After all that wanking I ended up getting the memory stick anyway - because I can write off game-related stuff but not the ipod.
One argument (discussion?) I got into at work a few years ago was about whether your game should try to "do it all" like a GTA or focus on its core gameplay like Guitar Hero. At the time, I was arguing "focus on core gameplay" - citing the Al Ries book *Focus* - and saying how specialty stores like Banana Republic kicked the ass of the big swiss-army knife department stores. At which point Bill Dugan pointed out that Banana Republic stock was in the toilet, and Ian Peter Hosfeld cited Wal-Mart as a "Swiss Army Knife" of stores, and well, I guess I pretty much lost that argument. And later I actually did some light analysis on how many popular games were actually focused games (monogames, Origence called them in the comments) and discovered Not That Many.
So lately I've been pretty much onboard with the idea that the Swiss Army Knife game is more or less the way to go...for action-adventure type console games anyway.
And, speaking of swiss army knives, I've never bought an MP3 player, but I have a PSP. I always figured that would be my MP3 player, and I imagined that a handful of techy geeks probably bought the PSP intending it to be their primary MP3 player. So today I decide to buy a memory card for it. The most I can get is 2 gigs...and I can buy a 30 gig IPod for a mere $100 more? It's looking like, in this case, the focused product wins. In fact, if the PSP wasn't a gift, I'm certain I'd be happier with a DS and an IPod than a PSP with a fat memory stick...and wouldn't have to spend that much more. Lately I've been carrying a man-purse, so the bulk of 2 gadgets instead of 1 isn't an issue.
Oh yeah, and I refuse to buy anything by Creative, because back in 1992 or something, I was one of the few people who actually used the Creative sound drivers for the Sound Blaster in our games. Lo and behold, when the Sound Blaster Pro came out, supposedly backwardly compatible with the SoundBlaster, it was incompatible with their old sound drivers! Yes, the old sound drivers checked the version of the card (had to step through in assembly to discover this) and if it was anything other than a 1.0 the drivers just wouldn't play. So our games didn't work on the Pro. And we had to make a patch. And I can hold a grudge for a really long time.
Speaking of grudges, GameFly's starting to get on my bad side, trying to charge me $30 because I lost "Crimson Skies: High Road To Revenge" - a game that sells for $20 at retail. Am I being unreasonable or is that a cock move on their part? So here I am, buying a used copy for $5 to send back to them.
I myself have always been partial to OpenWiki but that's because it's the only one I've ever used. What I'd like is one with nicer--ideally WYSIWYG--formatting, so we can make our internal docs look slicker.
So I've started my first...and maybe only?...real consulting gig. It's with the good folks at Liquid Entertainment on super-secret stuff. It's mostly engineering consulting but I hope to sneak in a little process improvement on the side. They're in the valley, so the commute is a drag: an hour each way. By the time I get home my baby daughter is upset because it's past her bedtime...not the daughter I want to come home to. So you know that long hiatus in blogging for the past few weeks? Expect it to continue.
Side note: I read in "Linked" that a study showed most people get their jobs from second-tier contacts. That's never been true for me. Ed Del Castillo, CEO of Liquid, has been a really good friend for a long time - and almost all the jobs I've ever gotten have been through really good friends. So in my experience it's more important to have a few good friends than a lot of acquaintances.
Don't normally read his blog - hope he's not mad at me for that - but generally I only read blogs that are pure industry. But I came across the entry doing a search on Google about Xbox subscription codes.
I have two theories why Microsoft REQUIRES you to get your Xbox Live subscriptions from retail.
1) They're trying to cut down on griefing. If cancelling and opening new accounts requires going to a retail outlet, maybe griefers will grief less because it will leave a permanent record.
2) They want retailers to stock Xbox Live, because pride of place at retail is the most powerful form of advertising there is. Retailers are less incentivized to stock things that are also available sans box, online. So Microsoft makes an agreement: "We will only sell Xbox Live through retail." And the retailers say, "You mean if I stock this, people have to come into MY store to buy it?" And Microsoft says, "Yes." Retailers say, "Sign me up." And everybody's happy except consumers-of-the-future like Brian Sharp and myself who don't see why we can't press a button and have our digital products available right then.
But there I go, trying to see the good in companies. It's freaking annoying.
And I threw out my old Xbox game boxes, so I don't have a spare subscription code lying around anywhere. Maybe my brother has one.
Oh, and kudos, Brian, for beating guitar hero on Expert. I still haven't beaten it on Hard.
Bought an old version of Redneck Rampage from an Amazon reseller and got what was basically an OEM demo for $10. I'm pretty sure I could have gotten the full version for $5. Way to go. Am now in an e-mail argument with said reseller because I left them negative feedback. Wish I could have left negative feedback for the manufacturer - oh, wait, I guess I can...that's what the reviews are for.
In other news, want to play Halo 2 with my brother on the other coast, so I'm trying to reactivate my old account. It seems I can't. And I can't create a new account with my old gamertag. This is to stop cheaters, Microsoft tells me. I'm not sure how. Anyways, it wouldn't bother me so much, except I came across this on the Xbox Live website:
"Choosing your Gamertag is one of the most monumental things you'll ever do. It's more important than choosing a college, a spouse, a home. Well, not everyone will feel this is true, but we just want you to know it is a big deal. Mainly because it's your very gamer identity we're dealing with!"
Thanks for telling me how important my gamertag is and then telling me I can't have it!
I suppose most people can't see what I'm bitching about because their Gamertag of choice was already taken.
Mine wasn't, except by me, and now I can't use it, simply because they won't let me reactivate my old account.
And Typepad is freaking out on me and making it really hard to enter this blog entry!
There's an article in the Escapist that discusses Spider-Man 2 and Ultimate Spider-Man. One thing the article talks up is how you occasionally, in Spider-Man 2, might have a side-mission and a main-mission competing for your attention. Truly the dillemma of a hero - do you make it to your meeting with Mary Jane or do you stop the mugging? I have to shamefully admit that I strenuously argued for cutting that feature due to the technical headaches it was causing us; and the only reason we kept it was because it would also have caused plenty of headaches to cut it. Not that I didn't love the feature, mind you.
They go on to say that USM fails because switching from controlling the hero to the villain ruins your identification with the hero. Hmm. I have to disagree. Venom isn't the real villain of the piece; it's more like a buddy movie where one of the buddies likes to feed on innocent humans. I do think there was a subtle flaw in USM, and that was the bifurcation of the city-exploring half of the game and the story half of the game. The way USM works is you, as Spider-Man, do a number of side events in the city - and then you can trigger a story mission. The story mission can be about either Spider-Man or Venom, (I was tempted to say "you or venom" there, adding weight to Spanner's point, I suppose) and even if it's about Spider-Man it might take place in a much different location from where you triggered the mission. The end result is that the illusion that you're in a world is smashed - which, in my mind, is the whole reason to have a continuous world in the first place. To the USM team's credit, they didn't want it to be that way - originally, you were going to be able to manually switch between Spidey and Venom and pick up where you left off along either storyline - but time pressures at the end got in the way.
Another thing the article talks about is "Being Peter Parker" - this is, of course, something that comes up at the beginning of each iteration. In the movie, he's Peter Parker for the majority of the screen time. In the game, you're Peter Parker for maybe 1%. Is that right?
There are a zillion reasons why we never pushed the Peter Parker angle. For one: it's hard. How do you make a game out of being Peter Parker? Would it be like Facade? Would it be like the egregious stealth portions of the first Hulk game? Would it be a dating sim - maybe you can choose whether you date Mary Jane, Betty Brandt, or Black Cat - the licensor tends not to go for things like that. (Peter Parker dates Mary Jane, end of story, sayeth Marvel and Sony/Columbia. And, no, he has no dark side that you get to explore. You can't be evil Spidey - the #1 thing our focus testers asked for. Fogettabout it.) So, at one level, we didn't do it because we lacked the balls.
But the bigger reason, for me, is that my motivation in playing a videogame is different from my motivation in seeing a movie - when seeing the movie, the story is paramount, and although I identify with Peter Parker, it's not at the same level as the videogame, where I *become* Spider-Man. And while I like identifying with Peter Parker, I don't want to become him. Hell, I'm enough like Peter Parker in the real world already. When I start playing a game, it's because I don't want to be Peter Parker anymore. I want to be Spider-Man.
Got an e-mail yesterday asking if I knew "Why they called it Treyarch and where did the logo come from?"
Yes I do, and it seems like the sort of semi-funny story that would make for a good paragraph in an interview with Pete or Don.
Treyarch means three kings. (You know, monarch, treyarch...) And the three kings in question were Peter Akemann, Don Likeness, and Eric Steinman. (Eric was a silent partner who provided their seed funding.) Actually, there used to be four partners, and Pete and Don would joke that Treyarch meant, "Peter, Don, and You!" depending on which of the other partners they were talking to.
The trefoil logo was Pete's wallwriting tag back in college, back when he used to deface the tunnels and stairwells at UCSD. And it fit with the "three arches" thing.
I forget what it's called, but the loop - or a close relative of it - was named after some mathematician, and Pete and Don had an argument with the artist when he was working on the logo: Pete & Don wanted the logo to look more like the canonical mathematically correct loop, and the artist thought his embellished logo was more aesthetically pleasing. The artist won.
Of course, neither Pete, Don, or Eric are involved with Treyarch anymore, so the name is just a name.
And, side note, Pete & Don both had new kids last month. Don's second, Pete's first. Since my daughter's a year old I'd forgotten just how fragile newborns look; like little baby birds. No wonder we're always worried we're accidentally going to kill our young at that stage...
All the Magic Online I've been playing lately has me thinking deeper about variance.
Oh, look at that, I said I'd "continue this essay later". A lot later, it turns out.
I used to be this hardcore "variance is bad" guy - chess was a real game for real men, and so was Diplomacy, and, well, very little else. But I can't reconcile that viewpoint with all the Magic I'm playing.
High variance have some interesting properties:
* Intermittent schedule of reinforcement. This may be why I'm getting so addicted to Magic lately - every few games I actually win a round, which makes me feel good about myself (when I lose, it's bad randoms, and when I win it's because of my superior skill, of course).
* Rigorous players understand the effects of variance, and realize they have to play many, many games to actually calculate where they stand. This is why Mark Nau keeps diligent records of his poker playing and I've been tracking my Magic performance in a spreadsheet. Which all translates to - replayability, for the hardcore at least.
So you may have noticed a dearth of posting as of late...basically for two reasons:
1) Magic Online
2) Guitar Hero
And, well, I better get back to it. Randy Rhoades isn't going to come over and play the game for me, you know. He's dead, for starters.