There's always been a dark side to the dream. Down south, entertainment industry workers famously nicknamed Disney Inc. "Mousewitz" for that company's stance on wages and working conditions. Rock bands seeking attention in Los Angeles get reduced to paying clubs for "stage space" and having to sell tickets to their own shows.
In Silicon Valley, stories about janitors getting the shaft from hugely successful tech firms littered the business pages for years. In many cases those same subcontracted janitors were cleaning up the gourmet cafeteria meal remnants left by the kind of "information workers" over which companies intensely compete for still.
An alleged shortage of such workers even necessitates importing highly educated folks with technical skills from India, Asia and other regions. The bottom line: play a front-line role creating electronic stuff that makes big money and nobody screws with you.
Intellectual property in Los Angeles is often protected with union contracts, royalties or back-end deals. That Alan's performances aren't compensated with even a fraction of a penny every time a Guitar Hero game prominently bearing his voice is sold is undoubtedly sweet music to the management at Activision, the nearly $1.5 billion dollar game software developer now headquartered in Santa Monica.
It's a lovely beach town filled with people receiving "mailbox money" from acting, singing, writing and other things that generate more customers and more income over time. According to L.A.-based songwriter, composer and film orchestrator Tom Mgrdichian, "residuals keep creative people from falling into poverty between gigs."
Who is getting rich off Silicon Valley's new sweatshop economy? Certainly not Littlejohn's company, which might best be compared to the janitorial contracting companies Big Tech hired to avoid paying decent wages and benefits to the people cleaning their buildings.
Both businesses provide services essentially for flat fees and while their owners do better than employees, nobody gets rich. Littlejohn points out he drives a 2003 Ford Escape and that the musicians he hires are well paid compared to the area norm.
One answer comes from New York Times columnist and noted author Thomas Friedman. In his seminal book about globalization, The World Is Flat, Freidman observed: "If I can buy five brilliant researchers in China and/or India for the price of one in Europe or America, I will buy the five; and if, in the long run, that means my own society loses part of its skills base, so be it."
Replace "researcher" with "IT worker" and one sees the brutally efficient logic that put thousands of college educated, highly skilled, local information technology workers out of work, many permanently. Is there any reason to believe American musicians and other creative types are somehow insulated from the same fate?
There is an aphorism you sometimes hear when people compare video games to other media. Video games, they say, are a "lean forward" medium, while others are "lean back" media.
Leaning forward is associated with control, activity, and engagement. Leaning forward requires continuous attention, thought, and movement, even if it's just the movement of fingers on analog sticks and digital buttons. It's one of the features that distinguish games from, say, television.
Leaning back is associated with relaxation, passivity, and even gluttony -- just think of all those snacks we eat slouched in the sofa in front of the television. Physical interfaces like the Wii remote or the dance pad raise the stakes further, asking the player to get up off the couch entirely.
Leaning forward is useful when the desired effect of a game is high-attention and twitchiness. But what if we wanted another kind of experience from a game, from time to time at least: a relaxing lean back experience. A Zen game. H
ere I explore a few ways games have attempted the task. Perhaps surprisingly, the games that design for meditation explicitly prove less effective than those that use other design strategies.
It's probably a toss up between water and skin for the 'most difficult thing to replicate on a computer'. But at least water effects can look pretty even when they're done unrealistically. So here we look back over how water effects have progressed over the last 20 or so years. If you can't swim, best keep a few feet back from the screen, just in case.
Parmis tous les outils qu'Internet met entre les mains du quidam, les forums font toujours figures de grands favoris. Moins narcissique que les "blogs", plus simple d'accès que l'IRC, les foums sont d'incroyables outils à la fois de dispersions d'informations - vraies ou fausses d'ailleurs.
Mais ce sont surtout les endroits priviligiés pour exercer la dictature de l'opinion vite fait, le cauchemard de tout les responsable en communication ^_^
La plupart des forums regroupent des communautés autour d'un aspect culturel fort - le cinéma, la politique, la religion, une société, etc... Alors évidemment, le jeu vidéo ne fait pas exception.
Le board numéro un du moment, c'est NeoGaf, avec 30 000 utilisateurs (et 10 fois plus de lecteurs).
File this under "straight out of left field" -- Activision, the publishing powerhouse behind the Call of Duty and Tony HawkWarcraft and Starcraft series, are coming together to form "the world's most profitable games business," cleverly named Activision Blizzard.
The reports we've read so far seem to confuse the matter of Vivendi's role in the merger, and who will be "wearing the pants" in the relationship, so to speak. As we understand it, Vivendi and Activision will be the ones who are merging, despite Blizzard's name being in the company's new moniker. Vivendi will own approximately 52% of the ownership stake in Activision Blizzard, though Activision's current CEO, Bobby Kotick, will take the chief executive position in the new company.
"This project was so fucked up," said Smith, by way of explanation.
Smith spent the last few minutes of his speech on a postmortem of the game. In part, he blames himself for Blacksite's less-than-warm critical reception.
Before it was released, Blacksite garnered some fame for its political message. It wasn't going to just give a general statement on morality or politics: Blacksite was supposed to be a first person shooter with a satirical look at the war in Iraq, the treatment of veterans and the whole military industrial complex.
However, it was only in the last twelve months of work on the game that those political themes took shape.
At first, the game just didn't intrigue Smith. "I wasn't excited about this Area 51 game," he said. While making the game, Smith was overseeing two projects, and Area 51 was not his favorite. That didn't help, and he accepts some fault. "We got hammered so hard, and we deserved it."
"Everyone was forced to share tech. It took eight months to get one thing working." He wouldn't specify what that one thing was, but did note that technical problems set the team back, time and time again. Another of Smith's complaints was "the fact that we had four days to orange box something," meaning to fix and polish a level. Smith called this "completely reprehensible."
That lack of polish, of being able to sit with a final product and make sure it is up to the standards they wanted, was one of the biggest problems for Blacksite and for Smith. "With a year to go, the game was disastrously off rails."
There were long delays just getting Blacksite playable, and once it was he says, "it went straight from alpha to final."
GameTap is reporting Harvey Smith has left Midway Austin after making some very public waves in Montreal, calling Blacksite: Area 51's production "f*cked up." Although he took "personal accountability," he also pointed at Midway saying the project went from alpha to final in a "completely reprehensible" fashion.
GameTap says their source confirmed Smith's departure was "by mutual agreement between Harvey and the studio." Smith became creative director at Midway Austin after previously working at the now defunct Ion Storm on Deus Ex. Conspiracy theorists believe Smith made his statements to get fired by Midway so he could try and work on the recently announced Deus Ex 3 at Eidos Montreal.
Qu'on se le dise, je suis un fan absolument inconditionnel de Shenmue ^_^
Malgré tout les défauts des deux jeux, victimes de leurs ambitions, je me souvent avoir acheter une dreamcast que pour ça, et être fan des aventures de Ryo. Du coup, comme de nombreux fans, je rêve de voir un jour la suite de la trilogie.
PSU revient sur la série, et ce qui la rend si sympatique:
Project Berkley. At first glance, these two words would almost undoubtedly render the average gaming punter to multiple bouts of head-scratching uncertainty. For loyal followers of the legendary AM2 developer Yu Suzuki (Sega’s answer to Shigeru Miyamoto) however, it should register instantaneously as the precursor to one of Suzuki’s most ambitious works to date, for it is none other than the working title for what would later become known as Shenmue.
In the seven years since its debut on Western shores, Shenmue has become something of a forgotten gem; a relic, a promise of lofty ambitions that never quite met up to expectations going by the severe lashings it received from the gaming press at the time.
Yet for some, the USD 70 million epic (dubbed by its creators as “F.R.E.E” – Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment) inaugurated a new era in videogame interactivity and storytelling, with its Hollywood-esque production values, gripping narrative and sheer volume of characters and environments to converse with and explore.
Despite following on with an inevitable sequel in 2001, the franchise on a whole has been suspended on a seemingly indefinite hiatus ever since, kept alive only by frequent speculation and conjecture emanating from what could only be described as a tenaciously loyal fanbase.
Indeed, the elusive Shenmue III soon became something of an urban legend in itself, frequently neglected to monthly rumour columns in various magazines and websites in the post-Shenmue II years. Sega’s only endeavour to keep the series afloat – the ambitious Shenmue Online – collapsed after three years of development, prompting many to question whether the series had any future at all, let alone in the form of a physical sequel.
[ PSU ]
Si il y a un type de jeu que tout le monde connait, çe sont les jeux qui sont basé sur le placement de blocs géométriques. De Tetris à Bejeweld, de Puyo Pop Fever à DrMario. Ce sont des jeux principalement mécaniques, des cas d'écoles en terme de gameplay, au même titre que les jeux de cartes par exemple.
Jesper Jull revient sur l'histoire de ces jeux qui ne disparaitront pas de sitôt ^_^
My interest here is in how matching tile games have developed during the past 21 years, in how new design and innovation has happened, and in the relation between game design and player experiences. The history of a game genre is also a mapping of the issues that face game developers as well as players.
Matching tile games are today mostly sold via the distribution channel of casual, downloadable games, a channel that puts conflicting pressures on game developers: Innovate enough to differentiate, but make the game sufficiently like other games that players find it easy to pick up and play1.
When developers claim that their game is the original game that inspired other games (rather than the other way around), they are also writing their version of game history. When player picks up a game, they are also using their conception of video game history to understand the new game.
Video game history is everywhere, in the development of games, in the selling of games, in the consumption of games.
At the time of writing (2006), matching tile games are most immediately associated with the game form or distribution channel known as downloadable, casual games. While there is no commonly accepted definition of casual games, we can point to a few commonly named characteristics.
- Demographics : Compared to traditional video games, casual games are more oriented towards women and towards audiences over 35. (IGDA 2005, p.11)
- Distribution : Casual games are primarily downloaded by users, generally at download sizes under 10MB.
- Hardware : By convention, casual games target low-end and old machines. At the time of writing, new casual games still support Windows 98.
- Economic model : Casual games are primarily downloadable of a try-before-you-by model, where the player can typically play the full game for 60 minutes, after which the player must pay to continue playing.
- Allow short playing sessions : Most casual games can be played in very short sessions; it takes a very short time to start a game, and it is often easy to interrupt a playing session. This does notmean that players in actuality always play short sessions: In a survey on the Trymedia web site, 66% of players reported that their typical play session lasts more than an hour (Macrovision 2006). The key is that casual games allow short play sessions, hence making it easier for players to commit to playing a game.
- Auto-save : Most casual games tend to auto-save, even if the player closes the game window, so a player can easily put down and resume a game at a later time. Auto-save presumably makes it easier for players to play the games in many situations where more traditional gaming would not be possible - in the workplace, for example.
- Mouse control : Casual games are almost exclusively controlled by mouse. Though little hard data exists, anecdotal evidence indicates that casual gamers find it very hard to control a game using the keyboard.
- Very simple rules : Steve Meretzky says that it should be possible to state the rules of a casual game in three sentences. (Barwood & Falstein 2006, #107)
- Moderate innovation : It must be very easy to learn to play casual games. This tends to mean that casual games are near clones of an existing game with new graphics, or that innovation happens in small incremental steps.
- Multiple levels of success: Most casual games generally reward the player for completing a subtask in more challenging ways. In matching tile games, there are typically rewards for making combos (several matches at the same time) and for matching more tiles than is needed.
- Much positive feedback : Casual games tend to be designed to provide players with the experience of success very early on. (Barwood & Falstein 2006, #107)
- Little negative feedback: Casual games are often very easy compared to other game types, and avoid punishing the player for mistakes.
Can we write the history of a game genre? Some anthropological work has been done on game history: Stewart Culin's 1894 article on Mancala, the National Game of Africa (Culin 1894) discusses the spread of Mancala games geographically and historically, noting differences in rules and materials used to play. Writing the history of matching tiles games is slightly different in that the time span is much shorter (20 years rather than thousands of years), developed mostly commercially and generally attributable to individuals (as opposed to the folk game of Mancala).
Matching tile games are arguably a less clearly delimited field than Mancala games, and where the development of Mancala is an integral part of the way the game is distributed, by passing on between people who innovate or misremember the rules of the game, video games are software products that can be distributed globally without being changed, but only used differently.
It is not uncommon to see mostly journalistic histories of video game genres such as real-time strategy games (Geryk 2001), but my objective here is to look a bit more closely at how history is made and used, to focus on the interplay between different developer and player perspectives on a specific genre. I have limited myself to looking at matching tile games as:
Video games where the player manipulates tiles in order to make them disappear according to a matching criterion.
This delineation is artificial, but necessary to limit the scope of this paper. In addition, it is not possible to include all matching tile games in this space, so the focus is on games that have provided some type of innovation, as well as on some popular games, even those who provided little innovation.
The goal has been to trace the genre's development during the past twenty years, and to use developer and player perspectives to focus on how innovations have been introduced and been picked up by other games.
[ Jesper Jull ]
Il y a une vraie tendance chez les auteurs pour mettre en ligne les livres qui sont épuisés et qui ne seront plus publiés de si tôt. D'une part parce que la production littéraire en générale n'a jamais été aussi prolifique, et d'autre part parce que les courbes de ventes sont de plus en plus courtes dans le temps - les ventes d'un livre après deux ans sont sans commune mesure avec celles des deux premières semaines - comme dans le jeu vidéo d'ailleurs.
Ne nous plaignons pas, rien n'est gratuit ces derniers temps. Le dernier cas en date est Trigger Happy, le livre de Steven Poole:
Trigger Happy is a book about the aesthetics of videogames — what they share with cinema, the history of painting, or literature; and what makes them different, in terms of form, psychology and semiotics. It was first published in 2000; this is the revised edition with the Afterword written in
20042001. (Update: as requested in comments, the 2004 Afterword can now be read here.)
The book is offered under a CC license, for a limited time only. I’m not sure how limited that time will be, so grab it while it’s hot.
[ Steven Poole ]
Et Dance Dance Revolution, et SingStar, et tout les jeux qui utilisent EA Tracks... Voici une évidence pour certain mais qui se voit enfin confirmé avec quelques chiffres.
Il semblerait que les morceaux inclus dans le dernier Guitar Hero aient vu leurs ventes exploser:
Take The Strokes' track "Reptilia" as an example. The week GH III was released, "Reptilia" sold 127 percent more digital copies than it had the week before. The following week saw another 96 percent jump in sales.
That number stayed high the next week as well, as the song saw a modest 3 precent increase. The story was similar for Slipknot's track "Before I Forget." That song jumped up 75 percent the week of the game's release, and an impressive 140 percent the week after. The following chart shows the week-over-week sales increases for five of the tracks.
"It doesn't appear to matter if you're in the main game or are a bonus song; huge gains are seen everywhere. As long as your song ships with the game and you offer the track to be downloaded digitally, you see an increase," the source explained.
This jump isn't as easy to spot when you look at album sales, however. "Look at the Weezer title—47 percent increase for an album that came out in 1994 and can be gotten used for a dollar pretty much anywhere, eBay and locally," he goes on. "Yet the Queens Of The Stone Age didn't [see a large sales jump]... It's hard to draw a conclusion other than GH III can help sell physical albums—sometimes."
[ Ars Technica ]
Voici peut être une nouvelle qui est passé innaperçu, mais qui mérite qu'on s'y arrête 5 petites minutes.
Le nouveau Burnout Paradise a changé sa "cover art", passant d'une voiture en crash à une image beaucoup plus esthétisante.
If you think about it, box art is a video game's calling card. It makes the first impression, and inspires the consumer, especially those who don't follow game news day to day, to pick the release up from retail shelves for a second look.Because of this, box art often tries to capture the essence of the game in a single picture, which only makes us scratch our heads at EA's newly redesigned cover art for the forthcoming Burnout Paradise. The new cover ditches the previous art, which featured a car being smashed like a twisted metal flapjack, and replaces it with a serene, overly white piece that looks like it just drove off the set of an Ah Ha video.