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Troubles at Disney Animation

I found this article about the end of 2D animation at Disney through BoingBoing.

I have a couple of reasons for posting this here instead of my more general interest blog, Jurieland:

  • I think animation is closer to games than live action - everything is artificial, just like in games.

  • It's interesting to watch industries being revolutionized by information technology - even if, in this case, the revolution seems to be very bad.

  • Disney is in the entertainment industry, and so are we. Their struggle to balance creativity and profitability is something professional, commercial game developers have to deal with every day.

Robot battlers!

"Japanese engineer has a great passion and also love to a robot. ROBO-ONE, the combat sports of Robt, attracted very powerful robot. I'm rellay impressed by movements of various robots. They are never industrial but purely sophisticated for fight. This fact touches my heart."

There are no clich├ęs. Check it out here - it has videos of actual robot combat (shades of Manhunt?).

CNN/Money interviews John Carmack at QuakeCon

CNN/Money interviewed id Software wizard John Carmack at the recently completed QuakeCon. He talks about simplicity in games, projects after Doom 3, and space flight.

Memorable quote:

"To simplify a game, you have to not listen to your customers," he said. "They know your product and really know what they want to add to it. ... It's always easy to convince someone that adding something is a good idea. Saying 'less is more' just doesn't go over well."

Shades of "Portrait of the Gamer as Enemy".

[Slashdot]

Depressing Thought For The Day

For as long as I have been interested in game design, I have also been interested in writing about game design, as a way to clarify my thoughts on to impress the ladies. This blog is just another way for me to try and express what I've learned. But writing a coherent mini-essay on a regular basis is hard - usually I crack and post about some funny picture or a game about breasts. So it was rather depressing for me to discover that that sneaky Mark Barrett has written an essay about universal design basics on his site. And as usual, it's smart and well written.

Jamie Fristrom over at gamedevleague also finds this depressing, but for different reasons.

Update: Gamedevleague archives this far back don't appear to work right now.

Games Convention 2003 in Leipzig

The Games Convention in Leipzig starts tomorrow. It looks like a pretty big deal, with cultural events, booth babes (with their own website sponsored by Eidos), parties, world premieres, awards ceremonies, professional gaming competitions, TV shows, raffles, etc. Everything a show needs to become another E3.

There's even a developers conference, and many friends and (former) coworkers will be speaking there. Be sure to go and see Erik Simon, Monika Sange, Hannes Seifert, Helmut Hutterer, Harald Riegler, Thomas Friedmann and Teut Weidemann. Tell them Jurie sent you.

Manhunt

Well, the news is out about Manhunt, the new game by Rockstar North. Even though I work for Rockstar, I hadn't heard anything about what the game was about until the first previews came out a few weeks ago.

"The hero -- or, at any rate, the playable character -- is James Earl Cash, a prison inmate who discovers an unpleasant life after death. His lethal injection is faked, and he finds himself in a ruined city that is the property of the Director, a wealthy dilettante who amuses himself by staging violent games of survival. "Carcer City," as it's called, is populated with wrecked buildings, roving armed gangs, and closed-circuit cameras, all of them feeding into the Director's control room. It's Mr. Cash's goal to escape the city without dying for the Director's vicarious entertainment."

Manhunt, if you look at it from a certain perspective (the perspective often used on other games), is just another MGS clone. But there is a lot of excitement about it: from the press, from gamers, from developers, even from me. Partially, that seems to be caused by Rockstar's very tight marketing strategy: all they showed at E3 was a big banner for Max Payne 2, and that was it. All the rest was shown behind closed doors or not at all.

But I think it's also caused by the the narrative context, the setting and storyline. It's the old Most Dangerous Game trope, but in a modern, and quite grim world. Apart from the fact that it shows Rockstar's publishing strategy of only choosing realistic (compared to, say, Warcraft) and mature settings, think of how unusual this is: in an industry where writers and stories are not yet universally recognized as being a valuable addition to a game development team - although I would argue that many of the more successful companies do recognize this - here's a game that gets its unique edge mainly from its narrative context. The gameplay and the setting are very closely intertwined (as they should be), and if you look at the artwork and read the descriptions, you will notice that the art direction and, apparently, the sound all combine to create one coherent and consistent experience. A grim, violent experience, but nevertheless.

(On a different note: if you thought a rich director making violent entertainment for his own purposes was unrealistic, how about Mel Gibson's new movie?)

Bell and / or whistle

You can now select whether you want links from this site to open in a new window or not, by using the checkbox on the left. I lifted the code from I-Boy, the site of my friend George Nimeh, who got it from somewhere else.

I also switched to a new look, or more accurately, a new way of determining the style of my site, namely CSS2. Technically it's very nice and clean and I don't need single pixel images anymore. Also, the content comes first in the HTML file, which is nice when you're looking at this on something like a BlackBerry. I got the CSS style sheet from this site.

I will be tweaking the look, but the layout is pretty much going to stay this way. Let me know what you think.

XDumb

I just found about the XGameStation from Slashdot via Gizmodo.

This is what the XGameStation is:

"XGameStation is a 16-bit video game console designed specifically for both hardware and software hackers. The system outputs video and audio directly to any TV via composite video, and is compatible with PlayStation DualShock controllers. Games are played off custom cartridges that you burn yourself."

OK... interesting... although why you wouldn't want to do this in software I don't know. What's the upside? But anyway. Reading on, things get more interesting:

"A History of Game Development Before 1994, the idea of walking into a bookstore and seeing entire shelves of books on real-time graphics and game programming was almost unheard of. The very techniques and sciences driving the games that were already making billions of dollars for the Ataris and Nintendos of the world were still well-guarded secrets. That all changed, however, with the release of Tricks of the Game Programming Gurus by computer scientist Andre LaMothe, and within only a few years, an entirely new genre of technical books had seemingly taken over the world."

The next paragraphs also all mention LaMothe. Slowly it began to dawn on me. The X in the name was kind of an obvious giveaway. (I get regular XGDC spam to remind me of the association.) This was another Andre LaMothe ego vehicle.

It's very rare for me to say bad things about someone in public, but I'm about to make an exception. The whole Premier Press Game Development series loses its value because some guy who is involved in the series (but has not written any of the books currently in the catalogue) has to pose on the back wearing a Halloween costume and cheap sunglasses. How can you take a book seriously with a picture like that? And it's a pity, because at least one book in the series is pretty good.

How are we going to get rid of the game developer sci-fi geek image with people like Andre LaMothe around?

But who knows, maybe he's a nice guy under those shades.