Thursday, April 27, 2006

Nintendo's Wii

The Nintendo Revolution has a new official name and it’s “Wii” which is pronounced “we.” This isn’t a joke. Check out the official Nintendo home page: They even have a little flash animation to introduce it where a few “i”’s jump and play around.

Their Official Press Release:

“Introducing... Wii.

As in "we."

While the code-name "Revolution" expressed our direction, Wii represents the answer.

Wii will break down that wall that separates video game players from everybody else.

Wii will put people more in touch with their games ... and each other. But you're probably asking: What does the name mean?

Wii sounds like "we," which emphasizes this console is for everyone.

Wii can easily be remembered by people around the world, no matter what language they speak. No confusion. No need to abbreviate. Just Wii.

Wii has a distinctive "ii" spelling that symbolizes both the unique controllers and the image of people gathering to play.

And Wii, as a name and a console, brings something revolutionary to the world of video games that sets it apart from the crowd.

So that's Wii. But now Nintendo needs you.

Because, it's really not about you or me.

It's about Wii.

And together, Wii will change everything.”
So expect the jokes to start rolling in about how we are all going to start playing with our Wii.

I wonder if they will rethink this poor choice after E3 when everybody, and I do mean everybody, comes up to their booth to make Wii jokes. “Hey, I’m from suchandsuch magazine and I’ve come to check out your Wii, oh and show me your new game system too.”

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Unleash the Fury!

Auran had a booth at the convention where we were actually showing off FURY which is the game I’ve been working on. I am told the teaser web site should be up real soon with the official site up once the game is announced at E3.

Australian Gamer had a little review of Supernova where they visit our both and talk about Fury. Its on page 2 but here is the relevant section:

Fury Logo
Next stop was the Auran booth, where another good friend of ous, Andrew, was excited to show us the first video footage of their new MMORPG game, Fury. It’s not what we expected. Although it was only a video showing the in-game graphics and gameplay, it looked like it would definitely be the kind of game to push your graphics cards to the max if you wanted. A lot of people were using the words World of Warcraft, and given that we’d heard it was a MMORPG the comparison was pretty much unavoidable. But really,it was actually nothing like WoW at all. There are no quests or gathering or vast expansive worlds to explore. All character development is done through battle, win or lose. It was much more of a Battlegrounds PvP style game, with some interesting twists. There were no classes. You choose your skills, abilities and magic before the game starts, so that any game you play you are never locked into the same character class. We are slightly concerned that there might be a fairly limited scope for fun compared to something like WoW, but we’ll find out.

Hopefully we will get into the Beta testing for the game and let you know more, although they will be revealing the game in full at E3.
I should point out that various sites have posted leaked news about the game saying it was a full MMORPG set to take on World of Warcraft. It isn’t, it is a MMO style, team-based, Arena, Player versus Player, Combat Game. A big long description that just dares you to make an acronym out of it (MMOSTBAPVPCG) that really just describes that single focused vision of the game. Want to do PvP combat MMO style without having to waste ANY time this is the game for you. No leveling up your character by doing quests, crafting pie tins, or grinding out experience for hours on boring NPC mobs. Just go in and get right to the PvP. It is even designed so that you can get all the fun of having multiple characters without having to level up multiple characters.

But more on that after E3.

Supanova Pop Culture Expo

Over the weekend I was on a panel at the Supanova convention, or “pop culture expo” as they call it.

I did a trivia contest both days where it was a number of developers versus a selection of audience members. First one person from each team would face off in a thrilling round of Mario Kart 64 on the Nintendo 64, then the winner having scored a point would get to pick the category of questions. The winning team got a bonus question worth one point and then the two teams would take turns answer 4 more questions. The categories were things like Multiple Choice, Screen Grab (screen shots of classic games with only a small square showing and you had to guess the game), Box Art (same as Screen Grab but with box covers instead of screen shots), general knowledge, and another that I can’t remember. The developers won both days, but just barely. I got beat in Mario Kart by a girl on the second day, oh the shame.

I also sat on a panel about game design. The questions from the audience were the basic “how can I get into the industry” type stuff. I gave a little speech that talked about what a game designer does. I have found that most people really don't have any clue as to what the 'meat' of game design really entails. Their pre-conceptions usually fall along the lines of what a writer or creative director does. That and then spend the rest of the time building levels. I pointed out that I have NEVER worked on a game that I had come up with the idea for. I have never even been asked to come up with a new game idea. I also haven’t built a level for a game in about 4 years.

My best (and new) example of what a designer does involves a bit I recently designed for our game where one group challenges another group to an arena match The interface is just picking a game and map type and yet that alone, just the interface for the challenge with nothing to do with the game play, came out to over 15 pages when documented. I explained briefly what about that simple task took 15 pages of work. I’m thinking maybe I’ll do a whole post about that in the near future.

I got a Serenity movie poster and comic signed by Summer Glau. Bruce Spence (Revenge of the Sith & Mad Max/Road Warrior), Patrick Kane (The Chronicles of Narnia) and John Schneider (Dukes of Hazzard and Smallville) were also there. The Summer Glau autographs were $30 bucks a piece.

Summer also hosted a screening of Serenity at “The Globe” one of the local dive theatres in the valley. The notice has said the screening was at 8:00, but what that really meant was the doors would be unlocked at 8 and then they would take over an hour to let people in, check your name off on the pre-purchased ticket list, and pack the place. Then Summer got up and did her intro. I asked what she was working on now and she said she was about to start filming a movie called “The Initiation of Sarah.” Though looking it up now I see that it is a remake of a 1978 horror movie and is being remade by the "ABC Family" cable channel.

The Summer left and they showed a 15 minute preview of a new sci-fi animated movie coming out called Renaissance. It is all black and white, black and white as in no shades of grey. Looks like it might be okay, I’d be willing to shell out a few bucks to see it.

Then they announced there would be a 30 minute intermission before the film and that their fully stocked bar was open. I think a lot of people complained that it was now about 10:00 for a movie that was supposed to have started at 8. I think some people went up and asked for their money back at this point. A few minutes later the manager came on and said they were starting the movie. I do have to say that seeing the movie with a room full of browncoats (Firefly/Serenity fans) is just awesome. I had seen the movie once before as a sneak peak before it was released with fans it was awesome then too.

Command & Conquer 3

I just heard that EA is going ahead with “Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars.” We were told back before they shut down Westwood Studios that their marketing department had concluded that “Tiberium Twilight” wasn’t a good name in case you were wondering why it changed.

Here is a link to scans from the upcoming PC Gamer with more pictures.

First off I don’t remember Mark Scaggs ever being the “Guiding Light” behind the C&C franchise. Brett Sperry, Adam Isgreen and Joe Bostic were the Guiding Light behind the series. You can tell as C&C Generals was the first product in the C&C line that neither worked on and it suffered. It was kind of boring and just wasn’t that much fun. Adam was working at EA but is now over at Petroglyph with Joe Bostic having just finished Star Wars: Empire at War.

The article also points out that the Red Alert universe and the C&C universe are different. Not completely true either. The Red Alert universe is the alternate past where Einstein invented a time machine and stopped Hitler (and the rest of Germany) from rising to power and instead Russia became the enemy of World War II. This alternate past leads to the alternate future of the C&C universe.

And don’t you just love all the heaped on BS talk about “re-imagining the universe and take it to a level you don’t usually see with a game property”?

No mention of the Aliens. You have learned by now that is what is going on haven’t you? Tiberium is how the aliens are terraforming earth to suit them. The third game was supposed to be the final battle when the aliens show up in force to clean up the planets pesky infestation. I also notice the other player in the game isn’t mentioned, C.A.B.A.L. the evil AI that has taken over Nod in the last C&C expansion pack. C.A.B.A.L. was my favorite.

With EA at the helm of the franchise now the world will never see C&C: Continuum, the FPS-ish MMORPG set in the C&C universe. But after what they twisted Earth & Beyond into that is probably a good thing.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

I Hate Not Being Uber

I gave up on PvP in WoW. I reached a platau of how high I can go on rank based on my play times. Because I live in Australia I get home about midnight server time on weekdays. If I am lucky I can get into a battleground, sometimes two. Most nights it’s none. I get a few on the weekend but it just isn’t enough for me to get any higher in rank.

The weekends are really my only shot at raiding as well. I just feel like such a damn gimp in the game. All my guildmates are decked out in high end gear and I got crap. Back in Everquest I was one of the top 10 equipped rogues across ALL SERVERS, in WoW I suck. Both my characters suck. I switched to the priest to even have a shot at getting groups which has actually worked, but it doesn’t get me raiding end-game content which is where all the loot and fun is.

I got into a raid the other night where after an hour and a half of prep, we spend another hour taking 3 tried to finally kill a mob my guild regularly kills with their twink characters. The one time I was in this zone with my guild we cleared the whole zone in less than the time it took for this raid to kill one boss.

I was grouped with three guildmates and two pick-ups tonight in Stratholm on a Baron run. One of the two pick-ups said, “Afterlife? Isn’t that an uber guild?”

I gave my, “I live in Australia and can’t raid” excuse. The hunter pointed out that he was a member of GTOAL (Ghetto Twinks of Afterlife) and it was his main rogue that was uber. And the warrior noted that he just started playing again after a long absence.

Now I can’t say we let the guild down because they didn’t. It was entirely my fault. First I accidentally aggro’ed a bunch of mobs as we came out of one of the ziggurats. I sat down on the steps to drink, they moved forward, I got up to go heal them and somehow had aggro from behind. It caused us to wipe.

Then I let myself die twice more because I wasn’t paying attention to my own hit points. I am so used to just paying attention to CT_Raid group boxes which shows my character down with the other people in the various groups that I am not used to having to look up at my portrait to watch my own health. Luckily one of the pick-ups was a paladin who could res me.

We still killed the baron and such but it just seemed like we took forever and we certainly weren’t uber about it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Audio Books on Itunes

I am downloading my first purchase from Itunes right now. It’s the audio version of V for Vendetta. I am curious how close it is to Alan Moore’s original graphic novel verses the movie which I still haven’t seen. I heard from a lot of people that it stuck very close to the source material. I also heard that Alan Moore, who is no fan of the movie industry (and who would be after what they did to “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”?) has criticized them for dumbing it down. Supposedly he talked about it on a BBC show, but I haven’t been able to find it on the internet. The BBC site won’t let you view it outside of the UK and the source I heard it from had it up on YourTube but it now says the movie was taken down by the poster.

I haven’t downloaded anything before because I like having a physical, tangible item that I can actually hold in my hands. But I am not able to get any unabridged audio books here in Australia. They do sell them they are just hideously expensive.

One thing that really annoyed me is when I went to create my account it has me enter all my personal information and then at the end when I’m entering my credit card’s billing address I find that it is defaulted to the US. So I click the “out side the US link” and pick Australia and it resets the whole thing! I’m back at the Itunes home page. I can understand that the Australian home page is different from the US home page, prices are probably different, etc. But why do I now have start over with the whole account creation thing? And even if there is some really good reason why it couldn’t keep the information I had already entered before passing me to the Australian site, which I don’t believe couldn’t be worked out if they were willing to do the work and code it, WHY THE HELL DIDN’T THEY ASK ME WHAT COUNTRY I WAS IN TO START WITH!!!

Hey! It’s almost done. Bye!

Poking Around

So just about an hour poking around in the blog's template. I managed to shrink the blank edges, delete the lines around the title and around pictures in the posts. All very obvious once I figured out where to look.

I also created a graphic for the left edge. Actually I created two. I'm not going to use either. I am going to go back to my original idea but all the pieces of that are saved on my hard drive at work.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Cuz I'm a Blonde Yah Yah Yaah

Well here it is, me as a blonde. The curl still isn't all the way back and obviously its still withing the goofy length range. I'm also smiling, something somewhat rare in a picture of me. Completly ruins my dark and mysterious image.

I actually appear to be having a 'blonde moment'. I have put up a new image over on the right but it is still showing the old one. I've never had it saved as the normal Blogger profile picture because it messes up the drop shadow. I don’t remember how it messed it up, just that it does… yeah blonde.

Anyway, I have the new picture as part of my profile. Now if I look at my profile it shows the new picture but not when where it displays that part of my profile over on the right. I could just overwrite the old file with the new picture, but that leads me to my second problem. My website where I host my pictures keeps going down. I am just going to mess with it for a few more minutes. If the new picture isn't over there, I gave up and went to bed.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Oblivion Topless Mod

Well forget about paying a few dollars for a new horse model in Oblivion that I brought up a few days ago. We now have the inevitable, user created, free to download, Oblivion Topless Mod! I don’t have the game myself so I can’t try it out and haven’t found any screenshots, though that could be because I haven’t actually looked. Not to say I won’t look, just haven’t done so yet…

The comment thread was interesting the way it quickly dissolved into a froth of 12 year old name calling.

Anyway I have to run, I have to go alert Jack Thompson.

Rambling about E3, My Hair, and WoW

E3 I found out this morning that I will indeed be part of the team going to E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) next month. E3 is the place where all the big companies make all their really big announcements and where we will be showing off our game to the press for the first time. We should have a web site up in the next couple of weeks.

The story behind all that is pretty cool. Since we still haven’t signed a publisher we haven’t made the final milestone payment to Epic for use of the Unreal3 engine. Until we do that we weren’t allowed to show any screenshots to the press. But at the Game Developer’s Conference last month the Epic guys came and had a look at the game where we were showing it behind closed doors. They were very impressed. They especially like the fact that it is something different than what everybody else is doing with their engine, in other words not another First-Person Shooter. They asked why we weren’t showing it off more. We told them because in their contract they said we weren’t allowed to. So they told us they would wave that stipulation and to go ahead and show it off as much as we want.

I will also be doing some panel stuff for the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) at the Supanova pop culture expo (sci-fi and comic book convention) later this month. I’ve gone the previous two years and it’s pretty small. After you’ve been to the San Diego Comic Con everything else pales in comparison. It does look like they have a couple of cool guests this year, like Summer Glau aka River from Firefly & Serenity.

The reactions I’ve been getting to the new blonde hair at work have been all over the board. Just when I think the initial shock is over I run into somebody who just hasn’t happened to see me yet and I get to go through it again. I wore it back in a pony tail today and although it looked really good from the font, it still isn’t long enough to be pulled back. The top hair doesn’t quite reach and the rest of it is only long enough to stick straight out from the back of my head. The odd thing is I suddenly seem to be in the ‘the secret female hair club.’ I keep getting into these intimate conversations with women about secret hair stuff and stylist gossip. Now remember I used to have hair down to my waist but I never was privy to this club before. I’m a little scared actually.

I started to try and take a few pictures and found out that my new expensive digital camera doesn’t have any sort of timer function. I also realized I hadn’t charged the thing since I went off on vacation to Brampton Island back in late October. It had just enough power to copy off all the pictures of that vacation and my trip to San Diego and home to Vegas over Christmas.

I was bored out of my skull tonight in WoW with nothing to do but run laps around Iron Forge while waiting in the queue for one of the battlegrounds. I get so depressed looking at all the cool gear my friends in the guild have and hearing about all the things they are doing. Hardly anybody I know is online by the time I get home or has gone over and is playing horde now.

I did get to go to Zul’Grub with a friend, but only to kill one boss and then they went to kill one of the outdoor dragons which I can’t do because the mob is still worth DKP to my guild. We aren’t allowed to participate in events worth DKP outside the guild.

Monday, April 03, 2006

N3VRF41L Publishing

Auran is in the news with the upcoming launch of N3VRF41L Publishing at next month’s E3. Neverfail was the name of an Auran Executive’s bottled water company, the first such company in Australia. Why ‘leet speak’? I think we’ve all been afraid to ask.

The article is in regards to the Australian government’s lackluster and sluggish response to the needs of the Australian game industry. They make a lot of comparison to the large incentives (tax concessions and other handouts) given to the poorly performing Australian film industry and saying the well performing Australian game industry should be given just as much.

Instead the eroding Australian dollar, excessive taxes, and heavy competition from overseas is turning the Australian game industry into “digital sweatshops” with uncertain cash flow, no intellectual property and narrow margins. The last few months have seen several product cancellations, once prominent Australian developers close their doors and a few more studios that are on the chopping block after having been acquired by larger multinationals.

Then there is this bit:
One exception to that rule is N3VRF41L Publishing, a new operation to be launched next month at the E3 games show in Los Angeles. Backed by Auran Games boss Tony Hilliam, it plans to create its own intellectual property and distribute online.
You can read the full article here.

Mario as Art

I stumbled onto this backwards and the actual site which I’ll link at the bottom of this has the last part first, one of the drawbacks of the ‘top to bottom’ format.

The story in order is that an artist who goes by the name of Poster Child believes that public spaces (sidewalks, parks, etc) have been taken over by ads, and so he battles this creeping loss of public spaces by placing his art in similar situations. He came up with the idea of making the Question Boxes from the Mario games and placing them around town. Some of them they filled with power-ups, cardboard cuts of the coins, flowers and mushrooms from the games.

It looks like the idea started to catch on and other people started doing the same. There are some wonderful pictures of the boxes hanging from light poles, trees, and other places. These are pictures from various places in the United States, Canada and even the United Kingdom.

Then things went bad. Five high school girls put up about 17 Question Blocks around the downtown area of Ravenna Ohio. Somebody called the police about a “suspicious package” on the steps of the Immaculate Conception Church and while the sheriff's department was investigating a few other calls came in about similar packages. Then the Hazardous Material Unit and the Bomb Squad were called in. The girls are facing possible criminal charges.

Here is the link which has links to the news story as well.

I love the whole retro 8-bit Mario as art thing. Here is an older link to some students who made Mario murals on the windows of the E2 building at UCSC using Post-It notes last year.

On a musical front here is a link to a cappella performance of various Nintendo themes. When this went around our office last year I found the name of the group performing it and unfortunately I can’t find it now. I think it’s really crappy that all these sites that I’ve found that host the video don’t list who they are. While searching for the name of the group I did find Maria & Zelda: Big Band Live.

I would love some of these Mario toys. The audio keychain and fridge magnets are especially cool. I’ve seen the little dioramas at one of the local comic shops but unless I got it wrong they were asking that price for one, where on J-List that is the price for the set.

Sunday, April 02, 2006


There has been a lot of talk about the latest game in the Elder Scrolls series: Oblivion. I don’t really have any desire to play it myself. I played a bit of the previous game, Marrowind and it just felt too lonely. This was back when I was really into Everquest. I thought the game was just crying out to be multi-player and I was really surprised to see that Oblivion wasn’t. Connie says she played Daggerfall, the one before Marrowind, and played it forever and ever and ever, but she had the same reaction to Marrowind that I did. She was also into Everquest by that time.

But a lot of people are talking about how much they like Oblivion and not minding that it isn’t multi-player. The funny thing is they won’t stop talking about it to each other. My friend’s World of Warcraft guild has a vent channel dedicated to it so that they can talk to each other while they are playing Oblivion. It’s almost like that once you have experienced the ‘shared experience’ you can’t go back to just doing it all alone regardless of how they deny the fact.

I am really curious to know if WoW’s online numbers were effected by the games release. To see if all those people who are complaining in the forums about the end game stopped playing WoW for Oblivion. I also wonder how long Oblivion would satisfy those people before they came back to WoW? How many people find Oblivion too lonely the way I did with Marrowind?

All the above used to be a lot longer and way more detailed. I went into the other types of games I played, talking about what type of commitment some games require, comparing game experiences, etc. But when I read it all back to myself I could see that it would need a good deal of editing and cleaning up to read worth a damn. And I didn’t feel like doing that so I just cut it down.

Oh, I also dyed my hair blonde this weekend. It took two treatments and my the coloring to do it and my scalp feels like it has been sunburned. So far everybody that has seen it thinks it should be a bit warmer, more gold. There has been some mention that I look a bit like Lucius Malfoy, Draco’s Dad in the Harry Potter movies. I think that’s just because the ‘treatment’ straightened out my hair quite a bit and it will take a few days before my natural curls comes back. I’ll take and post pictures then.