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Shirky on the Price of Information

It's not of insane relevance to the games industry, but nevertheless I think this essay by Clay Shirky on the price of information is of some interest. 'Content' was a big buzzword in the mid to late nineties. It's less so now, but still.


Among people who publish what is rather deprecatingly called 'content' on the Internet, there has been an oft repeated refrain which runs thusly:

'Users will eventually pay for content.'

or sometimes, more petulantly,

'Users will eventually have to pay for content.'

It seems worth noting that the people who think this are wrong."

Managing PSP data and media on your Mac

This program allows you to manage your PSP data and media on your Mac. It has the following features:

  • Automatic Game Save Backup
  • iTunes Playlist integration, supports Smart Playlists
  • iPhoto Album integration, supports Smart Albums
  • Multiformat queue-based video converter with multiproccessor support
  • Automated "no hands" operation
  • Simple options
  • Requires no drivers or extensions
  • Extensive help via standard MacOS X Help Center
  • Works in English and Japanese

I must say I'm impressed at how fast this program appeared.

(Thanks, Tobe!)

Game effects

I refactored the previous entry so that both topics are cleanly separated.

Here's an interesting question: If a) we want people to be emotionally involved while playing games (e.g. if we want them to cry), and b) we acknowledge the effects described above, then it's kind of hard to deny games have an effect on people, a strong and intentional effect. Yes yes, so do other media, and millions of people don't go off to do stupid things. But it's useful to keep this in mind when thinking about the effects of games. Let's not pretend there are no effects whatsoever.

I think this is obvious, but I also think that the classical defense from game developers in the 'Do games make one violent?' question is, or is based on, the idea that games have no effects whatsoever, and therefore developers have no responsibility. The real question is more complicated than that.

Nathan's point about the army (in his comment in the previous entry) reminds me that the whole idea behind the army training games and arguably all 'serious' games is that they have an effect on people.


Wired has a funny article about how playing certain games for too long distorts your view to reality. Examples are Katamari Damacy, Animal Crossing, Burnout, and others.

Many people at Rockstar Vienna developed symptoms like this while we were developing GTA 3 / Vice City for the Xbox in 2003. One lead programmer started noticing many ramp-like objects while driving home on his scooter at 3 AM. I just wanted to get on any motorbike I saw standing around. Also, gleaming cars, streets and raindrops became incredibly fascinating, although this falls more 'research' than 'delusion'.

We had nothing to do with the series of car-thefts around our office building at the end of the project. That was a funny coincidence. Ha ha.

(Via all over the place.)

Update: Wah! I just noticed the author interviews roBin. I know a famous person!

More potentially amusing anecdotes. Once, I was having a lunch with some people from the GTA Xbox team. We were sitting around a table in a restaurant in pretty much the same configuration as our desks at work. At some point, I wanted to make a private remark to someone, and tried to send them an instant message.

Also, when I was really into Deus Ex, I came into the office, noticed an air duct grille, and tried to right-click on it.

Not surprisingly, this didn't work, in both cases. But I felt myself doing it, not on a motoric level, but the intention was there, but without the feedback. Like a ghost limb.

I have something a bit more in-depth I want to write about the phenomenon described above. It's half-written. More soon.


Update: ! Jurie wakes up, MGS-style. Alert! Evasion! etc. I took the tangential issue and put it in it's own entry.

Also, Robin has written more about this. That boulder is spooky.

Update: A friend of mine told me that during development of Burnout 1, several people on the team totalled their cars in crashes and another was stopped by the police for drifting around a corner in his sports car on his way to work during crunch.

Half-Life 2 web fun

The Valve Software site's URL is not It does not list Half-Life 2 as a product. Sierra's Half-Life page does not refer to Half-Life 2. (Jurie goes to the Sierra site and searches for Half-Life 2.) The Half-Life 2 page on the Sierra site contains a button that says 'Official Site'. This leads to This site contains another Offical Site button. This button leads to, which appears to contain the information I was actually looking for.

All three Half-Life 2 sites allow me to sign up for the Half-Life 2 newsletter.

Playing Manhunt is good for you

Violent Video Games Reduces Violence
Games like City of Heroes are more likely to foster violence in children than something like Manhunt, according to yet another study. A group of researchers surveyed nearly 600 primary school students over two years and found that kids who played games featuring good guys attacking bad guys were “significantly more aggressive” a year later. On the other hand, kids who played games where characters went on indiscriminate killing sprees became less aggressive over the year.

You know it makes sense.


I don't usually read Maxim - I found this link through Warren Ellis's blog - but they've got an interview with Garth Ennis and Jimmy Palmiotti about The Punisher: the comic, the movie and the video game.

What was your involvement in the game?

PALMIOTTI: We pretty much wrote the whole story. We start out with his family getting killed. It's an overblown, epic revenge game. Most of it is set in New York, and we took a lot of the elements from Welcome Back, Frank. Then we threw in some winks to Marvel comics fans, like having Frank breaking into Stark Labs to get some new guns and fighting alongside Ironman.

What are some of the methods of punishment?

PALMIOTTI: The kills are extremely, excessively, excessively violent. I'm a big video game player, but Punisher is the most violent game I've ever seen. Guys get their faces peeled off, and you actually see skull flying at some point. As far as the kills, we have piranhas, wood chippers, boat engines, rats, and there's so many guns. Even if Frank's running with a gun and it's out of bullets, he'll throw it at the bad guy, and as the guy goes to catch it, he'll pull out knife and stab him in the head. Thomas Jane [star of the Punisher movie] actually recorded the dialogue.

ENNIS: Sometimes you are stunned by what you can get away with in comics and video games. Usually, if you do run into trouble, it's from an angle you couldn't have imagined in a million years. You see the carnage and the slaughter and the filth and the pornography make it through, then someone says, "I don't like red boots on that guy."

It certainly seems this is going to be a very violent game. I don't know of any other games that allow you to torture enemies (Wild 9 doesn't count).

Over the top violence is pretty easy to do (sadly): I wonder if the involvement of professional writers is going to make this emotionally involving. We'll have to see.

Here's another interview with Palmiotti over at Gamespy.

Ennis also worked on Preacher, a comic that friends of mine like, but I've never really gotten into.

Means of production and all that

Some rather cool news items about the subversion of the classical "industry-consumer" model have appeared lately.

First, writes about a remake of LucasArts' Maniac Mansion:

The amount of energy fans put into the games stuns original programmers.

"I think it's incredible," said Maniac Mansion co-creator David Fox. "When we first released these games, we figured people would be interested for two or three years, max. The fact people still care enough to put this kind of work into the games, it's amazing."

But Fox doesn't talk much about the remakes with colleagues who still work at LucasArts. Distribution of these remakes could cause some problems in the courts.

Not the first time this has happened, and the legal grey zone sounds familiar too. I, for one, am glad someone found the English version of Ambermoon that I worked on in 1993 but that was never officially released, and made it available (I'd link to it but the Thalion Webshrine is down right now). I'm also glad people fixed the bugs that were in there ;)

Second, there's an Ultima Online emulator, and it just went open source. I didn't even know there was an emulator - I don't keep up much with MMO games. This sounds similar to bnetd, the free server. Except that got squashed. I doubt you could emulate one of the current major MMOs, but perhaps I'm wrong.

Third, some Sims 2 user content is infested with hacks. That was bound to happen with content that's functional instead of just static (e.g. textures, 3D models). But help is at hand:

The hackers, who never intended their hacks to be viruses, have even written their own AV scanner to find and control the outbreak.

Fourth, Team Xbox has an editorial about the RSS feeds of Halo 2 player stats that Bungie is offering. Using open standards to allow players to access and mine their data, very cool. Bungie doesn't need to offer any advanced functionality: other people can write it themselves.

Last, and the story that most surprised me: PlanetSide Community Takes Action to Market Game.

"Enilk Libb VII writes 'Frustrated by Sony Online's lack of dedication to their game, the Planetside community has taken the initiative and started a 'Guerilla Marketing' campaign designed to attract new players to the game. Players know that Planetside is good - perhaps even a genre defining title - but that it often goes unnoticed in the gaming market, saturated as it is with FPS games. Forums dedicated to the discussion of computer games, it was decided, are the perfect places to advertise. A template was designed with links to a spectacular video of Planetside (made by a regular Planetside player), a 7-day free trial of the game itself, and a downloadable installer. A thread was started on the Planetside Forums and the players got to work. The effect of the campaign has been noticeable. Populations are growing noticeably. Due to the influx of new players, many veterans of the game have volunteered to be part of a team whose job will be to contact new players and 'buckle them in'.' Now if they'd only lower the pricetag..."

(All of these stories via Slashdot Games.)