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  Games and Moving Pictures:  Quick Links for 2008-02-03  
 
 
Posted 2008-02-03 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
 
     
 
   
 
  0 comments  
  Captain Of A Rocket-Ship  
 
 
Posted 2008-01-22 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
For the past 14 years, I've been freelancing under my own name, but in 2008, I've become the founder and first employee of Phantom Compass, an interactive development studio involved in both pre-production service-work and end-to-end internal product development. I'm already involved in one collaboration and one co-production in the proposal stages.

In only 10 weeks I've gained a new understanding of and respect for the challenges new media producers here in Canada face--certainly I see my clients in a new light, and now that I'm involved in producing my own IP, a host of previously-unexplored aspects of business development have come to light. As owner of my own studio, I'm now eligible for a variety of Canadian funding programs, tax credits, and other boosters. Most importantly, I'm running my own ship and can initiate my own large-scale projects. I will be opening up all available communications channels next month and reaching out to friends, associates, and strangers to see what opportunities might be on the horizon. Talk to you then.

So, how does all of this affect Clickable Culture, a blog I've been hammering at since 1999? Realistically, the number of posts here is likely to decrease (which is why it's a good idea to subscribe to the feed). Clickable Culture will now serve as the public-facing research blog of Phantom Compass, which probably means less articles and more short-form thoughtbubbles. Phantom Compass will soon have its own blog, which will be a bit drier than Clickable Culture, a blog I like to think of as shot from the hip. Pow!
 
     
 
   
 
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  PSP Gets Skype Integration  
 
 
Posted 2008-01-06 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
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)?
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Electric Sheep’ Herd Culled  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-21 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Second Life's largest third-party developer became substantially smaller earlier this week. The Electric Sheep Company cut 22 staffers on Tuesday (reportedly about 30% of its workforce), as announced by COO Giff Constable, and reported by Sheep client Reuters. Unofficial blog Second Life Podcast broke the news on Monday with word that the Sheep's planned Virtual World Ad Network was also canned. According to Constable, the company will continue to work on its OnRez client software and shopping site as well as "some other cool initiatives."

I'm not surprised at the news. Although I haven't been able to follow Second Life like I used to, my impression is that business interest in SL has been waning, barely a year after a boom for metaverse developers. Since that time, it seems the developers with the most sense are investigating other platforms rather than concentrating solely on Second Life.

Having met a number of enthusiastic Sheep staffers in the past, I found the company reminiscent of a 1990s Dot Com--seemed like folks were being hired left and right. Although the timing is really unfortunate, trimming staff and refocusing the company is the sensible thing to do--lessons learned from the Dot Com Bust.
 
     
 
   
 
  2 comments  
  Ad-Creep In Kiddie-Worlds  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-15 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
American watchdog group Campaign For A Commercial-Free Childhood isn't happy with how popular kiddie-world Webkinz has begun running external ads atop its already-commercial service. According to GamePolitics.com, "A current Webkinz campaign is promoting the film Alvin and the Chipmunks (screen shot at left), while similar ads ran for the recent Bee Movie." Virtual Worlds News reports that Ganz, maker of Webkinz has since pulled one of the ads, although it's not clear to me if this is a response to public pressure.

The ethics of advertising to children aside, Ganz's choice to blast ads at kids whose parents are already paying for Webkinz access comes off like a crass cash-grab . It's the same story with in-game ads found in many of today's video games--the consumer isn't sharing in the publisher's increased cash-flow. A more reasonable approach to advertising via Webkinz (again, irrespective of the ethical issues) would be to offer a discounted or free service in exchange for client-side ads.

Continue reading: Ad-Creep In Kiddie-Worlds
 
     
 
   
 
  7 comments  
  Roundup: Linden CTO Departs  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-14 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Earlier this week it emerged that Linden Lab and its fourth employee, Cory Ondrejka, have parted ways due to irreconcilable philosophical differences. Here's a roundup of some of the reportage and commentary related to the split:
 
     
 
   
 
  0 comments  
  Recommended Reading: ‘The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Second Life’  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-12 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Recommended Reading: ‘The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Second Life’
Last year, I started up a business in Second Life with only one plan in mind: put as little effort as possible into it. As a result, I sell a few virtual radioactive barrels, voodoo masks, and magic books for the equivalent of real-world pocket-change each month--if you don't factor in the six dollars in land-rental fees I pay out monthly. If an utterly half-assed Second Life entrepreneur like myself can offset his virtual-world expenses simply by shoveling a pile of shoddy goods into the insatiable maw of the fledgling metaverse, imagine what a well-informed businessperson could accomplish.

Technology writer and acquaintance Daniel Terdiman has authored an indispensable book for those wishing to plan, launch, and maintain their own Second Life business schemes. Entitled The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life, it stands as a comprehensive examination of Second Life business basics, largely based on the input of selected residents of the virtual world. The Guide speaks in a language even Second Life newbies can understand, and offers practical solutions to common commerce challenges. Thankfully, Daniel hasn't penned a "get rich quick" manuscript, but rather offers a balanced look at what goes in to making real money from in-world entrepreneurship--in short, a hell of a lot of work.

It was only a year ago that a reported 3,000 SL residents were earning at least $20k USD annually in-world. Since then, Second Life's population has skyrocketed, so it's probable a lot more people are making decent money off the virtual world. Not me, though. I'm happy with my pocket-change, thanks.
 
     
 
   
 
  1 comments  
  Quick Links for 2007-12-12  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-12 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
 
     
 
   
 
  0 comments  
  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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  Are MMOs Killing The Planet?  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-04 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Are massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) killing the planet? A report released by environmental group Global Action Plan suggests that computer servers, such as those which are used for online games, have a hefty carbon footprint. In a summary of its report, the group says
  • A medium-sized server has a similar carbon footprint to an SUV achieving 15 miles to the gallon. Servers also require as much energy to cool them as they directly consume.
  • 1,000 PCs left on 24/7 without any power save settings activated will consume up to £70,000 of electricity per year...
Massive online games require massive server facilities--imagine, for example, how many always-on servers World of Warcraft must be running with over 9 million players around the world.

Given that MMOs are growing in popularity, it seems likely that an increasing number of servers will be needed to run the games. One can only hope that the efficiency (quality) of servers will somehow increase more quickly than the quantity of servers required. Because even if quality servers maintain today's levels, we're not doing the planet any favors by playing MMOs. We need to reduce gaming's ecological footprint.

Continue reading: Are MMOs Killing The Planet?
 
     
 
   
 
  9 comments  
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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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