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Mass Effect to include sex scene

(I don't consider the content of this post to contain spoilers, but if you like your gaming experiences pristine, better look away now.)

According to Eurogamer Mass Effect is to include a sex scene. From the BBFC rating:

The single sex scene is brief and undetailed, although there is breast nudity in one version of the scene. The sex scene is triggered by the player making a series of choices about becoming more than friends with a colleague. If playing as a male character the scene can take place between him and a human woman or a humanoid female alien. If playing as a female character the scene can take place between her and a male human or a female humanoid alien.

So, if you are gay and male, tough luck. Weird.

Something like this has already been done by Origin Systems in Ultima VII: The Black Gate, which was released in 1992. That game allowed you to have more fun as a gay male. Of course, back then it was all a little less graphic:


The actual sex scene is some text on a black background.

It is ironic that the interactive medium has to fight to gain back the creative freedom it lost becoming (relatively) mainstream.

BioWare has included a relationship path in a large portion of its games to date. But, in keeping with nearly everything else in Mass Effect, the choice here is more detailed and has a lot more depth.

Jeez, I sure hope so. KOTOR was not very effective in this regard, not to me at least. I remember there being a certain area on the first planet where a trigger box in a certain place would always trigger a certain party member to make an idle remark in the hope you'd talk to him. The conversation itself seemed to be a kind of mini-game of 'repeatedly talk to gain his trust until he tells you about himself'. For me, it went more like: "Oh damn, the bridge, what do I do? If I cross it, the ugly and annoying man in my group will want to talk to me. Can I avoid the bridge? Can I get him killed somehow?"

However, despite my deep loathing for KOTOR, I must say I am intrigued by Mass Effect, sex scene or no sex scene.

(Thanks Chris.)

Games and Web 2.0: My presentation at the University of Applied Sciences Wiener Neustadt

Last Wednesday I gave a 90 minute presentation on how the internet is changing the games industry at the University of Applied Sciences / Fachhochschule Wiener Neustadt, a university near Vienna. It was part of the eMarketing course taught by Sascha Mundstein for the Business Consultancy International B.A. programme.

The structure of my presentation was:

  • An overview of the 'core' games industry, including big players, numbers, demographics.
  • The internet on consoles.
  • The internet as a community platform: past and current trends (think small moves into integrating the web and web 2.0 - I showed WWS stats of a recent boss kill by my World of Warcraft guild).
  • User-generated content: past and current trends (Spore, LittleBigPlanet, Halo 3).
  • The internet as a marketing channel: the most boring slide, I practically skipped it.
  • The internet as a distribution channel: Steam, consoles, Manifesto Games.
  • The internet as a trading platform: all the kooky stories of people buying virtual real estate for $100,000. This took quite a while to research.
  • The internet as a gaming platform: Gaia Online, Desktop Tower Defense, Line Rider, Habbo Hotel, Three Rings, Runescape. This was my key point: a disruptive new market/industry is developing that is mostly being ignored by the 'core' games industry. And yes, if you follow Raph Koster, that won't be news to you. I came at it from a somewhat different angle though.

It really was an overview of the various ways in which the internet is transforming the games industry - it was wide, not deep. There were still many topics I had to leave out: 'big' games and ARGs, mobile games, professional gaming, South Korea and Asia in general, game elements in pure Web 2.0 sites, in-game advertising, machinima... it's a big subject.

If you want to see the slides, you can download them here (710K PDF).

There's a long story as to why this particular topic interests me so much right now, but I am keeping that for a later blog post.

I hadn't done a presentation for some time, but it all went pretty smooth. It is customary to have many technical glitches that need fixing before the talk starts, but I was hooked up to the internet and the beamer in no time. I did have to put a new hard drive into my iBook the night before, which was an interesting challenge. It's probably the hardest thing I've ever done involving computer hardware - layers upon layers of tiny screws... But it all worked out fine. The only thing that did not work as planned was playing HD videos with Keynote running on a 3 year old machine with only 768 Mb of RAM. But although the videos would have livened things up, they didn't contain any vital information.

The audience was very nice, a lot of people seemed quite interested even though I threw a ton of information at them. In retrospect I could have reduced certain things a bit better, focussed it a bit more on the other material they had been learning. But I was assuming they wouldn't all be super-knowledgeable about the games industry, and it is hard to make certain points about how interesting the new games / web 2.0 sector is if you don't know about console manufacturers, rising development costs, and the demographics of various market segments.

Developing the presentation kind of went like this:

  • Interest in the topic (for reasons I will explain in a future post).
  • Pondering the right concept for this particular presentation.
  • A first draft of the structure of the presentation. By this point I basically knew what I wanted to say.
  • Fact-finding and slide-designing. Fact-finding took most of the time - about three to four days. I had to search several key sites, look through old bookmarks, gather tons of news items and articles, then pick the data I needed.
  • Practicing. When I practiced at home, even though I talked slowly, I did fine for time, but when I did it live I overran by a few minutes and there was no time for questions at the end. Practicing on the same day as the presentation itself turned out to be dangerous: I could notice myself growing hoarse. But I brought some throat lozenges and a bottle of water and it turned out fine.

Using Keynote was a breeze - it was super-easy to make fancy charts that look a lot better than copying in some picture. I would have loved to have the latest version of Keynote on a MacBook capable of driving two screens though. The presenter mode is so sexy. On the other hand, printing out the slides for my notes and looking at my watch worked fine.

To paraphrase Pascal (maybe): I apologize for the presentation being so long; I did not have time to make it shorter. It was okay - at least I didn't just read out the slides. But it wasn't quite at the level I wanted it to be. Ah well, practice makes perfect.

My Xbox 360 is back

Just got it back. Correction: got back a replacement unit. Unpacked it, connected. Blinking red ring of death.

sigh I could call the UPS guys, they can't have gotten far...

Wait - 4 elements, not 3. It just means the AV cable is not properly connected :)

Now downloading Bioshock (again, for good measure), Skate, Blacksite.

Now, what to do with that complementary 1 month free Xbox Live Gold.

Study proves violent video games make women smarter

OK, that is a slight oversimplification, but there's an interesting article in this week's Economist which sort of goes like this:

  • Scientists test people's ability to spot unusual objects in their field of vision.
  • Men do better than women.
  • Scientists suppress urge to 'explain this in terms of division of labour on the African savannah'.
  • Half of the test subjects are forced to play Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault for 10 hours, while the other half plays Ballance. Meanwhile, the scientists gloat and twist their evil moustaches *).
  • The field of vision test is repeated.
  • People who played Medal of Honor now do better than before. Women score as well as the men.
  • Test subjects go home after excruciating ordeal.
  • 5 months later, they are dragged into vans by hooded men and made to do the test again. The people who played Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault still do better, and women still score as well as men.

I am not going to draw any major conclusions from this. Obviously this is highly interesting, but if I changed my world view based on every article about a study somewhere, I'd go nuts.

Still, for years the only thing most people could come up with to defend games was that it improves hand-eye coordination. It's funny to see that it appears to be true.

*) Psychological experiments often have a streak of cruelty I find amusing.

Love Death 2

Alright, here is my dirty little secret: a significant chunk of my non-subscriber traffic is people looking for nude World of Warcraft skins and other dodgy subjects I have occasionally blogged about over the years. So, in a cynical attempt to increase my traffic, I bring you news of Love Death 2, a first-person bukkake simulator from Japan (where else?). If you don't know what bukkake is: don't bother.

Anyway. There's a video. Although you probably wouldn't want to watch it at work, it's far from scrubbing-out-your-brain-with-acid stuff either. But then again, maybe I have a withered, scarred husk for a soul.

Since I know y'all come here for the deep analysis (well, except for those WoW nude skin people), here are some observations:

  • What an incredibly inept way of portraying this particular act. Especially the, um, fluid dynamics. It's not even disgusting.
  • Ironically, that is one of the best real-time 3D anime characters I have seen in a long time.
  • I had to laugh towards the end. What's with the baseball bat? Again, let us all be thankful for the ineptness.

(Via Boing Boing, who got it from Rock Paper Shotgun.)

Seam Carving for Content-Aware Image Resizing

Here is a SIGGRAPH 2007 presentation by Shai Avidan and Ariel Shamir on a novel way of resizing images. Arbitrarily resize an image while keeping important parts whole. It's quite impressive, until the baby is squished. Can also be used to eliminate people from your pictures, Stalin-style. Coming soon to your Photoshop.