Friday, May 26, 2006

New Design Launched

It took me a while, but I changed over the entire site. Be sure to click on the artist link next to Cecilia.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Updated Graphics

Well it looks like I'm about to get linked so I wanted to share these:

The main page and...
Every page thereafter.

Hi, I am just editing an interview with dzz and he was mentioning that you were making a new website for him, do you mind if I add the link you just posted?
dbeoulve Howdy Hooka!
dbeoulve Not at all.
hooka cool :)
dbeoulve I kind of forget that that post is out there *chuckles* but it's not wide circulation - maybe it is now.

Proof that the MPAA is Evil

The MPAA is interested in protecting its perceived dollars - they hired a hacker to attack TorrentSpy, who later fessed up.

I always wondered why the law was based around who could pay for better lawyers. Sounds hardly "fair." But I digress.

Crowdsourcing - the movement of Ebay, iStockPhoto, and others

Wired has an article on this. Basically, Internet-born businesses realise the power of the network, and of people contributing to their collective cause. Interesting read.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

SPORE for the PC

Spore starts you out as a single-celled organism and lets you evolve into a water-based creature, then a land-based creature (shown in this gameplay demonstration movie), and eventually a space-faring civilization.

The creature editor looks cool, but I worry that the game is too many games put into one. That usually means everything in the game is lackluster, like The Movies, which was neither a good movie-maker (terribly locked in, creatively speaking), nor a great management/sim game.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Burning Armor

This game, judging by its screen proportion, is destined for mobile phones, PDAs or somesuch. However, its graphics speak to everything I love about 2d shooters.

NSA trumps Civil Rights

I don't know what to say about this that hasn't been discussed already by folks who are concerned as myself.

The NSA, after 9/11, got AT&T to allow them to install listening devices on all of their equipment, including equipment used by other phone providers, so that the NSA could not only tell who called who from where and for how long, but the actual conversation, for anyone connected to AT&T's landlines. That means if you've used a landline phone since 9/11, you have been recorded. Hard to believe. Harder still if your response is "So? I didn't say anything they'd care about."

Not only that, but a secret trial has been going on about this for several years, that has only recently come to light. Our judicial system has no check other than public scrutiny, so this makes the issue more absurd. Now we can have trials, judgment and sentencing all without the public knowing it ever happened?

Once power is granted, governments and people are loath to give it up.

I'm not sure where my country is headed. We used to stand for Freedom, Democracy, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. We used to be a nation of immigrants.

Now, my Latin wife and my four mixes (children) look like their hispanic culture will become a stigma to much of the US, and then - this.

"The Siege" and "V for Vendetta" both try to give us warnings and tell us a story. I never believed "The Siege" at the time, but hearing this - all we need now is to start rounding up US arabs. Can we say that isn't 5, 8 years away?

Do we know, now?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

New Look for

Part 1: Rough Sketch from Life
Each of these pictures enlarges if you click on it.
Well Dzz was foolish enough to accept my offer to spruce up for an upcoming coding event. I volunteered to draw a girl - which in my mind, meant Cecilia, the Web comic incarnation of my lovely Latina - and get that working with the site.

So, first thing Saturday morning at 7:30am, I started work. I realized I couldn't draw crap without my model, so I had her take a break from her morning workout and sketched the blue sketch on the left.

Notice her arms and waist - I trimmed the latter a bit but those are the real curves. The real Maria is working on getting back her figure, and right now she's at what I'd normally call "approaching maximum density" if she were a woman on the street, but she's not, she's recovering from her fourth pregnancy like a trooper and I love her for it.

Part 2: Refinement
Anyways. I then scanned it for archival purposes, sucked in a deep breath, and penciled over in my blackest graphite.

You'll note that it doesn't look bad - but the pose looks kind of bland for the purpose. Because I was technically accurate and my wife, who is incredible at telling me what lines need moving where, said it was good, I wouldn't realize this until later.

I set up for colors on my Tablet PC by loading the image from my Scanner, to my 4 year-old gaming rig, to my USB 1gig drive, to my Tablet PC. Fun.

Part 3: Exercise in Futility
I realized that I couldn't color that well in my Tablet PC as there were no hard lines for a magic wand to grab, so I traced the paper copy in ink:

I took this and used it as my selection layer and tried to color the digital copy of the 2nd drawing, above. I had to do a lot of hand-editing to get the colors on the edges.

Part 4: Finished Product aka "Not Good Enough"
The graphite, as dark as it was, just did not work with the coloring style I learned from, so I had to take my Tablet PC pen in Photoshop CS and hand-draw black lines everywhere.

The finished product looks like ass. The pose is still good, and the colors as far as being selections are decent, but it looks like what it is: a black and white drawing that has been colored after the fact, just like a black and white movie.

To boot, she doesn't have her hand out to hold a GP2X. I could have shot myself.

By now, I have spent 4 hours, including a quick breakfast and kids coming to ask me how I'm doing, drawing. Maybe longer. All I know is that it's noon, and I started at 7:30am.

Part 5: Redo starting and ending in digital format
I did this in 30 minutes flat. Why oh why did I decide that the touch and tactile feel of paper is better? The truth is: physical paper is easier to draw on. But what's the intended medium? If the end product is a computer-colored computer graphic... a Tablet PC with a high-quality Wacom Cross Executive Tablet PC pen is the best for the job.

I didn't use Maria to model for this because the poor dear was busy, but fortunately I'd just had a good showing of her arms and breasts that morning, I had the physical sketch next to me, and this was fairly easy.

Naturally I added Cecilia's elven ears this time. She didn't look right without them. I love the pose. And she's all ready to hold a GP2X!

Part 6: Finished Artwork
Yeah, she looks nice here. Now, there are problems with the drawing, like how thin her hand appears to be based on how deeply set the GP2X is (when my technical mind activates, my right brain flat goes to sleep and I don't notice these things as I'm doing them), and the pose is proportioned oddly for flair...

But that's my lovely Latina! Just crop the ears back and give her black hair, Mexican cheek-bones, nose & nice, rich eyebrows and there she is. Mmmm... Latina.

So the artwork is ready for the website, at which point I discover a new problem: the website doesn't fit 800x600 resolution and doesn't fit Cecilia anywhere. So - says I - "I do this for a living. Perhaps Dzz would like some free work."

Website, Parts 1-5: The New Deal
[See Most Recent Updates] This site uses tables, which I feel are evil, but I didn't have enough time to hand-code tableless CSS without charging money. Still, the website works in IE and Firefox, is largely accessible (fonts scale for older folk, which we can't ignore in retro gaming), and it looks decent.

I'm happy with it. I hope Dzz likes it. It's got some room to grow on the menu - and that "About" link tastes like mystery meat to me (when most users see "about" they think "about this company" or "about this website" not "about the GP2X").

I have a version without Cecilia for pages that need the screen real-estate.

This took a few more hours, but it was fun to do - given that this used to be what I did with my days. Now I do this and GIS and C#.Net and computer technical support all put together with a boss who doesn't give a flying fuck how I do my job, he's just happy when he sees I get things done. God, I swear, some days I could kiss him if I didn't think he'd put me through a wall.

Anyway - so that is my Saturday. It is now 7:58pm. I think I should eat dinner.

"Wow, that's amazing, I'm speechless! I'll replace the site with your incredible work right away, what do you think is the best way to do that?
Thanks for your great effort!" -Dzz

I guess that should come as no surprise! XD

Friday, May 19, 2006

Retro Games And Why They're Not Just For Us Old Fogies

Games have gotten too centered on graphics, less on innovation.
[See my Forum Post that this text duplicates]
"PS3" versus "XBOX About Face"
Sony and Microsoft have really declared that the latest console war is about ever-increasing costs and hardware (Web comic on that issue).

Even though it's named after that thing that separates my son from my daughters, the Nintendo Wii looks more enticing because how I'd play games would change more than, say, buying a $2,000 HDTV screen. The Wii offers more than incremental gameplay changes, for around 10% of that cost (plus games). And no, I don't own a GameCube, and got an N64 only when my cousin junked it for a PS2 and XBOX. I'm no fanboi.

Meanwhile, genres we grew up with have died fashion deaths.

I must have seen the Beats of Rage download page three times before I saw the download "lots of mods" link. Some of those mods look like crazy fun. I'm sure most of y'all know about it, but it got my blood going.

Hyper Final Fight 2? The original Final Fight was my favorite beat-em-up game. I was sad that the genre died when the PSX entered the scene, because nothing really took its place.

How many 3d games allowed you to run all over the place beating people up? Unless you play Dynasty Warriors franchise, Rygar (PS2) ... there just aren't many options. Lame "play with your thumbs" First Person Shooters began to rule the day.

Halo 2 versus PC Gamer
Using a Lik-Sang keyboard/mouse adapter ("SmartJoy FRAG") for my XBOX, I went from being ranked 4% to 96%, behind only three other guys, one of which was my cousin, who couldn't believe it. I told him "The only reason I'm not beating you guys is that, while you've shown me where the guns are, I'm still not used to the best way to move about the level, and I have to keep my back to a wall or a buddy because I can't turn a 180 with a mouse (the adapter only approximated the mouse movement by using the thumbstick, which can only bend over so far).


Retro is Good
I don't let my kids play games often - and frequently they prefer other things like drawing with me or going outside, but they do enjoy their 2 GBA's in the van. Car rides are killers for 4 kids. Anyway, accidentally I've been showing them all kinds of retro games when I think about it. Other than Shadow of the Colossus (PS2), my oldest daughter prefers older, more strategic games, like Final Fantasy Tactics (PSX), FFT Advance (GBA), La Pucille Tactics (PS2).

Heck, all my kids do in Shadow of the Colossus is ride the horse and run around and explore. They find that immense fun. But how many games let you explore at your liesure these days? Well, ever.

Does he have a point?
Rarely. I guess I'm trying to say that the GP2X's retro gaming, it's emulators, its Vektar and homebrew games, they're good things because they all represent a time when folks without large budgets tried to make games.

For the emulated games, that time has passed.

For homebrew, you can't make a simple game for the PC and get noticed. It just doesn't normally happen. However, if you make a game for the GP2X, and it's good, man, everyone jumps on it. Folks will even pay.

While it's not the "old times" relived, it does have that flavor.

That's something I like about the handheld I have yet to own, and the community.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

PUNT! Zelda Classic may come to the GP2X

Well, the whole reason I embarked upon this quest was because the guys at Zelda Classic seemed so opposed to porting their game to Linux, let alone the GP2X, they deleted forum threads GP2X owners made begging them to port it.

However, EvilDragon [online store], who might as well be called BenevolantDragon, is shipping them a free GP2X and offering reduced cost GP2X's for their developers, and in return they are going to port Zelda Classic!

Read all about it.

This is great news! Though I'm not sure where this leaves my artwork - work. I'll probably finish the avatar and some backgrounds anyway, because I hate dead work. From there I'll let folks tell me what they want me to do, based on what they've seen me do.

Line Art

(click to enlarge) I worked on tracing my line-art this morning. Once I get this into a computer, I can manipulate this a little easier - coloring might be easier. It's all about finding the right process for the artwork to translate not just well, but great - onto the GP2X platform.

While the "From Behind" animation uses two completely different poses, the front does not. I'll be playing with the placement of his legs in the top middle drawing - that left leg of his just sticks way out there without a shield in hand to counter-balance.

The bottom middle is actually the top right's alternate animation.

Everything is two-step animation, with doubling so far, which is homosexual. However, the GP2X isn't made of RAM, and this father of four isn't made of time. I realized I could either have a lot of animation and very few characters, or I could have a lot of characters and original Zelda-esque animation. Boohoo ;)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Son of Suck

I'm working on things that don't suck so badly. At the size I drew these (1/3rd to 1/4th of a 9x12" page) I can't use my pastels to color them (too thick) so I played with my daughter's carefully organized 92 color crayon set. She has every color lined up and sheets of paper where she's drawn the color and written the name (admittedly, I helped her with that, but she uses the guide). I'll have to confess I used her art tools tomorrow ;)

These color selections are the son of suck, however, they scale down well.

I bought my 9 year-old a book called "The Art of Drawing" by Willy Pogany. Apparently it dates back before my time, and has my hero's work on the cover, George B. Bridgman - a man who, among other things, taught Norman Rockwell.

I had no idea the book was that old when I got it (being that it was a new, enlarged reprint), but I saw the work on vanishing points, skeletal structure and muscles, all without genitalia, and I thought "This book is the kind I learned to draw on, only it's great for my daughter!"

GP2X community doesn't need more programmers, it needs an artist

I've realized that there's a lot to SDL C++ programming for the GP2X - and the issue isn't that there aren't talented developers, it's that most of them can't draw. With that in mind, I started work last night on my Tablet PC. The efforts didn't translate well to 48x32 pixels, and once again I found the lack of tactile feel on my TPC to be less than desireable.

So, I broke out my 10 year-old pastels, which I never used, and worked up the animation you see. The full original of the first frame is here.

I'm going to build up a graphic library and then find programmers to help me make an original Zelda-like game.

Note: That animation looks like ass. For one, his/her belt doesn't move with the body well. The left shield hand disappears completely, and the pose could just look better. Lastly, the hair didn't come out well with those colors. I intend on making a new avatar with the shield facing forward... if it's on. Otherwise the left arm will be there. In this manner, the hero/ine won't start with a shield. I am my own worst critic, and I think a decent GP2X RPG will be sold on what it looks like (those thumbnail screens we all look at to decide whether to download a game) first.

I won't be letting the GP2X community know about this until I have quite a few characters and general overworld background/tile-set ready to get their mouths watering. Then I'll see who comes to my rescue with regards to programming. Heck, perhaps some programmers need rescue from their lack of art assets!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Neverwinter Nights 2 to ship WITHOUT a DM client

Read it and weep.

Acronyms in this article:

  • NWN = Neverwinter Nights
  • DM = Dungeon Master
  • OE = Obsidian Entertainment (the developer)
  • OC = Original Content, as in NWN OC
  • MCA & JE = initials of people who work at Obsidian
  • NPC = Non-Player Character
  • PW/DW = Persistent World / Dynamic World - types of multiplayer games for NWN; one runs continuously, the other keeps getting added onto but isn't "live" 24/7.
  • FUD = Fucked Up Doctrine
  • FALB = Fucking Acronym-Loving Blogger
Telnarius: Yep, but we're looking at the possiblity of the DM client not shipping with the game
David Beoulve: *minces lips*
David Beoulve: So, Kevin.
David Beoulve: Want to build Draco, release it and then... wander around wondering WTF people are doing?
David Beoulve: How about we cheat first, level up our chars, so's we can at least get around? How's that?
Telnarius: Man, Velas without a DM client. Velas: "Click 1 to get a snide remark" "Click 2 to get me to cast Death Touch on you"
David Beoulve: HA HA HA HA
Telnarius: Yeah now this player hit it
Telnarius: "With the DM Client's release postponed until after the game comes out, many single player gamers may breeze through the included campaign and then move on before NWN2 DMed gaming ever gets started. Without capturing a new player base early, DMed gaming for NWN2 may not be successful as NWN1"
David Beoulve: Sad but rather true.
Telnarius: I mean compare jumping into a NPC and playing it to scripting that NPC..not only in time but useability
David Beoulve: Well basically the whole world becomes static. Not only that, when things go wrong as people play -- and they will -- you can't do anything about it but log off and mess with the module, shut down the server, re-upload, restart the module, and hope a few people come back on. Or you can live with it.
Telnarius: Single-player folks in a game like this are like the extreme power guilds in MMOs. Play it, beat it, move on, who cares what happens to the game afterewards.
Telnarius: I mean without the DM client, it makes NWN2, not much above the idea of Oblivion, can play it, can use a toolset, but umm..what else?
David Beoulve: Ouch. That cuts, bud... but things generally do when they are true. True, it has multiplayer -- but you basically have an easy editor with MP and... nothing to do but beat on mobiles or each other.
Telnarius: Very much so, to delay the DM client, for what could be a couple months, would really hurt things. Download and play modules aren't going to hold attention, even with multiplayer. OC, well that's only good really one time through.
Telnarius: "Nice. One guy posted...
Cost of NWN2: $60.
Finding out that upgrades are need to play it: $250.
Realizing upgrades still are not enough, and buying a new computer: $2000.
Sitting back and watching it get played just as intended, then shelved after a month, priceless."

Monday, May 15, 2006

GP2X Mk2

Well EvilDragon aka Michael, from Germany, is hooking me up with a customized Mk2 from his shop.

Customized in what way? Well he found me a first-edition Mk1 that ran at a blistering 280MHz (200 is normal, 240 is the guaranteed overclock range) - a full 40% faster than normal! However, I read about the joystick problem of the Mk1 and decided to hold out for an Mk2. Nice guy that he is, he's going to go through the whole process again.

I am excited.

Friday, May 12, 2006


I am about to pop. I've spent 4 days - 4 days reading about the GPX2 handheld Linux-powered Emulator-running gaming system [review|development]. My mind harkens to the idea of having tons of old games I remember from my youth available for play when I'm bored. My wallet praises me when it sees that I won't be buying $30-50 games for the system after I get it. My inner child says "Remember when we used to program games for the Commadore 64 and IBM XT? We can make games for the GPX2 too!" My adult self says "Hey look, something I can tinker with all I want, without some angry corporate giant trying to stop me!"

Indeed, the business model of the GPX2 is that it is intended to be an Open-Source system that end consumers can use how they like, whether it's playing movies, music (even OGG format), commercial games (there are two coming), open-source games, and of course - emulated classics!

I'm just bouncing! Hopefully an evil little dragon [german website] can help me get my system.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Galactic Civilization II is still good

[copy of an e-mail to my friend, Sean]
The perpetual refinement is what is so awesome - check out Brad's blog - he's the lead designer who has worked on the game for the last 15 years. Why doesn't he get bored? Because he loves coding AI - and that always evolves.

Brad loves to make us cry. He trolls the fan forums for their strategies and then adjusts the AI, releases a beta patch, (most gamers never see them unless they choose to) and we eagerly try it out and whimper that our "strategies" aren't so clever anymore.

There are some strategy Gods out there who aren't phased but for those of us who find "tricks" and such -- we cry a lot. I remember when using a GIGANTIC galaxy was good because the AI didn't understand using bigger engines and less defense in that great expanse. Yep. Those were the days. Last two games I've played I've lost, so I had to completely change my strategy and concentrate on economy more than flanking unfairly. I can still flank - come from where he can't see me - but it's more on even footing.

I still play the game weekly. It's not an every day thing but, because it's turn based, I can just put it down, go do other stuff, and come back to it on my Saturdays. I have no other game quite like that.

The Evil of Microsoft Points:

The "You Don't Own It, You Bought a License" Policy.

Buy a game? Great. Want more content that others might be collecting? You gotta use points. Need points? Gotta buy them; or, if you're a real whizz at XBOX Live competition, win them. But you'll never win enough. It's micropayments, and it's probably the future.

One day, everything we buy will have a monthly bill associated with it, the "new way" of pulling the covers over the masses to how much their total cost of ownership is. Why stop at monthly utility bills when you can get them when they buy DVD's?

Got the DVD? Great! You have to pay a micropayment to unlock the extra ending that wasn't in theaters. But wait! Because you just watched the movie, the chance you'll pay $2 is pretty good! After all -- it's just $2!

"Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive," has a rarely mentioned second line:
"But my how we improve the score, as we practice more and more."

XBOX 360 Annoyances:

The "You want to play a game, but then you met jackholes telling you that black people shouldn't play videogames" annoyance:

The "You can't do anything while you download" annoyance:

The "DVD's have all the standard control features, but you can only play and pause downloaded content" annoyance:

The "XBOX 360 can't do things Media Center XP can do -- not because it's incapable, but because Microsoft won't make money on you buying a Media Center PC otherwise" annoyance.

A good comparison point about the Sony PSP using proprietary memory chips rather than standard digital camera memory chips, as well as a video format nothing else uses, is made. Sony made the chip and the video format. The end result is that the PSP is getting whipped like a red-headed step-child by the Nintendo DS, which is less costly and has better games, by ratio.

The "XBOX 360 eats your DVD game if its nudged" annoyance:
Yep, I'm serious.

The "XBOX 360 thinks keyboards are evil, and so are people who use them" annoyance:
Yes, you will now feel the PAIN of entering in everything by controller with a non-intuitive interface that doesn't help guess at what you need to input. Or you can go grab a USB keyboard.
My favorite:
The "Microsoft strictly forbids gamers using a Mouse and Keyboard in First-Person Shooter games" annoyance.
Sony's take? The PS3 will support it.

One XBOX Live player said:

"1. [Cursing trash talk] is a big reason why I cancelled my subscription to Xbox Live. Seriously. It's a big barrier against anyone but true hardcore gamers subscribing to the service, and it's the reason why MS has only managed to sign up 2 million people (they trumpet this as if it's an impressive number, but that's less than 10% of the Xbox user base).

I just have no need or desire to listen to this kind of crap while I'm trying to have fun. This does NOT make gaming more fun. It does just the opposite.

Online gaming was better when voice was not involved, if you ask me.

Posted at 9:21PM on Dec 5th 2005 by Jeff "

"10. "Online gaming was better when voice was not involved, if you ask me."

Amen to that. That's why I usually never bother wearing the headset, but then people get pissed if you don't say anything. Either way you can't win. Too bad there's no way to set up matches with people of equal social skills...

I guess that's why I like playing Mario Kart DS so much. You might be playing against a total a-hole, but at least you don't have to listen to them."

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

New Gamers Gone Bad Comic Strip!

This one covers E3, in all it's banal S&M pleasure.

Linux-Powered Gaming Handheld does Emulation

The GPX2 [review] is an open-source handheld with dual-core 200mhz (software overclockable to 250mhz safely) that can run NEO GEO, SNES, NES, MAME arcade (early and pre-90's), ATARI 2600, ATARI LYNX, GameBoy, Gameboy Color (no GBA yet), Sega Genesis, Game Gear & Master Drive games. *phew* And it plays Quake, Duke Nukem 3d & DOOM! All for just under $200.

Read the excellent review with screenshots, or just check out the video.

I might get one. I thought about getting a Nintendo DS because it has the Brain Game, and the Sony PSP because it's screen is so big and wide - but the GPX2 allows me to MOD to my heart's content and features a screen with almost the same area as a PSP (just taller and thinner).

Why get a DS or PSP which will kill me for $30-50 a game when I can have a handheld that lets me play all the emulation games I like (well, that the hardware can run - it will never emulate a PS2, and while PSX emulation is in the works, it's largely unplayable right now).

It also uses SD memory cards (2gig and above supported), has TV-OUT, and hooks up to a PC via USB. No WiFi built in, but hobbyists are tinkering with getting this working, as they did with the GPX2's predacessor, the GP32.

Edit: Another review, which I think glows a tad too brightly. It glosses over the fact that virtually no commercial games will be made for the GPX2, and that the first edition had some issues with the joypad controller.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

DirectX 10 is coming, but makes little sense to embrace...

DX10 is coming, and it has a load of new features, the best of which is that our videocards are finally becoming "do anything computational processors," which could kill Ageia's PhysX if a lack of applicable games that use the $250 card don't kill it first.

Of course, DX10 offfers some snazzy new effects and better load management for GPUs to handle bottlenecks, but the real problem is the same as buying a new gaming console as soon as it comes out:

You just spend three times as much as you would in 12 to 18 months; meanwhile there are few games released for this new system. Why? The old systems have a huge installed userbase who want to buy games - the new systems have, if they are lucky, 5 or 10% of that. During those 12 to 18 months you could be perfectly happy playing on your older gaming console (or, in this case, DX9 videocard) until enough games have come out that warrant the upgrade, and the upgrade doesn't cost as much as being an early adopter.

To me, DX10, with its requirement that I run Windows Vista - which hurts your computer speed worse than NT's hardware abstraction layer - is something I'll be interested in after 2 or 3 years. It took 4 years for my GeForce Ti4400 to become completely obsolete - that is to say, games required DX9 capabilities it couldn't render. That means DX10 will probably follow the same curve, as videogames take years to produce.

Ergo - DX10 is stupid to upgrade to right now.

PS3 is $500 to $600 depending on Hard-Drive size

The Playstation 3 has a price, and it is enormous. For the cost of a decent digital media PC, you can have a PS3 with a 20gig Hard Drive ($500) or a 60gig Hard Drive ($600).

What can I say? I held on to the foolish hope that the PS3 would not be priced wildly above the XBOX 360. With four kids, I can't warrant getting this system at launch. That is disappointing.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Kevin sayz: Matrix Online is all right

My friend Kevin gives The Matrix: Online a thumbs up, though he notes that he bought it on a lark for $30, and if he isn't enjoying himself after 30 days, he's letting his account lapse.

While I concede that, often, Kevin is right about games, he's also been known to enjoy eating rat poison.

I told him that, because Rise of Legends is coming out - oh - tomorrow... I'll have to pass on the Matrix: Online.

MI:3 is Good?

My friend, Ken, has posted a "no spoilers" review of MI:3 and describes what went wrong with the old movies (no team; too much John Woo) and what went right with this one (LOST and Alias director directed this film).

Friday, May 05, 2006

Rise of Legends is GOOD

Gamespot has all the info you need, including references to the 2nd edition of Big Huge Games' Demo (different links, those).

Rise of Legends succeeds for many of the same reasons I list Rise of Nations (and its expansion, Thrones & Patriots) as the greatest Real-Time Strategy game of all time.

What Rise of Nations and Rise of Legends have in common:

  • Impeccable AI that doesn't cheat (on the "tough" and below settings) that gives you a right challenging game.
  • Intelligent, intuitive actions as you play. You'll find yourself clicking on something because you want to do this, and the game has had enough human interface engineering put into it that it does what you expect.
  • A kind of advanced Rock-Paper-Scissors balance (hint, it doesn't stop at three) among the units.
  • A high level of strategy, far deeper than Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War (which was a great game, but the amount of strategies at your disposal were far more limited).
  • Easy to manage cities that makes base-building a dream. It doesn't leave you starving for more base-building as the original Lord of the Rings: Battle For Middle Earth did (although I enjoyed that aspect of it to an extent, Rise of X's solution is superior).
What I hope both games have in common (Rise of Nations had):
  • A plethora of options to customize your experience, and XML-editable units, techs and nearly everything else but the game itself.
  • The ability for more than one human player to control the same country, allowing one person to focus on the economy, and the other on the war effort, until the end game, when I typically commanded the navy or air-force while my friend Kevin steamrolled the foe.
Rise & Fall
Rise & Fall sucks ass because its AI is so bad - yours and theirs. Your ships are too stupid to maneuver around each other, and so stupid that when you do give them a clear order, like "make a beach landing," they jostle around like indecisive virgins, necessitating you to click-click-click-click on the beach to get them to finally aquiesce. On the enemy side, not only are they so stupid as to keep opening their gates while you have an army outside (thus, letting you pour into their city), but they have infinite resources and cheat liberally. Nevermind the 3rd person "Command Mode" of your heroes, nor the awesome potential of the naval battles - this game is marred by is banal AI.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Oblivion rated 17+/Mature Only because it can be hacked

I mean, come on. How the hell can a game get taken off of the store shelves because some MOD maker found a way to unlock hidden art assets that are otherwise inaccessible to the game?

Are we so interested in policing games, that if they have the potential of being nudified we need to change their rating?

If I found my son (he's 1 right now) nudifying a game of his, I would have a talk about objectification and natural curiosity, not necessarily in that order. But I wouldn't expect the game to come with a mature rating because, if he sat there and downloaded some hacks/mods, my son could alter the game.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Microsoft thinks Online is Key

Microsoft's goals with the XBOX & XBOX 360 is to become the dominant player in the future/imagined "Home Entertainment Center System" - and they're hedging their bets that online games will be the deciding factor in what consoles win; however, they're forgetting, as this study points out, that the U.S. has yet to reach the broadband saturation levels of Korea, or the cultural perspective on games as mostly social, competative entertainment. Most Americans, it appears, like to game casually - the hardcore gamer, unsurprisingly, is not the majority.

Sony wants Blu-Ray to become the dominant format, and this is part of their goal with the PS2, the study suggests - Sony knows that whatever future HD format wins will get mountains of royalty money.

The study goes on to talk about why Nintendo's recent strategies (it predates their "Wii" announcment) have been more viable, profit-wise, than even Microsoft's... but again, Microsoft is in the game for long-term goals. Nintendo needs to make a profit, and thusfar, it's been quite successful. Wii.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Microsoft XBOX 360 Development Story

It's as interesting - and as dry - as it sounds. What really went on and how Microsoft put forth the concerted effort to come out ahead of Sony's release date in the next Console War.

Typically, Microsoft claims that their new console is called the "360" because "it puts gamers at the center" not because it phonetically competes with "Playstation three"

188 Page Analyst Report on the New Console War

"A massive 188-page report from Wedbush Morgan Securities analysts Michael Pachter and Edward Woo details why they think the Xbox 360 will retain its first-mover advantage -- for two years, anyway -- and how Sony is more interested in the HD format wars than the console battle." [source article]

If you want the report, sign up for a free account (privacy protected) and get the full report in PDF. It's stupid that you have to register, but it's relatively painless and the report costs nothing but your time.