Thursday, September 28, 2006

Massification of the Modern University

In discussing the 'massification' of the modern university in my Telecommunications 101 discussions for the class 'Living in the Age of Information,' we brought up the topic of the monstrous endowments held by some of today's national research universities. Please find below a link to the top 50 U.S. universities rated by endowment.

http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0112636.html

Below, from the Harvard website, you'll find a kind of promotional informational on the history and significance of Harvard's $25 billion endowment.

http://www.hno.harvard.edu/guide/finance/index.html

A link to an interesting article in the Economist, can be found here:

http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=4339960

"Traditional universities are being forced to compete for students and research grants, and private companies are trying to break into a sector which they regard as “the new health care”. The World Bank calculates that global spending on higher education amounts to $300 billion a year, or 1% of global economic output. There are more than 80m students worldwide, and 3.5m people are employed to teach them or look after them."

We're talking big money here--what are some of the implications?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

forensic evidence collection

The following links to the video page for 'Condemned: Criminal Origins'--the fourth video is called 'forensic evidence,' you'll have to claim you're over 17 and then you'll get access to the video. It demonstrates how 'Condemned' tackles collecting evidence from a gameplay perspective.

http://media.xbox360.ign.com/media/728/728997/vids_1.html

Basically, you have a digital camera that somehow hi-lites significant evidence such as strangulation marks or fingerprints in a kind of neon green...meanwhile there are arrows that appear on four sides of the camera directing you where to go, (you can also zoom in and out). It's pretty intuitive, and when you frame up the shot appropriately the edges of the frame glow, you take the shot, and the integrated cut-scene commences as the information is transmitted to your contact in the lab who analyzes the evidence and via the radio/cell phone reports the results. Your next move is based on what she says.

The 'collect evidence' mini-game is triggered when you enter a space where evidence
exists--your collection tools replace your weapons as the conspicuous things you're
holding. This can be annoying if there are bad guys, in which case you have to return to the killing zone--where your weapons reappear--kick ass, and then return to the evidence zone. It can get frustrating in a fight when you accidentally step in and out of the 'evidence zone' because it's unclear where it begins and ends. Mercifully, when the bad guys are dead, you can focus more or less completely on collecting evidence, (though there's always an underlying sense something spooky or violent is about to happen).

http://www.condemnedgame.com/flash.php
(Condemned flash site--good trailers, etc.)
http://imdb.com/title/tt0496608/fullcredits#writers (game credits)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0780609/ (movie based on the game, 2008)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Favorite Casual Games

My favorite casual game for PC is 'pocket tanks'...

http://www.blitwise.com/ptanks.html

The gameplay is intuitive and easy to learn but nevertheless subtle--and it becomes really satisfying once you get good. I usually play the computer on hardest difficulty and win my fair share...while the computer never misses it can never hit you with a straight shot, (it wastes its lasers by trying to 'lob' them).

My favorite casual game on XBox360 is 'Frogger' (a slightly enhanced version of the early 80s arcade classic). --they even maintained the original gameplay bugs, such as the fact that if just a part of the frog catches the edge when jumping home, you die, (maddening, of course)--

Below is a list of my 'Frogger' achievements...I still need three to have all twelve, (I came within a hair's breadth of beating level four!)

Frogger Achievements

75% Unlocked

140 of 200
9 of 12 Achievements

Chicken 2
On level 2 stay on the road until the timer is red, then reach home.
15
Acquired 7/17/2006

Speed Racing
Get all 5 frogs home in level 1 in less than 45 seconds.
20
Acquired 7/17/2006

Full Stomach
Eat 3 bugs in one game.
10
Acquired 7/17/2006

Complete Level 3
Complete level 3 by filling up all 5 of the frog home slots.
15
Acquired 7/17/2006

Home Sweet Home
Deliver 15 frogs to the frog home without dying once.
20
Acquired 7/17/2006

Chicken 1
On level 1 stay on the road until the timer is red, then reach home.
10
Acquired 7/16/2006

Well Ordered
On any level fill the 5 frog home slots in order from right to left.
15
Acquired 7/16/2006

Helping Hand
Save 5 lady frogs in one game.
20
Acquired 7/16/2006

Complete Level 2
Complete level 2 by filling up all 5 of the frog home slots.
15
Acquired 7/16/2006

Complete Level 4
Complete level 4 by filling up all 5 of the frog home slots.
20
Locked

Complete Level 5
Complete level 5 by filling up all 5 of the frog home slots.
20
Locked

Co-op Brilliance
Reach a score of 30,000 or more while playing an Xbox Live co-op game.
20
Locked

140 of 200
9 of 12 Achievements

Check it out at: http://www.xbox.com/en-US/games/f/froggerlivearcadexbox360/

Thursday, September 14, 2006

My Life Bits

This website provides a fairly succinct, straightforward description of the Microsoft project called 'My Life Bits,' centered around Gordon Bell's attempt to create a metadatabase of his entire lived experience. The implications range from Utopian to Orwellian.

http://www.varsity.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=8906&Itemid=27

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Rashomon & Seeing History

'Rashomon' (1950) proved a lot more watchable than I'd expected. The narrative tension/action entirely revolves around a violent rape and murder...and the Japanese acting style--and stylish black and white cinematography--is exotic enough to keep the modern imagination perked. (What I mean is: certain old films can cue a 'snooze effect' by virtue of long, ungenerous shots/pacing and corny thematics/dialogue).

The theme as you know is about shifting perspective and relative memory. As Robert Altman points out in his intro: we are used to thinking of things we see as truth, but Kurosowa challenges this unconscious assumption by presenting four equally plausible yet fundamentally conflicting versions of the same violent crime. You see how each person situates themself as the protagonist--the sympathetic party at the center of a whirlwind of events happening around them and to them. This is a problem occuring acutely to criminal investigators, but it occurs more globally across the pages of history--the very memory of man--as we try to set in stone a record of events that constitutes 'an absolute truth,' or a shared, agreed upon version of what happened.

Perhaps there's no such thing? Below you'll find a link to the original short story.

http://rene.malenfant.googlepages.com/rashomon

Monday, September 11, 2006

Jake at the Gates

I plan to create a kind of 3D rendered game scene in which a player character, Jake Bloodstone, attempts to infiltrate the underground fortress of his sworn nemesis, Zachary Killgore. A polyhedron shaped object will shatter and he/you will be forced to reassemble the pieces appropriately before you can place them into the empty eye socket of a statue guardian. This will then act as a kind of key, opening the threshold. The scene will be accompanied by cinematic music and should produce a spooky feeling of danger and intrigue.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

On Improvisation

On the subject of improvisation, I believe the best writers are the
masters of improv, such as Stephen King, who in his book, 'On Writing,' talks about his organic style of writing. He simply starts a story before he knows what it's about...writes page after page till the story occurs to him and then he continues to follow his intuitions. It is a master's style of writing.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

John Woo's Stranglehold

Check out this awesome clip--I think it's significant that A-list Hollywood directors are choosing to 'direct' video games. I hope this game will be a masterpiece...

http://features.teamxbox.com/xbox/1722/Stranglehold-High-Definition-Trailer/p1/

Monday, September 4, 2006

Proposed Fall Schedule

I'm experiencing the nightmare of trying to fit a spacious one-bedroom apt.'s worth of stuff into a microscopic dorm room, (I pulled everything out of storage over the week-end). I'm a stressball right now because this is the last thing in the world I want to be dealing with, yet I can't get my life organized--particuliarly, all my creative files--till this is sorted out. With luck, I might manage to battle my monstrous mound of stuff into obedience by the end of tomorrow.

Anyway, I have secured my list of classes I'll be auditing as a contingent of my T540 Ind Study, (which I'll be taking in addition to T540 Video Game Writing, T570 Art, Entertainment & Information, and my duties as AI for T101 Living in the Age of Information).

1. Tel 284, with Herber
2. Tel 361, with Herber
3. FArts 330, with Powers

I think this combination represents an effective diaspora of technical vs. creative elements which hopefully will fuse in my brain as I try to get up to speed with the principles of making new media art.