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Skate / Burnout Paradise

I played the demo of Skate, the game I didn't like the first time I glanced at it. My experience went something like this:

  • Start game. Do I want to do a tutorial? Sure, sounds good.
  • Learn controls. Hey! This actually seems kinda logical.
  • Randomly fumble my way through the tutorial stages. The tutorial dude, who from the audio quality appears to be calling me on his cell phone from somewhere on a small island in the Pacific, bids me to perform 'ollies' and other bizarrely-named moves I cannot remember. I flail around like a madman. I have no clue why tutorial dude accepts certain moves and not others. His comments are repetitive and make no sense to me. ("Keep that pressed just a bit longer" - dude I hit the ground.)
  • I somehow get through this Kafkaesque ordeal to get to the final stage of the tutorial. I have to do 3 precise moves in fifteen seconds. Reading the list of moves takes me about 5 seconds. Remembering what they are, let alone planning how to execute them in the given space and time, then practicing until I get it right, might take, I dunno, more like fifteen minutes.
  • After failing twice, I decide I just want to play the demo and free-form around a bit and bring up the main menu.
  • "Retry" / "Quit Skate". What?
  • Quit Skate.
  • At least a minute of non-skippable video sequence and marketing barf. Are you kidding me? I want my Xbox back!
  • I now hate everyone even vaguely associated with this godawful piece of crap (sorry Mark).

The Burnout Paradise demo didn't go much better. After driving around for 5 to 10 minutes, looking for fun, I realized I had better things to do with my life. Honestly, I don't get it. Was there a bug in my demo or why were the races and stunts missing? Woo-hoo, drive around and go to gas stations and repair shops. I can do that in real life.

(Editors of game magazines: Contact me for game reviews. I am way more efficient than other reviewers. You won't regret it.)

Google launches a distributed virtual world

Mashable reports about Lively, Google's new virtual world:

Google has just launched Lively, a new social network built around the concept of each user creating an avatar and a personal virtual room that can be embedded anywhere on the Web. In essence, Google is looking to create a massive distributed virtual world, where every Google account can have its own avatar that can be used wherever a Lively virtual room is present — for example, on a blog, a social networking profile, or a Web page.

Worth a closer look. I like the avatars. It has user housing too.

Update: "Requires Windows Vista/XP with Internet Explorer or Firefox" BOOO! Obviously this niche product will never fly and shows that Google has jumped the shark etc. etc.

Hilarity Comics

Hilarity Comics is a comic about video games. But not an inoffensive, middle-of-the-road comic like Penny Arcade or VG Cats. No, this is an underground comic, testing the limits of your taste. I find it funny, but you might not. You have been warned.

Integrating real-time real-world data into games

BBC News has an article about incorporating real-time racing data into racing games.

The patented system [iOpener] is developing sucks in real-time GPS data from racing events and pumps it out to compatible games consoles and PCs. The idea is that you could pit yourself against the top drivers in the world, as it happens, from the comfort of your living room.

Hmmm... groundbreaking? I don't think so. Back in the late 90s, Kalisto, the now-defunct developer I worked for back then, was approached by people holding the patent to merging real-world real-time data with video games. Maybe these people are the same people behind iOpener, maybe iOpener bought the rights to the patent, I don't know. All I know is that Kalisto made a deal with them and started development of a number of games around this concept - not just car racing. It was a big, big, big deal. And then the company announced bad results, the stock price collapsed, and the dot-com bubble burst.

Limbo of the Lost

I just came across the story of Limbo of the Lost, a game that has been in development in some form for 15 years, and that in its current incarnation for the PC appears to be the most awe-inspiring case of plagiarism since Giana Sisters. I mean, check out these screenshots.

On June 12th, the game was pulled from release when multiple sites and forums posted screenshots showing items, environments, menu graphics, characters, even fonts stolen from more than a dozen games as well as several movies. Similar screens revealed the company's theft of graphics goes back even to the original version for the Amiga.

Every developer who's been around for a while knows of studios that do so some bad things, but this... this is impressive.

My talk went well

My talk on productivity and producing went well. I arrived five minutes before the start and the room was already packed - I think there were about 100 people. I went a bit slower at the start, adding little anecdotes, and subsequently was surprised when the room guy held up a sign saying "5 minutes left"... so I rushed at the end but still managed to properly do the ending and even answer some questions.

All of the feedback was good so far. I am really too close to the presentation and have no opinion on it. It was a very touchy-feely talk in some ways and I was worried it wouldn't cohere enough. Luckily I was able to spend some time yesterday with Daniel Miller, a friend who is a great producer and communicator and he helped me improve the structure of the talk.

Now I can enjoy the rest of the conference without stress! Slides will be posted in some form pretty soon - I just need to clean them up for public consumption. Too bad I forgot to record the audio myself, I probably could have done so, bah.