Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Are we going to get another Marvel vs. Cryptic?

I was browsing through the Champion's Online forums today and I stumbled on an interesting post that got me thinking.

•Cryptic studios announced their new game, "City of Heroes" in mid-2001. It is supposed to be released mid-2002.
California-based Cryptic Studios has announced its upcoming online role-playing game, City of Heroes. The comic-book-style game lets players assume the role of a superhero and fight a variety of villains in a 3D virtual world. City of Heroes is scheduled for release in mid-2002. more...

•Cryptic studios ships "City of Heroes" April 28th, 2004. Just pointing those extra 3 years as an example for people still thinking they can ship the next ultimate MMO in a fraction of the time it has taken to develop any other even semi-successful MMO.
NCsoft announced today that City of Heroes has reached gold master status in North America and will soon be on its way to retailers in the United States and Canada. The official launch date for City of Heroes is April 28th 2004. more...

•Marvel sues Cryptic and their Publisher, NC Soft, because you can make characters in "City of Heroes" that violate their trademark and look too much like Marvel characters.
Marvel Enterprises is suing two firms behind a computer superhero role-playing game it claims allows players to make virtual characters that are too similar to "The Hulk," "X-Men" and other heroes in the comic book company's stable. more...

•Marvel's Lawsuit against Cryptic and NC Soft is dropped.
AUSTIN, Texas, December 14, 2005—Marvel Entertainment, Inc., NCsoft® Corporation, NC Interactive, Inc. and Cryptic Studios™, Inc. are pleased to announce today that they have amicably settled all claims brought by Marvel and all claims brought by NCsoft, NC Interactive, Inc. and Cryptic Studios, Inc. more...

•Cryptic announces they are now making the "Marvel Universe MMO."
Microsoft Game Studios today announced at X06 that Cryptic Studios has been chosen to be the developer of Marvel Universe Online. This MMO based on the Marvel Universe will be exclusive to Xbox 360 and Windows Vista. more...

•Marvel Universe MMO canceled in 2008.
Marvel Universe Online (the heavily anticipated MMO based on the Marvel comic book universe) is officially dead, according to Shane Kim, the Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Game Studios.
According to Kim, the title was canceled due to commercial considerations and a general feeling that Microsoft and MMO developer Cryptic simply couldn’t compete in the subscription-based MMO market. more...

•Cryptic announces "Champions Online" a Super-Hero based MMO based on the pen and paper roll-playing game, "Champions."
LOS GATOS, CA – February 20, 2008 – Cryptic Studios™, one of the leading independent developers of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs), announced today Champions Online™, their first ever self-developed and self-published MMORPG. Champions Online, based on the popular pen-and-paper Champions RPG, will give players the power of total customization of their hero experience while they explore a vast universe of richly detailed 3D environments. Champions Online is slated for release in Spring 2009. more...

•Players can make super-heroes that look even more like trademarked Marvel characters in "Champion Online." more...

I should admit here that I haven't gotten to play Champion's Online yet. I am signed up for the Head Start Weekend, even though the process of signing up for that doesn't tell me where to get the game client. I guess they are assuming I was involved with the beta and know to download it from Gamespy. I've asked in the forums and that seems to be the general consensus, judging from the one person who answered my post so far.

Cambria, the user who created all those X-Men and other character knock-offs in the beta says that she knows it is against the rules, but she just creates them, takes pictures of them, and then deletes the characters. There are also posts on the forums about people who have had characters in the beta that have had characters changed or deleted by Cryptic staff. So they do appear to trying to keep a lid on it to avoid more legal trouble. But names weren't the problem before, it was that the characters you could make in City of Heroes could look like Marvel's characters.

Looking through Terms of Service, Rule 10-A spells out the usual, character name limitations. The odd thing here is rule 10-A-XI "That incorporates titles, which include, without limitation, ‘rank’ titles (e.g., "GeneralJoe"), monarchistic or fantasy titles (e.g., "KingRichard")." That is odd, rank names fit into the super-hero genre and wouldn’t confuse people as to importance as it would in a fantasy game. In other words "General Chaos" would fit into a super-hero world without anybody thinking he really was a general, unlike "General Sentris" in a fantasy world where people might think I was actually a general in the game.

Sorry, moving on. What I haven’t found in their Terms of Service is any restrictions on "likeness." This combined with the vague wording of rule 10-A-V, "That is, contains, or is substantially similar to a trademark or service mark, whether registered or not, or may otherwise cause confusion." This means that I can make a big, green, muscle bound character with purple shorts and name him The Bulk. Okay, maybe rule 10-A-V would still get me on that one with its "may otherwise cause confusion." But what if I created an exact visual knockoff of Wolverine and just named him Badgerboy? or Fred?

A somewhat related tangent: Marvel Comics got a little upset with David Sim when he had Wolveroach on the cover of three issues of Cerebus the Aardvark.The Cockroach was a character he used to parody other comic characters starting with Batman. He then morphed into various other characters, one being a parody of Wolverine. Marvel got irritated that he had several issues with Wolveroach on the cover where customers could easily be confused and think they were buying a Marvel comic about Wolverine.

The comic cover thing isn't quite the same thing unless they put some character's on the box that look like Marvel characters. But, I do wonder how Marvel is going to react to this ability to make characters that look even more like their characters than they did in City of Heroes, regardless of Cryptic's naming policy.

Taboo Tuesday

My evil twin from an alternate universe, Matthew Ford, is making a big push on his FREE indie game today. The game is called Taboo Snaps and it is a wacky, somewhat perverted, spoof on Fantasy Island. You play Mr. Forke's sidekick Taboo and you assignment is to travel around Ecstasy Island, via secret underground tunnels, and take photographs of island's guests who just happen to be hot models. The hot models being your choice of Women, Men, or Women & Men. Your get to select your preference before you start.

Explore Ecstasy Island and snap pictures of sexy models. See thousands of real, top-quality photos of professional models, celebrities, and performers. Score points and grab powerups to expand your abilities. Fun for every skill level-- go mellow and slow, or eat a few magic mushrooms, speed things up, and dodge the 80's-era arcade hazards. Taboo Snaps is free to play, thanks to our advertising sponsors and photographers!

"Who in my generation didn't wonder what Mr. Roarke and Tattoo were really up to on Fantasy Island? Taboo Snaps made me laugh like crazy, and the women are gorgeous. And it's free, so what's not to like? Good times."

"I've never played anything like Taboo Snaps! I'm not a hardcore gamer now but I loved the 80's arcade games like Pac-Man, Centipede, Dig-Dug, Asteroids, and Space Invaders, and this game gives tribute to them all in a hilarious mash-up."

"For all you guys whose hormones forced you to shelve Pokemon Snap in favor of Dead Or Alive Beach Volleyball, a new Flash game comes to your rescue. In Taboo Snaps you explore a lush island to get the perfect picture not of Picachu, but of luscious girls in hot clothes-- and sometimes out of their clothes. Fun, hot, and silly. Now: where can I get a DVD of Fantasy Island??"

"If you remember the silly, smutty classic Leisure Suit Larry games, give Taboo Snaps a try. It's pretty sweet to once again have a few harmless laughs thanks to its zany characters and a bit of good old T&A. And one up on old Larry-- for those of you who want beefcake, you can pick a photoset chock full of hot guys instead! Ahh, equal opportunity sexpolitation."
What are you waiting for? Go check it out! Did I mention HOT MODELS?!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Rules for Video Game Serial Keys

Here are the rules for serial keys used in the video game industry, please follow them when creating and using serial keys in your game.
1. Never used letters and numbers that can be mistaken for other letters and numbers. Basically this rule means do not use 0 (zero) and O (the letter 'oh') at all in your generated key. Yes, you can put a slash through the zero or something, so that it looks different from the letter 'O'. That doesn't help the person who has a key that doesn't have both for him to compare them. He just sees a circle for the 'O' and doesn't know that your zero has a slash. It is okay to use a 1 (one) and I (capital 'i'), because you can make each look distinct in a way that by just seeing one of the two, the user knows which one it is. The mistake would be to display either as just a vertical line that could either be a "1" or "I". Pay attention to your font!

2. Print the key in the package in a big, bold, readable by people with bad eyesight, font.

3. Put some spaces in the damn thing. Nobody wants to try type in a 25 digit long key without someway of breaking it into chunks the brain can deal with. Thats why 16 digit credit card numbers are printed on the card in 4 groups of 4 digits.

4. When displaying the key as the user types it in, also automatically space the digits out the same way that you've printed as per Rule 3. That way it's easier for the user to keep track of what they are typing in.

5. Don't use upper and lower case as separate digits in the key. Only use upper case, accept keyboard entry of upper or lowercase, but display uppercase on the screen regardless.

6. Always call it by the same name. Don't label it as something like "Product Registration Number" in the packaging and then have the game ask the user to enter his "Serial Key." (Generally, picking one name for something and sticking with it should be a no-brainer for your entire game, but some people need reminding. Not mentioning any names.)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Interzone Futebol Gets Publisher

Speaking of "my game", I just saw some goods news. The following press release went out the other day regarding Interzone Futebol signing a publishing deal with Gamigo AG.

Gamescom special - gamigo surprises with football MMOG

Hamburg, 21st August 2009 - gamigo AG, a leading European publisher of massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs), today unveiled the world's first football MMOG. gamigo and Interzone, the Australian developer of Futebol, signed the publishing contract this morning at gamescom Cologne. Futebol will be released in German and English by the end of this year, with French, Spanish, Turkish and Polish language versions following in 2010.

Fast-paced football action for up to 22 players

This realistic football simulation offers players exciting 11-a-side matches combined with action-packed gameplay. The intuitive controls are a snap for beginners while providing the finesse demanded by our more advanced gamers– they can even queue commands up to 4 seconds in advance, entirely eliminating latency issues. Players earn experience points not just by scoring goals, but by their overall performance in the match– players at all levels and in all positions will have a great time!
Even off the pitch, Futebol is amazing fun: a huge 3D city houses numerous NPCs from which the player can obtain upgrade items and customise their character’s appearance. gamigo and Interzone have even hidden mini games throughout the city for our gamers to play and earn rewards. Of course, Futebol includes the typical MMOG features with a football twist– a sophisticated skill system, clubs, leagues as well as a large 3D lobby in addition to a mass of other community features.

Exciting competitions across Europe

"Football is the national sport par excellence. With Futebol, we’re pleased to offer not only the world’s first free to play soccer MMOG, but also a lively MMO world based on the most popular sport in Europe." said Patrick Streppel, gamigo CMO. "With the launch of this title across Europe starting in Q4 this year we will surely inspire many football fans. We’re even more excited at the possibility of our players re-creating world cup matches on their PCs, come the competition next year in South Africa. "
Football fans hungry for this brand new football MMOG can register for the closed beta right now at www.futebol-game.com.
I know Marty and the gang have been working at this really hard at this since late last year and I know this is really good news for the guys still in Perth. Congrats everybody. Yay!

Though this just reminded me that I have to do my Australian taxes for last year ASAP!

Champions Online Doesn't Want My Money.

I am trying to buy a six month’s subscription for Champions Online, and upcoming MMO from Cryptic. They keep sending me emails saying if I pre-buy a discounted 6 month’s subscription I’ll get access some stuff including access to the Star Trek Online beta. Now, Champions was my game for a good number of years back in the late 80’s and I want to see Star Trek Online early. So I decided to spend money I really don’t have... except that they won’t let me.

It appears their web form has a little problem with the Google Chrome browser. The drop down fields for the Credit Card Type, Expiration Month, and Expiration Year are broken. They aren’t displaying correctly. They are left aligned on top of their text label and are non-interactive.

I went to the support page and one of the options it gave me was a link to the technical support forum. Only when I used the link it took me to a page that said I do not have permission to access this page. I went to enter a ticket and it wants me to pre-search their knowledge base before it allows me to do so, which is pretty standard now days. Only when I entered “google crome” as my search it comes up blank. Blank as in nothing is displayed.

I did finally get the purchase to work by loading it in Firefox. I also managed to enter a ticket saying that their purchase page is broken by searching for something else which gave me the option of creating a new ticket.

The whole thing just got me so frustrated which I suspect has a lot to do with the fact that I normally do this sort of thing for a living and not having a job at the moment. The standard operating procedure for this sort of thing in somebody else's game would be to make snide remarks to my co-workers along the lines of, "look those fools forgot to test their site on Crome!" And then see if we any of us knew somebody who worked there so we could curry favor by telling them about it. Or if was something in my own game, I could pick up the phone and light a fire under somebody; because not being to give the company money goes against what I would say is the number one goal of the company.

The next problem is that I am going to have to spend more money I shouldn't, back to the being out of work thing, on actually buying the game I just bought a subscription for. I have a feeling the guys at Game Stop will have a much easier time taking my money. Unless... I make it more difficult by bringing in my old X-Box, PS2, and Game Cube and trying to get store credit for them which I could use to by the game! Yeah, that should be tons of fun give me lots more to complain about!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

This is a Test Post

I am testing both the email to blog feature and also seeing if I manged to fix it so the entire post doesn't show up as a note on my Facebook page. 

I cannot find whatever I set up post my blog onto my Facebook page. I've looked through both the setting / options on Facebook and on Blogger and found nothing.  But I did find the site feed option and changed it from Full (entire blog post gets published by the feed) to short (only approximately 255 characters of the blog post gets published and you have to actually read the blog to read the rest of what ever I'm rambling on about.)

That is really all I wanted to say in this test post, but I want to go on a bit more so that I know for sure that it is only publishing the first 255 chatacters.  I don't really have anything else to say at this point, but I'm still typing. Hey, do you know how confusing / annoying some design documents are when the author doesn't differentiate "characters" (the avatar the player is controlling) with "characters" (letters of the alphabet)?  

"The character name can only be 14 characters long."  

"The first character in the character's name is automatically capitalized."

Those two lines should post in italic. And this line starts with a tab, wonder what that will do when it pasts. I have no idea but I am going to keep typing a little more to see if it just indents the first line or multiple lines.  I could start testing some HTML but I'm not feeling up to that much test at the moment.

The character vs. character thing is not as amusing as the designer author who keeps saying "Player" when he means "Character."  I don't care how realistic the game is, you should never damage the player or kill him off.  They tend to stop paying their subscription fee if you do that.  It is; however, okay to damage or kill the Player's character.  Those last two words should be in bold.

Okay, that enough typing for this test.  I now return you to you regular browsing.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Into the Deep, Dark, Burning Depths I Ventured...

I went dumpster diving today... okay, not in a dumpster but rather my storage bin here in Las Vegas. Half of the stuff in there is what I kept after moving out of my house before moving to San Diego and onto Australia about six years ago. The rest is the stuff I put in there after moving back from Australia.

There was one point, while climbing around in 400 degree heat at the very back of the "air cooled" storage bin, when a number boxes started to shift behind me, that I suddenly felt like I was going to pass out. I had a thought about how long it would take them to notice I was missing, find my dead and crushed body, and figure out how to get it out. Luckily, I had my 100 FL OZ, insulated, Rebel Convenience store cup full of diet Dr. Pepper within reach to provide some much need refreshment. That's right one HUNDRED fluid ounces!!! And it only costs me .99 cents to refill. Thats one dollar and seven cents if you include tax. Compare that to the cost of a normal, 12 fluid ounce, can of soda. To be fair it isn't quite as big as it looks; because, it has a very thick, foam insulated core. I can fill it in the morning and it still has ice left in it in the evening.

I was looking for some specific stuff, but also found some other cool stuff.

Neil Gaiman Self Portrait 1992 San Diego Comic-ConFirst up is a self-portrait that Neil Gaiman drew on the back of his name page at a 1993 (I think, though I might be off by a year either way) San Diego Comic-Con panel on Horror Fiction. During the panel another author started to drone on about some artsie-fartsie stuff and pretty much everybody else in the room started to nod off. I noticed that Neil had begun to doodle on the back of his name page; which was really just a folded piece of paper with his name printed on it so you knew who was who on the panel. After the panel was over the entire audience swarmed around him at the exit as he was leaving. I, however, went to see what he had been doodling and claimed this prize.

I also found some of my old Unicorn Software educational games. Pictured are "Animal Kingdom" (later renamed "Wonders of the Animal Kingdom"), "Kinderama" on the Amiga, and "MacRobots."I really only found the slipcover for "MacRobots." When I left Unicorn Software back in 1988 I wasn't allowed to take my copies of the games I had worked on so that is all I got. If I mess with the sidebar art anymore, I'll add these in along with "Adventures of Sinbad" and "Magical Myths" which I also have cover scans of. Though now that I look at them I see that they are photographs taken of the boxes lying on a table which puts them at odd angle.

I also found two other Unicorn related items. Both of these my Mother had been keeping. She gave them back to me just in time for me to bury them in storage with the rest of the junk I was keeping. The first thing pictured above is the Amiga advertisement on the inside back cover of the August 1987 Commodore magazine. That is the Amiga version of "Animal Kingdom" on the right-hand computer. The funny thing is, as I just took the magazine out of the scanner, I noticed the advertisement on the outside back cover is for the Amiga versions of SSI's "Phantasie III, The Wrath of Nikademus" and "Realms of Darkness." I'm not sure about Realms, but I know Westwood did the port of Wrath to the Amiga. It was an omen!

Then there is the Unicorn Software Educational Catalogue. It looked much better on the Amiga monitor I assure you. A lot better than you see it here where it is a picture (with flash) taken of the monitor, that was then printed out on the manual which then sat in a box for the last 20+ years only then to be rescanned into the computer. It is actually a fold out catalog and has two screen shots for each game. I'm looking at a few of them thinking, "Did I draw that... I think I drew that... Okay yeah, I remember drawing that!" The fox for Aesop's Fables looks especially good. If you look real closely at the bottom left of the cover, you can see some yellow pixels. That is where I signed my name, but it got cut off when they trimmed the picture to account for the curve of the monitor photo.

I also found my pillow which I am very happy about. It is one of those nice memory foam ones that is thicker along the top and bottom making it less likely that my arm will fall asleep if I rest it under the pillow while sleeping. Arm falling asleep is actually loss of blood circulation which isn't the same as me falling asleep. I probably didn't have to explain that, but the sentence felt odd.

Vectrex Video Game ConsoleMy Vectrex video game console was in there too, but I figured it was safer to leave it there. Especially since I had booby-trapped it to kill off any other tomb raiders who dared disturb my "Temple of Junk!"

The two cartridges I have for the Vectrex, a 'mega' cartridge with every game officially published and the unreleased prototype cartridge of "Dark Tower" are buried in one of the other boxes that I brought back from Australia. I had accidentally had them in with my desk supplies and moved them downunder with me. I was always afraid I was going to loose them, but I distinctly remember putting them in a box when I packed up in Perth.

Bob Jones, one of the very talented artist I worked with at Auran, also had a Vectrex in Australia. He had actually bought his new back when he was a kid. Unfortunately, it no longer worked and he just had it sitting on his desk as a show piece.

I never had any of the color overlays as I bought my system used from a guy who's name I believe is Sean Kelly. He used to have a newsletter that he would publish with antique video games for sale. I also think he was one of the guys who founded the classic video game convention that they used(?) to host here in Las Vegas. I was able to find links to Sean's website but it appears the site is no longer there.

One thing I didn't find was my Westwood jacket. We all had letterman's jackets made with the year we started on the sleeve. I know I didn't take it with me to Australia, so I hope it is in there somewhere.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Went Out Looking for Dollhouse on DVD/Blu-Ray

My first problem is very large and would probably make somebody’s career if they had a good literary agent and a couch I was comfortable on.

My first problem with the Dollhouse television series is I can’t decide on the format. (kinda like how the internet can't decided if it is "Dollhouse" or "Doll House!" Compound word on official site so I'm going with that.)

A digital version on iTunes to go with my other collection of TV shows is preferred. I like having them all nice and neat on my little red portable hard drive. But since ITunes doesn’t offer all the extras, such as commentaries and the TWO (that’s twice as many as one!) un-aired episodes, they are right out. Sorry Apple, I know you are taking a bunch of crap right now, but suck less and everything will work out.

UPDATE: Felicia Day has just posted via Twitter, that the missing 13th episode, "Epitaph One," will be on iTunes and AmazonVideo on Demand on August 11th. No mention of the un-aired pilot. That missing and the commentaries, which I would like to listen to for this show, still means iTunes is out.

Dollhouse DVD and Blu-RaySo now there is Blu-Ray versus regular, and a lot cheaper, DVD. Cheaper is good, I’m not actually rolling in money right now. More like rolling towards financial ruin actually. But tell that to the handful of VHS tapes and books on cassette tapes I have packed away in shame. Tell me all about that as I cry softly while curled up in a ball around my Criterion Collection Blade Runner Laser Disk!

The real problem is the Blu-Ray player. I do have a Playstation 3 sitting in the closet, but don’t have a decent TV to hook it up to. I did buy Watchmen on Blu-Ray, but it came with the digital copy that I could import into iTunes which was cool. I will eventually have a decent TV (what an optimist). But how will I be able to watch them NOW? It is pretty common knowledge that I have the patience and restraint of a two year old when I want something. Any ideas?

I saw both formats at Target, but thought they might be cheaper at Walmart. Turns out Dollhouse isn't even in their instore inventory system yet, much less on the shelves even though they have it up for sale on Walmart's online store for $28.32 DVD and $42.32 Blu-Ray. Amazon has it for 29.99 DVD and 42.49 Blu-Ray.

One of the odd things about me is, that I will sit and whine about not having it for weeks before finally decided to buy it somewhere even though I would have it sooner if I ordered it online now. That is another way of saying, I didn't actually buy anything.

So what about this Dollhouse show. Is it worth getting and watching? The Io9 website has a great article on the box set. It talks about how less episotic and client of the week it feels when they are watched closely together, how much you get from the two unaired episodes and even the Joss Whedon commentary where he dishes on the problems and interference he had with Fox. Then there is the interview they have: Joss Whedon On The Dark Secret At The Heart Of His Worlds, where he talks about the show, but you shouldn't watch it if you don't want any spoilers from the unaired episode "Epitaph One."

Joss Whedon is My Master NowFor those of you who don’t follow these things, Fox decided that either Dollhouse or Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles had to go. They could only keep one. (the zero sum game of the current television broadcast model needs to go. Yay rise of the internets! Boo, that they will probably manage to screw it up.) Fox chose Dollhouse over Terminator, probably because they are afraid of the Joss Whedon Fan Club's army. I know I am and I actually have that T-Shirt from PvP Online.

Speaking of io9, I found this other great article on their site about Favorite Last Lines From Science Fiction Novels and another about Why Avatar Can't Fail. I think I'll bookmark their site. Maybe even put it up on the sidebar of links over on the right, though I've been saying that about the XKCD comic strip forever. Hey, at least I fixed the missing RSS graphic! You didn't even notice that did you... you didn't even notice it was broken... Sigh.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

An Apple a Day Won't Keep the FCC Away

I was going to write a post summarizing the Apple iPhone "shenanigans" and "goings on," but then I found this lovely post on Rickman's Posterous that does a great job of collecting all the stories and links.

I do miss my iPhone. But I had to sell off my contract to Richard when I left Australia. That didn't stop Telstra from sending me a $1000+ bill for breaking my contract. Fortunately, my friend Lisa's boyfriend works for Telstra and had brokered the deal for me. A quick email to him and he straightened it out.

At the moment I am just over joyed to be waiting. New 3Gs phone is out and I'm not stuck with the old one. All this flak over the Apple Application Store being sorted out. And hey, maybe I won't be restricted to AT&T in the near future. Why did I choose the iPhone in the first place you might be asking yourself if you were even still reading this post at this point? For all the cool aps? The slick, easy to use interface? Because I'm an Apple fanboy? No, because a few years ago I made the mistake of choosing iTunes as my media player for all the audiobooks and few TV shows I buy. Now DRM won't let me choose a new application.

Before I go, one of the links about the story is a must read: Google Pulls Apple from Search Results.
Google's official explanation for removing Apple from its search results came from Vice-President in charge of search, Marissa Mayer, "Those search results duplicate a lot of the functionality of other sites. For example, people can find cell phones on many other sites. We just think this makes it easier for our users."
P.S. don't be an idiot and try to google "apple.com" to see if it works or not, its a humor piece and isn't true. However, you can go over to his mailbag page and read some emails and comments from people who did think it was real.