19 February 2008

Gaming helping.... other disciplines!

Apparently, medicine (specifically magnetic resonance imaging) is benefiting from ever advancing graphics technology which is in turn driven by higher and higher expectations from gamers and game designers.
It makes sense in the way that any technology that is brought to a mainstream market will inevitably reduce in price faster than one that is in a restricted market. For example, in the article they mention that super computers are traditionally used to improve image display times but of course - as they point out - these are expensive... but turn back the clock and look at the proprietary graphics cards that existed before 3dFX and Nvidia and microsoft etc standardised the graphics platforms (yeah there was openGL before but i think it was fragmented in its implementation).... they were prohibitively expensive. Now, imagine if there was no mass uptake of graphics cards, no standardisation of features and extrapolate that into the present day. You end up with graphics implementations that scale in power of hardware but also increase in cost as well whereas in the world we live in, we're looking at a steady level of price to hardware ratio. Some parts come in at a higher price but generally you can get a pretty powerful graphics card for between £300 and £350.

Considering i bought my Geforce 4800 128MB for £320 a few years ago (when it was new ;) ) and for the same price you can get a 8800GTX 768MB today. That's an incredible value for money and also development of the platform at the same time.

I'm looking forward to more stories like this, where multiple parallel processors and graphics cards allow for realtime imaging of these types of disciplines.

12 February 2008

Ratings shenanigans...

Some interesting turns of events have recently unfolded over here in the UK. First off we had the whole Manhunt 2 banning by the BBFC (by them refusing to rate the game) which was a none-event for me because the ESRB gave the game an AO (adults only) rating in the states which basically amounts to the same thing.

Anyway, moving on from that shit-storm of a statement (I've found that US citizens don't like me saying that), Rockstar changed the game in some minor ways to make it more palatable... this revamped version was still not allowed by the BBFC (but was rated as M by the ESRB). This new version was sent to the Video Appeals Committee by Rockstar to try and overturn the ban - which initially succeeded until the BBFC had that decision overturned in a counter appeal. A summary of which can be found here.

Meanwhile, the Byron review - a study into the effects of videogames, their place in society and the effectiveness of ratings on protecting children from inappropriate content - has been ongoing. Recently, it has been noted that the Byron review is in favour of implementing a rating system that is legally required - for ALL games rather than just 18+, as is currently the case.

There have been reports of PEGI - which is the non-required or legally binding European ratings system (similar to the ESRB) - being criticised by the review:


Also, apparently, PEGI itself has been under review by the EU and has found to be working well though perhaps with some areas with improvement to be made.

Now, these events set off an alarm in my head - several actually. Sometimes i feel like Sherlock Holmes in my mental agility - even if there is no hard evidence to back up my conclusions :) - of course, conspiracy theories are not popular no matter how close to the truth they might be.... but here goes with my theory surrounding these events:

The BBFC had realised that the government commissioned the Byron review to placate the constituents that felt that games were bad for our culture/society and that the obvious way to placate someone who is complaining is to bring in regulation. Regulation means that you need a body to supervise and rate these games. Whichever organisation is granted this power will probably be given funding from the government to carry out the procedure and will also hold the keys to whatever content makes its way through the rating system and into mainstream society.

The BBFC is a waning power and they gained that power from the controversy surrounding violent or provocative film. Games are largely not rated by the BBFC and are instead rated by PEGI. If the EU commission decides that PEGI is fit for the job, they will make it the official organisation for monitoring and rating games. This would bypass the BBFC's control over even 18+ rated games and would render that portion of their organisation defunct. However, if the Byron review suggests that mandatory, legally-binding regulation would be good for games (and it will) the BBFC has a chance to retain and expand its power over games distribution.

Basically, the whole reason that the Manhunt 2 event occurred was to show that the BBFC had the 'balls' to be able to control and rate games released within the UK. It's the reason that they managed to get Rockstar's/Take Two's appeal overturned... why they needed to get it overturned, as if they didn't it would undermine the ability of the BBFC to rate games appropriately and thus have a good chance of being handed the reins to one of the biggest growing pasttimes in our society....

What do you think?

7 February 2008

Steaming ahead...

What with Valve's Steam seemingly set to become ubiquitous across the PC gaming spectrum with the introduction of the 'free' (read: a way to lock everyone into a good system) Steamworks still no one in the mainstream media is questioning the service.

While i do like Steam - i have an account and have bought games on the service - they are pretty poor with regards to customer service and accountability. I'm afraid i've beaten this issue a couple of times in other places but, for my piece of mind at least, something needs to be done sooner rather than later. It worries me to have an account that houses and ties together possibly hundreds of pounds worth of games but has no protection past your own password.

That's right. If anything 'bad' happens on your account - if your password is hacked or phished and your account is banned or stolen or games auctioned off - it's your fault. Valve refuses to recognise that mistakes can be made or that their VAC system could be fallible - in fact they state that VAC is never wrong and if your account is banned for suspicious activity then there is no recourse apart from getting a new account and buying the games again - for multiplayer, as singleplayer will continue to work for owned games and games bought after the ban.

Not only do valve have this ridiculous system in place - a system that your bank would be taken to court for applying to their customers - but they allow third parties to police their systems (which makes sense with respect to steamworks)... On the face of it, there should be no problem as long as the two don't conflict in terms of service but in practice you end up with schemes like the Bioshock debacle were you not only have the Steam DRM in place but the retail copy DRM in place. This was partly rectified but in my opinion the issue should never have come up. Steam DRM is all you need... there is no excuse for adding another, more complex layer on top of that.

This would all be a non-issue if only everything was transparent... but of course, the gaming industry (Publishers and developers) do not trust the people to whom they are selling their products. This is why we end up with licences rather than owning the product - and i'm not talking about the code, we should be able to own the game we bought for the premium price we paid for it or they should be cheaper. It's also why we don't know what draconian (or not) measures are put in place before buying because, quite frankly, they are (rightly) scared that consumers won't buy their products.

It's a shame and i hope it gets sorted soon. The music industry, and soon the movie industry, is learning that consumers like some control and transparency.... the game industry needs to learn this as well.

6 February 2008


Hi, i know that no one will be reading this page/blog/whatever but i felt that i should probably migrate my original blog from (http://duoae.diaryland.com) to somewhere a little more permanent and perhaps more lively? I don't know.

Anyway some things to look out for:
  • Reviews of games i've played
  • Outspoken opinions and analysis
  • Dots and fadeouts (see post title for an example of this phenomenon
I hope to post here at least once a week and get a rhythm going rather than continue the pretty crappy job of updating i'd been doing over at my old haunt.

Oh, and hopefully i'll customise this set up a bit.