No Doubt is suing Activision for the use of their likeness in the new game ‘Band Hero.’ First let me say how much I love No Doubt, and secondly, how much I dislike ‘Guitar Hero’ or ‘Rock Band’ or whatever other version of those games are out there. Fake instruments being played badly by people who can’t play the real thing and would probably be able to learn the real thing if they spent the same amount of time practicing as much as they did hitting the colored buttons. Sorry for the run-on sentence but, those games bother me more than they should. Most musicians I know who actually play guitar or drums have trouble playing those games because they are nothing like the real thing. Maybe that’s not even the point of the games but still.

Less tirade about the games and more on the lawsuit.  According to a statement from the band “No Doubt agreed to place avatars containing their names and likeness performing three No Doubt songs in the upcoming ‘Band Hero.’” Their problem lies in the fact that users will “have the ability to manipulate No Doubt members, both collectively and individually, into singing popular songs by other artists– something the band said the didn’t sign up for.”

The band claims that other songs are not ‘appropriate for No Doubt.’ Having Tony Kanal, the bands bassist, singing ‘Just a Girl’ or Gwen singing another bands song isn’t what they agreed to. The members of Nirvana had a similar complaint recently when Kurt Cobain was used as a manipulated character but Activision dismissed claims from Dave Grohl and Kris Novoselic because Courtney (head of Cobain’s estate) Love gave them permission. No Doubt however are in a better position to argue their case depending on the contract they signed.

It’s all muddy waters on image rights. What your image, or name, can be used for based on interpretations of contracts. I for one don’t want to see Kurt Cobain singing ‘Just a Girl’ anymore than I want to see Gwen singing ‘Rape Me.’ It’s all money to Activision and nothing to do with artists wishes, legacies, or respect. To me it just represents one more reason to avoid these games.

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While the technology might not be brand new (see GE’s ‘Plug Into the Smart Grid’ campaign from earlier this year) the December issue of Esquire magazine is bringing Augmented Reality to a much wider audience. All you have to do is look for Robert Downey Jr. sitting on top of a bar-code/crossword puzzle image and the rest you do from home, or take it into an Apple store and really impress/weird out people (like that one time I used the ‘remote’ App for my iPhone and started playing videos and songs as people walked by a computer. Sometimes you have to make your own fun while you wait for people).  

According to HuffPo  when you hold up the magazine to a webcam “an on-screen image of the magazine pops to life, letters flying off the cover. Shift and tilt the magazine, and the animation on the screen moves accordingly,” followed by a 3-D version of Robert Downey Jr. joking around about the technology and his involvement.
  If you want to learn more about the magazine industry and how this is a great step Esquire’s parent company, Hearst Corp., is taking then I suggest reading the HuffPo article. Since Andrew Vanacore has already written that article I’m not going to re-hash it.

I’m going to think about practical applications for the technology. Magazine covers are neat and will help sell some copies for sure, but that’s small time. Think bigger, think about how the 3-D image can add to a user experience, a gaming experience. Add a few interactive sensors to a remote, or a person. The Wii just took gaming to the next level, again. Imagine placing yourself into immersive 3-D world’s from the comfort of your living room. The possibilities seem endless for what this technology could do for gaming.

I know I’ll be looking forward to experimenting with it more once the Esquire hits newstands in early November. From last year’s E-ink cover, to the augmented reality edition, Esquire seems to be the only magazine around who is making an effort to make print media current and exciting again. While I can’t predict the future of periodicals I can say as long as innovation exists there will always be some cash in my wallet ready to jump on it.

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So today my co-worker brought in her new “iTouch” which she’s purchased for her upcomming extended travels.  She was talking about how she downloaded PacMan, and I was trying to show her some of the games I’ve downloaded.

I thought I’d tell her about Enigmo, which is, according to creator Pangeasoft:

Enigmo is the most unique game that you’ll find for the iPhone or iPod Touch. It is a 3D puzzle game where you manipulate slides, bumpers, and other pieces to control streams of flowing liquid. Liquids (water, oil, and lava) fall from “droppers” and will bounce around the walls of a puzzle. You move and rotate the various puzzle pieces in order to divert the flow of the falling droplets so that they can reach their target. The faster you complete each level, the more bonus you will receive.

It looks somthing like this:


Now, I think this game is pretty fun. But her reply was this:

I don’t know.  It looks kind of like a boy’s game.  Like playing with your peeper.

No joke.  It was hilarious.  Because of this, I’m giving Enigmo my “Game of the Week” rating.  Because it’s almost as much fun as playing with your peeper.

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So Arik Hesseldahl may be a bit late to the party of how sweet gaming on the iPhone is.  But in his BusinessWeek article he talks about how the iPhone/iPod Touch is starting to impact the gaming industry.  He talks positively about his experiences playing a variety of games on Apple’s mobile platform, and how well they compare to the Nintendo’s DS.  Furthermore, Apple has a pre-built online distribution channel for new games in the form of the iTunes store.  Not only can I download a game as soon as it is released, I can download it directly to my device while on the go.  And that allows me to pick from more than 1500 games, with more being released daily.  Sure some of them are simple or crappy, but there’s still a vast catalog of games available.  Also in looking at the numbers, the combination of iPhones and iPod Touch devices being sold each year is starting to rival DS sales.  So while it’s not completely an apples to apples (no pun intended) comparison, Apple is able to reach nearly the same size audience as Nintendo. 

It’s unlikely that Apple would be able to unseat Nintendo or Sony purely on the gaming front.  But they’re definitely making an impact with their sales and distribution method, which should spurn the other two into continuing to release new innovative products.

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OK, so you’re a great [Rock Band | Guitar Hero] guitar player. But you just don’t feel like you’ve got the proper equipment to truly become a Rock [Band] legend.

Never fear, Peak Products has come to the rescue.

CNBC is reporting on the introduction of the Peak Starpex Guitar Controller, which works with both Rock Band and Guitar Hero. It’s a realistic wooden guitar–not like the cheap feeling lightweight plastic models that ship with the games.

The units will start shipping the first week of September, though they’ll set you back a bit–$179.99 “and up.” But hey…true rock stars don’t worry about stuff like that.

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Google threw up this article on my Gmail news ticker–Frogger, anyone?  Old-school gamers revel in nostalgia.  I thought it was a pretty sweet idea to turn a garage or spare room into an old-school style arcade.  I remembered a site I came across when I was trying to get into physical computing which sold a ton of sweet arcade buttons and joysticks for creating your own stand-up arcade boxes.  The site even has templates and layouts for your reference.

This makes me want to get back into physical computing projects.  The board I’ve used in the past is the Arduino board, which is pretty cheap and has an easy USB connection (no painful USB-serial converters necessary).  A good reference book that I’ve got is Physical Computing: Sensing and Controlling the Physical World with Computers, by Tom Igoe and Dan O’Sullivan.  It’s a little outdated, but the basic concepts are all covered, and there are a lot of code examples which can easily be adapted to the Arduino.  They cover basic tools needed, soldering, all the various kinds of components you’re likely to use, explain how to read diagrams, and much more.

But, physical computing projects aside, this brings up the point that I tend to agree with the assessment that most gaming companies these days seemed driven to provide only the best visual gaming experience, while they often seem to ignore the actual gameplay itself.  Which is perhaps why the Wii does so well–the games don’t look the absolute best, but many are geared to have a quick learning curve and are focused on fun.  Wii Tennis for instance is arguably an awful looking game when compared to the graphics of nearly any Xbox 360 game.  But that doesn’t matter, because the gameplay is super easy to learn and you can start having fun immediately.  This has always been one of Nintendo’s strong points.

Thinking about this makes me want to build a stand-up arcade and put on some of the classic Nintendo and Atari games.  Maybe some Super Mario Bros, Frogger, Pac Man, Lolo…perhaps even some Super NES games like F-Zero…or better yet, a 4-player arcade version of the original Mario Kart.

Now all I need is a crappy TV, the Nintendo from the closet in my mom’s house, and a spot to put it.

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It’s here! The 3G iPhone launched today, with lines forming around the country. Word has it that the new features touted for business users work great (damn I may have to go get one tomorrow…)

And of course, the Apps Store launched, which promises to bring a huge number of new applications to the iPhone for users to download and consume, from a app to MLB scores. And of course, plenty of games. Users of advanced mobile devices such as iPhones, crackberrys, and WinMo devices are more likely to download and install new apps than users of more traditional handsets. Other carriers recognize the big impact the Apps Store could have for Apple, and are rushing to beef up their offerings.

Much to my dislike, the great news of the masses lining up for iPhones is being drowned out by the sinking NASDAQ, but ohh well–that’s nothing new.

If you’re one of those heading out to get your iPhone today, here’s some help:

Lines are said to be shorter, and you’ll get AT&T’s…great(?) customer service. That being said, I spoke to an employee of my local Apple Store earlier in the week and he indicated that the store would have “plenty” of stock to meet demand, even if I was a bit lazy and wanted to sleep in to get one on Saturday. Of course, the AT&T location half a block away indicated to me, amid a number of if-this-then-that scenarios for how much the iPhone is actually going to cost me, that they would have the most stock for the iPhone launch. But I take everything that AT&T has ever told me at much less than face value–your mileage may varry.

And when you head down to the store, don’t forget:

  • Credit card
  • Social security number
  • Valid government-issued photo ID
  • Current wireless account number and password or PIN (if you’re new to AT&T)
  • If you already own an iPhone, remember to sync it with iTunes one last time before you get your new iPhone 3G

Good luck!

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Figures just in from last week report that “Grand Theft Auto IV” has surged past “Halo 3″ and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” to set the record for the biggest opening week of any entertainment product.”

Selling over six million units in the first week to gross over $500 million, ‘IV’ surpasses ‘Halo 3′ by $200 million. $310 million of it’s total gross came from the 3.6 million units sold on its opening day alone. It also helped that ‘IV’ was released on multiple platforms and not just Xbox 360 like ‘Halo 3′. While it’s hard to compare video game sales to the multiple windowed film format, it is easy to say that ‘POTC: AWE’ grossed a worldwide b.o. total of $960 million over a period of 19 weeks and ‘IV’ grossed over half that in one week.

I’m a big fan of the ‘Halo’ franchise as well as ‘Pirates’ but the GTA series is just not one I’ve been able to get excited about. Aside from the mature content, the style of game just isn’t my style. I don’t think Take-Two is really bothered by my lack of interest but it is interesting to see what content has brought about the ‘biggest opening week of any entertainment product’ ever.

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The “Home” 3D virtual online space for the PS3 owners will be delayed until autumn, according to Sony Corp.  This is the second delay of the “Home” service, which I believe will be similar to the offerings Xbox users can currently access via Xbox Live.  The announcement is another blow to the PS3, which is trailing both Nindendo’s Wii and Microsoft’s Xbox consoles in unit sales.  It’s hoped that when (if?) the service launches, it will help to boost sales of the system.

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