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Robert Janelle's blog

6:12 AM on 04.18.2008

Sequel to Infocom's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy found!

Alright, this is really cool. Somehow Oregon programmer and journalist Andy Baio has gotten his hands on a back-up of the late text adventure maker Infocom's internal network drive.

While I'm sure the internal corporate memos make for some interesting reading, the really cool part was that there are two playable prototypes of Milliways: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, the unreleased sequel to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy game.

On his site, he's got a lengthy read dishing on all the details here

Waaay down at the bottom, he's got a Java interpreter running the prototype...sadly, it seems there wasn't much.

Though all the drama surrounding it pretty interesting.   read

1:39 AM on 04.16.2008

Rock Band finally did it...

I don't know why this didn't occur to me when I was suddenly hearing that damn Dragonforce song everywhere...but it took the headline: "Geeks Save Rock" in reference to the new Motley Crue single being released on Rock Band to make me realize it...the second coming of butt-rock has happened - much to joy, or possibly horror of many bitter old men.

Allow me to explain these musings. In the late years of high school, I was that kid. The anti-social one with the long hair who carried a guitar case everywhere and yes, was convinced I'd be a rock star once I was out of that dump.

Needless to say, reality took hold, I went to college and now I'm that anti-social long haired guy who sold his guitar to pay the rent.

But before that, I was a very active member on a musician message board where there was a constant battle going on: the floggers v.s. the wankers.

The floggers were supposedly the Korn and Limp Bizkit listening to brats who'd rather bang on detuned guitar strings than actually play their instruments, but the truth was, they were more the frat-boy types who didn't use the interwebs because that's for nerds. So in reality, the floggers were more the three-chord strumming dudes who listened to boring black-rimed glasses rock.

Meanwhile the wankers who the old dudes who got pulled into reality in the mid-90s and suddenly discovered that playing a harmonic minor scale as fast as possible didn't mean some chick was automatically gonna let them crash in her bed that night. Thus they'd had cut their hair and get boring government jobs so they could make child support payments.

But to relieve the frustration of their crappy jobs, they logged on message boards at night and made creepy posts going on about this supposed second coming when the kids were going to start listening to Yngwie Malmsteen again, start scalloping their fret boards and going meedly-meedly-meedly-meedly all over again.

Along with the rest of the younger crowd, I laughed, then sighed. We knew it would never happen. Of course...none of us were counting on Guitar Hero or Rock Band.

So, I can't help but wonder if they think they won. On the one hand, the music they pined for so badly is back in style.

On the other hand, most players probably have no idea what the harmonic minor scale is, and there aren't even any buttons on part of the neck that needs to be scalloped. Double-edged win, perhaps?   read

5:45 PM on 04.10.2008

Forget the Wiimote, THIS game is controlled with your penis

As I type this out, I'm filled with a mixture of amusement and complete horror.

The dude at Slashdong (while I love the name of the site, it's uh, unbelievably NSFW) is displaying his latest creation.

He's modified a fleshlight (Google it) with an attachment that goes to a micro-controller which in turns plugs into a USB port.

From his explanation on the site, once plugged in, your computer can sense when and how hard you thrust your joystick into the fleshlight.

Now, by doing this, you can control a mouse cursor with your johnson, though obviously movement is somewhat limited due to the fact that the entire system works by sensing air pressure. So the big question is...why?

Easy, one can now play a game about getting a naughty nurse to ride their analog controller...

The author of the original article mentions other ideas, like playing an FPS (first-person sex?) or triggering samples with your drum stick.

I think I'm seriously frightened now after reading the entire article, but hey, we all know hormones are one of the biggest driving forces for technology.


3:09 PM on 04.10.2008

Trogdor to Burninate the Wii

For some reason, I decided to head over the Homestar Runner this morning to see if there were any new games up.

Well, the only thing new is some sort of comic book generator, but I couldn't help but notice another link - "Wii Games"

At first I thought this was going to be some kind of Wii parody but upon clicking on it, found a graphic that indicates that Strongbad's Cool Game for Attractive People is "Coming Soon to WiiWare."

Doing a daily read-through of the latest articles on Wired then revealed that this has been Telltale Games' (Sam & Max makers) secret WiiWare project. According to the Wired post, the first episode is supposed to be available for download in June.

Oh, and I just remembered, it wasn't for "some reason", I was inspired by this video:

[embed]80945:10198[/embed]   read

10:06 PM on 03.29.2008

How technology inspires immaturity

I started pondering this yesterday while reading the newspaper, the way technology seems to bring out the inner (and extremely immature) child.

The article was about automating customer service and it got into trial projects looking at creating an automated emergency room check-in system where you walk in and are faced with a touch-screen terminal displaying the human body. You just tap where it hurts and wait your turn....maybe there's something wrong with me, but my mind went straight into the gutter.

All I can imagine is staggering in suffering from a heart attack and when the screen pops up, instead of indicating that I have chest pain and my arm is numb, just wildly tapping to spot to indicate that my balls hurt until my heart finally gives out and I collapse in a pile on the floor.

I'm sure eventually some doc would look at me, but they'd assume it's some kind of testicle problem.

That's only one example though. Every now and then I play web Pictionary or whatever you want to call it at iSketch. While most people are there just to play the game, every now and then THIS happens:

Obviously, it's the anonymity that does it. You wouldn't dare mess around with a triage nurse face-to-face, especially not while having a heart attack, but when all you've got a is a computer screen, baser instincts seem to take over.

I mean, really, certain temptations are just too hard to ignore. Take inSpot for example.

The purpose of the site is to anonymously inform sexual partners that they have contracted a disease from sleeping with you.

While it sounds like a good idea, it's just screaming to be used as a pranking tool....

I wonder if all the pioneers of modern technology had any idea what they were creating.   read

3:42 PM on 03.25.2008

8-bit worlds collide: Rom Check Fail

You know all those NOT ROMs for NOT emulators that nobody actually has...well, ever wonder what would happen if somehow the data in a collection of old 8-bit ROMs became corrupted and somehow the files merged?

Neither have I, but apparently the folks at Farbs did when they created Rom Check Fail for the The Independent Games Source VGVN competition.

The game opens with what is supposed to be ROM data being corrupted and then you're thrown into a crazy world where Link is running around a Super Mario Brothers level fighting off Windows 3.1 screensavers with the Bubble Bobble theme playing in the background.

But after a few seconds the ROM becomes further corrupted and you're controlling Pac Man in a Spy Hunter level, trying to eat Space Invaders critters with music from Wonder Boy playing...and it goes on as such until you clear each board of transforming baddies...then you're off to another level.

The only thing that stays consistent is the overall level layout though depending on which character you're controlling, your movement and attack options can be limited.

For example, the Space Invaders cannon can only move from side to side and fire shots upwards, bad if the bad guys are at the bottom of the board.

Similarly, Mario can only move up by jumping and has to squish bad guys, no gun for him, unlike Pac Man who can go anywhere he wants but needs his trusty white pill before he can devour anyone.

I find it a little frustrating to almost have a board clear and then have it switch to a different combination of characters that makes it impossible, but otherwise it's a pretty good time, if anything for the nostalgia factor.

It's a free download at   read

4:43 PM on 03.20.2008

Jack Thompson kills judge's fax machine

With gamers revelling in the news that every video game fan's favourite attorney has been formally sanctioned, GamePolitics has posted transcripts from the trial.

One part of his cross-examination for Alabama Judge James Moore really stood out: Thompson killed the judge's fax machine. That's right, the gloriously annoying and archaic communication medium couldn't handle Thompson's legal spam.


JT: …You entered an order, though, saying that I couldn’t communicate with you any further.

MOORE: Directly to me or through my fax machine…

JT: Okay, and what was the annoyance that you had with that?

MOORE: Just fax after fax after fax after fax after fax after fax.

JT: Do you ever get communications by fax from other lawyers?

MOORE: Occasionally…

JT: What’s the cut-off on how many faxes?

MOORE: Oh, I don’t know. You reached it, whatever it is.

JT: Anybody else ever reach it?

MOORE: No… Not close… You ruined my fax machine.

JT: I ruined your fax machine?

MOORE: It quit.

JT: Did it.


JT: What kind was it?

MOORE: I don’t know. A cheap one.


This left me wondering, was Mr. Thompson inspired by a violent video game when he spammed Judge James Moore's fax machine to death?   read

6:41 PM on 03.15.2008

Antlions: I hate those guys

Seriously, why do they have to be such dicks and keep brother down all the time?

I think the only thing I hate more than antlions are jumping puzzles in first-person shooters...not wait, jumping puzzles combined with antlions...yeah!   read

6:40 PM on 03.11.2008

Online Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy remake

I have to say, this is pretty damn cool. The BBC Radio 4 web site has a Flash remake of Infocom's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy text adventure adaptation, considered by many of to be the best title in Infocom's catalog.

The main game play is still done through a text parser (yay!) but they've added a little graphic interface as well. You can move to different locations by clicking and you've got a separate inventory screen.

Pretty nifty, plus you can create an account on the site to save your game (pretty much required after I remembered how bloody hard the game is, even if it does closely follow Douglas Adams' book.)   read

5:45 PM on 03.09.2008

Better than sex?

Spotted this on my Sunday check of PostSecret , a crazy site where people send in anonymous confessions via post card.

It left me wondering how many other people are willing to admit it...   read

11:20 PM on 03.02.2008

Silent Hill 2 in one sitting...(plus thoughts on survival horror)

I'm not entirely sure how the conversation began, but somehow while hanging out with a friend of mine whose a massive survival-horror geek, I ended up getting forced to sit down and play Silent Hill 2...and wasn't allowed to leave until I'd beaten it.

(One sitting isn't completely accurate, I did break for coffee a little more than an hour in.)

I'll admit, I have a slight aversion to the survival horror genre. It's not that ammo is intentionally scarce, it's not even the fact that the protagonist always seems to move in slow motion when attacking with a melee weapon.

It's the massive hordes of endlessly spawning monsters whose main attack is usually grabbing you and squeezing you until either your health depletes or you manage to mash every damn button and controller to get which point you're usually one hit away from dying anyway.

As I learned though, Silent Hill 2 doesn't suffer from these problems as badly as other genres.

Heck, ammo is pretty damn plentiful as long as you remember that there's no point in trying to shoot Pyramid Head...until the appropriate time of course.

Now issues aside, what does intrigue me about survival horror games is that many (not all of course) tend explore plots that I wouldn't imagine working in a video game setting...and somehow make it work.

Silent Hill 2's story line is far from unique in the world of literature and film, but for a video game it's rare to see something where the main character is working through the death of his wife without being on some violent quest for revenge.

And is it just my imagination, or does the Maria character in the game look strangely like Cameron Diaz in Vanilla Sky?

Overall, (to make this more a review than random musings) I've spent five hours of my life doing far stupider things, so I consider it to have been worthwhile.

Plus with multiple endings (possibly my favourite gameplay element ever!) odds are good I'll kill off another few hours on it. Which leaves me thinking I may need to reconsider my prejudice against the genre.   read

3:15 PM on 02.23.2008

Toddler threatened by Elmo doll

Apparently some poor kid in Tampa Bay has had someone set his Elmo Knows Your Name doll to the evil setting.

After changing the battery, two-year-old James' Elmo began blurting out "Kill James!" when squeezed.

One of the many spin-offs of the wildly successful Tickle-Me-Elmo dolls, Elmo Knows Your Name connects to a PC to learn new phrases, including the child's name (making it ideal for death threats.)

For some reason, I'm not surprised. I mean, the name "Elmo Knows Your Name" is creepy enough. It's not too far off from "Elmo knows where you live."

See a video report here   read

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