Which Way Gaming

Reality Is BrokenI’m sitting here reading Jane McGonigal’s new book “Reality is Broken” and right in the front she says something like “…[a year after her 2008 GDC rant] everywhere I turned I saw evidence this movement to harness the power of games for good was already happening.”

Right next to her book I’m looking at some of the reviews for Bulletstorm plus our own recent rant about the advertising for Dead Space 2 and I find myself wondering…

Which way gaming?

Will the next 10 years bring gaming up into something more relevant, more mature, and more important that feeds our souls and inspires us to live well or will better technology only drive gaming ever deeper down into our id with hyperrealistic gore – always feeding our basest nature?

Microsoft is in a Death Spiral

I saw this link on Fox today where it asks “Has Microsoft Lost Its Tech Edge?” and my only response is “You Just Noticed?

My personal realization of this started over a year ago but was then repeatedly reinforced over and over again at trade show after trade show lat year. MS was there at all of them, CES, Computex, IDF – that’s no surprise. What was shocking was how pointless their presence had become. An example – at Computex I saw a dozen or more tablet computers in the Microsoft booth as if they were coming out with a bunch of new and interesting hardware. But 80% of them were locked away in boxes (more here) and the rest were just retreads of 8 year old tech. Beside the useless hardware was the pointless revision of Office. To see more of the same at CES this week doesn’t surprise me at all.

The worst moment was when MS joined Intel during the tech keynote at IDF. When asked “Does MS have anything exciting you are working on?” in front of thousands of tech fanboys and media reps the woman literally said “no…not really.”

I was shocked!

Nothing? Really? You can’t even lie about it and say “…nothing I can share. [wink, wink]”? It was embarrassing and it sure looked as though the answer took the Intel guy by surprise…but there it was.

In short – Microsoft appears to have completely lost any sense of vision for the future. Yes, the landscape has changed and new technologies have emerged. Can that possibly be a surprise?

Brotherhood

About once a year the core team at Soma try to get away on a kind of group DAWG day (day alone with God). We drive up the gray north woods where cell phones cease to chirp and the still, small voice seems at least a little louder. It’s fellowship, it’s prayer, it’s strategy…but it’s mostly a check up for all of us. We need to periodically stop and make sure we’re still on the scent. Basically, we all feel like Soma Games is, and always has been, God’s idea and we are doing our best to steward that vision with integrity. But that can be a tricky thing to do as weeks and months go by, as opportunities rise and pass away. In fact, few things are more disruptive to the goal of following the Spirit than success.

So this last trip, about three weeks ago now, one word really popped to the front of mind and tinted everything else we did – brotherhood.

TRON: Legacy – What’s in a worldview?

by Ryan Green
heckling by Chris Skaggs

This last weekend, some of the guys at Soma took a field trip to the theater to experience TRON: Legacy in its full IMAX 3D glory. (I have it on good authority that for true awesomeness and full rumble effect, rows 4-7 front and center is the sweet spot.) Mike and I, who are stationed up here at “Soma Games : High Altitude Command” in sunny Colorado, were pretty disappointed to miss this event with our fellow mouth-breathers and resolved to plan our own nerd-outing.

Quorra is HAWTFirst, however, I had to come clean with the boss. I had never seen the first TRON. His response reassured me I wouldn’t be kicked to the virtual curb: “The original Tron was a bit like the first [name withheld for boss protection] movie – it kind of sucked. You’re not allowed to SAY that in geek company but it’s the truth we all know about. We still love you Ryan.” – (Chris: The movie in question is Star Trek. C’mon, you know I’m right.)

The Myth Of Multitasking

Multitasking and iOs 4.0 – What it is and what it is not.

For a while there it seemed Android phones really had the iPhone beat with a certain feature known as Multi-tasking. It was all over the news and yadda yadda yada. Then Apple announced an upgrade that now includes – wait for it – multitasking. But it may not be what you think it is. We want to take a moment here to answer a few FAQs about the multi-tasking mystique and to speak another obvious question – what’s this got to do with AppUp.

First, lets talk about the concepts here. When an operating system can multitask this is its ability to run more than one program at the same time. (Not to be confused with threads which are different) This gives each running program access to important system resources simultaneously and the user gets the ability to do several things at once. For example an MP3 player bopping along while your email client checks POP3 while you’re editing a text document. When it comes to our desktop systems – we’ve come to expect this kind of behavior as minimal requirements. But prior to iOS4 the iPhone didn’t allow any third party processes (read: your app) to continue running after it lost focus. In fact, the iPhone “single-thread” experience has become a marketing point in many places and people started rediscovering the mental clarity of doing one thing at a time. It should be noted however that Apple always kept certain classes for their own use and apps like iCal were treated as a special case, often behaving in a multi-tasking kind of way. It just was something mere mortals were forbidden to do.

An Open Letter to Intel on The AppUp Center

The app store concept is not a product or a service. It’s a complete reset of the way ALL intellectual property will be sold, shared and distributed. It will completely reshape the world of books, music and software.

How can Intel’s ApUp Center thrive and dominate?
1. Make it Cheap
2. Make it Easy – More importantly, make it LOOK easy.
3. Improve on What Apple has Already Done Well
4. Never Mention MeeGo
5. (After you never mention it) Make MeeGo Beautiful and Bulletproof
6. Apple is Not Your Enemy – Google Is
7. Show Us The Money – But In Secret
8. Support MeeGo and Air. Drop Everything Else
9. Leverage and Cooperate With Existing Services
10. Encourage Other Forms of IP

And 11 – Embrace and celebrate the huddled masses of
disempowered Flash developers – they are your future.

On Porting from iPhone to Netbook with Flex – Understanding the Syntax of ActionScript and MXML

by Ryan Green

I’ve spent most of my career on the web. Well, my first real job was as busboy at a local mexican hole-in-the-wall restaurant (love the salsa.) Then as proud crew member of a certain fast-food burger joint with golden arches (click here to skip to the meat of this post), then, as up and coming young web designer. It is amazing the job you could land in the dot-com bubble with some decent photoshop know-how and a copy of Microsoft Frontpage…

Flex BurgerAnyhow, what I quickly learned in my stint as web master, besides the art of pixel perfect nested HTML table layouts so that my webpages could load inside the 1990’s on a 28.8 baud modem, was that if you wanted to give your customers any value besides a relatively accurate re-creation of their 4 page full-color brochure, you needed to know databases and some form of server side scripting.

I chose Cold Fusion. At the time this was due to the fact that it was the only book in our little office that didn’t have the letters ‘CGI’ and ‘Perl’ in the title. Cold Fusion provided some nice tag based syntax for connecting with a database and displaying tractor parts in a webpage. Then came Javascript and DHTML and VBScript and PHP and then, at last, Actionscript 1 & 2.

Now, lest you fear I die a quick death stuffed to the gills with obscure scripting language knowledge, Actionscript 3 arrived with Flex just in time to spare me the wrath of Java nerds hailing the death of ColdFusion and other “non-languages.” The language of the User Interface has steadily matured into Object-Oriented like syntax and smarter uses of XML to define the UI, and the “real-programmers” have moved native with Objective-C/C++/C#/C-flat and C#-minor. Oh, and don’t forget Java on that little mobile platform called Android… and how dare I forget ruby and python.

All this to say that, in this day-and-age, we face a fragmented amalgamation of languages and platforms all vying for title of “most-awesome-real-language.”

Well, my nomination for new entrant into the “real-language” lexicon is Actionscript/MXML, a syntax that gives Javascript its Object-Orientation and the HTML tag actual namespaces and custom tag names.

Sound Design in AppUp Games and Apps

by Matt Fox

When we set out to make G: Into The Rain, we came to understand that sound design was an area we did not want to neglect. This is not to say that we were immediately aware of the importance of having good sound. In fact, to be honest, we knew that G was going to be first deployed on the iPhone. The on-board audio playback hardware on the iPhone is not exactly high quality – unlike the netbooks which we eventually ported G to late in 2009. During the development, we started to realize that we weren’t necessarily tied to one platform, and that devices like the netbook could impart a much richer game play experience in terms of sound.

In the early conceptual phases of our development, we decided to have a look around at the games that we all liked. Sound design wasn’t something that jumped out as a priority. Frankly, the first non-visual game element that most people notice is music; and while we were blessed with a very talented composer for the musical score of G, that is a topic for another post. Sound, as a game element, is often overlooked. If you ask many people what they enjoyed about a particular game or application, more often than not you will hear about how they liked the gameplay, or that the art was stunning, or that the storyline moved along really well, or that they really liked (or hated) a particular character. Sound design, or rather good sound design is not something that is in your face. It’s subtle, and most often it’s only really noticed after the visual. For instance, when you walk into a room, unless there’s a buzzsaw running, most likely the first thing you’ll notice is what it looks like. We are visual creatures, and hearing most often is employed after sight.

Now I don’t want to convey the idea that because we’re primarily visually oriented, that good sound design can be left for the back burner. Quite the contrary. When we looked around at the games that we all liked to play, we started to catalog and attempt to define what it is that we enjoyed about those games. Eventually, we began to pay close attention to the sound design. In doing so, we had to look beyond the iPhone, and plan accordingly. We came to the conclusion, that one of the reasons we liked the games we did was because of the sound. In most cases, it wasn’t an obvious, in-your-face sort of revelation. Sound was used here as a way to augment the look and feel of the games. Looking ahead, we made the choice to take sound design seriously – which is especially vexing considering the less-than stellar (external) speakers on the iPhone. But if we had taken the approach that “nothing will sound good on the iPhone” and had half-hearted sound design, then G certainly wouldn’t have sounded as good as it does now on a netbook.