Saturday, November 27, 2004

C'est incredible..?

Pardon my french, but this CG film ("The Incredibles") is maximum entertainment for your hard earned bucks. Saw it the other night with the lads from work. Pixar are so cool and this flick is right up there with their greatest. Funny as hell and with the ever-cool theme of superheroism.

As a friend noted, it has some of the same charm and stylings as "The Iron Giant", Brad Bird being the director. Its topic is less contemplated and serious, though. Holly Hunter does the voice of ElastiGirl - she must have one of the sexiest voices out there. Gotta love that subtle lisp...yummy ;)

Pixar recently reinvented the short pre-featured musical appetizer flicks of the 40's and 50's - this one stars a sheep that loses and eventually rediscovers its self-confidence. Loved it.

I give "The Incredibles" 4½ out of 5. Only thing that subtracts is a very mild annoyance at the underlying political correctness that isn't exactly in-your-face, but still seeps through a bit, I think. Maybe the coming split with Disney will provide that extra pinch of topical edge and experimentation. Let's hope so.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Gibson goes native

I have to point out William Gibson's weblog (yes, the sci-fi author) which is really both enlightening and at times entertaining.
He's had a lot of nice posts concerning the American administration and the war on Iraq - nice to see him partake in the choir of critics.

If you check out the most recent archive there is a nice quote of Martin Luther King - and not least an article on the apparent emergence of the Virgin Mary in a slice of pizza :D

Thursday, November 18, 2004

3 cheers for Runestone..!

I recently posted some info on the guest lecture, that Aarhus-based game developer Runestone was to hold at Uni today. The venue went really well, although one of the guests had taken ill yesterday.

Lars Kroll, the main man, held a very inspiring talk on game design, game project management, engine programming - and not least their all-consuming project, Seed.

The lecture was very interesting and relevant, especially because Runestone themselves are not very big (8 full time employees) and as such are in the very process of starting up. This perspective on building an enterprise had me and many others captivated, since it's really becoming a strong focus in Denmark - or at least here at this part of Aarhus University. Kroll had a lot of tips and hints, and great examples to back them up. Even though he has not really been in the business all that long, he certainly spoke with conviction and the voice of a hardened professional.

I had some prejudgemental thoughts on their game, Seed, before I actually knew what it was all about. Tens or hundreds of MMOG's are being hastily built or have already failed, so the natural position towards such initiatives has to be skeptic, since the competition and financing environment is fierce, if not downright hostile.
With Seed, however, I really must say Runestone have a convincing case. Not as a mainstream game, quite the contrary. The game is entirely without combat and relies on an intricate story-system, which treats knowledge, in the form of semantic structures, as the loot of the game world. So, you're essentially faced with the task of "smartening up" your avatar through different tasks and storylines. And these semantic structures can be combined and exchanged with PCs and NPCs thus giving you access to more and more specialized knowledge. Knowledge is, in fact, the weaponry and armor - negotiation and narrative plots are the combat system. Also, they give way for democratic proceedings that elect officials to different offices, hereby providing control over certain ressources. I can only explain it so far - but I suggest people look more into this game, if not but to broaden their horisons of what games might contain.

This fairly innovative way of laying out a MMOG is probably also why Runestone has actually succeeded so far in securing assets and financing. Currently they have an innovation fund paying their bills - although, as Kroll said, they need further investments by March to continue development.

Their target group was a story unto itself, since they are aiming for "the experienced online roleplaying 29-year-old's girlfriend". Well, probably not as sharply defined as this, but he has a point about hitting niche targets. Just like the movie industry has become segmented along the way, this might secure a place for narrow game concepts such as Runestone's. By now, you're getting a more mature audience interested in games, anyway. Kroll offered a piece of statistic telling that each year the average gamer grows one year older. So at some point Counterstrike simply HAS to die - hopefully.

Please go and take a look at the game and company - and perhaps do them a favor by commenting on the game here. Refreshing, certainly.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

One had a suspicion...

Hehe, I'm actually sniggering to myself. A couple of posts ago I ranted about the empty rhetorics of especially American politics - and lo and behold, up steps John Humphreys to prove my point. Apparently, he's an English journalist devoted to salvaging whatever is left of the English language.

He puts out a general rant on the state of affairs here. He highlights Stephen Fry as one of the great English orators - I couldn't agree more, although Fry is almost so English that it gets annoying. Think Jeeves is still shining through. :)

However, the really funny part that has to do with dynamic duo Bush & Blair can be read here. And I follow his arguments all the way - nice point about business spin being the origin of all this nonsense. Now, if only journalists and editors would devote themselves to exposing the fraud...

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The Baroque Cycle

Invested in Neal Stephenson's "Quicksilver" the other day. The first in a trilogy named "The Baroque Cycle" - and apparently a prequel-ish follow-up (!) to his awesome novel "Cryptonomicon". One of my favorite books ever, I guess.

I recommend him very much. He's what I would deem a holistic sci-fi writer, meaning that his books have more to do with the circumstances of change than with the actual technological settings of future societies. Not that he doesn't stuff his work with creative gadgets and weird inventions. They are just very well integrated and never take up too much space. He's easy to compare to Gibson, but I find Gibson much more abstract and poetic - a style that both attracts and confuses, I think. Stephenson hits right in the middle of my educational background, Information Sciences. A wider approach to technology, business, society, and intellectual genesis as a whole.

Anyway, looking forward to letting myself submerge in his world of wonders. Compared to his earlier works, this is definitly heavier reading - stuffed with subtle metaphors and eloquent phrasings, but it's good to be challenged once in a while. And you actually feel that everything you read is relevant on some deeper level. Especially if you think yourself a techno-savvy young adult wanting to justify geekish interests.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Internal affairs dictating

Well, seems that the American public have once again done themselves a great disservice in the eyes of the rest of the world. Four more years of dogmatism, shallowness and disastrous environmental, social and geopolitical policies. I really don't get it. You'd think that Americans would see through all the deceit and spin - after all they should be used to it by now, right?

But, as a blog somewhere stated, how are you going to contest the right wing of America, when 70 million Americans do not believe in evolution. I regret to admit it but I think America is becoming a parody. If not for the egocentric and unbalanced judgements of half its people, then more so for the electoral system which is obviously heinous in its design. If a vote so seemingly clear cut (morally and ethically, that is) cannot even be properly called then there is something fundamentally wrong with the system (both electoral and societal). Problem is, American politics are so full of empty rethoric and commercial spin that noone is ever going to do anything about it - unless states act on their own.

Times like these make me wonder whether democracy is really the answer for nations so big and yet poorly educated as the US. I'd maybe give it a technocratic twist and prevent halfwits from entering Washington. Or better yet have the West coast, the Midwest, and the East coast split up and fight amongst themselves. At least that would leave the rest of the world in peace to pursue their own version of happiness.

Funny thing is, I'm actually not state-of-the-art left wing myself. So the fact that I am surely biased must come from some other fact. Could it be that I am very weary of American political catch phrases that do aboslutely nothing to dissect or evaluate arguments and problem settings? I heard someone mention that Bush had actually truly said: "Senator Kerry is trying to complicate the War on Terror. It's not complex, it's very simple."
That is like a red rag in front of me. Jeez, I wish I had a man of Dubya's intellect leading me. If nothing else it would teach me how to deftly manipulate serious matters into glittery distortions of the truth.

Although I can see John Kerry's shortcomings, I also saw a younger version of him speak on Vietnam - at which point he was very well-formulated and to the point. My guess is, he's not comfortable practising demagogics which is direly needed to shine through on the American media front. So, as Marilyn Manson said in "Bowling for Columbine" Americans ought to look at the media circus of their own society. And get rid of the fear projected from it.

America, you're headed towards some kind of abyss...isn't it time you started realizing that?