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Grand Text Auto

An embarrassingly long time ago, I discovered the existence of a site called Grand Text Auto. I bookmarked it so that I could look at it in more detail. A somewhat less embarrassing interval ago, Grand Text Auto discovered me, and wrote some nice words about my site.

I then noticed that one of the authors of Grand Text Auto is Andrew Stern, one of the people behind Petz, i.e. Catz, Dogz, etc., products from the mid-nineties that I liked and admired a lot. Mr. Stern has recently been working on interactive storytelling, together with Michael Mateas. I've been meaning to check that out for even longer. So much to look at, so little time.

Anyway, I'm going to subscribe to the Grand Text Auto RSS feed for a while, and see what it's like. It looks interesting so far: slightly academic, but not enough for my irrational prejudices to kick in.

Content to watch out for

Slashdot Games pointed me towards this CNN money article, about how an imaginary URL featured in a level in Ubisoft's Rainbow Six 3 was bought by someone in Texas, who promptly put up a porn site. That's right, a top selling game contains an unintentional ad for a porn site.

It's getting more and more difficult to produce content that does not expose one to liabilities, legal or otherwise.

Unrelated items of interest

Here are some beautiful and / or weird things I have come across lately. They have practically no direct relationship to games, but I think it is important to be open to impressions from everywhere, to be a well-rounded person.

  • The Absolute Elsewhere is a marvelous catalogue of fantastic, visionary, and esoteric literature.
  • White Vibes is a beautiful interactive... thing... with many strange ideas which could easily be used in games. I'd love to work on more weird and surreal things like this.
  • White Vibes reminds me a little bit of the fantastic work of the Quay brothers. Perhaps it's the sound.
  • And while we're on the topic of off-beat animation, have a look at the website of JoJo In The Stars, a beautiful black and white animated movie.
  • The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide To Eccentric & Discredited Diseases is a very imaginative work. You can find out how it was made here.
  • If you like retro-futurism from the 60s, you're sure to love this.
  • Snow Blossom House is a gallery of links to interesting digital or interactive erotic / pornographic works, often hentai or hentai-inspired. Definitely not work safe.
    Lovely, cute, queer, angry and mischievous KiSS dolls unite. Squidmen and women of hentai games join your brothers and sisters. Follow the way of the strawberries. To play is the answer. To change clothes is the method. Foreplay ist alles. To transgender, to overlay, to uncover is the tease. Welcome to Snow Blossom House.

  • Apartment is a strange site. Type in a sentence, and it generates the floor plan of an apartment (which you can see in 3D if you have a PC), while your words float around in the various rooms. It's quite intriguing.

Child's Play

This is not actually piping hot news, and I just said I wanted to spend less time talking about things you can easily find on your own, but I just found out a little more about Penny Arcade's Child's Play initiative, and I think it is a Good Thing, and worth mentioning.

Here's the deal.

If you are like me, every time you see an article like this one - where the author claims that video games are training our nations youth to kill - you get angry. The media seems intent on perpetuating the myth that gamers are ticking time bombs just waiting to go off. I know for a fact that gamers are good people. I have had the opportunity on multiple occasions to meet hundreds of you at conventions all over the country. We are just regular people who happen to love video games.

With that in mind we have put together a little something we like to call “Child’s Play.” Penny Arcade is working with the Seattle Children’s Hospital and to make this Christmas really special for a lot of very sick kids. With the help of the Children’s Hospital we have created an Amazon Wish List for the kids. It’s full of video games, movies and toys. Some of these kids are in pretty bad shape and just having a Game Boy would really raise their spirits.

Update: A writer of the kind of articles that triggered Child's Play (the one linked to above) praises the initiative and apologizes. (From Slashdot Games)


Punctuality is not one of my strong points. However, even though I'm a couple of weeks late, I am happy to announce that this site is now over one year old. The first post was on December 19th 2002, which makes this one of the oldest industry blogs out there. For what that's worth.

In a recent email discussion with other game bloggers, I summed up my reasons for working on my blog:

  • A more efficient way for me to distribute interesting links on game-related subjects to my friends. This has worked out very well.
  • A way for me to write on a regular basis. This has worked out very well.
  • A forum for me to formulate my thoughts on game design and development. I am a big believer in learning by teaching: expressing my thoughts makes me learn. And through feedback, I learn from others.

This last point has worked out OK. The blog allows me to avoid the disadvantages of online discussions (which I still enjoy). I also don't have to convince anyone to publish something I've written or adapt it to someone's requirements.

However, I don't write the longer, deeper posts as much as I would like (which is why Greg's blog always depresses me ;), and I am afraid the more substantial posts sometimes get lost between the fluff. So this is my major challenge for the blog. The fact that I mention this at the start of 2004 is a coincidence.

What do you like, or not like, about this blog? What kind of posts would you like to see more or less of?

The whole Vice City "racism" thing

Well, a lot has happened regarding this issue since I last talked about it.

Rockstar Games announced they were going to remove the offending material. New York mayor Michael Bloomberg got involved. Haitin-Americans have filed a lawsuit. Florida legislators demanded the game be banned. The State of Florida announced they wanted to investigate Grand Theft Auto: Vice City for possibly violating state hate crime laws.

There were protests outside a Wal-Mart in Florida (and outside the Rockstar New York offices). Yet Wal-Mart is continuing to sell the game. It would seem they only censor products that might offend middle America (e.g. too much sex) or that criticize Wal-Mart itself (some artist's album was banned because it contained a critical song).

CNN reported on the whole issue. I suppose this is hardly news anymore - they've been reporting on the games biz for quite some time now.

Jane over at Game Girl Advance has commented on the issue.

Finally, I've been quoted out of context, and some bulletin boards discussing this issue have linked to my original post.

This had a bit of a chilling effect on me, and has made me think a lot about this kind of post. And you know what? I'm not going talk about this kind of thing any more. Or at least I'm not going to add my own comments. Rockstar Games has a pretty tight communication policy (it usually involves 'no comment'). The more I explain and defend my stance on this whole matter, the more I may appear to be defending Rockstar Games. And that is something I neither want nor should do.

It's too bad. I modified my original post a bit. I was also very much tempted to quote another line from Vice City - one from the opening cut-scene. But that would be mean (especially to Cubans), and might be misconstrued as being something other than a mere joke.

Update: the New York Post has an article up that advises readers to sell Take Two stock. It mentions the following regarding to the content of GTA and Vice City:

This is 10,000 times worse than the worst thing anybody thinks Michael Jackson ever did to a little boy - or than any lie the feds think Martha Stewart ever told them, or any line in any song that Bruce Springsteen ever sang that rankled a cop in the Meadowlands.

Update 2: Thad "lead programmer on GTA3 Xbox" Frogley has commented on the New York Post article, as has Penny Arcade.

Update 3: jvm, occasional reader of this site, has written to Slashdot about two opposing views on the New York Post article, one on the Video Game Ombudsman, a site I don't know, and one on his own site, Curmudgeon Gamer.

Two games with Teddy

You may have heard of the very cool and intuitive 3D modeling application Teddy - it's been around for a while. It was developed by Takeo Igarashi, and by now he has developed a more advanced version, called SmoothTeddy (which, alas, does not run on the Mac).

Kokoro reports that there are two console games out that feature this technology.

Kaijuu No Shima (The Island Of Monsters) allows you to create your own monster. This movie, if you are able to watch it, shows how well the monster creation and customization was implemented. It looks like a very nice interface.

Rakugaki Kingdom apparently also allows you to create your own monster, but that's all I know about it.

Music for games

I just discovered, a site entirely dedicated to, ah, music for games. Sadly, the "About Us" doesn't say anything about "them", just about their lawyers. Still, sorta kinda interesting, and good to see specialized sites like this popping up.