February 2006 Archives

Appleseed (Widescreen) (2004)


Busting the Fourth Wall


Raph Koster (lead on UO, creator of SWG) posted a list of lessons of MMORPGs. Here's an excerpt.

In fact, evil will always be lurking at the edge of the village.

On the other hand, it will never invade.

There are no governments. Thus there are no laws. Instead, there are laws of physics.

I have my own list of laments about MMORPGs. They are in the extended.

The DC Universe MMO, with Jim Lee


Interview with Jim Lee
about the DC Universe MMO.
Last week, when I was hunting for screenshots for Everquest to use in a comparison against Kothuria, I was struck with the urge to play Everquest again. It wasn't so bad, i told myself, but that was before I remembered all the timesinks and all the various bits and pieces about the game that, quite frankly, sucked big time. There were a lot of EQ junkies who have now moved on to today's current MMOG of choice -- World of Warcraft. Jim Lee was always a big EQ junkie. I frequently heard grumblings from both the game world and the comic world that Jim Lee blew away another deadline because he had been playing EverQuest all week (or all month, or all quarter). To be fair, there were many addicts of EverQuest all over the world, and the design of the game actually encouraged compulsive playing. Because of Jim Lee's involvement I'm curious to how the design of the DC Universe MMO turns out.

JL: Imagine getting to create your own unique superhero, give it a name, choose a physique, a costume, a set of powers and then dive into the DC Universe where you get to meet and ally with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the entire pantheon of heroes. Imagine getting to team up with friends and other players from around the world and take on the likes of the Joker, Lex Luthor and Deathstroke. Imagine getting to use your network of contacts to go on missions and adventures to incredibly diverse environments. Imagine gaining fame and notoriety, forming leagues of superheroes to battle one another or to take down Darkseid himself. It's not hard to see how awesome a game like this would be and it's really the chance to play around and do so many different things in the DCU that is the big draw to gamers and comic book fans alike. Metropolis and Gotham city for example are such diverse environments that really can't be replicated in any other online space. Our job is to make the game as immersive as possible so that you don't feel like you're playing a game...but in fact, that you are a superhero. It's taking on the biggest fantasy there is in the world of comics and making it happen. That's what this game is about and it will take years to create.

According the interview, Wildstorm is doing all the art assets related to the game -- clearly that's a misunderstanding on the interviewer's part. A game's art assets are tremendously complex and I can't imagine comic book artists creating 3d models or doing the textures on the characters. Nor can I imagine them designing such features without access to the 3d game engine.
The statician in me can't wait to see the projections of crime in Gotham and Metropolis -- there is no doubt that the crime rate in those cities will exceed everything possible in the real world, with probably hundreds of crimes being committed every second. That being said, it's easy to see how a MMOG set in this universe could be fun (much more so than a Star Trek MMO), but we talking about Sony Online Entertainment, which somehow managed to suck all the fun out of the Star Wars universe such that even a fanboy like me was deterred.

Apple Special Event - February 28, 2006


Apple's special event this morning focused on three new products:

  • iPod leather cases for 30GB/60GB and nano, $99 each
  • mac mini w/ intel - 1.5Ghz Core Solo $599, 1.67 Core Duo $799
  • iPod HiFi - $349

I'm relatively unexcited about these new products, if only because I was expecting something a little more different.
Of the three products, the $99 leather case is going to have wide ranging ramifications on the third-party market for cases. Right now, it's possible to get some relatively high quality cases for iPods under $50 (most are $30 or under). The $99 leather case for the iPod looks like crap, and you can't use the wheel or see the display -- which is interesting, given that video is the next market Apple is trying to break into. At least the iPod socks were cute. My worry, however, is that third parties will see the $99 price tag, release new products and adjust their prices to be more in line with Apple's. The $99 leather iPod case by Apple is the most expensive case being sold on the Apple store -- Monster has a case at $69, but its more like a backpack than a case, and kate spade's $65 case for the mini is the next highest.
The iPod HiFi is sure to upset all those manufacturers who have already integrated iPod docks into their products, such as JBL and Bose.
The Mac mini, fairly inoffensive, but not too exciting either. Is it just me or does it have a MagSafe connector on it as well?

The Apple Repair System


Sometime within the last year or so Apple has revamped their repair system. Their repair system used to be very helpful, because one could see step by step what was going on. It used to list the arrival of the system, what the step the tech was working on, and timestamps for each. Apple's current repair system, by comparison is bad because it obscures information from the user. I have no idea what is going on with my MacBook Pro. As far as the status shows, it simply says "diagnosing problem". I want to know what is going on in detail.

Octavia Butler 1947-2006


Octavia Butler, prominent science fiction author, dies at 58

SEATTLE -- Octavia E. Butler, considered the first black woman to gain national prominence as a science fiction writer, died after falling and striking her head on the cobbled walkway outside her home, a close friend said. She was 58.

Wikipedia Entry

Talk: Anthony Lucas / Jasper Morello


Friday evening ota, littlestar and parakkum and I went to DeAnza to watch a presentation of the Oscar-nominated animated film The Mysterious Geographic Adventures of Jasper Morello, with a talk by the director Anthony Lucas.
My notes are in the extended entry.

Games Industry Burnout


The Washington Post has a new article up called An Industry Off Its Game: Product Delays and Prices Hurt the Business of Video Play, in which they explain the recent loss of earnings as being related to delayed products and high prices.

But companies that make and sell video games are suffering, caught up in an unusual set of circumstances that are cutting profits and jobs just when they should be in top form. Major game publishers Activision Inc., Atari Inc. and Electronic Arts Inc. all missed their most recent earnings expectations and each company has had layoffs in recent months. Retailers such as Electronics Boutique Holdings Corp. and GameStop Corp. have faced similar problems.

Layoffs at those major game publishers is nothing new. Here's the truth about the games industry -- the people who work in games (at least this generation) are really, really into games. We've gotten past the point in the industry where the football game was being written by a person who had never played a football game, and previously worked on an accounting software package. The current workforce making games is really passionate about these games, and they will put their heart and soul and their lives into it. And big companies like EA are going to take advantage of that enthusiasm.
While people do burn out, and the crunch is universally hated, it's a part of the industry. You've got to manage it all in moderation. Do we need to grind and crunch away? No, I don't think so. I think if anything, proper time management and communication between team members is what is necessary to make it work out.
Do I think it's a similar way to wash people out of the industry? No, the industry isn't that smart when it comes to formulating long-term plans. Personally, I think EA, Activision and Atari's economic problems have very little to do with the new consoles on the horizon, and more to do with the dinosaur business model they follow. EA has been burned by the MMOG model, but as I wrote years ago after seeing Everquest, MMOGs and other persistent state games will be where the truly hardcore players are headed.

Nintendo Parenting


WGN news story on Video Game Addiction.
Personally I think the story is on the alarmist side of things.
We're at the cusp right now of having a whole generation of video gaming parents. I call them Generation Nintendo. When the NES arrived in North America in 1985, it recreated the video game market that had died with the Atari. My parents didn't really understand video games, but they knew about them, and just like any other form of activity, they kept it under moderation, which was fairly easy to do since I had a stay-at-home mom. However, modern families are ones in which both parents work, and children are left under no adult supervision. It was TV and video games that became the babysitters of the latchkey kids of my generation. Those latchkey kids have grown up into the modern video gamer. There's a reason why the game centers around the 18-35 year old target market. That's where the "hump" of the bell curve is -- as you approach the edges, the curve gets lower and flatter. That's where most parents with teenage children are going to be -- the flat part of the curve.
The Mom in this video seems to be in her late-forties to mid-fifties. Based on the video, I'm going to arbitrarily put her boys' ages at 13, 15 and 17. if she's 48 then Nintendo would have appeared when she was 30, and she likely wouldn't have really become exposed to it, and assuming her husband didn't play games, her children wouldn't have been exposed until elementary school. But honestly, this issue is nothing new. What makes this news?
In 10 - 20 years, when the people of Generation Nintendo start having teen-aged kids, it'll be interesting to see if we become our parents.

Kothuria and the Multiverse


Multiverse, which has used the news of James Cameron joining it's board of directors has gone beta with their first game that uses the Multiverse engine: Kothuria.
Maybe I'm just turning into a crotchety old gamer.Maybe I've been reading too many design books, and maybe I'm getting tired of the whole MMOG marketspace.
Or maybe, just maybe, Kothuria is as unimpressive as it looks. I have to be honest, I haven't played the game. There's a lot that you can't tell from the screenshot, like how it plays. But there are other clues in the interface, and in the way that the actions are processed that give the game away as a circa-1999 Everquest 1 clone. I tried to find a better screenshot that would illustrate the similarities, but there just don't seem to be any on the net anymore.
Kothuria (2006):


Everquest (1999):


Rev. A Problem Summary


A little less than 36 hours I've had this computer:
1) the low electrical hum

2) screen flicker, like refresh rate set weird.

3) 'b' key doesn't spring up like other keys.
Now I know why everyone says skip revision A. Called Tech Support. Unit will be going in for repairs.

MacBook Pro: First Problem with Rev. A?


I may have just discovered the first problem with the MacBook Pros that Apple just started shipping.
It's more of an annoyance, rather than a problem, but it's one I don't think Apple is capable of fixing (at least with this revision). Apple made the decision to make the new power connector have a magnetic attachment -- the magnet is on the side of the MacBook Pro where the headphone jack and the audio in is on. When the MacBook Pro is plugged in with the MagSafe connector attached, all you can hear is the quiet hum of the fans inside. However, if you detach the MagSafe connector, you will encounter a high pitched buzzing noise very similar to the noise found on the first generation iPod minis. Depending on how much ambient noise is in the area and how sensitive your ears are, you may not notice it.

It's here!

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I got my MacBook today. Hooray!
Flickr: MacBook Pro Opening Pictures
Today feels like Christmas. I was about ready to give up waiting for the delivery when the MacBook Pro arrived. The thing you notice right away is how thin and square the box is -- it's not more than a couple of inches thick. The MacBook inside is even thinner -- thinner than my old TiBook even.
One of the things that I've liked about this process so far is that Mac OS X makes it really easy to switch computers -- in the start up process, the Mac asks you if you want to move your old data to your new computer. Just plug in the Firewire cable, and you're done. All your applications, all your documents, all ready to go.
Update: Preliminary Photoshop CS1 tests: Liquify 8.2 Megapixel image. 800 mhz G4 TiBook: 3:29, 2.0 Ghz MBP: 0:57
The new screen is really bright, compared to my TiBook -- I run it at about 3 notches up, whereas on the TiBook, it is up to max all the time. The new built in camera is kind of surprising at first -- you see, the first time I remembered that a camera was there, was when I was asked to choose my user icon -- and one of the selections was to take a photograph, and there I was, on the screen of my computer.
I need a name for this new MacBook Pro...

Windows Vista in 8 Varieties - Try them all!


Here's an interesting story that I am putting in my Paradox of Choice file: Engadget is claiming that Windows Vista will have 8 choices.
In Paradox of Choice, one of the stories about people was when faced with a number of choices, people tened to choose the choice of not choosing.
Engadget breaks down the options as follows:

"Windows Starter 2007 - Vista without Aero, probably meant for developing nations.
Windows Vista Home Basic - Basic Windows Vista for your single PC fam, doesn't sound like much going on here. Analagous to XP Home.
Windows Vista Home Basic N - European version of the same, but without Media Player (because of antitrust rulings against MS in the EU).
Windows Vista Home Premium - This is the one we're all probably gonna own. It's got Media Center functionality, Cable Card support, the whole home-media shebang.
Windows Vista Business - Think of it as XP Pro, but Vista.
Windows Vista Business N - Think of it as XP Pro, but Vista, but Euro.
Windows Vista Enterprise - Business version of Vista with numerous enterprise features, like Virtual PC, volume encryption, etc.
Windows Vista Ultimate - Love that name. This one does all of the above (and more); what else do you need to know? It's ultimate Windows.."

Do we really need 8 versions? It used to be that there was Windows (for normal folk) and Windows NT (for businesses) and NT came in two flavors: Workstation and Server. Wasn't the whole point of Windows XP to combine NT and Windows together so there was a unified platform? Of course with Vista, we have even further segmentation (that I don't really understand) although I suppose those of us in the U.S.can throw out Starter, and the N varieties since they are region specific. What I don't understand is why bother with a Vista Home Basic and a Vista Home Premium or a Vista Business? The Ultimate seems like overkill.

Doing the Right Thing

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After we had left Steinhart Aquarium yesterday, my friends and I were talking about the bad parents at the aquarium -- the ones who didn't know how to scold their children for bad behavior or who insisted on condescendingly calling every fish in sight "Nemo" or jabbering on about adult matters as if children really cared, such as this one that I overheard:
Parent: "Oh, look, it's a flounder! Jim's dad goes fishing for those every year."

Child: "Did he put it in his aquarium at home?"

Parent: "No, he cooked it and ate it."

This latest story has nothing to do with aquariums or fish, but rather, about a camera and a trip to Hawaii. Judith is a blogger who went on a trip to Hawaii and lost her digital camera, so she started a blog to recreate her photos from pictures of Hawaii taken by other people on Flickr. She wrote on Saturday:
"I hadn't posted here in a while, because just after the last post, I got a call from an excited park ranger in Hawaii that "a nice Canadian couple reported that they found your camera!" She gave me their name and number, and I eagerly called to reclaim my camera.

"Hello," I said, when I reached the woman who had reported the camera found, "I got your number from the park ranger, it seems you have my camera?"

We discussed the specifics of the camera, the brown pouch it was in, the spare battery and memory card, the yellow rubberband around the camera. It was clear it was my camera, and I was thrilled.

"Well," she said, "we have a bit of a situation. You see, my nine year old son found your camera, and we wanted to show him to do the right thing, so we called, but now he's been using it for a week and he really loves it and we can't bear to take it from him."

I listened, not sure where she was going with this.

"And he was recently diagnosed with diabetes, and he's now convinced he has bad luck, and finding the camera was good luck, and so we can't tell him that he has to give it up. Also we had to spend a lot of money to get a charger and a memory card."

It started to dawn on me that she had no intention of returning the camera.

Judith doesn't get her camera or her memory cards back from them. Instead she gets some CDs in the mail of her photos.
Contrast this with what I witnessed yesterday at the aquarium with an 8-year old boy at the aquarium gift shop, a boy finds a ten dollar bill and asks the people around him if they dropped it. Everyone says it's not theirs, and the Mom says "Let's take it to lost and found". It renewed my faith in humanity if only for a short while -- not just because the child "did the right thing" but everyone else around did as well.

And then I wake up, I find this story on the net, and I am cynical once again about the future of society.

Receipt Checks are a Courtesy

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When I first met pqbon years back, I went to Fry's with him, and I stood jaw-dropping agape as he walked straight by the recipt check at the exit. He might have muttered a "No, thanks", but I don't remember. As we were walking out, he explained that "submitting to a receipt checks is a courtesy. There's nothing that says you have to show them your receipts." Since then, if I've purchased anything at a retail store (with one exception), I don't stop for receipt checks. It's a waste of my time, and what gives a business that has already profitted from my purchases the right to take even more of my time?
I can't seem to get out of escaping the receipt checks at Costco because the other sheep are so slow that there's a big bottleneck at the exit. If anyone's got any tips for this, please share!
I don't purchase items anymore at Best Buy or Fry's. I used to think that Best Buy or Fry's discounted things down, and maybe they did at one time, but online is presently the cheapest option, particularly if you can get free shipping on your item. Sure, there's that sense of "But I want it now!" that's been lost, but after a while, you just become less of a consumer because the thought process changes from "I need to buy this now" to "I need to go home, look at the reviews and then decide if I want it". Too often we fall into the "sunk cost" habit of "what the heck, I'm here already, I may as well purchase it".
But also, I think it's the idea of being treated like a thief everytime I walk into their store. In Best Buy world, you are guilty until proven innocent.
A Best Buy Customer relates this story, at a Best Buy near my hometown:

Apparently the employees of my local Best Buy aren't very familiar with annoying pedantic individuals who will choose principals over convenience when walking out with a shopping cart full of expensive home entertainment gear. I manage to get about 5 steps out the door before the door guard catches up to me and grabs my cart, with the "sir" in his "I need to see your receipt, sir" somehow not very complimentary. This is apparently a stalling tactic, as shortly a few more blue-shirted employees make a move to block me from making any more progress toward my car.

He goes on to say that:

As I get in my car to leave, two Best Buy lackeys in a pickup truck decide its a good time to park behind me, blocking my path again. By this time, I've had just enough of this crap and not very politely or discreetly ask them to get out of the way. With only a little hesitation, the yellow-shirt nods in their direction and I'm soon free to leave.

More Tales of Customer Disservice Satifaction at: BestBuySux.com and
comments to "Sir, present your reciept: Best Buy sucks for more reasons than that damned ad"

This really was two years ago.


Everyone I've ever talked to about Warcraft (in any of it's incarnations) has always loved the two-headed ogres. Maybe it's because they're like that three-headed knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, or maybe it's just the sheer silliness of a two-headed Homer Simpson running around.
While this is currently making the rounds on the internet, I believe it's an old April Fool's Joke from 2004. Too bad, cooperative WoW character control would rock. And it's funny nevertheless.
Two Headed Ogre Race in WoW

links for 2006-02-18


links for 2006-02-17


Through the Looking Glass


In 2002, while the World Cup was being played in Japan, a few friends and I spent a week in Tokyo. We travelled through the urban sprawl of the city, living in Shinjuku at night and travelling during the day. A world that is very close to ours, but still very different. These pictures were taken at a time when I knew far less about photography. Judge accordingly.
Flickr: Japan 2002 (132 photos)


Woot-Off in Progress


I bought my first item off of woot yesterday, so I went to look at the site today, and they're having a woot-off. Normally, they post one item, and when that sells out, the day's woot is over. Not so with the woot-off -- selling out of an item means a new woot item is posted.
The most popular deal seems to be the $1 'bag of crap', (which sold out in 42 seconds) which appears to be random stuff they shove in a box and mail to your door. Today they've gone through a number of deals already (although the woot-off was temporarily paused for 3 hours by 1000 units of EA '95 sports.
I've noticed that things seem to be slow out there on the blogosphere today, I wonder if people are just too preoccupied pressing F5 on the woot page.
Update: I think the toaster's going to end the woot-off. No one seems to want a toaster.

Lineage hacked, personal data stolen


"Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?"

"The same thing we do every night, Pinky: Try to take over the world! We'll hack into a shopping site, steal personal information of thirteen thousand people and use it to create 3-day free trial memberships for the most popular computer game in Korea. Then we'll use Chinese gold farmers to use those three day memberships to generate virtual money which we'll exchange for real-world money and buy world domination. Today Lineage, tomorrow, the world!"
Okay, that's probably not what happened, (The Brain would have a far more convoluted idea), but I don't really understand the logic of someone going to a shopping site, collecting personal info and then creating 13,500 3-day trial memberships. That's over 110 years worth of playtime.
According to
The Korean Times

From Monday to Wednesday evening, more than 13,500 cases of personal information theft were reported to NCSoft, the operator of Lineage. The company and police suspect that hacking groups in China acquired stolen data from one or more Internet shopping malls in December and January.
NCSoft said the victims suffered no financial damage as the hackers used the data only to create new accounts for a three-day free trial period for the game. But name theft can develop into more serious crimes, says Kwak Byung-chu of Egis.com, an Internet security company.

Korean Times: 'Lineage' Personal Info Theft Gets Serious

links for 2006-02-16


Digital Art Photography For Dummies


Hydrogen Powered Mazda RX-8 Now Leasing


When the RX-8 first came out in 2003, I thought "wow, what a cool car". With a rotary engine kicking out 247 horsepower (later adjusted down to 238 horse power), suicide doors, and a shape reminiscent of the departed, but fondly remembered RX-7, and a sticker price less than 25 grand, there wasn't much not to like about it.
Mazda showcased a Hydrogen powered version of the RX-8 back in October of 2003 at the Tokyo Motor Show, and just this past February, Mazda received permission from Japan-s Ministry of Land Infrastructure and Transport to begin leasing the RX-8 Hydrogen RE to two corporate customers. The RX-8 RE can run on either hydrogen or gasoline, and Mazda plans to have 10 lease contracts by the end of the year. When the RX-8 RE is running on hydrogen, it won't release carbon dioxide or nitrogen oxide, and runs at 107 horsepower. The monthly lease payments are 420,000 yen -- about $3600 a month.
We all knew saving the planet was expensive, but at that price, those corporations leasing the RX-8 RE are making a pretty loud statement.

I <3 Daily Show


The Daily Show's take on Dick Cheney's shooting of his hunting companion is hilarious. My inner geek loves the Star Wars and Nintendo references.

links for 2006-02-15


Valentine's Day


I had to do some grocery shopping today, considering that I'm pretty much out of food that I can eat in my home, so I went to Costco and Safeway. At Costco, the first thing you see when you walk in (besides the TVs) is a gigantic display of assorted flower bouquets. Nothing too exciting, but what surprised me was the sheer number of men pushing around shopping carts with a couple of bouquets in them. At first I thought, "Aw, how sweet, instead of just one dozen assorted random flowers, he's giving her two dozen assorted random flowers". And then I thought, "wait, maybe those aren't two dozen assorted flowers are for two different people, one for his signifigant other, and the other for his mother. That's nice." And then a darker side of me wondered if the other bouquet might not be for his mother at all, but rather for his mistress. But then I thought, who would give a random assortment of flowers for their mistress? But then who else goes shopping at 11am for flowers?
At Safeway, I saw a Valentines display as soon as I walked in as well. Heart shaped chocolate containers and stuffed animals bearing exclamations of emotional attachment and sentimentality. Not too many looking at these things, but I turned the corner and lo and behold, it's a line. But not the line to checkout, but the line for the florist. There was easily two dozen men there, all being serviced by one florist, who was putting together bouquets, attaching baby's breath and helium baloons.
In an empty display case near the frozen foods stood two lonely bouquets of red roses, not the prettiest or most beautifully arranged, but serviceable. One could make up a story about how they had been dropped into the car in the morning and left to wilt or how their heater must have been on too high at work. I mean, if you're going to Safeway for your roses past 6pm, you're probably already in trouble with the missus -- roses, even partially damaged ones are so much better than a random dozen flowers.
On Valentine's Day, it seems like all the men work pretty damn hard. Either that, or the men seen today are all horrific procrastinators, waiting until the very last minute to get things done. I give these guys a pat on the back though, because we all know it's the thought that counts. Flowers require alot of effort, even if they are the Costco variety.
There is one unforgivable sin that I did notice today though, an old man, probably in his mid-60s was at the checkout line behind me with one item. That one item was a Whitman's Sampler box. It wasn't even in good shape -- it was beaten and tattered, as if it had fallen off a high shelf and run over with a shopping cart. All I could think about as the cashier rang me up, is how disappointed the old man's wife was going to be, after being married to the man for decades, to have given birth and raised his children to be receiving a sampler box of Whitman's. There had better be some nostalgia value to the box of chocolates, because she deserves much better than that.

Ultraviolet Movie


While parakkum and I were walking around WonderCon, we passed by the Sony Pictures booth which had movie posters up for Silent Hill and Ultraviolet.
"I wonder if Ultraviolet is based on the TV show", parakkum said as we walked past the booth.

"Probably not. I don't remember chicks with swords with writing on it being in the british tv show Ultraviolet. I think it was supposed to have more of an X-files feel to it." I said.

After watching the trailer, I realized that Milla Jovovich (The Fifth Element, Resident Evil: Apocalypse plays the main character, Violet.
Writer and Director Kurt Wimmer (who created Equilibrium) says that Violet uses a much more accurate version of "Gun Kata" used in Equilibrium. To quote Equilibrium:

"The gun katas. Through analysis of thousands of recorded gunfights, the Cleric has determined that the geometric distribution of antagonists in any gun battle is a statistically predictable element. The gun kata treats the gun as a total weapon, each fluid position representing a maximum kill zone, inflicting maximum damage on the maximum number of opponents while keeping the defender clear of the statistically traditional trajectories of return fire. By the rote mastery of this art, your firing efficiency will rise by no less than 120%. The difference of a 63% increase to lethal proficiency makes the master of the gun katas an adversary not to be taken lightly. "

In Equilibrium, the fight choreographer was trained in hard-style Karate, and modified Gun Kata slightly, so what's shown in the movie is mostly hard-style rather than Wimmer's original smooth, soft-style that he invented in his backyard.
Equilibrium had a really small release in theaters back in 2002. When I went to see it at the theater, there was probably less than a dozen people sitting with me. Equilibrium was a fun movie, and looking at the
Ultraviolet Trailer, I think Ultraviolet will also be fun. It won't win any awards, but it should be a nice visual feast for the eyes.

Letting appearances get in the way of food

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Apparently in Japan, men don't like to eat cakes in public. Come to think of it, maybe they don't in this country either. The last time I went to a dessert cafe, the clientele was mostly female. Men did come into the shop, but their orders were mostly to go.
To combat the embarassment from eating elaborate cakes in public, the Japanese have come up with an innovative solution: by making cakes look like fast food. You know, for the men.
In this burger, the bun is spongy cake, the beef patty is chocolate cream and the pickles are kiwis.
I can sort of see this thing becoming popular in obesity-plagued America, if only for those who want to put on an air of eating better than sweets.
Treehugger: Trends in Japan: Sweets in Disguise

I've just been Jobsed! (but at least Apple is being nice about it)


Apple has upgraded all their MacBook Pros one notch up -- the 1.67Ghz is getting upgraded to a 1.83Ghz, and 1.83Ghz becomes a 2.0 Ghz. Apple also made available a 2.16 Ghz CPU upgrade on the MacBook Pro. I thought about cancelling my preorder and getting the new upgraded 2.16 Ghz CPU, but looking at the Intel roadmap with the upcoming Merom processors, I think I'm going to err on the side of caution and say 2.0 Ghz is going to have to do.
The only reason I ordered a 1.83 Ghz in the first place was not because of the processor speed, but the availability of the 256MB graphics chip (this 2nd Gen TiBook has a whooping 32MB!) I'm quite happy this Powerbook has lasted over 3.5 years, but I'm guessing in a couple years I'll want to upgrade anyway to take advantage of whatever new goodies are available.
On the other hand, having an extra 0.16 Ghz might be kind of nice... What do people think?

links for 2006-02-14


Game Industry Union? Not Really...


Ars Technica brings news of "Game industry recruiters form trade group to protect workers", but the way that I look at the letter from first year PEER president , is that recruiters are having a harder and harder time placing candidates into game companies. I saw this at Blizzard, and I saw this at Castaway. When I left Castaway, I had no less than 5 different recruiters from different agencies call me up.
For those who haven't used recruiters before, let me explain how it works. Recruiters take the information of the jobseeker and shotgun it into every possible position in every possible game company they work with. As a game company, the don't want to use a recruitment agency unless they absolutely have to -- they only pay the recruiter if they hire them, and the finder's fee for hiring a recruitment agency recommendation is 10 - 30 percent of that person's first-year salary. Obviously, this isn't good if the recruited employee works for 2 months, and decides that he doesn't fit in the company, or another company offers him better pay, etc, because the game company is out 2 months salary and time, and the recruiting agency, not having fulfilled the minimum number of months is out the commission and finder's fee.
Really what PEER is trying to do is to guarantee their commission by showing that the service they are providing is better than a game company's own efforts to hire, and that the premium on the employees they provide is worth it. Here's the thing, any employee of the games industry worth anything are the ones who actually have the skills and those are the ones game companies want, and those are the ones who have no trouble finding a job. They're also smart enough not to go to a recruiter.
My experience with recruiters has been either they send you the candidates they haven't been able to place (leftovers) or neophytes with no experience and sometimes no skills (beginners), and the by sheer randomness you might get one in a thousand that meets all the requirements. We screened alot of candidates at my last job -- resumes and portfolios galore, and the submissions we got from the website tended to be better than the ones we got from recruiters. That's PEER's objective, to change the perception of people like me who don't trust recruiters.

Women in Games International Event


Women in Games International is hosting an event at the Fort Mason Conference Center on February 18, 2006 entitled "Games for Women, Games by Women". From the looks of their presentations for the day, it definitely looks like a fair balance of industry topics and career topics.

Jaffe on Making God of War


The last time I mentioned David Jaffe, it was about his claim that 'video game journalists aren't part of the industry', to which I called BS on. At the recent DICE conference in Las Vegas, Jaffe had these words to close:

"So much of ourselves were put into this property, it's fair for Sony to own this, but as I get older, and now that I achieve this success personally and with my team, I kind of wonder if we're going to work this hard there's a sense of kind of being exploited. And not by Sony. I've got no qualms with Sony, I think it's an industry problem."
"I do wonder about the three or four creative and key people who really give that game its life and vitality, how can they be expected to sort of continue down that road time after time after time without emerging from it with significant financial payoff. When you're younger it's okay, you just want to make the game, but once you've done that, what's the motivator? I don't know what the solution is. To be perfectly honest, I'd rather work for Sony who believes in the medium and never having a payday, versus forming a company and making games for kids to buy for fifty dollars. It's just something I've been thinking about."
"I don't want to run a company. I like the creative work, I like worrying about gameplay and mechanics and character and story. I'm passionate and grateful. If I start a company, I'm dealing with milestones, money, meetings, HR, insurance and all that stuff. Why would I want to do that? I'm stubborn, I feel this industry should eventually grow to this point -" I should be able to make a good living bringing what I have to offer, whatever that may be in their eyes, and make a real living out of that. I think it's a realistic expectation, and I'm hoping the industry will go that way."

The way I'm reading this is, he wants to get a payoff from Sony (or he wants to unionize the industry), but doesn't want to get fired as noted by his attempts to kiss butt with Sony, and this is his thinly veiled attempt at saying if he doesn't get his payoff, he'll start his own company. That's the vibe I'm getting out of this.
Now, having a strong corporate structure does insulate the creatives from having to worry about the day to day activities of HR, insurance, money and meetings, but there are ways around that if you're a creative individual who wants to start your own company -- namely hire other people to take care of that stuff. If being creative is what you do, then carry on. However, at this point, I get the feeling that ... well, Jaffe might not have the motivation left in him to do another game -- he seems to indicate that he is going for safety and security so he can be creative, but I think his spirit has been crushed by Sony -- the payoff for God of War doesn't seem to be signifigant enough to keep him happy.
It's really tough, especially when you make a blockbuster game that sells, and you do the calculations with the unit cost and realize that your portion of the royalty is likely in the fractions of a penny per copy sold. That's when you start to ask yourself -- was it worth it? Was the sleep-deprived days or the 14 hour workdays worth it? Was it worth giving up all those weekends?
Jaffe wants the industry to change, but it won't, not without a union. Until then, creatives are completely exploitable by the companies that own them, and the only way off the corporate treadmill is to start a company.

The Mimivirus


I was at the dentist's office today and I saw the latest issue of Discover magazine. I've always liked the paper version of Discover, and while it's definitely on the pop-sci side of science journalism, they manage cover things that I might otherwise not hear about. Take for example, the mimivirus, a giant virus with more than a thousand genes. This discovery was published in Science in 2003, but I was completely unaware of it. This article also made me aware of the Archaea for the first time. I'm realizing now that my high school biology books must have been really old -- they classified by the 5 kingdoms (Monera, Protista, Plantae, Animalia and Fungi) rather than the 3 kingdom method.
It's looking like some viruses may soon be classified as life, which may make some biology teachers need to update their tests. In every biology class I ever took, I always got a question which looked like this:
Which of the following is not classified as living?

B. Chicken Pox.
C. Ebola.
D. All of the above.
E. None of the above.
I need to upgrade to the '06 version of Biology. I think I'm still running Biology '93.

links for 2006-02-13


Probably inspired by the Hot Dog guy...


I was digging through my old video tapes and I came across
Food Fight (2000), A J-drama about a guy who works as a janitor by day, but he's secretly an eating champion. The format of this show is somewhat manga-like in that every show he gets a new challenger and a new food to have to devour.

Bilingual + Videogames = Unbeatable


In Everything Bad is Good For You, Johnson claims that almost anything someone has claimed as destroying the youth of nation has been found as being actually good for us and is making us smarter.
Another piece of research has been supports this theory. According to the Globe and Mail:
A new study of 100 university undergraduates in Toronto has found that video gamers consistently outperform their non-playing peers in a series of tricky mental tests. If they also happened to be bilingual, they were unbeatable.
"The people who were video game players were better and faster performers," said psychologist Ellen Bialystok, a research professor at York University. "Those who were bilingual and video game addicts scored best -- particularly at the most difficult tasks."

Of course, there's no way a serious journalist can write an article about the positive benefits of games without mentioning the negative angle as well:

Although Prof. Bialystok is a strong proponent of bilingual education, she is less enthusiastic about video games. Recent studies have found overexposure to violent video games may desensitize children to violence and that gaming can become addictive enough to distract from other activities.
"I'd still be plenty concerned if my child played them all the time," Prof. Bialystok said. "Sure, they're getting better at rapid search and response problems, but I really would prefer my child read a book."

Why Macs work in schools


If you recall, last year, there was a massive stampede in Henrico County over $50 iBooks which were being sold because the Henrico County School Board had decided to purchase Dell laptops instead for their students. This year, by a 3 to 1 vote, they decided to grant a contract with Apple for 12,675 iBook laptops at a cost of $1,246 each. Dell's bid would have supplied about 14,000 machines to middle schools at a cost of $1,111 per unit, which is $20 less than what they offered last year.
It's not surprising at all for me to see this happen. As a person who has worked in IT for more than a decade (the first couple years in a university setting), the main issue becomes the additional resources necessary to support PCs. When you're dealing with thousands of laptops, you want the one that will have the least amount of hidden costs.
It almost seems to me, that from a organizational standpoint, unless there's an application that is tied down to a particular platform, Apple might be a better choice.
More detail and back of the envelope math in the extended entry

MovableType and corrupted datbases


Yesterday the mySQL database on this server crashed, so I apologize if any comments submitted have been lost. I didn't realize that was what happened, but... in case other people have this problem (since a Google search didn't turn up any clues) the error message I was getting was:

Building date-based archive 'Monthly20060201000000' failed: Build error in template 'Date-Based Archive': Error in MTEntries tag: Error in MTIfCommentsActive tag:

My mt_comments table in the mySQL datbase was what was marked as crashed, so I am assuming that had a different table crashed it would be reflected in the error message.
A simple check and repair of the database fixed the problem.

Wondercon 2006


Due to my somewhat exhausting week, I decided to only go to WonderCon on Friday. WonderCon is the Bay Area's much smaller version of the San Diego Comic Con which lacks a lot of the big corporate sponsorship of SDCC. It's mainly independent comic book stores that are retailing there, with a couple of the big comic publishers (DC and Dark Horse) having booths there.
A couple of the local comic publishers (such as manga publisher Viz) were surprisingly absent, which was strange, considering that they are headquartered in the Bay Area, while smaller independent presses like Slave Labor Graphics (SLG) did make appearances.
My impression of the show (at least this year's show) seemed to be structured more as a "how-to" than a PR blitz (which is what SDCC always seems to me now).
I didn't see very much manga on sale, which just seemed strange to me, given that anime/manga is what is attracting the younger crowd these days, but I did see plenty of anime/manga merchandise -- I suppose the profit margin is better on those. None of the anime/manga retailers seemed to be carrying recent stock of anime products from Japan though, I'd say the merchandise is around 4 - 6 months behind.
A good portion of the retailers at Wondercon also seemed to be selling Golden and Silver Age comics rather than modern age. There were a couple of Star Wars fan tables there -- 501st's Legion of Storm Troopers and the Bay Area-base fan clubs had their own little area across from Chase Masterson (Leta), and next to old Boomer, Lois Lane and Chewbacca.

Flickr: WonderCon 2006

Diablo II Article


I wrote a guest article for Diabloii.net about my experiences working of Diablo II, entitled Memories of Blizzard North and Diablo II. I write about my experiences at Blizzard North and some of the people I worked with.

Stargate Identification Chart


Authentic Stargate, hidden under Cheyenne Mountain and guarded by the Air Force. Note the blue standing water and orange glowing chevrons.
Imitation Stargate used by International to promote their MXT truck at the Chicago Auto Show.
Attempting to use imitation Stargates for off-world travel may result in bodily harm, never arriving at your destination or worse, capture by the Goa'uld.

links for 2006-02-09



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One of my many interests is astronomy, however, I'm not a very good astronomer -- I can only reliably find only one Constellation! While I was at MacWorld this year, I look at all sorts of astronomy programs. Most of them were incredibly complex and complicated, but not at all suitable for a beginner like me. Recently Lifehacker's Download of the Day was Stellarium, an open source desktop planetarium. You can set your location so that you can see exactly what it looks like in the sky. It's easy to use, and best of all, it's absolutely free. I can't wait to use this the next time I stargaze to help me identify what I'm seeing.
Stellarium Astronomy Software

The Book of Photography


The New Manual of Photography


What does your Brain think of Superbowl ads?


On Sunday night, at UCLA, an fMRI machine, neuroscientists and a handful of volunteers used the Superbowl commercials to test brain responses to advertising.

Who won the Super Bowl ads competition? If a good indicator of a successful ad is activity in brain areas concerned with reward and empathy, two winners seem to be the 'I am going to Disney' ad and the Bud 'office' ad. In contrast, two big floppers seem to be the Bud 'secret fridge' ad and the Aleve ad. What is quite surprising, is the strong disconnect that can be seen between what people say and what their brain activity seem to suggest. In some cases, people singled out ads that elicited very little brain responses in emotional, reward-related, and empathy-related areas.

fMRI data on Superbowl commercials
Update: meta sent me a link to a MindHacks post which effectively debunks the conclusions these 'scientists' have come up with.

Lost World in Indonesia


National Geographic Photo Gallery
Pictures of the kangaroo, birds and frogs.

links for 2006-02-08


Mavericks: 2006


After seeing ota's post, on a lark, I decided to drive out to Half Moon Bay and see what my digital eye could see. I loaded up my EOS 20D, my 70-300mm and my 50mm. I dressed for a chilly day, but the weather turned out to be warm and perfect. When I got to Mavericks, the competition was mostly over -- the main avenue was blocked due to ambulances and paramedics, hauling out those injured in the competition, so i was forced to go around, up the mountain before i got to the beach. By the time I hit the beach, the finalists were just on their way onto land, so I managed to see the finalists coming in, and I watched the award ceremonies.
I was hoping to get a shot of someone riding a wave, but my 300mm just wouldn't have been enough (even if I did get to the beach in time)
I did manage to get some nice photos, though.
Flickr: Mavericks 2006

Apple Launches 1GB iPod Nano for $149


We all knew it was just a matter of time before Apple dropped the prices of the shuffle and introduced a 1GB version of the iPod Nano. It would appear that day has arrived.
Apple's website has been changed to reflect the new pricing which is as follows:

And, just like before, the new iPod nano is available in black or white. This is the end of the road for the iPod shuffle -- when their supply of these is gone in 3 to 4 months, I don't expect there to be more.

Douglas Hofstadter: Analogy as the Core of Cognition

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Douglas Hofstadter, author of Godel, Escher Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid (1980 Pulitzer Prize), editor of Scientific American and professor at Indiana University gave a talk at Stanford today entitled "Analogy as the Core of Cognition". I've always had trouble with the titles of his books and articles, and today's lecture is no different; I've had to look it up several times as I titled this post (which is appropriate, considering the subject of today's talk).
While they were definitely plugging their website, (shc.stanford.edu), I noticed that they haven't posted any new videos of their lectures since May of last year. So they may be a little slow in updating.
In the event that they don't promptly post Hofstadter's talk, I've posted my own copy of
Douglas Hofstadter: Analogy as the Core of Cognition in MP3 format (63.5 Megabytes) to share. It's nearly 70 minutes long, and you'll have to deal with the background noise of typing and other sounds. It's the whole thing, from introduction to closing. Hofstadter's lecture starts at about 13 minutes.
kwc also has notes on the talk which are much more readable than mine, and hits all the main points of the lecture and you get to see the transparencies.
Too much to cover, so my notes in the extended are mainly the text of the transparencies he used during the lecture (with a few longer explanations where necessary).

Design Changes Reduce SUV related deaths

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In 2003, several automakers decided to lower the bumper height of their SUVs to better match normal cars.

The study, first reported in Friday editions of The New York Times, found the greatest benefit in design changes when a SUV strikes the side of a car. In such a case, the risk of a fatality dropped by 47 percent to 48 percent. For side crashes involving pickups and cars, the death rate dropped by 1 percent to 9 percent.
In front-end collisions involving SUVs and cars, researchers found car drivers wearing seat belts were 18 percent to 21 percent less likely to die with SUVs meeting the guidelines. For car drivers failing to wear a seat belt, the risk was only reduced by 2 percent to 3 percent, showing the benefit of wearing safety belts.
When a redesigned pickup struck a car in a head-on collision, the number of deaths of belted car drivers declined 9 percent to 19 percent. For unbelted car drivers hit by pickups without the changes in a head-on crash, the death rate was about the same.

I think the lesson of the story is 'wear your seatbelt'; redesigned bumpers will do little to save you if youre not buckled in.
Source: Detroit News

links for 2006-02-06


Following the Jello Brick Road


I have a bad habit when it comes to uploading photographs. Either I put them up on Flickr right away, or I never get around to putting them up.
Flickr: Reconsidered Materials and the Exploratorium


The New Movie-Game Business Model


It seems to me there's two main types of people in the video game business -- those who are in it because they want to be in the video game business, and those that are in it because they want to be in the movie business. Lately we've been seeing more movie people who want to be in the game business. These movie people are smart. They know money is drying up in the movie business -- it's been that way for a long time now. The video game business, on the other hand is thriving, and growing. So it's only natural that some of these movie people want to move into games.
The latest of these movie people moving into games is director James Cameron. In fact, he's got an new idea that blends games with movies. Cameron is working on Project 880, which, if approved, will be released first as a networked multiplayer game, and then as a movie.

Imagine Entertainment, the company run by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer that created the TV show 24, has teamed up with producer Jim Banister, Halo creator Alex Seropian, and others to develop a sci-fi reality show called XQuest. If it flies, contestants will occupy a cramped spaceship-like module for a month. Its flight simulators will subject them to rocket-like conditions, including six Gs of thrust. Players will ply the galaxy while following the rough contours of a plot. Outside the ship, online gamers will track the crew's mission and ultimately board their own PC-based spaceships to rendezvous with contestants in shared, simulated space. The next season's cast, in theory, is chosen from those who show the most skill playing the game at home.

What do I think about all this?
I think both creatively and profitibility wise, the money spent in developing a game without a prior IP is better spent elsewhere. When we were working on our project at Castaway, we were asking for a budget of 40 million dollars to develop a brand-new original IP. Publishers balked at these figures. Too expensive. Not a high enough profit margin.
My advice to James Cameron: Make the movie first, then make the game. I haven't seen T3: Rise of the Machines yet, so I don't know how the movie trilogy ends, but there's a license there that you can use to make a MMOG with. Or use Aliens even. These are worlds already established, rich with lore and possibility. A game, even with your name emboldened across the box cover isn't going to sell on its own, and unproven sci-fi licenses are the worst ones to try and make a sucess of.
MMOGs are not easy things to make a success of. There are more failures than successes in this market. While gamers can name the half dozen sucessful titles, there's more than several dozen that have failed for one reason or another, but mostly because game players simply weren't playing.
Movies based on games just don't work. There's a few oddball successes here and there, but for the most part, they are utter and complete failures. There's a reason for it too -- the emotions involved are different -- movies are experienced by watching, while games are experienced by playing. Try as we might, the way we sympathesize with characters in a movie is very different than playing as that character.



Jigglypuff is a Pokemon character that loves to sing, but its singing puts everyone to sleep. A
person sang the Jigglypuff lullaby on American Idol. He didn't quite put the judges to sleep, but he didn't quite make it onto the show either. Maybe he misheard the show's name. Maybe he thought it was Anime Idol.
I guess the American Idol judges aren't Pokemon fans. It could have been worse. It could have been a Minmay song.
Of course, one of these days (within the next five years I am guessing), someone's going to go audition up there and sing an anime theme song, in Japanese. And Simon will remind them that the show is called American Idol.

Recovered Materials...


I had a accident last night after coming back from the Exploratorium. Not a big one mind you, just a little one. With my camera. I had been taking pictures all night at the Reconsidered Materials exhibit, so I had left the camera on. When I got home, the first thing I wanted to see was all the pictures that I captured on film, so I opened the compartment for the memory card... and guess what? The camera was still on.
Don't ask me why, but Canon cameras have this thing where if you do this, you lose any images still in the buffer.
As soon as I remembered this just as i was opening the compartment, and quickly turned off the camera. Then I popped it into my Flash Card Reader. The Flash Card reader showed that the images were there, sort of. They were in a state of limbo really, the data was there, but I couldn't do anything with that data -- couldn't copy it, and mac os wouldn't let me view the pictures. So I inserted it back into the camera.
Big mistake.
The camera, seeing no image data, made a new directory to store images in. Viewing through the camera showed no images. Re-inserting it into the computer showed that the card was blank.
All my pictures of Jell-O, gone. Lost to user error. Or so I thought. I remembered that my memory card had come included with it a program called ImageRescue, which purportedly could undelete images on a memory card. So I installed it and fired it up. No go. It couldn't even find the card, even though both the reader and the card were Lexar.
So, enter PhotoRescue. This image recovery program is what I term mercenaryware. The trial version will do all the work, but will refuse to output files until it is paid for. This is not bad for data recovery -- it at least shows that it's capable of doing the task at hand. It even comes with a money back guarantee.
My verdict? One of the best $29 I've ever spent. It recovered every single shot I took that night (as well as shots I had taken months ago). While I don't intend on making this mistake again, it's good to know that it's there if it does happen again.

The Superbowl without the Football Game


Spoilers for the best part of the Super Bowl: the ads Superbowl-Ads.Com
Not all the ads are there yet, but a pretty large number of them are.

links for 2006-02-04


Sometimes You Just Want Jell-O.


Tonight I went to the Exploratorium with kwc and d to check out the Reconsidered Materials Exhibit. The line and the wait to get in was long, unexpected to both the attendees and the admissions people, and as a result, the performances were pushed back an hour, and the Exploratorium was open a little later. We hit Liz Hickok's San Francisco in Jell-O first before seeing the rest of the Exploratorium. The fruity scent of the Jell-O could be detected as we stood in line, but it was worth the wait to see the replica of San Francisco's Twin Peaks Area.

Diablo III? Don't hold your breath.


Gamespot recently reports Blizzard is bulking up the Diablo dev team based on the new Job Descriptions posted on Blizzard's website, which states "The team behind Diablo I and II is looking for..." As a former member of the the team behind Diablo I and II, I can say this -- this is another way of saying the people from Blizzard North need people to replace the ones who didn't depart to Irvine.
I think it's also fair for me to say that I can count exactly 1 person who would have been on the team for Diablo I and Diablo II still working for Blizzard, and less than 6 who would have done production work on Diablo II. Most of the people who had any inkling of how to design a Diablo game have already departed, either because they didn't want to move to Irvine or they didn't want to work on the project.
Could they take whatever the North team was working on for the years since Diablo II expansion and run with it? Sure. That's always a possibility. But Blizzard has a reputation, one for quality that hasn't been soiled by the patching of WoW -- they'll apply some of the old Blizzard polish, and they won't ship something incomplete, so even if they announce at E3 it would be a minimum of a year and a half before they will be able to shove something out the door. Which I secretly believe is too optimistic, seeing as Starcraft Ghost has been in perpetual limbo for over 3 years.

New Algorithm, new Google Ranking


Google recently changed their search algorithm, so I'm happy to report that finally after years of being the number 7 search result for mike huang, mikehuang.com is finally the number 1 search result again. Now if I can only get Michael Huang up there...
My suspicion is that the new algorithm weighs a little more on the domain name in order to prevent misdirection to other sources that contain irrelevant info but plenty of keywords.

links for 2006-02-03


EA Misses Earnings; Layoffs Ensue


Electronic Arts (EA) is the Borg of the games industry, their only goal is the complete domination of gamespace. Not that it's not a bad goal -- every corporation wants to rule the industry. Look at Bungie (makers of Halo) who have a 7 step world domination plan. What bothers me is not the Borg-like nature of EA, but rather the directions that EA is driving the industry. Call it differences in design philosophy. They call it "The EA Way". I call it stupidity.
Once upon a time, EA was an innovative company, and they put out some interesting games, and they were successful. Then EA got smart, and figured out that they had enough cash to just buy out successful game companies and make them part of EA, and then franchise the hell out of that company's properties. Their main cash cow is EA Sports -- a division of EA that churns out on an annual basis, a new version of the sport title to go with the season. As this past year has been fairly unexciting on the console front as everyone waits for the new generation of consoles to launch, EA announces that their earnings dropped 31 percent, and that their holiday sales were down 11 percent. Kotaku has two recent articles one showing an EA statement about the layoffs, and the other from a secondhand account showing the EA Way when it comes to hires.
I don't think I'll ever get used to this industry where companies get rid of good, talented people. The greatest resource of a game company is not money, but people. Too often game companies forget this.
EA, being a big name will always have people clamoring to work for them. But after having worked as a third party developer for EA, and having a behind the scenes look at their business practices and the way they treat their employees, it's shown me that I never want to work for them.
It's a tough year for games -- personally I have my own theory for why EA had a shortfall in earnings, and it has nothing to do with their products, but rather the lack of products in the one growing area of gaming: MMOG. EA has Ultima Online, an 8 year old game as their lone entry in the MMOG market, so it shouldn't come as any surprise that Vivendi Univeral Games in Q3 2005 showed an increase in revenue of a whooping 88 percent over the same period last year, while EA showed a 4.4 percent drop in the same period. VUG revenue was down 11 percent from the previous year, but VUG had two very successful launches in Q4 2004 -- World of Warcraft and Half Life 2.

This HCI book was written in the late nineties, but the information contained is no less relevant today than it was when it was originally published. Design principles and user-centered approaches are covered, and the example diagrams and tables of guidelines provide organized and well thought out bits of information.
Ironically, for a book advocating design and user centered approach, the design of this text shows little consideration for design or usability of its own contents. I blame the book publisher more than the author for the arrangement. There are tables and field study examples (often several pages long) that interrupt the reader by residing in the middle of a paragraph.
The biggest publishing flub, however has to be the missing example in which version A is compared to version B and the reader is asked to evaluate A and B, only to discover that B has been left out, and a duplicate of A exists in its place. Luckily the text is clear enough that one can surmise the visual design of B.

Harry Potter 5


David Yates will direct, and Imelda Staunton will play Defense of the Dark Arts teacher Dolores Umbridge. The usual people will return.
Filming for Harry Potter 5 to start

Prince Caspian on the way

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After grossing over 635 million at the box office, it's no surprise that the Narnia sequel is on the way, set to arrive in 2007. The director and the cast will return. It's interesting to note that they've decided to follow the original publishing order of the books rather than the chronological order of the books (as the publishers have chosen follow).

links for 2006-02-02


In Silence and in Sickness


I grew up as part of the airplane generation -- when my sisters and I were kids, if we were flying, my parents and I had to dress up in nice clothes. Those days are gone -- now you can fly in shorts and a T-shirt and no one really cares. I don't think anyone really noticed when the nice clothes went away, I know by the time I was flying between LA and Oakland for school, the formality of dress had given in to casual clothes.
I wonder if it'll be the same with cellphones -- if 10 years from now people will reminsce about a time when cellphones weren't available on planes, and you didn't have to hear the jibber jabber of the person behind you. The thing is, they've tried the inflight phones before -- they didn't sell, even when they offered modem and fax services. Still, if it does become commonplace on flights to have a plane full of people chatting, then I definitely be putting noise canceling earphones to good use when I fly.
Bad Reception Awaits in-flight phones
The other article is about why we catch colds on planes. I've always thought it had to do with the poor circulation of air, but this latest research shows that while it certainly is a factor humidity plays a much more important role.

"Commercial jet airplanes fly typically fly at altitudes ranging from 27,000 to 39,000 feet. The air is extremely dry at these high altitudes. Therefore, when fresh air is brought into the plane to supply the passengers ands crew, it is very dry air.
Very dry air dries up the mucous system that captures and expels bacteria and viruses from our noses. This may be a key reason why airplane passengers catch more colds."

The Citizen Scientist: Do frequent flyers catch more colds?

Universal Binary List

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This is a list of Universal Binaries for the Mac. The entries in bold are the ones already Universal.

MSN Dating on MMOGs


Columnist Lynn Harris gives some advice on dating an online game addict. She's assuming that the boyfriend is addicted to Everquest. As addictive as EverQuest was, most EQ addicts have moved on -- the people left in Everquest these days are mainly farmers or continuing to play the game to make a living. Personally, I think in this day and age, the name of the game is World of Warcraft.
I'm a little surprised at the advice Ms. Harris gives -- just like you shouldn't negotiate with terrorists, you shouldn't bargain with MMOG addicts, because they can't be trusted. If they are at the stage where they are playing until 3am, chances are that they are already too deep in. In fact, it's a lot more likely the person will attempt to drag you into their world, instead of them leaving it.

MSN Dating: Video Games

If I was a PC user...


I'd be backing up my Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, ZIP and PSD files right about now.
The latest virus threat called Blackworm has a rather destructive payload which destroys files and activates on Feb. 3.

"At 5:00 p.m. on Jan 24, more than 700,000 computers had already been infected by the worm, according to a stats counter used by the worm author. Finnish anti-virus vendor F-Secure, said the worm accounts for more than 17 percent of all virus infections in the last 24 hours.
Adding to the confusion is the fact that anti-virus vendors are all using different names to identify the worm. In addition to Kama Sutra, the worm has been named Blackworm, Blackmal, MyWife and Nyxem.
According to F-Secure virus researcher Alexey Podrezov, the mass-mailing worm also tries to spread using remote shares. Once a machine gets infected, the worm completely disables anti-virus and other security software before delivering a payload that destroys certain file types.
Once the worm's UPDATE.EXE file is run, it destroys all Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, ZIP and PSD files on all available drives."

Urgent Alert Raised for Blackworm D-Day