Thursday, June 29, 2006

More McCloud

You've read Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, right? If not, go get it, read it, and then resume here.

Clint Hocking has some thoughts on the book's applicability to the games medium.

There's a great interview with McCloud here, which talks about his upcoming book, which is sort of a follow up to UC. Raph posts some thoughts on this here.

Indie Ladies

Originally uploaded by Kim Pallister.
Grainy cell phone camera pic of a discussion at the Oberon party last night.

Casual games biz at work: Game designer Julia Detar ( shows off her Bug Water Glen kids game to Joshua Howard (Carbonated Games - MS Casual Games' own studio), and Amanda Fitch (Amaranth Games designer & entrepaneur -

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Games are like Flowers

In a recent post, Robin comments:

"Being a commercial developer has taken some of the joy out of seeing other developers talk. Even with the gigantic, mesmerizing mass that is Spore, all I can think about is the game’s design challenges, how it will play, and how much the team has left to do.

I have to disagree. I find that to make them even more awesome. I had the same impression working at Intel. The more I learned about what it took to get a piece of silicon out the door, the more amazed I was by the final product. I think physicist Richard Feynman summed it up very well:

Richard Feynman - Ode on a Flower

Monday, June 26, 2006

Life's too crazy

...for posting that is.

We have a developer event going on tommorrow and the "Casuality" event going on Tues-Thurs, so the past week has been NUTS.

What time I *did* get to relax was better spent in the pool with the kids enjoying the 90-degree weekend than spent blogging, so that's what I did.

If you are at Casuality this week, be sure to say Hi!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Henry Jenkins is blogging

Title says it all. Subscribed!


Thanks to Raph for the pointer.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Physics-driven 3D Desktop Prototype

I've never been a fan of the "3D desktop" metaphors that people tried to come up with a few years back where it was assumed that because something was 3D, it was better. They always seemed very contrived.

In this video, the researchers pitch that (my paraphrase) this time they mean it! And this time it uses physics.

It's amusing that they talk about physics being used to simulate 'disorganized piles' of documents. Jumpin' Junipers! Have you seen my desktop?!? I have enough problems with this in the real world!

What's next? fluid dynamics for simulated spilling of coffee on my simulated document piles?

On the plus side, physics is nifty :-)

One more mini-rant: Why is the emulation of a desktop the ultimate 'workplace metaphor'? Does anyone really think that htsi is the best work environment there is? It's an artifact of the industrialized world and urban real estate price. Given the choice of imagining any workplace in the world, what and where would it be? Treefort in Brazil? Your corner starbucks? Vatican library? Jeez folks, a little more imagination please!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Art of the Start Presentation

This is a great presentation by Guy Kowasaki summarizing his Art of the Start book in a recent keynote.


Jon Stewart lampoons Video Game Hearings

Sometimes their writers really don't need to do any work. Just hand him the footage and the jokes write themselves.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

This is an awesome likttle animated short. Loved the conveying of speed and how much story they packed into 2 minutes.

Buring Safari

via ImAHumanInbox

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Vodka Vista

Originally uploaded by Kim Pallister.
One of the selections of free beverages here at Microsoft is "Talking Rain", a carbonated & flavored soda water. They are quite good.

A couple weeks ago, the green ones (lemon-lime) started showing up in the fridge with Windows Vista logo's on the can. I guess because we buy a lot of their drinks? I dunno.

Anyhow, last week, someone brought in a couple *ahem* let's call them 'beverage supplements', which led me to invent what I've labelled the "Vodka Vista"
- 1 1/2 vodka
- 6 ounces Vista-themed Talking Rain

I'm documenting this here just in case it turns out to be the very first MS-specific cocktail :-)

Le Frigo est Kaput!

Around the house here, I have a saying, "Nothing is ever easy". By this I mean that any 'quick job' that needs doing undoubtedly turns into a major endeavor. I was proven correct once again this week.

When we bought this house, we sold our fridge because this house came with one that was a particular size to fit into the space carved out for it amongst the cabinetry. A little shorter and more shallow than the average fridge, plus there's a countertop right across from it, so single-door is not an option. Needs to be french-door style.

Anyhoo. Couple weeks back, the fridge starts to die. Pull it out to look at it, and the coolant/radiator grid on teh back is corroded in a number of places and, long story short, fixing it is not worth the trouble. So we make the call to buy a new one.

Look around online and in-person at a bunch of stores, for something that fits our criteria (particular depth & height, stainless or black finish, french doors) with no luck.

Finally decide to do a little cabinet modding. If I cut the shelf above the fridge by about 2 inches, move it up, re-router the bevelled edge on the cabinet doors, then I can clear the standard height for most fridges.

We end up finding ONE fridge that fits the bill. Surprise surprise, it's among the highest priced ones at the local sears. I am not looking forward to next month's visa bill.

They were delivering Friday, so Thursday night I needed to take the shelf out. Of course, nothing is ever easy. First, I discover that the section I need to cut out (a) has a corner that I can't get to with ANY of my power saws (jig, circular, router), and (b) has wiring running up through the back of the cabinetry. Sure, I could have cut the breaker, but where's the fun in that. All that turned a 30 minute job into a 2hr job, as I had to *carefully* hand-saw out a section while being careful not to cut into the power running behind it..

Then I pull the fridge out. It's got a water hookup (for icemaker), and I expect to see a shut off valve by the wall. Nope. The line goes straight into the floor. So I need to find out where it goes. So at like midnight on thursday, I'm off into the crawlspace under the house, crawling around on my belly pulling insulation out to find where this line pops through. I find it, and trace it across to where it's hooked up. There's a shut off there, but I've lost another half our, and am now covered in fiberglass dust (which sucks, btw).

Anyhow, fridge is in place now, but I still have the cabinet doors and shelf to re-work and replace.

Should be a pretty quick job though...

Think before you sign

Originally uploaded by Kim Pallister.
I saw this on a truck this week. It's AAA as in the dudes that show up with roadside service when you forget to fill your tank. This is a service truck they have JUST for people with dead batteries. Thus, "AAA Batteries Delivered and Installed".

Perhaps just me, but my first thought was "how on earth does someone make money doing delivery and installation of penlight batteries into people's FM radios?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Animator vs Animation

Via JayIsGames, I found this nifty little flash animation. It's not a game, but wouldn't it be great if it was? Your game characters fighting against your control mechanisms. An uprising against the player. Nifty idea, I think.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Kutaragi crack smokin' continues

Gamasutra has a snippet of quotes from Sony's Kutaragi.

Ignoring the obvious flaws with the build-to-order quote, I enjoyed this one:

According to him the PlayStation 3 will launch with over ten titles on day one.“In the 20 years I’ve worked in the gaming industry, I have never seen so many titles in the playable phase,” he said. “The world has obviously underestimated our progress in software development. It’s likely that many shook their heads in disbelief at seeing the large number of titles actually working before their eyes.”

Umm. ten titles on day one, and "never seen so many titles in the playable phase"? OK, I know that launch is five months off, but didn't PS2 have a launch portfolio of 22 titles? Surely many shook their heads in disbeleif then too?

I shake my head in disbeleif every time he speaks to the press!

In the "why didn't I think of that" dept.

This is one of those ideas that seems stupid at first. Then the more you think about it, the more obvious it's brilliance.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Detox clinic opens for Videogame Addicts

The world's first "detox" clinic for video game addicts opens... (cue drumroll_of_+1_irony) Amsterdam.

*Sigh* They aren't really TOXIC, are they?

Thanks to Marie-Jo for the link.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Please don't be edible!

Adam posts some photos from China, including a poorly translated sign.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Thai Coconut Chicken Recipe

Since Jim asked, here's the recipe for the chicken I did yesterday.

Loosely based off of one recipe in Steve Raichlen's Beer Can Chicken book, which is an AWESOME cookbook. If you own a BBQ, you need this book.

Anyhow, here goes:

You'll need:
1 whole chicken (fryer or roaster)
3/4 cup peanut butter
1 can coconut milk (used for cooking, for basting, for sauce, and for the rub)
1 can beer (ok, soda pop can will do). Regular size! sorry Guiness fans.
Fresh ginger, shallots, garlic (4 cloves), lime, lemon grass, cilantro
2 thai chilies, or serano or jalapenos.
brown sugar, salt, pepper, coriander
Vegetable oil
About 1 hr to prep and 1.5 hrs to cook.

1. Make the rub paste:

  • In a small bowl (or mortar/pestle):
  • Mix 1 tbsp each of coriander, salt, pepper, brown sugar
  • Add 2 cloves garlic (finely minced), 2 tbsp minced cilantro, 1tbsp minced ginger
  • Add a little shot each of veg oil and coconut milk
  • Mash it up with a pestle or fork into a paste you'll later spread on the chicken

2. Prep baste solution:

  • in small bowl, put 1/4 cup coconut milk, juice of 1/4 of a lime, and a spoonful of the paste from (1) above. Mix and let sit.

3. Prep chicken:

  • Remove giblets (if you are like me, then cook these separately in foil - feed to dog. Makes for happy dog)
  • rinse bird inside and out with cold water. Dry off with paper towel
  • spread remaining paste from (1) all over bird - inside and out
  • Sit bird in a bowl, covered, and put her in the fridge for an hour.
  • Empty beer into glass. Drink beer. Contemplate the chicken's existence, and whether she anticipated being voilated posthumously such as you are about to do. Contemplate this for an hour. Or, go play Geometry Wars for an hour. It's up to you.
  • Rinse can out, poke a couple extra holes around the top rim, pour in 3/4 cup of coconut milk and juice of a 1/4 lime. Stick a couple stalks of lemon grass in teh can.
  • Take bird out and mount her on the can. If you've never done a beercan chicken before, she should look like this.
  • Cook on indirect heat (i.e. don't light the side of the grill under her, light the other side, and then cover - you are going more for 'oven' than grill) for 90 minutes to 110 minutes, depending on size of bird. check with thermometer starting at 90 minutes.
  • baste every ~10 minutes, with the solution created in (2) starting at 45 minutes
4. Make Sauce
  • Dice the 2 peppers, 2 cloves garlic, 1 tbs ginger, 2-3 shallots
  • In a deep frypan or wok, heat a little oil, fry the above ingedients until brown
  • Add remaining coconut milk (should be about 1/2 to 3/4 cup)
  • Add 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • Add juice of 1/2 lime
  • heat on low heat for 5-10 minutes while stirring. Should make a very thick sauce
  • Remove, place in bowl, let cool

5. Serve it up

  • Remove bird from grill. Make sure guests see bird in her provocative can-mounted state.
  • carefully remove can - it's filled with hot coconut milk that can burn you, so be careful
  • Carve up chicken, serve with sauce on the side
  • Rice is a good side dish, because it's a vehicle for the sauce, which is yummy and people will want to polish off.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Back home

Apologies for the lack of posting over the past few days. I was in sunny (very sunny. and hot!) Phoenix Arizona for our group's annual morale trip.

Alisa's parents came to town and watched the kids while she and I spent 3 days and nights at the Pointe South Mountain Resort, where we did... NOTHING! Which was very good for morale, IMHO!

Some highlights:

  • Great time hangin' with the casual games group, late night drinking and pool dippin'
  • Had an awesome conversation with some of the folks on the India team (who were in Seattle for business and got to tag this trip onto their itinerary). Was a pleasure meeting Sumit Mehra in person. Sumit and I exchanged some blog commentary before I joined casual games and before he joined MS. Now we both work for MS Casual Games. Small world! Anyhow, we had a great conversation about the growing games scene (both playing, & development) in India. I hope to do a lengthy post about the subject of that conversation, when I have more time.
  • Based on Clint's glowing write-up, I picked up Alan Moore's Watchmen, and tore through it while relaxing poolside. It really is good. I'd been meaning for a while to pick up a graphic novel/comic, not having read any for 20+ years, but didn't know where to start.

Today I spent the day running errands and cooking a very yummy thai coconut-peanut chicken on the Bar-B-Q (like a beer can chicken, but with a can of coconut milk. Yum! Tonight just a quick post or two before catching up on work.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Innovation in Casual Games

I don't usually plug Microsoft's stuff too much here in my blog, but I'm going to make an exception.

People rant a lot about innovation in casual games, or more accurately, the lack thereof.

Well, our first party casual games group, Carbonated Games, has done something pretty interesting. They've added "digital tells" to their online Texas Hold'em game. has a review and link to the game here.

The idea is that things other players might do (check their cards, check how much cash they or their opponents have left, etc) might give some hint as to behavior or changes in behavior over time.

Anyhow, I think it's innovative, so I'm tooting the MS horn!

McActivist McPrank!

From this article on Gamasutra, it sounds like there has been some interesting activist pranksterism afoot.

At the Serious Games Summit recently, a Strategic Marketing Manager for McDonalds, who headed up a group developing games/sims for training new management employees and the like, gave a talk on the sim they developed.

In the talk, he described how the sim they developed led them to conclude that McDonald's current business practices lead to disaster on a number of fronts (ecological, environmental, etc). The sim helped them determine new business practices that would be required (more eco-friendly, but less profitable). Then, when execs refused to listen to the sim's recommendations, this marketing-manager-with-a-consience decided to go public, starting with this conference in europe.

Hmm... something smells McFilet-o-fishy, (even though some were on the verge of buying it?).

Of course, this person did not work for mcdonalds at all, and this was part of a hoax to draw attention to McD's practices. Interesting to see such protests happening in games-land.

Gamasutra points out that the website of the supposed McDonald's games group is registered in Italy, as is Molleindustria, developers of the McDonald's game I blogged about a while back. Coincidence? I doubt it.

[BTW, if you've got some time to kill, Molleindustria has some very *ahem* interesting games on their site, including a game where you play a woman faking an orgasm (difficult to do given the bespectacled Itali-toon character you interact with), and a game called Queerpower: Welcome to Queerland, who's theme you can probably guess by the subtitle, in case the title wasn't enough]

Sunday, June 4, 2006

Shanghai Adventures!

Adam, a former co-worker at Intel, is doing a work stint for a few months in Shanghai and has begun blogging it.

Adam's smart as a whip and always quite observant of the everyday in ways many aren't. I'm hoping he has time to blog lots of day-to-day life there from a westerner's perspective.

[Yes, Adam, I just set high expectations. Now run along and blog interesting things :-) ]

You get more out of "Ultimate Chicken"

On the difficulty of naming products for international markets.

Freetar Hero

Anton Struyk is my new hero.

Not sure if anyone's tried this with the USB PS2 controller adapters yet...

Founding fathers

Alan Kotok passed away.

He was part of the group of people at MIT in the 50's that started this nifty little hobby we all enjoy.

Rough Day

Had to have one of my dogs, Buddy, put down today. Buddy'd been with us for 10 or 11 years, since we were in Montreal.

He was getting old and suffering somewhat from a variety of ailments. Arthritic (aggravated by two knee surgeries when he was younger), blind in one eye, a tumor on his gum, etc, etc. The kicker, however was that he was getting a bit senile and had spells where he was getting quite aggressive with us. We were worried that if it happened with the kids, it could be quite serious. That he was increasingly becoming confused about exactly where "indoors" and "outdoors" was when it was time to pee, well, that didn't help any either.

Anyhow, I took him this afternoon and that's that.

I rented "Grandma's Boy" on recommendation of a couple friends. It's got it's funny moments. I didn't think it's portrayal of game developers & testers to be too accurate, but it's portrayals of pot dealers was right on the money! (At least those I crossed paths with, back in the days of my youth).

Saturday, June 3, 2006

Play Spec Symposium

Only a Game has an interesting series of posts (starting here, then here, here, and here) where contributors are posting, and then debating, analysis of existing games, breaking them down to their root 'verbs' and 'nouns'.

It's interesting as multiple authors have different takes on it (e.g. some games are distilled down to a paragraph, others to multiple pages) and also the variety of games analyzed. He proposed 'shooters' but this has been taken to include everything from Doom to Thief to Breakout.

Some interesting debate is going on about verbs and context that makes it a good read.

Le Cirque

A few weeks ago I was driving through Redmond and saw a big colored tent had been erected in Marymoore park.

"Hmm... that looks like a Cirque tent" I thought. Sure enough, it was. Alisa and I bought tickets and went last night.

Varekai was my 8th Cirque show (I've also seen Mystere twice, O, Saltimbanco twice, Alegria, and Dralion).

There's no such thing as a poor Cirque show. They are all awesome. Mystere is still my favorite, with O perhaps being the most impressive from a technical aspect. Varekai was on par with Alegria or Dralion. An impressive, quality production, but I wasn't moved like I had been by some of their best performances.

That being said, every time I see them I leave with a renewed appreciation for performers of all kinds and their craft.

* An added note: If you ever go to see one of their shows, try to get good seats, but don't sweat it too much, none of their venues is that large. Also, if you are going to see a show for the second time, just try to sit somewhere different - you'll see many things you may have missed and it'll seem fresh.

* Another note: Is it an unwritten rule that every one of their shows must contain at least one super homoerotic act? What's with that?

Friday, June 2, 2006

10 Things I Hate About Commandments

Funny! Thanks to GameTycoon for the link!

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Solo'ing a 40 man raid

OK, I'm not a WoW fan, as I've said before. Still, this story about one man's plans to control 40 instanced characters at once (on 40 PC's running 40 purchased copies of WoW) in order to solo a 40-man raid, is really awesome.


Carnival of Gamers #15: Hard Times Besiege the Midway

Carnival of Gamers #15:

Hard Times Besiege the Midway

I tells ya, ladies and gents, it's hard times for us carnies. The hard work of scratching out a livin' barely puts food on the table and liquor into the bearded lady as it is, let alone when there's competition.

And competition there was this month, ya see! A gen-U-wine *CIRCUS* done come to town, and as much as our little dog'n'pony show has to offer, it's hard to compete with an honest-to-goodness three-ring bigtop circus show. Tho'if ya ask me, Eee-three ain't much of a name for a circus. They'd clean up with a better name like "Uncle Miyamoto's Travelling Articulation and Gesticulation Extravaganza and Medicine Show" or sumthin less simple!

But the show must go on! Circus or no, our little carnival can give folks a show they'll not soon forget!

Ladies and Gents! Children of All Ages! Step right up and get yer tickets, for we're about to get this carnival underway, and you don't want to miss out!

Reports from the Circus

What's that, kid? You'd rather be at the Circus? Bah! Dimples over here has been himself, and he can tell ya it's hardly worth goin' to. Ain't that right Dimples?

That's right! But don't take my word for it, just as Geeks on Stun, who'll tell you why they think E3 sucked!

I done seen it myself in the center ring - two eight hunnert pound gorillas beatin each other to death while a small chimp waving one o'them bones like that ‘2001’ space movie danced around them laughin'.

Before the fight kicked off, Shane at Aeropause measured up the competition - as in physically measured it.

Matt at Curmudgeon Gamer thinks the chimp won! He also thinks the gorilla with the big S on it's back lost a pet duck. Want to judge for yourself? No problem, ladies and gents, Matt once again comes through and will be happy to give you a demonstration of his handy Console-Price-Time-Machine-Compare-o-Matic, or his sure-to-please-the-wife Console-Profit-Calculatron. Both are yours to keep for a small fee on your way out at the concession stand.

It's wasn't all bad though! Clint at Click Nothing points us to the best thing to come out of E3: A movin' picture show with 4 wizards of game design!

And finally, Kurt at SiliconEra cleaned up after the elephants, gorillas and bears, and reminds us what we might have missed while we were riveted on the center ring.

But enough about the Circus! You came here to see OUR carnival, so let's get on with it!

Fightin' Words

First up, we've got fights of our own: head on over to the mud wrestlin pit, where Gianfranco at GBGames is giving Roger Ebert work over.

Just beyond that, a Rampant Coyote beleives that Warren Spector wants him and other indie game devs to "Forget it!". Personally, I think he's being a little harsh, but this carny doesn't get paid enough to go near a rampant coyote, so judge for yourself.

Step Right up, win a prize

Meanwhile, on the Marketing Midway, there's plenty of things to gander at:

There's Corvus at the Midway entrance, yelling at the marketeers about how they are screwin' up games.

Matt (that guy sure gets around for a Curmudgeon Gamer!) chimes in on why the games may not be as expensive as you might think.

Everybody’s Favorite: The Freak Show!

Josh from Multiple Mentality points us to… the horrible offspring of two media: DDR comes to TV.

The Girlie Show!

No carnival would be complete without one! And to show that we really can span the spectrum, we have everything from Richard’s Online Journal, who, with tongue firmly in check, encourages press and bloggers to "be a warrior for righteousness", and keep writing those "girls in games" articles; all the way to Josh at Multiple Mentality, who, as though to add balance to the force, discusses Boob Physics .

There’s even Politics!

For you high-falutin’, thinkin’ types, there’s even more political fare to ponder at the carnival.

Kotaku points out a controversial Iranian-developed, Anti-US, nuclear defense game. It’s the other side of the coin to an “America’s Army”.

And speaking of America’s Army, Alice at Wonderland points out another controversial piece: An anti-war, in-game protest in Americas Army.

Designing and Running your own Games

As if all of that weren’t enough, we’re also giving a series of lectures here at the carnival, all talking about how to build your own rides and games:

Raph, Theorist of Fun, points us to a Sodoku design parody and questions whether it's actually good design.
Heartless Gamer discusses Character Creation on MMORPGs. Amy, amongst her Musings of a Social Architect, muses about social interaction, and it trumping pretty screenshots.Jamie at GameDevBlog (how can you not visit a blog with a name like that?) takes the law into his own hands, by naming it that is. Josh at Multiple Mentality expresses thoughts on boss battles, as does Tobolds, in a different kind of way.

Philip at Crimson Crux posts thoughts on the best gaming engine ever, and while you may agree or disagree, you’ll at least give some thought as to what constitutes “best”.

Not to leave any section of the carnival unattended, Matt at Curmudgeon Gamer is back, this time asking “Is GoldFarming really so bad?”. Note, however, that most of his commentary centers around WoW. Joi Ito, in the meantime, blogs about a conversation with Rob Pardo (Wow's Lead Designer) about WoW's design and how among other things, it was design to minimize impact of farmers.
Finally, Jason at Unfettered Blather, reminds us that of course, Design is the Easy Part.

Back at the Ticket Office

At the end of the day, there’s a lot to be seen and heard in the carnival, and a lot of things to help earn our wages, but someone’s got to pay up so that we can keep the rides running and the bearded lady well groomed. Along those lines, Raph has an interesting take on the “should game rentals be banned" argument that resurfaces in the industry. And from the player’s perspective, Mark at Intelligent Drone weighs in on the whole time-vs-money investment of players

That’s it folks! Carnival’s over. Please visit the concession stands on your way out, and buy something for the folks at home.

Next month’s carnival host will be announced soon. Be sure to visit carnival headquarters to find out, and make your submissions!