Wii Hacked

January 3, 2008

Just presented at the 24th Chaos Communication Congress.

The upshot: Now you can make and run your own games for the Wii. Previously, homebrew games could only run in Gamecube mode, which had limited access to system resources (like the Wiimote).

Also awesome: Johnny Lee’s head tracking with the Wiimote.

I’ll let game-design god Raph Koster do the talking:

This is the future of the internet: open-standard virtual environments. “Anything that you do on the web… just works in Metaplace, because we work the way the web does.”

Alpha application ends Monday. www.metaplace.com

The BBC reports that West Nottinghamshire College has incorporated a modified version of Atari/Bioware’s Neverwinter Nights into classrooms as a teaching tool, and achievement scores have tripled (trebled if you’re a fussy Brit).

…before they set off in their galleon they have to fill it with the things they are going to need. This requires them to work out the area of the ship and how much they can manage to bring.

Some students managed it, others sank on the way and never progressed to the next level. They would come knocking on the staff room door and wouldn’t let us go until we had taught them how to calculate area.

Some analysis by Raph Koster:

“Games work best at teaching when the challenges are organic to the experience, rather than out of left field. This is why so many educational games suck — just strapping an incentive structure on rote practice doesn’t work very well, compared to instead building a long-term goal structure, and then presenting challenges on the way. The ‘fill the hold’ example works because the students have a goal that isn’t learning.

Seifert Surface has built a tesseract in Second Life.

He built his model of the 4-dimensional cube as a Victorian home. Here’s what you’ll see if you visit the home in SL:

Not exactly astonishing. You appear to just loop around and wind up back where you started. But stay with me here.

A tesseract is the extension of a cube into 4-dimensional space, and it’s very difficult (if it’s even possible) for humans to conceptualize it. Try to think of it geometrically, not realistically. As the square is to a line, and a cube to a square, so is the tesseract to the cube.

Another way to understand it is to imagine the vertices. In a square, each vertex extends in two directions. In a cube, each vertex extends in three directions. What happens when you add another dimension and extend the cube’s vertices in four directions? That’s a tesseract.

Hard to conceptualize, right? Take another look at someone walking through Surface’s tesseract house, this time with the camera zoomed far out:

Is it making more sense? Of course, this isn’t really what a tesseract looks like, but it’s an effective illustration. As in a cube, where each side of its component squares adjoin another side, each face of the tesseract’s component cubes adjoin another face. To represent a 4-dimensional object in 3-dimensional space,* the cubes move so their faces can adjoin.

Meg and Charles Wallace Murray never had it so good.

If you really want your mind blown, here’s a functional tesseract version of Rubik’s Cube.

SL users can portal to Surface’s “Crooked House” here.

More info here.

Still too pedestrian for you? A 5-dimensional Rubik’s Cube here.

*Technically, this is representing a 4D object in a 2D representation of 3D. But lets keep it simple.

Oblivion Gone Wild

May 6, 2006

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (a game I'm playing right now) has had it's rating changed from "teen" to "mature." It turns out that Bethesda included the artwork for female breasts in the game's files, so all it takes is a little mod to remove the otherwise-mandatory bras. Details at cnet.

Topless Breton
Oblivion is very popular, having sold over 1.7 million copies since launch. Most of those sales are for Xbox 360, though. The TES Construction Set, necessary for Oblivion modding, can only be used on the PC version.

It remains to be seen if Senator Clinton will get her panties in a bunch over this one.

Explains Raph Koster: "You pretty much have to include a nude or near-nude model in order to have a good clothing system, because anything drawn onto the base model will show through when you do certain clothing types. You could, of course,go to the extra lengths to have alternate underwear sets drawn onto alternate base models, so that there’s always a base model to choose from that works with a given piece of clothing, but what an asset nightmare."

Stacks of reading material

Kathy Sierra at the Creating Passionate Users blog offers several tips on how to manage "information anxiety" in "The Myth of Keeping Up."

Before getting to the tips, she explains that it is impossible to keep up with information in the way we'd like, offering an example of how even the Sun Java engineer can't be familiar with everything in the API's standard library of 3500 classes. She mentions that technical writers may be part of the problem, in how they write exhaustive manuals and don't provide a system to wieght the relevance of the information.

As an avid participant in support forums for media professionals, I see the expression "Read The Read the rest of this entry »

"Seed" Screenshot

Denmark-based developer Runestone opened their MMO “Seed” to public beta this week. I’d previously applied to the beta, so I got an email this morning and I’m creeping toward a client patch as I type this.

Seed takes place on the colony world DaVinci as the colonists, cut off from Earth by interstellar distances, struggle to survive amidst a massive population explosion and conflict of ideologies. Players will have the ability to influence the course of the story and game development.

Razer Copperhead

With my new Razer Copperhead gaming mouse (smooth like butter!) and a video card on the way to breathe some new life into my aging AGP gaming desktop, I’m chomping at the bit to get in some game time. Though glancing over at the SEED patcher, I’ve got about 16 hours or so before their snail of a patcher finishes its 325 MB download.

Distributed Gaming

April 20, 2006

"The Thirteenth Labor" Puzzle Card

Some ARG Gamers over at 13thlabor.tk have created a distributed computing client to help crack the code on the currently-unsolved Perplex City puzzle card #251. “We have now got 911 active clients and have processed 155,725 work units – truely passing the 1% barrier – and more importantly processing nearly 16,000 work units since posting last night,” claimed a 13thLabor blog post this morning. The original estimate called for 250 computers working together for 9 months to crack the code.

Perplex City is an Alternate Reality Game whose business model involves selling randomized packs of collectable brain-teaser puzzle cards (in a further evolution of collectable card games like Magic: The Gathering and Pokemon). The cards each carry a unique ID and players’ solutions can be verified and tallyed on an online leaderboard (my impressive profile). I recently attened a live Perplex City “game night” in NYC, hosted by Micheal and Andrea of Mind Candy (the game’s developer).

Distributed computing allows enormously complex mathematical problems to be solved more quickly by enlisting volunteers to run a program on their computers which uses spare CPU cycles to work on different parts of the problem and share their results with the program’s developers. Popular distributed computing clients include SETI@home and Folding@home, which allow you to participate in the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence and protein folding, respectively.