Angry Robot

Eyeless Max: Dragonball

by Toku

More Post-Apocalyptic Real Estate

There were a couple news pieces about Detroit and the $100 home, following the Toby Barlow piece in the Times. Here’s one from ABC, and one from CNN.

Short version: artists are moving into Detroit, attracted by the low prices on vacant and gutted houses ($100-$3,000). These are houses in Hamtramck, which is still partially inhabited; it neighbours Highland Park, which is where Gran Torino was set. There are neighbourhoods in Detroit that are much, much worse.

I’m no expert, but the Anderson Cooper piece especially feels naive. Of course Gina Reichert and Mitch Cope will one-sidedly promote the opportunities in their neighbourhood. But at least ABC draws out the arson threat they had received. Remember that Detroit police can take 24 hours to respond to a homicide call, and realize you would have to gun up pretty hard to defend your nice new pile of wreckage. That said, a $14/month mortgage sounds pretty good right now. (via detroit unreal estate agency)

Halo Wars

There are two big risks this game runs. First, as the first Halo game not developed by Bungie Studios, it could tarnish a well-made games property and piss of fans by, you know, getting things wrong. Secondly, an RTS on a console is inherently risky. RTSes are generally PC games, reliant on keyboards and mice to navigate large numbers of units quickly, and while the Great Console RTS has certainly been attempted, it hasn’t yet been perfected.

Halo Wars comes close enough for most of us. For Halo fans, it provides a solid dose of Halo story and world. The characters are generic, but the cutscenes incredibly well made. The additional units for both UNSC and Covenant (love the locusts!) fit well into existing Halo lore.

A Locust, the Scarab’s little cousin

As for RTS lovers, there’s something to like here as well. Ensemble Studios simplifies the RTS formula, forgoing the resource gathering and cutting out the ability to define and control groups of units. But the rest of the game is solidly traditional: the cursor, the overhead view, the base-building all signify a simplified yet still complex strategy game with plenty of possible routes to victory – or humiliating loss.

Halo itself is a redefinition of a PC genre for the console – the shooter. So I had hoped for perhaps a more radical redefinition of real-time strategy for the console with Halo Wars. Ubisoft’s recent EndWar presents a near-flawless voice control system. Bungie Studios have themselves made an RTS, before Halo, with Myth. That game did away with the base-building altogether to concentrate on combat, and it worked very well.

Halo Wars makes no radical moves, but is still good, clean, addicting fun. If you’re into a) Halo, b) RTSes, or c) all of the above, you should get on it.

New Eyeless Max


Was happy to see Toku hasn’t forgotten Eyeless Max n’ friends. It’s been a while.

Stairway to Hell

Did a little mashup action here: Led Zeppelin vs. Silent Hill.

<a href="">Stairway to Hell: Zep vs. Silent Hill by Snake Eyes</a>


Two things recently. #1 was EndWar, a console real-time strategy game by Ubisoft that allowed for voice control of your units. It worked near-perfectly, and made a hell of a lot of sense. There have always been issues getting RTSes working on consoles because they are complicated PC games that are mouse-and-keyboard centered, and they tend not to work well on console controllers. EndWar just routed the fuck around that. After all, RTSes are games about barking orders at soldiers, and a mouse is a pretty arbitrary substitute for actual barking.

The second thing is the Google Mobile app on the iPhone. Despite it being developed by Quicksilver master Alcor, the first version wasn’t all that thrilling. The next major revision added voice search – hold the phone up to your ear, wait for the beep, and speak. However, I put it aside after a few failed queries. I’ve tried it again, though, and I think they’ve improved things on the server side because it actually works. It even managed to get “CRTC” right, which surprised me. Like the Shazam audio recognition app, it’s one of those head-turner iPhone features, but unlike Shazam, I actually use it all the time.

Both of these things are examples of using voice instead of keyboards in contexts where a keyboard is pretty sucky. No one wants to have a keyboard lying on their lap when they’re sitting on the couch, and similarly why mash tiny fake buttons on your iPhone screen when you can use your face to say things. Obviously they are also hugely dependent on audio pattern recognition algorithms and AI having advanced to a sufficient state. But what they signal is that they have indeed advanced, and we can now talk to our computers, and more often than not, they will actually understand.

On the other side, computers have gotten better at talking to us. Take the new Shuffle, released yesterday, which will tell you the song you’re listening to. Or, the Kindle 2, which will read your book to you. Sure, text-to-speech has been around a while; ask any Mac owner. But the new voice in Leopard beats the hell out of all the old ones, and judging by how computer technology has been progressing, I’d wager the voices will only get better.

I’m convinced that this means big things. If something can easily be turned into text from voice, that means that it can easily be searched. The new Google Voice will allow transcription and then tagging and searching of voicemails. Now imagine recording everything you say, and everything anyone says to you, and being able to search it. It’s not so far off – borderline achievable today with an iPhone, a 3G connection and something like Jott (unfortunately, the way-cool Jott has gone pay-only).

I can’t help but think about the storytelling potential for such technology, namely games. It’s not just bossing units around. Imagine no more dialogue trees and menus and simply engaging in natural language coversations with AI characters. It wouldn’t just be for RPGs; suddenly a game could exist where the central ‘gameplay’ is just conversation. Conversation is obviously central to human life and is something film, TV, novels, every other sequential art form can render in a manner befitting its medium, which is not true of games right now.

Finally, the shift is ultimately about the disembodiment of computers, paralleling the rise of cloud computing. Sure, we interact with plenty of disembodied computers already, like when we get up in the internets. But we do that through our desktops and laptops. As our computers get smaller – phones, pens, etc. and more ubiquitous, it’s increasingly archaic to interact with them only through screens and keyboards. They will become magic ghost butlers, like HAL (except hopefully less killy).

Next: a smell-based operating system.

This Is It

This is a station ID I did for Drive-In Classics a couple years back. It aired late at night as a treat for stoners.

Wish I could name all the sources, but at the very least it’s Beach Party, Vanishing Point, a kung fu flick, and VO from some shitty old trailers.

This Is It from dsankey on Vimeo.