (stay tuned)
- Decide on whether or not I want to dabble in podcasting (I have what I think is a nifty idea)
- Reflections on predictions for '05
- Reflections on my changes over '05 (Intel->MS, Pdx->Sea, Mgr->non-Mgr, tech->biz, etc)
- Predictions for '06

But alas, I blew the holidays catching up on some work and playing with my kids. Can't say that I regret it, but now the to-do list is as bad as ever as we head into '06.

Later this week I have some airplane time as I head out to Vegas for CES, so maybe that'll be a good time to tackle some of the above items. In the meantime, here's more trivial subject matter coming in my next post.