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Archives for : gaming

Maple Fail

I went ahead and upgraded Parallels, kind of in hopes that Maple Story would work without a) having to run in Boot Camp, or b) running without DirectX support (and therefore at a crawl), or c) having the Windows .exe terminate with a dialog accusing me of an “Illegal hacking attempt”.

The result: my character (“Quaoar”, near the center of the screen) seems to have picked up the texture from a “Wizet Wizard” label elsewhere on the screen:

Fail. Amusingly, turning off 3D acceleration now completely fails (instead of just making the game hopelessly slow), with Maple Story complaining of an unsupported graphics mode.

If Windows is only good for games, and this game still doesn’t work in Parallels… I don’t suspect I’ll be using Parallels that much after all.

Link: Harmonix announces Beatles game

Details from Gamasutra. With all the iconic design associated with the Beatles — the Yellow Submarine movie, the Sgt. Pepper concept, the B&W of “A Hard Day’s Night” or the Bond-spoof “Help!”– this could be as fascinating visually as much as anything else. Maybe “Rock Band” meets “Kingdom Hearts”, where the different Beatles eras and concepts serve as the various lands?

Since Harmonix is made up of musicians, it’s safe to assume it won’t suck like the Sgt. Pepper movie. Worst case, it’s Across the Universe, which sits unwatched in my DVR…

BTW, with rumor mongers saying for years that a deal for Beatles on iTunes was close, who would have thought that we’d see them in a game before being on iTunes or one of its rivals?

The other conspicuously missing Java platform

Sony announces they’re removing the PlayStation 2 content approval process, thereby making PS2 effectively an open platform.

Do you suppose this will hasten Java for PlayStation 2, promised in the JavaOne 2001 keynote?

No, of course not, but it’s fun to recall this among other J1 vaporware — anyone remember the 2004 announcement of Java for the hated and vaporous Infinium Phantom console? — as a counter to whiny little bitches who can’t get over Steve Jobs’ arguably unkept vow to make the Mac the best Java platform. Seriously, kids, half of what gets announced in keynotes never ships… get over yourselves already.

And not needing any comment from me (because the forum’s already hopping): [FYI] Sun stopped funding of SwingX.

Link: Using the Rock Band drum kit with Garage Band

Clever as heck idea from MacLife:
Rock Out in GarageBand with the Rock Band Drum Controller.

Makes me wish I could actually play actual instruments and use GB.

Got a wish: Square Enix developing for iPod

In an O’Reilly blog a while back, I mentioned my hopes for iPhone gaming, given the suitability of the device for certain kinds of games (such as using the touch UI for menu-based RPGs), and Apple’s success in attracting great developers to its existing iPod game program, like Sega and Harmonix.

Add Square Enix to the list, who’ve just released the iPod game Song Summoner, an RPG in which you create NPC allies from the songs on your iPod, and level them up by listening to those songs (shades of the “generate monsters from CDs” gimmick in Tecmo’s Monster Rancher series).

Is it any good? We’ll find out when the download’s done:

Downloading Square Enix's Song Summoner from iTunes

More importantly, maybe we’ll get the inevitable modern-graphics do-over of Final Fantasy VII on the iPhone?

I spy stupidity

As the popular adage says, Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

We’re in Grand Rapids, picking out stuff for a new house, and I took Keagan over to the Apple Store. He loves the “I Spy” games on the demo machines, so I went ahead and got him one, thinking he could play it on the laptop back in the room during downtime.

But it didn’t work out. The “Made With Macromedia” logo on the box should have been my first hint, since that company was acquired by Adobe over two years ago, as well as the fact that the game’s requirements offer compatibility with systems as old as Mac OS 8.5.

But at any rate, I worked through the install problems one-by-one. First, it complained (with a series of dialogs using different look-and-feels) about not having write permissions to its own folder when run from Keagan’s non-admin account, so I reinstalled it to his home folder. Then I ran it again and hit the deal-breaker: the app couldn’t switch to “Thousands of Colors” mode, because the Mac Book only supports millions of colors.

I e-mailed Scholastic support in hopes of getting an update and got a one-line reply: The program is not compatible with or supported on the Intel-based Macintoshes.

Now that’s pretty ridiculous, considering that the PowerPC transition is nearly two years behind us at this point, with all new Macs being Intel-based since May, 2006. And I wrote a duly harsh review on the Apple Store website to warn off potential customers.

But is there anything insidious about this? Can we accuse Apple of nefarious skullduggery! for using its demo machines to promote games that don’t work on modern Mac hardware, perhaps as a means of making the anemic lineup of games for the Mac look better than it really is?

Or is it more likely that the people who run the stores and set up the demo machines just aren’t aware of the problem? Or aren’t savvy enough to realize it could be a problem?

And while it sucks for Scholastic to not update the game for Intel Macs, and not pull it from the market when it’s clearly past its sell-by date, let’s be realistic: they used the half-assed Macromedia tools because they wanted a quick-to-market, cross-platform technology, for an application where the content matters a lot more than the interactivity. It’s not a “real” Mac application, and can’t realistically be updated because the compatibility limitations come from their choice of a third-party runtime, one that’s out of their control. So, insidious? No, just stupid and lazy.

Too bad they’re not interested in hiring competent programmers to write real code for their content, though. The “I Spy” concept would might work really nicely as an iPhone / iPod Touch game.

I haven’t returned the game yet; I want to see if it’ll perhaps run on the Mini back home in Atlanta. And as open-box software, I may be stuck with it at any rate.

Everybody to the limit!

My college friend Mike can finally talk about what he’s up to. And for a change, it neither involves vaguely rabbity things, nor is it doomed to a three-year production schedule and subsequent non-release. Nay, it’s Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People for WiiWare:

SAN RAFAEL, CA, April 10, 2008 – Interactive entertainment pioneer Telltale, Inc. is pleased to announce Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People (SBCG4AP), a new series of episodic games for WiiWareâ„¢, in partnership with Videlectrix. Starring Strong Bad, the self-proclaimed coolest person ever, the series is based on Matt and Mike Chapman’s online animated series, which has been running at Homestarrunner.com since 2000. SBCG4AP will launch on WiiWare this June.

As the very first episodic series for connected consoles, Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People has been designed specifically for WiiWare, with easy-to-use controls and WiiConnect24â„¢ features. Like Telltale’s popular Sam & Max series, SBCG4AP will be released as a five-episode “season” akin to a season of television. The episodes will come out on a monthly schedule. Release dates and pricing details will be revealed in a future announcement.

Bonus points for including an “About Videlectrix” section in the press release, for the fictional 2600-era game company.

Cooper, who lives “across the hall” from one of the Homestar guys, is duly psyched.

A few down attacks and reversals

I probably won’t blog a lot about gaming here, but it is a valid and important variety of media, one that I enjoy.

The other night, I happened upon the final round of the Championship Gaming Series on DirecTV. I don’t know who thinks that watching other people play video games is good TV, but in limited doses it does kind of work for gamers. Actually, I found myself actually angry at what I was watching, as the gamers playing Dead Or Alive 4 were playing the game as a sort of generic fighting game, and not actually as DOA.

We had DOA 2 on the Dreamcast and PS2 at Worthless Piece of Crap Wireless Software Company #1, and the gist of the game is “anti-predictability”. More than any other fighting game, DOA expects you to vary your style and improvise. The key is the reversal/hold system: if an opponent comes at you with a high or mid-level attack, you press your guard button and go back on the D-pad to grab the attack and reverse it. To reverse low attacks, you guard and press down and back. The system resists canned moves: if you keep showing favorite attacks, opponents will anticipate and reverse them. Reversal damage is often as great or greater than initiated attacks, so good DOA players combine an unpredictable set of attack moves with reversals, holds, and down attacks to win. But in the CGS, the players were playing “Generic Fighting Game”: attack middle, guard, back up, repeat. A decent DOA player should be able to dismantle such silliness. Every time a player went down, he failed to roll sideways for the wakeup game, and the attackers never used down attacks to further punish the knocked-down characters. These are the best players?

When Kelly walked in the room, she noticed the eye-candy babe with the cutoff shirt and short shorts whose only purpose was to ask the teams if they were ready and then say “go!” Kelly’s take: “couldn’t they just use the start button?” Yes, cheesy, but one of the many things they’ve done to adapt the competition to television. They also borrowed their set design from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, and the idea of coaches for videogame players seems silly. But you’re taking an activity that doesn’t actually involve a lot of physical action, and trying to make it televisual: the producers knew they had to do something.

Still, next year, let’s hope they work in some music-rhythm titles (Guitar Hero or Rock Band) or some Wii-mote slinging games to get the kids off their butts.

Speaking of the Wii, we snagged one in September for Christmas, marking the end of my run with Sony consoles. Of course, I’m not the only one. As of this writing, NexGenWars shows the Wii having passed the 360 in terms of installed base, with two and a half times as many units sold as the PS3. November’s numbers from Gamasutra shows the trend continuing, with a modest upturn for PS3 following the introduction of a cheaper model. But it’s still not even selling as well as the PS2.

It doesn’t help that PS3 still doesn’t have appealing software, especially among top-tier would-be system sellers. Lair and Heavenly Sword can’t touch the 360’s Bioshock or Halo 3 for buzz, which in turn pales next to the Wii’s reach across demographics.

You know, at this point in the last generation, the PS1 had dropped to $50, yet the PS2 remains at $130, and still sells (better than the PS3). PS3 still needs to be $100 cheaper, but I wonder if Sony isn’t playing a long game — banking on the Wii to pass as a fad, and keeping some pricing power for the PS3 so they don’t totally lose their shirts. It’s possible they’re even using profits on the still-$130 PS2 to underwrite the PS3. But that can’t last forever. They either need something to make the PS3 appealing in its own right, or they need the Wii hype to suddenly go sour.

And no, Blu-Ray movies aren’t going to save them. HD-DVD seems to have been reinvigorated by being the cheaper of the standards, though Joe Sixpack is really not interested in potentially buying into the losing side of a format war with either one. The smart money says both will be displaced by high-def digital downloads anyways, but it remains to be seen if the various parties will ever agree to a workable system: Hollywood doesn’t want Apple dominating movie distribution like they have with music, yet the existing movie download services work with too few devices and offer too few titles to be viable.

One more thought on Blu-Ray. This year at JavaOne, we heard something of a mea culpa from Blu-Ray stakeholders in that they hadn’t done enough to reach out to open-source and indie developers, keeping the format out of reach with exorbitant license fees. I blogged these JavaOne sessions and wrote:

One comment that Sun’s Bill Foote made indicated that there was disagreement within the Blu-Ray Disc Association as to how to approach non-licensee developers. The current situation, with tools and specs only available to licensees (basically just the studios, as licensing costs are extraordinary), leaves the format with too few programmers to be viable, and while participants like Sun would clearly prefer to get information out to independent developers, this apparently doesn’t sit well with some BDA members, even though Foote reports agreement that some kind of overture to indie developers needs to be made.

I would just note that six months later, I have heard absolutely nothing on this front. I still see a few people trying to get into Blu-Ray, but there doesn’t seem to be anything done to make it easy, and there’s still no sign of BD-J being used for anything more than fancy menus and trivial games. The promise that Blu-Ray was going to let you, among other things, participate in interactive group viewings of your movies over the internet, with downloadable new content, continues to exist only in theory.