Q: What’s wrong with the world? A: We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness. Leona Helmsley’s dog made 12 million last year… and Dean McLaine, a farmer in Ohio made $30,000. It’s just a gigantic version of the madness that grows in every one of our brains. We are monkeys with money and guns.
While in Austin for SXSW, I caught the launch of The All-For-Nots, described by BuzzFeed as "a new web comedy about a fictional indie rock band," except that what I saw on stage was just a band--the comedy occurs offstage, apparently. As explained by a friend of mine at the event, the band's scripted between-gig antics are shot for webisodes, which you can check out on the band's official web site. Not entirely clear on the target demographic for this--I'm going to guess 12 - 24 year-olds (the project is going after both MySpace and Bebo users, which seems around that age range).
I kept waiting for something crazy to happen during the band's energetic set, but no. What would have been cool is for them to fire their drummer on stage... anything involving fire, actually. Oh well, will keep my eye on this project, maybe it'll blossom.
Sony will roll out Skype services for its latest PSP handheld game console (the slim, lightweight one) through a software update scheduled for late January. According to an emailed press release, the software update will allow PSP owners with WiFi access, a microphone, and a Skype account to make and receive free voice calls, manage contacts and presence, modify their Skype account settings, and make use of the SkypeOut (place calls to non-Skype phones) as well as SkypeIn (receive calls from non-Skype phones) services.
While this is fantastic news for anyone who already has a slimline PSP, I'm not sure it's going to push PSP sales in general. As the ill-fated N-Gage phone/game console showed us, there doesn't seem to be much interest in a game console which doubles as a phone. Skype services are only available wherever WiFi hotspots are, so coverage isn't exactly ubiquitous in most parts of the world. I don't really see how the inclusion of Skype helps the PSP brand, either--is it a game console (its game library is weak), a media player (its original movie format is dead or dying), or a communications device (only where there's WiFi)?
"...just as punk said anyone with a guitar could make music, I want anyone with a keyboard to be able to make games. I want more radical speaking in the industry and more radical thought outside of academia. I want argument and discussion, then perhaps a fight in the car park afterward … in effect; I want some rock n roll attitude in games. I don’t care if someones game is un-original, just as long as it does to my senses what voiceover guy said it would on the trailer!
If you want to make games, don’t even bother about the rest of the industry and what they’re doing… just get out there and go for it. Punk style!"
Hey, as long as you're punk-rock enough to live off beans on toast and bargain beer, that's a great plan. Seriously: if you're young and on fire, why not go the risky route and churn out the games you always wanted to--screw what everyone else is doing! Speaking from a post-punk parent perspective, that's not the most practical route, but it sure is nice to dream about while I sniff the leather of my old biker jacket.
"While they don't have much direct relevance to the video game market, the design ideas introduced in board games do evolve into video game mechanics." Which is one of the reasons I teach board game prototyping as part of my game design theory course :)
Phase, a rhythm game that uses songs on your video iPod, is now available for download on the iTunes store. By Harmonix, MTV, and Aaron Stewart. Finally, a game on the iPod that's actually been built for the iPod. Not like those other ones.
Epic Ernest Adams breezes through his top 50 innovations. Top 10 includes exploration, storytelling, stealth, avatars with their own personalities, leadership, diplomacy, mod support, smart NPCs, scripted conversations, and multi-level game-play.
The 40th episode of the ARG Netcast features a great discussion about what constitutes "fair game" in Alternate Reality Game play based on what players are willing and able to do versus what the puppetmasters have planned. In my opinion as a contributing designer/writer to such games, the "this is not a game" conceit which largely defined the genre early on is a double-edged sword.
If, as a puppetmaster, you decide that "this is not a game," you had better ensure your not-game is sealed airtight against the deep digging some players are willing to do. Such digging (discussed in the netcast) includes brute-force password hacking, intensive sleuthing for the real-life people (game makers, actors) behind the scenes, or decompiling Flash executable files to search for revealing clues.
In my opinion, if you're making a not-game, you have to accept that this means there are no rules. I think players are entitled to use whatever means necessary to dissect a not-game for clues, provided they obey social contracts and actual laws. Like supervillains, puppetmasters often overestimate the sanctity of their secret plans due to conceit: Surely they're more clever than the heroes. And we all know how that turns out.
Here's a handful of local gaming items for my fellow Torontonians:
1) Three former students of mine have formed their own game development company, chiefly using Flash and Virtools as development platforms. They have recently finished twoedugames and are looking for a business manager to help their startup get a foothold in the services market:
The ideal business manager will be an enterprising visionary with a strong desire to make a name for his or her self in the video game industry, be a rain maker able to develop business, and be a project manager able to coach a highly creative team toward on-time completion. On top of all of these hard skills, the right business manager will be an individual of superior character with a heart of gold.
This team is creative, hard-working, and driven--if you can help them, please send an email to photius at shannonware dot com.
A plastic guitar or drum set might be an obvious choice for a music-game controller, but not everyone's ready to shell out for one-shot items ultimately destined for landfill. A smarter play might be to design music games for standard controllers instead--the challenge for users here is to squeeze great music out of an unfamiliar instrument.
My brother Joel has started doing some practical R&D towards the goal of "allowing anyone to pick up a game controller and make awesome music with it." A newcomer to game development but an experienced musician and audio engineer, Joel's got a great sense play, a brain for making things work, and a passion for sound. He's posted his first YouTube video. In it, he's using a PS2 controller as a MIDI device (musical instrument), triggering sounds and breakbeats through a combination of audio programs. Wild stuff. Can't wait to follow Joel's adventures in game development, but of course I'm biased :)