Angry Robot

Ethical Treatment of Robots

Here’s a thing I saw on Slashdot. A very long paper on the ethical treatment of robots in war and other things.

It’s long.

No, I haven’t read the whole thing yet.

But there is interest there. You should explore it.

Wizards vs. Nerds, Culture vs. Community

What starts as a discussion of why wrock (wizard rock aka Harry Potter bands) has more of a community than nerdcore hiphop winds up as a distinction between culture and community, and how some geeks may want the former without the latter. It’s a long and sinewy thread woven between several sites, so I’ll just point you to Geek Studies for a good summary, all the relevant links, and some interesting points.

Further Evil

Hi Kids!
Well, it’s been awhile, but I’m back and twitchy as ever.

This week the comic was made entirely on Photoshop and it sucks. Unfortunately Technology has conspired against me for the following reasons:
1) My printer is broken, so I cannot run off blank panels or draw them first by hand.
2) My scanner is broken, so I cannot scan anything I’ve drawn.
3) My copy of photoshop is done-busted, and refuses to do several of the important function needed.
4) I am slowly developing a hatred of Photoshop… just give me a fucking pencil and paper.

On that note…
I really didn’t have a plan for the second part of this comic.
But I got a cheap shot in at Naruto, and that in my books it a good reason to struggle with Photoshop for three days solid to come up with a subpar comic.

Anyways, something funnier coming next week.

Love! or Hate! Endless Ocean

Yes, many will tell you that narratives need conflict (although this limits our definition of narrative – “I went to the store” is a narrative), but more strictly speaking a game needs rules, which are what Endless Ocean lacks, more or less. A game without rules is play. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – I’m very fond of rule-free exploration, having whiled away hours in Halo’s Forge, Electroplankton, Crackdown and even Assassin’s Creed doing very little for which I could be evaluated. So I’d side more with Michaël (although I’m talking out my ass since I haven’t played the game yet).

There’s a hardcore-vs.-casual aspect to people’s discussion of this title, naturally, which is interesting to watch. But perhaps the game’s true value is simply in challenging our sense of what game means, and suggesting that a beautiful space might be enough. Beauty is enough to make us like a painting – why not a game?

Various Bits of Awesomeosity

Remember Dark Castle? I sure do. Well, you can play it in OS X now. Awesome.

Superheroes in Real Life, aka comic book fans whose membrane between real and make-believe shriveled up in a jaw-dropping way. Awesome. (via Z)

And via Penny Arcade:

Awesome doesn’t really do it justice.

It's Transforming

Here’s a good, measured piece from Ars’ Nate Anderson: Is the music industry dying? The answer is: no. CD sales are tanking hard, but digital sales are skyrocketing – not just at iTunes but also eMusic and presumably others.

Convenience isn’t the only thing at work here; price is also a major factor. [eMusic CEO David] Pakman believes that the CD is priced “completely wrong,” and points out that hundreds of major DVDs can be had for $4 or $5. Despite the pressure that music labels have been under the last few years, CD prices have never approached this level (not counting those Beatles Greatest Hits! (as played by the Western Ljubljana State Radio Orchestra) discs you find in value bins).

Goddamned right. If CDs were $3 I’d be buying the hell outta them. But it’s clear that the major labels have had a big hand in their own downfall, and not just the suing-own-customers thing. They could have lowered prices on CDs to $3 and still made money, and they could have realized that albums full of junk filler tracks won’t sell like hotcakes in the era of single track downloads. And they could have ditched the DRM a lot quicker.

So given that, and thinking of the recently-announced iTunes movie rentals full of DRM and time limitations, what’s Hollywood thinking? Isn’t it clear that the DRM has got to go eventually? They should get out in front of that shit right now, and not cock it up like the labels did.

GameSpot's Downfall

Here’s a great followup to the Gerstmann affair, that supplies lots of salacious details while fitting the sad tale into a broader context. Two editorial staffers have quit since, for example. And an ad sales guy is in charge of editorial. Also, did you know that basically any element on GameSpot’s front page can be purchased by advertisers?

In my opinion, we should view the controversy from the larger perspective of journalism as a whole, and not treat games sites as some distinct, recent phenomenon with their own set of rules. If you learned that any story on the front page of the Globe and Mail could be purchased by an advertiser without clearly being marked as an ad, why would you read the Globe anymore?

Advance Wars: Days of Ruin, Day One

The biggest change is to the tone of the game. The previous title, Advance Wars: Dual Strike, was noted for its happy-go-lucky anime style and its accessibility. While this game is still easy to pick up even for strategy n00bs, its post-apocalyptic art and story certainly casts the franchise in a darker light. And yes, these games have stories. While AW: DS’ story wouldn’t win any Writers’ Guild Awards, let me conservatively say that it added something to the game. This time around, you start off with some titles and stills indicating that meteors struck the earth and trashed everything, and no plant life can survive. You then follow the naïve youth character Will, alone, scared and pursued by raiders (read: Mad Max villains). Will is rescued by the remnants of the armed forces led by a benevolent patriarch who repeats platitudes like “as long as there is life, there is hope” and our heroes set out to do good in a hopeless, charred world. Being a hopeless, charred cynic myself, I can relate to this sort of story a lot more than that of AW: DS, where a band of bubbly teenaged generals waged cartoon war against cartoonish evil. But you’ll still have to choke down a few pints of cliches, it seems.

The gameplay isn’t much changed. Like all strategy games, it’s an elaborate rock-paper-scissors match, with concerns about terrain, ranged vs. close units, territory control and unit production added to the mix. Some units have been added (bike, anti-tank, flare), and some taken away (neotank, megatank). The ‘dual strike’ aspect of the previous game, where you would choose tag teams of commanders with different strengths and power attacks, has been removed – thankfully for me anyways, who found it confusing and unnecessary. But your units can now advance in level by defeating enemy units. Again like AW: DS, the game is easy to begin with, and tutorial aspects are blended into the gameplay quite gracefully.

One oversight, so far, is that fuel isn’t a bigger challenge. It seems to function just as in the previous title, where units have limited fuel, but it’s not too hard to manage resupplying them. If you’re doing a post-apocalyptic wasteland story, isn’t fuel scarcity part of the whole deal? This would have been an easy, story-motivated way to add a new gameplay consideration.

Of course like I say I haven’t finished the game yet, so fuel’s role could change, and my overall thoughts may, too. I’ll post more as we go.

I Can't Take This!


WGA Announces Nominees for Best Writing in a Game

Angry that the WGA was sticking their paws in my gaming cookie jar and mucking it up with “awards” and “standards of excellence”.

I’ll say when a game has kick bawls writing! Me and no other!

Then D pointed out to my angered self that the writers of these games are all WGA members, hence the short and confusing list. He then went on to say that they are breaking in with this awards business in order to take over the whole writing in games. This just elevated my anger levels to new heights! He mentioned something abotu better rates and stuff…But I dislike the fact that in order to work in anything like film or tv, even down to the smallest job, you have to be a member of some sort of union.

Now I get that unions exist for a reason, lots of very good reasons, but the game industry was this place where people created these epic stories without having to be part of some sort of pay your way through pecking order. But standards exist for a reason…for everyone to at least meet them and then try to exceed them. And better writing arcoss the board in games would be good…I just don’t know.

I’m all a flutter about this and I’m not completely sure why.

What do you think?

Angry Robot Sounds 10

We recorded this yesterday after a nice Rock Band session; it’s Mags Nadine and D and we discuss that very same band-rocking game, party games, casual games, genre in games, and more about Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade games. Plus, many tangents! And a botched opening.

Angry Robot Sounds 10 (22MB mp3, 24mins)

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The Master Chief Challenge

Remember this thing we did in september, the Halo 3 tournament that aired on Space? I just uploaded it to vimeo, for easier viewing.

Nothin Beats Lynch

Project Horseshoe

nothing beats a graph

Here’s an account of Project Horseshoe, where “the unicorns of the game development profession” got together for a weekend to discuss the problem of story in games. There’s a lot of good shit in here, including consideration of things outside the game industry such as ARGs, Disneyland, social networks and even the ol’ Stanford Prison Experiment. The thesis:

We believe that game designers are in the business of experience creation rather than that of storytelling. The story that is generated through gameplay is the player’s personal story that has been mediated by the game systems.

Cloverfield: A Review

There will be many long winded passages about the genius of this film, or the death of classical cinema, or how it kicks ass and is a great monster flick, or how it gives people head aches.

I’m not going to be long winded here.

I’m just going to tell you that Cloverfield is an excellent film. I’m not going to talk about the style or point out what this or that means. Going to see this film tonight was the first time in a very long time that I simply sat back and just experienced a movie. Sure, for the first fifteen minutes I was analyzing everything, but as soon as the action started that part of my brain clicked off and I sat amazed.

I turned to Toku several times, biting my fingernails and whispering, “I love this movie” with a happy grin on my face.

I really enjoyed this film. I hope you do too. Just try and remember that no matter what the debate may be about the style of the film, it is still just a story. A damned fine one at that.

So enjoy it…you don’t have to be an intellectual about it.


If you are wondering what exactly I loved so much about this film here are a few points:


The monster(s) were kick ass.

XBLA Cuteness = Boogie Bunnies

Okay so Tetris is awesome and all and Zuma and all the rest of them. But when you take the addictive nature of a timed coloured-item reduction game and add in lil’creatures with such adorable voices complete with giddy cries of happiness when you blow them up…Well, it’s just perfect.

It’s just gaming maple syrup.

And I like maple syrup.

Awesome Flash Game: Episode 1!

Okay my cousin was playing this last night and I nearly died it was so cute. And by cute I mean totally stick figure adorable with great music, animation, and style.

Check out Fancy Pants Adventure



Tonight I’m Gonna Write Lists Like it’s 1999

Six Things That Made Gaming Fun in 2007

  1. The Wii. My hands-down favourite party trick this year was turning people on to the joy of leaping around my living room while flailing their arms like over-caffeinated octopi.
  2. The DS. Frantically slashing my way through heart surgeries and turnip farming turned my daily subway ride from a dreaded trek into a too-short playtime. (And yes, I’m well aware that both the Wii and the DS were squeezed out of Nintendo’s gaping vagina long before 2007, but what can I say? I came late to the party.)
  3. Guitar Hero III. The great gaming equalizer. Turns out everyone from my wife’s formerly game-dissing soccer teammates to my mom wants to rock out to “Welcome to the Jungle”.
  4. Skate. Tony Hawk can shove his “grind your way up the Statue of Liberty” bullshit challenges up his cartoony ass. This Zen-like wanderfest proved that all you need to enjoy an afternoon of skating is a board, some tunes and a desire to hunt down some sweet lines.
  5. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Again, another pre-2007 pick. But this was the game I played the most and enjoyed the most this year. So suck it.
  6. Mass Effect. Admittedly, a bit of a mixed blessing. Cheers to the great story, fully fleshed-out universe and fluid conversations. Jeers to the mind-numbingly dull side-missions, the snoozefest combat and those endless fucking elevator rides.

Two Old-Skool Games I Enjoyed More This Year Than Assassin’s Creed and GRAW 2 Combined

  1. Indigo Prophecy. A compelling story, an emphasis on emotion over action and a strange mix of real-world banality and supernatural creepiness all combined to make this a truly adult game.
  2. Pikmin. Growing and caring for an army of plant-like helpers so that you can solve a series of puzzles and repair your ultra-adorable spaceship may sound dorky (I believe I tried to sell someone on it by using the ill-advised sales pitch, “It’s a game about time management!”), but trust me, this one’s more addictive than crack-flavored Mountain Dew.

Three Love/Hate Games

  1. Bioshock. The critics went on and on and on about the art deco style, the twisty storyline and the complex morality. But nobody seemed willing to mention that you could see the single plot twist coming a mile away, the moral choices really didn’t matter and that – at the end of the day – it was basically just another first-person shooter with a few spells. Fun for a few hours, but an artistic masterpiece it ain’t.
  2. Crackdown. I couldn’t get enough of the Incredible Hulk-style leaping, but those story missions and gang battles were about as complex as a sundial.
  3. Online Gaming. As much as I like the idea of ditching AI in favour of genuine human intelligence, I just can’t get over the cries of “I raped you” from all the 14 year-old hillbillies on Xbox Live. And that moronic “ZOMG” leet lingo makes me want to sit every World of Warcraft player down and force-feed them English Grammar textbooks until they start shitting gerunds.

Two Games That Made Me Want To Claw My Eyeballs Out

  1. Two Worlds. So much hype. So much potential. And in the end, it turned out to be Oblivion’s retarded little inbred brother.
  2. Tenchu Z. I actually didn’t expect much from this one, but I’ve got a soft spot for ninjas, and I really, really, really hoped that would be the installment in the always-disappointing Tenchu saga that would finally deliver the throwing star goods. It didn’t. In spades.

Four Games That All Those Other Year-End Lists Tell Me I Really Should Be Playing

  1. Portal
  2. Rock Band
  3. Super Mario Galaxy
  4. Call of Duty 4

The Five Most Over-Used Game Review Phrases in 2007

  1. “Cinema-quality graphics.”
  2. “Contender for Game of the Year.”
  3. “Addictive multiplayer experience.”
  4. “Revolutionizes the genre.”
  5. “Masterpiece of epic proportions.”

The Five Most Under-Used Game Review Phrases in 2007

  1. “Chock full o’ ninjas.”
  2. “Kafkaesque.”
  3. “Halo meets Everybody Loves Raymond.”
  4. “Kinetoscope-quality graphics.”
  5. “Hot antiquing action.”

Apple ARG: the Ultimate RDF

Can’t you see it now? Apple, the purveyors of the Reality Distortion Field, starting their own Alternate Reality Game? Clues are seeded early on, and truth is revealed at a Macworld keynote. It would totally work, wouldn’t it?

Well, people are playing it already, as we do every year in the lead up to the Stevenote (which is tomorrow). But wouldn’t it benefit Apple to actually design that experience, instead of leaving it up to the players? Or maybe they do … (cue creepy music)

Two Top Five Lists – What a Feeling!

Super Awesome Not Bad At All Video Game (Related) Movies!!

5. Resident Evil/Silent Hill – These share the fifth spot because they were both based on seriously scary games and both films managed to keep enough elements that I didn’t hate them. Resident Evil was good and she is pretty. Silent Hill made me feel creepy and icky so mission accomplished.
4. Mortal Combat – Suck it! This was awesome when I was a kid! They made Sub Zero you bastards, that was awesome.
3. Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life – She’s hot, he’s hot, hot hot hot.
2. Ninja Turtles – The new animated film makes me cry and the music is the tits.
1. Ninja Turtles – This is one of my all time favourite comfort movies, I can watch this pretty much any time.

Most Horrible Evil Adaptations Evers…

5.BloodRayne – Not even Kristanna Lokken’s smokin hotness can save this…thing…this…terrible terrible thing…
4. Street Fighter – Van Damme, nuff said.
3. Wing Commander – Never played this game but I sure as hell (wait, I don’t believe in hell) have watched good movies before and this is not a good movie. This is a bad movie.
2. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within – What?! Why is this here it was a beautiful film! Yes, but the story was so damned disappointing to me…I was so let down by this movie for some reason and for that, well, forgiveness is denied.
1. Super Mario Bros. – I can’t…I can’t I can’t…evil evil…but Toad’s not…no no no why why why…The pain!!!

48 Hour Zelda Marathon for Child's Play


Hey Listen!

(This happened on the weekend – Zelda fans rock!)

Angry Robot Sounds 9

Hello Internets!

A thrilling new installment of the action-packed, high-octane Angry Robot podcast experience. Topicz: our favourite new headscratcher of a game Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom, Xbox Live vs. The Playstation Store / network thing, Blu-Ray wins but will inevitably lose to the Flesh Drive aka synthetic fat man full of hard drives who follows you around.

This episode features the debut of the Technical Difficulties Theme, on account of – you guessed it! Technical difficulties. Awesome!

Hay, I just noticed that the acronym for our new crush is KUF: COD. Catchy!

Next week we’re totally doing the podcast again and I’m gonna try to put EVEN MORE exclamation points into the writeup!!!!!!!!!

Angry Robot Sounds 9 (22MB mp3, 24mins)

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In Robot News

On the robot tip, I just gotta share this:

In The Know: Are We Giving The Robots That Run Our Society Too Much Power?

Writers Strike, YouTube Cleans Up

Ars: Video-sharing site use surges as writers’ strike goes on. Yeah, that would happen, wouldn’t it? As Nate Anderson points out, the data both supports the writers’ position that online revenue is important, and warns the studios that people can live without their output. Last thing they want is a baseball strike scenario, where the sport itself never really recovered its following.

Just Say NO To Bioshock: The Redundant Movie

No no no no no no no.

I’m sure we talked about this in Angry Robot Sounds at some point because I was verily afeared this would happen.

This is not a good idea.

The game is already a movie.

Why do they have to cheapen everything?


It’ll be a two and half hours of uncovering the secrets of the splicers…badly…stupidly…horribly…oh gods…no please no!