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Tycho / on Fri, Nov 7 2014 at 10:41 am

We had talked about the cost disparities for videogames during a Q&A at PAX - a subset of the larger phenomenon referred to as “The Australia Tax” - and Gabriel was legit scandalized by the revelation.  I was aware of it because I am a well-rounded global citizen.  But I wasn’t aware of how screwed it is when you’re talking about non-weirdo, non-indie games you would buy at a store - it’s almost twice as much.

Obviously, it’s not actually Steam’s doing, though I think Steam could be a profound agent of change in this regard.  Steam is a global caravan, and merchants use it to charge what each market will endure.  Here is a point of distinction: I like it when a handheld isn’t region locked because I can get weird shit from Japan.  They like it when it’s not region locked so they can buy regular games at regular prices without being victimized for it.

Digital Delivery, as is often lamented, never realized the promise of cheaper software.  Not really.  Creatures native to this environment, who have no reflection on the retail shelf, have vastly more power over price.  But it should have turned software on its head there, and it would have, if not for the same Mexican Standoff that maintained retail pricing here.  Except their version of it was so out of whack to begin with that the situation is basically a incredibly detailed relief map with a placard near the bottom that says Why We Can’t Have Nice Things. 

Walking out of the theater where we’d held our talk, I was accompanied down to a signing by an attendee of the show who offered to break it down for me.  To hear him tell it, Australians pay more for things because they are paid more for things.  It is a strange place in this regard.  The first time I went, my reservation had been moved to a new hotel, and the luggage dude was like hey, the new place is close.  I’ll help you get your shit over there.  I’m paraphrasing, obviously.  But let’s be clear: I had no reservation at his hotel.  And he used one of their luggage racks to push an extended family’s worth of shit almost two blocks.  And then he wouldn’t accept a tip.  He said, “I’m paid enough.”  I had to look up that last word; I don’t think we have that here. 

He was actually running the door at that hotel this year, he had a little podium and shit, and I was like, yeah.  That’s how it’s supposed to work.   

I’m willing to accept that there are warping forces in play, but “porting scarcity” into the digital realm is something I’m philosophically opposed to.  It makes me think about the One-World Government spoken of in Revelations, in thrall to The Beast, and bearing his mark.  Obviously, this time is accompanied by blood seas and plague and at one point part of the moon falls down and strikes the Earth.  Such a regime would almost certainly result in price parity for Australian gamers, though.  So, what do we think.  Worth it?  Remember the part about the moon.

(CW)TB out.

Gabe / on Wed, Nov 5 2014 at 4:11 pm

PAX South Enforcers

PAX South is coming up in January and we could use some Enforcers. If you would like to sign up you can get all the information you need right here. Just fill out the application at the bottom of the page. We could not dope the show without Enforcers so hit that page and join the ranks.

-Gabe out

Tycho / on Wed, Nov 5 2014 at 12:02 pm

I mostly watch Twitch during the big tournaments; unlike my cohort, watching streams never became anything akin to a life practice.  Then again, I wasn’t aware anyone was doling out “content” with such a novel flesh quotient on a regular schedule.  I have certainly found some of the manifestations of this principle in the streams I’m aware of…  odd, they’re better at LoL than I am, though, so I gotta give props.  But there is a well-defined, reliably modeled relationship between the strategically deployed human teat and the pageview.  Or is that one of those things you can’t say anymore?  I’m not always super up to date on my crimethink.  In any event, I’mma get mine.

Or, and this may be more likely, not get it.

I might be able to fill a month or two just with recollections about the games I checked out at PAX; in the manner of choice meats, or, for the vegetarians among you…  asparagus(?), Indie and “triple a” games marbled the entire floor.  So I can be looking at Bayonetta 2, turn around, and then walk into a kind of Indie “mesh” from which I can barely escape.  Something Gabriel demanded I check out was Bearzerkers, which was apparently a Kickstarter, but I’d never heard of it.  It’s a multiplayer arena game, WITH A TWIST I’m kidding.  But there is a twist!  The battle arena “space” is being relentlessly plumbed at that scale of development right now, but in other hands and with less care this would not be what it is.  You play little rolling armadillos, at least, I think they’re armadillos.  You are rolling desperately away from savage pandas which are being airdropped at regular intervals so that there are always more pandas.  There are powerups you can get to mix things up, but the main way you’re going to win this game is not by harming players directly but by causing them to be harmed by digging up walls and boxing your “friends” in with these carnivores.  Bears by themselves will break right through those, they don’t actually care that much, but they’re completely impassable to your delicious friends so the ancient and beautiful dance of panda and armadillo is rapidly enabled.  There was a co-op maze race mode called Spiral that I didn’t get a chance to play, but whatever.  I would have bought it right there if I could.  I’ll let you know when it hits Early Access.

TechAssault was at the show last year, and I think everybody at Penny Arcade played it but me last time, but this year they were out on “The Promenade.”  I specifically, scrupulously avoided the area during the show on account of the taps I knew they’d have at that brauhaus thing they had out there.  But just before they did teardown after the show, we were able to get a round in.  TechAssault is basically “super laser tag,” laser tag is cool, but imagine that you had endeavored to create hybrid stock with vital Paintball and videogame DNA.  What that means for players is sophisticated, substantial, realistic weapons, and cool modes inspired by the classics.  They have a bomb you can arm that needs to have a code put in to deactivate it, and if you don’t, it emits infrared damage.  They have a bunch of prototypes I saw too, in sturdy 3D printed hulls or hypermodded Nerf weapons, with removable clips that remember their bullets and custom lenses to simulate a weapon’s spread.  They have events they do on downtown roofs, surrounded by buildings, which is an experience I need etched into my brain.  One of the things that makes me look forward to new shows down there now is gonna be watching how their tech progresses each year.

(CW)TB out.

Tycho / on Mon, Nov 3 2014 at 12:01 am

I don’t feel like the parentheses ever really closed on this trip.  Maybe the last one won’t be placed until I step off the plane in Seattle.  What it seems like happened - and I am open to alternate explanations in the vein of Grassy Knoll - is that we got off the plane, held a PAX that obliterated the first one here on every conceivable axis, made shedloads of friends, and now before I can even stack these memories appropriately in my brain I’m getting back into a plane.

Sometimes they have movies on flights that are as long as that one, except when we were coming down the movie thingy was broken.  Well, not broken all the way.  It worked enough to let you see the deep roster of incredible global cinema they had on offer but if you tried to watch one it told you to go fuck yourself.  So, Gabriel was pleased that his doctor had given him a pile of Ambien.  Way, way too much, for some reason.  Enough to start dealing, like.  I’m trying to decide if I want one on the way back.  If you look up Ambien Stories on The Goog, you’ll be set for the afternoon.  I didn’t take one earlier because it appears to put one into a state which is not consciousness, but also not sleep, and I don’t know how much I want to be there.  He popped one last time, I guess, and it was mostly fine.

I slept for a little while on the way down, and the rest of the time I looked around in the safe darkness.  I had a fantasy about using my computer on there, but it was sort of like trying to build an armoire while folded into a coffin.  “Economy” on international flights is a social experiment, like a Fallout vault, and it is about determining human thresholds.  I don’t want to get too far into my overall philosophy here, but mankind invented Hell, and we try and rebuild it wherever we go.

I told a story during one of the Q&As re: “something that annoys me” about Gurb is he’s so without an ear for pitch that when he sings along with a song he isn’t actually singing and it ceases to be a song.  But I had to admit under great pains that occasionally, occasionally, when the moon is in the seventh house, he is so wrong that he actually harmonizes with it.  The time switch to and from Australia is actually pretty close to that - the lag is so messed up that it almost, almost comes around again.  Which is good, because we just announced we’d be there in Melbourne for the next five years.  And why wouldn’t you come back here, for real.  People just straight up eat meat pies here for no reason!  Its okay to just eat a pie right out of your hand, while you are walking somewhere to get another pie.  Nobody here gives a shiiiiit.

(CW)TB out.

Gabe / on Sat, Nov 1 2014 at 4:58 pm

Surface 3 Update

I’ve had a lot of folks ask me for an update on my Surface 3 impressions. I said at the time it came out that I could not really recommend it for artists. The new placement of the Home button caused some problems but it was moving from the Wacom digitizer to N-Trig that really made the device very frustrating to try and draw on in my opinion. Microsoft has been working on various ways of fixing some of those issues and since I wrote that post they have managed to fix a lot of them.

Just a couple weeks ago Microsoft released an app called the Surface Hub that allows you to customize your pressure sensitivity curve. Originally it felt like regardless of how hard or soft I pressed I was not able to get the difference in line thickness that I was after. All of my linework regardless of pressure ended up with a very uniform thickness. I was missing the very thin to very thick lines that I was used to on my Cintiq or even my Surface 2 for that matter. With the Surface Hub I was able to adjust those settings and the end result is much improved. Here’s a look at my linework on the Surface 3 after using the Hub app to adjust the pressure curve.

At PAX Prime this year I ended up leaving my Surface 3 at home and brought my old Surface 2 to the show in order to draw the strip. With the release of the Hub app I decided to bring the 3 to Australia and see if I could use it to create an entire comic strip. I’m happy to report that it worked great and I was really happy with the results. The home button is no longer an issue and I never once bounced myself back to the start screen because my hand brushed that button. The linework I was getting felt very natural and now I can actually appreciate things like the larger screen and the adjustable kickstand.

The Surface 3 still has “hover lag” which can be frustrating but I’ve sort of learned to ignore the cursor when drawing. Essentially when you lift the pen off the screen and move it the cursor sort of drags behind where the actual pen is. It’s not “real” lag though because as soon as you set the pen down the cursor is right there. I’m using Manga Studio 5 and I’m not seeing any actual drawing lag which is really the important thing. I have to say that I’m impressed MS took the time to fix some of these issues. I can’t imagine that artists make up a large number of the folks buying this device. They listened to the feedback though and the result is awesome. This weekend I feel like I finally got the real Surface 3 I was excited for.

-Gabe out

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