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Mon Sep 15, 2014 at 04:54 PM PDT

Microsoft and Minecraft.

by Noah Churchel

Reposted from Noah Churchel by sagesource

This was supposed to be published this morning, before the news broke - so I am leaving it as written.  The specifics of price are different but the content is the same.

Why is Microsoft buying Minecraft? For two billion?  A kid's game?  If you play Minecraft, I look forward to your comments and opinions.  If you are the parent of a Minecraft player, I have a test for your child.

Ask your child if he or she knows what invar is used for.  If the child blinks twice and starts speaking in a techspeak that you are unfamiliar with, Microsoft has already partially lost them, and is willing to pay two billion dollars to slowly recoup them over the next two decades.  I will explain why below the squigglies.

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The Elder Scrolls Online goes public

I'm pounding along a hallway in the Wailing Prison, Coldharbor, leading an old blind man I know only as The Prophet to a Daedric anchor portal. Coldharbor is the realm of the Daedric Prince Molag Bal, a nasty piece of work whose list of titles begins with Lord of Domination and goes downhill from there, ending with King of Rape. We're both on the high end of Molag Bal's Most Wanted list, so we need to leave now, while the Lord of Cruelty is distracted by a prison riot. The Prophet claims he can get us back to Nirn, the mortal world, by piggybacking on one of Molag Bal's Dark Anchors, gigantic structures of chain and ironwork that are intended to terminate the existence of said mortal world by winching it into a shotgun marriage with Coldharbor, at which point Molag Bal will be able to have his wicked way with it.

The Daedric Anchor Portal that leads out of Coldharbor back to the mortal world.
Goodbye to Coldharbor -- if the portal doesn't glitch, that is.
We arrive at the anchor portal without much fuss, and after a few preliminaries The Prophet invokes the aid of one of the gods with a prayer (a good prayer too, for those of you who shudder at characters named The Prophet and religion in games in general), and takes off into the air to be sucked into the portal and ejected somewhere in Nirn. After filling my pockets a bit fuller from the odd selection of supplies available – raw chicken meat? – I try my own takeoff. I rise to the portal, touch it....and the transfer fails, as the game helpfully informs me. I then fall a couple of hundred feet to go splat on the metal floor. That wasn't in the script.

Fortunately, in The Elder Scrolls Online, death has an almost farcical impermanence. Besides, strictly speaking, I'm dead already, since Molag Bal has stolen my soul for his own dark purposes. I resurrect and try again. And again. And again. Nine times in all, before someone in chat suggests I quit the game and restart it. Then, and only then, it works and drops me back onto Nirn, in the city of Daggerfall, where I wake up in some nameless resident's house. The Prophet appears to me as a projection, and confirms that one of his fears has come true – the two of you have arrived in different places. So, he sends me off to keep myself busy confounding the agents of Molag Bal while he sorts out his side of the story.

Here I am in Daggerfall, with no idea where anything is, only a few supplies, and even less money. So what do I do first in my new career as a warrior for righteousness? Steal everything that isn't screwed down in the house I arrived in. And then go across the street to clean out the house there. And then visit next door, like Santa Claus in reverse. And clean out anywhere else I please, for that matter, even the Cathedral. No one seems to care about me disappearing into residences not my own and emerging staggering under a load of loot. And then I sell it all, sometimes to the very merchant I've stolen it from, which gives me enough money to get on with. I go looking for trouble, or in game jargon, “quests,” and find it, of course....

Raging Elf granny in the ESO character menu. You talk back one more time.....
The ESO editor allows you a good deal of flexibility in creating your character. Here's my raging Elf granny. Don't talk back to her.
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I'm sad, and angry. Mostly angry, actually.

I spent last weekend watching Elder Scrolls Online turn into Elder Scrolls on Life Support right in front of my eyes. It was that bad. Still a beta, the hopeful were typing into chat. Still a beta. What do you expect?

Error message after server crash, Elder Scrolls Online MMO
Well, from a beta for a game that is scheduled to go to market in less than a month, I'd expect it to run. And all too often, it didn't. Or it ran right off a cliff.

More on this, and why it would be a tragedy for gaming, below under the orange bundle of jute....

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Sun Dec 29, 2013 at 03:45 PM PST

Home is where the heart is

by sagesource

Opening screen for Gone Home, showing a portrait of the house with a single lit window, against a purple night sky.
In the morning, you can tell me your dreams.

You think you know where Gone Home is going before it's five minutes old.

The wide-eyed innocent protagonist – Katie, a girl in her early 20s, just back from a trip to Europe. The setting – a large old house in the countryside, miles from anywhere, poorly lit with mysterious echos. The time – one-thirty in the morning. The weather – gale-force wind and pouring rain, floods predicted. And the hook, so to speak, why all these things are so ominous – the girl's entire family, her younger sister and her parents, have vanished. On the front door there's a note from her younger sister, Samantha or Sam, saying that she's gone, she won't be coming back, and I love you but please don't try to find me. This doesn't look as if it will end well.....

Horror movie cliche in Gone Home -- the family portrait hanging in the main hall.
When you see the family portrait in the front hall, you wonder how many of them will have "X" over his or her face by the end....
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Spoilers. Many. But not enough to spoil the experience, as you'll see.
Opening of the museum section, which discusses how the game was developed as part of the game. The triumph of meta.
You are a man named Stanley, in a first-person video game named, appropriately enough, The Stanley Parable. Stanley has an apartment, a wife, and a job that completely satisfies him. He works in a large company and types single letters into a computer all day in response to instructions that appear on his screen. And Stanley is happy.
Push 8 to Question Nothing message on screen of Stanley's computer.
It's only a job....
Until one day, with no warning at all, the instructions stop coming. Stanley is not happy. He sets off in search of an explanation for the change, only to find that every one of his co-workers has inexplicably vanished. So Stanley begins searching for them as well.

A friend helps him search, not a person, but a voice in his head. The voice is avuncular, perfectly modulated, and very British, and it frequently professes a desire to help Stanley understand and deal with the unusual situation he finds himself in. It suggests the path that Stanley should take, and modifies his environment to a limited degree, but it cannot control his actions. At critical junctures, it has no alternative but to trust Stanley to "do the right thing."

The narrator admits that he is dependent on Stanley to make the
Use the Force, Luke!... er, Stanley....
You see, Stanley has free will, including the freedom to ignore the voice. If Stanley exercises his free will in ways that coincide with the advice the voice gives, it is highly gratified. It demonstrates to Stanley that, horror of horrors, he has been under the control of others all his life, and if Stanley continues to trust the voice and accept its suggestions, it finally leads him out of his grim office building into the open air and sunlight, where he can live a life that is authentic, based on his own freely made decisions. However, if Stanley makes decisions that go against the advice of the voice, it becomes upset, and then irritated, and then angry, and then despairing. Finally, more often than not, it abandons Stanley to die in some dark dead end, or dumps him into someone else's game, or loses its temper and goes Groundhog Day on him, leaving Stanley back in his office staring down an empty corridor, about to set out in search of his co-workers.....
The empty corridor that begins The Stanley Parable.
I do hope you get it right this time....
Well, that was a pointless little rebellion, wasn't it, Stanley? Did you bugger-all good, didn't it? The voice cannot control you, but it can call you to account pretty damned quickly, can't it? Wouldn't it be better to just listen to what you are told, and be free? But in that case, freedom turns out to consist of absolute submission to the demands of another. There's something wrong there, even though it's a familiar situation. "O God, who art the author of peace and lover of concord, in knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life, whose service is perfect freedom...." (Book of Common Prayer).

Many game companies make their development tools public and allow their games to be modified so long as the results are not sold for profit. Is this "make anything you want from our stuff but don't make money from it" approach to copyright practical?

48%12 votes
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| 25 votes | Vote | Results

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Sat Oct 26, 2013 at 09:19 PM PDT

Narrative in video games

by sagesource

The opening splash screen for the video game / narrative
When it comes to telling a story, what can a video game do that is impractical or impossible in a poem, a play, a novel, a movie, or a TV series?

Nothing, I'm sure some people would say -- usually people with a startling ignorance of games. But I have a certain amount of sympathy for them. The unique strength of video game narrative is at the same time one that is fiendishly difficult to exploit fully. It would be possible to author a game that was on the artistic level of a major novel, but the amount of time and talent that it would require might well make it impractical. At the very least, the novelist would have much the easier time of it, even if we compare only the narratives and leave out the increasingly formidable technical knowledge and apparatus needed to create a modern video game.

So, what is this tantalizing strength in video game narrative? Look beneath the squashed sweetroll to find out....

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Sat Oct 05, 2013 at 01:15 PM PDT

DK Gamers: "I Am Not A Gamer."

by SoCaliana

"I'm not a fan of video games and don't expect ever to be!"

Yes, I know there are those out there with that opinion. What I want to find out is: Why?

Please leave a comment of why you don't like video/computer games.

This is a free, open space to just leave your raw opinion. For clarity, if I find I can rebut your reason, yes, I will try. But if not, then No Problem. Everyone is different, we all enjoy different forms of entertainment.

However, if I can figure out a way to get you to enjoy at least some form of video games, then I will try. The theory being, every form of engaging our minds can be helpful as well as entertaining and cause us to grow.

So please take your time, ponder a bit, and tell me why you don't ever consider playing video games.

After a week or so, I will look at the results and comments.

And no, I'm not the end-all of computer games. I just know they can be entertaining, enlightening, and fun. And I don't understand the major dislike for games and gamers from some kossacks.


Have you ever personally played a video/computer game?

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| 40 votes | Vote | Results

Reposted from Risen Tree by sagesource

The online gaming community is overwhelmingly male. So much so that when playing against a human opponent who happens to be female, it's considered a big deal.

Now why is this? One could go into a long discussion about the stereotypically-male games that usually involve violence of some sort. Or the marked lack of diversity among female game characters. Or the fact that most games tend to have a very male, "accomplish this goal and you win" style.

But there's one other contributing problem. And I'll use this example from a Starcraft II game to illustrate. I'll try to stay away from as much of the game-specific jargon as I can, clarifying whenever I have to. Note: I will not be casting (commenting in real time on) the gameplay itself. I'll let the commentators, dubbed "MaximusBlack" and "NovaWar," do that. They're two of the most hilarious commentators in the Starcraft community, and they know the game pretty well. However, in their enthusiasm in casting this particular match, they overlook a poignant conversation between the two players, which I want to open up for discussion.

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Sat Aug 17, 2013 at 12:52 AM PDT


by AntonBursch

Reposted from Anton Bursch by sagesource

Whoever said that video games can't be more than just fun... Eidos Montreal begs to differ.  Their reboot of the Thief series not only looks like another home run following the amazing Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but it looks like they are going to use a Thief to say something about power, religion and the income inequality.  Gotta love those damn socialist Canadian game developers!

Here's the link to the new trailer:

Thief is my favorite game of all time, so, I literally cannot wait for this.

Reposted from Risen Tree by sagesource
Gameplay of SimCity 2000
Ah, the memories.
Ah, Will Wright. He was the legendary genius that gave us the SimCity games, The Sims games, and Spore. The success of his work was unparalleled, as can be seen by the release of the latest SimCity next week. It's fun, it's engaging, and most of all, it's incredibly time-wasting.

I still have lasting memories of playing SimCity 2000 as a kid. Creating these incredible empires with hundreds of thousands of citizens, only to watch them fall apart to disasters (sometimes at my own choosing), was just awe-inspiring. Whatever kind of city you wanted, you could do it. A thriving metropolis? It's yours. A low-crime, egalitarian society? Go for it. A mass transit system that would be the envy of the world? Nothing's stopping you. A polluted wasteland? Hey, it's just a game. But regardless of which way you went, the real trick of SimCity 2000, and any SimCity for that matter, was to run a city whose budget was in the black most of the time. Did that, and you were set. Failed to do that, and you were screwed. Even as a kid, I discovered early on that there were several sure-fire ways of making that happen. Not following these principles was not an option if you wanted your city to survive.

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Tue Feb 12, 2013 at 10:19 AM PST

PPP and video games

by statsone

Reposted from statsone by sagesource

A recent poll from Public Policy Polling showed Americans viewed video games as more of a threat than guns.  But not really.

Details below the fold.

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Reposted from DAISHI by sagesource

"In the current, digitized world, trivial information is being accumulated every second, preserved in all its triteness. Never fading, always accessible... Rumors about petty issues, misinterpretations, slander...  All this junk data, preserved in an unfiltered state, growing at an alarming rate... What we propose to do is not to control content, but to create context... The digital society furthers human flaws and selectively rewards development of convenient half-truths... The untested truths spun by different interests continue to churn and accumulate in the sandbox of political correctness and value systems... Everyone withdraws into their own, small gated community, afraid of a larger forum... Just as in genetics, unnecessary information and memory must be filtered out to stimulate the evolution of the species."

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