I just received this enlightening e-mail from Jake of 8bitjoystick regarding my earlier rant on subtitling:
There is no Japanese track for the Vampire Hunter D Blood lust DVD because the movie was never dubbed in Japanese. The Japanese film makers thought it would be
cool to have the movie in English and subtitled in Japanese for the Japanese film audience. go figure. It is one of the only anime movies made specifically for English.
My opinion on this film's choice of audio and subtitling has thus done a complete 180. That is awesome. Since all of the characters are pretty much... well... white, it makes sense that they would be speaking English rather than Japanese. I wish American filmmakers were this sensible. I'm so tired of seeing native foreign-language speaking actors who are playing native foreign-language speaking characters addressing each other in stunted English rather than simply using their native language and having subtitles.

So, I recall my former rant in regards to Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. My rant on the notion that subtitles are not important in video games still stands.

I don't know if it was intentional, but Yahoo News really made a good point with these two adjacent headlines on their Top Stories page:
Unemployment Rate Rises to 6 Percent (AP)
Bush Pushes Focus on National Security (AP)


Now I'm going to talk about the WaveBird.

Let me start off by saying that I totally dig on the WaveBird. I've got two of them connected and it is so liberating to not have to deal with those damn wires any more. The dog can't trip on non-existant wires, and I can make myself a sandwich in the kitchen and keep advancing dialogue or navigating menus.

However, the WaveBird suffers from a huge design flaw. I do not speak here of the lack of a rumble function. I can understand the logic behind exluding that. The Wavebird only sends signals, it does not receive feedback from the GameCube. I speak instead of the lack of an auto-off function on the Wavebird.

From the average person's interaction with both remote controls and with video game controllers, nowhere is there a precendent set for a power switch. The average person does not think, "Oh, I need to turn off my controller!" Thus, the WaveBird is often left on. This drains the batteries and is bad. In fact, the WaveBird should not have a power switch at all, instead only powering on when it is used, and then auto powering off when not in use. Even if the only thing that is draining the battery when it's on and not in use is the little LED on the front, that's too much.

Nintendo has a funny habit of leaving one huge design flaw in each one of their products. No auto-shutoff on the Wavebird, small discs on the GameCube, no headphone jack on the GameBoy Advance SP, and don't even get me started on the development tools I have to use. The big huge "Dolphin" GameCube debug kit has the cartridge slot on the front, the controller ports on the front, and all the debug buttons on the front, but the memory card slots are in the back with the networks cable ports and power cord! Why? The memory card emulator uses dip switches, so I have to poke around in this little space with a pen or a paperclip. Hello Nintendo, humans have to use these things! Would it kill you to put some finger-sized switches on it?

Sigh, I guess each major console manufacturer makes mistakes, though. Like the size and shape of the Xbox (Why is the top curved? Do they not realize that most gamers are innate stackers?) and its controllers (though S-controllers are standard now), or the PS2's tendency to... y'know... break.


Check it out, Lady Miss Kier (of Deee-Lite fame) is suing Sega, claiming that Ulala, the retro-sci-fi diva protagonist of Space Channel 5, is a rip-off of her own personal image.

Now, I am reluctant to say that the revered Lady Miss Kier is doing something dumb, but Space Channel 5 came out 3 years ago. Has it really taken her that long to see the game, especially since Sega once offered to pay her for licensing her likeness for the game? Clearly, Ulala is inspired in part by Miss Kier's image, but she's not Miss Kier, and I hate to break it to Kier, but she's not the only person in the world who says, "Ooh la la." Why she didn't just take the $16,000 Sega purportedly offered her to use her likeness originally? If someone wanted my likeness in a game, I'd totally let them do it for free. Any money on top of that would be gravy. Especially if my disco-house diva career weren't going so well. Hell Michel Jackson let Sega use his likeness and name, although I think he lets pretty much anyone put him in whatever game they want (I wonder if he'll be pulled from the SP5 sequel since that whole documentary foofaraw?).

It's a pretty established technique to base characters in games, especially fighting games, on real-life people. Dead Or Alive's Bass is obviously a Hulk-Hogan-alike, Tekken's Marshall Law is pretty darn Jackie Chan, Mortal Kombat's Johnny Cage is so Van Damme it's ridiculous, and every fighting game has a character based on Bruce Lee. Typically, though these characters are parodies and tributes, not blatant copies, and no one gets sued.

Sometimes they can come a little too close to their real-life counterparts, though. Not too many people know that the Street Fighter 2's ex-boxing champ Balrog and militaristic supervillian M. Bison originally had their names transposed. The bozer was known in Japan originally as "Mike Bison", and one can, of course, see how that might get them into a little legal hot water, so the names of the two characters were swapped, and the North American market was left wondering why the hell the last guy in the game was named M. Bison.

Hmmm, come to think of it, that "Ken" character looks an awful lot like me when I have blond hair! And he shoots balls of pure spiritual energy from his hands just like I can! Where's my lawyer?!

Note: Miss Kier's real last name is Kirby. If I were Nintendo, I'd watch out, they may be next.


Now, I'm certainly not encouraging this, but if I were a terrorist organization determined to perpetrate some act of depravity on the United States, I'd simply wait for the Terror Alert color to drop to green. After all, green means go.

With that, I'll gladly bet anyone a buck that the Terror Alert does not drop to green anytime in the next 50 years.

What the hell are those different colors supposed to represent to me anyhow? They don't appear to explain this on the site. Exactly how scared should I be when it's Yellow? Does Orange mean that I shouldn't breathe too deeply? Do I get to stay home from work on a "Red" day? Currently, I'm interpreting the Green as jealously, then up from there to depression, cowardice, nausea, and anger.

Personally, I think they should have used a Mild-Medium-Spicy meter, which I believe more effectively communicates a level of preparedness and anxiety.

So I understand the whole reformation of Iraq into this new democratic franchise is not going so well because lots of the high-ranking Iraqi officials are disagreeing on what kind of government they should have.

I've got a crazy idea: Maybe we could let the people of Iraq vote on it!

My favorite spam-mail subject line of today:
"even a dummy can lost fat!"

I believe that the Deaf Gamers website should be required reading for any game developer. Too often I see subtittles in games only considered as an afterthought, and even then many times they are innaccurate, or incomplete. Many people in the game industry, and many people in general, seem to think that deaf people have to just miss out, or that they won't really care if they can't tell what people are saying, or that they don't play games. Look, subtitles are not that hard, seriously. There's no excuse for excluded a whole market from enjoying a game. An option for closed captioning would be even better, but I have yet to see a game implement that.

I've actually had a conversation in which I mentioned that a subtitle was missing, and got the reply, "Well, they can hear the words anyhow." When I postulated that the player might not be able to hear, they said, "Are we supposed to make the game playable for blind people, too?" Which I feel is a pretty ridiculous response. It's very very very easy to make provisions for the hearing impaired. It's text, for crying out loud, not to mention that that kind of attitude belies a pretty basically flawed thinking about game design. Remember, you shouldn't design games for yourself, you should design for as many people as possible.

When I made Little Pythagoras, the World Builder language I used had a bug in which on certain newer systems, the sound simply would not play. So I included a pormpt at the beginning which asked the player if they could hear the sounds it was generating, and if not, it from that point on didn't bother playing sounds at all, (In order to free up memory and make the game play faster), and relied on descriptions of sounds instead in the text window. I got e-mail from hearing imparied player sthanking me for considering them in my design, which I really hadn't done (I was thinking of those people who couldn't hear the sound because the computer wouldn't play it), but it made me realize that you really need to think about how any kind of person might be experiencing your game, and try to accomodate them, within reason of course. This is why you have different difficulty levels, video and audio settings, control settings, and subtitles. This strikes me as being common-sense design.

My last girlfriend had a brother who was hearing-impaired (and also played video games), and after going to a few deaf events, I found it odd how they make them accessible to hearing people who don't understand sign language. Even though it would be reasonable to expect that everyone going to see an ASL-using comedian perform would understand ASL, they had an interpreter on hand. This really impressed me that even though such efforts are typically not made for them, events oriented to them specifically still have these concessions.

While I'm on the subject, let's talk about subtitles in DVDs. Recently my roomate purchased the Vampire D: Bloodlust DVD, and there is no option for Japanese audio with English subtitles. Call me snobby, but I think this is really inexcusable. Obciously they already have the Japanese audio, and there's room on the DVD for it, and it's got English closed captioning, so . If one has to pay $20 for a DVD, you should be able to watch it whatever original language it was made in. I know many people prefer to hear the English dub, and that's fine. We had wanted to view it in English anyhow, since a friend of ours worked on the audio for the English version, but especially with anime and other foreign films, many people prefer to see the original language audio with subtitles, and there's no good reason not to include an option for this on the DVD. Same goes for widescreen.

It's really really simple things like this that can make the difference between a product looking professional and cared for, and it looking sloppy and unfinished. Too often it seems as though the folks making these things believe that as long as the part of the product that most people see is fine, then the rest of the stuff can be ignored. When it comes to these simple things, subtitles and other text especially, all it takes is a little proofreading and re-typing. As a tester who gives a shit what condition a game is in when it ships, it's very frustrating to see text bugs waived near the end of a development cycle because they've been ignored for months on end, regarded as not important enough to spend time on, and then regarded as taking too much time to fix when code release approaches. Having improper grammar or poor spelling is much like having graphic corruption (and pretty much equivalent to audio corruption to a deaf person), it doesn't necessarily impair one's ability to play the game, but it just looks bad, and makes the developer look bad.

So, when designing a game or anything that you wish many people to enjoy, don't just consider your target audience, consider all audiences and whether something very simple and easy can be done to accomodate them and improve their game experience. Obviously, one cannot make compromises in all areas but for something as easy as subtitles, I feel it should really be a cross-platform standard. Not only will it make the game appear more polished to anal-retentive freaks such as myself, but you'll have made the game viable for that niche market as well, and that's just good business sense.


Early on Sunday morning, Ami and I returned from a marvelous birthday bash hosted by Magellan house for internet diva Min Jung, among others, all of whom were Bloggers, and one of which who used to be the CEO of Blogger. Accounts of the party are all across the web right now, but the sites of those who have the most interesting stories to tell are incriminatorially silent.

I feel kind of strange at MJ's parties, because typically I hang out primarily with people I already know and meet about 2 or 3 new people. Considering that her parties are about 90 percent people I don't know, that's pretty anti-social. I mean, I know their websites, but I don't know them. I think I hold a weird place in the Bay Area Blogging community. I know a fair amount of established internet celebrities, many of whom are typically in attendance when Magellan house throws down, but I don't really participate in the online community portion of the whole thing.

Ernie's main man Mike masterfully manipulated much marvelous music. There was another DJ there as well, but uh... I dont' remember his name. He was good too, though, but he didn't play any Young MC.

I got hit on by one gay dude, it happens when you dance like I do. I'll let you in on a little secret, when I drink even a little and someone plays hits from the 80's, I get extremely gay on the dance floor. Know this: If you learn just one dance, learn the Running Man. At any party, I can automatically make people go, "Go white boy Go white boy!" by busting out with that dance. Plus, it's totally easy.

Anyhow, this fellow, Ami and I were all getting our groove on collectively by midnight. It's great to have a gay pal on the dance floor, because he can dance with your girl while you're off getting a drink or talking to someone. It'd be a pretty good racket for a really gay straight guy too... hmmm...

All in all, an excellent party. Excellent music, excellent house, excellent food, excellent people, excellent hula hoops, excellent time.

Now that I think about it, I made it through this weekend without any ganjatacular indulgences. I did, however watch both "Spirited Away" and "The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T" which has about the same effect as sticking one's head into a bucket full of high-grade lysergic acid.

I am a victim of copy protection.

As mentioned earlier, my PS2 has migrated into my room for my solo gaming experiences, while the GameCube has taken on the multiplayer role. Unfortunately, the television in my room is a TV/VCR combo unit. What this means is that the ill-concieved copy protection method employed by many DVD manufacturers in which the picture gets all fucked up if you run the signal through a VCR. This is an old heavy-handed copy protection scheme which prevents people from copying their DVDs onto VHS tapes. Of course, this is ultimately retarded because why the hell would I want ot do that, when I can simply rent a VHS tape and copy it to another VHS tape no problem? Anyhow, it sucks and makes everything look like you're watching the Playboy channel scrambled.

Odd thing is, not all DVDs will do this. Most notable, anything I have that published by Rhino do not feature this dumb-ass copy protection scheme. In addition to this, Rhino publishes G.I. Joe, Transformers, Get a Life, South Park and MST3K , which are the things I'm mostly likely to watch just before bed, particularly if I'm in an altered state of mind.

So, to tie this in with a mini-review: Transformers... and it's hard for me to say this... the Transformers show is actually pretty sucky. I mean, it's got nostalgiac appeal and I loved it as a kid and everything, but I also ate paste as a kid, and I hardly ever do that now. The Rhino DVDs include bonus material about animation fuck-ups and resotration processes that make you realize just how shoddily the show was produced. I would reccomend just avoiding the bonus features and going in for the episodes. It's pretty crappy and makes almost no sense, but cars do indeed turn into giant robots, so if that's what you're looking for, it's still there.

Why didn't Megatron just kill that whiny bitch Starscream? If you are in the mood to be mentally scarred and severely disturbed and never able to look at a jetplane the same way again, you'll find your answer here.

G.I. Joe, on the other hand, sucks so bad that it's funny. The enemy plots are just so ludicrous that they are laughable. Plus, any show where the phrases, "robo-snakes", "await my pleasure" and "mind control" are used withing the same half-hour is automatically awesome. Furthermore, it has the Baroness in it, and any given battle between the Joe team and the forces of Cobra looks like a scheduling mix-up between the Folsom Street Fair and Fleet Week.

Transformers? No girls at all. Pffft, but as stated before, cars do turn into robots.

Well, if I can hazard a guess by the "put these in your pipe and smoke 'em" phrasing on Rhino's front page, they know their target audience.

My point: Rhino is A-Okay!

I'm starting to get the impression that the United States, while excelling in the department of killing mass amounts of people simply cannot or kill anyone specific.

Can't find Saddam Hussein.
Can't find Osama Bin Laden.
Can't find whoever shot Jam Master Jay, and he's probably even in the United States!