"The reason for [Singstar's relatively "low" Metacritic scores] is also the reason that this is an article about SingStar, and not a review of SingStar Queen and the new wireless microphones: SingStar is now basically unreviewable. Unlike Guitar Hero: Metallica, or AC/DC Live: Rock Band, SingStar has morphed from a game into a service, and defies traditional critical judgement."
"I think issues of power and governance are going to swiftly rise in importance on internet communities, as they expand to include more different kinds of people. It's interesting that some of the best, most resonant ideas on these topics that I've encountered over the years has come from political writers and may have been produced even before the internet." Mike has read lots of books, and his quotations/sources here are great.
A wonderful old postmortem – on Shadows of the Empire for the N64. As a launch title, there was lots of working with unfinished hardware, prototype controllers, and SGI workstations; it's long and detailed, and a fantastic portal to a world that seems eons ago, even if it was only 12 years away.
"In fact the propeller is really rotating. Russians fix a magnet on their helicopter blades. The device sends a signal to synchronize a movie camera, allowing to visualize efforts and deformations on the blades." Hypnotic, and unnerving.
"Looking in, it’s clear that the game industry is broken and not getting fixed anytime soon. I will not be joining the game industry. I’m interested in building a profitable business making fun games in a good working environment, and that’s simply not what it does. Maybe I could hoist one more flag in the indie games parade, but I think of myself as building a Micro-ISV in the web software business. It’s a much nicer community." As usual: anyone with a degree of sanity looking in from the outside comes to the same conclusions.
"Usenet, IRC, forums, blogs, and now media like Twitter have all been black-marked as houses unfit for reason to dwell within. And so we roll our eyes, sigh, and quietly accept the idiocy, the opportunism, and the utter disrespect for our peers and ourselves that is technical discussion on the Internet. This need not be the case. It is possible to have a reasoned technical discussion on the Internet. People do it every day, particularly in smaller online communities where social norms are easier to enforce. We can do it."
"…yes, if I’d gotten a Lenovo when you all suggested it, I’d have a spill-proof keyboard with drains. That’s my plan for the next time something horrible happens to my laptop, which should be any day now." Randall Munroe's laptop died. I blame the package management, rather than the milk, personally.
"I would urge everyone to start looking at the world in a different way. Spend some time looking at everyday objects, at their design, their shape, their individual characteristics. Think ahead and imagine their significance. Many are interesting and aesthetically pleasing in their own right, if you just give them some attention." Martin Parr on noticing the everyday.
"The problem is that what made GoldenEye so good was a fleeting, transient quality that can never be grasped again: it's not that the game was especially brilliant by modern standards, but rather that it utterly eclipsed its contemporaries. These days, the FPS is as comfortable on consoles as it is on Windows, and for a Bond shooter to have the same impact as GoldenEye it would have to outperform Call of Duty 4, Halo 3, BioShock, and Half-Life 2. In short, it would have to be revolutionary." Although: a big part of what made it so good was the social side of the jerky split-screen multiplayer, and Live just isn't the same. Yes, there was the context, but there was also some kind of magical glue holding it all together. Still, there are lots of smart, sensible points here, about emerging from the shadow of Goldeneye.
Writing up talks is hard work. Anyhow, I thought you’d be interested to know that my talk from Gamecity ’08, the Nottingham game festival (which was, frankly, excellent) is now available online for you to read. I was due to give a talk to a more general audience than I normally do, so I decided to run with a slightly more general topic, and imagined a 45-year-old standing for office as a premier in 2018:
They’re 45 in 2018 when they stand for office – that means they were born in 1973. They would have been four when Taito released Space Invaders came out; seven when Pac Man came out. In 1985, when they were 12, Nintendo would launch the NES in the west. At 18, just as they would have been heading to University, the first NHL game came out for the Genesis/Megadrive and might consumed many a night in the dorm. At 22, the Playstation was launched. At 26, they could have bought a PS2 at launch, ; 22 when the Playstation came out; 26 when they bought a launch PS2. At 31, they might have taken up World of Warcraft with their friends.
They would have been a gamer all their lives. Not someone who once played videogames, trotting out the same anecdote about “playing Asteroids once” in interviews; someone for whom games were another part of their lives, a primary, important medium. Someone who understood games.
And if that was the case, what might they have learned?
The resulting thoughts were interesting, and led to some good discussion and (I think) some happy audiences. I hope you enjoy it too.
first, I’m going to be talking at Playful, a one-day event run by Pixel-Lab as part of the London Games Fringe. It’s got a fabulous line-up, is at the beautiful Conway Hall, and is a steal at twenty-five quid. If you’re wondering whether or not you should go, then yes, you should. If you’re wondering what I’m doing there: a short twenty-minute session (as they all are, in fact), entitled Everything Is Multiplayer Now. It’s a remixed, rejigged, and heavily updated take on some of the ideas in Playing Together.
I’m going to shoot off shortly after I’ve spoken there – not because of the quality of the afternoon line-up, because let’s face it, it’s cracking – but because I’m making my way to Nottingham for the remnants of Gamecity, a three-day games festival (that begins on Thursday the 30th). It’ll be a shame to miss the first day, but I’m hoping to catch Jonathan Coulton and his Zombie Choir, not to mention the excellent events on Friday and Saturday.
As part of that, I’ll be giving a lunchtime session on Saturday, in the Mogal-e-azam Indian restaurant. That’s going to be entitled “A World Run By Gamers“. The brief precis I supplied looked something like this:
It’s more likely than ever that in the coming years, people with power – political, industrial, corporate, technical – will have played videogames. And not just had a passing experience with them; they may actually be what we might term “gamers”. In the coming years, the world will face such as impending recessions, peak oil, and global warming (not to mention all manner of other difficulties over the horizon). And it’s not just impending disaster; there are all manner of positive challenges we’re going to have to rise to. What have videogames taught the leaders and innovators of tomorrow? What are the necessary skills for the 21st century that gamers have been learning for years? What can we learn from games, and what can gamers – and game designers – take to other industries and sectors? Tom will examine these questions with reference to MMOs, football management, survival horror, twitch-shooters, beat-em-ups, and more, with barely the briefest reference to SimCity.
Which, you know, could be interesting. And if it’s not, then the food will be good (and you know the rest of the festival will be awesome).
So: end of the month, lots of stuff about games in London and Midlands, and that’s where I’ll be.
It’s been a crazy few weeks, so it’s only now that I’m getting around to mentioning (again) that I’m going to be speaking at Develop Online today. The talk is called Playing Together: What Games Can Learn From Social Software, and it bears a marked resemblance to the session I gave at NLGD a month or so back. I’m looking forward to it, even if it’s a bit nerve-wracking to be talking to a slightly different audience to normal.
Once I’ve given the Develop talk, it’ll be available online. I’m looking forward to sharing this talk with people outside the circle it was initially written for.
I’ve also got a few more talks to put online, which I’ll be organising over the coming week or so.
The first is my session from Skillswap Brighton (and LRUG before that) entitled Settling New Caprica: Getting Your Pet Project Off The Ground, which is all about shipping for yourself and making spare-time projects into reality. I think I mentioned that earlier.
The second is a session I gave to some students at the Polis Summer School, run by Charlie Beckett – a summer school on international journalism and its future. Charlie initially asked me to talk having read an an article I wrote for the New Statesman in 2007. I gave a session entitled “Journalism in a Data-Rich World“, exploring what journalism on the web of data might (and does) look like. From the feedback they gave, they seemed to really enjoy it, which was good.
So those will be coming online very shortly. Then I can stop writing about the past, and look to the future again. Looking forward to that.
Recently, I was lucky enough to give a talk at Railsconf Europe, which I co-presented with my colleague Gavin Bell. Now, I’ve never presented a talk with anyone else before, so there was going to need to be a degree of co-operation between the two of us to make the talk and the presentation work out OK.
Fortunately, the division-of labour in the talk itself wasn’t a problem: we both had directions we wanted to take the talk in, and, after a few meetings over lunch, we had worked out a way of brining everything together under one roof. The content wasn’t going to be a problem. However, piecing together the presentation in Keynote was going to be a little more complex than usual, given that each of us was writing our parts of the talk seperately. However, I managed to devise a very simple way to rapidly prototype the presentation without wasting too much time in Keynote. Of course, when I say “devised”, I am aware that many other people might also do this; however, I hadn’t read anyone describe this technique, so I thought it’d be worth sharing.
All you need to do this is a notebook, some wide post-it notes, and a pen. Split the deck of post-it notes between you and your co-presenter. Each post-it note represents a slide. As you’re writing your talk, write the title of each slide (if you want, you can also add notes on what you’d like to appear on the slide) on a post-it note, and place it on one side. Then, once you’ve both got all the post-it notes done, you can sit down together with the notebook and start to place them in order – one post-it note on every other page.
“Every other page” is important to the success of this, because you’ll often find you want to rejig the presentation, or add extra slides, and by leaving a page blank between each slide, you’ve got one extra slide’s leeway before you have to re-jig too much.
I also put the opening/closing slides at the very front and very back of the book, as they were pretty much immutable. Once we’d got all the “slides” in the right order in the book, it was very easy to draw them up in Keynote on my own and be pretty confident that they wouldn’t need much changing. In the end, we altered a few lines of text and the order of one or two slides, but that was it.
That’s probably all best explained with a video, so Youtube here we come:
I’m probably going to go as far as using this technique for future talks on my own. With this process, instead of trying to write the talk, write the slides, and design them all at once, you can focus on the content first, and, once that’s finalised, concentrate on the design later. It certainly worked well for Gavin and I trying to write a talk together. And, whilst we’re on the subject of presentations, Tom Carden raises some good points about the tools you do them with.
Finally, as a sample of the finished product, this is one of my favourite slides that I’ve ever made:
firstly, Barcelona was awesome. 7 photos are up on Flickr now; I’m hoping there’ll be about 50 in that set when I’ve found the time to process them. (For reference, I took 211).
Secondly: two conferences coming up. I’ll be attending d.Construct 2006 tomorrow in Brighton, and then I’m going to be talking (with my colleague and friend Gavin Bell) at Railsconf Europe, which could be quite intimidating. Looking forward to it, at any rate.
Then I’ll hopefully find time to do some blogging again, writing up some recent events, and talk a little more about photography. You’ll see why.