Linden Lab acquires Desura games service

The Linden Lab banner behind the Desura logo

Linden Lab, the makers of shared creative spaces including Second Life, Patterns, Creatorverse, Versu, and dio, today announced that it has acquired Desura, a digital distribution service for PC gamers. The service will continue uninterrupted for current customers and the team and technology become a part of Linden Lab.

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Bioshock Infinite

Review: Bioshock Infinite

An image of a few of the pieces of the flying city of Columbia, with a statue of Zachary Comstock in the middle

Bioshock Infinite is a story about choices and their consequences, relationships, manipulation, the trousers of time, and how people react to terrible things. It’s also about a finger that is far more significant than it seems.

Bioshock Infinite is equal parts drama, horror, and The Outer Limits, spiced with flashbacks, flashforwards and Disney-Princess moments and littered with foreshadowings for those of you keeping score at home. And then, there’s the other stuff.

All of this is punctuated with violence. Not just any violence, but visceral, gory, ridiculous violence – The Evil Dead (1981) sort of violence, punctuating the story like a series of hand-crafted parodic set-pieces. Jarring, overdone, outré, overly-gamey, and yet, for all my distaste for the intricately-crafted bloodbaths of this single-path shooter, it remains that it is arguably vital to the core of the story.

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Linden Lab Launches a New Platform for Character-Driven Interactive Fiction: Versu for iPad

Versu - Linden Lab, Maker of Shared Creative Spaces

Linden Lab, the makers of shared creative spaces including Second Life®, PatternsTM, CreatorverseTM, and dioTM, today announced the launch of Versu, a new character-driven interactive fiction platform that immerses readers in living stories. Versu is available for free today for iPad on the App Store. Versions for Android devices will be released soon.

A product of Linden Lab’s acquisition of LittleTextPeople earlier this year, Versu provides unique narrative experiences in which the reader is an integral part of character-driven interactive stories. In Versu, you take on a character with distinct preferences, concerns, and desires, as you explore and change a story through your decisions and interactions with other characters. The characters you encounter are endowed with sophisticated artificial intelligence and have their own unique personalities, motivations, and emotional reactions as you interact with them. The decisions you make and how you treat other characters define your character in the story and influence the narrative, giving each title the potential for many unique experiences to explore. In the future, the tool set used to build these immersive stories will be made available to users, enabling readers to insert their own characters and scenes into the narratives they explore.

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King of the hole

A collection of banknotes and coins from various countries

Over the past several years, there have been three major players in the console market, Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony.

A console-maker has a number of avenues for drawing revenue from its console. It charges for console development kits, and code-signing, which allows it to pull a share of all third-party games revenue. It can charge network subscription fees to draw ongoing revenue from the console’s customers, it can produce its own first-party games with a greater margin than third-party developers, and – of course – it sells the actual console hardware and accessories. In short, the console-maker has the most opportunity to pull revenue from every part of the console ecosystem.

So, how much actual profit does that amount to for a console-maker? Well, in the case of Microsoft and Sony, the simple answer is none at all.

Sony’s console division hasn’t generated any profit since the Playstation 2, and Microsoft’s console division has never made a profit.

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Guns, violence, video-games, and the media

"Don't blame [GTA San Andreas logo], 'cos it ain't San Andreas' fault"

Within mere minutes of any mass-shooting, the media (and assorted interest groups) are keen to tell you why the shooter(s) did what they did. In the recent shooting at Sandy Hook, Newtown, Connecticut, everyone was keen to explain in detail exactly why Adam Lanza murdered a bunch of people and then killed himself.

Of course, since (at the time) they didn’t even have the right name, the various motivations espoused for Lanza’s killing-spree were nothing more than purest fabrication. Fantasy and lies, basically. If anyone actually has gotten it right (and the truth will probably never be known) then it was only by accident – not by any great feats of journalism, investigation, facts, statistics, or deductive reasoning.

Violent video-games (in fact, just video-games generally) once again take pride-of-place as the culprit for this incident, and that’s demonstrably a load of hooey. I won’t try to tell you why Adam Lanza (or many of these other mass-shooters) did what he did, or what would have made things better – I don’t have authoritative information on that – but I can show you that video-games are not to blame.

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Minecraft maker, Mojang, sued for patent infringement by plaintiff who can’t spell “Minecraft”

A scene from Minecraft, showing swampland, sand and water

Uniloc USA Inc, and Uniloc Luxembourg S.A. have today filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District Court of Texas against Minecraft maker Mojang, asserting patent infringement of US Patent 6857067.

The patent in question essentially appears to cover just about all forms of DRM and targets Minecraft on Android devices, as these devices call home to see if they’re authorised to run, and that’s a big no-no according to this patent.

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The Secret World

Seshat and Feldspar visit The Secret World

Two people stand in varying stages of readiness. A man with pistols and a woman holding metal claws. Both are sensibly dressed, in a field in front of a stone church.

In the wake of the release of Funcom’s new subscription-MMOG, The Secret World, my minions, Seshat and Feldspar delve into this new offering in the MMOG market and return with their impressions.

The Secret World drops players into a modern, yet magical world where most of the conspiracy theories are true. As the unexpected recipient of strange, magical energies, players align themselves with one of three vast, secret societies, to further their faction’s interests and thwart or avert whatever the apocalypse du jour may be.

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Landmark EU ruling permits resale of digital downloads/licenses [updated]

A political map of Europe, overlaid with the stars of the flag of the European Union and a pair of golden scales in the middle

So, here’s an interesting divide between USA law and EU law. In the USA, you almost never buy software or video games. No, the license says you’re only buying a license to use the software (which is conveniently being loaned to you free-of-charge on a disk or as a digital download or whatever) under limited circumstances as laid out by the license. Did you buy a copy of Windows or Call of Duty or whatever? No. The paperwork says you bought a right to use that software until the publisher says otherwise, and that the software remains the property of the publisher.

This arrangement has been upheld by US courts on a number of occasions, so no, you’re not buying those games. They’re just loaned to you under a limited set of circumstances. This holds doubly true for digital downloads, in the main.

What makes this a bit weird is that the USA’s Uniform Commercial Code (variations of which exist in most countries) has always maintained that once a purchase has been made, no further conditions can be imposed. That is, any license agreements and the like have to be agreed to before the purchase takes place and not (for example) once you open the box or start installing. US Court rulings on End-User-License-Agreements (EULAs) and shrink-wrap/click-through agreements say much the opposite, however, and it is what is ruled in court that matters.

And that brings us to the Court of Justice of the European Union, which has basically ruled that all those EULAs, and click-through license agreements are basically bunk as far as this is concerned and that you actually did buy the software itself.

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The final choice is the weakest choice

An image of the complex narrative tree for kono yo no hate de koi wo utau shoujo YU-NO, a visual novel game by games developer ELF - image source unknown

The release (and reaction to) Bioware’s Mass Effect 3 gave me an occasion to talk about game endings and the sorts of narrative cop-outs that arise from them. Now, Mass Effect 3 has had an “extended cut” of its endings, and I’m going to take that as a cue to do an extended cut of talking about narrative choices.

In short, of all of the choices presented in an interactive narrative, the final choice is almost always going to be the weakest choice.

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