Thursday, June 30, 2005

How Ice Melts

Here's a very interesting article from MSNBC on how ice melts. There's a phenomenon called "pre-melting" that had not been observed previously. Here's a link:

Journey Into the Cradle

Here's another brilliant article by Kieron Gillen:


Yes, I gave Gloria a birthday card today that actually had pee as a punch line.

Of course, I added a thoughtful, personal note at the bottom: Urine luck--it's your birthday!

She's getting me back, though--we're going to a French restaurant tonight. La Blah Blah, or something like that. I've never been in a French restaurant...ah, if only I could have ended the sentence there. French restaurants generally baffle me, from the beginning of the meal to the surrender. I mean, the French are a little frightening to me. They seem to think that Jerry Lewis was still funny after 1965. Man, that's just wrong.

As an insurance policy, I had a large sandwich for lunch. Even if the menu arrives and it's all weed salad, rabbit, and cheese, I'm good.

And as an aside, every French person I've ever met has been totally fun. I have, however, only met a few.

Blade Runner Welcomes You

Paul Harnden sent me a very thoughtful e-mail about technology in relation to the picture I just posted below this story. Here’s what he wrote:

I remember as a kid my grandfather telling stories of being in a barber shop in England when he first heard the news of the Titanic disaster. He told me of the first time he saw an airplane and how he ran and hid. He talked about the zeppelin raids on London and the fear that England was no longer "Virgo Intacta". The horrors of the War to End all Wars, and after the war the fear of Ellis Island and the coming to a new world. The automobile, jet aircraft and a man walking on the moon. A life that saw so much innovation, it is staggering to think of.

It seems at the rate science and technology is progressing the older generation is finding it difficult to keep up. When I read for fun, it sometimes includes good science fiction, and I credit this source as a reason why few innovations surprise me, since I read about them 30 years ago. Nevertheless, my father's generation 84.3, just shake their heads in disbelief, unable to get a handle on the new wave of thinking. Many new advancements seem to them to be heralding the loss of moral values, discipline, and the simple common sense that tells the difference between right and wrong.

The latest is the advancement in artificial intelligence and robots, or “robutts” as Eli 3.10 might say.

I thought this was an interesting article from the National Geographic web site ( and wondered if you had any comments on the subject.

I do. The first word that came to mind when I saw the photo was replicant. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a robot and realized that Blade Runner’s version of the future would be realized someday. I used to wonder if I would be alive when truly lifelike robots were produced. Well, if I can live ten more years, I think I’ll see them. Sure, we can quibble about what “lifelike” really means, but in another decade I think we will all be astonished.

Change threatens people. It's particularly threatening if it's something they can't imagine. It's always been that way and it always will be. It's not about morals, even though that's always been the false front. It's about imagination.

I can already see the first real application for "real" robots: as companions for the elderly in Japan. This kind of technology always seems to be adopted in Japan first, and it’s absolutely fixed in my mind that robots will be used as companions.

Don’t send me any e-mails about porn. Get away from that keyboard.

She, Robot (photo from AFP/Getty Images) Posted by Hello

It's Just My Imagination, Running Away From Me

Q: How difficult is it to talk out of your ass?
A: I don’t know. Go ask Merrill Lynch.

In a story that has gotten a ridiculous amount of coverage (and has now been picked up by Slashdot, which means it will be seen by one hundred billion people), Merrill Lynch Japan Securities is predicting that the PS3 will cost $399 at launch. Here are a few excerpts from the article (available here:

According to the latest issue of Japanese magazine Toyo Keizai, Merrill Lynch Japan Securities has recently calculated an analysis that the production of a single PlayStation 3 console will cost Sony approximately 54,000 yen to make ($494), as of its initial release in 2006...

Given that Sony's PS3 will face stiff competition from Microsoft's Xbox 360, the chances that Sony will release its console at its production cost is slim. Under the assumption that the Xbox 360 is expected to sell at around $299, Merrill Lynch Japan predicts that Sony will sell each PS3 at the price of 44,800 yen ($410) in Japan and $399 in America. That would mean Sony would suffer a loss of more than 130 billion yen ($1.18 billion) during the first year of the PS3's release.

So what are the chances that MLJS really knows how much the PS3 costs? Well, zero. Let me repeat that: zero. They’re making assumption upon assumption upon assumption. The article assumes that each of the three major components (CPU, GPU, Blu-Ray Drive) will cost $101 each. “Everything else” will cost $191. Even a 10% error in the estimate (which would be quite good) would change the price of the PS3 (and, presumably, the launch price) by $50. That’s a huge difference in the console market, which is extremely price-sensitive.

One of the primary objectives of an investment firm is to gather publicity for themselves. That’s all Merrill Lynch is doing here. They have nothing of substance to say—it’s just a way to get the spotlight. Why everyone is jumping on their jock and believing any of this is beyond me.

I’ll say this, for about the fourth time: If Xbox 360 launches at $299 and the PS3 tries to launch (I’m guessing September 2006 in the U.S., no matter what Sony is saying publicly) at $399, they will get their ass kicked. Period. And if Microsoft is smart enough to lower their price to $249 on Sony’s launch day (which they might be able to do if they sell enough units during the head start, which will make production costs start to ramp down), it’s going to be very, very ugly for Sony.

None of these companies are superhuman. If you cut them, will they not bleed? Yes, that’s a Blade Runner reference, and you’ll see why in a few minutes.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Gloria: New Version Available

Ssshhhh. Gloria gets a new version number on June 30th (tomorrow). Unlike Eli 3.10, though, Gloria's version numbers are heavily encrypted. Maybe I could tell you a cryptic riddle, and if you could figure it out, then you would have earned your knowledge of her age.

Okay, here's your clue: forty-one.

Good luck figuring out her age from that.

Today she walked into the kitchen and said "Hey! Did you notice the hibiscus is coming back?"

"Oh yeah. It's one of my favorites," I said.


"No. It's an absolute lie. I know there are flexible sticks in the backyard that occasionally bloom. One is white, and one has kind of purple blooms. And I smell flowers on occasion. That's all I can tell you."

Wild Earth Beta

Several of us were accepted into the Wild Earth beta today, and I'm looking forward to seeing a game that tries to do something different, because the games I've played that don't are boring the hell out of me.

Again, if you're interested, here's the link:

I'm really looking forward to seeing if Eli 3.10 can play the game. He has excellent control of the mouse now, and he'd be thrilled to take "pictures" of animals on safari.

I'm also encouraged that the e-mail mentioned that they wanted feedback on features as well as any awkward or confusing controls. Most betas want testers to focus on a very narrow package of features in a particular build. So testers will have more a chance to improve the game than they would in most betas.

Eli 3.10 Impresses the Neighbors

It's blistering hot down here--high nineties and very oven-like. You need to know that.

We have two kinds of neighbors on our street. The first kind are very friendly, and you've heard about most of them. The second kind are generally not friendly and never acknowledge us. Fortunately, our neighborhood is made up of about 90% type one.

Today, we were walking back from the mailboxes (talking about how hot it was) when a type two neighbor pulled into her driveway. This woman lives in a house four doors down and has never spoken to us since she moved in six months ago.

She got out of the car to get her garbage can from the curb right when Eli reached her sidewalk. The lady looked up and said (quite nicely) "How are you today?"

Eli looked up at her and said "MY BISCUITS ARE BURNING!"

Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Anandtech Article Pulled

Anandtech has pulled the article I linked to earlier today, allegedly because "Anand is worried about MS tracing his anonymous insider." That's why the link isn't working.

It's a good idea to think about anonymous sources getting traced before publishing the article.

Xbox 360/PS3 at Anandtech

Anandtech has an excellent, thorough article on the CPU/GPU performance of the new generation of consoles, based both on their own analysis and confidential conversations with developers. The short version: the CPU's are a real disappointment, but the GPU's are excellent.

Like I wrote a few weeks ago (when I had a conversion moment): no matter how sexy these companies make these new consoles sound, they're still not going to match high-end computers, even at launch. There are just too many compromises required to hit a competitive price-point.

Here's the link:

Now, on the other side of the table, here's a link to some in-game screenshots of Project Gotham Racing 3 on Xbox 360:

Jaw, meet floor.

So while it's assured that the new consoles won't be as powerful as high-end PC's, it's also very likely that they won't need to be, because 1280x720 is going to be the magic resolution for the upcoming console generation.

The Moralgorithm

An article in LA Weekly called "The Moralgorithm" has been getting quite a bit of buzz in the last few days. It's written by Joshua Bearman, who is clearly highly skilled.

The basic premise of the article, unfortunately, is insane. It posits that NBA Live has a highly developed algorithm to model morale. Here's an excerpt from the article:
Gathered on one floor of the Electronic Arts campus in Vancouver are the 53 people responsible for building new versions of the NBA Live game each year. Over the years, explained the game’s producer, Todd Batty, dozens of programmers have indeed tried to quantify the intangible by writing several hundred lines of code that govern what Batty calls “in-game momentum.”

Outstanding. So what EA is telling us is that they can model morale but they can't accurately model a freaking fast break? Because they can't. They're excellent with tats and hairstyles and sweatbands and not particularly good with anything else. Until guys can catch passes in stride instead of stopping to catch the ball, I don't want to hear about how "catch-up code" has been transformed into "the moralgorithm."

Here's the article (and like I said, he's a highly skilled writer and bears watching in the future):

Jade Empire (Xbox)

Thanks to DQ reader Jax for letting me know that Jade Empire is now selling for $29.99. It's my favorite console game of the year (so far), and it's another outstanding game by Bioware. So if you haven't picked it up yet, here's a chance to do so at a great price.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Patches Part 2

Jason Price ( wrote in with some additional info about the SWAT 4 patch, and I think he makes some good points.

1. The patch wasn't really a bug-fix (which Tom didn't claim, but I assumed).

Okay, stop with the "ass out of you and me" e-mails. Get your hands off that keyboard right now.

Actually, the patch only fixed one crash bug and it was rare. So it wasn't a bug patch. The patch basically added multi-player maps, fixed some multi-player issues, and added the streaming ad support. That means that the game originally shipped in a very stable condition, which is something I always rail about, so points to Sierra for releasing something when it was actually finished and not before.

2. In theory, someone who only wanted to play single-player wouldn't need this patch. I don't like adding ads to already purchased content (the single-player missions and the multi-player maps that came with the game), but Jason said that there were already ads in the game--they were just ads for Freedom Force and Tribes, etc.

In my mind, if someone purchases a game without streaming ad support, that ad technology shouldn't be added to originally purchased content. Add new maps and want to include streaming ads? Fine. Just leave what I originally paid for alone.

3. One thing I didn't mention in the original post is that at least Vivendi/Sierra are supporting the PC, and the reviews for this game have generally been in the mid 80's, which is quite good. So this is generally considered a very solid game.

Patches, Advertising, and Maggots

DQ reader Tom Shannon sent me a note last week about the first patch for SWAT 4. It does what patches normally do, generally, which is fix bugs, but it also adds "Massive Streaming Ad Support."

In other words, in-game advertisements now appear.

Well, it's about time. I was on the fence about buying SWAT 4, but knowing that when I'm in a tense tactical situation I can see posters on the wall for "Reno 911" makes me head for the game store.

Other games already have advertising, but to leave it out of the initial game then ADD it with a patch is pretty slimy. Particularly since it's added to the single-player campaign as well, from what I've been told.

In many ways, this is the best time ever to be a gamer. Unfortunately, because of gaming's popularity, it's a Dickensian bargain. We get unbelievably high-quality games--occasionally--and a huge number of games on many different platforms to choose from.

That's the best of times.

Here's the worst of times: many publishers having nonexistant standards about actually finishing a game before it's released, the inability to return a game when it's sold in that condition, exclusive sports licenses that will destroy sports gaming as we know it, spyware (and worse) copy protection, and now publishers adding in-game advertising after you've already purchased the game and bundling it with a needed patch.

It's easy to understand why so many bad things seem to be happening: money. As gaming has become so potentially lucrative, every maggot under every rock wants a piece of the action.

I know--maggots aren't really found under rocks. It's alliteration or a metaphor or onomatopoei or something.

The irony, of course, is that most games don't make money, and most of the slimeballs who get in for a quick buck are going to lose their sweat-stained, stinky undershirts. I'm not sure the gaming industry even has a defined, sustainable economic model for an individual publisher at this point--success seems to be far more singular than that. What sustains the industry right now is that a hell of a lot of people want to play games, not the business sense of the industry.

It's just where we are in the development of gaming as a mainstream form of entertainment. I'm not nostalgic about "the old days," because believe me, there were plenty of shit games back then, but our hobby is going to twist and transform in ways that are going to piss all of us off.

I'm still along for the ride, though. I think we can handle it.

Wild Earth

Some of you may remember the game Wild Earth, which won a slew of awards at the Independent Games Festival in 2003 and then promptly disappeared, or at least seemed to. It was very unique in that the only shooting was done with a camera, on safari in Africa. I was afraid that this game had died a violent and unfortunate death, but as it turns out, it's very much alive and will be published by Digital Jesters later this year.

Here's a link: There's a sign-up option for the beta, and I just applied. Instead of being in a beta for MegaCorporation Software and helping them ship the same game for the tenth year in a row, maybe I can spend my time helping an independent developer who's trying to do something different.

Breaking News

From Gamespot, and this is just so white-hot that I had to post it immediately:
APB coming to Xbox 360 in 2008
Grand Theft Auto creator's cops-and-robbers MMORPG will cruise onto Microsoft's next-gen console in three years.

I can't tell you how relieved I feel, because I was terribly worried that this game wouldn't come out until 2009.

Shadow of the Colossus

Thanks to DQ reader Glen Haag for sending me a link to a trailer for Shadow of the Colossus.

When I think of games being art, the first game that comes to mind is ICO. So I have been looking forward to this game with high hopes and will dust off the PS2 one last time when it's released in the U.S. on September 20.

Here's the link:

The Historian

I still have fond memories of the first time I read Bram Stoker's Dracula. It's a stunning piece of work, and even though it was originally published in 1897, it's still an excellent read today, over a century later.

I enjoy reading gothic horror, but it's not a category that gets much attention these days. So when I start hearing quite a bit of pre-release buzz about The Historian, I was very interested.

It was released last week and the buzz was correct--it's a terrific book. It's Elizabeth Kostova's first novel, amazingly, and she writes with a tremendous amount of imagination. It's a real pleasure to have a new Dracula novel to read, particularly one that is so ingenious and inventive. She's also able to sustain a story for over six hundred pages without running out of steam--I read the last hundred pages in one sitting because I just couldn't put it down.

Without tipping the story, I'll just say that she takes the Dracula legend and infuses it with the kind of intellectual detective story that made The Da Vinci Code so interesting. And she is a far, far better writer than Dan Brown.

Eli 3.10 Talks Safety

Verbatim, from last night:
"Daddy, when you brush your teeth, always have a smoke alarm nearby."

Monday, June 27, 2005

Water Runs Uphill. Man Bites Dog. Photo of Pigs Flying.

That's right. There's a new link on the right-hand side of this page as an Atom Feed has been added. It only took nearly a year of prodding from you guys for me to finally get this done. Thanks in particular to DQ reader Shane Courtrille.

Harvest Moon

Thanks to DQ reader Doug Walsh for alerting me to some creative genius going on at the Natsume marketing department:

Last year Natsume gave us "Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life".

This year, Natsume is going to deliver "Harvest Moon: Another Wonderful Life"

And it gets better...

The GBA had "Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town" and now, would-be GBA farmers can play "Harvest Moon: More Friends of Mineral Town."

I can just see someone in Natsume's creative department suggesting "Harvest Moon: Life is Wonderful" and getting demoted because of their radical idea.

I'm not sure what "Friends of Mineral Town" even means. It sounds like a company town with a coal mine or something. And yes, I know that "Harvest Moon: New York Mining Disaster 1941" would have been an excellent title. Thank you in advance for those e-mails.


Our babysitter Emily earned her scuba diving certification last week. She went on a dive last Saturday down to the bottom of a lake (sixty feet) and said it was pretty unnerving: "pitch black, nothing living, and a foot of silt covering everything."

"So you're basically describing my study," I said.

This Week's Geriatric Bad-Ass

Right on schedule (from MSNBC, and thanks to DQ reader David Jones for submitting the story):
NAIROBI - A 73-year-old Kenyan grandfather reached into the mouth of an attacking leopard and tore out its tongue to kill it, authorities said Wednesday.

Peasant farmer Daniel M’Mburugu was tending to his potato and bean crops in a rural area near Mount Kenya when the leopard charged out of the long grass and leapt on him.

M’Mburugu had a machete in one hand but dropped that to thrust his fist down the leopard’s mouth. He gradually managed to pull out the animal’s tongue, leaving it in its death-throes.

I'm very curious about what happened during that "gradually managed" period.

I'd like to personally offer Mr. M'Mburugu a Dubious Quality t-shirt with the embroidered message "I Ripped Out a Leopard's Tongue And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt."

I eagerly await your e-mail, sir.


I've seen some interesting links courtesy of Gametab (indispensable) today. If you've never used Gametab, it's brilliant and you can find it here: (

Over at eToyChest they have a visual comparison of screenshots from the Xbox and Xbox360 versions of Tiger Woods 2006. The differences are tremendous and you can see them here:

Penny Arcade is almost always funny, but today it's particularly so:

The trailer for Fatal Frame III (the successor to one of the finest games ever made, Fatal Frame II) is available here:
The trailer is in Japanese, but it still conveys the unbelievable tension that defines the series. I've written about this several times, but if you haven't played Final Frame II, buy it, get a set of headphones, play it in a dark room, and you will never forget it.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Notes on Father's Day

The picture you see below was the art project that Gloria and Eli 3.10 made for my Father's Day present. If you click on the picture, you'll get a larger version which is easier to read, but in case you can't make it out, here's what it says.

"For the Best Dad Ever...Here's Your Breakfast in Bed!"
Burning Biscuits
Sour Pickle
Sauerkraut Milk
Diet Coke With Bacon

With a picture for each one, of course. Eli calls sour milk "sauerkraut milk," and now we all say it that way.

"Pardon me sir, but I believe your biscuits are burning." That's from a Prospector Pete line in Toy Story 2. We said it about fifty times a day for a week.

I can't image what I'll get in the future, but I don't know how it could be better than this. My family: comedians, both of them.

Father's Day Posted by Hello

A Clarification

When I say "Ben's Big-Ass E3 Impressions," the phrase "big ass" refers to the length of his impressions, not his actual ass.

Destroy All Humans!

I picked up Destroy All Humans! on Wednesday. Normally, I would spent a bit of time talking about a game, but this game is very simple to review, even after two hours. The concept of playing an alien in a B-movie satire is a wonderful idea, and the presentation, writing, and voice-acting are all absolutely first-rate. It's just about perfect until you actually start playing the game, and unfortunately the gameplay just isn't nearly as fun.

This game is getting roughly 80's in reviews, and I'll tell you exactly how it gets there--a 10 for presentation and a 6 for gameplay. Average them together.

This is still a wonderful concept, and I hope that games like this keep getting made. We need more B-movie spoofs and fewer first-person WWII shooters.

Ben's Big-Ass E3 Impressions

Ben Ormand, President of the Dubious Quality Film Division, sent me his thoughts on E3. Ben won the DQ Humanitarian Award for managing every minute of my time in L.A., which was absolutely spectacular. We went together both in 2003 and this year, and hopefully for many year to come.

I have no mouth and I must scream…

Ah yes. E3. I remember you now. Lost in the mists of time, memories fade of the crowds and the noise. All I remember is the anticipation. Games. First looks at all the cool new games. Sure Bill, sign me up for more of that.

What could possibly go wrong?

So, we plan. Bill and I scheme to “do” E3, “Six Million Dollar Man” style: bigger, better, faster than before. We’re going to roll in, cruise through the crowds, checking out all the things that we want to see, and like modern day Algonquin round-tablers, we’ll spout our witty rejoinders on the offerings of the day and retreat to an evening of cocktails and reminiscing. So sure are we of our genius, we have armed ourselves simply with a list of products and a tape recorder, to insure our execution (double entendre unfortunately intended) and make sure no bon mot goes unrecorded. And now I remember the lesson of hubris: men plan, E3 laughs.

There is no plan that can help one survive E3, a fact of which I am reminded of when immediately plunged into the Dante-esque, Ellison-inspired techno-hell of waiting for my exhibit badge. Waiting for a “techno” problem to be resolved at a TECHNOLOGY exposition (oh irony! Thy initials are E, E, E!) invokes unparalleled sensations of frustration. Something akin to how it must have used to feel to be Red Sox fan.

In the end, however, the badge fiasco really only cheats me out of a different wait, in a different line (into the exhibit hall, that stretches from here to eternity, sans Deborah Kerr), so it’s hard to be infuriated. Although I wistfully regret the death of so many untold clever observations never born of those conversations Bill and I might have had waiting together.

And then, with the opening of the vaulted gates of this gaming heaven, it begins. I’ll admit I was still an optimist at this point. We were going to see the XBox 360, we might see some vaporware from Sony, and there were going to be the games, the games we would play in the next six to eighteen months. The noise, already throbbing from inside the sacred inner sanctum, would be a worthwhile assault to endure, right?

Now, of course, I look back and think about the last unfortunate, unlamented, and now unknown scientist who strenuously backed the flat earth theory. Wow, were we wrong!

Easily, in my all years of attending E3 (I think this was my fourth, but if I say it with such undefined gravitas I hope it sounds more grand), this was easily the most unimpressive and downright depressing display of the future I’ve ever suffered to witness. The short version (those of who now chuckling at the thought of getting to this point and discovering you’re in the middle of the short version) is that there was NOTHING there.

Ok, maybe that’s too short.

For those of you who date back into the wee early years of Bill Harris, NC (a new calendar system I’m proposing here, with “N.C.” predating “D.Q.”), might remember a website that used to track upcoming releases. It paid special attention to release dates, with hotly anticipated upcoming games often earning a special release date designation: “When It’s Done”. Games like Half-Life 2, Duke Nukem Forever, Rollercoaster Tycoon 3. You know – the big ones, the ones worth waiting for.

I can honestly say that at this year’s E3, I saw nothing like a “When It’s Done” title, or even the promise of one. I do have some threadbare notes about what I did see, which I now offer unto you.

I might as well start with the beginning, with our journey into E3’s underbelly: Kentia Hall. First up was Syberian Conflict, a sci-fi RTS that uses the Tunguska blast in Russia, 1906, as a launching point for an inspired fusion of Starcraft and C&C Red Alert. While I wasn’t blown away by what I saw, I at least I gave them some credit for trying to innovate in their game design by moving away from what can lovingly be called “basecraft” (a term we’ve coined for the repetition of base building in the first ten minutes of a mission) towards unit creation on the fly by combat hero units. Bottom line: an impressive effort from a no-name company. Prediction: it will never take up a byte on your hard drive.

Next up, we wandered towards the nice people at Buka, who had two products we toyed with: Pacific Storm and Pathologic. I was more drawn to Pacific Storm, an RTS “WWII in the Pacific” naval combat game, with a supposed “boredom prevent mode” that allows you to jump into first person control of individual combat units as your armies collide. I love the idea (also loved it when I was one of the untold suckers who coughed up $50 bucks for WWII Online), but the sales pitch reminded me of a late night infomercial (“It’s a dessert topping!” “It’s a floor wax!” “Relax. You’re both right.”). Never a good sign.

I was late for Bill’s private walk-through of Pathologic, so I couldn’t figure out what the hell the game was supposed to be or what the hell was going on. Suffice it to say, even with the short time I watched, I’m convinced that this will be the greatest Eastern European styled mafia/disease-vector game the world has ever seen.

We’re two hours in at this point, and displays were already blurring together. Not a good sign. I think we had recorded at most one token stab at a clever observation. In spite of this shocking dearth of wit (one might argue the shocking part), I do clearly remember thinking this: you could teach a class called “The Art of the Hard Sell: Making Small Talk Look Easy” by walking around Kentia and just eavesdropping. Make no mistake, the vendors down here work hard for their money.

We saw a neat display from They make digital trees and foliage for games. Yes, you read that correctly – they are a virtual landscape company – and you’ve probably seen or admired their work without realizing it. I personally couldn’t believe you could build a company making nothing but the equivalent of digital widgets, but big entrepreneurial props to those guys.

We met with a company showing Egregious Downhill, a proof-of-concept demo that tries to tap a Tony Hawk inspired market for the downhill mountain biking crowd. I was impressed with their moxie, bringing a “sort-of” working demo and dream to place like E3 looking for a sugar daddy to fund the project. The demo was really hard to play and crashed a lot, which pretty much brought back flashbacks of the only time I ever tried “real” mountain biking, which was really hard and I crashed a lot. They get points for reality, but I’m sure if the concept holds up at game length without the bells, whistles, and big name star of something like TH:Underground.

And then there was Hip Games, offering a self described RTS-FPS-RPG entitled Ghost Wars. If only they could figure out a way to also make it a dessert topping and floor wax too… which spawned the realization that everyone is desperately trying to come up with the next “new-big-thing” by putting all the “tired-golden-oldies” in a blender, throwing in a concept and publishing the resulting chum. In other words, just like Hollywood.

We wandered through the “hardware” section of Kentia, the place where all kinds of unique products go looking for partners. There was a head-mounted display from Trimersion, good for playing your favorite FPS. Bill tried it, I politely passed. Watching Bill, swinging his head around trying to use the thing, I couldn’t help but think that this is what Ray Charles would have looked like playing Halo.

There were some neat player interactive products from QMotions, including one of at least two Tiger Woods 2005 golf simulators we saw. Great idea, but even with guy being paid to demo the product playing it, the gameplay didn’t look… fun. Furthermore, it didn’t look like playing real golf, or even close to practicing real golf, which is the real Holy Grail for these companies. When they achieve that, they will turn every computer-phobic dad into a TV hogging twelve year old crack addict, as he utters every gamer’s mantra, “just one more hole.” On that day, QMotions (or whoever achieves it) will move up into the main hall. Today, however, they’re down with the rest of the Morlocks.

Finally, wearily, we broke for lunch with Bill’s e-friends from Gamers With Jobs and a real game writer (as opposed to yours truly). Sitting down to eat, I had a shocking moment of clarity, the flashback to the story that lent me the title to this piece. I looked at the poor souls with me, who had trudged through the belly of the beast for seemingly years, only to be offered a ten dollar cheeseburger. I thought long and hard about Ted’s solution in the story, and took a long hard look at the ice in my cup. Could I do it to these good people? Could I end everyone’s misery before E3 could stop me? I hesitated, and was lost. We trudged on to the main hall.

Trying to have a conversation in the main hall is like asking your buddy to explain particle physics to you at a rock concert -- possible but not likely to succeed. The rest of the day became a stream of consciousness series of thoughts as we were buffeted from display to display like ships in a storm.

Fallout 3 – the franchise was bought by Bethesda, the geniuses who ripped you out of 40 bucks at least once for the crappy Sea Dogs, if not twice for the equally crappy Sea Dogs II (enshrined forever in the Hall of Crap as Pirates of the Caribbean). Seems like it would be hard to screw up the Fallout franchise, what with its high concept and already well established style RPG gaming. But don’t sell Bethesda short. Where there’s a will… Bottom line: I didn’t see anything but a poster. Prediction: we’ll see the pre-Alpha at next year’s E3, and they’ll ship the Alpha, Christmas 2006.

Elder Scrolls Oblivion – I’m not sure, but I think that the price of admission to this demo theater was something involving your everlasting soul and those of any children born unto you. Bottom line: Didn’t see it – but have to admit, there was a lot of buzz.

Xbox 360 – who do you think we are? What website do you think this is? The closest Bill and I got to seeing the “biggest thing” at the show was pressing our noses up to the “behind thick glass” displays that adorned the outside of the Microsoft display area. I saw some looped footage that looked okay (to paraphrase Jack Handey: If people buy Xbox360, I hope they like Top Spin 2, ‘cause that’s what they’re getting). I didn’t have a jaw dropping moment where I saw something and realized that the revolution had begun. It just looked… better than the Xbox. That’s intended as praise, but you have to show me something that looks like Half-Life 2 on an ATI X800 before you start asking me to genuflect. Bottom line: Will be huge, especially when the next Halo hits it. Prediction: November, 2005, on time.

City of Villains – good idea… last year. Now, unless they can have some Night Elves or Orcs as their main villains, they’re still going to be scratching for player bucks that didn’t get hoovered into the Blizzard coffers.

2K Sports – their games looked great, with great playability. Hence, they are being driven out of the market.

Age of Empires 3 – lots of nice conceptual upgrades. Huge graphical upgrade. A definite buy for the holidays. But don’t expect any thing too new, as they simply try to tweak the formula. Then again, I spent about the same amount of time with Rise of Nations last year before thinking it wasn’t going to amount to much. See: Flat Earth Theory, paragraph #7.

Top Spin 2 – didn’t they give this away with Xboxes? All kidding aside, it looks great, but it looks like exactly the same game as before. And considering how tennis has captured the American psyche… no wait, that’s football. Nobody cares about tennis, which means they need a gimmick to capture audience attention like playing McEnroe or Connors or death robots with flaming tennis balls that blow up when you win a point. Now that people might buy.

Civilization 4 – I’m not too proud to admit: my name is Ben, and I’m a Civ-aholic. Which made the little concept ad/video for a recovery group for Civ players very cute and “chuckle once” funny. But the cut game footage looked to me like little more than a long overdue 3D graphics and units/AI upgrade. In other words, it’s the same as Civ 3. And Civ 2. So my only remaining question is: where do I send my money and when do I send it? Predictions: it will do the same as the others; Sid Meier’s Civ 5 is already on somebody’s calendar; and Sid is on the phone with William Shatner, asking for advice on overcoming career typecasting depression. Bottom line: seriously – where do I send my money?

Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends – I have to give it to Brian Reynolds, the guy knows how to take a good game, tweak it a bit, and breathe new life into the old body. This game gets a big nod from me for essentially “Alpha Centuri-ing” the first version, turning this sequel into a sci-fi infused concept art/unit/AI upgrade. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I think this is going to be a fun game if you you’re a fan of this genre. Bottom line: pedigree carries the day. Prediction: you’ll buy it as well as AOE3.

I was going to insert a crack in here about Dungeon Siege 2 being roughly equivalent to the leap forward in gaming from Rollercoaster Tycoon to RT2, but I didn’t really kick the tires so what the hell do I know?

If I were to throw a single bone to the category of games I’m eager to futz around with, I guess I could admit I will plunk down some cash and pick up Peter Molyneux's The Movies when it finally hits the shelves. Bill saw a lot more of the demo/walk through than I did, but it seemed like a very well realized extension of The Sims styled game play into the old school Hollywood world. It might get old quickly, but will probably be a solid twenty plus hours of entertainment, which isn’t bad in this day and age.

And finally, the coveted Infinium Labs Award for Vaporware goes to Sony, for making a big deal out of their decision to “show” the PS3 at E3, and then actually showing about as much as a Mennonite doing a strip tease. I can’t fault Sony for not displaying anything of consequence – that was probably their GOOD decision. Getting caught up in a rush to try to counter Microsoft’s hype with ill conceived counter strategies (“Oh yeah! Well, we’re gonna show ours too!”), however, was not one. It smacks of an otherwise astute industry leader going slightly off the rails. Half-baked is not done, gentlemen, please give it to us “when it’s done.”

As for E3, we were done. We retreated from the noise and the crowds and the eye burning walls of plasma monitors. We took deep breaths, and numbly scratched our heads at our defeat. We had some small victories, some worthwhile thoughts and conversations about the big picture of gaming and where it all was heading. You can keep reading Bill’s stuff for those thoughts, because he showed me an outline of every column he’s writing for the next two years, and I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise.

If like me, you’re primarily a PC gamer, the future doesn’t look so good.

I wonder if it will be any better next year?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

1 13/16

1 13/16” high, that is.

Eli 3.11 has a tiny new action figure. It’s a blue Power Ranger (a show he knows nothing about), and Eli “purchased” him with tickets he won at Dave and Buster’s on Father’s Day. This Power Ranger is more Lego-like than anything else, and you can remove both his head and his lower body.

Eli brought him home and immediately started going through his elaborate scenarios. Since Toy Story 2 is his new favorite video, and he loves Emperor Zurg’s voice, he sat on the living room carpet with his toy and kept saying (in his best Emperor Zurg voice) “DESTROY BUZZ LIGHTYEAR! DESTROY BUZZ LIGHTYEAR!”

“Little dude,” I said, “Saying that you’ll destroy someone is not nice.”

“Okay,” he said. “DESTROY ELI! DESTROY ELI!”

“Still probably not a nice thing to say,” I said.

“Okay,” he said. “DESTROY NO ONE! DESTROY NO ONE!”

That’s my boy. He’s crafty.

Tonight we went to have pizza and ice cream together, and while we were waiting for our food, Eli removed separated both the head and the lower body from his Power Ranger. Then he said “Where is my BUTT and my HEAD? I can’t see my BUTT because I HAVE no HEAD.”

The way he says "butt" and the way it's normally said is like the difference between a world-class bowler and a Friday night league bum. This started a round of butt jokes, which are high comedy for a three-year-old boy.

All right, they’re still funny to me, too.

Gloria resisted for as long as she could, but as we left the ice cream parlor, Eli was dawdling and she said “Come on, BUTT Lightyear.” Well, he cracked up, of course.

Cracked up. I told you they were still funny.

“Way to go,” I said. “You’ve finally joined the Caravan of Butt Jokes.”

“Peer pressure,” she said.

"BUTT Lightyear," Eli said, laughing.

“She’s a lady, whoa, whoa, whoa, she’s a lady,” I sang (using my best Tom Jones impersonation).

“Shut up,” she said.

Hummingbird Flight

There's a fascinating article over at the National Science Foundation about how hummingbirds fly. Here's an excerpt on their methodology:
In this study, the researchers applied "digital particle imaging velocimetry" (DPIV) to follow the flapping wings. DPIV is used in various applications to study flow characteristics of liquids and gases. By taking pictures with a special computer-coupled camera lighted with a laser, the distance traveled by individual particles seeded in a liquid or gas can be tracked through successive images. Hence, DPIV allows the researchers to follow the particles' movement image by image, like looking through the pages of a high-tech flipbook.

To observe the hummingbird in flight, the air in a wind tunnel was seeded with microscopic particles of olive oil, and digital images were captured every 300 microseconds as the bird hovered at a feeder. The wing beats caused the air to circulate, which in turn caused the floating oil particles to move. Computer-aided image analysis of each oil particle's position in consecutive frames allowed the scientists to reconstruct the lift and characteristics associated with each up and down wing movement.

So I feel really stupid now, which is fortunately kind of a hobby of mine.

Here's the link:

Sprout (1989-2005)

She was an overweight calico cat, grouchy as hell. She hated all other animals and quite a few people. She woke me up a million times, bit me at least thirty, and was a gigantic pain the ass. I miss her.

When I first met Gloria, Sprout was still a young cat. One weekend when Gloria was out of town, I stayed at the house to keep Sprout company. She was a suspicious cat before she became a grouchy one, and she stayed well out of my way. That night, I went to sleep and woke up to a little furry stove on my chest. She was willing to like me as long as I wasn’t looking. That’s the single moment I’ve always most remembered about her.

We had to tell Eli yesterday that Sprout was going to be put down this morning. Sprout was never very nice to him, but he still cared for her and knew she was part of our family. We explained everything as best we could, he asked a few questions, and then he said “I’m so sad that I can’t walk.” Poor little man. A few minutes later, Sprout was outside sitting on the sidewalk, and we all went out there together. He petted her for a little while, then said “Sprout, I’m very sorry, but tomorrow you’re going to be gone forever.” He said it in such a kind and sincere way, in the way that all little children can break your heart.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

PSP Production

Sony told suppliers yesterday that they expected to manufacture 12 million PSP's in the next year instead of the 18 million originally projected.

That's a pretty big screw-up.

Here's what baffles me: how in the world could a company with a track record in gaming like Sony wind up such a huge dry spell in PSP titles? Every day over at The Magic Box
( I see screenshots of upcoming PSP titles that are absolutely first-rate--but none of them are ready. The system will survive, but there's no question that this is an embarrassment, and a significant one.

In the U.S., if you want to buy a PSP and don't want to play titles you've already played several times on other consoles, all you can use the system for is to watch movies. That's why I don't have one yet, even though I think it's an amazing piece of hardware.

So if you think Sony is a lock with the upcoming PS3, consider their execution with the PSP. It's been dismal.

Digital Distribution

Thanks to DQ reader Jason Price (of for sending in a link to an interesting article over at Gamasutra. They have a Question of the Week feature where they send the same question to multiple developers, and the question this week is "Are digital downloads going to become the predominant way of purchasing and playing PC or console game content in the future, or will physical game copies continue to be the conventional distribution method?” The responses are varied and interesting.

I believe registration is required. Here's the link:

The Onion 2056

There's a post on Slashdot linking to a 2056 edition of The Onion. Very, very funny.

Nvidia GeForce 7800 GTX

Nvidia launched the GeForce 7800 GTX (PCI Express) video card today, and it's worth noting for several reasons.

First, this isn't a paper launch. Both Nvidia and ATI have "launched" products in the last year or so that took months to actually appear in the retail channel. It was nothing short of ridiculous, but I didn't expect anything to change. To Nvidia's tremendous credit, this card is in stock at several retailers RIGHT NOW--the same day as launch. That's outstanding, and it's going to put a huge amount of pressure on ATI to do the same thing when their new card launches next month (allegedly).

Second, these new video cards are getting freaking expensive. This card is generally priced at $599. That matters for several reasons, but most significantly because for that money you're only getting substantial performance improvement in certain situations. Here's an excerpt from an excellent Anandtech article about the card

It is important to remember that we tested at resolutions of 1600x1200 and higher because lower resolutions are CPU limited without AA and AF enabled. In many cases the GeForce 7800 GTX don't show much difference in performance with and without antialiasing at lower resolutions...We have truly reached another plateau in graphics performance with this part: pushing the card to the max is all but necessary in order to understand its performance characteristics.

Many games are CPU-limited, not GPU-limited, and these games aren't going to show improvement. At 1600x1200 and above with high image-quality settings in GPU-limited games, this card's a scorcher (50%+ increases and more are common), but below that, the last generation high-end cards all ran at extremely high framerates already.

It used to be that new cards gave a wide range of performance improvements. With so few current PC games pushing the graphics high-end, though, it seems like we're paying more and more for performance increases in fewer and fewer real-world situations.

Another item of note: this card actually consumes less power than its predecessor. That's very impressive and definitely counters the trend of high-end graphics cards consuming more and more massive amounts of power.

Nvidia has also introduced some additional sampling options for anti-aliasing, and the Anandtech article does an excellent job of demonstrating the differences (using screenshots from Half-Life 2). The best option, supersampling, offers a visual difference that can easily be seen. Again, it's an impressive (and logical) upgrade from the current generation cards.

Finally, even though a huge number of people still have AGP systems, it looks like we're being orphaned very quickly. I don't know if this new card will eventually appear in an AGP version, but the high-end looks like it's rapidly becoming PCI-E exclusive.

Gamespot: Battlefield 2 Graphics Testing

I've received several e-mails from people discussing the high graphics-card requirements for Battlefield 2. Gamespot today published a detailed guide to how different cards fare, with additional testing to determine the affect of various graphics options inside the game. It's a nice bit of work and you can find it here:

Terror at Fry's

I saw two terrifying things at Fry’s today.

The first was, and I can’t possibly prepare you for this, so I’m just going to blurt it out: TGI Friday’s now has its own line of jerky. “Steak” and “chicken” jerky.

Jerky is the zombie of meats, pumped full of the undead to prolong its existence. Here’s a pretty good rule: when something that naturally spoils is transformed into something that doesn’t, watch out. Take one whiff of jerky and you know something has gone horribly, unnaturally wrong. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be reminded of Re-Animator every time I sit down for a snack.

So there’s that. Quantities are limited.

Number two. The guy behind the checkout counter was wearing pants nearly up to his nipples and a smiley-face tie tucked into those same pants.

Dude, that’s not a good look. I’m no fashion magnate—as I type this I’m wearing a long-sleeve dress shirt, underwear, and black socks—but I’m Pierre Freaking Cardin compared to you. Here’s a simple rule: if you have to reach up to pull down your pants cuff, then your pants are too high. And to the best of my knowledge, the only reason to tuck your tie into your pants is if you’re conducting an autopsy.

Peg Owns Fate

Thanks to DQ reader Marty Devine for submitting this Fate story:

just downloaded the demo of this one last night finally, and was playing around with it prior to some friends showing up for some tabletop gaming. My 9 year old daughter, Peg, came by and watched with interest...she really enjoys watching me play games. So I was down on the first level, and came across the guy selling stuff. She spotted a fishing pole in his inventory and asked "You can go fishing in this game?" I said yeah, if you catch fish and feed them to your dog, they turn the dog into something else. So she asked if we can try it, I buy a pole and start fishing. She absolutely loved the idea of feeding your dog a fish and having it turn into a unicorn.

So my friends show up, and she asks if she can go fishing some more. Sure, I said, and left her to her amusements. I came back a couple of hours later to find my treasure chest COMPLETELY filled with fish, and about 600K in gold in my coffers. Apparently every time she caught something that wasn't a fish, she would identify it and sell it off. Apparently one of the items she caught was an ultra-rare item worth like 400K in gold!

Who needs fancy coding and macros to set up fishing bots? Just apply a 9-year old to the task!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Undead: Hubie Brown Edition

For many years, Hubie Brown was a professional basketball coach. His face aged the way faces do, and since he’s nearly seventy now, “weathered” was a good description.

Now he’s a basketball commentator and he’s had some work done. His cheeks are stretched so tight they look disturbingly like snare drums—and that’s the good news.

Let me give any of you who are considering cosmetic surgery an important piece of advice: tell the surgeon that you do not want to look like the undead. Sure, that sounds obvious, but Hubie Brown clearly didn’t do this, because he looks like he could star in a Dracula remake. It’s freaky. If I’m Tim Duncan, I don’t let him get within twenty feet of me for an interview, because I’ll be talking about how great it feels to win a championship just as he sinks his teeth into my neck.

The Rash

I’ve got some bizarre rash on the outside of each hand that I’ve had since last Thursday. I’ve never had poison ivy or poison oak before, but I’m pretty sure it’s one of the two, even though I’ve scoured the backyard and can’t find a sign of either one.

I’m pretty bitter about this rash, because if it were on my palm I could claim it was the stigmata and sell pictures on eBay. Then I could look forward to a semi-comfortable retirement. As it is, though, I’m four inches from retirement and that’s really kind of a pisser.


Two notes from the world of advertising:

1. A local deck company hired an ex-UT quarterback to do a radio commercial for their product. The first line of his pitch is "When I built my deck..."

Oh, my. Enunciate, my man. ENUNCIATE.

2. There's a little package express spot near my house called "Goin' Postal." I can't remember if I've mentioned them before, but the name still boggles my mind whenever I drive by.

Next up: a gun shop named "Killing Spree."

Fate (Finished)

I "finished" Fate yesterday.

I say "finished" because the game can go on essentially forever, traveling deeper and deeper into the dungeon. However, Foozle is on Level 47, and once you've taken care of both him and his various minions, your character has the option to retire.

How long did I play? About thirty-five hours--I really took my time and enjoyed myself.

How much did the game cost? $19.99.

Price per hour? Fifty-seven cents.

It's a terrific, fun game. The design is outstanding and it's bug-free. It's far better than games with fifty times the budget. It also has this brilliant quality of making you want to play for just ten or fifteen minutes more. Then ten or fifteen minutes beyond that. When you look up, several hours have passed--and you still don't want to quit.

I've seen reviews by PC Gamer and Gamespot that both rate it at 79% (in Gamespot's case, 7.9 on a 10-point scale. Both reviews were very positive in tone, then didn't give the game that high of a score. I'd rarely say this, but I can't stress strongly enough how much these scores vary from my own experience with the game, and from your experience as well, based on the ton of e-mail I've received in the last week.

I've gotten more positive feedback from people who've tried this game after my original column than any game I've written about in the last three years. So while both reviewers I've read felt the game was too "repetitive," it doesn't seem to be bothering us at all.

Here's the ironic thing: I was never that crazy about Diablo. I finished the first one, but when I was done, I felt like the slogan for the game should have been "Welcome to Diablo: click one million times." Then, I played Diablo II for about two hours and quit, because the slogan for that game should have been "Welcome to Diablo II: click one million times at a slightly higher resolution." So Fate was absolutely addictive to me when I don't even like these kinds of games.

Here are a couple of quick tips for those of you who are interested.
--pour skill points into Critical Strike. It doubles damage when it happens, and that's fairly often if you get it into the 40+ level.
--also pour skill points into Charm Magic. This makes your pet more powerful. Big, big advantage.
--To use a healing potion out of your quick-slot items directly on your pet, hold down the Shift key while right-clicking on the potion.
--to sell items out of your pet's inventory, hold down the Shift key while clicking on the vendor. It will then open up your pet's inventory instead of your own.
--Town Portal spells and Identify spells can be purchased in books of ten.

Brilliant game. And charming. And fun.

I forgot to mention that Andy Stingel, Dubious Quality Board of Directors member, originally recommended Fate to me. All credit goes to him for finding this jewel.

Monday, June 20, 2005

End of Quarter Releases

Traditionally, the end of fiscal quarter months (March and June for most gaming companies) give us some excellent releases. No matter how slow the first part of the year might be, the end of Q1 and Q2 can be counted on for some great games.

So what can PC gamers look forward to with the end of June approaching? Well, jack. And crap. Unless Battlefield 2 floats your battleship, you're out of luck. Here's what's coming out between now and the end of the month for PC:
--Bard's Tale: the console versions have a combined 77% ranking at, which is fair, based on my experience with the Xbox version.
--R.Y.L. Path of the Emperor: a repackaged version of a 64% game (again, per GR).
--Roller Coaster Tycoon 3: Soaked. Great. Number thirty-seven in a planned six hundred and forty-two expansions for RCT3.

I'm so old that I can actually remember when Roller Coaster Tycoon felt fresh.
--Fantastic Four: movie tie-in game. Almost zero buzz about this anywhere.
--Advent Rising: another "C" console game released for PC.

That is just HORRIBLE for an end-of-quarter. Yes, there's Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which is one of the strangest combinations of fantastic and shitty that I've ever seen, but all-in-all it's an unbelievably weak lineup for June.

Xbox? Destroy All Humans, which would be a cute little game in any other year, has a chance to be a huge hit, because there's nothing else out there.

PS2? Squat.

Gamecube? You're kidding, right? Last release: 6/15. Next release: 7/11.

Strange. Very strange.

More DS Info

Thanks to DQ reader Doug Walsh for letting me know that a DS will play all the GBA titles, and the screen is better, so there's now downside to buying a DS, even if the DS-specific titles don't appeal to you.

I've also gotten several e-mails saying that Nintendogs is driving the DS in Japan. It certainly did for a while, but out of those seven games in the top thirty last week, only one was a Nintendogs title. So Nintendo has successfully leveraged Nintendogs, but the system's appeal in Japan has moved beyond that at this point.

I think the DS isn't going to catch on here until there's more software available that is DS-specific. There are only six titles listed as coming out between now and the end of July. That's very weak when you consider that June is an end-of-quarter month for most software companies.

The PSP is worse. THREE games listed between now and the end of July. I'd like to buy a PSP, but I'm not buying one to play Hot Shots Golf for the third time, Wipeout for the fourth, and a bunch of crappy movies on UMD. This is unusual for Sony, to have this kind of product desert, and they're betting so much on the PSP that it's even more surprising.

Nintendo DS

Something interesting is happening in Japan.

While the Nintendo DS is still in the "What the hell?" category in the U.S., and the PSP has all the buzz, the DS is killing in Japan. DS units and games are outselling the Game Boy Advance SP almost 3-1 for the year. And that trend is actually accelerating--it was close to 4-1 last week for unit sales. Amazingly, of the top thirty-selling games last week in Japan, the DS had seven of those titles, while the Game Boy Advance had two. The PSP only had one.

So in Japan, the GBA looks like it's being abandoned by consumers, while the PSP is being ignored. In the U.S., the PSP is white-hot (in spite of a lack of software right now), while the DS is still a puzzling novelty.

The combination, I think, means big, big trouble for the Game Boy Advance as a gaming platform. What I find so interesting about this is that the Game Boy has always been a money-printing machine for Nintendo. Even though it was always years behind the technology curve, its combination of low price and a huge selection of games made it incredibly successful. Nintendo milked the original Game Boy for years before they even introduced a color screen! Now it seems like they've obsoleted the Game Boy in favor of the DS. Or, more correctly, consumers in Japan have obsoleted the GBA in favor of the DS.

Strategically, you can certainly argue that this is a sound move by Nintendo. The PSP is a quantum leap over the GBA in terms of hardware quality. Yes, I know it's more expensive, but eventually Sony will be selling that unit for $199, and it's going to be very hard to justify buying a GBA with that small, low-res screen. The DS, though, offers a gameplay mechanic that the PSP doesn't have. Yet Nintendo risks alienating a huge number of GBA owners, and there will certainly be a percentage of users who just don't like the DS interface.

It's a risky but interesting strategy.

Congratulations to a 95-Year Old Badass

From SI.Com:
TOKYO (AP) -- A 95-year-old Japanese man who took up track only three decades ago has run the 100 meters in 22.04-seconds, a record for his age bracket, according to media reports.

95 years old. That pace works out to a 5:52 mile, in case you're wondering. Dude's 95 and he can run sub 6:00 mile pace for a hundred meters. There are plenty of thirty-year olds that can't run 6:00 mile pace for a hundred meters.

Here's a link:

It's worth clicking on the link just to see a picture of the guy. His legs are absolutely ripped.

Friday, June 17, 2005

By the Way

I just wanted to say how much I appreciate that all of you read this column. It's a very positive part of my life--when something frustrating happens to me now, I just write about it and laugh. Without you reading, though, I wouldn't be writing, so thanks.

No, I am not drunk. Thank you for asking.

A Gift for Father's Day

If your father/spouse has an Xbox, Burnout 3: Takedown is now selling for $19.99. Burnout 3 features the most extensive car crash mode ever seen in a game, and it's a blast. I've never even played the driving part of the game, but I'm sure I've played in crash mode for over twenty hours, at least. You can literally start wrecks that involve forty or fifty cars, and the amount of detail is amazing (and funny). I can't imagine anyone not enjoying this.

Well, anyone who's a guy, anyway.

Here's something else about this game that makes it a nice Father's Day gift: it's great with two players. I play this game with Eli 3.10 several times a week (he calls it "the car crash" game, which is entirely accurate). I start a wreck, we laugh, I hand him the controller, he starts a wreck, we laugh, repeat twenty times. It's very, very fun.

Guild Wars/World of Warcraft

Thanks to DQ reader Wally, who sent me a link to the changes made in Guild Wars this week. The developers amaze me--they make more fixes in one week than the World of Warcraft developers make in three months. See for yourself--here's the link:

They're also working on reducing the incentives for farming, just as they promised.

In contrast, DQ reader Phil White sent me a link to what Blizzard is spending their time on. It's a contest for the best screenshot taken inside the new battlegrounds. The screenshots will be "run through the gauntlet of dev team scrutiny," which is a great idea, because those guys aren't glacially slow about providing patches or new content or anything.

What's the prize? According to the website, it's a "rare, life-size mannequin of a Night Elf female."

Dude, I hope "rare" is assumed when you refer to a life-size mannequin of a Night Elf. Because if it's not, you need to get out more, and I don't mean in my neighborhood.

Here's a link to the actual life-size Night Elf in question:

Yes, those of you who don't click on links: click on the link. You've got to see this picture. She looks so, well, hookeresque.

In a totally authentic World of Warcraft Night Elf kind of way, of course.

Spouse's Guide to Father's Day

Well, this is awkward.

Some of you fathers have e-mailed me about Father's Day. It seems that your wives have "suggested" (demanded) activities that you are less than enthusiastic about. Since many women don't understand that the phrase "That sounds like fun" actually means "I'M IN HELL! I'M IN HELL!" I've agreed to offer, as a public service, this handy Spouse's Guide to Father's Day.

Please note that if you have additions to this guide, please e-mail me and I will include them. Anonymously, of course.

Here is a list of what NOT to ask your husband/father to do on Father's day.

Aromatherapy Session--Smells are therapy only if your nose is depressed.

The Ballet--We are only interested in seeing men jump around if other men are trying to stop them. No scoreboard, no sale.

A Candle Factory--The word "factory' intrigues us. Unfortunately, candles do not. You see romance. We see a fire hazard. When a house burns down because of candles, does the newspaper story ever describe them as "romantic"? I didn't think so.

Picking Wildflowers--We're not "pickers." We also don't want to pick berries. Or cotton. Churning butter and making cheese also fall into this category. Don't ask me why.

A Musical--Men do not burst into song, and we do not like seeing other people do so.

A Day Trip to Arts & Crafts Souvenir Town--Oh no. Live the dream. A two-hour drive and six hours walking around sixty-two "shoppes" filled with nearly-identical, overpriced crap. Here's a little-known fact: wooden knick-knacks and Precious Moments figurines actually numb our extremities.

A Restaurant--With the proper pre-screening, restaurants can be an excellent choice for Father's Day. To determine if we'll like a restaurant, count the silverware for each place setting. The ideal answer is three: one knife, one fork, one spoon (rarely used). Four is also allowed, if there are two knives. Five, though, is unacceptable, and six is right out. At a six restaurant, it takes the waiter longer to recite the specials than it takes you to eat them.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Station Agent

We saw "The Station Agent" last weekend and it's a terrific movie--very thoughtful, very character-driven, and very funny in a quiet kind of way.

It has a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes
(, and not only are the vast majority of the reviews positive, they're absolutely glowing. It's a fine film and I highly recommend it if you're looking for something to rent this weekend.

Thanks to Paul Costello of Groovalicious Games ( who recommended the film to me.

Take-Two Settles SEC Lawsuit

Take-Two is a big player in the entertainment software industry, and I've written in the past about how they desperately need additional growth drivers beyond the Grand Theft Auto franchise. What I haven't written about (that I can remember) is how tremendously shaky their accounting has been for the last four years.

Herb Greenberg of MarketWatch, who has a longstanding reputation as a basset hound when it comes to sniffing out questionable companies, is a longtime critic of Take-Two. His column today discussed the SEC lawsuit and some of the past issues surrounding the company. You can find the entire article here:

Here are some excerpts.
The SEC's allegations bear a startling resemblance to an admission in a company press release on February 13, 2002 announcing one of multiple restatements. According to that press release, an internal investigation found the company had "eliminated sales of products made to certain independent third-party distributors that were improperly recognized as revenue and returned to, or repurchased by the Company in subsequent periods..."

In other words, to help inflate its revenue, Take-Two sold product to itself.

Just what were the SEC allegations?
[Take-Two] "systematically recognized sales revenue from approximately 180 'parking' transactions in which the company, at or near the end of fiscal quarters or year end, shipped hundreds of thousands of video games to distributors who had no obligation to pay for the product, fraudulently recorded the shipments as if they were sales, and then accepted return of the games in subsequent reporting periods.

So the SEC alleged that they sold product to themselves. Again. Take-Two admitted no guilt in settling the lawsuit, but that's a common strategy--pay the fine but admit to nothing.

If you're not familiar with standard accounting practices and SEC law, it might not seem like such a big deal that a company is trying to inflate its revenue in this manner. Believe me, it's a big deal, and it is big-time fraud when something like this happens.

I've said it before, but Take-Two is a company on the edge, and they've lived on the edge for years, both in their accounting practices and their business strategies. When I say that they're betting the company on each Grand Theft Auto title, I mean it literally. If a GTA title ever blows up in their face, they're done.

Next: John Ford Coley Works at Sears

I'm now officially afraid to leave the house.

Do you remember Seals & Crofts? Of course you do. They recorded very pleasant albums in the 70's and had a unique sound, both vocally and in their instrumentation. Their music had kind of a Far Eastern spiritual feel to it, if that makes any sense. Several big hits, many successful records, blah blah blah. I had several Seals & Crofts albums when I was in high school.

I don't remember why or how they left the music scene, but I always assumed that they just dropped out and went to live in communes or something.

So I'm driving home from work today, listening to sports radio, and an ad for a local car dealership came on the air. A Dodge/Jeep dealer. The ad breathlessly announced that Dash Crofts, formerly of Seals & Crofts, would be appearing at the dealership on Saturday to sign posters.


Dude, I don't know where Jim Seals is, but I'd find him and tell him you want to get the band back together. Immediately. You're one step away from passing out cocktail wienies on a toothpick at the local grocery store.

I can't go anywhere now. I'm afraid if I go get my car washed, Art Garfunkel will be standing there with a rag to dry off the hood. What am I going to say? "I loved your solo albums"?

Man, nobody can pull off a lie like that.

Xbox 360 Graphics: A Technical View

Dave Baumann over at Beyond 3D has written an excellent article about the graphics processor in the Xbox 360. It's by far the most thorough article I've seen on the GPU. This also means it's highly technical, so be prepared. Here's the link:

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Jumble O' Column

Late. Start.

I fought off a sore throat/something or other last week, probably due to the mold levels reaching stratospheric levels around here and staying that way for the last month. It’s back, though, so I have basically zero energy. Austin is the worst city in the U.S. for allergies, and second place isn’t close (literally). Plus I smashed my elbow last night because I was carrying Satan the cat in the dark after she woke me up at 3 a.m., so there’s that.

In other words, blechh.

In reference to the Sony column yesterday, I neglected to mention one thing. It’s quite interesting to see Sony/IBM/Toshiba try to take on Intel, because that’s exactly what they’re doing with their $299 “supercomputer.” Of course, after you add the hard drive, and the keyboard, and the mouse, etc., it’s a $500 computer, but that’s still inexpensive. Plus it’s going to have Linux, so Sony gets to moon both Intel and Microsoft at the same time.

This is going to work out great for us either way. Either we get a stripped-down game machine for $299 that should be very impressive, or (and here’s the fun part) Sony starts a PC price war.

Think about it. If the PS3 really is the shiznit, or the shizzle, or whatever the hip kids are calling it, Intel has to respond, and fast. They can’t sit by while Sony eats their low end away, because AMD is already chewing on their high-end. If the PS3 really is a functioning, reasonably powerful computer for $500, Intel is going to have to cut prices and I don’t mean slightly.

That should be very interesting.

I’ve got ton o’ links that you guys have submitted in the last few days, so here we go.

First, a link to a New York Times article about Chernobyl, which I’ve discussed several times in past columns. Believe it or not, for roughly $200-$400, you can now visit the Dead Zone—as a tourist. Here’s the link (NY Times, registration required):

Thanks to DQ reader Joe Richmond for the link.

Second, an article I stumbled across at CNN on “Grafedia,” which is basically graffiti that contains information. Grafedia contains information (an e-mail address, for example) about something or someone that can be contacted. Do so, and you receive information or images (or just about anything else). It’s a very cool way to interact with people. That was a crap description, but the article’s much more interesting. Here’s the link:

Thanks to DQ reader Mike Kolar for sending in a link to 360-degree views of the Half-Life 2 world using QuickTime technology. The accompanying article about how it was done is interesting as well. Here's the link:

DQ reader Loren Halek, who writes for Console Gold (, has started an entertainment blog called “Virtual Viewpoints” and you can find it here:

DQ reader Sebastian Arciszewski asked me to mention his site SplitReason ( They sell a variety of apparel for gaming and technology enthusiasts.

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned long-time DQ reader Tara Calishain’s site, but if I have, it’s worth mentioning again: The site is “a collection of items on search engines, online databases, and other information resources,” and it’s very useful.

Finally, Serdar Camlica isn’t a DQ reader but wound up on the site because of the mentions I’d made about sites featuring 3D artwork. He asked if I would mention his site and so here it is:

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Next-Gen: I Spy With My Little Eye

My brain finally clicked into the "on" position today about the next-generation consoles.

Note: my brain being in the "on" position may not be much better than your brain being in the "off" position. So the dramatic announcement in the first sentence of this column may actually be of extremely limited impact.

Ken Kutaragi is responsible for the brain-switching event. He's the president of Sony Computer Entertainment, and more importantly, he's one monkey dance away from becoming Steve Ballmer.

After E3, Kutaragi called the PS3 an "entertainment supercomputer." Last week, he gave an interview to Impress PC Watch that stirred images of a man in dirty, ill-fitting pajamas wandering the streets in bare feet.

Here are some excerpts from the interview (translated by Gamespot at
We're not going to equip [the PS3 with] an HDD by default, because no matter how much [capacity] we put in it, it won't be enough.

Um, okay. That doesn't make any sense, but okay.

The next step is definitely network drives. With the Cell server, they can be accessed from anywhere, via network. Whether it's your own house [or] your friend's house, you can access the [network hard drive] anywhere...a network drive would allow for terabytes of storage.

That's an interesting concept for a console that's coming out for $299 plus an optional hard drive. I would need terabytes of storage to play A GAME because...

This time, we're positioning the PS3 as a "supercomputer." But people won't recognize it as a computer unless we call it a computer, so we're going to run an OS on it. In fact, the Cell can run multiple OSes. In order to run the OSes, we need an HDD. So in order to declare that the PS3 is a computer, I think we'll have [the PS3's HDD] preinstalled with Linux as a bonus.

Okay, it's nice to have Linux preinstalled. Now what percentage of people who buy the PS3 will ever do anything with Linux? One percent? One-half of one percent? Does anyone else find it odd that a company striving to market a console as a turnkey media PC is installing the least accessible operating system on the optional hard drive?

In the case of the PC, users will have to wait for years between XP's UI to Longhorn's. But the PS3's UI will evolve much faster. For example, if we had an interface where we could control applications using gestures and words using the EyeToy, it would be like Minority Report. Of course, that kind of an evolution will also reflect on games. This will be the first form that [the Cell] will be spread. It can connect a keyboard, and it has all the necessary interfaces. It can run media, and it can run on a network. It's got such an all-around purpose, and it's open. It will become completely open if we equip it with Linux, and programmers will be able to do anything with it. It's the same thing with the graphics, since it's got the shaders.

Or maybe it could be like in Total Recall where you couldn't tell the difference between what was real and what was COMPLETE BULLSHIT.

I'm going to go out on a limb here. All the incredible claims that Sony is making for the PS3 are going to turn out to be 90% bullshit. The Cell network--no. The adoption of the PS3 as a PC (let alone a supercomputer)--no. The "aging" of recorded standard definition content into high definition content--no. Any of these that actually wind up existing are going to be far, far different, and far less compelling, than Sony is claiming now. The problem is that almost all of these features require either a huge amount of programming work and/or infrastructure to support. They're not a piece of candy that gets unwrapped and eaten.

This is (from all indications) a $299 console. So a three hundred dollar piece of hardware is going to provide more computing power than a PC, as well as a breathtaking array of additional features? Well, no it's not. In fact, Sony will be doing really well if the PS3 provides more computing power and features than a $500 PC.

It's been easy (and quite enjoyable, I must admit) to get caught up in the hype about these new consoles, and there's no question that they're a quantum leap forward from existing consoles. But what are the real chances that Microsoft or Sony can put out a box for $300 that matches the capabilities of the best $500 system available? I'd certainly expect the consoles to have more powerful video cards than a $500 system, but for general computer usage, I'm betting the $500 system wins.

And the $500 system is intended to be used as a PC. Installing programs will be transparent. Sony says the PS3 will run Windows just fine if it's installed, but how exactly would it run the applications? Will all applications run or just a selected subset? Games certainly won't, because the video card won't be supporting the DX9 standard, to the best of my knowledge.

What I'm saying is that I think Sony's making a big mistake here. We want the PS3 to play games. Sony acts like it does everything else, and oh by the way, it plays games, too. Maybe this is a strategy that works well in Japan, but remember the PSX Media Center? It was released last year to a huge amount of fanfare in Japan, and it featured a PS2, a DVD burner, hard drive recorder, and video/audio playback.

Sounds kind of like the feature set for the PS3, huh? So how did it do? Well, it puked all over itself. It was a colossal flop and Sony doesn't even have it in production anymore. Sony is trying to redirect the market instead of responding to it, and that might wind up being a very, very bad idea.

Civil War Submarines (Part 2)

Last week I mentioned an article about Civil War submarines. The article mentioned a book--Union and Confederate Submarine Warfare in the Civil War--as being a comprehensive study. I ordered it and the book is absolutely amazing.

I didn't even know until a few weeks ago that submarines even existed during the Civil War. Not only did they exist, there were over TWENTY different submarines tested and at least half a dozen actually deployed. Incredibly, these were all designed by private individuals who then contacted their respective Governments. There were even privateer submarines, because the Confederacy was offering a huge bounty for the sinking of Union ships. It's like opening the door to some secret, crazy part of history.

I highly recommend the book if the subject interests you--it's exhaustively and thoroughly researched. It's not in print anymore, but it's easy to purchase used on

In The Toilet: The Show Tune Era

It started off innocently enough, like it always does.

Eli 3.10 recorded some songs from his favorite shows (currently listed as Rescue Heroes, Scooby-Doo, and Toy Story) on his little tape recorder. It’s a mix tape—songs interspersed with the sound of the tape recorder being dropped, Eli talking (“Is this on? Hey, I think it’s already on!”), and loud scratching sounds that make me jump three feet into the air. There’s one song from Toy Story on there that sounds like a Broadway theme for a Western.

He likes to play the tape several times during the day.

Now if you don’t have kids, you’re thinking “So what? What could possibly happen?” See, that’s not how a parent thinks. A parent thinks “of COURSE something can happen, but what is it?”

On Saturday, Eli announced that he needed to pee, and he started carrying the tape recorder to the bathroom. Gloria said “Eli, what are you doing with the tape recorder?”

Eli 3.10 said “I’m taking it into the bathroom with me. I just want to listen to some tunes.”

Here’s an important rule of parenting (again, for future parents, since existing ones already know): don’t let your kid do anything once that you don’t want him to do ONE HUNDRED BILLION TIMES. That’s how kids are, and letting them do something once is full validation that they can do it over and over and over again.

Yesterday, Eli 3.10 finishes his lunch, announces “I need to go poop!” and walks off toward the bathroom. He closes the bathroom door behind him. Ten seconds later, the door flies open and he comes running out. “Eli, what’s wrong?” Gloria asks, just as he grabs the tape recorder.

“I CAN’T POOP WITHOUT THIS TAPE RECORDER!” Eli shouts, slamming the bathroom door behind him.

“That’s cute,” Gloria says.

“Cute?” I ask. “You don’t see the big picture here, do you?”

“What do you mean?”

“What happens when you go out to eat, forget to take the tape recorder, and he needs to go to the bathroom?”

“I’m sure he’ll be fine.“

“I’m sure he will be, because you’ll be standing outside the stall door singing show tunes. OOOOOklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plains.”

“I will not,” Gloria says.

Don’t cry for me, AR-GEN-TINA.”

“Shut up. And you’re not writing about this.”

Monday, June 13, 2005

Micro-Funding (Part Two)

DQ reader Stephen Saunders, internationally known as "The Guillotine of Wit," has some interesting thoughts to share concerning the micro-funding discussion from last week:

It's not a new concept by a long shot, but agile methodologies are typically considered best practice in enterprise software development circles (or, at least, the enterprise development circles I travel in). That's my area of expertise at the moment - I've worked in several different agile shops, and can advocate certain practices to one team over another based on real-world experience.

In most of the formal agile methodologies (like extreme programming, scrum, crystal methods, etc), they advocate doing fast, short cycle iterations that prove business value or ROI as soon as humanly possible, as well as keeping all the stakeholders - especially the customer - on the change review committee during the entire duration of the project. At any point in the development cycle, someone who cares about the success of the project can say, "Hey, that thing we thought was important? It is, but less so. What we really need is THIS..." and the impact of that change is minimized. Customers, sales, marketing, CTO/visionaries all collaborate on priorities and are all empowered because they are helping decide on what makes the most ROI for the business.

It's not terribly different from the micro-funding you describe, or the Sid Meier approach. Produce something with some minimal business value, ask the stakeholders what is the next most important thing to add, and incrementally give them a product that stays on target with business need.

It strikes me as insane that enterprise software shops have known about this class of methodologies with a good track record of success, and yet the gaming industry seems to be stuck in the rut of traditional, risk- inherent "waterfall" software process.

So micro-funding, even though it sort of organically emerged from need, actually mirrors an already-successful approached used for developing business-oriented applications.

I've been on large software projects that used both of the methodologies that Stephen mentions. What I like about the agile approach is that if the project has effective leadership, it will almost always, by the nature of the methodology, deliver a useful product. With the waterfall approach (what we called the "throw it over the wall" approach), though, even when a project does get completed, it often no longer addresses the needs of the customer, because the needs have changed during the development cycle.

Guild Wars

I'm not playing Guild Wars (and stop sending those e-mails), but many of you are, and the reactions I've received have been almost universally positive. DQ reader Doug Walsh shared some excerpts from the weekly Guild Wars update, and now I know why people are so impressed. Here's an excerpt:

We know that some players currently engage in repetitive farming activities for the primary purpose of unlocking skills and items for PvP. Rather than preserving the effectiveness of farming for this purpose, it is our intention to address the larger issue of the need for farming by assessing how players acquire and unlock items, runes, and skills, and then by taking steps to ensure that players can acquire and unlock these things through normal gameplay. We believe that the most effective way to play the game should also be the most fun way to play the game. You can expect to see the first meaningful changes towards this goal next week.

That's one of the single most intelligent statements I've ever heard from a developer. Instead of freaking out and banning five thousand accounts at a time, the developers accept the responsbility for making gameplay changes to mitigate the desirability of farming. That's brilliant. And the phrase "the most effective way to play the game should also be the most fun way to play the game" should be taped to the top of every game designer's monitor.

Guild Wars has no monthly subscription fee. There's been quite a bit of discussion around new content and features and how they would be handled. Well, they're being handled logically: new features will be free, while new content must be purchased. That seems entirely fair.

Just seeing how clearly these guys are thinking through issues makes me want to play this game.

Wage Slaves

There’s a pretty fascinating article in Computer Gaming World this month.

Stop it. I’m serious. Yes, computer game magazines are probably dying, and for several good reasons, but that’s for another day.

The article is titled “Wage Slaves,” and it’s a piece of actual investigative reporting on MMORPG “sweatshops.” Believe it or not, there is an incredibly profitable industry devoted to making real money from online games by farming virtual money.

My conception of how this worked always involved one or two people making a living from playing an online game, but that’s not what this is about. This is profit on a large scale, involving dozens or even hundreds of employees (usually overseas) working for low hourly wages, gathering online currency and items that are then converted into unbelievable profits in the real world.

How much? Try 1.5 million dollars last year for a single operation from Star Wars Galaxies. One individual (named as “Smooth Criminal” in the article) claims to have made $700,000 in a single year.

Here’s a brief description of how this usually works. The brains write a program or find an exploit that can be used to gather in-game currency or valuable items). This is communicated (usually through an administration layer) to the workers who will actually gather the online currency. Then they hammer away. The resulting gold/items are then laundered through several accounts to avoid detection (and subsequent account termination) by the game provider. There are even resellers who facilitate these transactions.

I wrote last month about online games finding additional revenue streams, but I had no idea that the actual secondary market was this large. This makes Sony’s Station Exchange (an in-house auction site for EverQuest II) even more sensible. I would be very surprised if most online games don’t have in-house auction sites by the end of next year.

I’d like to congratulate writer James Lee for one of the very few pieces of investigative journalism I’ve ever seen about gaming.

I can’t find this article online yet, but when it does show up, I’ll post the link.

Friday, June 10, 2005

PC Games at EB

We went to the mall tonight and I got a chance to see first-hand why PC games need to move to digital distribution as quickly as possible. I stopped in at the Electronics Boutique and tried to find the PC games.

It took a while.

When I finally found them, in the far back corner of the store, I could not believe how small the section was. I decided to walk off some measurements and calculate how much of the shelf space was devoted to PC games.

In this particular EB, there is roughly 702 square feet of shelf space (two 27' x 9' sections and two 12' x 9' sections). Of that, PC games take up '9 x'9. That's 11.5%, and it's the worst 11.5% of the store.

Some stores give more space to PC gaming, but to the best of my knowledge, absolutely no one in the U.S. gives more space to PC gaming now than they did three years ago. For many stores, PC games are either gone or take up 1/4 the space that they used to.

I'm going to take a trip to Wal-Mart this weekend and check out how much space they give to PC games for a mass-market retailer comparison. Maybe Eli 3.10 would like to "assist" that study.

I also had a chance tonight to see just how deeply Fate has burned into my brain. I've written about this before, but great games leave a kind of afterimage on your brain, so that when you see objects in the real world you're reminded of the game world. Gloria had on a silver pendant tonight, and while we were waiting for dinner I looked at it and immediately thought of the pendants you can wear in Fate to improve your attributes. Many of them have funny names, like "Nailjuggler's Cheetah's Jeweled Pendant of Silver," and so I wondered what kind of dexterity and attack bonus boost she was getting.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The Phantom: Digging in Deep

There's a very funny interview over at with Kevin Bachus, who blew up his career and his credibility to cash a giant check and become President of Infinium Labs. Here's a link:

Now do I think The Phantom game console will make it to market? I don't know, but if it doesn't people will be going to prison. Even if it does launch, that doesn't mean it will be on the market for long--it's not a viable concept, the people involved have zero credibility and a lousy track record, and they've been consistently disingenous. In fact, the only place where they seem to have been honest is in their SEC filings. Let's take a look.

10QSB (5/23/2005)
The Company has entered into content agreements with 11 PC game publishers and developers, representing over 500 titles for launch. The content distribution agreements include four of the top ten game companies that represent collectively 1/3 of the PC games market according to PC Data's July report. (see The Company has not yet made payments to some of these publishers, and our failure to make payments could result in cancellation of these agreements. The Company currently owes these entities an aggregate of $885,000 and intends to pay the developers and publishers with the proceeds derived from additional bridge financing transaction and by issuing additional shares of equity.

Ouch. Here's one more gem of goodwill:
...while the Company may have less than ideal relations with the content community at this time, the viability of repairing any damaged relationship is feasible and no out of pocket financial risk on the part of publishers or developers is at stake.

So they already owe these publishers nearly a million dollars, and that doesn't mean they won't owe more before the console actually launches. If they don't pay, the publishers pull their games. This wouldn't be a huge deal if they had any money left, but they don't. They need 11.5 million in bridge financing (at a minimum) to even launch the system, based on their SEC filings.

The Company is currently seeking funding for the launch of the Phantom Game Service and manufacture of the Phantom Game Receiver. Management estimates that the Phantom Game Receiver and Phantom Game Service will be available for launch 120-150 after it has secured funding of the first $11.5 million.

Now back to the interview. Here's a classic quote from Kevin Bachus:
I think that it’s easy for people to misinterpret the public filings because there’s something that’s really unusual about our company. It’s not unique, but it is unusual, and that is that we are a pre-revenue public company. What that means is that you’re seeing public filings that typically you’d see when a company is more mature. When a company at least has a product on the market.

Absolutely, Sparky, and that's why "pre-revenue" companies don't go public: because 99% of the time they're worthless. The only way Infinium went public was to buy a publicly traded company (Global Business Resources) and change the name. That has stink coming off it from fifty miles away.

So why did they do it that way? They needed the company to be public, but no investment bank in the world would have participated in an inital public offering with them. But the stock of a publicly traded company has measurable value, and then they could issue millions of stock options to attract people like--Kevin Bachus!

It's ugly. Beyond ugly, actually. And when it does finally blow up, it should be quite a show.

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