August 29, 2005

The Caffeine Thunder Rolls...

As we approach gameplay complete in "SiN: Episodes" and milestone submissions on our other products, it quickly becomes apparent that it would be nice if sleep was optional rather than required.

I've worked on multiple products before, but this has been insane. We've got three major projects that are sapping my time, one of which spans three platforms. There's another project coming down the pike that's going to require at least two weeks of concentrated testing efforts to stabilize...and that has to be done extremely quickly.

In short, the end of a single testing cycle saps your cycles beyond anything imaginable. Stack all of these projects on top of each other...well, imagine shoveling six feet of snow with a measuring spoon.

Thank Bob for caffeine...

August 28, 2005

MSN Desktop Search Anti-VB Bias?

This is just a side note, but I find it rather telling that the MSN Desktop Search team indexes every single source-file extension from Visual Studio .NET by default except for .vb (Visual Basic.NET).

Of course, VBScript files (.vbs) do get indexed...go figure.

August 23, 2005


One of the shining gems of the online game development world, flipcode, has decided to shut down. The articles are remaining online, and the forums will soon be up as read-only, but that's one more site down the drain.

It's too bad, too. While is an excellent site, the experienced-to-newbie ratio there is a bit skewed. At flipcode, there may have been a smaller user base, but the experience level over there was significantly higher.

Anyway, best of luck to Kurt on all of his future endeavors.

She's Home...

After 24 hours and 10 minutes in the emergency room, my wife is home.

It's always comforting when the doctor's comments on discharge are: "It's obvious that something is wrong with you, but I'll be damned if I know what it is."

Gee, thanks.

August 22, 2005

Wife In Hospital

I'll keep this brief. My wife just got back from a five-day trip to Utah this morning. This evening, she's in the hospital under "observation."

Unfortunately, it's rather serious. I'm not going to go into details, but if this blog goes dark for a couple of weeks, you'll know why.

August 21, 2005

"Hidden" Hardware Features

Yesterday, I was talking about the kind of stuff that made building your own machine today just not worthwhile.

Today, Adrian's RojakPot is reporting that some ASUS motherboards are secretly overclocking their processors. (Thanks to Hard|OCP for the heads-up.)

See, if I can't rely on getting reliable information about what my hardware is doing, how the hell can I make sure that all of my hardware is going to work well together? Do I really have to worry about if my video card is trying to pull an extra tenth of a volt, or if my motherboard is secretly overclocking, or if my mouse doesn't fully support the USB HID standard and spikes itself upwards once every 119 seconds, or if my USB keydrive silently installs drivers? Not just no, but HELL NO!

If I have a choice between getting a system that I know works, and a system that runs 1-2% faster, but might work...I'm going for the one I know will function appropriately.

Look at PC's today like they're cars. The vast majority of people want a vehicle that will take them from point A to point B. Some will want to trick their cars out. Still others want to mix and match ("Hey, I dropped a Ford in my Chevy.") For each step you take away from stock, the risk of failure increases exponentially. For the last step (mixing manufacturers), you are combining parts that were never meant to work together. You may get an extra 50 miles per hour, but is it worth the chance that the cars going to explode under your ass?

Likewise, I may only be getting 98% of my potential framerate, but I can rest easy in the knowledge that my system isn't going to reboot in the middle of a vicious tournament because in one frame, the video card decided it needed a little bit more juice and the BIOS PC Health power meters flipped out. And given how many times that has happened to me, the 2% framerate hit is a sacrifice I'm willing to take.

August 20, 2005

New Computer On The Way

I just finished placing my order for a new desktop computer.

This one is rather notable for me for several reasons. I'm not building this computer. Aside from my speakers, I'm using absolutely nothing from my current computer on it. I'm going back to Intel processors. I'm getting a dual-core system. I'm getting a flat-screen monitor. I actually got a warranty. Finally, I ordered it online from Dell.

Over the last two years since I built my last PC, I've come to realize that it just isn't worth the hassle to build your own computer anymore. Sure, you may save a buck or two, but is it really worth the extra hassle and time? Is it worth having to worry about "Did I accidentally buy grey-market?" Is it worth having to handle your own warranty service when for some of these companies, "lifetime" means "the lifetime of that product line, which we discontinued three months ago?" Is it worth the hours and hours of aggravation trying to find out why your PC won't work when it just so happens that there is a undocumented-but-known-to-five-people incompatibility between your video card and your motherboard because your video card wants to draw an extra tenth of a volt and your motherboard refuses to allow it?

Are there things I don't like? Sure. I don't like having to pay extra for the installation media for my operating system. I don't like that my PC is going to come with a whole ton of pre-installed software that I'm going to have to spend some time uninstalling (although some of this preinstalled software did subsidize my machine in order to get it at a low price) and the way I had to order it to get the price did not allow me to not have it installed. I don't like that I didn't have the option to "opt-out" of the 15-month subscription to McAfee's SecurityCenter...given that I already have it. And I just think it's cocky for them to put "Award Winning Service and Support" as a line item on their receipts.

But all in all, the savings in time and effort will be worth it to me, and that's all that really matters.

August 18, 2005

You Can Make It, But You Can't Buy It

According to, U.S. Representative Chris Bell is planning on running for Governor of Texas in 2006. One of his major platforms is said to be to "ban violent video games."

Well, I can look at this one of two ways: as a voter or as an employee of the video game industry. Let's look at it both ways just to be clear.

As a voter, I will not tolerate further encroachments of my rights under the First Amendment. If you want to mandate ID checks to purchase M- and AO-rated games, that's one thing and I would fully support such a bill, but if you want to keep those games away from the citizens of Texas, then you're obviously not going to get my vote.

As an employee in the video game industry, I just want to point out that Texas is home to several dozen companies who make the very titles you want banned, including id, Gearbox, Ritual, and others. id Software alone has brought over one billion dollars to the Texas economy.

If you think that these companies are going to stay in Texas if you ban their products from being sold, you are sorely mistaken.

If you want valid issues for Texas, there are plenty. You can try to address how local school boards are more concerned over politics and property taxes than they are about teaching students. You can try to address increasing corruption of elected officials at the local government level. You can try to help curb the increasing amounts of debt that are burying Texas families.

...Or you can continue on this path and lose several billion in income in the state and make Texas seem like more of a "hick" state than it already does.

August 16, 2005

Quote of the Night

"What kind of company are we when the tester has to tell us that the table is on fire?"

I am never going to forget that moment.

August 15, 2005

Geek Birthday

Well, tomorrow my lifetime counter will completely fill five bits of space. While I've had an enjoyable time at 1E, I think that 1F will be a rewarding experience.

Of course, that means that in 16D days, I'll be 20. Starting a new bit is always a challenge. You find that areas where you would fit at four or five bits, you no longer fit. You also find hardware that came online when you initially hit five bits start to fail on an increasingly alarming basis.

My wife has been six bits for quite awhile now. Perhaps I'll find it easier to interface with her soon, since we won't have to go through a thunking layer to communicate. I already recognize that I'm having issues communicating with those who are in the three- to four-bit range.

My goal is to completely fill seven bits. I realize that it's a lofty goal, and I realize that while trying to reach it, I may encounter The Great Overflow Bit, but all that will mean is that I'm being paged out until my space is needed again. Of course, knowing how I've lived, I'll probably be garbage collected instead...

Off-Topic: "Ai Yori Aoshi" Ends

I just found out this morning that the final Japanese magazine installment of "Ai Yori Aoshi" will run on August 26.

I own the first nine volumes of the American translation of the manga and both seasons of the television series. I really enjoyed "AYA" compared to other harem series due to the gradual evolution of the characters, the relationships between the main characters, the down-to-earth "slice-of-life" settings and plots, and the fan-service didn't hurt either. [grin]

I wish Kou Fumizuki the best of luck with his future endeavors, and while I'm sad to see the series end and I don't want to say "good-bye" to these characters, I look forward to reading the ending.

August 12, 2005

QuakeCon Oddity

I went to QuakeCon for a little while this evening and had a wonderful time, but I had one extremely odd moment that I think personifies the recent ESRB debate perfectly.

I was checking out some of the custom cases in the BYOC area (some were rather amazing), when I bumped into a small child. I turned around, and saw a 6-year-old girl. I apologized for bumping into her, and she challenged me to a 1-on-1 tourney match in "Quake III: Arena."

Never mind that this child is 11 years too young for the game as rated, but the way she challenged me told me she'd been playing online for awhile. I asked her why she wanted to play me, and she said so she could "smack my bitch-ass down." Her mother then came over, took her by the shoulder, and told her, "Don't be mean to the nice man."

So you can blame the developers, or you can blame the store clerks, or you can blame the publishers, or you can blame anyone you want for "M"-rated titles being in the hands of children. Personally, I'm going to blame the mother of a 6-year-old girl who not only bought her daughter a copy of "Quake III: Arena," but also allowed her to play online and then went so far as to pay for her admission and escort her to a LAN party dedicated to an "M"-rated title.

Mind you, I'd much rather a child play "Quake III: Arena" than "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" anyday, but that was a bit too surreal of an experience for me.

My "Hot Coffee" Theory Vindicated

Remember when I said that "Hot Coffee" probably wasn't removed from "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" because the code and/or assets were being used elsewhere?

It's great to be shown you were right (at least on the assets side of things). Evidently, the skeletal animation files for the oral scene are used in the background of some other scene in the game.

In other words, the animations were accessible without any codes being entered or modifications to game files, but the code for the mini-game (where you are controlling the act instead of viewing the act) was not.

August 11, 2005

FMOD Ex Announced

I can't believe that I missed this announcement, especially after seeing in in action back at GameFest...Firelight Technnologies has released FMOD Ex (aka FMOD 4).

Personally, I think it's an amazing set of audio libraries. On the managed front, it now ships with official managed interfaces (VB.NET/C#). The library has been restructured completely to make it even easier to use. The FMOD Designer tool is a dream, and the CPU usage is incredibly small, even on the Xbox 360.

So if you're looking for a great affordable library for your commercial product, or a free sound library for your personal use, go check it out.

Off-Topic: QA Should Not Be Limited To Software

For example, take this from a delivery menu:
Free Delivery For Orders Of 10 Or More Within 10 MILF Radius
(Click To Enlarge)

Um, a 10-MILF radius is rather small...maybe 20 feet on the far outside...unless they're lying head-to-toe...

August 6, 2005

How To Handle Jack Thompson

No matter if the film is banned, the most important thing is believing in it.
-Wong Kar Wai, Hong Kong-born Chinese film director (source)
Every new media over the ages has had their share of critics. Video games are no exception.

We happen to have an extremely vocal critic, Jack Thompson. Mr. Thompson has a record of trying to blame nearly everything that he can on video games.

I don't know what his motives are. It could be that he believes that video games are for children only, and he does not really believe that adults play them. It could be that he believes that since the military uses video games as training for soldiers, that it "proves" that video games train children to be violent and gives them no choice but to be violent criminals, even though that belief flies against evidence from the United States Government (link to UK document referencing US statistics). Even judges don't buy that one.

Regardless, his recent success with "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" has emboldened him. Admittedly, Rockstar created the content and accidentally left it on the media, and Take 2 Interactive and modders are the big losers in the end, but his drive brought the issue to the public eye and we all have to suffer for it.

Since then, he's made even more wild accusations, among them claiming that there are hidden sex scenes in "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City" (they aren't hidden, they are part of the storyline), and that there are anatomically correct models underneath the blurs in "The Sims 2" (of course, they're just like Barbie in that respect...neither have genitals).

Now GameSpot is reporting that he is getting death threats. As much as I wish I could consider this to be more of his idiocy, I believe that he really is getting death threats. After all, I've gotten death threats in the past because a person's newspaper was twelve minutes late (no joke). He's threatening people's recreation, people's jobs and to be dead honest, his points of view are leading to a McCarthyist rally against video games.

A few of you may have heard something about this little document called "The Bill of Rights." It's a set of ten amendments to the United States Constitution that give all American citizens a certain set of rights. The First Amendment is fairly simple.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
It's pretty straight forward. Over the years, the courts have whittled away at this amendment, however. For example, in 1896 the Supreme Court decided to restrict speech that was deemed obscene.

Even with those restrictions, the Courts generally try to allow us to express ourselves freely. And I'm sure that most Americans would recognize that I may not agree or approve of Jack Thompson's points of view, I must defend his right to express them as an American citizen. (Apologies to Voltaire's paraphraser...)

Likewise, I'm free to express my opinion that the man is generally full of shit. The man usually refers to studies that have been debunked and/or discredited by the scientific community and to studies that have been found by courts to lack sufficient evidence to back them. He participates in personal attacks on individuals who express themselves rather than try to debate arguments on their merits. (Remember kids, an ad hominem attack is about as effective as TK'ing your team in Counter-Strike.) He even threatens cartoonists who do unflattering portrayals of him. (Personally, I think Hillary has a much better case than he does...)

Regardless of his logical or moral failings, threatening to kill him is not the proper way to handle this crackpot. All it does is lend credence to his opinions. Threatening to kill him has the same effect that Microsoft bombing a Linux convention would makes him stronger. So if you want to counter Jack Thompson, the best way to handle it is to beat him at his own game, so to speak.

To start, use proper grammar, spelling, punctuation and capitalization in your sentences. Given the quality of his E-mails sent to Scott Ramsoomair, it's already a step in the right direction.

Second, think for a second about what you want to say and how you are going to say it rather than posting the first thought that comes to your mind like the average Slashdot poster. You need to think out logical arguments. Find evidence and link to it.

Third, write to your representatives and senators. Show them that they have constituants who are gamers and voters. If you don't stand up for your rights, he's already won.

You may have noticed that there isn't much fun in the above, and it's true. Standing up for your rights is rarely fun, but often rewarding.

Look at it this way. To defend our games, we must set down our game controllers and go back to the written word. So let our words be our weapons and let's Zork this son of a bitch.

August 5, 2005

Press Release Faux-Pas

This afternoon, JoWooD announced that they were terminating production of "Stargate SG-1: The Alliance™."

A game being cancelled is not the issue here. Games are cancelled quite often. Most games are cancelled before they are even announced.

What is the issue here is that JoWooD then proceeded to essentially ream the developer up one side and down the other.
“The title in its current form, initially scheduled for an October 2005 release, does satisfy neither our quality requirements nor the fans expectations. We will not release anything that does not do justice to this well known license” says Albert Seidl, CEO JoWooD Productions Software AG. “In recent months we have invested a lot of time and resources in helping Perception finish the development, but we now simply have lost confidence in their ability to finish this project in time and sufficient quality.”
Following the termination JoWooD has asked for repayment of their investment in development and further expenses.
According to our reading of the contract the rights to the title as well as the source code are transferred to JoWooD“. After delivery of the code and assets JoWooD will review the possibility of seeking out developers if it is economically viable to finish the title” reports Michael Paeck, Executive Producer for JoWooD Productions Software AG. “We are, however, not prepared to release anything but a top quality title. Fans of the show as well as gamers would not accept anything less. There are several options to consider, among them potentially moving to next-gen consoles for the title.”
This press release looks like it was written by someone who took a press relations course from Derek Smart. In it, they first announce that they are severing the relationship with the company. Then, they bad-mouth the work done by the company. Finally, they announce that they are making legal demands of the company.

If you are making legal maneuvers, please try to keep them out of your press releases unless you are required to by disclosure laws. This press release reads like an attempt to appease an angry mob of investors at the doors.

Had the slams against Perception been kept out of the press release, these issues could have been settled amicably out of the public eye. Now, having Perception on a resume could be seen by some as a black mark. Fans are upset at both Perception and JoWooD. They're upset at Perception for potentially destroying a possibly lucrative franchise. They're upset at JoWooD for publicly flexing their muscle with this title when they didn't with Söldner. They're upset with MGM Interactive for giving the license to a company with a poor track record of delivering quality releases. The anger would still be there had the announcement been shorter, but it would be much more subdued.

So remember kids, public relations is hard work. A good rule of thumb: don't say anything in a press release that you wouldn't say to a man with a shotgun to your forehead.

...and that's one to grow on.

QotW: T&A vs. B&G (Mature Subject Matter, Language)

Every week, I do a "Question of the Week" over at Ritual's fansite, Ritualistic. However, I get a very specialized audience over there...people who are already fans of Ritual products.

So, I'm going to start doing the questions here as well as there to get a wider audience. Plus, I'm going to do them here a few days before I do them on Ritualistic so I can work out any problems with the question itself.

So, here's next weeks "Question of the Week":
"SiN: Episodes" is most likely going to be rated "M" for Mature by the ESRB. As with all "M"-rated titles, it's a balancing act. You can have trememdous amounts of blood and gore, and get an "M". You can have tons of raunchy humor and graphics and still get an "M". After all, the "M" rating is the gaming equivalent of an "R". However, if you go too far combining the two, you can bump yourself up into "AO" range (the game equivalent of an "NC-17" or "X" rating.)

So if you had to choose, which would you want in your game: excessive blood and gore, or excessive sensuality?

Would you rather have a topless woman, or the ability to remove the top half of an enemy? Gibs or tits? Guts or bush?

You decide.

August 1, 2005

Off-Topic: Full Disclosure

In the interest of full disclosure:

Last month, I earned a total of $2.01 via Google AdWords ads placed on this blog.

To date, I have earned $23.56 from ads placed on this blog.

I have earned an average of $2.14 per month I have been on the AdWords program.

Since it seems that it will be ~35 months before I receive a check from Google, I am not seeing this site as a financial conflict of interest. [grin]