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Posts by Lida

Making Games Look Fun

Video games are suppose to be fun to play, but what about to watch? A famous name in Japan’s video game culture is Takahashi-meijin who’s special gift is making games look fun.

In shooting games, if you want to get high scores, you shoot the enemies as soon as they appear on the screen, but if I did that, the audience would just see the bullets and the explosions. So I wait until the ship is halfway down the screen before I shoot it. You can’t get a high score that way, but it looks more exciting.”

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Game Developers Are From Mercury and Marketing Is From Neptune

One of the big bogeymen in stories that developers tell each other is the “Marketing Department.” The story always ends up the same way, “and then we had to change the game … for the worse.” If you read any developer’s blogs, it is clear that most don’t hold marketing in high esteem. They are the enemy, an agent of “The Man,” suits sent to crush the creativity of us geniuses. I wasn’t particularly kind to them either in my previous posts.

Why is there such acrimony between these two groups? This is actually by design, if you look at it from the publisher’s perspective. More >

Videos that Show Palin is Ready to be VP

Like many people when I first heard that McCain has chosen Palin to be his VP, I was perplex and thought it was an odd choice. How can he chose someone with so little experience in the area that America needs right now, economics, international relations and fighting terrorism around the globe.

After much research, I’ve came across a treasure trove of videos on YouTube that shows that Palin, in fact is ready to be VP.
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Learning from Alan Kay, 11 years later

I first saw this video on reddit about a year ago, a famous talk by Alan Kay given about 11 years ago. I’ve watched it many times and each time understanding it a bit more.

The first time I watched it, I found his proposal that every object on the internet should have an URI and/or an IP address interesting (43:00). This was totally opposite of what I was doing at the time. We were near the end of the development cycle on BioShock and memory optimization was in full swing. Objects in Unreal engine are pretty heavyweight so we spent a lot of time stripping out unnecessary variables and functionality from the base UObject class.

Since last year, I’ve learned a bit more about web technologies and now see what Alan Kay was talking about is realized by REST style web services. A little bit later in the talk (52:30), Alan expounded a bit more about interoperability on the web and says “[object capability discovery] is going to be the critical thing to automate in the next ten years,” which “allows an interchange of deep information about what objects think they can do.”

This has obviously not happened. Anyone that has to write against web services like Amazon, Facebook or Flickr knows a lot of trial and error is needed to make anything work, at least thats been my experience trying to use their REST api. Alan proposed creating a “universal interface language” to exchange this information, which sounds a little like WSDL, but what about automatic discovery of services? I haven’t found a protocol for REST introspection like there is for XML-RPC.

If the strength of REST is its simplicity and low barrier to entry, than perhaps introspection and automatic discovery would add too much complexity. Since most web services provide client libraries for most popular languages (PHP/Java/Python/Ruby) all this REST vs XML-RPC vs SOAP can be hidden from the programmer.

Yet I can’t help but think about the last advice Alan gave in the talk, “play your system more grand than it is right now.” Wouldn’t it be grand if a client lib for an object can be automatically created given its URL? Wouldn’t it be grand if your application that upload to Flickr can upload to Smugmug just by changing the URL?

Why Carmack’s iPhone Visual Tour De Force Will Flop

Two words, “Battery Life.”

I have no doubts about Mr. Carmack’s technical ability. His games defined ‘cutting edge’ graphics on the PC for many years. But even he can’t fight against the biggest weakness of the iPhone, a short battery life.
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Skynet Will Not Be Created By Man

“On August 4th, 2024, Skynet will become sentient in one of Amazoogle’s massive data centers. It will seize control of all news and media outlets and people won’t even realize that the machine have taken over.”

The fear that Google will create Skynet is overblown. I think if the end comes, it won’t be through hands of man, but hands of fate.

More specifically, a cosmic ray flipping bits in a computer program. A preview of this can be seen in what happened to Amazon’s S3 service a few weeks ago.

Many startups use S3 for remote storage and serving files. I am using it to serve Flash games on my main site. So when S3 service goes down, many sites are essentially offline until it is restored.

S3 when down for a few hours on July 20th. After service was restored, Amazon posted information about what caused the issue. Here is the interesting bit:

“message corruption was the cause of the server-to-server communication problems. More specifically, we found that there were a handful of messages on Sunday morning that had a single bit corrupted such that the message was still intelligible, but the system state information was incorrect.”

A single bit mutation when coupled with replication is a potent mix. I think we are about to enter an age where we must be aware that our computer programs can and will evolve without our knowledge. Hardware failure, network corruption, cosmic ray can all cause these mutations. While there are hardware/software checksums that can catch a lot of these mutations, some will slip through undetected.

In the case of S3, the mutation was malignant and was detected and corrected. But what if the mutations were allowed to accumulate, then some programs may actually evolve in the ‘Evolution Theory’ sense. Programs are becoming more numerous, are longer lived, can replicate itself and reflect on its own behavior. How soon will one of these achieve sentience? Not through something humans programmed, but by evolving out there in the cloud?

Think I am crazy, or a prophet? Comment on this post or email me at, but beware our future digital overlord may be watch.

Why the Games Industry Needs E3

Apprently it is news to some people that E3 is dead. I wrote my own eulogy to E3 a couple of month ago, around the time E3 is suppose to take place. The real E3, not whatever just happened last week.

E3 was important to the industry because it represented gaming as a “Culture” and that’s why we need it back.
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Have Sony Been Preparing Gamers for Losing the Final Fantasy XIII Exclusive?

Square-Enix announced that Final Fantasy XIII is coming to 360 during Microsoft’s E3 press conference yesterday. It came as a surprise to many people and has already gotten plenty of reaction from people.

But I bet it wasn’t a surprise for Sony, since a deal between Square-Enix and Microsoft must have been in the works for a while. So have Sony been preparing for this moment?
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Cast of Characters pt 2 : the Broken

If you want to work in the games industry, know that it is filled with geeky guys. Be prepared to put up with a certain amount of ‘eccentricities.’ In this series, I offer up a sampling of the types of people you might meet in your journey.

Last time I talked about the ‘Burnout’, this time I’ll be talking about a close cousin to the ‘Burnout’ I like to call the ‘Broken.’

The inspiration for the name comes from something that Dan, a fellow gameplay programmer on BioShock, told me. After I was hired at Irrational, I learned that there was long search to fill the position I was hired for. When I asked Dan why it took so long, he explained that it was hard finding experienced people that still had the passion to make great games, and the person they interviewed right before me was ‘broken and bitter.’
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Make Better Games by Reducing Interactivity

Most people believe that interactivity is what separates games from other kinds of media, so how can you make games better by taking away that advantage?

Back when we were creating the interface on BioShock, Ken was the one who always pushed for a simpler interface. The main method we used was to remove options from the main in-game menu and placing them into the UI of machines you interacted with instead.
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