March 2006 Archives

Mitsubishi Game Table


IGN has a video of a interactive tabletop being developed by Mitsubishi Electronics Research Labs. They use Warcraft III to demonstrate the gestures and the audio commands, but all I could think about while watching this was how he would get schooled by anyone using a mouse and keyboard commands.

Downtime and More Player Distribution


Yesterday, the World of Warcraft Servers came down for a major revision patch. The servers did not all come back up until after 930 pm. As with all major patches, sometimes there are problems that arise that cause additional downtime. This morning, I logged on, and the world felt really empty. So I decided to query the server and find out how many players were online.
A mere 873. As you can see from the graph below, a majority of the players are still clustered in the first 20 levels. At level 7 there's a massive drop off in players from 50 down to 23. Interestingly enough, this also corresponds to the first "freedom of choice" occurance in the game where players have to leave the area they started in, and venture outside of the starting zone. It's also approximately the level that players reach the captial cities (where the banks and auction house are), so either these players are being used to evaluate the class by exploring the first 7 levels of gameplay, or they are being used to evaluate the state of the server in terms of maturity in items, or they could be set up as mules to hold inventory.
The highest level at this point is 56, it's likely that today or tomorrow will see the first Alliance level 60 on the server, a mere week and a day after the server came up (taking into account the 18 hours downtime we had yesterday).

Otherworldly Clocks


The people at Goddard Institute for Space Studies has clocks for Mars and Titan.

Project Darkstar


Sun recently announced href="">Project Darkstar, a variant of the Sun Grid.
According to the project website:

    "Project Darkstar", is a research effort aimed at simplifying the process of developing multi-player online games
    that can be deployed on a massive scale and made available to players using virtually any client device.
    The first technology release under this project, the Sun(tm) Game Server, is a game agnostic, platform agnostic
    server technology that provides online game developers the ability to create a wide variety of games that can be
    provisioned through a single server platform.

One of the problems that game developers have had in the past with making MMOGs has been in relation to network
architecture -- every game company needs to run their own servers, deal with the issues of scalability and so forth.
While I occassionally have my doubts about the network programming that is found within games, for the most part,
it's fairly competent and solid stuff -- the problems that I've experienced when it comes with network scalability
has more to do with the financial side of the business making engineering spec -- such as finance managers deciding
that due to cost engineers need to cram 2000 users on a single server rather than the 500 user max the engineers
I trust engineers more than financial managers when it comes to scaling network architecture, and I believe it to be
to the benefit of game companies to have network programmers to keep unrealistic server expectations in check. While
I have no doubt that Project Darkstar will be fabulous for Java-based casual games, I have my doubts as to whether
it will be a viable platform for desktop based games.

Playing World of Warcraft for Money


Very briefly I thought about playing World of Warcraft for money. There's money to be had in online games, not just for the game publisher, but for the game player too.
In a game like WoW, time is money. A lot of players want to play the high level game and have the great equipment, but they don't have the time to get there. Enter the capitalist belief that time is money, and suddenly you have players who are willing to pay money for having someone else play the game. A game that they've already paid money for, and they continue to pay money for in order to play. They'll pay for characters, they'll pay for items, they'll pay for gold, and some will even pay for levels. Psychologically, this is because people like to say that they've beaten the game, and World of Warcraft, unlike the games that you purchase in the stores is a server-based game. Cheats and trainers won't work, much to the chagrin of people who want to get to level 60 and see the high level content but don't want to spend the months (or years, depending on your lifestyle) to get there.
The following is a list of some of the side businesses that have sprung up from World of Warcraft (and other massively multiplayer games):

Desperate Housewives: The Computer Game


Television is no stranger to the world of licensed computer games (Simpsons, American Idol, Alias, X-Files, CSI), and ABC riding on the dismal failure of the Alias video game has decided to make a Sims clone featuring the neighborhood of the
Desperate Housewives television show.

    "As fans of the show would expect, the game is loaded with gossip, betrayal, murder and sex - you know, all the things women like," says Mary Schuyler, the producer of the title at Buena Vista Games.
    Housewives, a dialogue-heavy mystery with an emphasis on social interaction and character customization, is geared toward female players. "There aren't a lot of games for women today, but this is one where women will really have a good time," Schuyler says.

Games with PR statements like that always makes me cringe, because there are plenty of games that have a female following, and while it is true that social interaction is an important feature for games this game doesn't have social interaction -- all interactions are between the player and the program. From what I can gleam from the press release, it's more like interactive story that takes place in the neighborhood of Desperate Housewives. You don't play any of the characters on the show, but rather a wife in the neighborhood with amnesia.
Buena Vista Games hasn't had a good track record with games that aren't Disney based children games, and a big part of that is a problem within the games industry that living people are hard to do. Part of it is due to the graphics hardware, but I think the motion capture is weird, and the 3d imaging data when reduced down for texture maps gives either a freaky look to the recognizable characters (play any EA sports title and you'll see what I mean) or a generic look to all the characters.

Server Population Dynamics


I played some WoW this afternoon. My characters are presently in Loch Modan doing the Hunting Lodge quests. Unfortunately, these quests are not designed with server population curves in mind, because they are time based quests and when you're competing with the masses to kill the 6 pigs that spawn in the Loch in 12 minutes, well, that's just not going to happen.
The chart below is a graph of what the server was like at approximately 9:30pm EST today, with around 4 days of server uptime. You can see two distinct humps in the graph. The first massive hump peaks at about level 5. These are likely East Coast characters that were started this evening, or West Coast casual players who started yesterday and just logged on today. The second hump is in the level range of 14 - 20. As the level of players increase, the number of players at that level decreases, as there simply aren't that many players who are able to spend that much time online. I should do some more data collection on the different zones within the game, but from a quick survey of the starting areas reveals that the most impacted zones at present are the human and night elf areas. The dwarf/gnome area is the least popular, but surprisingly mych of the dwarf/gnome population migrate to the human lands instead of transitioning to the teen zone of the dwarf/gnome area -- however, even more surprising is the sheer number of night elf migrants who cross an ocean as well as a level 20+ zone to make it to the human area.
Those massive humps are also designate where you don't want to be.

DHL knows the trouble I've seen

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When I got my MacBook Pro back on Monday, the DHL delivery guy said to me "They didn't fix it the first time?". I told him no, they made a mistake, so I had to send it back, and he said "Hope this one works." Today, the DHL guy returned again to drop off the box. "It's going back again?". To which I said "Yep. It's still broken." To which, he shook his head. I always drop off the MacBook Pro at the DHL office. When I walked in today, the guy at the counter recognized the box and said "Ah, back to Apple, eh?" Yeah. I didn't ask how many they get, but seeing how he was able to recognize the box. I'd wager it's a pretty common occurance.

Jell-O S.F. will return to the Exploratorium


No doubt due to the attendance of the opening night of Reconsidered Materials (which served as a miniature membership drive), Liz Hickok and her Jello sculpted miniature San Francisco will return to the Exploratorium for their Magnitude X: Quake Science and Survival exhibit, running for the month of April. The Jell-O will only be on display on Saturday, April 1st.

Return to Azeroth

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I started playing WoW again Tuesday. They started up some new servers, so I rolled up some characters on Duskwood. There's something nice about starting fresh on a new server, and something painful too. I tried to start new characters on other EQ servers before -- restarting the level grind again was just too painful. WoW level grinding is a bit different, though nothing new -- when we were internally testing WoW in alpha, level wipes and character wipes were commonplace, so every couple of months we'd start fresh from level 1 again, and we'd have to run through the newbie zones and new quests all over again.
The new server went up on Monday afternoon. I started my characters on Tuesday night. My characters are level 17 now. The highest levels are twice that, level 33/36 etc. I find that it's important to get past the curve in the initial week or so is vital for being able to speed level, that being said, I've smack in the middle of the curve right now, being 12 hours behind, and actually doing things other than playing 24/7 (There's at least 4 or 5 who have done that -- their characters are in the 30s). I was tempted to grind straight through to at least 20, since I know I can do it in a day. The game is harder earlier on without high levels running around, it's almost like a natural ecology, where the zones are so packed, n00bs starve themselves out of experience because the monsters don't spawn fast enough, and the equipment most are using is little better than the quest rewards and the occassional random drop. Some are still running around in tattered clothing.
The zones that I've been fighting in are definitely on the edge of the curve -- the players are still poorly equipped, but there's plenty of resources to plunder and monsters to kill. Every moment away from the game is knowing that the masses will soon catch up behind me (and may starve me out of experience as well). I can always just wait for the masses to move on, also -- in a week, they've all gotten past my point, and I can return to the low populated zones to grind for xp.
The World of Warcraft manages to sustain itself by miracle of server automated repopulation, but I'd love to see what the death rates are in a zone that the newbies are moving through in the form of a realtime map. The newbies would just be a wave that washes over the zones.

MacBook Pro: Shutdown Roulette


The MacBook Pro returned on Monday morning, and since then, I've been extensively using the MBP running all manner of applications to give it a proper shakedown. I encountered some slowness running some apps on Rosetta, but on the whole, the MBP runs them without issue. Since there are so very few apps that can adequately test the MacBook Pro's graphic card, I've been excessively running it through its paces playing World of Warcraft (one of the few Universal Binary games available). The framerate on the system is about 30-60 fps, comparable to other PCs I've used.
I've also been using Final Cut Express to try and edit together a video for the Freeculture contest -- this has not gone well, as FCE is practically unusable with 1GB RAM running under Rosetta -- the performance was so atrocious, I've given up trying to create an entry in time for the contest.
The newest and latest problem I've discovered is a random shutdown of the system for no apparent problem. One minute I'll be surfing the web, the next moment the system is powered off. Needless to say, the Mac is going back to be repaired. For those keeping track, this is repair #3. If it goes in one more time, they'll likely replace it (and I can start this process all over again)

Battlestar Galactica

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I finally all caught up with the rest of Battlestar Galactica Season 2 yesterday. While I found both BSG Season One and BSG Season 2.0 to be really compelling, Season 2.5 loses some of that momentum. BSG is one of those series that's great to watch on DVD because the storyline is continuous, but it's a bit of a problem if you're trying to attract new television viewers who may not know what is going on. My philosophy has always been "they'll get caught up", but instead the writers have opted instead for filler episodes (which in my opinion lose the charm of the high intensity show).

Katamari Damacy Team Dissolved


It's not a bad dream. Namco's Official Katamari Damacy homepage has announced that the team behind both the original game and its sequel, We Love Katamari, has been dissolved, and that no sequels have been planned.
There is hope for Katamari fans, however, as the page does mention that 'Professor Katamari' (likely Keita Takahashi, the creator of Katamari Damacy) is currently working on a new game design, though not with the core Katamari Damacy team. "You don't roll things up, or get bigger, but you might find it interesting anyway."
Me and My Katamari, the PSP version of Katamari Damacy releases next week, and is the last announced game in the series. The PSP game was done without the direct supervision of Takahashi, which shows that Namco is not above franchising an IP out to death without the help of its original creator.

Ringers - Lord of the Fans


Alice 3.0 to use Sims


Alice is an open source system developed over the last 10 years and provided as a free public service by Carnegie Mellon. In combination with novel educational materials developed by Computer Science Professors Wanda Dann of Ithaca College and Stephen Cooper of St. Joseph's University , Alice is already in use at more than 60 colleges to teach various introductory computer science/computer programming courses.
Now, they've signed with EA to help them facelift the interface (using the Sims). It's a big change, and it's nice to see the industry working with academics, but a tool like this isn't what most game companies use to construct their games.

You - Gorgeous... Me - A Gamer...


The following is one of the more amusing missed connections that was sent to me (because it's a WoW related story).

It's posted on craigslist, and I'm sure the post will go away someday, I've copied the text into the extended entry.

It's a tale of a World of Warcraft playe as he enters the zone that's really not meant for soloing types: the local bar.

Warren Spector on Game Publishers

I've talked alot about publishers interacting with game development, and keeping and controlling IP on this blog many, many times before. Games industry veteran Warren Spector (System Shock, Deus Ex, Ultima VI, TSR, Steve Jackson Games) recently spoke at SXSW about his recent experience with game publishers and IP:
    But, according to Spector's experiences, the problem is control over IP and publisher influence, in the current market, as he continued: "The equivalent [of a distributor] in the game business is " and I'll try not to swear here: a bleeping publisher. The guarantee of distribution has to come from a bleeping publisher. And the publishers don't want this to happen because they lose control over the IP, they lose control over the financing. They lose control over me. And nobody wants that." "So what happened was, there was a publisher...I call them 'third world publishers'. There was a little publisher that really wanted... the little publisher that could, you know? "I think I can, I think I can." They really wanted to get over that mountain and become a big deal. But they didn't have the war chest to finance five twenty million dollar games. They were stuck making five million dollar bets. And you can't compete in the AAA space for that kind of money. You'll get destroyed." And so, unfortunately, after this publisher said, "We're in, we'll publish this stuff", all the money guys, after a while, looked at that publisher and said "We don't believe they can actually distribute this stuff -- and the money guys pulled out. And guess what? I'm back looking for a publishing deal."

Friday's Dozen


A sneak peak at Nvidia's GeForce 7900 GX2 Quad-SLI graphics cards, which will retail for around $1000. Okay, just stop for a moment and read that last sentence again. Quad-SLI? $1000? Gaming may be a lifestyle, but I don't know many gamers who could afford to drop that much bank on a graphics card. It's simply ridiculous.
Instructables: Do it yourself tutorials, including
how to build a lightsaber for $33 in plumbing supplies from the Home Despot and the Pac-Man LED bike lights
Top 10 vehicles owned by billionaires
At Pizza Hut, you can get the salad, but can only go up to the salad bar once. I may have posted it before, but there's some photos of Taiwanese students piling it on at the Salad Bar in Pizza Hut.

smart Cars coming to the U.S.

Eight graders build a 24ft. roller coaster at school.

A Source of Asthma uncovered


One of the most interesting panels at SXSW Interactive 2006 was The Future of Darknets, moderated by JD Lasica. And while the concept of Darknets - communities using private subnetworks to communicate and collaborate out of view of the larger internet - is indeed fascinating, the panel was not interesting because of the intended topic. In fact, we never actually got to hear much about DarkNets, much to my disappointment, because the panel was hijacked the moment one panelist said, "Hello, my name is Kori Bernards, and I'm from the Motion Picture Association of America."

It's filled with great stories of an industry gone mad, and has a podcast of the whole thing.
100 hours of Star Wars on TV, coming soon.
Bookcrossing, an interesting idea where you read a book, and set it free in the wild (coffee shops, park benches, etc) for other people to read and release.

A Visual Representation of Tax Dollars


Death and Taxes
mibi (the artist) says:

Most people are unaware of how much of their taxes fund our military, and those aware are often misinformed.
I hope this makes people think and ask questions.
Why do we spend more on jets than we do on public housing?
Why is the Endowment for the Arts so small?
Whats with all this foreign military financing?
Im sure you can come up with numerous questions of your own. Unfortunately i dont have any answers. Our leaders do. Your president, his cabinet and your congress person have these answers. Ask them for the answers or better yet, demand them.


Windows XP runs on Intel Macs


When I first heard the announcement late last night that the Windows XP on intel Mac contest had been won, I wasn't too surprised. I had been expecting it, since there seemed to be a lot of evidence supporting that it should be possible. After reading the solution posted, I'm amazed by the elegance and simplicity of it -- the hack amounts to installing a boot loader, creatiing a couple of drivers and dlls for a Windows install CD and reburning the CD. It's not unlike what I used to do for dual booting Windows NT and 95.
I think that this new development is cool, and great for those who need to run applications on Windows now and then without needing a program such as VirtualPC, but I can't help feeling that there is a tremendous amount of space wasted on installing Windows on a Mac.
Now, I will admit that the way I use a computer is likely very different from most people. In my lifetime, I've owned more than a dozen different computers with a good half dozen or so being laptops. But since purchasing my Mac in 2002, I've found less and less of a need for having Windows around. (My PC functions solely for games).

Starcraft in My Sassy Girl

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Last night I was reading the My Sassy Girl manhwa (which is a little different from the movie version of My Sassy Girl), when I came across something that should be familiar to Starcraft fans in Vol. 2: a Terran Wraith. I thought this was a pretty cool cameo appearance and I was further amused when Geon-Woo challenges Mushik Park to a game of Starcraft in My Sassy Girl Vol. 5.
The manhwa even pokes fun at itself later when the girl asks Geon-Woo what he thinks of Jun Ji Hyun (who plays the girl in the movie).

Roomba Frogger


I used to play Frogger when I was kid. Nothing like trying to get the frog across the busy street, leaping across the aligator invested river on logs to make it to the darkness under the bridge. They made a 3D version of Frogger a couple of years back, but that doesn't compare to the guy behind MAKE, who decided to create a Bluetooth enabled Roomba which he could control with his laptop. As if that wasn't enough, the Roomba would navigate the street more than 10 times before getting squished.

Stat Mongering


Since the beta test of Google Analytics is currently closed, I've been using mybloglog and the recently released Performancing to try and get a sense of my readership on the blog. The stats garnered so far seem to indicate that no one runs below 1024x768 res, and that sadly IE 6.0 outnumbers Firefox on a ratio of 2 to 1.

I scored 42.


On the Web 2.0 or Star Wars Quiz. This is likely due to me reading newsfeeds all day long about web development. I started first by first marking all the ones I knew as Star Wars. Then I marked all the ones that I knew were Web 2.0. To be fair, there's expanded universe names scattered within the quiz (the one I missed is likely expanded universe).

The Declining State of the Games Industry


Joystiq reports the following:

US console sales continue their nose dive since September; according to the research from Michael Pachter, "total U.S. console software sales for February were $340 million, down 13% compared to last year and lower than our $350 million estimate (down 11%)."

Meanwhile, EA announces a change in the game plan, choosing to:

  • Push the number of games based on internally created concepts above 50% of EA's total portfolio in the next 12 to 18 months, from about 30% today
  • Create at least one new franchise a year.
  • Aggressively snap up marquee talent.
  • Building a brand-new development studio in Montreal that will focus entirely on cooking up new, original titles.
  • Acquire independent studios.

The last game company that tried to break themselves away from doing licensed games and focusing on original IPs was Akklaim. Well, that was what they claimed, right before they released the Simpson's Crazy Taxi clone, amongst other licensed games. Akklaim then went back to doing licensed games, dropping their original game titles, and subsequently ending up bankrupt. Of course, take what EA says with a grain of salt -- EA is definitely not opposed to acquiring indie studios for the purposes of increasing their franchise portfolio. They acquired Origin for Wing Commander and Ultima, and they acquired Maxis for the Sim City franchise. They acquired Westwood for Command and Conquer. EA has always snapped up marquee talent (but usually by purchasing the talented indie studio), and starting up a new studio in Montreal is smart, given that the corporate conditions in Canada are even more favorable to the business than in the United States.
One more thing, as a note to all game publishers -- Hollywood isn't the answer. Hollywood has their own problems in creativity they've got to work out. I'll give any publishers a good hint to finding new original titles -- start up a bunch of new projects, give them a little money and see what sprouts up.
Game Retail Sales Now in their sixth month of decline.

Sci Fi Dating Site


This one is positively Brilliant. Trek Passions is a dating site for sci-fi geeks. I'm surprised someone didn't think of it sooner. Some of the personals are rather humorous, like this one:
Your basic Spock-like personality here, seeking a woman with a personality somewhere in the Deanna Troi to Subcommander T'Pol range. will consider B'Elana Torres to Kira Nerys types depending on extenuating circumstances. No tribbles, please.

On Rosetta


Before I return my MacBook Pro to Apple, I wanted to run a couple of quick tests on Rosetta using my G4 Powerbook and the MacBook Pro. My test data is in the extended, but first some broad sweeping generalizations about intel native, PPC native, and intel through Rosetta.

  • Running using Rosetta takes an extra thread.
    This makes sense, as the extra thread is the emulation layer.
  • Even if it is an Universal Binary (can run native on Intel), it will use more memory than a PowerPC running the same version of the same app.

    My one exception to this was Safari, but I suspect this is due to the number of bookmarks and such that I have loaded on my PowerBook's Safari, whereas my MacBook Pro is clean. This is a rather surprising find, as it means that Intels using Universal Binaries will require more memory than their PowerPC counterparts. With UBs using anywhere from 25% to over 300% of the real memory, it means a 1GB system, on average is roughly equivalent of a 784 MB PPC system (and in some cases, less than 784 MB)
  • Programs in the iLife suite and iTunes are sort of not running natively.

    This is the big shocker. They've been flagged as Universal Binaries, but their activity and resources suggests that they're actually PowerPC applications running through an Rosetta emulation layer. These programs can be identified using "Get Info" and seeing that "Open Using Rosetta" is not an option whereas on true Intel Native Universal Binaries, the option exists.
  • The amount of virtual memory that these new programs use is enormous.

    It's a good thing these new computers come with larger harddrives, because a certain amount is going to be necessary to handle all the virtual memory the system will use. For a heavy memory intensive app such as Maya (the largest memory hog I could find, Photoshop uses less than a quarter of what Maya does). As the Maya file gets larger, the virtual memory usage rises accordingly.

Recent entries

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I haven't been able to have bookmarks posted to the blog on a regular basis since February, and I do enjoy having the links cross-posted for future reference. The last hundred or so bookmarks are in the extended.

Playstation 3 in November


According to Sony's PS3 press conference in Tokyo, the next generation game system will be available simultaneously in Japan, North America and Europe on November 11th of this year. If you want one in time for the holidays, I suggest you pre-order now. No pricing was announced for the system, which will arrive with a 60GB harddrive, HDMI connections, and a Blu-Ray drive. It will be backwards compatible with PSOne and PS2 games. The holdup for the PS was the DRM for Blu-Ray.

My Top Ten Films of All-Time

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I was looking through Quentin Tarantino's biography on Wikipedia, when I came across his list of favorite films. My favorite films are not necessarily the same films that I could watch endlessly (although being able to re-watch a film is quite definitely a good thing).

  1. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
  2. The Godfather
  3. Infernal Affairs
  4. The Princess Bride
  5. The Fellowship of the Ring
  6. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  7. Beauty and the Beast
  8. The Fifth Element
  9. Spirited Away
  10. Hero

This list is subject to change at any time.

Google buys SketchUp


It seems that Google has acquired Last Software, the company behind SketchUp, the amazingly cool 3d rendering program. What makes this purchase different from the rest of Google's acquisitions is that in the past they have been focused on acquiring web applications. While they did purchase Picasa, and then subsequently released the product for free, I don't think they'll be giving away a $500 product away for free anytime soon. This purchase is very clearly targeted to aiding their Google Earth application, but this purchase also gives them a revenue stream in the form of a boxed software package. I probably should have predicted this after seeing Google and SketchUp share a booth at MacWorld, but I didn't think anything of it -- at E3, Blizzard was always sharing booths with other vendors, but those vendors typically didn't have the bankroll of Google.
I'll be curious to see how this develops. Does this mean that Google may be headed into the realm of packaged software? Will Picasa 3.0 be something that competes with Photoshop Album in the near future?

Star Wars: Ryan vs. Dorkman. Created for the Lightsaber Choreography competition, it has some nice lightsaber work. Filmed in Menlo Park.

The MacBook Pro Returns... and goes away again

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When I first received my MacBook Pro, I found a couple of problems with it, and sent it back to Apple. It arrived this morning, and of course, I did a through inspection on the problems that I sent it back. The good news. They did fix the whine. The screen seems okay. The "B" key on the keyboard has been fixed. However, something is not quite right:

Yeah, it's a euro keyboard. It will be returned tomorrow. And it will go away again for a week or so.

Series Movie Remixes

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Freeculture NYU invites people to create a short parody film by remixing movies from the following film series: The Matrix, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars.
Entries are due by April 14th.

Found Camera


A few weeks ago, I posted about Judith's lost camera, which had been lost (and found) during a trip to Hawaii. There is a resolution to the story, in that her lost camera was returned. She posts on her blog:

How did you get the camera back?
It basically comes down to being very lucky on a few different fronts.
1) I lost the camera in a national park, which gave me access to a centralized lost-and-found system and really great people whose job is reuniting people with their lost property. It also meant that the law was very clear: nothing is to be removed from a national park. Though this law is of course meant to protect the artifacts and wildlife in our parks, it also covers found objects. If I'd lost the camera elsewhere, I think it would have been much harder to recover.
2) The fact that the family did not live in the US meant that the "or else" part of the "return it or else" equation actually had some teeth - as I understand it, the park police would have been able to issue a warrant that would potentially bar the family from entering the US if it came up at a border check.

Xbox360 = XBomb360


Three months ago Microsoft's XBox360 was released with much fanfare, with lines and tales of woe at Best Buy, as well as massive profiteering on eBay. Today, the XBox360 continues to languish on Japan, with pallets of Xbox 360 boxes sitting on store shelves unmoving. In the three months since the release, there has been 5 new games released for the 360, making the total number of games available for the Xbox360 a whopping 24 titles. Yes, upgrading from a Xbox to a Xbox 360 nets you an entire two dozen new titles. Actually, it's not really even two dozen new titles. It's actually seven, because the other 17 titles are available on other older generation consoles. There is a little more than half a dozen new titles exclusive to Xbox360. The seven titles? Amped 3, Condemned, Dead or Alive 4, Kameo, Full Auto, Perfect Dark Zero, Ridge Racer 6.
PlayStation 3 = Fashionably Late to the Next Generation Party
Sony's PS3 still doesn't doesn't have a relase date, with the industry speculating a Fall release before the holiday season. Manufacturing for this next generation system won't start until June, insiders say. But, when it does arrive, expect all the bells and whistles.
Nintendo Revolution = Racing the PS3 to be the last one there
Development kits for this system are just now shipping out to third party developers. Considering the amount of time and resources that a next-generation game requires to develop, Nintendo's own developers will have to provide most of the release games for this platform. Expect little, if any third party support for at least the first 6 months after release.
I haven't taken sides on the next-generation platform wars yet. Though I currently believe the PS3 may end up to have the most superior hardware, I believe the Revolution may provide the maximum amount of gaming fun due to their extensive library of classics.

Go Speeder Reader Go!


The Speeder Reader is a driving-like interface for managing the speed of a text stream.

It's that time of the year again, when the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (March 16 - 26) takes over theatres in San Francisco, San Jose and Berkeley. Your ticket stub will get you $2 off at the Asian Art Museum in SF.Some best bets:

Producer vs. Engineer


David Edery of MIT recently posted about
salaries of graduating students in the games industry.
He writes:

Students who applied for engineering jobs seem to be getting offers in the 70s -" in some cases, the high 70s. The same students got offers approximately 10K higher from companies in other industries; i.e. Oracle, Microsoft, etc. So the gap between game company offers and non-game company offers appears to be narrowing for engineers. In general, I was amazed at how high the offers were!
On the other hand, students who applied for production jobs (even students with a double major in computer science) seem to be getting offers in the 30s. I find this to be completely bizarre. I mean, yes, I understand the laws of supply and demand (there are more wanna-be producers and designers than well-trained engineers). And yes, production skills are harder to learn outside of the work environment. But are talented entry-level producers really worth only half the equivalent engineer? Even when they have the same academic training? (After all, a solid grasp of programming is useful to both producers and designers, not just engineers!)

In general, the way salaries are structured in the games industry is very similar to other types of industries. The executives and management make the most, followed by programmers, musicians, artists, producers, designers, administrative staff, qa and phone support. There's some overlap between the different areas, but that's what the general picture looks like.
This is what I have observed in my 9 years of working in the games industry:
Artists become Lead Artists or Art Directors and Programmers become Programming Leads or run off and start their own company. Traditionally Producers have come from non-production areas of the game company. Part of this is because going from art or programming to producer would typically result in a pay cut. So instead, producers come from the lesser paid areas of the game company -- qa, tech support, administrative. I'd say 75% of the time they come from QA because of proven experience with managing people.
The reason why an entry-level producer is worth less than an entry-level engineer is because entry-level producer isn't going to allow a game to ship faster. In game production, you can never have too many engineers and artists.

Canon EOS 30D vs. 20D


I've been asked a couple of times since the EOS 30D was announced if I was planning on selling my EOS 20D to trade up for a 30D. Let's look at the new features offered by the EOS 30D:

  • larger LCD
  • spot metering
  • ISO display in the viewfinder
  • RGB histograms
  • larger image buffer
  • more shots per battery charge
  • optional 3fps "slow" shooting speed
  • Picture Style modes from the 5D and 1D MKII N
  • improvements in image management
  • the "list" price is $1399

It's a pretty substantial list of upgrades. Of these features, there's only 2 that I would really notice -- spot metering and the ISO display in the viewfinder.The battery charge on the 20D is excellent -- I've taken over 750 shots and not had the battery usage drop past half.
I can live without most of the other features. I've put a hold on my camera related purchases for the moment -- a full frame camera will likely be my next purchase when I can afford it -- at that point I may consider selling the 20D (but probably won't, as it is always handy to have a second camera body around).

Natalie Portman on SNL

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I was going to post the links to her opening monologue and her rap parody of the Eazy-E song, "No More Questions", but youtube has already been sent the nastygram from NBC's lawyers and stopped hosting the videos.
Instead you can find Natalie Rapping on SNL's site, but the monologue is nowhere to be found. The monologue pokes fun at her role in Star Wars and in how she handles fan boys.
Definitely very different from her "V for Vendetta" interview at the Comic Con last year.

The RAM usage of Rosetta


Hailstone Software did some tests on RAM usage of Rosetta, and the results are quite interesting. While it took me a little while to figure out what the chart and numbers meant, essentially, it comes down to this: Rosetta is memory intensive, taking anywhere from 2x to 5x the amount of memory that a PowerPC native app uses.
This also explains why Adobe Creative Suite on the MBP runs sluggishly compared to the PowerBook G4s -- CS was a memory hog even before Rosetta started to take even more RAM to contain the app.

Follow the Law

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A meditation on the speed limit
What happens when a group of college students decide to follow the law and drive the speed limit on a highway?

Mama Lan's


After hearing Norman's talk, I headed over to have dinner at Mama Lan's. It was six, and the restaurant was deserted. I felt like crab, and crab was what I got. I ordered the Vietnamese Stir-Fried Crab, a crab coated in red chili, lemon grass and ginger. They have many types of crab available at Mama Lan's, but because of my cold, I wanted some ginger.
More on my experiences at Mama Lan's after the jump.

Double Features the Teen Titans Would Watch


Starfire: Come, friends, I invite you to join me in a stay home movie night! What sort of movie shall we watch?

Robin: Action.

Beast Boy: Comedy.

Cyborg: Sci-fi.

Raven: Horror.

Starfire: Perhaps a double feature?

As Starfire expresses (in her own Starfire way) that there isn't a single movie to satisfy them all, and that at least two movies will be necessary to satisfy their tastes. What two movies could be matched such that all the Teen Titans could be happy? Assume that Starfire doesn't care what she watches, and that the Teen Titans have access to all movies.
If you can match the movie with a theme, even better.
My answers after the jump. Feel free to list others.

Talk: Donald Norman


Donald Norman: Cautious Cars, Cantankerous Kitchens.
Nielsen Norman Group and Northwestern University
The turnout for this event was huge. People were sitting on the floor, on tables and standing. This talk centered on two major areas: recent technological innovations in the automobile world, and smart homes.
Notes are in the extended. (Will add pictures of slides later. Too tired to do it now.)



World of Offline Gaming
A hilarious video on what life would be like if the behaviors that ran amuck in MMOGs transitioned over to the real world. It runs a little long, but it's funny for anyone who has ever played World of Warcraft or any other MMOG.

As a big fan of Donald Norman's books, I will go to this. Expect a writeup this evening.
Cautious Cars, Cranky Kitchens, Demanding Devices
Distinguished Lecture
Mar 01, 2006, 4:00pm-5:30pm
202 South Hall
UC Berkeley
Cautious cars? We already have them, cautious and sometimes frightened. Cranky kitchens, not yet, but they are coming. Our products are getting smarter, more intelligent, and more demanding, or if you like, bossy. This trend brings with it many special problems and unexplored areas of applied psychology. In particular, our devices are now part of a human-machine social ecosystem, and therefore they need social graces, superior communicative skills, and even emotions: machine emotions, to be sure, but emotions nonetheless. In this talk I explore the reasons for such statements, the issues that need to be considered, and the dangers that have already occurred because designers still think of each device as alone, and self-contained.
Speaker: Donald Norman, Northwestern University

Parody of Bouncy Ball Commercial with Battlefield 2 Marines


This parody video features Battlefield 2 Marines bouncing along some streets on a Battlefield 2 Map. The original video for Sony's Bravia TVs was shot in San Francisco and featured millions of bouncy balls.