Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Last Call for Carnival Submissions!

Today is the last day to get your submissions in for the Carnival of Gamers. Send in those submissions, ladies and gents! Step right up!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Finished Tomb Raider Legend

I finished Tomb Raider: Legend last night. Given that I only finish 3-4 games a year, I guess that's saying something.

If I were to rate it (which I guess I am then), I'd say 8 on 10. Others may go higher/lower depending on what they like out of a game, as it combines a number of distinctly different elements:

  • As a puzzle/platformer, it's a 9. Very much in the spirit of the original TR, with clever level design, a lot of variety. Very well engineered. The 'needed bits' of the puzzles were findable without always sticking out like a sore thumb; I only once found a place where I could get character stuck (from the technical sense, like their bounding box found it's way outside the level boundary), etc. Anyhow, both a good sense of exhileration from some of the levels (drama, vertigo..) and accomplishment from some of the puzzles.
  • As a shooter, it's an 7 or maybe an 8. Giving a little credit here because it's not the core part of the game, but hte shooting/action sequences don't feel wedged into the control scheme. It works, and there's a good sense of drama & accomplishment.
  • As a Dragon's Lair clone, it's a 5 :-). Sorry, but I hate that "press the presecribed buttons as we walk you through the cut-scenes" element. I did NOT feel more involved as a result, and actually felt like I couldn't enjoy the cinematics as much due to the distraction.
  • I'd give the story and presentation a 6. That's actually saying a lot. Put it this way: The story is predictable and unoriginal, but that's what you expect in a James Bond or Indiana Jones movie, right? From that perspective it was acceptable. The acting wasn't great, but for a games was above par. For what it's worth, I found the writing and acting to be better than any of the Tomb Raider movies :-)

Anyhow, I recommend it, esp. to fans of the first game.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Toon-shaded MMO

I'm not a big fan of MMO's. I *am* a big fan of cell shading.

I must feel more strongly about the latter because I'm *really* temped to try out Seed.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Carnival's Coming to Town!

I'll be hosting the June (i.e. the post-E3 edition, mind you!) Carnival of Gamers, which makes me 'Le Bonhomme de Carnaval', so to speak. That's me on the right.

So, step right up and send your submissions, whether blog posts of your own or ones you think just deserve to be highlighted. See previous submissions at the Carnival Headquarters. As usual, all submissions are welcome, but in particular I am interested in thought provoking posts on Post-E3-Fallout, Casual Games related posts, and in particular, seeing more submissions from over seas (both seas!). Oh, and the 'Wii' wordplay has been done to death, I'll be minimizing that category.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

A Wii little wait in line...

So just how long was the wait at E3 to get into Nintendo's booth and play with their Wii?

This video gives you an idea.

Good choice of soundtrack, despite it being from a PS2 title :-)

Good news for Lara

News that Tomb Raider Legend has moved 2.6M units. Why is this good news? Because it's a good game, and I like it when good games make money.

I know I posted a couple gripes about it a while back, and those are still there, but the good stuff keeps getting better, so the gripes are getting 'diluted' out of my equation.

Anyhow, go get it! It's a good game!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Holy Uncanny Valley!

Steve points us to this awesome demo video for the upcoming adventure title Heavy Rain.

Super cool. Super creepy. Great example of the 'uncanny valley'

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Via Wonderland, news that Google is going to let people party all over their virtual earth - first by building structures (a la Second Life?) and later with avatars and such.

Not sure what the biz model is or will be, and not sure if they will be as good or better than Second Life (they certainly could kick their graphics engine's fanny!)

I will say this though: They are going to let people build via SketchUp, and SketchUp is DA BOMB! It's such an awesome simple modelling tool.

I spent a lot of time back in the day doing modeling in Autocad, 3DStudio (before they Max'ed it), Truespace, and other tools, - I even got one of my models on the cover of a UK cad magazine - and while they were more capable, nothing ever came close to the simplicity of SketchUp.

A couple years ago, I used it to design my BBQ island for my contractor to build. This took me about 1hr to make:

And the final product:

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Good casual games interview

Gamasutra has a good interview with a coulpe of the guys at Reflexive about Wik, other titles, Xbox360 and PC downloadable games, and the increasing attention paid to casual gaming by the industry's collective capital.

The following quote is one of the best I've heard about the current trends in the space:

"we're not threatened. But the reason isn't because there isn't great talent coming into the market, or that there isn't worthy money or appropriately spent money, it's because the games industry is kind of like the book industry or the movie industry. People think they're going to win the lottery. There's always venture capital pouring money down some movie's throat.

"There's always money pouring down some game's throat as well, and casual games is just the latest place where someone thinks they can just walk in and win the lottery. The reality is it's as hard as normal games publishing. It's very, very hard. The competition is very, very good. The other games are very, very good. The psychology of the gamer is difficult to get a handle on and to try and understand what it is that you need to build to get into the market. A lot of people are going to lose their shirts. We struggled for a long time to figure out what we know now. I don't think it's something you can just get for a million dollars.

"There definitely will be a few [nascent] developers that emerge from it successfully, but the vast majority as always are going to die"

While not exactly encouraging, it's definitely accurate, from my perspective!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Risquee advertising

You have to love it when big, traditionally conservative, consumer product companies take some risks when advertising.

Which is why THIS is even funnier coming from a company like Philips.

It would be difficult enough to advertise a men's *ahem* personal grooming product. So, rather than *wait for it* beat around the bush *ouch, sorry*, they went for the full-frontal approach, with careful use of bleeping and placement of kiwis, peaches and carrot to allow the viewer's imagination to fill in.


Monday, May 15, 2006

E3 decompress

I'm back from E3. It was fun, but I feel like I missed most of it, due to being hidden in a meeting room for most of the show. On Friday I went to dinner with Mark, Jamil, and about 15 other people. As all compared notes on the games they thought were most impressive, I hadn't seen any of them (save Gears of War, which looks da bombdiggitydoo!)

There's been lots of posts on other's blogs about the MS keynote/press event (which I attended), vs those from Sony & Nintendo (which I didn't attend but will view videos of this week). Sentiment most seemed to reflect was a ranking of Nintendo-->MS-->Sony.

Many dissed the PS3 high pricepoint, and while it is high, I wasn't sure how it compared historically (though I did hear several make 3DO references). How pleased I was, then, to come across this post on Curmudgeon Gamer, comparing absolute prices of consoles over the past 30 years, and also relative, adjusted for inflation:

It needs the Xbox360 pro version added, as well as the higher-priced sku of PS3, but still it's interesting. It would also be interesting to map installed base of each vs price. Is there a "doomed threshold" beyond which consoles don't succeed? Could it be that simple? Hmm...

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Into the fray

Haven't posted much lately as E3 prep has kept me real busy.

Today the craziness kicked into high gear as I got up at 3:45 to make my 6am flight. Then check-in, then meetings, then our partner briefing, then another meeting, then dinner, then email.

Ugh. Wed & Thurs are going to be nuts!

Friday, May 5, 2006

It's CARNIVAL time!

The latest carnival of gamers is up, and has some good articles in it. There's a link to one of my posts too.

New Mac ads

I think the new mac ads are top notch.

In particular, I like the 'iLife' one, which is a Classic Geoffrey Moore bowling-pin strategy at work.

Don't be confused because it's a different product being sold to (largely) the same consumers. It's still a different market. It's using credibility (regarding 'it just works' ease of use, with added 'it's real stylish') earned with one market, the market for consumer digital audio players, to 'knock down the pin' of another market, the market for personal computers, specifically the market for casual-usage personal computers. To those people that want to do email, surf the web, and post baby pics on the web - and nothing else - the message of "we can make this as easy as we did your digital music" has got to be *very* powerful.

Great Pre-E3 MMO roundup

pointed to by Alice, I found this great round up of MMO's that will be at E3. I actually think the number of Korean titles (she states 10) is low. I actually think we'll see more of them there, but they just aren't effectively publicizing them here.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Tomb Raider: Legend commentary

I've logged a little time playing TR:L on the 360 over the past few days. I'm enjoying it so far, and may play the whole way through, we'll see. I don't do that for a lot of games these days, so that's saying something. I give it about a 75% which, looking at metacritic, is in the ballpark of what everyone else gave it.


  • Recaptures the original TR feel. It's a good 3D platformer with a good Indiana Jones style story, some interesting puzzles, and a mix of different gameplay styles for different segments of the game.
  • Mixes up the different gameplay styles from segment to segment, so it's not too tedious. Not all the gamestyles are good however.


  • For all hte talk of Lara having more *realistic proportions*, well, she (they?) are still pretty outlandish.
  • The quality of improvements to visuals (e.g. skin shaders, bump mapping, specular maps) seems mixed and inconsistent. Like maybe they did some, chucked some, scaled some back. And while the shaders are pretty good, it still looked like the character was somewhat undertesselated in places (eg. elbows)
  • Of the different gameplay modes added, there are some that are the "interactive cutscene" variety, where the player is told "Press 'A' NOW!", "Press 'UP' NOW!" to successfully make it through. OK, I know God of War had some of this and it was popular, but DID WE LEARN NOTHING FROM DRAGON'S LAIR?!?

ok, gripes aside, I recommed it if you were a fan of the first TR games.

Oh, and when looking at it in the store, the title was selling for $60, and the second hand version was selling for $55. I splurged and bought it new.

Takin' Cosplay to the next level

On May 21, in the Bay to Breakers run in San Francisco, a group of people plan on showing up in full Katamari Cosplay gear, and rolling a giant Katamari for the whole course:

"Join [us] for Bay To Breakers, as we roll a FREAKING HUGE cardboard katamari that shall be carved out of refrigerator boxes, and decorated with elements of the city that we've rolled up along the way. You can come as yourself, or choose from a blithering variety of roll-tastic cousins and kings of cosmoses. It's crowded, it's nerdy, it's way to early in the morning"

Man, what they really need is two groups doing this, and scoring them according to how much crap they duct-tape to it along the way!

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

The Bridge Controversy

Kottke posts this summary about some of the controversy surrounding The Bridge, a documentary about suicide jumps from San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.

There's a link to the preview, which as he warns, contains footage of people climbing over the rail to jump. It's difficult to watch.

I haven't seen the film. I'm not sure I want to.

Monday, May 1, 2006

Dad, "requisite grumpy brit" doin' the startup thing

Jeez. Just when you think you know someone...

I don't know if this speaks more to some people leading double lives, my not calling home enough, or to the relative easy of getting a business started, but, well, it speaks to something!

I got an email from Dad today with an URL to go click on to check out a funny news page. Now, dad sends me the occasional joke, so this wasn't surprising. I went and had a look at it, and it's a machine-generated "fake newspaper" type of layout, with the recipient's name plugged into the stories in various locations.

Anyhow, I checked out the page sent to me, got a laugh, and deleted the email.

He called me later in the day to ask if I'd checked out the new internet startup that he and a couple friends had kicked off. Well, so much for retirement!

This from a guy who was happy with his 286-based "laptop" until a year or two ago.

Click here to check out Dad's new company: I Got News For You.

You can try it out for free, but will need to pay/subscribe to send the page you generate to someone, or to have a hardcopy printed and sent to them, you need to pay.

Check it out!