Thursday, July 17, 2008

Who Watches the Watchmen... Trailer

A trailer for next year's Watchmen movie just went up. It's good. It's REAL GOOD!

I've been spreading the graphic novel around the office, addicting more and more people. When Brad, who just finished reading it for the first time, saw the trailer his comment was, "I don’t know if I have ever had such a high pixels to smile ratio."

I am worried that we are getting our expectations up too high, but personally, I just can't help it.

The old Watchmen movie site now has a fancy, animated 'real site' front end. The old site with the ongoing video journals is listed as the "Production Diary" under the menu. The fourth one, talking to Dave Gibbons, just went up last week.

'Watchmen': An Exclusive First Look - Entertainment Weekly article that has some good stuff on the upcoming movie including some tidbits about what removed and added from the original story.

EXCLUSIVE: Zack Snyder Reveals Secrets In ‘Watchmen’ Trailer - MTV Movies Blog interview with Zach Snyder about Watchmen.

Watchmen Motion Comic! - Warner Premiere’s Motion Comics were just announced. There will be 12 Watchmen episodes, one for each comic issue. Not really sure about the pricing thing, the text in the article implies they are available on Entertainment Weekly's website for free now and then you can buy them from iTunes in August. But I downloaded the first episode for free from iTunes yesterday.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Joseph Hewitt's Ataraxia Theatre

I was Googling somebody today, and then decided to Google myself. I found a few other Joseph Hewitt's but half-way down the page I found "Joseph Hewitt's Ataraxia Theatre." I left a comment on his latest comic:
Dear Joseph Hewitt.
Hi, My name is Joseph Hewitt. If by chance you are me from the future, please start dishing on the information. If you are me from the past, oh boy do I have some things to tell you. If you are me from an alternate reality, don’t bother asking me to switch with you. No way I’m doing that again!
I wonder if he has my joystick (You'd get that joke if you've keeping up with my blog) Actually, Google gave me the link to his old site which points to the new one. I've only read a few of his comics because I'm at work, but there was something about comic books and games. Very scary.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Joss Whedon's "Dr. Horrible"

I had this little bit of Joss Whedon news passed along to me today.
A letter from Joss Whedon:

Dear Friends,

At last the time has come to reveal to you our Master Plan. BEWARE! Those with weak hearts should log off lest they be terrified by the twisted genius of our schemes! Also pregnant women and the elderly should consider reading only certain sentences. Do not mix with other blogs. Do not operate heavy machinery while reading this blog. You must be this tall to read. ‘Kay?

It is time for us to change the face of Show Business as we know it. You know the old adage, “It’s Show Business – not Show Friends”? Well now it’s Show Friends. We did that. To Show Business. To show Show Business we mean business. (Also, there are now other businesses like it.)


"Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog" will be streamed, LIVE (that part’s not true), FREE (sadly, that part is) right on, in mid-July. Specifically:

ACT ONE (Wheee!) will go up Tuesday July 15th.

ACT TWO (OMG!) will go up Thursday July 17th.

ACT THREE (Denouement!) will go up Saturday July 19th.

All acts will stay up until midnight Sunday July 20th. Then they will vanish into the night, like a phantom (but not THE Phantom – that’s still playing. Like, everywhere.)

And now to answers a few Frequently (soon to be) Asked Questions:

1) Why, Joss? Why? Why now, why free, why us?

Once upon a time, all the writers in the forest got very mad with the Forest Kings and declared a work-stoppage. The forest creatures were all sad; the mushrooms did not dance, the elderberries gave no juice for the festival wines, and the Teamsters were kinda pissed. (They were very polite about it, though.) During this work-stoppage, many writers tried to form partnerships for outside funding to create new work that circumvented the Forest King system.

Frustrated with the lack of movement on that front, I finally decided to do something very ambitious, very exciting, very mid-life-crisisy. Aided only by everyone I had worked with, was related to or had ever met, I single-handedly created this unique little epic. A supervillain musical, of which, as we all know, there are far too few.

The idea was to make it on the fly, on the cheap – but to make it. To turn out a really thrilling, professionalish piece of entertainment specifically for the internet. To show how much could be done with very little. To show the world there is another way. To give the public (and in particular you guys) something for all your support and patience. And to make a lot of silly jokes. Actually, that sentence probably should have come first.

2) What happens when it goes away? Does it go to a happy farm for always like Fluffy did when mommy was crying and the neighbor kept washing his fender?

No, Dr horrible will live on. We intend to make it available for download soon after it’s published. This would be for a nominal fee, which we’re hoping people will embrace instead of getting all piratey. We have big dreams, people, and one of them is paying our crew.

And somewhat later, we will put the complete short epic out on DVD – with the finest and bravest extras in all the land. We’ll go into greater detail about that at Comiccon, but we’re changing the face of Show Friendliness a second time with that crazy DVD.

3) Joss, you are so kind, and generous, and your forehead is like, huge, like SCARY, like I think I can see Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint hanging off it… what can WE do to help this musical extravanganza?

What you always do, peeps! What you’re already doing. Spread the word. Rock some banners, widgets, diggs… let people know who wouldn’t ordinarily know. It wouldn’t hurt if this really was an event. Good for the business, good for the community – communitIES: Hollywood, internet, artists around the world, comic-book fans, musical fans (and even the rather vocal community of people who hate both but will still dig on this). Proving we can turn Dr Horrible into a viable economic proposition as well as an awesome goof will only inspire more people to lay themselves out in the same way. It’s time for the dissemination of the artistic process. Create more for less. You are the ones that can make that happen.

Wow. I had no idea how important you guys were. I’m a little afraid of you.

4) Joss, do you ever answer a question simply or coherently?


There’ll be more questions, and more long, long answers, but for now I’m just excited that we’re actually making this happen. We (and a lot of other people -- gushing to commence soon) worked very hard on the show and we hope/think you guys will be pleased.

Until July 15th , I remain, yours truly, -j, of the firm j, j, m & z.
Here is the link to "Dr. Horrible: The Sing Along Blog." There is even a preview movie there, but by the time you read this Act I should already be live. But catch it quick before it comes down on the 20th.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Out of the Mouths of Children

Speaking of Eric #1. I just read that Star Trek: The Experience in the Las Vegas Hilton is closing. Its one of those motion simulator rides, but it has a cool set-up. You stand in line in front of the doors like a normal motion simulator, but then suddenly the lights go off and there is smoke and special effects and you find yourself in the transporter room of the Star Ship Enterprise. A uniformed Star Fleet officer leads everybody to the bridge and then goes into his story about the evil bad guy has traveled back in time to kill a relative of Captain Picard so that Picard will never be born. One of the people in the group is supposed to be said relative.

At the time my friend Eric #1's son is pretty young. He looks up at his dad and says with all sincerity, "Daddy, How are we going to get home?"

That just said it all. For us it was an bit of polish on a silly motion simulator. Hell, Eric Randall* was playing the part of the Star Fleet Officer. For Justin, it was REAL!

Man, what I wouldn't give for a game that captured an an ounce of that type of magic.

This Title Sucks (I'll patch it later)

Battlefield: Bad Company garnered a bit of controversy a little while ago when Electronic Arts announced that you could buy extra weapons online. The sin being two-fold; one that you can "buy power" and the second being you just paid full retail price for the game but they still want to squeeze some more money out of you. There was a call for a boycott of the game by Sarcastic Gamer that was echoed around for awhile. They also put a parody video up which you can find here. Then I guess they got a little boycott happy and called for a boycott of their boycott. Funny stuff.

Well, then it turns out that you don't actually have to pay for the weapon unlocks. IGN talked with Karl-Magnus Troedsson, Senior Producer at DICE, about what marketing hoops you have to go through to get the extra weapons. I still call foul. But hey, Jeremy bought the game not me.

But that's not why I called you all here today. Jeremy pops it into the console and fires it up but can't play it because it requires a firmware update to the console. That is something which they expect you to download via XBox Live. Unfortunately, we don't have the XBox hooked up to the internet. Granted the game does have the XBox Live logo on it, but it isn't online only, it also features the single player campaign which is what he wanted to play.

We do have an internet connection in the house; so we could hook it up, sign up for an XBox Live account and get the update. What about the poor smuck who doesn't have an internet connection? I guess you could take it to some place that does repairs and get the update. Does that seem right? If my PC game requires some new version of DirectX it is included on the disc. Should you expect the same from your console game?

The whole situation reminded me that ages ago we were talking about how console games were such higher quality than PC games; because, once the game was released you couldn't patch it. The game had to be extensively tested because it really had to ship bug free. Not really had to as in what we all say to each other when we are developing the game, but really as in no bugs. When Microsoft announced the first XBox we all joked that because they were Microsoft, they would try and patch the games. Ha ha ha... ahem, I don't remember the actual jokes, but I'm sure they were amusing.

But look what has happened! We are here now! Console games are just like PC games expecting you to download not only patches to the games but to the system itself! On one hand, "Yah, we can fix problems" but on the other hand my Nintendo Entertainment System never required a patch.

Friday, July 04, 2008

2008: The First Six Months

I thought this was gonna be a good year, but here at the halfway point I have to say this is the worse year I've had in a long time. Work is going okay, but the rest of it sucks.

Besides stuff that went down earlier this year here is some of the new stuff from the last few weeks. I same "some" because there were a few other things that I just don't feel like sharing.

Renters of my house in Vegas have destroyed the jacuzzi, the frame is falling apart now. Another one of the air conditioners has died as well as the refrigerator. That was a fair bit of money on top of the $200 dollars I lose every month anyway because of what they pay in rent versus my mortgage payments.

I got into a car accident last night, busted up the front, passenger side of the car. I'm sure that is going to cost another nice bit of change.

Love life is non-existent again. There was the whole Original Girl, Racist Girl and Other Girl "thing" but that is pretty much over. Thankfully. Yes, I do actually know their names, that is just what I call them in my head. I am bad with names but not THAT bad... okay I can't remember Other Girl's name, but two out of three isn't bad!Joseph Circa 94-95To avoid this being a complete downer post, I present you with this picture circa 1994-95ish for your amusement. It was sent to me by my long time friend, the lovely Kristina, as payback. I made fun of her when she asked if they had the Fourth of July in Australia. I told her "No, the calendar here goes July 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 5th..."

Check out that hair though, sigh. All my power went away when I cut it. I have dated this picture in my own time line; which I can only remember in terms of who I was dating, I put this squarely between Kia and Dawn.

Dawn if you're reading this, sorry I let you down. Hell, this whole shit parade I'm going through now may be me paying off the karma I owe you.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

End of the Age of Conan

Any new, full blown, MMO these days has to pack a lot of punch at launch because of the benchmark set by World of Warcraft. I started playing Age of Conan with low expectations and I really didn’t want to let WoW affect what I thought of the game. At first it didn't appear to be that bad. But as I learned a long time ago, when you have to say something "isn't that bad" it usually is. This is the case with AoC. And remember when reading this that this is Funcom’s second MMO so they should have known better.

It’s a nice start but really could have used some more attention to detail and at least another 6 months in the oven. The interface is horrid, both artistically and functionally. Hey, lets hide the instance menu so new players can't figure out why they can't see their friends even though they are standing in the exact same spot on the map. Two minutes don't go by in chat without somebody asking questions about why they can't see their friend who is in the same place.

The quest system really sucks; I don't want to have to read all those chunks of text constantly clicking a choice of irrelevant responses to get to the next chunk of poorly written text. Really, when it comes to writing dialog for quests, less is more. Really, trust me on that one. At first when the quest text was spoken by the NPC it was tolerable. But even before the spoken text ran out I was just rapidly clicking on the first response option just to get to the end. “Bla bla bla, click, bla bla bla, click, bla bla bla, click, bla bla bla, click, bla bla bla, OH COME ON AREADY CLICK CLICK CLICK! bla bla bla kill ten rats.”

The whole ability system isn't explained well and I'm still not sure about how some of the ones on my assassin work damage-wise. The talents pools seem excessive to the point that I don't really care about them at all. Again take note future designers, less is more. Maybe as I neared the later levels (and ran out of content) I would get more out of them.

Now all this caps with the male versus female damage issue. It was recently addressed in their forums by one of the game designers. Their forums are still only viewable by subscribers, I’ll reprint the post for you.
My fellow Hyborian Adventurers ...

Last week I promised that I would do my best to have a more detailed update on the issue about Male vs. Female attack speed/damage ready by today. It’s quite possible that not everyone will be thrilled by what this update contains but you as a community deserve to know both what’s causing it, why it’s taking us this long to fix it, and how we plan on fixing it.

Let me begin with saying “yes, we here at Funcom agree with you; this is an unacceptable bug”. We never intended for any character to be stronger/weaker than another based on its gender, and we have been working on making the necessary adjustments to correct this issue for quite some time already.

Now, in our game, we have two primary sources of damage; ‘normal’ damage, commonly referred to as “white damage”, and ‘combo’ damage. Making the white damage equal for both Male and Female characters is, in this context, a fairly simple task and something we’ve already done and which should already have been patched out to Live.

For future reference, when I say that it was a fairly simple task to fix it, we’re still talking about modifying, either through actually having an animator work on the animation resource itself or by having a BCC designer adjust the speed-scaling of said animation resource, of more than 150 unique animations. In addition, these animations are fairly “simple”; by which I mean that they are your ordinary attacks and don’t contain any flourishes, sequential blows or other “complicated” stuff.

However, if we move onto ‘combo’ damage, which is what is causing the notable part of this issue, there are suddenly several factors that come into play when determining the final damage. I won’t be wasting too much time in this update to go into detail about every factor, but to quickly list a few they would be stat/modifier/multiplier (which in turn depends on class, level and weapon equipped), length of animation and, although irrelevant to this exact issue any longer, amount of steps in a combo sequence.

The main reason for the discrepancy in damage output that you’re seeing is that the length of an animation isn’t equal for both Male and Female characters in many cases. This is what we’re currently fixing, but there’s roughly 800 to 1000 animations in total that are involved here, and that they are significantly more “complex” than the ‘white damage’ animations mentioned above this naturally takes a lot more time.

Of course, once the length of the animations have been fully corrected/tweaked either by an animator or BCC designer then every rank (of every combo for every class) has to be re-balanced by the System Designers because, as I mentioned above, one of the factors that come into play when determining the combo damage is animation length.

I guess I should begin wrapping this up by now. I’m afraid I won’t be able to give you an exact date for when this issue will be fixed, but we’re working internally towards a goal of having everything finished during the next two to three work-weeks, depending on how much we need to re-adjust after the initial tweaking. This is including the majority of QA testing, which can be performed during the process as we’re working on a class-by-class basis. That being said, and even with on-going testing during this process, everything still needs to be verified by QA once more after we merge our changes into the system data to ensure that we’re not breaking anything else.

We will however not be patching this out to Live on a class-by-class basis, but rather in one big “collective” fix to all classes. I will make another promise right here and now though; I’ll be investigating whether or not we can introduce these changes to the public Test server (which Famine has promised everyone a bigger update on soon) at the earliest possible convenience.

I know that many of you will probably be disappointed to hear that it might take us as much as another three to four weeks to solve this issue, for which I can only apologize, but we want to make sure that we devote the amount of time that an issue of this magnitude and importance deserves rather than rush out a “quick fix” that might not work as well

And finally, I have to stress that even with our internal goal set and everything currently proceeding on schedule I cannot currently promise that this will be patched to Live at the projected date. There’s a lot of stuff that, while totally unrelated, might cause a certain patch to be delayed or even pushed out without containing this data. What I can promise though is to return with another update about a more specific patch date as soon as possible.

I hope that this information is what many of you have been asking for, and that I’ve been able to present you with answers to many of the questions you’ve had about this issue. On behalf of myself, everyone else directly involved on fixing this issue and Funcom as a company; thank you for reading!

Please feel free to further discuss this issue in the following thread:
Svein Erik "Sharum" Jenset
Striketeam Lead: BCC Design
Funcom Oslo AS
Now kudos for coming out and being open all that. But WTF!!! How does the length of the animation get tied to the damage formula at all?! No really, how does that happen? What was going on in the development process for this not to show up when they were fine tuning and balancing the combat system? Did they even make any attempts to balance the combat system? Did they even know that the animation length was tied into the system? Does this mean that if the Lead Artist didn't like something about an animation and told the animator to change something about it that the damage changes?

This whole thing was the final straw for my friend Cameron, who has played the game a lot more than me. Here is the text he sent when he canceled his subscription:
Your systems and balance are a complete joke. Your dungeon designs are antiquated at best and display a profound lack of testing or care given to the player experience. I cannot believe your systems even allow for a bug like "The Male vs Female attack-speed issue". The issue itself doesn't even affect me as I'm playing a male caster but the mere fact that what should be completely separate systems have such tightly coupled dependencies speaks volumes about your underlying core design and systems principals. I have no faith in your ability to deliver a fun and balanced gameplay experience.
I think that sums that up. Now let’s talk about me canceling. I can't because it says my 6 month subscription has expired. Wow, time flies when you are having fun. Seems like only a month ago. Oh wait, it appears to be fine when I log in from this computer... okay now its fine on the other computer too... Here is my cancel message:
I would say your game is poorly balanced, but that would imply there was some attempt to balance the game in the first place. Your interface and ability design is horrid; your quests are boring and way over written. The content is lacking, uninspired and buggy. The male/female damage issue is the final straw and shows that the flaws go all the way through to the core game design.
I also want to admit that the irony of complaining about the lack of quality control in a post that I myself am too lazy to proof read isn't lost on me.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Bikini Clad Stripper Charity Car Wash

I wanted to post this last week, but when I reformatted my other computer's hard drive after the motherboard die I no longer had the software to get pictures off my cell phone. You can't just pull them off by plugging the phone into a USB port. I finally wound up emailing them to myself. I need a new phone anyway, this one is screwed. The SIM card keeps coming lose or something.

The story is that I was sleeping in weekend before last because; well because, as far as I'm concerned mornings are something that happens to other people. My phone woke me with a text message from my friend Daniel with the following picture:

Daniel lives in the apartments next door to the Doll House strip club, errr I mean Doll House Gentleman's Club. And when I say next door I mean his apartments are literally the next door down. His message was informing me that the Doll House was having a bikini car wash for charity. The picture is the view from his apartment window that morning.

Now I had been complaining about needing to get my car washed since moving to Perth back in February. It was clean when I put in on the train in Brisbane but they had the windows open at some point and the interior is filthy. I should also explain my idea of getting the car washed is handing somebody a small sum of money, sitting around for awhile listening to an audio book on my iPod, and then having a beeper go off signaling me that my car is all shiny and clean.

I do have a business card of what appears to be the only car detailing place in Perth. It is a normal spray wash car wash place where you feed in coins and then get to play with the big spray gun. Except you pay them twice as much money as I'm used to and they have all the fun with the spray gun instead of you. I am to the point that I don't care and am more than willing to pay them, but it has rained every weekend for as long as I can remember. I should also point out that the covered parking spot for the house I am renting doesn't stick out far enough to cover the whole car so the driver's side gets rained on. Why would you build a covered extension over the car port but stop two feet short of the far edge?

Who cares, back to the strippers... I was out of bed, showered, dressed and down there with my car in record time. They also had hot dogs on the BBQ. What more could you ask for?

Granted the car wash sucked, they didn't do the interior, and it rained again this last weekend so the car is still filthy. But hey it was for charity!