Thursday, January 11, 2007

I've relocated

With just a couple of posts to go until I hit one hundred, I've moved to self-publishing. The blog got a new name, host and address. (And re-vitalization, I hope.)

Please update your bookmarks to

Friday, January 05, 2007


With a new year upon us, I've looked at my blogs with a fresh eye. This one has a bunch of things I need to consider:

There's the name. I regret it, since it's so obscure you can't tell at all what the blog's about. Initially I thought I didn't care about readers, but it looks like you can reach a reasonable audience these days, and now the name feels like dead weight. Then again, there are sites like, which obviously don't have any problems because of their obscure name. I can't just change it, though, because -

- although I'd like to, I can't just relocate. I have my own web space these days, over at I've spent quite a bit of energy promoting the blog, getting links and some readers, and it would largely be for naught if I changed my URL or name. It'd easily be a year's work all over again. (I just got accepted for Text Link Ads, which took several months after the initial rejection.)

It would be so easy to set up a blog software over at my webhost and a domain doesn't cost much, if I wanted a new name (which I do). I'm quite frustrated by Blogger's limitations; simple layout changes are a pain to do.

Then there's the whole Blogger image to consider; I know I consider Blogger blogs less worthwhile than ones you've set up on your own. Of course it shouldn't matter next to the quality of writing, but it does.

I'm not sure what I'll do. I know I'm a lot more proficient with the whole blogosphere these days, maybe I could get off from the ground a lot faster this time, but hmmm. Maybe I'll relocate my life blog first and see how it goes technically.

Probably because of this uncertainty I've got some drafts waiting for completion; usually I post immediately.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Frets On Fire: keyboard update (Apple vs. Logitech)

So I've played Frets On Fire quite a lot more. It is so good. I have some issues with performance., though. It could be either the framework (I think it's Python-based) or maybe my dual-core rig. It's not game-spoiling by any means, but weird, as the game appears light-weight. Sometimes it skips frames in-game, and quite often the menus stutter and crawl.

My initial recommendation of my Apple keyboard for FOF is hereby withdrawn. I've noticed it's no good for gaming: the feel is very nice in typing, but it's too soft for gaming, where you often need to hold keys down for extended periods. My old, flat Logitech proved a better match, as it has only a little space on top of the function keys you need for playing, it's light and it has a soft, yet precise digital feel.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Ticket To Ride: Europe edition, Pirates

We've been looking for a boardgame and have heard plenty of good things about Ticket To Ride. Eventually we got the Europe edition, because the map looked a lot more interesting than in the original US edition.

We've only played it together once, but came away impressed by the simple, rich rules. The components are also first-class.

What really impressed me was their online version. You get a code with the boardgame which allows you to play the game's online version for an unlimited time. It's a simple Java conversion of the original, with lacklustre graphics and token sounds. However, it's a joy to play and works very well as an online multiplayer game. They've done this with a couple of their games, but Ticket To Ride is the only with a sizeable player base.

It made me think they should make a good-looking version of the online game and sell it separately.

Related to this, Sony Online Entertainment is releasing a separate online version of the popular Pirates collectable... cardboard ship... game ("constructible strategy game", they call it), today. They're giving all their launch-day profits to Child's Play. This is the first time I'm applauding Sony for something in quite some time.

Speaking of Child's Play, the gamer community has donated over half a million dollars so far, this season alone. That's really something.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Next generation sales

So all of the next-gen consoles are upon us. Well, unless you live in Europe, that is, but regardless, I found the NexGen Wars site ( interesting. They claim that the sales data is up to date - I'm not at all sure about it. The "how many people prefer which console" data isn't at all interesting as the site is obviously targeted at the nerdcore. But if the sales data is anywhere close to the truth, it'll be interesting to follow how the market develops, instead of forming your opinion based on separate claims made by the console manufacturers over the next year.

Not surprisingly, the 360 is leading the pack with its year-long headstart (over 7M sold), but the Wii has really gotten off to a running start (over 1M sold), leading Nintendo to speculate that it may well surpass its financial projections for the year. Sony's 400K doesn't sound like much, but of course they did "launch" well before they had the stock to support it. I haven't been following the news that closely, but it seems that Sony is really getting beaten in the massmarket reviews, while Wii is welcomed everywhere.

I'm still fearing that Nintendo goes all Gamecube with Wii, though. Launching a fine console and supporting it with good releases are two different things.

Personally, I'm entrenched in the "wait and see" camp regarding the Playstation 3. It needs quality titles and a lower pricepoint to become desirable. Lacking a PS2, I'm willing to shell out a bit more for the third-gen Playstation, but so far I've heard nothing good. The Wii I'm ready to buy the minute there's a couple of quality titles for it.

Roleplaying for the masses

I've been reading the Finnish tabletop roleplaying scene's thoughts on making a low-threshold game meant to attract new people to the hobby. This has resonated with my own thoughts on roleplaying. I do believe there should be a low-threshold game, however, I'm on a completely different track to the majority of people discussing this.

The common idea seems to be a rules-light game based on a popular stereotype (generic fantasy). Why bother? If all you want is vanilla D&D, there is already vanilla D&D. You'll never get into it unless you're into rules, so the very high threshold to entry should work merely to deter those not cut out for it anyway.

A better take I've seen is taking a pop-culture icon and turning that into an easily digested game. Say, Lost. Or Alias. Then the game should be found in places where non-gamers tend to shop. The less there is to study about the game's framework, the better.

What I haven't seen discussed is breaking the ages-old roleplaying methods down a bit. Boardgames are living a new renaissance right now. The practice of playing a roleplaying game could be moved more towards that - use a board, a theme everyone gets without explaining it and have goals for everyone. This could be good because a boardgame doesn't have the gamemaster vs. players setup, and everyone is working together to gave fun - there is no gamemaster doing all the work.

It probably shouldn't be marketed as a roleplaying game, though, if mass market appeal is sought.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

On disability (Nintendo Wii)

I am a healthy person. Regardless, I can't play Burnout for more than around half an hour at a time: I can't keep gas (RT) and nitro (A) down all the time without my right hand aching. I have often wondered how much my life would change if I was no longer able to hold a joypad or use a keyboard and mouse. (It's pretty scary, actually: people break their hands all the time.)

Everyone is not as lucky as I am. I find the people's dickheadedness in this post's comments section astonishing. The guy is just saying that it would be nice if there were consistent options to adjust the Wiimote's sensitivity to accommodate people who can't move their hands that well, and people are crying "cheat!" and "tough luck, disabled guy, live with it!". This being the internet, many are drawing ridiculous parallels like "well, the guy with no hands can't play either, next we'll have to help him!".

I've ranted about usability issues before. Microsoft has pushed the developers into conforming to their standards on the usage of the 360 joypad's buttons, on respecting customized soundtracks and incorporating Live. They even have a setting for console-specific "preferred controls" to avoid having to set your invert, gearbox and viewpoint preferences in every FPS and driving game you play.

Is it possible that they haven't even thought about demanding customizable controls while at it? What about all the people who prefer "southpaw" layout, with movement on the right stick? Like many left-handers? There are no technical reasons to limit the user's customization of controls, yet it's extremely rare to see that an option.

I imagine there are a lot of people with minor hand problems, like missing fingers, aching joints and whatever, who could be helped just by giving them the option of, say, using RB instead of A for the majority of gameplay.

Even very common disabilities like hard of hearing and colorblindness are usually not taken into account. This could be remedied with simple rules on user interface design. I understand that these options can be the last thing to finetune before shipping and thus being very barebones, but we're talking about the overall quality of not just the one game, but the industry. If accessibility (to a sensible point...) was taken into account in the planning and design stage, these would be non-issues.

Since developers don't seem to take this up and publishers won't make them to, some industry entity should take up the accessibility flag. There's a lot of cheap, good PR on the offer, if you need an incentive beyond being as good as you can be.

I find this especially depressing because playing videogames can be one of the few ways a disabled or bed-ridden person can communicate with her peers on an equal level. To limit their options for no good reason is a shame.

Update: A couple of links to complement the post. First, there's One Switch, which is a campaign for greater accessibility in games. Then it appears that the International Game Developers' Association, or IGDA, has already taken accessibility into account in a special interest group's blog.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Happy birthday Xbox

The Xbox is five years as of today. It really doesn't seem like so many years. Allow me to recall some Xbox moments in my life.

The Xbox party. I went to this Microsoft-sponsored Xbox party, given out by the Pelit magazine. Our crew were all readers of said magazine. It was a hoot, and I think I decided that I needed an Xbox at the event.

Dead Or Alive 3. I could not believe how good DOA3 looked. It still ranks among the top cats, mind. Instalment 4 doesn't have nearly the same impact.

Completing Halo for the first time. I've done it quite a few times since. I lost count, but I imagine I've been through something like five times since. Also, playing Halo in co-op is a unique experience.

Hooking up on Live. I only did this with the 360 this year, but it was a revelation, nonetheless. How easy can you make online gaming?

Losing myself in Morrowind. The Xbox certainly saw many PC ports, which was nice since I couldn't afford a gaming PC. The PC crew may boast about their mod-support all they like, they can't take away my dozens of experiences with Morrowind on TV. Although the bugs did grate.

Listening to my music while carving up a mountain in Amped 2. Customizable playlists are a big thing to me and it's great they've only made them better with the 360. I was so into Amped 2 for some time that whenever I got a new record, I ripped it to the Xbox and listened to it on board.

Kung Fu Chaos. Kung Fu Chaos was the very first item on my Xbox "want" list and I finally got it a month or so ago. It's very good indeed and feels like a fitting goodbye to the console.

I will be playing on my Xbox for a good time to come, but I can't see myself buying very many new games. There are still some titles I want to check out, like Otogi 2, but my heart is very much in the next-gen playground already.

It's also fitting that the five-year old has finally learned how to talk. has an article up on this, check it out.

Update: Eurogamer has put together a pretty cool list of quality Xbox titles you probably missed. Handy shopping list if you're picking one up now that they're as cheap as a Gamecube.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sponsored post: Review Me

This is a sponsored post about the Review Me service. It's not like I need the $15 USD I'm getting for this or that it's even adequate money for the sign-up effort and writing the post; I'm doing this simply because I think this is a great idea. I came upon this via

The problem is that old-fashioned mass marketing or even targeted marketing like Google AdWords is just not cutting it for some products. To get that community interest you need to engage people. Review Me features products which need community exposure but don't work well with mass marketing. They pay bloggers to discuss their products: it's essentially a global media agency for reaching bloggers.

Of course I'm thinking here that videogames could work very well in this context. I know I can rely on Penny Arcade's coverage of the games they play. Even at the risk of sounding much more influential than I am (and I really have no illusions: I've got a total of 2'000 visitors), it's the old ethos of reaching the opinion leaders.

Take the online RPGs I discussed earlier today. You can use banner ads to reach potential customers for Eve Online and D&D Stormreach, since they have popular imagery and USPs you can throw at the audience. But what about the real niche games, like A Tale In The Desert? Games which are too out there to be explained in a single sentence? You can't tell about them if people don't talk about them. Review Me might be just the thing to help get the word out there about these more obscure games without excessive PR efforts.

So there you have it, a way to get bloggers to discuss your product (or site, or service, or...). The only requirements for the sponsored reviews are to write 200+ words (this post is 444 words) and be clear about the fact that it's a paid-for post. There's no need to be positive about the reviewed thing.

As a blogger, I feel good about this. The products it's good for are the kind of stuff I'd likely write about anyway, and since the advertiser hand-picks the sites they want to feature in, the content I'm proposed should fit my line well. Since writing a post is a relatively big effort anyway, I don't think this is "easy money" - it's a bonus, sure, and if you've got a popular site, you can make $50 USD per review.

Now, this is all theoretical. I don't think I'll see many propositions from the Review Me advertisers, but I just want to be clear that I wouldn't categorically say no to them.

Update 15/11/06: We broke the 50 visitor threshold yesterday. Nice, that.

Massively Multiplayer (EVE, Stormreach, World Of Warcraft, CCP + White Wolf)

I've been intrigued by the massively multiplayer games for a long time. I've played some Anarchy Online and tried free demos of a couple of others, but haven't really gotten into any of them, mostly due to the grind of the games being such a bore: the games don't properly start until you've invested dozens of hours and made friends with other players.

These games are commonly called massively multiplayer online something-or-other, usually roleplaying games. The "massively" is just needless gloating, and "multiplayer" says the same as "online", really. If it's an RPG, I like to stubbornly call them net-RPGs or something of the sort, as I feel just stupid saying "MMORPG" aloud. Don't you? If it's not an RPG, can't we just say it's an online game? Or a net-game?

There is one game in which the "massively" part rings true, which is one of the reasons I'm itching to try it out. Eve Online's players truly are all in the same world, running it in unison. It's a grand social and economical experiment, hailed by some as the ultimate game and by others as the, well, ultimate bore. There's been a lot of cool stuff done in Eve, like the way the economy actually works and the way the players have set up the world's allegiancies on their own, without GM intervention. We intend to check out EVE with my wife in the Christmas holidays.

Then there's World Of Warcraft. It's massive in the sense that everyone and their cats have played the game and there's a truly massive amount of players at it at any given time, regardless of how many separate servers they inhabit. The games has one thing going for it: it's visually so pleasing that I find it hard to resist jumping in whenever I see it running on-screen. We had already decided against ever trying it out, wary of some of our friends' regret over the time they'd put into it, but last weekend the fever hit again.

I really don't want to spend all my spare time on a (single) game. However, there's nothing wrong in playing something for a while. There's another online RPG I'd really like to check out, Dungeons & Dragons Stormreach, but I always thought that I shouldn't touch it as I wouldn't have the time it required, anyway. But so what if I only played for a couple of months, as with other games? If the game can't offer proper gameplay during the opening moments, it's probably not worth my time anyway.

As I had pondered about these things and settled on rying out at least the free demos of these games, the news hit that CCP, the company behind EVE, had agreed on a merger with White Wolf, the company behind my beloved Vampire tabletop RPG. Something good is bound to emerge from this union.