Archive for July, 2008

LittleBigPlanet Character Creation Competition

Don’t Panic, in association with Sony, has launched the LittleBigPlanet Character Creation Competition!

Sackboy ‘Chinese Opera’ design by jetoaster

In this contest, entrants create designs for the game’s Sackboy and Sackgirl characters. To compete, simply download a Sackboy template, doodle on top of it, and submit! Not only will the prizewinner receive a PS3 and a copy of the game, he can also look forward to limited fame and moderate notoriety: the winning character design will be included in Sony’s UK marketing blitz.

Maybe more thrillingly, Vinyl Abuse has announced they will turn their own favorite entry into a limited-edition six-inch figure.

The top ten entries will be determined by user votes; from there, the winning entry will be decided by Don’t Panic’s judges. So even the artistically disinclined can participate in the competition by voting. The competition closes on August 4, so hurry!

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It’s always six o’clock

Art duo Eva and Franco Mattes—AKA 0100101110101101.ORG—are the minds behind It’s always six o’clock. Each work in the exhibit conveys childlike mementos in unexpectedly violent ways. The overall effect is a little like what might happen if my old office cubicle exploded in an art gallery, but with more harmony and gravitas.

Lilliputia redux (my title, not theirs)

Redux redux

The show is on display at MU until June 29, so if you’re in the Netherlands in the next two days, you could drop in edit: I just realized that June was last month, and that I am exhausted.

I knew I vaguely recognized the artists’ names, and sure enough: their 13 Most Beautiful Avatars, a rumination on beauty within Second Life, was exhibited at a New York gallery in 2006.

Eva and Franco Mattes also exhibit what they call “synthetic performances” using their Second Life avatars. Each performance, in turn, is streamed live to a real-world audience.

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Boozing in the arcade

So according to, the Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade in Portland, Oregon, features this amazing ode to Dig Dug in stained glass along one wall:

Dig Dug window

And according to the official website, Ground Kontrol just got their liquor license this month! That means that, to my knowledge’s best, Ground Kontrol is the coolest place to grab a beer on the west coast (the east coast trophy goes to Barcade, of course).

Update (from the comments; thanks, Art!):

Hey, I’m Ground Kontrol’s manager and I just wanted to clear up a couple of things!

We’ve had a beer & wine license since 2005, but were able to make some very helpful changes to our license just this past month: extending our serving hours to 5PM (from 7PM), and having more flexibility so we can now serve beer & wine during private events at any time of day, and also allowing minors during private events in which alcohol is served (so now your kid doesn’t have to stay home during your Best Birthday Ever should you want to include alcohol service!)

Also, we’re not yet serving hard alcohol. Beer taps are next on the list, so we can more efficiently serve your favorite beers. Hard alcohol (and the food required by the OLCC to serve it) will be the stage after that!

Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade
511 NW Couch St.
Portland, OR 97209

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Siren: Blood Curse! Or, how to make your game appeal to an American audience

Hey, North America! Today’s the big day! Siren: Blood Curse is about to hit the Playstation Store. You can instantly download all twelve episodes of the survival horror game to your PS3 for a reasonable US$40. Instead, though, I’m thinking about splurging and getting the Japanese version on disc for $60 at

To clarify, Siren: Blood Curse and Siren: New Translation are the same game. Much of Siren: New Translation, the Japanese version of the game, is in English, since its main characters are from the United States. The game is subtitled in Japanese.

The original Siren is easily the most frightening game I’ve ever tried to play. Originally released for the PlayStation 2, it had impressive graphics for the time. The face-mapping seems comically dated now—photo-realistic faces are grafted onto subpar models—but in 2004, the uncannily human adversaries were positively shit-yourself terrifying. Wikipedia explains:

Rather than employ traditional facial animation methods with polygons, images of real human faces were captured from eight different angles and superimposed on the character models. This eerie effect is similar to projecting film onto the blank face of a mannequin.

Siren was, above all, a stealth game—you had to slip past the zombie-like shibito undetected—and in that regard, its utter lack of combat broke the survival-horror mold. In terms of plot, the subsequent Capcom title Resident Evil 4 owes a lot of its essence to Siren: these villagers aren’t exactly zombies, and good luck with solving the village mystery! But Siren more closely resembles the original Silent Hill. No surprise there; the two games share the same director, after all.

The nurse, revamped for the new gameAlthough it is remembered as arguably the scariest game for PS2, and although the game received generally favorable press, Siren never quite achieved commercial success here in the United States. It didn’t help that the game was notoriously difficult. Worse, the controls were fairly complicated, a bit much to master from the get-go. In some ways, the troublesome controls deepened the fear factor—a lot of survival horror, the Retronauts crew once agreed, relies on the sense of helpless panic only mushy controls and a crippled camera can bring. Siren’s gameplay innovations—and its unyielding commitment to those design choices—made it tough for anyone but a totally dedicated survival horror buff to play the game from start to finish.

Siren: Blood Curse is not a wholly unique work. Rather, it attempts to rework the original Siren plotline into a more navigable, accessible game experience. And although Blood Curse is being released to multiple markets, including Japan’s, I think it’s safe to say this revision largely targets gamers in North America. The original Siren lacked any real combat; in Blood Curse, you can creep up to the shibito and brutalize them from behind. Incorporating more action makes Blood Curse, well, not breakneck, exactly, but surely not as plodding and ponderous as its original incarnation was. But in playing through the demo, it’s clear that Blood Curse disposes of the very patient puzzle gameplay that made the original Siren (and its Japan-only sequel**) so frightening.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Hump day time-waster

Over at TIGSource, Derek just posted a link to Shift 3.

Shift 3: Adventures in negative spaceShift 3 is the third in a series of neat little browser-based action/puzzle games. Each game appropriates both positive and negative space as platforms and obstacles. Once you have the knack of the puzzle physics, you’ll whip right through Shift 3—I reached the game’s conclusion in about an hour—but, should you have other things to do today, you can always come back to your game later. There’s an ‘autosave’ feature! And you can also press ‘P’ for ‘pause’! Brilliant!


Famicom cart customizations

Cosmos, a Famicom concept piece by Dan Kato

Eagle-eyed Luke Plunkett over at Kotaku discovered My Famicase Exhibition, an online gallery of cartridges for made-up Famicom games. Each artist was apparently invited to dream up a video game, then create concept art to go onto his Famicom cart’s label. Be sure to take a look at the full online gallery—there isn’t a bad one in the bunch.

(A link near the bottom of the gallery points to Project F, the folks behind the homebrew Famicom cart Mr. Splashy. I wonder what part Project F played in My Famicase Exhibition. Hmm.)

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Footage from California Extreme

This weekend, we made it out to San Jose—barely—for this year’s California Extreme, the classic arcade expo. Parkside Hall was crammed with video arcade and pinball machines spanning decades, including some contemporary machines (The Act, anybody?).

Set to the music of the New Pornographers, this shaky-hand footage is from Saturday, July 19.

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‘i am 8-bit’ paper sculptures by Scott C

I think I like papercraft because it reminds me of paper dolls and junior high love letters.

i am 8-bit paper arcade machine trawn paper arcade machine

These lovely paper sculptures by Scott Campbell (of Double Fine!) are perfect little odes to arcade gaming. I have a hunch—and remember, this is only a guess—that these sculptures are part of a larger paper landscape, to be exhibited at the fourth annual i am 8-bit gallery show. As always, the show promises to feature exciting new art with retro sensibilities.

i am 8-bit opens August 14 at the World of Wonder in Hollywood, California.

Incidentally, the Virtual Boy launched on August 14, 1995. I know this because my birthday is August 14.

i am 8-bit
August 14 – September 7, 2008
World of Wonder
6650 Hollywood Blvd
Hollywood, CA 90028

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Nintendo press conference transcript

Ahh. Another E3 has come to a close, and the entire internet breathes a sigh of disappointment. I was checking my RSS feeds for some nice wrap-up coverage, and I happened to check in on a blog called Error Macro. Its author—somebody named Bill—can always be counted on for unbiased videogame coverage.

This is a little out of the ordinary for Error Macro, however. Here’s a clip from the entry A Summary of the Nintendo Press Conference:

Nintendo press conference: in summary

Be sure to click and see the whole blog post in its beautiful entirety.


Blown glass rayguns

In my five years of collecting rayguns, I’ve learned to never buy or display anything too pricy… or priceless. Anytime a guest drops by, his instinct is to immediately swipe the raygun from the shelf, wield the gun in his right hand, and roughly depress the trigger several times, eliciting that satisfying rat-a-rat-a-whir from the gun’s bellows—it sounds like, if nothing else, a hard drive crashing.

But as of right now, I am willing to make an exception to my No Delicate Rayguns policy.

Blown glass raygun

Blogger Michael Pinto located these gorgeous blown-glass rayguns, which are crafted by Joe Blow Glassworks’ Jeff Burnette.

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Ready for a game of D&D at the drop of a hat

Last night I was sifting through the iPhone’s app store (again), and I noticed a 99-cent application called the D20 Gaming Dice Set.


I tapped at my iPhone, which brought me to a download screen. I don’t really play tabletop games but, sure enough, the D20 Gaming Dice Set is exactly as I’d hoped:

D20 Gaming Dice Set provides a set of dice compatible with most dice based games. The application provides 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 20, and 100 sided dice. It will let you roll between 1 and 9 dice at a time.

D20 Gaming Dice SetI love this idea. You’re sitting around a table with friends, and then you suddenly blurt, “Oh, I know what we should do!” And you bring your iPhone out and pass it around, and your iPhone really is a Swiss army knife of technology. And everyone is so impressed with your phone, and therefore, by proxy, with you! And the game is going wonderfully; truly, you are the life of the party!

But then your battery dies before the game’s end, and everyone looks at you a little bit accusatorily. You shrink in your seat, wondering why you don’t simply travel with a spare die. And I pat you on the back and I tell you it all reminds me of that time in NYC when I mocked my friend Dave for using an enormous travel guide with fold-out maps, but then my iPhone’s battery died and I was suddenly useless. In junior high, I once flunked a survival mission—it was “map orientation,” the real-world application of a compass in the wilderness—and even with a map, even today, I am perpetually lost.

Seven types of die? Nine of each type of die? I’m no mathematician, but that’s 63 dice! The D20 Gaming Dice Set is, if nothing else, a moneysaver.

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Just wait’ll Nyko sees this

Someone once nearly convinced me that I had singlehandedly invented Cooking Mama for Wii and the useless tennis racquet add-on, and that I was therefore owed a royalty check.

I am still annoyed by the Wii MotionPlus announcement—apparently, the most usefulness any add-on can supply is functionality the Wii remote was already supposed to have—and as a result, I am enormously entertained by the following:

Wii Whisk Wii Scissors


On Howard Rheingold’s “Smart Mobs” and Nintendo’s SMS press announcement

Overload: or, welcome your new overlordWhen Game Life’s Chris Kohler reported that the Wii had finally outsold the Xbox 360 in the U.S. yesterday, he also reprinted Nintendo’s annoucement, which itself is written in a strange, alien shorthand. “After just 20 mos, Wii is the new console leader in the US @ nearly 10.9 million units, says NPD 2day.

Kohler received said information from Nintendo directly—not through a formal press release, but instead through a text message.

That’s a text message that Nintendo of America just sent to journalists’ phones, knowing they’d be away from their desks covering E3. (The company used the same delivery medium to announce the Wii MotionPlus controller on Monday.)

Although Kohler’s SMS message from Nintendo isn’t the main point of his update, I find this unbelievably interesting. Two days ago I noted that I’d followed E3 news and rumors using Twitter almost exclusively—and using the new Twitteriffic iPhone app, at that. “When I look over my Twitter friend-feed,” I’d said (yes, quoting myself is bizarre), “it’s like this extremely concise liveblog written by ten or twenty people.”

Nintendo, SMS, and Howard Rheingold’s ‘Smart Mobs’: connecting the dots


It’s news to me! Adult films about video games


It is summer, and the evenings are becoming longer. Scott Sharkey and his pal, J. Frank, are struggling down the sidewalk with two six-packs of beer.

I read this really funny blarticle—did I tell you I coined a new word? ‘Blarticle.’

Oh, god.

But, uh, so there’s this pretty funny blarticle at 61 Frames Per Second about, uh, it’s a Top 5 article, right?

All right.

Top five, uh, porn titles… based on video game titles.

Is one of them Super Hornio Bros?

Wow. Um, yes. It’s number five.

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What makes a cheat code magical?

Completing a game with the aid of infinite lives—even if the means of achieving those lives were made available by the original programmers—is, by definition, cheating. -Why Do We Cheat?

When I registered this domain a little over a year ago, the idea of “infinite lives” as a euphemism for cheating had already occurred to me. Maybe I’m in love with the notion of having unlimited chances to get something right, to pursue the best possible outcome. In real life, you have one chance. Entering a code for infinite lives is like time travel—it’s breaking the rules of time and space. It is, essentially, the ultimate cheat.

I’d been trolling 61 Frames Per Second, a rather young games blog, for posts by my friend Nadia Oxford. And via this post, I arrived at her recent article, Why Do We Cheat? It isn’t only a history of cheating-in-games; it is a rumination on cheating’s wherefores. After all, everybody cheats.

From the article’s introduction:

Every game has rules and a means of breaking those rules. Videogames, which are among the most complex games on the planet, feature suitably complex means of cheating. There are in-game codes, hacks, mods, code-altering devices, algorithms, walkthroughs, and many other means of breaking down a game in order to do what you’re not supposed to do.

To cheat in a game without a code or walkthrough requires real talent. I once witnessed Jeremy Parish and Jane Pinckard’s lengthy, animated discussion of Scott Sharkey’s admirable game-breaking genius. There is always a way to force a sprite outside of the boundaries of a screen or into actions that, according to the laws of the game, aren’t really permitted (or even possible). The trick is finding it.

Why do we cheat? When is a cheat code magical? Read on.

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