Wednesday, August 31, 2005

NHL 06

From the Digital Sportspage forums via the grumpy old bastards (and my friends) at comes one of the funniest game-related videos I've ever seen. The video is comprised of in-game footage from NHL 06 by EA Sports, and it absolutely skewers the A.I. in brilliant fashion. What makes it so funny, though, is the genius choice of the song to accompany the video. Here's the link:

I don't think the A.I. in the game is as bad as it seems in the video (surely it was on the Easy difficulty level--I hope), but it's very, very funny nonetheless.

Eli 4.0 Joins the Vaudeville Circuit

Here's the "routine" we created for Gloria last night. It's vaudeville humor for a four year old. Or, um, a forty-four year old.

Me: Hey Eli, what do you want on your toast?
Eli: BUTT-er.
Me: BUTT why?
Eli: It SNOT toast if it doesn't have BUTT-er!

He had fallen to the floor laughing by the time he delivered his last line.

Now on order: junior-sized straw hat and cane.

Katrina Relief Effort Donations

If you're wondering about how to make a donation to the relief efforts, here's a link to the Red Cross:

If you aren't familiar with New Orleans and don't understand the levee system, here's a brief description which I think is essentially accurate: New Orleans is under sea level (by an average of six feet). It's protected by a vast series of earth levees which encircle the city, protecting it from both the Mississippi River and Lake Ponchetrain. There are also vast pumping systems and a series of canals to get water out of the city, because there's essentially nowhere for it to go--there's no natural drainage system.

So when the levee breaches, water starts pouring in, and that's what happened yesterday. Water pours in until the water level in the city equalizes with the water source. Lake Ponchetrain is now (due to rainfall) six feet above sea level, so on average, that's twelve feet of water. It's catastrophic.

In what is now an excruciating, sad irony, this doomsday scenario has been acknowledged for decades. Here's a link to a five-part series (by the New Orleans Times-Picayune) that spelled out the possibilities very clearly: Here's the headline:
A major hurricane could decimate the region, but flooding from even a moderate storm could kill thousands. It's just a matter of time.

They're now using 20,000 pound sandbags (incredible--ten tons each?) to try to plug the levee. 1,200 of them. Twelve thousand tons of sand.

Knitting a Sweater For a Whale: The Definitive Project-Planning Guide

I’m not sure how the conversation started. I don’t exactly remember if Eli 4.0 asked me the question, or if it was a natural extension of what we were talking about. Somehow, though, we asked the question: How long would it take to knit a sweater for a whale?

This is one of the few questions that you can’t type into Google and get an immediate answer. Unfortunately, other Google searches about a whale’s circumference instead lead you to information about the whale’s penis.

Outstanding, so to speak.

I didn’t look at those links, but I’m guessing that it’s big as a whale. Too bad I wasn’t trying to find out how long it would take to knit a whale a condom.

The blue whale seems to have roughly a 2-to-1 length to circumference ratio (at its widest point). And we want a big whale, otherwise I could just be calculating how long it would take to knit a sweater for my cousin Tommy, so we’re using eighty feet for the length, which gives forty feet for the circumference.

That length measurement has to be adjusted, because obviously the sweater isn’t going to cover the whale’s face. That would be ridiculous.

After consulting some photographs, I’m going to estimate that 25% of the whale’s length would not be covered by the sweater—roughly the area above their flippers. Without legs, there’s no place for the sweater to logically stop, really, so it’s going to cover the rest of the whale’s body. That’s sixty feet for length, then.

Here are some fantastic photographs that helped me pin down those numbers, by the way:

So we’re working with a cylinder (not exactly, but it’s a damn whale—just getting a sweater is a great gift, even if it doesn’t fit exactly right) about sixty feet long and forty feet in circumference.

Now we come to the part where we’d have to all those unsightly calculations known as “math”, but fortunately that’s not really necessary. What we’re working with is the lateral face of the cylinder, and that base is just a rectangle—the length is the circumference of the base (forty feet) and the width is the height of the cylinder (sixty feet). We’re not knitting a giant sheet, but if you unrolled it, that’s just what it would be.

Thanks to the very nice Annie at for this vital piece of information:
It would take an average knitter, working with worsted weight wool, about 4-6 weeks to complete a man's size 42 sweater.

Now Annie, I have a follow-up question: what if that man was a whale? I didn’t send that question, but I wanted to. And I have no idea what worsted wool is, but since we have an unlimited budget for this project, that’s what we’re using.

Before we go on, let me mention that I tried to use a website to pre-calculate everything for me. Here are a couple of the steps I went through:

Enter the chest width of the sweater.(This should equal the wearer's chest size plus 1 to 4 inches).
Okay, that would be 480. Wait, with the “plus” it’s 484.

Enter the Total Length of the sweater. (Sweater length is a matter of taste and current fashion).
Very tough call on the current fashion of sweaters for whales, so let’s just say 720 inches.

Enter the Shoulder Slope for the sweater.(I advise making it 1/2" for an adult with very, very square shoulders. Make it 2" if your shoulders slope a lot.)
Definitely “2”.

Neck Depth (Front).This will be the depth of the V in the front of the sweater.

It was at this point, when I was considering the depth of the V-neck, that I decided that I was going to have go manual on this bad boy and calculate it by hand. My chest is a so-much-less-than strapping 39”, so I measured one of my sweaters (I have two). It’s 29”x22”, and the sleeves are (rounding a bit) 22”x8”. Those measurements are both for one side only.

So that’s a 29”x44” rectangle, with another 22”x16” rectangle for the combined size of the sleeves. Translate the sleeve area to match the height of the main sweater and the second rectangle magically becomes roughly 29”x12”, and the entire rectangle becomes 29”x56”. That’s what takes an average knitter 4-6 weeks (which we’ll call five weeks as an average) to complete.

I know you’re tired from all these fancy math calculations, so let’s cut to the chase: it takes 213 man-sweaters to make our whale sweater. And at five weeks for each sweater, it’s 1,065 weeks, or twenty and a half years.

So if you’re a blue whale, and you want to order a custom-made sweater online, and it says “Ships in 1-2 weeks”, you know that is total bullshit.

No way, my blue friend. I say go with something off the rack. It’ll still look good on you, playa.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

GWJ Returns

I'm happy to report that Gamers With Jobs is back up.

Blade Runner: in HD!

My favorite science fiction movie of all time is Blade Runner. Philip K. Dick's original short story (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) was brilliant, and the film adaption (although very, very different) doubly so.

Blade Runner was also one of the first DVD's ever made, and unfortunately, the visual quality was just awful. Every succeeding release has also been awful. There have been disputes over the film rights for years, lawsuits, counter lawsuits, etc., which have endlessly delayed higher quality prints.

Well, believe it or not, the wait appears to be over. Blade Runner is (finally) showing in HD on HDNet Saturday, September 3 at 8 p.m. (EST). Here's a complete list of screening times (all times Eastern Standard):
8:00 PM ET-Sat, Sep 3rd - HD Premiere
12:00 AM ET-Sun, Sep 4th
1:45 PM ET - Sun, Sep 4th

This is the Director's Cut version. The trailers that show new scenes from the HD version have been very impressive, so hopefully the visual quality will be outstanding.

Gamers With Jobs

Certis over at Gamers With Jobs just let me know that their hosting company is located in--you guessed it, unfortunately--New Orleans. So they're temporarily down.

Harder Than Diamond

Physicists at the University of Bayreuth (German) have created a new material that is harder than diamond.

The group created the ADNRs by compressing the carbon-60 molecules to 20 GPa, which is nearly 200 times atmospheric pressure, while simultaneously heating to 2500 Kelvin. "The synthesis was possible due to a unique 5000-tonne multianvil press at Bayerisches Geoinstitut in Bayreuth that is capable of reaching pressures of 25 GPa and temperatures of 2700 K at the same time," Dubrovinskaia told PhysicsWeb.

I know what you're thinking when you read the phrase "5000-tonne multianvil press": thin pizza crust.

Here's the article link (thanks Slashdot):

New Orleans Update

The WWLTV site ( has both the best real-time news updates on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as well as a live video feed (which is still accessible--I'm watching it right now).

Here's the last update:
Break in 17th Street Canal Levee is now 200 feet wide and slowly flooding the City of New Orleans. Huge sandbags are being airlifted to try to stem the rush of water in that area. The expectations are that the water will not stop until it reaches lake level.

Those sandbags weigh 3,000 pounds apiece, to give you an idea of the scale involved. Officials are "optimistic" that the sandbags can plug the break.

The "Katrina Blog" link (which is at the top of the site) has continuously updating information and you can see from its nature that it is total chaos down there right now.

Space Rangers 2 Manual

I totally forgot to mention that there is a far better manual available than the printed game manual. Look in the help/content directory. It has a ton of useful information.

Also, one other tip. Upgrade your engine as soon as possible. The increased speed makes you much less susceptible to pirates and also makes it easier to complete missions inside the most difficult time frames (which gives you more experience and money).

Monday, August 29, 2005

Writing a Blog

If you want to know what it's like writing a blog, go check out today's Doonesbury--I burst out laughing when I read it. Here's the link:

And if you're trying to access it after Monday, just use the "browse the archive" section below and to the left of the strip to retrieve the comic for August 29.

Weather Stations: No Longer Transmitting

Unfortunately the weather station I was using for the earlier post (and all other weather stations in that area) stopped transmitting data shortly thereafter. Not surprising. So I won't be able to show you the data for the rest of the build-up and the back half, unfortunately, which would have been interesting.

The estimates about how long it will take to pump the water out of New Orleans vary wildly, as do the estimates of the damage to the ports. If you're wondering about the economic importance of New Orleans to the United States, here's an excerpt from Stratfor that makes it very clear:
The city of New Orleans, the Port of South Louisiana and Port Fourchon combined serve as the hub of trade and energy collection and distribution for the middle third of the country.

I don't think anyone knows much of anything at this point, and with the city in darkness no one is going to find out tonight, but hopefully much more information will be available tomorrow. And hopefully the few deaths reported so far are the only ones.

Dubious Quality: From the Inside

I just noticed the page where I scribble down everything I intend to write about for the next few days. Here's what's written on it right now.
--wrecked stays wrecked
--cat ass-walking
--whale penis
--whale surface area calculation
--knitting time average sweater
--syntax of issues
--no art boobies in the bedroom
--hi gorgeous and the security guard
--crack in back
--two bottles of wine and twelve packs of cat treats

Consider yourself warned.

Good Grief, Part 2

See, here's the thing. If those guys actually needed to be out IN the hurricane to COVER the hurricane, I'd understand. It's just that they're not contributing any useful information whatsoever--unless you count "it's really windy and rainy and stuff is flying through the air" as useful.

If sports reporters covered football like news reporters covered hurricanes, they'd be out on the playing field giving live updates while the game was in progress. "A large man in a helmet just ran past me and he was carrying something. Bert, did you see that on the monitor? It was definitely a large man and he was moving quickly. OOF! [reporter gets run over by football player]. Bert, I just got knocked on my ass! Repeat, I definitely just got knocked on my ass!"

Eli 4.0 Sleeps In

Eli 4.0 woke up at 6:00 Sunday morning. He came down and woke us up.

"Daddy, do you want to go back to my room with me?"

"Sure," I said.

"We'll sleep on the floor," he said.

Sure we will.

Here's an exact transcript of our conversation, after we'd gotten blankets and pillows arranged on the floor of his room.

[We lie down. Five seconds pass.]


"Yeah, buddy."

"I'm going to switch my covers."

"You are?"

"Yeah. The bottom cover is longer, so if I make it my blanket and make the blanket my sheet, my feet won't stick out."


[Several minutes of cover-rearranging later, we lie down again. Five seconds pass.]


"Yeah, buddy."

"I just need to do ONE more thing."


"I need to make my command center into a robot."

"Let's do that after we get up."

"It'll just take a minute."

"I know. But it's still dark outside."

"Okay, Daddy."

[Five seconds pass.]


"Yeah, buddy."

"I can't really go to sleep without a little animal. Is my rabbit on the bed?"

"I don't see it."

"I'll get it, Daddy. You stay there and get some rest."

[Several minutes of stuffed animal selection follow.]

"I'll use this Shamu, Daddy. It's nice and soft."

"Okay, buddy."

"Now I'm REALLY READY to go to sleep," says Eli 4.0.

[Five seconds pass.]

"Daddy, can we get up now?

Good Grief

Weatherman: GO BACK INSIDE. We don't need to see your sorry asses in your little yellow slickers leaning forward at sixty-degree angles into the hurricane force winds, saying things like "As you can see, Jim, I'm leaning forward at nearly a sixty-degree angle to stay upright."

We KNOW it's windy. It's a HURRICANE.

And no, I'm not going to call you "meterologists." Nobody who's stupid enough to go out in that storm is getting called anything but a "weatherman."

We don't need any more shots of you falling on your ass because you lost your balance. We don't need you saying things like "Large objects are airborne and flying through the air, Ted."

Here's tomorrow's newspaper headline:
87 Were Reporters or Weathermen, Police Say

Take off your little yellow raincoat that your mom bought you and stay inside.

Katrina's Course

Katrina "weakened" to 145 mph winds before she came ashore this morning. I found a weather station with hourly observation data and it's interesting to see the storm coming in via data. The last observation was about two hours ago (the station may not be functional now, but here's the course through this morning). This is from the New Orleans Lakefront Airport station (pressure in inches, rain for the last one-hour period):

29.......6:53....NE 69 G 86........0.25..........28.59.......1.23
29.......5:53....NE 61 G 84........0.25..........28.81........1.72
29.......4:53....NE 54 G 71.........0.5...........28.96........0.58
29.......3:53....NE 54 G 85........0.5............29.12........1.8
29.......2:53....NE 44 G 56........1.0............29.24........0.75
29.......1:53....NE 52 G 68........1.0............29.32.........0.55
29.......0:53....NE 44 G 56........2.0...........29.4..........0.16
28......23:53...NE 43 G 56........2.5............29.45.........0.10
28......22:53...NE 39 G 49........6.0............29.5...........0.03
28.......21.53...NE 40 G 48........10.0..........29.54.........0.01
28......20:53....NE 37 G 45........10.0..........29.56.........0.0
28.......19:53....NE 29 G 39.........8.0..........29.58.........0.08
28.......18:53....N 24 G 31...........6.0...........29.59..........0.04

If you've never been through a hurricane (I grew up in Corpus Christi, on the Texas Gulf Coast, and there were several hurricanes there when I was a kid), you can see by the weather data that there's very much a kind of grinding progression. It's like a vise closing, really, and very much unlike the sudden explosiveness of a tornado. And this is a very, very big storm, so it's going to last probably eleven or twelve hours front to back, which is incredible.

Hopefully I can get the rest of the observations for this morning and include them later.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Katrina Satellite Image: One Big-Ass Hurricane Posted by Picasa


Here's a link to some excellent satellite images of Hurricane Katrina, which now has sustained winds of 170 mph and shows no signs of weakening. It's the biggest hurricane I've seen in forty years.

Here's the link:

Friday, August 26, 2005

Earl Weaver Baseball

Robert Coffey wrote a wonderful tribute to Earl Weaver Baseball in the latest issue of The Escapist and you can find it here:

I had an Amiga 500 in 1988, and Earl Weaver Baseball was a miracle--terrific A.I., almost completely editable, and it even had synthesized speech (think "robot") to announce the batter's name. Hearing it trying to pronounce "Pete Incaviglia" was like special bonus content.

This was back in the days where you played one game for months, and I did. I started playing in late July, and by September I had caught up to the real baseball season, game for game. For a reason long forgotten, I wasn't using the standings in the game--I was using real life. So my Texas Rangers were in a bizarre kind of hybrid pennant race, and I still remember missing out on the playoffs in the LAST game of a 162-game season because the real Oakland A's won their game in the twelfth inning.

Earl Weaver Baseball inspired an incredible level of devotion, and Coffey's story captures it perfectly.

The only other baseball game I ever played a full season in was World Series Baseball '98 for the Saturn, which was also a wonder. For years, Gloria used to say "It's a HIGH fly ball!" because she heard that phrase about a thousand times during the "season."

Yes, the Yankees beat me in the playoffs. Bitches.

Your E-mail: Anonymously

From our secret DQ insurance industry contact, concerning my question about the feasibility of committing suicide in the Build-a-Bear store:
Depending on the state and company, life insurance pays out even after suicide as long as the policy has been in force for a certain period of time. With my company it's 2 years, so you may still be covered even if the teddy bear isn't convicted of homicide.

Here's an e-mail about Space Rangers 2:
This game has me totally addicted. Not since the original Civilization have I been hooked this hard. And you know what, I think this is a better game. The immersion factor alone has got that game beat. I feel like I'm living the life of a privateer. You have a direct impact on the world around you and you can choose whether or not to get involved in anything that’s happening.

I've had more comments from random people seeing this game while I play on the train than any game I've played in the last four years.

Btw, if you use any of this, don't quote my name, use an alias.

The comments from Guy Who Doesn't Want His Name Used are right on the money.

Sword of the Stars at Talk Strategy

Jason Price let me know that he has an interview up with Martin Cirulis, lead designer for the upcoming space strategy game "Sword of the Stars." Here's the link:

Life in the Fast Lane

DQ reader Tim Rowan sent me this note:
If you haven't seen this yet, I got this email from this morning; I was cracking up after reading the blurbs about Space Rangers and "your" qoute.

That made me curious, so I looked through the Go Gamer e-mail he attached. Here's what it said:
Get YOUR Copy of the Game the has Captured the Interests of Bloggers & Forums World-Wide!


Already becoming a huge word of mouth & forums hit, this turn-based space RPG features breathtaking 3D real-time action! Freedom of choice is the key feature of Space Rangers as you explore its massive world which lives and develops by itself!

A DVD ROM drive is required to play Space Rangers!

(Game Guru, with a 91% rating!)

"Impressive package...something for everybody"

"Game of the Year" - Famous Game Blogger

Man, what a relief. I thought I was NEVER going to be famous. Almost every day I'd say to myself, "Damn! Fame takes a long time. It's hard."

Now that I'm famous, though, it was all worth it. I spent most of the day trying to decide whether I wanted an entourage or a posse. Then I thought: why not both? Then I could demand that they fight each other for my amusement, using only their cellphones and bling bling as weapons.

If you see me around, you'll know who I am: the guy wearing his sunglasses indoors.

Seafort Project

Here's a very interesting link, courtesy of DQ reader Mike Cascio. Stephen Turner is living on the abandoned WWII-era sea forts off the coast of England. He's keeping a blog about his experience, and there are some fantastic pictures. Here's the link:

If you want to see the blog and the pictures, choose the "Artist's Log" option on the main screen.

More Space Rangers 2

Here's an additional detail and a story about Space Rangers 2.

I forgot to mention in the original column that the main part of the game doesn't support resolutions higher than 1024x768. Normally, that's a borderline dealbreaker for me. Once I played for about fifteen minutes, though, I forgot all about it, which is why I didn't mention it--I didn't remember. You can set your resolution for the RTS segment separately, and that can go up to 1280x1024. My LCD has a native resolution of 1600x1200 and the game looks terrific, even with the LCD scaling to the lower resolutions.

Here's the story: last night I was flying around in a planetary system and saw several ships flying across my path. I identified one of them as a battleship, which made me curious, so I started to follow them. They kept flying until they reached another group of battleships that had apparently been waiting for them.

I sit there in amazement, because I think I know what they're doing.

I talk to the commander of the lead battleship, and he says they're headed to a neighboring star system to liberate it from the Dominators.


This isn't part of some heavily scripted sequence that happens once, mind you. It's just a logical consequence of what's happening in the universe, and I happened to be there to see it. Systems are invaded by the Dominators, and if they're conquered, attempts will be made to liberate them--you can see it happening all over the universe at the map level, even if you're not there to see it in person.


The commander says if I'd like to join them, then just get in the formation at the back. Which I do. We warp to the neighboring system and it's total chaos in seconds.

The details of which I'll leave for you to discover for yourself.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

A Sunday Drive

The story you are about to read is true. The names have been changed, in daring Quentin Tarantino-esque style, to protect the innocent.

I know a guy. He won't be renamed, because he won't be appearing again in the story.

This guy knows a guy. Let's call him Mr. Pink.

Mr. Pink is in a high-end auto enthusiast's club. Let's call it Club Brown.

Because of his membership in Club Brown, Mr. Pink knows a guy. Let's call him Mr. Orange.

Mr. Orange just bought a new Mercedes-Benz that cost $120,000. Because Mr. Orange knows Mr. Pink enjoys high-performance automobiles, he invites Mr. Pink to come over last weekend and take a ride.

Mr. Pink is looking forward to it.

When Mr. Pink arrives, he expects to ride around at moderate speed and, if he's lucky, drive for a few minutes himself. After Mr. Orange starts the Mercedes-Benz, however, he takes off in gut-wrenching fashion, and within seconds is going 110 mph.

At this point, Mr. Orange loses control of the vehicle.

Mr. Pink and Mr. Orange, along with the $120,000 Mercedes-Benz, roll over five times, finally coming to rest upside down. Mr. Pink, incredibly, is absolutely uninjured. Mr. Orange is bleeding heavily from a significant gash in his scalp. The Mercedes-Benz, meanwhile, looks more like a Pop Tart than an ultra-expensive automobile. It's totaled.

Mr. Orange spends two days in the hospital. When he's released, he immediately calls Mr. Pink.

Mr. Pink, he says. Did you see any ice on the road?

The high temperature that day: one hundred and two degrees.

Notes From the World of Retail

One of our DQ Deep Throats in the world of retail game stores let me know that while Gamestop decided on allocating Xbox 360 pre-orders at the company level, EB is using allocation at the store level. So each EB store has its own allotment that they can fill. That explains why EB stores are mentioning "slots" and the Gamestop stores aren't.

He also pointed out that EB and Gamestop are still separate companies at this point.

Xbox 360 Pre-Orders: Say Anything

Gamestop and EB stores aren't selling those ass-tastic bundles like their online equivalents. That's good to hear.

I decided to do something today that I thought would be interesting (your mileage may vary and often does, obviously): I called five EB's and five Gamestops and asked them if they were doing Xbox 360 pre-orders.

I mean, this is a big deal for both companies, right? Surely they have some kind of directive to their employees to ensure consistent communication to customers, right?

Well maybe they have a directive, but it's not clear that everyone is reading the directive.

The question: "Are you guys doing Xbox 360 pre-orders? How does that work?"

Here are the results.

Store #1: "First shipment is already sold out. $50 deposit gets you a system from the second shipment."

Store #2: "I can still sell you the system without the hard drive. The $399 system is sold out for the first shipment. $50 deposit."

Store #3: "We're on the second shipment. $50 down. If you trade in games, you get 20% extra over the regular trade-in value."

Store #4: "Trade in your games for 20% extra. $50 deposit. It's not guaranteed in the first shipment."

Store #5: "We're on the second shipment. Everybody is sold out of their first shipment, including Best Buy and Wal-Mart. $50 down."

Everybody got the $50 correct. Other than that, they were all over the place. And I'd like to thank the very savvy employee who had determined that Wal-Mart and Best Buy were already sold out of the first shipment.

Store #1: "$50 down. Not guaranteed for first shipment."

Store #2: "We're just taking names on a sheet of paper. We don't have any pre-orders set up."

Store #3: "$50 down and we have a few slots left."

Store #4: "We still have a couple available and it's $50 down."

Store #5: "We're all filled up."

I'd like to congratulate store #2 for offering to write down my name. Excellent work. And store #5 didn't mention a second shipment or anything else, although they did offer to give me the numbers of other stores, which would presumably make me leave them alone as quickly as possible.

So if you're looking to pre-order a system, look around. You have about a 25% chance of meeting someone who can't find their own ass with a flashlight and a search warrant. So if they say something that sounds outrageous, it probably is, and the next store will have a better idea of what's really going on. I hope.

Dim Sum

Here are some assorted little snippets of paper that have been on my desk for a few days.

Gloria, when we were discussing her anxiety over Eli 4.0's adjustment to pre-school: "Some people come from a long line of warriors. I come from a long line of worriers."

One of my friends had outstanding tickets to see the Rolling Stones. He said he was close to the stage that he could see Mick Jagger's liver spots.

From the inquiring mind of Eli 4.0: "How long would it take to knit a sweater for a WHALE?"

I'm currently working on the answer to that question, by the way, and I'll share it with you when it's available.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Payout

We actually did go to the mall today--Gloria, Eli 4.0 and I all went to lunch at California Pizza Kitchen. Across from CPK there is some kind of build-a-bear store. Stuffed bears, that is. Eli always wanders over there and meticulously looks through every single thing in the store. While he's doing that, I'm listening to an endlessly perky employee discuss bear building, and in the background this unbelievable music is playing that's all about bears and rainbows and happiness and arrghhhh! Insincere Retail Cute Overload!

"Let me ask you something," I said to Gloria.


"If this music makes me shoot myself, is it considered suicide--or murder?"

"Tough call," she said.

"Because I want to make sure the life insurance pays out," I said.

Stock Car Championship Racing

DQ Reader and Medley Games CEO TC Dale asked me to mention their upcoming game "Stock Car Championship Racing". It's a text-based sim that emulates the world of stock car racing (okay, I guess you would have already gotten that from the title. TC would like some input from stock car fans (and text-sim fans as well), and here's his description:

We're looking for input from fans about driver ratings for the game.

We won't have an official NASCAR license (although drivers, teams, etc. will be editable), but we'd like to use the world of NASCAR as a starting point. What we are doing in taking what the “real” drivers and staff would be rated by the folks that love racing, and NASCAR in particular, and comparing the numbers we have for our in house testing group with theirs, and giving us a closer line on what the perception is to the drivers, pit crew, crew chiefs, owners, etc.

By taking the real rosters we can fictionalize the database to bring the ratings in line with a known driver or crew chief, or owner, but it won’t be that a guy from a small town in Columbus, IN, is not necessarily Tony Stewart. The towns and cities, will be real, but the drivers, etc will be generated from a names database that I have.

I want to be able to have the ratings for the drivers (and others) to be as close to reality as we can make it, and if we can get enough feedback the results for the game will be very, very close to the real thing. By using the real drivers for the building block base for the fictional rosters like most sports sims can generate lifelike results without having the license.

I also want the ability for fans to be able to create their own “circuits” by making it easier to import the real world drivers, etc by having a set grouping that everyone can agree on. I hate having TOO many categories, as the fun factor goes down with too many rated categories, but I want the statheads to have a play ground to build in as well.

Plus any feedback from the fans about how they see these ratings for the various positions would be helpful as well. If we have the ratings for Jeff Gordon that says he is a 88 across the board among the 4 types of tracks used in the game, and the rest of the fans out there see Mr. Gordon as a 92, then our ratings need to adapt, and with having their perceptions guide us with other lesser known drivers, would give us a better informed bottom line ranking for the middle of the roaders to the also-rans.

How is a Kasey Kahne on the four different types of tracks? (Superspeedway, Speedway, Road, and Short Track) How does he compare to a Dale, Jr.? The Busch brothers? There are more categories for the drivers, but those four are just their talents on four different types of race tracks.

Readers can email me at for more information.

A good text-sim really transcends the sport. I'm not a big fan of watching soccer on television, but I've played more hours of Championship Manager (especially CM2) than I would ever admit. Game balance and a dynamic environment make a text-sim fun, no matter what sport it's simulating.

A Shocking Event

Something shocking happened to me today.

I was meeting my friend John for lunch at the mall, and as I walked up to the mall I saw his car just pulling in, so I decided to walk out to meet him. As soon as he gets out of his car, a guy runs up to him and starts beating the shit out of him. John is on his back and the guy pulls the wallet out of his pocket, takes all his cash and credit cards, gives him one last kick in the stomach, and runs off. I want to go catch the bastard, but my friend is hurt and needs help, so I run toward him. I take one last look at the assailant and I swear the damn guy is wearing one of those Electronics Boutique employee shirts.

“Holy shit!” I yelled when I reached John. “Can you walk? I’m taking you to the hospital and I’m calling the police.”

”No police,” he mumbled. “No police.”

”What do you mean NO POLICE?” I shouted. “You just got robbed! And I think that guy works at the mall!”

“Just working out some details of my Xbox 360 pre-order,” he gasped, just before he lost consciousness.

Man. Electronics Boutique announced their pre-order bundles for the Xbox 360, and everybody who screws people for a living must be gasping in admiration. Highway robbers everywhere are saluting. It’s one of the most colossal rip-offs I’ve ever seen.

In case you haven’t heard about this, there are two pre-order bundles available: The $699.92 Ultimate Bundle, which I guess is accurate, since it’s the ultimate SHAFT, and the $599.93 Core Bundle, and I guess they’re calling it “core” because the more accurate term “anal probe” didn’t test well.

In other words, they’re forcing you to buy THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS of additional items to get an Xbox 360. And, incredibly, that’s not even the worst part—the worst part is that you can’t even choose what you’re going to buy. Actually, THAT’S not even the worst part. The absolute worst part is that the one hundred billion dollar Ultimate Bundle doesn’t even come with a freaking memory card!

I’ve seen brazen before, and rip-offs, but this is so far beyond the pale that it’s incredible. That whooshing sound you hear is all the Xbox 360 momentum escaping from a punctured balloon, because at those prices, nobody’s going to be excited about this console.

At least we can hope that Gamestop will do the decent thing and—oh, wait. It’s the same company as EB now. That’s really going to help out the consumer.

Hopefully places like Best Buy and Fry’s will offer the console and games separately—I’m sure some chains will—but if they don’t, the frenzy that seemed to be building up is going to die a sudden and painful death. And if Microsoft approved that bundle at that price, they have absolutely no clue about what they’re doing in terms of launch pricing. They’ve done a ton of things right in the last few months, but if they approved this, somebody needs to get those guys to put down the crack pipe, spend a few weeks in rehab, and come back to our world clean and sober.

I Think We Need a Bigger Boat

In response to the "Fishing With Felines" post last week, DQ reader Don Baree responded with two links. Get ready for chicken and squirrel fishing.

Both sites are very clever and both are funny. Here are the links:

Madden 2006 (PC)

Yes, I bought it, and I feel dirty. However, I'm going to give it away to one of you when I'm done to get the exclusive license stink off of me.

I also have the Xbox version (via Gamefly) because I like to see both versions and compare them. EA Sports is strangely schizophrenic when it comes to platforms--the features that get left out depending on the platform are just downright strange.

Here are two examples. The Xbox version has some nice tutorial videos to introduce you to the passing cone (which is a good concept poorly implemented). The cone isn't intuitive in its implementation (again, poor design), and the videos are helpful. They're no where to be found on the PC version.

That's what I mean about strange. How hard is it to slap some video files on a disc and add a menu item?

Here's another one, and this is even better. Along with the usual EA Trax crap that EA jams down your throat, they actually added the official NFL Films music. Anyone who grew up when I did (I was born in 1961) and is a football fan knows that music. It's absolutely epic. The best thing that NFL Fever did in its short and lousy run was to license that music for its debut.

On the Xbox version, you have an option in the audio menu to play just the NFL Films tracks for music, and it's wonderful. That music evokes so many positive memories of watching those films, listening to that heroic music, and hearing the legendary John Facenda.

PC gamers, since they're generally an older demographic, are much more likely to remember that music and want it exclusively as their soundtrack. So is that option available in the PC version? Oh, hell no. Good grief!

I poked around in the music directory and there are forty tracks. I was so annoyed that I decided I would systematically find out the identity of each title (the tracks aren't playable outside the game and the file names don't identify them, so it's far more time-consuming than it sounds). That was going to require deleting thirty-nine tracks out of the music directory, retaining one, starting the game, identifying the track, writing it down, restoring the deletions, wash, rinse, and repeat thirty-nine times.

Fortunately, Bill Abner over at Sportsgamer's ( just took that task off my list. He linked to a thread over at where jamcadbury has already done the track listing. Here's the link:

Short version: go into your "music" sub-directory in the game and delete tracks zero through twenty. What's left are all the NFL Films tracks. Enjoy.

Oh, and here's a bit about the passing cone: it sucks. You have what is essentially a yellow flashlight beam emanating from your quarterback based on his ratings--if he's good, it's wide (better vision), if he sucks, it's very narrow.

Allegedly, this feature was designed to improve realism. Well, I'll be damned, but the last time I remember watching pro football, I didn't see a yellow flashlight beam swiveling all over the freaking field.

To move the beam, you have to use the analog stick, and your receiver must be inside that beam when you throw the ball or the pass will be awful. Moving the beam is so much slower than quarterbacks checking their progression in real life, though, that they've had to slow the game itself down to give you more time--the PC version plays like everyone is in quicksand (and the Xbox version isn't much better).

Here's how the cone should have been done. First, get rid of that freaking cone. What a horrible idea. If you want to pass to a receiver, you should have to tap his receiver button first. In response to that, the quarterback's head would quickly turn in that receiver's direction (his body might also turn if the receiver is on the other side of the field). After you see his head turn, you know it's okay to throw the pass, and you tap on that receiver's button again. If his head hasn't turned, the pass will be inaccurate, because the quarterback isn't looking at the receiver before he throws.

THAT'S how it happens in real life. No stupid yellow cone on the field, no moving the cone with the right analog stick.

No Nancy Drew flashlight beam puzzle in my football game.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The PC Game of the Year: Space Rangers 2

It’s a turn-based strategy game.

It’s a real-time strategy game.

It’s a role-playing game.

It’s a text-based adventure game.

It’s based in space.

It’s one of the best (and most fun) games I’ve played in the last twenty years.

The developers haven’t updated the front page of their website in over a year. The publishers have it listed seventh in a list of their games. Almost no one is even aware that the game is out, and where it’s officially been released, it’s almost impossible to find.

It is, quite simply, the most unlikely great game ever created. And make no mistake, it is great. It will go down as a legendary space exploration game, a crazy hybrid of Escape Velocity Nova, Star Control, Starflight, and Elite.

It is also going to be the PC Game of the Year. I know, there are a slew of AAA titles that haven’t been released yet, and it doesn’t matter. Nobody else is going to touch it. This is the best designed, best balanced, most imaginative, most fun game of the year.

Space Rangers 2.

Congratulations to Elemental Games, who have made exactly one other game in their history: the original Space Rangers. They are, in a word, geniuses. They designed a game with so many disparate gameplay elements that it couldn’t possibly work, but it does, and brilliantly.

Space has never been so alive.

So what do you do in this game? Well, what do you want to do, man? Because you can do almost anything you want, for as long as you want to, and you can succeed or get into trouble every step of the way.

You can be a merchant, a pirate, a ranger, or any combination of the three. You can trade, rob, destroy, save. You can fight the evil threatening the universe (the Dominators). If you ignore that evil, the battle will go on without you, and it unfolds in front of your eyes, planetary system by planetary system. The battle ebbs and flows, and you can take up arms at any time.

You can be aggressive. You can be sneaky. You can be brave or cowardly. You can, literally, be anything, and if you play well, you will be rewarded.

Here’s a description, and believe me, it is tough to describe a gigantic game like this concisely. It’s a free-roaming, dynamic universe, with sixty star systems and hundreds of planets, five different races, and thousands of NPC’s, all of whom pursue their own lives while you go about yours.

Of course you can talk to them all. As long as they like you, anyway, and they may not.

You start the game as a novice pilot, exploring the universe as you try to improve both your character and your ship. There are many paths you can take to do this: scavenging space minerals, planetary exploration, combat, or landing on inhabited planets and asking their leaders for missions.

The missions are the heart of the game, and the heart of its brilliance. First, you can’t even get a mission unless the race inhabiting that particular planet has cordial relations with you.

Of course, if you don’t, you can bribe them.

There are delivery missions. There are assassination missions. Both play out in space from your ship, and aren’t unlike other missions in other space games, although the detail around the missions is wonderfully written, and flying through space is absolutely stunning (the artwork in this game is striking and beautiful). Much of your time in the game is spent in space in this third-person view, a familiar view to anyone who’s played the classic space exploration games.

There are also planetary missions, which are played out in real-time and focused around giant robots. I thought these missions were a slog, at first, until I started looking more closely at the enormous number of options available when designing my robots--then it got very, very fun. There will be two other opponents on each map, and you must defeat both of them. You can also hop into first-person and command any of your robots personally, which comes in extremely handy at times. It’s not tremendously complicated (except when designing robots), and everything revolves around controlling more and more bases, but it’s just astonishing that this is part of a turn-based game and that it works so well.

Then it gets wacky. Occasionally, you’ll be given a text-based mission, and your objectives in these missions are unbelievably exotic. Basically, each adventure has a sizable number of screens (with very pleasant graphics to enhance the story), and on each screen you get to make one choice (from many). Each mission is a puzzle, in essence, but they are unbelievably varied and tremendous fun. Now if I tell you the objective of some of these missions, it will ruin the surprise, so let me just quote a few of my notes that I took while playing them (these are notes from multiple missions):
--Faeyan: vegetarian.
--Pelengs: seafood, vegetarian, exotic
--pizza must be less than twenty thick
--black boxes organized in a square 2x2 boxes in size.
--strings to guitar player on Long Street
--Cutter: wrestling
--Swamp games: crafty
--Ilke-Baana: I.Q. plus logical thinking
--a checker can jump to an empty square if…
--Prince Tarnym is skeptical, wife is dull
--punch in jaw
--lay the table to favor respected guests
--conversation: praise warrior first.
--time of gift: drinking
--humans: weaklings
--hiphops increase alcohol content
--absorblob increases transparency

If that gives you the idea that the text-adventure missions are incredibly varied, good, because they are. And they’re incredibly imaginative as well, along with the rest of this game.

Along the way, you find out that some of these missions aren’t what they appear to be, and your relations with other races will be harmed as a result. Make someone too angry and land on their planet, and you wind up in jail, which is—you guessed it—a text adventure.

Oh, and here’s something I forgot: it’s an arcade game, too. There are black holes in a few of the planetary systems, and entering the black hole transports you into an 80’s-type space arcade game, where you can win some exotic components for your ship and continue on to your destination—if you live.

It’s a huge game, obviously. And the number of things that you need to do and keep track of is sizable. This would be a problem if this game didn’t feature one of the best-designed and unobtrusive interfaces I’ve ever seen. Ever.

As you move through the universe, you have a small bar along the bottom of your screen which is informational and also serves as an e-mail notification area. That’s right—you’ve got mail, and you get it from people who need help and riff-raff and everyone you can imagine. It’s just enough to get a sense of what’s happening without being annoying. Double-click in space and a navigation path is drawn from your ship to the destination, and your ship will automatically proceed along its new course.

Here’s an example of the ingenious nature of the interface design: when you’re on a planet, there’s a news channel you can access that has information on all sorts of planetary and galactic happenings. You’ll get to know some pilots by name, and if you want to find one (or hunt one down), there’s a search function that screen that will tell you where someone is currently located.

This game was originally published in Russian. The translation is absolutely outstanding. The artwork is outstanding. The game interface is outstanding. The music is outstanding. There is an absolute sense of completeness about this game. It’s filled to the bursting and it’s complete. I’m sure there are at least a hundred hours of worthwhile gameplay here. I haven’t said that about a game in a long, long time.

Now, this game has three issues that might annoy you, and I’m going to list them now:
--it requires a DVD drive. However, the disc also includes the original Space Rangers, so you’re getting two games for the price of one.
--it uses Starforce copy protection. Nothing I can do about that, and I haven’t had any problems with it whatsoever.
--it’s very hard to find. In the U.S., I know that Fry’s has plenty of copies, but I don’t know of anyone else who has it, because I don’t think it’s officially been released here yet. I ordered my copy from – it’s listed under “Space Rangers DVD Edition.” And even though it’s been released in Europe, it’s not easy to find there, either.

I originally found out about this game because my good friend Andy Stingel e-mailed me with the heads up. He had been looking at a forum thread, and here are two long forum threads that will give you additional flavor and details about the game (and possibly some minor spoilers, so watch out):

It’s a masterpiece of creativity, design, and execution. It’s all the things that make games fun while being none of the things that make games suck. I have a ton of additional information about this game, and I’ll try to put it together for you over the next few days, but surely that’s enough for now.

The PC Game of the Year Is...

An arcade game (I almost forgot).

The PC Game of the Year Is...

A text-based adventure game.

It's all of the genres I've mentioned, all combined in this wacky, near-perfect package. And I'm trying to finish up the write-up as quickly as I can.

The PC Game of the Year Is...

A role-playing game.

The PC Game of the Year Is...

A real-time strategy game.

That's the Good News

This is why it's impossible not to love the Rescue Heroes cartoons (Eli's favorite right now). Where else can you hear lines like this?
Billy, according to my calculations, this tidal wave will reach an oil derrick that's home for fourteen workers. We have less than twenty minutes to evacuate.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that it will continue until it wipes out the coast of Chile.

The PC Game of the Year Is...

A turn-based strategy game.

(I'm going to give you a few bits of information as I write this up, just for fun).

Monday, August 22, 2005

Oh, By the Way

I'm playing the PC Game of the Year right now. And I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.

PC Game Releases in September

...suck, by the way.

Traditionally, the end of Q3 features some outstanding, AAA titles. This year, though, it's a wasteland. Look at what's coming up in September (this doesn't include online titles):
--Fable: The Lost Chapters
--Black & White II
--Indigo Prophecy
--The Suffering: Ties that Bind
--Warhammer 40,000 expansion pack

That is unbelievably weak. A port of an excellent Xbox game (Fable), a sequel to a game that was an ambitious failure (Black and White), an adventure game with an innovative design (Indigo Prophecy), a sequel to a game that was sloppy but interesting (The Suffering), and an expansion pack.

Fable's going to sell a jillion copies because nothing else is out there. Very nice release timing. Same thing with Black and White II--it's going to get much more attention than it could have expected otherwise.

Q4 looks like it's going to be the only decent quarter of the year for PC games--and that's with an asterik, because quite a few games could still get moved into 2006.

A Dream Come True

From MSNBC (Via DQ reader Don Slevin):
AMSTERDAM - A replica Viking ship made of 15 million ice-cream sticks is to be launched in Amsterdam on Tuesday by a former Hollywood stuntman who hopes eventually to sail it across the Atlantic.

The Viking longship, which is 15 meters (about 49 feet) long and took Robert McDonald and two volunteers two years to build, is to be launched in Amsterdam harbor with a crew of around 25 for what is intended to be a 90-minute excursion in a bid to set a world record for the largest sailing ship made of ice-cream sticks.

“It’s a dream come true. It’s truly worth all the hard work,” McDonald said Monday of the painstaking two-year effort to assemble the birchwood sticks into a vessel.

Aim high, my man. Aim high.

I don't know what's more bizarre--that a man's dream is to build a Viking ship out of ice cream sticks, or that there's already a world record in that category.

The Vikings, of course, were known to make most of their longboats from ice cream sticks, and also founded the popular retail chain Bäskin Rðbbins.

Your Links

You guys really outdid yourselves last weekend. Here are some excellent links.

Brian Witte sent in a wonderful story about his mom after reading the "What Shall I Be" post last week:
I read your post on the '66 boardgame for girls. I thought it was funny, but in that sick way that seeing someone catch a ball in the nuts is 'funny'. My mother started college in '66, and applied to vet school when she finished. She was one of those girls who passionately loved horses and dogs and kittens, and had always dreamed of being a vet and getting to work, and help, animals every day. She received a letter back from the school she applied to, telling her that she should be ashamed of herself for trying to take the job that a man would need to support his family. the letter went on to say that they were required by federal law to admit two women to each years' class and that the quota was full - and that she should devote her energy to a more appropriate field. The worst, most gut-wrenching part of that story is that my mother felt shame for having applied.

Even though she proved her intelligence and courage (later) by joining the Peace Corps and serving in rural Costa Rica, she was still affected by that horrible, patriarchal mindset to believe, for even a little while, that she was wrong to dream of being something other than a teacher, nurse or stewardess.

I think of that story a lot, and it warms my heart to see so many women pursuing a graduate career in science (alongside me).

Brian's mom kicks ass, by the way.

My mom raised both me and my sister by herself, and went to summer school for several years to get a Master's degree in education (and she did get it). And she would have made a brilliant principal, but in Texas in that era, 90% of the principals were ex-football coaches. And she couldn't coach football worth a damn, so she never got a chance.

DQ reader Jason Gore sent in this note about the tornado that hit near Madison last week:
I live southeast of Madison and thought I'd write you.. I was completely fascinated because everyone around has been getting crap in our yards from people living in the Madison area. Bills, cards, even a cellphone ended up in our yards.

We're 65 miles from Madison.

DQ reader Fredrik Skarstedt sent in a link to a very charming and poignant animated music video about a boy and his father. It's very happy in a quiet way, and very touching. Here's the link:

DQ reader Shane Courtrille sent in a link to a fascinating, unsettling website called "Post Secret" ( The concept of the site is that people send in postcards with a secret they want to tell, and they're scanned and put online. I thought this would be funny and goofy, and it is, at times, but it's also unsettling and dark and gives you a funny feeling in the pit of your stomach, because some of the secrets are disturbing and painful to read. It's fantastic, but it's not easy.

I'm sure some of the postcards aren't telling "true" secrets, but what those secrets make you feel is true nonetheless.

These Kittens

George and Gracie are doing very well--several hours of manic play followed by total collapse and sleep for several hours, then repeat.

Here's their quirk (all kittens have one, or several). It involves the litterbox, which is my "Job 1".

Nobel Prize? Unlikely. Pulitzer Prize? No. Scooping cat crap out of a litter box? I'm the man.

As I'm cleaning the litter box, the litter gets rustled around a bit. And I'm using these little plastic bags that allow you to scoop the poop, then flip the bag inside out, tie it in a know, and it's ready for disposal. The bags rustle, too.

As soon as I open up a bag, they come running, wild-eyed. I can barely get my hand in the litter box because they're trying to push me out of the way to get in there and crap. Five seconds after my hand is removed, one of them is already scratching the litter, and the other is waiting impatiently. They're like a couple of duffers on the first tee at St. Andrews who just can't wait to hit their drives.

Friday, August 19, 2005

DQ Fantasy Football League: Full

All twelve teams have been assigned.


I just got a call from my local Electronics Boutique about my Xbox 360 pre-order. The manager said that she had been told by corporate that "the week of November 14" had been confirmed as the launch date. I've got no second source to verify that with but thought I would pass it along.


I'm pleased to announce that the Japanese government reads Dubious Quality. Or something.

In April, I wrote this:
Here’s the future, and I’ve talked about this before: games will be projected in high-resolution 3-D and will scale to fill whatever size room we can open up for gaming.

Here's an excerpt from a CNN article today (via the Digital Sportspage forums):
TOKYO (Reuters) - Imagine watching a soccer game on a television that not only shows the players in three dimensions but also lets you experience the smells of the stadium and maybe even pat a goal scorer on the back.

Japan plans to make this futuristic television a commercial reality by 2020 as part of a broad national project that will bring together researchers from the government, technology companies and academia.

The targeted "virtual reality" television would allow people to view high-definition images in 3D from any angle, in addition to being able to touch and smell the objects being projected upwards from a screen parallel to the floor.

Okay, I admit that I didn't see "Stink-vision" coming. Not a feature I'm really looking forward to.

Plus we can't wait until 2020. Get to work, people!

Here's the article link:

Enter the Basement

Thanks to DQ reader Glen Haag for a link to some absolutely phenomenal pictures of a tornado that traced a path just south of Madison, Wisconsin yesterday. The page takes a while to load, but what you get are about eighty thumbnails that can be clicked on to bring up that particular image immediately.

Here's the link:

What Shall I Be?

Thanks to Robot Wisdom Weblog for a link to detailed photographs of that 60's boardgame classic "What Shall I Be? The Exciting Game of Career Girls."

If you're wondering what you can be, career girl, here are your choices: teacher, actress, nurse, model, ballet dancer, airline hostess.

Wow--that is exciting!

It's all very funny in a painful, historically embarrassing kind of way. Oh, and there was a version for boys, too. They could be any of the following: statesman, scientist, athlete, astronaut, doctor, or engineer.

Man, being a girl sucked in 1966!

The pictures are terrific and you can see everything about the game in all its unintentionally comic glory. Here's the link:

Sports: Vijay Singh

I watched the P.G.A. Championship last weekend and watched Vijay Singh miss about fifty fifteen-foot birdie putts in a row. This was after watching the British Open a few weeks before that and seeing him miss another fifty fifteen-foot birdie putts. So I'm at lunch today and on the t.v. is--you guessed it--Vijay Singh. He's--you guessed it--missing a fifteen-foot birdie putt.

It's sheer agony watching him putt. He looks like a guy trying to slice ham with a boat anchor.

DQ Fantasy Football League

DQ reader Tim Rown has set up a fantasy football league for DQ readers. From his e-mail:
I figured I would get relatively mature people to join if it was mentioned on your site.

"Relatively" means so much in so many ways.

Anyway, if you're interested, here's the info:
Yahoo! League ID: 472386
League Name: Dubious Quality Football
Password: asshat
Draft Date: 8/24 8:00 PM EDT

It's going to be a twelve-man league.

Fishing with Felines

It's the best instructional fishing tool and cat toy ever.

That's right: it's the CatFisher™ Rod & Reel.
With a true-to-life casting reel featuring two catnip-scented mouse “lure”, the CatFisher Rod & Reel turns cat lovers into cat “fishermen,” letting them cast their reels up to 40 feet from the comfort of their own sofa. Rod is collapsible for easy storage and contains a mini “tackle box” in the handle that holds a second, catnip-scented mouse “lure.”

Here's a picture:

Eli 4.0 saw this at Petco and convinced Gloria to buy one. What I can't believe is that this is actually a little fishing rig--a real spin-cast reel and rod (the rod is about 22"). Eli can cast really well now--little toy mice are flying through the air regularly--so this cat toy has taught him how to fish. I was planning on taking him to a local pond sometime this fall, but I think I'm moving it up because the hardest part--learning how to cast--is already done.


Thanks to DQ reader Tara Calishain (of for a link to an excellent article from Fortune about the history of Take-Two Interactive's extremely dubious accounting practices. And in this case, "dubious" is a bad thing.

I've obliquely mentioned Take-Two's accounting issues in the past, but this is a far more detailed and thorough examination. Suffice to say, the company has lived on the edge of legality (and beyond it) since they went public. It's an interesting read.

Here's the link:,15114,1090767-1,00.html.

Stunning News Story

Here's an excerpt from a story over at IGN:
August 18, 2005 - Forget whatever mild controversy might have surrounded the critical reception of Madden NFL 06: the game is selling big. Electronic Arts announced today that the title sold 1.7 million copies -- taking into account all platforms -- in its first week of release, easily setting the record for first-week sales in the sixteen-year history of the series.

EA is understandably excited by the sales. "Gamers were demanding the best Madden NFL Football ever this year and the response at retail indicates that we delivered the game that everyone wanted," said Marketing VP Todd Sitrin. "Consumers have voted with their dollars, and the vote is in -- this is the best version of Madden NFL Football ever."

Heh. Oh, people "voted", all right. Just like in Soviet Russia where in every election there were two choices: the candidate and "no". Remarkably, all candidates were elected.

That's not to disparage the quality of Madden this year--I haven't spent enough time with the game, other than fiddling with sliders, to make an assessment--it's just that the marketing spin cracks me up. I mean, once you've eliminated the competition, SHOULDN'T you break your own sales records? This is like the rich kid bragging about winning a race after his daddy buys him the fastest car.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Only Abstinence is Foolproof

SYDNEY - Scientists in Australia’s tropical north are collecting blood from crocodiles in the hope of developing a powerful antibiotic for humans, after tests showed that the reptile’s immune system kills the HIV virus.

It's a good thing, because I'm guessing that crocodiles engage in high-risk, unprotected sex. Remember: it's not just one crocodile you're sleeping with, but every crocodile that crocodile has slept with as well.

Lunch with Eli 4.0

I picked up Eli 4.0 at pre-school today and we went to have lunch. He likes to eat at a place called Central Market because he loves their macaroni and cheese, and it's only about five minutes away from his school, so we tooled down there after I picked him up.

We stood in line for a few minutes, then got up to the register to order.

"Macaroni and cheese with a fruit cup and a kid's milk," I said.

"I'm sorry," said the lady. "We don't have macaroni and cheese anymore. Would you like spaghetti instead?"


I don't think she'd quit laughing before we decided to take our macaroni and cheese business elsewhere.


Here's a remarkable invention: The LifeStraw water-purification system is a plastic straw with multi-stage filters and a chamber of iodine impregnated beads. Here's an excerpt from the article over at Gizmag (via Engadget):

LifeStraw is a personal, low-cost water purification tool with a life time of 700 litres – approximately one year of water consumption for one person. Positive test results have been achieved on tap, turbid and saline water against common waterborne bacteria such as Salmonella, Shigella, Enterococcus and Staphylococcu.

And it's supposed to cost two dollars (USD) when it becomes available next year. It could save hundreds of thousands of lives in the Third World annually.

Here's a link to the article:

More Notes on 360

Okay, here's the second tier of thoughts concerning what could be driving the pricing announcement yesterday.

This is the question: when it appeared for several months that $299 would include a wireless controller and hard drive, what happened to change that plan?

I think these are the reasonable possibilities:
1. Microsoft finally got hard numbers for what it was going to cost to build the console and just didn't want to eat that much of a loss. They couldn't back out of the $299 price point, but they could make a barebones package that wasn't very attractive compared to the higher-priced bundle. That's a common retail strategy.

What this makes me wonder: by all indications, Sony's console is going to be more expensive to manufacture than Microsoft's, possibly significantly so. So if Microsoft had to do this, what features will Sony cut to get to $299?

Prediction: Sony uses the same pricing strategy as Microsoft. For either $299 or $349 you will be able to buy a PS3 with composite cables, one controller, and no memory card. And I wouldn't rule out the barebones system having a regular DVD drive, not a Blu-Ray drive. I could see the "Premium" version going for $449 or even $499.

2. Microsft has manufacturing limitations that will make it unable to fulfill demand for the new console this fall. So if they can't meet demand, they could go for a slightly higher price point and still sell out. However, not being able to meet demand could cripple Microsoft's chances to build a large installed base before the PS3 comes out.

3. Microsoft has inside information about Sony which indicates that Sony is well behind in their plans for a Spring 2006 launch. If Sony doesn't launch the PS3 here until Fall 2006 (which is what I expect--a September 2006 launch date), Microsoft can launch at a higher price point because they'll have ten months to build the base.

I'm sure that Microsoft and Sony both have information on each other, so this scenario wouldn't surprise me at all. And my sense is that Sony is well behind, although I have no hard information to prove that.

In a surprising way, I think pressure is shifting from Microsoft to Sony, for one simple reason: Microsoft prints money. Sony doesn't. Microsoft can take significant losses from their console and it's not going to impact their core business. In many ways, though, gaming IS Sony's core business now, at least in terms of profit contribution. Sony's core businesses also revolve around entertainment, and as such they're much more unstable. Microsoft can be second in the console race in the U.S. and Europe and it's no problem for them financially. If Sony is second, though, it's a disaster.


After Eli's first computer class (not his Japanese class) at pre-school, I thought I would ask him a few questions on tape about computers and give you his wisdom unedited. I could not, however, find my tape recorder.

"Have you seen that little digital tape recorder?" I asked Gloria. "I had it on top of the stereo cabinet for, oh, months."

"Yes, you did," she said. "And I got tired of having it up there, so I put it on the desk in your study, in plain sight."

"Oh, no. So what you're saying, then, is that it's lost," I said. It's true. Once I know where something is, it's hard-wired into my brain. Move it six inches and it's gone forever, because I won't be able to find it.

"It's right in your study on the desk."

"Hopelessly, totally lost," I said. "Eli?"

"What, daddy?"

"Mommy lost daddy's tape recorder." He laughs.

"Just wait a minute," Gloria said, and she disappeared into the study. I have no idea how she bypassed the security keypad. Seconds later, she emerged. "Here it is," she said, holding up my tape recorder. "Good grief."

"Well, since you lost it, I think it was only fair," I said.

The Extras

If you were a fan of what I think was one of the funniest comedy series in history--The Office--you'll be pleased to know that Ricky Gervais has written (and stars) in a new series called The Extras. In the U.S., it premiers on September 25 on HBO.

Here's an excerpt from the article:
In a preview clip on his Web site, Gervais describes it as "the show critics are already calling the disappointing follow-up to 'The Office'."

Ricky Gervais is a funny, funny man.

Here's the link:

If you like dark comedy and you've never watched The Office (the original version, not the U.S. adaptation), it's available on DVD and the show is screamingly funny.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Online World Design (and it's "Raph", not "Ralph"

Thanks to DQ reader Jeff Woodruff for a link to a Next Generation article by Raph Koster, Chief Creative officer for Sony Online Entertainment. It's titled "The Laws of Online World Design" and it's a clever and interesting read.

[Update: for some reason, the original link doesn't work. To see the article go to and type in "Koster" in the keyword search field in the upper right-hand corner of the home page. That will bring up a link to the article.]

Madden Sliders

I think I'm waiting for the 360 version, but since I've got the Gamefly rental I let the CPU sim about fifteen games over the last week and worked on sliders. I've got some test settings, so if you'd like to try them, shoot me an e-mail. I'll try to revise them based on the collective feedback. Thanks.

Notes on the 360 Pricing Announcement

Okay, I've had a little time to think about this, and here are some of the implications of this morning's pricing announcement.

I seriously doubt that the hard drive is going to be used by anyone (except maybe MMORPG's). As an optional component, it will now almost exclusively be used for custom soundtracks and downloadable content (music, video, etc.). An interesting question is whether games offering supplemental content (maps, etc.) will require the hard drive. I assume they will.

So the Core unit is just a way for people to get into the game, so to speak. And I'm sure that Microsoft wants to make the core unit as unattractive as possible, because they're going to take a huge loss on each one. However, they can still claim that they're hitting the $299 price point.

With the Premium Edition, they should do much better. For a hundred dollars extra, getting a hard drive, a wireless controller, HD cables, and other assorted items is actually a pretty good deal for us as well. Except, of course, that it looked like for several months we'd be getting all of that for $299--with the console.

Oh, and by the way, that's not really the full price for either console. Since the hard drive isn't standard, it's likely that all games will required--you guessed it--memory cards. There's a little $39.99 hickey for you. Not including a memory card is nothing new--that's how the PS2 was launched, if I remember correctly--but it's just additional fog when trying to determine how much the console will actually cost to be functional.

For me, this announcement is somewhat of a letdown. I'm fine with the price, and the two-tier strategy is not a bad one, but it would have been a killer at $249 and $349. Those were the price points to use, at least in terms of market penetration.

I strongly suspect that this multi-tier strategy is going to be used by Sony as well, so this is a new era in pricing instead of a one-off.


NPR has a story today titled "From 'Doom' to Gloom: The Story of a Video Game Flop." It's an interesting listen, and it really brings back some memories--I'd totally forgotten that part of the marketing campaign for Daikatana (pronounced "shit") included this phrase: "John Romero's about to make you his bitch." Not to mention the infamous phrase "suck it down!" at the bottom of the ad.


Here's a link to the NPR story (thanks Kotaku):

Searing for the exact words of the "bitch" ad via Google, I was fortunate enough to stumble on an absolutely magnificent Gamespot article from 2000. "Knee Deep in a Dream: The Story of Daikatana" was written by Geoff Keighley, and it might be the best gaming feature piece I've ever read. It discusses, in tremendous detail, what happened with Daikatana and why. It was also published just before the game actually got released, so there's an ironic "we don't know how this will all turn out" perspective.

Of course, we know how it turned out. Twenty-plus million dollars for what turned out to be a mediocre Quake 2 mod.

Here was one excerpt from the Gamespot article that I thought was very funny, discussing the "bitch" ad:
Friends of Romero say the gaming public at large may have misinterpreted the ad. "People see John in the ads, yelling about how he wants to force you to assume a sort of female, canine relationship with him," explains Tim Schafer, designer of LucasArts' Grim Fandango. "I could see why people might see this as arrogance and machismo on John's part, but I honestly think it just flows from John's natural excitement for what he was doing."

Absolutely. That's exactly what I was thinking, because when I'm excited about a column I like to start it off with "Here it comes, bitches!" or some kind of exciting phrase like that.

Here's the link, and again, it's a fantastic article as well as a gaming time capsule:

Xbox 360 Pricing Announcement

...was just made at the German Games Convention in Leipzig (this had been rumored earlier this week, but I didn't think it was going to happen quite this soon). Here's a rip from the press release (I heavily edited it because there's so much marketing crap):
At $299.99 U.S./299.99 euro/209.99 pounds, the Xbox 360 Core System comes ...with:
-- Xbox 360 console.
-- Xbox 360 Controller. Wired.
-- Xbox 360 Faceplate.

The "Premium Edition" is $399.99 U.S./399.99 euro/279.99 pounds and comes with
-- Xbox 360 console.
-- Xbox 360 Hard Drive (20 GB). 20 GB and detachable.
-- Xbox 360 Wireless Controller.
-- Xbox 360 Faceplate.
-- Xbox 360 Headset.
-- Xbox 360 Component HD-AV Cable.
-- Xbox Live Silver membership. With this, gamers can chat with friends online, send and receive voice and text messages, and access new content from Xbox Live Marketplace demos such as trailers and casual games from Xbox Live Arcade.
-- A bonus Media Remote.

Stop talking about the FACEPLATE, you chowderheads. That is not a feature.

So no hard drive with the core system, which means developers won't be able to utilize it in games unless they write different routines for core and premium systems. That's disappointing. The $399 package has enough bundled items that it seems reasonable, but if all this had been included in the $299 package, it would have really put the pressure on Sony.

And here's a thought: if Microsoft has to charge $399 for the Premium Edition (and presumably takes a $100 loss, at least), what in the world is Sony going to lose on the PS3, which is more expensive to manufacture and is is going to inclue a Blu-Ray drive?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Just a Note About the 360

I have nothing but a hunch on this one, but Microsoft needs to announce the price and launch date of the 360 by no later than the end of the first week in September. That means sometime in the next three weeks. I would be very surprised if it's later than that.

Exciting New Product

It's come to this in America: we are so desperate for new products to get consumers to buy, buy, and buy that we have gone off the deep end.

The hot new product from Pepperidge Farms? Bent cookies.

They're called "Whims Crispy Waves", but that's not what they really are. They're just a bent cookie.

Conversation overheard at Pepperidge Farms:
"People aren't buying our cookies anymore. We need to go guerilla and think outside the box."
"Well, we could bend them."
"Freaking genius!"

Six months later:
"Are they bent yet?"
"Um, yes they are."
"Launch the multi-million dollar advertising campaign!"

One of the Greatest Headlines Ever


I don't know who they've got writing headlines at MSNBC, but Jon Stewart needs to call him or her immediately.

NCAA 2006: The Kitchen Sink Post

I spent 40+ hours with NCAA 2006 and I wanted to share my impressions with you. There are many, and they often conflict. This seems to define EA team sports games at this point in time—excellent design, flashes of brilliance, but highly uneven. NCAA this year is no exception.

First, let’s look at the brilliance.
--Home field advantage is wonderful design, and it’s very well done. It is extraordinarily hard to play on the road in highly rated HFA stadiums. Even better, those ratings for the most difficult stadiums change by year. Seeing one of your receivers run the wrong route because he didn’t hear your audible is a great moment.
--Impact players. It is absolutely correct that impact players define college football to a much larger degree than in the pros. The implementation is problematic at times, but conceptually it’s excellent.
--Ratings matter in this game. It’s fantastic to see your Dynasty team as their skill levels and athleticism improve. It’s tremendously impressive.
--College atmosphere. Just fantastic. The best crowd sounds of any sports game ever, the outstanding fight songs—it’s all here.
--Dynasty mode. This is the most enjoyable Dynasty or Franchise mode I’ve ever played in a sports game. Two different recruiting periods with different elements in each, but enough elements in common that it feels cohesive. And while the execution of recruiting isn’t without its warts (in particular, recruiting as a five-star team and above is way too easy), it’s excellent up to that point. The Sports Illustrated covers this year, which you see each week at the menu screen, are just superlative. There are even article covers as well. It all combines to create a very immersive world.

That’s some excellent stuff, A+ features in my book. I wish everything was like that.

Here are some of the warts:
--The deep ball. So this game has a huge budget and an even bigger advertising campaign, and the deep ball is a money play? Are you kidding me? Talk about sad. Now, after thirty hours I finally had slider settings that greatly reduced the problem, but should anybody have to do that?

--The playcalling A.I. is horrific. Even on Heisman, it’s possible to be successful only calling three or four different defenses a game. And the A.I. doesn't gameplan or adjust effectively to control impact players. You’d think if I had an impact receiver with six catches in one quarter that the A.I. would start double-teaming him. Nope.

It’s just as bad for the CPU offense. Do they effectively utilize their impact players? If you’re really lucky they do. Otherwise, Adrian Peterson gets six carries in a game and Vince Young scrambles twice.

This playcalling problem really pisses me off. How hard is it to track what plays the Human opponent is calling? Well, it’s not, and it also wouldn’t be hard to counter the Human opponent if he was using the same plays over and over again. But they don’t. Inexcusable.

Don’t even ask me about the two-minute A.I.—I’ll have to take nitro for my heart. A brief summary: the CPU is much more likely to try to run the ball in the last two minutes of a half or a game than at any other time. Wow, that’s, um, shitty.

--Default slider settings are just embarrassing. This game is just totally unbalanced out of the box. I put THIRTY HOURS into the game before I reached slider settings that were workable. Ninety percent of the people who play this game will never touch the sliders, and every game they play will be 48-45 with five hundred yards passing.

--The animation is also very weak. This is the most bastardized mix of multiple years of animations that I’ve ever seen. Some of the animations truly look excellent. Others just look absolutely terrible. In particular, guys just bounce off each other all the time instead of engaging. And Mario running is STILL in the game. What is that, four years in a row? How can this not be considered a priority?

--Run for the Heisman mode is just absolute CRAP. It’s a terrific idea with awful design. One little mini-game to determine your scholarship offers? And when you get into a game, you’re not even necessarily controlling yourself, but just playing a regular game? Man, that’s so poor. The right way to do this mode is to let the player participate in about twenty plays a game. And you can only control your guy—no one else. You’d watch a little sim of the game (like in Madden), then it would jump into the real game situation when one of the key plays came up. It would create tension and play quickly at the same time—having a limited number of plays to impact a game would be pressure-filled and dramatic. In other words, it would be fun. It’s no fun the way they executed it this year.

--This isn’t a big deal, I guess, but I could do without players pretending to PISS ON THE GOALPOSTS after they score a touchdown. Remember, those celebrations are illegal in college. You’ve got it in the game—it’s just the WRONG game.

--Lots of stuff that’s “in the game” isn’t actually “in the game.” Dropped snaps? Never. Fumbles on pitches? Almost never (I saw one in over fifty games). Blocked kicks? Never saw one. Missed field goals by the CPU? Even with the kicking accuracy slider on zero, I saw a grand total of ONE. Punts bouncing? Always in the same direction, always at the same speed, always for the same distance.

--Lee Corso is an abomination. Here’s what’s gone wrong with announcing in sports games: everyone felt like they had to add a third guy to the booth. That’s the color guy, and all he does is tell funny little anecdotes, sing show tunes, and bark like a dog. That shit is so tired after about fifteen minutes. Just tell us what’s happening in the game and it sounds realistic—try to whore it up and it sounds ridiculous.

Talk about a mixed bag. There are plenty of “A” features in this game, and there are plenty of “D” problems. I don’t know if the size of this game makes it inevitable that it will be uneven, but I know that it’s become a huge problem.

Here are some features or fixes I’d desperately like to see.
--The in-game sliders are conceptually unsound. A “0” setting should mean just that. If it’s quarterback accuracy, then quarterbacks shouldn’t be able to hit the broad side of a barn. If it’s set at “100”, then the quarterback should never miss. Something in between those extremes will be very playable. What’s not playable is when quarterback accuracy set to 0 is still way too accurate, or when the kick accuracy slider at 0 means kickers might miss a field goal every decade.
--Difficulty levels should not be based on speed cheats. It’s not “Heisman” level, it’s just a CPU speed cheat. How about developing the A.I. instead of just making players run faster? And there should be a slider for Player Speed while you’re at it. It’s not possible to be speed-neutral in this game, as far as I can tell. That’s conceptually very poor.
--It’s great that ratings matter so much, but the spread between the best players and the worst is too great, and that produces some really outlandish performances. That could be toned down and the game would be significantly improved. Better yet, give us a slider and we could define the degree of difference.
--Where in the world is the sim-to-end option? That’s an unbelievable omission. Having to play out a game when it’s a blowout is just ridiculous. We should also be able to watch as a game sims and jump in and out as desired.
--How in the world, in 2005, can there be no dropped snaps or blocked kicks? Good grief.
--Retire that damned kicking meter. The analog stick is a perfect way to mimic the kicker’s leg motion. And you could use the other analog stick for the holder to adjust his hand placement if the snap was off. It then looks like you’re playing a game of football instead of watching a round meter, which doesn’t feel like football at all.
--We need an accelerated clock, even with the collegiate 25-second play clock. Having twenty seconds at the line of scrimmage to make adjustments is totally unrealistic, but I can have that much time every play. I only need to call four plays a game, remember? And if we don’t need an accelerated clock, why do I have to play eight or nine minute quarters to get the correct number of plays for a game?
--Where are the in-game cutaways to highlights of big games? It would be especially cool to see highlights of a big conference game that’s taking place while your game is going on. There should be half-time highlights and post-game highlights of Top 25 games as well. That’s the kind of feature that really solidifies the game world.
--Those animations need to be sent to the glue factory. And if you can’t get rid of players pinballing and Mario running, then you need some new blood. And while you’re at it, please record some new sounds. The hitting sounds are muddy. Listen to ESPN NFL2K5’s in-game sounds—they were crystal clear and made you really feel the hits (so did their animation—you should take a look at that as well).
--Please fix the side linesman getting run over constantly. That was kind of a funny mistake last year, but it’s ridiculous that it wasn’t fixed this time around.

In the end, I had a good experience with this game, but only after putting in huge hours developing sliders. So if I actually gave a score to this game, I'd have to give two scores: first half and second half. The first half would be around 60. The second half would be around 90.

Monday, August 15, 2005

I Stand Corrected

My lovely wife has informed me that she did not, in fact, call Keith Richards Keith "Jiggler." She called him Keith "Jiggers."

Links (Gaming)

The always interesting Kieron Gillen has posted his keynote address to the Free Play Independent Game Developers Conference. Titled "How to Use and Abuse the Gaming Press and How the Gaming Press Wants to Use and Abuse You," it discusses how independent developers can get more media attention for their games, and it's dead-on. Here's the link:

Here's a very witty article titled "A World of Warcraft World: 10 Ways MMORPG's Will Change the Future." Link:

By the way: no link or discussion yet, but I'm playing a great game right now. It's an absolutely ridiculous amount of fun. I want to get about another ten hours in before I write anything, but it's another game from a very small developer, which seems to be the trend: the four PC games I've enjoyed most this year have ALL been from small/indie developers (Darwinia, Fate, Mount & Blade, and "Game X").

Cut It Out

STOP sending me pictures of things written across your man-boobies. I'm laughing so hard that I'm going to crack a rib or something.

Eli 4.0 Joins the (Rat) Race

Eli 4.0 had his first day of pre-school today. Gloria has been reading a book to him titled "First Day, Hooray!" which is about the first day of school, and when he opened the door to the car this morning, he put up his fist and went "FIRST DAY HOORAY!"

That's my little guy--Magellan in a Buzz Lightyear t-shirt.

There were some "electives" Eli could sign up for, and one was Japanese class. That sounded great, so we signed him up. Today, we both went to pick him up, and when I saw him I said "Eli, how was Japanese class?"

"KONICHIWA, BITCHES!" he shouted.

[Editor's Note: Stephanie Assham-Dubious here. I felt it necessary to insert a correction. It is Eli's first day of school, but his elective class is Spanish, not Japanese. It is highly unlikely that he learned the phrase "Konichiwa, bitches" at his pre-school this morning. The rest of this story has been deleted, as it is also highly unlikely that he learned the phrase "Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto."

On a personal note, I am overwhelmed by the many cards and letters I have received. However, please do not write my name across your man-boobies in permanent marker, particuarly if your name is Joseph Leadwaddle of Atchafala, Iowa, and if you do so, please do not send me a photograph. Thank you.]

The Great Influenza

I just finished reading an amazing book titled "The Great Influenza," which is a terrific recounting of the 1918 influenza pandemic, as well as an exploration into the meaning and purpose of science. If you have no knowledge of the 1918 pandemic, believe me, it was stunning. An epidemological study in 2002 reviewed all available statistical data and conluded that at least 50 million people died worldwide, and the sheer number of people who fell ill is simply staggering--literally half or more of the population of some cities fell ill.

It's a brilliant read and the nature of the material is tremendously compelling. And believe me, after reading this, you'll never skip a flu shot again.

The Faketaculars

Jason Price ( sent me a link Friday to a site showing off a bike line that Specialized was developing.


As it turned out, the site was a hoax (Jason was the one to find out), but the bicycles are so breathtaking and beautiful that I thought some of you would want to see them anyway. Here's the link:

Some Girls

We were on our way to dinner Friday night.

"Can you believe the Rolling Stones are going on tour?" I asked. "I went to the Cotton Bowl to see them on their farewell U.S. tour--in 1980. Their combined ages are like two-hundred and fifty."

"I like that they're all still around and together, though," Gloria said.

"Well, except for the dead ones," I said. "They've left the group."

"But the two major songwriters are still there--Mick Jagger and Keith, uh, Jiggler."

"Keith JIGGLER?"

"Wait! No, I meant, um, Keith Richards."

"Oh, I am so using that," I said.

"They're still both in the band, right?"

"Yes. But I miss the bass player." I said. "He left a long time ago."

"The bass player?" she asked.

"You know--Will Hymen."

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Madden: Attention to Detail

I have to conclude after taking a quick look at Madden that everyone who works on the game spends day after day totally stoned. At least I hope that's what they're doing, because I'd hate to think that people who aren't stoned are this stupid.

Here's the thing. Last year, in addition to having the quarterback frequently face in the wrong direction on the Xbox version (one of the most amateurish, embarrassing errors in sports game history), there was a problem with LOD. Most games have different levels of detail for the same texture depending on the camera's distance from the object. As you get closer, more detail is shown. As you pull back, detail is removed (ideally, though, you can't tell because you're farther away). In Madden last year, LOD was changing pre-snap without the camera moving, so you'd see levels of detail blinking in and out of jerseys. It was an incredible oversight.

I thought.

NCAA this year? Same problem. Unbelievable! Surely they fixed it for Madden, I thought. So I pop it in today (thanks Gamefly) and guess what? Still there. You can see LOD change on three or four different players before the snap, particularly with certain camera angles. It looks like, well, complete shit.

So what I'm hoping is that the Madden guys are stoned all day long, and watching the level of detail change like that is the funniest thing they've ever seen (because they're all baked), and so they decided to leave it in. Because if people who aren't high approved that for shipping, they should all be taken out in a field and shot.

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