01 Dec 2005, 05:34


It’s always good to see innovative, interesting, or just plain offbeat steps taking in the gaming world, and Cloud seems to be all three of those things. Cloud is a free game that comes from the University of Southern California’s Game Innovation Lab and it certainly looks promising so far. In the game you control a young boy who can fly around and gather clouds. Simple enough. Some levels have you trying to create vast pictures in the sky out of the clouds, while others have you pitting the clouds you’ve gathered up against ominous black smog clouds in an attempt to clear the skies (doing so produces rainstorms and lightning). While the game currently feels a little more like a sandbox environment than a complete game, it seems like they’ve got some good ideas. Flying around and playing with the cloud physics is a lot of fun and while the graphics aren’t anything ground breaking they’re nicely stylized and fit the game well. One of its best features though is the impressive score which is symphonic and lends the perfect atmosphere (ha!) to zipping around in the clouds. This one is definitely worth checking out, and its a work in progress so it’ll be interesting to see where it goes.


Comment by Neal on 2005-12-01 13:56:55 +0000

I looked at this for a second the other day and couldn’t figure out how to move the clouds. What am I doing wrong?

Comment by Will on 2005-12-01 21:31:21 +0000

If you hold down the left mouse button so that the camera zooms way out, then the bright colored clouds will stick to you as move (as long as you don’t move too fast). If you hold down Shift while doing this you can capture clouds and store them. Then if you hold down Ctrl and the left mouse button you can release them as you fly.

20 Oct 2005, 05:18

Well, this is disturbing.

As a recently relapsed World of Warcraft junkie I was surprised and disappointed to find out that apparently Blizzard uses something called a warden client keep its player base honest. A warden client is something that will run along with the game and check out the other processes running on your machine in order to make sure that you’re not running any known 3rd party applications used for cheating. It then sends that information back to Blizzard. Cheating is obviously a problem for any MMORPG and Blizzard definitely needs to find ways to reduce it but that seems a little excessive. As the article points out, that could technically be described as spyware, except for the fact that they granted themselves the right to do so in their EULA. (section 13A) I just knew those years of skimming EULA’s and clicking ok would get me eventually! Now, there are privacy protections in place (it only compares hashes) and apparently the client won’t send any information other than to raise a flag on the account for potential violations of the terms of service. And, apparently there’s something of a precendent for this in that the popular anti-cheating system Punkbuster operates in a similar fashion. I wasn’t aware of that but I don’t really find it comforting. I always thought anti-cheat systems just verified the integrity of the games executable files and resources, not actively scanned the state of your system. I’m fine with the former but the latter just creeps me out. At any rate, I think it’s kind of pointless since the determined cheaters and hackers will eventually find a way around it and sure enough they already have. So, what to do? I’m obviously not going to stop playing WoW because 1.) Blizzard seems to be a fairly non-evil entity and I trust them to a limited degree and 2.) WoW is the sweet sweet crack and I’m only taking the time for all of this exposition because I can’t currently sign in. I don’t like the idea of warden clients at all. However, that I agreed to it without knowing is worse. The fact that some lesser known games company could just as easily slip something like that (or even more expansive) into their EULA and run whatever else they wanted to along with their game is just disturbing. There’s got to be a better solution to shrink wrap software licenses than 20 pages of firstborn-signing-away EULAs that you usually can’t even read (and by read I mean skip over) until you’ve already run an executable.


Comment by Carrie on 2005-10-19 22:59:35 +0000

A completely un-related comment: w00t Sufjan Stevens!

Saw his name on your recent tracks list and had to say ‘w00t’.


Comment by Neal on 2005-10-19 23:06:42 +0000

Rock | Blizzard | Hard Place

I really feel for Blizzard on this issue – it’s really a no-win situation. Should they give all their customers the full pat-down before letting them buy their product? You know this is going to escalate as cheating packages start to use root-kit-like functionality to “hide from the warden”. The fact is that I have physical access to my computer – I can install anything I want on it. I can tell WoW that I’m running Windows, while I’m really running Linux (that works by the way, but performance is impacted). I can just take over Windows API calls and lie to WoW without replacing the whole system. Blizzard is fighting an impossible battle against cheaters. This relatively benign spying is only the first shot fired in what will be a long battle.

I do hate EULAs, of course. They should have a “cliff notes” version that we could actually read. Maybe something like “don’t cheat – you’ll get booted, we reserve the right to spy on you a little, there’s going to be some server downtime – deal with it, click here for more info”.

Comment by Phil on 2005-10-19 23:59:25 +0000

Will, I think I’ve finally figured out why we love this game so much. Remember Ancient Anguish? WoW is almost exactly like that in format, but it has GRAPHICS! W00t!

Comment by Dave on 2005-10-20 18:05:25 +0000

Someone else mentioned this the other day and I fired up my Mac WoW client with a Terminal window and top to see if there was a similar program running alongside the Mac version. There doesn’t seem to be; at least if there is, it doesn’t look like the Windows warden.

24 Aug 2005, 04:41

Urban Dead

Lately I’ve been enjoying Urban Dead, a browser based multiplayer zombie apocalypse game in which you can either play a survivor in a zombie infested city or one of the infesting zombies. Or more likely than not, start out as a survivor and end up as a zombie. It’s a good deal of zombie-smashing/brain-eating fun and, unlike most multiplayer games, not too time consuming. That’s because you only have a limited number of actions you can take each day and once they’re gone you have to wait for them to slowly replenish. That can lead to some suspenseful moments because when you’re out of actions, you’re pretty much an easy target for any zombie that comes along. As a human, the game mainly revolves around finding safe buildings to hide in and barricade, along with venturing out to kill a few zombies or help out your fellow humans from time to time. As a zombie, well it’s all about those sweet sweet brains. At any rate, if you’re playing and happen to see a scientist named Gorman running around in the suburb of Dulston, stop by and say hi and please don’t try to bite my face off or anything.


Comment by Neal on 2005-08-23 23:13:50 +0000

Awesome. I just created a character by the name of Brew Slee. :-)

Comment by Will on 2005-08-24 09:10:57 +0000

Cool, what area did you start out in? I’m up in the upper right corner of the map, where it had been relatively safe until recently. This morning I logged in to find that the well barricaded hospital I had been hiding in with a bunch of other people had been compromised and there were 5 zombies inside. I managed to make it out with brain intact but the whole suburb seems to be more heavily infested now.

Comment by Phil on 2005-08-24 11:55:50 +0000

Hey, I made a character named Kavis that I’ve played for about 80 actions so far, but for some reason I haven’t gotten a single point of XP. None of the zombies have ever attacked me, and I used ALL of my ammunition without getting a single hit. Also, I haven’t found anything apart from the items I started with.

Is this normal?

Comment by Will on 2005-08-24 14:23:43 +0000

It sounds a little unlucky, but not unusual. Your chance to hit starting out is pretty low, so it’ll take a while to earn XP. You get XP equal to the damage you do. The quickest way to earn XP through damage from the start is to be a firefighter and use the axe, since you start with the axe skill and don’t have to worry about finding ammo. My character is level 6 and hasn’t even attacked a zombie yet because i’ve been getting all my XP by healing others and extracting DNA from zombies, or every once in a while reviving them. As far as not being attacked by zombies yet, that’s normal too. All the zombies in the game are actually player characters so unless one of the zombies near you just happens to be someone who’s logged on to use their AP you won’t see them doing anything. It’s pretty rare to actually get attacked while you’re running around. The trick is to hide someplace good when you’re low on AP where you won’t get munched on. In general you shouldn’t hide in hospitals, malls, or police stations since they attract the most attention from zombies. Find a good, non-descript apartment building or something near a hospital or police station and hide there (especially if its barricaded). Rest in there and then head out to search for ammo/med kits and hit and run on some zombies. It’s not worth it to try to kill them really, unless they’re already almost dead since they can just get back up again. Just attack them to get some XP and make sure you leave yourself enough AP to get back to your safehouse.

Comment by Jeff Eaton on 2005-08-26 18:03:26 +0000

Heh. Thanks for the heal, by the way. Found your site via Gorman’s UD profile. A number of compatriots and I are throwing in our lot together and trying to carve out a safe haven in Dulston. Viva la humanity. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Comment by ian on 2005-09-24 02:28:21 +0000

ha! my own dan fern just met your boy pustulent in st. george’s hospital in greentown. i tried to open a line of communication (someone had suggested offering candy) via my own native understanding of zombiespeak. i really thought we’d be able to keep you as a pet, man…

…did they kill you and throw your ass outside?

09 Mar 2005, 05:34

Completely Amazing

I had no idea this was even remotely possible, but here’s a technology demo for a first person shooter done with Shockwave. In a browser. Wow. I mean, I guess it’s just a proof of concept but it seems to be surprisingly well put together. It takes a while to load (I wouldn’t even want to think about loading all those textures over dial up) but once it got going it ran really smoothly for me. That’s just amazing.


Comment by Carrie on 2005-03-09 00:52:26 +0000


For ease of reading. ๐Ÿ˜€

That game is amazing, but I really really suck, lol.

Comment by Tobin on 2005-03-11 08:22:52 +0000

Oh man, I just checked it out, and they’ve taken it down, leaving only the following message:



Testing for Alpha build 248 is over. Next version should be ready in about a month. Thanks for playing!

Comment by Will on 2005-03-12 11:44:19 +0000

I’ve been syndicated! I expect royalty checks should start arriving any day now, right? Wow, I can’t believe my xml feed is actually being used.

And I can’t believe they took down that demo already :(

16 Jan 2005, 05:35

I learned the Spell of Mastery!

This might just be getting my hopes up for no good reason, but apparently there’s a site out there about the attempt to get a sequel to Master of Magic made. I was in nostalgic bliss a while back when I found the game available as abandonware, but the thought of a sequel finally being made is really really exciting. Providing it’s done right. (Master of Orion 3, I’m looking right at you. No. Don’t even look at me.) There’s nothing official yet, but apparently Stardock is serious about getting it made and is working on getting the license to the series. I haven’t played any of their games before, but apparently they’ve done a few turn based strategy games so they might be reasonably qualified. As long as there’s a chance it might get made and it might be good, that’s enough for me. I mean, I guess a poorly made sequel would be better than no sequel at all. Unless you’re Master of Orion 3.

16 Dec 2004, 03:58

Well would you look at that

There’s an interesting http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/16/technology/circuits/16comi.html?oref=login”>article in the New York Times today about Penny Arcade, which is far and away my favorite web comic. The article gives some some neat backstory about the creation of this comic who’s brilliance I’ve pretty much taken for granted for the past couple of years. However, seeing it featured in the Times is just about as bizarre as it is cool.


Comment by Neal on 2004-12-15 21:29:58 +0000

Archive Link (no registration) courtesy of this NYT link generator.

Comment by Neal on 2004-12-15 21:31:05 +0000




11 Dec 2004, 04:27

You fail your saving throw against Blizzardโ€™s Greater Bolt of Time Drain

Well, it’s finally happened. Blizzard released World of Warcraft on November 23rd, and with it went the rest of my free time. The quality of this game is rivaled only by its addictiveness (for me anyway). Ever since the days back in high school when I would play text-based MUDs I knew that it was just a matter of time until an online RPG came out that would be completely irresistible. This would seem to be it. None of the other multiplayer RPGs I’ve played before (Asheron’s Call, Dark Age of Camelot, Shadowbane, and City of Heroes) ever managed to hold my interest for long. All of those games seemed to assume that you wouldn’t mind playing the game more than a full time job if you ever wanted to make any progress in them. Long repetitive hours of play would leave you only marginally better off than when you had started, and that’s assuming you could find a decent group of people to play with. World of Warcraft takes a more humane approach and assumes that you’ve got other things you’d like to do with your time when you’re not logged in. I can log in for just an hour or two in the evenings, meet up with friends or go solo and still feel like I’ve actually made progress (to the extent that you can actually accomplish anything in a completely made up world that is) Amazingly, it actually manages to keep a fairly coherent storyline as you progress (something almost completely lacking in other games) which helps to smooth out some of the inherent repetition of the genre. Ironically, it’s that “hey, you don’t need to play me every waking moment” attitude that makes the game so hard to put down. I suppose it’s a good thing this game didn’t come out while I was in college or, well, I’d probably still be in college.


Comment by Nathan Hessler on 2005-01-10 14:45:57 +0000

I understand you completely. I bought the game after the quarter ended and in 3 weeks put in 7 full days of gaming. I am going through major withdrawal now that school has started, but the made up world just doesn’t have any good paying jobs. ๐Ÿ˜€

11 Oct 2004, 02:24

Fire in the hole!

This upcoming holiday season is just going to be crazy with good games coming out. It looks like Halflife 2 is finally almost here, because you can actually buy it now for download from Valve’s novel approach at a content distribution system, Steam. By buy, I really mean preorder although you can download all the content in encrypted form so it will be ready to go as soon as the game is officially released. Steam seems like a pretty cool way to get games, though I’m still a little disturbed by not actually having any cds to hold on to. Its also a little annoying that the Steam client that you have to leave running is something of a memory hog. The upshot is that you can start playing the new version of Counterstrike that uses the new Halflife 2 engine right away. As you can guess, I totally did that. What I learned is that even with fancypants new awesome graphics, I still suck at Counterstrike. I’m out there getting totally 0WN3d by a bunch of 12 year olds no doubt.


Comment by Posko on 2004-10-12 15:14:54 +0000

d00d I PWNDZORZ j00!

31 Aug 2004, 02:06

Worlds of Wooohooooo!

I got back from Ohio yesterday to find an email notifying me that as a subscriber to Fileplanet I would be guaranteed a spot in the imminent Worlds of Warcraft closed beta stress test. So hopefully within a few days here I’ll be getting my first look at what is quite likely the most anticipated MMORPG ever. Of course like most stress tests it’s going to be brief, lasting just 7 days but I’m just eager to finally see everything I’d been enviously reading about from the initial closed beta testers.


Comment by Tobin on 2004-08-30 19:53:56 +0000


Comment by Phil on 2004-08-31 10:30:20 +0000

I’d probably be a bit more excited about this if I’d ever played a MMORPG. As it is, I’ve got too many things to do and not enough time or money.

Give me an RPG I can beat in a few weeks… something like KOTOR. :)

Comment by Posko on 2004-09-01 12:34:27 +0000

Yay! Seven days of lag and unplayability… I’d still take that over no WoW. :)

PS: I haXXord your web d00d!

Comment by Ben Lewis on 2004-09-03 22:16:04 +0000

Im with you Will all the way!

24 Aug 2004, 04:38

So this is what passes for news around here

I finally finished Doom 3. That doesn’t explain where I was for nearly all of July but it does pretty much cover August. I don’t think I’ve ever been as relieved to finish a game as I have with this one. I’m pretty much admitting that I’m a sissy here, but that was a nerve wracking game. Screenshots don’t really do it justice, conveying only the obvious fact that it’s really really dark. What they don’t really show is the way that the few sources of light realistically move and cast shadows. When well illuminated, most of the creatures in the game look amazingly detailed but more cheesy than scary. However, the way that they tend to hurl themselves out of the surrounding shadows at you never failed to make me jump. Most disturbing though may have been the sound, which featured no music but just unsettling ambient noises ranging from metallic groans and clanks to demonic laughter, hisses, and cries. The level of atmosphere created was impressive, and more than made up for the somewhat repetitive style of gameplay. The team at id games did a great job, though I figure that they owe me several pairs of clean underwear at this point.


Comment by Neal on 2004-08-24 07:55:42 +0000

I still think that the scariest thing ever in a video game was when an imp in the original Doom somehow snuck up behind you and started scratching you. That scratching noise was enough to cause nightmares.

If anyone could outdo that, it would have to be the guys at id.

Comment by Phil on 2004-08-24 11:12:51 +0000

Yeah, I agree.

By the way, did you think that the Hell level was kinda sissy? I was expecting it to be the whole second half of the game and was also expecting it to be ten times creepier than it was. There are parts in the Mars base that are creepier than anything seen in Hell…

Soul Cube, anyone? The little noise and animation that thing makes when it’s bored makes me jump every time…

Comment by Will on 2004-08-24 18:53:42 +0000

Yeah, ironically Hell was pretty relaxing compared to the rest of the game. Brightly lit and not a twitching impaled corpse to be found. Also the last boss wasn’t challenging enough. It looked impressive but was too weak. Oh well. Time to wait for some good multiplayer mods to come along.