Another social news voting system gets added to the web today as Yahoo opens up its Buzz to the public. Prior to the public release, only about 400 publishers could contribute new links to the service, though anyone could see them and vote buzz up or down what they consider to be the most/least interesting news stories.
The release comes with little fanfare or hype, an interesting move for a service that hopes to contend with similar sites like Digg and Reddit. Separating itself from the pack, Buzz's algorithms also analyze search engine popularity rather than remain purely community driven, and Yahoo's editors still program the Yahoo.com front page.
While it's far too early to predict how Buzz will fare, the social service could gain some traction both by leveraging other Yahoo communities, and by luring participation by having some of the most popular news items posted on its main page.
Each year, we ask, "Was this the best year ever for games?" A good deal of the time, our answer tends toward "Yes," with a few nostalgia-maniacs vehemently worshipping 1998 instead. "Oh, they're just raving fanboys," I've always thought of those stuck in '98. "Their opinions are rooted in so much misguided subjectivism that even a bulldozer couldn't budge them."
However, a recent post at the always-interesting Sexy Videogameland gave me some insight into another, altogether more-acceptable reason for gamers' unyielding grip on the past. The post, by Leigh Alexander, of course, took a look at our tendency to play a game once, shove it into a nice, dusty shelf corner, and leave it there with no hope of excavation. Why do we do this? Especially when, as Leigh pointed out, many of us were happy to bury months of our lives in a single game back in the day.
But the answer's simple, really: You're reading this column.
As a bleeding-edge gamer, when you're not playing a game, you're probably reading about other games -- basking in the ever-brightening glow of a new title's hype -- and getting yourself psyched to play them. This column, with its daily dose of the latest gaming news, only helps propagate this trend.
Really though, does it matter? As Leigh pointed out, our consumer-focused society breeds hit-driven industries. Movies, TV, sports -- you name it. "15 seconds of fame" is an apt phrase. So we're just like other media. Big deal. But I think it does matter. I think games, by virtue of their interactivity, are meant to break the typical, rapid-fire hype cycle. And that's why so many gamers love 1998. The year was chock-full of top-notch titles, but gamers still spent hundreds of hours with their favorites -- testing boundaries and pushing limits. Why? The hype train as we know it hadn't quite picked up steam. Print was still strong and the Internet wasn't the all-knowing force that it is today.
And therein lies the problem. As the gaming industry grows -- as the press expands and the hype train takes on new carts -- it defies its own potential. Someday, games will shrug off the shackles of linearity, but will gamers stick around to experience those trailblazers in different ways? Or will our own anticipation for The Next Big Thing get the best of us?
Today's Roundup details a couple of initiatives that could grab at gamers' ankles and never let go, but will they work? Can't say. But for now, my commentary will have to suffice. It's all past the break.
What does Debian, one of the most popular and stable Linux operating systems, and myself have in common? We both celebrated a birthday on August 16th! But unlike myself, Debian has proved its maturity at 'only' age 15 and probably doesn't find fart jokes funny anymore. Debian's also been highly influential, as many of the popular GNU/Linux distributions you've read about or played with - including Ubuntu and Knoppix - are based on Debian..
To trace Debian's roots, you'd have to go back to 1993 when Ian Murdock, who is now VP of developer and and community marketing at Sun, first announced the OS. But why call it Debian? Because of a girl, of course! Ian combined the name of his then girlfriend (and now wife), Debora, with his own (Deb+Ian), the union of which gave birth to Debian.
All versions of Debian are named after characters from the film Toy Story
There are always four versions
Least stable version of Debian is named after Sid, the emotionally unstable neighbor kid in Toy Story who enjoyed destroying toys
Four years is an eternity in the computer world, but it doesn't take a crystal ball to predict that Linux will continue making headway against Microsoft's close-source Windows OS. Between Vista needing gimmicks to convert the skeptics (Mojave), to increasingly user-friendly versions of Ubuntu, Microsoft may find itself in a grudge match with the open-source community by 2012. But what can we expect out of a Linux distro in 48 months? InformationWeek attempts to answer that question with a mix of bold predictions and some much needed feature enhancements. Let's take a look at some of the highlights.
Three Basic Usage Modes
Linux has traditionally been free for most users, but in-store boxed copies complete with a price tag have started popping up, and IW says this trend will "at least gain nominal momentum." Free to use variants won't be disappearing anytime soon, and IW sees free distributions that contain no components with patent encumbrances or other issues picking up steam.
While Linux hardware is already present in a plethora of devices, look for it to become a brand name four years down the road, pushed in large part by the continued popularity of the Netbook market.
Bye-Bye Command Line!
One of the biggest roadblocks preventing Linux from marching into the mainstream market is ease-of-use. The days of typing in commands died with DOS, but on a Linux distro, even some basic configurations might require the user to fire up the Terminal. Of course, there are legions of Linux-ites that prefer it this way, the same ones who not so affectionately refer to Ubuntu as Noobuntu.
Catch all the predictions here, then tell us your Linux predictions below!
Vista almost seems to be an anathema, for about 3/4th of the enterprises are so unequivocal in their dislike for Vista that they don’t even intend to adopt the OS three years down the line. Around 28% envisage a move to the OS anywhere between late 2008 and 2010. Half of those surveyed are not fazed by the end of XP’s retail sales and OEM distribution.
Lesson for Microsoft: The Mojave Experiment hasn’t been able to fool incredulous enterprises and it's time that MS devoted more time to addressing Vista’s glaring performance issues. Address their grievances, the tide will surely turn.
Sony Pictures Image Works organized an event at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles to pay homage to the recently deceased visual effects virtuoso Stan Winston. Several big names from the film fraternity including film director James Cameroon, Shane Mahan, John Nelson, and actor Matt Winston (Stan Winston’s son) were in attendance and took a stroll down memory lane to remember the legend.
Winston was ahead of his time and etched his indelible footprints on visual effects. The event witnessed an outpouring of amusing anecdotes and veneration from the speakers who had known him. His protégé Shane Mahan, who worked with him during Terminator 2, announced that he and partners from Winston Studios are forming a new studio, Legacy Studio, as a mark of respect for Winston.
Winston worked on movies like Terminator and Jurassic Park that are remembered for their groundbreaking special effects as they set the bar higher for future movies. Cutting-edge is an adjective generally used to describe special effects but perhaps it was this avant-garde vfx legend who best justified its use.
If not for the fact that I was able to actually make physical contact with David Hayter at this year's Capcom E3 press conference, it would've been a total letdown. The whole thing was just a giant shill for Capcom's Lost Planet film, and its reception was nearly as icy cold as the movie/game's setting. But in between cracking big, corporate grins and repeatedly uttering the Japanese equivalent of "So awesome," the Capcom big-wigs dropped a tiny bomb. See, as it turns out, Lost Planet had popped from Capcom's collective womb with a ticket to Hollywood in hand. The game was born to be a film.
As we've seen with movies like Doom and Resident Evil, and games like Guitar Hero, media convergence is inevitable. United we stand; divided, we make less money. And that just won't do. However, whereas other instances of convergence have taken two (or more) disparate media forms and none-too-subtly mashed them together -- casualties be damned -- Lost Planet, if all goes according to plan, will straddle the line between games and film. Instead of removing what makes the game special -- effectively neutering it with a rusty knife -- Lost Planet: The Movie has the potential to usher in an era of game-themed movies not unlike what we're seeing with comic books right now.
But is that what we want? Last I checked, comic book fans were a tiny niche, nearly fit for a somber, "Don't let these beautiful creatures die" commercial from the World Wildlife Fund. Yeah, I'm not sure comics are the greatest role model. Plus, do we really want cherished characters having their in-game appearances altered just so they can more aptly fit their roles as movie characters (See Nick Fury, among others)?*
So, are you ready for some top-notch game-to-movie conversions, or would you rather our hobby stick to the small screen, interactive and proud?
Today's Roundup features a big-name title that's already being preened for stardom, and wouldn't you know it, Electronic Arts is the, er, preener. Inside, you'll also find Rockstar decrying the hardcore/casual divide, a top-15 list of Olympic proportions, and massive success from a WoW competitor. Hurdle past the break for more.
It might not be well publicized, but there's a major war brewing between Microsoft and Adobe, and they're fighting for you. Each one of them wants to be your provider for rich media content, a task that has traditionally been served by Adobe with its Flash player, but one Olympic sized loss could change the game in Microsoft's favor.
It was Microsoft who won the deal to supply NBC with video-viewing technology via Silverlight for the Olympics in Beijing, and while Microsoft and NBC have ties that go back to their collaboration building MSNBC, Adobe could have been considered a favorite to the win the account based the mature nature of Flash technology. So how did Microsoft secure the gold?
"We talked about features like adaptive streaming, the ability to automatically keep checking how much bandwidth you have and deliver the appropriate quality stream and how to be smart about knowing what's coming up in the stream," said Rob Bennett, the general manager of sports for MSN.
In other words, Microsoft won the account on a combination of Silverlight's feature-set, and convincing NBC that Flash's scalability had never been put to an Olympic-size test, unlike Silverlight's underlying technology which is based on Windows Media technologies.
Of course, it's only one account, but it's not so much what Adobe lost, but what Microsoft gained. While download specifics have not been disclosed, we do know that it's registering 1.5 million downloads a day, and according to a spokeswoman for Microsoft, "in the last several days, more than 50 percent of the visitors to NBCOlympics.com on MSN already have Silverlight 2 installed."
Recently, I was flipping through the latest Electronic Gaming Monthly when I came across an ad for Too Human. The ad itself was nicely produced, essentially screaming "This game is about killing robots," with hero Baldur standing confidently before a heap of his slain foes. The plethora of robo corpses that cluttered the page wasn't what interested me, though. Instead, it was a small quote by Friedrich Nietzsche that drew my focus. After that, my first thought was, "Well, now I need to read up on Nietzsche to fully understand the point that Dyack and co. are trying to make with their game. Cool!"
But, by that same token, I've met and spoken with plenty of people who, after a long, exhausting day at the office, want nothing more than a little catharsis. With their brain already floating in a hazy cloud of near-unconsciousness, they don't want to think. Games as art? Who needs 'em? Some people just want to have fun.
So, which side of the line do you call home? Do you F5 Brainy Gamer all day long while extolling the virtues of story in games? Or did you think Metal Gear Solid 4 was a pretentious pile of crap -- treading on territory reserved for literature and film? Thought-provoking or mindless fun? Which do you prefer?
Today's Roundup has a little something for everyone. With a story about one of the artsiest designers out there packing up shop and heading for the PC, some big news concerning the most cathartic series in all of gaming, and a use for games that's neither art nor entertainment, no one will walk out of this theater with a dissatisfied frown. Jump past the break for the full thing.
The last thing you want to see while hanging from a wire high above a crowd of spectators is Microsoft's Blue Screen of Death lingering in mid-air, but that's exactly what happened to Li Ning, one of China's sporting greats. The incident took place during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, and as Ning geared up for the torch lighting climax inside the Bird's Nest, stadium projectors beamed the BSOD onto the roof where it was clearly visible for all to see.
The BSOD came as an unfortunate side effect to using specialized theatrical computer controlled lighting equipment to light up the Bird's Nest, making the process not only automated, but susceptible to software failures. But hey, at least Windows was only running the light show and not the high wire act!