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I don't need to post what I've been up to anymore, I have people to do that for me.

I forgot that France is a civilized country and hence movies such as Howl's Moving Castle play in a lot of major cinemas quite soon and nobody considers this exceptional and these movies get into the national top 10. It will probably be out on DVD before it comes into the cinemas here, in an exceptional multi-disc package with no English subtitles.

The expo and the movie were all in one day. At 11 PM I had a gargantuan dinner at Le Vilaret, which included young rabbit compote and pain perdu with truffle ice cream. Not just any old rabbits, mind you. Young rabbits, with big moist eyes and floppy ears. Yum.

The next day I loaded up on viennoiseries at Paul, and, fully savoring the irony, flew back to Vienna, where no good pains aux raisins or pains aux chocolat can be found.

GDC 2005

Even though I wasn't there, there's a lot of stuff to comment on regarding GDC 2005.

However, my leatherworking skill is at 169 and when I get to 170 I can make cool new stuff. Also, I need 4g50 to finally increase my skinning skill which has been maxed out for a week now, I have to clean out my quest log, and I need to catch up a few levels because I didn't play over the weekend.

Please talk amongst yourselves.

Update: My leatherworking is at 170, and I ponied up the gold for the skinning. I also got a lot of old Ashenvale quests done. Yay!

Extending your Xbox

As a trigger for double entendres, this is like putting your mouth to a fire hose, so I'm just going to report it straight to stop my head from exploding.

I don't think I saw this on the usual news sites, but then I haven't been paying that much attention lately. This is a guide on how to wire a vibrator to the rumble function of your Xbox controller (and soon PS2 and GameCube). There.

Favorite quote:

Time for our first test of the vibrator (with no one attached to the other end, unfortunatly. We really gotta work on the whole porn aspect of this site). In dedication to JG Ballard (and to a lesser extend, David Cronenberg), I decided to use Burnout 3 in Crash mode. There's nothing quite as satisfying as watching a dildo run due to the fact that you just crashed your car into a crowded intersection. Sure enough, the second I hit another car, the vibe took off across the table. It was truly a beautiful sight, and one I'll hopefully have a movie of here pretty soon.

(Aren't you glad I'm posting again?)

(Via Warren Ellis.)



Update: So, in case you hadn't guessed: I have not posted for the last three weeks because I have been playing World of Warcraft pretty much non stop.

I'd played the beta because it seemed interesting, but I wasn't really impressed enough to want to run out and buy it. But then, when February 11th came along and the game arrived in the stores, I somehow got gripped by the WoW fever in the office and bought a copy. (Regretfully, I missed out on the collector's edition.)

Then I fell ill for a week. Implausibly convenient, yet true - there's been a an epidemic in Vienna. It turns out that playing WoW is just the right kind of mindless activity when you have a cold and can't do much else.

After that week, I was pretty much hooked. And I wasn't the only one, although there are some pockets of resistance. Luckily, I had a week of holiday coming up. It was originally reserved for a ski trip, but that fell through. I just basically decided to indulge and ignore pretty much everything else in my life.

Last week things got a bit quieter, as I actually had to go back to work.

Anyway. I like it a lot. Among other things, this game is a testament to art direction over technical prowess. Blizzard doesn't use many fancy techniques and they don't have a lot of polygons on screen, but they make incredible use of what they have - not unlike Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, or Grand Theft Auto. (As an illustration of what I mean: Penny Arcade made fun of Everquest 2's horned devil - Tobe pointed out the constrast with Blizzard's.)

What else is good? The audio. The interface. The polishing (love that log-in screen). The writing - to my surprise, as I always had a bit of a prejudice against clichéd fantasy settings. The gameplay mechanics - Blizzard's are masters at this kind of game. Although everything is quite simple, the game somehow always manages to avoid degrading into ProgressQuest - probably because there's always something significant on the horizon, in multiple areas of gameplay, and on multiple scales. The pacing is excellent.

I have had some very satisfying experiences in WoW so far, and am looking forward to many more. Not bad, considering I have never been very interested in MMOs before. I could write much more, but well, it really has been a long time since I've updated, so... time to hit 'Post'.

Augmented reality

Augmented reality is a technological direction I am very excited about, and one that I think can have an enormous impact on everyday life.

Kotaku posted a link  to this French video (which, sadly, requires RealPlayer) showing CG objects interacting with real objects in real-time. The interactions are both visual (CG objects are occluded by real objects) and physical (CG objects are pushed away by real objects - though obviously not the other way around).

There's similarly exciting research going on here in Vienna: check out The Invisible Train, a multi-user augmented reality application for handheld devices - if I'm not mistaken, Palm or PocketPC PDAs. There are some demo videos as well.

(I've also seen a video of a system that puts CG glasses on a real face in real-time, but I can't find it right now.)

Just think of all the information in the physical world that is easier to convey with practical AR. Certainly everything having to do with navigation and pathfinding. Printed maps become obsolete. Navigation systems become so much more elegant (try driving across the Karlsplatz here in Vienna, or any other complicated intersection, using a typical car navigation system, and you'll see what I mean). AR is a great way of 'explaining' in-game interfaces - better than HUDs (I still regret that Deus Ex never used that). I consider it very likely that real life AR interfaces will be inspired by game interfaces.

And of course there is the potential for a next-gen EyeToy. I wonder what Richard Marks is working on now?...

Update: OK, this is what Richard Marks has been working on. Cool stuff!

Confessions of a UO Gold Farmer

Another quick one: a tale from the shady underworld that clings parasitically to the grand-daddy of modern day MMOs, Ultima Underworld. It's a thrilling yarn of swashbuckling hackers, despicable pirates, vast hoards of gold and farms full of bots, forced to dig for gold and repel attacks by other bots. It is told by a former scoundrel, who has now turned all of his pirate gold into more reputable currencies, and is selling the empty hulls of his pirate fleet. Can it be long before he weds a fine governor's daughter?

(Via Slashdot Games.)

China Bans The Sims 2

China Bans 50 Games
"Stargoat writes 'The official mainland Chinese news agency, Xinhau, is reporting that China is banning 50 gaming titles. These titles include Battlefield Vietnam, The Sims 2, and FIFA 2005. A similar game banning event occurred six months ago in China, but not to this scale.'"

Manhunt is one of those 50 games, but that was surely one of those "Didn't you ban that? No, I thought you banned it" oversights.

But The Sims 2? What's up with that? Does it include references to Chinese provinces such as Tibet and Taiwan? Is it against the official ideology? Or is it because it's published by EA?

(Via Slashdot: Games.)

Update: There's a comment over at BoingBoing explaining what is probably really going on.