Link Dumpage: Ray Gun (film)

My head is angry today, though my gamer score is not. Lots of Koster today:

  • User-Generated Content: The List: "I love the fact that thanks to organizations like Valve, Maxis, and Bioware, user-generated content is attracting tremendous attention from industry and media alike. Still, coverage typically revolves around a single point of interest, i.e. 'UGC makes games more interesting' or 'UGC can help drive sales.' So I thought I'd compile a (by no means exhaustive) list of the good business-y things about UGC in the context of games..."
  • User created content: "The lesson here is that everyone is a creator. The question is 'of what.' Everyone has a sphere where they feel comfortable exerting agency -- maybe it's their work, maybe it's raising their children, maybe it's collecting stamps. Outside of that sphere, most people are creators only within carefully limited circumstances; most people cannot draw, but anyone can color inside lines, or trace. If the games require serious commitment and challenging creation tasks equivalent to drawing from scratch, they will have smaller audiences."
  • The lifecycles of a player: "A while ago, a poster in the comments thread asked what I thought the lifecycles of players were. I don’t think there is only one lifecycle, is all. I know of several models that have stood up over time, so here they are, briefly described."
  • 40 ways to be a better (game) designer: "I'm always looking for ways to become a better game designer ... it's with interest that I read articles like 50 ways to become a better designer. Much of the list isn't directly applicable, but some of it is, and it inspires a list of my own, centered around games. Not exhaustive, and probably not even accurate, but stuff I have often helped myself with. Many are cribbed and adapted."
  • Rails and Ajax: a Match Made in Purgatory: "...we cannot efficiently mix desktop and web paradigms. All kind of problems ensue when we attempt to build a web app that should behave as if it's a desktop app. And vice versa. And yet, that's what Ajax-colored approach seems to advocate. Bring back the desktop paradigm into the world of web. That's not the wisest thing to do, if you ask me."


Link Dumpage: Fighting Vipers

Zomg, the list grows! IT LEAVES ME NOT BE!

  • For a while I've been trying to find the best way of putting my videos online in an easily accessible format. I knew it'd be Flash Video (.flv), but it was just a matter of finding the proper way of converting to that format. After a month of random and bored searching, I settled on FFmpeg to convert the files (save WMV) and FLVTool2 to add the metadata necessary for fast forwarding and seeking. Gallery recently added a flashvideo plugin to its development branch, which saved me the effort of deciding between FlowPlayer and the aptly named Flash Video Player. As fate would have it, the day I eureka'd I found Video Blogging using Django and Flash(tm) Video (FLV), which covers nearly all the same corners I was peering into.
  • Video Games are Dead: A Chat with Storytronics Guru Chris Crawford: "I haven't even seen any new ideas pop up. The industry is so completely inbred that the people working in it aren’t even capable of coming up with new ideas anymore. I was appalled, for example, at the recent GDC. I looked over the games at the Independent Games Festival and they all looked completely derivative to me. Just copies of the same ideas being recycled. I didn't see anything I'd call innovative, and this was from people not even interested in doing anything... in making money. It was just straight amateurs trying to be innovative and even they couldn't be innovative."
  • How to cheat good: "It is particularly irksome when their cheating implies (reminds?) that I am a fool. So, to help students across the country cheat better, saving themselves both from easy detection and from incurring the wrath of insulted faculty, and leading to a much more harmonious school environment, I offer the following tips, based on recent experience."
  • Literatronica: The next generation of hypertext authoring: "Literatronic is a dynamic hypertext authoring system which instead of relying solely on static hypertext links (for the system allows these as well), uses an AI engine to recommend the 3 best next lexias based on what you have already read. ... Out of these "distances," the system creates a map. To help the reader traverse the map, the system runs a "shortest distance" algorithm to suggest paths. Because the system is dynamic, it can change paths according to the lexias the reader has already encountered."
  • bud: " is an experiment to turn our personal data trails into a playfield for a web-based massively-multiplayer online game. Call it passively multiplayer - the reality of communication networks. Already, Web 2.0 and social networking sites keep track of our relationships and communications. proposes to make that web more engaging through surveillance with non-threatening stakes: browser-based multiplayer play."


Xbox 360: 2000 Points and Rising

It's been a month since the Xbox 360 arrived and I'm as enamored as I suspected in my original post with achievements, a measurable system of points across all games that represent your skill level and devotion. For me, they're desirable enough to complete games I'd have moved on from long ago (such as NEED FOR SPEED: MOST WANTED). In this past month, I've achieved "aces", obtaining all the achievement points available, for three games: GAUNTLET, JEWEL QUEST, and NEED FOR SPEED: MOST WANTED. I'm in the process of collecting points for a number of Xbox Live Arcade titles, as well PERFECT DARK: ZERO (which I won't be completing as, sometimes, the rewards just aren't worth the difficulty) and CONDEMNED: CRIMINAL ORIGINS. Sony is rumored to be mimicking achievements as "entitlements" in their forthcoming Playstation 3. Glee!


Link Dumpage: Finally the Punk Rockers Are Taking Acid

The heat is oppressive and so is my reading queue.

  • Jeremy Zawodny has a six part series (six dumps for the price of one!) on how he lost 50 pounds (of himself) over a year with three simple steps. I've no intention of ever following, or going on, any sort of diet plan (for the same reason I dislike taking medicine -- it seems an admission of dislike with whatever grande scheme I happen to believe in at the moment), but I do find some interest in reading over weight loss tips for people who sit on their ass all day. I've a belly, sure, but I can still see my penis. Good enough, right?
  • The Library of Congress: Web Capture: "In 2004, the Library's Office of Strategic Initiatives created a Web Capture team to support the goal of managing and sustaining at-risk digital content. The team is charged with building a Library-wide understanding and technical infrastructure for capturing Web content. The team ... is identifying policy issues, establishing best practices and building tools to collect and preserve Web content." Their primary acquisition tool is the Internet Archive's Heritrix, an open-source, extensible, web-scale, archival-quality web crawler.
  • Is the RPG Industry Screwed?: A useful read if I ever get around to finessing a Ghyll book. "Paradoxically, it's never been easier to get an RPG published, but never harder for a new RPG company to support full-time endeavour. The scalability of the new publishing model means that although it is very hard to make money, you are much, much less likely to lose it through an expensive litho print run."
  • The 7 (f)laws of the Semantic Web: "When it comes to the Semantic Web, you might call me a disillusioned advocate. I’ve been dipping in and out of the technologies for the last 5 years or so, but am increasingly frustrated by the lack of any visible progress." Some questionable conclusions here, like drawing a negative inference that there are more AJAX books then RDF books. AJAX is graphic/UI whizbangery that has more than enough glitz to harm the web vs. RDF which is much more grounded in information design (and more difficult for someone to just "pick up"). Bonus points for the shoutout to crschmidt (from #swhack).
  • BBC Domesday Project: "The BBC Domesday Project was a partnership ... to mark the 900th anniversary of the original Domesday Book, an 11th century census of England. It is frequently cited as an example of digital obsolescence ... In 2002, there were great fears that the discs would become unreadable as computers capable of reading the format had become rare (and drives capable of accessing the discs even rarer)."

Link Dumpage: Bird species new to science

Five more. Another month, and I'll be nearly caught up.

  • HTML Slidy: Slide Shows in XHTML: A very nice JavaScript slideshow/presentation engine by Dave Raggett with key commands, accessibility, and degradation when scripts are disabled. Even though I've never given a presentation that required a slideshow, I've grandiose (and humorous) ideas for one, though I'd probably end up making a visual novel instead. As if I had the time to start another project. Eh.
  • DutchPIPE: Still quite early in development, and not entirely amazing, DutchPIPE allows "web developers [to] make virtual multi-user environments. Each web page becomes an abstracted environment or location where visitors and other items on the page are visualized. This status is retained as visitors move around ... The result: Persistent Interactive Page Environments. DutchPIPE uses AJAX and the DOM for the browser - it works without Java, Flash, plug-in or firewall adjustments."
  • The Designer's Notebook: Introducing Ken Perlin's Law: "The essence of the Problem of Internal Consistency is this: how do we balance the player’s desire for freedom with the designer’s desire to tell a consistent, coherent story? What do we do when the player wants to do something that doesn’t work with the plot that we’ve laid out? Refuse him permission to do it, and take away his freedom? Or allow him to do it, and destroy our story? ... Ken Perlin’s Law: The cost of an event in an interactive story should be directly proportional to its improbability."
  • Thank Heaven for Little Girls: Why Rule of Rose May Be 2006's Most Controversial Game: The game "surrounds a group of young girls who exist on their own terms, living in a dilapidated orphanage called Rose Garden, which is dominated by a group of girls who call themselves the Aristocracy of the Red Crayon. A number of other sites have touched upon this forthcoming release, but none have asked such a delicious question as "What was the inspiration for using the sexuality of prepubescent girls as a theme in the game?"
  • Whitley Strieber: Communicating with the Grays: "It is said that they are emotionless automatons, heartlessly carrying out cruel scientific experiments on helpless victims, stealing their eggs and semen, raping them, and leaving them with suppressed memories and shattered lives. All of which accurately reflects one level of our experience of them." And much later (and perhaps heavily taken out of context): "It’s up to us to respond to these communications in appropriate ways, as the brilliant creatures that we are, with care, maturity and an open mind."


Link Dumpage: Bang Bang Orangutang

I'm woefully behind on my web reading. You've probably already seen these.

  • Techniques of Written Storytelling Applied to Game Design: "It's been said many times, and that's because it's obvious: game design must strive to become more emotionally involving, and the best way to achieve this is to create resonant characters. It's obvious, but it's only half the story. The characters whom we seek to fill with emotional depth are the non-player characters (NPCs). In games, we have another class of characters: player characters."
  • The Great Failure of Wikipedia: "... the function of this speech is not to criticise Wikipedia but to point out how Wikipedia represents the first wave of a coming information war and something where the Internet, as it becomes more important as a source of information, is going to be headed off by certain forces, by certain techniques, some of which are successful and some of which are not ... because Wikipedia has let itself be open to this we are seeing these techniques in use today, where in ten years they will actually affect lives directly."
  • Unlocking the secret sounds of language: Life without time or numbers: "More than 25 years ago, Professor Everett, then a missionary and now an ethnologist at the University of Manchester, decided to try to teach members of the obscure Pirahã tribe how to count. He would not succeed. Instead, he found a world without numbers, without time, one where people appeared to hum and whistle rather than speak."
  • Inform 7 and Chris Crawford's Storytron: I haven't had much of a chance to look at either of these, but my initial feelings are that Inform 7 loses a lot of glue flexibility by requiring its IDE (I had hopes of a wiki-based Ghyll interactive fiction story, downloaded and compiled daily) and that the Storytron will be too abstract (in an "idea", not programmatic, way) for anyone but the most devoted.
  • Seed: A new sci-fi MMORPG that I've yet to try either (gah, I've not played WoW for like three months either! Curse this lack of time!) but which purports to have "personalized stories, social/political gameplay, believable NPCs, and 3D comic book graphics". Peruse the features for more.


Xbox 360 is GoOOOo!

I picked up an Xbox 360 yesterday and, as per the new sidebar item, my gamertag is Morbus Iff Else -- "Morbus" had already been taken and "Morbus Iff" is irrevocably lost due to idiot Microsoft policies. Granted, this all assumes I actually have time to play the system which, with a two month old child, is laughably inept (hey, maybe for you, but not so much for me).

I had no intention of getting the Xbox 360 -- I had bought the original Xbox because of my lust for the I Love Bees alternate reality game (ARG), which was ultimately a promotion for Halo 2. I played Halo and liked it, but didn't see why it was so great when compared to, say, the original Half-Life. Halo 2 came and went and I wasn't impressed. Nor was I enthralled with any of the other games available, and the console collected dust and dust and dust. I'm a big roleplayer and the lack of quality RPGs (Fable and Sudeki don't count) just couldn't sway me from PS2 dominance.

But the Xbox 360 has actually giving me a reason to want to play other games besides RPGs: achievements. Remember, back in the days of yore, there was something called a "high score"? It's nearly as foreign as the concept of "ante" in a Magic: The Gathering game. (Aaaah, I am an old fogie.) Anyways, every Xbox 360 game has 1000 points of achievements to obtain, or 200 points for Xbox Live Arcade games. These points accumulate and display proudly in your gamercard, as can be seen by my (currently) lackluster 20 in the sidebar there.

This... this pleases me. When arcades walked the Earth, I used to battle for three-letter dominance on the high score charts of arcade games such as Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct, and pretty much everything else on the literally darker side of the "Hooters Arcave" we had in town. One player constantly signed his name as GOD and I reciprocated with DVL. Every day I'd blow my lunch money and far far more at the arcade, placing my quarters ever so patiently on the reserve glass lip of the game cabinet. The initial salvos in the battle for humanity were joystick driven and Xbox 360 achievements make me feel this same way.

My greatest nemesis, as usual, is time. I don't support cloning for body harvesting or life longevity (though, I do want to be immortal): I support cloning so that I can get more shit done and then tell myself about it. If you're an Xbox 360 player and a reader, be my guest ("put our service to the test", whee!) and befriend me.



Julia arrived home Sunday, May 21st, five days after her delivery:

Chloe, Julia, and Maya

Julia, 5 days old, meets the cats.

Julia's Favorite Face

Julia does this face quite often, actually.

Julia's First Bath

Julia's first bath.

Home without the Heart

Julia Kate was born at 8:06 EST on May 16th, 2006. I'm home now, without her. Going home without your newborn is incredibly, incredibly difficult, and it didn't hit us until the front door closed behind us, the exact same as it did when we left Monday night. We're here only for a brief time - we packed for a three day hospital excursion, not the ten they've told us the complications will require. I can't type much more now - the ZOMG! post I planned to write just isn't in me at the moment, and every moment at this keyboard is a minute away from her.

New Albums: 2006-05-13


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