Gaming Steve

May 2005 Archives

May 24, 2005

Gaming Steve Episode 13 - 05.24.2005

Will Wright and Gaming Steve

Here it is, the podcast where I sit down with gaming legend Will Wright and talk to him about Spore. In addition to the interview with Will I also cover:

  • I wrap up the various games I saw at E3 this year.
  • GameTalk: Who "won" and "lost" at E3?
  • SporeTalk: Part one of my interview with Will Wright (Warning: This is pretty hard to understand, but the transcript is in this post as well).
  • In-depth review of Guild Wars for the PC.
  • RetroReview: Civilization for the PC.
  • “Name That Game!” contest winner from last week and a new clip.
  • Plus some more random thoughts on E3 and a small preview of part two of my interview with Will Wright.
Get the podcast from this page (79 minutes): Gaming Steve Episode 13.

You can also subscribe to the weekly podcast. To view the transcript of my interview with Will Wright select "continue reading" below.

Here is the transcript of my interview with Will Wright as well the members of the Spore development team. Before the interview began Will Wright and myself began to build a new creature in the Spore creature editor…

Gaming Steve: So can you actually create a creature without a spine?

Will Wright: No no…

GS: Cause some people [on the Forums] are like "can you create an octopus or a squid"?

WW: Oh, you will have tentacles.

GS: But you have to have a spine? It has to be a vertebrate?

WW: You can actually … see I can take the spine, and if I grab the ends of it, I can actually shorten it, extremely short so I can make [makes the spine just one backbone in size] like this can be my entire spine here. So if I was going do an octopus I would probably be something like this [makes a very small round body]. I would shorten these quite a bit so, and right now we don't have the tools for it, so I would basically have the head of an octopus and under the arms and legs palette it would be something like tentacles which have many, many bones. You know they drag out here and kind of rotate into whatever positions we wanted. So yeah, you should be able to do something that looks kind of looks like an octopus. So if we roughly cheat right now, what should I do with those [places arms on the body] what should I do is shorten the bones. If I shorten them ya know I get artificial network, so in fact with tentacles you get something that could live in the water. [Works on the legs] So we’re trying to make some that looks like a hexapod.

GS: So do they have to be meat eaters? Can they be meat eaters or can they be herbivores? Or do they have to hunt and kill?

WW: Oh no, no, depending upon the mouth that you buy you are making them either herbivore, omnivore, or carnivore.

GS: Oh really?

WW: And also actually how you play them … you're kind of programming how social they are, you can develop very social behavior in which case they'll start living in herds, and they'll all protect each other. So ummm … [looks back at octopus] you can put feet on this ...

WW: I think I attempted an octopus. Before we have tentacles... ummm... let’s give him a...

Chris Trottier [Spore Designer]: How’s he going to eat?

WW: Well, where would … his mouth is actually on the bottom, right?

CT: Oh, you're making my creature!

WW: Where'd all my parts go? All my parts disappeared.

GS: So you said, I think I read, you could have water-based creatures, and so they're completely water-based, so when they go to other planets you have to build domes with water in them.

WW: Yeah, or they would probably terraform a planet by building an ocean, so they're looking for ocean planets.

GS: Oh, right.

WW: So we're going to have distributions of planets that are ocean or land based. So we're actually looking at creatures, that if you build a land-based creature the planets you come across are typically more land-based. It will actually bias the planets you come across to fit your species.

GS: So what about … are there weather conditions that in the game?

WW: We're going to have some weather, I'm not sure how much a part of the gameplay its going to really play. So here's my octopus … It’s not a very good octopus.

GS: Still it’s pretty good, for like, five minutes.

WW: Yeah.

CT: Now make him swim!

WW: Oh you're right, I should have him swim.

CT: You should put fins on there instead of feet.

WW: Okay, yeah, except all the parts are all invisible for some reason.

GS: So how does the skin texture work?

WW: Oh yeah.

GS: I know you didn't show that at the GDC.

WW: Oh yeah, we have that working in an external app, what happens is we have scripts, that actually analyze the creatures body, much like animation scripts do, and they paint the picture, they know where the backbone is they know where the belly is, and if you put like stripes, spots, fur, feathers, you can pick geometry as well. [To CT] We don't have any screenshots of like painted creatures?

CT: Screen shots of what?

GS: Cause people are wondering, like, if you get a feathery creature does it have different effects than one that has leathery skin? As opposed, is it just…

WW: We might have screenshots of this guy…

GS: Is it something that just looks pretty, like clothing, or does it actually effect the creature? Is it like the bone structure?

CT: We've gone back and forth on the skin, for a while we're thinking of having environmental effects so something allows you to…

WW: I think I showed this at GDC but this is another script along the same line. And so, and you can combine these scripts, so most of these are combinations of two or three scripts piled on top of each other and some of them can have really dense variety, we don't have any dense ones but normally, but you can have really furry looking hair, or you can have bird feathers all across it, it actually becomes geometry.

GS: I'll go quick and fast with the questions because we only have half an hour. I see clothing so are you going to be able to have clothing for your creatures, because you only saw naked creatures in the demo.

WW: That’s something we're still debating, in the tribal level, what the tools editors are going be, you're definitely going have a hut editor, umm, there’s a pretty good chance that we’re going have a … basically a dressing editor where you can accessorize your creatures. It’s not going be you know flowing cloth as it is helmets and hats, you know things you're going stick on them, like creature parts. So if we can do it, in the same creature editor, with parts, only where the creature parts work then yeah, I'll do that.

CT: What else?

GS: Alright, blow up stars. They wanted to know if there are ways to affect planets because you blow up the planet actually play blow up the star and destroy the whole system.

WW: I think so.

GS: A lot of people want to know about galactic war, “I want to know about galactic war”.

WW: Yeah.

GS: I think that’s a big question so...

WW: That actually is a simple thing for us to do. So that is really more of a game design question.

GS: The thing with that is … that’s another thing for game design because what prevents the computer from going around and blowing up your planets left and right?

WW: Oh you see, we control the computer so we can tell it not to do that. So we can allow you to eventually earn that weapon but not let the computer ever earn it. Or only if you blow up their star, and it’s a race … now they're really pissed off at you.

GS: I don't know if you're going do something like Civ does, where like, with nuclear weapons, it'll only do it at a certain level, they usually won't do a nuke weapon and if they do it affects the whole…

WW: I think the player has to opt in to interstellar war. And if they opt into it and they want to play an interstellar war….

GS: And then will the computer…

CT: It will have repercussions. Like if you take out a colony on one planet and they're allied with someone else then -- you'll hear from them.

GS: Yeah I get a lot … everyone's reading the boards and its like, "oh, I really want to know about"…

WW: Here's my octopus.

GS: Wow, that is very cool.

WW: Ha-ha!

GS: So ... stages, how does it handle when you have the stages in between, when it became a water based creature to a land based creature. It seemed to just sort of appear. Is there going be a cutscene or a transition or something?

WW: Why would you introduce to these things?

CT: Ah! I don't know how accurate these are Mr. Handout! Oh my god…

WW: [Presents GS with various design documents for the various stages of Spore] You can't take these. You can just look at them.

GS: Oh, that’s fine.

WW: This will give you some sense though?

GS: “Kidnap/Ransom”?

WW: Each level of the game you're setting some kind of aspect of the creature. Like in the creature mode, you're setting whether they're group or solo, so if they're herd creatures or very individual. In the tribal you're setting if whether they're emotional or logical. In the city one we're still kind of playing with and will still probably change. In the civ level you're basically setting diplomatic/imperial you know, diplomatic you're kind doing alliances with people you're fairly peaceful; imperialistic, you're conquering people. When you get to the space level, you're actually first are at … let me see which one is this, this is the overview of the space game where you're terraforming/colonizing and you're actually interacting with other creatures and making alliances. There's a terraforming … as you terraform, this is kind of the rough idea is that every planet has a “T Score” from zero to ten, “B Score”, which is a biosphere score, and a “P Score”, which is the population score of your colony. Depending where the planets are relative to the sun they can have maximum T Scores. So planets that are really far away or really close to the center can have very low T Scores and you can never terraform them, they’re very high. Other ones will be moderately useful, like T6. That’s going cap the B Score so if I actually get an atmosphere up to a T6, which is this range. At this point, plants will live, animals won't, and colonies will be fairly expensive still. And so, this is kind of the terraform/colonization game.

GS: Is this something that is shown to the player or is this hidden?

WW: Yes.

GS: Shown where? So they'll know like, "that’s a really good planet there." But that’s for that culture so if it’s water-based, T10 is a water planet, but for someone else that can be a T0.

WW: It’s the real estate value. So I look at a star, I look at a planet and I say, "oh, that’s a really great planet, I want that plane! Only there are already colonies there … I want to eradicate them so I can colonize it." Or it might be there's a really marginal one, and I kind of I end up losing money on it.

End of Part One of the Spore Interview with Will Wright. Check back next week for Part Two.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 11:00 PM | Posted to Interview | Podcast | Review | Spore |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

Spore Demo Video Posted

Spore WorldOkay all, it seems that the GDCTV web site has finally posted the video which shows the Spore demo. This is the exact same demo which was shown at E3 this year. Registration is free to the site so you can check it out.

This is actually good as my chat with Will Wright at E3 will make at lot more sense now since we talk about how the editors and game mechanics work (we go way past the demo shown). So here is the schedule:

Part One: Watch the Spore demo video, have mind blown.

Part Two: Listen to my interview with Will Wright (to be posted later today) and have mind blown again...

Posted by Gaming Steve at 12:00 PM | Comments (82) | Posted to Spore |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

May 20, 2005

E3 2005 - Day 3

E3 Day 3

Here is my mini-photo album from E3 day 3 ... the last day! Today I have a bit of a random grouping here with pictures from all over the show floor … I'm just glad that the show is over. Sure E3 is a freaking ton of fun, but it is so exhausting that you need a vacation afterwards.

Expect some follow-up E3 later in the week, and don't miss my exclusive one-on-one interview with Will Wright and my detailed, revealing, preview of Spore next week.


E3 Day 3

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Posted by Gaming Steve at 10:00 PM | Posted to Culture |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

May 19, 2005

E3 2005 - Day 2

E3 Day 2

Here is my mini-photo album from E3 day 2. There is a mixture of pictures from both the West and South Hall. Also the people juggling the fire were from the performance group The Mutaytor, and they were freaking awesome!


E3 Day 2

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Posted by Gaming Steve at 11:30 AM | Posted to Culture |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

May 18, 2005

Gaming Steve Episode 12 - 05.18.2005

The Elder Scrolls IV: OblivionIn this special epsiode of Gaming Steve I cover the first day of E3 2005 including:

  • Getting through the lines.
  • Xbox 360 booth and games -- boom or bust?
  • PS3 demo -- boom or bust?
  • Is Spore anywhere at the E3 booth?
  • Starcraft: Ghost impressions.
  • Guild Wars update.
  • City of Villains impressions.
  • Hellgate: London impressions.
  • Rise of Legends Rise of Nations impressions.
  • Dungeon Siege II impressions.
  • Age of Empires III impressions.
  • Black & White 2 impressions.
  • Heroes of Might & Magic V impressions.
  • The Outfit impressions.
  • Time for sleep.
Get the podcast from this page (42 minutes): Gaming Steve Episode 12.

You can also subscribe to the weekly podcast.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 11:45 AM | Posted to Podcast |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

E3 2005 - Day 1

E3 Day 1

Here is my mini-photo album from E3 day 1. Most of the pictures are from the South Hall where most of the PC games are located. Tomorrow pictures from the West Hall where Sony, Nintendo, and other console-related items can be found.


E3 Day 1

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Posted by Gaming Steve at 11:00 AM | Posted to Culture |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

May 17, 2005

Game Boy Micro

Game Boy Micro

Wow, the news is coming in so fast that it's nearly impossible to keep up with all the new systems and games being announced. Not getting lost in the shuffle is the new Nintendo Game Boy Micro. Not a ton is know about it yet but here is what is known:

  • Launch: Slated for this Fall.
  • Dimensions: 4 inches wide by 2 inches tall and 0.7 inches thick.
  • Weight: 2.8 ounces.
  • Processor: Same as GBA SP.
  • Screen: 2-inches, backlit and the “best Game Boy screen ever” with adjustable brightness controls.
  • Color: Silver only for now, expect other color options later in the year.
  • Accessories: Built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery, removable and customizable face plate, supports standard headphones.
  • Software: All Game Boy Advance titles will be playable on the Game Boy Micro.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 3:00 PM | Posted to Portable |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

Revolution Revealed!

Nintendo RevolutionSo walking down the street I saw at the newsstand a copy of US Today and low-and-behold there on the front page was a picture of the brand new Nintendo Revolution! I have to say, it looks nice, a very clean design and not a curved surface in sight. Actually, the design is almost boring when you compare it next to the PS3 and the Xbox 360. Strange how Nintendo over the years usually has the more "original" design while the other console makers put out square boxes, and this time Nintendo went the other way. I do like the little blue light inside the disc slot.

Nintendo is having the "official" unveiling in a few hours so I'm sure a lot more details will be emerging shortly, but it is interesting to see how Nintendo really does things their own way including the announcement of the system.

Here it is a little bit larger.

Nintendo Revolution

Posted by Gaming Steve at 11:00 AM | Posted to Wii |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

May 16, 2005

Playstation 3 Console

PS3 Console

Unlike the PS2 which was boxy and "tough-looking" the PS3 is now all slick and curved surfaces. It looks pretty nice, but I don't like the curved top as it makes it difficult to place games and other objects on top of the system (like the current Xbox). It definitely looks different than the PS2, that's for sure.

It's amazing what the iPod did to world of industrial design, now everything has to have curves and smooth edges.

Here are a few more choice pics.

PS3 Console

PS3 Console

Posted by Gaming Steve at 11:45 AM | Posted to PlayStation 3 |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

Playstation 3 Controller

PS3 Controller

Wow, that is one funky looking controller. It has the exact same buttons as the standard PS2 controller (which is good), but it looks really goofy (which is bad), but it is wireless and uses bluetooth (which is good), but it looks pretty large and unwieldy (which is bad). Hopefully we can actually try it out at E3 without having to wait on a 4-hour line (like you had to do last year to play the PSP) and I'll give you all a full report as to "how it feels".

Posted by Gaming Steve at 11:30 AM | Comments (15) | Posted to PlayStation 3 |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

May 15, 2005

See you at E3!

E3So unless you have been living under a rock you are most likely aware that next week is the best week in gaming goodness, the yearly E3 Expo. Personally it's my favorite time of year and three awesome days of gaming insanity.

This will be my 8th or 9th E3 (I forget which) and I'll be on the show floor, playing games, and hanging out with friends all three days. If you want to come over and say hello I look just like the picture on my site, with brown hair, blue eyes, and a goatee. I'm not super tall (only 5 foot 7) and I'll probably be wearing a white "Gaming Steve" t-shirt for easier reconcilability (yeah, it was my "friends" idea to wear the shirt). I'll probably be all over the place but mostly on the show floor. So definitely come over and say hi!

I also plan to record some podcasts this week, similar to what I did for GDC, so definitely check out the site as well. I will also take a ton of pictures and some videos for those of you non-E3s out there. Oh boy, gaming goodness here I come!

Posted by Gaming Steve at 10:00 PM | Posted to Culture |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

May 14, 2005

Gaming Steve Episode 11 - 05.14.2005

Xbox 360 LogoOh yeah, I'm back in business with an extra-large pre-E3 Gaming Steve podcast where I cover:

  • Xbox 360 is finally revealed ... let the console wars begin!
  • What games are coming out for the Xbox 360?
  • The Xbox 360 sure is powerful.
  • Sony tries to steal some of Microsoft's thunder.
  • Nintendo reminds us that they're still around.
  • Sly 3 goes 3D.
  • DS Superstar Saga 2?
  • Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories new PSP title?
  • World of Warcraft Battlegrounds in testing.
  • GameTalk: The E3 Survival Guide.
  • SporeTalk: If Spore is going to be shown behind closed doors at E3 what does that mean?
  • Quicktake: Early impressions of Guild Wars for the PC.
  • In-depth review of Psychonauts for the Xbox.
  • RetroReview: Maniac Mansion 2: Day of the Tentacle for the PC.
  • “Name That Game!” contest winner from last week and a new clip.
  • Plus some more random thoughts on the upcoming E3.
Get the podcast from this page (79 minutes): Gaming Steve Episode 11.

You can also subscribe to the weekly podcast.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 11:30 AM | Posted to Podcast | Review | Spore |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

May 11, 2005

New Podcast Update

Okay here is an update on the podcast...

First just to give you an idea of what it takes to do an hour-long podcast, it takes me around one hour to prepare, an hour or so to record it, and then a little more than an hour to do post-production work. So in reality it takes me a good three-plus hours to get a podcast done per week. Before this wasn't so bad since I would do it in the afternoon, but now with my new schedule it's a bit more difficult.

The other problem is that the place I was recording my podcasts is occupied during most evenings during the week, which has lead to more complexities. Hence my solution seemed like a simple one, I was going to setup my laptop so that I can record my podcasts in a different room (as well as for E3 next week). Of course, what seems simple is actually a million times more complex. And so begins the tale of woe...

I won't go into all the details but here is the quick-and-dirty. The hardware seemed to working fine but after I recorded an ENTIRE show it turns out that something went wonky during the recording and messed up the sound quality (basically there was a tone of "nothing" throughout half of the show). So I tried to record it again, and yet again this problem happened. And again, and again, and so on. What made it so madding is that the problem was seemingly totally random. Sometimes I could record for almost half an hour and everything would be okay, while other times I wouldn't go more than two minutes before the sound became corrupted.

Of course tech support was no help, as were other places I tried. After basically reinstalling Windows and doing a million other tricks (turning off all extra services, trying different recording programs, and so many other things) I figured I would try something different. For my setup I use a pre-amp which is plugged into my computer using a Firewire cable. On a hunch I bought a Firewire card and instead of using the Firewire built into the computer I tried using the Firewire card ... and so far it seems to be working. Of course, this just happened today and I'm not 100% sure but I want to test it out before I waste several more hours recording nothing but tone. But it seems that the Firewire hardware built into the laptop (Sony by the way) is somehow faulty. We will see but if everything goes well I will try to get the show done this weekend.

Again, I never expected to have so much difficulty setting up my laptop to do what my desktop does no problem week after week, but that is what makes working with computer so much fun! Of course the good news is that this happened this week before I went to E3 and not during E3 (which would have been a total nightmare). So very long story short, hopefully the laptop will be ready to go and now I can concentrate on recording the show and not trying to get my hardware working.

Thanks for bearing with me during this ordeal. I know some people have written me wondering where the show is, but it will be back and soon. Again, write me if you have any other questions but I'll keep you informed...

Posted by Gaming Steve at 11:30 PM | Posted to Stuff |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

May 7, 2005

The Xbox 360 ... For Real!

Let's see, if you hold an event where you unveil the Xbox 360 a week before it's to air (in this case the MTV launch party, which was taped a few days ago) you would have to think that someone with a cell phone camera would take a picture of what the new Xbox 360, the hard drive attachment, the new controller, the Live headset, and the EyeToy-like camera ... wouldn't you?

Well, you would be correct. And here it is.

Xbox 360

Posted by Gaming Steve at 8:00 PM | Posted to Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

May 5, 2005

Please Stay Tuned...

Hey all, those of you looking for the latest podcast will have to wait a bit longer. Usually I record my podcasts on Thursday afternoon and post them by Thursday night. However, I have recently taken a consulting job which means that I'll have to re-arrange my recording schedule. With my new schedule I'll have to figure out the best time to record and post the show and right now I'm leaning towards recording on Friday or sometime over the weekend.

But don't worry, the show isn't going anywhere, and I have the next show all mapped out and ready to go (I just need to record it!). I am sorry for this little inconvenience but I would rather try to follow a standard weekly schedule rather than just "fitting it in" whenever during the week.

If you have any questions or comments feel free to post me, but look for the show in a few days.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 9:00 PM | Posted to Stuff |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

Nintendo ... All Portable All The Time?

GameCube Advance

These images have been floating around the Internet today and if they are even remotely true it would be very cool indeed. Nintendo did state that they were going to release yet another portable gaming device this year ... could it possibly be the Nintendo GameCube Advance?

GameCube Advance

Posted by Gaming Steve at 2:00 PM | Posted to GameCube |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

May 2, 2005

Random Gaming Madness

GTA: San AndreasWow, not much going on in the video gaming world. Let's see what I can find which is even a little bit interesting...

Ah, this is semi-cool. Engadget interviewed Bill Gates about the next Xbox, PC media center features, the PSP, and other gaming related items. Of course it is a bit annoying when the interviewer asks Bill a question, which then completely ignores and then just talks about whatever he wants. But it's still an interesting interview.

In other news it appears that Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter is a PS3 fan. Pachter wrote a memo where he stated "We think that many investors have misinterpreted the launch of the Xbox 360 as the beginning of the next generation, and expect rapid sales growth in 2006. In contrast, we expect the launch of Sony's PS3 (expected in late 2006) to mark the beginning of the next cycle, and think that rapid sales growth will not materialize until 2007." Interesting point of view.

Finally, Rockstar released lots of GTA: San Andreas Xbox and PC details. Here's the scoop:

  • Release date(s) - June 7, 2005 (North America); June 10 (Europe)
  • 480p (progressive scan) and 16:9 widescreen support
  • Higher resolution textures
  • New lighting and shading models
  • Increased draw distance
  • Customizable soundtracks
  • New 30-second instant replay feature

Visit the new GTA: San Andreas web sites for a closer look at the Xbox and PC features.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 6:00 PM | Posted to Interview | PC | PlayStation 2 | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!