Friday, March 30, 2007

Evolutionary Peanut Butter + Walking Efficiently in Japan

These are two videos that made me laugh.

First peanut butter disproves evolution and if you haven't seen it checkout the equally funny Bananas Prove God Video.

And then there is this which might be a setup or it might be a social experiment, but it's funny too.

28 Weeks Later Trailer

28 days later was a good Zombie film, but the Trailer for the film's sequel 28 Weeks Later looks way better. Firstly they are doing a plot about the re-population of London after the zombie outbreak which I don't believe has ever been done before and then they are doing a very Japanese thing in blowing home cities up with a dash of American firepower.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Akira Manga (Completed)

A few hours ago I finished reading the 2,182 page Akira Manga. The same manga that spawned the 1988 film that changed Anime forever and brought Anime to the west. Although I am a huge fan of Akira the film masterpiece, I have to admit that the manga is a different masterpiece entirely.

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I first bought the volume 1 in April 2002 (according to my Amazon account) and the rest soon after because I was a big fan of the film. For some reason I only got to half way through volume 3. I don't remember why but the whole series then sat on a shelf waiting for me to get around to reading it again (after five years I chose to read from the start again). With it's daunting size and such things as final year projects and such to distract my attention I never got around to reading it again.

It is a lot of paper.
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The reason why I felt I could just sit and read it is because a few months ago I read the entire of Death Note in about two weeks. Pertly because it was being made into a film and I had seen the impressive trailer, but also once I started grinding through the story I found the whole experience to be very rewarding. Normally I would pace myself, but on this occasion I just read (a lot) and found the story flowed much better with fewer breaks.

So being unemployed as I am I thought it was about time I paid my respects to the original manga that spawned the film I favour so greatly. If it wasn't for a certain Oblivion Expansion I would have gotten through it quicker, but I was quite surprised at how utterly different the manga is to everything that the film is. The manga has way more characters, happens over a much longer period and is a lot more epic in nature. I don't want to spoil anything about the plot, but if the film was converted to a graphic novel I am fairly sure it would be less than 400 pages. So even if you have seen the film a thousand times the manga is well worth reading and will enhance your understanding of the film's plot. And if you have read the manga, go see the film because it isn't an adaptation at all, but rather a different telling of the same overplot.

While I was reading I spotted this little pain:

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The guy is being asked to lift a stone with his physic powers as training. As soon as I read it I thought of the Wachowski Brothers and wondered if they had seen that too.

Anyway the manga is the best graphic novel I have ever read and for some reason I thought it would be interesting to record how must time i spent reading each volume as I went:

Volume 1 (359 pages)
1 hour
47 minuets
32 seconds

Volume 2 (301 pages)
1 hour
15 minuets
52 seconds

Volume 3 (282 pages)
1 hour
18 minuets
37 seconds

Volume 4 (394 pages)
2 hours
5 minuets
5 seconds

Volume 5 (413 pages)
1 hour
59 minuets
38 seconds

Volume 6 (433 pages)
1 hour
10 minuets
48 seconds

Total pages 2,182
Total reading time 9 hours 36 minuets and 32 seconds.

It's a masterpiece I can't simply give it a score out of five!!!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Journey to The Shivering Isles

I have been playing the Oblivion expansion Shivering Isles and it's good. My main complaint with Oblivion was that the people in Cyrodiil where just flat and after more than forty hours of listening to that imperial tone they speak in, they all become slightly irritating with most reviewers even saying Bethesda should have hired more voice actors. Oblivion never had any real story progression or character development, not even where it should have been in the main quest line.

That all being said Shivering Isles is brilliant, haven't completed it yet, but OMG it is twice the game Oblivion was with all those character narration faults corrected.

You can download the Shivering Isles from Oblivion's main menu option screen. For 2400 points (£20.40) it isn't a cheap expansion, but I do think it's worth it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

David Lynch Speaks on Product Placement

Product placement in video games is currently a hot topic and you would think developers would be saying that it's great because the extra funds help make the game better the consumer benefits from the advertisement, but the truth is that publishers eat all the profits from the in-game advertisement to offset the risk they take from investing in the title. Still it as been described by some that advertisement in necessary for this young growing industry to continue to grow.

David Lynch director of such titles as Twin Peaks and Dune (one of the few films I own) was asked about product placement in films and this is his response:

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Seen 300 at the cinema today. It's good and I think very character over plot orientated, just like Anime is.

Last year the best film I seen at the cinema was Pirates of the Caribbean 2, good, but no ending. Everything else was either average or just not that great. This year however I have seen Hot Fuzz the best comedy I have seen in a very long time and now 300 a serious bar raising action film. 2007 seems like better year for films already.

P.S Actually the best film from 2006 was Little Miss Sunshine, but I seen that this year.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Supreme Commander - Story

I completed the last campaign on Supreme Commander today (with the cheats on) and I have to say I am a little disappointed with the story. SC has three great factions to choose from each with a six planet campaign, firstly there is the United Earth Federation who is a Republic that was formed after the Galactic Empire fell. The Cybran Nation is a group fighting for the freedom of enslaved cyborgs led by their creator Professor Brackman (who is now over 1000 years old). And then there is the Aeon Illuminate, religious nuts who happen to have really advanced technology left to them by an alien race that founded their religion.

There are sparks of genius in the story. In-partially the Cybran Nation resembles a struggle for racial equality, like that between Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam where instead of unity the Cybran Nation (just like Malcolm X did in his early years) seeks racial segregation as a means to end tension.

Dialogue is done with an emotional alignment that makes you see things from the view of the faction you are currently fighting for. So if you are fighting for the Aeon Illuminate their commanders come across very ethereal in their caring for the civilian population, but play on the side of the United Earth Federation and they will seem like religious zealots. Then play on the side of the Cybran Nation and they will appear to want to cleanse the universe of all Cybrans. This works quite well and no faction seems more evil or good than the others after playing through all available campaigns.

The story however isn't very interesting and the Aeon Illuminate especially seems very unsound as the game doesn't fill in any gaps to help the player understand what this religion they follow actually is. More details about the planets that the player fights on would add more depth to the universe. More information about the factions as the game progresses would also be welcomed as with the Aeon Illuminate and United Earth Federation I found myself not caring wither they won or lost. I did however care about the Cybran Nation, but that was only because the Aeon Illuminate commanders kept calling the Cyberins abominations and that made me identify with them a little as I also get that from religious groups from time to time.

Overall Supreme Commander has an ok story, but it could have been much better if it had just given more information about the universe, what was going on and tried a little harder to make me care about what happened to the different factions.

If you complete the game, watch through the end credits (you actually have to watch the whole credits) and you will be rewarded with a five second FMV sequence after the game results screen which indicates that the game's story isn't over just yet, not that you are given much of a reason to care, but I still look forward to an expansion or something that will build on what groundwork was been laid-out.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Singing Accents

I have noticed some perfectly English sounding people sing with American accents and sometimes I mistake American artists for being English because of their singing accents.

So have you ever noticed someone singing in a different accent than their own before?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Gamasutra Does the Art Thing Also

As an odd coincidence Gamasutra today posted an article titled Are Games Art? (Here We Go Again...) By Bryan Ochalla which surprised me because I only Posted on the Subject Yesterday and this article comes at the question from the other side of the discussion suggesting that games are indeed all art.

I have a few problems with the article and his first mistake:
That, however, is a question to be tackled at another time and in another article. Instead, the question of the day is “are games an art form?”

Unsurprisingly, the answer among game developers is a resounding “yes.”
Hideo Kojima was the first developer I ever heard to give his outright opinion on the subject and his stance is that, although games contain art, they are designed as mass entertainment and are not art. I am not sure I agree with his stance from the Official PlayStation Magazine on art, but this was what got me first thinking about the subject. A few other developers this year at GDC also from Japan shared a similar stance (I am sorry I didn't write down their names now). So to say all developers agree that games are art is plain wrong.

Then on the second page of the article Ochalla shows a screenshot from Okami next to a picture of Fountain by Marcel Duchamp and asks below as a caption "Which of the above is art?"

Okami is renowned for having a very unique painted art style and even has a brush that the player must use in the game to cast spells with. Okami is possibly the closest thing any game product has ever come to being considered art. However Fountain on the other-hand was submitted to an exhibition to challenge people's perception of what can be considered art. Even today thirty nine years after the artist's death Fountain is still debated, but widely accepted as art. This is because even though the piece wasn't crafted by the artist's own hands, by him placing the item in a gallery to be appreciated as art makes it art. So maybe the question shouldn't be "Which of the above is art?" but rather "Which of the above emulates art?".

If all games are considered art, then all films should be considered art. And if that is true that makes all the Harry Potter films art which are simply poor adaptations of the books in-order to make money. So if all crap films are art then our definition of art is so broad that I should be able to go to the toilet, shit into the toilet and then call my stool art because it is the result of artistic expression.

The Scope of What is Defined as Art

For the past few months I have been deliberating over this whole 'what is and is not art' discussion and Tuesday I came to a conclusion about the word art itself.

A broad definition of the word art would be the product of an artist and an artist being anybody who creates art. Further definitions include words like inspire and creativity. So analysing the definition of the word unlike with a lot of first line research in other areas doesn't result in any realisations or firm beliefs in what the word means as everything to do with the term is very broad. So then I had a look at the use of the word art in the wild (results in other languages may differ):
  • Paintings
    An artist painting of something real is considered art. An artist painting of something they have seen in their mind and is not real is also considered art.

  • Sculptures
    Much the same as paintings.

  • Poetry
    Poetry is considered emotionally expressive on the part of the poet so is considered art.

  • Stories
    Writers have to craft their creative ideas into single linear (no stories don't need to be linear, but this is how writing is taught) structures and the end result is considered art.

  • Cars
    Some cars are considered works of art.

  • Product Design
    Product design is also sometimes said to be an artform.

  • Architecture
    A lot of architects are inspired by art. And a lot of artists have been inspired by architecture. This inspiration factor and expression through design make buildings widely accepted as art.

  • Films
    Film is also considered art as the artists can express creativity through the medium.

  • Video Games
    Video games are still debated as to wither they are art or not. And this seems odd since other areas like Architecture are easily accepted as art.
From reading that you probably think I am going to just say that because all those other things are art then video games must also be art. Well I don't think that at all because the interactive nature of games means that the player is the artist and not the designer. The game is there for the player to express their own creative intent and the designer is just there to give the player the tools to do that. So although games contain art, they are not in-themselves art as they are not an artists finished product. If you where to video somebody playing a video game, you would have footage of someone expressing their intent and creativity through the game, this then means that that video of the play session could be considered art, but not the tool that allowed for that expression of art (the game).

So to look at this another way, a gun is not a weapon it is a piece of engineered metal. The metal gun could be considered as an expression of creativity and thus art, but it isn't. Instead in the hands of a Human this lump of machined metal can be used to inflict harm. This potential in the hands of the holder is what makes the metal a weapon, just as a video game which is just software is a games in the hands of the player. Without the player, the game is just software, just as the weapon is just metal and neither is art.

So then their is the question of all the art assets that are placed into a game, doesn't that make a game art?

Well earlier this week I was thinking about Hollywood films as products and I came to the conclusion that maybe our definition of art is too broad. In the early days I can see that an art film would be very much like a 'made for profit' film and the film makers who make films for profit would of course want their product to be considered art because art is a highly cultured thing. So although some film can be considered art, films made by Hollywood studios for the purpose of making money should not be considered art at all. I understand that a lot of people who contribute to a commercial film will be producing art for the product, but the objectives of the product is to make money, not for the product to be an expression of creativity. So because our definition of art is so broad people have mistakenly classed games as art.

So to clarify
Monopoly is not art, it is a tool for expressing play. And although Monopoly consists of art assets created by an artist, the game was created to be played by players, to make money and is not the result of a purely expressive process.
And the world needs to stop using art to describe everything because not everything is art.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

XBox 360 Dashboard Theme Previews

Microsoft doesn't provide previews for Dashboard Themes on Live, so this forces everybody to buy themes blind, but today I found which has a preview of all the 360's purchasable Dashboard Themes.

Microsoft does provide previews for some Marketplace content, but they need to give full previews for all content when it goes live on Marketplace otherwise there are always going to be irritated customers who bought something and didn't get what they expected.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Almost the Best Pong Tshirt Ever Made

ThinkGeek is now selling a Tshirt with an LCD screen built-in so you can get that Pong Retro Arcade Feel whenever you look down.

There is however several flaws I see. Firstly, the Pong Tshirt is not playable. Secondly it is silent which means the audio immersivity of the full arcade experience is missing. And thirdly it's animation cycle is so limited it won't tell the time.

Still a good attempt and possibly a worthy suggestion as to how the industry should preserve video games for future generations.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Stupid Questions

I have never understood why there is such a term as a 'Stupid Question'. Through my entire life I have been accused of asking stupid questions, but surly it is only stupid people who don't ask questions!?

The answer to a lot of those questions are mostly straight-forward, but what about something more meaty from Professor Walter Lewin at MIT:

The question posed above is very generalised, but does that make it a more or less of an intelligent question?
Anyway see Kelvin's Thunderstorm for the answer.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Problem With Voice Recognition

I found this one via Omar Shahine (Microsoft Hotmail Front Door Program Manager) and it shows perfectly what the current issue is with voice recognition software. Plus it is very funny.

Voice recognition software today is very good, but when the computer is trying to match your voice to over one million possible things that you could have said, it fails some of the time. Plus as humans we say a lot that we don't mean and controlling your voice while recognition software is listening can be a little awkward at times as you want to be expressive with your voice, but can't be because the text will read back wrong in the mind of the reader.

I don't know if this problem will be fixed in my lifetime as the solution it isn't simply an increase in computational power or better quality microphones. Computers will have to learn how to listen to a human and then rewrite what they have been told to write on the screen.
Human> "and this will result in a less errors replicated on screen"

Computer Types> and this results in fewer errors being typed by the computer in documents

Saturday, March 10, 2007

♥ Peter Molyneux ♥ and his Fable 2 Presentation

One of the things that is being added to Fable 2 is a dog. I read this when it was first revealed and missed the relevance. I was "ok cool, another pet like in Black & White" yet I had forgotten that Peter has been tackling the issue of companion interaction for a few years now and this has resulted in the dog having three prime directives.

1. Don't piss the player off
2. Love the player
3. Don't hurt yourself

This might sound simple, but directive one requires the dog to not only stop getting in the way of the player (unlike what happened to the NPCs in Half Life 2) but to also be so useful that the player will enjoy having their dog around which aids directive two in that the player will eventually become emotionally attached to the dog wither they intend to or not. This emotional attachment is something that has been talked about in past GDCs and although there are many games that make players express a wide range of emotions by design, no game has conquered love by design. Some have come close, but nothing like I think we will see in Fable 2.

Anyway you can watch the full presentation about the dog and other stuff is Over at IGN and I am very much looking forward to a return to form for Molyneux. And the worlds first video game where the player can become pregnant.

♥ Shigeru Miyamoto ♥ and his GDC Keynote

This was supposed to be the Nintendo GDC Keynote presentation and a lot of journalists where expecting another round of game trailers and enthusiastic executives, but developers conferences are supposed to be about content creators exchanging ideas so they can all create better games, that is exactly what the Nintendo Keynote was.

You can watch the Nintendo Keynote in it's entirety Here on IGN and it is several things. From a presentation standpoint it is Miyamoto standing on stage talking about his creative vision for gaming. From a content point of view Miyamoto talks about how his wife hates games, his dog, how his creative vision has evolved with several projects over the years he has been at Nintendo and what happened to Mario 128. But from a strategic point of view I think this is a call to any developer making a game for the Wii to create their own unique non-traditional experiences for the platform because traditional games don't expand the video game player base.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Aquaria Wins Independant Games Festival 2007 Seumas McNally Grand Prize

The winner of this year's IGF Grand Prize is Aquaria, a game I hadn't heard of until after they won the award, and that makes sense since the game isn't out yet, but after watching the trailer I am so looking forward to playing this once it is released later this year.

"Nintendo Wii is Shit"

One of the Spore developers Isn't Happy with the Wii saying it is just two Gamecubes Ducktaped together. Which it is, and from the standpoint of many developers they are having to scale down their visions of next generation gaming for the Wii and use a control scheme which they don't seem to care about. If the development community had of taken the Wiimote to heart and embraced it for what it is then I am sure more fun experiences would be coming to the Wii, but as it stands only first party titles are using the Wiimote effectively.

Developers for this generation seem to be trying to create games that are bigger than what the Wii can handle. This generation is big on Physics, but this is one area that the Wii can't enter and neither can it do truely threaded processing because of it's single CPU. So although the Wii is supposed to be a next gen console, to develop for the Wii is like keeping one foot firmly planted in the last generation. Nintendo clearly doesn't care about anything other than re-imagineing the same games over and over so graphics and CPU power doesn't matter to them, but for the rest of the development community this is a problem.

Incidentally there is a new Paper Mario game coming out for the Wii. Switch from 2D to 3D while playing, er, ok.

Sony Actually Does Something Cool

First video the PS3's Hall of Fame in Home is up, which is just XBox Achievements by the backdoor, but at least Sony is trying.

Secondly, LittleBigPlanet looks awesome. An emergent connected experience that is part artbox, part toy and part community experience makes it look like a awesome game.
The video below shows the tutorial bit of the presentation, but if you want to see the full video then I suggest you watch Part 2 of the Sony Keynote Presentation instead.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Sony Copies Both Second Life and Microsoft in One Package

Sony has this Second Life clone coming out called 'Home' which looks better than what Second Life does, but without the user created content aspects of Second Life. You can watch the presentation trailer below, but the thing that caught my attention is the ability to gain objects in Home by completing set objectives in games. So say kill 100 guys in Warhawk and you get a Warhawk trophy. This is just XBox Live Achievements by the backdoor, but they need to do it by the frontdoor because at the moment if a game I want is launched on all platforms I will either buy it for the PC because it will be the cheapest version, or the 360 version because of the achievement points. Obviously Sony wants to do something similar to Achievements, but this backdoor approach is half hearted and I don't think it will help their position at all.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Adobie Reader Alternative

I am not happy with this as a blog post, but I can't really think of any way of dressing this recommendation up. I could post a screenshot of Foxit, but really it looks just like Acrobat Reader.

Adobe Acrobat Reader the internet's number one PDF displaying application, is slow and makes my hard drive clunk everytime I used it. Then I tried Foxit and OMG I am never going back to that bloated Adobe version. Foxit loads quick and scrolls quick.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Crackdown Achievement Annoyance

There is one type of achievement that I hate and that is the kind that requires you to become the number one player in the world, but just today I think I found another.

There are two achievements that I have been trying to get in Crackdown and they are to get all the Agility Orbs and the Hidden Orbs. Firstly I didn't care about the Hidden Orbs, but after getting 499 of 500 Agility Orbs I started to look for all the hidden Orbs with Some Help in the hope that the last Agility Orb would appear. I now have 299 of 300 Hidden Orbs and I still haven't found the last Agility Orb.

So after putting in more than eight hours respecify on these two achievements with no sign of completion (as I don't know where either Orb is, even after checking off all the orbs on walkthroughs). I feel a little bit dejected and wish the game offered just a little more help than what it does for finding that last Orb. Even the Official Prima Guide is missing Orbs from their walkthrough so I guess I won't be the only one in this position, but I am not happy after putting so much time into searching.

If there was some stats for each island on how many Orbs where available still to collect, that would help me a lot and on that it would also be helpful to have stats on race times as I don't know witch races I am competing against my best time and which are set for the race achievement, which is another annoyance. Good game though.