Showing posts with label Internetelevision. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Internetelevision. Show all posts

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Los Angeles Gamer Gallery: David Nett

In this first entry in the Los Angeles Gamer Gallery series, we'll be taking a quick look at David Nett. He is a gamer, actor, webseries producer/writer/director, one of the founders of Nerdstrong Gym, and a tremendous advocate for the role playing game hobby. David came to Los Angeles after attending the University of Minnesota at Duluth in order to pursue a career in acting.

I first became aware of David Nett when he and his production company put together an interesting webseries entitled GOLD. The series was about a professional role playing gamer who suffered an injury during a championship match that left him emotionally scarred and unable to effectively lead the U.S. team in international competition. His story takes place at a time when viewers are abandoning watching live games in favor of computer based competitions surrounding MMORPGs. At the time, I thought the story seemed far fetched. Who would watch live role playing game sessions? Other than me that is. In the years since, David seems to have been on to something. While online Game Streams aren't competitive in nature, they can be quite sophisticated and very entertaining.

Where the first season/series of GOLD displays all of the rough edges one expects from an early project, and a significant amount of what I call pilotitis, the second season is a very entertaining and far more personal tale. That series, entitled Night of the Zombie King, doesn't appear to be available for streaming right now, but it is well worth tracking down a copy. Where the first season of GOLD tried to simulate a world with professional gaming on a large scale, this season brings it down to the individual level and tells the tale of a gamer coming home to finish a campaign left unfinished when he moved away from his small town to a larger community. It's a tale of returning to old friends and reliving fond memories while overcoming past wrongs. It's very good and deserves to be expanded into something more.

David recently stopped by Geek & Sundry's GM TIPS show with Satine Phoenix where they discuss what to do when your stories get derailed.

From his acting and directing career, to his work at Nerdstrong Gym, David has found a way to incorporate his gaming experiences into his work and creative endeavors. This is a common theme in the Southern California gaming community, and one of the things I love about it. The gamers I've met down here are about expanding the hobby and using what they've learned in the hobby to make them better at everything else they do. When my friends and I were working on the pre-production of our failed documentary about the "gamers hidden among us" called Dice Chuckers, David was one of the people we wanted to have as our principle interviewees.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Judge Dredd: Mega-City One in Development from Rebellion and IM Global Television

Fans of Judge Dredd received some potentially good news today with the announcement that Rebellion and IM Global Television will be producing a television show that takes place in the Dredd-verse called Judge Dredd: Mega-City One. From early press materials, including the interview with Producer Brian Jenkins and Rebellion CEO Jason Kingsley embedded below, it appears that the main character of the show will be Mega-City One and not Dredd. From a creative standpoint, this is will allow showrunners and writers to explore a wider array of stories, and delve deeper into Dredd-lore, than might be possible if the creative team focused on Judge Dredd. Not that there aren't many great tales featuring the Judge, but the comic's biting commentary on American culture will be stronger if the city is a strong character.

Jenkins and Kingsley show a lot of enthusiasm for the project in their interview, but they admit their own novice status as film and television producers and highlight their partnership with IM Global Television. Founded in 2007 by Stuart Ford, IM Global Televsion has recently announced a number of major television projects in development including Judge Dredd: Mega-City One and series based on Glen Cook's The Black Company and Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s science fiction novel Cat's Cradle. It's a relatively ambitious line-up for the relatively young company, but IM Global's President Mark Stern has a solid resume of work on genre properties from his time at the Syfy network where he was President of Original Content.

It's still very early in the development process, but as someone who owns many Judge Dredd collections, board games, and rpgs, I'll be looking forward to seeing what Rebellion and IM Global Television put together.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Television Viewing Behavior Study

I am currently in the process of collecting data for my MBA thesis.  To that end, I have designed a survey.  I don't normally post solicitations like this and this will not be a regular occurrence. 

You are being invited to participate in an opinion survey regarding a Television Viewing Behavior. The survey will run for one week only, therefore your timely participation is greatly appreciated. If you are interested in participating, please follow the link below.

You can right click and choose “Open Link” or paste it into your web browser to get to the survey.

You will be asked to read an Informed Consent, which will explain the study I am conducting as an MBA student at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. The survey contains 17 questions and should take approximately 20 minutes of your time.

Your participation is strictly voluntary and all your responses are completely anonymous.

Christian Lindke
MBA candidate, Principal Investigator
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
You are allowed to share the link with others.

Friday, January 13, 2012

12-Sided Die: Should You Be Game for this New Webseries?

Earlier today, the team @12sideddie blasted the internet with a solicitation of their new gaming themed web series 12 Sided Die.

12 Sided Die is a web series directed by Daniel Murphy and written by Curtis Fortier that is aimed at the table top gaming community. According to the show's website, the show is:
A hilarious new web-series about romance, geeks, and graph paper.

Our hero: Curtis Foster, Permit Processor by day, Level Fourteen Wizard Warrior by night.

If theres one thing Curtis loves most on this Earth, it's playing a rousing game of "Swords and Swordsmen" with his friends Chris and Eric.

Sadly, the group is growing older... Eric is newly married, Chris is a father, and the time between games is growing larger with each passing day.

So, on their eve of their first game in over six months, when the stakes have never been higher, Curtis is convinced that nothing can get in his way.

Except, perhaps, a surprise distraction of his own: his neighbor Cynthia.
But is the show hilarious, and does it really capture geek romance?

The answer to this central question is maybe. The first episode of the series (embedded below) suffers from a significant dose of what I like to call "pilotitis." This is the slight awkwardness that many pilot episodes suffer from which fails to capture the full potential of the idea underlying the show, or the talent of the creators and performers of the show. A good historical example of pilotitis is Star Trek. The show's original pilot was pretty bad, but by the time they reworked the show for the second pilot the show's potential really shined through.

12 Sided Die has a good concept. It's a show about gamers and romance, but it is also a show about the difficulties of balancing a hobby with real life. Anyone who has played games, or had a passionate hobby, in their post-college/high school years understands how difficult in can be to find the proper balance in time to meet all your obligations and still find time for your hobbies. For example, I love playing board and role playing games. I also love running around the park with my wife and daughters, the allure of spending time with History and Mystery (our 3 1/2 year old twins) is a pretty significant obstacle to making time to play games. I am thankful that the girls really like the people who come over to game twice a month, and even more grateful that my friends like spending time with the girls. To be honest, if they weren't willing to let the girls "watch" us play it would be a deal breaker. History and Mystery would win out in the battle of hobby vs. family and which provides more joy. That said, my group does enjoy having the girls come around and the girls love to play with our "little men." It's that kind of tension, though other tensions as well, that underlie the dramatic/comedic conflicts of 12 Sided Die. Just add a dose of 30 something and single/looking for a relationship, and you've captured the show perfectly.

Back to the show's pilotitis. It leaps out at you from the first scene. The lighting during the play session in the opening is a distraction. The room looks unnaturally yellow, when it should be lit to look like a normally lit apartment. The problem is that they filmed a normally lit apartment, and normally lit apartments don't look like normally lit apartments on film. This scene is also a tad overacted. While Christopher Gehrman's over the top performance as the dungeon master can be forgiven, as he's playing an over the top dungeon master, Curtis Fortier's performance in this scene needs to be backed down a little. Not his "in character" performance, but his "I'm so excited about where the game campaign is going" performance, the same should be said of Eric Vesbit's performance in the scene as well. As the show progresses, the actors seem to fall into more natural rhythms and I don't see this being a problem in the long haul. It is just something that needs to be pointed out. As Hamlet would say:

Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to
you, trippingly on the tongue:but if you mouth it,
as many of your players do, I had as lief the
town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air
too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently;
for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say,
the whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget
a temperance that may give it smoothness. O, it
offends me to the soul to hear a robustious
periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to
very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings, who
for the most part are capable of nothing but
inexplicable dumbshows and noise: I would have such
a fellow whipped for o'erdoing Termagant; it
out-herods Herod: pray you, avoid it.

It should also be noted that the sound design is a bit off. There is an overuse of score, and the individual sound edits don't always match up with what I'm supposed to be hearing. This is particularly acute during a scene in which Curtis makes himself some "Strawberry Milk."

The show's strongest suit is in the story, it has a nicely done cliffhanger that is timed almost perfectly. This is a tale of a group who hasn't met to continue their game for almost 6-months given their current responsibilities, what happens when a new romance enters one of their lives? It's a nice touch, and well done. Kristina Lynn Bell is a nice choice for the romantic interest. I was a bit concerned with her introductory performance. Her acting to the audience "behind the fourth wall" started out a tad over the top, but by the end of the scene she won me over. The camera angles were bit off, but her performance really started to hit a sweet spot.

All of this can be written off as pilotitis, and I will certainly return for a second episode. The show as it stands did leave me wanting to see what happens next. It really left me wanting to see what happens next.   So...what happens next?!

But there was one thing that I couldn't quite write off as pilotitis, and it affected the verisimilitude of the entire show. That was the use of "made up game mechanics" that didn't quite sound like real game mechanics. I can understand, and appreciate, the desire to avoid violating other people's copyright. But in a d20 license world, there is no reason for a character to utter the line, "I'll cast my Pyro spell." Especially when one could just as easily say "I'll cast my Fireball." Heck, even in a pre-OGL world, you could have gotten away with that. This was magnified by the fact that the writers were willing to include real world references to Coke and Mountain Dew, but stumbled at the mention of concepts that would most appeal to their target audience. Don't be afraid to say D&D. Even better, if you want to have a little "geek cred" as Erik Mona and crew at Paizo if you can use the Pathfinder brand as your game of choice. If they say no, it doesn't matter. The rules are Open, just avoid Golarion specific references.

All of my criticisms are written with the understanding that these people are working really hard to provide something entertaining that they really believe in (see Jody Lindke's recent blog post on the subject).   But they are also written in the hopes that the show will address small problems and continue to improve.  There is something here.  Something that is already worth watching, for gamers, but it is something that could appeal to an even broader audience if it continues to improve on its strengths and address any weaknesses.  Entertaining people at all is hard.  The 12 Sided Die crew have already succeeded in entertaining me, now I want them to blow me away.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cinerati Netflix Recommendation: "The Last Detective"

Picture, if you will, the typical American police procedural.  If you have the same picture in your mind that I do, then you are picturing a team of detectives rushing to solve a crime.  They are rushing to fight against the "First 48" hours after which the solution of a murder/crime becomes more difficult.  They receive their forensic data at lightning speed, have a coroner on call, and the episodes often contain exciting chases and flashy gunfights. 

Sometimes, just sometimes, we get to see the actual procedures of the investigator -- if we happen to be watching a classic episode of "Law & Order."  Even then, the show is episodic and mystery driven.  Certainly, in the best procedural dramas like "Justified," the main detective evolves as the season progresses and his life is an on going sub-plot that ties episodes together.  But it is rare that the detective's story move beyond sub-plot to become the driving force in the show, and it is the mysteries themselves that dominate.  The best procedural dramas have strong sub-plots that become long standing arcs where the characters evolve over time and become real to the viewers.  In the worst procedural dramas, some of which are among my guilty pleasures, the detectives never become more than ciphers who rampage through mystery after mystery.  Yes...rampage through mystery after mystery, their gunfire solving crimes as often as the justice system.

The ITV drama "The Last Detective" is the best sort of police procedural.  It's mysteries take their time in resolving themselves, and the detective exploring them is a delight to watch.  He is calm, understated, and intelligent.  Detective Constable "Dangerous" Davies, played by Peter Davison, is anything but dangerous and is initially disliked by his fellow detectives for his low key personality.  In the first episode, he increases their dislike of him when he relentlessly pursues a mystery investigation to its unfortunate end.   "Dangerous" is given the title "the last detective" because of this investigation.  It is his supervisor's way of telling him that when a crime comes to the department, Dangerous will be the last detective called to investigate it.  That is unless the crime is so lame/irritating that no one else will do it.

The manner in which the pilot episode allows the investigation to reveal the life and personality of the murder victim is a marvel to watch.   As the investigation unfolds the viewer comes to care for the victim, a rare phenomenon in procedural dramas.  The third episode has that rarest of rarest occurrences, an unsolved crime, but that unsolved crime leads to an interesting narrative of obsession and the risks that detectives constantly take.

I have always had a soft spot for Peter Davison as an actor.  He was the first "Doctor" I watched on television and the "Fifth Doctor" is still my favorite.  Davison brings all of his charm and charisma to this show.  If you've got the time, give it a try.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Geekerati Radio: Once More Speaking Out with Our Geek Out

On May 14th, 2007 the Geekerati Radio podcast streamed its first "live streaming" episode at Blog Talk Radio. That day I turned on my computer, started up Skype, and dialed a conference call with Bill Cunningham, Eric Lytle, and Shawna Benson. Within minutes we were discussing what we thought of the then upcoming 2007 summer blockbuster movie season. We scheduled the show to run for one hour, and the episode ended up at 73 minutes. Sixty of those minutes streamed live, the remaining minutes were "overtime."

Given our love of all aspects of popular culture the "overtime" feature became a regular component of our show. Unlike most podcasts, those based at Blog Talk Radio are live shows that can receive callers and we wanted to take advantage of that benefit. We also seem to have an uncanny ability to speak on and on about the things we love. So this left us with circumstances we could leverage to make our show a little more distinct from other podcasts/online radio shows. We could have live callers like a radio show (not that we ever received too many of those), and we could have bonus footage that could only be heard on the archive of our episode. Those who listened live could call in, but those who relistened -- or listened at a later date -- could hear the full content of our show. We loved it.

Between May 14th, 2007 and September 13th, 2010 we recorded 131 episodes of the show. For the first couple of years we aired weekly almost without fail, but that changed as life's obligations intruded one time too many into our schedules. The show came to a grinding halt, but that is all about to change.

Tuesday marked the 1 year anniversary of the "last" episode of Geekerati Radio, but this Sunday marks the triumphant return of an activity I deeply enjoy. Shawna Benson and I will be joining forces to discuss the upcoming fall season of television. Shawna is quite the television buff and she's got the lowdown on what's hot, what's not, and what the sleepers and disappointments will be. It should make for a great discussion.

Join us this Sunday at 4pm Pacific as we discuss the upcoming season, reminisce over Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and ponder the future of "television scheduling." We live in an exciting era for content. If you want to participate in the conversation, you can call us at (646) 478-5041 during the episode. We'll be happy to take your call, it can't be as weird as our infamous "what is this show about" call.

Our past episodes include interviews with:

  1. Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis
  2. Brandon Sanderson
  3. Brent Weeks
  4. Marc Bernardin
  5. Tim Minear
  6. John Rogers

That's only a smattering of the guests we've had in the past, and the kinds of guests we'll be having in the future.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Twin Suns Entertainment and the Fourth Generation of RPGs

In 1993, Mike Pondsmith of R. Talsorian Games provided an answer regarding what he thought the "Future of Gaming" would be.  Pondsmith is a designer who has often been ahead of his time conceptually, and this was no exception.

His answer to the question was interesting.  It wasn't a "new game that would change the future of RPGs!" or "The greatest roleplaying game ever!"  Those are marketing-speak used to promote existing games -- some of them quite good -- but they aren't the future of gaming.

According to Pondsmith, "a revolution in roleplaying games is coming.  It's sneaking up on us on little flat feet, but it's coming."  What was this revolution going to be?  It was going to be what Pondsmith termed the 4th Generation game. 

First Generation Games were the original games that descended from wargames.

Second Generation Games were more systems based and about sophisticated mechanics. 

The Third Generation was about genre.

Each of these generations provided the community with excellent games.

But the Fourth Generation wasn't about design, mechanics, or genre, it was about POPULAR CULTURE.

Fourth Generation games would "generate crossmarketing" be "recognized as legitimate media" and would become a part of the general cultural background.  They would be games designed to do this, either through the use of public education or expanding media. 

Pondsmith provided more criteria, and I will blog about 4th Generation Games here on my Cinerati blog soon, but it is an inspiring read.  And I think that Pondsmith was spot on in his analysis, just DECADES ahead of his time.

We can already see designers and companies attempting to move into the Fourth Generation. 

These games are all evidence that the revolution is happening.
Role Playing Games are finding their way back into popular culture, and without the need of scandal to fuel the surge.

My partners and I created Twin Suns Entertainment to be a part of this Revolution.  It is our goal to work with the other companies to expand gaming communities and to promote the hobby by making the best games we can make.

Join us as we attempt to join the companies named above -- and others -- in creating the Fourth Generation of role playing games.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

SyFy's Mercury Men -- "Skyscraper Saboteurs"

"Skyscraper Saboteurs," the second episode of the intriguing Mercury Men web series, went live this morning. The episode builds on all the qualities that worked in the first episode, and features fewer of the drawbacks. It appears that the series is quickly getting past the sense of "pilotitis" I felt regarding the first episode.

The series takes place in Pittsburgh in 1975 where Jack Yeager (Curt Wootton) -- a character wonderfully inspired by classic pulp figures -- discovers a sinister plan by Venusian invaders, a plan that only he can stop. Lucky for the Earth, Jack is a combination Flash Gordon, Doc Savage, and Blackhawk:

Daring League captain, aerospace engineer, and former US Air Force pilot, Jack travels the galaxy to explore unknown worlds, new alien races, and advanced technological wonders. Always at Jack's side is the LumiƩre, his trusted revolver which fires bolts of condensed light. Jack is dispatched to Earth to investigate the glowing men of Mercury.

Like the pilot, I do have some complements and criticisms regarding the episode, but watch the episode first. It is well worth your time. Join me in discovering the sinister plan of the Mercury Men!


I've got to give the production team at Mercury Men Pictures credit for their focus on sound design. Poor design can really tank a feature, particularly a genre feature, but the MMP crew have added some interesting environmental sound effects that add depth to the feature. I am particularly fond of the "fuzz" sound of the Mercury Men themselves.

The visuals continue to be fairly impressive. I was particularly impressed by the scene where our heroes were on one side of a wall constructed of glass bricks, and the Mercury Men were on the other. The image where we look through Jack's looking glass was also impressive as it included "warping" around the edges and was more than a mere "circular cutout" image. Jack's hologram projector was a nice touch, and a nice effect.

Like the serials that Mercury Men is based upon, the MMP crew use a lot of visual storytelling. When the Mercury Men's plan is revealed, it is shown and not told. Very nice!


I still find Mark Tierno's performance as Edward Borman a little forced. He seems to be acting in a style more akin to silent films than talkies. He isn't bad, but his movements have an odd fluidity that seems natural in a purely visual story. His line delivery is good, but I'm on the fence. If Edward gets blasted by the invaders I won't be overly distraught.

When Jack and Edward are walking down a stairway there is a wipe effect -- a nice homage to the serials -- that goes against the movement of the action taking place. This has the visual effect of slowing down the pace of the story and decreasing urgency. It almost feels as if the action is being rewound. I think wipes should follow movement, not run against the grain. Just a personal opinion.

Now that I've seen the story so far, I am more convinced than ever that I need to lift ideas from it for a short term Savage Worlds or Cortex+ campaign. I will certainly be statting up some of the characters as the show goes on and we learn more about them.

The MMP crew have captured the tone perfectly. This show is obviously done of love of the material and lacks the kind of ironic distance that too often seeps into the gaps and ruins a good story. Let's hope they keep it up. If their website, and their digital props, are any hint I think they will.

I already wish they'd build a flash based game based on their fictional Atari 2600 game.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Face of "Television" is Changing and Becoming "Internetelevision"

For the past few years, I have been talking about how our television viewing habits are being changed by the internet and how soon most of our viewing choices will be made "on demand."  Providers of digital narrative viewing entertainment will be able to reap great rewards from the system, even as it shatters some of the older models.  The studios, big and small, will likely benefit by the changes and affiliate stations will suffer as people move away from "command" television of the kind that local affiliates provide, and move toward "on demand" television where the viewer is empowered to watch shows directly from the provider.  The content provider and the distributor system will change, but likely not be completely eliminated as trusted "content hubs" will make finding new content easier for viewers.  The overall shift will likely empower creators and viewers and lessen the power of distributors -- though the need for effective marketers will be significant.

I began imagining this future before anyone offered streaming video content, but after reading The Future of the Mass Audience in a political science class as an undergrad.  Since I started talking about the topic -- which was a topic for a couple of early Geekerati podcasts -- we have seen the rise of Hulu, Netflix streaming, television stations streaming their own shows, FunnyorDie!, and many DiY Web Series of varying quality -- some quite excellent.

Now one of the leaders in the field is moving forward toward the purely on demand future.  It is one thing for television networks to provide their content online after it has aired through traditional channels, it is quite another for a streaming provider to purchase and produce a high end show strictly for streaming.  That provider is Netflix and they are looking into the possibility of providing two upcoming on demand televisions shows in the near future.  The first is House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey and the second is an unnamed show by the Kenji Kohan (the creator of "Weeds).

Change is in the wind, and that change looks very interesting indeed.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Hulu Recommendation Friday -- Community: Advanced Dungeons and Dragons

After a long hiatus, here is the much deserved return of Hulu Recommendation Friday. This week's offering is very near and dear to my heart. I have thoroughly enjoyed the NBC sit com "Community" from its pilot episode, but now that it has fused itself with another of my loves the show has my undying loyalty. If NBC execs try to cancel the show...I'll have them performing Otto's Irresistible Dance.


Note the fusion of new school (Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms) with old school (Queen of the Demonweb Pits, Unearthed Arcana, The Dungeon Master's Guide) in the products featured.

To those of us who saw "Role Models," it's no surprise that Ken Jeong knocks the ball out of the park in this episode.

Friday, December 10, 2010

INCEPTION in Real Time

As a strong supporter of Intellectual Property rights, I am often hesitant to post links to videos that might cross the line away from "fair use" of other's IP. This video featuring a "real time" interpretation of the "heist" sequence from INCEPTION is a rare exception. I think that its imaginative use of footage and the way it presents a concept discussed in the film, combined with the fact that it in no way presents an alternative to the original IP make this video a clear example of fair use. This is one of those rare instances where the creator of a derivative property has not only made an interesting work of art, but has added to my affection for the originating IP and reminded me that I need to buy the DVD of INCEPTION as soon as possible.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

If You Could Play Casual Video Games on Demand Through Your TV, Would You?

According to Interactive TV Today, TAG Networks has been market testing a Video Game on Demand channel in cooperation with Oceanic Time Warner (the Hawaiian arm of Time Warner Cable). They launched the effort in 2008 and are now contemplating expanding the offering to other markets.

Owners of the current generation of console gaming systems can currently purchase games for download through their consoles, a system similar to traditional pay-per-view on demand sales, but it appears that TAG Networks system works more like Netflix on Demand, Stars on Demand, or USA on Demand. Your television remote control is your game system controller. ITVT reports, "TAG, which is ad-supported and available to all Oceanic Time Warner Cable's digital subscribers, allows viewers to use their remotes to play a range of casual games, including branded games such as "Bejeweled 2," "Tetris," "Diner Dash" and "Barney," and classic games such as Texas Hold'Em, Sudoku and Checkers. The channel, which also offers community features, including multiplayer gaming across households and high scores, is powered by a platform for which TAG Networks has filed nine patents to date."

Ad supported on demand gaming through your television sounds pretty interesting, and the offerings are good for the casual gamer )a large segment of the gaming population), but what about the console rpg player or real time strategy gamer?

There are a couple of games that look like they might appeal to the geek in me. In particular "Seven Seas" and "Mummy Maze." Both are casual games, but they share some aesthetic qualities with some games I have enjoyed in the past. "Seven Seas" looks a little like the classic "Sid Meier's Pirates" game and "Mummy Maze" shares some visual qualities with "Gauntlet" -- though it doesn't look like it shares many game play elements with that classic game. I hope that Game Table Online is looking at this channel and looking for ways to get their robust and deep game catalog into an interface like this. I would live to play Axis and Allies or Nuclear War while sitting at my couch.

Looking at the games a little more, and thinking about the possibility of further development in the social/community functionality offerings, a thought suddenly comes to me. While using a TV remote may not be the best way to play a real time strategy game, or an action rpg like Dragon Age, it might be a great way to play a turn based and game mastered role playing game.

When Wizards of the Coast launched the 4th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons, they heavily promoted something they called the "Virtual Game Table" which would allow people to run D&D games through via the internet. The DM would create a scenario using a scenario editing tool, and the players would interface with the dungeon through their individual computers. There are currently a few good remote gaming software packages available, so Wizards' offering would have had to have offered additional functionality and graphics capability that the current software lacks. This was one of the reasons the product failed, that and a fear that D&D 4e was trying to kill the actual table top experience (not a completely irrational fear in the gaming community).

I wonder if TAG Networks technology could be used to create an interactive household to household "television top" role playing game experience. I have friends that live across the country who I'd like to game with and gaming while sitting on the couch holding a TV remote would be more "comfortable" than sitting at my computer desk at the keyboard and mouse -- at least for me. Creating adventures might be a pain, but I think the play experience could be worth while. It also might be a way to introduce new gamers to the marketplace as the "social" interface might allow others to watch an ongoing game (say one that wasn't classified as private by the players).

It wouldn't replace the table top experience, anyone who has played face to face table top rpgs knows that they are a unique experience, but they might help expand the gaming hobby as a whole.

What do you think? Would you play casual games? Would you play rpgs? Other games?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Kung Fu Bunny 3 (Gongfu tu ): Amateur Animation Never Looked So Good

Allen Varney, a fellow University of Nevada graduate, recently tweeted about an amateur animation series called Kung Fu Bunny. In particular, he provided a link to the series creator's YouTube posting of the third episode of the series. This particular video has been online for about a month and the two older episodes were posted in 2007. Near as I can tell, these videos were posted by an animator who identifies himself merely as "Vincent." If I could read Chinese characters, I would be able to provide a translation of his printed name. Alas, this is not the case. You can visit his personal blog at

The animation in the third episode of the series is seemlessly integrated into live action footage with remarkable effect. It's amazing how technological innovations have made it so that an amateur animator can integrated live action and animation in a way that makes Who Framed Roger Rabbit? look primitive in comparison. Certainly, some of Vincent's coloring technique, particularly the shading of the characters, was influenced by the Disney film, but the work here is excellent.

An added bonus to the video is that the narrative is wonderfully entertaining. American audiences will be familiar with the narrative tropes being used in the story as they are the time tested tropes of the Warner Bros. Bugs Bunny cartoons, Tom and Jerry, and Kid vs. Kat. In this case, our narrator wants to catch the mischievous Kung Fu Bunny and sets a trap. When this trap is evaded, and our animator mocked, he sends his trusty animated dog companion after the Bunny. The rest is comic gold.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What can striking WGA writers learn from video game writers? A lot.

This year's WGA awards are featuring a new award devoted to video game writers. The award, I am sure, was created to increase the ties between television/film writers and writers in the video game industry in order to set the foundation for video game writers eventual migration into the WGA structure. While specific games selected by the nominating committee might leave those of us who actually play video games doubting the sanity of the WGA, the fact that the WGA is reaching out the the video game community proves them to be not only sane but savvy. The quicker the WGA reaches out to the video game industry, the better.

The WGA should have begun looking into a partnership twenty years ago when games like Zak McCracken and Maniac Mansion were already showing the link between film and game (you can watch the introductions to these games below). George Lucas understood that video games can tell stories, and that there was a demand for computer based games. But it is better to be late, as is the case with the WGA and their outreach to the video game industry, than never.

Had the WGA reached out to video game writers/designers earlier, they might have been more prepared when going into negotiations seven years ago. They would have had members who had experience with "alternate revenue streams" and not bought into the studios selling them on the "unpredictability" of the DVD sales market. Luckily, there is time to learn more lessons from writers and designers in video games and to benefit from their outlook when it comes to alternate revenue streams.

In a recent article on Gamasutra, a United Business Media (the people who own PR Newswire and CMP) site devoted to the gaming industry, Tom Buscaglia discusses a recent negotiation he entered into with a game company and how he ensured his clients received a fair share of the revenue the game would produce. One of the first points that Buscaglia made was that their are "some things that publishers excel at and one of them is coming up with new and innovative ways to commercially exploit games." The publishers, like the movie/tv studios, may not know how to make a good game/show/movie (or even how to recognize one), but they certainly know how to make money off of one when it is successful. Buscaglia reminds us as readers that this means that those going into negotiations with publisher (and by extension producers) need to go in with their eyes wide open.

Buscaglia sites a common mistake that people make when entering negotiations with a publisher. What is it? "Often the developer is so focused on getting a publisher to sell their game that all they look at are the royalties from game sales." This is a huge mistake, according to Buscaglia, because, "If all the developer asks for is a portion of the revenue from the sales, what’s all they’ll get, regardless of how much ancillary revenue a game generates. And publishers are getting really good at finding innovative ancillary revenue streams from the games the sell."

That's right. If all you want to do is secure that you receive a percentage of sales, that's all you're going to get, but don't fool yourself into thinking that is all the publisher is going to get. I wish that the WGA understood this in their earlier negotiations with the producers and studios. The "suits" certainly understood this, even as they were dickering a low residual rate for the writers. What about business to business (B2B) revenue created from advertising sold on studio websites when episodes are streaming? Nope. None of that, but the studio is certainly making money that way. The writers were already getting B2B revenue from syndication, why didn't they see that there might be other B2B revenue streams?

What might one of these alternate revenue streams look like? Once again, we can look to the Buscaglia article and the video game industry. "Eventually, through some rather persistent negotiating, we were able get the publisher to agree to pour any in-game advertising and any B2B revenue into the revenue pool." So...they made sure to get a share of business to business revenue, and...what's this? They also got the publisher to pour in a share of "in-game advertising?" When was the last time the writer's asked for a share of "product placement" revenue? It is the film/tv equivalent of in-game advertising after all. If Bruce Willis drinks a Pepsi in a movie, and the funders are benefiting financially from that event, the writer should be getting a share of that revenue as well.

Buscaglia, in representing video game developers, tries to ensure that his clients are a part of any potential future earnings. For example, just "in case the publisher found any other way to exploit the game that was had not covered, [he] also include[s] in the contact a "catch all" provision pouring any and all revenue from any commercial exploitation of the game from anywhere into the royalty pool to be split with the developer."

Certainly, the fact that Buscaglia is representing individual clients (and not a whole union) enables a certain degree of liberty in the negotiating process, but the WGA could certainly learn from the way he looks at a creative property as a revenue source.

Here is a list of what I think the WGA should be getting:

  • Continuing Syndication Revenue: Yes, syndication is dead. And yes, they are already receiving syndication money, but this revenue stream needs to keep trickling.
  • DVD Residual: Like syndication, this revenue stream is actually already dead -- it just doesn't know it yet. And writers are already receiving some revenue from DVDs. They need to milk this for as much as they can get, for as long as they can get it. They also need to understand that it isn't going to be around for much longer.
  • Internet Download Residuals: These too are actually already dead. That's right, this "wave of the future" way of selling movies is already obsolete. Sure, it will pass through a period of high revenue, but it will die and quickly. Once again, that shouldn't stop the WGA from getting their members a share.
  • Revenue Sharing from Online Display: An absolute must. This may, or may not, be a long lasting future source of revenue, but revenue sharing -- rather than a "per view" payment -- is an absolute must.
  • Cell Phone Viewing Residuals: What? Cell phones? Yes, and I'm not talking iPhone downloads -- but those too. I'm talking about "on demand" cellular viewing technology, or streaming cellular video technology. People will be using their portable devices to watch tv on the go. In fact, the WGA should be negotiating for all of the TVs of tomorrow.
  • Percentage of Product Placement Revenue: This is most likely going to have to be negotiated by individuals, and likely will be limited to "creators," but the writers had better be keeping his revenue in mind. My acquaintance Rob Long likes to talk about how everyone knows that the "King of Queens" works for UPS, and that the studio is watching a revenue go down the drain every episode. The studios, and the show's creators should be fighting to get UPS money if they can do so without losing creative control.
  • A percentage of any future revenue source I can't predict: I'm not able to see into the future, but the WGA and writers need to be thinking about any future revenue now. They either need to get a better "percentage" in the long run or demand more money up front.

Maniac Mansion Introduction

Zak McCracken Introduction

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

WGA Strike Day 3: Update and Thoughts

As of today, internetelevision is dead to me. I am a big fan of internetelevision, or as other people call it, "the ability to watch their favorite shows on the internet." Intelevision can come as purchased iTunes downloads, ad supported streaming video, or subscription based streams and downloads. It doesn't matter, it is all dead to me. I don't care if I can watch it when, where, and how I want.

At least not anymore. The fact that television producers think of webisodes and other streaming content as "promotional" and don't want to pay a fair share to the writers who produce the material is extremely bothersome to me. If you charge to place ads within the content, it isn't promotional -- it's a show. The internet is the future of visual home entertainment. With services like iTunes, Xbox Live, and Joost, not to mention the network websites and MySpace, there is an abundance of visual entertainment I can access whenever I want and without leaving my couch. These services, and others like them, are only going to continue to grow. That is unless we as consumers stop using them, and that's what I'm doing.

I will not visit a network website, or link to one, until the Writer's strike is over. I will not download any episodes from iTunes. I will not purchase a DVD. I will not watch any reruns, or reality TV, that the network runs during the strike.

I will support the writers, without whom I would not have the visual entertainment I enjoy.

Writers are some of the hardest working people in Hollywood, and they receive the least credit. Like Joss Whedon, I was appalled when I read the description, provided by Joss, of the striking writers in the NY Times. They described the writers as:

“All the trappings of a union protest were there… …But instead of hard hats and work boots, those at the barricades wore arty glasses and fancy scarves.”

I've met a couple of writers, one of whom I interviewed on Monday, and I've yet to see one in "arty classes and fancy scarves." I think the writer was mistaking a memory of Tom Baker as Dr. Who for the writer's strike.

For a look at what the writers really look like, here's a video of the writers of The Office as they spell out their complaints. Watch the video and visit

If you want even more information about the strike, you can play or download my interview with writer/producer Rob Long below.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Newspapers and Magazines...Paper or Electron?

In a recent article for the National Journal, William Powers discusses his thoughts on the current state of the "newspaper crisis." Are they here to stay or are they going the way of the dinosaur and the Stanley Steamer automobile. In the article, Powers briefly addresses the concerns of the newspaper fan and the newspaper employee and points out that:

Up-to-date information is the coin of the realm, and it's rare to meet a successful person who doesn't follow the news. They may not get it from the hard-copy newspaper, but most online news originates in traditional newspapers and newspaper-related organs such as the Associated Press. In other words, the basic product the papers produce still helps the fittest to thrive.

It might seem that Powers is waxing Pollyanna on us, but I don't think so. News is a commodity in the "information age" and will be for time to come. Whether that news is about sports, business transactions, or Lindsay Lohan doesn't matter. People want information.

But does that mean that they want to read the news on "paper?"

Eyewitness television news didn't kill paper, what about the internets?

Powers doesn't answer this question in his piece, though I expect he'll be writing about the future of paper as a medium soon, but he does mention that Rupert Murdoch is fighting to purchase the Wall Street Journal (one of the nation's leading bird cage fillers).

Powers seems to be hinting that paper may not be dead as paper, but then what does Powers think about the following?

Premiere magazine, which had a circulation of over 500,000, is now purely digital and has featured our friend David Chute.

Disney will cease publication of its 1,000,000 circulation strong Disney Adventures.

And while the Journal is a leader in print, it also has one of the best web interfaces of any news publication.

Which direction is the news going?

Will Mark Cuban's comments regarding bandwidth capabilities have any effect? In other words, do we need paper because we will lack bandwidth?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Future Was Only 11 Days Late

SCI FI Channel has finally revealed their "deep" entry into the realm of Internetelevision, SCI FI Drive-In. When SCI FI announced the broadband channel, the stated a release date of January 21st, but I wasn't able to find the site until this morning.

So far the offerings are pretty limited, but worth a visit. If they meet their proposed content this will become one of my favorite sites of all time. Currently, you can watch The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Metropolis, both films that you should rush out and see immediately.

What are you doing reading this still? Go watch Metropolis, then come back and complain that the Flash Gordon serials aren't available yet. Right now I have to settle for The Lost City, Undersea Kingdom, and Radar Men from the Moon. I guess that can tide me over for a while.

Who am I kidding? This is awesome!

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Future Appears to be Behind Schedule

On January 12, at the Telvision Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena, the Sci Fi Channel made two announcements that made cinerati's editor squeal with joy. Sadly, it appears that they are behind schedule on the release of one of products.

The first was the announcement of a new 22 episode series based on Flash Gordon featuring the classic character along with his dastardly foe Ming. SCI FI's representatives at the TCA described the new series stating, "Stellar adventures and heroic battles mark this inventive new take on the perennial science fiction classic." I am excited about the prospect of the series, but the "inventive new take" statement makes me reticent to run around giddily while squealing for joy, I am still squealing for joy. I hope that RHI Entertainment and producers Robert Halmi Sr. (Earthsea) and Robert Halmi Jr. (Farscape), remember to include the Plantetary Romance tone of the original concept. It was the Planetary Romance aspects, and not the SF elements, which really set Flash Gordon apart from Buck Rogers and similar SF serial.

Fans of Space Opera films should note that it was the original concept, and not some "inventive new take," which inspired George Lucas to create Star Wars and that the inclusion of Planetary Romance goddess Leigh Brackett in the screenwriting process of The Empire Strikes Back added to the tone of that film. I am hopeful, but skeptical given the dark tone of the new Battlestar Galactica, that the show will capture the wonder of the earlier narrative. Sadly, much of modern SF seems to think that "darkness" equals narrative complexity and forgets that hopeful utopian views of the future can be just as deep an analysis of today's problems. For every George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, there is an Edward Bellamy and Jules Verne.

As for the future being late, SCI FI promised to bring their deep entry into internetelevision to the internet on January 21, and I have yet to see hide or hair of the project. SCI FI already has their "shallow" entry into internetelevision, you can watch the most recent Dresden Files online and watch a good amount of Battlestar Galactica footage online (including online exclusive material), but I was anxiously awaiting their deep entry. SCI FI announced their broadband destination site (what I call internetelevision) SCI FI Drive-in at the TCAs claiming that it would launch on January 21st giving access to "cult films, serials, campy documentaries, and trailers...includ[ing] such films as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligare and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, not to mention the original Flash Gordon serial" (geeee!) Sadly, the only mention of SCI FI Drive-in I have been able to find on the SCI FI site are in the forums (booo!).