Some people think that science fiction writers predict the future.
No, we don’t.
We warn against it.
It doesn’t take a lot of smarts to predict a technological advance. Most are evolutionary. It’s easy to predict more powerful this and faster that. The research is already going on in the labs. It’s a little bit harder to predict a technological breakthrough—that’s revolutionary, not evolutionary. The internal combustion engine, cars, airplanes, radio, television, transistors, integated circuits, lasers—all of those are revolutionary technologies.
But the almost-impossible thing to predict is the transformative effect of bptj evolutionary and revolutionary advances in tech. It’s not that hard to predict the growth of computer technology, science fiction writers did it routinely in the golden age stories of the fifties. What was beyond the event-horizon of the time was the shift in human thinking that would occur when computers are incorporated into the common environment.
In Just Cause 2, anything can happen. Well, ok, maybe not “anything,” but every conceivable event involving a parachute, grappling hook, explosions, and crazy moon physics. So I’m keeping a diary of my high-flying adventures, because it’s actually mathematically impossible for the above combination of factors to not be entertaining. So read on, and feel free to comment about your experiences with the game as well! Also, if you’d like to start from the beginning, here’s part one.
One of the coolest things about Just Cause 2 is that if you can see someplace, odds are, you can go there.
Game diaries are great and all, but let’s face it: they can be kind of boring. “And then I shot this guy, and then I delivered a George Foreman grill to this other guy.” Etc. This led me to realize something that, I’m pretty sure, no other author in the history of writing has ever figured out: People like reading interesting things. With that in mind, I’ve decided to only spin yarns about my virtual exploits when I think you’ll derive some form of entertainment from them. So, with that said, I’m now interrupting my regularly scheduled High-Minded Industry Critiques to bring you… Tales of Interest.
Just Cause 2 is about warring factions, revolution, and the wealth of complex politics surrounding such achingly relevant issues.
No it’s not. Not at all. Just Cause 2 is a game about a grappling hook. This is that grappling hook’s story.
In February, Blizzard opened the Starcraft II battlenet for beta-testing. Hooray for Blizzard!
There are many good reasons for beta-testing. It’s not always about bug-stomping. In this case, it’s just as important to have the playability of the game tested under actual user conditions. This is the same kind of beta-testing Blizzard did with Warcraft III before it was released. Throughout the beta-test, they continued to tweak the balance of Warcraft III units. At the time of this writing, Blizzard has already made several changes in Starcraft II unit abilities, build times, and strength.
Starcraft II looks spectacular, of course. It has marvelous 3D graphics, terrific sound effects, great music, and the game-play is very exciting. (If I have a complaint, it’s not about the game, but about the tactics of some players — the ones who are so eager to annihilate the other guy right from the git-go that neither side gets a chance to experience some of the advanced tactical possibilities. The game is over before you’ve built your first Thor. I had this same complaint about some players in Warcraft III.)
But this isn’t a review, it can’t be because the game isn’t officially released yet, and when it is officially released, there will be so many other people writing reviews that anything I might say here would be redundant. That disclaimer aside, I will say that so far Starcraft II is everything I hoped it would be. I’m sure that one of the benefits Blizzard enjoys from an open-beta like this is that it gets the fan-base so excited and enthusiastic that they’ll be lining up at the stores the day the boxes hit the shelves.
Ah, the humble End User License Agreement. You tear through them, you click “I agree,” but what exactly are you agreeing to? I don’t actually know, because like you, I never read them.
Claiming to read all your software licenses is the reverse of masturbation—90 percent admit they don’t do it, and the other 10 percent are liars. It’s hard to get through a whole day without agreeing to the occasional complex contract, we definitely couldn’t get through the day if we read them.
These days, companies claim to sell us their EULA in lieu of just selling us their software, to give themselves powers over their software the law doesn’t give them. How much power? No one exactly knows. This last-mile legislation by companies has met with mixed response when it goes to court.
As the annual Game Developer Conference draws to a close, it’s worth taking stock of the state of PC games. Pundits have been proclaiming the death of PC gaming for several years now, while adherents have been staunchly defending the PC as a gaming platform. I thought I’d take a step back and take a more strategic view of the PC gaming landscape.
The PC gaming universe is not monolithic. Most of the virtual ink on PC gaming has been either from hard core gamers or industry analysts who take a look at retail data. Either of those viewpoints too narrowly defines what gaming is on a complex and diverse platform that is the personal computer. If all you look at are packaged goods, then PC gaming is indeed doomed. Retail, boxed game sales for Windows (MacOS, too, but that’s still a very small share) have been declining for years now.
Seeing Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” on its opening night was a surprisingly illuminating experience for me. For one, I learned that – in my case, at least – introspection and trying to not get trampled by an ocean-like mass of 200 some-odd frothing, cosplaying fans are activities that go hand-in-hand. But as I watched/avoided becoming a doormat for a bunch of Wonderland wannabes, I realized something else: these people didn’t brave the cold (and the dark corners of their parents’ closets) because of their undying love for the timeless tale of Alice and her oddball companions. They did it because Tim Burton’s name was attached to the film. It could have been Tim Burton’s “Barney the Dinosaur” and they’d all have donned purple dinosaur costumes in a heartbeat.
I highly doubt that Infinity Ward’s planned not-Modern Warfare 3 project would’ve been received with such open arms. And evidently, so does Activision.
After all, former Infinity Ward bosses Jason West and Vince Zampella felt so creatively confined as to allegedly defy their contract with Activision and start making eyes EA, so clearly someone wasn’t exactly gung-ho about the Call of Duty creator’s bold new direction. Knowing Infinity Ward, though, regardless of the form the new project took, it probably would’ve been a fantastic game. So what gives? Well, at this point, I can only speculate, but money talks, and it’s telling me that Infinity Ward’s mystery game simply wasn’t a guaranteed mega-hit like Modern Warfare 3’s destined to be. Activision, in case you’d forgotten, likes money quite a lot.
At the 2009 CES, Sony and Panasonic showed 3D HDTV as product concepts. Nvidia showed off its ability to display games in 3D and several other smaller companies demonstrated various 3D technologies, some with polarized glasses, some with shutter-glasses. I liked Sony’s demonstrations the best because they used lightweight polarized glasses.
At the 2010 CES, Sony and Panasonic and other manufacturers demonstrated 3D television products that will ship later this year. Actually, any television with a refresh rate of 120hz or greater is ‘3D ready.’ You’ll still need synced shutter glasses and a 3D source, but the screen will be able to display both eye-images at a fast enough rate to avoid jitter.
At the 2011 and probably 2012 Consumer Electronics Shows, we’ll start seeing second-generation and third-generation 3D products, by which time the technology will have matured, the prices will have dropped, and we will have settled into a standard for 3D HDTV.
But some industry pundits have already weighed in, suggesting that 3D is a fad, isn’t something that consumers really want, and doesn’t lend itself to home viewing—particularly because the ‘goofy glasses’ are a hindrance. Plus the 3D sets are expensive, most consumers haven’t finished paying for their current HDTV sets, so why would they want to replace them this year?
Last month, I talked about the growing need for radio-frequency (RF) spectrum to support Internet services on smartphones and other mobile computing devices. Some experts say we’ll need 700–800MHz of additional spectrum—none of which is available now.
We can’t manufacture RF spectrum. It’s a finite resource, and only some of it has the range and penetration required to blanket a region. Data compression conserves spectrum, but there’s a mathematical limit (Shannon’s law) that prevents further compression without losing data integrity. Today’s communications standards already approach the limit.
The telecommunications industry wants to grab more spectrum from TV broadcasters, who surrendered a big chunk of airspace in the recent transition from analog to digital TV. The telecoms want UHF channels 40 to 51, or even 20 to 51. Some people want to end terrestrial TV broadcasting altogether—which would still free less than half the spectrum we supposedly need.
Every few years, we get new interfaces. Normally, they’re spread out a bit. USB 2.0 comes out, then a new SATA version and later a new PCI Express revision. Lately, though, the trickle of new interfaces has become a deluge, and keeping up with all of them can be mind-numbing – not to mention hard on your credit card.
Let’s take a look at both recently arrived interfaces and those on the near term horizon. We’ll also try to figure out when it makes sense to upgrade or move to the new connection or wait for something better.