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"Your 'reality', sir, is lies and balderdash and I'm delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever."
— Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von Münchhausen

Don Pixel

Flash games galore at

Egg's Ontological Primacy Confirmed

We may finally have an end to an age-old debate.

The Feds in My Head

This op-ed piece from the New York Times is chillingly Orwellian. Has there ever been a point in your life where you were more certain that you could not trust the government?


Check out Orangutwang. It's a pretty original, addicting little game. Stretch the monkey from ring to ring to grab the bananas, but don't touch the spiders!

Top 10 Video Game Research Findings

On the last day of the 2006 Game Developers Conference (GDC), there was a presentation of the top 10 video game research findings that will affect the future development of games. In short, these findings were:

  • Players are more effective when they have control over the music in the game
  • Voice chat in games must be implemented as an element of the game itself, otherwise it is just a distraction.
  • Gestural controllers (e.g., the one for the Wii) are well-suited for translating the player's movement into his avatar's movement, but buttons are superior for representing complex actions
  • Multi-user environments that encourage collaboration drive emotional stickiness. Players treat adversaries much like they do AI-driven opponents, even if they're controlled by a person.
  • Accusations of cheating are driven more by perception of who people think might cheat rather than who actually does cheat.
  • A shift in visual perspective should have an in-game meaning to maintain immersion
  • Players want to communicate with one another in ways that are not currently supported in multi-user games
  • Eye-tracking input devices enhance player enjoyment as long as they fulfill useful, game-related functions
  • Facial animations that express emotion, not just speech, are more engaging
  • Players are more engaged when they are actively failing than when they are succeeding
That last one makes sense when you think about it. I spend the most time playing games that I fail repeatedly at but still find fun to play. Don't you?

You can download the PDF from AvantGames or read an article from Gamasutra summarizing the findings.

Well Said, Mr. James

The CEO of Three Rings Design (makers of Puzzle Pirates) has a new blog. And while I'm not familiar with his company's work, I enjoyed what he had to say about the MMORPG (which I think should be pronounced "more pig") phenomenon:

This year I had a somewhat new experience [at E3]; that of seeing 10+ brand-new MMORPGs that were all pretty much indistinguishable from one another. Each one of these projects has a budget of $10M+. Each one has incredible graphics with a swanky engine. The characters are beautifully modelled, high-fantasy and often anthropomorphic. ...[E]ach has apparently the same basic gameplay, down to the same '-20' bling bling hit points that pop up over the poor hapless goblin/frogluk/lionwing/krog/alien lizard thing as you pummel it into glittering transluscent fade-away.

... Please, if you can get the check for $XX Million to make an gigantic MMO, do something different. Perhaps it’s not possible; often it seems that only fantasy games succeed, but at least you’ll be able to say that you tried. You might just hit it big and reach outside of the existing, heavily-exposed and saturated demographic to find a nice juicy new audience just ready to experience MMO fun.

"E3 MMORPG Lunacy" (emphasis original)
Well said, Mr. James. Innovation is what drives the gaming industry. The last thing we need is another cool-looking MUD.


Games and Myths

IGN has an interesting article on the influence of mythology on video games. Check it out.


The Mighty and the Almighty

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has authored a new book entitled The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs. Therein, she takes the position that the war in Iraq "may eventually rank among the worst foreign policy disasters in U.S. history" and thinks that President Bush's religious zeal has made matters much worse.

"I worked for two presidents who were men of faith, and they did not make their religious views part of American policy," she said, referring to Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, both Democrats and Christians.

"President Bush's certitude about what he believes in, and the division between good and evil, is, I think, different," said Albright, who has just published a book on religion and world affairs. "The absolute truth is what makes Bush so worrying to some of us."

Bush, a Republican, has openly acknowledged his Christian faith informs his decisions as president. He says, for example, that he prayed to God for guidance before invading Iraq.

Some Muslims have accused him of waging a crusade against Islam, comparable with those of the Middle Ages. The White House says it has nothing against Islam, but against those who commit terrorist atrocities in its name.
In an interview on CNN, she says that Bush's rhetoric is dangerously couched in religious terms and has not only alienated Muslims, but has helped undermine America's moral authority.


Big Love

Anybody watch Big Love? Well, Margene has an in-character blog. It's a sort of immersive marketing, I suppose, where you invite people to believe in the characters outside of the show. Which is well and good, but I guess my suspension of disbelief is challenged when she puts her smilies and frowns at the head of the paragraph instead of trailing the thought that inspired it, and she sounds like she's sixteen years old, not twenty something. I can't really discern how old she's supposed to be, but in an interview, Ginnifer Goodwin says that she's supposed to be in her early twenties. Would a woman in her early twenties write this?

:)Before I was the responsible wife and mother that I am now, I used to really like Miller High Life beer. The champagne of beers because I was super classy back then.
Maybe, but I doubt it.

What the Web and Games have to Teach Each Other

Ralph Koster has a cool article on his blog called What the Web and Games have to Teach Each Other. As a web guy and a game guy, I found this very interesting and would like to expand on the topic a bit, but no time to do so now. It'll just have to wait for a future post.

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Death in an Internet Cafe

As reported by the BBC and MSNBC, a 28-year-old man in South Korea died after playing Starcraft at an Internet cafe for 50 hours straight.

The man, identified by his family name, Lee, started playing Starcraft on 3 August. He only paused playing to go to the toilet and for short periods of sleep, said the police.

"We presume the cause of death was heart failure stemming from exhaustion," a Taegu provincial police official told the Reuters news agency.

He was taken to hospital following his collapse, but died shortly after, according to the police. It is not known whether he suffered from any previous health conditions.

They added that he had recently been fired from his job because he kept missing work to play computer games.
And this isn't the first. Another South Korean man, a 24-year-old, died after an 86-hour marathon in 2002, according to, and a 27-year-old Taiwanese man died some 10 days later after a 32-hour session (also from vunet).

I know what it's like to be so sucked in that you want to play for 8 or 10 hours at a time. But ya gotta eat, right? What the hell is the matter with these guys?


A hat-tip to Troy of Socratic Design for mentioning Monte Cook's new setting for Dungeons and Dragons: Ptolus, to be released August 10th of this year. You remember Monte, of course. He's been involved with the gaming industry for almost 20 years, now. His most notable credits include writing Call of Cthulhu D20 and the 3rd Edition Dungeon Master's Guide.

Ptolus is an ambitious project, promising to be "the most deluxe roleplaying game product ever", based on the world used to playtest 3rd Edition D&D. From the website, Ptolus is

...a huge package from Malhavoc Press. It's also the first and longest-running Third Edition campaign setting ever created, where game professionals of all kinds have found both victory and defeat. Ptolus is a city designed to be an entire campaign with an amazing level of detail. This is Monte's home campaign, and the place where many Third Edition rules saw their genesis (or met with their demise). Included in the campaign over the years are such industry celebs as Michele Carter, Andy Collins, Sue Cook, Bruce R. Cordell, Jesse Decker, Erik Mona, Christopher Perkins, Sean K. Reynolds, Keith Strohm, Steven "Stan!" Brown, and Jeff Quick -- editors of Dragon® and Dungeon® magazines, designers and editors of Wizards of the Coast game products, and even the onetime D&D business manager.
It's a massive, fully-detailed setting-cum-adventure pack featuring
  • A 672-page book with more than 130 pages of color artwork and maps, with an embossed cover by artist Tom Lockwood and three bound-in, fabric bookmarks
  • A double-sided, full-color map
  • A package of 16 black-and-white and 8 color player hand-outs
  • Enough adventures to take characters from 1st to 20th levels
  • A CD-ROM with an additional 350 pages of "bonus" material, and
  • Extensive indexing and cross-referencing throughout
It's this last bit that drew my attention. We've all been there before, flipping through the books, looking for where we read that one bit of information we need before we move on with the adventure. If done right, it could be this attention to playability that really sets Ptolus apart. According to the FAQ, it's designed with the GM in mind. "As a longtime DM and DM advocate, Monte has focused extra energy to make this book not only easy, but actually a joy to use." The site even has an in-depth look at what features of the layout make this product special, including:
  • Footnotes with page references for every character, location, and organization as it is mentioned in the text.
  • Color-coded parts and chapters
  • Multiple category-based indexes and a glossary.
  • A highly detailed table of contents, with a mini-table of contents at the beginning of each part.
  • Symbols and artwork used to create mnemonic devices to help manage all the locations.
  • Where appropriate, a notation on each spread to refer you to the page where you can find the map associated with that page's contents.
  • A new, easy-to-use stat block format for NPCs
Based on what the previews look like (Table of Contents PDF/JPG, Section Opener PDF/JPG, Interior PDF/JPG), this attention to detail may set a new standard for how future publications organize and present their material.

The drawback here is that with such lavish production value, the package comes with a hefty $119.99 price tag. But kudos to Cook and company for understanding that hobbyists often have limited budgets. If you preorder by May 31st, you can pay $19.99 up front and then pay in $10 installments until the product is paid in full.

Also, those who preorder Ptolus get a copy that's signed and numbered along with a healthy package of extras, including a 96-page adventure called Night of Dissolution.

All-in-all, it sounds like an impressive package. As of today, DriveThruRPG offers the Player's Guide to Ptolus as a free PDF download. Check it out. I may just have to see for myself whether or not it lives up to its marketing.


24 is a guilty pleasure of mine. Sure, it's mass-marketed, fear-mongering, formulaic nonsense with bad acting and drama ranging from heavy-handed to outright stupid, but for some reason Kiefer Sutherland keeps me watching. And I think Chloe rocks (have you seen some of the Chloe/Jack fan sites? Weird). Anyway, check out 24Ever, a random "24" plot generator. It makes just as much sense as Erin Driscoll keeping her psychotic daughter at CTU during a crisis.

Save the Pygmy Owl

As reported by CNN, the Fish and Wildlife Service is removing the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl from the endangered species list "because it has determined it is not a distinct subspecies". According to the Center for Biological Diversity, less than twenty of these birds remain in Arizona and northern Mexico. Please take action, and help protect these beautiful birds.



Jamie Fristrom demonstrates the true value of Google trends. And I thought it was just another tool of dubious usefulness to come from the "search" people.

Strong Bad

For those who don't know Strongbad, check out this episode, featuring Trogdor the Burninator. Then you can play the Trogdor video game.

When you've had enough of Trogdor, check out Teen Girl Squad. In episode 8, one of the girls gets killed by a twelve-sided die. One of the few uses for our friend, the dodecahedron.


Saving the Internet

I've been reading up on this whole "Save the Internet" thing, and at first, it seemed pretty cut and dried. Your ISP has the power to influence the data is delivered to you. They can decide what access you have to Internet resources and can use this control to funnel access to favored business partners by giving their data higher priority, causing slowdown in access to competitors' sites. The government should step in to ensure that this sort of corporate favoritism can't happen. Right?

Well, maybe. I was pulled in by a promotional email from, but after reading their site, I felt that I didn't fully understand the issue. So I checked out the videos. That's right, there are videos. This one is for the Net Neutrality bill, and this one from is against. Of course, you could ask a ninja (ninjas are pro-Net Neutrality, it seems), but while it was amusing, I didn't feel like my questions were answered. Who wants the FCC controlling anything, let alone the Internet?

So I read some articles on the subject, like this one from Wired and this collection of op-ed pieces from various major papers, and this one in CIO magazine. It's a thorny issue, and I think it's going to come down to how the law is written, how it is implemented, and how it is interpreted and enforced going forward. That's a lot of unknowns.

It seems that the issue boils down to whether the big telecom companies (AT&T, Verizon) have the right to charge the big service providers (Microsoft, Google) for disproportionate bandwidth consumption. The proponents of Net Neutrality enforcement say that we shouldn't let ISPs control who gets what level of service. Vint Cerf, often referred to as one of the founding fathers of the Internet, issued a statement to Congress supporting the idea of "a tailored, minimally-intrusive, and enforceable network neutrality rule". Of course, he is Chief Internet Evangelist for Google, so he is not exactly an uninterested party.

But I think he's right, at least to a point. The Internet is based on open protocols that work to preserve anonymity and agnostic interconnectivity. The reason the Internet is the remarkable place that it is is due to the fact that a Tibetan monk can join the community by simply adhering to the public protocols, and his website is just as accessible as Amazon or Ebay. We should make sure that it stays that way.

What the ISP giants want the right to do is set up network "express lanes" so that they can better serve high-bandwidth content, like HD video on demand. When these services go live, the content providers will make money hand over fist. But the ISPs have to pay a lot of money to provide that bandwidth. Why shouldn't they be able to charge the content providers and get a piece of the pie?

They could, but this sets a very bad precedent. I'm not convinced that having the FCC or any other government body regulate the Internet is a good idea, but if we don't protect Net Neutrality, then there will be a fundamental shift in the way that the Internet works. Allowing an ISP to discriminate between data packets is antithetical to the way the decentralized Internet is supposed to function.

Urban Dead

A game for my good friend, M.J. Euringer: Urban Dead, a Massively Multi-Player Web-Based Zombie Apocalypse by Kevan Davis. Reviews "Gamers" has just posted a pretty sterling review of the movie "Gamers" (see my original post from 4/20). Apparently, they haven't gotten a distribution deal, and this is why there is no release date. But there's at least some good Internet buzz being generated. I hope my contribution to that buzz will deliver the first good movie about gamers to a theater near me. I love nothing more than the opportunity to laugh at myself.

Brain Buster

Do you like brain teasers? Thanks to Gamezebo for giving me yet another way to waste my time: Brain Buster, a cool collection of some truly challenging games. It's actually four mini-games in one, each one designed to test your skills in a different way: reflexes, spatial relationships, musical memory and probability. Make sure to try it on the expert level to really appreciate the challenge.

My Favorite New Songs

As you may have noticed, I've added in a feed from Pandora listing my favorite new songs. You can find it at the bottom of this page, above the archive links.

Ever since I first discovered Pandora, I've been listening to it constantly. Where else can I hear music I know I'll like along with new stuff that I couldn't find on my own? The feed shows all of the songs that I've flagged as favorites, which I am using to keep track of new stuff that I have particularly enjoyed. It's mostly pretty heavy stuff, so if you like that kind of thing, check out the links below.


I nominate the Nintendo Wii (pronounced "we") for the stupidest name for a product ever. Here are some potential advertising taglines riffing on the name:

  • Fans Go "Whee!" For Wii
  • Nintendo Upgrades Wii-fi Connection
  • Nintendo Weens Gamers off Traditional Controllers
  • Nintendo Wiins!
  • Nintendo Wiipes Up
  • Nintendo Whiips The Competition
  • Nintendo Wiis on Competition
  • Nintendo Wii Gets More Wee (For the inevitable redesign)
  • Competitors Cry Wii-wii-wii all the way home
but some of the best ones are from the comments on the blog post linked to above, such as:
  • Wiitarded
  • See! Wii really don’t care what the competitors think.
  • Wii Will Rock You
But I think I can do better:
  • (said in a Cartman voice) Aw, wiik.
  • Wii will wobble but it don't fall down
  • Wii shall overcome
  • Wii are the champions, my friends....
  • Wii, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union...
Yes, there are some who contend that the name's uniqueness is contributing to the hype. I also read that it's all a hoax so that they can have a Punk'd moment at E3. Maybe. If it turns out to be a master stroke of marketing, then I'll eat my words, but I highly doubt that it's true.

What Makes a Game Good?

This article by Wolfgang Kramer gives some clear and specific ways to answer the question "Is this game any good?", including:

  • Originality
  • Freshness and replayability
  • Surprise
  • Equal opportunity
  • Winning chances
  • No "kingmaker effect"
  • No early elimination
  • Reasonable waiting times
  • Creative control
  • Quality of components
  • Consistency of rules
  • Tension


Thank You, Steven Colbert

Thank you, Mr. President, for the irreparable harm you have done to this once-proud country. Thank you, Mr. Rumsfeld for waging a war for oil. Thank you, media, for selling your integrity so cheaply. And thank you, Mr. Colbert for flipping off Justice Scalia.


Jury Duty

I woke up for work at 5:15 AM today. If you know me, then you know what an amazing feat that is for me. Even on a school night, I'm more likely to go to bed at 5:00 than wake up at 5:00. But, despite the hour, I managed to drag myself out of bed and my Satanic coffee maker decided to cooperate for a change. So I had coffee was waiting for me in my mug rather than on my floor, and I managed to get into the office by 6:00.

I checked out the system, and wouldn't you know it – the same issue we had last weekend was there again. So I kicked off everything manually, and everything seemed to be hunky-dory. I found a small bug, but no biggie... we can address that tomorrow. But today, I have to go to jury duty. Which is why I am in the office at such an ungodly hour. The release on Thursday went so poorly, and the patch on Friday went anything but smoothly, so I decided to play it safe and lose some sleep so that I can make sure the system is running the way it should.

Glad I did. Now to do my civic duty and say proudly: "I'm a consultant, send me home!"

Pandora: My Favorite New Songs
LibraryThing: What I'm Currently Reading
Archive Links
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Sinfest by Tatsuya Ishida

Order of the Stick by Rich Burlew
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The Red Bull Diary is the personal pulpit and intellectual dumping-ground for its author, an amateur game designer, professional programmer, political centrist and incurable skeptic. The Red Bull Diary is gaming, game design, politics, development, geek culture, and other such nonsense.