Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Prince of Persia original reference footage

OK, definitely among the top 5 coolest things happening on the internet:

Prince of Persia Animation Reference 1985 from jordan mechner on Vimeo.

"Jordan Mechner, creator of the original Prince of Persia, has been posting his original development diary entries to his official blog to coincide with the exact date they were written 23 years ago. Each post is a treasure for fans of the games, but the October 20th entry is particularly special: it contains the animation reference video for the Prince Mechner shot in the Reader's Digest parking lot in 1985, using his kid brother as a model."

I viewed it before reading the above blurb, and thought it was someone imitating PoP and doing a good job. Now I get why. So awesome.

Another big game, another set of reviews questioned

Games journos are calling attention to themselves again and questioning the value of game reviews that are rushed to print in order to scoop the competition.

We saw a rash of this conversation around the GTA4 release. As part of that, it was implied that the game's publisher further egged it on by incenting higher review scores by restricting allocation of pre-release copies of the game, etc.

This time around, it's reviews of Little Big Planet. The games servers were down for a while, so arguably the reviewers were reviewing the game without looking at some of it's most important features.

Kotaku discusses the topic here, once again showing that the Brians are capable of seeing the big picture & implications.

[Kotaku's serious side aside, am I the only one that thinks that their renaming Epic's Cliffy B to "Dude Huge" is one of the funniest things on the intertubes?]

Heavy Rain (of Incentives)

dIn an interview up on, Heavy Rain developer Quantic Dream's CEO Guillaume De Fondaumiere makes some comments on the effects that Quebec's game development incentives had on the French games industry:

[referring to the French games industry downturn from 2000 through 2005]
"...we've been hit by the distortion of competition - primarily from Canada, from Montreal, which as you know is a French-speaking province. The fact that they created a tax credit worth almost 50 per cent, this has had a big impact in France, and a lot of our creators, developers and programmers went to Canada, so I think we lost more than half of the community to Montreal in those days."

He later goes on to say that France's institution of a similar - but smaller - system helped stem the bleeding.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

$38M Bust in Korean MMO laundering case

"...Korean police arrested a group responsible for laundering money generated by CHinese gold farming from Korea back to the mainland. Over 18 months, the group wired $38M from Korea to a Hong Kong paper company [ed. Mildly ironic] as payments for purchases." (link)

As Raph concisely puts it "...and where it happens on large scales, regulation cannot be far behind."

Friday, October 24, 2008


More legal precendents being set in MMO's/Virtual worlds:

1. Tokyo woman jailed for logging into husband's Maple Story account and killing his avatar (link). I wonder: If she was a noob and did this accidentally, would his have been VW manslaughter?

2. Dutch teens convicted of VW theft after logging into Runescape and roughing him up and taking his virtual items (link). 

The latter of these is particularly interesting. If the game allows "roughing up", then hasn't the victim here subscribed to a PvP portion of the game/world? If not, how did it happen. If so, then hasn't he opted to allow this kind of thing to happen? Seems like if a hockey player were suing for getting checked.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Please stop pouring viagra in the fanboys' mountain dew!

I'm torn.

While I find the provocative pix over on this Kotaku post as, err, interesting as the next fellow, I'm also frustrated by the fuel this throws on the embers of the Jade Raymond fire.

The games industry & culture is still rife with a lot of sexism. It's a factor in attracting more of the fairer gender to the business, which is a factor in making games that appeal to them, etc.

[Of course, there's a difference with the Jade Raymond thing in that Jade did nothing to fan the flames so to speak, and Grace Kim arguably is inviting some of the commentary, or at least playing to the stereotype. Another difference of course is that Ms Kim was in PR, and we all know PR people are hired for their looks anyway. Ha! I kid! I kid!]

Gabe & Tycho make a good point...

Areae now Metaplace, gets more money

Congrats to Raph and company for closing their series B round for 6.7M.

Among the investors is Marc Andreesen, which I view as - at least in this case - a 'smarter than the average bear' investor. His take on 'levels of internet platforms' which I previously blogged, would class Metaplace as a 'level 3 platform'. I view this as a very strong endorsement of Metaplace. 

Go Raph!

I can hear the future calling...

... and it speaks silently.

More or less equivalent to where desktop voice recognition was ~15 years ago. 


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

In the "truth is stranger than fiction" department...

[alternative title: Great Simultaneous High and Low Moments in Gaming: Part 7]

PS3 downloadable fun-with-ragdoll-physics title Pain is adding a celebrity appearance in the form of... The Hoff. Trailer complete with Hasselhoff doing a cover of Culture Club's Do You Really Want To Hurt Me can be found here.

Yes Hoff. Yes we do.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Count the monitors

French-canadian news clip on day traders playing the current market volatility. The guy in the red sweatshirt is my buddy Dave.

For those of us in tech, it's fun to watch just to see the crazy multi-mon goodness. I think the biggest setup I spotted was 14 monitors plus a TV. 

iPhone Games Market: Promised Land or Cesspit?

While at TGS, I had a lot of hallway & dinner conversations about iPhone games, with people weighing in on whether the iPhone Appstore was the promised land (a la XBLA circa 2005) or whether it was going to rapidly turn into something less than that.

Some thougts on the subject:
  • The fact that the Appstore was not part of the initial design of iTunes is apparent. There are some fundamental features you would want to enable here that are lacking. Most significant of these is a "Try'n'Buy" mode which right now developers are implementing by shipping two versions of their games, which is a broken experience. Other examples include couponing, gifting, friend invites, discounting, retail point-of-sale cards, on-deck pre-installs, etc. (some of these, like gifting and friend invites, are going to become especially important when you look at the marketing challenges which I discuss below)
  • Two different people involved in the business of iPhone games told me that "Try'n'Buy models actually often result in people NOT buying the games". This may be true, but the opposite means that the customer has made a purchase he/she will regret, and will be more reluctant next time. If it's good product, let them see it and try it. Fooling them into buying it is a loser strategy.
  • The "open" policy of letting developers put anything up on the store (vs, say, XBLA's approval process) is good for a number of reasons, but it has implications:
  • The store is CROWDED. Even more than XBLA, the responsibility of getting your app noticed falls on the developer. Crossing your fingers and hoping to make the "featured" page or the "top 25"page is not a strategy.
  • The quality level is highly variable, and the long-term effects this is going to have on the customer impression of the store is TBD. My guess is that over time, there's going to be negative perception for this reason, and Apple's going to start reeling it in (either by pushing low-quality titles to the 'back shelf', or pulling them off altogether).
  • We are going to start hearing questions about transparency. For example, if the Featured page is a big driver, then how does something get featured? Can people buy their way onto that page? Maybe not today, but the pressure will be there to do so going forward.
  • An additional driver for transparency will be that some developers will choose to 'spend their way out of the clouds' in terms of development budgets, quality, etc. If they do so, they are going to want to know BEFORE they develop their titles, if they are going to be allowed to ship. This is especially true for apps that might be viewed as conflicting with Apple's business model or on-deck apps, but also true for games.
All in all, I think some of the shine is going to come off the apple, but that it's definitely a compelling platform and has reached critical mass as a platform that it's here to stay for developers. 

I don't think developers should delude themselves though. This is rapidly going to become an even more crowded space in which quality titles are going to be expected, and in which the challenge will be in overcoming obscurity - which you can read as "developers need to do their own marketing and they need to be good at it". Alternatively, they an rely on a publisher to do that marketing for them, which is one of the reasons that a publisher business makes sense in this space (Ngmoco, for example, was an early entrant into this space).

[Speaking of Ngmoco, they've announced their first couple titles, and while I'll reserve judgement on Maze Finger and Topple, I will say that Rolando, an innovative platformer using both accelerometer and touchscreen, looks awesome. Trailer here]

Last thought: On the subject of marketing, several folks I spoke with were in agreement that devs/pubs need to do their own marketing outside of the Appstore e-tail placement. However, there was some varied opinion on what that marketing should entail. Several folks I spoke to were of the "viral" mindset. (i.e. you do it on facebook and myspace and via mechanisms incouraging friends to join mail lists and such). There wasn't much excitement around traditional mechanisms like, say, print ads. On the other hand, if you think about it, this is a very interesting marketing problem. The iPhone customer, I'd guess, has a widely varied demographic, is affluent (they aren't cheap), and there may not be one answer to he question of how to reach them. Maybe print ads make sense, but if so, where? Wired? Forbes? Tiger Beat?. Maybe do something at retail, but where? Target? AT&T stores? Starbucks? Maybe coupons/invites in your cell phone bill? Will be interesting to see what turns out to be successful here.

Monday, October 13, 2008


DSC_0058, originally uploaded by Kim Pallister.

B-day cake engineered by ambitious spouse!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

TGS '08 tidbits

Just flew back from TGS yesterday morning and it was straight off to the twins b-day party, so I was a little messed up and still have a ton to catch up on. Will post pix of Tom's awesome R2 cake later.

Overall the show is down attendance-wise (at least the industry piece of it, public day numbers look like they were even bigger).

PC Gaming presence was worse than ever, with most PC games being found in the anemic PC-online section of the show, which showed a number of fat-client MMOs and VW's, and many more flash-based versions of the same. 

However, if you dug below the surface, you realized that many of the big titles/franchises have PC SKU's, and there's still some PC action going on. Which jived much better with what I saw in Akihabara on Saturday, with many high-end gaming rigs, graphics cards, and point-of-sale displays featuring games like Monster Hunter, which is huge in Japan.

Thursday after the show I went to a big developer get-together for Tokyo-based expat gamedev community which normally swells when TGS is going on. Got to hang and talk shop with many friends including Simon, Jane, Casey and others. Lots of interesting conversation which I might have some future posts about if given the time.

Friday was dinner with Alice, Cory, Aleks, and Ben (oh! Just realized it was an all-blogger dinner!). Food was yummy and conversation also good, though after the 2nd day of the show and a few bottles of saki, bedtime came early.

Best looking game of the show, IMHO was still Little Big Planet (like last year), it's definitely a platform game-changer. 

Best game of the show was We Ski and Snowboard for the Wii. This'll finally get me to buy a Wii and a Wii fit to boot. I didn't try skiing, but they *nailed* snowboarding. If you think about it, it maps very well to a balance board, as all you are doing is leaning heel-to-toe when snowboarding at a good clip. Here I am giving it a go and refusing to get off and give Aleks a turn. (The person before me refused to get off too. a good sign!)

More notes when I get some time, but in the meantime, what I hope to make a recurring feature: 

The 5 worst (and therefore best) named games of TGS!

5. Anything Gundam. Because there are too many and they all bleed together after a while.

4. Bloom blocks. Because it sounds a little too similar to a certain popular Wii title from a certain Hollywood director. Too be fair, it was a student project, did involve blocks that bloomed, and was one of the better games of TGS, at least in terms of a really snappy satisfying core game mechanic. The casual industry will surely rip it off in short order :-)

3. Worthless Story. At least they are honest about it.

2. Aero Afro. A beat-match ghetto fighting game where disco dudes fly over an urban landscape, duking it out with bad-ass beats!

1. A lot of Broccoli. Because it's not just broccoli. It's a LOT of broccoli! And that's something my mom told me was good for me. And because their graphic is awesome.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The FUTURE is here!

photo.jpg, originally uploaded by Kim Pallister.

At the airport today, I picked up the October Esquire because it's the one with the E-Ink cover!

I was disappointed to learn it wasn't the whole cover, but rather a ~4x3" rectangle (and another inside with a Ford ad), but still, it's awesome.

Financial Crisis Explained

This is not just a great explanation of the current financial crisis. It's also a great example of how expertise in a subject and a well suited metaphor can make for a powerful presentation.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Best MAME setup *ever*

Years ago, (*brag*... way before it was trendy), in like 1999 or so,  I built my own MAME arcade cabinet conversion. Pic here.

Since then, I've seen a bunch of people do home arcade machine setups, either as arcade cabinets or as coffee tables and the like.

However, this one, built into a bar, is full of The Win. The contest is now over. I can't imagine how anyone will top it, short of perhaps building it into Angelina Jolie's backside or something. :-)

(Seriously though, it could be improved. Trackball, spinner, for starters. Rotatable monitor is another idea)

(Thanks Alice!)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Another entrant in the UGC games race

Mashable has an interview up with the folks from Gendai Games who are the developers of Game Salad, another entrant to the drag'n'drop user created games space (e.g. like gamebrix and others).

The main thing that makes this unique compared to other offerings is that it's primarily targeted at Mac and iphone, (including multi-touch & accelerometer support). Mac-only for now, which sounds niche, but is a nice niche to go after, vs the crowded PC space.

On the negative side, from what little text is on the page, it sounds like it's mainly dragging your pix and such onto game templates, vs editing game rules and the like. I could be wrong though.

As an aside, someone needs to define a bunch of terminology for this space. There's a very wide spectrum from GameSalad to GameBrix to Metaplace to XNA. There are a bunch of differences including how much the seatbelts come off for the developer, the business model(s), open-vs-closedness, etc.