Wednesday, May 18, 2005

OH NOES!!!!111

Check this out.

Don't Panic!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Game Boy: E3 2005: Meet Game Boy Micro

According to George Harrison, Nintendo of America's senior vice president of marketing and corporate communications, Game Boy Micro will redefine your personal image. "Because of its diminutive size and industrial-hip look, Game Boy Micro immediately identifies the person playing it as a trendsetter with discriminating style," he says.

This scene presents itself:

Hot Chick #1: Hey, whoa! Do you see that 31-year-old zit-faced doughball over there?
Hot Chick #2: Oooh, yeah. He's playing Game Boy Micro!
Hot Chick #1: He's obviously a trendsetter with discriminating style, eh?
Hot Chick #2: Mmm hmmm. Let's go over there, start making out with each other, and invite him to our secret hot-chick orgy club!
Hot Chick #1: Zut Alors! My face explodes with unleashed passion!

Maybe I'm just being cynical, but I doubt playing a Game Boy will ever immediately identify one as a trendsetter with disriminating style. I mean, not even cell phones do that, and they're much higher on the Get-You-Laid-With-Hot-Chicks scale than Game Boys. That scale goes as follows:

1: Being a Baldwin
2: Being gay
3: Big loud goddamn souped-up import cars
4: Being a huge jerk
5: Axe Body Spray
6: Not having a passionate opinion on Star Wars one way or the other
7: Teeth filed to points
97: Being a cannibal
98: Having a cell phone
99: Playing a Game Boy
100: Having a pile of shit for a head

Seriously. I used to have a frickin' watch with games on it, and another that transformed into a robot. If neither of those got me laid back then, good luck with your damn Game Boy Micro.

The Nomadic Peoples of Jesp

Jennifer Government: NationStates | Jesp | the West Pacific

The link above is to a page where you can see the progress of the Nomadic Peoples of Jesp. It's my nation in Nation States, an odd little web game about running a small nation, in my case, into the ground.

I figured it'd be awesome to start a nation and then make every horrible decision possible when presented with an issue. For example, I decided to make cannibalism legal and government-supported, I vetoed a restriction on hunting the water buffalo (my national animal) for food, I demanded that any gold reserves found in the nation be turned over to the government, regardless of who owned the land they were found on, and squashed a pitiful request for, well, less dictatorship in my governing style. Ha. Foolish imaginary mortals.

I find it interesting to watch my front page as it lists the failures of my nation. I imagine that this experience is far more profound than I'd like it to be, at least from my Canuckistani perspective on the US.

One Giant Leap for Technology, a Small Step for Gaming

First off: Three words for Rockstar Games: "Get off it."

Everyone knows you're going to make GTA for whatever systems you think will sell the game. In fact, looking at the list of games for PS3, it reads like someone cut and pasted game titles from the PS2 launch and added one to the sequel numbers. But the best is this: "Namco showed this. Konami unveiled that. EA showed video of this. And Rockstar noted that they will make Grand Thef Auto for the system."

I could say I'm going to make Best Game Evar for the PS3, and you couldn't dispute me at this point. This is all hype, people. Sure, some of the stuff looks great, and there's loud, pumping music, hot chicks, etc. In the end, nothing they show you now has to come out. It's all hype. They want the journalists to go to their little booths and say, "OMG, I know I said Xbox would be the final word in gaming ever, but seriously, I really mean it this time with the PS3!!!!1" They want to keep the console wars going. Because this hype is free advertisement for them. Which is fine. But man, it takes balls to say, "Yeah, we're making GTA for this" with nothing to show for it and pass it off as a hype point for the system. If the industry is a homeroom class, Rockstar is that arrogant football-player prick in the corner who keeps scoring big with one play and who thinks people would pay $2 to drink a glass of his piss.

Anyway, that's not the rant I wanted to put up for today. It's like an extra bonus rant. Good for you.

When you had a 486 with Windows 3.11, you likely had a word processor. When you had a Pentium with Windows 95, you had a word processor. Now we have P3s and P4s with Windows XP and Word 2000/XP. The processors have grown exponentially. But notice that the word processors don't work monumentally better than they used to.

There's something in computers that I call the "resource footprint" because I can't be bothered to find out what it's really called. The resource footprint is a measure of how much of a machine's resources it uses up just being on. In the case of PCs, while PCs have become tons more powerful over the years, common applications like email, web browsing, and word processing haven't really changed much. A large part of this is the huge resource footprint needed for the newer versions of Windows and other "important" background programs leaving less room for the improvement of other programs.

For consoles, the resource footprint is small, but there's a similar thing in games. I'll call that "Flabbadeedoo," since I'm making up terms. The flabbadeedoo is the amount of system resources a game uses up just being "marketable": high-powered graphics and animation take up most of this, but so does voice-over and detailed sound. Flabbadeedoo is the resource footprint a game leaves for these things that improve the underlying experience of games and make them more likely to sell but that don't necessarily contribute to making a better game.

Let's take a look. We had loading times on Playstation, with its extremely crappy CPU and low RAM and slow CD-ROM. We have loading times on PS2 and Xbox, as well, with their much faster and more powerful systems. With all the bluster about how powerful systems are, the levels aren't that much bigger, really. And in Halo 2, you still do the same thing you did in Quake: Run around, shoot stuff, blow stuff up. Sure, they added in a little Twisted Metal, and the voice communication is nice in multiplayer, but really. We're on a gameplay innovation treadmill, and meanwhile, technology expectations are driving up game costs and forcing developers to sacrifice gameplay to make room for pretty colors.

Not only is the flabbadeedoo getting larger to nearly negate the larger system resources of the new consoles, but the leap in payoff for that flabbadeedoo increase is getting smaller and smaller. With the jump from SNES to PSX, we got true 3D, polygons, textures. From PSX to PS2, we got better lighting and gameplay graphics that looked like PSX pre-rendered movies. From PS2 to PS3, we get... what? You can see skin rippling on a boxer's face when he takes a punch? Where's the gameplay improvement in that? How does that in any way make my boxing game experience markedly better?

With that processing power, they could make a 1st person game with no damage HUD. Maybe the screen blurs dynamically as you take more and more damage. Maybe you begin to see flashes of things in your "peripheral vision." Maybe you can look down and see your clothes ripped and the skin underneath torn open. Maybe when your hand or arm is broken, you can't wield the heavier weapons. That sort of thing seems far more immersive to me than a monster glistening 17% more than before.

Instead, as the system resources grow, the flabbadeedoo grows to match. Fight Night Round 3 will use up so much more of the system's resources to make sure that the guy's face flaps appropriately when punched that the growth in system resources is nearly meaningless to gameplay. So much extra work and resources for such a small payoff. Wouldn't that processing power be better spent on physics or AI, especially in adventure and action games?

So. Less flabbadeedoo, more useful gameplay innovation. That's all I ask.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Semana Grande!

If you're a big sweaty geek like me and most people I know, this is a pretty big week.

Most other people don't really care. I envy thos people.

The big news is that E3 and the new Star Wars film both happen this week. I'm sure I'll get to Star Wars sometime this week, but for now I want to focus on that ear-shattering wankfest, E3.

Just to cement the source of my crankiness on the subject, this is the 9th E3 since I started going to the show, and the second one I've missed since then. That's long enough to see patterns emerge, and if you're a jaded bitch like me, patterns tend to make you cranky. I recognize the following patterns from every time I've been to E3:

  • The "industry-only" event is crowded with suspicious 8-year-old industry insiders.

  • Every major hardware company has some "big announcement" to make, touching off the "Pre-E3 Press Conference Wars" and making sure everything's old news by the time you get to the show floor

  • Attractive women spend a week getting sweated on by trolls disguised as gamers

  • Once-strong publishers with crap line-ups try to appear relevant

  • One game rises as the universal undisputed "Best of E3," usually thanks to some cleverly edited non-playable video footage. It hardly shows up at the next year's E3

  • Exhibitors do anything and everything in their power to get you to pay attention to them, short of actually making original and fun games

  • Journalists form strong opinions about things they hardly even saw at the show, based on the marketing/PR folks' promises as to what that game will one day be

  • The area around the EA booth is more life-threateningly loud than Irritable Bowel Night at the all-you-can-eat buffet at Cabbage Hut

  • Someone dressed as Daisy Duke will lie all over the General Lee, no matter whether there's a Dukes of Hazzard game coming out or not

  • Hot chicks will hand gamer trolls T-shirts for stuff. Those gamer trolls will wear the shirts because a woman touched them

  • Everyone laughs at Kentia Hall, despite the half-naked Korean chicks and convenient cafeteria area.

That's just to name a few.

So, if you want to see my E3 2005 predictions, change all the verbs in the above bullet points to future tense and put the words "I predict..." above the list. I can't be bothered to predict anything this year.

I will say this: For the first time in ages, I couldn't give a flying crap what the new consoles are like. I saw the video for Gears of War today, and I thought, Oh cool, it's Brute Force without the actually existing. I hear Perfect Dark Zero looks good, but... well, I already played Perfect Dark, two generations ago. My patience for the console innovation treadmill is getting thin. Sure, it's nice that the Xbox 360 can interrupt the DVD I'm watching to tell me that my friend wants to play with me online, but... whatever. This is the first hardware generation that I'm just not buying the hype for. I don't know why.

I'm much more excited about EpIII than I am about E3. I just don't know whether to do my Episode III rant before I see the movie or after.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Whew. Back.

Well, I've returned from a week-long vacation to the root-place, where family tossed home-cooked meals at me until I could no longer stand up. I learned several things on my trip:

  • You must eat healthy snacks before you eat junk food.

  • Napkins go into the garbage can after you use them.

  • 5-year-old nieces are filled with useful information.

  • Not updating this site makes my traffic jump.

Seriously. I got my traffic report for last week, and for some reason I had a nearly 30% jump in traffic that week. I can only assume the following:

  • You folks are huge fans of gay people or Lorne Lanning.

  • You have multiple friends who are fans of gay people or Lorne Lanning.

Either one is fine with me, really. We'll see how traffic does next week.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Oh For God's Sake, People

CBS News | Alabama Bill Targets Gay Authors | April 28, 2005�19:30:27

I'm shocked. I just am. I cannot believe that the land of my birth (the US, not Alabama) is heading down this path. I cannot believe the Land of the Free can promote such things with a straight face (pun not intended, but "pun not intended" notice intended).

I grew up in the South on the northern rim of the Bible Belt. I distrusted black people and goofed on kids for being "gay" when they were just different. I'm not the only one. I'm not particularly proud of this.

When a friend of mine from college came out, not long after I moved away to San Francisco (there's some irony there), I wasn't sure what to think. I'm ashamed sometimes that I had to say, repeatedly, "He's still my same friend" to myself to make it all fit. I eventually settled on, "Well, of course! He's too smart, too talented, and too good a dancer to be straight!" He moved out to SF soon thereafter and came out to me in person, but up until then I shamefully held out that maybe what I heard was wrong. It was fucking HARD to accept for some reason. Sure, I had known gay people in college, but they were always over there, not here with me watching TV and talking shit about George Lucas. It occurred to me, eventually, how much harder it msut have been for my friend to accept his own realization and come out with it; he had to come out to a house full of guys who had spent most of their college careers hanging out and being pals. The realization of that courage smoothed it all out for me, somehow.

So I'd like to say something to anyone left in the world who feels like they need to act against homosexuality:


Seriously. There's no effect a gay person will have on your life that is as great as the one their being gay has had on theirs.

Gay people will not turn you gay; if you become curious, then that curiosity was always there. Gay people are not evil, nor are they poisonous. Gay people are smart, funny, talented, and interesting people in general, and the average straight American's life would be better for knowing some gay people. The most interesting thing about gay people is that they're not even really queer, in the original sense of the word. They're people. When they hang out with other gay people, antennae don't spring from their heads. They don't reproduce by budding. They don't communicate via a series of sequential changes in pheromones. They don't take your children to Faerieland where they are raised to become evil monster fae children. At least, not as far as I know. They love and feel pain and seek comfort just like straight people. The only difference is whether or not the person they seek comfort from has a penis.

There are so many things in this world that should be a higher priority than banning media that contain gay people. That should be on the list just below legislation that guarantees oxygen the right to vote. Instead, we get our beloved President seeking legislation to "prevent liberal libarians and trendy teachers from 're-engineering society's fabric in the minds of our children.'" I'm sorry assholes, but you're banning Tennesee Williams, much AIDS literature, etc., not to mention the damage done to gay children who will never find out that living the way they are wired is, at the very least, not damning them to Hell.

I'm not asking people to go whole-hog and start being pro-gay and all that. I know it's harder than that. But I will say that my life is far richer knowing the friends I know who just happen to be gay, and to think that continuing my ignorant attitude toward gay people would have robbed me of so many people who have enriched my life....

Just grow up, people.

The New Deep Throat

Fast-forwarding this show through to the plot points, here's how it goes:

An attractive young man, a Canadian in Italy, stands in his apartment. His wife comes in, and she wonders when their guest will find an apartment. Cue guest to come in, a tall man from "back home," who's staying with the couple. Everyone looks at each other for a moment, and....

*fast forward*

The two attractive young men look for an apartment in Italy. They're having no luck, so they agree to screw it and go home.

*fast forward*

The two attractive young men go out again looking for apartments. They come to one that looks decent before the prospective roommate, an attractive Italian blonde, makes her way into the room.

*fast forward*

The two men, the first man's wife, and the new roommate hang out in the new apartment drinking wine together.


I've often said that kung fu movies feel like pornos to me: They have some shallow plot punctuated by pure-entertainment. That is to say, the plot carries on until someone starts fighting, then the plot stops until the fight is over. It's like, "Okay plot, we have to titilate the audience with our kung-fu stylings; you can come back in a minute." In fact, if you exchange sex scenes for the fights in a kung-fu movie (or fights for the sex scenes in a porno), I imagine the plot wouldn't make much less sense.

I've been watching a lot of the Food Network lately (trust me, it links up) because it's disgustingly entertaining to me to watch people make food that makes me think, "I, too, can make food like that!" For some reason I can watch the Food Network for hours, without a single trace of drugs in my system, without getting bored.

I guess where I'm headed is that the plot above is from a cooking show.

There are a few cooking shows now that are much like pornos. There's some plot (Two Australian surfing guys, one of them is getting married, so they decide to cook fabulous dishes for the wedding), and there are cooking sequences in among the plot bits. In the plot above, which is from the cooking show David Rocco's Dolce Vide, he cooks some cookies for his guest, then some kind of fish, then some pasta e fagioli, then something else I don't remember because I was busy explaining the whole cooking show = porno idea to my fiancee. Whenever the cooking started, the plot stopped, and the show became a cooking show. When the cooking was over, the plot continued.

Just like in a porno, you're left thinking, "Why the plot?" You could do without it and have more time for cooking, right? But it wouldn't be as interesting. Just like in pornos, some people just need the plot. And when you think about it, how many times can you cook something in the space of an hour? It's good to have a few minutes to rest inbetween "sessions."

Also just like porno, couples can watch these shows together and say, "Why can't you do that more?" and "I think he's using too much custard." It's kinda like porno that you wouldn't be embarrassed to have your mother walk in on. Unless you were wanking it to Dolce Vide, in which case you have other things going on.

I guess the coolest thing would be to mix cooking shows with pornos. Like, the plumber walks in and sees the half-naked housewife, who invites him into the kitchen, where she is making a salt-crust grill and some tuna tartar con broccoli, and they make out like rabid skunks while the oven preheats. That sounds like entertainment that would set a college dorm aflame.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Witty Lorne Lanning Title Here

Back in the '80s and early '90s, there was a genre of cartoon series that I refer to as the "Last Minute Savior" genre. In these shows, a group of plucky kids would go off and have adventures, and they would inevitably get into trouble and rely on their insanely super-powerful friend to save them. This friend would appear (having been called on whatever device the kids used), save the day, and then spend a few moments of his time chuckling about how stupid the fat kid in the group is. This genre included such fine cartoons as Godzilla, some seasons of the Super Friends, Captain Planet, etc., as well as such favorites as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and Voltron. Each series featured a powerful, awesome superhero who would appear at the end and save the day by being awesome, just so the kids didn't have to.

Lorne Lanning always struck me as one of those types.

I attended a pre-Atari Infogrames racing school event at Laguna Seca raceway in California. The event drew tons of gaming journalists and developers who were working for Infogrames at the time (making such fine titles as Looney Tunes Racing, Looney Tunes Beach Volleyball, and Looney Tunes: Looney Tunes), because the folks at the event got to drive around tracks really fast. We drove Formula 0 cars, go-karts, and Dodge Vipers because Infogrames wanted to buy our reviews. Didn't work, but that's beside the point. The point is, I got Lorne Lanning on my team, and we won.

I'd met Lorne before then, and I remember being struck by two things: His Superman-villain name, and his Hollywood-awesome-but-geek-underlayer attitude. He's a big guy, standing tall and reminding one of an elder-statesman superhero alter-ego, even as he fell back into the squeaky voice he used to lend VO to Abe of Oddworld fame. At the event, he strapped on a helmet and turned into a speed demon, saving our team of fat journalist geeks at the last minute. Dude drove like a bat out of hell and exclaimed, "I drive faster than this on my motorcycle!"

Oddword: Stranger's Wrath is one of my favorite games I'm not really playing at the moment. It's a great game for innovation; you shoot stuff, but you have to hunt for your own living ammo, and the game's story is a bizarre cinematic jewel. I'm not playing it because I'm playing Guild Wars, and because it doesn't really satisfy the "Blowing shit up" impulse that I get so often after nine hours a day of picking through some other writer's text looking for errors no sane human would care about.

Now, Lorne Lanning is out of the biz. This post's title links to an interview in which he explains why. Essentially, he's being chased out by publishers and the way things work now, and I can go along with it. What EA did to Stranger's Wrath was a travesty; the game deserved to explode through pop culture, but instead it came out with a whimper and was a financial disappointment.

I'm not too worried about Lorne's future; Oddworld Inhabitants has always been able to produce amazing creative works with the tools they have lying around, and Lorne's a last-minute superhero. My concern is that the industry has chased out one more talented and excited creative force. The theme song for the creative side of the business lately seems to be "Another One Bites the Dust." How prophetic Freddie Mercury's words.

One more reason this business sucks.