Pretentious, opinionated language

Games, technology, music, silliness. Oh and ninjas. Lots of ninjas.

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Location: Oslo, Norway

I am Andreas. Day time programmer and technical consultant. Night time musician and game developer.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Renoise 1.5

All glory

http://www.renoise.com

Renoise 1.5 final has arrived, and it's every bit as good as we were hoping. If you're looking for a budget priced sequencer that kicks all kinds of balls, you're set. Tres bon

Friday, March 25, 2005

Level 30 syndrome

I play World of warcraft when i'm bored.
So does my girlfriend.
Earlier i have played Anarchy online, Everquest and Starwars galaxies. Also tried my hand at EVE.

With every single one of these games, the point of saturation at which i realise i'm bored with almost every single game mechanic aside from actually gaining levels occurs around level 30 (or in the case of swg, the equivalent to level 30). I stopped levelling at 30 in AO to purely socialise and roleplay. My roommate reached level 200 multiple times, i never went past 30. (Who cares about killing monsters when you can run a sex club at the reet retreat for high level players?)

There is a fundamental problem with mmorpgs, and that is less a problem with the games themselves than there is a problem with the foundation on which they are built. Levelling is only fun when you get marked differences from level to level. In AD&D the difference between a level 1 warrior and a level 10 is like the moon put next to the sun. In a mmorpg the difference is more like the moon put next to a slightly larger moon. You set goals in tens. You try to reach 10, then 20 then 30. Every level is just another slow meandering step on the road, and god what a boring road it is when you have to spend 6 hours of constant work to gain one measly level.

WoW was total fun up to level 30. Now i don't feel like there's any more for me to do. I've seen every quest type, i've seen the types of combat i can engage in, i've seen the extent of the tradeskills. What else is there? Exploration? Even that gets old.

I'm not holding my breath, but i think Guild wars is doing something right. Its scope is smaller, but i think it'll suit my brand of gamer better. Until this concept is reinvented, i'm going to save my monthly buckazoids and get insane killer experiences like Oddworld Stranger, or even reinstall Fallout 2 for another jaunt. It is infinitely more rewarding in a far shorter timespan, and it doesnt attempt to give me the illusion that i am part of a social circle.

The gaming press sucks

I'm going to keep this short and sweet:

The western gaming press today is less informative than it is opinionated. The focus on technology over gameplay is a direct result of how the press scores games. We hardly had this kind of thing in the early 90s.

Less opinions on what's next, what's new and what's going to be awesome. More information on what *is* awesome. Gamespot are decent.. Gamespy are crap. IGN are crap. Avault's articles are completely irrelevant and utterly meaningless.

Guys. You are members of the press, not "cool g's who play games and get paid to talk about it". Show some responsibility. Gamespy.com is a fucking rat's asshole of opinions nobody needs to hear, certainly not people looking to make decisions on what games to buy. Avault needs to stop publishing articles written by wackos who think handhelds will eventually threaten pc gaming (which is akin to saying skateboards threaten mountain biking).

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Short string experiment

Made a little string/piano ditty for fun. Aaron Enticer thought it was rather good, so i added some bits and pieces and called it a track.

I really do love this kind of sound. I swear i'll learn how to play the cello for real some day, it's such a gorgeous instrument.

Sunjammer-Transit.mp3

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Resident Evil 4 vs Halo 2

There is, in my mind, a fundamental difference in design paradigm between japanese developers and western developers. To me, this is epitomized by the fact that Resident Evil 4 just dropped into my life like a fucking hydrogen bomb and Halo 2 sort of whirred into it like a toy rocket.

Again, why were we looking forward to Halo 2? Does anyone even remember? We wanted closure to the storyline, sure, but beyond that? What were we expecting beyond more of the same? Wow we can run around in another FPS and shoot bullets out of our guns, and THIS TIME, IT'S NORMAL MAPPED. Halo 2 arrives on the xbox, and it's intended to be the ultimate showoff of Microsoft badassedness. A true next-gen rep.

Then Resident Evil 4 comes along on a technically inferior console, looks miles better by any standard, features truly interesting and innovative levels of interaction and supreme direction of game events. RE4 may just be the first truly interactive movie experience. Cutscenes mingle so freely with the gameplay and feel so natural that you never even question the difference. RE4 is a true evolution of a concept. Halo 2 added a dual wield system and ugly bump maps.

I have nothing but a world of love for Bungie. They are among the upper elite in western game development, simply because they truly put love into their work. They care for their product and it shows. Halo 2 is a supremely slick online multiplayer game, and it's a perfect complimentary product to Xbox Live. However, as a game, it is just that. It doesn't transcend anything, it doesnt attempt anything new, and it rehashes so much of its predecessor that the experience is one of refined deja vu.

RE4 creates something i haven't seen before, yet within a familiar framework. It doesn't break with the basic control schemes of its predecessors, and the combat system is fundamentally similar. Why does "innovation" in this day and age mean doing something crazy like Katamari Damacy or Chu chu rocket? Granted, these two are among my favorite games ever, but the manic retreat us/european distributors make from games that don't follow an established commercial direction and fails to include the latest tech buzzwords is nothing short of alarming. It is as if you have a market split in two, one segment being "what makes money" and the other being "the crazy niche stuff". Are we running out of grays?

I'm not asking for a first person shooter that controls via a gyroscope on the controller and pulls the trigger when you clap your hands. I'm asking for a first person shooter that can match an *inch* of the interaction RE4 offers with its enemies. FPS games follow an incredibly simple dialect of pure output. When you shoot at an enemy, you lose ammo and he takes damage. When the enemy shoots at you he loses ammo and you take damage. This is the essence of shooting. There are severe limits to how far you can push such a basic outline; we haven't had any real innovation in the genre since Duke 3d.

Oddworld: Stranger attempts to play around with this framework and is mostly successful, merging 3rd person platforming with first person shooting almost seamlessly. The sad fact however is that Stranger won't sell. Not because it's a poor game, because it most certainly isn't, but because it isn't getting the industry backup it deserves. Instead, Halo 2 tin cans are still being pushed onto the market to feed Microsoft's technology induced hysteria.

Halo 2 is a sweet game of deathmatch, but it is *nothing more*.
Resident Evil 4 pushes the envelope and offers genuinely fresh experiences.

If you want to safeguard the quality of future games, you go out there and pay for RE4 and give Halo 2 the slip. I paid for them both, and Halo 2 wound up looking like that silly 80s tshirt that i cant believe i once wore. Resident Evil 4 will stand as a game that revived a dying formula. Halo 2 will stand as a game that compounded a stagnant one.

Norwegian speedcore

Lo and behold, norwegian hardcore that does not suck balls.

www.outlet.no

or for a lovely lil shortcut to the good stuff:

Straightjacket EP-2005.rar

Friday, March 11, 2005

God DAMN i hate overly complicated titles

One look at the downloads section of 3dgamers is enough. Look over yonder.
  • Gods and heroes: Rome rising
  • Aurora watching: Gorky zero
  • Act of war: Direct action
  • Project: Snowblind
  • Supremacy: Four paths to power
  • Fire Captain: Bay area inferno
  • Last half of darkness: Shadows of the servants (what the hell!?)
Now one for the latest reviews on Gamespot:
  • Shaman king: Legacy of the spirits
  • Nexus: The jupiter incident
  • Klonoa 2: Dream champ tournament
  • Heritage of kings: The settlers
  • Brothers in arms: Road to hill 30
  • Aerial strike: The yager missions
  • Devil may cry 3: Dante's awakening
  • Dai Senryaku 3: Modern Military Tactics
  • Cops 2170: The power of law (bahaha)
I dare believe this phenomenon of rampant insanity in the publishers court, not the developers.
WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE

Who the hell CARES if it's Dante's awakening? He's in the game! We know!
What does "the jupiter incident" add to the title Nexus?
The beautiful "Shadows of the servants" is nonsense one way or the other. Adding a colon does not make a title "cool", neither does adding the word "Project" or some other thing.
In my eyes, a thoughtless byline is representative of lacking imagination. If you can't tell the game setting in its title in a satisfactory manner without writing a damn novel out of it, you're doing something wrong to begin with.

Grow up already.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Childe Roland to the dark tower came

Well, i just finished Stephen King's Dark Tower VII. There's been a lot of tumult on the ending and how "disappointing" it is, and part of me wants to agree. There's this little segment of asshole in me that wants to make demands in outrage, but in the end, a day after turning the final pages, i'm ultimately as satisfied as i could hope to be. However, there are other things that bother me. It is incredibly hard to discuss the book without bringing up spoilers, since nearly every action taken has pretty massive consequences. I will speak on general terms however.

I thought the Crimson King's demise was incredibly underwhelming, so was that of Mordred and of Marten. For all of King's preaching of how it's the journey that matters and not the end, i would consider besting the 3 major villains of a 7-book story part of the journey. Book 1 begins with Marten as the major villain, who has done rather nasty things to Roland. To see him almost forgotten in the latter segments of the story is a little bewildering.

To elaborate, part of what, for me, has made the Dark Tower series so great, has been about its tale of great warriors. From book 1, King has described warriors of incredible skill besting villains of incredible evil. There is a very base, almost primordial truth to this alignment. A form of vicious purity versus a pure viciousness. Roland is the consumate badass from page 1, even in Book 4 where he was scarcely more than 17, he was a royal badass. He is the linchpin on which the secondary characters spin and eventually learn his brand of wicked badassedness. He is the guarantee that things will work out, he is in fact a form of deus ex machina put center stage.
When we follow this guy around, we want to watch his fantastic ability to solve problems and best the odds. We wish we could do the things he can, but have to make do with watching him work, and for the most part it's a work of beauty.

King excels at describing raw, vicious battles.
I can almost imagine him plotting the battles on a piece of paper, describing visually to himself how units would move and interact. There is a cohesion to the battles and a glee in the display of destructive hardware that you simply don't find with contemporary writers of the same skill.
These battles drive the story in much the same way the interludes do, because they give the readers affirmation of the characters' part in the world. We follow them to see them best evil. This is really the core of the story. The fact that Eddie loves Susannah is fine, and Jake and Oy are fun and cute and ruff etc. This isnt why we watch them and love them. We watch them and love them because they are fighting for our cause. What gives them depth is their dualistic nature as lovers and coldblooded warriors, and their constant struggle to balance the two. Without the battles, they are flat. Troubled but flat.

So it hurts the story a good bit when the battles are downplayed and the characters' weaknesses are emphasized. The conclusion is completely up to King, i thank him for finishing at all, but the weakness in Book 7 stems from rushing the final battles, which i consider part of the journey.

Anyone out of the loop here wanting a look, do begin at Dark Tower 1: The Gunslinger. Work your way through it. Its a long, winded and complex series but i heartily recommend it even after its conclusion.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Commenting

Anyone want to comment? Now you can. Didnt know i had to manually turn that on or anything, sorry :)

Macromedia shoots itself in the footsie

A lot has been said on this issue before, but i can't help but rant a little. 'Tis my blog after all.

A central problem Flash developers have been struggling with since the beginning of all things Flash and the Flash player's inception as a low impact alternative to the Shockwave technology is the format's stigma of garbage content delivery.

To begin with, Flash was intended to be a tool for delivering low size vector graphics and animations to enhance the www experience, noble enough in its own way. However, the format naturally gravitated toward the industry most in need of such a technology; advertising. Within a fairly short time websites were saturated with meaningless Flash. Flash for flash's sake in other words. Developers paid no heed to the limitations of the format, and more and more sites showed up incorporating sound, primitive video streams and all kinds of crazy mumbo jumbo sure to aggrevate anyone after a cohesive and navigable online experience.

There was in short no wonder why Flash became loathed among "serious" developers as a product capable of wreaking great havoc on the orderly fabric of the www by allowing developers to refrain from interface standards and take websites in unexpected and non-uniform directions; a very real problem for users who aren't used to dealing with a vast array of information structures, such as say my parents or any sporadic user of the 'net.

This early generation of Flash, driven by advertising, led Macromedia to create even more advanced versions of the format, adding a proprietary scripting language, new features etc, until we arrive today at Flash player 7, incorporating Actionscript 2; a fully object oriented scripting language with more in common with Java than Javascript.

At this point in time the developer community responsible for pushing the development of the format into application development rather than simple games and presentations are looking forward to the next generation of Flash player, FP8, which will incorporate a form of hardware acceleration that will let us create even better content with less end user hardware impact. We've been drooling and hopping around like giddy kids on christmas eve.

We are almost there.

What have we accomplished? I can only truly speak for myself and my work situation, but i can feel the temperature of things well enough to believe i'm a healthy representative:

- Flash is being taken seriously as a development platform. There are still terrible flash banners all over the net to blemish our reputation, but for every dozen pieces of crap there is an incredible application of the format that drops jaws left and right. Finally Flash developers can proclaim their work title with something resembling pride.

- Flash diffusion is better than ever. The efficiency of the format, the low size and easy install has removed all but the hardest of detractors. Major clients (by major i mean MAJOR household names) are accepting Flash as a viable delivery platform. The software's credibility is at an all time high.

- Flash applications are getting better and better. What started out as a low cost alternative to shockwave is now threatening shockwave's place on the throne. The tech improves, but developers improve tenfold. The current development community is incredibly strong.

So here's my question.
Why, in the name of all that is holy, has Macromedia seen it fit to cut a deal with Yahoo! and bundle the Yahoo! Toolbar with the flash player installer for Windows Internet Explorer. Who in gods name thought that was a good idea? At first when this popped up on the flashcoders list, i was laughing. It is in all seriousness akin to Microsoft bundling Bonzi buddy with Outlook. I couldn't believe this was actually true, i thought people were kidding around. Then a quick look at macromedia.com broke my heart.

Warning: Corporate Bullshit Alert

"What is the Yahoo! Toolbar?
Yahoo! Toolbar is a free search and utility tool that enables you to personalize your browser toolbar so you can search from anywhere online, save your bookmarks, and quickly access Yahoo! features, such as Games, News, and Mail. Yahoo! and Macromedia are working together with the combined goal of providing great user experiences to our customers. This includes projects such as enabling customers to take advantage of the Yahoo! Toolbar and promoting the development of great, compelling content with the wide range of Macromedia products. "

So there you have it. In one fell stroke, what has macromedia accomplished? Here's a little repetition of some of the points that have been flung around the flashcoders list much like fecal matter in the monkey pen:

*1 - Alienating developers
We have worked hard as hell to increase the credibility of the format and break down misconceptions. Now Macromedia has stabbed us in the back by proving we were wrong.

*2 - Alienating customers
Lets say your client is Google? Lets say your client is Verizon? Would your client want to use a technology that is bundled with software developed by a direct competitor? Selling flash to major clients just became a *lot* harder

*3 - Confusing end users
Let's say this once and for all: My mom, given the choice between wether to install or not install the Yahoo! Toolbar, would not know wether to do so or not. Either way, she would probably trust MM (seeing it as i wouldve been the one to tell her to install the flash player in the first place, knowing Flash is my job), and wham, she'd have one steaming piece of crap installed on her computer. Macromedia is winning Toolbar installs on the fact that end users just don't know what they're installing, in much the same way any other spyware or trojan is installed. As someone pointed out: Illegal? No. Forced? No. Sleazy? You bet.

*4 - Significantly weakening the credibility of the format
I have to this day not seen a single flaw in the flash player that wasnt mendable by developers. You were given a framework and you did what you could do with it, this is fine. End users download a player that does exactly what you expect it to. You don't have to run player support for your clients, because it simply works. Flash was a perfect product. Now, there's a very real reason we will have to do support for people inadvertently installing something they didnt want.
Flash is rather viciously imperfect at the moment i'm afraid: Welcome Macromedia, to the pantheon of fantastic developers of trashware laden applications such as GetRight and Kazaa. I hope you find it mighty comfy, considering all the work you put in to get there.

Suffice to say, developers are distinctly displeased. I really do hope MM reconsiders the implementation of their business relationship with Yahoo. I completely understand the need for financial gain, but there must be a better way to get meat to sell than to chop your own leg off.
A simple and sound measure has been suggested:

Uncheck the "install Yahoo! Toolbar" checkbox in the install process by default
This way users will be immediatly aware of the duality of the install and the fact that Toolbar isn't a segment of the Flash player, which is what they wanted.

A less sound and less simple measure is my suggestion. In fact it's a bit mad:
Force Yahoo to stop making garbage applications that aren't worth a minute's time, time better spent cleaning lint from windowsill corners for instance, or perhaps petting a kitten. Toolbar makes kittens sad! In fact, have Yahoo reconsider every single developer they employ. There is a level of trashiness apparent in their software that reminds me of those wacky Japanese arcade games where the intro shows the car from Batman the movie, but apparently it isnt batman, but some guy in a similar costume with red eyes who breaks through windows in the intro, says a few lines in japanese, and then plays Mah jong with some woman who eventually shoots you and takes your money regardless of your level of success, or games such as "Miss Nude '96" where the intro image shows badly pixellated 80s women with rock hair, and the actual gameplay is sort of like pacman except when you clear a level you see half a 16-colored leotard covering a breast that might as well be a penguin, or a small car.
Yahoo is a terrible, terrible developer to partner up with for "enriching the web experience". This is why everyone is calling your bluff Macromedia; They know Yahoo sucks and that you don't! It's like those revenge of the nerds films where the popular frat guys feign friendship with a nerd: Everyone knows its unnatural and odd except for the nerd, who eventually finds out and proceeds calling down satellite orbital strikes on the frat house and then steals some panties to loud rock music. In short then:
Have Yahoo make a toolbar that is worthy of a flash player bundle.

How low can you sink guys? Why not bundle the flash player with an order form for viagra, or a free 3 day trial to jugfuckers.com? If you're going to plunk your foot in the crapper you might as well do it with gusto, none of this pitifully obvious "we're doing it for the bling mkay".

Macromedia, i love your product. I'm a devoted Flash developer who has put the better part of my life as a young man into learning its nuances and making a career of it. Flash is a beautiful thing of great purity. So please, PLEASE, stop trying to forcibly insert it into an elephant's anus. It simply isn't wise or proper.