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February 28, 2006

Six Apart User Gathering

Six Apart User Gathering
Originally uploaded by mgtrott.

Early Feedback on V for Vendatta

good posters
Originally uploaded by david.

James Wolcott: The Red and the Black:

V for Vendetta may be--why hedge? is--the most subversive cinematic deed of the Bush-Blair era, a dagger poised in midair. Unlike the other movies dubbed "Controversial" (Fahrenheit 9-11, The Passion, Munich, Syriana), it doesn't play to a particular constituency or polarized culture bloc, it's working on a deeper, Edger Allen Poe-ish witch's brew substrata of pop myth."

More or less exactly what I wanted to hear. Thanks, Tom Moody.

Penn & Teller's Magic Bus Veers Right

While chatting about Takeshi no Chousenjou Andy mentioned Penn & Teller's "Smoke and Mirrors," a video game with the same aesthetic sensibility as their stage show. That is uncomprising, rude, and not always done with the audiences interest in mind. Andy writes:

Among the minigames is "Desert Bus," in which you drive a bus across the straight Nevada desert for six hours IN REAL-TIME to score one point. Then you drive it home. Also, I've heard the bus veers slightly to the right intermittently, so you can't just leave it propped up. And going offroad immediately ends your game.

Andy's made the game and the emulator files you need to play it available on waxy.org. He also highlights what seems to be the most excruciating "feature," the bus occasionally veers off to the right.

This got my attention because spontaneity and variation like this are what's missing from most games today, even as game play and interfaces get more interesting. The steps in Dance Dance Revolution are exactly the same every time you play it, likewise the beats and cues in Taiko Drummer are so static it could be played with your eyes closed. Both games overcompensate for their lack of variance in game play with over-the-top psychedelic graphics and sound effects. This is not a new problem of course with Pac-man and Super Mario Brothers often held up as classic examples. Mario Brothers even has it's own tablature!

Madden football treats variance as a feature, in fact it's one of the game's top selling points. The conditions and gameplay change from play to play as players get tired and injured, the sky gets darker and the field gets wetter (if it's snowing or raining) and the crowd gets louder (which distracts the visiting team from making plays). There's literally no end to the variation of games to play, which is one reason that Madden is one of the few true blockbuster video games year after year.

There's a further discussion of weather in video games over at armchair arcade (also at pasta and vinegar). Animal Crossing gets a lot of this stuff right as well, but I stopped playing when I got bored of watering turnips and picking peaches. We have a real peach tree in our back yard, it's much more exciting than the nintendo peach trees (even in the winter).

Katamari Damacy is somewhat of a sacred cow in hipster video gaming circles, but it's one of the worst offenders when it comes to turning innovative game play into a parlor trick. As Jason pointed out, the game is basically 3-D Pac-Man, with ~wild~ graphics and Asian accent/dubbing jokes thrown in to make the game seem more interesting. "We Love Katamari" was so disappointing as a seque, because it was the exact same as the original but bigger. There was nothing to introduce variation to the game play. A few things they could have done -

  • Variation in the number, size and placement of the objects to pick up. This one is a gimme. Katamari as it's currently designed is the exact same every time you play it, which is why people can go on speed runs to the moon or attach rubber bands to their controller to roll up 10^6 roses wihtout human intervention. Any game that involves a speed run probably has little or no interesting variation.
  • Truly collaborative game play - two players could work together to grow large enought to break through a barrier, or to roll over a very large object at the same time to knock it over and break it into manageable bits. Social gaming (Madden, Animal Crossing, Mario Kart) is the most obvious and effective way to introduce variance into games.
  • Game play should change with mood and weather - the Prince should get tired, or angry, or fed up and sad. Wouldn't you, if you're abusive father kept insulting you and threatening to replace you?

ames are basically 3-D pac-man," game designers often exclaim, which is exactly my point. I do love Katamari, but I don't think Video Game designers are innovating fast enough.

Google and the Law Of Very Large Numbers

Microsoft's CFO became famous in the 1990s for his predictions that the company would not grow as quickly as others wished. looks like George Reyes, CFO of Google, is taking a cue. Hey, wait, is this managing expectations on Wall Street, and providing guidance? Whatever it is, GOOG is taking a hit. From a sub required WSJ article:

Google Inc.'s chief financial officer, George Reyes, said the Internet giant's growth is slowing due to the "law of large numbers" and it will need to find new ways to boost revenue.

ents, made at an investor conference, surprised Wall Street and triggered a selloff in Google's shares. In heavy trading, Google shares fell 9%, or $37.70, to $354 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

The company's 18-month effort to boost search monetization by tweaking the advertising system has realized most of the gains possible, Mr. Reyes said. Now growth is being driven mainly by organic factors, like query traffic growth, which he called substantial.

"We're going to have to find other ways to monetize the business," Mr. Reyes told attendees of a Merrill Lynch investor conference.

IBM's Octopiler, or, why the PS3 is running late

"All afternoon I've been slogging through IBM's 25-page paper on their newly released Octopiler, and now things are clearer to me. See, Cell's greatest strength is that there's a lot of hardware on that chip. And Cell's greatest weakness is...

Best of CNN++

In exceptional circumstances, graphics from other news sites sneak into the Best of CNN series. This is one such circumstance.

Look at those beautiful bars. Does that count as desecrating the flag? (Yes.)

New Orleans, then and now

Six months after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and we all watched one of the biggest fuck-ups in recent history play out, it's party time again in New Orleans. Mardi Gras! So we bring you a few interesting photos from...

Schrodinger's Cat is Rolling Over in his Grave

So quantum computers, while still somewhat experimental, aren’t exactly cutting edge news, right? Well, a bunch of gearheads have built a quantum computer that works when it’s turned off.

Yeah, I’m not sure I get it either.

Shakira, Best of 2005

''When people relate to a song that's not even in their mother tongue, you realize we are all made out of the same clay,'' she says.

[no title]

Michael McCracken delivers us: Voodoopad lines to iCal todos.

"Today I realized that I wanted a script to take line-items from VoodooPad pages and make them into Todo items in iCal, so I can track them easier."

music animation machine

a display of a musical score without any measures or clefs, in which information about the music's structure is conveyed with bars of color representing the notes. these bars scroll across the screen as the music plays. their position on the screen conveys the pitch & the timing in relation to each other. different colors denote different instruments or voices, thematic material, or tonality, lighting up at the exact moment it sounds. [musanim.com/ & musanim.com/(pdf)]

Missing, Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras beads rest on a flooded crypt. It had floated out of its cemetery. Pearlington, Ms.

I've been missing, but I've been here. I've not abandoned this, or you, or lost hope, I've just been working hard in other ways. Ways that I'll talk about later this week. I'm just one person, and can only do so much at once, so I had to shut down parts of myself in order to invest in the future survival of my family, and my hometown. Most of you will understand. Some of you will never understand. I'm fine with that, but I'm sorry I've been gone.

I'm stuck in cold NYC right now. My mom and little brother are still in North Carolina. I just wish we were all in New Orleans today, wearing blue tarp costumes, screaming throw me something mister, scrambling for doubloons and beads, hoping for that Zulu coconut we'll never get.

But the fact that we're not there won't stop me from feeling it. I ordered a king cake, it should arrive today, just in time for my birthday on Thursday. I'm going to throw a big king cake party for all my Yankee friends, and we're going to eat and drink and be merry, knowing that tomorrow we could die.

And that feeling is Mardi Gras. And it's New Orleans, no matter where you happen to be. So, to all my fellow missing and exiled, laissez les bons temps rouler!

Mind and brain portals launch on Wikipedia

Phrenology1.jpgWikipedia now has both a mind and brain portal and a psychology portal which promise not only to keep you up-to-date with the latest encyclopaedic happenings, but also to broadcast news and messages for the psychology and neuroscience community.

The mind and brain portal seems to have been kicked-off by Italian philosopher Francesco Franco (username Lacatosias) while the psychology portal was the brain-child of Zeligf.

Both have been launched in the last few weeks and like everything on Wikipedia, the quality improves as more people pitch in.

So if you've never thought of contributing to the world's best and most dynamic online encyclopaedia, now's your chance.

Link to Wikipedia Mind and Brain Portal.
Link to Wikipedia Psychology Portal.

Geocoded Livedoor Weather RSS - Ogawa::Memoranda

Weather in video-games

Just ran this interesting discussion about the weather in video games. The author, Matt Barton (University of South Florida) worked on this topic for a paper called “How’s the Weather?: A Look at Weather and Gaming Environments” (in the “Playing with Mother Nature: Video Games, Space, and Ecology” book).

hat are some examples of good and bad use of weather in videogames? I’d really like a list of games that used weather not just as decoration or “atmosphere” but in ways that really affected gameplay. An example off the top of my head was Weather War, where players controlled hail, sleet, lightning, and rain? to destroy each other’s castles. Help me out here, please.

are some games you know of that make interesting use of weather?
2. What were the first games to include weather? How did they use it?
3. What are examples of games that turn the weather into a character, or feature bosses and such that manipulate the weather?

Why do I blog this? I won’t enter into the details of the discussion but the questions brings some interesting ideas about the connection between game design and video games weather. The weather is one of the contextual feature of an environment.

NextD Journal 8.3 - Peter Merholz

The Bad Peter throws down for 10000 words or something.


story links: einstein bot, notes to self (thanks, joshua!), lazy muncie (thanks, jared!), google map sightings: sea monster (thanks, joe!), witch (thanks, rich!), something design (thanks amil!), basra iraq, the syndicate conference, send in your shirts, microsoft origami, apple widescreen fake ipod video, girls are smarter than guys

indoors and out

writing (creating a miniature world) was the natural solution to the problem of shoeboxes full of recyclables such as empty lotion bottles, round caps from milk cartons, broken belt buckles, molded plastic forms (to create miniature worlds).

when we moved, i faced the shoeboxes. larogers... if you move garbage... you pay movers to move garbage... that's crossing over. turning a dark psychological corner. accummulate again when it's 100% time to devote to miniature-building 100%.

but come on. probably i should begin again. to accummulate garbage. it's small and clean, and when the jaws of papier maché, superglue, scraps of fabric just big enough to upholster a miniature chair snap at my ears and bite my fingers, my forms will be endless, flying to my aid.

this is what goes in the tiny garden of my fantasies:

a post about jack kramer, look for it springtime

Apple makes space for Ruby on Rails

Apple Developer Connection posted a piece on Using Ruby on Rails for Web Development on OS X.

It should come as no surprise that Mac OS X is a favored platform for Rails development. Rails and its supporting cast of web servers and databases thrive on the rich Mac OS X environment. The premier text editor favored by legions of Rails programmers everywhere is TextMate, a Cocoa application. And all members of the Rails core development team work with Macs.

Climb aboard.

4D Magic Cube puzzle

Alice popped this over last night, and it's a mind-boggler: If you can do the classic Rubik's Cube in your sleep, or maybe solve one in each hand simultaneously, perhaps you'd like a new challenge? Get a load of Magic Cube 4D!


It's extremely hard to solve from a full scramble and not many people have managed it, but if you've done the original Cube you've got the skills you need, and can build on them by starting with just one random scramble. If you're not sure your brain will bend around it, try the web-based applet - it lets you twist and spin the puzzle around without downloading anything.

Pieces of string

Weather in video-games

Shadow of the Colossus would be a *lot* harder if it was pissing down with rain.

Sam3 Ties Up Madrid



Sam3 in Madrid uses a series of 10 module stencilsof a very long cord to wind his rope through the streets of Madrid. Like an interactive game, Sam3 can wind his rope around the city and adapt it to the specific space playing with the different combinations.

hey there!

new04 Originally uploaded by fogboy. Welcome our baby boy, Solomon Leigh Rosenblatt. Born thursday night the 22nd at about 7:30 pm. lots more photos on our flickr page, and more news to come.

The Clinton Administration set the stage

Clinton's Guantanamo. (via b&s)

Non-Dairy Rich

Obituary, Robert Rich: How a war-time ice-cream manufacturer invented a soy-based, frozen topping and coffee creamer, fought off 42 separate lawsuits from enraged dairy men, and created the biggest family owned food-service company in America.

David Harper: Upcoming.org Understands The Value Of “Mobile-Friendly”

Sony Ericsson and Google bundle Blogger.com on new phones

logo100.gif Sony Ericsson has signed a deal with Google that will mean owners of the Sony Ericsson mobile phones will be able to file to a personal blog on the move as soon as they turn on their new phone, reports Pocket-Lint. "The company today announced that it will be integrating Google’s Blogger and Web Search features on all its future mobile phones. Owners of a blogger.com account will be able to file stories via their mobile phone on the move with the included software." Related: - Nokia bundles Lifeblog.

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