covert.creations

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My adventures in ASCII

by on Feb.05, 2007, under geek culture, meta, new media

 

A big thank-you

Two years, 56 posts, and my adventure in ascii gaming continues.

On this very happy anniversary, I get to pause, poke my head out of the sand, and begin the flagellation.

First off, I’d like to extend a welcome to many new readers, and thank some old ones. For your great patience as you’ve slogged through lengthy articles over these two years… a sincere thank-you!! I really appreciate it.

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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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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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Slashdot, The Experience

by on Aug.30, 2006, under geek culture, new media

The Slashdot Game!

It’s no secret that the “end game” in World of Warcraft is broken. Once I had attained the splendour of Level 60, I could progress no longer. Without forty of my “closest friends”, I could not raid, I could not obtain better items, and the remaining hopeful sprigs of activity remaining became simply unattainable. The game was over.

This same story is about to be re-told. This time, within a much, much older game. Where the end-game is much like the brickwall that is WoW. The great game of Slashdot.What? News for Nerds? Stuff that matters? How is that a game?

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Anatomy of an icon

by on Aug.20, 2006, under new media

I wanted to do some original graphics for the site, so rather than doing what I usually do when I’m forced to do some quick graphics work (use GIMP on Ubuntu, my fav), I decided to try out Photoshop again. Years past at university, I used to design websites for weekend money. Back then, my PS skills were quite wretched. That is no less true today. 🙂

I imagined something reminiscent of the word “covert”, so obviously I had to do a spy of sorts. Not quite a character, just a nod towards the world of espionage. What better than a trenchcoated character? Yet, I had absolutely no clue how to draw something original in Photoshop. So I sort of cheated. I have no idea if this is what the gurus do. Unfortunately the ones that I know are never on IM, and generally unavailable for a quick, “how you doin?” much less a “how the h#ll do I do this??!11”. Anyhow, read on for the trials and tribulations of my voyage…
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As the World Turns

by on Mar.09, 2006, under geek culture, new media

Wikipedia

Both online and off, I’ve found more and more people love to talk about games. Moment by moment seems to edge ‘our realm’ closer to the mainstream, and the perception of “the gamer” appears to gradually shed its awkward social heredity.

In some ways, the plight of videogames is echoed by the comic books that sprung into the hands of the masses over sixty years ago. Having to battle a mindset that viewed them as ludicrous, even dangerous, comics slowly ground down the resistance and became a cultural staple for storytelling. Like videogames, comic book makers even faced Senate hearings in the U.S. to answer for their depictions of violence and crime.

Nowadays, change has become an efficiency unto itself. It comes far more rapidly. In the space of a few years, games are becoming bastard rockstars of our culture. When the cool factor outpaces the nerd factor, true acceptance is within reach.

Why do I know that games are nudging mainstream? Forget about “game profits eclipsing Hollywood movies”, as I suspect that statistic is probably so narrowed as to be meaningless. Really, I know mainstream when I can have a conversation about PS2’s “Black” with someone I’ve bumped into on the street. Or when my sister phones me up and asks me about “story themes” in Halo for her highschool english class.

Can we call that progress? I’d say so, and finally! Ideas and interest in games has been viewed as the purview of nerdly distraction. I cannot count how many times articulating the merits of a particular game’s value were met with cold dismissal. Games are fringe shows for nerds, I was told. But as I said, things are changing. As the audience widens and discerns, I can easily imagine the choices and varieties will deepen. Perhaps even to penetrate the barrier barring our idle distractions from forming into a semblance of cultural relevance.

Right now, every highschool classroom is full of kids whose daily lives are steeped in technological influences. Computers are no longer the fringe, they are practically central to their teenage experience. In the face of this, its obvious that gaming has finally busted through into the realm of cool. The face of gaming at this point is not only on a cell or a PDA, but on t-shirts and tatoos. Music inspired by 8-bit sound chips of yesterday feeds on a youth appetite for retro. All this isn’t new at all, but now this stuff is clearly embedded into our culture. Not even comics enjoyed this level of interest.

As I roam online, or perk up in conversation at a party, one thing is for sure : everyone sure does have an opinion about games. Good, bad, ludicrous, insightful, artsy, musical, useless. Whatever. I’ve heard and engaged more on the topic in the last year than any other.

As someone who’s been in it right from the beginning, its been fun to not only observe and participate, but also be an agent of that change. When clans were new, my friends here and around the world pioneered their definition. Shaped them! And as an observer in that time (and incidentally studying Communications and Media at SFU) I recalled wanting to study and record all of it.

As we form on the precipice of monumental change in gaming as I believe, things will quickly become more complex and fractured and both niche and mainstream, I believe recording today is even more important. There is real history here, and I’m hoping it can be captured and displayed for the future. In that vein, Wikipedia is trying to bolster its entries in their games section. If you have an opinion about a particular game or genre, they have a weekly contribution page on a random topic. Get over there, check it, and lend a hand… if you’re so inclined.

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James Cameron’s Hollywood Reversal

by on Feb.03, 2006, under games design, mmorpg, moviez, new media

Like the Hollywood fare that inspires them, typical tie-in games for movies usually follow the same tired formula. A reskinned Quake clone where you follow the plot along as the protaganist (with suitable cut-scenes to prop up the story, ugh), and you uh, jump…and shoot stuff. Or possibly a themed RTS set in the movie’s universe, where you… destroy stuff.

Games based on movie franchises are NEVER as successful (monetarily or aesthetically) ones based on original IP.

Enter James Cameron, finally resurfacing from being underwater for like the last 20 years. Cameron intends on taking the classic movie-game concept and turning it on its end. This ambition is currently called, Project 880, and he essentially wants to make a multiplayer game and movie simultaneously, and then release the game first. The idea is that players will explore the universe and become familiar with it (addicted?), then go watch the movie to experience one thread within the gameworld’s narrative.

Hmmmmm. Is this a transparent marketing play, or a legitimate exploration in game-movie interactivity? Remember, the story I linked is in Business Week.

Cameron is not stupid, and this has never been done before. Lucky for him, this fact alone might make game and movie sell magnificently. Clever marketing, indeed. Risky, too! What if the game turns out like The Matrix Online? Yek.

Yet, as a seasoned optimist, I couldn’t help but race the possibilities around in my mind. The project seems interesting, but only when you start to think about it.

Lets assume that Cameron doesn’t care about marketing or money. Lets pretend, for a moment, that all he cares about are games.

Lets also believe that the game is so full of awesome, that you quit your job, your family and bowling club in order to fully experience everything it has to offer.

So what would a game-vie look like? Which compliments the other? In this perfect universe of gamedom, which entity benefits more? The movie? Or the game?

  • Consider that the fictional universe is fully realised and documented within peoples’ heads before the movie starts. In this case, the movie gets the benefit here, as the setting has been established, allowing it to concentrate on other things… like plot!
  • The movie’s subtext is readily understood. Here, the movie benefits again, as it inherits from a significant base of knowledge for the viewer. This provides Cameron an opportunity for more content within the film without having to explain its presence. That is, making nods and homages toward the game’s setting and characters in an effort to make it more entertaining. (Moviegoer : “Wow, those characters got ganked in the exact same spot I did!”)
  • The visual imagery and effects are incredible. This notion boosts the game, without question. With a Cameron budget, the game can only help to inherit the rigourous production calibur of a blockbuster film. In this, the game will most likely look fantastic, as the design and attention of an excellent production studio will be devoted to it.
  • Great performances and top-notch acting talent. The hype of a Cameron film, and the budget that he’ll undoubtably command, will attract high quality talent. This will obviously benefit both, but here’s a chance to make a game that actually has good voiceover work. 🙂
  • Story. I’m having a hard time imagining how the game may help the movie’s story, or vice versa. Perhaps when the player returns to the game after having seen the movie, they may discover another dimension to the game experience.

In the end, this isn’t quite as exciting as I had thought, as this seems more of a vehicle for the movie. Its hard to see it for much more than that. Yes, the setting and the imagery will likely be incredibly compelling, but the game has to be innovative and fun in order to justify this unique and directed combination.

Now, what if the outcome of the gameworld influenced the outcome of the movie? Now that’s exciting, and would make me want to play it (if only to witness the influencing elements firsthand). Sadly, with the extreme scheduling of the film business, this would probably never be possible.

How about you? If this mythical awesome-filled game were to appear tomorrow and offer you a chance to “direct” the plot of the movie, would you play it?

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Slashdot Carnival Games

by on Feb.02, 2006, under gaming, geek culture, new media


The wide-roaming and mighty Slashdot Games guru, Zonk, has posted a monthly treasure of blogposts and articles on games. Read ’em on Slashdot’s “Carnival of Games“.

I wish I had known about this in advance or I would have at least tried to compose something of quality and submit it. Note that I said, “tried”. Succeeding is a whole other story. 🙂

In my opinion, Zonk’s doing a good job on Slashdot Games, I say this because Slashdot’s been getting a bit of a bum rap these days. From Diggers who say they’re too slow, and whiners that can’t filter out story dupes. Its good for what it is, a messageboard and meeting place. Like anything else, its what the community makes of it. I try to post regularly to games dot, and even submit a story once in a while. Nothing wrong with that.

Keep on’ keepin’ on, Zonk…

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And so it begins…

by on Feb.01, 2006, under moviez, new media

It was going to happen, sooner or later. Yet with the Pixar-Disney marriage, it was the first (and loudest) shot heard ’round the world.

Here comes the competition, spurred to action (for the click-lazy : Warner Brothers is starting its own pay-per-use P2P system)

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Hyporreal Audio

by on Jan.31, 2006, under geek culture, new media

Another entry in the audio universe that I wanted to share. If you haven’t heard the recently dugg “holophonic clip” yet, here it is (headphones are required for this). This may not have anything to do with computer games, but it damn well should!

This technology has been around a while, slightly analogous to how holographic images are created out of multiple images. If you’re interested, Wikipedia has a nice article.

Pretty cool, yet I’m sort of surprised that this isn’t used more often (Pink Floyd has the most famous example).

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