Video game aesthetics

games, by pip

via Alice comes a link to Videogame Aesthetics: The Future! by David Hayward, which is an excellent overview of where games have gone, and where they could still go in terms of graphical style and presentation, with some great screenshots of classic games which use a unique style to their benefit.

I regard it as some matter of pride that I’ve played and loved all of these games (the ones which have been released that is, Okami and Shadow of the Colossus are both on my most-wanted list though) except for F.E.A.R. (which I’ve never played) and Mono (which I’ve never even seen before).

In fact, this relates to a post I made back in May where I espoused that stylised games always seem more fun and more enjoyable than their ultra-realism-seeking counterparts. The two main reasons for this seem to be (and David mentions them both in his article) firstly the uncanny valley (which despite what David says, CGI films are capable of suffering from, witness The Polar Express as mentioned in its Wikipedia article and elsewhere on the web) and secondly the application of the uncanny valley principle to the world and the rules that govern it, i.e. the more like “our” world a game seems, the more we expect it to behave like our world, so when it doesn’t it’s reminding us that it’s just a game. Some of the best games (such as Mario 64, The Wind Waker and Ico) are ones which create an entirely self-contained world where our brains aren’t hampered by analogies to the real world and so are able to believe in the game completely.

Anyway, that’s getting off the point slightly. Here’s to good-looking, imaginative game aesthetics. Hurrah!

Web bubble blindness

I still haven’t got around to looking properly at Yahoo!s new offerings, or any of the left field things like Chris Pirillo’s new toy. There really is a lot of new stuff appearing around the blogosphere (Steve Rubel is one good source of links), and so many acquisitions – bubble city.

Bubble city is right. There’s a lot of hype, a lot of new applications, but few of them are actually a) useful or b) any good. It would be healthy for a lot of people to recover their perspective, except that of course, because it’s a bubble where everyone is making (or trying to make) money, it’s not in their interests.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t some good work going on, and that the web isn’t getting exciting again (see native SVG and ECMAScript 4 XML in Firefox 1.5; the work of the WhatWG including the <canvas> tag; Greasemonkey; the Atom Publishing Protocol; IE7, and so on), but there are also a lot of people churning out poor-to-average webapps and hyping themselves and others up beyond belief.

Or maybe I’m just bitter that I’m not getting some of that filthy “Web 2.0” lucre, eh?

Your phone is a webcam

mobiola1, by pip

It seems so obvious, I don’t why it didn’t occur to me before – my phone can take video and it has a bluetooth connection (which I use all the time for transferring photos to my PC), thus making it the perfect portable webcam device.

Mobiola is a piece of software which lets you use these features of your Symbian phone to good effect. It’s free for a 30-day trial, during which connections are limited to 5-minute bursts, and thereafter it’s $20 for life, which isn’t bad I suppose, but I always feel slightly cheated having to pay for mobile software which probably isn’t going to last me very long (due to the neverending upgrade cycle) and probably only does 70% of what I’d like it to do.

The same applies to Mobiola – whilst it’s a cool application of the phone’s features, the app isn’t really good enough to pay for, mainly because the video quality is so low. This is obviously because the PC part of the software updates the view from the webcam in real-time and there’s a bandwidth cap on how much data the phone can transfer to make these feasible.

What I’d really like to see is the option for a higher quality of video, buffered and maybe saved to the PC for viewing later, rather than displayed in real-time. Also, it doesn’t allow you to zoom like the built-in video recorder does, which was the first thing I tried to do, so that would be nice. Still, it’s a great example of the flexibility of these devices.

(thanks to kokeshi for pointing this out)

Two new web things

Jakob Nielson’s “Top Web Mistakes of 2005” is now out, and at number seven is:

Cumbersome Forms
People complained about numerous form-related problems. The basic issue? Forms are used too often on the Web and tend to be too big, featuring too many unnecessary questions and options.

Which segues nicely into the next new thing, which is Ning.

Ning is a free online service (or, as we like to call it, a Playground) for building and using social applications.

Why does your signup form say that my username has to be six characters or more when there are loads of people in the userlist with fewer than that? Why do you want to know which country I’m in and my postcode? Get off my back, stalker-freaks.

Anyway, quite apart from the inane bit about being “a Playground” Ning seems vaguely interesting, but certainly not massively exciting (certainly not as exciting as the hyperbole being spouted a few months ago about the NEW TOP-SECRET STARTUP!!!!!! which was 24-hour Laundry and is now Ning would have led you to believe). A novel social-coding experiment at least. If you’re a developer you might be interested once they’ve started giving everyone developer rights in a couple of months’ time.