Archive for December, 2004

A Face in the Crowd

firefox-nytimes-highlight.pngEleven million downloads in just over a month, notices in high profile media and, oh yeah, a quite nice two-page spread in the New York Times put together entirely through grass roots effort. It hasn’t been a bad few weeks for Mozilla Firefox.

Even though the folks at Mozilla HQ are well paid, it is gratifying to see that small contingent of folks (less than 20) marshaling a massive volunteer development effort so effectively. An effort that produces software on par with or better than that produced by the giants of the industry — and quality is beginning to pay off. Heck, it doesn’t hurt for me to see my name in lights either, albeit in the company of 10,000 of my best friends. ;-)

Wanna search for your name? Grab the full-sized ad or just buy the poster.

Check the Trunk

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With all the personal and professional chaos surrounding Kobe, you’d think he’d be keeping a low profile these days. Looking ain’t cheating, though, right? Here’s hoping Ray leaves him watching tonight.

image grabbed from espn nba

U-N-I-T-Y

unity-llama.jpgWho you callin’ a bitch?” Jeff Minter basically said as much of his colleague Tetsuya Mizuguchi while commenting on the brilliant Rez last year:

The game mechanic in Rez was always the same. It was Panzer Dragoon with its trance trousers on, wasn’t it? There wasn’t much variety in the actual gameplay. The graphics were quite nice but they were very self-consciously ‘Tron’. It was like they’d imagined an abstract space that was like ‘Tron’, whereas the abstract spaces in Unity will see me jamming with the hardware and coming up with stuff. I want to have modern abstract as opposed to retro abstract, which I think Rez was.   (Edge #120 cover story)

With these kinds of claims, it seemed Mr. Llama believed he could deliver big after a near 10-year hiatus. And, with groundbreaking tripped-out games like Llamatron: 2112 and Tempest 2000 under his belt, it looked like he just might pull it off.

Well, so much for that! Turns out all the talk was just that as Unity was officially nuked today. (There’s a lot of that going around at Lionhead lately.) Ah, well, considering how ambitious his project was, it’s hard to stay angry at Minter long. Here’s hoping he brings the noise next time. Until then, we’ve got a few mouthwatering peeks inside the Llama’s head to hold us over.

Prince of Persia: Class vs. Ass

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Ah, Prince of Persia how we’ve loved thee — from Mechner’s groundbreaking original to Ubisoft’s fine resurrection of the series last year in Sands of Time, one of the best of 2003. What, then, can we make of Ubisoft’s Warrior Within, sequel to the remarkable Sands? Sure, the prince is darker and perhaps more one-dimensional. That’s a shame but at least the urge to do a straight rehash has been quelled. The fighting system, one of the few shortcomings of the first game, has been reworked and now features a number of new chainable contextual moves, adding depth and playability. But that same fighting system also features seemingly unnecessary “decapitation moves.”

So, the question becomes: Are these changes pushing the envelope or just pandering to the lowest common denominator? For instance, just about the only demo one could get at the Warrior Within booth at E3 showed off the decapitation move repeatedly. In fact, anyone who went within earshot of the Ubisoft booth could hear a staffer repeatedly yelling “DECAPITATION!” at the top of his embarrassed lungs.

More sad, though, is that the female characters appear to have lost their richness. Those in Sands of Time were dealt with impressively. Heck, Farah showed more wit and self-confidence than the prince himself and fought alongside him as an equal. (Folks who complained about the ineptitude of characters like Ico’s Yorda really had someone to root for in Ico-inspired Sands.) Compare that to the ladies of Warrior Within where it’s all aboard for T&A city!

Considering the sales scare Ubisoft had with Sands of Time, it figures they would be extra careful with this second game in their fledgling franchise. Let’s hope that most of what we’re seeing is marketing and doesn’t speak to the heart of the game. Replacing the dreamy landscapes of Sands with dreary heavy metal dungeons and Farah with some random goth chick just doesn’t seem right but, hey, I’m willing to suffer a few gratuitously severed heads if the soul of this new beast is the same.





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