April 2003 Archives


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This just in from around the net...

"The word is that Nintendo will show Pilotwings developed by Factor 5 at E3."

Originally on the SNES and one of the N64 launch titles, PilotWings is another gem in Nintendo's treasure chest of franchises. Can't wait to see it, especially with Factor 5's track record (Star Wars Rogue Squadron I, II & III).

Also today, Nintendo of Japan revealed two new pieces of hardware: the SD card reader which increases the storage capacity of the Gamecube significantly with standard SD memory cards; and the e-Reader Plus, a revamped e-Card Reader capable of storing card data, also on SD memory cards.


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Just read an article over at Wired reporting that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has been sending automated messages over instant messaging (IM) services to get the word out that uploading and downloading files containing copyrighted music is illegal and could result in prosecution, as well as other horrors:

"...When you offer music on these systems, you are not anonymous, and you can easily be identified. You also may have unlocked and exposed your computer and your private files to anyone on the Internet. Don't take these chances. Disable the share feature or uninstall your 'file-sharing' software."

Sounds like the RIAA has learned some devious business practices from Microsoft's business-as-usual Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt (FUD) campaigns. While I agree that sharing copyrighted material is wrong, I am a firm believer that if the RIAA had spent half as much energy and resources into developing a reasonable and competitive online music service as they have on litigation and consumer tormentation, we would have seen a comparable service to Apple's new iTunes Music Store long before now. Let's hope that a Windows client for the store becomes available soon and that Bill Gates doesn't bastardize it with his own proprietary copy thwarting anti-consumer protection schemata, as this article from CNet discusses.


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Slashdot has just launched a games news site called games.slashdot.org not surprisingly. I've always enjoyed reading their rather geeky slant on tech stuff. While there I learned of a new meta news site on games called G-Spy. It's apparently a concept beta still in development, though could be very cool indeed. Looks like everyone is gearing up for the onslaught that is E3.

And speaking of E3, here's more info on Half Life 2 courtesy of CNN.


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Have you ever played a game and got so frustrated with it because whatever you did you just couldn't get past one particular boss? That is how my time is spent lately with Metroid Fusion. It's a fantastic game with engaging level design and boss fight after boss fight. The gratification felt when finally defeating that stubborn boss is glorious, and yet this one (named simply "Nightmare") just won't let me be. And like a glutton for punishment, or a geek with OCD, I go running back for more. And yet I know if I just keep trying, I'll master that one skill it's requiring of me. I think I'll go try again...


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Apple Computer today launched a brand new online music service called the iTunes Music Store allowing users to browse through a catalog containing 30-second samples of over 200,000 song titles from all 5 major music labels. Anyone with a Mac and Apple's iTunes 4 can visit the store and download any available song they wish for only 99 cents apiece, without need for a subscription or membership fee. The song files are 128 kbps in a new file format called Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) which is supposed to sound better than MP3 files at the same sampling rate and even compress to a smaller size.

Leave it to Apple to package hot-topic technology in a very cool and very smart way.


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On Friday, CNet reported that Judge Stephen Wilson, a federal judge in Los Angeles, ruled that file-sharing software is legal and the companies who make such software, Streamcast Networks and Grokster, are not liable for copyright infringement that takes place using their software. And on Thursday, Wired ran the story of a federal judge that upheld his earlier ruling in January against Verizon saying that First Amendment protections concerning anonymous expression do not conflict with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998.

Two landmark cases involving the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) shaping the course of legal battles between the copyright holders and the people infringing on those rights... wait... neither of those cases actually included the alleged culprit of the piracy action in question: the end user doing the file sharing. Though two very important issues are being argued: the question whether file sharing technology is legal since it has both legal and illegal uses; and the question of surrendering upon demand the identity of an individual on the Internet for alleged suspicious activity.

I believe I support the former with reasoning that it should be consumer right to make copies of anything purchased or having been granted license for the sole purpose of using that information in any personal use. Copyright becomes infringed upon when said licensees provide access to this licensed information for others thereby circumventing further licensure.

And while I believe that there must be some accountability that end users have with respect to providing download access, via file sharing software or otherwise, to files containing information with copyright, I am apprehensive to blindly support either decision based on the question of the larger implications they have on personal privacy issues and on the constitutional right we all share of being innocent until proven guilty. Furthermore, the DMCA has been increasingly used for purposes that Congress did not necessarily intend. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a paper on Unintended Consequences: Four Years under the DMCA which shows how the DMCA has been invoked against consumers, scientists, and legal competitors.

What must we give up, as a society, to protect the right to financial gains of the copyright holder? It's beginning to sound like a case where the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many. I shall therefore remain skeptical in my assessment and acceptance of decisions affecting these issues.

Thanks to Jake at 8bitjoystick.com for the graphic, and for a similar rant over the RIAA stranglehold on the current state of radio.


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Lately I've been working on how I can be more mindful. Not an easy goal to achieve, and one which warrants constant vigilance (though should not be attempted while higher modes of consciousness are required such as when driving a car).

Being mindful means to increase awareness of one's thoughts and feelings by simply observing oneself. Easier said than done, mindfulness is best achieved through a meditative state. Only when the mind is at rest from our daily distractions can we begin to just be, and then observe the experience of just being. This must be done without analysis or judgment, lest a switch from being mode to doing mode. When we're doing, we are consumed with thoughts of past experiences and plans for future ones. Only through detachment from our daily doings can we achieve, through mindfulness, an inner peace, a presence of being which has the power to heal both mental and physical disorders.

If it sounds rather deep, it is. Though before even my efforts to better myself academically, I have desired to better myself spiritually by looking at how I can be a better person, to myself and to others around me. I am learning that through mindfulness comes a heightened awareness of self, and with that comes inner peace, joy, and bliss.

This is not a new concept, as it is one of the virtues of Buddhism and has been around for thousands of years. There is even medical evidence surfacing supporting the claim that inner peace through mindfulness relieves anxiety, stress, and depression. Researchers over at the University of Rochester are also currently studying the benefits of mindfulness, which appeared in this week's Democrat & Chronicle.

I have experienced some reward from being mindful, present, and in the moment, which is an inner calmness, happy with what I'm doing and where I'm headed. It is like tapping into the energy source of our very soul, one which I now believe to be limited only by our ability to become mindful. Tapping into this energy source is difficult to do, requires continuing effort, and I expect to be working at it for quite some time.


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The buzz is starting to mount towards that mother of all game events: the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or simply E3. With 3 weeks to go, you can actually feel it getting closer by the day, that is if you get even the least bit excited about announcements of new games and up coming releases. As for me, I get most excited from seeing new game concepts and ideas, though the obligatory and evolutionary franchise sequel is also something to look forward to from preferred game developers.

For example, earlier this week Valve Software made an announcement (of an impending announcement) about the sequel to Half-Life being shown at this year's E3. Research around the net has yielded further leaked information regarding some of the specifics such as:

• Half-Life 2 is scheduled for a September 30th release.
• You're still Gordon Freeman, as in the first installment.
• Half-Life 2 takes place in a European city called "City 17."
• Half-Life 3 is planned, so expect another cliffhanger ending.
Apparently the non-disclosure agreement with the press ends on April 28th, so expect a deluge of information soon on this very highly anticipated title.

Today, Nintendo finally released more information on Mario Kart and Pikmin 2, both for GameCube. Screenshots available over at GameSpy. And I highly believe that this is just the beginning of announcements to come from the Nintendo camp. They have a history of sweeping the event with products and announcements which garner the highest levels of excitement and hype.

There are also rumors of new titles that will be shown from Factor 5 (Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike), Silicon Knights (secret project), Konami (Metal Gear Solid:GameCube), Capcom, Sega (Vectorman), Zoonami (Game Zero), and the list goes on.

Admittedly, most of the projects I listed are sequels to existing franchises, since it is unlikely that a new original title would be announced or shown this far in advance of the event. But I'm willing to bet lunch there will be many surprises at this year's E3, if for no other reason than competition in the games industry has become fierce and there will be much vying for the attention and interest of the press to get the good word out about their games to the masses.

Something to look forward to always makes me happy.


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A big shout out to Adbusters and their TV Turnoff Week campaign (April 21-27). Do yourself a favor and read a good book or weblog, or possibly even engage in some dialog with someone (geez, what a concept).

I thought I was a freak for disliking the crap that all the networks throw out in projectile quantity. Last week I tried to watch a documentary on TLC about the history of video games, and the ad breaks were longer than the content segments. Needless to say, my less-than-desirable opinion of television was left untarnished by the experience.

With thanks to Jake at 8BitJoystick.com for the link, it's nice to know I'm not alone.


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...or, confessions of a reformed Animal Crossing (AC) addict. Either way you slice it, my AC days are done. It's time to move on. Though I'll admit that I logged more hours with AC than I have playing any other game, including even StarCraft. The game was surprisingly addictive to me and I found myself playing every single day for over three months' time. So, why did I stop playing? The answer to this I'm still not entirely sure of. Though I suspect that getting my hands on the new Zelda game set the stage for putting my AC responsibilities on hold, and then I just never went back. Can I see myself playing AC again? Possibly, as it is a game that appeals at a variety of levels of depth. Though at this time I cannot see myself playing again at a level from which I now view myself as being reformed.

And isn't that what makes a game great: a game that provides play that people may grasp at levels with which they are most comfortable? In other words, a game that becomes what the player wants it to be instead of a game that dictates the way is is supposed to be played.

So, what was the objective in Animal Crossing? I'm not really sure. All I know is whatever it was, I wanted to do it all day long. It sounds rather silly to me now, but it was tremendously gratifying at the time. And when the day is done and the game is over, that's all that matters anyway, isn't it?


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With thanks to Andy for the link, I'm reeling from reading an astoundingly poignant piece on the potential for games as an emergent artistic medium and art form. N. David Griffin over at configsys.boy! has posted a must read entitled Arts and Electronic Entertainment. I continue to be generally optimistic that the games industry as a whole is on the cusp of something extraordinary. Similar in concept to Vernor Vinge's Singularity, as published on KurzweilAI.net, I sense an imminent evolutional jump that will set new standards upon which all new forms of the expression will be referenced. Mr. Griffin emphasizes this by expressing concern for a collective conscious effort to break through the stagnation building mind sets that plague the games industry today. Fantastic.


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Many thoughts scrambling around my head today. While walking down the second floor corridor of the brand new Golisano building 70, with my friend Marc on our way to Discrete Math class, I sauntered into Professor Lawley's office today still brimming with excitement and joy from this weekend. Interrupting her in-progress conversation with Professor Andy Phelps, I put my needs before theirs by introducing myself and thanking her for the assistance with getting my blog up and running. I then excused myself and left. I could have come back later when she was free. I could have at least acknowledged Andy, who I also interrupted, and who is a major influence to why I am even back here finishing up my degree. It's times like this that make me wonder how I allow myself to be so socially inept. I usually shrug it off, justifying it by having nothing but good intentions. But the fact remains that I was putting myself first. I must continue to learn how to not be selfish. This is one area of my life which warrants constant mindfulness, since it's easy to let down one's guard especially during feelings of joy and bliss.


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Easter weekend and all that I've done is work... all weekend long. But as my previous entry noted, it most certainly is what I wanted to do. And there are times when all I want to do is play games, though this weekend certainly saw the pendulum swinging the other way.

The weather this weekend has been beautiful and I have been enjoying each day, albeit inside, with my windows wide open catching the fresh air and breeze blowing in, and the hypnotizing sound of the wind through the trees. And all I have done is homework and a little side project of getting Moveable Type up and running on my RIT web site. With special thanks to Professor Liz Lawley, the latter was accomplished with no trouble at all. Though I still hear a nagging little voice in the back of my head suggesting that I wasted this beautiful weekend. And then I read Andy Phelps' latest blog entry Guilty as Charged about this very same "guilty" feeling from spending time playing games, and I realize that the little nagging voice in my head is just doing his job, maintaining my life in balance.


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I was sitting downstairs in the kitchen earlier this evening sharing with my mother the excitement and enthusiasm I'm feeling towards my school work and the classes I'm taking. She was asking me what I had been laughing about a while earlier, and I explained that I discovered a new approach to a Java program that I'm writing for one of my assignments. And I realized how inherently gratifying it becomes to take an assignment and solve the problem. So much so, that I have found myself rethinking the problem only to come up with an alternate solution. In other words, the journey is the reward, and the journey is the learning experience.

So I found myself saying to my mother with enthusiasm, "I can't wait to go back to school on Monday!" However at the same time I said this I was also telling her of several other assignments that I need to get done before then. So why is it that I am anxious to get back to school when there is still plenty of work that has to be done beforehand? The answer became clear: to see everyone again. I am anxious for the social aspect that comes with the learning experience.

This in itself is a learning experience to me for the reason that I have always thought myself to be an introvert. I guess it's time to turn over a new leaf.


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Being the quintessential "hello world" message, this entry marks my first foray into the wide world of weblogging. Having been recently accepted into the Information Technology program at RIT with third year standing, I am finding that a second chance can be the opportunity of a lifetime. Like a sponge, I'm learning that 16 credit hours are just not enough brain stimuli. That, and of course the fact that I need to finish up my bachelor's degree by the end of summer 2004 to be able to enter the brand new masters degree program in game design and development beginning in the fall.

Hence this weblog which I hope will serve me well in documenting the wonderful ideas, thoughts, experiences and relationships that I'm already beginning to enjoy after just 6 short weeks of classes. It is my sincere desire that I shall be able to spark some fascinating dialog with many of the remarkably brilliant people here on the RIT campus and beyond. Thank you all in advance for your patience, your guidance, and for sharing your knowledge. This first entry is dedicated to you.

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