Friday, 31 July 2009

Should a smack as part of good parent correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?

Today I received a citizen initiated Referendum "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?"

Although this blog about gaming, I think this referendum is important enough for me to blog about. This is a very loaded question which any academic would rigorously reword. By placing the word 'good' in front of parental correction, we are creating the idea the smacking is 'naturally' a good/positive part of parental correction. Who doesn't want to support 'good parenting'? If smacking is part of 'good parenting' than we should support 'good parenting'. Hence we should not criminalise good (smacking) parenting. It is after all 'good'.

However the real issue here is smacking. Smacking is often used as part of parental correction and has only recently been made a criminal offence in New Zealand over the last couple of years. Seen in this context, this question favours the pro-smacking side and this referendum is clearly misleading. It is an attempt to sway the opinions of politicians to support the pro-smackers. I hope people will realise that this is a very poorly constructed referendum question and I think can not be used as a proper measure of public opinion for the reasons covered in the previous paragraph.

For more information, please check out . It's a website devoted to retaining the existing laws and is anti-smacking.

Update: I don't forget to visit Referedum Generator where you can generate your own (nonsensical) referedum!

Disclaimer: I don't think smacking is right.

Relic Games Sale on Steam

Steam is having a sale on relic games and if you're into strategy games but still haven't bought Dawn of War or Company of Heroes you should definitely check it out. With the currency exchange rate though, you might find that some games are almost the same as in Mighty Ape with games such as Soul Storm.

I recommend getting
  • Relic Super Pack for US$25 which includes the first Dawn of War up to the Dark Crusade expansion and Company of Heroes and the first expansion pack.
  • Company of Heroes Gold (US15) which includes the Company of heroes and the first expansion
  • Dawn of War II for US$30

Curiously, the Dawn of War Anthology which includes Dawn of War and the Dark Crusade expansion is exactly the same price (US$25) as the Relic Super Pack so don't even bother buying that!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Good Old Games - Business Model

Good Old Games is a game company that recently launched focused around offering 'good old games' for a cheap price. Considering they are DRM free, I thought I would do a quick run down of what they offer and what I think their marketing strategy is.

1) Work with the Community aka Trust the customer -
All games are DRM free and this is quite a bold move by a games publisher. They are relying on community support rather than trying to convert pirates. It seems they've been paying attention to Star Dock's Brad Wardell's Gamer's Bill of Rights and his general comments on not treating paying customers as pirates.

2) Convenience
Many of these games are hard to find in any retail store. Perhaps more importantly, they are also made Windows XP compatible which is something quite hard to do as I've found out.
GOG has also expanded its catalogue and is trying to become a one stop shop for all your old gaming needs.
Finally you can redownload a game you've purchased as many times as you like where ever you are.

3) Extras
As recently mentioned in an interview by Gamasutra, their games "frequently includes additional pack-ins like soundtracks and development-related materials". For the collector types (like myself) which probably make up a substantial amount of their market this is good news.

4) Service/Support
The original publishers have long given up supporting these games. So now takes upon itself to not only update the game for Windows XP but also to provide technical support.

Do you agree or disagree with my breakdown? Go ahead and comment if you like.

Monday, 27 July 2009

SCUMMVM wins awards again

SCUMMVM once again wins the Sourceforge choice awards. Yah! Adventure games aren't dead!

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Digital Presvation in the Cloud

The US library of congress announces that it will start trialling cloud technologies as a way of preserving their data. Check out the press announcement. Hopefully this is the start of an international precedence for using cloud computing within the academic world.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Bungie parts ways with Halo

As Kotaku reports, Halo: Reach will be Bungie's last game and I for one feel that Bungie deserves gamer's support for doing that. It's tough walking away from such a successful IP as Halo but I believe that also frees Bungie to create another IP. Few Halo players remember that Bungie as a game studio has been famous for creating other memorable games such as Marathon and Myth which were revolutionary in their own way. Let's forget about the terrible action game Oni for a moment which did nothing for any genre.

Here's to hoping for another amazing game series, whatever it is!

Adventure games in European Game Stores

While I was in Europe, I took a peak at the European game stores and was pleasantly surprised to find that adventure games (as in the traditional point and click adventure games) occupied an equivalent amount of shelf space as other genres. Obviously, adventures as a market are still quite popular in places like Europe and has a much more stable niche than in the US, Australia or New Zealand.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

League of Legends will be Free

League of Legends will be embracing the free to play model of gameplay allowing players to play the game free. Similar to Battlefield Heroes and Savage 2, they expect players to go for premium features with 'content customisation' (i.e. Hero appearance and clothing) as their source of income.

It worked for Gaia online I suppose but I'm still not sure if gamers are the sort that would pay for appearance customisation. People who play Gaia Online are playing it for the social aspect and customisation is part of that social aspect. Gamers on the other hand, more choices or an edge and might be more inclined to pay for that edge.

As a gamer myself, I am well aware that forcing gamers to pay for gameplay enhancements introduces an element of potential gameplay imbalance or at least the perception of it. After all if someone else can spend money and instantly level up, what's the point of you playing?

Like many freemium business models, its clear they're trying to get a large customer base and hoping that the small amount of paying customers will be able to support the other 95% of nonpayers.

Paradox interactive Sale

Strategy Gamers (and the odd adventure gamer) will love the sale ending 26th that Steam currently has on Paradox Interactive with 50% off all their games.

Recommended buys:
King's Bounty
Knights of Honour
Penumbra Collector's Edition (Adventure Horror)

And if you're into tough complex strategy games:
Europa Universalis III
Hearts of Iron III

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Explore the Moon on Google Earth

Google's official blog announces the launch of the Moon on Google Earth...wait...shouldn't that be like, Google Solar System now or something since we now have both the Moon and Mars on Google Earth?

I suppose people who believe the moon landing is a hoax will take this as an even greater cover up by the US government or something.

Mobile Web = Mid 90's internet

USA today reports that Nielsen Norman released a study showing how the Mobile web is very similar to the internet in the mid 90's ie slow and clunky.

As anyone who tries to browse the web on their mobile phone will tell you, that's exactly right! It's difficult and annoying. What we need is menus that provide more buttons and less keyboard typing. Many of the best mobile websites don't really require any typing just selecting.

PecoBoo by VeryPC - Not quite ready for public testing just yet

According to ZDNet VeryPC is a company dedicated to making green energy efficient PC's and recently announced that they have released a program called PecoBoo that could help you save monitor energy using your webcam. It detects if you're there via it's facial recognition software and if you're not, it switches the monitor off.

Checking out the software's official website reveals you need to register with your e-mail and phone number or give them a call. Looks like the rest of us will have to wait. Still it looks interesting.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Rise of the digital game download - What consumers are paying for

The release of Battlefield 1943 reminds me that the digital downloads and the shift away from physical packaging. What exactly are people buying when they pay for a digital download?

Content - The initial game content itself
Multiplayer service - Ability to socialise with other players
Additional content - Post release extra maps, mods, content update
Technical Support - Patches

For a game with a one off purchase, gamers expect the company to provide all of these services for a year or two minimum. Gamers expect a subscription based service like massively multiplayer service to continually provide all of these as long as they pay.

Most companies like EA and Activision are starting to realise that selling a game isn't just like selling a bicycle or a music CD. It isn't quite like selling a service like power or a telecommunications package either. It's somewhere inbetween.

Games to Movies - Still a bad idea

I don't know why people still try to convert games to movies. The recent announcement of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune being turned into a movie shows Hollywood has yet to learn their lesson.

The reason why games make bad movies is because they are different mediums. The major advantage of games is their interactivity; turning YOU the player into the protagonist. You decide where your warrior or (superhuman) soldier does.

In movies, there is little interaction and we are expected to passively enjoy the experience. Rarely does a character ask you what they should and viewers have no control over the characters' actions.

Coming back to Uncharted, the game puts you into the shoes of some guy trying to find some treasure. That's a fairly generic plot and one that has been seen millions of times in movies. And there have been good island action movies, average island action movies and there have been bad island action movies. There is a good chance that Uncharted will end up being an average or bad island action movie. A game is fun because it allows you to participate and decide how they deal with the various problems obstacles on the island.

Hopefully Hollywood will understand that one day. If they want to pick a game they should pick one which would make an interesting movie. Not simply because it sells well.

PIrate Bay's Future

If you've been keeping track of the news around the Pirate Bay trial, you'll know that Pirate Bay is in negotiations with Global Gaming Factory to be sold to the. TorrentFreak mentions that Pirate will become a paysite but will promote file sharing with the subscription being used to pay off copyright holders.

Like TorrentFreak, I'm wondering if this this work? What's to stop users from grabbing the copyrighted material and uploading them to another torrent site?

Surf Safer and Smarter by WOT

The Web of Trust comapany recently released a 'Surf Safer and Smarter' firefox addon collection featuring:

Surf Canyon
Adblock Plus
Roboform Toolbar
Web of Trust

I use Adblock Plus and Web of Trust so I definitely recommend those to keep yourself safe. I don't recommend Robofor Toolbar because the free version is limited to remembering only 10 logins. Firefox already has a built in password manager system and there are other free ad-ons without the 10 login limit. I use Secure Login myself.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Nethernet goes 1.0 - Becomes Freemium

Nethernet the meta-browsing game (formerly known as PMOG) has finally gone 1.0 and is now a freemium service.

Just a brief recap on how Nethernets gameplay works; as you surf the net you get datapoints which are then used to purchase tools. For example, You could purchase a portal and plant it on your favourite site pointing to another related site. Whenever another Nethernet player visits the first site, your portal will pop up inviting the Nethernet player to take it. There are a variety of tools which serve various functions including mines which serve only to annoy visitors by shaking their browser! Advanced tools such as grenades and puzzle crates now cost bacon which is purchased using real money.

On the forums, there are already players grumbling about this new pay-to-play development. It's easy to see why as many of them don't quite see the need pay for a social-browsing experience considering similar social-web services like delicious and stumbleupon are free. We'll see if this transition into freemium works for Gamelayers.

Update: Took a look at some of the free ways to get Bacon. Unfortunately it involves signing to gambling sites and to usless mobile phone text alerts. Disappointing! I was hoping they would have partnered up with a website like Trial Play or a games store.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Underground Railroad - What hapened to the Video Game Controversy?

Kotaku reports that a new video game about the American Underground Railroad is being funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and will be made by Norfolk University history professor Cassandra Newby-Alexander. AS Kotaku reports:

The player will be forced to make decisions - which path to take; who to trust - and not every decision will be the right one. The player, in the role on an escaped slave, can potentially be captured or even killed, but Newby-Alexander assures, "Even wrong choices in the game will lead to learning." In fact, while the game is aimed at middle and high school students, the plan is to make it challenging enough that success isn't always a foregone conclusion. "I don't want to dumb-down the game."

Now hang on minute! That sounds suspiciously like another game that was created over a decade ago by MECC called Freedom! released in 1993. In the game, you play a slave trying to use the Underground Railroad to escape to freedom. MECC at the time of Freedom!'s release was well known at the time for Oregan Trail which simulated the life of a settler trying to reach Oregan. Unfortunately, Freedom! was pulled from the market because some parents sued MECC over it.

An old computer magazine called Compute! (as transcripted by Atari Magazines) writes about why the game was pulled. The two main objections was the the

slaves' uneducated, dialect-heavy speaking manner presented the wrong impression of African-Americans to a predominately white student body.


that that Freedom! reduced slavery to game and ""Nintendoized" a traumatic and difficult period".

This seems like another good example of misunderstanding the computer game media. In the first place, African slaves really did speak with such an accent back in those days so that feeds into the historical accuracy. Mark Twain himself attempted to convey this accent in books like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Would parents have them speak with a modern American accent?

It seems a shame that MECC, which at that point was already well known for crafting well thought out games at that point, was attacked for creating such a game. Indeed, I believe the parents did more harm than help by forcing MECC to pull the game from the market.

Coming back to the present new game being created, I hope that this new game will live up to MECC's high quality edutainment standards. In my opinion one of the first things that Professor Newby-Alexander should do is to help make Freedom! available once more! Maybe this time, the parents will keep quiet and not sue them like they did MECC.

Jamendo creates plugin for Moovida

Jamendo announced some time ago that it had launched an integrated plugin with Moovida, a free media player, so Moovida users can browser and download Jamendo songs. It was reported on several blogs but it looks like the main news media hasn't noticed that Jamendo is slowly but surely gaining popularity.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Kerchoonz - Portable Speaker and Marketing Strategy in One

Kerchoonz, a free music site has released a portable speaker called K-box that allows you to use any surface as a bass speaker. Several hardware and music blogs have reviewed the speaker which is apparently quite good as portable speakers go.

None of them have really mentioned that this is part of Kerchoonz's freemium strategy, giving away free music and creating new streams of revenue by selling hardware instead. Its similar to what Apple is doing with its ipod and music store. Will this marketing strategy work? Time will tell but I think the K-box has certainly got the attention of the music hardware community and blogs.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Two new superhero games

very recently two super hero sandbox action games were released for the consoles. One of these games is inFamous, where you play a person granted electricity based super powers and can choose to be either good or bad. The other is Prototype where you play as a person transformed into a living biological weapon. Unlike inFamous, prototype casts you very definitely as an anti-hero and is designed around the idea of killing and absorbing civilians and enemies while fighting is crucial for staying alive.

Both games have obtained fairly good reviews and like Battleforge and Demigods, it'll be interesting to see how both new superhero franchises develop.