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  ‘Neuronet’ Disemboweled  
 
 
Posted 2006-12-31 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
I'm a couple of days late to the bloody mess "Neuronet" has become. In summary, an upstart "nonprofit group" reportedly plans to establish a network ("Neuronet") for virtual-reality and other high-bandwidth applications. The group plans to sell memberships and domain names, but, at the time of this writing, offers very little in the way of detailed information--other than pricing, of course. Red flag central.

Csven of reBang did an excellent job of scraping through the entire operation with a fine-edged scalpel. My take on his findings (and the comments from his readers) is that the so-called "International Association of Virtual Reality Technologies" that sponsors Neuronet has no real plan, backing, or credibility. Prior to reading Csven's analysis, I'd done a WHOIS check on the group's domain--the results were not impressive, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. I don't see how anyone could take the group's legitimacy or value for granted after doing even the slightest amount of research. Should be really interesting to see this story continue to develop.
 
     
 
   
 
  4 comments  
  Flimsy Wii Strap Recalled  
 
 
Posted 2006-12-15 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
"My hunch is that there's going to be a product recall in the future."

Reuters reports that Nintendo will exchange 3.2 million Wiimote straps with stronger ones, "after some reports of broken straps." Since the launch of the Wii, a few reports of property and personal damage have been surfaced, related to strap breakage. Web site Wii Have a Problem has been logging such reports, which range from silly to sobering. While the new strap will probably be strong enough to withstand the power of those exuberant gamers who can't help but flail around violently during play, there's still no protection against getting a Wii in the face.

[Update: Edge mag says it's a "replacement" not a "recall," suggesting journalists have irresponsibly reported a "recall." While I agree that language is important, I'm not sure the distinction between "recall" and "replacement" is all that crucial in this case. The point is the straps were crap, and gamers need new ones.]
 
     
 
   
 
  0 comments  
  ‘Big Brother’ Flounders in ‘Second Life’  
 
 
Posted 2006-12-12 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
SLNN.com reports that the current state of the Second Life edition of the TV show Big Brother is rather dismal. It seems Endemol, maker of the show, put just enough effort into setting up the Second Life version to attract the attention of real-world media outlets. The show has now been all but abandoned by its producers, who reportedly have not maintained the Second Life facilities or the show's official web site, and didn't respond to SLNN's requests for an interview. One contestant left the show early, citing concerns that the it had degraded into "full blown illegal porn."

I'm two for two in Big Brother predictions. Last month, I correctly anticipated the show would be griefed if security wasn't properly implemented. Last week, I wrote "I'm of the opinion that Endemol doesn't actually care what goes on inside Second Life. Like so many other corporate events staged in-world, it's all about generating outside buzz." Endemol's reported half-assery isn't just a shame for those participating in Big Brother's virtual edition, it hurts the credibility of all outside business efforts in Second Life. On the other hand, it's set the bar so low that trumping this effort would be a piece of cake.
 
     
 
   
 
  2 comments  
  ‘Second Life’ Griefers Set ‘Big Brother’ Ablaze  
 
 
Posted 2006-12-04 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
When I discovered that TV show Big Brother was coming to Second Life, my worst-case-scenario-sense started tingling. "[I]t's entirely possible the event could be marred by griefers seeking attention or fame," I wrote, considering the outcome if virtual-island security wasn't properly implemented. As The Second Life Herald reported yesterday, the event was indeed marred by attention-seekers due to a lack of proper security.

The Herald posted a two-part interview with a single griefer--although "griefer groups" were reportedly present at the event. According to the interviewee, official contestant avatars were caged and set on fire while traversing the red carpet on the way to the Big Brother house. The interviewee says s/he passed through the walls of the house, assigned his/her avatar with the same nametag ("Resident") as the official contestants, and chatted with the group for 4 hours. Only two Big Brother crew members were allegedly present, and asked the intruder to leave after 10 of his/her friends were teleported into the house.

The rationale for the infiltration? No surprise to me: "I thought It would be this huge event with lots of media...I kinda got the idea 'hey I could ruin this and It might make the newspaper or tv.'" I doubt the event was ruined, or even a "huge" event at all, but based on how it was allegedly set up, I'm of the opinion that Endemol doesn't actually care what goes on inside Second Life. Like so many other corporate events staged in-world, it's all about generating outside buzz.
 
     
 
   
 
  25 comments  
  When Wiimotes Break Free  
 
 
Posted 2006-11-21 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Early this year, I predicted the Nintendo Wii's wireless motion-sensitive controllers would facilitate personal injury, and while reports haven't exactly been flooding in, it's only a matter of time. The "Wiimote" controller wrist-straps seem to be flawed--in two cases, at least, the controller has been inadvertently flung across the room. One such incident, according to the goons at SomethingAwful, resulted in the wounding of a 60" rear-projection TV. Another incident, reported by IGN via ad-supported video, followed the same pattern: wrist-strap breakage sends Wiimote flying, which results in property damage. Were these rogue Wiimotes badly-manufactured, or are we looking at a design flaw here? My hunch is that there's going to be a product recall in the future. It's bad enough people are waving their hands around wildly while standing withing striking distance of each other--add faulty straps to the mix and someone's going to lose an eye one of these days.
 
     
 
   
 
  3 comments  
  Latest DOS Attack On ‘Second Life’ Makes Terrible Boast  
 
 
Posted 2006-10-03 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
The virtual world of Second Life was hit by the latest in a series of denial of service attacks last night. As usual, the attack was delivered via self-replicating objects designed to overwhelm Second Life's grid of servers. The attack rendered the virtual world useless for over two hours while Linden Lab, maker of Second Life, cleaned up the mess and scrambled to address numerous "Live Help" requests. Last month, a Linden codemonkey claimed new security measures were "locked and loaded for emergency deploy," after a spike in security problems, but either the security measures were not preventative in nature, or they failed to properly lock and/or load this time.

According to one witness, the weaponized objects uttered a dramatic message to nearby avatars: "Terror will rain down upon the unfit gods and the flock that they govern, from now until the End of Days." This claim is only laughable for its description of denial of service attacks as "terror," since there seems to be little Linden Lab can do to stop such attacks from ruining the fun of over 10,000 users--until that changes, grid-wide attacks will continue.

Earlier coverage of the attack was provided by Second Life Insider, SLOG, and other sources.
 
     
 
   
 
  3 comments  
  Canadian Killer’s Gaming Connection  
 
 
Posted 2006-09-14 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Canadian Killer’s Gaming Connection
Students at a Montreal college were reportedly shot yesterday by Kimveer Gill, a 25 year-old male armed with a rifle. I saw a brief TV news story on the tragedy this morning, and remarked to my wife that it wouldn't be long before a video game connection was found. It turns out the connection is easy to make. Today's Toronto Sun ran with the headline "Video Game Killer." The Sun reports that Gill claimed Super Columbine Massacre was his favourite game, and that his online tagline read "Life is a video game and you gonna die sometime." No doubt games will be looked at as a possible cause of the terrible attack, despite the appearance that Gill was simply a deeply disturbed individual. Personally I see this more of a copycat attack.

The game Super Columbine Massacre was ostensibly designed to be an examination of the Columbine incident. The creator of the game's statement reads, in part, "This game asks more of its audience than rudimentary button-pushing and map navigation; it implores introspection... people from six continents and all walks of life are discussing the game itself and the incident it is based on... At the end of the day, the understanding of the Columbine school shooting is deepened and redefined. That is the real object of the game."

Richard Castaldo, a survivor of the Columbine incident, has played Super Columbine Massacre. "I appreciate the fact at least to some degree that something like this was made," He told Kotaku.com. "I think that at least it gets people talikng about Columbine in a unique perspective, which is probably a good thing. But that being said there are a lot of things that are hard to play or watch. And it seems to partially glamorize what happened. It shows a stark-contrast between fantasy and real life in an interesting way."
 
     
 
   
 
  1 comments  
  Death on the Screen  
 
 
Posted 2006-06-02 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Telegraph.co.uk delves into the operation of American unmanned air vehicles used in military operations: "In Las Vegas a pilot pulls the trigger. In Iraq a Predator fires its missile."

What is of interest to me in the article is its description of remote-controlled warfare. Telegraph contributor Francis Harris writes "Sitting side by side in dark, air-conditioned cabins, the pilot and sensor operator have to interpret activity in terrain as varied as the deserts and towns of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan. Surrounded by technological wizardry that includes flight controls, maps and computer screens, it would be easy to drift. Sgt Mac Mackenzie, 41, an Army sensor operator who has served in Northern Ireland and Iraq, said: 'It is not always appreciated that this is what we have to do. You are just staring at the screen. Then suddenly it can go live, you're involved in an engagement, a target appears and everything is turned on its head.'" This transition might be jarring for a 41-year-old, but for the latest generation of gamer kids, remote warfare will be a piece of cake.

Today, the U.S. military is actively recruiting through its America's Army videogame (in some cases targeting kids under the age of 15) and new recruits are generally gamers [source]. Gamers are experts at managing interfaces, adapting to new control systems, and engaging in screen-based killing. In my limited understanding of real warfare, it's desirable to do as much remote killing as possible. The more literal or figurative distance from the kill, the better--not only for the safety of the attacking soldier, but to create a disconnect between pulling the trigger and its end result. Physical distance is one thing, but when a screen is introduced, surely a vast psychological distance is added. Today's young gamers are capable of executing virtual-reality genocide in a matter of hours--will this efficiency suffer when real war is fought through a game interface?

Continue reading: Death on the Screen
 
     
 
   
 
  1 comments  
  ‘Second Life’ Attack Throws Avatars Sky-High  
 
 
Posted 2006-04-16 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Yesterday evening the virtual world of Second Life ground to a halt, due a deliberate, user-created software attack. Like previous attacks, this latest was launched from within the virtual world itself, relying on self-replicating objects to overwhelm Second Life's servers. Unlike previous attacks, the self-replicating objects were scripted to emit shockwaves capable of throwing avatars high into the air. The outage took about seven hours for the world's maker, Linden Lab, to fully recover from. A cluster of similar outages last year resulted in Linden Lab deploying a giant firewall to contain affected within 45 minutes of the launch of the attack. The company doesn't appear to have used that containment method this time.

ElleCoyote explains what the attack was like from inside Second Life: "...suddenly my entire gallery blew up and I was thrown into the night sky. On attempted re-entry to [Second Life] I captured this image of my experience of flailing helplessly, skates useless, high above Palomarian."

Continue reading: ‘Second Life’ Attack Throws Avatars Sky-High
 
     
 
   
 
  0 comments  
  Climate Change Roundup  
 
 
Posted 2006-03-17 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Sometimes I wonder how much our technology will really do for us in the face of potentially-dramatic climate change. Something tells me we're going to be making a lot fewer mobile phones and video game consoles in the next few decades and a lot more on things like low-cost methods of water extraction and purification.
 
     
 
   
 
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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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