Friday, October 29, 2010

Mr. Mom Marketing Continues for Kinect

Earlier this week I talked about Microsoft's push for the 'desperate housewife' crowd of gamers with Kinect. They are continuing their insane firestorm of Kinect love this week on the Ellen show. If this works, it will change gaming demographics forever. But, it won't work since it is a ridiculous idea. Is the marketing genius behind the Kinect Caroline from Mr. Mom?

Here it it if you haven't eaten lunch yet.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Money Wasted on this Horrible Game #2: Championship Bowling

There are moments in life when the stars align and everything just works out perfectly. It is such a rare thing to view and even rarer to have occur in your own life, yet every once in a great while, it happens and it is magical. A moment of absolute bliss. Then, there is the exact, polar opposite, or, as I like to call it, my day-to-day life. Not one damn thing works out right and all you have is a tremendous clusterf*ck of incoherent pieces. That sums up Romstar's Championship Bowling.

Championship Bowling was obviously one of many games created quickly, on a minimal budget, to try to take advantage of the NES' popularity. There were a lot of games created in a short period of time with people hoping to cash in on video games (probably the same leeches who got into "the Internet" in the 90's and into giving out mortgages to anyone who has ID in the 2000's). It was the fault of these individuals that there were a lot of bad games that came out for the NES.

Now, to be fair, bowling games have a history of sucking. What really can you do with a bowling game? Thinking about it, only the trackball arcade bowling games and Wii Resort's bowling games are the only ones that come to mind as being even remotely playable and entertaining. I suppose if you really think about it, playing bowling IRL is fun but if you ever watched bowling at 2:30 on a Saturday afternoon when college football season is over - not really entertaining. However, just because it is a limited subject matter doesn't give the developers an excuse to make a shitty game just in hopes of making a few dollars.

Let's start simple, the game itself. There is nothing to it. I think of the children in the late 80's who would have gotten this as a gift to find out, "hey, I can play...myself or my friends but that is it." Why would they not build some sort of tournament function in to make the game at least interesting? Oh yeah, because that would require time and the NES may have plunged in popularity by then, they needed to get their $29.95 now (actually I don't know if it cost $29.95 in 1989 but sounds about right, if my slowly degenerating memory serves).

As I was saying, your game modes are limited to just playing a quick ten frames (and I use the word quick loosely) or play your friends. You get to choose your player from four different ones even though I saw no difference in the players. Then you can choose your ball weight (tee hee), again it makes very little difference.

When the game started, I thought, "wow, this looks like a whole lot of yellowish, brown waste. And, why do the pins look like wine bottles? Oh, because those are wine bottles and I need to stop drinking at lunch. And, why does the bowler animated so slowly?"

The system of play is the standard tap the button on multiple meters to try to get the perfect throw for the given situation. It is identical to most of the golf and football games (kicking portions) of the time. Boring as hell.

Sound. Ugly. I can't even describe it from the introductory Double Dragon-esque opening NES drums to the repetitive, boring, Bugs Bunny music that doesn't stop. It is like listening to Suzanne Vega sing "Tom's Diner" on repeat, by the tenth time you hear her sing, "da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da" you will be ready to take hostages.

Click here only if you want this damn song to be in your head the rest of the day.

Final analysis. Graphics: yellowish, brown discharge. Audio: my Suzanne Vega nightmare. Playability: only if you enjoyed playing it the first time. Controls: there are none. Realism: who the hell watches bowling, I don't know. Worth $1.78 on eBay: not as long as I can get a Big Gulp from 7-11.

...and for the painful, "don't believe me moment"...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Microsoft's Marketing Plan for Kinect - Bored Housewives

There is no secret that Microsoft has put quite a marketing campaign together for their new Wii rip-off add-on to the 360. I originally figured they would take a page from the Nintendo playbook and gear it towards children under the age of 13, maybe create some games with cute, furry characters that the player could use the Kinect equipment to maneuver and manipulate. However, they decided to go another route - bored housewives.

Oprah loves herself some Kinect
It is no secret that unbelievably wealthy people stick together and who is more wealthy than Oprah and Microsoft. Microsoft contributed a ton of 360's and Kinects to give away on Oprah's show. Of course, the bored housewives in the audience had absolutely no idea what it was they were getting, they screamed and cheered like they were just given that free trip to Australia.

Microsoft payed recruited Oprah to do the giveaway for multiple reasons. The first is to make the super soccer moms of the world think that the XBox 360 is as family oriented as the Wii. "If Oprah says it's good for my kids, it has to be," mentality of way too many in this world is just what Microsoft could use. It is coming on the holiday season, and a perfect time to buy a 360 and Kinect for their kid as a present. Mom will be thinking that Junior will be saving the Princess, running around as Sonic, casting pixilated spells using Bonk's large melon when in fact Junior will be tea bagging classmates in Halo Reach (and I am sure Junior will not be complaining).

Another reason to use "the Oprah crew" is to promote the fitness portion of the system. Why diet and go to the gym when you can just do your workout at home and have it be super, duper fun? Microsoft wants to cash in on the Wii Fit cash cow. The big problem here, a lot of people have already invested (and seen how worthless) Wii Fit actually is and may not be up to drop another $400+ to join the exercise equipment graveyard in their basement with the likes of Wii Fit and the treadmill acting as a clothesline.

"Yeah!!!!! I have no clue what this thing is, but it is FREE!!!!!"

The home shopping network loves them some Kinect
Microsoft also targeted the HSN looking for that housewife demographic. Let's take a look at some little things that we can hear about this product according to the HSN.

A.) it is going to be the biggest seller this shopping season...the...biggest...seller this shopping season. B.) you don't need controllers, hence even you soccer moms can play (they even discuss about the confusion of all those buttons and you can, "just throw them away"). C.) You can use "XBox Live" (they give an amazing discussion of your little world you get with XBox Live) to check your Facebook and Twitter. You can rent movies and listen to music.

Now, to be fair to Microsoft, the hardcore gamer demographic would be a tough sell with this technology for, at the very least, it is a Wii clone and most the hardcore community find anything Wii-esque to be below them. But, is Microsoft's hope to become a large part of the latte drinking soccer mom demographic? The new commercial can feature several women sitting around Starbucks discussing spa weekends and their Kinect.

Anyway, the good news that will come out of this...some kids will end up getting a 360 for Christmas because mom thinks that it will be pure family entertainment that she can use to connect with her kids, do her Facebooking, and workout all from the comforts of her living room. And, for the first month or two everyone in the house will play it. After the novelty wears off for mom and dad, the kids can then use it to play the types of games that the 360 should be used for...beating prostitutes in Grand Theft Auto.

Get a free copy of Back to the Future - the Game from Telltale

A highly anticipated remake of the Back to the Future games are being made for 360, PSIII, and PC.  As part of the extravaganza, Telltale is giving the first installment of the game away for free.  Just go here and give them some info (yes, they do ask for address and e-mail) and they will shoot you an e-mail when the game comes out.  Don't try to download it now, like a lot of people seem to be trying, since the game isn't out yet.

If you bought the Blu-Ray copy of the movies, it will have a URL pointing to the same place for download.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Free Speech on the Internet? Part 1 - Libel

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, have no legal background, and do not wish to ever have any legal training.

I am prepping some materials for an Internet course I am teaching in the Spring and began to look over all of my information on free speech on the Internet and the issues of libel and slander and how they pertain to online activity.  Instead of making it a handout, I thought I would just make it a blog post and point them to it (and maybe save a tree or three in the process).  Feel free, even if you are not in the course, to comment, etc.

Libel in a nutshell is defamation by written word or pictures.  The first question I am always asked when we talk about this, does libel pertain to Facebook and Twitter?  You bet.  Theoretically, if you tweet something defamatory about someone or post something defamatory about someone on Facebook, you do leave yourself open to being sued.  The same would go if you blog something libelous or add a comment to a message board or to a blog post that is libelous.  Now, of course, suing someone for libel would require the means (money, lawyer, etc.) to do so and the actual proof of defamation.

Let's take a quick look at the case of Courtney Love and her tweet that got her in loads of trouble.  Apparently she had a falling out with a designer and tweeted some less than kind words about her including hints of cocaine abuse.  The designer retaliated by taking her to court showing that even 140 characters is enough to get sued.

Trolls should beware (or use TOR) when deciding who to spout their libelous rants towards, they may just pick the wrong person with the means to go after the libelous troll.

The biggest problem that I can see when considering the libel laws with regards to the Internet are the protections (or lack thereof) for the blogger/Tweeter/Facebook user.  Journalists are trained about the pitfalls of libel and are granted protections both by the law and their employer (usually).  The run-of-the mill blogger, most of the time, will not have the same training or the same protections.

On top of that, the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA) does grant protections for the ISPs and the companies that are housing the libelous claims.  So, for example, this blog is hosted by  When I signed up for this blog, it took me a matter of minutes to get signed in.  I can now rant and rave about anything that I want - libelous or not. (Google) is free and clear of my ranting and raving because of this act.  This act also protects the blogger from any libelous comments that may be left in the comments section.

The biggest problem is that the law is behind the times and is trying to catch up with technology.  There is no Moore's Law for our legal system.  

Thursday, October 21, 2010

5 Useful LifeHacker Tips for October

Like most techy people in the world, I have my usual stops that I need to make daily and LifeHacker is one of those 'must check out' daily places.  The only downside to LifeHacker is the volume of information that is available there.  I will be adding a monthly post of the five highlights I have actually either watched, followed the instructions, or learned from and put it out there for my loyal five readers.  Anyway, here is October's (yes, I know October isn't over yet but this gives me an excuse to have an easy post if something exciting or interesting happens in the next ten days on LifeHacker).

Stream Media using your 360, PSIII, or Wii
I have the sites I like to stream my media and usually just hook my laptop up to my TV but it is a rather pain in the ass to do.  I went ahead and followed the instructions and got my Wii set up so I can use that as well.  I know it isn't all HD-y but not a bad option when in a pinch (a pinch meaning I am being lazy).  Find out how here -

Opt out of getting the Yellow Pages
There is this invention called, "the Internet" that pretty much made the Yellow Pages obsolete.  Yet, they keep sending it to me and I keep putting it in recycling.  Using the Web site, you can get the information needed to opt out of getting it.  I wish that they would make it a little bit more of a streamlined process but still better than nothing.  They are discussing a site upgrade coming soon so they may build that in.  Here is the full article -

Miso, the Foursquare of TV
I am a fan of Foursquare and I am a fan of TV.  It is like Reese's Peanut Butter cups…you got your Foursquare on my TV, you got your TV on my Foursquare - hey, that's pretty good.  On Miso, you choose the shows you are watching and follow others who watch similar shows so you can discuss, etc. that particular show.  Pretty fun.  You also get to earn badges just like Foursquare.  Check it out at  Read the full article at

Warm up your food the right way
Ok, this is one of those, 'it's so simple why didn't I think of it' things but using the two-bowl method to warm up food is the best way that I have found.  Take bowl A and put your food in it.  Take bowl B and turn it upside down and place over bowl A.  Put in microwave and warm.  Again, you are probably reading this and thinking, "really, you are kind of a dumbass."  Well, that is true.  However, yesterday I am a dumbass that ate some fabulous reheated lasagna that didn't dry out because the moisture stayed in the bowls and didn't splash all over my microwave.  Word of warning, the top bowl gets really freaking hot so use a potholder.  Here is the full article (with an image if you can't figure it out) -

Use presenter view in PowerPoint to make better presentations
I have spoken at conferences, I teach CIS every semester, I do training sessions and presenter view is a really useful tool.  There are some pretty good tips on making better PowerPoints in this as well.  I highly recommend giving the video a view if you know you will be making a presentation sometime in the future.  Really good stuff. Full article -

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Money Wasted on this Horrible Game #1: 10-Yard-Fight

Ed. Note: over the years I have amassed a great deal of games from yard sales, eBay, used game stores, and just threw them in boxes and never got around to playing them so will be creating a series of posts such as this.

Webster's defines waste as to consume, spend, or employ uselessly or without adequate return; use to no avail or profit; squander: to waste money; to waste words.  I would have to say that the $.99 I spent for 10-Yard-Fight from eBay would fall under that definition.  As would the last hour of my life that I spent playing it.

Now, I know what you may be thinking, "oh, come on, it isn't that bad.  It was a launch title.  You are just being a whiny, little sissy."  You would be correct on two points, it was a launch title and I am a whiny, little sissy, but the game is that bad.

The best way I can explain this title for someone who has never played it is to ask you to close your eyes and imagine a group of Japanese men, who have never watched more than five minutes of football, design a game about it. 

Now, I spend my football-watching Sunday mornings with two-fifths of Jack Daniels so my judgment of the rules of football may be hazy at best, but let me try.  Football has eleven players on each side of the ball during the game.  But 10-Yard-Fight only has nine.  Japanese understanding of football fail #1.  On kickoffs, the kicking team only has eight players while the returning team has nine and they all run in the same direction. Japanese understanding of football fail #2.  The offensive side of the ball basically runs the wildcat each play with a quarterback, who has the same speed as all the other players, two running backs, and one wide receiver.  The quarterback has three options, run, throw to a running back, or throw to a wide receiver.  That is it.  That is the entire offensive side of the ball.  Japanese understanding of football fail #3.

There isn't a playbook.  Just the same play over and over again until you unplug your NES controller, take it to the bathroom, throw it over the shower curtain rod, and swing. 

Defense isn't much better.  The computer just puts up a formation, no real rhyme or reason, just a formation and you get to pick one of two worthless players.  Basically, whoever is closest to the other larger portion of the field since you know that the AI will go that way and run and tackle the ball carrier.  It is so simplistic in its design that Ms. Pac-Man looks at it and just shouts, in her best Chris Tucker voice, "daaamn!"

However the two biggest beefs I have with this game are on offense.  1.) The wide receiver goes in motion on every play and he does this so slowly you literally can watch the clock tick down 30 seconds.  And, the computer makes the wide receiver do the full run EVERY damn time.  The human player has the ability to snap the ball and stop this from happening.  2.) Some sick, twisted, heartless asshole built the field on a mountain.  That can be the only explanation as to why you run so slow when you have the ball.  Who would build a football stadium on a mountain?  Sadists.

When you get to the end zone, you are treated to a star and some emblem of American culture like a bird or a cowboy and do a little jump (I'm thinking the one game that the Japanese game developers saw was the Falcons vs. the Cowboys).

So, let's talk strategy.  The game is idiotic in design.  I played the high school team first and scored every time on offense so I cranked up the difficulty to the super bowl team and scored every time on them (why did they make the super bowl team wear pink jerseys, did our Japanese friends know about breast cancer awareness 25 years ago).  Line up on one side of the field, snap the ball, run and throw to the running back.  Use the larger portion of the field and go about twenty-five yards or more before being tackled.  Repeat going the other side of the field.  Rinse, repeat, strangle yourself, drink mass amounts of alcohol, be happy you were not that poor child who got an NES for Christmas with this game as the only option.

I did play this when I was a kid and do remember thinking that it was shit even back then.  In its defense, it did come out four years before Tecmo Bowl, nope, can't do it...there is no defense for this game.  I looked up this game on Wikipedia and noticed reviewers gave this game high marks as raising the bar for football games.  That made me come to the realization that this game and the crack epidemic both happened in the mid-80's which explains the high marks.

Final analysis.  Graphics: suck.  Audio: sucks.  Playability: none.  Controls: mind-numbingly slow.  Realism: none.  Flicker: way too much even though both teams would get flagged for not enough players on the field each and every play.  Interpretation from the arcade version: sucks but so does the arcade version.  Worth $.99: not as long as they make Snickers for under a buck.        

Don't believe me...see for yourself.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Common Frustrating Pattern when Designing a Start-Up Web site (and the Loss of a Designer's Sanity)

Initial meeting goes great, everyone is happy, some ground rules and boundaries are set and then it begins...

"I was looking at some sites and I really want one of those flashy introductions."
2006 was a great year.  My favorite football team, the Chicago Bears, made it to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1985.  In 2006, Flash introductions were very big.  And, they were annoying then as they are now.  But, for a first-timer looking to cash in on "the Internet" they see them and think, "wow, if only I could wow potential customers like that."  Talking them out of it is the only thing that can be done and often times the pocketbook is the only way to do it.

Clueless start-up owner: "I would like to have a spinning wheel with numbers on it right when the site loads that spins around over and over again and if it lands right on the number 7, they can enter the Web site." (Yes, someone asked me for this.)
Levelheaded designer: "People don't want to do that, they just want to get to your site and get the information that they need."
Clueless start-up owner: "No, I think I know what people want, can you do it or not?"
Levelheaded designer: "Yes, but Flash work is expensive, so I will need to charge you $25,000 for it."
Clueless start-up owner: "Oh, I can't afford that, maybe after the site makes it huge.  I really liked the roulette wheel idea though."

…which leads to...

"I want a fully functioning shopping cart with admin features to add and remove products and I am willing to give you...$100"
This happens pretty much every single small start-up I have had to deal with.  A new business owner wants to have a shopping cart on par with but does not understand the programming that is involved with it.  In their mind, a few switches need to be flicked and voila, a fully functioning shopping cart appears.  When I make the simple suggestion of using PayPal if they don't want to spring for the hours to make a cart, I get a look like I had just slaughtered their family and fed the remnants to their cat (which at this point, is starting to sound like a pretty good idea).

…which leads to...

"I know you asked for art, I'll just take some pictures from the Web, that'll be easy enough."
Either I have found people go from one extreme to another when it comes to web legality.  I have the people who have fifty pages of legal wording (that they copied and pasted from some Web site they found on the Web and simply replaced their company name throughout the document) and I have the people who (yep, had this happen too) given me AP photos that they simply grabbed from the and want me to plop in on their site.  Telling them that there is such a thing as copyright law and it does apply to the Internet is usually met with a blank stare.  I usually have to explain that they can get sued and then the concept usually sets in.  Apparently the Internet isn't the wild West that they had originally thought.

…which leads to...

"The site looks too big/small when I look at it on the Internet.  It just doesn't look right on my 640x480 setting on my monitor."

Clueless start-up owner: "The pictures of the mock-up you created looked great but the actual site looks terrible.  Everything is so small."
Levelheaded designer: "It was designed for 1024x768 in mind but looks fine in 800x640, what is your screen resolution."
Clueless start-up owner: "Vista."
Levelheaded designer: ...

…which leads to...

"I know I approved everything, but I am not sure I am feeling 'the look'."
Months have gone by, e-mails and phone calls have reached the triple digits, you have tested everything and you are about to go live with the whole thing.  Then, a quick e-mail that usually starts with, "I was just talking to my boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife about the site and we took a look and he/she made some good points so I think we may need to scrap everything and start over."  At this point, it will be difficult but grabbing a machete and driving the six hundred miles to their home and butchering both is not a good idea.  This is the time to threaten the pocketbook again.

Clueless start-up owner: "My husband works as night-manager at Wendy's and told me that the site you made for my sewing class doesn't look like the Wendy's Web site so we may need to redesign a few things."
Levelheaded designer: "But, you loved everything yesterday and we are about to go live."
Clueless start-up owner: "Yeah, but my husband did make some good points, he especially would like a little redhead girl with freckles on the page because he told me people love little girls with freckles."
Levelheaded designer a little creeped out by above statement: "Ok, but starting all over, I will have to charge you by the hour so I am looking at a good ten more hours."
Clueless start-up owner: "We can stick with what we got for now."

…which leads to...

"The site went live yesterday and I looked on Google and it's not coming up, what gives?"
There is a preconceived notion with people that the moment a Web site is on the Internet, Google and the other search engines will drop everything and spider their Web site.  I always try to explain from the beginning that it takes a little while, even if everything is coded perfectly, for search engines to spider a page. 

Clueless start-up owner: "But I need to be on Google today."
Levelheaded designer: "Well, you can pay to become a sponsored ad." 
Clueless start-up owner with horrified look on face: "Blasphemy, the Internet is free."

…which leads to...

"Thanks.  I just bought a copy of Dreamweaver and my sister's nephew took an HTML class in high school, so we got it from here."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Oh Andy Rooney, you are Lost

As a rule of thumb, I don't watch '60 Minutes'.  The reasoning for this, well...I'm under the age of 70.  However, I do enjoy me some bitter old man ranting and raving about the old days and how all this new technology takes all of the fun out of life.  Apparently Andy Rooney enjoys being lost and would prefer that to having a GPS give him directions.  Turn up your hearing aides because Andy is about to let us have it.

TL;DR Old man no likey technology.

Friday, October 1, 2010

My Life's Soundtrack Angers the Masses

I wear my headphones everywhere I go. When I am forced to leave the house in the morning to do work-type-stuff, there are few things that I require, my headphones and player are musts (clothes, car keys, wallet…eh). Perhaps over the years I have been oblivious to the perturbed reactions from non-headphone wearers but lately it's been rather evident through little gestures, a dirty look or taken aback posture, that they aren't comfortable with my headphone wearing while in their presence.

I am one of those people who is unable to keep ear buds in my ears, the little bastards just fall right out (perhaps I have an overly large external auditory meatus). To compensate, I sport huge headphones whose intention are for pristine clarity. Since I work in basically a corporate city that houses some rather large company names such as Ford and Microsoft, the volumes of people that roam through here is an immeasurable equation. And, for some reason, me wearing my headphones and drowning out the cacophony of my surroundings puts people on edge.

I suppose I should give a little history to this, I have done this since junior high school. From the moment I left the house until the moment I got home I would have tunes playing. Don't get me wrong, I didn't spend my entire adolescence, tween, and teen years in my own hollow world listening to Guns N' Roses, Van Halen, Metallica, and Nirvana (I did mention it was junior high/high school, right?) If someone I knew actually wanted to have a conversation, I would remove the headphones and have the conversation but if I didn't know you, I wouldn't be prone to strike up a conversation just for conversation's sake.

And, it is that reason that, even now in pseudo-adulthood, you will find me standing in a corner of the elevator listening to a podcast or a nice 1970ish bootleg of Led Zeppelin then be force fed a conversation about the weather or to give me your opinion about the Bears game. "Upon us all a little rain must fall. It's just a little rain."

When I am by myself shopping at Target, why do I need to listen to "soft, light rock" playing through the store when I can play my own music and can play Elton John's 'Tiny Dancer' when I choose not when the Target soundtrack chooses it for me?

My guess is, I am either perceived as rude for not making myself available for a conversation with the person I don't know or as wannabe cool guy sporting headphones to show that I am rebellious and not going to live up to society's norms. Anyone who has ever met me can testify that the latter can't be true, the only thing rebellious about me is violating the beer before liquor rule. Let's just say I would not make Rage Against the Machine proud. So, I guess that the people I don't know will just have to think of me as being rude since I don't want to make myself available in case they would like to have some bullshit conversation about the bathroom conditions on the 10th floor or the parking situation.

TL;DR people hate me…but I can't hear the hate because I am too busy listening to Colin Hay.