games industry

Postfacto Ruminations on [P]enny [A]rcade E[x]po

by on Nov.16, 2015, under games industry, geek culture, indy

Postfacto Ruminations on [P]enny [A]rcade E[x]po


PAX! PAX! PAX! Oh my goodness, since when did I become a convention go’er?

Actually, only now realising that I’ve been to a couple. The first being a Star Trek convention in Vancouver circa 2000? Earned my nerd cred right there. And Quakecon in 2002? Smack during summer in Mesquite, Texas. Ergggh.

Fast forward circa 2014 and I popped my PAX cherry. That sounds worse than it is. I do have to say, it’s great for gamers and non-gamers because it embraces all platforms, all media, both digital and non-digital. From the exhibition displaying Australian indie games (and their devs), big name releases, demos and of course tabletop.

I’ve always enjoyed the Penny Arcade guys. We’d share their comics between us right after WoW was released (2004?). Longtime fan, so I guess it makes sense that I’m up for their conference.
Now that I’ve bored you with a little backstory, here are my highlights and impressions.

Personal Highlights

  • Warren Specter’s Keynote. Great to hear him speak, and his perspective was interesting. One theme was the notion that videogames will supplant movies and TV into the 21st century. “Seeing such a shift only happens once every hundred years. We are privileged to be living through such a rare event.”
  • The Witcher 3 story producer’s talk on quest design in The Witcher 3. Yeah, I’m fanboy but it was still interesting!

The Great

  • Star Wars Battlefront. Twas a treat to see new maps and modes. This looks like a great Star Wars game, thanks Dice!
  • Dark Souls III
  • The Freeplay Console Gaming Lounge
  • The Australian Indie zone
  • Cosplayers, Cosplayers Everywhere

The Not-so-great

  • Really loud gaming events, particularly on terrible (terrible!) small PA rigs.
  • Reports of widely available content being shown in limited access booths. Fallout 4, lookin’ at ya.
  • All but one Vive demo system was broken by the last day. Does not bode well for a consumer release!

The Ugly

  • The timing. I like Melbourne for certain things, but having PAX on the same weekend as Melbourne Cup horserace? Talk about jacked up hotel prices and the worst culture clash one could imagine. Also my ability to build costumes is limited since I have a yearly work conference in the U.S. a mere two weeks prior.
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    TERA : A New Fantasy MMORPG from the who-fucking-cares dept.

    by on May.25, 2010, under games industry, mmorpg, pc

    Oh TERA. You have polish. Evidently. You have production design. Evidently. You have swords, and elves and quests. Evidently.

    And the only thing you could come up with is reticle-based dodge mechanics in combat? Really? No, I mean, Really??

    The only way to beat WoW is to trivialize it by an excellent, forward-thinking game. Even playing copycat won’t get you further than an infinitessemal slice of the MMORPG market. What a waste of time!

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    Pointclouds : Boon or Bust?

    by on Mar.19, 2010, under computer graphics, games industry

    Therein Lies the Problem

    This is a video of “Unlimited Detail”, a new technology from the company of the same name. They introduce their way of representing (and displaying) 3D data in realtime. Here’s the video :

    My comments to follow…
    (continue reading…)

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    Conquering One’s Self

    by on Sep.19, 2009, under game reviews, games industry, mmorpg, WoW


    There are three titles that may appear with great frequency as one meanders the gaming news these days. Each are certainly worth discussing on their own, simply on the merits of having such attention bestowed upon them. However, there is a common thread to be pulled from these stories in particular. These companies, and their gaming products, are faced with tremendous obtacles. The bigger and better they become, the harder it is to grow beyond . In essence, their fight is a fight against themselves. Success can be a cruel instructor. Read on to see what I mean.

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    The Death of Computer Games (magazine)

    by on Mar.27, 2007, under books, games industry, geek culture

    A series of business miscues… and the last vestiges of a rational gaming press have finally succumbed to the forces of stupidification.

    Computer Games Magazine, my favourite magazine in the industry (and quite possibly, ever) has fallen. It takes with it another promising venture, Massive Magazine.

    Tom Chick, Henry Jenkins, Cindy Yans, and a host of other fantabulous writers and illustrators will now presumably move to other places to share their insights (or hilarity, depending on which you’re looking for).

    It’s hard to describe what a stunning loss this is for me. I even shipped a select boxload of back-issues to Australia. And up until this month, a nice treat would arrive monthly in my email – the digital edition.

    It was a magazine that reinforced the notion that games are not just for teenagers and nut-jobs, but “normal” adults like you and I (yeah right!).

    Many people have had their say, so I’ll just post a couple comments from CGOnline’s forums.

    CG, ye will be missed. Massive, we barely knew ye.

    (continue reading…)

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    Massively online communities : the genre paradox II

    by on Jan.24, 2007, under games industry, gaming, geek culture, mmo, mmorpg, new media, WoW

    fitting communities together

    As mentioned in my previous article, gamers expect a community from the game publisher. In a sense, this demonstrates the unique position of videogames in the landscape of entertainment. Consequentially, feedback and community become a cost of doing business.

    I believe we’re quickly reaching the point where publisher-run communities no longer serve their purpose. The communities are too vast. Moreover, the gamers themselves have evolved toward a deeper level of sophistication. Gamers are the reason we’ve come this far, and we simply demand more.

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    Massively online communities : the genre paradox

    by on Jan.17, 2007, under games industry, mmo, mmorpg, WoW

    massively online communities

    The nature of things

    When online gaming was getting started, there was a certain novelty in spending vast swathes of time with the same people on the same game servers, night after night. It seemed inevitable that we’d eventually all team up. And team up we did. Forming groups is the most basic of human qualities, and is certainly no less true in virtual worlds.

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    MMORPGs, Security, and the Grand Promise of Middleware

    by on Oct.06, 2006, under games design, games industry, games programming, mmo, mmorpg, security, WoW

    WoW and SecurID

    A big congratulations goes out to Neardeath Studios on the 10th year of Meridian 59. What a fantastic accomplishment. M59 is the first, the longest-running, and most respected MMORPG of them all.

    This article is in response to M59 co-creator Brian “Psychochild” Green’s post, “Why middleware will not save us“. He hits pretty hard, and sets his sights on the “middleware market” in the MMORPG space. I’ll say I agree with the bulk of it. Yet, some of the specifics cause me trouble. Thus this post.

    His argument noted two levels of the MMORPG industry, the indies and the AAAs (“the blockbuster games”). The gist of his article is that, as a technological cure-all, MMORPG middleware companies fail in their promise. They will make little impact on game development in MMORPG games. A gross-oversimplification on my part, so I’d encourage you go read Psychochild’s post.

    First off, how does one define middleware?

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    World of Cokecraft

    by on Sep.08, 2006, under games industry, geek culture, mmorpg, new media, WoW

    TerraNova highlighted it, I watched it, and ‘iCoke’ blazes a trail for World of Warcraft into China. The ad is actually somewhat old, but combine it with this :

    With 7 million subscribers, WoW is now in the list of the world’s top 100 most populous countries.1 2

    It easily exceeds the population of Lebanon or Israel. It will likely surpass them both put together. Think of how all those Wow players could represent a significant force for massive social change, if only the damned Horde would stop getting in the way!

    Priorities, priorities. 🙂

    (Keep reading!)
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    Why I hate my PSP

    by on Jul.26, 2006, under games industry, portables


    In my last post, I talked about technology’s promise. More specifically, how the PSP is proof in my hands of a very likely future. I shared a quick thought about the supposed “ubiquitous connector” – a theoretical device through which I can interact with my world. A system by which I freely overlay a “meta-world” atop the real one, either through interesting games and media, or via information. I’d love to talk more about what this fictional device could do, but I’m sure you can easily imagine your own specifics. Your ideas about it are just as valid is mine. Oh, and it will be a part of our future. I also held that the Sony PSP is a great little system, one that reminded me of my earliest encounter with technology as a whole. As a promise for my future, a digitally integrated world. Not a bad feat for a commercial product, and kudos to Sony for a nicely designed multimedia machine.

    Note : One thing I didn’t mention, is that you could have taken my post, search/replace on “Sony” and “PSP” with the words “Nintendo” and “DS”, and it all still applies. I like both these systems for their respective innovations, and for what they bring to the world of gaming and mobile entertainment.

    Politics and Proprietorship

    It’s unfortunate that neither of these systems fulfill even my most conservative leaps of inductive speculation. Yet, they could have. Remember, I briefly mentioned politics and the Internet. I’m not well qualified to go in-depth about it, but there are obviously countless reasons for this situation. For simplicity again lets restrict this to social impacts. That is, the way that internetworked applications have the potential to adjust our very social realm. Email is the first “killer app” that comes to mind, turning traditional means of communicating on its ear.

    So politics comes into play as a controlling measure, to protect ourselves and reliant entities from disaster in the face of new, sweeping technologies. Take the music industry as an example, and I’ll oversimplify even further. On one side is the business of music. Royalties and other income for the employees, from radio stations to merchants. On the other side, it’s about free speech and devices that are immune from inefficient (and grossly unfair) control mechanisms. Ideally, a free and democratic society would attempt to strike a balance between the sides, to the betterment of all. Magic happens, and we get “pay-for” mechanisms that seamlessly allow us to obtain the music we want, whenever we want. So politicking is the necessary evil by which we obtain such a lovely and peaceful outcome.


    Not so, in the case of Sony and their PSP. Not even close. To protect itself, the PSP system is a closed one. The minidisc format, that Sony pretty much invented, is not copyable. For example, I cannot buy a writer for these discs. I have to buy them, pre-written, directly from a Sony-approved vendor. The “Universal Media Disc” (UMD), is great. Small form-factor, reliable read stats, smooth ejection and insertion, all engineered very slickly and sweetly. Yet, UMDs suck. They suck because they are closed and unwritable. They suck because they are extremely expensive. They suck because they come from a tech company that is also a huge music company, selling them to you at grossly inflated prices. They suck because they inherit the sensibilities of a hardware company that wants not only to sell them, but control the mechanism by which information contained within them is PUBLISHED.

    Their agenda was not to create a ubiquitous wireless media experience. They clearly set out to construct, publish and sell UMDs.

    Please tell me we aren’t back to Gutenburg versus the Church? This type of measure is regressive and backward, and the realisation of a sick corporate fantasy. Lock down the thing, control the product from publisher to consumer, and punish anyone who tries to circumvent any of it. Yes, hack your PSP and go to jail. Its a meaningless threat since its happened and will continue to do so. But again, why even bother creating a system that does not meet the desires of its users?

    Remember Aibo?

    A Footnote in History

    Happily, all of these ridiculous corporate tactics won’t work, which is why the PSP will be sadly nothing more than a historical footnote. I promise you, one day you will say : “Oh yeah, I remember THOSE!”

    The next problem, and why I hate my PSP, is where Sony has stumbled again.

    I paid $79.00AU for “Tomb Raider : Legend” on UMD. I went physically into a store, took the item off of a shelf, paid for it with a stack of paper-based currency, and took it home and unwrapped the layers of plastic off its cover. Tell me how this is the future of mobile entertainment in the Internet age? Why can I not use the device itself to securely purchase additional content?

    Well, here’s a hint. They didn’t even try to do this. Using the builtin 802.11b security with WPA and TKIP would be YOUR responsibility if you transmitted your credit card number over the airwaves. Talk to me sometime about the headaches of wireless infrastructure security. 🙂

    Esther Dyson, famous tech futurist and investor (whom, through chance and the magic of a mutual colleague, I’ve had the sincere pleasure of meeting some time ago), said of the future of big-media,

    “Well they’re going to lose worse. All the gate keepers who were controlling access to things. Many distribution channels for content , which are dependent on putting content in inefficient containers, putting it somewhere where it sat on a shelves, only half of it was used. The other half had to be destroyed. So all these things that create inefficiencies and benefit from them are going to lose…”

    Profit from inefficiency and die, that’s the message. Is this not the very definition of the UMD?

    That ubiquitous wireless Internet dream, is exactly that. Politics (especially in North America) have slowed the wheels of progress in order to exact a measure of control on this promise. Its funny, I could have sworn Casey and I were discussing this… back in 1996. We should have bought stock in something, preferably a lobbying organization.

    The Meat of the PSPArgh I can't see!

    So if you’ve skimmed this terribly lengthy post, I hope you get to this part. If all that political or techie stuff is not relevant to you, then how about the games?

    Well, to this, I can unashamedly admit that many of them are totally excellent – balancing gameplay with its natural form factor, designed perfectly for console-style interaction, and solid integration with the other features of the system (i.e. networked multiplay). Yet, if I were to complain about the third-person interaction of MANY of the titles (Tomb Raider, Splinter Cell, Metal Gear Acid, Grand Theft Auto, and so on) – the camera view absolutely sucks in all of them. In some cases, it is so frustrating to control as to make the games virtually unplayable. I’m not the first person to say this. And these games were the “big titles” that attracted me to the system in the first place. What a disappointment.

    So. The Sony PSP, for what it is, is totally fantastic. The Sony PSP, for what it could have been, miserably fails. In fact, I’m somewhat despondent about the platform as a whole. It’s not going to last.

    That promise of my ubiquitous connector? Sigh. Such long way to go.

    Or maybe I’m just pissed off that my girlfriend kicks my ass at Lumines.

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