Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Focus?

Several very interesting stories:

First, rumors have it that EA will enter the hardware market.

"Chris Remo, a blogger, writer and GAF regular brings us news that Electronic Arts is planning to release PCs specifically built to run Crysis Warhead. The Crysis rigs are expected to be priced from $600 to $800 approximately. This is great news for PC gamers, and for those who wrongly think that it takes a $1000 PC to run Crysis: you can now pick up a Crysis-PC and not have to worry about being able to run it."

This might be more of a licensing thing with an attempt at some standardization. Still, this seems like a bit of uncharted territory for EA. There stated goal is to find a way to make money in the PC hardware market. Not sure if hardware is the way to go. Ask Sony. Ask Sega. There are exceptions. Apple charges a huge premium for its hardware, but few are able to do that.

Meanwhile, DICE is apparently getting in the Comic book game.

"Electronic Arts and DC Comics today announced that a Mirror's Edge limited edition comic book series is planned to be released, with the first issue to be distributed this week at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Based on the upcoming game, the comic combines the talents of writer and story designer Rhianna Pratchett (also responsible for the script of the game) with artist Matthew Dow Smith. The six-part comic series will introduce readers to Faith and the Runners."

As if that is not enough, EA is now branching into Hollywood:

"Video game publisher Electronic Arts Inc. said Wednesday it will expand its presence in movies and television following an agreement with United Talent Agency. Under the terms of the agreement, United Talent Agency, a California-based talent and literary agency, will help the company develop a strategy for expanding into large-budget motion pictures and television."

So, we see EA entering 3 new markets at once. PC hardware market, comic books, and Hollywood. (Kind of interested in seeing the comic book.) Also, I am sick of reality tv shows that are garbage- frankly Donkey Kong and Friends looks like Shakespeare compared to the latest celebrity reality show. I have a feeling with everyone talking about "content" delivery on their set top boxes, EA figures its going to have to get into the game. I can't help but feel that focusing on doing what you do and doing it well is a better strategy, but I understand the tempetation to expand and push into new boundaries.

If EA can pull this off, great. It's just that this a lot of new turf to handle at once. At the same time the Take-Two deal is just simmering on the back burner, and EA continues to report earnings losses. It's a bit hard to figure out exactly what EA is FOCUSED on with so much going on. But it's not dull watching it all unfold.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Dark Night.

The Dark Night was a pretty good film. The last two Batman films have been very good in general. There were two striking features to the film. The Joker (obviously) who was a master dissembler and personification of the irrational. I particularly liked his gravity references. He was creepy as hell. Creepy and evil. Wow.

The other thing, I really liked, though it was far more subtle, was the scene involving the exodus from Gotham. I liked it because it applied some simple principals towards a concrete problem and it worked. So the scene, if you will recall, involves people getting onto two boats to escape the city as it is under siege by the Joker and his crazy minions. People try to ferry out to avoid the problems. In this scene, the people take the first step towards saving themselves by refusing to be victims. But, the Joker rigs the two ferry's to blow up and forces the people on the two ferry's whether they want to save themselves by blowing up the other ferry. Prisoner's dilemma. Of course, after some brinksmanship, both ferry's opt not to destroy each other and refuse therefore to be executioners. Brilliant.

The other thing that has everyone in geekdom glowing is the trailer for The Watchmen. That movie looks like it is going to rock. Can't wait to see it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

More TF2 Impressions.

A few notes on TF2. Been playing TF2 lately to explore it some more. It’s still a bit of a shoebox, but rather fun. Players still seem all to claim they are “badasses”. Some players are very good, mind you. Check the ego at the load screen.

Still some weirdness to the game. The game has to try to adjust each hitpoint to compensate for class imbalances or size differences. Not sure why the developer would want to go down that road instead of the more sane and simpler route Battlefield took. At least in Battlefield, your basic soldier was the same and you could simply extend the soldier options by achieving unlocks. Trying to micro balance class strengths appears much more difficult and such tailoring does cause players to either find a class too weak or claim it is op. Since all the soldiers in 2142 have the same basic attributes (though there are 3 global unlocks), the soldiers kits simply provide more options for the player too choose from and unlocks do not force the software publisher to deal with the issue of handicapping hitpoints, for example. Valve, do yourself a favor here.

Minor suggestions for TF2.

Medic Class:

Vastly improved since the original version with the new medi-gun that steals their health. It still takes too long to uber in the traditional sense. They should shave a few seconds off of the uber time. 45 seconds for an uber build would be ideal. (It should note, I barely got the uber saw unlock, so I do not know how that will effect change).

The achievements for medic class seemed harder than for engineer class. Many had prerequisites for working with other players. Although playing enough would eventually unlock all of the unlocks, some of the achievements required such an odd convergence of events that they seemed ridiculous and made one more dependent on finding the right player to attach oneself to. In the end, the unlocks will be achieved by earning the practical multiplayer ones and the grinding of heal points for most players, but it will take time.

Engineer Class.

Still too much baby sitting of the sentry. One minor complaint is that it takes 200 pieces of metal to upgrade a sentry. The most you can carry is 200 pieces. If the sentry fires a few shots, you will reload the sentry or repair it prior to upgrading it. This often leaves you a few metal short of the next upgrade. There are a few possible solutions. The simplest solution is to reduce the upgrade cost to 190 (you might still find yourself short metal on occasion, but it will not be for ammo drops). Valve can make the ammo reload not require metal (patently unrealistic, but still a minor fix). Valve can make the sentry reload slowly over time so that you cannot waste metal on this. Still have the problem of “minor repair”. If the sentry became self-reloading (slow rate) and self-repairing (slow rate), it might make engineer’s sentry OP. Another solution might be to have a way for the engineer to self reload at a small rate. Unrealistic, perhaps, and would reduce the need for ammo runs and dispensers. Another solution is to provide engineer with more metal. Booster metal might be in the form of patch metal and an ammo bag. (Effectively increase the amount of metal the engineer can carry to say 250). This would be helpful and seems very practical.

Heavy

Reduce the giant aiming scope to something that is decent. It makes no sense that the most “powerful class” has the poorest aim. The current scope will only encourage black dots and aimbots. Should be a bit smaller.

Pyro

Very nice. Some people complain the pyro is op, but in general very nice. The achievements were very accomplishable in short order requiring about half the time to achieve. More achievements seem to flow naturally from the game. Might want to eventually have an acid thrower, so that they can fight underwater.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A trip through the wayback machine.

Midway Manufacturing Co. v. Artic International, Inc., 547 F. Supp. 999 (N.D. Ill. 1982)

Here is how the courts see playing a video game:

"Playing a video game is more like changing channels on a television than it is like writing a novel or painting a picture. The player of a video game does not have control over the sequence of images that appears on the video game screen. He cannot create any sequence he wants out of the images stored on the game's circuit boards. The most he can do is choose one of the limited number of sequences the game allows him to choose. He is unlike a writer or a painter because the video game in effect writes the sentences and paints the painting for him; he merely chooses one of the sentences stored in its memory, one of the paintings stored in its collection."

So, I've spent thousands of hours figuring out how the remote works...But of course that is so unlike the practice of law where people are artists. It is not like judges or lawyers have a limited number of sequences that the game allows them to choose (precedent). Imagine the absurdity of saying "A judge is unlike a painter; the judge merely chooses one of the sentences stored in precedent, one of the holdings stored in its collection..."

As comical as that is, the case may be relevant to the Wow Glider cases as it goes on to note in dicta:

"Speeded-up games end sooner than normal games and consequently if players are willing to pay an additional price-per-minute in exchange for the challenge and excitement of a faster game, licensees will take in greater total revenues. Video game copyright owners would undoubtedly like to lay their hands on some of that extra revenue and therefore it cannot be assumed that licensees are implicitly authorized to use speeded-up circuit boards in the machines plaintiff supplies."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Really?

New Battlefield Heroes attempts the impossible:

"The marketing guys love to come up with snappy titles for market segments. The market segment they came up with for us was 'frustrated restricteds'—people who really want to play full games, and aspire to be gamers," said Cousins. While this sounds like a fairly negative term, it's actually used to describe the fact that DICE's target audience is limited by a lack of some sort of resource, whether it's time, skill, or money."

I can understand making up for a lack of money. If people simply use better rigs to gain an advantage, it is a barrier to others playing and reduces the validity of the scores. I know that when I upgraded from my AMD XP1700 to an AMD XP3000 playing Battlefield was easier. That does not mean I have more skill, it just means my game works. Money has always been an issue in gaming, so I'm glad to see Heroes try to do something about that by not requiring the latest hardware.

Time. Again, I enjoy investing time in learning games. Nevertheless, having a game like TF2 which is pick up and go and has a lower "learning" curve is nice for a lot of players. So, it makes sense in a busy world to try to make up for time problems.

Skill. It's here where I am going to have ask a serious question. If you don't have skill, how do you play? I mean some games may require less skill than others, but a lack of skill? I'm hoping what they mean is that the game has intuitive controls and a well tuned hit box. Hopefully, it still requires a high degree of skill but is easy to control and understand. We will soon see.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Antec CPU Cooler.

I finally broke down and bought an antec cpu super cooler. The fan I had was simply WAY too loud. It seemed to be getting louder all the time. So, after 30 minutes of work, I installed a new fan. So far, so good. It seems to run about the same temperature so far but is SOOOO much quieter. I can actually hear my squad now. It's amazing. If I walk out of the room, its like I do not even hear it anymore. Definitely a sound investment. Wish I spent the $15 months ago. Live and learn, I guess.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Where or where is our heroes?

Everyone is waiting now as the first free to play shooter from Dice due for release sometime this summer. I guess that means August? BFH! BFH! BFH! As my frustration clanks a tin cup against the iron bars of what seems like an eternity of waiting.

(Note the grammar, where is our heroes, would sound correct if it were written where is Battlefield Heroes? Yet, it sounds wrong as it is written. One would think it would be where are our heroes, but it is a single game.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Blizzard snows MDY

According to VirtuallyBlind, MDY lost a summary judgment motion and Blizzard has won an early victory in its case against the Gliders.

Too early to tell how this will all pan out. What we do know, however, is what's at issue: MONEY.

You see, if players feel that the cheaters are ranking up without really working by "gliding" then the perceived value of playing is reduced and people will stop playing and Blizzard will lose money. At the same time, Blizzard's model is based on a time is money model which means they constantly have to keep people playing, preferably for a long time.

In 2142, for example, they added a lot of silly unlocks which should almost have been given out of the gate. In other cases, they added new awards and new unlocks to keep people playing. In the long term, as we shift to the ad revenue model, the metrics of game playing will be very important. If I can play a game by leaving my computer on while I'm outside gardening and rank up, I won't see the in game ad. Likewise, if a program has the ability to speed up my ranking and I'm subscription based, then that might REDUCE my play time and cost Blizzard money. In other words, if Blizzard is calculating its revenue based on my perceived playing time, a third party device which accelerates my advancement costs Blizzard real money. So lets not forget what this case is all about.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sony's Show.

So far, its been fairly good. Sony continues to press the issue of its successful history and make the pitch to be patient for returns on the PS3. Unfortunately for Sony, HOME is not released but again they asked for more patience. Meanwhile, the Sony "store" seems functional. Uh huh.

Anyway, once again they are emphasizing content distribution via the internet, which as far as I know, I already have.

Now the PS3 remains a great machine on the hardware side and some of the titles look awesome. Unfortunately, being somewhat bleeding edge, Sony has lost a boat load of money and the studios have to sink enormous production costs into making money on the system. So Sony keeps saying, 10 year plan. Okay- 10 year plan. But then at what point in the 10 year plan do I buy? And what happens when Microsoft or Nintendo (maybe on 5 year plans) say, new hardware and next generation console? I do not think that Xbox360 will be relevant in 5 years, and I doubt PS3 will be. I could be wrong. PS3 tech is a bit more "future" proof, but again they are "bleeding edge".

Nintendo wisely tried to give us a new experience with the Wiimote and Wii sports and RE4 Wii edition positively delivered on that in a way that some of the other more gimmicky titles have not. Nintendo also avoided the problem of bleeding edge costs, but lacks the WOW graphics of a PS3 or even an Xbox360. This forces Nintendo to constantly deliver good content to keep its base happy.

Xbox360 tries to straddle the fence. Not as solid as the PS3 technically and not as innovative as the Wii, it tries to appeal to both the casual crowd and the hardcore gamer. It's more expensive than the Wii, but less expensive than PS3. It offers a good balance of gaming experiences and is slowly moving into the content delivery game. Xbox360 is going with a "home" light system that will be more advanced than Wii's Mii and Wii Parade, but probably less advanced than Sony's home. For XBOX 360, they aren't going to have to say wait and see forever, at some point, Microsoft will simply launch something, stumble as it usually does out of the gate, and eventually fix its problems.

Sony does have the ability to weather short term financial problems and given the development costs of software, studios will appreciate and benefit from a 10 year platform model. Eventually, the PS3 will arrive, but the question everyone is asking is when. Nevertheless, Sony is incredibly strategic in its moves and you cannot argue with Sony's past. If it's in a difficult spot now, it probably will not be for long. One thing, however, that the bleeding edge has messed up though is the "price point" necessary for consumer dominance.

Title Highlights:

The highlights of Sony's show for content include, Little Big Planet. I'm a big fan of anything that allows for USER created content. The title looks gorgeous and it seems that it has a sophisticated sandbox mode.

MAG. 256 online FPS very similar to battlefield series. Looks like a Battlefield contender. Can 256 be done with existing server infrastructure and pipelines? They think so. 8 man squads with dedicated command structure. A very good looking game. If it pans out, all I can say is wow! Nice to see someone is thinking big.

DC Universe Online. A real gamer and MMO fanboy plus a comic book creator is in charge of this project. If you can customize your own superhero, all I can say is AWESOME. This was actually one of the most exciting presentations if only because the enthusiasm of the presenter was genuine. As an aside, I used to play the DC Heroes RPG and thought it was a great idea, if the execution was at times a bit clunky. Here's hoping for a hero creator with this one. It has all the winning elements, now to see how it performs.

Finally, Mirror's Edge got mentioned by DICE got mentioned. Cool.

So, PS3's presentation was essentially one of reassurance with a few hints at some awesome looking titles. Given the economics of the industry, it looks like everyone will probably be celebrating well into next year...

Nintendo's Press Conference was Short.

Really short. It focused on alot of DS stuff. DS definitely getting very strong. Always has been. Trying to shift focus to the "companion". Why does everyone want to sell me an electronic companion? If I need a cookbook in the kitchen, I'll just use the interent, not a DS. Are they nuts? Everyone is trying to do everything and sometimes YOU NEED to focus what you are doing on what you do well. Sony took a short term hit when they tried to be the new Blu-ray format and forgot to launch with games. Focus people. Focus.

Press conference did not reveal much. A new "Motion-plus" accessory will apparently make the Wimote more responsive and they are shipping it with another party game title called RESORT. I'm not seeing it yet...unfortunatley, and perhaps the reason that Nintendo's press conference was so short, was that they don't demo very well. Also its strange having corportate execs smiling and prodding around playing games. If image is everything, then this press conference was nothing.

Wii Music seems a bit gimmicky, but it might work. Not sure. Well, its like everyone was wondering, where's the wii lightsaber game? Where's the next RE4 Wii Edition? Conference was a bit disappointing....Hopefully Sony will do better. Nintendo looked wooden and frozen. XBOX360 had a better show so far.

Monday, July 14, 2008

E3-Day one.

So day one of E3 got under way. It was Microsoft's day with its XBox360. They have clearly been working on getting some very exclusive titles for release. A very nice job. Some predictable things- Gears of War 2, Final Fantasy XIII, among the bigger announcements. Fallout 3 had an interesting interface. Resident Evil 5 was also demo'd. I wish they had done more than simply show the fighting scenes as RE4 was full of puzzles and videogame parodies (like the flaming barrels!) But, I understand that time was limited. Fable II looked atmospheric, but I could not exactly figure out the game itself from the demo which involved almost no actual questing or fighting.

Looks like XBox360 is trying to get into the content distribution game. Guess it will try to make an end run around Ipod. Shared viewing of "remote" movies seems like an odd idea, but I guess we've all become "nuclear" friends now, so we have old friends from around the country and world trying to stay in touch via remote experience. GH and RB both squared off which was interesting- plus the show featured a nice musical interlude which was a great break. The new live looks a bit obtuse and some of the offerings were less than amazing (I can dig up my UNO deck if I need to), but overall, 360 seems confident and strategic in its vision. XNA remains a strong point for the Xbox 360, but they have not yet demo'd anything too exciting on it. It is nice to see more of a create your world atmosphere rather than the live in ours motif that has been present for the last 20 years in computing in general. There was also some nostalgic marketing with the Galaga announcement, but I used to play Deluxe Galaga AGA on the Amiga which was a great Galaga clone...

XBOX360 seems to be selling quite well even at their price point and their early headstart has helped them weather the WII storm. Nevertheless, the WII looks like it will continue to issue a strong challenge to its competitors. In reality, the PS3 portion of E3 will probably be the most interesting as PS3 is in a tough spot.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Facelift at 1541

What’s new and exciting at 1541?!?

We’ve got a new IMAGE map. Yup. Very funny we think. Very nice.

New address:

http://1541.freehostia.com/1541K.html

An updated recruitment page, featuring elements of the Spanish inquisition in our new religion subsection. Yup. Good stuff. Good stuff.

A new section called “Your role” which talks about your role in 2142. Inspired as a counterpoint to an article on unnamed clan’s website. Elderberries. Elderberries. Very nice. Very nice.

We’ve opened up our ARCHIVES to reveal some of the insight that went into MaskedMakrel’s participation in the Wake beta (thank you SIR community for a good time) as well as some of our insights in the Operation Shingle Beta.

What hasn’t changed:

Still have helpful how to’s for noobs.

Still free.

Still have a forum feature that is as popular and visited as any state historical society.

Coming soon:

More stuff.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Get Rich Playing Games.

So there is a new book I found on the internet with all kind of insider tips about the video game industry. I'm only on page 33, but it is very interesting. The book is free as an ebook, so you might want to check it out here:

http://www.getrichgaming.com/

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Culture v. Civilization

Gamers and game companies are obsessed with gaming acceptance at all levels. It is not entirely clear why. Gaming has never been fully accepted and probably never will be. Gaming, whether it is RPG gaming, or video gaming, is probably never going to be embraced by everyone. But even if it were, it would lose its meaning at precisely that time. The "casual" gamer, which is good for the industry, is not really very meaningful to the gamer. I once went into a bar where a young lady and I began discussing the Wii and Resident Evil 4. She asserted she also like video games. I asked her which game she was playing and she could not name one. This is the kind of casual acceptance of gaming which will prove meaningless. If a Wii sits in every home and is unplayed, is gaming finally mainstream? Is a gamer a gamer if a gamer never plays? People who play for 8 or more hours a day are gamers. They are hardcore. They could be doing anything with their time and choose gaming sending a message in one of two directions- that basically gaming is more important than other choices either because they prefer gaming or they don't like their other choices.

In any case, to a certain extent when gaming's acceptance is its greatest, it will itself exert the least amount of influence and no longer be an identity.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Cheaters.

1UP takes a look at why we cheat.

It begins with a laugh at Sophocles- nothing like taking a dig at someone's whose works have been around for say 3,000 years. But, in truth this is a favorite topic and one which is constantly examined. The article does accurately point out that the frontier of MMO's is a lawless one at this time with plenty of problems. Someone was nice enough to point out that it is okay to cheat in single player settings, but probably not appropriate in multiplayer settings. In any case, who cares? Not much will change so long as ridiculous leaderboards are around.

TF2 redux.

On another note, I've been playing some more TF2 and would upgrade the Flare Gun unlock. It has range and with some practice, is lethal. Still prefer shotgun for short range encounters, but Flare Gun is not bad. The unlock path for Pyro was much easier than the medic. I still don't have all the medic unlocks but I have all the Pyro unlocks. So there.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Celebrating the 4th of July.

Yesterday, I enjoyed spending time with friends and family while I celebrated the 4th of July. It was a great day with perfect weather to celebrate our nation's birthday. A few guests came over for a 4th of July BBQ and then it was time for some Wii sports! Hurray! I introduced several newcomers to the Wii with Wii bowling, Wii tennis, Wii baseball, Wii boxing, and showed off other features. It was a great party unit and I think people by and large enjoyed having the Wii break.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

TF2 Pyro patch overview.

TF2 released a patch in June 2008 which allows for PYRO upgrades. The new Pyro class has an "improved" flame thrower as well as flame thrower unlocks. So far the awards have been a little easier than the medic awards. I have managed to get 2 unlocks, the flare gun and the second stage flame thrower. I am not seeing much difference with the 2nd stage flame thrower. It seems to do more damage when I strike from behind and is very effective at killing in those conditions. The flare gun on the other hand, does not seem to be very effective at all and can only be described as a gimmick. Sometimes the new and improved is not very new or improved and the first two Pyro unlocks strike me as a case of that. Here's hoping when and if I get the third unlock it will be better.

Still TF2 continues to get better with each new patch. I personally feel that Goldrush is probably the best TF2 experience there is, with Fort2 offering a fairly good experience as well.

I still prefer 2142 overall, but TF2 is getting better with each new patch.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Reset

So, here's an interesting and somewhat sad note about misguided Minnesota politics. At precisely the time when every penny counts, Minnesota's foolishness has cost it $65,000.

According to Game Politics:

"The Entertainment Software Association (ESA), which represents the interests of video game publishers in the United States, has issued a press release announcing that the state of Minnesota will reimburse the industry to the tune of $65,000."


It was a bipartisian affair with stupidity all around.