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Dear Markus,

for some reason, your blog is not easy to read in my RSS reader. Tobe apparently has similar problems. I don't know if there's something you can do about it, but I thought I'd mention it.

Meanwhile, I've found this to be the most enjoyable way to read your blog :P

Merry Christmas, a happy New Year, good luck with your work, and keep on blogging,


P.S. See you next Tuesday at Johnny's maybe?

Snowball effect

The Katamari Damacy references on Robin's blog are now officially out of control. It's as if she's pushing a huge ball over the entire internet that grows and grows as more topics stick to it.


I found the new KD 2 screenshots mere nano-seconds before her - but only by distracting her by talking about food.

She must be stopped, for her own good. Imagine what were to happen if she found out about the very cute KD Christmas card?

But what can I do? I am well over the edge myself. I will soon have two copies of Katamari Damacy, and no PS2 to play it on. I am stuck, stuck to a ball that keeps turning and turning...

Update: More details on KD2.


You may have noticed that a fair amount of recent links are from Kotaku. It's a fairly new site, part of hip New York entity Gawker Media. It has quickly become one of my top news sources. So cut out the middleman (i.e. me) and subscribe to their RSS feed. No, wait! Come back!

Apple Improves World of Warcraft

Apple just released version 10.3.7 of Mac OS X. Among the changes:

  • Addresses an issue with Blizzard World of Warcraft in which the game's frame rate could drop considerably when in "Ghost mode," if the computer uses an nVidia graphics card.
  • Resolves an issue in which enabling Vertex Shaders in World of Warcraft could lead to unexpected graphics issues when using an nVidia graphics card.
  • Addresses an issue with World of Warcraft in which incorrect colors or unexpectedly flashing objects could appear when using an ATI Radeon 9600 graphics card, making gameplay difficult.
Blizzard's World of Warcraft came out on the 23rd of November - less than a month ago. I find these fixes quite striking, both because of Apple's speedy reaction (more speedy, alas, than their fix for the intermittent internet problems I've been having), and for the fact that they would do so for one game.

Damion Schubert's blog

This is as good a moment as any to link to Damion Schubert's blog Zen Of Design, seeing how he's just linked to me and added a comment to the "On Academia" post.

I first met Damion at this year's GDC, when I went up to him, introduced myself, and told him we'd both worked on the same project. Which is kind of strange as we'd never met before, but then he did some work on Highlander Online after I had already left Kalisto Entertainment.

I haven't taken a longer look at his blog yet, but it looks like there's a lot of stuff there - it goes back to June 2002, which has to make it one of the oldest blogs by a game developers out there.

EA execs contracts leaked

Kotaku reports that among the many, many comments (3735 and counting) on the LiveJournal post that started the controversy around EA's employment policies, one can find such things as the Senior VP for Human Resources' employment contract.

I'm glad someone else took the time to comb through all of those comments. However, I did find this User Friendly cartoon while quickly browsing through.

Also: More promises from EA, via

(Go here for my previous post on this issue.)

Shooter tournament

This is something I've been meaning to write about for a while now. On the 20th of November, I attended a shooter tournament (in German) in a gaming establishment in Neulengbach (in German), a town outside of Vienna.

Because this actually came up surprisingly often: these are 2D shooters, played in stand-up arcade cabinets, not 3D first-person games. I'd call them 'old school', except they're not. This is a vibrant scene, much like, say, interactive fiction.

Tobe was there as well - in fact, he's a big shooter fan, has known the organizer for some time, and enabled me to be there. He took some pictures of the event, and also wrote a blog entry about shooters.

I had a very good time. Everyone was very nice to the new guy who wasn't very good at playing shooters (nor at playing the many pinball machines that are the normal source of income for the venue).

I also learned many interesting things about shooters and arcade game collecting. For instance, I learned of the existence of Cave, a Japanese company that produces beautiful shooters on a regular basis. (So many, in fact, that the next shooter tournament will only feature their games.)

Tobe had already explained the intricacies of the scoring mechanisms of these games to me, but it was fun to see it in action, and also to see how really good players go about avoiding clouds of bullets that fill the screen.

Andranik, the organizer, pointed out a crucial difference between console shooters and arcade shooters. Console shooters are about finishing the game, about getting to the last level, beating the last boss, and then maybe selling the game. This is not the point of arcade shooters (I watched people play through Cave's Storm Of Progear in about 20 to 30 minutes). The point is to master the intricate scoring systems in order to maximize your score. So first you need to learn how to avoid the obstacles and the waves of bullets, and then you need to strategize in order to do the right things in the right order to get the big score multipliers. Which is easier said than done: it requires talent, and practice. (For the record: I'm still at the "learning to avoid bullets" stage.)

The interesting thing about that for me was that it reminded me that I've been focusing on big "mainstream" AAA console action-adventures for a long time now, but there are people out there who want something different from their gaming experience. Enough people that you can make a living out of making games for them. It's not a blindingly new insight, but it's good to reminded of that every once in a while (which is the topic of another blog post I have lying around).

Finally, I cannot write a blog entry about shooters without mentioning two games:

  • Treasure's Ikaruga, which combines beautiful graphics with a mind-bending damage / scoring system. It's probably the best-known shooter to appear on the mainstream gaming radar in recent times, and it's gotten good reviews everywhere. I may never play it, but I recognize it's qualities, and I enjoy watching other people playing it.
  • Cave's Guwange, which is set in demon-infested historical Japan, and for once doesn't let you control a spaceship or plane, but a warrior. So it's like a shooter dressed up a hack and slash game, sorta kinda like Diablo on speed, a concept which I find hilarious somehow. Plus I really dig strange hybrids, and Japanese mythology.