Oculus Rift’s First User Kit Ships Early 2016

Posted on May 6th, 2015 by TimeDoctor

An un-named conglomerate of corporate drones came together to announce the upcoming release on the Oculus Rift Blog:

Since the earliest days of the Oculus Kickstarter, the Rift has been shaped by gamers, backers, developers, and enthusiasts around the world. Today, we’re incredibly excited to announce that the Oculus Rift will be shipping to consumers in Q1 2016, with pre-orders later this year.

Valve and HTC’s team-up VR headset is shipping out first, later this year. If developers use Valve’s OpenVR software instead of directly writing for the Rift we’ll be able to buy a headset from anyone whose hardware works with OpenVR rather than having to buy a specific headset from one manufacturer.

Almost Lost Big Bird

Posted on May 4th, 2015 by TimeDoctor

Rob Crilly:

Big Bird, the giant yellow-feathered Sesame Street character, was offered a place on the doomed Challenger space shuttle mission but had to withdraw because his oversized costume would not fit in the craft.

The extraordinary revelation is contained in a new documentary I Am Big Bird, which tells the story of the Jim Henson creation and the man who has played him for 45 years, Caroll Spinney.

Skyrim Mods

Posted on April 28th, 2015 by TimeDoctor

In the past, for Skyrim and many other computer games, mods were almost universally grafted on by players who loved whatever game they’re working on so much that they were willing to work for free to see their vision through. Just by working on these mods the players who did so were turned into amateur developers, artists, sound designers, level designers, and game designers.

If the mod developer was interested, and had the opportunity, they could use their work as an amateur in a portfolio to use when applying for work as a professional game developer. Most of the people I know who get paid to make video games today got their start over a decade ago making mods for computer games. According to one of Valve’s founders, Gabe Newell, about half of Valve got their start making mods.

Last Thursday Valve and Bethesda added paid mod sales to the Steam Workshop storefront for Skyrim. Mods are any kind of additional items, maps, levels, art, or sounds added to a game. The modifications to Skyrim could range from a new sword or a new companion  character to a full, professional quality, series of missions that rival what the professionals who get paid for their work at Bethesda have added on to the game. In this new system it was still possible to distribute a mod for free if the mod developer chose to do so.

There were all kinds of problems with the technical and business implementation for the Skyrim mods being sold through the Steam Workshop. Some level of curation should have been implemented by Valve to monitor the system when people were copying work from other mods and putting it up for sale. The most egregious part of the whole thing was the cut the actual mod developer received, which at 25% of the price charged to the player was completely ludicrous. 

I’m writing in the past tense because Valve and Bethesda’s work to reward the people who had spent hours making additional content for Skyrim, a game that had been otherwise abandoned by its developer (Skyrim hasn’t been patched since 2013), when the paid mod sales were killed yesterday after positive feedback from mod developers and almost universally negative feedback from users who seemed to hate it for all of the wrong reasons.

While there were a few well reasoned arguments against paid mod sales, most of the player feedback on public forums consisted of a zero-tolerance policy on paying for anything outside of the original game and whatever horse armor the original developer wanted to sell.  

If the only way to distribute mods for Skyrim were for pay and through the Steam Workshop, then the argument against paid mods would make sense. In that scenario you would never have ridiculous licensing nightmares where the dragons are replaced with Thomas the Tank Engine or Macho Man Randy Savage. Instead, all we had was choice. We could have kept downloading most mods for free and paid for the ones we liked. Now the mod developers will continue to get nothing for their labor except pitiful amounts of donations in the few cases where they’re popular enough to receive any at all.

The Little Lebowski Urban Achievers

Posted on April 21st, 2015 by TimeDoctor

Dan Benjamin (of many fine podcasts at 5by5) and Merlin Mann (of Back to Work and Roderick on the Line) recently recorded a podcast about the Coen brothers’ The Big Lebowski.

The Big Lebowski is such a great movie in all of its nonsense, and as Dan and Merlin point out we all know a Dude but for some reason the person I’m most amused by in the movie is Walter Sobchak.

Walter is dead-set on rules (he threatens a man with a gun for breaking one during league bowling) and constantly living in the past (all of his talk of the war in Vietnam) but he’s also bizarrely focused on being politically correct at one point in the film (Also, Dude, chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature. Asian-American, please.) and at the same time is constantly bumbling and unapologetic in his every attempt to help the unmotivated Dude. Every attempt of Walter’s to help ends up resulting in failure and more pain for The Dude. What a great character. I know a Walter Sobchak, I bet you do as well.

This podcast goes over almost every minute of it and points out details that those of us who have only watched it three or so times may have missed.

You should read Dan and Merlin’s notes which contain links to the script, links to the movie if you haven’t seen it recently, links to get the show into your podcast dingus, and more. For something completely different maybe consider listening to Chipocrite’s 8-bit Lebowski.

Where is SimCopter 2015?

Posted on April 8th, 2015 by TimeDoctor

SimCopter was an incredible game idea, implemented about as well as 1996 allowed. It felt like the ambulance missions in GTA, plus a little bit of firefighting in the form of buckets full of water, but in a helicopter, and every mission was in the cities you made in SimCity 2000.

Unfortunately, at the time of release the game had been reduced to a joke due to a bizarre easter-egg, and no sequels were ever made. A few recent games have similar goals, but none are in the style of SimCopter.

The good news is that a mod for the recently-released Cities: Skylines is in development that brings back SimCopter’s helicopter and will have more from SimCopter in the future. The developer calls it CityCopter, and is organizing the mod’s development on this subreddit, and there is a preview video up here.

Elite: Dangerous Finally on Steam

Posted on April 2nd, 2015 by TimeDoctor

Crowdfunded space trucking simulator and long-time hold-out, Elite: Dangerousis now available on Steam

Cashed in the remaining money I’d made from selling trading-cards to get it.

At this time Frontier’s (Elite’s developer) Elite: Dangerous doesn’t have any Steam-specific features, and like some games you’re only downloading the initial launcher through Steam. All updates appear to be through the game-specific launcher.

Because it was previously available only direct from the developer, the Elite: Dangerous players (a comedy troupe touring in your locality!) are rightfully upset that they haven’t received Steam keys for the game. People always want to consolidate their gaming libraries into one place, and a decade in it’s still surprising that some game developers don’t get it.

On the second page of the relevant forum thread, a Frontier community manager had this to say in response to a player’s request:

Hi Macro, thanks for the question. We don’t have any plans to do this at the moment, but we’ll be listening to player feedback and looking to see how much demand there is.

Just an FYI – there’s no functional difference between the Steam and our website version of the game. You can add the game to your existing Steam library. See the instructions below:

We have no plans to do so but we will of course listen to player feedback and assess demand.

Click Games > Add a non-Steam game to my library and add EDLaunch.exe, ordinarily located in C:\Program Files (x86)\Frontier\EDLaunch\ on a PC.

Cue 25 more pages of players demanding their Steam keys.

Valve provides developers as many keys as they would like for their games to be sold on the developers’ own store, so the only cost to Frontier would be in developing the infrastructure to hand out the Steam keys.

The Talos Principle Review (PC)

Posted on April 1st, 2015 by TimeDoctor


What if people were robots who were created from, and routinely yelled at by, an angry god that just wants to be respected and obeyed when he asks you to maybe solve some puzzles without questioning him so much?

He just wants you to go along with what he says to do no matter how ridiculous his request. Especially that time when he repeatedly asked you to ignore the spiraling tower in the middle of the overworld hub area that he created and you could very well climb it if only he hadn’t forbidden it.

Well if this were the case you and I would be the robotic children of Elohim in The Talos Principle: Solving puzzles by arranging surprising combinations of boxes, lasers, gun turrets, semi-autonomous mines, laser connectors, fans, and jammers in the first-person (or third-person if you’re into viewing robo-booty) world that Elohim created.

If The Talos Principle were from anyone else I might have thought it was going to be a bible game and would have thrown my still-running computer through the nearest window. Instead, it’s from the developers of Serious Sam. A fast-like-Doom first-person shooter series that is anything but serious. You could say that Cro-team aren’t known for making contemplative puzzle games when they’ve been making first-person shooters for over a decade. You would be right.

These puzzles with the boxes, lasers, gun turrets, semi-autonomous mines, laser connectors, fans, and jammers? They’re great. They have that perfect difficulty curve so rarely achieved in puzzle games. There is a gentle progression with the challenges getting slightly more difficult and sometimes (rarely) maddeningly so. Up until you walk away and come back and go “why didn’t I think of putting that over there earlier? Duh.” After you figure out the solution you always feel like a smarty-pants puzzle-solving person because the designers have excelled at making you feel brilliant instead of feeling like the solution isn’t achievable without a hint-guide.

Those few times that you do get frustrated with a puzzle you can just walk your robot avatar to another because the game is designed to let you walk away and pick an easier trial without walking away from the game. Talos‘ arrangement of puzzles into three level hubs, each with a bunch of puzzles that you can go away from and come back to at any time is brilliant and refreshing. Forgivingly, Elohim encourages you to walk away if you’ve spent a lot of time in a puzzle and there’s an achievement for doing so. There’s also an achievement for sticking it out and solving a tough puzzle. In the 30 hours or so I spent in Elohim’s world I experienced each of those scenarios: often breezing through a puzzle in a few minutes, as the difficultly increased there were a few more occasions of frustration and sticking with it, and a few times I just had to walk away to find some peace in an easier puzzle

If the game were just this surprise first-person puzzler from a shooter developer I’d still rate it highly. Talos is so much more than just puzzles.

If it were just those characters of Elohim and protagonist-bot the one-sided dialog from the big E (your protagonist-bot isn’t much of a talker) might have gotten boring and I still would have skipped merrily along through many lands to solve the shit out of placing boxes on fans and then placing jammers on top of them. Fortunately, there are more questions in the The Talos Principle that graduate the story from both the shackles of Elohim’s reverberating narration and the perfectly robust puzzling.

Why is the protagonist a robot?

Who is Elohim really, why does he call you his child, and why does he want you to solve these puzzles?

Why is there a giant multi-tiered tower, what is on those tiers that Elohim insists you not see?

It is so difficult to talk about this game and what it offers without spoiling more . I will say that the …other main characters… are generous with revelations and sometimes more questions. Extremely deep, philosphical questions. I’m not sure if they would challenge any philosophers, but the game’s story is ultimately going to require your interest in them. Which is fine, because the way it asks them is charming.

Puzzles, god, philosophy. I hope you’re convinced to try it and that you won’t read any more. The Talos Principle is something special.

5/5 Robo-butts


Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan X

Posted on March 17th, 2015 by TimeDoctor

Dave James reviewing the new $999 graphics card from Nvidia:

Inside that chunky chip are 24 streaming microprocessors (SMM) in six graphics processing clusters (GPC). With the Maxwell design running to 128 CUDA cores in each SMM that makes for a grand total of 3,072 cores in the GTX Titan X. Completing the core configuration are 192 texture units and 96 ROPS.

That’s a whole heap of graphics processing power right there.

Nvidia have also doubled the size of the frame buffer compared to the previous Titan cards, maxing out at 12GB GDDR5 memory, running across six 64-bit memory buses to deliver an aggregated 384-bit total memory bus.

That memory capacity might well look a little bit like big numbers for the sake of it, but we thought it would be a long time before the original Titan’s 6GB frame buffer was anywhere near fully utilised. Yet right now Shadow of Mordor is filling up around 5.7GB with the HD texture pack at Ultra 4K settings; we may only be a couple of years away from 12GB actually getting used. Right now, 12GB is more future-proofing than anything else.

I’ll take ten.

DeNA + Nintendo

Posted on March 17th, 2015 by TimeDoctor

Mike Fahey:

This morning Nintendo announced a partnership with Japanese company DeNA to produce games using Nintendo properties on mobile platforms. As the owner of mobile platform Mobage, DeNA is one of the most powerful names in mobile gaming, but the sort of games it’s known for won’t make traditional console gamers happy.

We’re All Doomed: Part LXVII

Posted on March 12th, 2015 by TimeDoctor

Chris DiBona announces the shutdown of Google Code:

When we started the Google Code project hosting service in 2006, the world of project hosting was limited. We were worried about reliability and stagnation, so we took action by giving the open source community another option to choose from. Since then, we’ve seen a wide variety of better project hosting services such as GitHub and Bitbucket bloom. Many projects moved away from Google Code to those other systems. To meet developers where they are, we ourselves migrated nearly a thousand of our own open source projects from Google Code to GitHub.

As developers migrated away from Google Code, a growing share of the remaining projects were spam or abuse. Lately, the administrative load has consisted almost exclusively of abuse management. After profiling non-abusive activity on Google Code, it has become clear to us that the service simply isn’t needed anymore.

Beginning today, we have disabled new project creation on Google Code. We will be shutting down the service about 10 months from now on January 25th, 2016.

There are a ton of abandoned but still useful projects on Google Code, most of which will be lost after 2016 if nobody clones them and puts them online somewhere else. Fortunately there is at least an Export to GitHub button on every Google Code site now, .

This is your continued reminder that Google, and start-ups funded by VC money, are not a safe place to store your work. Own your shit before GitHub starts inserting malware into downloads or sells out in some original and disruptive way. Get a domain, some shared hosting, maybe a Linux or BSD VPS if you’re rich. With git it is easy enough to move a project if you have cloned the project locally and have established a web presence that people can check for updates. At the very least, don’t make the GitHub page the public-facing home for your project.

Even Google isn’t stupid enough to put their most important projects on another company’s servers:

Google will continue to provide Git and Gerrit hosting for certain projects like Android and Chrome. We will also continue maintaining our mirrors of projects like Eclipse, kernel.org and others.

You can be sure their internal code for things like search aren’t hosted on GitHub, either.

Donate to the Internet Archive.

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