Tuesday, 17 July 2007

KXCD comic

I can't stop laughing at these comics, start at the beginning (though first few are just drawings). Helps if you're sarcastic and Dark. Brilliant.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Sony bangs head with wall, repeatedly.

I don't know what Sony is doing now. I can't decide if they're just using adaptable tactics or if they have ANY overall strategy that they are following. I think they probably did at some point, but it rather feels like they're the old man with the map looking way lost, pointing and saying 'yes but we should be here' in confusion.

Since Kens gone I'm not sure who's running the show. They probably have an entirely different strategy (apart from making money obviously). Lets see, they've re-re-designed the PS2 to make it even lighter, and they've re-designed the PSP. That sounds like they're planning to rely on the back catalog machines for a while for cash while the PS3 takes it's time. That's good and bad, good for doing it, for us, and for saving money and injecting new life in to PSP, but possibly bad for what it means for us and the PS3 strategy.

So the "Price drop" IS really a clearance sale. It depends how you spin it, like anything with different view points, but "clearance" is probably a view based more in objectivism, I'd have to say. Lowing the price of something that's going out of stock permanently. A clearance is a clearance doesn't matter what name it goes by.

EVERYONE can't beeeleive that the $599 point will stick. I feel like Sony is simply waiting for a later announcement when the 60gig versions run out. They were quoted as saying they would evaluate the market then. Er I think it's been pretty much "evaluated" By EVERYONE, a blind Donkey could bray that, I think they know full well they'll drop the 80gig price but are delaying for impact. And if they wait they don't have to drop it twice. Still they better bundle it with something better than Motorstorm, stuff that. They need to get this console out into homes NOW, certainly this new 80gig will be their "Second launch".

Thursday, 12 July 2007

MMO idea.Dragonball Z

You know what would be a really cool idea?

A Dragonball Z MMO.

Why has no one done this?

How cool would that be? Wonder around the world as a super being character, beating the crap out of other super powerful beings. Challange others to fights with a proper fighting system involved. They could even tie the Budokai Tenkaichi series fighting style games in, although tbh I prefer the original SNES games bashing the button to make your blast beat your opponents.

The really cool thing about DBZ series is no one knows how powerful their opponent really is, they have those scanners but not all the time, the anime is full of it, super powerful evil guys, and Super Saiyans who constantly grow in strength every time they fight. They always seem to have some reserves of will or power (there is also that recharge bean they use sometimes) and largely it's all about bluffing when it comes to fighting. That would play really well into a combat game where people roam a world and challenge each other to a fight. And the DBZ world is HUGE. Check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon_Ball_Z

Playing world http://www.pojo.com/dragonball/Worldguide.shtml although the story went to other plantes as well I'm sure, as well as a kind of heaven. The story could be any of them from the series, search for the dragon balls, etc it would be cool to have the Sky dragon in there as well.

Anyway thought I'd just throw that one out there. It would be fun designing for that.

New PSP!

There you go I said as much! I really should get a predictions job, how does one get that really..

E3: Sony Announces Upgraded PSP, Limited Edition Packs
"Sony has revealed that a new model of PSP will be available this September in two separate $200 packs, promising faster loading, lighter and slimmer design, and a new display feature to stream video to a standard television."
"The new model is 33 percent lighter, 19 percent slimmer, has a more efficient battery and faster loading times, said Hirai, but, more importantly, has a new display feature.

By attaching a video-out cable and pressing a new "display" button, any PSP display can be broadcast to a standard television, allowing gamers to watch UMD or downloaded video, display photos, or play games on TV."
Wicked, that display feature is what everyone was asking for and couldn't understand why it wasn't there in the first place (I wonder how they will scale movies up, since the resolution is lower I believe on the smaller screen, perhaps films will play scaled down now instead). Go round your mates house plug your lightweight PSP into the tv and if they ever produce two controllers to plug into the PSP (maybe an adapter for PS3 controllers via usb??) you could have a great two player game anytime, everywhere. Well worth getting now then, especially as it's lighter, slimmer, and lasts longer - I've tested those things before and holding one for hours is a pain.

Would be nice if they added a right side analog stick as well but oh well.

Notice they said the loading times are faster, they still have UMD in there, which I thought they would take out (that still fits with in the 2year time line though), I guess they're not ready to do that yet and it makes sense to keep it for the old games people already have. However I really think everything will move over to memory sticks - that's the only thing people use the PSP for. I thought this before but it's also supported by the recent news on the latest firmware having an application to load/play ISO files from memory stick. It's all coming together.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Current thoughts on PS3 price drop and 360 Falcon

Well two things, the PS3 dropped $100 in the states to $500 and is starting to sell, though what the translates to in £ I don't know, as it was $600 there but £400 here, £400 would have been $800 so we were getting ripped off here anyway. Lets assume $500 will be £250 here (which would be a bargain) but I know it will be £300+ don't we all.

Second Microsoft is bringing out the new Xbox360 "Falcon" chipset which is made on a 65-nanometer production process instead of 90. I have to say that actually makes the 360 tempting and I never considered it before. Why? Well we all knew, and you may have heard Mircosoft [semi-] admitted by admission of raising the warranty to 3 years and their open letter of apology, that there is a serious hardware fault with 360s overheating. So the 65-nano is actually the solution, at the same time redesign and cut production costs. I don't think they'll ever release a solution for the original. I wouldn't be surprised if they replace broken 90nanos with 65nano "Falcons". Falcons coming this "Fall".

So without these 360 problems, a growing number of cheaper games via second hand, and online LIVE it's looking a lot better. Still doesn't have the HD-Drive included though lets remember in that price (so add $100?) Then again the Falcon WILL drop price too so maybe drop $100/£50 here, they could even incorporate the HD drive -but- Blu ray is "winning". It may even be a mistake to include an HD-Drive in the Falcon at this point. Worth thinking about.

I got a little bit worried about the PS3 a few days ago before the price drop- it will be a strong beast as I've said in predictions a while back, but it could have been killed in it's infancy. Sony brought out a second SKU, the $600 (I'm going to have to talk in $) with Motorstorm game and an 80gig hardrive, over the 60gig standard. I actually think this is a ploy to get people to buy the 60gig version. Because the new SKU doesn't seem worth it*, and people hearing of the price drop will check out the SKUs and go for the "cheaper" model, as they feel it will be a "Bargain".

*also a foot note: the new $600 80gig model does not have the PS2 emotion chip, but uses software emulation - we already have this in the UK PAL versions, but I'm not sure how I feel about it. I think hardware solutions run better for the customer, but I imagine it's far cheaper for Sony with Emulation which can probably run everything equally well - if only all the games were supported. With Hardware at least PS2 games would work out of the box.

The high price SKU is not really a great deal because the PS3 hardrive can be slotted out and replaced with ease for a much larger and cheaper drive - it was designed like that, and the game, well you could get it cheaper else where- and maybe you don't want that game. This is what suddenly made me realise the 20gig version was actually really good APART FROM not having HDMI support which was really stupid - or really smart depending if you're Sony and want people to fork out more money (this could also have been a ploy to get people to consider the 60gig version over the 20gig at the time). See if the 20gig version had all the ports and wifi stuff it was supposed to have people could have swapped out the 20gig and put in a 120gig drive. We wouldn't need any other SKUs.

If the 20gig version with HDMI had been around and sold for an initial $500 from the start it would have flown. Now if Heavenly Sword or Killzone 2 (the game that was originally shown off before PS3 was even made) had been bundled that would have been it. As it is I think those two games will be the system selling games for PS3 THIS time round. £250 60gig PS3 bundled with Heavenly sword would be a dream.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Human Computation Projects

This is interesting stuff. From Wired. So I wrote some thoughts on it.

First we started linking all those idle processors around the world to do distributed network calculation projects, mostly analysing data, like SETI or decoding complex molecules. The PS3 is doing a similar thing with the Cell chip, why only have PCs do it when there are so many consoles around the world? [And at the same time buy a Blu Ray player instead of a standalone. Since so may consoles have DVD drives I'm surprised standalone DVD players still sell.]

Now we are starting to use all those idle Human moments to do something equally important. It's all about efficiency which I like. There are some tasks which only Humans can do and computers can't and it's about harvesting that ability in a useful manor. The challenge is doing it in a way that's fun, because otherwise people won't pick it up and "do it", and the way to get people to do it is to make it a game and "play it".

Which is what this guy Luis von Ahn has and is trying to do. He invented Captchas which are everywhere now, the pictures with scrabbled letters you type to verify you are a Human and not a bot on website. * The problem is motivating people to do something, the traditional way is paying money, or this way of making it fun, I found it interesting that the people who are combating Captchas are hiring 3rd world people to crack them or paying with porn. Perhaps this is all proof that Human nature is selfish.

[*Frankly I'm not sure why anyone would need to be at Uni to come up with these ideas, but it must be useful having the backing of a PHD advisor Professor. If anything I could say it was his programming skills which enabled this. In the electronic age, programmers are the new world builders, the new gods. There must be thousands of people coming up with bright ideas outside of Uni, I could do this, and if you want to talk about efficiency you should talk about harvesting these people, forming groups of individuals who specialise in certain skills, and then putting these groups together to make it happen.]

So out of all of these, the way of making something fun would seem to be the best option to me. Bring some fun into the world. Really it's addictive and repetitive behaviour, which the user (interesting phrase- who's using who here?) or player finds, well.. addictive. I find it interesting that he lied for his first game, the image matching game Matchin, he called it The ESP game. The game itself might be fun and addictive but it proves that perception is equally important for providing that hook, if he hadn't called it that but "Image matching game" I imagine a lot less people would have been interested and maybe it wouldn't have taken off. That's marketing for you. I could put this on an equal par with psychology experiments or studies where the experimenters lie too, but I'm not sure how ethical that really is anyway. It's interesting because I wonder how many other business got started by a lie somewhere along the line.

"Well, if it isn't like that, it won't be fun, and no one will play it," he replies.

This is the problem faced by all of von Ahn's human computation projects. People will contribute their brainpower, but only if they're given an enjoyable, time-killing experience in exchange. Play is the unexpected glue that lashes human brains together into a global overmind. So to build a good human-computation project, you can't merely be a scientist; you also need to be a videogame designer.

This, as it turns out, is a significant hurdle, because few academics are trained in game design. Von Ahn tries to find students who have done it themselves: Law worked for Ubisoft, and others have programmed their own indie Flash games. "Game design is a funny thing," von Ahn admits. "There are people out there who are really good at it, but it's not clear that they can teach it. It's a very intuitive process. It's an art."

This is why I'm interested in this subject even more. God, imagine how much we could have got done it we had harvested Ever"crack" players killing rats for fun. These standalone games necessitate being very simple, draw them in on a simple task which keeps them hooked for hours, but imagine if we could meld it with complex games? I'll come to that in a bit. For now the opportunities come in crobaring in useful human computational tasks to daily activities. Stuff we are going to do anyway. reCaptcha uses a word that when recognised goes to correcting a database entry. I think all this efficiency and using our wasteful cycles is good but there is room for abuse, things should be kept fun, but some horrific psychosocial experiments could be conducted on the race like this and I wouldn't like to see this used for anything sinister. We already have a nation watching Big Brother, even if Human behaviour is one of the most interesting things to watch, it kinda proves they'll sit a round and watch anything.

//Here's one the Sci-fi-ists might not have considered, if we prove that computers can't reach real AI without a human component, and we grow or plug in a human brain component and connected it to machines - matter of time really - once that is done perhaps that computer will force it on another, the computers will be using us not as batteries but as their "learning" component. Scary thoughts.//

You see I grew up with Douglas Adams books, and while this did kinda make me see the world in an absurdest way it already made me think along the lines of people as computer components/program in a giant computer. Life, the Universe and Everything, anyone? So my thinking already is well suited to this. You never know it may actually be true...seems like it more and more everyday.

You look at the Human race and their behaviour, their nature, group behaviour and you really can see them as some type of program. However much you want to infer into that, that part is true. You just have to step back a bit and look at the bigger picture.
"Basically, I want to make all of humanity more efficient by exploiting the human cycles that get wasted," he tells me over lunch at a diner near his lab in Pittsburgh. "As humanity goes online, it's becoming an extremely advanced, large-scale processing unit."
So what types of things could Humans teach that computers can't do? Path finding, Perception, teaching computers to Lie, Humour?

The first way would be analysing human choices in game rather than actual real world computational problems, but then what is learned could be used for real world applications.

Some of the simpler games could be puzzle solving by humans. If you think of that Draw to Play game, it's kinda unique, would a computer be able to work that out? You use the mouse to draw your own platforms while controlling a little man around some obstacles. If you run out of "ink" to draw platforms you have to restart. It's quite a challenge. What if it could analyse the patterns Humans had drawn and then work out how to complete a freshly drawn puzzle challenge, that kind of thinking could then be applied to something else.

FPS- What if the in-game player choices of millions and millions of games being played of Counter Strike, or Doom, or Quake or UT were analysed to make a better military robot? It's combat in a 3d environment by millions of people around the world constantly.

RTS - same thing.

RPGs? Path finding and player choices about what is valuable in their inventory.

Or the second way, rather than analysing player choices in game, these actual computational applications could be put in-game. They talk about advertising in-game now, an idea I hate, but if as part of the game play they could cro bar in a challenge from the real world, it would get solved as part of the in-game puzzle. Interesting thoughts to ponder.

Massively Multiplayer Online Games offer the most diverse player choices imaginable and would also be able to put in actual computational challenges. I'm not sure how players would feel being treated like Guinea pigs, as long as it didn't interfer with the flow and fun, but you could always offer them level up experience or gold etc. The idea of gaming is that the game should remain focused on gaming - ALWAYS.

-hmm interesting thought - how about making a MMOG that' completely honest about being for Human computational projects and ram it full of them, then the players drawn to that would play mini games in the Massive online world solving real world computation problems while "leveling up". Patent pending that thanks.

Unfortunately the only applications that spring to mind for the first method in-game analysis of choices, seem to be militaristic, game of def con anyone? There just aren't enough games out there about feeding the worlds population. And Humans seem to be inheritably destructive in their play...because that is fun.

The thought occurs - that that is because it's fun to survive. Which is a game the Human race has been playing for a very long time. We play as a means to test our abilities in a safe environment, and learn - which is the essence of play, for the time when we are in a dangerous environment. We could teach computers how to survive.