Thursday, March 30, 2006

Visa its like DKP!

Mazezine has a “News from the Future” (as in it doesn’t exist) posting about credit card companies offering virtual in-game rewards for purchases.
It's not a matter of if, just when - credit card companies, Pay Pal, Amazon, eBay and the individual "gaming" companies eventually bridge the real and virtual currencies with loyalty programs and private label credit cards - there's too much money out there to -not- to do this. This "demographic" is the battleground. The more you spend, the more you earn, sorta. Virtual $ isn't a crappy electronics doo-dad, it's just a number in a computer. Maybe you'll get some discounted airline tickets when you hit level 60 too, you deserve it! Earn your way to a new graphics card, why not.
Hell, I’d just like the credit card with the game art on it to show off what a complete gaming nerd I am. Reward points as well? Bonus!

Monday, March 27, 2006

SoE and SWG

SoE and Lucas Arts have come out to say that the rumor of Lucas Arts pulling the Star Wars Galaxies licesne from Sony Online Entertainment are false.

The part about Raph Koster leaving SoE is true.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Pimp My Bicycle

Over at Instructables I found the SpokePOV: LED Bike Wheel Images project.
Pac-Man LED Spoke Animation
How cool is that?

Kevin Smith's Superman

Kevin Smith (Clerk’s, Mall Rats, Jay & Silent Bob & Chasing Amy) at a convention is asked by a fan to tell the story behind the Superman movie script he wrote back in the mid-90’s. This is a awsome.

Scrambled Hax

My friend Bill posted this link at work today. It’s a video sample from a guy who has written a program called Scrambled Hax. It is a music video audio sampler for DJs. I see it as an Audio mosaic program. You know those Photomosaic where they take a huge data base of pictures and then the program makes one of the pictures out of tiny little versions of the other pictures? It’s the same thing only with music videos. The application he built is meant for live performances with DJs using it on the fly complete with snips of the music video that the source was cut from. So he can beat box into the microphone and have the program convert it on the fly and play the result. If you’ve clicked the link you know what I’m talking about.

Several people responded to the thread that it was like audio masturbation and the whole topic went off into left field about what is or isn’t music. It sounded very much like the “what is art” argument and got just about as far. Disparaging comments about M.C. Hammer were in abundance.

Personally I didn’t like any of the “music” that what created the video clip but then again I'm not really into the whole "live DJ mix" thing. I was really just looking at the program which I thought was pretty damn cool. I can see some really good stuff being made out of this in the hands of some creative and talented people. It would also be really cool if they built it into those home karaoke machines.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


I just added the new title picture to replace the standard text and added a link to the Video Game Voter's Network at the bottom of the sidebar.

I have a version of the title picture where the sub-title is written in a graffiti-like sprawl. I spend a lot of time on it interchanging letters from two different graffiti-like fonts, using upper and lower case and slightly increasing or decreasing the size so it looked really random. In the end it looked too random and had a hand-drawn quality to it that I didn’t like even though I thought that was what I was going for.

I’ll screw around with more art type changes in the near future.

I also tried to get perma-links displayed for each posting but some things are just not meant to be understood in the nebulous morning hours.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

This Just In

Kotaku has a rumor up that Raph Koster has left Sony Online Entertainment to start his own game studio and that Lucan Arts will not be extending the Star Wars Galaxies contract with SOE.

IGN, reporting on that story, is implying that SWG will go instead to Bioware who will be relaunching it. They note that Bioware has recently opened an Austin Texas office but have not announced what it will be working on.

My two cents… I like Raph. I like his ideas; he is a great top level designer. He just needs somebody else to make sure there is more meat in his sandwich and somebody to make sure the people making the sandwich know what they are doing and aren’t making a mess.

Star Wars Galaxies had some great sandbox concepts but not enough tool and toys to play with. Sandboxes are a lot of fun when you have a bucket, shovel, some action figures, matchbox cars and other stuff. Without any of that you are just sitting in the dirt.

SWG also suffered from exactly the same type of mess that Ultima Online faced. For example at one point they announced in SWG that they were going to be placing new restrictions on players in an effort to reduce the number of objects in the world because they didn’t realize how much players would turn into pack rats. They claimed their item database was overloaded. This was the exact same thing they did over and over in Ultima Online which suffered from all the same problems. Why didn’t anybody learn?

Anyway Kotaku’s mole at SoE also suggests that the days are numbered for John Smedley, SoE’s president. I’ve spoken or was spoken at by Smedley a good number of times in my 8 months at SoE and I liked him too. I always was of the opinion that if Smedley was involved more in the day to day workings of what was going on at SoE things would be a lot better. He appears to know what he is talking about and when it takes the time to seriously look into what is going on in a project, he expertly nails what the problems are that need to be addressed.

The same thing happened at Westwood though, the more our two founders got involved with running the company the less time they had for what was going on in the company. You can’t have somebody show up for a meeting every three weeks, throw out a bunch of mandates and vanishes again leaving chaos and confusion in their wake. The games that were the result of these things suffered for it greatly and lead to the closing of the studio.

Gaming Skill Finally Paying Off!

Wired has news post: You Play World of Warcraft? You’re Hired! Though once again I have to point out how I was here first.

You’ll notice the following on my own resume:

Related Interest
In depth involvement with current on-line persistent state role playing games. Current member of Afterlife, formerly one of the top guilds in EverQuest and now an active raiding guild in World of Warcraft. Former member of Knights of Glory and Beer [KGB], a large guild in Ultima Online.
I wonder if I should add "created the Thottbot logo"?

Speaking of being a Guild Leader, The Daedalus Project has a posting entitled Life as a Guild Leader, which is a write up using the results of a survy taken of Guild Leaders in MMO games. Some noteable quotes:

When you are the leader of a guild of 50 players, gaming can become more stressful than your daytime job.

God damn, people don't listen. I hated it. They are so whiny and expect you to do exactly what they say and give them what they want. Balancing the needs of 50 people suck... I won't do it again. I don't even want to be an officer. Takes all the fun out of the game.

A guild leader has to be den mother and bitch goddess in one.

The most valuable lesson I learned from being a guild leader is that if you give someone an inch they will take a mile. The experience drove me much farther to the political right.

Then and Now

Fosfor Gadgets has a few pictures of video games of today compared to similar games of the 80’s. My long time readers (which I believe is a grand total of nobody) will remember I posted a picture of Adventure on the Atari 2600 (the very first graphic adventure game) versus one from World of Warcraft myself back in June of 2005. One of these days i'll put the code in for perma-links, in the mean time you'll have to click on that link and then scroll down to the Saturday, June 11th post title "Trip Down Memory Game."

The only thing I don’t like about Fosfor's pictures are that the modern ones don’t show any of the interfaces or are actually marketing shots. Yeah they show how cool the graphics of today are but it rings of the before and after shots you see of people in magazines who have had some procedure done. You know where the “after” picture has the person smiling with professionally applied make-up, hair styling, and lighting.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Latest Links

Here are the latest links going around so you too can know what the hell everybody is laughing about and be in on all the inside jokes:

Onyxia 50 DKP minus (NSFW)

Ragnaros (NSFW)

Razorgor (NSFW)

Onyxia 50 DKP minus sound clips for you own raid

MC Raiders Song

Macgyver Saves the Server

*NSFW = Not Safe For Work


We have met the enemy and he is us.
-Walt Kelly
It is so funny listening to World of Warcraft players from the Horde or Alliance faction talking about WoW players of the opposing faction as if they are some completely different, culturally alien race of beings.

Now I will give you the fact that the Horde side probably has slightly more of the young adolescent, more aggresive type players. The reason for that is the Horde’s fiction and their playable races fit in more with the type of play experience they are looking for. The Horde faction are getting the Blood Elf race in the Burning Crusade expansion to hopefully bridge some of that distance and acquire players who have a stronger tie to the more attractive races in these types of games.

Back to the point, besides that very slight demographic discrepancy… players of the other faction are just other players. Other players just like them! There is no master brain controlling them. They don’t get together to vote on some agenda. They don’t have a developmental historical or cultural anomaly inherent to them that is any different from players of the other faction. There is no real difference between either set of players!

Yet you constantly hear people saying stuff about “the insert faction does this. The insert faction can’t handle this. The insert faction always exploit that.”

I like the way players from both factions justify their bad behavior; doing exactly the same thing they are accusing the other faction of doing, as being okay because it’s paying them back for doing it first.

My personal specific favorite is the way both sides accuse the other of using some ‘auto flag pick-up exploit program/mod” in the War Song Gulch battleground. Like if there was such a program, which there isn’t, it would be keyed to only be downloadable to people who can prove they play on that faction’s side.

There has got to be behavioral scientists that could get some wonderful insights into human behavior by studying this. Xenophobia created by two pretty much identical groups of players, hidden behind the anonymity of their characters, who cannot communicate directly with each other inside of the game. Oh there has got to be a wealth of information that can be learned from this. I am sure if we could nail this down we could bring about peace in the Middle East.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Peanut Butter and Jelly

Sandwiches are not made, they are created. Each type of sandwich is special piece of art in and of itself. Each has its own special qualities and a set of unique skills required to bring it to life. We will start with the Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich, easy to make, impossible to master, delicious for lunch.

You will need the following:

Peanut Butter of the old fashion variety, this is the type that needs to be stirred because the oil all rises to the top. It is smooth, not chunky, and room temperature. If it was in the refrigerator you’ll need to set it out for awhile before you start. A fresh, previously unopened jar of peanut butter is the best, but you can’t be expected to throw out the jar after every sandwich.

Grape Jelly because there is no other flavor. Jelly not jam. The jelly should be chilled, straight from the refrigerator. Unlike peanut butter, jelly is best after the jar is 2/3rds gone. This is because the sound the utensil makes on the glass jar has better tone when there is less jelly.

Fresh white bread; speak to me not of wheat or other so-called ‘healthy’ bread.

Utensils: Butter knife, bread knife and a tea spoon.

Start by taking four slices of bread from the package, skipping the top nose piece and two slices. Yes, four pieces. You are making two sandwiches, you can’t eat just one. You might think you just want one, but after you eat the first and don’t have a second one you’ll be sorry. Trust me, two sandwiches. Take the first two pieces and lay them out on a paper towel so that the sides of the bread slices that were together are now both face up. Do the same with the second two pieces. This is so when you put them back together they will fit properly.

Slice a swath of peanut butter out with the bread knife and evenly spread it onto one slice of each of the two sets of bread. The key word here is “evenly” and make sure it goes all the way to the edge but not over. Neatness counts. You way want to hold the bread in the palm of your hand as you swirl the peanut butter around the bread. Don’t be rough and don’t tear or bruise the bread spreading too hard.

Use the spoon to stir the jelly. You just want to loosen it up a bit, break up the big jelly chunks so you can spread it out onto the bread. A few rotations of the spoon are more than fine. Use the spoon to scoop the jelly out onto the remaining two slices of bread. Spread it out with the bottom of the spoon, again evenly and all the way to edge watching the mess. Keep that peanut butter contaminated butter knife away. Take your time here, this part may sound simple but jelly can be deceptively difficult to spread evenly. If you have a big solid jelly chunk that you are having trouble spreading, use the edge of the spoon to ‘cut’ it. Go slow, no need to rush.

Now this part might seem esoteric but you will just have to trust me here. Forge the masterpieces together by taking the peanut butter bread and putting them on top of their corresponding jelly pieces, and then turn them up side down so the jelly is on top. Now finally cut the sandwiches in half diagonally with the bread knife. Think you are getting good at this? Try doing it in one clean stroke without tearing the paper towel underneath. If you need a crutch, you can cut them on a chopping block. I won’t even mention anything about cutting the crust off, grow up. Everybody knows the crust is what keeps the taste from leaking out.

Put a fresh paper towel or napkin onto a clean sandwich plate and arrange the sandwiches on top. Add some chips, I recommend Fritos. Quickly clean up and then get a tall cold class of a good beverage. Enjoy.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Long and Short of It

I’ve been growing my hair back out. I’m smack dead in that ‘looks like shit’ phase at the moment. At this point it usually only looks good right when I get out of the shower and its doing the wet curly thing. I had been just letting it grow and wearing a hat to hide it. I’m not really a hat person but my dress style has become more relaxed since I moved to Australia so I've gotten away with it. It got to the point that it was just a total mess and I had an emergency haircut to clean it up right before flying to SOE back in December. I am getting it cut regularly now, just trimming the ends and trying to keep it neat kind of thing. I am getting some highlights put back in at my next appointment. I only have to wear the hat on the really bad hair days now.

I bring this up because yesterday I actually had a good hair day. I had even been wearing headphones during the day, ones that touch the top of my head no mater how they are adjusted, and even that didn’t mess up my hair. It still has a good while to go before it gets to the length I want which isn’t going to be as long as I had it before. I am just going to grow it to just a tad below the shoulders; before it was almost to my waste. I’m also wearing it straight back now instead of sweeping it to the side and you can see how much it is thinning on top :-( Damn you androgen-receptor genes!

I wanted to post a picture of what it was like before and where I am at now so you could see how it compares to the picture over on the right, but I can’t find the big version of the picture I’ve been using for my forum icon. I have some zipped files I saved off when I reformatted the other machine and I’ll look through those.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Just a quick funny bit

A slightly funny World of Warcraft: The Text Adventure Wired News post.


Welcome to World of Warcraft: The Text Adventure.

You are standing at the end of a road before a small brick building. Around you is a forest. A small stream flows out of the building and down a gully. There is an elf with an exclamation point above her head here.

>Talk elf

"Alas," she says. "There is a great darkness upon the land. Fifty years ago the Dwarf Lord Al'ham'bra came upon the Dragon Locket in the Miremuck Caverns. He immediately recognized the ..."

> Click Accept

"Hey," the elf protests. "This is important expository. Azeroth is a rich and storied land, with a tapestry of interwoven ..."

> Click Accept

"OK, fine. Bring me six kobold tails."


Saturday, March 11, 2006

Out with the old even if I'm not done with it yet

Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a walkman-sized cassette player now days? It might be different back in the States, but here in Australia I’ve tried everything from high end electronic stores to Kmart and can’t find one. I have found a few boom box CD players that are also cassette players but cost just under $100.

The reason that I am looking for one is because even though I sold off / gave away most of my unabridged audio books when I left the States, I still have a good number of my favorite ones including the entire unabridged Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy & Dirk Gently books read by their author the late Douglas Adams. I don’t think you can even get those on CD. The cassettes are over 10 years old now and starting to show wear. I want to preserve them by turning them into MP3 files. A got some software from our sound guy at work and he even gave me his old duel cassette dubbing machine but it isn’t in great shape and I'm not happy with the output quality.

I have been listening to Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson while working this weekend. I don’t think I’ve listened to it since I bought it way back when. If you are familiar with his later works such as the Baroque Cycle you know he is a very very very intelligent guy. And knowing that I am amazed at the number of things he got wrong imagining a cyber-space type meta-verse. I’ll note that he does mention / apologize for some of these things in an appendix that might be at the end of the audio version or may be in the book itself, I can’t remember. I did actually read the book before it came out on audio.

For example he mentions that people wouldn’t like / accept avatars just appearing in the virtual world. That it would break the illusion and ruin the experience. You can’t just teleport from place to place for the same reason. If you play in any online games you know that people pop in and out all the time any nobody seems to notice or care. There are bunch of other examples like how things would be rendered and how the places in his meta-verse take up geographical space, like I said he talks about some of them in the appendix.

I have his next book, Diamond Age unabridged on cassette as well. His third book, The Cryptonomicon came out on cassette in an “unabridged excerpts” version from a different publisher than the first two. Unabridged excerpts… umm wouldn’t that make it Abridged? Sorry guys, I don’t buy abridged audio books. I thought about writing Mr. Stephenson a letter about it. I did write a letter to Douglas Adams once complaining about the first Dirk Gently book not being out in unabridged format and his personal assistant wrote me back and told me that it would be as soon as the rights from the previous publisher of the abridged version expired.

I’m rambling. I’ve creatively exhausted from doing all these damn icons all day and I’ll have to go in again tomorrow and finish them up. I think I’m going to take a day off next week to make up for having to work 12 hours days over the weekend. It’s not that object to having to work long hours to do the important stuff. I’m familiar with crunching to get the product out, but this isn’t something that should have been dumped in my lap a week before it had to be done for GDC. It is way too demanding on the creative process to try to come up with all these icons in this short amount of time. There was no time to even organize all the abilities to try to define all the themes. For example define what a stun effect looks like as part of the icon. I’m having to try my best to do that on the fly. I just have to remember that I already did an “area-effect knock back field effect” for one school so I can try to make the area-effect knock back effect for this other school look similar. The desired result being that the player will be familiar with the theme of the icon art so he will have some idea what the ability does without having to look it up. “Oh that swirl symbol means a sleep or stun effect” or “the red-cross symbol means it’s a heal or health related effect.”

Speaking of the red-cross symbol being used for healing / health in video games the Candian Red Cross has called the video game industry’s use of the red colored plus symbol in games as an “unauthorized and indeed illegal use of the Red Cross emblem.”

Anyway, I'm going to bed.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

There is never time to do it right, but there is always time to do it over

We are in pre-GDC hell at work. I am trying to redo all the icons, yes that’s right I’m doing icons again! AGAIN! I am having trouble sleeping at night worrying about all the icons I still have to have done by Sunday night PLUS all the other stuff that I will have to redo after GCD. For example we are re-skinning the GUI. But after GDC it will all have to be redrawn for a 1600x1200 screen resolution. It will also have to be done in separate pieces so that it can be scaled independently of the screen resolution. Why aren’t we just doing it that way now? No time.

I found out I won’t be going to GCD if I hadn’t mentioned that since last talking about it.

Just to relax tonight I started playing around with Google Earth while watching TV. I had messed around with it before but just looking for places I used to live, my house in Vegas, that sort of thing. Still can’t zoom in close enough to San Vito dei Normanni, Italy to see the area in any detail, but you can see our apartment and Auran here in Australia really clearly.

Today I also went looking at the Eiffel Tower, Mount Rushmore, Mount Saint Helens, Great Wall of China, etc. The 3D building technology they are putting is pretty cool too. Spinning around Manhattan Island with all the buildings on is like something you would have seen on TV or the movies just a few years ago and rolled your eyes at. I was disappointed to see they have a square building for the Luxor in Vegas. Guess they can’t do pyramids.

I couldn’t find Uluru here in Australia either. I searched around Alice Springs for a while, tried to find a map on the web but gave up.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Half-life 2 Comic

Found this absolutely hilarious Half-life 2 comic, Concerned: the half-life and death of gordon frohman. Granted it probably looses something if you haven’t played Half-life 2, but they do have notes at the bottom that you can turn on to read about each comic and how he made it.