January 2007 Archives

links for 2007-01-31


links for 2007-01-28


The Burning Crusade: Day 10


Since World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade came out last week, my friends and family have seen little of me, unless it's been online slaying beasties.

I'm on the Hyjal server with my guild from EverQuest, Inner Loop (you'll notice our guild mentioned on the credits for Warcraft 3). This was a guild that was basically made up of only the people we knew personally, hence the name. Later, we opened up membership to those that we played with in game, and started having some guild activities outside of the game. There have been trips to Las Vegas, hikes up Yosemite, and of course large group dinners and weddings to attend.

Last night, Nerol made level 70 -- he has been playing almost nonstop for the last week or so to finish those last ten levels. (I'm sure he must have napped at some point) He is not the first level 70 on our server -- as of this writing, there are around 50 level 70s logged in at this moment on Hyjal on the Horde side, which means there's likely twice that number on the Alliance side.

As for my pair of blood elves, they hit level 30 last night, after 4 days of playing time and 9 days of playing time. At some point next week, I should be level 40, and have my horse. There are some blood elves that are already getting close to 70 -- the work of players on rotation and high level characters aiding them. One of the things surprising to me in this is that Blood Elf newbie content abruptly ends at level 20, where they shunt you out to the pre-expansion world, meaning that from level 21 to level 57, you are doing everything a non-expansion player can do. There's nowhere new to access -- no new areas until 58, when the Outland becomes available. However, sprinkled about the old-world areas are new NPCs with new quests, and new rewards -- the presence of which are pretty welcome considering the situation with the Auction House.

The Auction House within WoW is for players to exchange their items for other players' gold. WoW has a bunch of tradeskills in which to create other items, but larger still is the amount of items being randomly generated by the server as prizes for killing monsters. Auctions run for anywhere from 2 hours to 24 hours, and the auction length time is given as vague, and slightly extends randomly the length of the auction when items are bid upon, ensuring that the WoW auction remains slightly sniper free. With the release of the expansion pack, many players who had been hoarding gold are now spending it quite freely, inflating the prices of equipment well beyond the means of players who are actually at the level that the equipment can be used. Paladin usable equipment (chain mail and weapons) are the worst inflated of them all, so much so that I would rather run around in quest equipment and monster drops than spend my gold in the Auction House.

links for 2007-01-25


links for 2007-01-19


links for 2007-01-18


Burning Crusade: Day One


Yesterday I started my Blood Elves, and while I did discover the method to enter back into the pre-expansion lands, I opted instead to stay in the new lands. The expansion set area for the Blood Elves basically fixes everything that was previously broken for the Horde, with one exception: the cities.

Alliance cities are frustrating difficult to raid -- wandering guards that see through stealth, high level NPC storekeepers, areas which are narrow and easy to create a player barricade to defend -- these are all features that are in many Alliance towns. By contrast, Horde towns are ridiculously open and accessible -- so much so that they aren't really towns so much as outposts. In addition, most of the Horde's cities use a vertical architecture, while Alliance towns are generally flat (the Night Elves have a second story to some of their buildings, but that's about it)

The biggest improvement for the Horde is that the Blood Elves, unlike their pre-expansion counterparts, actually have good quest information, because each quest that I've seen also gives a vector. Many of the pre-expansion Horde quests did not include the vector, resulting in newbies shouting to the zone "Anyone know where X is?". The Horde starting area quests were such a rush job that instructions NPCs gave were on the muddy side, and as a result, many Horde players would just give up on a questing and grind (kill for xp) instead of trying to locate the NPCs.

While I'm not playing for speed, it's interesting to note that the Blood Elf starting area (while still resembling Wal-mart on Black Friday) wasn't as bad as I feared it might be, and the areas that I'm fighting in aren't very crowded at all. I suspect that what might be happening is that once low-level Blood Elf players discover the passage to the old world, they return to their familiar hunting grounds, rather than play the new content. Also I suspect that while there are a small number of veteran players like me who started a Blood Elf, most of those players have returned to their primary character to begin the grind from 60 to 70 after playing a bit with the new races. We'll see how it looks tonight -- I suspect the desire of getting to 70 is going to trump the novelty of starting a Blood Elf for a little while.

links for 2007-01-16


Silent Hill 2 Ending


It all makes sense now -- it was the dog!

Just like in 28 Days Later!



At night, it's been dropping down to the twenties, and in the early morning it's still in the thirties. This is not supposed to happen in California! There's frost every morning on my car:


If it gets cold enough and it rains, we could get some snow. Wouldn't that be bizarre?

Wiis in short supply until the Summer?


In light of the recent weeks' shipments and availability of the Nintendo Wii, I've started thinking about the timeframe in which the Wii system will be become available enough that one can walk into a store and get one without camping. Wiis seem to be resupplying on a roughly 2-3 week timeframe, and at the current rate, it seems likely to me that they won't be widely available until May or June of this year. Right now retail stores seem to be getting anywhere from 15 to 50+ Wiis per store, which roughly amounts to an average of 75 to 300+ per city per shipment week, depending on how many retail stores they have. Wii Accessories are sold out everywhere (seriously, I haven't see a nunchuck or a Wii Remote sitting on any store shelves in weeks), but the entire lineup of games can be found at most stores, which leads me to one conclusion: plenty of games, but not enough systems/accessories -- which means demand is still pretty high for the Wii console.

Also, Nintendo DS Lites are still in short supply following Christmas, (I haven't seen any of these in stock for the last month and a half). Everyone is saying that next week will be another Wii weekend, where the big 5 (Circuit City, Fry's. Best Buy, Target, and Gamestop/EB) will be stocking up on Wiis again. My logic is as follows: if they are doing sales of Wiis every three weeks -- and they're only getting about 50 units per store, it's going to be a long time before demand is filled and the Wii shortage is beginning to feel an awful lot like the Nintendo DS shortage in Japan, where even 6 months after the release of the DS Lite, one was still required to camp for one.

In time, supply will meet demand, but with stores holding onto them instead of releasing them, or forcing obscenely expensive bundles upon people, stores will be dragging this out for as long as they possibly can -- the Wii is one of those items that seems to be able to draw people into the store, which leads to more purchases within the store, even if the store only makes $12 per console sold, the cost of other items bought while in the store is enough to be significant.

With these factors in mind, I'm revising the Wii widescale availability timeframe to June/July from March. I maintain a "buy" rating on the Wii.

Preparing for the Burning Crusade


Every now and then, I want to play World of Warcraft. I renew my subscription stuff, I log into the game and then I remember why I can't play it without mods.

The same was true for me with Everquest also -- I had my own custom UI (which was a bunch of XML files) which was optimized for each different character -- my Druid had things set up a certain way, as did my Rogue and my Cleric, and all the rest of them. To play with the default Sony-provided UI was essentially playing with a handicap. Sony, after a couple of expansion packs opened the UI up to third party developers, but for the first two years, we suffered through playing with a horrifically designed user interface.

The World of Warcraft UI isn't nearly as bad as Sony's. This is partially because Blizzard is very good at designing UIs, but also because the Blizzard UI designers took a look at Everquest, shook their heads and designed something that actually works for their game. There are few things about the interface that bother me, and luckily for me, mods work to fix those small gripes.

One of the biggest annoyances has been the character-by-character printing of the quest dialogue text -- they did this to give the quest a more fairy-tale storybook feel, but to me it just reminds me of old modem terminals as you waited for more characters to be transmitted over the modem at 300 baud. For a person like me who reads relatively quickly, this is tremendously aggravating. It's like having the letters be read out loud by a first-grader one at a time. While I'm sure that some people have no problems with this, I couldn't stand it.

Thankfully, mods existed to print the quest text all-at-once which allowed me to keep some sanity as I ran through the newbie quests for the hundredth time. It transformed the time wasting process of click-on-an-npc, wait for them to finish their spiel, wait for accept quest to light up, click accept quest, to the two step process. The two step process became very simply, click on npc, click accept quest.

I'm way behind on all the UI plugins, and I haven't patched in ages -- the Blizzard downloader reports a gargantuan 200+ MB download before it'll even allow me to enter the game. Of course, for all my hours spent on the game, I still haven't yet managed to get a character up to 60 yet (some are really close, but the thought of grinding my way to 60, quite frankly, bores me) I'm looking forward to the expansion, because even though it's not the first newly content added since I left Blizzard, they finally have some pretty characters on Horde, which means that I can finally play with my old guild.

After I did all that, I log into some of my old characters and find that spam has even infiltrated the World of Warcraft:


links for 2007-01-11


Killing the Postman


In Twilight Princess, there's a postman who runs up to Link and delivers his mail. I've always found him to be kind of creepy, but I was surprised to find out that neither rain, nor sleet nor snow nor dark of night shall stay this courier from his appointed rounds. This courier is ridiculously persistant, going so far as to deliver his messages from beyond the grave.

The Apple iPhone


The Apple iPhone is going to make Apple a major player in the cellphone market. Apple's aiming to sell 10 million phones (1% of the mobile market) in 2008. Do I think they can do it? Absolutely.

Let's take a look at the numbers. The key thing to remember is that Jobs is giving that 2008 number because the phone won't arrive in Asia until 2008. We Americans get the phone first, in June, followed by Europe at the end of the year. 2008 is an important year, because by 2008, there will be 3 billion mobile subscribers worldwide, and that 10 million number will becomes less than a percent (but still highly achievable). 2008 also gives Apple an 18 month window of sales in the U.S., and during this 18 month period, approximately 75% of 2-year contracts will expire in that timeframe, enabling them to switch providers and upgrade phones.

While no single phone has completely dominated the cellphone market, there's a couple of popular phones that have boasted large numbers. One of these is the Motorola RAZR, which, as of July of 2006, has sold 50 million of the slim flip phones. The initial price for these phones was not cheap -- $499, to be exact, with a portion of the cost being subsidized by cellphone provider. In the first six months of release they managed to sell 17 million RAZRs. I think RAZRs are rather ubiquitous these days -- while my own circle of friends do not tend to own them (instead preferring the smartphone variety), it really doesn't seem like one can go anywhere and not see at least a few RAZRs along the way.

Now, given how many RAZRs were sold at that price (remember, in the U.S. cellphones are subsidized, but in other parts of they world, they are not), the iPhone suddenly looks very attractive for the price. It surfs the internet, it can make phone calls, and it's a nano-capacity widescreen iPod.There are enough early adopters of Apple products that Apple should make this 10 million figure easily.

One of the things that seems to have helped in the success of cellphones is a catchy name -- everyone knows what a Treo, a RAZR, and a Blackberry look like, and the current trend is to name devices something that isn't just an random assortment of letters and numbers.

Major phone manufacturers like Nokia and Motorola have gone on record saying they're not afraid of the iPhone, but they should be. Apple's strength has been in the vertical integration of the user experience. Think about this for a moment -- Apple controls the hardware and software of the iPhone, which means you're heading to the iTunes store for everything that you might want to buy from a third-party -- games, ringtones, movies, etc. How much do movies, games and ringtones cost and how hard is it to get onto the phone? Enough that I've never paid for a movie, game or ringtone, but if the content can be imported and exported as easily as plugging it into my computer, that makes it accessible to the public, more so than going onto a website that you've never heard of, and asked to select your items, put in a credit card and wait for the phone to download the application, game or ringtone. Ease of use is a major selling point -- grandma might be able to use a cellphone, but can grandma put a ringtone on a Treo? For the same reason that the Wii is successful in being accessible, the same will be true for the iPhone -- it's easier to use, and easier to understand, and that is how you sell technology to the mass audience.

links for 2007-01-10


MacWorld San Francisco 2007


Apple announced two new products today -- the AppleTV (which basically a set-top FrontRow) and the new iPhone. Of the two, the Apple iPhone is definitely the more exciting of the two -- they've finally paired the iPod with a cellphone and an internet browser. I'm surprised they didn't make any product announcements regarding their computers (other than the name change), but the name change has been expected for some time now.

The iPhone is impressive -- sporting a 3.5 inch LCD screen and touch controls across the face of the phone. No stylus needed. Apple is displaying a iPhone at the Apple booth at MacWorld encased in a plastic rotating cylinder, which appears to be running a slide show of all its various functions. The iPhone is slim, and I predict that it will become the phone that everyone has, just as the RAZR is the one that everyone has. While the initial shock of the cost of the phones will need some time to wear off, $500 (for the 4GB) and $600 (for the 8GB) isn't that bad for an iPod, phone and internet tablet. One of the more interesting things about the phone is that this won't be sold exclusively at Cingular stores, but also at the Apple Store, which means that Cingular stores won't have the option of strong arming you into getting a phone you might not necessarily want because they "don't carry that phone", as one would (presumably) be able to walk into the Apple Store and purchase one.


Also at MacWorld was the unveiling of the ModBook, a modified MacBook tablet. They did a little more than replace the screen of the MacBook and integrate it with a Wacom table, they also added some nice features, such as a shutting off the tablet sensors when the stylus is housed in the computer.


MacWorld appears to have grown a little bigger, and the longest line I saw there was for Kevin Smith's talk on storytelling, which stretched across the convention center.

Flickr: MacWorld San Francisco 2007

EDIT: In addition, it looks like Apple has stealth-added the new Airport Extreme to their store.

Microsoft Natural Ergo Keyboard 4000


Microsoft Natural Ergo Keyboard 4000


It occurs to me that for the past decade or so I've been using Microsoft Natural Keyboards almost exclusively. When they first came out, the Natural Keyboards were annoyingly expensive -- far too much for a poor college student, so in those days I used the cheapest keyboards I could get. When I started working at Blizzard, I used the old IBM built-like-a-tank spring loaded keyboards and Logitech Mice before developing a bit of RSI in the shoulders and the wrists, and transitioned to using a Trackball (no more shoulder strain) and a Natural Keyboard. While having the Natural Keyboard definitely helped alot, I found that I'd destroy the Natural within a year or two, and then I'd happily plunk down more money for a new keyboard. One day I broke my keyboard, and found that Microsoft had switched their product line completely -- the Natural Keyboard was discontinued, and the Natural Keyboard Pro had taken its place.

The Natural Keyboard Pro kept the size and order of the keys as on a standard keyboard, but added in a layers of keys at the top of the keyboard to make web surfing easier (like back, forward, stop, homepage, etc) I could work with that, even though it basically meant I was sacrificing an inch of desk space for those extra buttons that I never used. In addition, it also served as a USB hub, which I appreciated greatly. And then one day the Natural Keyboard Pro was drenched with a Coke, and I needed a replacement. There was only one problem: The Natural Keyboard Pro had been discontinued, and it was replaced by the Natural Keyboard Elite.

My first thought was hopeful -- the Natural Keyboard Pro was definitely a step up from the Natural Keyboard (even if it did add useless buttons), but the Natural Keyboard Elite was a step backwards. For the gamer, the Natural Keyboard Elite is the embodiment of unredeemable evil. Not only are the arrow keys reduced in size to being half the size of a normal key, but the 6 standard layout keys (insert, delete, home, end, pg down, pg up) are not just shrunk, but rearranged as well. My wrist RSI got worse, and it was replaced after a few months with the Natural Keyboard Multimedia.

The Natural Keyboard Multimedia is, as far as I can tell, an evolutionary step backwards. For all its bells and whistles, the Natural Keyboard Multimedia is the hodge-podge of its fore bearers and its contemporaries. A line of useless keys at the top (to control opening "My Documents", "My Pictures" "Messenger" and other folders/applications), Function Keys (F1-F12) that don't work unless the "Function Lock" key is lit (and by default it is unlit), rearranged (insert/delete/home/end/pgup/pgdn) keys and arrow keys that are nice and big, and unlike modern keyboards, uses PS/2. This is the keyboard that I've been using for the last three years.

When I saw the Microsoft Natural Ergo 4000 had a $20 rebate, I bought one. It has the standard top row of useless keys (this one is favorites driven) and also includes excel keys for the equals sign, parentheses, and backspace located over the numeric keypad. There's also a zoom switch located in the middle, as well as back and forward web browsing buttons on the bottom next to the status lights.

The curve of the keyboard is different from other Naturals -- instead of having keys splaying out in an arc, the keyboard humps in the middle, as if the two parts of the keyboard were pushed together. They've also added a plastic/rubber/faux leather wristrest to the bottom of the keyboard too, and a riser plate -- the overall result is a more comfortable keyboard.

The home keys are back where they should be, and the arrows are nice and big, which makes it perfect for a gamer. The only feature this keyboard is missing for me is extra USB ports.

links for 2007-01-07


E3 gets a new name: E For All Expo


This year, what used to the major Entertainment Electronic Expo (E3) is now called E for All Expo, and will be moving from May to mid October. In addition, the expo isn't just for insiders anymore -- it's for everyone (personally, I don't think this changes much -- everyone who wanted to go to E3 was basically getting in anyways).

I think "E For All Expo" is a horrible name -- this is what happens when you throw a contest to name events -- it doesn't even abbreviate well... EFAE? EFAEx? EFAX? I think I'll start calling it E4.

With the show being held in mid-October, rather than May, I think consumers will see a lot more upcoming games being shown for the pre-Christmas rush, and a lot fewer developers at E4, as they rush to put the finishing touches on their games in order to make the pre-Thanksgiving release.

MacWorld 2007 Predictions


MacWorld happens next week (Jan 9 - 11) at Moscone Center in San Francisco. For the last two years, my sister and I have attended the expo. We skip the keynote, since the expo is free, and justifying spending hundreds on admission for something that will be on the web by the time we get home isn't for those of us not going on the company's dime. (For free admission to the expo, leave a comment, and I'll get a priority code for registration out to you).

The first MacWorld we went to was in 2005, Heading up the keynote was iLife '05, and a preview of Tiger, Final Cut Pro HD, and where where we were introduced to the plastic chewing gum container sized iPod Shuffle and the one more thing: the Mac Mini.

At MacWorld 2006, where jobs presented iPods in Cars, iLife '06, Tiger, Aperture and the introduction of the newly Intel powered iMacs, and the one more thing: the MacBook Pro.

With these past considerations in mind, here are my predictions for MacWorld 2007:

  • We will see iLife '07 and iWork '07.
  • Preview, if not release of Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard)
  • iPod/iTunes State of the Union Address.
  • Apple Computer Hardware Release of some kind.

With the iPod, the nano and shuffle lines just getting a refresh in September, I think that this Macworld will focus on iTunes and their upcoming iTV product. While the iTV isn't ready for sale just yet, we can probably expect a demonstration (to keep it fresh in people's minds). Will we see the Apple Phone? There is a possibility of that, but given what a mess showing off the shuffles were at MacWorld 2005 leads me to believe that we will not see a new iPod product release at MacWorld 2007.

Which leads us into computers. Apple has six lines of computers. MacBook, MacBook Pro, Mac mini, iMac, Mac Pro, and Xserve. While a new XServe or MacPro sporting a new Intel Core Quadis definitely a possibility, it's not really a headline generator.

Another candidate for a new release are Apple Displays. The iSight, Apple's webcam has been missing from Apple's site ever since they started showing up on the iMac and their laptops. The whole desktop line has been without iSights for a while now, and it's my belief that the next version of Apple Displays will have integrated iSight cameras. It seems to be a logical feature to add, along with support for HDMI. Given the inclusion of HDMI, however, I would expect the announcement of new displays would go really well as an Apple "Special Event" with the iTV release.

Other things that appear to have fallen to the wayside is the Airport line: Airport Base Stations and Airport Express. This update is likely to happen with the iTV announcement, as I can't conceive of a reason why they would want to update the line without iTV support. However, people have noted that recent computers have been shipping with 802.11n network cards, but I don't think the Airport products will make as big a splash without iTV.

The Apple Computer Hardware is likely the "One More Thing..." and this is their headline generator -- and typically it's an all new product.(2001 - PowerBook G4 TiBook, 2002 - LCD iMac, 2003 -12" PowerBook, 2004 - iPod mini, 2005 - Mac mini, 2006 MacBook Pro). It should be noted that iPod wasn't really a product featured during the MacWorld keynotes until 2004 (with the introduction of the iPod mini).With Jobs at the helm, he's always been really good about responding to threats from the outside market forces and building more visible products, and it's typically been through the "One Last Thing" part of the keynote.

While I'll admit that my prediction is entirely fueled by wishful thinking, I think the product they'll unveil is an new computer. My belief right now is that it's likely to be a 21 inch laptop, but it might also be a ultra-mobile tablet computer. Both of these products would be revolutionary enough that it would make a splash on the business section which is important, simply because both CES and MacWorld SF take place next week, and if they want to make a splash, it's got to be a big announcement.

Another possibilty could also be a Intel Core Quad MacPro or XServe. Intel is due to announce their Intel Core Quad next week at CES, but everyone is guessing that the announcement will be simultaneously done at MacWorld on Tuesday.

By competing directly against CES for techie buzz, there's also the possibility that Apple will downplay MacWorld in favor of a special event later this spring, however, I don't see this as happening because MacWorld is a place where Apple has center stage, and they wouldn't pass up the opportunity to make headlines..

Third party computer retailer Other World Computing and Axiontron have pre-announced the ModBook, a MacBook based tablet laptop. Not much as been stated about the ModBook, but I'll be checking it out, along with the other new third-party products on hand at MacWorld.

I also predict that MacWorld will once again be swarmed with iPod products, but I'll be keeping a lookup for any interesting products for the Mac (which seems to be fewer and fewer each year, sadly.).

MacWorld is supposed to have a Blogger's Area, but if it's anything like WiFi access they had last year, I expect connectivity to be snail-crawling slow, so I wouldn't expect too many live notes or photos from me.

links for 2007-01-06


Canon 40D


Ugly Betty

One of the shows I was introduced to over the holidays was ABC's Ugly Betty.

Based on a Colombian telenovela "Yo Soy Betty La Fea," ("I am Betty, the Ugly One"), which has become an international phenomenon, "Ugly Betty" is produced in the U.S. By Touchstone Televison and airs on ABC. The hour-long show stars America Ferrera (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Real Women Have Curves) as Betty Suarez, a girl from Queens working at the high fashion, hipster magazine "Mode". While Betty is intelligent, good hearted and hardworking, at a work environment where "image is everything", Betty doesn't exactly fit in.

Entertainment Weekly has a photo gallery of the Ugly Betties from around the World, and ABC has made the whole series of "Ugly Betty" available for viewing online (for free) so that you can catch up on all the episodes you missed. (You do have to view it in Flash, and every 10 minutes they subject you to a 30 second sponsorship ad)

Valkyrie Profile (Playstation)

Valkyrie Profile
Today's Photo of the day also doubles as an advertisement, as it is an eBay Photo of Valkyrie Profile for the original PlayStation console. It's in great shape and comes complete: box, manual and two scratch free game CDs (I take very good care of my games). It's a pretty rare game, and I'm hoping it ends up in a nice home.

The game is highly collectible (because it is one of the great RPG classics) and highly sought after (there weren't that many produced), and sealed it fetches about $400, while completes can go anywhere from $150 to $250. Since I'm trying to get rid of stuff, I'm putting it up for sale.

eBay: Valkyrie Profile

links for 2007-01-04


Broken Time


Broken Time

In the 80s and 90s, I wore a Casio Telememo 30 Database watch. When they first came out, they cost about $70. This Casio Telememo 30 Database watch could be considered as one of the first smartwatches. Not only did it have the usual function of telling time, but it also had a stopwatch, a calculator, a calendar (which told you which day of the week it was) and space to store phone numbers/fax numbers.

This one is actually one of the later versions of these watches, and it has an indiglow style backlit screen. I also had an earlier version of this watch, which was the World Time watch, which had the same functions, but stored 10 less entries, and used a front light. I bought this one when the watchband on the old one broke.

Nowadays, we don't store information on our watches, we store them on our cellphones or PDAs. While in college, I upgraded to a Swatch, and this watch was my backup until it ran out of battery. When I did that, I put it aside into a box, and was rather surprised when I opened the box one day and found that the watch band had completely disintegrated.

2007 Goal: One Photo Every Day


One of my goals for this year is to take at least one photograph a day.

Last year, I took photographs on 57 days, roughly about once a week, according to my 2006 Flickr Calendar. While I think my photography has improved over the last year, it's not quite where I want to be yet, and the only way to improve is by taking more photos.

Today's photo is of a toy I picked up while I was in Japan last year:

Fascination Black Cammy

Cammy from Street Fighter Zero 3.

PS3 at Toys R Us Sunnyvale


I just came back from Toys R Us -- diving into the bargain bin for any good games (nothing I wanted to own), and I saw that PlayStation 3's are there, en masse. At first I thought they were just empty boxes, so I asked -- are those real? And the clark answered "Yup, that's why the "We are all sold out of the PS3" sign is sitting back here behind the counter.

The 60 GB version, but not the 20GB. $600 each.

And while I was digging in the bargain bin, I heard five parents asked about the Wii (I guess they missed the big sign by the door which said "Due to limited supply, we are sold out of the Wii"), and one asked why the PS3 was so expensive.

Old Things


On the last trip home, my sisters and I dug out a bunch of stuff from our closets. I was looking for the Ocarina of Time (which was actually at my apartment), while my sisters were just trying to identify the toy lines from their childhood. It seems that while 80s toys for boys are rather well documented on the web, 80s toys for girls are less identifiable. I took this opportunity to photograph a couple of interesting items from my childhood.

Flickr: Ghosts of Childhood Past

IMG_5955.JPG IMG_6076.JPG IMG_5969.JPG

links for 2007-01-02




Since today is not only the start of a new week, but also the start of a new year, I figure we need something super cute to kick off the year. Kiwi! is a Master's Thesis by Dony Permedi, a student at the School of Visual Arts, MFA Computer Art, in New York City.

Urban Ninja


I think the mall scenes were filmed at the Westminister Mall in Orange County -- that food court looks real familiar. Turn your speakers down if you don't like shout-rock.

Great Games Never Go Out of Style


I've always been something of a collector. In the late 70s and early 80s it was Star Wars and Hot Wheels Cars. In the mid 80s, it was G.I. Joe and Transformer toys. In the 90s, as I had grown into more of an adult, I had moved onto something more mature - comic book toys. As I entered into the twenty-first century, the toys started to come from Japan and other countries. But one of the things that I've been collecting since the mid-eighties and never really thought of as being collectible was videogames.

Videogames as collectibles makes a whole lot of sense, as experiences have become collectible. It's the reason why souvenir shops at popular tourist attractions exist. It's not enough to simply experience the place, for many people, it's actually necessary to purchase a reminder of the experience, and so they trundle off to the souvenir shop and buy a poster, or a keychain or a spoon, or some other knicknack, as some proof that they were there.


I remember my first entry into the toy collector's market when I went to a comic book convention in the late eighties. It was San Diego Comic Con, and for sale was a figure of Indiana Jones from Raiders of the Lost Ark. When these figures first came out, they were everywhere -- in toy stores, in drugstores, even major department stores like Sears and Montgomery Ward's had aisles dedicated to these toys. While the movie did extremely well at the box office, the toys did not. The Indiana Jones toyline was never really successful, probably because the figures were so stiff compared to the ultra-flexible G.I. Joes, and probably because one could recreate the scenes from the movie only so many times. Years after the discontinuation of the line of I'd walk into a toy store and see these figures just sitting in the clearance section, gathering a fine layer of dust. I knew the toy was a clearance figure. The package still had the red sticker over the orange one from Toys 'R' Us marking it down as such. What surprised me was the green sticker on the Ziploc bag that enclosed the figure, which read $45. As a fourteen year old boy, I did not understand the economics of this. How could a toy be worth forty-five dollars when I had seen it in the clearance section of toy stores so recently. I didn't want the toy, but I resolved myself to visiting a Toys 'R' Us later that week to see if they had other Indiana Jones toys sitting there. They didn't, and apparently, Indy, mint on card costs about $225 from eBay these days.

More recently, I was looking for Electroplankton for the Nintendo DS (which post-Christmas, still hasn't gone done in price very much), and starting thinking about the collectibility of games. I (and the majority of gamers out there) tend to think of videogames as an entertainment medium, and not as an investment vehicle. In fact, game companies have taken the approach that games are fruit, that is to say that when games are fresh, they are sold at full retail price, and when they get old (a period anywhere from 2 months to a year), they clear their inventory and discount the title down. Online games, such as World of Warcraft can be thought of as a fruit service vendor -- you pay them a fixed amount per month, and they deliver fresh game content straight to your desktop.

I don't think of games as fruit. I think of games as wine. Vineyards grow grapes, which are then processed and turned into wine, bottled, and sold. Wines can be opened and enjoyed right away, or stored away and allowed to age. The winemaker makes the money when the wine is sold, but it is the wine collector who profits years later when the wine reaches maturity and flavor peaks. Most wine, the stuff you pay $10 bucks for, is stuff that's not meant to be saved or collected -- it is for drinking.

Games are meant to be enjoyed right away, but once the gamemaker sells out, that's usually it -- sometimes they issue a second print run, but with the market shelf life what it is, it's usually only the blockbuster games that get this consideration. I've noticed the shelf life of games getting shorter and shorter, as prices for expired games keep going up. Just as some people have a cellar for storing wine, I have a space set aside for storing games and their consoles. (Yes, I know emulation exists, but I want to play games using the original controls on TV and not using some keyboard/mouse approximation).


Most games do not sell for much on the secondary market; as with anything collectible, there are always the rarities and prototypes that one hears about occasionally hitting eBay selling for bundles of money, but the vast majority of games for consoles sell for a fraction of what they cost when they were new. I wasn't the type to ever sell my games after I was done with them, so I kept all my old games along with some of their boxes and their inserts. Apparently on eBay, the "Complete" version of games, which includes the inserts, the manual, and the box, go for good sums of money for the more sought after titles. Just as they packed Indiana Jones cases with more Indys than any other figure, the sought after titles, are actually what I would consider to be game classics of RPG titles that were widely available at the time: Chrono Trigger ($96+), Secret of Mana, and Valkyrie Profile.

Zelda, apparently, is still incredibly popular, and the special collector's edition of Zelda for GameCube goes for an average of $70. Games that were back then touted for their great graphics rather than their great gameplay, you'll find them for around $5.

The reason why these markets exist is because as kids, we didn't think of these games as being collectible, or that one day they'd sell for two or three times what we paid for them. We just thought of them as great games, and we enjoyed playing them. Good gameplay retains value after time, while good graphics become dated and old. With the Wii and the virtual console, the days of console collectors may be numbered -- with great classics making their way onto the Wii, soon we won't be shopping on eBay for Zelda -- we'll just be downloading it off Nintendo's site.