Geometry Wars: retro explained Interview – Page 1 // Xbox 360 /// Eurogamer – Games Reviews, News and MoreJolly good interview with Stephen Cakebread and Craig Howard from Bizarre Creations about the evolution of the Geometry Wars series. In a nutshell: simple games, simply made, and then honed to perfection, or as near as you can get. It's the honing that's important
"Somewhere, across whatever barriers stand between, is an other." Jason Rohrer's new game is for two.
"A 200-year-old church building has disappeared from a village in central Russia, officials from the Russian Orthodox Church say… It was intact in July but some time in early October thieves made off with it brick by brick." Um.
"IE 6 is a riskier proposition, but can show improved image resizing when the AlphaImageLoader CSS filter is applied, the same filter commonly used for properly displaying PNGs with alpha transparency." Oh, that's interesting.
Mirror's Edge 2D flash game – which look, by all accounts, to be an official spin-off. Can't wait to see the full version; it's a very impressive little game.
"You want to know what I think? I'll tell you what I think. Here's what I think: Java Java Java is is is too too too damn damn damn verbose verbose verbose. That's what I think. And I'm sticking to it. So there."
"The Nietzsche Family Circus pairs a randomized Family Circus cartoon with a randomized Friedrich Nietzsche quote." This one is particularly good.
Wonderful, wonderful, stop-motion trailer for a Megaman 9 built out of the real world. Hypnotic, and lovely.
"Director Ridley Scott will helm the bizarre big screen adaptation of popular boardgame Monopoly… According to the Hollywood Reporter, Ridley will give the Monopoly movie a futuristic edge akin to his 1982 epic Blade Runner… The unlikely subject matter is just one in a line of Hasbro games to get big screen makeovers as part of an exclusive pairing with Universal Studios… Transformers filmmaker Michael Bay is producing a Ouija Board feature, while a film version of beloved classic Battleship is also in development." I know what "development" means, but still, this is the craziest games-to-film news I've seen for quite some time. Hollywood is strange.
"there's a new form of graffiti in town, and it's extremely pleasant. so pleasant that i can't imagine even the harshest critics of regular graffiti getting wound up. i mean, who in their right mind would come face to face with a sweater-wearing tree and do anything but smile?"
"…there are dozens of talented programmers who live outside of Seattle who can’t participate in our weekly chats. This makes me sad. So I decided to share some of our graphics as part of a brand spanking new game prototyping challenge. Free graphics + new game prototyping challenge = Happiness." Lovely idea. Wouldn't mind trying this at some point.
"There are many reasons one might want to book a commerical space flight, but fleeing Earth just to reclaim rights on a crappy thrash metal midi track you made in Guitar Hero: World Tour when you were 16 and had way too much free time is never going to be one of them." EULA fail.
It's something a bit like the first 2-3 minutes of Mirror's Edge. But in LittleBigPlanet. People are great.
"I mapped the strength of the wi-fi signal across levels 1 and 2 of the Library, the primary areas that the Library’s wi-fi is used. By taking readings across the floor of both levels, using standard wi-fi-enabled consumer equipment in order to mimic the conditions for the average user […], I was able to construct a snapshot of the wi-fi signal strength across the Library." Some lovely work by Dan Hill.
12 November 2008
Microsoft has boasted selling over 2 million copies of Gears of War 2 during its opening weekend.
Furthermore, more than 1.5 million Xbox Live account holders played the game, according to Major Nelson – clocking up a record 15 million gameplay hours between them.
15 million hours is a lot of CPU time on the triple-core Xenon that runs a 360; a lot of processor power.
There might not be a cognitive surplus, but here’s a thought: what happens if, as a kind of “CPU-tax”, you require manufacturers to include an “extra” CPU or core in certain kinds of products – entertainment products, set-top boxes, consoles, PVRs, that kind of thing. That CPU is self-contained – processor memory, the lot – and devoted to running something like Folding@Home in the background, or whatever the next massive philanthropic grid-computing project the world needs to run is. Maybe you specify specific charity interests you have, so you can contribute to projects you care more about.
And then you have 15 million hours of 3 cores running Gears of War 2, and 15 million hours of protein-folding. Seems like a good trade-off to me.
I have had this in the top corner of my screen as a kind of company. They are delightful little things. I am not normally a dog person, or sentimental, but they're just too delightful. Especially when they're asleep.
"After a sixteen year wait, one of the most highly acclaimed radio programmes of the nineties, featuring a uniquely talented combination of acclaimed comedy writers and actors, will finally be released in 2008." Oh, yes please.
It doesn't get much more niche; long-suffering Prinny finally gets a break from being tossed around and exploding and given his own game. The first trailer is mainly about how much Nippon Ichi exploit him in their office. It's like one big in-joke… and it's getting properly localized! NIS are good to us, dood.
Some interesting user research, especially when it comes to understandings of the device, and perceptions of the App Store. It's amazing how people's attitude to price changes when you've got a small screen, a market saturated with cheap goods, and a product that isn't in a box.
Just so beautiful. Now: I just need a video of it rotating on loop, please.
Who Stole My Volcano? Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Dematerialisation of Supervillain Architecture. « Magical Nihilism"[The modern supervillain's] hidden fortress is in the network, represented only by a briefcase, or perhaps even just a mobile phone…. for a “4th generation warfare” supervillain there aren’t even objects for the production designer to create and imbue with personality. The effects and the consequences can be illustrated by the storytelling, but the network and the intent can’t be foreshadowed by environments and objects in the impressionist way that Adam employed to support character and storytelling." The network as fortress and ideology all at once.
10 November 2008
One of the books I read on my holiday in Pembrokeshire was Jim Rossignol‘s This Gaming Life. I’d been meaning to get around to it for quite a while, and finally did so once it was revealed that the (beautiful) hardback edition was nearly at the end of its print run.
It’s an interesting book, if perhaps somewhat flawed. This Gaming Life is games writing filtered through the lens of travel writing; the “three cities” of the title being London, Seoul, and Rekjavik. “London” feels a little weak, and disjointed; the focus on Splash Damage is reasonably strong, but is perhaps not connected enough horizontally. It is also a reminder of the book’s strong leaning (understandably, given Rossignol’s expertise) towards PC gaming. As a result, certain PC-centric aspects of games such as modding cultures are praised perhaps a tad more highly than I think is reasonably within the bounds the text sets itself.
Seoul is more interesting, if only because it’s much more alien to most readers. There’s some strong insights and good anecdotes here, and it stands alongside Rossignol’s original PC Gamer article on gaming in Korea well (available in PDF form here).
The strongest section of the book is the final half, which is set in Rekjavik and focuses on CCP and their massive online game EVE Online. Rossignol is well versed in EVE and a keen player of the game, and it really shows – there are so many good stories, personal anecdotes combined with objective criticism, that the book leaps to life in this section. Part of me would love to have seen the other two thirds as long, and as strong, as this; the other part of me would love to see Rossignol just drop 300 pages on EVE, because it’s obvious he could, and it’d be an essential piece of criticism and historiography. Maybe that’s on the way.
But, despite its flaws and occasional ponderous prose, I really liked the book. There’s lots of good stuff in here, and I was pleased with the notes I came away with (see below).
It feels a little out of place in a book so fixated on PC gaming, but the “playlist” Rossignol provides at the end of the book is fantastic: a list of games that, whilst obviously never going to be conclusive, represent a good way into games for the uninformed. His selection is strong, and his writing about each of the titles is joyful and unpretentious; most of them require either a PS2 or a PC, and I can hardly argue about many. It’s nice that it’s there, even if only as a reminder, at the end of the book, that all the writing in the world won’t matter if you don’t play the damn things.
Most of all, though, I’m just glad books like this can exist. It’s published through the
MIT Press University of Michigan, and I really hope it sets the scene for more writing on games like this. It’s grown-up, personal but not gonzo, multi-disciplinary and prefers rational, informed, and sometimes unresolved discussion over snap judgments and pithy soundbites. This, to my mind, is a format that suits games writing (not just criticism) incredibly well, and I hope that UMICH Press (and their competitors) seek to comission and publish more work like this, because it’s important that games starts to establish a second-order culture of criticism as well as a first-order culture of play.
I feel like I’m being harsh on the book earlier, but really, that’s just because it’s an early entry in this space, and it’s for that it needs to be praised. I have no doubt that Rossignol has even more – and even better – writing to come, and I’m looking forward to it eagerly. In conclusion: definitely recommended, but with what I think are reasonable reservations. Also, the less-well versed you are in some of the topics he discusses, the more essential a purchase I think it might be; perhaps my reservations are coming from someone too deep inside the topics he discusses.
As is traditional in such threads, here come the quotations that I found, for whatever reason, worth turning a corner over near:
p.30, on boredom:
“use of the term boredom has increased ceaselessly since the eighteenth century. It cannot be found in English before 1760, and although [Lars] Svendsen notes that some European languages came up with equivalent words in the centuries before, they were generally derivations of the Latin for “hate” and carried similar meanings”
p.43, on some of the motivations for writing the book:
“My travels had begun to reveal that almost all writing and reporting concerned with gaming overlooked what the experience of gaming had meant to the gamers themselves. There was some talk about the intellectual or cognitive experience, but how games slotted into different lives and how they changed perceptions and agendas was being ignored”
p.52, Leo Tan talking about playing Guitar Hero at the Donnington Rock Festival:
“…playing Guitar Hero on stage is a completely different experience to playing at home. At home, you might feel like a guitar god; but on stage, people are screaming, and when you come off, they swamp to the sides to try to talk to you. It’s exhilarating in a way that I’ll never experience elsewhere. And it was a game. And everyone knew it was a game.”
p.73, on televised pro gaming:
“gaming remains and awkward spectator sport. It’s an interesting avenue of possibility for a small clique of gamers, perhaps; but the low number of people who watch video games played by the pros outside Korea suggest that the most important aspect of gaming is its interactivity. I’ve seldom been as bored as I have been watching pro gaming tournaments, especially when they’re for a game I’m actually interested in playing. For these reasons, I believe that Korea’s televised Star-leagues reflect a cultural singularity within Korea, not an indication of where global gaming will go in the future.”
p.76, on the real-world communities and companionships forged through online gaming:
“Thanks to games, [Lee] In Sook [a high-level Lineage II player]’s circle of friends had ended up talking, becoming close, and then making sure that they hung out at the same cafés to play at the game games. Online games create shared experiences that are unlike those we might have in the real world. This is a quality of the medium itself – players who might not excel in conversation might feel confident in text chat.”
p.77, on the nature of those communities forged within games:
“Online games are usually far more like teeming cosmopolitan cities than stable provincial communities: the mix of people is enormously diverse, and you often find yourself being ignored by passersby or even accosted with unsettling propositions. You aren’t sure who to trust, and many gamers will depend on previous acquaintances or real-world friendships as the basis for in-game socializing.”
“Games stand to change not simply individual imaginations or personal finances but the possibilities for interaction and socialization across our different cultures. This is no grand cultural revolution: it is a subtle wave, a gradual tectonic shift in the way we live, which will only make its true effects known over the course of many years… chasing headlines that read ‘Games Are The New Sport’ or ‘Kids Who Play Games For A Living’ makes a crude statement about what really matters within gaming. The important changes will come from those smaller ripples that change how millions of people live, think, and socialize on a daily basis, not just the hard-core niches.”
p.93, on how games manipulate and inspire our imaginations:
“The in-game slaughter of the attendees of a funeral held for a deceased World of Warcraft player presented a case of quite spectacular insensitivity. It revealed a significant swathe of gamers who radically failed to sympathize with their fellow gamers, treating them as little more than moving targets and ignoring the real-life tragedy they were trampling on. Perhaps, however, they were simply acting within the narrative conventions that the game delivered to them. Their game belonged firmly within the genre of bad guys versus good, and they played the bad guys. Had it been a game about tragedy and human loss, the gamers’ responses and actions might have taken on quite a different character.”
p.100, quoting Kieron Gillen on simulation:
“‘Battlefield 2 presents a beleaguered United States in a war that is more cowboys and Indians than anything else, while Operation Flashpoint reaches for something more akin to a comment on the nature of war using theoretical examples’… as Gillen observes, ‘simulation is expression'”
p.102, leading into discussion of Luis von Ahn and his ESP game:
“Game creators don’t have to speak to gamers at all, nor do they necessarily have to persuade them of anything. It is simply by letting gamers get on with playing that they really begin to change the world. To me, this idea is one that seems far more radical than molding games into old-fashioned propaganda: it is the notion of using games for the purposes of ‘human computing'”
p.106, on one kind of propaganda present in games:
“The danger of games, [Chris] Suellentrop suggests, is that they teach us that success means discovering and then following the rules – a deeper genre of propaganda. If he’s right, then the ever-growing millions of obsessed gamers could eventually be playing their way into a new and subtle kind of oppression, something far more worrying than finding their ‘wasted cycles’ put to use in the technology of a major corporation’s search engine.”
p.145, on “use models”:
“Will Wright observed that unless you actually play games, it’s hard to judge what is happening to a gamer. ‘Watching someone play a game is a different experience than actually holding the controller and playing it yourself. Vastly different. Imagine that all you knew about movies was gleaned through observing the audience in a theatre – but you had never watched a film. You would conclude that movies induce lethargy and junk food binges. That maybe true, but you’re missing the big picture.'(Wired, April 2006)”
p.147, more Will Wright (from a conversation with Brian Eno):
“When we do these computer models, those aren’t the real models; the real models are in the gamer’s head. The computer game is just a compiler for that mental model in the player. We have this ability as humans to build these fairly elaborate models in our imaginations, and the process of play is the process of pushing against reality, building a model, refining a model by looking at the results of looking at interacting with things.”
p.150, applying Wright’s model to EVE Online:
“EVE is a shared mental model in the heads of both thousands of gamers and dozens of developers, with a process of feedback moving cyclically between all those involved. The mental model is not htat of one person engaging with a singl emodel on a personal screen, but a picture comprised of tens of thousands impressions of the same model… [EVE] is a single collaborative imaginative enterprise that exists in real time… those who have had time [to sink into playing and exploring EVE] have begun to uncover something remarkable and one of the possible future directions for gaming: entertainment that is also massive collaboration.”
p.170, on LittleBigPlanet (which, at the time of writing, was still in production). I particularly liked this simple turn of phrase:
“LittleBigPlanet presents games as malleable, communicable objects, built for gamers to customize and distort as they see fit.”
“Communicable objects” seems about right.
p.171, on Tringo:
“Tringo had become a leaky object: moving between physical and virtual realities seamlessly. It was a virtual entity that had become a physcial product, while still making money within a virtual world.”
Again, “leaky object” is very good.
p.181, quoting Julian Dibbell:
“Dibbell makes a powerful case for the contemporary social and political importance of virtual interactions, as well as summing up something about thei weird, hybrid nature as both games and monetary systems: ‘Games attract us with their very lack of consequence,’ Dibbell wrote in Wired magazine, ‘wheras economies confront us with the least trivial pursuit of all, the pursuit of happiness.”
p.183, on the shape of online gaming groups such as clans or guilds:
“…it seems that they are becoming more like actual communities or tribes. Like entertainment-seeking nomads, they move from one game to the next. If the future of games ends up being focused on user-generated works, then we will probably join projects because we like gaming with particular people we have met elsewhere. We might like the look of what they are making or how they are influencing the game world they plkay in, but it’ll be the gmaers themselves that reinforce our commitment or define how our gaming is experienced.”
p.192, on what might be described as the journalist’s dilemma:
“I am caught between my personal interest in the games and the gamers who play them, on the one hand, and the billion-dollar business machine for which I have become a regular mouthpiece, on the other. I am troubled by the idea that games have to have some greater purpose than entertainment, and yet I am enthralled by the idea that they cabn be used as propaganda, art, or medicine. I want to spend all my time exploring the peculiar physics of a new game world, and yet I am compelled to write about and describe it for money.”
"It turns out that G1 firmware revisions RC29 and earlier literally interpret everything you type as command-line operations, so if you happen across a legit command, it's going to get executed." Now that's what I call a show-stopper. Wow.
'“Games are great,” Robert Dvorak Jr. said. “You a learn a lot about strategy, you interact with people, you use tools and creativity. I’m a gamer, period.”' Also: lovely that Brookhaven celebrated the 50th anniversary of Tennis for Two.
"Far Cry 2 is about you and death. Of course every single person you meet wants to kill you. Of course you spend about as much time fighting the environment as other persons. Of course you are clinging to the barest scrap of health and well-being; Even the malaria is trying to kill you."
"I spent 10 weeks last Summer as an intern on the strategy team of Transport for London's (TfL) London Rail division…. My general task was to help London Rail start to make use of the oceans of data spewing out of the Oyster smartcard ticketing system, but I spent the bulk of my time working on a project that came to be titled Oyster-Based Performance Metrics for the London Overground. I've posted my final report and slides and outline for the presentation I gave to TfL executive management." Some interesting data and information here.
BioWare now have a blog. It looks like it's going to be full of good stuff about games and, especially, writing for them. Can't wait.
"The international conference “Thinking After Dark: Welcome to the World of Horror Video Games” unites scholars who all study a corpus that has been left out up to now: horror video games. Considering the relatively slow progress of generic studies among the recent surge of academic interest towards video games, this event represents a major first step."
Science doctoral candidates attempt to communicate their thesis subjects through the medium of dance. The winners get time with a professional choreographer to make the whole thing better, and to see it performed by professional dancers at the end. Crazy, wonderful.