Tuesday, 28 April 2009
On Monday April 27 a misleading article titled "Calls to ban online game of Holy hatred" was posted on the tabloid newspaper Metro UK.
As often happens on the Internet and in our nowadays lightspeed mediasphere, the news got re-posted and further distorted by several other sources.
We feel compelled to give some clarifications:
- The game has been around for more than a year, it got international news coverage, it has been played by millions of player on the Internet and it has been exhibited in several artistic venues around the world.
- So far we received a couple of letters of complaints from individual catholic players but NO communications from any religious organization.
- The whole article on Metro UK is misleading, we assume the anonymous journalist pointed the game to the 3 individuals in order to get statements and give the impression that some kind of huge controversy was happening. At the present moment NO official statements from actual organizations related to the game can be found.
- The "censored" version was part of the game since the beginning, it is in NO WAY a response to protests from religious organizations.
- The anonymous journalist from Metro UK never contacted us, the sentences "The makers of the game ... have shrugged off criticism" and "the spokesman of Italian-based molleindustria said..." is simply a fantasy of the amateur journalist looking to spice up a blunt article.
Said that the game was obviously meant to be provocative but it was more meant to be a response/complement to the one-way western satire of the infamous Danish Mohammed cartoons.So what we have here is an almost artificial controversy generated by the Metro UK.
At the same time we have another report by Game Politics that the controversial game Six days in Fallujah has been dropped by Konami with all the bad press it has been receiving. As with any other media, controversial topics such as this in the US tend to become less controversial as time goes on.
If we remember, Francis Ford Copolla's Apocalypse Now, now regarded as a masterpiece of film, was surrounded by controversey as the Vietname war was a sensitive topic at the time. Today however, we have games like Battlefield Vietnam and Shellshock: Nam which seem to have flown completely under the conservative radar. We also have modern games like Full Spectrum Warrior which was developed with the assistance of the US army which takes place in a fictional middle eastern country close to Iraq and Afghanistan. In some ways this controversy shows a double standard and a jarring one at that. Time does heal wounds and I suspect games like Six days will eventually be made. But not in today's political climate.
I think these demonstrate the failure of a democratic society to uphold the concept of 'freedom of speech'. Freedom of speech isn't about allowing you to say something 30 years after its occurred when nobody cares anymore, it's about the freedom to debate about the topics while they are still 'hot' so you can influence society or provide a commentary on it. If film makers or game makers want to make a documentary we should support their right to do so.
Monday, 27 April 2009
All this activity It looks like Web 2.0 has finally reached the mature phase of development completely booting out Web 1.0 . The social web is now part of the mainstream surfing experience. For example, I now expect every site to have an RSS feed for me to subscribe to and I expect the ability to share links via Facebook. Web 2.0 has transformed the way we think about the web now and what we demand from the web.
So what's the next phase? Well many commentators say its the mobile web. I also believe the metaweb will increasingly become important. What do I mean by metaweb? I'll post about that later in more detail but check out Nethernet or Rocketon for a hint of what I mean.
Anyway, Mother 3 was released on the Gameboy Advance and the English fan translation was recently completed. I've played about the first hour of the game and I still don't understand why everyone thinks its great. Perhaps its charm lies in the almost serene clear nature of the game, the eco-friendly themes, the simple graphics that harken back to a more innocent time along with the concepts of a warm loving nuclear family. Who knows? I prefer games like Shin Megami Tensei with its serious dark tones and philosophical underpinnings.
Anyway, go check out the translation patch here.
Sunday, 26 April 2009
The recently released Demigod is a good example of a professional game based around the idea. League of legends, is another game that is currently in the works with similar gameplay. Part of the time worked on the DOTA mod which is quite an interesting piece of news. With such similar games being released, it's inevitable that people will compare them. I'll be keeping a close eye on both to see which is more successful.
Saturday, 25 April 2009
I wasn't familiar with who Matt Mason was so I decided to check out his website called The Pirate's Dilemma. What Torrent Freak didn't mention was that Matt Mason has published a book called The Pirate's Dilemma and according to the website is
the first book in the history of the world to hit the number one spot on Amazon’s economics/free enterprise bestseller list, and the rap bestseller list, at the same time. It's also available for purchase online on his site. You can determine the price you pay so you can download for $0 if you like.
The book covers a variety of topics surrounding piracy and also reminds us that the actions of today's filesharers are very similar to the actions taken by other youths of other periods in history. An interesting read and it costs as much as you want. So go check it out and tell more people about it.
Update: Looking at Twitter, a lot of people have twitted on the TorrentFreak post but no one seems to have realised you can download Matt Mason's book for free on the official website.
Friday, 24 April 2009
Earlier this year Prince of Persia: Epilogue was quietly released for the consoles as downloadable content. Unfortunately Shack News reports that it won't be coming to PC due to 'business reasons'.
Does this mean that Prince of Persia isn't selling well enough on the PC and Ubisoft isn't willing to release it on PC? I hope not, but I can't help but read between the lines when I read this report. Hopefully Ubisoft will release some figures on how well Prince of Persia is doing later this year.
But if you're wondering how to play later games like Grim Fandango and Escape from Monkey Island which use a 3D engine called GrimE you'll need to use a spin-off of the SCUMMVM project, Residual.
Residual's aim is to emulate the GrimE engine so those games can be played on modern systems. They've just obtained their own site so keep a close eye on it. Hopefully you'll soon be able to play Grim Fandango and Escape from Monkey Island the way it should be.
Thursday, 23 April 2009
As Webware says:
This parental control suite provides parents with an interesting and possibly unique approach to online child safety. Norton Online Family does provide a blacklist, boilerplate for most parental control software. However, the suite offers more than just an on/off switch, and provides tools that encourage communication between parents and their children.
There's a wide range of control over what sites a child can access. The restrictions can vary from a strict no-access policy that can block specific sites and site categories, to a more lenient notification e-mail sent to the parents when the child visits sites that parents merely want to me warned about. On the child's side, kids are given the option of e-mailing their parents when they're blocked--if the parents allow those e-mails the first place.
Jody Gibney, product manager for Norton Online Family, said, "We want to encourage a different philosophical approach, encouraging parents to talk to kids instead of setting up an adversarial relationship." To further that, the program's House Rules can be customized to suit the needs of individual children within each family, a useful feature since a teenager will have different browsing and social networking interests than an 8-year-old.
It seems like they must have hired some psychologists to work on the actual product. For example, in the help section there is a section entitled Start the Talk. It's interesting to note that on the Norton website there is an actual Family Resource Center where parents can go for advice as well.
It apparently monitors social networks as well so parents can see what kids are doing online.
Wednesday, 22 April 2009
Earth Day Network
And since I'm a gamer, here are a couple of old biology or green oriented games you can try looking for. But try them tomorrow as a way of saving power and being greener today!
Bioscopia: Where Science Conquers Evil
Star Wars: Episode I - The Gungan Frontier
Check out the list of educational/nature games on Mobygames here.
One final piece of news: In Wellington New Zealand you get free coffee.
Tuesday, 21 April 2009
Instead of books, the rise of the internet has allowed us to created virtual worlds. I believe that virtual world have become an important cultural marker of our society. One only has to look at the effect Ultima Online, Everquest and Second Life have all impacted our lives.
In the same way that we preserve books and old films; from an academic point of view, I can't bear the thought of a beautifully crafted virtual world simply locked away and hidden. The code, graphical assets, music and social interactions should be preserved for future studies if possible. No doubt, the data we see will disappear into the Ubisoft vaults and remain locked away, probably forgotten for another fifty years. I think that is a shame.
It is heartening to know that there has been some momentum in the US academic world. Check out Museum Virtual Worlds, Preserving virtual worlds and The US library of Congress Digital Preservation.
Currently, they are mostly concerned with preserving screenshots of these virtual worlds, however they are currently also looking at preserving the code and assets which can only be a good thing for us!
The technology behind this is actually quite old if you look in any psychology text book so for a graduate of psychology this news isn't a breakthrough. Scientists have long been able to convert brain waves into characters or other forms of output. According to most textbooks I read in university, it took about a minute or so for a single letter.
Wired reports back in 2005 that we already have brain computer interface experiments to improve the quality of life of the quadriplegics. As you can read from the article it is unfortunately exhausting to the person. Anyway, the wikipedia article on brain-computer interface is a good starting point for more info.
Readwriteweb is definitely right in saying that the student is riding pop culture by using Twitter to upload that information
So where does that leave us with brain-computer interface? Well Readwrite web has an article on The Internet Brain Implant: Why We Should Say No. In my opinion however, here are a couple of good reasons we should get a brain implant:
- Humans are social animals - Humans love to share info. Look at mobile phone texting and e-mail. We have stories about teenagers who text nonstop!
- Net Generation - Our generation is more comfortable with technology and the internet. In two or three generations who knows what a 10 year old will be able to do on the internet? For them having a brain implant might be as indispensable as a new mobile phone for a teenager's social life. Readwriteweb says that mobile is moving fast but that's precisely why we will end up with brain implants. It's becomes more acceptable to augment yourself with technology. And a brain implant is lighter and easier than having to carry a phone around.
- Better Quality of Life - Truth is, our quality of life has been improving thanks to technology. Brain-computer interfaces might be the way might be a way for people with disabilities to be even more productive. As above, a quadriplegic might still lead a very productive life as a designer or a magazine editor.
- Better Life Opportunities - Parents are often concerned with making sure children do their best at school. This is why parents buy computers and subscribe to broadband internet even if they don't use it for themselves. They recognise that information technology is essential for their children's future.
- Digital Divide - In a similar vein, developing nations like China, Singapore and Korea know that IT is the way of the future. Part of their rapid growth and improvement in standard of living is due to the high-tech industries located within these countries. They will be pursuing this avenue if they believe it will increase their economic growth, I guarantee it.
Monday, 20 April 2009
The closest thing in Western culture would be daytime talk shows or reality TV. For me being Chinese, what she is doing is very similar to a night time variety show which is an asian version of a talk show. Usually in those night time variety shows, there will be a topic or theme which they base that episode upon along with more regular segments.
This is certainly an interesting development and really is like a Web 2.0 extension of the above mentioned shows except instead of having a large production study and having to buy TV time, it's by one person.
Hmm...you know I'd like to offer my time for hire to record and review my progress in a computer game. Any takers? It's only $25 an hour and you have to send me the computer game for review.
Sunday, 19 April 2009
If you've been following the news, you'll also know that it's main competition at this time is Quake Live which is a browser based multiplayer FPS based off Quake III. Who will survive?
Saturday, 18 April 2009
There are differences betwen licensing from either organisation of course. I'm not familiar with every aspect but for me the key differences are:
- APRA maintains an exclusive right to all works by artists while Jamendo doesn't. Jamendo has a non-exclusive right to the music
- Artists using Jamendo are using the creative commons license which means its free for private use
I've often thought of wikis as social club where users can add info and discuss their favourite subject like comics or computer games. I think this only makes wikis even more integrated with our digital lives.
The judge also stated that the usage of BitTorrent at The Pirate Bay is illegal. Rest assured, other torrent sites hosted in Sweden will be keeping a close eye on developments.
While the judge won’t be getting any flowers for this verdict, Roger Wallis who spoke in favor of The Pirate Bay at their trial and received a mountain of floral tributes in return, noted, “This will cause a flood of court cases. Against all the ISPs. Because if these guys assisted in copyright infringements, then the ISPs also did. This will have huge consequences. The entire development of broadband may be stalled.”This case which has been watched closely by everyone in the world has ended with the copyright holders winning this round. There is of course, a court of appeal. I think Pirate Bay kind of shot itself in the foot with its pirate image however. I mean, they call themselves pirate bay after all.
Perhaps a better test case is the Mininova case. Mininova has a policy of taking down torrents should they be contacted by the copyright holder. Mininova also acts with copyright holders who wish to promote their works via bittorrent. Part of the case is to do with whether they should actively filter the information.
If the Mininova case does not go well, then I believe that the anti-piracy movement has gone too far and its actions as Roger Wallis believes, these actions will not benefit society in the short, medium or long term. The only organisation it would benefit is the copyright holders associations and maybe not even the artists!
Thursday, 16 April 2009
Anyway, Kotaku reports that Iain Reekie, decided to make some models of the characters Manny and Glottis. Cool. Too bad these aren't for sale...
What is most perplexing is that fact that the board can not give a R18 rating as the rating goes only as high as M15 in Australia. It seems simple enough to treat games as the same as movies and TV but apparently not. To me it is clear that in Australian law games are not considered a media form like TV or film but rather considered a form of 'childish toy'. 'Toys' that only children and teenagers (15 years of age and below) can play.
But why should this concern us in New Zealand? Games are subject to the same classification as films and TV shows here so we shouldn't be too worried right? Well, the reason for concern is that Australia and New Zealand gaming markets are very closely intertwined. New Zealand itself is considered too small a market. and many of our retailers here stock Australian versions of games. In New Zealand for example our release of Grand Theft Auto IV was the censored Australian version. Although New Zealand law is different economies of scale dictate we get whatever the Australians get.
From my perspective this is clearly a 'freedom of speech' problem which the Australians need to address. Treating video games as merely a 'childish toy' does not serve society. Many gamers are now adults and it is important for us to start treating a video game console as a medium like film or TV.
Wednesday, 15 April 2009
Tuesday, 14 April 2009
Battleforge is an RTS where players uses spell cards to summon creatures and cast spells and requires players to capture certain points to gain the resource to use those spells. The game relies on a microtransaction model where you have to purchase cards in order build a deck of spells and creatures.
Demigods is an RTS where players choose a demigod and help capture points as their armies wage war. You can upgrade your demigod as you gain more experience.
Demigod has followed a more traditional method where you purchase the game once and it's free to play on the multiplayer servers. You will find demigod available for purchase in stores and also online as a digital download. They also plant to release new heroes several months from now. So updates are free.
Battleforge on the other hand has gone the more experimental route. The game itself is free to download but in order to play you need to make your own deck by purchasing cards in card packs. It utilises the microtransaction model in other words and cards are random generated from packs. Updates will take the place of cards so you have to pay for the updates so to speak.
I would love to get my hands on both games (hint hint).
Anyway, here are my predictions for both games.
Demigod - Will take the normal RTS route like Supreme Commander. It will sell relatively well and remain popular for about a year. There will be a small but dedicated cult following after a three years and we will have a sequel around that time.
Battleforge - I really wish this game will succeed, looking at the relatively negative reviews about possibly gameplay imbalance I think the developers need to better manage the perception of their card based model and show that you don't need an expensive deck to win and that you can win with common cards. I also believe their experimental microtransaction model may need the same public relations make over to make it seem fairer but we'll see how things go. We will no doubt see several small card updates during the year and I feel that there will be less frequent but large updates starting from about 9 months from now.
I think Battleforge will last around 3 years before being handed over to the community for free development or shut down. In my opinion if Battleforge is to succeed they need to tap into social network worlds like Gaia Online and really engage players with an amazing fantasy world that doesn't stop when you stop playing the strategy game.
* Please note that these predictions are based on nothing more than what I think. I don't have any hard evidence. Throw in your opinion as well!
By the way, I was playing on Easy and I still found it nail bitingly difficult.
Monday, 13 April 2009
It's interesting to note how the popularity of Starcraft continues to influence society and culture. In many ways, a game of Starcraft is like a game of chess but unlike chess, I think Starcraft has more appeal since its real time and animated. It's much cooler to watch space marines tear up zerglings than a knight attack a bishop (anybody remember battle chess?).
This is a another step forward computer games are making into 'mainstream' culture. Although Starcraft is kind of old isn't it? I thought they would have chosen Warcraft III rather than Starcraft.
Sunday, 12 April 2009
His opinion sums up why digital piracy may be beneficial:
1. Online piracy — while it is definitely illegal and immoral — is, as a practical problem, nothing more than (at most) a nuisance. We're talking brats stealing chewing gum, here, not the Barbary Pirates.
2. Losses any author suffers from piracy are almost certainly offset by the additional publicity which, in practice, any kind of free copies of a book usually engender. Whatever the moral difference, which certainly exists, the practical effect of online piracy is no different from that of any existing method by which readers may obtain books for free or at reduced cost: public libraries, friends borrowing and loaning each other books, used book stores, promotional copies, etc.
3. Any cure which relies on tighter regulation of the market — especially the kind of extreme measures being advocated by some people — is far worse than the disease. As a widespread phenomenon rather than a nuisance, piracy occurs when artificial restrictions in the market jack up prices beyond what people think are reasonable. The "regulation-enforcement-more regulation" strategy is a bottomless pit which continually recreates (on a larger scale) the problem it supposedly solves. And that commercial effect is often compounded by the more general damage done to social and political freedom.
In the course of this debate, I mentioned it to my publisher Jim Baen. He more or less virtually snorted and expressed the opinion that if one of his authors — how about you, Eric? — were willing to put up a book for free online that the resulting publicity would more than offset any losses the author might suffer.
The minute he made the proposal, I realized he was right. After all, Dave Weber's On Basilisk Station has been available for free as a "loss leader" for Baen's for-pay experiment "Webscriptions" for months now. And — hey, whaddaya know? — over that time it's become Baen's most popular backlist title in paper!
And so I volunteered my first novel, Mother of Demons, to prove the case. And the next day Mother of Demons went up online, offered to the public for free.
Sure enough, within a day, I received at least half a dozen messages (some posted in public forums, others by private email) from people who told me that, based on hearing about the episode and checking out Mother of Demons, they either had or intended to buy the book. In one or two cases, this was a "gesture of solidarity. "But in most instances, it was because people preferred to read something they liked in a print version and weren't worried about the small cost — once they saw, through sampling it online, that it was a novel they enjoyed. (Mother of Demons is a $5.99 paperback, available in most bookstores. Yes, that a plug. )Anyway, check it out. There is a small selection but if you're fan of science fiction or fantasy novels I think you'll find some gems.
Saturday, 11 April 2009
One of the features in the game for example is where you might choose to play an illiterate slave where signs are simply unreadable and require deciphering. Also there is possibility of dying in the game being caught by dogs. It was pulled from shelves for being racially offensive amongst other things.
Reading an old article from Atari Magazines, one gets the feeling that the game itself is far from racially offensive and rather is trying to accurately as possible portray the historical situation. Having played previous games by MECC such as Amazon Trail and Oregon Trail I have no doubt the game contents would have been throughly researched before being included and that any implied racism is in fact part of the 'authenticity' of the game itself.
Unfortunately it's hard to find a copy so fingers cross I can locate a source for it and perhaps review it for myself.
One thing that really bugs me is if it was say a book or film, would it have been pulled from the shelves? And what if it had been released now? I think this is a clear indication of the double standard that is applied to games when comapared to 'traditional' media.
Friday, 10 April 2009
Most public broadcasters such as Television New Zealand included have a broadcasting mandate to provide some form of 'public service' including archival. Any member of the public for example, can request something from the broadcasting archives for personal use for example.
A key problem with this mandate of public service is that information is locked away and can't be browsed nor shared despite the advances in modern IT technology which would. Can a public broadcaster be said to be performing its mandate of public service when information remains under lock and key? Wouldn't TVNZ be better serving the public if it made available old TVNZ shows via bittorrent, maybe TVNZ documentaries?
This is a step in the right direction for public broadcasters. I hope TVNZ will follow suit.
Thursday, 9 April 2009
Your opponent can also do the same which will make for interesting multiplayer battles. Of course, there is a limit to how much meddling you can perform which is determined by your chrono energy. The further in time you are, the more chrno energy you consume. I'm still a little confused over the details but watch the videos. They explain a lot of the concepts
Saturday, 4 April 2009
Anyway, Telltale games from Sam & Max fame partnered with Homestar Runner to deliver a brand new adventure series based around Strong Bad, one of the main characters in the universe.
I downloaded Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People Episode 4: Dangeresque 3: The Criminal Projective from Telltale games online during one of their promotions and tried it out. The story involves Strong Bad making a spy movie.
Unfortunately I suspect much of the humour went over my head because:
- I'm not a fan of spy movies
- I'm not familiar with the Homestar Runner universe and the characters were sometimes playing as themselves and sometimes as characters in the spy movie.
Unlike Sam and Max which I recently bought, I'm not sure if I want to spend my money on Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People series just yet.
Wednesday, 1 April 2009
All music on the site is under a creative common license so it's legal to download and share.
According to Jamendo, they currently have over 17000 free music albums available and over half a million registered users. Although it's free for personal listening and sharing, if you're a business or organisation you have to pay to license it. Considering its success I'm surprised the mainstream press haven't heard more about it which is a real shame!
Although I'm not into music, I really enjoyed listening to some of the tracks I personally think that this is a very good sign of where things are heading towards and I believe that a website like Jamendo benefits both artists and users. I really do wish all the best for it.
Check it out here!