Dude. WoW is SOOOOO different than WAR!

yeah.  you read that right.  they’re totally different.  world of warcraft is completely different than warhammerduh!

halo?  totally different than brute force.  hell.  different-er than crysis even!

two.  different.  games. 

saint’s row and gta?  hello?  are you blind?!?!  different!  duh!  one has religious undertones!

like, omg!  you morons!

i bet you can’t even tell the difference between sonic and mario….  and god forbid you ever need to extol the various intricacies of the gameplay between dragon quest and final fantasy.  much less something as epic as kingdom hearts or blue dragon.

n00bs.  you just don’t understand.  nevermind.  i’m done with you.


you can stop reading now.  the post is over.  that’s all i had to say.

you just won’t go away, eh? 

wow.  you’re still here?

okay.  fine.

i’ll tell you of the infinite differences between wow and war.  ready?  here we go.  bow to my wisdom:

  1. in wow, you have different character roles when you play in groups — tanks, healer, nuker, etc.
  2. in wow, you have these quests you go on.  and, get this!  so can everyone else!  and, like if someone else killed those ten rats before you did?  all you have to do is stand around and wait for the mobs to respawn.
  3. oh, btw, wow has these things called mobs.  that’s awesum-speak for bad guys.
  4. and, in wow, these mobs drop items and gold and other rad loot.
  5. and, when you’re in a group in wow, you can do what’s called “pulling” to drag single mobs over so your group can team up and bash the shit out of them.
  6. but, sadly sometimes in wow, you can slip up and draw too much agro.  i dunno what that means, really, but those mobs sure do get pissed at me!
  7. in wow, the best way to level up, is to go out on quests and whack mobs so you gain experience.
  8. and don’t forget, in wow, you get totally a ton of respect from the other players when you do that.
  9. ah!  and the gear!  wow has sweet gear that comes in colors.
  10. and, in wow, you can trade or sell that gear with other people in the auction house.
  11. and, in wow, you can like die and then you come back in a designated area to rejoin your group.
  12. hrm.  in wow, running around to get somewhere sucks.  you should totally use a teleporter or a mount or something.
  13. in wow, you have these raid bosses.  you can’t solo them.  no way.  and they drop mad loot.
  14. in wow, camping that epic rules!
  15. in wow, you can chat with your group or even the whole server!
  16. in wow, you can run across the entire continent, meet strangers (who are real, live people!) and talk to them.
  17. dude.  wow?  yeah.  it has pvp servers!  (that means player vs. player.  you can whack each other!)
  18. there are these things called professions where you use non-combat skills to do innovative things like craft new items!
  19. in wow, when a lot of people want to team up and socialize, they join what’s called a guild.
  20. and in wow, if you do something special, you get this thing called…  uh…  what was it?  an achievement?  no!  a badge!  that’s it!

so, you see?  war is very much as different from wow as wow is different than everquest.



*emo eye roll*


[editor’s note:  to those of you who missed the humor, yes, i am making fun of the noise surrounding bartle’s interview with michael zenke of massively and his “I’ve already played Warhammer. It was called World of Warcraft.” comment.  thank god there are bloggers-turned-game-developers who know what they are talking about and can understand why this is funny.  unfortunately, there are also people who are bloggers-not-turned-game-developers are stirring the pot full of shit they don’t fully understand.  all the while the rest of us just sit here and point and laugh.]

[editor’s note 2: btw, that list of 20 features is identical from eq to wow to war.  which is obviously why the comment “war is as different from wow as wow is different than everquest” is so ignorant, yet at the same time so goddamn funny.]

[editor’s note 3: oh, and the opinions expressed here are obviously not necessarily the opinions of my employers, past, present or future.  and, with that out of the way, it means i can use a whole lot less tact since this is personal.  hooray for disclaimers!]

Phone Providers are Officially "On Notice"

if you missed the deluge yesterday, you must have been in a cave.  i’ll recap.  the 3g iphone is here and it’s only $200.  service and hardware providers?  you’re officially on notice. you have a month to figure your shit out.

what does that really mean tho?  lemme offer a couple bits of advice.

  1. do you make smart phone hardware?  you are no longer allowed to sell it for more than $200.  gone are the days of the $700 treo.
  2. do you run a cdma network?  you’re screwed.  the only way you can compete now is with a cheaper data plan AND cheaper smart phones.

ignore this at your own peril.  doing so will result in a mass end-of-contract exodus.  period.


p.s.  apparently the world is already going to hell in a handbasket for verizon and sprint.  o2 is actually giving away the iphone for free.  others in the u.s. will surely follow.

UPDATE: a fleshed out version of this on business week: http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/jun2008/tc20080615_856046.htm

Lawful Good Human Fighter

in celebration of d&d 4e hitting the streets.


You Are A:

Lawful Good Human Fighter

Lawful Good characters are the epitome of all that is just and good. They believe in order and governments that work for the benefit of all, and generally do not mind doing direct work to further their beliefs.
Humans are the ‘average’ race. They have the shortest life spans, and because of this, they tend to avoid the racial prejudices that other races are known for. They are also very curious and tend to live ‘for the moment’.
Primary Class:
Fighters are the warriors. They use weapons to accomplish their goals. This isn’t to say that they aren’t intelligent, but that they do, in fact, believe that violence is frequently the answer.
Secondary Class:

Detailed Results:
Law and Chaos:
Law ----- XXXXXXXX (8)
Neutral - XXXX (4)
Chaos --- XXXXXX (6)

Good and Evil:
Good —- XXXXXXXX (8)
Neutral – XXXX (4)
Evil —- (0)

Half-Elf – XXXXXX (6)
Elf —— XXXX (4)
Gnome —- XXXX (4)
Halfling – XXXXXXXX (8)
Dwarf —- XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Half-Orc – XXXXXXXXXX (10)

Barbarian -XXXXXXXXXXXXX (13)
Ranger — XXX (3)
Monk —– (-1)
Paladin — XXXXXXXXXXX (11)
Cleric — (-1)
Mage —– XXXX (4)
Druid —- XX (2)
Thief —- (-7)
Bard —– XXXXX (5)

heh.  so telling! 

look at the class info.  at least there’s absolutely no ambiguity on whether or not i will beat your ass if you’re a badguy. 


I Like the Word Asynchronous

okay.  i wanna talk a little bit about where this whole web+games thing is going.  and, when i say games, i really mean synchronous activities in virtual worlds.  after all, aren’t games about people playing together?  isn’t playing together generally a synchronous activity?

so, i guess where i’m going is that there’s this convergence happening.  it’s the crossroads of synchronous (games, virtual worlds, chat) and asynchronous (web, blogs, email) communication.  right now, the biggest poster boy for this convergence is twitter.

lemme explain.

if you ask anyone who doesn’t tweet (wow — that’s an unfortunate term) what twitter is, you get some variation of “it’s for people who like to post status updates about them doing everything from going to the bathroom to what they’re having for dinner.”  those folks don’t understand what twitter really is.

twitter, for the uninitiated, is a giant, a/sync, partially scattered, on-going conversation.  it’s like globally distributed chat where anyone can join the conversation.  i did the “a/sync” thing because, in practice, twitter is asynchronous since you’re basically posting to the web, however, in terms of usage, it’s synchronous.

for example, raise your hand if you’ve heard the stories of twitter beating the usgs to the earthquake news in china.

it’s a giant pool of global — and i really mean global — real-time chat.

now, before all of you twitter pros nod off, here’s where i’m going with this: there’s going to be a twitter-like convergence between virtual worlds (aka mmos) and the web.  and not the kind you’re thinking of.

this is not — i repeatnot necessarily going to mean playing wow in a browser.  as cool as that would be, it’s really just a shoe-horn fit, i think.  it’s fantastic (beyond awesome, actually) for accessibility, convenience and acquiring new players, but i’m of the opinion that once people are hooked on the service, they’d like both a dedicated, sexy client to play in (say, from home) as well as a thin, portable web-based client to play in.  (*looks over shoulder* shhhhh… from work, for example.)

“that’s neat and all, but… duh!  ever heard of habbo hotel, noob?” you say.

stay with me for a minute here.  trust me.

one of the things that third party applications and services are doing for twitter is posthumously rebuilding conversations for others to follow, catch up on, or in any other way use that data.  they take data that was being generated in real-time (ala synchronously) and assemble it for asynchronous consumption.  so that, for every 5 people who were able to participate in the conversation in real-time, there could be 500 people who can play catch up and get engaged in the conversation later on.

follow what i’m saying?  there’s basically a long tail for synchronous communication.  you know what another name for that is? storytelling.

yes.  the convergence between virtual worlds and the web is going to be about storytelling.  and not just any old storytelling.  automated, threaded, and collaborated storytelling.

in other words, real-time twitter conversations are to gameplay as next-day twitter conversations are to storytelling.  it’s an asynchronous reassembly of originally synchronous content.

now, more on how this ties in to the term “social media” later….


Music is a Service. Not a Product.

okay.  been a while since i ranted….  here comes.

tami mentioned to me the other day about how prince was getting paid $4+ million to play at coachella the other weekend.

i said, “amen!”

now, some people may think that’s a little excessive to pay a musician that much.  i say, dammit, it just puts artist demand in perspective.  i’ve bickered with people before about how an artist’s recorded music is a promotional device and not a product to be sold.  i firmly believe that.

it’s only been in the last 60 years where the “music industry” has duped musicians into thinking that they’re all “rock stars!” and to start believing that they don’t have to play music to get paid.  and recording music is totally different than playing music, i might add.

for thousands of years, musicians actually had to do this horrendous thing called “performing” to get paid.  now, just because some powerful lobbyists have tricked everyone into thinking that just because someone spends a week in a studio once every few years, they deserve money — we need to pay them to listen to their music.

shit in one hand.  demand in the other.  see what you have at the end of the day.

there’s a reason that since the dawn of man, musicians have been performing music.  (doh!  there, i go again.  using the p-word!)  that’s because it’s a viable business model.  recording something, duping it infinitely for damn near free and then charging $18 for it?  i’m surprised there hasn’t been an riaa executive lynching yet!

does anyone out there know how much it costs to stamp out discs from a glass master?  pennies!  yes, pennies per disc!  even with packaging and sleeves and the whole nine yards, production for cds are < $1 per disc at scale.

so, the artist, gets pennies.  the discs cost pennies to make.  where does all that money go?

duh!  marketing and distribution!  you know, the stuff that is super-duper cheap on the internet. 

note to upcoming musicians:  there is such a hunger for new music, that if you’re good, you will succeed.  if you suck?  well.  just stick to doing it for fun because you’re not going — and don’t deserve — to make a living at it.

arg!  so.  now that i’ve gotten my take on the current state of the music industry out of my system, let’s talk about performance.

you know, my wife and i usually get season tickets every year to the philharmonic.  here it is, 100 some-odd people playing music for an audience and getting paid for it.  not whining about bittorrent.  not spending a few days in a studio and then resting on their laurels for the next year.

they’re working.  they’re playing music.  they’re getting paid.  not as much as prince, mind you.  or most of them even enough to live on. 

therein lies the trick.

just because you get paid to play music doesn’t mean you deserve to make a living doing it.

hell, i love painting.  i’ve even sold paintings to galleries before.  i’ve done work for hire before.  in short, i’ve gotten paid to paint.  do i do it for a living?  nope.  i’m not good enough.  do i whine when other people use images of my paintings somewhere else?  nope.  (dude!  free publicity for me!)  do i care?  nope.

i don’t think i deserve to be making a living painting.

not with how much i do it.  now, if i was scheduling several murals a week and taking payment for them, sure.  that’s called working for a living.  call me a sellout, but: you do work.  you get paid.  it’s called a service industry.

do i paint a wall and then demand money from everyone who looks at it?  no.  that’s the stupidest thing i’ve ever heard!

should someone record a song and then demand money from everyone who hears it?  no.  that’s the stupidest thing i’ve ever heard.

making a living through music is work for hire.  period.

  • if you’re a musician, you get paid to play.
  • if you’re a technician, you get paid by a musician to mix his music.
  • if you’re a promoter, you get paid by a musician to promote his music.

this whole “downloading music is theft!” crap has to end.  it’s stupid and flies in the face of thousands of years of human history.  not to mention, it’s not even theft!  plenty of people make plenty of money making music.  just ask prince.  or trent reznor.  or the guy who played on stage last weekend.  or the guy who was dj’ing at the club last night.

welcome to work by the hour, musicians.  you know, like it’s been throughout the entire length of recorded history.


The Kid Movie Mess

as everyone knows, i’ve got these two curtain climbers running around the house.  since we can’t play legos or trains or star wars all the time, sometimes they just watch a movie or two.  (not more than an hour or two a day, tho — that passive stuff rots your brain)  and, well…  like any parent in this day and age, we have a crap-ton of kid’s dvds that get handled by people <=4 years old.

that means scratches.  that means misplacement.  that means irritation.

for example, only 8 or so of the 15 baby einstein dvds will still actually play in a dvd player.  and then, only if it’s a REALLY forgiving one.  (stupid, picky sony dvd players!)  like how the beginning of monsters, inc. is completely hosed.  and our aladin disc, one of my top-5 favorite movies of all time, doesn’t play at all.

in the days of vhs, parents didn’t have to worry about that stuff.  vhs movies are sturdy and unbreakable in their hard-plastic shell.  as a kid, you could just about stack them up to build stairs in order to climb up and reach the vcr.


i figured with my kid’s affinity towards all things digital — the computer, my 360, cameras, you know: the usual — it was time to start ripping all the kids’ dvds.  little did i know it’d take about 3 weeks to figure it out!  good lord….

okay.  i shouldn’t say 3 weeks to figure out how to do it.  i should say 3 weeks to get the x264 options and production pipeline just right.  my requirements:

  1. it not look like ass.  meaning, none of the blocky compression artifacts or the streaky horizontal motion lines.  (“telecine judder” is the nerdy term.)
  2. at least 640×480 and at least 23fps.
  3. it have a relatively small hdd footprint.  these are kids movies after all.  a half an hour show needs to be less than 200mb.
  4. the final product needs to play on my 360.
  5. it needs to have a “one-click” encoding pipeline.

see?  not too much to ask for at all.  and, to top it off, i’d seen it done.  for a delusional-but-brief stint, i thought it would be easier to just bittorrent the movies instead of rip/encode them — um no.  bittorrent sucks for the long tail.  you should try to pull down a baby einstein with utorrent.  ha!

i’ll spare you all the painful gore of me moving from solutions like automkv to megui to mencoder to avidemux and about a hundred others in-between.  movie mucking misery.  so, about 500 test encodings later, i have some success to report:

handbrake is the bomb.

the end product looks fantastic and the audio syncs up perfectly.  here’s the killer features it had that helped me to meet my goals:

  • it will rip specific chapters. (key for discs with 5 or 6 1/2 hour episodes!)
  • it has a one-click mentality.
  • it has an xbox 360 preset to start with.
  • it’s batch-able.

after a substantial amount of testing, i’ve even boiled the settings down even more finite:

  1. rip the disc with dvdshrink first.  nothing anywhere does anything before you get the video off the stupid physical disc.  handbrake reads iso files, so there’s not need to mess with messy TS_VIDEO directories and their ilk.
  2. start with the 360 preset. (it also has psp, ipod and all the other standard presets)
  3. change the level to 41 instead of 40.
  4. set the bit rate to 900.
  5. set the audio to 128kbs and 44.1khz.
  6. uncheck the two pass video option.  one pass works just fine for low bit rate kids cartoons.

click “start” and you’ve got a half an hour cartoon encoded in about 30 minutes (well.  at least that’s how long it takes on my laptop….) and the file was 185mb.  i then dropped them on my media center and successfully watched them — and they look HOT! — on the 360.


now, if only the powers that be would discover this huge, huge market just waiting for picking, i’d be a happy camper.  i want to buy kids movies cheap, small and digital.  and, i don’t want to stream crappy versions of them for god’s sake.  mr. future retailer, it’s to your benefit because you only pay for the bandwidth once instead of the 20-billion times a week we watch book two, chapter two of avatar.  and, i especially don’t want to be locked in to some stupid proprietary format. 

and, most of all, mr. future retailer: please see the success people are having selling cheap mp3s vs. streaming vs. drm’d files.

just make it easy.  you should know by now that most people (especially me!) are lazy and value our time.  easy and cheap (not the same as easy and expensive) trumps hard and free.


My Web 2.0 Panel

i’m heading up to san francisco next week to speak on a panel entitled “Children of Flickr: Making the Massively Multiplayer Social Web.”  i’ll be arguing with such luminaries as justin hall, rajat paharia and gabe zichermann.

okay.  prolly not “arguing” per se.  i bet we’re all gonna be pretty much on the same page and bouncing ideas around at about a thousand miles an hour.

…maybe even a million.

this super-killer-fascinistic talk is summaraized as such:

Flickr was one of the first popular Web 2.0 web sites: a social photo sharing web site that helped popularize tagging. Flickr was born of an attempt to make a browser-based Massively Multiplayer Online Game about information exchange: “Game Neverending.”

Today, the children of Flickr are continuing to work massively multiplayer game mechanics into social web sites. This panel will discuss strategies, models, and pitfalls for harnessing the power of play to promote the social Web.

Panelists include people working on backend server architecture for adding game functionality to social networks, inventors transforming non-participating sites into online games, Firefox extensions making play in the web browser, and other people sneaking fun into everyday online life.

we’ll see you there on wednesday, april 23rd from 10:50am – 11:40am.


Back From the Dead

so.  after a substantial hiatus where i was architecting what you guys know will be The Next Great Thing™.  i’m talking, of course, about my part of metaplace — the webby parts.  all i can say right now is “holy-kick-ass-batman!”  it’s certainly one of the most awesome projects i’ve ever been a part of.


i’m going to make a concerted effort to get back to my long-neglected blog.  especially since we’ve announced and i now feel comfortable talking about webby things again without giving anything away.  hoo-ray!

talk to you soon.  (real soon, actually, i’m going to write a quick post pimping my upcoming web2.0 panel)


Pumpkin Quest

to commemorate both halloween and my recent, maddening addiction to puzzle quest on my 360, i decided to carve out the tutorial girl.  unfortunately, the pumpkin version isn’t nearly as hot.  (i loves me some redheads….)

oh, and hey, cuppy.  does this count for your contest?


Quentin’s Wall Mural is Final

hooray! finally found time to get back to painting — after taking almost a month off… is now finished and we’re pushing his dresser back against the wall.

Quentin’s Mural

oh, and that’s the last time i ask one of my kids what they want on their wall. holy-tons-of-work-batman. the painting is about 12 feet wide and took almost 30 hours to complete. and as a disclaimer, his name is green because that’s his favorite color and not because i thought that looked good in the composition.