Data Crystal

In every long running Science Fiction franchise, there is the notion of a tiny device that carries within it the capacity to store a ludicrously large amount of data by present day standards. Normally, you’ll see some character pull one of these out of his pocket, holding it up to shine in the light on the set, and then someone will pop it into a reader and the complete schematics for an entire planet will appear on the holographic screen. Read On →

Wrong of Way

It’s part of my philosophy on this site to avoid the use of profanity. I’m making an exception today, as I relate an absolutely true verbal exchange I had driving in to work today. Driving through Schenley Park, I passed a guy on a bicycle. This isn’t unusual. It turns out that in my country, people sometimes ride bikes, and often they ride them in parks. The guy was riding in the right hand lane, with traffic, fairly close to the curb. Read On →

Required Complexity

I was generating a new movie for a friend of mine this weekend, and got reacquainted with Final Cut Pro. When I started using FInal Cut, I always found the clip logging interface to be baffling. It seemed to me that Final Cut should emulate iMovie, and find the shots itself rather than make me do it. Having now made a few short movies with the software, I see that there is an inner logic to the logging system, and it turns out to be a net win in the long run. Read On →

The Game Geek is Stumped

Periodically I publish a little feature I call “Ask the Game Geek”, where I’ll take a vague description of a game that someone provided, and come up with the name. For example, I did this with the old Apple II games Sabotage and AWACS. And the Game Geek Quiz was one of our more popular articles here. I have faith in this sort of process, because “stump the librarian” web sites have solved my problems before: for example, from the description “gothic- seeming story about a girl living in Britain who has some sisters and there’s this evil doll”, a clever internet-based librarian was able to correctly identify Ruth Arthur’s A Candle In Her Room for me. Read On →

BLT

The signs of late summer and early fall are everywhere. The weather is cooling off, if only marginally. The CMU and Pitt students are back in Oakland, turning the empty campuses into a sea of book bags, flip flops, t-shirts, shorts and sweat pants. And, in the food bin, the tomatoes are overflowing. Late summer always means tomatoes, and what better dish to make with a tomato than the BLT. The key to the great BLT is in following four rules: 1. Read On →

Measurebation

Here’s a little theory called peterb’s postulate of preoccupation: “For every possible topic on which one may wank, there will exist a community of wankers that wanks upon it in the most obsessive and self-absorbed way possible.” And yes, I am well aware that this very weblog is, in fact, perhaps the paradigmatic example of obsessive and self-absorbed wanking over videogames. Believe me when I say that it hurts me more than it hurts you. Read On →

Madden NFL: Hour of the Phantom Dark Fantasy Kingdom Tactics

My addiction to Madden is well known to long time readers. It was one of the first games I bought for the new Xbox, and I always manage to find a reason to buy it again. Now, being an average dork, I am by no means a rabid football fan. I can’t really name more than a few players on the rosters of my home team growing up (Patriots) or of my current locale (Steelers). Read On →

Up and Coming

Here are some of the articles currently in the works: ï†Why Gladius is a superb game, and why it flopped. ï A Crazy Little Thing Called Beer ï “Biomass per penny” ï Measurebators ï End of the Summer: Indie Game Rundown * Game demos that convinced me to not buy a game I was completely intent on purchasing. Look for them in the coming weeks, and thanks for reading.

Psychonauts Impressions

There was a lot of general drooling over this game, especially among the game designer worship crowd. Most original design in years, they said. A constantly creative tour de force, they said. So I picked up the game at nearly full price to offset how I had given in to the man to buy Madden. After a couple of hours of play, here is my microreview: I’d rather be playing Madden. Read On →

Wow Your Camera Takes Really Good Pictures

I like to think that in my time on Earth I have occasionally taken a good photograph. Once in a while I get a really nice one and show it to people, and if that person is Pete then he taunts me with that phrase hated by all photographers: Wow, you must have a really good camera. Now, it’s true that most photography dorks are also equipment nerds. Spend any time talking to most photographers, and the conversation will inevitably turn to gadgets, lenses, tripods and other miscellaneous items. Read On →

Myst III: Exile

I feel that since I mentioned that I recently picked up Myst III, among other games, for the Xbox, I should post a brief follow-up: I have finished the game. I enjoyed it a lot; it was definitely worth the $9 I paid for it, and a bit more besides. Let me see if I can quickly outline what I liked and didn’t like about the game. I won’t spoil any of the puzzles, and I’ll try not to reveal too much of the plot, beyond what you’ll find out in the first few minutes of the game. Read On →

Things I like in Pittsburgh II

As promised, here is a second list of things that I like about PIttsburgh. Also as promised, no food places. The PSO The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in the Jansons era was among the best in the country IMHO. We haven’t been to Heinz Hall that much in the last few years, but I haven’t heard anything to indicate that things are much different now that Jansons is gone. The only thing that keeps this band down is an apparent requirement for unimaginative repertoire. Read On →

Welcome Joystiq Readers

The “Gamer’s Bill of Rights” article referred to in today’s Joystiq entry is here

Inferiority Complex

I feel somewhat self-concious about writing about games. I feel OK writing about my impressions of specific games. After all, those are just my observations. I feel like I am on shakier ground when writing about more general issues in games, gaming, or game design, if for no other reason than I only have my experience to go by and it seems like others have a lot more experience than me. Read On →

Lights, Action, Camera

The camera in Neverwinter Nights sucks. This article is about why. I’m telling you what the article is about up front, because I’m about to take a leisurely detour through many seemingly unrelated topics before circling back around to the actual point. Jungian archetypes “Я” Us As I think I’ve mentioned before, my mother didn’t like Dungeons & Dragons very much. When I would hang out at Junot Diaz’s house and play all day, she’d always call me after a few hours and harangue me into coming home. Read On →

Bundles of Whining

The Xbox 360 pricing and various bundles have been in the news a lot over the last week. The general mood among the fanboys appears to be a mixture of anger and betrayal. As usual, my feeling is that most of the traffic on this subject shows a startling lack of intelligence. Whining about the 360 system pricing seems to take one of three attack vectors. 1. Microsoft promised a hard disk based console for $300. Read On →

Things I like in Pittsburgh I

I have a reputation for not liking anything. I don’t think I deserve this, because I rant at least as vociferously about things I like as things I do not. But, for some reason people still have a distorted view of my inner pysche, leading them to comment on my articles and ask questions like: “Is there anything in Pittsburgh that you like?” Of course there is. In fact, there are probably too many to list in one article. Read On →

Tea and Sympathy

There are certain items that I run out of on a regular basis, but am too stupid to pick up ahead of time. I don’t have this problem with some things, such as milk, or bread, or fruit. But some items I seem to be wired to run completely out of before going to get more. Cat litter, for example. Coffee, for another. Wine. I’ll watch the stocks of whatever-it-is getting lower and lower. Read On →

More Road Food

We did the drive from PA to Eastern New England again to visit the parents. Found a few more places to eat along I-90. Charlie The Butcher, Buffalo NY Another Beef on Weck place, but with a different style. The meat here is more roasted than the other places I’ve been. In addition, they actually have some interesting sides, and other types of meat worth eating. The roast turkey, for example, was excellent. Read On →

Get Out of My Head

Currently eating away at my brain (in the good way) is Michael Penn’s song “Walter Reed” from his new album, Mr. Hollywood Junior, 1947. An MP3 of this song is downloadable, for free, as part of the press kit for the album. Go forth and suffer as I have suffered. If you have iTunes (and who doesn’t?) you can also watch the video. Michael Penn is married to Aimee Mann, and has done a lot of the production on her albums. Read On →

My Robot Overlords 2: The Rice Cooker

We all know the way to cook rice is with a rice cooker. For most of my life, I had used simple one button rice cookers. I had seen these “fuzzy logic” cookers, but never figured it was worth shelling out for one. On the other hand, I had also noticed that whenever you are served the really excellent Japanese rice, it comes out of one of these cookers. So last week, under the pretense of obtaining a non-stick bowl, we bought a ten cup Zojirushi. Read On →

David Mullich: The Interview

When I had the opportunity to interview David Mullich, designer of some of the most unusual and quirky Apple II games I played in my youth, I was a bit anxious. Mullich, after all, has been working in the industry for 25 years. What are the chances he’d want to talk about his earliest works? Imagine you are, say, a writer. You’ve been writing for decades. Every year you put out a new book. Read On →

My Robot Overlords

Back in the day, I served two useful purposes in the car: pick the next tape to play, and keep track of the navigational information on the road map. The iPod has long taken over the first of these duties, leaving me with nothing to do but dictate the next turn. Except for the occasional tendency to reverse right from left, I believe that i have always done a credible job. Read On →

Soba for Barbarians

I have a superb Japanese cookbook, Japanese Homestyle Cooking by Suzuki Tokiko- san. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with it. Love, because it’s a great book with many delicious and interesting recipes. Hate, because most of those recipes require what seems like days of effort to make properly, and Suzuki-san is very insistent on proper procedure. “The rice must be washed eighty-seven times, until the rinse-water is absolutely clear.” “Scrub the burdock root using a brush made only from the shinbone of a cow. Read On →

Madden Time

Another August, another copy of Madden NFL. I can’t help it. People will mock me. The general public’s evaluation of my intelligence will plummet. What little cred I had as a “cool” or independent-minded personality will go down the toilet. But that’s OK, because nothing changes the fact that the game is fun. With the exclusive license and other press around EA in the past year, it has become fashionable to decry Madden as a symbol of everything wrong in the modern game industry. Read On →

False Nostalgia

I had a feeling of nostalgia come over me a few weeks ago and got out the old manual film camera to shoot a roll of black and white and send it to a lab I found that does process-and-scan. Aside from the Leicas, there is no current production camera that is as old school as the Nikon FM3a. It has manual focus, manual wind, and that signature manual camera snick noise when you take a shot. Read On →

My Brain on Ico

When I got a PS2 last Christmas, the one nearly unanimous game recommendation that I received from the crack dealers friends I know who play games was Ico. Over and over I heard “You gotta get Ico”. So I bought Ico. That was six months ago, and I finally got around to finishing it this weekend. For most of the this time, I’ve had a mixed relationship with Ico. As much as I wanted to love the game as a truly transformative experience, my brain would always get in the way, as illustrated by this inner dialog. Read On →

The Hero With a Thousand Extra Lives

There’s no real point behind this, and we weren’t very strict about the theme, but sometimes you just have to make a list of videogame titles crossed with famous works from other media. This is one of those times. 52. Planescape: Yenta [peterb] 51. The Chain-Gunning of Lot 49 [nlanza] 50. Atlas Quaked [peterb] 49. City of Lost Koopas [peterb] 48. The BFG 9000 [fpereira] 47. The Satanic Versus Mode [nlanza] 46. Read On →

Zombies = Profit!

Lately, some friends and I have been playing a web-based massively multiplayer online game called Urban Dead. The basic concept behind the game is that you are in a town that is infested by zombies. You either play a survivor (one of various different “classes” – policeman, soldier, fireman, scientist – or you play a recently animated corpse. The thing about this game is: it isn’t any fun. Not even a little. Read On →

Crabs

The later part of the summer means there are no more fresh crabs to be had. Therefore, to make you suffer, here are my two favorite recipes for crabs and crabmeat, both of which I made up accidentally. Pan-fried Soft-shell Crabs When we lived in North Carolina one of our great pleasures in the summer was going to Tom’s seafood shack and picking up the soft-shell crabs that he had just brought back from the east coast of the state. Read On →

Schadenfreude

Allume, the publisher of facehuggerware product Stuffit has been acquir ed, for $11 million in cash and $2 million in stock. To put those numbers into context, realize that it is less than half of what Microsoft books in earnings, on average, every day. Maybe there is some justice in the world, after all.

Life is Too Short

These days, the average large scale action game is clocking in at between ten and fifteen hours of gameplay. This brings howls of complaints from the hard core gaming set and the gaming press. Over and over again, you hear people complain about the main failing of an otherwise excellent game: “It was too short”. This is nonsense. Ten hours is, if anything, usually too long. First, there are my own physical constraints: I can’t play any game in a set of long uninterrupted sessions. Read On →

Tell Me About Your Mother

Regular readers may recall an article from last summer where I mentioned some PC games I picked up from the bargain bin. At the time I wrote that article, I had started playing through one of them (Myst III: Exile) and was enjoying it. Shortly thereafter, I stopped playing it. This week, I bought Myst III: Exile for Xbox at The Exchange. I had also bought Silent Hill 3 for the PS2, another game I already owned for the PC. Read On →

Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Psu

Yesterday’s article by psu about the importance of only showing your best photos really struck a note with me. That’s why I have added a Tea Leaves™ Decisive Moments™ photostream to the sidebar. This will let us subject you to unedited garbage share the immediacy of our vision with you. First up: three weeks of cat pictures. Tally-ho! For now, I’m using Flickr to host the pictures, until I find enough free time to write a proper template hosted at tleaves.com. Read On →

Curse You Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson has a lot to answer for. Renowned for a photographic style that brilliantly balances meticulous composition with apparently split second timing, Bresson brought hundreds of iconic images into the photographic literature. Unfortunately, his style and artistic rhetoric (The Decisive Moment) became so influentional that it inspired legions of would be photojournalists to march into the streets on a desperate and largely futile search for their own decisive moments. Sadly, these armies of would-be auteurs do not understand two fundamental principles: most of your pictures are crap, and you have to know how to edit. Read On →

Notes on Designing the Perfect RPG

Random notes, from about 4 years ago, on peterb’s theory of computer role playing games and why designing fun CRPGs is so hard. “I don’t consider anything the Japanese do to be RPGs. Those are movies with extra special boring parts put in the middle for obsessive-compulsives.” Why do most RPGs suck? There are basically 3(*) elements that go into making a computer RPG. 1) Plot. 2) Conversations with non-player characters. Read On →

The Second Lance

As anyone who isn’t living on Mars probably knows, Lance Armstrong bowed out of bike racing this weekend with his unprecedented seventh straight in the Tour de France. Back in 1995, in the Indurain period, the long time cycling journalist Samuel Abt wrote a book about the transition in U.S. cycling as Greg Lemond was getting ready to retire. At the time, Lance was quoted as saying that he was tired of being called “the next Lemond”, and would rather be called “the first Lance.” I think that history will now show that Lance was right about that. Read On →

Here We Go Round The...

…mulberry tree. I always thought it was a mulberry bush, but apparently I was mistaken. I parked underneath one of these trees outside one of my favorite bars – The Sharp Edge – the other day, with hundreds of perfectly ripe (and overripe) berries of a kind I’d never seen before. They looked like blackberries. They looked really good. Risking instant poisonous death, I gingerly tried one. They tasted good. Mulberries, Maybe As luck would have it, inside The Sharp Edge was Laura of Upside-Down Pear who instantly and fearlessly identified them as mulberries. Read On →

Stating the Obvious

Those who can, write code. Those who can’t, wank about Open Source Licenses.

This City is an Ogre, Squatting by the River

Tonight, in a pensive mood, I did something I haven’t done in a while: I picked a direction, started driving, and got myself good and lost. I ended up in Clairton. Clairton is a burned-out husk of a steel-town along the Monongahela river, 8300 residents and dropping fast. If you approach it as I did, on route 837 from the north, you enter one of those curious areas created by Pittsburgh’s hilly, riparian geography: a two-lane road with almost no turn-offs, a retaining wall on one side, and the river on the other. Read On →

The Problem With Nintendo

A recent feature at The Armchair Empire takes the gaming world to task for accusing Nintendo of being “only for kids.” I think the piece makes a series of good points, not the least of which is that the current crop of so-called “mature” games are really nothing more than juvenile power fantasies for the 17 year old set. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy the odd juvenile power trip, I did, after all finish both Resident Evil and God of War. Read On →

Go George

The other day, someone was taunting me on our local chat system. He said something to the effect of “If Pete is so down on cliché and repitition, why does he watch the Tour de France year after year when Lance always wins the same way?“. First of all, in the years that I’ve watched the race, there have been four or five different winners (Indurain, Riis, Ullrich, Pantani, Armstrong). Second of all, while the three week race has been pretty much the same every year, every day is a different one day race. Read On →

God of Bore

A few weeks ago, someone apparently posted a link to my review of Gran Turismo 4 on some Internet forum. This has led to a steady stream of people flooding the comments section of that article and informing me that I’m not any good at the game, I’m homosexual, it’s impossible for a popular game to be bad, I probably didn’t actually buy it, and I am a moron for saying, publicly, that I didn’t enjoy a game. Read On →

Road Food

For your edification, a few food places you should try if you find yourself on the road in upstate New York or Vermont. Shwabl’s: Buffalo NY This is the original “beef on weck” place. Beef on weck is carved roast beef served on a bun that has caraway seeds and salt in it. The top half of the roll is dipped in the beef juice. The sandwich is given to you on a plate with slaw or potatoes or potato salad. Read On →

Attention, Tea Leaves...

If you find a URL that you think would be of interest to Tea Leaves, one way to bring it to our attention is to use del.icio.us, which I have written about in the past. Simply tag a link with for:peterb or for:psu, and we’ll look at it when we get a chance. I particularly encourage and ask for people to tag exciting indie games that they think we should be reviewing.

Formaggi Italiani

I have this problem with cheese: very often, I’ll encounter some super cheese, and then finish it, and then the next time I’m at my cheesemonger I have completely forgotten what it was that I was enjoying so much the other day. I have this problem with wine, too. Of course, sometimes I have the opposite problem, which is that I try some cheese, and it’s revoltingly awful not at all to my taste, but then I forget about it, and I see it at the cheese shop and say “Hey, I’ve never had that, I don’t think. Read On →

How to Win a Bike Race

If you haven’t watched today’s stage of the Tour, then move along. On the other hand, if you have watched the race, and you want some insight about how bike racing is both a team and individual sport, then go and find video of the stage and watch the clinic that Discovery put on this afternoon in France. After a weekend where a lot of people where aghast and wondering what happened to Lance’s team on that first stage in the hills, Discovery came out today and completely destroyed the entire field. Read On →

God of War

I worked my way to the end of this game last night. Action/Platform games usually are not my thing, but this one received nearly unanimous effusive praise both from the gaming press and sources you can actually trust (ha ha). I think the title is similar to Resident Evil 4 in that the core gameplay is really fun, but that core is brought down by a mindless adherence to annoying game design conventions that make the game less fun than it could be. Read On →

A Short Commentary on Our Times

We drove from Pittsburgh to Burlington for a friend’s wedding over the 4th. We drove through 3 states and stayed in 3 hotels and one cousin’s house in 4 different towns. The towns ranged from medium sized college towns to a small Albany suburb, to a rural population center in the middle of nowhere in northern New York. This last place was small enough to not even have a Starbuck’s. Every single place we stayed had high speed network. Read On →

The Legend of Zelda: Gamers are Morons

Today I have a simple question. I was playing the GBA port of Zelda: Link to the Past and was searching the interweb for clues into the flow of the game. What I found was a universe full of material about another matter entirely. You will recall that when Wind Waker was originally released, a lot of people complained about the “childish” look of the game. Having never seen any of the other games, I hadn’t thought much about this, and figured the kids were just pissed off because the new game was different. Read On →