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  Humungo-Megalithic Games Company Formed  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-03 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
All the cool nerds are talking about it: Vivendi (publisher, World of Warcraft) and Activision (Pitfall!, Guitar Hero) spent a steamy weekend entwining their glistening tentacles together so elaborately that neither megacorporation could be distinguished from the other. The unholy spawn of this union is to be named Activision Blizzard, a rampaging humungo-megalith The Guardian says will be "the world's largest computer games company" with an annual income of $3.8 billion and an insatiable appetite for fresh babies.

I'm not sure how the merger will produce better games, lower retail prices, or more choice for gamers--but then, there's a lot about the games industry I can't even begin to understand. All I know is that if I was formerly an employee of Vivendi or Activision, I might be concerned for the safety of my job (or even my entire department) next year. Time to trim some excess tentacles.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Evil Video Streams Threaten ‘Second Life’ Cashflow: Report  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-01 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Linden Lab has warned users of Second Life that QuickTime-based video streams may be used to "crash or exploit" Second Life's client software. The Mercury News paints a more sinister picture, alerting us that "security researchers have found a flaw in Second Life virtual world [sic] that allows them to strip a user’s character of all of its in-world money."

Since Second Life currency is easily converted to American dollars, there's a real risk here: Users of the virtual world may have dozens to hundreds to thousands of "Linden Dollars" on hand at any time. In the past 24 hours, the equivalent of about $1.5M USD has flowed through the system. So how to avoid getting robbed? Linden Lab's advice is for users to turn off video streaming, despite the company's ability to turn off streaming for all users across the virtual world until Apple fixes QuickTime. This strategy is reactive in my view, as Linden Lab plans only to act if it discovers a malicious stream. Affected users will receive "appropriate assistance," whatever that means.
 
     
 
   
 
  2 comments  
  Quick Links for 2007-11-28  
 
 
Posted 2007-11-28 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
 
     
 
   
 
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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  
  In-Game Advertising Data A Double-Edged Design Tool  
 
 
Posted 2007-11-26 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Next Generation reports that in-game advertising firm Double Fusion believes player behavior data collected by in-game advertising systems can help the level-design process. Such systems monitor player location, gaze, time spent in a given 3D area, and other such details used to measure the effectiveness of an ad placement. The idea is that this data could be leveraged to tweak, tune, and build better game levels. I agree that aggregated in-game ad data could be considered in the level design process, but I don't anticipate games would necessarily be improved as a result.

As in-game advertiser Massive (now owned by Microsoft) has shown over the years [1, 2, 3, 4], game play and narrative is often ruined by ad-placement rather than supported by it. I believe that level design will ultimately be constrained if collected advertising data is used as a design tool. Will level designers be given the freedom to design what suits a game the best, or will they be forced to design levels using templates or methods proven to maximize advertising effectiveness? If anything, I can see levels becoming homogenized across a variety of games (due to adoption of ad-biased design strategies), rather than game levels becoming more interesting or artistic.
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘GameON: Finance’ Inhospitable to Small Indie Developers  
 
 
Posted 2007-11-23 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
"GameON: Finance," a just-announced Canadian event described by its organizers as an exploration of "financial models for independent games companies," has been scheduled during the same two days as the Toronto Independent Games Conference. The events will overlap on January 17 and 18, 2008.

GameOn:Finance is operated by industry group InteractiveOntario, and will be hosted at a swank downtown Toronto location. Registration starts at nearly $500 CAD. The Toronto Independent Games Conference is operated by a handful of dedicated indie gamers, and will likely be hosted at a local college. Registration starts at $50 for students.

Continue reading: ‘GameON: Finance’ Inhospitable to Small Indie Developers
 
     
 
   
 
  2 comments  
  Quick Links for 2007-11-23  
 
 
Posted 2007-11-23 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Warcraft’ Ads Mainstream The MMO  
 
 
Posted 2007-11-21 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Blizzard has released a pair of comedic World of Warcraft commercials, destined for (presumably American) national TV, featuring William Shatner's alter ego as a Shaman and Mr. T's alter ego as a "Mohawk" Night Elf. The game is already no stranger to television, having been referenced in an episode of game show Jeopardy in 2005, featured in an episode of South Park last year and in a recent Toyota ad.

I see Blizzard's new ads as a confirmation of the mainstreaming of World of Warcraft specifically, and of MMOs in general: If pop culture icons are living in virtual worlds, anyone can. Granted, Shatner and Mr. T might not carry the cool-factor-style endorsement younger stars provide, but as more celebrity gamers come out of the closet (regardless of whether they're for real or paid poseurs), MMO lifestyles are going to gain increasing social acceptance.

In another few years, having an avatar alter ego is simply going to be a fact of life, facilitated in part by the future domination of the "free to play" MMO model. As a result, avatar support services will become more visible, from in-world makeovers; parents grinding for their kids; and the usual power-leveling / gold farming / gray-market virtual trading businesses.
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘id’ Goes Mobile  
 
 
Posted 2007-11-19 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
id Software, legendary for its Doom and Quake series of games, has launched a mobile division in partnership with Fountainhead Entertainment, reports GameDaily. id's two main mobile games, Doom RPG and Orcs and Elves, have already achieved critical success, with a sequel to Orcs and Elves reportedly in the works. Hey, why stray from a working formula?

Fountainhead's founder, Katherine Anna Kang, will head up id Mobile, GameDaily reports. I interviewed Kang back in 2001 about Fountainhead's machinima project Sidrial, which has since been scrapped as machinima but released as a free Quake III mod. Clearly Kang has a fantastic imagination, hopefully id Mobile will deliver more interesting titles than sequels in the future. Mobile machinima, maybe?
 
     
 
   
 
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  Quick Links for 2007-11-11  
 
 
Posted 2007-11-11 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
 
     
 
   
 
  1 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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