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I, Roommate: The Robot Housekeeper Arrives - New York Times.
"WHEN my home robot arrived last month, its smiling inventors removed it from its box and laid it on its back on my living room floor. They leaned over and spoke to it, as one might to a sleeping child. It straightened, let out a little beep, lighted up, looked left and right, and then, amazingly, stood and faced me. I said, "Nuvo, how are you?" It tilted to the left, and raised one arm to greet me. It shook my hand and winked with one of the lights in its little head. My life hasn't really been the same since."

Why can't game characters do that? A lot of the tough stuff is a lot easier in the virtual space.

(Via, ah, that one site, name is on the tip of my tongue... or was it that other one?)


Our industry, specifically the third-world MMO secondary market sweatshop phenomenon, has managed to freak out Patrick Nielsen Hayden, a professional SF editor. That takes some doing. Yay us! Alright, so it's a questionable honour.

I have to say that the intersection of MMOs, economics and society freak me out too sometimes.

Sony's DataTiles and user interface integration

Gizmodo has reported on an experimental user interface from Sony called DataTiles. It's physicality is cute but seems impractical. However, the level of integration is impressive, and obviously (to me) has a lot of potential.

I think it's very hard to integrate all of these different bits of functionality, for two reasons.

First of all, different groups of people have to agree to use a common standard / architecture / protocol in order for new functions to emerge. This gets worse when these people are from different industries - say, IT, banking, commerce, telephony.

Second, it is not yet quite clear what these new functions that could emerge are, and how people will use them. Naturally, the latter increases the difficulty of the former.

An open, bottom-up, build-it-and-they-will-come approach seems to work well - after all, this is how the Internet was built. Web services, the current incarnation of that trend, are a good example. Google started their Google Maps API, and already there's a ton of ideas about what could be done with it, and with mapping in general. Even games!

Now some of this is moving from the browser to the desktop, with Google Desktop, Apple's Spotlight and Dashboard, and, at some point, Microsoft's online and offline search technology.

Is the browser better for experimentation? The OS makers have means, motive and opportunity to integrate the functionality of their systems. Apple, which has more control over their products and its context than Microsoft, also achieves better integration - one of the reasons why I'm a Mac user. Both companies have created an ecosystem of independent software developers and the APIs and tools they feed on. And yet...

Search is getting a lot of press right now, but searching is only one aspect of integration. Growl is a unified user messaging system for Mac OS X applications. It's slowly growing, but it doesn't seem to add a huge amount of value (I have it installed). Still, it shows the kind of architectural decoupling that is required to integrate disparate bits of technology. Applications don't show events to the user: they report the event to something else which shows it for them. Much like an API in an OS.

I find Dashboard the most exciting project along these lines. The makers claim Microsoft stole their concept and is calling it 'implicit query' - I bet they're real happy about Apple using their name too (for an OS feature which looks remarkably like Konfabulator - oh well). Dashboard shows a vision of where Spotlight and Longhorn may end up, and it's fairly compelling. (Or is it? I've used Spotlight once since Tiger came out, and I could've done that search with Panther as well.) It's going to be interesting to see how all of this develops.

I've just realised that this blog entry has drifted to a subject only vaguely connected to games. Games tend to create closed-off universes in order to increase immersion, both physically (with consoles) and in terms of software (taking over your PC's screen). But still, connections exist.

Representation-Of-Reality Gaming

Do you like games that interact with physical reality? You know, like playing Monopoly in London or Pac-Man in New York? But you don't like the inconvenience of rain, it being 3 AM, you not being dressed yet, or those places being thousands of miles away? Well my friend, now there's a solution!

Instead of playing a game that involves actual reality, why not play a game that involves a virtual representation of actual reality? Such as playing a game in Google Maps? You know it makes sense! It's a New Genre about to be born!

I predict a dedicated conference in 2006.

Left Behind: The Game

Boy, where do I start?

Left Behind is a mega-best-selling series ("More Than 60 Million Books Sold") of novels aimed at hard-core Christians. It's about what happens on this planet during the Apocalypse: first, millions of people ascend bodily into heaven, then the survivors fight while everything goes, ahaha, to hell in a hand-basket. Or so I hear. It's like Tom Clancy for the Christian fundamentalists.

It's a pretty big media franchise, and now, surprise, it's being turned into video games.

The corporate double-speak is amusing:

The mission of Left Behind Games is to become the world’s leading independent developer and publisher of quality interactive entertainment products that perpetuate family values and appeal to mainstream and Christian audiences, while remaining committed to increasing shareholder value and pursuing the highest standards of integrity and professionalism in all business affairs.

Translation: We will make games that appeal to the sensibilities of one group of people, while making tons of money for another group of people, and not doing anything unethical or illegal which would bring a third group of people come crashing down on us like a ton of bricks. Original!

The "New Genre" bit of The Vision is even better:

For the Year of 2003, the Gospel Music Association (GMA) reported sales of more than 47.1 million CDs. Controversial as it has been, The Passion of the Christ has generated more than $500 million since it's release. Experts are expecting it to become one of the top ten financially successful movies of all-time. To date, not one high-quality video game has been marketed to this same audience. It is management’s belief that LEFT BEHIND will be a catalyst for a new genre of video game entertainment; known, as stated by the Wall Street Journal, as "God Games".

Will Peter Molyneux sue for defamation? This press release gives some more information about the actual game:

Scheduled for release between Christmas 2005 and Easter 2006, Left Behind: Eternal Forces will put players in command of the apocalyptic battles raging in the streets of New York City between the angelic Tribulation Forces and the demonic Global Community Peacekeepers during the End of Days. Gamers will participate in events from the Left Behind book series in single player mode and battle to capture territory from other players in the multi-player online game mode.

A post-apocalyptic RTS! How original. The Unique Selling Point seems to be:

LBG intends to develop games so as to include the same types of elements that have made interactive games popular for years and yet offer a less graphic experience to the sexual themes and gratuitous violence currently found in many games. We plan to make all games visually and kinetically appealing.

So it's middle of the road schlock with a hard-core Christian theme - much like the novels, apparently.

Meh. My coffee buzz is wearing off. I'm getting tired of ranting about this.

(Via BoingBoing.)