RSS feed!

Due to popular demand (i.e. 3 of the 4 people who read this blog requested it, Trace being the last), I added a RSS 2.0 feed to the site. It can’t be viewed directly as XML in the browser because I don’t know how to make the server output that page typed as XML. Nothing serious I guess. I tested it with RSS Reader but I suppose people will complain that they want support for 0.9, or Atom, or whatever else.

Interesting bits of info: it only took 40 minutes from the point I said "ok let’s do it" to where the feed code was programmed, uploaded and running in the site; it worked correctly on first try. Google, PHP and XML are so nice sometimes. 🙂

I still need to get some proper publish dates for the entries, and maybe even some summary text, but… bah another day.

Edit: The RSS Feed now has the correct MIME type, proper dates, and is validated as correct by

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Stainless Steel folds?

Damn, this is bad news! Stainless Steel brought us Empire Earth, Empires, and were working on the absolutely gorgeous Rise and Fall. Although not my personal favourite RTS games, they were very well done and showed all the technical and artistic talent of the SSSI crew. I had the pleasure to meet Rick Goodman a few times, and it was apparent he loved his job and cared for his employees.

Best wishes to Rick and all the SSSI developers, hope they land on their feet and deliver their talent in many top-notch games.

In completely unrelated news, this article on Sony’s future regarding digital formats is short and well written. I’ll highlight one sentence: "if you treat customers like criminals, you’ll turn them into criminals."

Edit: More anti-copyright opinions, this time from Ernest Adams.

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Alabama 1 – Jack 0

Our official Games Industry Clown gets a nice slap in the face. Among other beauties: ‘Judge Moore stated that Thompson’s behaviour in court "suggests that he is unable to conduct himself in a manner befitting practice in this state.’"

Edit: JT didn’t like The Escapist’s take on him. Anything that makes him sad, makes me happy. Rejoice!

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Intellectual Property

The recent revelations about "The Warden" (Blizzard’s anti-hack detection system for World of Warcraft) and Sony’s absurd DRM software (and its EULA), are making headlines everywhere. Are users being robbed of their (our) fundamental rights, or are companies simply exerting theirs? Is law really covering the topics, or are lawyers and companies merely abusing the system to build up power?

This article is very interesting. If you ever felt that Intellectual Property is being interpreted by law and the courts in ways that harm your fundamental rights, but you could never really explain why in reasonably formal terms, you’ll find plenty of arguments there. Take it with a healthy dose of salt, because it also ignores quite a few problems with its approach.

Back in 1993, when I released the popular Fire algorithm, I described the process as "finding it" or "running into it", rather than "creating it". I never created anything! The algorithm was just there, waiting for someone to see it. I just (apparently) happened to be the first person to see what it could do, and applying it. While I defended (and still do) my right to be credited for the discovery, I’d never dream of profiting from that – only from anything I would actually create or build using it; for example, a screensaver which I sold to Erbe Software for their Quick-It tool suite.

In the 21st Century, Newton would be sued by the giants whose shoulders he was standing on. And that’s morally and ethically indefensible.

I guess that sums up my stance on the issue. Which also means, I’ll probably never get rich.

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360’s Backwards Compatibility report

Microsoft has finally published the list of XBox games that work on the 360. Kudos to the BC team, and of course my brother, who played no small part in it.

Notable absences from that list: the Madden, Splinter Cell and Project Gotham Racing series, as well as Soul Calibur II. Another funny bit, Half Life 2 is on that list despite still being in the works.

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Visual Studio 2005

So I guess I’m not the only one who finds it less than stellar. It’s just a first contact, but it’s been a rough ride: bugs and general slowness in the IDE, bugs in standard user interface elements (I managed to crash the scrollbar in the Output window!?!?!), the whole "security push" making a good chunk of the standard library deprecated by default.

Oh well I’m sure I will find good stuff after using it for some time.

Random bits I found out:

– Changing the fonts and colors to a black background is as nightmarish as ever.

– When converting projects from 2003, check the resulting options thoroughly. It seems some defaults have changed, but the conversion doesn’t take this into account, so an option that you had on default (Yes) in 2003 may now be default (No) in 2005. "for scoping rules" comes to mind.

– Also about projects, immediately disable warning 4996. Until their Security Push crap becomes ANSI, I don’t want to hear about it. You can do it at once for all projects and configurations, so it’s not a big deal.

– "Automatic use of precompiled headers" is gone. Either you set them up specifically, or you don’t get any. A pity for small projects, but all in all, good riddance.

– Compilation times seem faster, maybe thanks to the multithreaded compilation taking advantage of HyperThreading.

– Disabling exceptions and using the STL seems like a no-no. Lots of weirdness on this topic.

– Much more strict checking for C++ details. One that stood out today is the fact that you must pass lvalues (roughly: values that can be modified) to functions that receive non-const references.

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Innovation in games!

I was reading the usual complaints about lack of innovation in MMORPG games, where most are essentially clones of the EQ formula. I couldn’t help but rant a bit.

Do not make the mistake of underestimating the general public’s lack of desire for innovation. If the game is TRULY interesting to players, even with very poor marketing it WILL become successful. It will take longer, it will still only sell half as much as it could have, but it WILL. Recent examples are Katamari Damacy or the European re-release of ICO.

The fact is, most _players_ don’t care about innovation. I am loving every minute of Quake 4 even though it is nearly identical to its predecessor in gameplay terms. To them (us?), innovation in healthy doses is simply a good addition to the appeal of the game, but the game needs to be good, fun and interesting in and of itself. Oh, and too much innovation will hurt, because they won’t be able to understand WTF is the game about, and will be reluctant to pay to find out. Additionally, more innovation usually means the developer has to find out what works and what doesn’t all while developing the game, and the game’s quality usually suffers. This is why so many sequels are in fact much better, more fun and polished than the original.

In MMORPGs, the players themselves are even less interested in innovation, because while you play a game for months or years, the value of innovation is only significant during the first week or two. Along the same lines, companies can’t afford to steer too much off the known path because losses in an MMORPG can amount to 10x as much as in a single-player game.

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Event Horizon

This movie is really disturbing, and many people (myself included) have been caught off-guard by it. It was brought to my attention again because the director is in charge of the film adaptation for Castlevania.

I love horror movies even though I tend to be very critical of them. However, this is now. When I was a kid, I spent 6 months on light medication after being scared to death by trailers for several movies like Alien, Phantasm and The Fog, which were released about the same time. Although it was not quite life-threatening, it’s not an experience I wish any kid to go through.

Event Horizon evoked some of that terror, and I remember spending the couple days feeling nervous and in a state of general unrest. Quite an accomplishment I would say, and I’m still unsure exactly WHAT kind of devices this movie uses to achieve such effect.

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Every now and then, a small independent movie filmed on a shoestring budget, manages to catch some attention. Primer reportedly cost $7000, and it shows: actors being also technicians, blurry focus, bad sound, you name it. But all that doesn’t matter, the movie tells an incredibly interesting story and has the perfect atmosphere. Guess what, it’s about a group of people who… do something great on a shoestring budget.

The sci-fi topics it deals with can be very hard to follow and understand at times, but don’t worry too much about precise and detailed explanations, just enjoy its twists and turns. Later on you can watch the DVD commentary or read this explanation.

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