Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Added a Few Links

I added a link to Lost Garden to my Game Industry Blog list over on the right. It’s a really good Blog with various essays on things video game related.  He posted an excellent piece on the new Nintendo Revolution controller last week and his site was nearly killed by being linked to by a good number of big time sites. It’s the kind of thing I would like to think I would write if I had real writing time.  He posted a follow up today that answers some of the questions people had after reading his post and I recommend you check it out.

I also added Escapist Magazine to my Game Industry News list.  I thought the first ‘issue’ I read was a bunch of mindless dribble, but I have since found a few good articles.  Damion Schubert of Zen of Design wrote a good article on Guild Designs which echoes a lot of what I’ve been spouting off at work myself. Unfortunately a lot of my next gen guild design stuff has already been cut, but that isn’t as bad as it sounds as the change in direction of our game makes a lot it less useful and unnecessary at the moment.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


We have some University students in at work; they are doing some sort of work experience thing which basically means free slave labors for us.  I personally have two guys helping me with some stuff and I’ve taken to calling them “my minions.”  From what I gather most work experience people usually wind up being errand boys at what ever company they intern at.  But I’ve got these two poor bastards doing in game equipment icons for me. If the icons are good enough they will be used in the game and the two of them will even get art credit.

It was really nice that when I gave them the dog and pony show sales pitch that described the game they were actually very into it.  This is before actually seeing anything we have running; this was just after hearing me give a brief game play overview.  It has been awhile since I’ve been around when anybody new was introduced to the game and it was quite uplifting to see such a positive reaction to it. I’d tell you about it but it is still hush-hush secret.

Well, I am off to see if I can get this old copy of The Secret of Money Island running on my computer. I managed to get a hold of all four games and am planning on playing through trough. I never got to play 3 & 4 and that always bothered me.  Oh, in case you are wondering that this old computer not the new computer as I still haven’t fixed that one, I actually haven’t touched it in forever hoping maybe it will fix itself or something.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Nintendo Revolution Controller

The details about the Nintendo Revolution controller are out. You can read good hands on review over at It only took 4 or 5 posts to our internal Clan Auran mailing list before the sexual innuendo jokes started flying about what kind of games would benefit from this type of controller.

Promotional video shown at Toyko Game Show of the Revolution Controller provide by They say they will have a streaming video cast of the TGS keynote here friday morning. Thats friday morning for you people in the real world as it is already friday night here in the future!

I do remember reading that Nintendo originally wanted to launch this type of controller back in the early 90’s but decided against it. I’ll have to look up the exact details on that when I get home. Anyway, I think it could be very very cool. I am looking forward to the Revolution more than the PS3 or XBox 360 because of it. Granted, I will probably wind up getting all 3 systems but I haven’t seen anything for the other two that makes them any different from what I would expect from the next new game system. Hell I haven’t even seen any release titles that have made me want to make sure I'll buy any of them day one.

Quite the opposite actually if you’ve read this, again over at, which talks about the difference between the ‘target render’ clip of what we were assured Madden NFL 2006 would look like compared to the actual game shots that have been released. Not that I am interested in sports games myself, but still that is quite a difference. I’ve faked up plenty of screenshots in my day for marketing but they were all made with the consideration that it had damn well better represent what the game will actually look at. Funny enough two of the screenshots on the C&C: Tiberian Sun box are fakes I did early on in development. They are easy to spot when you are looking for them because of the motion blur and lighting effects, but still pretty close. I was kind of annoyed they were used for box art though since by that time we had plenty of real shots they could have used.

Okay, How about a Grape XBox 360?

I remember my mother telling me stories about when she was a kid and different brand record players played at different speeds.  When she bought an album she had to make sure it was the correct speed for her record player.  I can assume you all know what records albums are right?

Anyway so on the subject of Microsoft’s multiple flavors of Window Vista I thought I would continue ranting about Microsoft’s multiple Xbox 360 flavors.  So assuming dear reader, you are my mother who doesn’t know anything about any of this; I’ll explain. The next version of the Xbox will come in two different versions.  The $400 dollar version is the whole kit and caboodle (Even I have no idea what a caboodle is though I remember looking it up once but have forgotten what I found).  The $300 dollar version is just the basic console; the two big things it is missing are the wireless controller and the 20GB hard drive.  The minor things you don’t get are the headset, Ethernet cable, and media remote.  You can buy all the missing pieces separately to eventually get everything the $400 dollar version has.  I do wonder if you need what ever is included with the remote to access the multi-media functions (play CD’s, DVDs, etc.) like you did with the original Xbox.

Now the wireless controller isn’t a real big deal. It’s just a controller. The hard drive on the other hand might be a big deal.

Lets me explain by first telling the story of the Sega Genesis 32X.  The 32X was an add-on for the Sega Genesis that was released in November of 1994 that would turn the Genesis from a 16bit system into a more powerful 32bit system.  One of its biggest problems was that by being an add-on and its owners were a sub-set of the sub-set of video game owning people.  At the time you had the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, 3DO and the Atari Jaguar (in that order and not counting the Sega CD.)  As a game developer in 1994 you decide you are going to make a game for the Sega Genesis, but are you going to make a regular Genesis game or a 32X game? Y ou have to ask yourself how many Genesis users have the 32X add on?  Let’s assume you are certain that 60% of the Genesis users are going to buy your game.  But if only 40% of the people who own the Sega Genesis also have the 32X that means that your 60% gets squashed down to only 24% (40 percent of 60 percent… I think. Man, how embarrassing would it be to get that wrong? Well not so embarrassing that I am going to check. I just spent 30 minutes trying to find what percentage of the market the Genesis had in 1994 in The Ultimate History of Video Games. I know it’s in there but I can’t find it.)  Anyway unless you have some shot at getting a whole lot of free advertising from Sega for being a 32X game to make up for that huge loss of potential sales you are going to do a regular Genesis game.

Now back to the present and the Xbox 360 with its optional 20GB hard drive.  It isn’t quite as bad as the 32X situation because it’s a storage device not something that runs the game.  But it does mean that if there is some feature of the game that requires the hard drive it is going to be cut or changed to not require the hard drive because the developers know that not everybody is going to have one.  Nobody who isn’t doing a product directly backed by Microsoft is going to want to put a “Hard Drive Required” sticker on the front of their box and cut into their potential sales.

Again, I know Microsoft is in this to make money. I also know that all game hardware manufactures take a loss on the hardware in the hope to make up for it later with software sales. And on top of all that knowledge I also know that $400 is quite a bit above the magic price point for new game hardware.  So being that I am so full of it… I mean full of knowledge… what would I have done? Well if I worked at Microsoft and the decision was up to me, I would steam about the halls angry that they took the decision away from me when I told them to eat the cost of the hard drive on top of all the other costs they are eating. It is probably just too much of a loss on top of the rest.  

To be honest $100 bucks is a decent price for a hard drive and a wireless controller. The controllers alone cost around $30-50 bucks for ones with a rumble pack.

In the end I’ll just recommend this public service announcement from CTRL-ALT-DEL.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Windows Vista - Grape Flavor

I am sure you have all heard by now about the next version of Windows, “Windows Vista” coming in 7 different versions.  It is kind of funny that just last week I was day dreaming about what I would do if was suddenly in charge of Microsoft. No, really I was. I think I had read some anti-Microsoft post or new article somewhere and was thinking about the bad rap they get. I was trying to think of what I would do if I was in charge of changing that.  One of the things I thought of was that I would get rid of two version of Windows XP.  It just confuses people and makes Microsoft look like a bunch of greedy bastards.  

Imagine my surprise when just a few days later they announced that there will be SEVEN different versions of Windows Vista.  

1. Starter Edition
2. Home Basic Edition
3. Home Premium Edition
4. Windows Vista Professional Edition
5. Small Business Edition
6. Enterprise Edition
7. Ultimate Edition

Go read the details of each edition over at Ars Technica and then try to imagine your Mom standing in front of a shelf full of different versions of Windows trying to figure it out which version she should buy.  

Imagine the poor Microsoft Tech Support phone guy who now has to try and get Grandpa Fred to tell him which version of Windows he is running and then try to explain to him that version doesn’t support that feature and that he need to upgrade to another version.

John Dvorak over at has an article on how Microsoft Should Confuse the Market More.  I really think he is on to something with the Microsoft Vista Porn Edition.

Seriously, what the hell are they thinking?!  This is the reason everybody hates them.  It isn’t like the different features of each edition are actual physical things that cost more to put into one version or another. Including some feature or other doesn’t make the box bigger or weigh more. It is digital content, it cost money to develop but once it’s created it can be put into every version for the same price.  The only reason to have different versions is to try and see if they can get squeeze some people into paying a little more.  Yes, I understand that the main goal of a business is to make money. But why don’t any of them ever see the benefit of doing the right thing.  They spend millions on marketing but then continue to act in such a way that makes them all look like evil jack-asses.  They don’t even see the marketing value of not looking like evil jack-asses.

I think right now Bill Gates should send out a press release that says, “I just read the memo on the 7 different versions and personally hauled out and shot the marketing vice president that came up with this stupid idea. There will be one version (well two if you count that damn European version that doesn’t include the media player.)”

I think if he did that, all the anti-Microsoft ill it would stave off would actually wind up making them more money in the end, even including the high profile murder trial for him having shot that marketing jerk.    

Monday, September 12, 2005

Fame and Fortune for All!

Seems like everybody I know has something exciting going on at the moment.

We just got out copies of My Virtual Home today. It’s home decorating software that is being developed here. I say here instead of here at Auran because it is technically another company even though it is a lot of the same people. The software is actually free and will be included in next months Australian Better Homes and Gardens magazine. The various home building and furniture manufactures pay to have their products in the software. That user gets the software for free and lays out a virtual version of their house which includes almost everything from what type of door frame types and outlet covers you have. They can then browse through somethink like "couches" until they find one they like that fits well in their living room. They can get order that exact couch from the manufacturer. It is my wife Connie’s first product here as a Senior Tester.

My friend Matthew Ford, a producer here at Auran, was interviewed for a MSNBC article about parents in the game industry and how they handle video games with their own kids. When gamers become parents - How those in the industry cope with issues of sex and violence.

He also has a sidebar article that is linked from the above article which basically summarizes his tips for parents. Parenting and video games: One dad's tips - Game professional offers tips on managing the video game minefield.

I just heard that my friends and former Westwood co-workers at Petroglyph just announced a partnership with Publisher Sega to create an original Real-Time Strategy (RTS) franchise for the PC. SEGA Partners with Petroglyph to Build Blockbuster RTS Franchise.

My friend Greg is going to work for Ubi Soft in China. He asked them about the legislation restricting online play to 3 hours and requiring game developers to put some code in to do that. He said they told him nobody is taking that seriously. There are two government bodies fighting over who has jurisdiction over the online game market since it is a very popular and profitable segment. The two bodies are just trying to prove they are the one with jurisdiction by passing laws that govern it. Although it was all hastily explained to him, he said he also got the impression that it isn’t a passed law, more like a bill being proposed. If you read the article I linked or any of the dozens of others, they all read like this is already passed and companies are hard at work putting in those restrictions which wouldn't appear to be the case.

So, what about me? Well I did say I would stop trying to grow my hair back out and clean myself up if they took me to the Austin Game Developers conference next month. I don’t know if they are taking the bait yet, but I did get a semi-positive "Hmm, you never know" response. I don't think we will be announcing our game there so it will probably only be shown behind closed doors. Austin Texas… Mmmm good Mexican food!

I do know we are looking to hire another level designer so if you know anybody have them email me.

Ookla the Mok

Speaking of the whole file sharing thing, a friend of mine had me listen to a bunch of mp3s last week from a band called Ookla the Mok. The name is taken from the Saturday morning cartoon Thundar the Barbarian from the back in the 80’s. They are a band that plays at sci-fi & comic book conventions. They have released 7 CD’s, won 3 Pegasus awards, did the theme to Disney’s Fillmore and the sound track for the movie Bite Me, Fanboy (which I still havn't seen).

I absolutely loved the album Super Secret; it spoke to the comic book geek in me. And because I think the people that created it should get paid for it if I listen to it I tried to go out and buy it this last weekend. I wish I had looked it up on the web before traveling from music store to music store because as it turns out you can only buy it online. Anyway I did order the album from CDBaby.Com this morning. Unfortunately it looks like some of the other albums are sold out and the news section of the Ookla the Mok site hasn’t been update since the release of their last album on May 8th 2003. I wonder if they still even perform.

Av4st Y3 Scurvy Dogz!

The whole pirated video/music controversy has been getting on my nerves lately. Let me say upfront that I think the people who make the crap should get paid by the people who watch/listen/use it. But I am really getting sick and tired of Hollywood and the music industry making me WANT to go down load an illegal copy of something. I’m sure I am not pointing out anything that hasn’t already been said before when I say that the industry is sitting there in stagnation, afraid to move forward because they are scared of messing with the overly profitable system they have in place. Afraid that the actual people making the product are going to realize there are a awful lot of people in-between them and the customer who aren’t really needed and who are taking more than their fair share of the profit.

According to various sources the United Kingdom is the largest downloader of pirated television shows followed by Australia and then the United States. Living here in Australia now it is so easy to see why. I am sick and tired of hearing about a cool new show and then having to wait 8 months to see it. We just finally saw the season 1 finale of Lost just a few weeks ago. The U.S. premere of season 2 starts the 22nd while we have to wait till sometime NEXT YEAR! I can rent the entire new season of Dr. Who at Blockbuster down the street and it hasn’t even finished airing here yet. And it isn’t just that we are getting the shows late, the television companies here just don’t seem to get that people are really sick of them moving the damn shows around and having them pre-empted every 3rd week for some other show. I accidentally learned who won last season’s Survivor, American Idol, and The Amazing Race before they were finished airing here. (Yes, we started watching Survivor but in my defense it’s become a social thing where a bunch of us take turns going to each other’s places for dinner and to watch the show. As for the other two shows all I can say is that the TV is on while I play game on my computer. Please don’t think any less of me.)

Anyway, the last straw was when I noticed a link on Yahoo’s front page saying “Watch the entire first episode of ‘Supernatural’ now”. So I clicked on it. I like the supernatural thriller type stuff so I figured I’d give it a shot. I clicked the link to watch the show and got: “We’re sorry, this content is restricted to users in a predetermined viewing area.” Well you know what? That just makes me want to go out and download an illegal copy. And then download the entire series with the commercials edited out! Assuming it doesn’t suck, this is the WB we are talking about.

I read that Season one of the new Battlestar Galactica was the most downloaded show ever so far. Easy to see why, it was aired in the UK first and there are a lot more people in the U.S. A lot more people who didn’t want to wait for them to get around to airing so they could watch it.

The solution has been talked for as long as I can remember. It’s the 21st century and I am over us not having the flying cars I was promised in my science fiction, but I am really pissed that the technology isn’t in place for TV on demand. I should be able to turn on my TV by now, sort through a menu, and watch any previously broadcast TV show. All the existing networks just add their content to the overall library for a fee. They pay for that fee with commercials. I tell my TV receiver the relevant information about me and whomever else is living in my house and it shows me relevant commercials. I don’t have to tell them who I am exactly just my information. The networks just know that there a household containing two people one male and one female that spent watched season 1 and half of season 2 of Futurama this weekend. That’s one lesson the marketing demons really need to learn, we would be less reluctant to tell them all of our demographic information if we didn’t have to actually identify ourselves.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Still Staying Away from Zone Alarm

Check Point, the company that now runs Zone Alarm put up the following notice on the top of the Zone Alarm forums:
Zone Labs knows that some of our customers are having issues with the upgrade to ZoneAlarm 6.0, and is working hard to fix the situation.

The cause appears to be related to the upgrade process, not the application itself. Therefore, we recommend users experiencing difficulties uninstall any prior version of ZoneAlarm (v.2.x - v.5.x) residing on their computer system and do a clean installation of their new ZoneAlarm 6.0 product.

We sincerely apologize to any customers affected and appreciate your patience.
I did try to uninstall and do a fresh install back when I had my melt down and that’s when the really big problems began that lead me to have to reformat my computer which still isn't working by the way. I tried to update the bios and now I get a checksum error on boot up. Just on thing after another. Its really depressing.

Well at least they are admitting there is a problem finally. I am still looking into other options. If you are wondering if it is worth it to stick with Zone Alarm I suggest you read a page or two of their forums. It has been weeks now and the negative posts are still piling up.