Monday, 11 July 2011

Carbon Price in Australia Finally Revealed

In a way, I feel like we're only just catching up with the rest of the world here . . . but it's a good thing it's actually happening.

There's a lot of press flying around arguing against the carbon price . . . generally fuelled by the companies who are currently making the largest profit from continuing to pollute. I think it's important for us to understand that making a quick buck now will slowly drive us further into destroying our own habitat. When you put the comparison between money spent vs the continuation of human survival, it takes on a much more realistic perspective.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Scenario in the Sydney Film Festival

Scenario opened to the public yesterday as part of the Sydney Film Festival. At the moment, we're completely booked out for the next two weeks! It's been a long and crazy road getting to this point, but it's finally finished and being shown to the public.

Scenario is an interactive cinematic experience that's shown in iCinema's AVIE using a visual camera based tracking system to follow users' movements around the space and allow them to interact with the virtual world. We're getting a fair bit of media attention at the moment . . . there's a CNN iReport about it here and I'm sure as the festival goes on and more people get a chance to see it, there'll be a bit more media coverage.

If you were lucky enough to get a ticket, I might see you there (it's right next to my office and I'll be the tech for a lot of the sessions).

Thursday, 2 June 2011

A working H&K UMP Made out of Lego

This is just nuts. Powered by rubber bands and able to load and fire a 15 round clip . . . A lego submachine gun.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Draft Proposal for R18+ Rating for Computer Games

The debate has been long and sometimes vehement, but it seems that in the face of large amounts of support during public consultation, there might finally be some movement on the introduction of a R18+ rating for computer games in Australia.

Details have been released at this website:

A decision will be made based on these guidelines in July this year, so if you feel strongly enough about it to have a say, there's a survey on that site that you can fill out. Personally, I'm looking forward to the medium being legitimised as being entertainment suitable for adults.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

L'art + Toi, Bethune 2011

About two months ago, I was in Bethune in northern France, setting up our AVIE for L'art + Toi, an arts festival that's going to be running up there for most of this year.

There was a lot of amazing installation art in a few different buildings around the town . . . in a lot of different and amazing formats. There was an installation where light globes moved up and down on small winches while fading in and out . . . mesmerising and soothing to watch. There was a small car like vehicle made entirely of transparent perspex and lit from inside with blue LEDs . . . and on closer inspection, was carved on the inside to show a skeleton and organs in the lighting. I've also attached a photo of one of the other pieces I appreciated:

It's always interesting being a part of these festivals . . . you get to see some really strange and wonderful pieces of art, while in the meantime you're off in Europe somewhere enjoying tasty food :)

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

A Urinal made out of Nintendo Cartridges

This was too funny to pass up . . . someone's made a fully working urinal out of old nintendo games . . .

A little more info here:

In other news, I apologise for not having blogged for AGES . . . maybe over the next couple of days I'll recap what I've been up to . . .

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Heading over to France again

I'm leaving on Saturday for Bethune, France for a week or so.

We're showing off some works in iCinema's AVIE as a part of an Art Festival in Bethune.

Apart from the cold (I checked a weather report that said it'd be hitting 0 degrees at night time), I'm looking forward to doing another international bump in and also getting to check out a bunch of the other artworks and performers who are going to be out there.

Monday, 21 March 2011


There's a new Independent Games Festival getting started up in Australia, called iFest, going up in April in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne.

For more information, check out

IGDA Sydney's definitely going to be a part of it and a lot of the same people who've done amazing work on Game Jams and other events around here are helping put this on and I think this is a great idea to get people together and talking . . . there's no better way to get ideas and collaborations going.

Unfortunately my new team won't have anything to present yet by April, but we'll definitely be coming along to see how things are going nonetheless.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Designing Games for Smart Phones

I've recently started putting together a game prototype for iOS and Android. I'm working with a team of friends and we've put together a few different possibilities and culled them down to the point where we're prototyping to test gameplay.

We've realised a few things about successful iPhone games and what you might need to get yourself into the top 25 games (and hence into where the purchasing really happens). These are the criteria I've noticed for making money on the App Store . . .

  1. Use cute animals or something similarly cartoony in your art. If you have violence it must be heavily sanitised and comedic (think Angry Birds vs Crush the Castle).
  2. Use a single simple gameplay mechanic that is easy to pick up and immediately gratifying, but has just enough depth to have a skill curve.
  3. Be able to be picked up, played and put down in about one minute. I'm not an expert on all the apps that have gone through the store, but I don't think that epic storylines have really made it into the top 25 much.
I feel like I'm a pop music producer, squashing all the art out of music in order to make sure it sells . . . but I think the real challenge is: How do you stay within those boundaries of trying to make a game that's marketable while still retaining your own game design sensibilities and well . . . your dignity.

It's early days yet, but hopefully we'll have a release to show for it in a few months . . . I'll keep the blog updated on our progress as we go along (and yes if you want to help us out with testing etc, you can buzz me . . . but it won't be happening for a while yet).

Monday, 7 March 2011

Plants vs Zombies the Board Game

There's a strong trend for turning popular computer games into board games. There's a Starcraft board game, a World of Warcraft one (I own this one but it's so gargantuan and takes so long to play that it pretty much never comes off the shelf) a Doom one etc . . . even I'm putting together a board game from a computer game :)

But now, there's a Plants vs Zombies board game!

I haven't been able to get much information about the actual gameplay, but I love the idea of taking the rules of a simple computer game and translating them to a board game. How do you deal with going from realtime to turn based? How do you create a simple algorithm that can reflect a game's AI in a simple and easy to play way? I'm looking forward to seeing how they answer these questions in the Plants vs Zombies board game.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Star Wars vs Mosquitoes

No really. People who had previously worked on the USA's SDI defense system have subsequently put together a relatively cheap anti mosquito laser system. Yes, it tracks them and shoots them down with lasers.

The article actually has a huge amount of detail for how to put this thing together, from sensors to camera aiming to laser aiming and exactly what level of laser is needed to kill a mosquito. One of the best parts is is the videos on page 4 showing mozzies being melted by lasers. Barrels of fun :)

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Remote Controlled Flying Fish

I got bounced this video, which is probably the coolest toy since remote control helicopters became huge about 5 years ago.

I don't think they're on the market yet . . . but how cool are they?

Monday, 28 February 2011

Artemis Space Ship Bridge Simulator

Nerds of the Universe, rejoice . . . your Star Trek fantasies have finally come true.

Artemis Ship Bridge Simulator is a unique social multiplayer game. If you've ever watched Star Trek, you would have seen the ship's bridge . . . with either William Shatner or Patrick Stewart sitting in his chair in the middle, politely commanding his officers to to certain tasks, like helm (drive) the ship, or control weapons etc etc.

Artemis allows you to do that with a group of your friends. With a few people sitting around with laptops, you can play out ship to ship combat by each taking on a different role. Everyone can see the main screen, the view out the front of your ship, while each station has its own unique purpose. Engineering controls the balance of power between engines and weapons and shields while the Science officer reads out radar information etc. In the middle of all this, the Captain doesn't even get a computer, they just make decisions and asks people to "Make it so".

I'm trying to organise a weekend where a few of my nerd friends will come over and play it . . . I just need to find some spandex bodysuits . . .

Friday, 25 February 2011

Game Cafe, A Solution to Game Prices in Australia

Following up on my previous post about unfair pricing of games in Australia, particularly Steam (but the gripe with Aussie prices is just as relevant in regards to EB Games and Game, our two largest physical retailers), I've come across a really useful site, Game Cafe.

Game Cafe has a list of multiple sites that will sell games to Australia (including ozgameshop that I referred to earlier). It's basically a crawler that checks all these game sites and updates their prices (including shipping to Australia). You can search any game and platform combination and it'll give you a list of 50 or so of the retailers available to Australia ranked in order of their price.

It's going to be my new first stop when checking out game prices.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Racism in Australia

So I was walking down Oxford St last night when some random guy blurted out "Konichiwa" at me.

I instantly turned and shouted "Fuck you dickhead!" as he was walking away.

Now I'm really not sure whether this was the right thing to do or even helpful at all. I was allowing someone to get a rise out of me with just a simple, ignorant, off handed remark, and in my haste and anger I had a go at him. I got home fine, that was the end of the encounter, but what if he'd taken serious offense to that and I'd ended up bleeding in a gutter?

And if it's my aim to try to educate people that racial slurs etc are not acceptable in our society, yelling out swear words at people in the street surely isn't the right way to go about it. Is it just because I'm racially Chinese and I've grown up in Australia? Have I become over sensitive to racism because of Australian society's entrenched racism? (I can just point at the Liberal Party's abhorrent stance on the recent boat accidents and funerals, or point at any talk back radio fear mongering . . . or the fact that pretty much all mass market media in our country is 100% white dominated).

I'm not that sure what to think or what to do on this matter . . . A little vision on the back of my head remembers Inglourious Basterds, where a crazy American soldier carves swastikas into Nazis heads so that they'll never be able to live it down . . . but that's absolutely crazy. Surely people who are simply ignorant of the pain they cause can be educated . . . they can be shown that people are people . . . regardless of what they look like or where they came from. Surely . . .

Friday, 18 February 2011

Steam pricing in Australia?

This is quite a common grievance for Australian PC gamers who use Valve's online content delivery service, Steam. For some reason, games are priced differently in Australia than in the USA and Europe. This is particularly strange because the games in Australia are priced in US Dollars and we're still charged a currency conversion fee by our credit card companies when we purchase.

This isn't an issue for Valve unfortunately, their own software is always fairly priced regardless of region, but it's the distributors of other games, such as Activision and EA that are unfairly raising our prices. I'll cite an example but it's by no means the only example. Generally if a distributor has priced a game differently in the Australian market, they do it across the board.

Dawn of War 2: Retribution is coming out in a week or so. A lot of people are looking forward to this, as pretty much every previous game in this franchise has been a lot of fun to play. The steam price in the USA for this game is $29.99 USD. If you look at steam from an Australian IP address, or use a credit card that has an Australian billing address, the price is $59.99 USD. This money goes to the same place . . . it is not a matter of games being heavily taxed in Australia, it's just been listed at this price by Steam. Considering you can go into EB Games and purchase the boxed Collecter's Edition (which has a bunch of extra goodies) for $58, what's the incentive of buying a game as a digital download? The whole point was that you save the distributor a whole lot of money in manufacturing and shipping and they pass on the savings. If they're specifically not passing on the savings to Australian customers, but they are to US customers, it smells pretty bad . . .

I'm not really sure what to do about this situation. I considered taking it to the ACCC, but if this is an issue that is between different countries, would they have any jurisdiction? There are some workarounds possible to be able to buy games at their US or European prices . . . the easiest is having a friend who lives in the USA or elsewhere who can "gift" the games to you via Steam. 

Another way is to not buy games via steam and use another overseas game shop such as (this shop sells boxed editions of the games, so it depends if you really want your game on Steam or not).

Either way, this is a strange situation to be in, when those of us who wish to purchase computer games legally are being so obviously ripped off . . . especially when it's so amazingly easy to find these same games on Piratebay . . . and if someone's going to so blatantly steal from you, where's the incentive not to steal from them instead?

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

MyEars - Surround Sound in Headphones

An Australian company, which was commercialised from research from the Auditory Neroscience Lab at The University of Sydney, has come up with an amazing system for surround sound in headphones.

We actually use the shape of our ears and how they affect the sounds that reach us to determine the angle of the sound we can hear. Even though everyone's ears are subtly different, MyEars has come up with a way of altering the sound sent to us via a set of headphones to give quite good positional audio.

I tried it with my high quality Shure in-ear headphones and after spending a while in the calibration tool (and getting confused by it a bit), I managed to get a setup that gave me nearly perfect positioning in the 180 degrees around the back of my head. I still wasn't quite sure about in front of me . . . those sounds still sounded a bit like they were "inside" my head. I'm not sure if that was a calibration error on my part and I need to try that again, but even if it wasn't, the technology is showing an amazing capability to position audio sources using only headphones.

Check out their website at for more info. It includes a two week trial that you can check out without paying.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Cat Shit One

I just got bounced the first episode of a new CG anime that's been released called Cat Shit One (thanks to the recent father). It's based on PMCs in the Middle East, which is kinda blase now, but the hilarious thing is that they're cute bunnies . . . no really . . . I got the authority from my significant other who is an expert on whether rabbits are cute (it's an arbitrary judgement).

There's nothing funnier than watching an assault bunnie gunning down a series of anthropomorphic camels . . . let's not dig too deep into the underlying racism in making the different nationalities into different species of animals and just enjoy the awesome CG military action.

A warning for anyone who's keen on watching a lot of this, only the first episode is out so far, out of a planned 12, and there's no release date set on even the 2nd episode . . . so I wouldn't get too excited after you've watched the first free episode . . .

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Dead Space and the New Playstation Gun

Back in 2008 a lot of us played a singularly awesome game called Dead Space.

It was a Sci fi thriller/horror game that played with hallucinations and psychic disturbances along with zombies rebuilt out of alien infected human flesh. You played as a member of a rescue team who basically only had powered tools to work with, mining lasers featuring prominently. To fit in with that, amputation was one of the main forms of killing zombies . . . head shots really weren't that useful, but if you cut the arms and legs off something, it'd be that much worse at chasing you down and impaling you on some kind of bone spike.

After Dead Space, there was the not so popular, yet critically successful Dead Space: Extraction. It's an on-rails shooter set as a prequel to Dead Space first on the Wii and now on the Playstation Network (it also comes free with the PS3 version of Dead Space 2). I played the demo of this last night and it was singularly awesome. Now all I need is the new Sony submachine gun accessory . . . that's not a joke, it looks like a sci fi version of an MP5, has a digitally attached trigger, pump action reloading and can also happily hold the Playstation Move Navigation Controller. It's coming out at the end of February to coincide with Killzone 3 and I'm pretty psyched to get one to play through Dead Space: Extraction.

This thing has a button on the bottom of the stock so you can slam it to reload your gun . . . or you can use the pump action slider underneath the barrel . . . too much fun!

After that of course, the main event will be Dead Space 2. I haven't got that yet, so I can't comment on it, but I'm certainly looking forward to it :)

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Spy Wear the Board Game

About a year ago, I was part of a team that made a game in 48 hours, Spy Wear. It was for the Global Game Jam 2010. We won the Jammers' Choice award for our game, which was about Cold War spies trying to hide in plain sight while carrying on their agendas of building up dossiers of information or killing other spies.

It mixed a couple of different ideas . . . hiding in plain sight and trying to appear as if you were just another member of the populace, while at the same time trying to watch everyone else and determine who was and who wasn't a spy.

A few weeks ago I had a couple of conversations with my workmates . . . one was thinking of getting into Game Jam and the other was talking about board games (in particular, Power Grid). Something sparked in my head and I decided that the ruleset for Spy Wear might actually turn into a really interesting board game.

So far I've incorporated the idea of hiding in plain sight . . . which is a lot harder in a board game where everyone can see which pieces everyone else is using, but I think I've got something worked out that will do a slow reveal of a person over a series of turns . . . the rules aren't really locked down yet, so I can't really elaborate on it. I kept the game mechanics of needing to visit locations to build up information dossiers, and also being able to lay bombs as booby traps for other spies.

It's all still up in the air . . . but I'll put up some information once I've got a playable version.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Echo Bazaar

A friend of mine pointed me towards this game recently.

It's a browser based game that's linked in to Twitter and Facebook, so I was initially skeptical of it, but it's turned out to be a whole lot of fun. In a way, it's a card game/RPG that's set in "Fallen London", a version of London that's sunk beneath the surface and is that much closer to hell. It's got a very Victorian tilt to it, and has reminded a few of us of Neverwhere (by Neil Gaiman) already.

I think the beauty of the game is in the storytelling. You're given a lot of choice for where you want to explore and what kind of abilities/contacts you want to pursue, but they're all a little bit dangerous and quirky. At the moment, I've been having terrible nightmares . . . reoccurring dreams that culminated in my character going completely insane . . . Right now I'm lost in a strange world of insanity. And in the outside world, my nemesis has appeared somewhere and the remembered death of an old love is driving me to revenge!

Well worth checking out . . . there's a side of the game that involves getting more actions by posting tidbits from it on facebook or twitter, which is a little bit annoying, but I haven't done any of that yet (maybe I will after this post just to show it). There's some limited interaction with facebook/twitter friends also.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Nerd Games (Board and Card Games)

A friend of mine has rekindled my love of boards, cards, dice and little wood or plastic figures :)

Dominion was the first thing that got a group of us hooked. It seems to have this universal appeal . . . I haven't been able to find anyone who didn't enjoy it, regardless of how skeptical they are of "Nerd Games".

It's a card game with a few simple principles . . . you play as a feudal lord trying to buy more land than the other lords around you. Every card you buy goes into your deck, which is continually cycled so you see the same cards come up over and over. There's a delicate balance between buying money, action cards (that let you either do wonderful and exciting things or stab the other players in the back during your turn) and victory cards. It has a nice timing feel to it . . . when is it good to build up a deck of actions, and when is it time to just start hoarding victory points for the fast approaching end of the game?

For more information, check out Board Game Geek.

Another beautiful game I just bought (at CanCon, Canberra's board games convention) is Dixit. This beautifully designed and illustrated game is all about aesthetic creativity rather than numbers.

It's a game of storytelling that's incredibly simple yet amazingly enjoyable. Everyone has a hand of cards that have cute little abstract pictures on them that could have many meanings. They choose one and tell a story about it . . . the trick is that if everyone or no one gets it, then the storyteller gets no points . . . you have to be obvious enough that someone gets it, but not obvious enough that everyone does. You end up with those classic "How could you not have guessed that?" moments :)

There's also info on Dixit at Board Game Geek.

I'll talk more about other games later . . .

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Gong xi fa cai!

Happy Year of the Rabbit everyone!

May your next year be fluffy, slightly confused and have lots of sex :P

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

I've been listening to a lot of audio books and one that I had a whole lot of fun with recently was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It maintains the original plot and characters from Pride and Prejudice, but it inserts a whole lot of zombie slaying/zombification into it.

It's a hilarious take on a classic novel . . . I guess you could think of it as a comedic literary remix. I looked past the idea that this might be a sacrilegious thing to do and just enjoyed myself with the arguments being settled by the edge of a katana and people bonding over the mutual slaying of the "unmentionables".

This novel seems to have spawned a whole range of follow ups . . . Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters for example. I'm not sure I'm going to delve any further than the first, however.

I'm getting a lot of mileage out of my Audible (Amazon's audio book service) account these days. I never could get through quite so many books on public transport (motion sickness anyone?) and it means I can listen to books even while I'm walking around etc.