Friday, September 30, 2005


We're headed to Corpus Christi for the weekend. They have an excellent aquarium for Eli 4.1 to see and some nice beaches. I grew up about ten miles away in a town called Portland, so I get to take Eli by the house where I grew up.

Originally, this trip was going to be with our cool ex-neighbors Mark and Colleen and their kids, but it's impossible to coordinate trips with weekends and birthdays and whatever, so they unfortunately couldn't come with us. We thought about asking my Mom, but she's going on her own trip with my sister this weekend. Then Gloria thought about her other friends who have kids, but they're booked for months in advance.

If you're getting the idea that Gloria desperately wanted to talk to another adult besides me on this trip, advance three squares and draw another card. Apparently, asking open-ended, obscure questions every half hour and then staring out the window in thought is less entertaining in real life than it is in the movies. I'm not much of a chit or a chatter.

Yesterday, she was standing at the kitchen counter, looking all wistful, and she said (for about the fifth time this week) "I just wish we could have had another couple come along on the trip." Then she pauses and says "Oh, but I'm really happy that we're going."

"Right," I said. "Hey, I'll find somebody to go with us. No problem." Then I walked off to my study.

Hotmail can be a very, very convenient tool.

Thirty minutes later, was online and ready to send mail. To Gloria.
Corpus Christi Trip: Interested
I saw your listing on Craigslist for the trip to Corpus Christi this weekend. I live in San Antonio and I'm defintely interested. I have an aunt down there I'd like to see and I don't have transportation down there. Maybe your family could pick me up in San Antonio on the way down. I hope the spot's still available and I'll wait to hear from you.


"WHAT did you do?" Right on schedule.

"What?" I asked.

"YOU set up a Hotmail account and sent me that e-mail."

"What e-mail?" Must keep straight face.

"The E-MAIL from the Leonard person about our trip. He said he read about it on Craigslist!"

"Yeah, well I did do that. I put in an ad today to find somebody to go with us."

"You did not."

"Craigslist is very easy to use. I'd expect to get several more responses by the end of the day."

"Arrgghh! You did not."

"Does he sound nice?"

"Does who sound nice?"


"Arrgghhh! I don't believe you."

Of course you don't--mostly. She walked off and I managed not to burst out laughing, which should get me some kind of Academy Award nomination.


Slowly walk toward her study, not wanting her to sense my presence. Looking for what she's searching for on the Web. When I'm within a few steps, she turns around and starts minimizing windows on her desktop. All except the one she's trying to hide.


"Craigslist, I see," and at that point I just lose it. I'm practically crying I'm laughing so hard.

"Damn you, damn you, damn you," she says.


Trigonometry: Now With Algebra

I'm late to the party on this news as well, but a professor at the University of New South Wales, Dr Norman Wildberger, has apparently redefined trigonometry in such a way as to remove sines, cosines, and tangents, replacing them with "elementary arithmetic." It's a remarkable intellectual achievement, and it appears to be entirely valid.

Here's the link (via Slashdot):

Oh, and if you want to read some typically funny and esoteric comments from the Slashdotters, look at the comments section below the post at this link:

Piper Jaffray Joins the Fray

Here's an excerpt from Piper Jaffray analysts Anthony Gikas and Stephanie Wissink about projected next-generation hardware sales
Starting with the home hardware, Gikas and Wissink released their sales projections for each system over the next three years. Through 2008, Gikas and Wissink expect Microsoft to sell 19.6 million Xbox 360 units, with the PlayStation 3 and Revolution trailing at 15.5 million and 5 million units, respectively. The estimates for both Sony and Nintendo's consoles are based on late 2006 releases for the systems. But while the PS3 is expected to accelerate quickly and lead all systems with 8.5 million units sold in 2008, the ambitious Revolution is listed as starting slow (500,000 units sold in 2006), and lagging behind its competition with 2 million and 3 million systems moved in 2007 and 2008, respectively.

Gikas and Wissink forecast a modest net increase in console sales, partly due to market cannibalization as the handheld sector catches fire.

I'm not mentioning these numbers because I think they'll be anywhere near accurate. There are so many assumptions and extrapolations that have to be made to create a projection that even a small margin of error on each one can blow the numbers totally out of the water.

There are two things worth noting here, though. First, I think the buzz on the PS3 is turning sour. No analyst six months ago would have given Microsoft any chance of having the largest installed base at the end of 2008, not to mention a lead of twenty percent.

Do I think that's right? No. But I think it's representative of what the investment community is hearing about Sony being behind on the hardware and developers not being pleased with the development environment. And I'm surprised about the developers. I thought Sony would do a much better job of supporting them in the new generation than they did with the PS2.

The second thing worth noting is their line about console sales only "modestly" increasing because handhelds would "catch fire." That's an interesting perspective. What I think calls that into question, though, is how many people buy a handheld instead of a console? I see those as complementary purchases, not mutually exclusive.

Oh, and their estimate of the Revolution only moving half a million units in its launch year is relatively insane. Nintendo could introduce a #2 pencil as their next console, and if they wrote "NINTENDO" on it and trotted out Miyamota to wave at the press conference they'd move more units than that.

Launch Your Own Satellite

I'm late with this item, but I saw a post on Engadget last week that caught me eye, and here's why:
In fact, if you’ve got about $80,000, you can build and launch a satellite, thanks to the CubeSat program from Stanford and California Polytechnic.

That just astounded me. Here's more.

The CubeSat, which its developer calls the Apple II of space exploration, is a two-pound cube that can be built for about $40,000 and launched into low-earth orbit for another $40K.

There you go. That's about the best example of how different our world is than ever before that I've ever seen. Eli 4.1's high school science class could be launching their own satellite for $5,000.

Sure, that's expensive for a high school class, but it's a magnate school.

Yes, I was going to say "magnet" school as a pun, but half of you would have e-mailed me and the other half would have passed out from the pain.

Here's the link (if you click on the CNET link inside the article, you'll also get a picture):


F.E.A.R. We've talked about it before.

I saw the "world-exclusive-review" or whatever the hell they're calling it over at PC Gamer (I'd like to thank the newsstand at Fry's, which had an open copy). It received a 92%, which is no surprise.

I have NEVER seen an "exclusive first" review with a poor score. I probably never will.

What surprised me, though, is a comment the reviewer made about the game's length: ten hours.

TEN hours?

That's five hours shorter than Max Payne 2 (an excellent game), which I thought was the absolute minimum length a game could be and retain credibility. As much as I want to play this game, I doubt that I'm going to spend fifty bucks for ten hours of gameplay.

And this runs very much in the face of what I said this week about games adding more content and getting longer due to competition. This damn game certainly didn't.

I didn't read all of the review, but I can just imagine some of the comments:
"The design of the level is excellent."
"Both enemies featured excellent textures."

What's also frustrating is what they've crammed into the "Director's Edition" DVD. Take a look at this:
--FEAR comic book created by Dark Horse Comics
--"Making of" F.E.A.R. Documentary video
--Developer' s Roundtable Commentary Video
--F.E.A.R Live Action "Declassified" Interviews with Alma
--F.E.A.R. Machinima Episode

Those are excellent extras. Too bad they kind of forgot the game that's supposed to go with it.


Here's something that amazed me (MSNBC):
WASHINGTON - Two female gorillas have been photographed using sticks as tools to get through swampy areas, the first time the apes have been seen doing so in the wild, researchers reported on Thursday.

...Chimpanzees, closely related bonobos and other apes have also been seen using tools in the wild — for instance, to catch termites. And other animals such as crows have been seen using them. But never wild gorillas.

Very cool and here's the link:

Yes, I've always had a crush on Koko.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


Eli 4.1 likes to do scenes on a daily basis.

"Scenes" are dramatic presentations where he assembles some of his 50,000 toys in one area and begins earnestly narrating events as they unfold. Cross-genre drama is his specialty--a T-Rex attacking Buzz Lightyear, for example, or Dora the Explorer joining The Rescue Heroes.

What makes these narrations funny is that he's very aware of continuity errors, and will try to come up with a seemingly plausible explanation for all of them as he tells the rest of the story. What usually results is a rambling five-minute soliloquy that seems to be all one sentence, like listening to a reading of Faulkner with a liberal sprinkling of "toots" and "butts" added.

Yes, I'm working on obtaining an actual transcript.


For our European readers, an excellent article over at about the remarkable wastefulness of Gizmondo executives. You could probably substitute "incompetence" for wastefulness as well. Here's my favorite part:
The report goes on to state that Tamela Sainsbury, the corporate secretary of Gizmondo Europe, was paid nearly $150,000 in base compensation during 2004, plus $83,000 in bonuses. She was also provided with a "luxury automobile" worth $70,000.

And get this! Tamela Sainsbury lives with her partner, Steve Carroll, who is a director of Gizmondo Europe! What a funny old world, you couldn't make it up etc etc.

Classy. Apparently, being a corporate secretary at Gizmondo is quite the gig, although I hear that the after-hours duties can be stomach churning.

And there's much, much more to read about.
Here's the link:

PS3 Notes

Sony had promised for months to have playable PS3 demos at the Tokyo Game Show, but that didn't happen. From
(, here's Sony's odd explanation:
Speaking to Famitsu magazine, Masatsuka Saeki said that Sony could have presented playable demos if wished. However, the decision was taken to use video footage only since TGS marked the first time the PS3 was being shown on Japanese soil.

He went on to explain that Sony wanted consumers to feel the same level of impact that those in the industry experienced on seeing the PS3 trailers at E3. Saeki did concede, however, that allowing visitors to actually play the games would have created more of a buzz.


Like I said, they're behind. Way behind. There are multiple rumors flying around that developers are unhappy with the development environment, the console is a complete bitch to program for, etc. That's not surprising--the PS2 was as well. In the long run, those things might not matter. What it can do, though, is impact both the cost of developing games as well as the completion schedule.

They won't miss the Japanese launch, because they can launch in Japan with unfinished games and people will still line up for miles to buy one, but that won't work nearly as well in the U.S. market. If they actually launch in the U.S. before Christmas next year, I'll be very surprised. And I would be shocked if they launch in Europe before 2007.

Project Gotham Racing 3

I saw a post over at the Digital Sportspage forums ( about some new in-game video footage of Project Gotham Racing 3. It's spectacular.

Remember, even though the footage you see wasn't filmed in HD, it's running in HD. And it's nothing short of insane.

Here's the link:

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Space Rangers 2 Has Been Claimed

That is all. Thank you.

Space Rangers 2: Up For Grabs

DQ reader Court Dimon has Space Rangers 2 and absolutely no time to play it, so he's volunteered to give his lightly-used copy away to one of you lot. First come, first serve--just send me an e-mail.

The Thrilla in Manilla

Saturday is the thirtieth anniversary of the third and final fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, and Tim Graham has written an excellent retrospective on both the fight and the men. Widely regarded as one of the greatest fights in history, the circumstances surrounding the fight were just as interesting.

Here's the link:

Just Sign on the Dotted Line

After watching what must be every episode of Scooby-Doo (Eli 4.1's current video favorite) ever recorded, I feel compelled to ask one question: why do the undead lack agility?

Shouldn't agility, even for the undead, resemble some kind of bell-shaped distribution curve? How is it that the undead, not only in Scooby-Doo but in most films as well, lack statistical variety? I mean, you see these guys walking in films they've all got that stiff-legged, swinging gait, and they're walking about two miles an hour. Nobody walks like that. More to the point, though, even if they did, why would everyone walk like that?

Clearly, this is no accident.

I know how this happens. A guy dies, settles in for a nice dirt nap, then somebody comes knocking at his coffin.

A salesman. Damn, those guys are everywhere.

Yes, I know that you're dead and shouldn't be able to hear the knock, but unless you registered for the Dead Do Not Call list, you'll hear it.

So the salesman pitches all the benefits of being undead--primarily, that you're not dead. And there are plenty of employment opportunities in film and television. So suddenly you're not dead and you have a job.

There are some serious negatives, like getting a shotgun blast to the face twenty-seven takes in a row, but the salesman isn't going to dwell on that, because if he doesn't sign you he's not going to make quota.

Then he pitches training camp, where all the undead go, and he makes it sound like you're joining the freaking NFL or something. Man, does that sound sweet--movie star and athlete.

So you sign. Anybody would.

A week later, you find out that "training camp" exists to teach you a shitty-ass walk that makes you look brain damaged.

Should have read the contract, man. That's why they write them.

Reported Verbatim

Eli's last name is hyphenated. Please remember that.

I'm watching the local news with Gloria last week, and the broadcaster is interviewing local people who have connections to disaster management.

The first interview is with Henry Bigger.

The second interview is with Martin Dick.

Gloria says "I really hope no one in those two families start dating each other."

Greg Costikyan Picks Up a Shovel

I busted Greg Costikyan's chops after his "Burning Down the House" rant at the Game Developer's Conference this year (look in the March 2005 archives if you're interested). I titled the post "The House Can't Burn Down When All You People Do is Cry," and here's one excerpt of what I wrote about Costikyan:'s a lot of self-righteous complaining from a guy who's never, as far as I can tell from his website, had anything to do with an innovative PC game. Ever.

After that GDC rant, Costikyan gained purchase as a kind of self-anointed prophet railing about the game industry. He became a local celebrity for such unforgettable phrases as"Workers must control the means of production", "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others", and "It was a dark and stormy night."

Or something like that.

As a sidebar, George Orwell absolutely kicked ass.

So I wanted to mention that Costikyan today announced that he's stopped being a self-righteous lecturer and has started a company--"Manifesto Games." Here's an excerpt from Gamasutra:
According to Costikyan, the Manifesto Games website, which will launch in early 2006, will offer independently-developed games for sale via direct download, and is intended to be a single place where fans of offbeat and niche games can find "the best of the rest" - the games that the retail channel isn't able to currently support.

Here's a link to the full article:

Good for him. I totally respect that he's going to try to do something to change and improve the industry. Whether he succeeds or fails, he's moved out of the ranting category and into the picking-up-a-shovel-and-digging category. That deserves respect.


From Robot Wisdom Weblog, a link to a story about how sixteenth century anatomical drawings by Leonardo Da Vinci have recently impacted the technique cardiac surgeons use to perform mitral valve repair.

Dude casts a long, long shadow. Here's the link:,,1-2-1801070-2,00.html.

The Future of Gaming Business: In-Game Advertising

DQ reader Malcolm Cox reminded me via e-mail that Planetside already has streaming ads. I wrote about that a while back, but had completely forgotten since then. And since that's a Sony game, I expect Sony to migrate that strategy to as many of its online games as possible.

Here's an interesting e-mail from Michael O'Reilly:
You mentioned that gamers would soon see advertising everywhere in their games. Well, I point you towards NASCAR 2006 from EA. If there was ever a game that justified what you are talking about that's it. I presume the other NASCAR games have been the same way, but this was my first experience with the series. It's an EA exclusive, and tracks are faithfully recreated, adverts along the race track and all.

I didn't know that, but it's a sound business strategy. NASCAR incorporates an incredible amount of advertising, so to use a NASCAR-licensed product as a gateway to jamming all that crap into games makes perfect sense.

I can even see a day when the in-stadium ads are "hot"--when you hit the game's pause button, you'll be able to move an "advertising cursor" on the screen to select an ad, which will then take you to the product's website. And the game publisher will get paid every time you do that.

Science Paparazzi Snap Exclusive Pics of Giant Squid

A live giant squid has been captured on film for the first time. The camera was over 3,000 feet below the surface of the sea, and the story of how they reached that point is pretty amazing. Here's the link.

Oh, and here's an excerpt from the article about a previous attempt that failed:
In 2003, New Zealand marine biologists laid a sex trap.

They ground up some squid gonads, believing that the scent would drive male giant squids wild as the creatures migrated through New Zealand waters.

The hope was that a camera would squirt out the pureed genitals and a passing squid, driven into a sexual frenzy, would then mate with the lens -- a project that, some may be relieved to hear, never came to fruition.

Damn. What a waste. You probably could have sold those giant squid gonads for twenty thousand dollars a pound in Japan.

I don't know about you, but seeing the words "squirt", "pureed genitals", "sexual frenzy", and "mate" in the same paragraph makes me uneasy. It's like the giant squid version of "Showgirls."

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

And One Other Thing...

Well, two, actually.

The first is an e-mail from DQ reader Ted Leiker, who points out a guaranteed ad source in future games: product placement. Here's how he describes it:
In the future I think we'll see such things as rendered cutscenes that are really just animated advertising. For example a licensed athlete in Madden may pull into the parking lot in his H2, get out of the vehicle and we get a closeup of his face wearing Oakley shades and then signing an autograph for a fan who has an Ipod in their ear. Then he asks the fan what tunes he's listening to and the fan tells him the new album by Kanye West. That sort of thing. From there you go to the kickoff.

Absolutely. Some games already use product placement (Splinter Cell, for example), but it's gong to increase at an exponential rate. Think how much money Take-Two could make if they licensed out advertising space and product placement in a Grand Theft Auto game. That will be coming very, very soon.

Oh, and here's another reason why charging $59.95 for games won't last long with the new generation: the used game market. I bet EB and Gamestop are licking their chops, hoping that $59.95 price point lasts as long as possible, because it will make even more people buy used games. So you sell fewer copies on the front end because of the higher price, and a higher percentage of people who actually do buy the game buy a used copy.

Here's another problem with higher game prices: publishers generally aren't trying to sell you one game. EA isn't trying to sell you Madden--they're selling a brand, and if you believe in the brand, you'll buy all the sports games across the EA Sports line. So there's a domino effect when people buy fewer copies of a game because of higher pricing: it's not just that game being affected. It's affecting the likelihood of a consumer buying other, related titles.

It's very difficult to quantify the magnitude of that effect, but I have no doubt that it exists and that it's important.

Chris Crawford Interview

The new issue of The Escapist has a thoughtful interview with Chris Crawford, a brilliant and enigmatic game designer whose tremendous ambition to change the way we play and experience games has turned him into a Sisyphean figure. His latest game has been in development for roughly a decade, and I'm not sure anyone, including Crawford, knows if it will ever be released.

Here's the link:

More on the Future of Gaming

Here are some additional comments on yesterday’s “future of gaming business” column.

First off, I didn’t mention used games. I think the industry finds itself in an awkward position when the largest game retailer in the country (when the Gamestop/EB merger is complete) would rather sell used games than new ones. Ouch.

There’s absolutely no question that selling a used game makes a retailer far, far more profit than selling a new one. Gamestop and EB are basically sustaining their companies through the sale of used games. So here’s the question: is anyone beyond the gaming specialty stores going to adopt this model? That would be the gaming industry’s worst nightmare, if someone like Best Buy starting to sell used games. I know, it seems impossible, but remember, when someone is making easy money, everyone else is going to want in on the deal, and selling used games is easy, easy money compared to selling new ones. The margins are HUGE—there is a ridiculous amount of room to offer more money for used games than EB/Gamestop and still make a tremendous profit.

I don’t know who’s going to go after that, but I promise you someone will.

What does this do? It forces both console and PC game publishers to move to digital distribution. Here’s why digital distribution is heaven for publishers: it kills the used game market. Even without the other efficiencies of digital distribution, that’s a staggering benefit. It will take more than five years for this to all play out, but again, there is too much money to be made for game publishers to ignore. There are all kinds of issues with storage capacity, Internet access, blah blah blah. Lots of issues. But there’s one compelling reason those issues will be resolved: money.

I also didn’t mention Nintendo. In any discussion of the business of gaming, they belong in there somewhere. It’s hard to figure out where with any degree of precision simply because they are, well, strange. In a business sense, however, in spite of their public image as the whacked out wizards of the magic mushroom, I think they’ve done more to commoditize their business model than anyone else in the industry. They understand that the gaming market is highly, highly price sensitive, and instead of trying to drag the market’s price tolerance up, they’ve instead scaled back the development model to be profitable. Yes, I think Nintendo wants to be innovative in a creative sense, but far more importantly, they want to make money, and they are very, very good at knowing how make money. Just look at the original Gameboy as the textbook example of that.

Bizarro Link Collection

A wide-ranging collection of links, not listed in order of perceived importance.

#1: Gabe of Penny Arcade apparently got into some kind of dust-up with Harlan Ellison last weekend at the Foolscap convention. There are several posts about it on the front page here: It's bizarre and interesting reading.

Tomorrow (Wednesday), these will roll off the PA front page, but you should still be able to find them in the archives.

#2: An excellent link from DQ reader Cliff Eyler about evolution and genomic analysis. It's pretty amazing stuff and you can read it here:

#3: Six hundred barrels of buried treasure have been found by a robot on Crusoe Island. Robot, Will Robinson, Robinson Crusoe, insert your joke here. It's ten billion dollars in treasure, by the way, and it's a pretty fascinating story. Here's the link:

#4: Allegedly, the Irish Republican Army has disarmed in "totality." That's certainly a phrase I never expected to hear in my lifetime. I've been trying to read a long history of the I.R.A. and The Troubles for almost a year now, and the conflict is so excruciatingly dense that it's almost beyond comprehension. I read the book for a few days at a time and my head feels like it weighs six tons. I hope this is a significant step toward a longer-term outcome that all sides can accept, even if it's not fully satisfying to anyone.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Future of Gaming

There are two absolutely indisputable facts about the future of gaming.

Indisputable Fact #1: Significantly more people are going to play games and own gaming consoles in the future.
Why is #1 indisputable? Well, it’s just math. Let’s assume that the base of gamers generally consists of an age rage from ten to sixty years old. So what you’re doing, each year, is replacing people who reached age sixty (most of whom don’t play games) with people who have reached age ten (most of whom do play games).

So gaming hasn’t reached its full lifecycle in terms of demographics. I believe it’s fair to say (roughly) that anyone under thirty is much less likely to have been exposed to games as a child. We’re probably only twenty years into that fifty year cycle life cycle, and that means that the installed console base should continue to increase for three more decades. Very simply put, there should over twice as many gamers thirty years from now. If you add in an increasing number of women games, it’s easy to see the gamer base tripling over three decades.

That’s a breathtaking realization.

Indisputable Fact #2: Everybody already knows Indisputable Fact #1.
Everybody’s already had their breath taken away. Well, except me, probably.

Name another entertainment medium that isn’t already tapped out demographically.

There’s not one.

Film, television, music—they’re all tapped out. There will be no tripling of the customer base. If anything, they’re fighting declines in their customer base. And they’re all looking at gaming as the last great growth industry.

The big fish are about to enter the small pond.

What does that mean for existing game publishers? Fierce, fierce competition, far beyond anything they’ve seen up to now. That’s good for us as consumers, but the shakeout for gaming companies is going to be brutal. Some of the bigger players will get bought out (EA by Disney, for example), but many are just going to get wiped out.

Here’s a question, though: is the gaming business really easy money? No. In fact, you could easily envision a scenario where gaming companies are like airlines: everyone uses them, they do huge business, and they almost all lose money. Just because everyone wants something, it doesn’t mean that you can make money supplying it to them.

Wait a minute, you say. The consumer base is going to triple. That’s guaranteed money.

Not so fast, my swarthy friend. Yes, the consumer base is getting bigger, but every single other economic factor is going in the wrong direction, and fast.

To begin with, development costs for next-generation consoles are going to be more expensive. Our new friend Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities estimates the generational increase in development costs as follows:
Playstation: under one million, 6-9 months development time
Playstation 2: $4 million 18-36 months development time
Next-gen: $6-10 million, 24-36 months development time

Those numbers came from his industry report, which he was kind enough to send me. Even at the conservative end of the scale, there’s a projected 50% increase in development costs, and I think that’s fair.

No problem, right? We’ll just increase game prices.

I don’t think so. Sure, the first wave of Xbox 360 titles will sell for $59.95, but there is zero chance that will continue. Maybe it will last for six months, at most, but after that games are going to be $49.95. They’ve been that way for twenty years, more or less, and with the competition between Sony and Microsoft, not to mention the game publishers, does anyone think the industry is going to hold the line at $59.95? It’s just not going to happen.

So, to paraphrase Mel Brooks, with development costs up 50% and game prices steady, somebody needs to go back and sell a shitload of games.

How do you sell more games? Oh, by increasing marketing. That costs more money. But you have to commit that money before the game ships, largely. So when you ship something and it bombs (which happens with a high degree of frequency), you’re eating even more marketing money than before.

You could also add content to your game and make it so fantastically compelling that no one will want to play anything else. Two problems, though. One, that kind of game is going to have a huge budget, and two, if you do succeed, nobody’s buying other games, including yours.

And that, my friends, is the killer when it comes to the gaming industry.

When you buy a movie on DVD, and it’s excellent, you want to see other movies, right? You’re not going to watch that DVD for two hours every day for three months. It’s the same thing with music: you might find an outstanding album, but you’re not going to stop buying other music for months because of it.

Welcome to the gaming business curse. Games provide such a huge amount of content these days, particularly online games, that an increasing number of people play one game exclusively for months at a time. Ouch.

The new generation of consoles is going to be very online friendly, because everyone understands that sustainable and ongoing revenues are potentially far more profitable than “pump and dump,” so to speak. I believe that the number of console gamers who are playing MMORPG’s is going to absolutely soar with the new generation of consoles. Soar. And that’s going to blow some companies up.

Is online gaming my thing? No. Do I understand why so many people love to play MMORPG’s? Sure. There’s always a sense of getting something for my time when I do play an online game. I’m building my character. If the game never ends, then building my character has a sense of permanence that doesn’t really exist in single-player games. That can be very compelling--even compulsive.

Sometimes it’s very difficult to understand the difference between an exception and the future. Blizzard isn’t an exception. They’re the future.

If the console user base is going to expand, the online player base is going to expand as well, and it should actually expand faster. Everyone who plays an online game has been exposed to gaming, by definition, but the inverse is not true.

So if your development costs are up over 50% and your game sales are not, what can you do? Well, here’s the ugly part of the future. Get ready for an onslaught of in-game advertising like you’ve never seen before. At first, it will just be sports games. EA will start adding the authentic billboard signage to every stadium in every single sports game they have, and they’ll pocket a fee from the advertiser for doing so. When that happens, and the industry understands how much EA is making, the floodgates will open. Every first-person shooter in a contemporary setting will have “authentic” advertising within five years.

Sorry about that.

A corollary to all this is that the PC will have a very nice resurgence as a development platform. Not for AAA titles, certainly, but for the hundreds of lower-budget developers who have interesting ideas and can't afford to spend millions developing a game for a next-generation console, the PC will become (once again) a wonderful development platform. And the true bolts out of the blue, the brilliant new talents, will almost all come from PC gaming.

I’ve got more, but I’m beat, so let’s jump cut to the end. What will the business of gaming look like ten years from now? Well, it will be fiercely competitive. Even “short,” tightly-scripted FPS games will have well over thirty hours of content. There will be not one, but three online games with over five million players worldwide. So there will be more people spending more time gaming than ever before, but they will be playing fewer games. Most gaming companies will lose money, just like they do now, but there will always be new companies with deep pockets who want into gaming. The vast majority of them will fail.

And there will be more gamers than ever. We will be having a great time.

Good Grief

As part of a larger article at MSNBC on the Pennsylvania "intelligent design" law, I saw this:
The history of evolution litigation dates back to the famous 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, in which Tennessee biology teacher John T. Scopes was fined $100 for violating a state law that forbade teaching evolution. The Tennessee Supreme Court reversed his conviction on the narrow ground that only a jury trial could impose a fine exceeding $50, and the law was repealed in 1967.

In 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned an Arkansas state law banning the teaching of evolution. And in 1987, it ruled that states may not require public schools to balance evolution lessons by teaching creationism.

What the? ILLEGAL to teach evolution until the late 1960's? Another proud moment in history. Good grief.

Of course, in 1967 there will still sixteen states with laws prohibiting mixed race marriages. And the Supreme Court had to finally declare those laws in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Alabama Senate didn't finally repeal their law until 1999, thirty-two years after the Supreme Court ruled it illegal.

Sometimes our country is very cool. Sometimes it's downright embarrassing.

Full article here:

Revolution and DS Notes

There have been some marginally credible rumors about final specs for the Nintendo Revolution controller floating around in the last week. Here's the info as presented by Ferrago (
...a dual-thread IBM PowerPC 2.5ghz CPU alongside 256 KB of L1 cache and 1 MB of L2 cache. An L3 cache rumour remains unsubstantiated. A physics chip will be in the box, including 32 MB of dedicated RAM, whilst system memory will total 512 MB overall. The graphics chip supplied by ATI is said to be a RN520 600MHz core model, along with 256MB of dedicated RAM.

That's beefier than what was originally supported, which is interesting. And the dedicated PPU is very interesting. I have no idea why Nintendo would even want to put out a box this powerful, though, given that their goal is to have less expensive games that are easier to make.

In other news, I've spent about five hours with the DS, and it's an interesting unit. The touch-screen works far better than I expected it to (although the stylus still feels very tiny) and the control scheme is very intuitive. The screen is bright and attractive, although I would have far preferred one larger screen instead of two smaller ones. In a hardware sense, the only flaw I see is that the volume control is almost impossible adjust when using headphones, because even a tiny movement of the control results in a significant change in volume. It would have been much more effective to have a digital volume control that could be easily accessed via the touch screen. That would lead to precise volume and no accidential bumping of the volume control.

Most difficult for me is the entry into portable world. Games for Nintendo's handhelds have conventions that exist on no other platform--tons of screens of peppy, junior-high dialogue, full of spirt and enthusiasm. If that sort of framework appeals to you, good, but it's never really appealed to me. Reading the literay equivalent of "You are sly and a clever boy. Now you must defeat the Emperor!" on twenty consecutive screens is less than satisfying.

I remember getting Golden Sun for the GBA last year--it was one of the highest rated GBA games ever. I must have gone through a hundred screens of text, and it was all kind of cutesy, and then I was "all kind of" done. It just drove me crazy. Screen after screen after screen of dialogue, all written in a style that does not exist outside the world of Nintendo.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Robot Climber

A private company (LiftPort Group Inc.) has successfully tested a robot climber to a height of 1,000 feet. Their next goal is to reach a mile. The climbers are a very early step toward the final goal of a space elevator. Still a long, long way from that, obviously, but it's interesting research. Here's the link:

An Official Statement

NEW YORK - Talk about keeping it real: Tyra Banks underwent a televised sonogram on her new talk show to prove that her breasts aren’t fake.

“I’m tired of this rumor. It’s something that’s followed me forever,” the supermodel said Tuesday on “The Tyra Banks Show.”

Tell me about it. It's not easy having highly public boobage. The insatiable demands for calendar posings alone have exhausted me. Sure, it wasn't easy to pass up a guest spot in the Gamers With Jobs: Hunks +12 calendar, but some things are more important than celebrity.

So in spite of the enormous pressure being placed upon me by my peers, I will not be undergoing a written sonogram.

Rita Blog from Jason Price

Jason Price of lives in The Woodlands, a northern suburb of Houston. They're staying, and he's started a blog about his experience with Hurricane Rita. Jason's an interesting writer and I think this is worth keeping an eye on. Hopefully, though, their power will hold out, the storm won't do much damage, and this blog will be totally boring.

Here's the link:

Redecorating (part two)

As you'll remember when I totally dropped this story about a week ago, part one consisted of Gloria trying to sneak "art boobies" into our bedroom.

Then came part two. She bought a new floor length mirror for our bedroom. It's apparently unconscionable and actually illegal for a woman to lack a full length mirror. I believe it's for shoe inspection or something. I'm not sure because the information is given out on a "need to know" basis only.

When Gloria hung up the new mirror, she took down the original. Instead of staging it in a disposal or storage area, however, she just leaned it against the wall in our hallway, in the perfect position to force you to look at yourself for about ten feet.

A very, very bad sign.

I waited for a week. It was still there.

"Honey," I said, "Do you want me to take that mirror down to the garage?"

"No," she said. "I'm going to hang it up right there."

"What? Right there?"

"Yes. Why?"

"Oh, no," I said. "Don't you see what you've done?"

"I'm a complete optimist for even asking, but what?" she asked.

"Any time I have my shirt off and walk down that hall, my boobies become art boobies."


"Don't make me look at that," I said.

"You make a convincing argument," she said.

"Worse, what if it turns out I like it? Then I'll start preening half-naked in front of the mirror, flashing my art boobies like Mick Jagger, strutting around like some kind of anexoric rooster. Can you afford to that that chance?"

"In a word--no," she said.

Mirror. Gone.

Lazy 101: Case Study

Before I get started with today's material, let me just mention how disappointed I am in some of your classwork. Dogs? You want a dog to lick those crumbs off the paper towel or floor? And that's going to save you effort?

Tell me that after you feed the dog, take it to the vet, bathe it, and pick up its steaming by-products with one of those little plastic gloves several times a day.

Again, this is graduate level work, people. I'd say bring your "A" game, but that would be wrong. In Lazy 101, if you have to bring your "A" game, then you're just working too damn hard.

Now, on to today's case study. Let's say that your wife and son are in the La-Z-Boy recliner in the living room. When reclined (assume it is), there is a space under the chair that a small, goofy kitten can hide in, so this space must be checked before returning the chair to its upright position.

Here's the catch, though. To check that the space underneath the chair is free of furballs, you must get on your hands and knees.

Your wife decides it's time to get up, and she asks you to check underneath the chair for kittens. What do you do?

You have up to ninety seconds to formulate an answer.

Let's roll tape from yesterday on the actual solution.

"Honey, would you check behind the chair please?" Gloria asked.

"No problem,"I said. "Just leave it up and I'll get it later."

"What? Why not do it now?"

"No worries," I said. "I'll take care of it."

"Oh my God," she said. "You're going to wait until you see both cats at once so you don't have to look under the chair!"

"Do you have a hand mirror?" I asked. "I could use a hand mirror."


I treasure the moments when my wife sounds like Charlie Brown.

Thank you for coming. Class dismissed.

Rita Friday

Satellite photos:

I have to say, as frightening and destructive as they are, a satellite photograph of a big hurricane is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.

It is extraordinarily creepy to be here right now, on a hot, calm day, when you know that only two and a half hours to the east all hell is breaking loose. When three million people need to disperse in a short period of time, it's utter chaos. We're the first major unaffected city to the east of Houston, and you would not believe how many people are here--I'm sure there are 100,000 people here that weren't here a few days ago, and it's probably more than that. The traffic jams are absolutely phenomenal on some roads. I'm not complaining--I'm glad they're here, because it's out of harm's way--but it's amazing how much havoc even a temporary ten percent increase in your population can wreak.

I'm working on a couple of longer pieces, hence the delayed material today. I do have one additional case study in Lazy 101 that I'll be posting shortly, though.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Lost Garden and the Revolution Controller

I was flooded with e-mail sending me this link:

It's a very interesting analysis of Nintendo, the new controller, and the role of innovation in the gaming business. It's very Nintendo-centric, to badly invent a new word, but it's also quite thoughtful and a very good read.

Eli 4.1 Games the System

Gloria was worried at first that Eli 4.1 wasn't adapting to pre-school very well. It was a big change for him. In the last week or so, he seems to have really hit his stride.

"Miss Denise said that Eli was going to the bathroom every thirty minutes or so today," Gloria said.

"Really?" I asked. He goes about every four hours when he's at home. He'll wait and wait and wait and wait, like a miser and his dime, and then he'll suddenly start sprinting to the bathroom, yelling "I'VE GOTTA PEE!"

"I wonder if has a bladder infection," Gloria said. That's a woman for you. Sincere. Always believing the best in someone.

"Gaming the system," I said.


"He's gaming the system," I said. "He knows that asking to go to the bathroom is an automatic pass out of class. It gives him free time every hour."

Eli 4.1 came downstairs while we were discussing this.

"Eli," I said, "Do you need to use the bathroom when you're at school?"

"Oh, yeah," he said. "A LOT. I have to go and go and GO."

"Do you feel like that when you're home?" I asked.

"Nope," he said. "Only at school."

"Interesting," I said. "I wonder why that happens."

"I think it's because I cry at school because I miss my mommy," he said. "My tears fall on my penis and that's why I need to pee."

I'm absolutely certain he's not attending naked pre-school, but it's an interesting theory.

Genius. Gaming the system and the sympathy angle, all in one sentence.

My little boy's growing up.

No Worries, Mate: NBA Live '06

Here's a random bit of strangeness. It seems that the PC version of NBA Live '06, scheduled for a U.S. release on 9/26, is already out--in Australia!

Here's a link to a forum thread (see page 3 for a picture of the game and a receipt, along with links to other places with confirmation):

Cool Rita Link

Here's a very cool link:

It has projected paths for Rita based on the latest run of the major storm modeling programs (fourteen in all), and it mentions that Rita is presently going through an "eyewall replacement cycle." Even better, there's a link to what that means. Fascinating stuff and I had no idea until I read the explanation.

More Craziness

I just saw this over at CNN
Houston resident Tim Conklin told CNN that he had been in bumper-to-bumper traffic for 13 hours and had only gotten about 48 miles. He said the drive to Dallas, where his father-in-law lives, usually only takes about four hours.

On Highway 290, a major road between Houston and Austin, people were pushing their cars and minivans to save gas -- and were moving just as fast as the vehicles that were driving. Others were stopped on the side of the highway after breaking down or running out of gas.


They've reversed traffic flow on some of the largest roads into the city, but it's still absolute gridlock.


I'm learning a few things about how crazy it gets when a Category 4 or 5 hurricane is nearing the coast, even if you're 120 miles from the coast.

First off, we're not in the path anymore. Up until about 10 p.m. last night forecasts were for landfall at Port Lavaca and heading straight up toward us, with the eye passing within 30 miles or so of Austin. Incredibly, they were forecasting that it would still be hurricane strength when it got here, which would have been absolutely unprecedented. We were actually seriously discussing evacuating to the west (about 100 miles) if it was still going to be hurricane strength when it got here.

With the 11 p.m. update last night, though, the track had shifted farther up the coast. And it shifted even more this morning. Now, it's heading for the Beaumont-Port Arthur area, which is not far from the Louisiana border.

We're probably going to get 40-50MPH winds and some rain, at worst. That's no worse than a strong cold front.

However, I did see and hear some crazy things yesterday while people still thought we were directly in the storm's path. There were Super Wal-Mart's COMPLETELY out of bottled water, along with most of the largest supermarkets. It was absolutely incredible. And this was over 100 miles away from the storm's projected landfall (at that time). How much crazier is it on the coast?

Well, the answer to that is--much, much more crazy. Here's an excerpt from a post by "DivotMaker" on the Digital Sportspage forums (
Last night I returned home [to Houston] from Lafayette, LA which is normally a 3:10 trip. It took 9 hours with the last 30 miles taking 6 hours.

Reading that post made me realize something much more clearly than I had before: it is imposible to evacuate cities of 1+ million people in an orderly fashion. Houston has over 3 million people and a huge number of roads, but those roads are never designed to have more than X% of the population on them at any one time, and an evacuation means 5X% or more on the roads at the same time. At least. There's just no way that the math works out. It's guaranteed gridlock. It just can't be done efficiently in a 2-3 day period.

The supermarkets are the same way. Just like the roads, they're built with a certain peak capacity in mind, and natural disasters blow up the model. I would be very surprised if you can find any bottled water in Houston right now. Demand must be 10X supply or higher.

Gasoline? Not a chance. Good luck finding that in the Houston area. Same problem--supply can only accommodate limited increases in demand. Beyond that, in the short-term, supply simply runs out.

Here's one other thing. Take a look at the projected storm path here:

See that little jog just left of the projected landfall? The Houston Ship Channel is in there, and it has over a quarter of the U.S. refining capacity. In a worst case scenario, if Rita goes right up the ship channel and knocks out that refining capacity, gasoline prices would go through the roof. Those articles about gas costing $5 a gallon? That number's not out of play at this point. I still think it's unlikely, but it's not out of play.


From Marketwatch:
LONDON-- Japanese consumer electronics giant Sony Corp. on Thursday unveiled its long-awaited three-year restructuring plan, vowing to cut 10,000 jobs, combine television-making plants and streamline its electronics division. Sony also said it would now post an annual loss for the first time in a decade on restructuring costs...

Sony now sees a 10 billion yen ($89 million) loss on sales of 7.25 trillion yen for the year to March 31.

It previously forecasted a 10 billion yen profit for the year; its sales outlook is unchanged. In July, Sony cut its group net profit outlook to 10 billion yen from 80 billion yen. Sony also lowered its group revenue outlook for this fiscal year to 7.25 trillion yen from 7.45 trillion yen.

When business is going well for a company, they don't turn profits into losses by "restructuring." Sony is being hit by two giant product transitions at the same time. First is the HDTV transition. Sony has excellent HDTV products, but they're uniformly overpriced compared to the competition, and the competition is absolutely fierce. And this transition is coming in an industry that hasn't had a sweeping product transition for decades, at least in the U.S. market.

That would be enough pain for any company, but Sony has a second major product transition: the PS3. The Cell processor was an unbelievably expensive project, and I'm sure that Sony was looking at profitability for the Cell as a lifespan calculation, not something that would pay off in the first two to three years. When the rest of the company isn't doing well, though, it puts far more pressure on the short-term economics of the gaming division.

What does this mean for us? Potentially, two things. One, a higher initial price for the PS3, as Sony could be unwilling to absorb the loss on manufacturing costs of the unit. Two, it means there is unbelievable financial pressure on Sony to release the product in the U.S. before the holiday season in 2006. Yes, I know it's projected for a spring/summer launch, but Sony is behind. Everything I see tells me they're significantly behind that schedule, probably six months behind.

Again, if the rest of the company is doing well, it's not a problem--just launch in September/October 2006. That may not be an option now, though, so if they do manage to launch in Spring of next year, I think it will initially be weak in terms of software. The PS3
is an extremely powerful machine and it will produce outstanding games, but the learning curve is going to eat some developers up, at least for a while.

Oh, and don't forget that Sony is adding another product transition next year: high-definition DVD, and they're currently fighting a format war.

That's got to be one of the most brutal product environments I've ever seen for a consumer electronics company.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

"The Flying Mobulas of the Sea of Cortez"

This is very cool. DQ reader Brian Pilnick sends a link about acrobatic mobulas (they look like rays) in the Sea of Cortez. These mobulas, for unknown reasons, will burst out of the water, flap their wings, somersault once or twice, and tumble back into the sea. It's bizarre and still hasn't been explained. No video with the link, but there are some fantastic pictures:

Rockstar and Sunday Driver

This is interesting (from
Rockstar Games have announced Sunday Driver, a documentary film about low riders that will premiere on UMD later this year.

Director Carol Strong (we couldn't find anything on her, IMDB or otherwise) has worked with Rockstar Games to show what life's like for the The Majestics, the Compton/Watts chapter of Californa's low rider car club. The Majestics have to unify in order to realize their dream while on the lookout for the always watching authorities.

"Our goal was to create a film with the same cutting edge, uncompromising cinematic content that we strive for in our games. We are extremely proud of Sunday Driver as an evolution of the Rockstar brand into film," said Sam Houser, President of Rockstar Games.

Okay, weed through the marketing bullshit from Houser, and here's what you have: uncredited director, Rockstar "vision," and "edgy" subject matter. Here's basically their entire premise: How hard can it be to make a movie?

The answer is "much harder than they think." That's my guess, anyway. This is just the inverse of a film studio asking the question "how hard can it be to make a game?"

We all know how that turned out: badly.

However, is it an interesting idea? Yes. And doing a lower-budget film with a straight-to-UMD release is the right way to try it. It's always a red flag to me, though, when a company that is very successful doing one thing suddenly starts doing something else. The first clear signal I had that EA was running into trouble was when they started talking about doing a television show involving The Sims. That, to me, indicated that growth in their core business was slowing to the degree that they were desperate for additional revenue streams. Companies that talk about "evolving the brand" are usually signalling that "the brand" as it currently exists is starting to tap out.

Fumblefingers Correction

I said the storm was headed for Port Arthur in the previous post. I've been doing that all week. It's headed for Port Lavaca, which is quite a bit further south down the coast. So--right distance (120 miles from Austin), but I confused the cities. Which I've already been doing all week in conversation.

Meet You in Hell

Meet You in Hell is the story of the relationship between Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick, two of the most prominent industrialists in American history. Partners for decades, they turned bitter rivals, so bitter that when Carnegie tried to reconcile with Frick in the last years of his life, Frick's response (to Carnegie's personal assistant) was "Tell him that I'll meet him in hell."

Damn. Haters are bringing me down.

What this book also focuses on is the early years of the American labor movement and the battles between labor and management. Included is an excellent and thorough recounting of the Homestead steel mill strike in 1892, a disastrous confrontation that (among other things) escalated into a large scale shootout with multiple fatalities.

It's a terrific read, very intense, and full of the sense of dislocation you get when you read about centuries past. Here are a few random facts that I picked up from the book:
--In the 1860's there were less than 30,000 miles of railroad track in the U.S. By the 1890's there were over 160,000.
--In the 1880's, 21.5% of children born in the U.S. did not live to see their first birthday.
--A person born in 1880 had a life expectancy of forty-six.

More evidence that the twenty-first century does, in fact, rock.

Lovely Rita Meter Maid: Now With 165 MPH Winds

If anybody sees Fall, send it our way, would you?

September 21st and it's a hundred freaking degrees here. And has been for a week, pretty much. They're saying it's one of the ten hottest Septembers on record.

Oh, and there's that 160 mph Category 5 hurricane heading toward us. I don't want to forget to that.

You know the drill. Here's the satellite image link: Big freaking storm.

Now having a Cat 5 hurricane headed toward you when you're not flush on the coast is not nearly as dangerous. We're about 120 miles away from Port Arthur, which is the general consensus as to where the storm will make land. Even if it hits Port Arthur with 150 mph winds and heads straight for Austin, by the time it gets to us (8-10 hours later) the winds should be less than half that. So all we're at risk for are some downed trees, lots of lost shingles, and maybe a loss of electricity. Maybe a substantial mess, but not life-threatening.

I grew up six miles from Corpus Christi, though, which is right on the coast and also one of the possible landing points. It feels very strange to see my hometown (which I haven't visited in almost a decade) threatened by a Category 5 hurricane.

What people tend not to understand about hurricanes is that the damage is not linear. If you've never been through a hurricane, it would be easy to think that a storm with 150 mph winds would cause twice the damage of a storm with 75 mph winds. It's not like that, though. The increase in damage is exponential, not linear. So a storm with 150 mph winds might well cause twenty times the damage (or more) of a storm half as strong.

Lazy: Welcome to Grad School

“How can you eat that?” she asked. “It’s stone cold. All you needed to do was put it in the microwave for fifteen seconds."

“Still warm,” I said, mumbling between mouthfuls. “No problem.”

“You are the laziest person I have ever seen,” she said.

“Do you know the difference between strategy and tactics?” I asked.

“Oh, please,” she said.

“I’m not strategically lazy,” I said. “I’m tactically lazy.”

It’s true. From Wikipedia:
Strategy and tactics are closely related. Both deal with distance, time and force but strategy is large scale while tactics are small scale.

Exactly. In a large scale sense, I’m a hard worker. On the small scale, though, I am the laziest person alive. I’m like a diorama of lazy.

Here’s one more example. Today, for lunch, I wanted something I could snack on while I wrote the column, but I also wanted some kind of meat. I put some crackers on a paper plate, then opened the fridge and tore off a hunk of cheddar cheese. Still, though, I wanted some meat.

“Maybe I’ll get some ham,” I said to Gloria. That way, I could make kind of an at-home version of a Lunchables. When I opened up the drawer in the fridge, though, I saw that it was thick-sliced ham, not deli style.

“Man,” I said. “Thick-sliced.”

“You can cut it up,” Gloria said.

“If I take out a knife and start cutting that ham into squares, I might as well be making a pot roast,” I said. “Doesn’t anyone make tearable ham?”

“Oh, good grief,” Gloria said.

“I think I’ll just have a package of peanut butter crackers,” I said. “Those are already made.”

You might think I was born this way, but you’d be wrong. It’s not a gift. I’ve studied for many years. You have to earn lazy, because lazy is just too lazy to come to you.

That’s when it hit me: this is what I know. I’m a subject matter expert. I’ve always wanted to teach, so why don’t I teach what I know?

Sure, some of you probably think you’re already lazy. Not so fast, my friend. You may have an undergraduate degree in Lazy, but this is lazy at the doctoral level.

I promise you this: I will teach you more than you ever believed you could learn, just so you can do less than you ever believed you could do.

I believe in a real-world, gritty approach to teaching, so for today’s curriculum, let’s examine a common situation and its laziest possible outcome. Yesterday, I ate two Pop-Tarts as a snack while I was in my study. The Pop-Tarts were resting on a paper towel on my desk. My favorite way to eat Pop-Tarts is to break off pieces and eat the pieces individually.

Less to lift, obviously.

However, I noticed that after I had finished the Pop-Tarts, there was a residue of crumbs on the paper towel. Given the light weight of both the paper towel and the crumbs, there was a high probability of these crumbs winding up on the floor—if I didn’t do something about it.

So what should I do?

Let the crumbs fall to the floor.
Sorry, you must have walked in here by mistake. This is Lazy post-graduate studies, not Slob. Besides, if the crumbs wind up on the floor, you will eventually have to vacuum the floor. That’s one step away from stripping and refinishing them. Doctors in Lazy never avoid small tasks if they create larger tasks for later.

Lick your finger, pick up the crumbs with your damp finger, and eat them.
Look, I know that you’re all proud of yourself because you get accepted into the Doctorate Lazy program, but these are advanced studies. Do you want to excel? Of course you do. And if you want to excel, you have to think outside the box. This does get rid of the crumbs, but it just takes way too much effort.

There are other answers—all bad ones—but let’s cut to the chase here, because doing so is the laziest possible way to present this material.

Lick the crumbs off the paper towel.
Now that’s just beautiful. No fingers, no lifting, just direct mouth-to-crumb contact. That’s how the elite lazy handle this situation.

I know. Some of these concepts are cutting edge. I’m not regurgitating the old wisdom—I’m pushing the theoretical boundaries of lazy. It will all be worth it, though, when you’re awarded your doctorate and then skip the graduation ceremony because it would take too much effort to attend.

I’ll be so proud.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Stephanie Dubious-Assham Answers Your E-Mail

An e-mail I just received from a frequent (and funny) DQ contributor:
What's up with the frequent use of bold type these days?
Is everything OK?
Matthew Kreuch

Actually, Matthew, what's driving the recent use of bold instead of italics is a major shift in the price of the commodities. Raw italics have gone up nearly 50% in price since the beginning of the year, owing to the temporary loss of over 80% of production in the Gulf of Mexico due to Hurricane Katrina. Even if producers absorb part of that price increase, finished italics are still over 30% more expensive than last year.

Unlike most businesses, we always know what our product will sell for: nothing. Selling a product for nothing is a complex enterprise and requires rigorous cost control. As a small operation with no revenue, Dubious Quality has to toe the budgetary line when it comes to word emphasis. Yes, we could purchase futures on the italics market, but highly-leveraged font speculation is something we'll leave to the hedge funds.
Best wishes,
Stephanie Dubious-Assham
Director, Cost Accounting

Pure Pwnage: Episode Eight

Thanks to DQ reader Chris Vytlacil for letting me know that Episode 8 of the excellent gaming satire series Pure Pwnage has been released.

It's funny, as always.

Here's the link:

Now With Higher Recidivism and No Transaction Fees

Here are two words you never thought you'd see used together: probation kiosk.

What the?

That's right. Probation kiosk. Here's an excerpt from the Dallas Morning News article (which I can't link to because the scumbags want you to pay for an article when it's two freaking days old):
Dallas County probation officials say they have a remedy for their crushing caseloads. It looks and works much like an ATM. And some criminals now tell it - not a human being - whether they're behaving themselves.

I read this in the print edition on Sunday, and it's one of those classic, Marx Brothers bureaucratic disasters. They asked one of the program administrators what kinds of offenders got assigned to the kiosk, and she said (paraphrasing) "Low-risk. Certainly not something like DWI's. You won't find many DWI's." So when the Morning News investigated the 900 offenders who had been sentenced to use the kiosk, half of them were for DWI. And it went predictably downhill from there.

I bet there's already a drinking game for reporting to your probation kiosk.

City Attorney Rufus T. Firefly had no comment.

Next week: the probation pagoda.

The Coward

Dave Thomas wrote an article titled "The Coward" for the latest issue of The Escapist, and it's a damn fine piece of writing. It makes you feel uncomfortable and pissed off and all kinds of feelings that you don't really like. Only outstanding writers can do that.

The quality of writing in The Escapist, in general, is far higher than any print gaming magazine in the U.S., and it comes out weekly. It's also far more thought-provoking.

Here's the link:

The Visionary

I have been called a visionary.

By myself, obviously. With that criteria, I've also been called "a future Pulitzer Prize winner" and "a fine hunk of man."

In this case, though, I have some evidence. I present the dossier (from CNN):
Suresh Joachim broke the Guinness world record for the longest time spent watching TV. He finished Friday with 69 hours and 48 minutes...

Joachim, who lives in Toronto but hails from Sri Lanka, now holds more than 16 Guinness records, including the longest duration balancing on one foot (76 hours, 40 minutes) and bowling for 100 hours. He does it, he says, to raise awareness of suffering children.

The longest duration balancing on one foot. Seventy-six hours, forty minutes.

When I was ten, I decided that I should break a world record. It was imperative. There was a certain kind of cachet with being a world record holder, because in 1971, the Guinness Book of World Records was an absolute craze in America. Everybody had the book, and everybody read it to see what kind of crazy things people would do.

Even at ten, though I had an angle. It had to be something I could do indoors, because it was way too hot outside to even think about leaving the air conditioning. And I wanted maximum glory with minimum effort. It didn't matter what record I broke, right?

So with that in mind, I started scrutinizing the Guinness Book of World Records. Every page. Every record. The book was huge, the print was tiny, and I went through it all, searching for the softest world record in existence.

And I found it. Out of the thousands of world records I studied, I found one that looked undeniably, unquestionably soft.

Balancing on one foot: four and a half hours.

Are you kidding me? I could set a world record and still be done in time to have Sloppy Joes for dinner.

That was it, then. I didn't know about official record attempts or witnesses or anything like that. I just knew I was four hours and thirty minutes away from breaking a world record, baby.

I found the exact middle of my bedroom, got a clock out of my mom's bedroom, and, with extreme care, stood on one foot.

For about ten seconds. Just a little balance issue. A warm-up. I tried again.

And again. And again. Man, standing on one foot is a bitch.

After about half an hour, my record-breaking attempt ended, only four hours and twenty-six minutes short of fame. Even four minutes (my best effort) felt like a long, long time.

Here's the point, though: that record was soft. I had correctly picked out the softest world record on the books.

I was Columbus, but without a ship.

Give my regards to the New World.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Multi-boxing (your e-mail)

After the post about multi-boxing Everquest, I received this e-mail from someone who wishes to remain anonymous (remember, I said multi-boxing was probably "useless"):

Not useless. A guy I know runs a 6-box setup and farms platinum and items from EQ and WoW. He grosses over $4000 a month just selling the things on or wholesaling the gold. It's a bit of a hassle to set up the different macros and bots but it can be done and provides a decent income. My roomate runs a 2-box setup and makes an extra $500 a month just letting his computers run. They have plenty of sweatshops (if you can call sitting at computer playing a mmorpg sweating) in China and the like. But there are plenty of Americans doing this too.

That's an excellent point. Anything like this that can be automated to make a profit on a large-scale basis is going to be used on a smaller scale by entrepeneurs.

Ten years ago, how many of us thought that people would "work" by farming in a virtual world and selling the proceeds in the real world? And what does that say about our ability to guess what the world will be like ten years for now?

Eli 4.1

A few Eli 4.1 stories from the last week.

Eli's only been going to pre-school for a month, but he already has the question and answer session mastered. When I picked him up for lunch on Thursday, this was our conversation.
"So, how was school?"
"The day went well. Everything's normal. Nothing new."

Saturday morning, we were looking for one of his Scooby-Doo videos, and he said "Do you know how I keep persevering last night to find the right episode?"

Eli has developed a huge crush on Daphne of Scooby-Doo fame (an important fact: her uncle was responsible for the gang getting The Mystery Machine). Last night, he said this to Gloria as he ran giggling into his room.
"Mommy, I'm so happy I'm dying!"
"Eli, you wouldn't be happy if you were really dying," Gloria said.
"I would be if I'm DYING of LOVE!"

Look out, Freddie.

Top Ten

DQ reader Devon Prescott sent me an e-mail and attached the following list as a P.S. If you recognize #9, you are exceedingly clever.

I, based on that challenge, am not.

Top Ten game development brainstorming session phrases that SHOULD NEVER BE UTTERED:
1. It’ll be like Jagged Alliance only real time.
2. You play an Amish seed-saver fighting the giant Ag companies hybrid crops.
3. It’s a Total War license without fighting or violence.
4. It’s an MMORPG about creating an MMORPG.
5. It’s different because it’s “Leisure Suit LANNY”, see?
6. The multiplayer could be delivered later, in a patch.
7. We expect the development cycle to take only six months.
8. By splitting the project team between Pakistan and San Jose it will increase productivity.
9. Give me lever and a place to stand and I can leverage the existing IP until eternity.
10. It’s a Flash-only online game but we are using Star force.


I bought a Nintendo DS today. The world has gone mad.

I have a plausible explanation: DQ reader Erik Peterson worked on Advance Wars: Dual Strike, and since he has been unfailingly witty when I make fun of Nintendo (One of his e-mails consisted of this: Yow. That's some tough love you're slinging.), I felt like I should play his game.

I didn't pick up Nintendogs, though, because I just don't get Nintendogs. Taking care of pets is really kind of a pain in the ass, so I want to buy a virtual pain in the ass? Like Maimonides said--if you give a dog a fish, he'll eat the fish and then be hungry again. But if you teach him how to fish, he will never go hungry. And if he can't learn how to fish, get rid of the damn dog

That may not be an exact quote.

The point is, though, if I could teach little Butch or Skippy how to fish, and then while I was away he could catch fish and sell the fish to a local market for prizes that I could decorate my virtual apartment with, I'd be in. Otherwise, I'm just on the dog care leveling treadmill.

I have one question, though: can you get your dog fixed? Here's some synergy: take your Nintendogs save, load it into "Trauma Center: Under the Knife," and perform the surgery. Then, if you botch the operation, load that save into "Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney" and fight off the lawsuit.

Your E-mails: Tribe

I got some interesting e-mails on Tribe that I'd like to share with you.

First, from DQ reader Jason Wolf:
As to why they didn't achieve stardom, I have a theory that the music industry only wants so much of a niche genre, unless it goes huge, in which case they will saturate the market.

You mentioned the Breeders, but in the early 90's time frame, the Boston music scene also produced Belly with front woman Tonya Donnalley (ex-of the Breeders). I'm willing to bet that some music exec said somewhere, "Tribe, nice sound, but the industry allready has a alt rock band with a female lead from Boston, theres not enough space for two..."

That's a plausible theory. Here's another, from Chris Gwynn:
I saw Tribe in '93, when I was living in upstate NY and they came to Cornell. If the show I saw was any indication, you can blame a lot of their failure to succeed on their booking agent. Tribe was the opener. The other bands? Blue Oyster Cult (add your own umlauts), The Violent Femmes, and Fishbone. What do these bands have in common? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And let's say that the BOC had not aged well.

Here's a look from both the music world and the gaming world, thanks to Jonathan Arnold:
As a sort of 6 degrees of freedom, I worked for Looking Glass Software on Ultima Underworld I (back then we were known as Blue Sky Productions) as a programmer. The 100+ hour work weeks for months on end meant the end of my desire to work in the game industry, but we had a good time. I knew Doug Church when he was a nobody:-)

Anyway, most of the other programmers (including Doug) lived in a house in Cambridge Mass. I picked them up on my way to Blue Sky in Salem NH - a mere 1+ hour commute. This house was a huge Tribe fan base, and they went to see them all the time.

I left just before UU I came out - creative differences, shall we say. But I'm not surprised to hear that parts of Tribe went to work for them. Doug Church and Paul Neurath can be very persuasive guys!

Small world...

Finally, from David Byron:
Also of note: Terri was the voice actress for Shodan in System Shock and System Shock 2, provided the voice of Viktoria in the Thief games, was the level designer for Thief Gold's operatic and hilarious Song of the Caverns mission and for Thief 2's amazing Trail of Blood level, and wrote the core storyline for Thief 3.

Good stuff from you guys, as always.


Thanks to DQ reader David Byron for correctly pointing out while Eric Brosius did work on the soundtrack for Descent (and Descent II), it was with Parallax, not Looking Glass, although he did work for Looking Glass.

I knew that. So why didn't I catch it? Well, I'm stupid. I think that's the simplest and most logical answer. Another possible reason is that my fact checker, Stephanie Assham-Dubious, is vacationing in Aruba with her husband Leonard.

I've gotten several interesting Tribe e-mails and I'll share them with you later today.

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Arcadia Project

I’ve written before about micro-funding game development, where subscribers have access to a game as it develops and can suggest new features, changes, etc. Shaun Sullivan of the excellent series PureSim Baseball (, now being distributed by Matrix Games) had a subscription model at one point in the series, and the outstanding independent game Mount & Blade ( has a setup where you can “buy” the game before it’s actually completed, play the game in its current version, make recommendations, and download all updates. Best of all, it’s $12 versus buying it after it’s released for $25.

Derek DiBenedetto of Stormcloud Creations is using a version of this micro-funding model to fund “The Arcadia Project.” Here’s a description (from the website at
This project is the very first fully community supported, community development-assisted and funded PC game project ever done, on a level never before attempted. We'll be starting from the GROUND UP. You can help us name the game, add and tweak features, submit stories and ideas, and vote in polls for new features, all on our special members only forum.

The subscriptions are $16.95 versus a projected final purchase price of $19.95, so you save three dollars and also get to fully participate in the game as it develops.

If this were a new developer with no track record, this funding model wouldn’t be realistic, but Derek has a long record of making interesting games with almost zero budget: Interstellar Trader 2, Coliseum (the gladiator game I wrote about last year), and Voyager are all interesting and fun games. So it’s an investment in someone who does have a track record and does have talent.

Here’s a description of the game (again, from the website):
The game itself: You can recruit adventurers, view detailed stats on their abilities, age, birthday, height, weight, everything. Build a camp of 6 adventurers, and put together parties of 4 and send them on dangerous quests to many realms, in search of riches. They can get hurt, killed, possessed, or a host of other things, and you may be offered choices in the story according to what happens on their quest. You must sign them to contracts (called 'pacts') to keep them working for you, all the while keeping yourself in the black financially.

The game is intended to be a "Championship Manager" combined with a RPG sensibility, complete with adventurer 'personalities' that emerge over time.

That’s a terrific idea for a game. And I think this funding model is going to be very successful for developers who are one or two-person operations. These kinds of projects are a major reason why games developed for the PC will continue to be interesting, even if most of the highest-budget titles wind up on console platforms in the future.

Gillette Unveils the Cinco

NEW YORK - Gillette Co. Wednesday unveiled its newest shaving system, a five-bladed razor called Fusion with a trimmer on the back of the cartridge aimed at the 50 percent of men who have mustaches and beards.

I swear the world's turning into some reality-show version of Spinal Tap. Here's another excerpt:
It has one more blade than the Quattro sold by rival Schick...

And here is imaginary reality, although I'm not sure I can tell the difference any more:
Nigel: This is a top to a—you know, what we use on stage, but it's very, very special because if you can see...
Marty: Yeah...
Nigel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look...right across the board.
Marty: Ahh...oh, I see....
Nigel: Eleven...eleven...eleven....

Marty: ...and most of these amps go up to ten....
Nigel: Exactly.
Marty: Does that mean it's...louder? Is it any louder?

Nigel: Well, it's one louder, isn't it? It's not ten.

Even stranger, DQ reader Bethanne Larson sent me a link to a story by The Onion from February of last year. Here's the headline:
F$*# Everything, We're Doing Five Blades
By James M. Kilts CEO and President, The Gillette Company

"$*#" added so that the crazy Internet Police at work don't come busting down your cubicle walls. And the rest of the article is not safe for work if there's some kind of obscenity detector or whatever, because it's totally obscene. And funny. Here's the link:

Line of the Day

From Eli 4.1, during a fit: "I will be ABSOLUTELY DESTROYED if we don't eat pancakes for dinnner!"

We didn't. Hopefully, he will escape the destruction intact.


There’s a gaming connection in this story.

A few weeks ago, Paul Costello of Groovalicious Games ( recommended a band called “Tribe.”


I ordered two of their albums—“Abort” (1991) and “Sleeper” (1993). I listened to Abort first and thought it was a solid album, but nothing to rave about. Great albums create this feeling in me, this kind of locked-on hypnotic effect that’s very hard to describe. It’s also totally subjective, but I just wasn’t feeling it.

A few days later, I listened to Sleeper.

As it turns out, at least in my opinion, Sleeper is one of the great undiscovered rock albums. Great hooks, terrific guitar, brilliant lyrics—it’s the sound of a band that is absolutely, totally sure of what they’re doing. It’s wonderful.

I’d tell you what they sound like, but it’s very hard to make a comparison. If you remember the song “Cannonball” by The Breeders, the vocals are not entirely dissimilar, with the difference being that Sleeper has seven or eight fantastic songs instead of one.

It’s a lousy example, though. Their sound is uniquely intense and very hard to categorize, and they’re very much a band, not just a lead singer with some anonymous session players.

I became very curious about this group after listening to Sleeper about thirty times in a row, so I started poking around. Trying to trace this trail after ten years is not that easy, but I found this over at
Tribe was one of the most popular bands in Boston in the late '80s and early '90s, but was never able to translate its local drawing power and multiple local awards into national success.

Man, history is cruel. The short version is that Tribe was “the next big thing” for years, but somehow it never happened. They broke up in 1994.

Here’s the ironic thing, looking at it from ten year’s distance: they got screwed. Sleeper is a great, great album. They should have been big. Huge, really.

Here are a few more excerpts from (spliced together to give you an idea of the band’s sound):
Singer Janet LaValley…soaring voice…Bassist Greg LoPiccolo, guitarist Eric Brosius, and keyboardist (and occasional lead vocalist) Terri Barous wrote songs which combined power chords with dark lyrics and thick, goth-influenced keyboard textures. Drummer David Penzo rounded out the group.

Okay, I don’t get the goth reference (hell, I don't even know what "goth-influenced keyboard textures even means), because I don’t get that at all from listening to their music, but the power chords and dark lyrics are right on. And they have a sense of humor, too, writing the greatest rock song in history (okay, it’s a small category) about the Supercollider:
Goodbye Princeton
Goodbye CERN
He’s gone to Texas
To watch the holy fire burn
He’s gone to build
He’s gone to build the supercollider

What those lyrics don’t convey (besides a sense of humor) is that “Supercollider” is a driving, terrific rock song.

They had it all, really.

After the band broke up, Eric Brosius and Terri Barous got married. And started doing game soundtracks.

I told you there was a gaming connection.

They worked at a little company called Looking Glass. You might remember some of these games (and soundtracks):
--Thief: The Dark Project
--System Shock 2
--Thief: Deadly Shadows

That certainly doesn’t suck (and that’s not all the games they’ve worked on, by any means). After Looking Glass closed, they wound at up Irrational Games and worked on both of the Freedom Force soundtracks.

If you want to see the page on Tribe, here it is:

And here’s a link to Sleeper over at

I tried using Pandora to find similar music, but they only have Abort as part of the database, and I think the band’s sound matured greatly in the two years between Abort and Sleeper. So if you enjoy rock music, and want to hear a great band at their absolute peak, try Sleeper.

It's killer.

Pandora Update

Thanks to DQ reader Max Weinstein for this information:
My understanding is that Pandora uses a very different form of matching than does LaunchCast. Whereas the latter uses the typical aggregated ratings system--lots of people who like song A also like song B--Pandora uses "musical DNA," a computerized analysis of the musical themes/styles in the songs. I think the latter would tend to open more doors, as it steers you away from what's popular and towards what's musically similar, regardless of popularity.

He's right. As an example, here's the explanation Pandora gives me for why they're playing the song I'm currently listening to:
Based on what you've told us so far, we're playing this track because it features mild rhythmic syncopation, mixed minor & major key tonality, electric guitar riffs, a dynamic female vocalist and a dynamic male vocalist.

The "ratio station" I created is based on the group Tribe, by the way, and they're who I'm writing about next.

The FlashMic

I know that some of you guys do your own Podcasts (yes, I've thought about it, but I think I'm dealing out enough punishment via the written word already), so here's a spiffy device to check out: a microphone with 1GB flash memory. A Sennheiser microphone, even. Okay, it's $1,200, but next year it will probably be $500, and being able to record your podcasts anywhere with a high-quality microphone and quickly transfer them to the PC is genius.

How long can you record with 1GB storage? Longer than you can talk.

Here's the link:

"Multiboxing Everquest"

Here's something from the "I Never Thought Anyone Would Do That" file: an article over at ExtremeTech that describes how one person can run a six-player party in Everquest II.

Possibly useless but absolutely ingenious. Here's the link:,1697,1859684,00.asp.

What The Hell IS That?

I think it's probably easier if I title every post about Nintendo that way.

Nintendo announced their new controller for the upcoming Revolution console yesterday. Here's a look, along with analysis (

Believe me, you need to go look at the pictures in that link.

[Side note: after I'd written the title of this post, I started looking for a good picture of the controller. Through Gametab, I found the article over at 1UP, and one of the section headings of the article is titled "What the Hell Is it?"]

I wrote over a year ago that the next big advancement in controllers would be a tilt sensor. The reason I gave was that doing so would allow a console controller to more effectively mimic the functions of a mouse, and RTS games (not to mention aiming in FPS games) would immediately become far more playable.

So I think Nintendo got that part absolutely right. Well done.

This is Nintendo, though. So they can't just produce a normal looking controller, add a tilt sensor, and leave it at that. They have to go all wacky tobaccy on our ass and create a controller that looks like a DVD remote.


I know better than to even try to answer that question.

Let me say two things, though. One, this marks Nintendo's absolute separation from the so-called console wars. They're out. Almost no one will port anything to the Revolution--lower resolution, funky-ass controller, lower installed base. Forget it.

Having said that, though, I'm not saying it spells doom for the console. Not necessarily. It's going to have to come out very cheap (below $199, certainly), but let's say it does--let's say it comes out at $149. That's certainly a different price point entirely from Sony and Microsoft. They're no longer competing in the same space.

If Nintendo can get enough unique content for the Revolution, the console can absolutely survive. It can't survive on the basis of getting "also" content. Maybe they saw what happened with the Gamecube in terms of third-party support and realized that they had to go in a very different direction.

Can they get enough unique content? I don't know. I said the DS was a bad idea because the second screen was unnecessary and it wouldn't be effectively utilized. And even though I think I was largely right in that assessment, what I didn't realize is that it didn't matter. So what if that second screen is really not needed? There are a ton of unique games for that little system--nobody cares if that second screen isn't important. Sony, meanwhile, has vastly superior hardware in the PSP--and no unique games. Well, almost none except for Death Jr. Instead, Sony's approach has been to port existing console games to the small screen, and that's what third party developers are doing as well. Stupid idea, guys. Why do I want to play Tiger Woods on a handheld when I can play a far better (and far quicker loading) version on the big screen?

I don't.

If there was a fair amount of unique content, then those ports would just be a bonus, but without it, the ports just aren't worth much. I mean, I've wanted to buy the damn system for months, I have the worst impulse control of anyone on the planet, and I still haven't bought one!

So even though I look at Nintendo's new controller and burst out laughing (I did--literally), maybe the crazy, rainbow-eating mad scientists are on to something.

Or on something. I'm not sure which.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Chain Catshark

Thanks to DQ reader David Goldenberg, who sends a link to an article he's written for Gelf magazine about the chain catshark and the discovery that it's flourescent. It's a beautiful creature, and the article goes into greater depth concerning how it was finally found.

Here's the link:

Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy Review

Highly-regarded games journalist Kieron Gillen has reviewed the upcoming Quantic Dreams adventure game Fahrenheit (or Indigo Prophecy in the U.S.). As always, his work is thoughtful and well-written, and his approval bodes well for the future success of the game.

Here's the link:

Genghis Khan: I Feel For You, I Think I Love You

There's a pretty fascinating article over at National Geographic about Genghis Khan and his impact on the population of the Earth. Here's an excerpt:
An international group of geneticists studying Y-chromosome data have found that nearly 8 percent of the men living in the region of the former Mongol empire carry y-chromosomes that are nearly identical. That translates to 0.5 percent of the male population in the world, or roughly 16 million descendants living today.

The spread of the chromosome could be the result of natural selection, in which an extremely fit individual manages to pass on some sort of biological advantage. The authors think this scenario is unlikely. They suggest that the unique set of circumstances surrounding the establishment of the Mongol empire led to the spread.

In brief: Khan and his sons were, well, whores. Khan's eldest son Tushi (I know, I know--stop it) had forty legitimate sons, and Khan himself received first pick of all virgins in a conquered territory. So it's basically promiscuity on a gigantic scale (as well as the slaughter of competing males from the vanquished) having a remarkable affect genetically.

Not conclusive, but very interesting, and as a bonus there are two links to amazing photos at the bottom of the page, one titled "Flourescent Shark Caught on Film" and "Rare White Giraffe Spotted in Africa."

That's right. A white giraffe. With a photo.

Here's the link (thanks Robot Wisdom Weblog):

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