Friday, December 30, 2005

Games - Innovation in Games

A good double parter (p1 & p2) on Gamespot about innovation and lack of originality in games; the main conclusion is that innovation (or at least in the form that they define it) is simply not economically viable.
In most cases, the risks of attempting to do something new simply outweigh the benefits, according to Pachter. With next-generation development costs skyrocketing, publishers want proven sellers, safe choices that they can be assured will provide a reliable return on their investment.

"The best business for a publisher is to give people what you know they want," Pachter says. "And what you know they want is a sequel to what they wanted last time. So we don't see a whole lot of innovation."

[...]

The green-lighting process is a cold, mechanical process by Pole's description, and one every major publisher uses to determine which games get made and which ones don't.

"You have to look at a product from every angle," Pole explains. "What is the product's genre? What are the platforms? How much money are you going to spend? Who are the people that are building it? Is it a licensed product? Is it an original product? You then present the idea to the green lighting committee, which is, like the senior management in sales, senior management in marketing, and product development. And then, basically, you run the numbers. And it's a numbers game after that. If the unit volume comes back and it supports the development [costs] and what you'll need to spend at marketing, then the product is given the green light."

[...]
As with so many other aspects of this discussion, it all comes down to numbers. Young says EA cross-referenced Metacritic review scores for the top 30 games of the last three years to spot trends, and they found that the best-rated games all had "1-3 meaningful innovative features that strike at the heart of gameplay." It's a modest goal, and one the company hopes will keep its annualized franchises fresh enough to continue selling.

WWE - Wrestling Media


J. Cena gets an honourable mention in the Onion A.V. Club end of year music round-up.

Technology - Keeping track of everything

The Guardian has a story about a guy who has been digitally recording his life for the last 4 years, with the help of Microsoft.
If he goes for a walk, a miniature camera that dangles from his neck snaps pictures every minute or so, immediately committing the scene to a memory built not of neurons but ones and noughts. [...] Conversations are recorded and steps logged thanks to a GPS receiver carried with him. [...]At first, he merely scanned books and work documents, but the project ballooned, embracing the mundane and the moving: details of plumbers, of others he's met, sit digitally alongside letters from his children, his advice when they hit difficult times. Conversations with his grandchildren, his wife, are there too. Occasional musings on the world that would otherwise be confined to a diary now go straight into the database, accompanied by a thousand pages of medical records.

An early insight into a weakness of the system revealed how reliant Dr Bell had become on his "surrogate memory". The hard drive of his computer crashed, losing four months of data.

In a report on the project, he describes it as "a severe emotional blow, perhaps like having one's memories taken away."

Media - New Media

It is not often that we get to introduce new medium here at the Mew, but unless I'm very much mistaken, that is exactly what is happening here. In short, the first Comicast has been posted on iTunes; as the name suggests, it's something between a an MPEG podcast and a graphic novel, but with voice-over and animated transitions. Sadly, the comic itself is dean, but I think the medium has promise.

The iTunes link is here (the content is free).

Cruise - Voted Biggest, Irritatingest


Empire magazine, the bastion of journalistic excellence, has released its annual film poll. This quote sums the story up:
Empire assistant editor Ian Freer said: "Voting Tom Cruise the world's most irritating film star may be a knee-jerk reaction to his year in the spotlight but he has also been voted the greatest movie star in the world, something this year's Mission: Impossible 3 will no doubt confirm."

Politics - Blunkett vs. Humphreys


and it's all about respect (with Blunkett the interviewer).

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Words and Men - The Rip Torn Thing.

Since, for me, Christmas 2005 will be remembered as the Christmas when I watched 3 or 4 episodes of The Larry Sanders Show every night, forgive me if my posts are a little one track.

I've been fascinated, though, by Larry's producer Artie [pictured] and his actor Rip Torn. It's his name.

I'm trying to establish the "Rip Torn Verb-Past Participle Child Naming Template". I figured there might be a McSweeney's 'Lists' post in it.

I guess we need verbs which have synonyms (to rip/to tear): the likes of "Cut Cut" won't do outside of an Asian culture.

Help me, mewers.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

World news - Unwanted old people

Guys, let's all agree to be good to our kids so this don't happen to us...

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Comedy - More Samberg on SNL Action

Yes?

In Pictures - Henry

I liked the combination of the literal and the figurative in this BBC story

A Literary Challenge

Would any of you non-Russian types care to pitch in on this one?

Conan - Nobody comes out looking good from this


It has recently come to my attention that on Jan. 5th of this year, Mr. C. O'Brien hosted the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2005 keynote presentation in Las Vegas, featuring the world's richest man in the world, Bill Gates.

Even on paper, this had all the ingredients of a wreck:
  • an hour-long interview with a hand-rubbing, charmless, disconnected billionaire
  • a geeky geeky (as opposed to hip geeky) business-conference audience
  • a cavernous venue
  • the fact that the whole thing is basically a Microsoft infomercial
The execution itself proved even better, what with its:
  • creepy, painfully cheap replication of Late Night, in both format and presentation, and
  • the almost inevitable failed product demonstration in which his own products make Bill Gates look foolish (see video snippet here) - to his credit, Conan does take full advantage of the awkwardness
My first emotion was anger and involved a loss of Conan-respect; after all, no matter how many dumptrucks full of money they would have rolled up to his house, I just couldn't see the necessity of all the sellout-y-ness. However, upon deeper consideration, I arrived at the thought that perhaps as a result of the whole MSNBC partnership, Microsoft told NBC "give us your finest man" and so Conan was doing it simply as a contractual obligation (perhaps that's just me regressing to denial).

So, if you would like to experience it in its full car-crashingest glory, click here for the 100k or 300k video - Conan comes in at around the 6:20 mark (for those time- or broadband-challenged, you can read the transcript but that does reduce the impact somewhat).

In Pictures - Will Those Men...

... *ever* learn? Also some women.

(Here are samples from each)

Games - Fan "Fiction" Taken to Impressive/Worrying Extremes


I find the dedication of this project highly impressive: these guys took a discontinued franchise (King's Quest), assembled a mostly-foreign team of 40 volunteers, and over several years, cranked out what looks to be (upon cursory inspection anyway) a professional-level product. Just to put the amount of work into perspective:
The script is 1,500 pages long, single-spaced, and the game features over 400 characters and nine different lands with over 300 different backgrounds.
That's commitment to a cause, right there. The sheer volume also goes a long way towards explaining why dialogue & storyline in games tends to be poo (reminds me of the Krusty "it's the tightest three hours and ten minutes on TV" quote).

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Hooray!

Barry the Lion wishes all you dear Mew contributors and readers Happy Winter Holidays!

Entertainment - Great skills


All the Napoleon Dynamite toys reviewed here, with photos (courtesy of the Stackenblochen blog - the original Stackenblochen video here).

Friday, December 23, 2005

World news - "The fingers you have used to dial


...are too fat. To obtain a special dialing wand, please mash the keypad with your palm now."

Film - When I was 23,

it was a pretty dean year...
so maybe 2006 will be better.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Top 5 - It was a very blah year...

Because we're men and we like to classify things logically, here are the Mew boys' Top 5s of 2k5:

Savs:
Top Single: Babyshambles - 'Killamangiro'
Top Album: Ben Folds - Songs for Silverman
Top Movie: Napoleon Dynamite
Top Game: Half Life 2 (played with GTA:San
Andreas
soundtrack)
Top Comedy: Look Around You

Gareth:

Top Single: Smog - 'The Well' (Downloadable along with some
other good 'shit', here - (sorry man, it looks like the links on that site are broke :( - Ed)
Top Album: I'm forced to rely on memory here, but I cannot recall having bought a single 2005 album.
Top Movie: Me and You and Everyone We Know
Top Game: Same as for the albums, I'm afraid, though the
Half-life 2 demo was good.
Top Comedy: Robot Chicken

Jake - [Somewhat more maudlin picks from me...]

Top Single: Radiohead - 'I Want None Of This'
Top Album: Beck - Guero
Top Movie: Broken Flowers
Top Game: Half Life 2 (original soundtrack)
Top Comedy: Arrested Development

Comedy - Oswalt on Conan


Yes, that's right, he was a guest yesterday - 21/12/05 (link).

Music - Alt. rock update

  • Thom and co are going to be active next year, with gigs, downloadable tracks and hopefully even an album. Also it looks like Nigel Godrich has been fired - perhaps it has something to do with this here:
    • Thom: That song's pretty throwaway, really. It's got guitars in it...we did it in a hurry, because it was a test. Nigel (Godrich, producer) wouldn't let us eat anything until we'd done it. It was four in the afternoon, and we were all starving. I didn't have any of the words, so I had to write them all down quickly.
  • The Lips have an album out in April, although I can't say I was overly impressed by their last single/internet track
  • A highly decent video by the White Stripes, featuring our favourite late night host

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

World news - Japanese groper dies after fleeing

Maan, those Japanese and their wandering fingers, eh?

Entertainment - Spike Jonze GAP ad

Pretty good...

The Gay Life - Elton Weds


At this point, I'd like to remind Ricky M of the document he signed in Burger King, Tottenham Court Road in 2003 stating categorically:
I, Richard Morris, promise to marry Jim Johnson as soon as society allows it.
Green light's on, Triple T.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Comedy - The Tumbleweed Awards

Definitive Chris Morris fansite Cook'd and Bomb'd has launched the Tumbleweed awards, calling out the laziest, disappointingest and most whoreish figures in British Comedy this year. Some of the nominations made my fist thrust at the air, including:

MOST OVER-RATED SHOW:
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Extras
Little Britain
Nighty Night
and
MOST BLATANT PLAGIARISM:
Broken News stealing from The Day Today
Extras stealing from Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld
Nathan Barley stealing from The Office
Check out the 'winners' here.

Entertainment - Guardian Interview with Woody

... about Match Point.

In Pictures - British Comedy

(click to enlarge)

Obviously there's plenty more (I've not included cameos), but are there any big things/people I missed out on?

Monday, December 19, 2005

Review - Games of 2005

I understand that sales isn't usually a good indicator of quality, but apparently 2005's been a bum year for games too, or at least according to the NY Times (if you need a username and password, use Username: asspants, Password: streetmeat, courtesy of www.bugmenot.com).

Music - NME's Top 20 tracks of 2005

1. The White Stripes - 'Blue Orchid'
2. Arctic Monkeys - 'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor'
3. Arcade Fire - 'Rebellion (Lies)'
4. Maximo Park - 'Apply Some Pressure'
5. Kaiser Chiefs - 'Oh My God'
6. Franz Ferdinand - 'Do You Want To'
7. The Rakes - '22 Grand Job'
8. Gorillaz - 'Dare'
9. Bloc Party - 'Two More Years'
10. We Are Scientists - 'The Great Escape'
11. Editors - 'Munich'
12. The Futureheads - 'Area'
13. The Strokes - 'Juicebox'
14. LCD Soundsystem - 'Daft Punk Is Playing At My House'
15. The White Stripes - 'My Doorbell'
16. The Bravery - 'An Honest Mistake'
17. Queens Of The Stone Age - 'In My Head'
18. Arctic Monkeys - 'Fake Tales Of San Francisco'
19. Babyshambles - 'Fuck Forever'
20. Hard-Fi - 'Hard To Beat'


I'd want to see respect given also to:
  • Hard Fi - 'Tied Up Too Tight'
  • The Tears - 'Refugees'
  • Hal - 'Play the Hits'
  • Jake Benilov - 'Russia's Cold'
  • Gorillaz - 'Feel Good Inc.'
  • Ben Folds - 'Landed'
  • The Futureheads - 'Hounds of Love'
  • Tony Rudd - 'Machadaynu'
  • The Mules - 'Redeemer'
Still can't help the feeling it's been a slim year. Anything to add?

Society - Think of the children

Well, ok, let's dissect this. The best and worst things lists point to economic and social conservatism (you know, with the bling-inspired goals and their wars on alcohol and tobacco), and the God-n-Jesus-based famous list seems to imply a strong religious slant. The implication: British households are harbouring little red-staters!

Comparisons - White rap vs. White rap

Truly painful vs. pretty good (props to Savs for the first link)

Entertainment - Morgan Spurlock's a busy man


I hope that he retains his 30 day gimmick, although I just can't see how that can be done in this context.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

World news - Santa-rampage


I don't quite see how stealing beer and attacking security personnel is a protest against the commercialisation of Christmas, but terrifying nonetheless.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Music - Dylan to be a DJ



... starting in March next year.

In Pictures - Sexy time!

Woody - Jazzin' up the UK


Before we think of Mew-ving onto greener technological pastures, check out who else uses Blogger to ply their trade...

If you see a free tick for the big man's Monday show at the Hammersmith Apollo flapping about the webternet, tell me do...

Comedy - Comedy in the Muslim World

This sounds decent - he probably should have done more "Radaman" jokes.

United States - What a concept!

Two things have made America great: Her brave troops, and the national urge to put the daughter's college fund on an outside tip.

Now gamble with clear conscience knowing that the winnings will go to maintain the USA's enormous strength. What better cause could you think of?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Jon - Reviews are in


... from The Times and The Independent (with "book reading bad, Q&A good" being the consensus). Seems like we were in famous company: "Salman Rushdie, Alan Rickman, David Baddiel, Morwenna Banks, Angus Deayton and Marcus Brigstocke" (and obviously Merchant, but perhaps he was only there to see Gervais).

In Pictures - Short Comedy vs. Tall Comedy



Comedy - Let Us Look Across the Pond Again



On the other hand, Zach Galifianakis is quickly becoming the sleeper treasure of the Comedians of Comedy show.

I'm not sure who in the UK shows this kind of dedication to their comedy craft: the 'play even if you're not getting paid' type of comic. Bumments?

Comedy - Anger at State of British Comedy: Bumper Pack

Right, Comedy Awards yesterday, and lots to be livid about.
  1. Little Britain dominates, and so-called Executive Producer "Michael Hurll" says
    'This year's comedy output on television is probably the strongest ever in the 16 years of the British Comedy Awards.'
    I'd suggest 1996 and the Partridge/Day Today dominance, but that's why I'm not "Executive Producer".

  2. Our old friend. Shades of defensiveness starting to creep in?
    Earlier, Gervais told the audience: ''i'm not confident about this award show. I nearly didn't come tonight...I've got quite a bit of this plastic at home.'

Film - The Guardian's 2005 must-see list

Month by month, here.

Media - Julian Barratt short film

A short film featuring a Julian "Boosh" Barratt performance in the Ricky M vein of acting.

Sport - Fury at Aussie training pictures

I think the closing comment sums the story up well:
Federal sports minister Rod Kemp said: "There is clearly no place for mock executions in sport training."

Friday, December 09, 2005

Entertainment - Gervais, Gervais, Gervais


Q&A here.

"Becoming Glen"

Seth MacFarlane is working on a new show with real live actors. It sounds like he may even be going for an older audience:

"It's a screwed-up 'Wonder Years' from the perspective of (a fortysomething) going back to the magical summer when he turned 32 and became a man."

Entertainment - Will Ferrell Interview

The Guardian done real good this time.

[so his parents, a teacher and the keyboardist, eh?]

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Entertainment - Films 2005

You know it's been a lean year when Wallace and Gromit are at number 5; this year's chart makes me nostalgic for 2004.

UK News - Schroeder spotted in pub, learning English


This is pretty surreal, but why not, I suppose. It's not like he's got a country to run..

Jake B - A Taste of Things to Come

When things look bleak, Jake, close your eyes and visualise your own billboard:

It will:
  • herald you triumphantly as "Yakov: Famous Russian Comedian"
  • earn you the endorsement of three consecutive Republican Presidents
  • give you opportunities to back away politely as elderly male midwesterners reach for your genitals (below).
Check out Yakov 1.0 for more inspiration. You just have to work hard enough and have the correct economic and social values.

In Pictures - Can you guess who it is?

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Space Cadets

As a young boy, I was given a book called The World's Greatest War Stories. In one, a group of brilliant scientists board planes that they think will take them to work on a top-secret project at a special base. Unbeknownst to them however, the pilots and crew are German spies taking them to their own secret base, which looks like a little piece of Britain, down to the last detail. Once there, they are convinced to work on the project by their cunning captors.

Watching Space Cadets this evening, I was struck by the obvious parallels, and the audacity of the programme makers in rising to the challenge of providing a synthetic world. There were fascinating and all too short sequences detailing a trip to Russia for authentic uniforms, food and toiletries; the sourcing of authentic hardware; the decoration of an entire army base; and the transport to the base. From what I could tell, they've done a very good job indeed.

So it's a shame they've chosen to lower the bar for themselves by choosing what looks like a roundly stupid set of participants. In the war story, the plucky hero uncovers Fritz's ruse and signals home for a rescue party. I dearly hope that we get similar drama in this series from close shaves with reality and some real efforts by the participants to work out what's happening to them, but I hold out very little hope. And consequently, it looks like all the laughs are going to be cheaply won at the cadets' expense, which will hardly make for satisfying viewing.

This talk of my entertainment demands leaves aside the much-discussed ethical issues. We've all seen the Truman Show and sympathised with Jim Carrey as the pawn. No one wants synthesised experiences over real ones, and the sense of let-down at the end is going to be cataclysmic for some. Clearly wise to the possibility of losing their audience's sympathy in this way, the producers cleverly allowed the participants to nominate a deeply trusted person to decide whether or not they should participate. There goes my qualms with the show: lost with my respect for these poor saps' choice of friends.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Wrestling - WWE is hirin'

- Posted on PWInsider:

WWE has put out a casting call yesterday through casting websites looking for a character to play, as they put it, "SHELTON BENJAMIN'S MAMA / Co-Star / Female / African Am / 50-60 Shelton Benjamin's Mama - 50's, Black, heavy set, good personality, willing to travel." They say that the character will be used three to six months, with pay "to be determined". They noted that "This woman will travel all over the country/world to perform for the "Raw" shows".

TV - Free US Office episode

TV.com has another giveaway: the US Office season 2 episode 1 streamed for free. Who can say no to 22 free mins of Carrell? Nobody, that's who.

Society - If only it were happy for both parties involved

I must admit, I don't really understand the concept of happy slapping; it just reminds me of the Jimbo reference "Videotaping this crime spree is the best idea we ever had".

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Science - Those damn mathematicians

with their brain smarts an' all.

When someone tells you square wheels don't spin, just change the road:
(from here)

TV - iTunes beefed up with Conan and the Office


Decent! It looks like Apple are really getting their stuff together and are adding more TV to the iTunes video store. The pick of the new shows - selected Conan (including the 10th anniversary special) and The US Office Season 2. Question is: is $2 a hit ($10 for the Conan 10th anniv. special) a reasonable price? Initially I thought yes (a Starbucks coffee lasts less and is more expensive), but over a 22 episode season, you're forking out $44 and then same again for the DVD boxset, since the downloads only look presentable on the 'pod (unlike music iTunes, where you can burn it to CD and it'd still sound OK).

Thoughts?

UK News - The LSE rampage


Savs, you know that there is only one way to settle this - LSE's Sir Oinkcelot has got to.

Monday, December 05, 2005

In Pictures - the favourite (and only) Man You Can Trust

Updates from 24: The Game:





Looks like some action going down at CTU
I hope that there will be suspicion-based gameplay a-plenty