Archive for August 2006

Welcome home gifts

August 31, 2006

“What’s shocking – and I would say to me completely immoral – is that 90% of the cluster bomb strikes occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict, when we knew there would be a resolution,” Mr Egeland said. “Every day people are maimed, wounded and are killed by these ordnance.”

The Guardian on Israel’s fun little present for the returning civilians of Lebanon – 100,00 unexploded cluster bombs. Because nothing says ‘fuck you’ like a bomb in your garden.


Blue Lotus: Total War

August 31, 2006


You should probably pay more attention to the mod community, you know. Especially when they’re putting out games of this quality. Blue Lotus is a mod for Rome: Total War – you take charge of the Chinese empire, looking to repel an invasion of demons, imps, and all things wicked. It’s based on authentic mythology, but hey, they said that about giant enemy crabs, too. If anyone from Creative Assembly is reading this – you should probably hire these guys.

The latest version suffers from occasional crashes, so if you are going to play, make sure you save. And you’ll  need the latest Rome patch. Now go! Play!

Don’t like RTS games question mark?

August 30, 2006


The food service at Microsoft’s GC06 booth is apparently an incredible cultural conflict for all involved; Microsoft’s Michael Wolf will later admit to me that for the first few days of the conference, the German hostesses who had been hired to serve them completely denied access to any Americans attempting to enter the booth’s kitchen, and that these same Germans’ incessant efforts to bring Diet Cokes to the Americans in the various show rooms was a mysterious recent development about which all Microsoft employees had become deeply suspicious.

Kotaku’s Florian meets Bruce ‘Spreadsheet’ Shelley. Despite everything, they seem to get on.


“I kicked his head right off”

August 29, 2006

Toribash is the funniest fighting game since Mortal Kombat. Except in Toribash, you decide the fatalities. It’s dubbed a ‘turn based fighting game’ – you contract and and relax the muscles of your chosen combatant, attempting to bash the face, head, neck, arms, groin, or anywhere in reach of your opponent. There’s an ungainly rag-doll physics simulation in the background, measuring the force of your impacts. Get a smack right, and there’s a good chance you might knock some-one’s head into space. Your first attempts will see you crumpling into a heap, but keep at it. Violence will flow.

Now – here’s the interesting thing. In our office we have access to the latest, greatest games, from pre-release versions of Christmas blockbusters, to just about to be released slighty stodgy review code. Yet we keep returning to games like this. Toribash is meant as a multiplayer game, but most of the time we play it as a comedy side-show: beating up a rag-doll crash dummy, a crowd around the monitor, cheering for blood. It’s a toy.

Software toys aren’t meant to be cool. The very term puts you in the mind of 1996, Brain Eno, and some wanky multimedia display creator, or some dreadful £50 screen-saver. But I think the idea of games as toys or toys as games seems to be making a minor comeback. In the new Tony Hawks game, if you fluff a trick, you can try and cause as much damage as possible to your character. Flatout had a similar mode: driver darts. I bought the Movies for the machinima toybox: not the slightly awkward management sim on the side. The Sims is constantly referred to as a virtual doll-house, and Spore is a universe in a DVD box for you to poke and prod as you see. Nintendo seem to be basing their entire future on resurrecting the toy.

I’ve heard videogames lauded as the next great art form, as the new frontier for storytelling, this giant convergence between cinema and interactivity. Bah. How can that compete with making two stick-men kick each other in the groin so hard they split in two?

Now departing: Orion

August 29, 2006

“US space agency Nasa has named its new manned exploration craft Orion.

The vehicle is being developed to take human space explorers back to the Moon and potentially then on to Mars.

It is hoped the name Orion could eventually mean as much for manned space exploration as Apollo did in the 1960s and 1970s.

Its first manned flight – to the International Space Station – will take place no later than 2014 and its first flight to the Moon no later than 2020. “

My earliest memory is of assembling a model of the space-shuttle. Here comes the replacement.

While my guitar hero gently shreds

August 29, 2006

Guitar Hero has changed everything. A year ago, I’d point and laugh at this. But now it’s all about the fretwanking.

Cubist logic problems

August 28, 2006

I’ve started messing with Perplex City. It’s an ARG, or ‘alternate reality game’, that has one fairly major hook: there’s a chance of winning 10 grand if you find a missing McGuffin (in this case, the ‘Receda Cube’).

It works on four levels. Firstly, there’s the grand mystery of the cube – whodunnit, whytheydunnit, and wheretheyleftit. Then, there’s the on-going storyline and live events. Every six months or so, the Perplex City team will arrange for their players to take part in live events – be they reconnecting the alternate world of PC with this world, or meeting agents of the game to retrieve clues and story information. The San Francisco connection, an event that took place a few weeks ago, ended with the designers calling up all the attendees and telling them to head outside. At once. As they left the building two black helicopters buzzed the crowd. That’s pretty cool.

But it’s the third level that really interests me – the puzzle cards. In a not-entirely-well-explained plot oddity, 256 puzzle cards have been dropped to earth, which, when solved, could help you locate the missing cube. You can buy them online for three quid for six, which seems a fair whack.

Until you realise they’re superb.

This bank holiday Anna and I have:

  • decimated logical fallacies
  • solved an ancient pirate riddle
  • made florentines
  • identified biscuits
  • scheduled simian parking rights
  • coloured in maps
  • identified tall buildings
  • coded a simple BASIC program
  • called an imaginary lady
  • decrypted Google Maps
  • and been constantly foiled by buzzwords

Really – all that jazz about the cube, and the storyline, hasn’t mattered to us. We’re just having a whale of a time scratching off numbers, playing with Google, and chasing solutions. If you’re after little, cheap, lateral thinking fun, try one of the puzzle packs.

The fourth level? I really like the pun on perplexity.