Get A Head in Life

Headlander was recently put out for public consumption by Adult Swim Games and developed by Double Fine. It’s from the same game director, Lee Petty, as my favorite Double Fine game, Stacking. Which you should play if you haven’t because it is amazing.

Oh sorry, I lost my head thinking about Stacking. Headlander looks like a very fine metroidvania-style of game, and I appreciate the 70’s retrofuture aesthetic, along with the head swapping game mechanic which is kind of hilarious and also very clearly related to Stacking’s matryoshka doll swapping mechanic. Which, have you played? It’s really great.

Headlander is out now on Playstation 4, and Windows via Steam for $20 USD.

Stacking has been out forever on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Windows, macOS, and Linux. It’s $10.

The Wartime Broadcasting System

The Wartime Broadcasting Systems

Paul Reynolds, the British Broadcasting System’s former foreign and diplomatic correspondent found the BBC’s plans for continued broadcast during nuclear war or what the BBC politely described as a “nuclear exchange”:

The War Book reveals a world of meticulous BBC planning. The Wartime Broadcasting System (WTBS) – referred to in the book as “Deferred Facilities” – would have operated from 11 protected bunkers spread across the UK.

Great article. I only wish they had posted a scan of the entire book.

Halo Graphics Boards and Nvidia’s Bungled 10-series Launch

Nvidia just started shipping the GTX 1060 for about $300, the lowest-priced card in their 10 series, and now they’ve announced the new generation of Titan X at $1200. With cars the “halo” model is one that nobody is ever going to buy, but it’s designed to appeal to car enthusiasts and bring them in the showroom for whatever else the company has. With graphics cards like this new Titan X, well, I’m not sure I see the point anymore. Maybe if you’re younger and more enthusiastic about silicon-snorting framecrushers. I’m old and happy with my 1070.

The 1060 is a great value, but the Titan X is a waste of money for anyone. The $1200 price is ridiculous compared to the $700 1080. No game is going to fully take advantage of what the Titan X offers. You can get most of the performance from any of the other boards Nvidia offers. 

Why not announce all of these cards at the same time? With the announcements coming so late after the announcement and release of the other 10-series cards you can’t quite make the justification “well, at least I’m not spending $1000 on the Titan X” when deciding to purchase the 1080 that the halo product is supposed to enable.

In the face of the 1060, the 1070 seems like a good value, and the 1080 and Titan X are extremely ridiculous. Perhaps the Titan X will finally be able to support 4K gaming at reasonable frame rates, which even the 1080 is not capable of.

Nvidia should stick with three cards at a time, announced at the same event on a regular schedule, and released at about the same time. The 1070 and 1080 were announced together months ago and released later but still can’t be purchased easily, the 1060 was announced more recently and finally released now, and now we have the Titan X announcement with a release next month on the 2nd and no price. This staggered product communication and release schedule is not helpful to people making purchasing decisions. Finally, there was a product called the Titan X with the previous generation of chips.

Nvidia doesn’t have an exclusive lock on the idea of a halo graphics board, it’s just that they announced this card today at a ridiculous price, made a very poor naming decision, and the whole 10-series launch was fragmented. Unlike halo vehicles, graphics cards aren’t collectible or classic. It’ll be obsolete in a year or 18 months. I don’t think it’s wrong to buy one if you’re into it, but it isn’t a rational decision. The Titan X product seems kind of gross, and it makes the 10-series launch look bungled.

Ben Heck’s Hands-On With The Nintendo Playstation Prototype

Ben Heck met with and interviewed the people who found a prototype of the original Playstation. That was actually going to be a joint project between Sony and Nintendo where Sony would develop the hardware and Nintendo the software for a CD add-on to the Super Nintendo. The partnership didn’t work out between the two companies, which is why we have Sony’s Playstation competing with Nintendo’s consoles today. Heck tears down the Nintendo Playstation prototype in this video, and in the next part he’ll attempt to repair it.

Advice for the Developers of Pokémon Go

My old colleague, and current game consultant, Wes Leviton gave some free advice to Niantic, the developers of Pokémon Go on Wes (and I for a short time) worked on a game called Life is Crime that was similar to Pokémon Go, though it was somewhat closer to Foursquare (now Swarm) in that you fought for ownership of a specific location instead of gyms that are a bit further apart.

In addition to his other advice, Wes recommends tolerating cheaters who use external tools to bypass the in-game GPS tracking and show up in places they aren’t:

There are numerous applications available that makes it trivial to “spoof” your location allowing players to virtually teleport to anywhere in the world. While the great majority of Pokémon GO players will play the game honestly, a small percentage of players will undoubtedly resort to faking their location to avoid walk/driving around town. As developers, we’re often quick to implement countermeasures to prevent such behavior in the name of fair play.

During my time on Life is Crime we explored many options to block geo spoofing but decided against it because our data indicated that geo cheaters were far and away the most engaged players and had an insanely high conversion rate and the time it would take to effectively block a small number of cheaters would take away from the development of new features.

Ultimately, we decided that the best way to level the playing field between geo cheaters and honest players was to provide a limited time in game portal to major cities powered by soft currency where prices varied based on your distance from the destination. Players loved the feature and destination cities quickly became hotspots for competition with highly contested cities becoming the “big leagues.”

As Wes mentions, it was often obvious to the developers when players were cheating. This wasn’t a secret, the top of every leaderboard in each competition was won by players who either spent more, cheated more, or both.

Of course, Life is Crime cheaters on Android didn’t have to go far to falsify their location. Software built-in to that operating system allows developers to test different GPS locations and users could easily access that function. If you blocked that, there was other software that would intercept your application’s request to the system for a GPS location. Anyone who was sufficiently motivated could take it further and subvert actual GPS radio signals. As far as I know, Life is Crime players were never that motivated. There’s almost no way to block cheaters and it was brilliant to work around that by making it part of the game.

What I’ve played of Pokémon Go reminds me of something else I tried to get done on Life is Crime, but wasn’t able to. Built-in community discussions. It’s tough to implement because a straight-up bulletin board forum like phpbb isn’t going to work for a huge community like Pokémon Go. You’d need to localize it to a town and maybe by team, and hire local moderators. A good online community could change Pokémon Go from a fad lasting a few months into a stable group of players that could stick around for years.

Quadrilateral Cowboy Out Next Week, The 25th

Blendo Games’ Brendon Chung has done some wacky fun games in the past, and his next opus Quadrilateral Cowboy has been in the works for what feels like forever. Chung calls it a “…cyberpunk heist adventure…” I’m very excited to see that it’ll be out next week on Windows via Steam, and will have Mac and Linux versions this September.

NES Classic Edition

NES Classic Edition

Nintendo announced a very odd product today, the NES Classic Edition is a tiny version of the original NES that is preloaded with 30 games and includes one controller but cannot accept cartridges. They’re also releasing extra controllers, which use the Wii controller accessory port and can connect to wii-motes, for $10 each.

This is a strange product due to a few unanswered questions. What hardware is inside of it? What software will it use to launch the games?

I’m guessing that it is a further cut-down version of the Wii, a product that Nintendo knows how to make cheaply. They could then use the pre-existing NES emulation software, and interface, of the Wii, which already supports the controller interface.

The good thing about the controllers is that, if they’re similar enough, they could be used to refurbish older NES controllers.

The NES Classic Edition will be $60 when the system is released on November the eleventh. Or you could just do what a friend suggested, and buy a Raspberry Pi for $36 today. Load up the pi with all kinds of emulators and use whatever controller you want.

Here’s the list of games included with the NES CE:

  • Balloon Fight
  • Castlevania
  • Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest
  • Donkey Kong
  • Donkey Kong Jr. 
  • Dr. Mario
  • Excitebike
  • Galaga
  • Ice Climber
  • Kid Icarus
  • Kirby’s Adventure
  • Mario Bros. 
  • MEGA MAN® 2
  • Metroid
  • Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream
  • StarTropics
  • Super Mario Bros.
  • Super Mario Bros. 2
  • Super Mario Bros. 3
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link