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Monday, December 04, 2006

Yeah I know..

I missed another Friday. Since we’re approaching the end of the year, you’d think things would be calming down a bit and I’d have time for some decent posts again. Not so. My deadline for next week Monday was shifted to this Thursday (and that’s not counting the ‘dry run’ test Today). And my other final deadlines are early in Jan, so other than the three days I took off between the Christmas and New Years weekends, it’ll be a while before things do actually slow down-and I wouldn’t expect a decent post anytime soon.

On top of the deadline stress, our neighbors were away last night and their evil dog (when the heck did they get a dog!?) barked all night. It was still barking by the time I left at 6:30 this morning to give Natz a lift to work from the service center she’s taken her car to. Two hours later I’m finally at work, and it’s going to take an inordinate amount of tea to keep me going today. Argh!

 

At least I got to finish CoD 3 on Sunday morning, and my first couple of reviews are in this Month’s G.E.A.R. (PDZ, GR:AW and Oblivion), and I even got an ‘interview’ mention in the community section of NAG’s new ‘360 Insider’ supplement. I’m still waiting to get Viva Pinata…

Monday, November 20, 2006

Gears etc.

Well it looks like I’m making a habit of only getting posts in on Mondays.. bad me, BAD! ;) My excuse this week is that I went to the Gears of War ‘Emergence Day’ launch on Friday afternoon. It meant taking time off work (which I worked in this weekend), but it was well worth it. Besides the launch itself, which was great fun (we went to a shooting range to fire off a few shots on a 9mm and a shotgun), we got collectors edition copies of the game, as well as copies of Flight Simulator X. There were a couple of nice ‘freebies’ in our ‘welcome packs’ as well, which was great.

You’re just a COG in the machine!

The game itself is pretty good. I’m not convinced it deserves the 95-100% ratings everyone has been giving it, but it is undeniably impressive. The very gritty look of post-apocalyptic Serra does a good job of showing off the Unreal 3 engine, but the way-too-familiar story and gameplay are a bit of a let down. Epic promised great things of this game, and while it does what it does extremely well, there’s nothing revolutionary here.

And then there were three

The ‘next generation’ is now officially here in full force. The last two weeks saw Nintendo and Sony release their new systems, and as is to be expected they both sold out in no time. The PS3 has managed to garner mainstream press attention thanks to the ridiculously inflated price it is commanding on eBay, and because of a series of violent incidents surrounding first-day sales. Analysts have also been making worried noises about the incredibly low attach rate of the PS3-apparently less than one game per console. For a system that loses Sony almost $300 every time a customer buys one, slow game sales is scary stuff and I would hate to be a Sony exec right now-or a shareholder for that matter. The Wii on the other hand does not seem to have stolen headlines quite as effectively, but it has certainly stolen sales. Nintendo managed to deliver a huge number of consoles to retail, and they practially walked off shelves-and unlike Sony and Microsoft, the big N is actually making a profit on each console.

Now that everyone is in the ring, it will be interesting to see which way things go. Of course this Christmas will not really be much of an indicator, as Sony is still struggling with manufacturing issues, and the early adopters are never the deciding factor anyway.

Now if only Ms would get their asses into Gear and get Viva Pinata out in SA dammit!

Smashing!

One has to wonder about the mental stability of someone that is willing to wait hours in a queue to buy potentially buggy hardware on launch day for %600. Even more worrying is someone that will spend that time waiting, only to take this $600 paperweight and smash it to pieces in front of all the other eager customers. Check out the hilarious video at http://www.smashmyps3.com/.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Rumble..

[There was a hiccup in the mail system, so I had to resend this.. It was actually written on Friday, I promise!]

From a gaming perspective, this week has been something of a calm before the storm. Microsoft’s holiday flagship title, Gears of War, launched and is in stores and gamers’ hands, but as popular as it has proven with critics and gamers, it’s not really succeeding at the obvious attempt to detract attention from the impending Wii and PS3 launches.

After years of speculation, and almost a year of Microsoft’s next-gen monopoly period, Sony and Nintendo’s new hopes are on the verge of being unleashed on the world. Of course, how much this will affect the South African scene in the short term is debatable. Nintendo products have a history of lackluster distribution in this country, and I doubt the Wii will be very different. South Africans also seem to have a terminal fear of doing anything that may seem even slightly wacky (other than the friggin ‘Leeu Loop’) so I am not convinced the Wii’s unique approach will be appreciated by most.

Sony on the other hand has had a stranglehold on the local market for two generations now, and even the PSP is doing really well compared to the DS, especially if considered in the context of Nintendo’s worldwide handheld dominance. Of course we will not see any PS3s at retail here until March next year (and I’m doubtful about even that date), and while the console may seem expensive to Americans and Europeans, thanks to our brutal exchange rate it will most likely be downright impossibly priced when it does launch here. Our sole local PlayStation hardware distributor, Ster Kinekor, has a history of overpricing gaming prices and this persists today, with the PS2 still selling for around US$160 here in most stores. US$600 is an insane amount of money for even middle income South Africans, and I doubt very much we will see it released at that price here-more than likely Ster Kinekor will throw in another $50-$100 for (their) good measure.

I am by no means saying that the Xbox 360 will be a runaway success just yet in South Africa. I expect the vast majority of gamers in this country to carry on playing their PS2’s for a good while still, however when they do look to upgrade, the huge price tag difference may see the Xbox 360 stealing a lot of the PS3’s overpriced thunder.

Of course this is all speculation and only time will tell. For now I’ll stick to trying to finish all the guild quests in Oblivion, and waiting impatiently for the release of Viva PiƱata. Gears who?

Friday, November 03, 2006

360 update and WinAmp sync

Wow. This week has really flown by, but I don't really have any interesting news-what can I say, my life's a bore :p I have (unfortunately) been spending time playing Import Tuner Challenge from Ubisoft, and the only good thing I can say about it is I'm really looking forward to writing the review-because I'll be able to get really creative in describing it. Check out a future edition of GEAR for the review on this unbelievably bad game!

Dashy update

The Xbox 360 received a new dashboard update this week. The update added support for native 1080p output, as well as support for some new peripherals like the wireless steering wheel and Live headset. A number of enhancements to things like media connectivity and support were added too. Unfortunately it seems that a tiny percentage of users experienced issues with this update-to the point where there machines were rendered unusable, so MS quickly put out a fixed update.

Media madness

No, not the journalist kind, the multi-kind. Microsoft released Windows Media Player 11 this week, and used in conjunction with the new 360 dashboard update this lets Windows XP users stream music, images and movies to the '360. Sadly there is still no support for popular non-Microsoft codecs like DivX, so it's usefulness is a bit limited.

Media Player 11 itself is really, really pretty. I tried it in the hope that it might support the features it previously lacked and that I consider essential - podcasts and decent device synchronization. Unfortunately it still has zero support for RSS streams with embedded media, and the device support is actually worse than that in version 10-it does not even pick up my PSP as a media player!

Since I was trying new things I thought I would give WinAmp another chance. It does include RSS support, but it's pretty unpleasant to use so I'm stuck with iTunes for that (I tried some other aggregators, but they all pretty much suck). Synchronization wise though, WinAmp has some amazing features! It picks up the PSP with no problems, and not only allows you to synchronize it from selected playlists but also has an 'auto fill' feature that you can use to fill the player up to a certain percentage of full capacity. Both features can be controlled with a really powerful query 'language' and it allows you to specify target directories and so on. It's actually amazing how many synch tools don't support that simple feature! There are two small issues that have been overlooked, but they can sort of be worked around. The first is that you can't specify playlists as a source for the autofill-it always uses the entire library (filtered by the query). The other is that you can't set it to ignore certain files or folders already on the device. This sucks a bit because the autofill always deletes my audio podcasts, so I can only use it when I've listened to everything and am about to download new episodes. Overall though, it looks like WinAmp has won me over again-iTunes is now just my podcatcher.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Amazing analogy

I can’t even remember the number of times I have been called to defend my Christianity, be it in casual conversation or in some heated debate online or off. In response to a post on a local Xbox 360 forum containing a link to a rather inflammatory open questionnaire to Christians, one of the forum members used one of the most bizarre analogies I have ever come across. He compares not giving God a chance to the ‘fanboyism’ present amongst console (and other high tech) consumers, and it’s probably the most appropriate way to get the point across considering the context! His complete analogy was:

“The way I see it (to use a VERY brief, and maybe somewhat oversimplified analogy), is that is equates to the whole Xbox vs Playstation story. I am an Xbox Fan, because I have had personal experience with both, and Xbox is clearly better. Some people haven't really used Xbox, and insist that playstation is better. No amount of me telling them is going to change thier opinion until they get to know the Xbox. It's the same with Jesus. I know there are a million holes in my analogy, so please don't pull it apart, but the point is that I have a personal relationship with God that has changed my life in such a masive way, I can't even begin to explain it. That is all I can say.”

Amen to that!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Virtual Economies hit SA newspaper

When it comes to technology news, non-specialist South African newspapers (both physical and online) tend to be way behind the curve. Their reports on new technology are usually days or weeks behind and are very often just plain incorrect. For this reason, when something like this does actually hit a South African newspaper, you know its here to stay because it’s been around long enough for the scoop-challenged SA editors to sniff it out. Today’s case in point is an article on virtual economies by The Mail & Guardian. It’s actually a pretty good read, accurately and correctly summarizing some of the virtual economic activity going on in various persistent online worlds. Unfortunately it also carries that signature disbelief and masked ridicule that seems to accompany all gaming related articles in major SA publications.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Here we go with yet another late and picture-less post. Blame it on work and Xbox 360! I’ve been playing lots of Oblivion, advancing in rank in the guilds and just generally enjoying the game world. I have also been playing a bit of Geometry Wars (the guy at the top of the leader-boards with a score of 250 million can not be entirely human!), and I checked out the Sonic the Hedgehog demo on Live. Sonic looks absolutely amazing, and the game-play is extremely simplistic and reminiscent of the old 2D titles, but the games camera is just horrible. I never imagined a camera could affect a game quite so badly, but the developers of Sonic reached a new level of crappiness with their camera. It never points quite where it should and controlling it is painfully sluggish! I really hope this is fixed in the final retail version!

Xbox live goes down for maintenance, and sleeps in

Microsoft’s scheduled maintenance on Xbox Live and xbox.com last week must not have gone quite to plan. Instead of the scheduled 24 hours, the downtime ran closer to about 36. When the Live service finally came up a couple of hours after the 24 hour promised deadline, things were still not well. The service suffered from a couple more hours of unreliable connections, missing marketplace content and general POSiness. Similarly, by the time the xbox.com website came back online, it was far from healthy, with sign in attempts leading users back to the main page, weird FireFox compatibility issues, and all sorts of other nastiness. Of course system maintenance is not that big a deal to anyone working in IT, and we all know that it almost never goes as planned, and it always turns out that the test system on which the upgrades worked flawlessly is not quite as much of a perfect replica of the live environment as everyone imagined. What makes this particular system upgrade special is the uproar it caused amongst gamers. It would appear that some people are unhealthily attached to Xbox Live. The way some gamers were carrying on in forums and blog comments, one would swear that their daily food stipend had been cut off!

Lumines drops in chunks

When Live did finally come up, and the marketplace was once again stable, gamers could download the then newest arcade release, a port of the massively popular PSP launch title Lumines. I was never a fan of the original, perhaps because I feel being charged a premium game price for what is essentially a casual game is a huge rip off. I decided to give this version a chance, but it still doesn’t really tickle my fancy. Genre tastes aside though, what is interesting about Lumines is the way in which Microsoft and Q Entertainment chose to deliver this version to Xbox Live. At 1200 MS points, Lumines already ties for the dubious honor of most expensive Live Arcade title, but on top of this the 1200 point version is not the entire game! Not only are additional contact packs due to be released at a price, entire game modes are all but missing from this ‘full version’. Between this and Sony’s ludicrous idea to require players to download the bulk of the content for the next-gen Gran Turismo, it seems that companies are taking chances and testing how far they can go with micro-payments and piecemeal content, and I really hope the majority of gamers don’t fall for this crap and vote with their wallets!

Lots of virtual people

I’m a bit late on this one, but it seems sometime in the past couple of weeks Second Life hit 1 million residents. It’s nowhere near World of Warcraft’s enormous numbers, but considering the residents of Second Life actually impact a real virtual economy that interacts with real world currencies, it’s probably much more important.

Friday, October 13, 2006

GoogleTube and the Zune

With life back to some semblance of normality, I thought I would try and get a decent informative post in this week, so without further ado..

GoogleTube

The big news this week is of course Google’s 1.65 Billion dollar purchase of YouTube. I for one really don’t see what the point of the buyout was, considering YouTube is a copyright law nightmare waiting to happen, and Google’s own video service is alive and kicking-and a lot better in many ways. There has been a lot of debate going on as to what Google intends to do with the service, and YouTube’s users are amongst the most vocally involved, wondering what the effect will be on the ‘casual’ feel of the service. Of course YouTube’s creators must be grinning from ear to ear.. That’s a lot of pocket money.

Dating the Zune

Microsoft have announced a November 14th release date for the Zune, as well as confirmed the $249.99 price point (why can’t we just say $250?) and what goodies will be preloaded. The preloaded content is actually really impressive, including 9 songs, 12 music videos and 3 short films. It’s really nice to see Microsoft making a habit of making their devices usable ‘out the box’ without additional purchases, let’s hope other manufacturers catch on.

I am a bit skeptical of their approach, and am not convinced that really niche features like WiFi will make much of a dent in the iPod market. The device needs to be a competent and stylish media player first, with a really easy to use interface as a close second and decent battery life rounding out the package. Battery hogging features like WiFi may end up being a bad choice, and the enourmous size of the player is not likely to help. It really does appear as if the original Xbox hardware design team members working on the device made the same mistakes they made with the console and produced a big ugly device that simply won’t appeal to casual users. Sadly they didn’t bring along their wisdom when it comes to focusing on the device’s core competence first and focused on what may prove to be add-on gimmicks instead of core functionality.

On the positive side, codec support is reputed to be much better than that of the iPod, which is great, and if integration with Windows Media Player is as tight as I suspect it will be, users already comfortable with that software may be an easy market. The one price monthly service allowing unlimited song downloads for $14.99 a month might also be a big seller, as I think this would certainly sit better than having to pay for individual songs amongst regular downloaders. I am of course also curious to see what sort of integration the Zune will have with the Xbox 360 and Live (which coincidentally is due for some downtime-or is that not such a coincidence?).

I suppose only time will tell how the Zune will stack up against the iPod. With lots of potential PS3 buyers bound to be disappointed by stock shortages even more sever than those of the Xbox 360 last year, Microsoft’s chosen release date is certainly interesting. I am sure they are hoping to cash in on some of those padded wallets, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see a 360/Zune bundle released at around the same price point as the PS3.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Spore creature editor at rAge


Spore creature editor, originally uploaded by FlintZA.

I just wanted to quickly post this pic of the Spore creature editor for those that might find it interesting. EA had a demo of it running at rAge behind closed doors in their press room, and they were nice enough to give us a demo (not hands on). The editor does have a simple test mode that opens up a small world and lets you move the creature around in it and see how it behaves, but it's not anything complex with other models or anything.
The editor itself appears to be extremely straightforward and intuitive, and the EA employe demoing for us seemed to be having great fun with it and claimed to find it as enjoyable as the editors in The Sims -which she is apparently a great fan of.
I convinced her to progress the creature past the obvious configuration presented here, and it handled some really wierd limb combinations surprisingly well.
I can't wait to get my hands of the final version of this-I only hope it's coming to the 360!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Lame

Ok, so I’m a wee bit late with my latest blog post, and to top it off it’s going to be a lame text-only email post. I do have an excuse though, really I do. Two words: Xbox 360. I picked up my ‘360 from BT Games in Brooklyn after the launch party. There weren’t as many people as I expected-they probably all headed to the Northgate store instead because there was a party going on there too-complete with DOA and PGR competitions. It took the poor, slow salesman about 5 minutes per preorder box, so I only got out of there with mine by about 00:30. After setting up I played about an hour of Oblivion and headed to bed to get some rest for rAge.

rAge has come and gone

rAge lived up to it’s name and was truly awesome! There have been mixed reactions to the expo, especially because of the relative lack of PC component resellers and the obvious absence of Ster Kinekor. This led to the show being largely Xbox 360 focused, but that suited me just fine. Just about every major game retailer was at the show and each of them had 360 demo kiosks running to impress the masses. Microsoft themselves had set up a very impressive stand showcasing the machine and a number of launch titles. They also had Flight Simulator X displayed quite prominently, though not much else on the PC side gained any focus.

Unfortunately, someone at Microsoft forgot to involve the techies in setting up the stand. Not only were the Xboxes themselves housed in airtight perspex display cases (overheating, anyone) but they were attached to the gorgeous Samsung HD LCD display TVs with standard component cables! Thankfully the day was saved by Dan Wagner who pitched up with a box of HD cables and sorted out most of the demo machines. A word of advice to Microsoft SA: If you don’t know what’s potting with your own damned products, let the community who are willing and more than able to help you, do so.

Nintendo also had a stall of sorts, though nowhere near the level of Microsoft’s. A number of GameCube and DS games were on display, though sadly no DS Lites. These were however apparently available on request from staff.

As I mentioned before, Ster Kinekor decided to skip the show, which meant no major PlayStation presence. I found this very strange. I can understand that they choose not to have the PS2 appear side-by side with Xbox 360 for comparison reasons, but what about the PSP? The enormous EA stand was just about the only place to play any PS2 games, though they were of course overshadowed by EA’s 360 games that were also available to play. Smaller retailer stores did have a couple of PlayStation consoles and games available, but the focus was undeniably on the 360 in these stalls as well.

Of the smaller stalls, AnimeWorx’ was probably the most interesting. It was significantly larger than last years, and packed with comics, figures, games and just about everything else.

The NAG LAN was more prominent this year than in the past, since it had to be relocated to the exhibition area due to it’s sheer size (1200 gamers). I didn’t take part, but it sounds like people had a ball. Maybe next year I’ll go along with my 360 ;) I did get some PSP WiFi multiplayer in, and that was great. We were joined by Rebound and El33tOnline players from Natal, and even a couple of guys from Bloemfontein (yeah, they have electricity!). We played WipeOut, Fired Up and even some Tekken: Dark Resurrection (what a gorgeous game!). The DS definitely had a stronger showing, and I even had a go at Mario Kart, which was great fun.

Despite best intentions, no get-together ended up happening with pond members afterwards, but it’s probably just as well considering how bushed I was-and how keen I was to get in some quality time with my new Xbox.

Call me lucky

I also contacted the editor of GEAR (for whom I had written an article on mobile gaming), and it turned out they needed freelance 360 reviewers. I landed Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter as my first review title, so I now have that in addition to Oblivion (courtesy of GEAR of course). Between the two games I spent A LOT of time playing this weekend (my reviews of both are due for this Friday) and they’re both excellent. More details in a future edition of GEAR ;)

Bits

And last of all, I’ve become obsessed with all things Xbox 360 and Live. Notice my profile has been replaced with my gamercard and I’ve got my 360voice blog set up. So if you have a 360 and well and want to say ‘hi’, pop over to xbox.com and add me as a friend or send me a message.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Booth babes


Booth babes, originally uploaded by FlintZA.

What would a launch be without them :)

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Here she is


Here she is, originally uploaded by FlintZA.

In all her glory

Ring of light


Ring of light, originally uploaded by FlintZA.

Super size it

Friday, September 29, 2006

Jump in


Jump in, originally uploaded by FlintZA.

Parting shot


Parting shot, originally uploaded by FlintZA.

Test driving


Test driving, originally uploaded by FlintZA.

Unlimited

The dj


The dj, originally uploaded by FlintZA.

Ian F sells the 360

Reunion


Reunion, originally uploaded by FlintZA.

Old friends from i-i meet up again.

Boss lady


Boss lady, originally uploaded by FlintZA.

Cindy white talks 0's and X's, pacman.. And halo. Quite a jump.

Bright Lights


Bright Lights, originally uploaded by FlintZA.

People, bright lights, drinks, music. Sign of a great party.

Geeks go to town


Geeks go to town, originally uploaded by FlintZA.

I had to test multiple photo blogging before the launch tonight, and what better subject than my colleagues at lunch. There were more of us than pictured here, but the light wasn't being helpful.

Besides the fact that i was on leave for most of this week, I honestly couldn't care less about anything interesting that might have happened tech or news wise, since rAge and this evening's 360 launch have been the only thing on my mind. I'm not bothering with much of a post now, because i intend to photoblog from there tonight, so drop by around 8:30 to get an inside peek of the official launch :)

*Edit:
Well it seems like multi-image blogging doesn't work after all, I sent through three images with a single email-and it posted each one as an individual post with a copy of the body. Nasty.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The final countdown

I feel like a massive weight has been lifted from my shoulders now that my app has at last been demo'd to the 'public' at the Africa Aerospace show. It's not finished yet, and it is only one part of a massive system, but the fact that I have finally 'delivered' something after almost a year of working at 5DT is a huge relief. Now that the AAS deadline is over for us (those that aren't still down there that is) things have settled down a bit, an I can think of other things.

Natz isn't well :(
Unfortunately Natz got admitted to hospital for a lupus attack while I was down in CT, so I've been quite worried about her. Thankfully the boss let me fly back a bit earlier to be there for her, and she was discharged on Saturday, though she's still not 100% and will be getting some bedrest through to next week. Just as well I have a few days leave next week to stay home and spoil her a bit ;)


360 invite., originally uploaded by FlintZA.

Rage and the 360!!
On the positive side, rAge is next week, as well as the local launch of the Xbox 360. This is a photo of my invite to the (exclusive) launch party. Friends in high places, gotta love 'em ;) Next weekend is gong to be awesome! Between the launch, rAge, getting my 360, and finally meeting a couple of the people I have been chatting to online for ages, I doub't I'll be getting much sleep at all! The only thing that has me worried is the dress code for the launch, it's 'Urban Extreme' and I tend to wear clothes that fit. Where the hell will I find pants ten sizes too big for me! :p

Friday, September 15, 2006

2.8 cracked


2.8 cracked, originally uploaded by FlintZA.

We are still insanely busy working on stuff for Africa Aerospace next week, so once again i don't have time for a long post. It's a pity really considering all the news this week, including Wii pricing and launch dates, new Zune info, games on iPod and a couple of other interesting bits. I finally bit the bullet and ordered my Xbox 360 for launch too. Finally, PSP firmware 2.8 has been cracked as well. Here's a pic of Tetris running on my 2.8 PSP, no GTA save required!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Always in touch


Always in touch, originally uploaded by FlintZA.

I finally got my email set up on my phone. Since Vodacom doesn't support SSL and gmail requires it I had to use a forwarding account and send through that. Combined with Flickr's great Blogger integration and 'magic' email addresses, i can now easily photoblog straight from my phone. Here's a pic of my desk just for test purposes :)

Ok I had to cheat a little and resize the pic since my original setting was too large.. whoops :p

Friday, September 08, 2006

How could I forget!?

Wow, I'm so stressed I forgot to mention some really exciting news! An 'interview' with me about Smallfry appeared in the latest edition of the DevMag e-zine. We even made the cover with BBQT's promo image!






The magazine itself is really packed with great stuff, it's hard to believe that with such a huge amount of high quality content it's just a community compiled mag! Check it out, and don't miss the mobile dev tutorial series by yours truly ;)

Special for you today!

We’re insanely busy at work, because we have to demo our project at a show down in the cape in a little less than two weeks-and we’re not exactly ready to show at this stage, so no long winded post today I’m afraid.

 

Smallfry and Clickgamer

Our builds were finally uploaded to clickgamer this week, so I quickly added the try/buy buttons to the Smallfry website, and the links to the wap site. I’ve also added screenshots and try/buy links to my blog template, as you can see. Amazingly the Smallfry site has been up for almost two years, and this is the first time visitors could actually buy games directly! Silly us!

Now I just need to get down to writing up promo docs for BBQT and BrikLink, updating the BrikLink screenshots and the promo images for both BBQT and BrikLink. *sigh*

 

 

 

Friday, September 01, 2006

Smallfry site tweaks, new games and more rAge

This post is a little overdue. Two developers left 5DT last week, and with Friday being their last day we went out for a lunch at Baobab in Menlyn, so I didn't get a chance to post anything new then.






Smallfry stuff
We made some changes to www.smallfrymobile.com to put more emphasis on the games, as well as better organize the information for each game. This also conincides with the 'official' release of BubbleBee QuickType and Brik-Link.






I was hoping to have added ClickGamer try/buy links for both games as well as for abYss by the time I posted about the changes, but unfortunately they haven't got around to adding our content yet so that will have to wait. For now, check out the new streamlined game pages and especially the BBQT and Brik-Link hiscore tables on their respective pages. You can also download demos of both games from wap.smallfrymobile.com and see if you can beat the scores already up there.
We are (or should I say Chris is) already working on our next title, and if the early prototype is anything to go by it's going to be super addictive! We've also got something commercial in the works, but I'll keep that under wraps until it's all confirmed ;)







rAge
rAge is now a month away, and I can hardly wait. It's now official that the Xbox 360 will be unveiled there on September 29, and along with the impending release there has been a flurry activity on forums, retailers sites and even on www.xbox.com, which now has a South African page (and a dedicated SA forum as well).
The Game.Dev stuff is also shaping up well, it looks like it's going to be far more prominant than last year's lectures hidden away in a dark little office, and it looks as if the prize money on offer has resulted in a huge number of entries for the Game.Dev management game compo.
The last of the Nag LAN tickets sold out yesterday, so there will definitely be 1200 smelly, groggy-eyed gamers wandering around the venue bitching about flat pin plugs, harassing booth babes and playing the odd game :)
More important than the main LAN (for me, anyway), is the informal PSP/DS WiFi LAN that we're organizing in the Dome foodcourt on Saturday. The closer we get to the event, the more players it seems we'll have. Conservatively, I expect we'll have a steady attendance over the five hours of at least 20 gamers-and I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of people that just happen to have their handhelds there as well sit down and join us for the hell of it. I really hope this does well so we can try and organize something official next year. It'll be tough keeping the DS and PSP players from slitting each other's throats, but that's half the fun ;)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Good news and maybe-good news

Well I’ve been burning a bit of midnight oil on BBQT, as well as working on it during lunch at work, and the progress has been good. It is all but complete (except for a merge of some of Chris’s stuff) so this weekend I’m hoping to spend some time fixing up our website and adding BBQT to it. I’ll also be adding builds of BBQT, Demolish and Abyss to ClickGamer so we can finally sell our own games from our own website-and wapsite. On top of that, Chris is almost done with our next game as well, an arcade puzzler called Brik-Link. Exciting times! Then it’s on to the grind of contacting distributors, demanding money, and offering them the new titles.

 

Falling again

One of my all time favorite bands, Evanescence, is finally releasing a new album. It’s called The Open Door and will be hitting stores in the US in early October. Hopefully we’ll be seeing it here soon as well. The first track from the album, Call Me When You’re Sober is streamable from their website. Thanks to pfangirl for mentioning this in her blog, or I would have been oblivious to it.

 

ICASA Finally showing some backbone

ICASA released it’s broadband regulations this week, with a mixed response. Since the regulations do not seem to actually address any pricing issues, customers were pretty much up in arms about it. They did notice and welcome a few long overdue items such as the removal of all port-shaping and unlimited local bandwidth, as well as a couple of service related items like a maximum delivery time of 30 days and the imposition of minimum connection speeds. The largest issue remains that of the inflated cost of ADSL and it seemed to go largely unaddressed. ICASA have however clarified some of the wording in the regulations, and it seems that the monthly line rental charged by Telkom (and which currently makes up a significant portion of the cost of ADSL) will quite possibly have to be dropped. Numerous questions remain, as it’s quite likely that Telkom will try and get around this somehow, but it seems there is some light at the end of the tunnel. I’ll take the same stance as many customers seem to have a dopted-that of ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’, but hopefully this time around ICASA will prove they are actually worth something. Heck-I might even be able to afford a broadband connection!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Women forging cubicles

This Wednesday was women's day in South Africa, so we had a day off in the middle of the week :) I definitely think that we should always have a four day week, and apparently quite a lot of people agree. A recent UK survey revealed that approximately 60% of respondants would rather have one less working day a week than have more money. Results were similar when News24.co.za asked it's readers the same question. We can all dream.

To snap back to reality, here is a hilarious parody of James Blunt's Beautiful. Just be warned, it might just strike a little close to home ;)



Forging on
On a more serious note, thanks to the wonderful service provided by GetMyIP.com we have been able to circumvent Telkom's evil IP resetting policy on ADSL (always on broadband my ass!) and now have a permanently available server using Krusty's ADSL connection at home. He made good use of that by setting up a SourceForge server to host our Smallfry development. This is already turning out to be a great move, thanks to the SourceForge CVS server, and the excellent CVS integration in NetBeans, we now have a really robust and useful collaberative source control system. Another fantastic (and really useful) feature of the server is task management. no more silly little scraps of paper that get lost of obscure emails that take forever to search for, we now have a proper task, issue and bug tracking system (that has great email update options as well). There are loads of other useful features as well.

Friday, August 04, 2006

rAge, the new E3 and Game.DEv

It looks like the PSP/DS LAN at rAge is going to be a hell of a lot of fun. Some of the guys from Rebound (who organize WiFi gaming tournaments) will be joining us while they're up here attending the expo, which will just add to the fun. The more the merrier! I really hope that I meet up with some folks that would be interested in making this a regular event!


E3 Refocuses
The big news of the week in the gaming world is undoubtedly the announcement that E3 will be changing formats. Contrary to doomsday reports last week claiming the show has been cancelled, it is simply undergoing a (massive) overhaul. Prompted by skyrocketing exhibitor costs and diminishing percieved value, show organizers (the Entertainment Software Association) have announced that the show will be renamed the E3 Media Festival , moved later in the year and become more 'intimate'.
Reactions to this announcement have of course been mixed. While larger industry players and journalists are applauding the move towards an event that will focus more on getting business done, fans have expressed less positive reactions.
The reality of the situation is that E3 is supposed to be a trade show first and formost, and while it's great for fans that somehow manage to wrangle tickets to ogle booth babes and demos of unreleased games, that doesn't really contribute to the event's goals. I can understand the desire for a more business oriented event that will allow developers, publishers, buyers and media to get their jobs done without having to spend a fortune on fluff. It also allows focus to be spread across multiple events.
That's not to say I won't miss the insane excitement that each year's (traditional) E3 usually generates online, with too many videos and articles available for any one person to process..


Game.Dev competition 10 offers big prizes
As Justin blitzed in the comments to my last post (thanks dude :p), the latest competition being run by the Game.Dev community on the NAG forums has been announced, and for this incarnation NAG have sponsored a total of R10000 worth of prizes! The competition challenges entrants to come up with a management game, which is already resulting in some really interesting ideas.
In addition to this, Game.Dev now has it's own webspace, independant of NAG, to be found HERE.

Friday, July 28, 2006

rAge over firm Zune!

PSP rAge LAN
I was quite enthusiastic about getting some PSP multiplayer in at last year's rAge Expo, but between taking partin the main LAN (which will go from 700 attendees last year to 1200 this year!) and taking part in the Game.Dev presentations, I really didn't get time. This time I have not committed to either of these portions of the event (though I am looking forward to checking out some of the Game Dev stuff) and have decided to try and push for some kind of PSP LAN initiative myself. At this point it looks like it will be happening in the foodcourt on Saturday (10 Sept) between 11:00 and 15:00 and response on the NAG forums has been pretty good.





New PSP firmware and matching demos
Sony have released firmware 2.8 for the PSP which finally includes the ability to use sensibly named and located folders for all media as well as some other nice features. Once again they are using the lure of a new demo to encourage installation of this firmware (this time it's World Tour Soccer 2). Both the firmware and demo are available through direct or PC download from www.yourpsp.com. While I quite like the idea, I hope that we will not be limited to recieving demos only when Sony has a new firmware available.
The World Tour Soccer 2 demo is actually surprisingly fun considering I don't typically enjoy those sorts of games. I will definitely not be buying the full game, but it's nice to have a quick demo of the game available should I ever feel in the mood for that sort of gameplay. It offers a sampler of three of the game's many modes (no multiplayer unfortunately) and looks, sounds and plays pretty well. It's by no means the most technically impressive game on the system, but it certainly isn't ugly either.
Another new demo that requires the 2.8 firmware is a Japanese version of the sequel to Archer Mclean's Mercury, a wonderful and terribly underrated puzzle game that was released near the system's launch. It is unfortunately not available through yourpsp, but can be found here. You will have to copy the demo to PSP\GAME\UCJS10043\. The gameplay is largely unchanged, but the look of the game has definitely been given a major overhaul. I am still trying to decide whether I prefer the old 'realistic' look or the new cel-shaded approach. The game is certainly far more colourful, and the cartoony appearance and styling somehow seems to add a certain amount of urgency to the game (as opposed to calmness induced by the original's zen like combination of music and looks). I thouroughly enjoyed the first title, and with the promise of far more levels and even a variety of multiplayer modes, I'm sure I'll be picking up this title at some stage.





Coming Zune
About a week ago, Microsoft announced that it was preparing a media platform and brand called Zune, confirming months of rumours and speculation. The platform will include media players, the first of which will most likely arrive before the end of the year if various sites are to be believed. This marks quite a major change in strategy by Microsoft in it's attempts to combat the iPod, switching from a dependance on third party vendors to their own devices-a move which must have ruffled a few feathers in companies like Creative. I spent a little time trying to dig up some useful information on Zune, but there really isn't much worth mentioning right now. Little more than the name has been revealed at this point (a strange choice on it's own, being very similar to Creative's Zen brand). I also get the distinct impression that the few sites out there at the moment are staged, part of some kind of viral marketing and hype-building attempt by Microsoft. This may sound a bit paranoid, but there's just something about these sites that seems off. They are just too gaudy and ugly, yet they have perfect renditions of the actual Zune logo, in colours matching the site layout. There is even one that boasts some rather bizarre Zune parody comedy that just seems too instulting to be taken seriously. Most of these can be found through www.zunelist.com. Microsoft are by no means strangers to unusual marketing techniques, with the bizarre ilovebees.com Halo marketing campaign behind them.

Friday, July 21, 2006

L1f3

First off, My mom is at home and has been totally cleared of the pneumonia, which is great news. Now let's hope she keeps away from the damned cigarettes!
More good news is that I have landed my first print feature article! G.E.A.R. magazine, a gaming publication by the same publishing house (Intelligence) as the South African version of PC Format, was recently introduced. I wrote a feature article for them on mobile gaming, which has been accepted and will be in the next issue. Now I just have to come up with ideas for a few more article pitches..





Second Life
On the geek side, I discovered Second Life through a Business Week article. No, this isn't some kind of tech spin on being born again, it's a rather unusual MMO that ditches the common theme of violence and replaces it with community. Second Life could be described as an MMO version of The Sims, or perhaps as a 3D chat client in which your profile picture is replaced by a full 3D avatar, and the context for your chats is a full 3D world. The truth is, however, that it is much much more.

What really makes Second Life interesting though, is it's take on player created content, the ability to buy and sell land, and it's connection with the real-world economy. The game is built around the concept of player created content. Just about everything in-world was created by a player or 'resident' using a combination of the built in modelling tools, and imported textures. Rather than laying claim to created content though, Linden Labs, the creators and owners of Second Life, allow the content creators to keep IP ownership rights. Residents can also buy in-game 'land' which they can then build on, rent out, or simply resell for a profit. Additionally, Second Life has an in-game currency that is hooked into the real world currency and fluctuates in value based on in-game and real world factors, this currency (the Lindon Dollar) can legitemately be traded for US dollars and vice versa. These three elements have created a world which has offered residents the opportunity to earn real money by employing real-world and in-game skills such as object modelling, texturing, animating, communication and many others.
The bad news is, this sort of practice would most likely be all but impossible in South Africa in the short term, due to the bandwidth intensive nature of the game and our insanely overpriced broadband services. It's still worth a good look. If you happen to try it out, drop me a notecard (you'll find out when you start playing ;)), my avatar is Flint Beika. It would also be really nice if you use me as a reference..



Thursday, July 13, 2006

Mom, coding, linux and happy stuff

Mom
My Mom's still in hospital, she finally went in for a gastroscopy (sp) procedure yesterday morning, and we haven't had feedback from the docter yet, so at this stage it's back to the waiting game. She did say this morning that she felt like she'd been beaten up, but apparently that is a reaction to the anaesthetic.

Smallfry
I have started digging back into smallfry stuff, as it's basically slowed down to a crawl since the beginning of the year thanks to wedding planning. The first task I'm undertaking is upgrading the preprocessor stuff in our engine (and game) code to use the Antenna compliant preprocessor in NetBeans 5.0. When we started using Netbeans 4.0 (giving up the old SunOne which didn't have anywhere near the same level of support for mobile development) we had to switch over to their dodgy, unwieldy preprocessor syntax. I raised the fact on the NetBeans website that there was actually an accepted preprocessor 'standard' in mobile Java dev in the form of Antenna, and they resolved to migrate to it in their next version. They delivered in fine form, and besides having a proper antenna-compliant preprocessor, 5.0 adds a couple of nice preprocessor related bonuses such as a debug level controlled from the project properties, and semi-automatic upgrading of existing preprocessor code. The new version obviously has many other new features that are not necessarily confined to mobile dev, including a much more usable settings dialog, editor enhancements, and lots more.





The next task I'll be looking at is to remove our high score code which makes use of our own MySQL database on our site, and replace it with the free RumbleX API. Besides relieving us of the burdon of maintaining the data ourselves, RumbleX provides us with a 'prebuilt' community site that displays high scores and achievements, and allows us to display RumbleX scores on our own website with a bit of provided JavaScript. To top all this off, the only requirement is that we use RumbleX as one of our distribution outlets-what a pleasure, we get another outlet thrown into the deal, awesome :)
Besides the forums and per game high score groupings available to RumbleX users, they have the option of using a system-generated profile image that shows their achievements, score and avatar, not unlike what is possible with Xbox 360 Live's Gamercards.

Ubuntu
One of the guys at work finally recieved the pack of Ubuntu 6.06 CDs he ordered a while ago, and I took one home to have a look.



The Live CD is great, just pop it into your CD drive and the machine boots to a Linux installation-without ever actually having to install the OS. Because everything gets loaded off the CD, it takes some time to start up the OS as well as individual applications, but that little inconvenience is obviously removed when you actually install it. Natz PC is so vrot with viruses and stuff at this stage that I need to totally reinstall it (and this time it'll have antivirus, antiadware and firewall software thank you very much!), but until then she can use the Ubuntu CD, which is great. As an aside, why in the hell, in this day and age, do PCs from big chan stores not come with all that protection preinstalld? An antivirus package alone is bloody useless, and so is the windows firewall! Something free like Kerio would do the trick nicely.

And finally..
Some happy, shiny Internet goodness news. Yaaaaay! The guy who started a site a year ago with the dream of trading up a single red paperclip for a house has finally achieved that dream. Seriously, this guy started with just a paperclip, and he now has a lovely renovated 1920s home in Kipling Saskatchewan, Canada. Some guys have all the luck-and great ideas.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Bad news, Tech news, other stuff

Bad stuff

It's been a bad couple of days for blogging, so much has been happening that it just hasn't been very high up on my priority list. My best friend's mom died last Thursday. Shaun and I grew up in each other's homes, and Aunty Anne was like a second mother to me, as bad as it is that she's gone, what is really painful is seeing how it's hit Shaun. She's been sick and suffering for a very long time, and through all of that she never complained and continued to be an amazingly giving and loving woman. We went to the funeral in Witbank on Monday and it hit me really hard.

Aunty Anne, we will miss you dearly and will never forget you. You touched the life of everyone that knew you and you were one of the most amazing people I ever knew.

 

My own Mom was admitted to hospital with pneumonia on Tuesday morning. It's not life-threatening or anything, but it's not fun seeing her in hospital. She's in the same hospital I spent a lot of time in as a kid, and walking those halls (and stepping out into the gardens) brings back a lot of memories.

On top of that, I've been reacting badly to my immunosuppressants over the last couple of weeks, and this got particularly bad on Tuesday. I really struggled through work on Tuesday, and had to take yesterday off. I'm feeling much better, but the doc has taken me off those and just raised the dosage on my others, so we'll see how that goes. Hopefully by next week I'll be feeling 100% again-for the first time in months.

 

Tech stuff

To keep this from being a totally depressing personal rant, I have two tech things to mention. The first is YouOS, an experimental web-based desktop (not quite an OS). It allows you to have a Windows-like desktop with multiple web-based applications running in windows. I tried the demo, and while it's a bit sluggish over our lousy connection speeds, I could imagine the idea working very well in countries with decent, prolific broadband. While any PC running this would obviously already be running a 'proper' OS, it offers some interesting future possibilities for file availability across machines, especially across machines of varying capabilities (for example your cell phone, PC and PSP).

 

The other little tech tidbit is that Goal Technology Solutions is about to start offering their Broadband Over Power lines competitor to Telkom's ADSL in selected Tshwane (Pretoria) suburbs-and at significantly lower prices than those of the monopoly. They will also soon be offering 'traditional' ADSL at much lower prices than other ISPs. It looks as if we may finally be seeing a fixed-line competitor to Telkom.

 

Other stuff

I thought I'd mention that my friend and ex-colleague, Andrew Paterson (who also happens to be something of a Commodore-64 nut) is remaking the C64 game 'Space Crusade' on the PC with funky new graphics for the Retro Remakes competition. He's blogging his progress at AndrewPaterson.blogspot.com, go pay him a visit. Good luck Andrew-and don't you think it's time to start playing games that come on media other than tapes? :p

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Cost of the war in Iraq

Just a quick lunchtime post to mention an eye-opening site by the National Priorities Project that reflects the cost of the war in Iraq in 'real time' and compares it to domestic programs the money could have benifited instead. They actually provide a nifty little javascript counter that I would have liked to include in the post, but blogger doesn't like script in posts. Bad blogger, bad!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Leon- South Africa lagging in 2010 World Cup preparation

It seems I'm not the only one worried about our progress. Tony Leon, the leader of the DA is also concerned.

read more | digg story

Friday, June 23, 2006

World Cup - no the next one.

One of the hottest topics at the moment is, of course, the Soccer/Football World Cup being held in Germany. The South African team didn't make it anywhere near qualifying for the cup, and to be honest it's probably just as well since we'd make an ass of ourselves in the first rounds. Instead, I've been following the Croatian team, who sadly got knocked out of the competition last night by drawing 2-all with Australia (they needed a win to progress to the next round). Of course the World Cup holds particular interest for South Africans, since our country was selected to host the next World Cup, in 2010.

There has already been much debate as to whether hosting The Cup would have more positives or negatives for South Africa, and I am of the opinion that pulling it off successfully would definitely have an overall positive effect on the country. The trick is that little adjective 'successfully'. While hosting an event as prestigious and popular as the FIFA World Cup can be hugely beneficial to a country's economy and public image, being the first country in history to have the rights to host the competition taken away would most likely do irreparable damage to both of those elements.

Many super-patriots at this point would start grumbling that I'm just negative and a cynic. Sometimes that's true, but in this case I'm just being a realist. Two years ago I was one of the avid supporters that shot down any suggestions that we might not succeed, insisting that we could build the required stadiums and infrastructure, and that our government had it's act together enough to have everything ready in time. Unfortunately it's now two years on, and we're still in exactly the same position!

None of the required new stadiums have been built (in fact unless I'm mistaken construction on these stadiums has not even begun). We still do not have the new roads or public transport required to get people to and from games and their as-yet unbuilt accommodation. As far as the Gautrain is concerned, demolition has begun in areas such as Hatfield that will play host to terminals, but that's about it. On top of this FIFA enforces strict technological compliance requirements in terms of broadcasting and telecommunications which we are nowhere near meeting.

'But we have four years' I hear the die-hards whimpering. Well I have news for you, there's this little thing called the Confederation Cup, a tournament of 8 teams that is held the year before the World Cup in the same country that is to host the World Cup. In other words, our stadiums, infrastructure and other elements have to be ready in 2009. Oh, but wait, certain infrastructure and technology elements have to be completed, tested and handed over to FIFA two years before the World Cup, that means 2008. So we have less than two years to cut through the endless piles of political red tape our newly-over-beaurocratic government is shitting out on a daily basis and build roads, telecommunications and broadcast networks, accommodation and countless other things. The way things are progressing at the moment (something like a rusty battleship through frozen molasses) that's not very likely. Strangely enough based on recent comments it would appear that our politicians are under the misguided impression that they own the World Cup, rather than FIFA, and that FIFA somehow needs them. Unless something is done very, very soon we are headed for a political and economic catastrophe that South Africa will find it very hard to escape from.

Looking at the infamous efficiency and attention to detail of the Germans, and the incredible experience they are undoubtedly giving the hundreds of thousands of soccer fans that are flooding their country to enjoy The Cup, I doubt very much visitors in 2010 will be satisfied with paying a premium to board in tin shacks and squash into minibus taxis for a 2 hour long commute on the congested N1 to watch a match.

 

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Google stuff and Wonder Woman

As not-quite-promised, here's the bigger post I haven't been quite able to get out for some time. For those that are interested, Natalie seems fine after yesterday's crash, her neck is still a bit stiff so she'll be going for X-rays just to be sure it's only whiplash, but it seems that she escaped any sort of major injury.

Wonder Woman kicked out of E3
First off, we've got a video that came out recently on YouTube of Kasey Poteet, host of Geek Rawk (No, I don't know either..) getting booted from E3 because of her skimpy Wonder Woman outfit. Personally I suspect she was booted because Wonder Woman's just lame. If you're really bored it's worth watching a few minutes of the movie.


Five Realistic Steps To Starting A Game Development Company
Jeff Tunnel of Garage Games posted an interesting first entry in a series of articles on his Make It Big In Games blog. The series, which he intends to eventually turn into a full e-Book, focuses on realistic steps in getting yourself into a position of writing indy games fulltime. The advice is based on some of his own experience and is well worth a look for those that think they're going to licence an engine and churn out the next Quake-killer straight out of school.

Google Earth
The first of the 'new' Google goodies I had a quick look at last week was the latest release of Google Earth. It is the first time I have played with the product since it was initially released, and it seems to have moved on nicely since then. Besides support for textured 3d building models, the new edition has some nice interface tweaks, making an attempt to keep your map view as clear of obstructions as possible. It's relatively simple to quickly add new pins to landmarks, which are then kept in your collection of pins. You can optionally 'share' these, which requires you to register for an account.






To be honest I can't really see much practical use for this app, other than to show off the Google Maps API, but it's a fun enough toy to play around with for a couple of minutes. It really is a pity that Google haven't managed to secure roadmap data for South Africa yet, or I might actually have found it useful (the same goes for maps.google.com) as the ability to find routes between two points is great.

Google Spreadsheets
Adding to the Google suite of office-like tools (again: I told you so!) is Google Spreadsheets. This online spreadsheet tool is to Excel what Writely is to Word. It definitely doesn't have the extensive functionality of Excel, with features ranging from the basic (cell border formatting) to the advanced (graphing tools) leaving it lacking when compared feature-for-feature to Microsoft's well-known spreadsheet tool. The 'trick' with Google Spreadsheets though, is that it supports true collaborative editing of documents, as opposed to Excel's 'Notify when document is available' approach. I can see this feature being useful in many cases, and have in fact already spoken to one user that finds it extremely useful for easily editing and issuing invoices to clients. It's worth mentioning that it's also possible (and dead easy) to export these spreadsheets to a local Excel os XML file, which is certainly a very useful feature. My biggest concern with GS is that of security. I am fully aware that Google quietly sifts through my emails in gmail, my chat conversations in chat and my search queries on google.com to fine tune the ads they bombard me with, and I'm ok with that. However making financial information available to them (as this is what would typically be stored in spreadsheets) is not something I'm quite ready for.






Google Analytics
Finally a quick look at Google's website traffic analysis service, Google Analytics. This service has limited subscriptions, so when you apply you're informed that you will be sent an activation code when one is available. These seem to be ranomly allocated, rather than allocated on a first-come-first-serve basis and I was lucky enough to recieve mine last week. Setting up the service was a simple case of registering with the activation code provided, and adding a small amount of provided script code to the end of those pages you wish to monitor. By the next day I had some basic usage stats coming in, and I could fiddle around with the tools available. The summary view is great and as a casual user I doubt I'll venture beyond this very often. It provides a quick weekly summary of visits and page views, a pie chart comparing new and repeat visitors, another pie chart comparing link sources and a world map highlighting visitors' locations. Digging a bit deeper there are tools for conversion goal progress and more detailed statistics aimed at various user levels, from marketing managers to systems maintenance personnel. Most, if not all of the data provided could be obtained from a typical hosting package's provided scripts, but the presentation and ease of use of Analytics is what sets it apart. It does the leg work of processing some of those raw statistics into really practical overview charts and graphs, providing the kind of data 'dashboard' business users are so fond of these days. If you can get hold of an activation code, go ahead and check it out, you may actually find monitoring your daily site traffic quite addictive.




Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Change of plans

We had a long weekend in South Africa this weekend as Friday was ‘Youth Day’. In addition to this Natalie and I took leave yesterday to spend some time together, so I really haven’t had a chance to be online since Thursday. I had intended to spend lunch today writing a nice long post including commentary on Google Analytics, Google Spreadsheet and the newest version of Google Maps. Unfortunately Natalie was in an accident this morning on the N1, so I had to rush of to see to her (she’s ok, but the car is most likely a write-off) and I’ve missed too many work hours to spend on a long post. I’ll try get it done tomorrow afternoon, but no promises ;)

 

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Sick as a..

I spent the week bedridden (and some of it in hospital), thanks to an evil bout of flu and an even worse reaction to the antibiotics that were prescribed for me. Obviously internet addiction wasn't a problem for me as a result, and I really have zero game industry news to report. I was finally well enough to actually play some games yesterday, and I tried the demo of The Movies, which was surprisingly fun from a pure simulation point of view. I might actually pick up a copy when it hits the bargain bin (despite it being a Lionhead title I've had zero interest in it up until now).

In other (non-gaming) news, we got a cat last weekend. Not just any cat mind you, but a pure-bred, silver-spoon-fed persian. This is taking some getting used to for me. I love cats, make no mistake, but i grew up with good old fashioned pavement specials. Real cats. I'm still not entirely convinced this fluffy little white thing that doesn't have any real snout to speak of qualifies as a cat.. At least it's lovable, if a bit too noisy. Oh, and her name's Daisy, I would have preferred something ironic like killer, but Natz would have none of it..

Friday, June 02, 2006

Still slightly addicted.. and playing lots of games!

Beat it..
I really struggled to keep to my targets this week. Wednesday was my birthday (yaaay, party!) and I just couldn't keep my mind on work, and as a result I slipped back into some bad habits which continued through till yesterday. I managed to get things back under control today though. I'm keeping my goals for next week the same as this week, and then next friday I will set out my final goals:
-Check email when I arrive at work, lunch, 4pm and possibly before going home.
-Check RSS streams when I arrive and at lunchas well as while compiling/building. Links may only be followed at lunch, or after work.
-Only check forums and reply at lunch or after work.
-Only IM at lunch and after 2PM.
-Only blog and Flickr at lunch Monday to Thursday, and after 4pm on Friday. During builds preparing posts in a text file is acceptable.
-Update podcasts when I arrive and at lunch. Watch short videos immediately, copy the rest to PSP and listen to/watch them at home.




Xbox classics
I'm currently on a bit of a mission to complete the Xbox 1 games I own that won't run on the 360, and I've been making really good progress. In the last two weeks I have completed X-Men: Legends and Prince of Persia:Sands of Time, both of which were excellent and highly recommendable. I'm currently working through The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, and I can honestly say it's one of the best games I have ever played in terms of pacing and general entertainment. I'd like to spend some time writing up reviews of each of these games, so perhaps in the coming weeks I'll post them.



SOCOM PSP
As I mentioned, it was my birthday on Wednesday. Natalie really spoiled me on the day with some nice cologne, Kalua chocolates, a warm stress reliever pillow thing. I've yet to use the pillow since she's been using it-it must be very stressful being married to me ;) She also spoiled me with a copy of SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo on the PSP. It is a tactical shooter in the vein of Ghost Recon, and is closely linked with the series by the same name on the PlayStation 2. I haven't had much time to play it, but what I've played so far has been very good. Graphically I think the game could do with a bit more polish, but the gameplay is excellent and the novel implementation of shooter controls on the PSP (with it's single analog control) is surprisingly good. I'll hopefully put up a full review some time in the future.




Xbox 360 in SA
There still hasn't been any significant news regarding the launch of the 360 in South Africa, and many in the community are starting to worry that we may see a repeat of the fiasco surrounding the phantom Xbox 1 launch. Other than a very non-committal statement immediately following Bill Gates' E3 announcement that the 360 would hit SA shores 'before november 2006', MS South Africa has been surprisingly tight lipped. Lets hope they get the hype machine going sometime soon, or they may be in for a very rough ride against the incredibly popular PlayStation brand in this country.
At least there's now a dedicated (independant) Xbox 360 community site in SA: www.xbox-360.co.za.

 

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