Wednesday, March 7, 2012

God and the Machine

Two and a half years ago, I began blogging here in order to create a space where I could write about all kinds of games, any time I want, however I want. Since then, I've built a small but loyal audience interested in the same thing, and I thank you for staying with me as I adjust to changing demands brought on, first, by my return to graduate school, and then by various family illnesses.

In case you're wondering: no, I'm not closing down State of Play. Posting will continue to be lean until I find some balance among everything I need to do, and while I work to get a new project up and running. But I will continue to make this a place for my game coverage.

That new project is also a blog. It's called God and the Machine, and it's hosted at Patheos, a portal dedicated to intelligent discussions about the entire sweep of religious issues. My contribution covers "Technology, Culture, and Catholicism," which is a pretty broad mandate. The official launch was Monday, and I've already posted on subjects ranging from the HHS contraception mandate to the LulzSec arrests.

I've always made clear on these pages that I'm politically conservative (not Republican) and Catholic, but since it's a game site, I never have (and never will) make that the thrust of my posts here. That will not be the case at God and the Machine, which will tackle more controversial issues. While I've always made an effort to keep State of Play a family friendly site, particularly since I know I have young readers, those limitations can't apply to God and the Machine simply because of the nature of the subject matter.

If you'd like to follow my posts on this subject, please follow me at the Twitter account @ThomasLMcDonald, or on Facebook. The Twitter account for @StateofPlayBlog will remain focused on games and pure tech. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Games Magazine Goes Digital

Sorry for the radio silence this last week, but we had back-to-back medical crises, and I'm still getting caught up.

In the meantime, there's news from the world of Games Magazine. We've gone digital! You can buy a subscription or a sample issue at Zinio. If you click on the image, you can preview a few pages. It works on computers and most mobile devices.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

So, Yeah, This Is Happening ...

I do everything I can on these pages to prevent just this kind of thing. I feel like I've failed you all. I'm so sorry.

Here's the whole story (after the jump), told in in PRSpeak, which is like 1337speak, only 38% more disingenuous:

Monday, February 13, 2012

TOY FAIR 2012: Life Size Lego Hulk

Just because.

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TOY FAIR 2012: Why, yes ...

... That IS a Fembot doll from The Six Million Dollar Man. How did I ever live without one?

... and Bigfoot (6MM version) as well.

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TOY FAIR 2012: New SpotIt!

Hockey, baseball, kids, and travel themes, with a possibility of a Halloween theme in October.

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TOY FAIR 2012: Mario Kart: Micro RC

Very tiny remote controlled battling Mario Karts. Everybody should have one.

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TOY FAIR 2012: Turnstiles (ThinkFun)

A neat logic puzzle from ThinkFun. It uses rotating
obstacles for a Rush Hour style logic puzzle.

Here's a supershort video I shot of the game in action. You need to get the figures into their matching corners by rotating the walls.

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TOY FAIR 2012: UnHinged (ThinkFun)

A neat new puzzler from ThinkFun: these hexagons are all attached by hinges: blue on one side, white on the other. You have to flip and fold them to match a patter.

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TOY FAIR 2012: Show-exclusive Skylander: Cynder Metallic (Activision)

When I get home tonight, I will be proclaimed "Best daddy in the world."

Toy Fair 2012 exclusive Skylanders metallic Cynder figure. I've seen it posed on eBay for as high as $500, and actually bidding upwards of $200. People need to get a grip.

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TOY FAIR 2012: Skylanders Giants (Activision)

They're Skylanders ... only bigger. The new game is due this fall, and it looks great.

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Toy Fair 2012: Bicycle Jacked Up!

Bicycle is integrating playing cards with QR tech to create some neat twists on War, Hearts, and Solitaire

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TOY FAIR 2012: New Qwirkle (MindWare)

Qwirkle Cubes and Travel Size Qwirkle versions of the Spiel des Jahres winner.

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TOY FAIR 2012: NECA Game Tie-In Toys

Plush Team Fortress figures? Life size portal guns? Assassin's Creed big-heads? We got ya covered.

The Team Fortress 2 maquette below isn't from NECA, but I don't remember who's making it.

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Welcome to Toy Fair 2012

I'll be walking the floor for most of the day, posting anything that might be of interest, as long as the signal and charge hold out.

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Toy Fair Today

I'm travelling into New York today for the Toy Fair, where I plan to see all the usual suspects. I'm going to attempt to post from the show throughout the day, but that depends upon my connection.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Knight's Tour: Animated GIF

I run hot and cold on Wikipedia, but I stumbled upon this animated GIF of a Knight's Tour, and thought it was worth sharing. The Knight's Tour is a mathematical puzzle that requires a knight to visit every square on the board once using his standard move. The GIF is the work of Ilmari Karonen, and uses the following moves:

e8 g7 h5 f6 e4 g3 h1 f2 d1 b2 a4 c3 d5 b6 a8 c7 b5 a7 c8 d6 c4 a3 b1 d2 f1 h2 g4 e3 f5 h6 g8 e7 c6 d8 b7 a5 b3 a1 c2 d4 f3 e1 g2 h4 g6 h8 f7 g5 h7 f8 e6 f4 h3 g1 e2 c1 a2 b4 d3 c5 a6 b8 d7 e5

There's a beautiful symmetry in the finished solution. If, for some reason, the animation starts in the middle, just let it play out and it should loop around to the beginning.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Speaking of Plagiarizing Slimeballs...

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you ... 6waves. Remember that name, and don't ever buy anything from them again. Ever.

Here's why:

This is Triple Town, by Spry Fox:

And this is Yeti Town, by the aforementioned Slimeballs Inc.

See! They added snow!

And 6waves developed the game under the pretense of negotiating with Spry Fox to publish Triple Town:
6waves was in confidential (under NDA) negotiations with us to publish Triple Town at the exact same time that they were actively copying Triple Town. We gave 6waves private access to Triple Town when it was still in closed beta, months before the public was exposed to the game. We believed those negotiations were ongoing, and we continued to give private information to 6waves, until 6waves’ Executive Director of Business Development sent us a message via Facebook on the day Yeti Town was published in which he suddenly broke off negotiations and apologized for the nasty situation. His message can be found in its entirety in the body of our legal complaint.
It’s bad enough to rip off another company. To do so while you are pumping them for private information (first, our game design ideas, and later, after the game was launched on Facebook, our private revenue and retention numbers) is profoundly unethical by any measure.
So tell me: did Generation Napster have every last trace of scruples removed in between watching  Digimon and playing Syphon Filter?

Previous story: Zynga Chief: Stealing is Okay Cause Everybody Does It 

Zynga Chief: Stealing Is Okay Cause Everybody Does It

Naw, Mark Pincus really didn't say that. He said this:
We don’t need to be first to market. We need to be the best in market. There are genres that we’re going to enter because we know our players are interested in them and because we want and need to be where players are. We evolve genres by making games free, social, accessible and highest quality.
That's from a leaked memo in response to "criticism" (read: blindingly obvious observations) that the Zynga game Dream Heights in a bald-faced piece of plagiarism of indie hit Tiny Tower.

Pincus went on to say that it's different when people do it to him, as happened when Vostu's Pet Mania ripped off Zynga's Petville, which had already ripped off Nintendogs and every other pet game on the market.
A few of you have asked how our approach to genres relates to the situation we faced with Vostu. There are rules of engagement in our industry. Companies have to respect each other’s legal and IP ownership rights in the form of copyrights and trademarks. In the case of Vostu, you can see for yourself that Vostu crossed the line and chose to use our copyrighted IP and artwork. That’s different than competing to build the best product or out-innovate us in the City category.
 That's a lot of words for a guy most famous for telling his design team, “I don’t want ****ing innovation."

h/t: Forbes

Monday, January 30, 2012

Minecraft Legos

From the Department of Redundancy Department. Lego is producing an official Minescape Lego product, which will be completely different from regular Lego because it will say "Minecraft" on the box. And maybe come with a Creeper face decal.

Lego CUUSOO is a site that allows people to post ideas for Lego projects, and if they get enough votes (and pass review), Lego will produce that product. Minecraft passed the 10,000 vote mark and the review process, and "we are now developing a concept that celebrates the best aspects of building with the LEGO system and in Minecraft and we can’t wait to show it to you—but we aren’t ready just yet. These things take time, so we appreciate your patience. More details are to come."

h/t Penny Arcade

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Gibraltar Chess Festival Gets a Stamp

The Gibraltar Chess Festival has become one of the premiere events on the chess calender, drawing some of the top talent to the Rock for 10 days, from 24th January to 2nd February, 2012. For the tenth anniversary, they're issuing a set of stamps depicting classic games from past years:
The games featured on the stamps have been specially chosen as representing the best of the many thousands contested in Gibraltar over the past decade. All the players shown are grandmasters. Two are women. Pia Cramling (Sweden) has played in all ten Gibraltar festivals, while Natalia Zhukova (Ukraine) won the top female award in 2010. Michael Adams, Nigel Short (both England) and Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukraine) are all former Gibraltar champions. Viktor Bologan (Moldova) and Fabiano Caruana (Italy) are elite players with aggressive styles popular with the public. Chess legend Viktor Korchnoi (Switzerland) fought two World Championship matches with arch-rival Anatoly Karpov.
My children were puzzled when they first learned about stamp collecting. I explained that it was something we had to do before fun was invented.

You can follow the Gibraltar games live if you like.

h/t: Wayne Schmittberger

Star Wars: The Exquisite Corpse Version

This is about to go very viral, very fast. Star Wars Uncut divided the entire original movie into 15-second intervals. Fans from around the world claimed each of those intervals and made their own versions of those 15 seconds. These were then stitched back together into an entire film.

Why post it on a game site? Because it is, essentially, a high tech variation on the parlor game called exquisite corpse, in which someone makes a drawing, folds the paper so only the edge of the drawing can be seen, and then others continue the drawing without reference to the entire picture. The result looks like this:

Drawing by Yves Tanguy, Man Ray, Max Morise, Joan MirĂ³, c. 1926.
Star Wars has such profound cultural capital that everyone can understand these moments no matter how crudely recreated, and they flow together into a surreal, ever-shifting, experience. It's almost impossible to watch all at once, but there are real moments of genius here and there. It is Star Wars re-imagined by the hive-mind of the internet fan community.

Friday, January 13, 2012

January 18th: Stop SOPA Day

Minecraft has become the latest site pledging to go dark for 24 hours on January 18th in protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) & Protect IP Act (PIPA) currently making their way through the US legislature. Notch tweeted the following message a few hours ago:
Decided. We'll silently take down and on the 18th in protest of SOPA.
A number of sites are planning to shut down in order to protest the new law, which is supposedly designed to thwart copyright violations and pirating. Similar hairbrained schemes crop up now and then and need to be smacked back down with great force, Whack-a-Mole-style.

I have little confidence in our government's ability to do almost anything right that doesn't involve really cool weapons, and the idea of opening the technological infrastructure of the entire internet to their meddling is sheer madness. Standford Law Review has a good summary of the problems with the law, and the Wiki entry also fills in some details. SOPA/PIPA is yet another bone thrown to the toxic mix of trial lawyers, lobbyists, and media conglomerates, and will only serve to cripple the continued growth of the internet and stifle free speech.