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  SXSWi Reminder: ‘What Can the Video Games Industry Learn From ARGs?’  
 
 
Posted 2008-03-10 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
As previously threatened, I'll be kicking off a conversation today at SXSW about how the video games industry might pick up a few useful tips from Alternate Reality Games. The conversation takes place between 3:30pm and 4:30pm in Ballroom E. I'll be joined by Steve Peters of 42 Entertainment, probably Dan Hon of Six to Start, and whoever else wishes to drop in.

The idea for this so-called "Core Conversation" was pitched months ago, so I hope to freshen and expand the topic by identifying some areas in which video games have already adopted ideas and mechanics made popular by ARGs. Looking forward to the chat, hope you can make it.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Eleven Fit Teens Fail Wii Fitness Test  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-30 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
MedPage Today reports that Wii Sports, a game for the Nintendo Wii console, wasn't found to contribute to recommended daily exercise standards set in Britain, according to a Liverpool University study. Nintendo has been hoping its console would be seen as a fitness aid, releasing the Wii Fit controller and Wii game in Japan earlier this year (due out elsewhere in 2008). A number of academics, researchers, and consumers around the world have been looking at the console as a potential fitness device, with varying results. A Canadian hospital is even using the game console as part of a physical rehabilitation program.

The Liverpool study--ironically, funded by Nintendo's UK marketing arm--might have dashed the game-maker's health-hopes if it wasn't for the fact that only eleven subjects were reportedly involved. The teens--six boys and five girls--were physically fit to begin with, and were studied playing only two games: Project Gotham Racing for the Xbox 360, and Wii Sports. The study found that active games like Wii Sports burn about 50% more calories than passive games like PGR, but that ultimately this only represented a 2% increase in energy expenditure in a typical week.

I'm no scientist, but it seems clear that a larger-scale study might be in order. A more diverse, and larger group of subjects; a wider range of games, particularly some which could be considered more active than Wii Sports. In my own experience, playing 30 minutes of Raving Rabbids on the Wii reminded me how atrophied my spaghetti-thin arms are. While the Wii may not appear to affect fitness levels according to this study, I'd rather play an active video game than a passive one, and I suspect most parents would rather buy an active video game for their kids. Perhaps the next study will involve the Wii Fit peripheral, hopefully with more promising results.
 
     
 
   
 
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  2008 ‘Game For Change Challenge’: Second Verse Same As The First  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-11 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Microsoft has announced its 2008 "Games for Change Challenge," where students around the globe will submit serious games which address the theme "Imagine a world where technology enables a sustainable environment." I didn't think much of the competition when it was launched earlier this year, based around the theme of global warming.

In both cases, I see the best solution to environmental rehabilitation as reducing (ideally eliminating) the use of Microsoft-created technology altogether. Stop making so many faulty consoles--or any at all, given that computing hardware such as the Xbox 360 eats too much energy and ultimately ends up in landfill or the hands of poor recyclers. If you must make consoles, ensure full backwards compatibility with previous software libraries and hardware peripherals such as controllers. Increase power efficiency, not power demands. Reduce packaging. Require contest entries to be presented remotely.

The ultimate test for these environmentally-themed games is whether or not the player does more good than harm in playing. Ideally, this means motivating a gamer to go outside and make a real difference, but it could be as simple as reducing household energy demands by turning off hungry hardware (such as the game console). The contest's mission is to have student technologists "actively contribute" to improving the world--I'm not sure this can be accomplished using Microsoft's proprietary game console as a platform.
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Xbox Live’ Friends To Be Publicized:  Opt Out If You Like Privacy  
 
 
Posted 2007-11-26 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Microsoft announced via its Gamerscore blog today that as of December 4, 2007, adult members of the Xbox Live gaming service will have their friends lists exposed to the rest of the community. Previously, friends lists were private. Members will automatically be opted in to the new system, and will have to manually opt out if they'd like to keep their friends list protected.

According to Microsoft, Xbox Live members can opt out of the loosened privacy system by visiting an administration page and setting either "Friends Only" access or "Blocked" access. By default, the friends lists of all members aged 18 and up will be set to "Everyone" access. Minors will be disallowed from making their lists open to all, and are automatically given "Blocked" status.

Continue reading: ‘Xbox Live’ Friends To Be Publicized:  Opt Out If You Like Privacy
 
     
 
   
 
  3 comments  
  ‘Mass Effect’ Pre-Play Impressions  
 
 
Posted 2007-11-21 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Last night I attended the Toronto launch event for Mass Effect, the latest Bioware-developed blockbuster game for the Xbox 360. A dozen or so journalists were plied with appetizers and drinks at Atom Egoyan's "Camera Bar," where Mass Effect project director Casey Hudson walked us through a game demo in the bar's swanky screening room. I haven't yet received a review copy of the game, but here are some quick observations based on what I saw during the demonstration...

The Good:
  • Epic space opera adventure in the style of classic science fiction literature.
  • Above-average in-game cinematics feature a variety of camera angles and depth-of-field effects.
  • Vangelis-style synthetic soundtrack inspired by sci-fi movies of the late 70s and early 80s (odd choice, if you ask me).
  • High production values in alien species design, architecture, and interface design.
  • Extreme detail in character models.
  • Appears to feature the same sort of character progression and item accumulation as previous Bioware titles--fans of the developer or detailed RPGs aren't likely to be disappointed. Not so sure the game is going to excite casual gamers, though.


Continue reading: ‘Mass Effect’ Pre-Play Impressions
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Xbox 360 Family Timer’ Babysits Your Kids  
 
 
Posted 2007-11-07 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Microsoft announced today that new parental controls will soon be made available for the Xbox 360 game console. According to an emailed news release, the "Family Timer" can monitor and restrict screen-time for kids on a daily or weekly basis, turning off the console when the time-limit has been reached. The new system will be made available for download via Xbox Live in early December.

Microsoft cited a telephone survey it recently commissioned, which found "62 percent of [800 surveyed] parents would welcome a tool to control the amount of time children spend using the video game consoles in their homes." Personally, I don't know why a machine is doing a parent's job here. If a child can't be trusted to follow household rules, there are bigger problems afoot than any "Family Timer" is going to solve.
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Project Gotham Racing 4’ Impressions  
 
 
Posted 2007-11-05 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
I spent about a week in Quebec City a couple years ago for my honeymoon. Playing Project Gotham Racing 4's Quebec City tracks, I swear I could spot the B&B where my wife and I stayed. Certainly human memory is flawed, but my impression is that PGR-developer Bizarre Creations did a spectacular job of recreating the city streets. The mirroring is so well-done that over the entire course of the track I never felt lost, passing by many of the sights and tearing up many of the streets I'd spent days wandering around as a tourist. It's rare to be able to practically navigate game-space based on real space.

Continue reading: ‘Project Gotham Racing 4’ Impressions
 
     
 
   
 
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  links for 2007-10-30  
 
 
Posted 2007-10-30 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
 
     
 
   
 
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  Ring Around The Rosey  
 
 
Posted 2007-10-25 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
A good friend of mine has had two Xbox 360s die in the classic "red ring of death" fashion. The second one was refurbished (not refurbished enough, apparently). Hope the third one's a charm.

Anecdotally, about half of my friends who own a 360 have gotten a dud. Even one of the colleges at which I teach got a red-ringed Xbox. Every time my own console grumbles during DVD playback a shiver crawls up my spine.

Certainly there are far more important things in life to complain about, but Holy Helen of the Hand Grenade, what a wobbly piece of crap the Xbox 360 hardware is. I swear the only reason I bought one was for professional reasons.
 
     
 
   
 
  3 comments  
  Hands-On With ‘Halo 3’  
 
 
Posted 2007-09-25 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Hands-On With ‘Halo 3’
I spent a few hours yesterday playing the highly-anticipated Xbox 360 shooter Halo 3 on-site at Xbox Canada's PR company, leaving with a review copy of the Limited Edition double-disk set. I plan on writing a full review in the future, but for now, my first impressions are this: If you love Halo, you'll love Halo 3. Like a Japanese mud-ball, Halo 3 is simply a more shiny version of previous editions. The best feature of the game, in my opinion, is its facilitation of shared user-created game content and machinima.

I could easily apply some elements of my earlier Halo 2 review to the latest installment:
"Although some game levels require all enemies to be eliminated before allowing progression, most can be easily blitzed through. Given the scarcity of certain items, and the constant urging by other characters to make haste, it's a reasonable strategy to completing the game..."
Halo 3 actually seems easier than Halo 2. There's very little resistance from point A to point B, which will probably suit my new lifestyle quite well--looking after a 2 month-old baby really puts a damper on intensive game play. Given the apparent ease of game-play, I almost wonder if Bungie designed it for people like me. I'm pretty sure hardcore gamers will need to crank up the challenge-level to get much enjoyment out of the single-player campaign.
 
     
 
   
 
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Dinozoiks wrote:
Wow! Thanks for that Tony. Just posted a bunch of other tips here... http://www.dino.co.uk/labs/2008/45-tips-when-designing-online-content-for-kids/ Hope it helps someone... Dino...
in Dino Burbidge's '10 Things To Remember When Designing For Kids Online'


yes, many of the free little games are crappy. but as an artist who has recently published free content on the itunes app store,…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


I vote for popup radial menus. Highlight a bit of text, the push and hold, Sims-style radial menu pops up with Copy, Paste, etc....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please


Hey Tony! A client of mine is looking to hire an internal Flash game dev team to build at a really cool Flash CCG…
in Dipping Into Toronto's Flash Pool


Yeah, there's a lot of weird common sense things I've noticed they've just omitted from the design. No idea why though....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please


It also bears noting there's no mechanism right now for a developer to offer a free trial for the iPhone; the App Store isn't…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


@GeorgeR: It's on my shopping list :) I've heard good things about it as well. And Cro Mag Rally. @andrhia: meh, I don't know…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


...you get what you pay for, you know? I actually bought Trism based on early buzz, and it's truly a novel mechanic. I've been…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


The only one I've heard good things about is Super Monkey Ball. Have you given that a whirl yet?...
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


Advance warning: this frivolent comment is NOT RELATED or even worth your time ... But whenever i hear "Collada", i think of that SCTV…
in Electric Sheep Builds Its Own Flock


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