Something is up with the Internet in Albany. Expect things to be pretty quiet here (and over at Let’s Make Games) until it gets resolved.
I read yesterday that Interzone (operating as Big Collision Games) is launching Interzone Futebol (now branded for North and South American launch as Online Soccer Champions) into closed beta, despite still owing over $1.5 million to former employees of the Perth studio and the Australian Tax Office.
Here’s a screenshot of the Online Soccer Champions website:
I paused the launch trailer on the opening logo, which still reads “Interzone Games”. Indeed, it appears to be the same trailer released for Interzone Futebol back on August 2009 (and featured on the Gamigo Futebol website).
For those of you who haven’t been following the news regarding Interzone Entertainment (site currently down), the webpage “Interzone: The Downward Spiral” has been collecting related news articles and online information pertaining to the company’s activities.
Following Perth studio employees being locked out of the office (without prior notice) back in February, the story was also covered in this ABC News report:
Sadly, there has been little progress since that report.
The message (from Marty Brickey, CEO Interzone Entertainment LLC and sole director of Interzone Pty Ltd) on the door to the office building (visible in the video above) was posted after staff were locked out. It includes the following text:
We would like to resolve any issues directly with you to avoid any legal costs. The funds that we raise will be limited therefore the less external expenses the more funds that will become available distribution. We accept that after external expenses you will have priority with any distribution or pay out. We will keep you informed on our funding progress as information comes to hand.
Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge:
- Internal expenses must come before external expenses. Staff must be paid for work that they have already undertaken.
- Interzone has not kept former employees informed on funding progress or any new information.
- With the game now re-entering closed beta, this indicates that the company has funds to continue development and launch.
- Interzone has failed to respond to communication from the Fair Work Ombudsman and Fair Work Australia. It has also failed to attend unfair dismissal and mediation hearings.
With funds available, why isn’t outstanding debt being paid? There must be some amount of money that can be assigned to paying down debt without compromising the ongoing operations of the company. At the very least, why isn’t Interzone engaging in dialogue with former employees and the ATO?
A rather disappointing aspect of the whole situation is that a fellow Australian company, BigWorld Technology (which assisted in transfer of intellectual property from the Perth studio) may be providing ongoing technical (and possibly game development) support to Interzone. (Please note that this is conjecture.)
Encouragingly, it appears that the announcement of Online Soccer Champions is inciting former employees of the Perth studio to maintain pursuit of their unpaid wages and superannuation.
If anyone from Interzone is reading this, please feel free to contact me to engage in collective dialogue with former employees.
Jennifer McKay has written an article for the ABC news website which begins:
A Melbourne University report says all of Australia’s energy could come from renewable sources by 2020 as opposed to the Federal Government’s target of 20 per cent.
Imagine that. An environmentally sustainable nation the size of Australia. Undoubtedly it would be the first in the world. That is an immensely inspirational vision, and the notion that it is achievable should ignite excitement and wonder.
The same sort of wonder that would have us reach for the stars, to create art and technology, and to truly advance society. It’s the sort of inspiration that once planted, should be nurtured by leaders, and grown into a brighter future.
Unfortunately, we don’t have leaders. We have politicians.
This extended tech demo video from TIME provides a great overview of the thoughtful design of the Playstation Move:
This video seemed like it would be a good follow up to my previous post on E3 2010. This demonstrates how the platform really is beautifully designed.
Sony have a very good internal research and development that have clearly learnt a lot from their experiences with the EyeToy (eg. people like to have something to hold, and a physical controller is required for precise input) on the Playstation 2.
I would love to see a graffiti art program (with the glowing ball indicating paint colour, and the analog trigger provides fine spray control) and a crime scene investigation game (using the devices to control cameras and forensic apparatus).
Every time we witness an injustice and do not act, we train our character to be passive in its presence and thereby eventually lose all ability to defend ourselves and those we love. In a modern economy it is impossible to seal oneself off from injustice.
If we have brains or courage, then we are blessed and called on not to frit these qualities away, standing agape at the ideas of others, winning pissing contests, improving the efficiencies of the neocorporate state, or immersing ourselves in obscuranta, but rather to prove the vigor of our talents against the strongest opponents of love we can find.
If we can only live once, then let it be a daring adventure that draws on all our powers. Let it be with similar types whos hearts and heads we may be proud of. Let our grandchildren delight to find the start of our stories in their ears but the endings all around in their wandering eyes.
The whole universe or the structure that perceives it is a worthy opponent, but try as I may I can not escape the sound of suffering. Perhaps as an old man I will take great comfort in pottering around in a lab and gently talking to students in the summer evening and will accept suffering with insouciance. But not now; men in their prime, if they have convictions are tasked to act on them.
The above quote is from Julian Assange, a programmer, journalist, and activist.
Julian Assange is probably best known as the public face of whistleblower website WikiLeaks which rose to mainstream prominence when it released a “classified US military video depicting the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad” under the title Collateral Murder.
He is an inspiring figure dedicated to justice, which is something that our government should support rather than obstruct or outlaw. For a video profile on Julian Assange, see this SBS Dateline episode entitled The Whistleblower.
I find that I always have a whole bunch of things open on the computer (email, news feeds, instant messaging, facebook, etc.) and a whole bunch of stuff on my desktop and in various folders (photos, drawings, writing, code, etc.). This means a lot of distractions and clutter, often resulting in low productivity.
Anyhow, here’s the tip: Create a new user account just for work.
I configured a minimal desktop, made a few notes in Tomboy about the configuration, and installed Getting Things Gnome for personal task management. Then I added a general task called “Develop something” (which I decided meant making a Django-based web application) and broke that task down into subtasks.
It’s a great distraction-and-clutter-free environment, and fast user-switching allows me to swap back to my normal desktop (to catch up on email and news feeds) during scheduled breaks. I’m impressed with Getting Things Gnome thus far. I might take some time to populate it with high-level tasks for other projects.
So does everyone else do this? (Am I late to the productivity party?)
You’ve probably seen a whole bunch of news coming out of E3. Frankly, most of it doesn’t really matter, because most products and games are going to see limited success. Let’s get down to the good stuff… or rather, what interests me!
Before you ask, I wasn’t at E3. I’m just writing based on what I’ve seen online.
Microsoft announced a new (slim) model of the Xbox 360 with built-in wireless, a decent-sized hard-drive, and quieter drive bay. (I wonder if it still has an external power brick). Nothing exciting about that; it’s just keeping up with the Jones (Sony and their PS3 slim.)
Their big announcement was the body-sensing Kinect camera system. Based on fundamental principles of computer vision, the useful level of accuracy that can be achieved with their system must be pretty limited. The motion capture method it uses (normal camera plus 3D scanning via either structured IR light or time-of-flight) would result in a 3D textured surface with some degree of noise. That needs to be segmented to identify blobs that look like people from which a number of feature points need to be identified and tracked. It’s heavyweight, complex, and undoubtedly prone to error.
What does this mean to the average gamer? Expect filtered motions and a lack of fine control, which relegate use of the Kinect system to casual games, or games well-designed to accommodate the systems’ characteristic. Something akin to the early Wii Remote problems (prior to the Wii Motion Plus add-on). It could also end up being pretty expensive.
Dance Central is the only Kinect-exclusive game that I am looking forward to:
It simply isn’t possible on other systems. (Although maybe they could get it to work well enough with the Playstation Eye.)
Aside: I wonder if developers have access to the raw depth map data? That could make for interesting game mechanics… scanning objects into games…
Nintendo revealed the Nintendo 3DS, their next-generation hand-held console. The major feature of the console is a screen that displays 3D imagery without the need for the viewer to wear special glasses. It also includes stereo cameras (for 3D photography and augmented reality) and motion sensors.
I love all things 3D (especially 3D displays) and I’m really looking forward to the 3DS. Aesthetically, it bothers me that the screens are not the same size, but I can get over that by thinking of the bottom screen as an input device (touch-pad with built-in display). I’m disappointed (but not surprised) that Nintendo is opting to deliver 3DS games on cartridges. I guess the level of piracy on the iPhone, and the failure of the PSP Go were contributing factors.
I would love to see a commercial augmented reality game (there is a tech demo) that uses the 3D display to add objects to real-world scenes. Smooth tracking should be possible (using the motion sensors to compensate for computer vision inaccuracies), but it may be too difficult to calibrate the 3D display (especially given the 3D effect slider) such that the composite scene looks seamless.
The biggest advertising challenge that Nintendo will face is probably getting the 3D display in front of customers. (Since websites and magazine will only publish 2D screenshots.) They did a great job in demonstrating the Wii in public places (where people could experience it first-hand), so it shouldn’t be a major issue.
More information is available on this official E3 page on the Nintendo website.
Sony demonstrated the Playstation Move, which is an obvious response (tribute, homage, rip-off) to Nintendo’s Wii Remote. In almost all regards, the Playstation Move is a more elegant system than Microsoft’s Kinect. Sony isn’t aiming as high as Microsoft in terms of underlying technology, but there appears to be sound reasoning behind this decision.
In terms of technological simplicity, the Playstation Move makes a lot of sense. The glowing ball introduces a known element (which can be controlled by the console) into the real-world capture space. Moreover, the known element is a sphere which is easy to identify and locate. The system can determine distance based on the size of the ball (in the camera image), and the origin of the ball can be found with very high accuracy based on the centroid of the ball. For multiple controllers, balls can be differentiated and synchronised by identifying and modifying the displayed colours. Finally, motion data (from the devices) can be used to compensate for noisy or incomplete camera data.
In terms of costs, the Playstation Move system should be much cheaper than the Kinect in all areas: to develop; to develop for; to produce; and at retail. It’s basically a webcam and some lightweight controls with cheap (thanks to the Wii, laptops, and the iPhone) motion sensors, and it should be very easy for developers to quickly create “HD” versions of their existing and future Wii games.
Update: Clearly, the Playstation Move won’t be cheaper than Kinect for larger groups of people (since each person will require a peripheral). However, the lower entry point (single wand) may be what matters.
Although clearly not a trendsetter in the games market (like Nintendo), I think that Sony are playing it pretty smart here. They are introducing a low-cost product that allows for quick ports (both from the Wii and Kinect). I can’t imagine many third party developers making Kinect exclusive titles, when they can opt for a subset of controls and release on all major systems.
I also heartily approve of their support for 3D televisions. Admittedly, I’m a huge fan of 3D displays (and I’ll be very happy when home televisions are 3D and glasses-free).
These three games stood out to me because they were surprising to some degree: Dance Central looks like the first natural dancing game, and I’m expecting perfect execution from Harmonix; in Child of Eden, I wasn’t expecting a spiritual successor to Rez to be announced any time soon; and I was impressed (and mildly disgusted) by the zan-datsu gameplay mechanic of Metal Gear Solid: Rising.
Here’s a list of other games that I am looking forward to:
- Ghost Trick (DS); smooth animations, stylish presentation
- Professor Layton and the Unwound Future (DS); I love puzzle games
- Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracle (3DS); I love puzzles games!
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii); with Wii Motion Plus controls
- Rock Band 3 (PS3, Xbox360); with real instruments in Rock Band Pro mode
- Last Guardian (PS3); missing from E3, but should be at TGS!
Wow, that was a long post. Thanks for reading this far… especially since you could have just read Penny Arcade’s rather accurate summary.
Hmmm. I have some organic pork mince from the farmers’ market. What to make?
Mix in some chopped water chestnut, an egg, herbs from the garden (chives, coriander, and mint), and then add some Maggi sauce and white pepper:
Bring it to boil, form the pork mix into balls, and add them in the mix.
Scoop some into a bowl; add some deep-fried shallots, preserved bamboo shoots in chilli oil, soy sauce, chilli sauce; and have some breakfast:
Tasty stuff! (Especially the bamboo shoots. Thanks Minh!)
Cut up some carrots and cabbage and throw that in with some cornflour. (Also create a vegetarian option, for Heidi, with eggs and corn instead of the pork mix).
Hmmm… I don’t have wonton skins, a rolling pin, or a pasta maker… but that’s alright! I do have flour, an egg, salt, water, and this glass! Presto wonton skins!
Now I just have to draw upon vague childhood memories of making dumplings with my mum (using different styles for meat and vegetarian):
Yay! I feel awesome… and these taste awesome! Although, they are (predictably) much better deep-fried rather than poached or steamed.