Academy (Of Rock)
There's a local franchise here called Academy Sports & Outdoors
. Here's a description of the merchandise they carry from their website:Hunting, camping, and fishing gear; also footwear, sporting goods, and apparel.
Just about everything, in other words. They also carry those big backyard "play systems," kind of the low-budget version of Rainbow. "Play systems" are kind of a catch-all phrase for an all-in-one unit that usually includes a wooden frame, a swingset, slide, climbing ladder, and a little clubhouse or something. We have to cut down a big pine tree in our backyard because it has some kind of rot, and it's going to open up some space back there, so we're thinking about using that area for a play system.
We looked at all the play equipment, then Gloria went to the bathroom and I wandered off (the store is huge). She came back holding some shirts. "What do you think?" she asked, holding up a long-sleeved shirt that had nice colors and looked like it could have come from one of her regular shopping locations.
"It has OUTLAWS written across the front, outlined in sequins," I said. "Are you buying some fishing pants with that?"
"Come on," she said. "It's cute!"
"They sell bait here," I said. "I know you. You don't buy clothes in a store that sells bait."
I would, mind you. Most of my clothes shopping is done via magazine subscription bonuses. But she wouldn't.
And she didn't. But I went by there today and bought it for her as a trophy for finishing Guitar Hero on Medium. It's the perfect rock goddess shirt.
The Definitive Load Screen From Hell (Part 2)
Thanks to DQ reader Kwadwo Burgee for a working link to the six minute + load screens for the PSP game WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2006.
Here it is:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sr2DFWLKbA8&feature=Views&page=3&t=t&f=b
Murderball on A&E
The outstanding documentary Murderball (which I've written about before) is now showing on the A&E network. Here's a link to upcoming show times:http://www.aetv.com/listings/episode_details.do?episodeid=147855
Ghost Recon Demo
I strongly suspect that the demo for Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (360) will be available sometime today or tomorrow, and I'll post as soon as I hear it's available.
The Friends of Guitar Goddess
Remember the couple that came to stay with us two Fridays ago? I showed Guitar Hero to Greg for about fifteen minutes before we went to dinner, and after dinner he chose to come back and play instead of going out to hear live music.
It made perfect sense to me.
I told Gloria after they left on Saturday that Greg was going to buy a PS2 within a week. "It's not a game, it's an infection," I said. "There is no known cure. He's buying a PS2 just to play Guitar Hero. I guarantee it."
She got an e-mail on Thursday. He did.
I was in my study last night, writing for what is allegedly your amusement, and Gloria was playing Guitar Hero. Her progress through the game has been ridiculously fast--at least, in comparison to me. I've gotten through the game with sheer desire, really.
Gloria, though, has talent. Serious talent.
If I remember correctly, she'd passed twelve songs in a row on Medium difficulty. First try. And almost every song was pegged in the green on the rock meter when she was finished. No passing songs with the rock meter flashing red. She was nailing them.
She failed Crossroads on Saturday, but last night she passed it on her first try. Sailed through Godzilla, Texas Flood, and Frankenstein on her first try. I was watching her and she has this amazing knack for playing (with absolute precision) the sections where notes go rapidly up and down on the scale.
I warned her about the last two songs. Bitches, I said, especially Cowboys From Hell. It took me three days to pass that song on Medium.
She played it the first time and got blown away. The rhythm section in CFH feels totally erratic at first, and it's very hard to play correctly. She failed it a second time, then a third.
She got this look on her face. I think she Hulked out.
I knew right then that she wasn't going to stop playing that song until she couldn't lift her arms up anymore. It was a battle to the death.
"Sometimes after I've played too much, I wind up playing worse," I said gently. "You might just take a break and try again tomorrow. Sometimes you get better overnight."
I don't think she even heard me. Played it again. Failed.
"Hey, why don't you try Bark at the Moon?" I asked. "That's a great song, much more interesting to play than Cowboys, and it will be a good break." She doesn't want to let go of her deathgrip on CFH, but she exits out and goes into Bark at the Moon.
And kills it. This was the first time she ever played it, and she had the rock meter pegged in the green for THE ENTIRE SONG. It was fantastic. She finished with 82% accuracy, which is just insane. So she didn't just pass the song, she wasn't that far away from four-starring it. On her first try.
That was when the phrase "guitar goddess" first came to mind.
I thought that would be enough, but no, she went back to Cowboys From Hell. Unfinished business. Failed it once, but I saw she was getting better.
Then she passed the song on her next try. Boom goes the dynamite. She's finished the game on Medium.
The Mermaid Meets Mr. Mendel
We watched The Little Mermaid II
on Saturday night.
Yes, there's a 'II.' I can do nothing to stop it.
In the sequel, Ariel (the mermaid in the first film, who was transformed into human form at the end by true love or skilled animators or something) has a daughter named Melody. Melody has the potential to "become" a mermaid.
"So Ariel had a child with the prince, who then became the king," I said.
"Yes," Gloria said.
"And this child also has some kind of mermaid-fu thing going on," I said.
"Right again," she said.
"So does this mean that 'mermaid' is a dominant gene? Because if it were recessive, Melody would just be a normal human. Are we actually having this conversation?"
"Yes, it appears that we are," Gloria said. "And you're right--it would have to be a dominant gene."
"I feel kind of bad for that guy," I said. "His daughter's a mermaid, plus there are the in-laws to deal with. Do you know what they serve for every holiday? Fish. I bet he'd abdicate for a decent roasted turkey."
HD-DVD and Blu-Ray
I wrote several months ago that Blu-Ray appeared to be closing out HD-DVD as the future high-definition DVD standard.
That was before the Blue-Ray format started strangling itself on its copy protection scheme. Or schemes, I should say, because there are several. There's AACS, BD+, and don't forget ROM Mark.
There's also BFD+. All right, I made that last one up.
Basically, Sony is so freaking paranoid about copy protection that their goal is for you to buy the discs but never unwrap them.Sony announced today a tough new high-definition content protection scheme called LOCKBOX. Sony Vice President Leonard Purgatory describes the new scheme this way: "Basically, it allows the consumer to buy the disc but not actually open the case that contains the disc. The problem with allowing the customer to remove the disc from the case is that they then might play the disc, and as soon as video output is generated from the player, the copyright owners lose control of their content. The MPAA has decided that the risk of piracy is far to high to allow consumers to actually view the disc content.
Yes, I made that up, too, but it doesn't seem that far from the truth at this point. However, the delays all these protection schemes are causing is beginning to backfire on Sony, and it looks like HD-DVD still has plenty of life.
Here's a NY Times article (via Slashdot) that discusses it in detail (titled "In Sony's Stumble, the Ghost of Betamax"):http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/26/business/26disks.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1
No, I still haven't passed it. I know how to use star power to get through the last twenty percent of the song, but I just haven't been able to do it yet.
Remember when I wrote this last week?Here's an idea of how hard Bark at the Moon on Expert is: In the first 28 seconds, you play 111 notes. I'm counting chords as one note, so the 28 chords in that group each count as one note.That's four notes a second for the first thirty seconds, roughly. And at that point you've done about 10% of the full song.
Just out of curiousity, I looked at the note chart for Expert (I posted that link last week as well) and counted all the notes. 1175 notes. Four minutes and ten seconds between the first note and the last one.
So it's not four notes a second for thirty seconds. It's 4.7 notes a second for over four minutes
Oh, and one side note. Playing this song really, really improves your skills. I'm four-starring and five-starring all kinds of songs that I could barely pass two weeks ago. Even if I still can't pass this one.
"Mine 2 Trailer"
Remember that beautiful Sony Bravia commercial I linked to last week where they dropped 250,000 super balls on a street in San Francisco? Well, if you haven't seen it yet, now you really need to, because here's a parody that had me falling out of my chair. It's one of the funniest commercial parodies I've ever seen.
Here's the link:http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4396069753768297433&q=snoken
The Definitive Load Screen From Hell
Kotaku had a very funny link yesterday to a video of "Smackdown vs. Raw 2006" on the PSP. It's not the game, actually--it's the loading screen(s). All six minutes of them.
That's right. To go from inserting the PSP dingle-thingy to actually wrestling in career mode, it takes over SIX MINUTES. And some guy made a little film of what's happening during that time, complete with Benny Hill theme music and snarky subtitles. You wouldn't think you could watch over six minutes of loading screens, but he makes it funny. Here's the link:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gH3dc7IZVPc
.[UPDATE: The video's been pulled. I don't know why and have no nefarious conspiracy theory to contribute. At this time.]
The videogame industry is very angry over used game sales. But to some degree, they've brought it on themselves. The poor bastard who paid FIFTY DOLLARS for this game can't return it after he finds out that it takes six freaking minutes to get into career mode.
To sell products that are potentially defective to that degree (or, in some cases, much worse) and not allow returns is utterly irresponsible. That's the kind of thing that alienates customers to the degree that they never buy new games--ever--just to punish the game industry in general.
With protection comes responsibility. The game industry wants one, but won't accept the other.
The Women's Cross-Country Sk--Commercial--ii--Commercial--ng--Commercial Finals
I accidentally turned the t.v. on Friday afternoon and NBC was showing the women's 30k cross-country skiing finals.
Even though the Olympics have become far more spectacle than sport, cross-country skiing is still the real deal. Anybody who can ski eighteen miles in a race on a torturously hilly course is a warrior. They're bad asses. And seeing it in high-definition for the first time was a real treat.
So I decide to watch this race, because it's incredibly intense. And here's what I get to see:
4.5 minutes of skiing
2.5 minutes of commercials
2.5 minutes of skiing
3.5 minutes of commercials
3.5 minutes of skiing
3.0 minutes of commercials
7.0 minuts of skiing
2.5 minutes of commercials
1.5 minutes of interviews
2 minutes of commercials
Here are the totals:
19 minutes of coverage
13 1/2 minutes of commercials
How do I know this? It was so bad that I Tivo'd back and timed it. And not only were they showing incredible amounts of commercials, they were cutting the race, even on the final lap. It was a fantastic race, but the emotional impact from watching it was zero. And this was afternoon
coverage--it wasn't even prime time for advertising fees.
And people wonder why almost no one in this country cares about the Olympics anymore. It's because NBC has ruined them.
Bark at the Moon
97%. And I think I'm finishing it today. I know the sequence I need to play to be able to get through.
Cowboys From Hell, unfortunately, is probably going to be impossible.
Don't Do It
Don't even think about sending me e-mails about gazellatio. Hands off that keyboard.
When Just Say No Isn't Enough
):JERUSALEM - Staff at Jerusalem Zoo have introduced birth control in a bid to curb a giraffe population boom.
The number of giraffes has tripled to nine in recent years, outgrowing the zoo on the edge of the city, according to officials and a 5-year-old female has been mostly to blame.
The most fertile female, Shavit, has now been injected with birth control hormones, delivered by dart, after giving birth twice in four years.
...“What we are using is actually a hormonal implant that we inject into the female. The hormonal activity changes and she is not supposed to be in heat," said Noam Warner of the zoo. ...“It is a very short thing, almost no foreplay,” explained Warner, seemingly trying to soften the blow to the giraffes' personal life. “So, I don’t think they miss too much when they are not doing it.”
Almost no foreplay--well, that's a relief. I'd feel really bad if she was missing out on some, uh, giraffalingus.
Talk Strategy Contest
Jason Price let me know that Talk Strategy has started another contest, and you can find details here:http://news.talkstrategy.com/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=915
Seven games in prizes in all, so go take a look if you want to win something.
DQ reader Matthew Kreuch sent me a link to one of the most beautiful commercials ever made--a Sony Bravia commercial (never shown in the U.S.) where 250,000 super balls were dropped on a street in San Francisco. It's not even a commercial, really, more of a short film with a Sony logo slapped on the end, but it's just stunning. Here's a link:http://www.bravia-advert.com/commercial/braviaextcommhigh.html
The song accompanying the film, which is just as beautiful, is Heartbeats
, performed by José González. His solo album is titled Veneer
, and it's one of the most magnetic albums I've listened to in years--every single song on is excellent. Here's an Amazon link:http://tinyurl.com/nv3x7
I found Veneer because I read through the end-of-year music review article that Kieron Gillien had contributed to (I linked to that article a while back). That article also turned me on to an album called Funeral
by Arcade Fire. It's an entirely odd combination of conventional rock band instruments and classical instruments (violin, cello, oboe). It's shockingly good, particularly with headphones on, because the songs and music are so intricate that it's hard to appreciate everything without the more intimate soundstage provided by headphones.
I heard an NPR story on a band from the 1960's-1970's called Joy of Cooking
They were a quintessential 60's sounding band, complete with Janis Joplin-like lead singer and music that can only be described as "groovy." Here's a link to the NPR story:http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5200318
I ordered their album Castles
and, in short, it's fantastic. It's amazing how well the music has aged--it still sounds fresh and unique. In short, they were Tribe
of the 1970's--should have have hit it big, but never did. Here's an Amazon link:http://tinyurl.com/l35ob
The last music-related link is to a book, not an album. It's by Jen Trynin, who was, very briefly, one of the hottest upcoming stars in rock and roll.
The book is an unbelievably frank recounting of her temporary celebrity. Unbelievably frank, and no one is spared--least of all herself. It's an excellent read, and if you ever wanted to know just how slimy the music industry can be, this is a good reference. It's both very funny and excruciating. The book is titled Everything I'm Cracked Up to Be: A Rock & Roll Fairy Tale,
and here's an Amazon link:http://tinyurl.com/erssv
Eleven (part two)
Gloria played Guitar Hero last night and was just tearing up every single song she played on Medium. "I can't believe you passed an entire set of songs last night," I said to her this morning.
"Actually, it was two sets," she said. I'm surprised she didn't throw the sign of the goat at me. She's passed four of the six sets on Medium, and minute-for-minute, she's advancing at twice the speed I did. At least.
More Fight Night 3 Notes
I just had my rival punch me in the face at a weigh-in for our fight. I knocked his sorry ass out in the first round and called him something unmentionable when he hit the canvas for the second time. So the rivals thing isn't totally hopeless, but the problem with it is that they designate your rival for you--before you've ever even fought. What should happen is that after your first close, tough fight, that guy then becomes
your rival. So the rivals concept is a nice idea, but they puked on the implementation.
Here's a note on careers: if you haven't started your career yet, here are a couple of house rules that I think would make it much more interesting. Basically, the training mini-games are too generous, particularly with stamina. When you're in a fight against a boxer who has 20% less stamina than you, he often totally runs out of gas and can hardly even throw a punch. Poor game balance, in other words.
However, and here's the house rule, if you play the training mini-games for only 30 seconds instead of 60, it should work just fine. You can still get big point advances at first, but as your ratings get higher, there won't be any way to get full skills increases. So your ratings will stay more in the range of your opponents, which should contribute to very challenging fights.
One other note. There's a "fight store" where you can buy gear to increase your ratings. Total bullshit, in other words. So the second house rule I implemented was to limit my purchases to items costing $30,000 or less. I was able to buy a few pieces of equipment that way, but nothing that unbalanced the game.
After playing a few more hours yesterday, I think the stamina issue is definitely the biggest ratings imbalance as your boxer develops. Overall, though, a very impressive package.
On the Couch
"Look at that," Gloria said. "I love to watch them."
"They are so tiny and so cute," I said. "Just like little porcelain dolls."
"And so lifelike," Gloria said. "Just look at how they move."
We're watching the Olympic figure skating finals.
"It's got to be hard," I said, as yet another skater touched ass to ice. "Little miniature people, skating in a huge arena filled with regular-sized people. No wonder they cry so much."
"I'd cry," Gloria said.
"I wonder if they have a wooden cutout of a figure skater that they have to stand against, and it says 'IF YOU WANT TO SKATE IN THE OLYMPICS, YOU CANNOT BE MORE THAN THIS HIGH.' "
On an unrelated note, having a TIVO contributes to total heartlessness. Somebody was doing their wacky footwork section, then skated across the ice in preparation for a jump. "She's skated eight hours a day since she was four," Gloria said, "and now she's in the Olympics. It's the greatest moment of her life."
At that moment, the skater fell. "Skip her," Gloria said.
Friday Time Wasters
Some from you, some from me.
From Jason Price (www.talkstrategy.com
) comes a link about a Brazilian apartment building:Each floor in the 11-story building can revolve independently 360 degrees to the left or to the right.
Insane, and here's the link:http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6728324
From future Nobel Prize Winner Brian Pilnick comes a link to a story about a new cave discovery in Venezuela. How big is this cave? Well, take a look at picture:http://tinyurl.com/m3w8v
See those little things that look like toys on the ground? They kind of look like toy helicopters. Well, those are real
helicopters.It was found in the slopes of Aprada tepui in southern Venezuela, one of the most inaccessible and unexplored regions of the world. The area, known as the Venezuelan Guayana, is one of the most biologically rich, geologically ancient and unspoiled parts of the world.
Here's a link to the full story:http://www.livescience.com/animalworld/060221_ghost_cave.html
From Frank Regan, a fascinating story over at Wired about a substance called "Aerogel."Aerogel is the lightest solid known to science. It's also one of the most insulating materials on Earth, the most porous, and it's nearly transparent. Those last two properties made it an ideal choice for catching flecks of comet and interstellar dust on the recently-returned Stardust mission launched by NASA and JPL.
Fascinating, and here's the link:http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,70268-0.html?tw=rss.index
From MSNBC, a story about a fossil that is changing how we think about the evolution of mammals:WASHINGTON - For years, the mammals living in the era of dinosaurs have been thought of as tiny shrewlike creatures scurrying through the underbrush. Now the discovery of a furry aquatic creature with seallike teeth and a flat tail like a beaver has demolished that image.
Some 164 million years ago, the newly discovered mammal was swimming in lakes in what is now northern China, eating fish and living with dinosaurs.
I swear, paleontology sounds like a pretty exciting scientific discipline to be in right now. Here's the link:http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11522136/
From Robot Wisdom Weblog, a link to a real treasure trove of scanned pages from the early days of comics. It's absolutely amazing, and the accompanying blog is very interesting as well.http://www.barnaclepress.com/
Eleven Rocks the Late Night Session
My lovely wife Gloria, who maintained for ten years that games were teh devil, is right now ripping through Heart Full of Black on Medium. She is tearing through medium like some kind of crazy plastic guitar savant. I'm going out to buy her a leather skirt right now
By Monday, she's on Hard level. Coming for me.
Guitar Hero (Bark at the Moon)
Here's an idea of how hard Bark at the Moon on Expert is: In the first 28 seconds, you play 111 notes. I'm counting chords as one note, so the 28 chords in that group each count as one note.
That's four notes a second for the first thirty seconds, roughly. And at that point you've done about 10% of the full song.
So if you wonder why people say it's so hard, there you go. It's like a final exam, along with Cowboys From Hell, which is more like a body cavity search.
I managed to get through 92% just now before I flamed out, which is the farthest I've gotten.
And if you'd like to see what the game looks at that speed, here's a video of BatM on Expert that just shows the t.v. screen. The guy is an unbelievably good player, but even he has problems in that wicked first solo section. Here's the link (contrast isn't good, but it's amazing nonetheless):http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7052919985166153513&q=bark+at+the+moon+guitar+hero
Fight Night Round 3 (360)
Man, there are a lot of reasons not to like this game. The damned advertising is getting more and invasive. There is no ranking system, just a series of "popularity meters" that totally suck ass. The much-promoted "rivalry" feature is totally meaningless. The training mini-games really kind of suck. The commentary is ass. Fighters start defending themselves as they advance toward you, even if they're well out of reach of your punches.
So why can't I stop playing it?
I've said it several times before, but succesful games overcome their mistakes. Unless it's Guitar Hero, which is damn near perfect, all games have design and execution issues. Great games overcome them. Bad games don't. And in spite of everything that's wrong (and there's quite a bit), Fight Night is addictive. So even though EA overpromised and underdelivered (for about the hundredth time in a row), the difference is that what they did deliver this time is very, very playable. And fun.
Graphics and animation are both jaw-dropping and mouth-watering. I'm serious. I don't what it looks like on a regular television, but it's nothing short of sensational in HD.
And damage. Oh man, do the fighter's faces reflect damage. The first time I broke somebody's nose and saw it between rounds, I actually winced. It was amazing. Cuts and swelling also look fantastic.
The in-ring action, with only a few exceptions, is wonderfully tuned. An example: haymakers were unbelievably powerful last year. This year, the motion on the analog stick to throw a haymaker takes twice as long (at least) as it takes to throw a regular punch. That means haymakers don't land very often, and when you miss, you'll get tatered. In other words, haymakers and the other specialty punches are relegated to acts of desperation, as they should be.
You can stick and move in this game, and counter-punching is terrific fun. Every possible style of fighting is workable. It's hard to beat that.
The no-HUD gameplay is a brilliant design decision and long overdue. No, the visual cues are not as finely tuned as they should be, and they need to be improved, but they're workable, and it's much better than using a HUD.
They've also done an outstanding job of improving the camera so that the default camera is entirely usable. Being so close to the action and maintaining camera usability can only happen with excellent execution by the development team.
Some reviewes have commented that the difficulty in Career mode, even on Hard level, is just not hard enough. Flab McCanvas is 13-2 in his promising heavyweight career on Hard and I haven't felt like the game was too easy. And if it was, I could just fail some of the training sessions and not get my ratings increases.
That's not to say that there aren't some A.I. issues. Some fighters, in particular, can't seem to make the fight. They're very passive if you're not coming to them, and they're slow to advance. That happens less often as you work up through the ranks, though. And I also think the A.I. doesn't press hard enough after a knockdown. But by the same token, some of the A.I. is very, very good, and when you're matched against aggressive fighters, it's excellent.
Here's the Catch-22 about boxing games. By definition, your boxer sucks when he starts his career. It's almost a role-playing game in that sense. And in the first few fights, your boxer seems slow and awkward--because he is. Once you get past that and start getting a few ratings increase, he becomes more polished, and when he does, this game really takes off.
I've spent about four hours with the game at this point, so these aren't long-term impressions. So far, though, even with the chippies they've missed, this is an outstanding sports game.
The band that Gloria wasn't going to create for the Career that she wasn't going to have is called "Eleven." And she's through the first ten songs on Medium. Not that she's playing every night or anything.
Behold the power of Guitar Hero. It is mighty, indeed.
Another Hoops Link
CNN has picked up the basketball story and it's on their front page now under "Watch: Austistic Hoopster scores 20 points in 4 minutes." It's a better video and they show more of the shots he took in the game. It's a great story.
Fight Night impressions later, after lunch with Eli 4.6.
DQ reader Mike Rozek sent me links to one of the most remarkable and inspirational stories I've seen in a long, long time.
It starts out as a story that seems to have become not uncommon in the last few years: "mentally disabled kid scores basket." Kid scores, everyone cries, everyone hugs. It was unique and heart-wrenching the first time, but then it seemed to start happening everywhere, and these kinds of stories are covered in such drippingly sentimental terms that it (unfortunately) almost turns them into parody.
Except that's not really the story here. Yes, the kid was autistic, but he was the team trainer for four years. And when they put him in the game, he not only scored, he scored TWENTY POINTS in four minutes. How does six for seven from three-point range sound? And it's not like he was wide open every time, either--the kid really has a beautiful shot.
It's a terrific story, and the video (part of the second link) is just jaw-dropping. I meant it when I said the kid can really shoot. He absolutely kicked ass.
Here are the links:http://www.rnews.com/Story_2004.cfm?ID=35044&rnews_story_type=18&category=10http://www.wroctv.com/sports/story.asp?id=10211
After some additional thought, I think it's a fair guess that two things must be happening for EA to reduce the price on their most anticipated game of the year to $39.95 before it's released.
1) The game must not be that good, and
2) Pre-orders must be very poor.
If the game wasn't good but pre-orders were through the roof, there would be no reason to reduce the price. If the game was great but pre-orders were weak, word of mouth would generate sales as soon as the game was released, so again there would be no reason to drop the price.
I don't think it's possible for a 20% price reduction to generate 20% additional revenue beyond EA's projections, either, because they were already projecting that everyone was going to buy this game--at $49.99.
I've had deep reservations about this project from day one--or rather, deep reservations about EA's projection of the value of the franchise. How much does The Godfather resonate with the 15-25 demographic, anyway? The last movie was released in 1990
--over fifteen years ago. I think the Godfather brand has far more cachet with industry analysts than it does with the critical demographic groups.
It's going to be interesting to see what the reviews are, because I think the price cut is a definite sign that it's less than a blockbuster. I hope I'm wrong, though, particularly for the 360 version (which is coming out months later).
Gal Civ II Contest
Bovine Conspiracy is having a Galactic Civilizations II contest. Win and you score a free copy. Here's the link:http://www.bovineconspiracy.com/
EA and Current-Gen Game Prices
EA announced today that they're cutting the price of NEW releases for current-gen systems to $39.95.
As I say occasionally--uh oh.
From the New York Times (thanks David Gloier)http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/22/technology/22game.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all&oref=slogin&oref=slogin
:SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 21 — In a sign of the video game industry's continuing struggles, Electronic Arts said on Tuesday that it planned to sell its much-awaited Godfather video game next month for $39.95, which is 20 percent less than it typically prices new games.
That's a very bad sign, when your flagship game is being discounted before it even comes out. Especially if it's because of this:...some industry analysts have wondered whether Electronic Arts has failed to create a compelling game and is using the transition as an excuse to drop its price. Recently, some Wall Street analysts have questioned whether the company has lost its creative touch and has been thriving by selling sequels of sports franchises, like its Madden football game, rather than creating enticing new concepts.
RECENTLY? Hey, they lost the touch several years ago, at least. Um, and the sports sequels generally suck, unfortunately.
Now if EA can't sell its most anticipated game for more than $39.95, don't think anybody else can, either. The current-gen fire sale is officially in full swing.
Monty Python's Personal Best
I've said a few times in the last year that the original (British) version of The Office
was the funniest television series ever made.
I had forgotten, of course, about Monty Python's Flying Circus
There has never been anything funnier on television than Monty Python's Flying Circus. I was in college when they started showing it on weekends on PBS, and every episode was falling down funny. If you could kill yourself by laughing too hard, I would have been dead after the first time I saw the Twit Olympics. It wasn't even their best skit, but to this day, I've never laughed harder in my life. I must have seen every episode at least five times, and I can't wait to start showing them to Eli 4.6.
I bring this up because PBS in the U.S. because of this (thanks to Glen Haag for letting me know):“Monty Python’s Personal Best,” a series of six outrageous one-hour specials showcasing the groundbreaking comedians with new footage and original clips, will premiere on PBS February 22, 2006.Each episode will include members of the original Monty Python troupe performing in favorite clips from their unorthodox television series, “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” repurposed with exclusive new material. Each of the five living Pythons — John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin — produced and wrote his own episode, and collaborated to create the sixth special in honor of deceased member Graham Chapman. The episodes will air over a three week period in two-hour blocks on PBS on February 22, March 1 and March 8.
So there you go. Another chance to see some of the funniest people who ever lived.
Here's a link to the website:http://www.pbs.org/montypython/
Oh, and they're also going to start showing episodes of Flying Circus again beginning in April.
Just a Regular Morning Around Here
I woke up, showered, and went downstairs about fifteen minutes before Eli 4.6 and his mom left for pre-school.
"Hey buddy, how are you today?" I asked as I was walking down the stairs.
"Good. But not very," Eli 4.6 said.
"Not very? What do you mean?"
"Everything I say is turning into animals," he said.
"Big animals or small animals?" I asked. "Because small animals are just an annoyance, but big animals are a disaster."
"Oh, they're big," he said.
"Big like polar bear big?"
"Bigger than that," he said. "Big like BLUE WHALES."
"Wow! That IS a problem. I guess you're going to have to be really quiet at school."
"OH, YEAH," he said.
"What would Miss Denise say if you said something and a blue whale appeared on the playground?"
"She'd say 'Don't bring your blue whale to school ever again.' And I'd say 'I didn't BRING it, it's my voice.' "
"And in explaining yourself, another blue whale would show up," I said.
"I know," he said. "Then Miss Denise would say 'Stop talking. We don't have room for any more whales.' "
Here are a few random links to waste part of your Wednesday morning:
--from Robot Wisdom Weblog, a link to a compendium of Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey.http://www.alexras.info/edeep.php?action=view_all
My all-time favorite: It takes a big man to cry, but it takes a bigger man to laugh at that man.
Here's a great new term that's guaranteed to gain traction: slurping
. That's what Ipod users could do to corporate networks, apparently. Here's an excerpt:A U.S. security expert who devised an application that can fill an iPod with business-critical data in a matter of minutes is urging companies to address the very real threat of data theft.
...Abe Usher, a 10-year veteran of the security industry, created an application that runs on an iPod and can search corporate networks for files likely to contain business-critical data. At a rate of about 100MB every couple minutes, it can scan and download the files onto the portable storage units in a process dubbed "pod slurping."
Pod slurping. Don't think that doesn't bring back a few memories.
Here's the link:http://news.com.com/Beware+the+pod+slurping+employee/2100-1029_3-6039926.html
The Guitar Hero song tabs I mentioned a few weeks ago are almost complete for Hard and Expert levels. You can find them here:http://www.purplefrog.com/~thoth/guitar-hero/
It actually helped me with a section of Bark at the Moon on Expert (although I still can't get past 85%).
There's a Space Rangers 2 interview over at Gamecloud, and they specifically mention that they improved the Russian to English translation for the U.S. version. Here's the link:http://www.gamecloud.com/article.php?article_id=3588
Maybe the Greatest Innovation Ever
From Fortune Small Business
):Thanks to Diana's Homegrown, a startup in tiny Lemitar, N.M. (pop. 200), you may soon have to consult an instruction manual before biting into your lunchtime sandwich. ...What makes the sandwich distinct from other pre-made fare is this: The filling stays away from the bread, in a polymer pouch. That pouch is hermetically sealed and placed inside a hand-cut trench in a French roll. Keeping the filling and the bread separated prevents bacterial invaders from spoiling the ingredients and the bread from absorbing liquid. Diana's Homegrown wraps and seals the sandwich in a plastic baggie with a red tab poking out of the top. When the day comes for devouring, the hungry user tugs that rip cord, which deploys the sandwich filling onto the bread.
Are you kidding me? I get to pull a rip cord and DEPLOY sandwich filling? Oh, and it lasts--unrefrigerated--for a month
. Freaking genius. I'd fill up my cube with those bad boys. Then, when I got hungry, I could just deploy some ham and cheese.
It is, in fact, the laziest sandwich ever. For me, a dream come true.
Yes, I immediately searched for a website so that I could place an order, but they don't have one yet. A dream deferred.
Gloria made a cake with Eli 4.6 yesterday. Then she tried to ice it.
"Put that down... No, stop grabbing that... Let go of that... Argghhh!... I can't decorate this cake if you keep grabbing everything."
Eli 4.6 growled. I did everything I could to not burst out laughing.
"Are you listening to me?" she asked.
"The PROBLEM," he said, "is I just don't know HOW to listen." He then grabbed for something.
"I mean it," Gloria said, "you're about to get a timeout."
"Dude, back away from the mom," I said. "Slowly."
A few minutes later, the icing was completed without casualties or fatalities.
"Mommy, can I have some cake?" Eli asked.
"Not until after dinner," Gloria said.
"What about you, Daddy?" Eli asked.
"Hmm. I'm not sure," I said. "Am I allowed to have some cake?"
"Daddy can decide when to eat cake because he's a grown-up," Gloria said.
"Woo hoo!" I said. "I'm a grown-up!"
Gaming Business News
Item one: Atari is laying off twenty percent of their workforce. From TheStreet.comhttp://tinyurl.com/kckpj
:Facing questions about its ability to stay in business, Atari is laying off 20% of its staff in an effort to cut costs.
Twenty percent. That's a gigantic staff cut. It may be terminal. And that won't wind up being twenty percent, because in addition to those people, anybody with talent is going to get the hell out of there right now
. So you pick the twenty percent, which (in theory) are your weakest people, but you're also losing ten percent (probably more) off the very top. What you wind up left with are the people not quite bad enough to fire but not quite talented enough to leave.
Not exactly a recipe for a turnaround.
Item Two: Infinium (and I know I said I wouldn't write about them again until they shut down) is trying to raise a million dollars in cash to continue operations long enough to get the "Phantom Lapboard" to market. The lapboard is a "wireless, rotating custom keyboard/turntable with integrated mousepad."
So here's the question: is it possible to raise one million dollars from the stupidest people in the world? I guess we're about to find out, because no one else would even give these guys a dime.
It's Idiotic, It's Great, It's IGN
I've been looking forward to Fight Night Round 3 on the 360 (comes out tomorrow), so I've been poking around a bit looking for reviews. The IGN review is absolutely classic. Take a look at this excerpt:All of that aside, the computer AI is what keeps the single-player experience from being fun. There's always the challenge of beating the game, but the computer is so easy to beat, even on hard, that there's no real motivation to play a second career mode except to try a different weight class. Once, our boxer just stood there and didn't throw one punch the whole round, and the computer opponent landed about seven jabs and a hook and missed about 30 punches and caused no significant damage. That's just silly. Speaking of silly, it was no great challenge to knockout heavyweight Muhammad Ali in the fifth round, on hard, with featherweight Manny Pacquiao, even though the Filipino stallion is less than half the size of Ali. Next year we really hope to see the AI and difficulty settings improved.
Now that would seem like a deal-breaker. And here's an excerpt from the concluding paragraph: Fight Night Round 3 is a great sports title, but negligible improvements in the career mode and idiotic computer AI hold the game back from true greatness.
Wow, what a dis--wait a minute. It's got idiotic AI and
it's great? My head hurts. But that's just another day at the office for IGN, so they gave it an 8.5. Classic.
And those were certainly not my impressions after playing the demo, and it is IGN, so take what they say with a grain of salt. Or maybe half a grain. I'll have some more for you tomorrow after I spent some time with the full game.
Here's a link to the full review:http://xbox360.ign.com/articles/689/689318p1.html
After thinking about this review, I started wondering: what if IGN covered the real news? Would we see headlines like this?Hindenburg In Flames, 36 DeadStill a great zeppelin, critics say
[Please note that this is in two parts: part one, which I wrote last night, and part two, which I just wrote after Sony released additional information this morning.]
PS3 speculation: it's gone crazy.
In the span of forty-eight hours last week, we got the following pieces of "information":
--Sony expects to ship 100 million PS3 in 2006. That's what Kotaku says, anyway, based on the following article from Digitimes.Sony expects strong PS3 shipments in 2006, may work with MicrosoftSony expects to ship over 100 million PlayStation 3 (PS3) game consoles, according to Tetsuhiko Yasuda, Sony Computer Entertainment Asia’s corporate executive managing director and senior vice president of Asia. He also said Sony may work with Microsoft in the future....Sony does not regard Xbox as a competitor. Rather, the company may even consider working with Microsoft to develop games together, Yasuda noted.
Hmm. So do they mean 100 million in 2006? There's a disconnect between the headline and the lead. Now if they actually had final hardware, or even close, or were actually making them now, maybe I wouldn't even notice, but they don't, they're not, and they're not. At this point, they've never even shown the PS3 in playable form for more than thirty seconds. And they're shipping 100 million of those this year
? Um, good luck with that.
Nice form on the Xbox quote, by the way. That doesn't mean Sony wants to team with Microsoft. It means Sony dismisses Microsoft's console to the degree that they don't consider them a competitor.
Hey, Sony dudes, at least they've got final hardware. All you've got are mock-ups inside glass cases right now.
Then, not two days later, we get this (from Merrill Lynchhttp://rsch1.ml.com/9093/24013/ds/276873_0.PDF
...the launch of the PS3 could be delayed by between 6 and 12 months, with the result being an autumn launch in Japan and a late 2006 or early 2007 launch in the U.S.It's now clear that the box is prohibitively expensive to makeWe wrote last November that Sony's design choices for the PS3 had resulted in an expensive and difficult-to-manufacture product, and we think that we're seeing the consequences of those choices play out now. In particular we think the problem points are the Sony Cell processor and the Blu-Ray drive. Our updated analysis indicates that the initial bill of materials for PS3 could approach to $900, falling to $320 three years from launch.
Plenty of additional analysis in the full article, by the way.
So those are two pieces of information that seemingly are totally mutually exclusive. They can't possibly both be true.
The question, though, is whether either one
of them is true. I would guess "no."
Everyone, it seems, is talking out of their ass right now. Wildly. Sony just says anything they want to, and since they've been so incredibly secretive, no one can dispute anything they say. Analysts are so desperate to write about the console that they're speculating about anything and everything.
I think there are a few things that we can extract out of all this, though.
1. The 360 was cutting edge. The PS3 is bleeding edge.
Incorporating the Blu-Ray drive into the console was an absolutely horrible design decision. Standalone players aren't even on the market yet and the console is supposed to launch with one in just months? Not to mention that the most inexpensive standalone player I've seen is listed at $400.
That's for the cheapest
Here's something else that no one seems to have figured out yet. If your HD display doesn't support HDCP, you are shit out of luck. You will NEVER be able to watch HD movies on your PS3, even though it increased the price of the console by roughly $100.
There haven't been a bunch of articles about this yet, but there will be, as soon as Sony announces a price point and people figure out that while Blu-Ray is a standard feature, it's jacking up the price of the box (by as much as twenty percent).
You can argue that Sony's long-term strategy with the box is really that it's a stealth Blu-Ray player to get the format established in the market. It's still a risky strategy for the unit as a game console, because they might price themselves off the cliff.
Look. If the PS3 comes out at some crazy price like $599, it's dead in the U.S. Finished. It doesn't matter if it has a Blu-Ray player. It doesn't matter if it can (allegedly) display games in 1080p. It doesn't matter if it can make Belgian waffles and then sprinkle cinammon sugar on them from the USB ports. That price point cannot be successful.
I seriously doubt that a $499 launch point can be successful, actually. They need to hit $399, or, at the very most, $449. Anything else is suicide, because Microsoft will drop the price of the 360 premium unit to $349 this fall.
2. Sony is way, way behind.
I've been saying that for months, but I think it's actually getting worse instead of better. Sony would be showing what they had--if they had anything. They don't. I believe it's a combination of the compexity of programming the Cell processor and the low number of dev kits they had in the field until recently.
Plus, it's also possible that the PS3 is just so damn expensive that Sony doesn't want
to start building it yet. They could still cut features in an attempt to lower the manufacturing price.
If that were true, though, they'd still be showing playable demos.
3. That controller is shit.
I don't care how many people Sony gets to say that the controller is the greatest-feeling thing in the world. It's a damned Batarang. It's wrong.
Remember how Microsft told us that even though the original Xbox controller was the size of an overfed guinea pig, that their focus groups told them it was the most comfortable controller ever? Well, they were full of it, and we knew it as soon as we picked the damn thing up. Hell, we could tell from the pictures
that the controller was a disaster.
That's the PS3 controller. I don't have to have it in my hands to know that it's not going to feel right. And Sony's problem is that the 360's controller is, by far, the best controller ever designed in terms of ergonomics. It is incredibly comfortable. So Sony needs to get that fixed.
4. Sony desperately needs an online strategy.
Allegedly, they have one. After years of deriding Xbox Live, they've finally stopped lying and dissembling about how they don't need a centralized network. A few people are referring to it as the HUB. That hasn't been confirmed, but at least they're going to apparently have something.
Sony lives in interesting times. So to speak.
So I wake up this morning, ready to take one last look for edits before posting, but this hits me in the face over at MSNBC first:Launch of Sony’s PlayStation 3 could be delayed
Next-generation video game console must meet certain industry provisions
That's the headline. The difference this time, though, is that it's coming from Sony.TOKYO - Sony Corp.’s launch of its next-generation PlayStation 3 video game console could be delayed if industry specifications for some of its technology are not finalized soon, although it is still aiming for a spring rollout, it said on Monday....“We’re aiming for spring, but we haven’t announced specific regions,” a spokeswoman for Sony Computer Entertainment said, adding that it was waiting for the final specifications on some of the technology it is using in the PS3, such as that related to the Blu-ray DVD drive and to input and output video and sound.
The specifications are decided by industry consortiums.
“We’re waiting for them until the last possible minute, but the launch could be pushed back if they’re not decided soon,” the spokeswoman said. If the PS3 is not ready in time, the company will choose the next best timing for the launch, she said.
Here's one more excerpt:Game development for the PS3 is also seen being delayed because the technology specifications have not been finalized.“Game makers are developing games according to their guesses on what the final specifications might be,” said Takeshi Tajima, a BNP Paribas analyst.
There you go, and here's the link to the full article:http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11458047/page/2/
Kiss and Cry in Torino
Is figure skating a sport?
Here's the answer: it doesn't matter, because I had to watch it last night anyway. I would aruge that if you put on rouge and wear sequins to "compete," then it's not a sport, but perhaps I'm just a disgruntled old-timer. Ten years from now, snowboarders will probably dress up like characters in the Pirates of Penzance and I won't like that, either.
Last night was the first time I had seen any Olympic coverage from "Torino" (that's in "Italia," in case you're wondering). It may sound strange, not watching the Olympics, but watching the Olympics in America is a nighmare. There's coverage on primary channels and sub-channels and local access channels, but if you want to see it in high-definition, your only choice is NBC. And watching NBC coverage is like watching a four-hour episode of The View
Here's the thing about American Olympics coverage: it's for women. One hundred percent, totally packaged for the female viewer. It's a prime-time soap opera. If you're an Olympic athlete who grew up without indoor plumbing, in a broken home, with a mother who hooked to buy food, and you have a mysterious blood disease, then NBC wants to have your love child.
Here's the other thing: unless you win a medal, or were supposed to win a medal and didn't, America apparently does not give a shit about you. NBC has four hours of painfully overproduced coverage to show you each night, and except for figure skating, all they're going to show are the events where Americans won medals. That means the first week has been dominated by coverage of fringe events that didn't even exist ten years ago, like snowboarding down stairs.
Figure skating, though, is different. Women, for reasons entirely unknowable to men, love figure skating. And since it's a soap opera, less than one hour of skating will take four hours to show--episodes, you see. With cliffhangers.
Men can't do that. We sit down to watch a game. The game starts and we watch it to conclusion. There's no other way to do it. Watching NBC is like watching thirty movie trailers with commercials after each one.
Here's all you need to know about how NBC covers figure skating. In a professional football game, there are twenty-two athletes on the field at the same time, and one play involves dozens of strategic decisions and individual confrontations. One play could be replayed thirty times before everything that happened could be dissected. And professional football is covered by, at most, three announcers in a booth.
For Olympic figure skating, there are four.
And they rarely, if ever, shut up. Scott Hamilton, who I strongly believe is an elf, has more enthusiasm for a broken skate lace than My Little Pony has for rainbows. And man, is he loud. I know there are three other people talking in the booth, but it's almost impossible to hear any of them. Here's what a typical section of commentary sounds like:"He's coming up on a triple milk cow with a quadruple bypass.""Very solid jump and he nailed the landing.""THAT WAS THE GREATEST JUMP I HAVE EVER SEEN. HE SKATES IN HIS OWN LITTLE DREAMLAND, FAR UP ON THE HILL. MY GOD, THAT WAS MAGNIFICENT. I THINK I HAVE AN ERECTION."
When announcers say (and I'm quoting) "He's catlike, but with a wicked style," I'm not sure if they're talking about figure skating or a Broadway musical. Or maybe they're talking about both, and that might be the secret to understanding figure skating, because it has what are usually called "high production values."
Male Olympic figure skaters, as far as I can tell, have three choices for their costume. They can dress up as one of three characters: a flapper, a pirate, or a bullfighter. Then they jump like crazy for one minute before they enter the part of the program they call I'm a Little Flower Reaching for the Sun
, followed by another minute of jumping.
I have a suggestion to make the skating more dramatic: add singing. Mike that bullfighter up, then add singing as a mandatory element.
It's a show, after all. So why not add show tunes?
Gloria tricked me into watching the Olympic Men's Figure Skating Finals. You know I took notes.
Here are some links to get your Friday off to a remarkably unproductive start.
First off, on Einstein's theory of gravity:A Chinese astronomer from the Univeristy of St Andrews has fine-tuned Einstein's groundbreaking theory of gravity, creating a 'simple' theory which could solve a dark mystery that has baffled astrophysicists for three-quarters of a century.
Dark matter, in other words. Here's the link:http://www.pparc.ac.uk/Nw/EinsteinTheory.asp
Here's something that's absolutely insane, from Engadget--a postage stamp with moving images
. I know, the future is the present. Here's an excerpt:These unique plastic stamps use lenticular technology to lace twelve film stills together to replay the winning Olympic races of two skating legends (in Holland anyway). These stamps are available now from the Dutch post office.
That's just Philip K. Dick stuff, and here's the link:http://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?SESSIONID=&aId=9257
One of the skaters on the stamps is Ard Schenk, and believe it or not, my mom thought Ard Schenk was the bomb. I still remember watching him in the Olympics in 1972. He was amazing.
Finally, from MSNBC:Someday, biochemists will be able to figure out what dinosaurs ate, what diseases afflicted them and how they were related to each other — all by analyzing a bit of organic goo.At least those are the kinds of tests that could theoretically be carried out in a new field dubbed "paleoproteomics." Paleontologists are becoming increasingly intrigued by the possibilities in the wake of last year's discovery that some of a Tyrannosaurus rex's soft tissues — perhaps its blood cells, blood vessels or fibrous cells — could survive the process of fossilization intact.
Pretty remarkable stuff, and here's the link:http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11385533/
God of War (PS2)
I'm in a log-rolling contest. In Hell.
If you haven't played God of War
, I'm sure you think I'm kidding. I wish I were.
Here it is, right off the top: if God of War was Game of the Year in 2005, that's an indictment of the year.
One of most uneven games I've ever played, it alternately thrills and infuriates you. And when it's infuriating you, usually with incredibly cheap deaths, it's what I like to call a "curser." That means I hurled every expletive I knew, and some I made up, in one particular section of the game. Hell, as it were.
Let's back up a bit. First off, the animation in this game is better than anything I've ever seen on the PS2, and graphically, it's a marvel. Certainly, it's the high water mark graphically for the system. And it's not just the graphics--the environments themselves are full of a sweeping kind of grandeur, with immense scale, and the overall effect is brilliant. And the voice work is just as superb--absolutely top notch.
Then there's the story, which is wonderful. It gets short shrift, in some ways, to the action, but it's a new myth which is entirely faithful to the wonder and emotion of old myths. It's also beautifully revealed during the course of the game, and it's certainly one of the most poignant stories ever written for a videogame.
The problem with subverting the story to the action, at least to the degree that it's done here, is that the story is far more interesting than the action, which tends to get repetitive, particularly in the mid-game. Still, though, the battles are spectacular to look at, the puzzles are generally clever and well-designed, and they certainly support the story. And about two-thirds of the way through the game, after I'd just retrieved Pandora's Box, I felt like the game was really starting to soar.
Then I went to Hell. And in Hell, I spend most of my time either walking across turning logs (with blades), or climbing walls with revolving cylinders of stone (with blades). The problem with the walk is that below you is Eternity--instant death for one mistake, in other words. And there will be many, many mistakes, or at least there were for me. The idea of a multi-minute sequence where one tiny mistake equals instant death is just terrible game design. Absolutely terrible.
Even worse, it's not even thematically consistent. The game consistently makes excellent use of its environment to reinforce the myths of the Gods, but for the Challenge of Hades we get a log-rolling contest? Is this some kind of misguided lumberjack salute? Are we going to be shimmying up trees as well?
What's particularly frustrating is that the right way to do this section of the game was so obvious. When you're walking through Hell, you should be walking on a path paved with human souls, and those souls should occasionally reach up to drag you down with them. Destroy the first quickly or another will emerge, then another, and together they will drag you down into their nightmare.That's
Climbing a wall? It should be a wall of souls. Duh. And they should scream and moan and reach out for you. It would have been totally creepy and unsettling. Instead, we get the lumberjack championships, complete with instant death. It's incredibly cheap and jarring, and I mean it when I say I cursed my way through it. I almost quit about twenty times, at least, and I was pissed off every single minute. That's how badly that section of the game was designed.
Once you get through, though, the additional backstory you get is fascinating, the final battles are fantastic, and the ending is absolutely stellar. The last half hour is vivid and totally memorable, which makes it even more baffling that the previous section would be total crap.
Anything else? The save system works fairly well, as does the quick restore after death, although there are times when it makes you grit your teeth in frustration. The camera is a nightmare, because it's fixed, and many times you won't be able to fully see what you're supposed to be doing until you're actually doing it, which is very frustrating.
This game is very, very polished. There is an unbelievable amount of detail, and nothing feels partially fleshed out or incomplete. The weaker parts of the game were just bad design decisions, not problems of execution.
If there's one more general weakness, it's that the game builds unevenly. There are long stretches where nothing feels more dramatic or important than what came before it, which is also a function of a game that added a few hours of content to extend the experience, even though it's not a long game by any means (about fifteen hours). So even though the locale might be different (and often stirring), and the enemies are different, it still feels very much the same.
So it's a game that is great in fits and starts, particularly the final sequences, and it's a game that has obviously been created with great care. It will also, on occasion, drive you crazy. It's certainly a top ten game for 2005, but how anyone could put it at the very top is beyond me.
At the Movies
The last three movies I've seen: Grizzly Man, The Machinist, and Curious George
I think my head is about to explode.
A bizarre documentary, an atmospheric horror film, and a children's cartoon are strange sauce when stirred together in short order.
This is the point where I find a common thread in the three films to set this whole column up. I've got nothing, though, unless I can find a character in Curious George
who was insane.Grizzly Man
is a Werner Herzog documentary about Timothy Treadwell, a grizzly bear "activist" who lived among the bears in Alaska for twelve consecutive summers. His own documentary footage is the foundation for the film, and it's riveting. He was a rank amateur, to be blunt, and his willingness to sit within mere feet, or, in some cases, even touch grizzly bears is both inspired and insane. He uses a nearly sing-song voice that would be more at home on Sesame Street than in the Alaskan wilderness, which makes his footage even more surreal.
If you think this is a documentary about grizzly bears--it's not. It's more a self-study in mental illness and delusion, which becomes more and more apparent as the film progresses. Sometimes it's painful to watch.
In the end, and in one of the darkest comic moments in the history of the galaxy, he was eaten. By a grizzly bear, of course.The Machinist
had a brief period of notoriety when it was revealed that Christian Bale lost over sixty pounds (down to 120, believe it or not) to play the role of Trevor Reznik, a man who hasn't slept for a year. The reviews were middling, but as a study in psychological horror I think it was much better than that. This is one of those movies that will age very, very well, and ten years from now it will be more well-regarded than it is now. It's full of haunting images and moments that stick with you after the film is over, unsettling moments that have a patina of dread.
I am so full of shit. I can't believe I just typed "patina of dread."
This is a creepy, unnerving movie, best watched in the dark, in a quiet house. The unwinding of his sanity is exceptionally well-done, and Bale is brilliant."Mommie, Curious George is coming to a theater near you starting February tenth,"
Eli 4.6 said last week.
Eli is a fan of Curious George, and so are we, so we all went to the movies last Friday and saw it together.
I'm not sure anyone could have done a better job of adapting the Curious George stories into a feature length cartoon. Will Ferrell does the voice of Ted (the guy in the yellow hat), and he's outstanding. He's extremely funny without having to be over the top. The story is well-written, there's plenty of humor, some of which is really clever, and the visual style of the cartoon is very bright and appealing. Plus the soundtrack is particularly noteworthy--it's by Jack Johnson and fully worthy of being listened to on its own.
Eli 4.6 was highly entertained, and so were we. When the movie ended, we were walking out and Gloria said "Honey, do you have your elasmosaurus?" He did, and as we walked past the movie screen he saw that his head was casting a shadow (with the light from the projector). He was a few feet past the screen when he said "Hey! I've got a great idea!" and ran back through the line. Finally stopping, of course, to hold up his elasmosaurus, which cast an ominous and spectacular looking shadow on the white screen.
Then he roared.
Freaky Science, Freaky Speed, Freaky Sleep
DQ Fitness Consultant Doug Walsh sent me two outstanding links today.
The first link is to a story about d3o body armor, which is being used by some of the downhill skiers in the Olympics. It's freaky. Here's an excerpt:A futuristic flexible material that instantly hardens into armour upon impact will protect US and Canadian skiers from injury on the slalom runs at this year's Winter Olympics.
Is that amazing or what?The resulting material exhibits a material property called "strain rate sensitivity". Under normal conditions the molecules within the material are weakly bound and can move past each with ease, making the material flexible. But the shock of sudden deformation causes the chemical bonds to strengthen and the moving molecules to lock, turning the material into a more solid, protective shield.
I know. Science fiction stuff. Freaking unbelievable. Here's the link:http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn8721&feedId=online-news_rss20
The second link is to a video documenting the attempt to set a land speed record for the bicycle. It's stunning--and, for you ambulance chasers, there's a wreck, too. Spectacular footage, and here's the link:http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-162891478515007486&q=Bicycle
I've got this weird thing going on with my sleep right now where I'm not getting much. I'm totally tapped out all day, barely making it through, but when I lie down, if I don't go to sleep within about ten minutes, I'm wide awake. Bummer. So I went to bed about two hours ago, failed, and got back up.
Of course, there are far worse things in life than being in your study at midnight, writing while your wife is playing "Smoke On the Water" and muttering when she misses a note.
Windows Vista, HDCP, and ATI/Nvidia
Thanks to all of you who sent in this link (Nate Carpenter was the first):http://www.firingsquad.com/hardware/ati_nvidia_hdcp_support/
HDCP stands for High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection. It exists as a copy protection standard for high-definition DVD's (both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray). Microsoft Vista is going to incorporate this standard, so if you want to watch a high-definition DVD at full resolution, your graphics card will have to support HDCP.
So will your monitor, but more on that later.
So let's cut to the chase:Although ATI has had “HDCP support” in their GPUs since the Radeon 8500, and NVIDIA has had “HDCP support” in their GPUs since the GeForce FX5700, it turns out that things are more complicated -- just because the GPU itself supports HDCP doesn’t mean that the graphics card can output a DVI/HDCP compliant stream. There needs to be additional support at the board level, which includes licensing the HDCP decoding keys from the Digital Content Protection, LLC (a spin-off corporation within the walls of Intel). After some investigation, Brandon and I determined that there is no shipping retail add-in board with HDCP decoding keys. Simply put, none of the AGP or PCI-E graphics cards that you can buy today support HDCP.
For those of you keeping score at home, that's "none" as in "zero."
What does that mean? It means that for anyone with a non-HDCP compliant graphics card or monitor, high-definition DVD's will be "down-rezzed" to 480p. That's also true, in general, of all high-definition displays, not just computer monitors.
What the hell?
So essentially, Hollywood wants to obsolete literally millions of high-definition displays, preventing them from displaying HD content at full resolution, because HDCP wasn't around when these displays were made. Even worse, millions of consumers who have purchased graphics cards in the last twelve to eighteen months, thinking they were HDCP compliant, have been deceived by ATI/Nvidia.
This is basically going to result in several gigantic class-action lawsuits. Both ATI and Nvidia will be sued. Sony's going to get sued. Everybody in sight is going to get sued.
When companies try to punish the very people who helped mainstream HD in the first place, when graphics card companies deceive their customers, they should be held accountable. And besides being held legally accountable, it's going to be the public relations nightmare of all time.
Good again. It should be.
[written Tuesday night]
Any doubts about Guitar Hero being the best game ever made should have officially evaporated around 9:30 p.m. last night. That's when my wife, after months of promises, sat down and picked up the cherry red Gibson SG-imitation guitar.
It took her a few tried to get through I Love Rock and Roll
, the starter song, but then she blew right through I Wanna Be Sedated
and Ziggy Stardust
. "This is fun," she said. "I can see why you like to play it so much."
"Think up a name for your band," I said.
"My band?" she asked.
"For Career mode," I said.
"Oh, I won't do that," she said. "I just wanted to try it once."
This morning, the first thing she said to me was "I went into your study last night after you wnt to bed and tried to turn the game on but I couldn't get it working." I gave her a little A/V tutorial.
I put Eli 4.6 to bed tonight, and when I came downstairs, I heard Sharp Dressed Man
thumping throught the closed door of my study.
"I got ninety-three percent on Sedated
," she said.
As I write this, she's standing a few feet away, ripping through ZZ Top. "My hands hurt," she said, as she started another song.
I think I'm going to recommend The Skirts
Your Links (And Mine)
DQ reader Fredrik Skarstedt let me know that the original sand painter was actually Ferenc Cako, and here's his website:http://www.cakostudio.hu/index.html
You can see some pictures at that link and they're remarkable.
From the BBC:Archaeologists have discovered an intact, ancient Egyptian tomb in the Valley of the Kings, the first since King Tutankhamun's was found in 1922.
Amazing, and here's the link:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4700032.stm
And another, this time from CNN:Archaeologists have unearthed a massive tomb in the northern Greek town of Pella, capital of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia and birthplace of Alexander the Great.The eight-chambered tomb dates to the Hellenistic Age between the fourth and second century B.C., and is the largest of its kind ever found in Greece. The biggest multichambered tombs until now contained three chambers.
Also amazing, and here's the link:http://tinyurl.com/8yomx
From Slashdot:Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed a tabletop accelerator that produces nuclear fusion at room temperature, providing confirmation of an earlier experiment conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), while offering substantial improvements over the original design.
I never thought I'd read that paragraph.
Here's the link:http://tinyurl.com/b4rmn
Here's a fascinating article about a professional gaming coach in South Korea (sorry, but I've totally forgotten who sent me the link). It's a legendary Starcraft player who now coaches a Samsung Electronics gaming team. She's pretty remarkable, and the interview is a very interesting read.http://tinyurl.com/9vnvp
So here's the thing: I needed an envelope. That sounds easy enough.
Unless you live at my house.
Gloria has this big wooden trunk in her study where she keeps all kinds of things. Including envelopes. She also uses the lid of the trunk as a tabletop for books, paperwork, her CD player, whatever.
I know that I don't need to tell you what's wrong with this scenario, but here's the obvious summation: I have to take all that crap off the chest to get an envelope
. Even worse, then I have to put it all back
after I'm done.
I should just have a dinner party for twelve or something. Or maybe re-shingle the roof. Is that something they do to a roof?
That's why I'm an accredited Doctor of Lazyology, though. When confronted with a mind-bending potential workload like this, I refuse to panic. Instead, I use skills honed through years of practice.
The first thing to do is open the lid until objects begin to drift from the incline. That helps me establish that, although it's a tight fit, I can get my arm inside the trunk to remove an envelope without having all the stuff sliding off the lid.
One problem, though: it's dark inside the trunk. I'm rooting around in there with my hand, but I can't seem to find the envelopes.
"Hey honey, did you move the envelopes?" I ask.
"They're still in the trunk," she says. She's sitting on the couch with Eli 4.6, watching an episode of Buzz Lightyear. "Did you look in the trunk?"
"I can't see inside very well," I say. "It's dark."
"What do you mean it's dark?"
"There's a lot of stuff on the lid, so I just cracked it open and reached in with my hand," I say.
"OH MY GOD," she says.
"What I need is a flashlight," I say. I head off toward my study.
"How can you be the most industrious person I know and the laziest at the same time?" she asks.
Clearly, a rhetorical question.
She's walking into the study just as I return with a flashlight. "Here's one," I say, clicking the button and aiming the beam of light toward the trunk. "Just let me slide in here."
"No!" she says. "I will get you an envelope. Stay away."
My personal motto: I proudly continue to lower the bar
Hell--It's What's Frozen Over For Breakfast
After refusing to play any games for ten years
, Gloria played Guitar Hero tonight.
I know. Continents are crashing into each other, the Earth is spinning off its axis, and we're careening into space. It's awesome.
And she's damned good at it, too.
Eli 4.6 was helping me shop for Valentine's Day cards for Gloria today.
"Oh, no, there goes Tokyo, go go Godzilla," he sang as he walked down the card aisle. Here are the cards he picked out:
1. Godzilla eating a train.
2. A polar bear's butt.
3. A wagonful of white puppies.
"Daddy?" he asked. "Do you know why the polar bear is funny? Because they're just showing his BUTT."
Valentine's day. It's all about the romance.
More God of War
I spent about two more hours with the game (I think I'm about six hours in right now) this afternoon, and while I still don't understand how this game makes Jaffe a visionary, I certainly respect the care with which this game was made. Outstanding animation, terrific sound effects, excellent voice acting, intricate design--it's all top quality. Yes, the camera is a pain in the ass, and yes, it rips off half a dozen other games, but there's nothing wrong with being derivative as long as you're good.
Is it anywhere near as good as Guitar Hero? Not a freaking chance. It's not even close. I think the reason Guitar Hero didn't get Game of the Year anywhere is that critics couldn't conceive of giving GOTY to a niche game, even one that's perfectly designed and executed.
I think the real risk for someone like Jaffe is that he philosophizes and speaks so much about the future of games that he forgets to make any.
EA isn't the only software company laying off people right now. From 1UP.com:Activision has confirmed to Wall Street Journal that 7% of its global workforce is being phased out.
7% is a little deeper than cutting some fat. Like I said, this is going to be a brutal year.
God of War
I did something Saturday night that I thought I'd never do. I bought one more PS2 game.
I pulled the PS2 out of mothballs this fall to play Shadow of the Colossus
, then Guitar Hero came along. I figured that was it for the PS2, though. End of generation.
I kept hearing about David Jaffe, though. Somehow he had been anointed by acclamation as the voice of the future of gaming. I had no idea why, and I figured unless I played God of War
, I'd never know. So I picked it up.
Here's the funny thing: after having played the game for about three hours, I still don't know why.
It's not that God of War isn't good--it is. But its excellence lies not in innovation, but in refinement. God of War is (very basically) a combination of Devil May Cry
and Prince of Persia
with the shitty parts thrown out. Nothing new, but a recycling of existing elements in a more well-balanced package than the originals. With mythology as a backstory.
This is the resume of a prophet?
David Jaffe certainly seems like a bright guy, but I wonder why he's being looked to for his opinions on the future of gaming when his signature game doesn't represent the future at all.
There's an absolutely fantastic article over at ESPN about the renaissance of--electric football. That's right, the vibrating playing field with the little plastic dudes is going strong, and "modders" can tweak the plastic bases that support the players so that they can do just about anything they want with them.
It's a long article, but what a great read.http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=hruby/060210&lpos=spotlight&lid=tab4pos1
From DQ reader Geoff Engelstein:A friend of mine (a real friend, not one made up for urban legend purposes) has a five-year old son, who has been playing Dungeon Siege over the last month or so. The other day, he was at the kitchen table coloring and my friend noticed, to his surprise, that for the first time in his life his son is coloring inside the lines. Thus begins the conversation:
Father: "Wow! You're coloring inside the lines!"
Son: "I leveled up."
The Future of Gaming, as Envisioned by People Who Aren't Managing the Present Particularly Well
Two very interesting comments came out of a discussion of gaming held at "Churchill Club," whatever the hell that might be.And if you were my wife, madam, I'd drink it
. That's my favorite Winston Churchill punchline.
So here's the first interesting statement, from Microsoft's Peter Moore, corporate vice-president of Microsoft's interactive entertainment division
):Let's be fair. Whether it's five, 10, 15, 20 years from now, the concept of driving to the store to buy a plastic disc with data on it and driving back and popping it in the drive will be ridiculous," Moore said. "We'll tell our grandchildren that and they'll laugh at us.
Here's what I really like about Peter Moore: he's never hopped around on a stage imitating a monkey. Big ups for that.
Peter clever positions that statement from the consumer's point of view, but that's not a consumer move--it's a straight business move. No need to kiss retail store ass to get product placement, no co-marketing deals needed, and best of all: no used games
. We've talked about this on multiple occasions, but it's clear that the software industry is going to make the CD/DVD as a form of game distribution go away as fast as they possible can.
Here's the second interesting statement, this one from Raph Koster, whose name I have correctly, triumphantly spelled for the second consecutive time:"The entire video game industry's history thus far has been an aberration," Koster told the audience. "It has been a mutant monster only made possible by unconnected computers. People always play games together. All of you learned to play games with each other. When you were kids, you played tag, tea parties, cops and robbers, what have you. The single-player game is a strange mutant monster which has only existed for 21 years and is about to go away because it is unnatural and abnormal."
Detoc and Butler weren't sold on the inevitable death of single-player games, with Butler borrowing an analogy that the entire crowd instantly understood, if the laughter was any indication.
"Linear entertainment in single-player is to media what masturbation is to sex," Butler said. "It'll always be there, but it is not the real experience."
Raph Koster is chief creative officer of Sony Online Entertainment. Detoc and Butler by the way, are Laurent Detoc, president of Ubisoft North America, and Lars Butler, former vice president of global online for Electronic Arts and current CEO of the upstart TWN. "Upstart" means "company no one gives a shit about right now."
Here's what I find interesting: Koster, who's a very bright and interesting game, is in charge of the Titanic. Everquest II? No one cares? Star Wars Galaxies? Ruined and abandoned. Butler? Formerly in charge of the online LaBrea Tar Pits at EA, where good ideas go to die. And as for Detoc, does Ubisoft even have
a MMORPG right now? These guys would all seem to have vested financial interests in their visions coming true, and the execution of their vision has sucked ass when they've been involved, seemingly. So I think it's premature to anoint them prophets. And who are they to define our experience as "real" or "not real?" Good grief.
Great masturbation line, though. That's always gets them rolling in the aisles.
Here's the problem with their vision: gaming is a wildly diverse experience. The gaming industry persists in trying to shoehorn a more narrow version of the gaming than their customer base has clearly indicated they want. Lots of people want to play online. And lots of people don't. That's the real future of gaming.
Here's where I say something like this: the future of gaming is a fractal. Now that's not true, but holy shit is that thought-provoking. Too bad I can't use it.
The real future of gaming is like an object in Katamari Damacy: gigantic and incredibly irregular. There will be dozens, if not hundreds, of different markets, many of them boutique. That is the future and no clever speeches will stop it.
Atari: Under the Bus
Atari is still breathing, but it may be a death rattle.
They announced Q3 fiscal results today (for them, the quarter ending December 31st) and they were dismal. Revenue down 50% from last year (to 100 million), a loss of nearly 5 million, and a restructuring (translation: layoffs) charge of 1.1 million.
Atari lost 25 million in the last quarter, so I guess this could be seen as improvement, but not when they announce that they're in default on some of their financial covenants and their credit line has been cut off. Here's the red letter quote:The Company cannot guarantee... [we] will generate sufficient resources to fully address the uncertainties of our financial position.
Oh, yeah: the CFO resigned, too.Along with its financial results today Atari also announced that Diane Baker has resigned her position as Atari's Executive Vice President and CFO, to be effective shortly. The company's continuing woes were not cited as a reason for her leaving; she did not jump ship, but instead left "to pursue a new opportunity," the company said.
That "new opportunity," I'm guessing, was to not get fired if she left. That's what phrase usually means.
Full article here: http://biz.gamedaily.com/industry/feature/?id=11825
We've talked about it before: 2006 is going to be a brutal
year in the gaming industry.
Guitar Hero won five awards at the Interactive Achievement Awards last night.
--Outstanding Innovation in Gaming
--Outstanding Achievement: Soundtrack
--Outstanding Achievement: Gameplay Engineering
--Outstanding Achievement: Game Design
--Family Game of the Year
That sounds about right. The only thing missing is The Best Damn Game Ever Made Award.
If you still haven't played Guitar Hero, I know what you're thinking: He's been talking about this game FOREVER. It can't possibly be that good.
Yes, it can be, I promise you, and I've got several hundred e-mails attesting to that.
I've passed 28 or 30 songs on Expert at this point. "Passing" just means that you finished the song without getting booed off the stage (three stars out of five, at a minimum). All I have left to pass Expert level is Bark at the Moon and Cowboys From Hell. Cowboys From Hell is just pure evil, with a terrific sequence to the song (much better than the Hard version), but it's fiendishly hard to even finish the opening riff, let alone get through the song. That was no surprise to me, though, since CFH on Hard difficulty also killed me, and Expert is considerably more complicated.
Bark at the Moon, though, is just pissing me off. What drives me crazy is that the riffs, in the first 60-70% of the song, at least, are not impossible to play--they're just blindingly fast. I see the sequences, my brain understands them, and I can play them with no problem, but I just can't sustain that kind of speed for the lenth of time the song requires. I've liked every version of this song, for some reason, and I like this version, but I just can't play it yet.
I've gone back to the Hard level to fill in, and I've gotten up to 22 out of 30 songs with at least 4 stars or better. The way that your brain rewires itself as you get better is just an amazing feeling.
Links and Lots of Them
So many links have piled up around here that I'm just going to post one big batch of them with an absolute and complete lack of order. Your Friday morning is ruined--pull up a chair and a snack.
Western Union has ended their telegram service, which I guess would be a defining moment if anyone had noticed. It's remarkable that a form of communication that was so vitally important for so many years vanished with so little fanfare. Thanks to Michael Clayton for the link.http://www.dailytech.com/article.aspx?newsid=588
Here's an odd one, but I've had at least ten people send it to me in the last week. It's a woman who paints with colored sand, and she does it in front of a live audience. Bizarre, but the video clips are pretty remarkable. And how does anyone realize they have a talent for something like that?http://www.sandfantasy.com/videoclips/videoclips.htm
From Mike Rozek, a link to the "galley copy" of James Frey's "new book." If you read "A Million Little Pieces" and followed the recent scandal, this is very funny. Here's the link:http://www.bobanddavid.com/david.asp?artId=191
From DQ reader Sirius, a link to another very interesting article over at Mark's SysInternals Blog. It seems that some CD burning/disc emulation programs are using rootkits to defeate DRM. Another methodical, thorough piece of work from this guy, who has done some spectacular investigative pieces in the last three months.http://www.sysinternals.com/Blog/
From half the people who read this column comes this link, about a little robotic dinosaur called "Pleo." Okay, the company is calling it a "truly autonomous life form" (cough--bullshit--cough), but it does seem to have some advanced A.I. and looks to be both more intelligent and considerably cuter than Robo Raptor.http://www.ugobe.com/pleo/index.html
Hasbro introduced a "realistic, life-size pony" today as well, but I'm not linking to that. Ponies drool--dinosaurs rule.
From the BBC, an article on dark matter. Here's an excerpt:With the aid of 7,000 separate measurements, the researchers have been able to establish that the galaxies contain about 400 times the amount of dark matter as they do normal matter. ..."It looks like you cannot ever pack it smaller than about 300 parsecs - 1,000 light-years; this stuff will not let you. That tells you a speed actually - about 9km/s - at which the dark matter particles are moving because they are moving too fast to be compressed into a smaller scale.
Pretty astonishing information, and here's the link:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4679220.stm
From a bunch of different people (as well as Robot Wisom Weblog), a link to a modest version of Charles Babbage's Difference Engine--made with Legos. It's utterly ridiculous and totally amazing, and here's the link:http://acarol.woz.org/
From DQ reader Don Barree, a link to an article about a "lost world" found in Indonesia in a section of the Foja Mountains. What makes the discovery remarkable is that researchers have found dozens of new species of birds, butterflies, frogs, and plants. It's hard to believe that there are still places on Earth that are remote beyond the reach of humans.
Well, not this place anymore, obviously, but you know what I mean. Here's the link:http://articles.news.aol.com/news/article.adp?id=20060207075509990054
Via Engadget, a link to a new generation of cochlear implants. They are both more effective as well as incredibly small--roughly the size of a grain of rice
. Incredible, and here's the link:http://www.umich.edu/news/index.html?Releases/2006/Feb06/r020606a
Ghost Recon Update
I've rarely been so glad to be wrong, and as often as I've been wrong, that's saying something. Here's an excerpt from a February 7 Gamespot story:Ubisoft has announced that Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter will be released on March 9 for the Xbox and Xbox 360, and March 30 for the PC and PlayStation 2.
I believe it's reasonable to assume that Microsoft is now going to bust ass to get as many 360's in people's hands before March 9th as possible. They desperately need for a publisher to be able to say that their 360 title sold a kajillion units.
I am really, really looking forward to this game.
The Gaming Genome Project
Before I begin discussing this idea, let me just say that there's no chance I have enough energy to actually see it through. So this isn't a project I'm going to start, just an idea I have that I think would be interesting.
I was thinking about the history of gaming yesterday. [I can't believe I just admitted that]
I'm always discouraged when favorite development studios close (Mucky Foot killed me, because I dearly loved Startopia), and I always think that something is terribly wrong with the business of gaming when innovative development houses can't survive.
But then, for some reason, I started thinking about it from a genetic sense. Now I'm no expert in genetics, or anything else, for that matter, so please forgive any heinous errors I'm about to make here. From a "gaming genetics" sense, the best thing that could possibly happen would be for the most talented people to move as often as possible. Those people could be considered characteristics, and a game could be considered offspring.
So when people are changing studios frequently and involved in a wide range of games, they're spreading their gaming "seed," so to speak. And they're making the genome more diverse and speeding evolution. The people who never move have a very limited impact unless other people move to
We hear it all the time--series go "stale." They don't have to, but it almost always happens. I think what really happens is that without the introduction of new, unique characteristics (new developers) into the genome, the game gets inbred over time. It stops improving. It loses its vitality
What's that? You said "Madden?" Thank you for mentioning that.
I know, I've butchered genetics there, but I think you get the general idea.
So while I was thinking about this, I realized that we need a Gaming Genome Project. Like I said, there's no way in hell that I could do this, but hopefully someone will someday. Here's how it would work. First, you'd have to define a list of games that would be included. The larger the list, the better, because any errors of exclusion would be less important if you're working with five hundred games instead of fifty. And the criteria would be "best." The best five hundred games ever, for example. I know, that's a pain in the ass just by itself, but it's necessary.
It gets harder. Then you have to identify the people who worked on all of those games, limited by the number of roles you define as "essential." Then compile a company history database for each person. That allows you to define genetic makeup, so to speak.
Here's an example. Let's use Eric Brosius of Tribe. I'm working off the top of my head (that's a bad idea, even if I'm using all of my head), so this may not be exactly right. I think it goes like this, though. The first gaming company for Brosius was Looking Glass, so back then, Looking Glass was 100% of his genetic makeup. Now if he moved to another company (Irrational Games), his genetic makeup would then be, say, 40% Looking Glass and 60% Irrational Games. Then we'll magically decide on a .6 multiplier and 40% entry point for succeeding generations. So then he does work on Guitar Hero for Harmonix. That means he's now 24% Looking Glass, 36% Irrational Games, and 40% Harmonix.
Obviously, that math has to be changed, because it disproportionately weights the second company of someone's career, but I type, not count, so I know someone can work that out.
No matter how many companies he works for over the course of his career, his original influences still still be part of his genome, so to speak.
So you have a database with all these people and their genetic structure defined for each year of their careers. Then you take the list of games and write a little program to pull the genetic structure of each developer that worked on the game (using the appropriate years). Then just add the percentages together and you get a genome of each game.
You could also add the genomes together and get a genome for the history of gaming. People like me shiver at the thought of shit like that.
Besides the "Hey, cool!" factor of seeing this all represented in one piece, I think there would be two very interesting things to consider. The first would be look at projects in development from a "genetic" perspective. If there's a game in development and everyone involved has a track record in the industry, but they're essentially unrepresented in the genome, the chances of that game being fun are probably not that high. Young developers with no track record, obviously, can't be evaluated that way, but if a developer's record is suck/suck/suck/suck, I think their next game has a pretty high chance of being, well, suck. And if everyone they're working with has been suck/suck/suck/suck as well, you know where that leads. To suck.
The other interesting thing to look at would be influence. What's more important in a gaming history sense--to put out a few great games, or to work with (and influence) a large number of people who then go out and make their own great games? I'd say the latter, even though that kind of contribution is far harder to quantify than unit sales.
Here's an example. I think Will Wright is terrific--brilliant guy, incredibly creative. And if you talked about the most important people in the history of gaming, he's in the top tier of any discussion. In the last ten years, though, he's essentially released the Sims and a couple of Sim City remakes. Now they were all huge sellers, especially The Sims, but how many people who worked with Will Wright in those years have gone on to make their own great games? And if that number is low, isn't he, in a creative sense, less important to gaming than someone who's done twice as many games in the last decade and spread their creativity to other people who have then gone on to make their own games?
I don't really have the answer to that question, but I'd certainly like to see the outcome of a "genetic analysis" of gaming history to be able to discuss it with more precision.
The ideal way to display the results would be similar to the way TextArc (http://textarc.org/
) analyzes literature. If you want to see TextArc in action, click on the link, click on the "Alice in Wonderland" picture on the front left of the home page, then click on "click on this link" to start the program. It's mind-blowing, and I've written about it before.
How awesome would it be to see the history of gaming represented that way?