Category Archives: Interesting

Interesting things. Well, interesting to me. If nothing else, considering how hard it is to remember things on the web from a year or so ago, this helps keep track of anything major I want to remember!

Lego’s Fun Attempt at Using Trademarks to Clamp Down Design

IPKat, which I keep up to date on my patent and copyright law with (it’s good sometimes 🙂 ), has an interesting article on Lego trying to appeal a cancellation of a trademark they attempted – a photograph of a Lego brick.

It is fascinating not just how big businesses try and keep what (under current international law at least) is not copyrightable or patentable, but that they still want to make sure no one else can ever use.

I love Lego. I just rightly am satisfied this long winded appeal thing, which is a fascinating little story, comes out on the side that: It doesn’t make sense that a trademark can be of the product itself. Thank goodness.

Basically it seemed to be a way to stop anyone making the same designed bricks. This would be a problem – you’d never compete on quality, just instead have a monopoly.

Designing things like Toys must be a minefield. Any kind of games are similar – depending on jurisdiction (it’s an area of law that is quite complex I’m led to believe), designers sadly have patent worries (if you plan to do an American release) and overburdened copyright to deal with at the best of times. Sigh.

(BTW: I want this to be a record of what at least I think is interesting, and dammit I’m failing – I’ll get back to posting something more original someday. Give me time, I’m just finished Baldur’s Gate, and am now on Baldur’s Gate II – I guess I could post up the mod list and Baldur’s Gate Trilogy installation hints for those who are interested.)

Finding That Damn Game

Wow, how hard is it to find an item on the internet you don’t know the name of? Especially something reasonably obscure? In this case, it’s my partial area of expertise; videogames. Let’s see, and also handily (for me in the future) I’ll list all the resources I used.

This is a bit odd, I wanted to find an awesome set of animations – pixel art videos – and the only single thing I could remember (after vaguely trying some search terms) was that the artist in question mentioned a game…the game, I recall, was something based on mechanics or something. Might have involved strategy. Turn based? Mmm…DS game, yes!

Had the name of the lead in the title. So I did some searching – Wikipedia is de-facto useless for this kind of thing, consisting of non-cross referenced categories or long lists. No joy there. Mobygames is much better – but in this case, I wasn’t sure what year it was released in – I checked the DS games for 2009 (not there for certain, very limited list) then 2008 (huge list!). No pictures doesn’t help, since I remembered the distinctive art style. Giantbomb was another offering – after some URL mangling, I managed to get DS games only, by release date. Sadly, a few pages in and still no luck – and the search functions didn’t work too well on either site – “mechanic” (all I could really remember at that point) didn’t come up with anything.

Stuck! Darn it, that damn game, you know, on the DS, which I’ve not actually played…

Mmm…strategy…mmm, not in those categories on Mobygames, so coming again at it, defence was involved…towers…tower defence! To the Google machine! Google helped out – my final ridiculous search string found a reference – 3rd one, “Lock’s Quest”! Yes, matches with what I thought it was!

Finally, I found it! Now…credits…credits! Come to daddy! No credits! No credits!…wait…try agian… yes! Credits! (Via Google). GameFAQ’s is a merge between Gamespot’s DB and it’s own (now it’s just the same thing, long ago it wasn’t, but GameFAQ’s is easier and faster to search at least).

(In addition, IGN was a bit useless, and there are not many other game DB’s that either game up in Google, or in fact I know of. I need to search any more reputable ones out for this kind of work).

So, finally found the game – a victory for my memory!

However, the person isn’t on the credits list! How did I find this out? Yep, for starters, there appears to be no artists listed – I vaguely recalled the person referencing it as freelance work – but I couldn’t be sure, so I checked the people on the list. No go!

So, down to Google again – I had the game (Lock’s Quest), the item (pixel art video) and the person (artist). Some massive amounts of variations later…I had it! The 3rd link down, a name I recognised – Paul Robertson!

How can I be sure it is him? Well, his site is down (as of posting this) so no luck there, but it was a blog post. I took a site: Google search and found it, a post about what games he’s worked on – as an animator (a type of artist, so I was close). Lock’s Quest stuck out mainly because it was the one place I saw it to investigate “What on earth it was” – at the time I had no idea it existed 🙂

I’ve now got his site in my RSS feed (he has some really, really great pixel animations – a lot are bizarre, most are plain amazing, many are bizarre and amazing). The films I wanted to re-watch after losing them (heaven knows where they’ve gone on in my files) were Kings of Power 4 Billion %, and the earlier, and I think actually much cooler one Pirate Baby’s Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006. Best to download them (the pixel art otherwise suffers), there are valid links on both – or check Google for the titles. Amazing works of art.

So, now, whew, finally finished – all told, took about 1.5hours including writing this mainly as I went. Internet detective work can be done frankly really quickly, although finding something without knowing it’s name is still damn hard – a person or a game!

I’ve still got a game I need to find actually – one from my days playing DOS games, it was a demo at least I played – I am sure it’s a point and click, “sci-fi” game, with the one thing I remember there being is a chain-mail-like shirt made out of credits/coins. It was the most utterly bizarre thing about it, everything else is pretty much just “it was sci-fi with gangs perhaps”. Man, that game annoys the hell out of me for not being able to find it. Older games like this can be really difficult to find if they don’t hold some kind of cult or mass status! Yes, I have asked around, and my damn post now comes top of the Google search for related terms. Hah! Thanks me! 🙁 Sadly, after trying for a few minute on Mobygames and remembering I’d only notice it by picture (who knows if anyone has any of it), and that I don’t know the platform specifically, the game maker, name, or year of release (even an estimate) it’s a bit futile. No where seems to have “point and click” as a mechanics genre either, odd that, or I missed where it was listed.

Edit: Actually, after checking, there are no such things as “point and click” it appears in any game DB, heh. They’re “Adventure” in most places, “Puzzle Solving” on Mobygames too. Still not worth checking everything in this list for it though. At least not yet!

DiGRA 2009 Conclusion

So, here is my conclusion on DiGRA 2009!

I thoroughly enjoyed most of the conference. Lets get over the parts I didn’t enjoy; presenting since I just didn’t feel I did a good job (rushed, little practice), so next time, more practice and less rushing. Vocabulary both needs to be clearer and, simply, have more of it – or at least have it better explained in talks. This might have just been me being an “outsider” though. The programme which was sadly poorly organised, even if the days were actually well organised (3 sessions of 20 minute talks with 10 minutes each for questions). I hope the next one is much better in this regard. 🙂

So the bad is out of the way. The good thing is, I made lots of notes, and will update these more thoroughly with the abstracts and other people’s notes links when I’ve sorted the photographs (since to me, knowing who is who is important!). I did attend a few sessions I didn’t take notes on for bad reasons – transcript reading and incomprehensibility (then again, others might love these, but I stand by what I have put up mainly since the actual papers they’ve done might be much better!), and of course there were at least 5 times the amount of sessions then those I attended.

The breadth of research was quite good (noting so little I saw!) – with a high proportion of MMO/Virtual Worlds research (which I’m only half interested in), but a lot of good things on design, criticism and journalism (more needed!), technical aspects and issues like sex, gender, death, achievements – a whole host of metagame items actually – and art. If you need to find some first point of information on a subject in some detail, it is a good idea to check DiGRA (or research in general) to see if they’ve worked on it first, whatever the area might be.

Sadly the DiGRA proceedings are not freely available (so I’m wary about posting the 70% or so that were available on the CD provided to us), but I’ll get up the preservation ones on the IGDA wiki since they are our own to post up.

Additionally meeting such a varied amount of people from around the world was great. People did know what they were talking about (generally, depending on if they knew about the subject at hand 😉 ), and it was a lot easier discussing topics in person since the papers are pretty hard to read without first reading lots of other papers, and getting a handle on the language used.

There were several good talks (apart from us doing the preservation panel), in date order with a short description of why there was:

Ethics in Videogames Workshop – cut short, but was some good discussion on ethics, moral choices and examples of both. So few examples though, really.

The Achievement Machine: Understanding the Xbox Live Metagame – very “positive” about the effects of achievements, the paper itself likely is much better and more in-depth then the limited 20 minutes he had to explain the entire recent history of achievements.

“Remembering How You Died”: Memory, Death and Temporality in Videogames – Very rough cut since it isn’t full research, but interesting comparisons between Hindu death and rebirth comparisons with games.

Sex and Videogames: A Case of Misappearance and More Than Just a Combo of Slaps? Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Trans Gaming give good overviews of sex and LGBT activity in games. Not much analysis, though.

“You Played That?” Game Criticism Meets Games Studies – a call to do critical writing as academics, with a mix of game journalism questions, examples of good writing and how to do critical writing, reasons it is necessary and the problems with game reviews. A great presentation The New Gatekeepers? On the occupational ideology of game journalists brings to light the problems with European (specifically Dutch, Finland areas) game “journalism”, although Americans did say it mirrors America. More research into the area is needed – I hope to write a piece on the history of game journalism (with it’s pitfalls and all) at some point, but I doubt it’ll readily change without more critical dialogue on the subject. I wonder if they discuss it with themselves often (I’ve not heard of a “Videogame Journalists Conference” as it were).

What I Don’t Want To Hear About MMOs was a fine ranty keynote on MMO research, with some valid points for many types of game research.

Evolution of the tetromino-stacking game: An historical design study of Tertris – a history paper – basically, boils down to reciting the fascinating and long history of Tetris, especially “what is Tetris” as a whole. I have permission to upload the paper somewhere significant for the Digital Game Canon project, which is great (also, 20 minutes is not nearly enough time to recite the history of Tetris).

Gameplay Design Patterns for Game Dialogues was pretty inspiring – basically, recounts the various ways of “dialogue” in games (usually dialogue trees) and puts forwards ways of improvement (more in the paper then the presentation), all while acknowledging the massive amount of work it is.

A little on other things; the conference location was okay – Brunel as a whole is nice neat little university. The London Tube is pretty random, so I missed my original train back, annoyingly, so that’s £35 for me not leaving early enough and no seat until Bedford. I would have loved something organised in the evening apart from the conference dinner – an (optional) game thing or quick pub quiz is always nice, but that’s just me sometimes. The games at the event – well, I’ve no idea who won them for starters (a proper closing talk would have been great) but they were okay, just not my thing (twitter was one of them). I don’t know about the Keynote placement either – if there hadn’t been one cancelled, 4 in a row would have been killer. I guess spreading them out would have been nice (1 a day?), but it doesn’t matter much since 3 in the afternoon would (and did in this case) work.

The actual way of presenting – 20 minutes to do it/10 minutes for questions was okay – sometimes much too short, sometimes much too long depending on the topic and speaker. At least it only meant you had to be board for 30 minutes if you really didn’t enjoy the talk, but vice versa you hadn’t enough time to get all the information from some sessions – but the fact there were submitted papers helps mitigate that significantly.

So, that about wraps up DiGRA. I’ll probably do some pieces inspired by DiGRA in the future, and I hope to get in contact with some of those I saw at the event about their material. First comes sorting out my gallery though 🙂

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni

Madness!
Madness!

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni was recommended to me by members of Namsoc – so I went ahead, knowing it was going to be a rather strange mystery-psychological-crazy series. This might contain minor spoilers, but nothing much – I wrote most of this before the final episodes of the first series, and you really need to watch both series’ to get the entire thing.

Continue reading Higurashi no Naku Koro ni