Archive for the ‘Video Games’ Category

Microsoft’s Illumi-Room Is Baby-Step To Holodeck

Saturday, May 4th, 2013

There’s really not much to talk about here with a bunch of words. They’ll just get in the way of you pressing play and smiling like a little kid as your brain sort of automatically speculates on the possibilities of this in peoples’ homes.

We’ve all dreamed of the Holodeck being a part of our secret lair at home. Microsoft’s new IllumiRoom is a lot like watching a baby take its first steps in the direction of Holodecks becoming a standard part of any man-cave.

Sure we’ve seen mapped projections before like at Walt Disney World’s Magic, Memories and You show at the Magic Kingdom…but nothing on a consumer level and nothing with this kind of customization. Using a Kinect, a couple of cameras and some software, this is something that, while in its newborn stage, could lead to some truly innovative projects and ideas…or just mean that we’re going to be leaving our mother’s basements way less than we already do.


Meet Your New Running Partner – Joggobot!

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Jogging just got potentially exciting.

Meet the Joggobot, a small quadcopter drone, from Exertion Labs.

Running around town with your own drone is kinda nerdy…running around town with about four or five of these hovering around you? Badass.

Joggobot isn’t available to the masses yet, but we’re willing to bet that once it is, it’s only a matter of time before the ‘maker’ community arms it with options like pepper spray or a taser, slaps some devices on it for a mean game of LaserTag, some over-achiever hooks it to the Kinect or some Comic-Con cosplayer decides to go as Booster Gold and Skeets.

And, like we repeatedly mention on this blog and in the podcast, once it gets online? Joggobots world-wide will just wait for that inevitable signal from Skynet.

[Exertion Labs]

Lizard Plays Video Game, Crushes It

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011


Life Size Mario Karts Currently On Display At LA Auto Show

Friday, November 25th, 2011

You only have a few more days, but fans of the koopa shell flinging road derby franchise Mario Kart can see life size constructions of some of the vehicles on display at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

You only have until the end of this weekend, so you better hurray.



The Corrupted Blood Incident

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011
On September 13th, 2005, an update to Blizzard’s World of Warcraft online game introducing the Zul’Gurub dungeon helped unleash a series of events that led to a catastrophic plague that spread out of control. In a fascinating example of cascading failures in a complex system, all hell broke loose. For an entire week the Blizzard team fought to end the plague and restore order.  As one witness to the event stated:

“There are three things you can do: infect people, die, and watch other people do the first two. There’s no way to rush for a cure; there’s no way to stop the plagued idiots from coming in, there’s no quest, no change, no nothing.”

The case has been made that games like World of Warcraft are complex systems because they share the following attributes:  “they consist of a large number of interacting agents, they exhibit emergence; that is, a self organizing collective difficult to anticipate from the knowledge of the agents behavior, and their emergent behavior does not result from the existence of a central controller.” Such complex systems require careful testing and strong controls.  An independent security consultant who played World of Warcraft at the time noted:

“Giving it the ability to propagate at all beyond a limited environment definitely reminds us that self-propagating code is likely to bite us in the ass without careful consideration and planning.”

As the plague spread from the dungeon across the world on as many as three different servers, the players panicked and the game became unplayable in its normal fashion. Cities became death traps and eventually abandoned as players either stopped playing or hid in the wilderness. In an interesting parallel to real world plagues the Corrupted Blood plague exhibited the following traits:

“it originated in a remote, uninhabited region and was carried by travelers to urban centers; hosts were both human and animal, such as with avian flu; it was spread by close spatial contact; and there were asymptomatic individuals – in this case, invulnerable NPCs.”

Here is a video taken during the height of the plague.

Cascading Failures: What Happened?

The end boss of Zul’Gurub was Hakkar the Soulflayer, Blood God of the Gurubashi trolls, and if he was attacked the players received a gift called Corrupted Blood, which is basically a curse that steals health and is highly transmittable from one player to another. It was originally designed to only affect the players while they were still within the dungeon, but a combination of bugs introduced into the system and player actions combined to set the plague loose into the world. The damage done by Corrupted Blood was so massive that it killed most lower level characters instantly, but allowed more powerful characters enough time to keep moving and spread the disease even further. Corrupted Blood was designed as a short-term annoyance for very high level players and was never meant or imagined to exist outside the specific dungeon for which it was created. A series of small failures combined and cascaded to become a world event.

  1. Players had at least two ways of transferring Corrupted Blood beyond the walls of Zul’Gurub. The first way was to simply teleport from the dungeon back to a populated area. Secondly, it was possible for in-game pets to get the disease as well, but they would not lose it when they left the dungeon.
  2. Corrupted Blood also exhibited asymptomatic characteristics as the game controlled characters were not affected by the plague, but they could be carriers of it. All of the non player characters (NPC) essentially acted very much like a World of Warcraft Typhoid Mary.
  3. Players, much like humans in real life, ignored the authorities. A voluntary quarantine was issued by Blizzard, but it was ignored by many players or simply not take seriously.
  4. The final factor that played heavily into the plague was the fact that many players willfully and intentionally operated to spread Corrupted Blood throughout the lands. These players have been called the terrorists of World of Warcraft by Robert Lemos of Security Focus.

    “For a week, the efforts of malicious players left behind massive casualties, made cities nearly uninhabitable, and became a reminder of the uncontrollability of self-propagating code.”

These four basic issues combined together to create a scenario that quickly became an out of control plague. In the end, Blizzard forced a hard reset of the servers and rolled a new version of code out that addressed issues 1 and 2 listed above. Unfortunately, issues 3 and 4 are outside the ability to be repaired and will probably show up again in the future.  In more recent years, the incident has been used several times in epidemiological studies and it has even been used as a model for exploring how terrorist cells form and operate.

[Wikipedia // Corrupted Blood incident]
[WOWWiki // Corrupted Blood]
[Security Focus]
[Complex Systems Theory, Virtual Worlds & MMORPG’s: Complexities Embodied]

Ghost In The Machine: Haunted Video Games

Friday, January 28th, 2011

In his 2009 column entitled Ghost In The Machine: Batman & Midnight Society Tackle TV’s Toughest Demonic Electronics, Matt explored how popular culture interpretations of the fear of addictive escapism through video games were portrayed by Batman: The Animated Series and Are You Afraid of the Dark? Spoiler alert: Batman gets it right, of course. In his intro to the column, he makes the following statement:

“Every major technological trend or development is always addressed by pop culture with a movie or show that illustrates the breakthrough’s potential for wild mass homicide. What if a VHS tape… were haunted? What if your cell phone… were haunted? What if the Internet… were haunted?”

Today, we are going to explore another question that people ask themselves a surprisingly large amount of the time. What if a video game… were haunted? Here are five times that question has been asked.

1. The Haunted Ms. Pac Man Machine – This particular Ms. Pac Man machine apparently came with one extra ghost. It was first spotted on Craigslist in Boston where it was being offered for free. When the owner was contacted and asked why it was being given away, he responded saying:

“Three-year old daughter started talking about the “man in the video machine”, didn’t think much of it, then my wife saw a dark figure move across the basement and into the machine. She ran out of the house, would not return until the machine was out of the house.”

Haunted video game or clever ruse to rid the house of Ms. Pac Man?

2. Pokeman Black – A bootleg version of Pokemon found in a flea market that was a modified version of Pokemon Red. The game starts out with an extra Pokemon simply called “GHOST” that had an attack called Curse. When used in battle, GHOST would slaughter any other Pokemon and when the end of the game was reached, the gamer was faced with “GHOST wants to fight!”. The battle always ended in death for the gamer and the game being erased.

3. Majora’s Haunted Mask – This legend has a really involved back story, but the basic premise is that a video game was purchased at a garage sale that belonged to a boy named Ben who had died, most likely from drowning. Check out these videos from the affected game. They are definitely creepy if nothing else.

4. Polybius, The Haunted Arcade Game – The legend of Polybius originated in Portland in the 1980s and involved a strange game that showed up at various Portland arcades mysteriously. The few gamers that actually got a chance and played the game supposedly became addicted and started acting strangely.

“Some say they experienced an extreme form of vertigo and vivid hallucinations long after they had finished playing while others claim they suffered amnesia, in some cases forgetting their own name. And most horrifying of all, it’s said that some players were haunted by horrific nightmares and eventually driven to insanity and suicide after coming under the game’s influence. “

Just as quickly and mysteriously as the game had appeared, it disappeared leaving few clues as to where it came from. Conspiracy theories range from government experiments, to ghosts, to Atari recalls. This legend is quite detailed and much more information can be found in the article and on Wikipedia.

5. Minecraft and the Legend of Herobrine – This is my favorite legend that we are covering today and it could easily be an entire post by itself. There is a lot of detail and information if you are willing to dig around the internet for it. The basic premise for the legend is that while playing in single player mode gamers started reporting structures and tunnels they did not build. They would also occasionally spot a user identified as Herobrine, who it was later discovered was the dead brother of Notch, the developer of Minecraft.

One of the most interesting parts of this legend to me is the hilarious and sometimes vitriolic interaction between the believers, the scammers, and those people who are clearly irritated with the whole idea.  I also love the growing library of videos that have appeared on YouTube chronicling Herobrine encounters. I have embedded some of my favorite ones below.

This one is long, you only need to watch like the last minute if you want.

It should be noted that four of the five stories involve haunted hardware, perhaps because it is easier to attribute something intangible, like a ghost, to a tangible object you can touch. Minecraft is a shared experience; however, Herobrine is only reported in the single player version of the game, which is not shared. Even so, as the legend of Herobrine has grown, the Minecraft community as a whole has shared the experience. This has been but a small sampling of the good ghost shenanigans in video games that are out there today. Anybody know any additional stories?

[image Jess Bradley]

Video Gamers Can Control Their Dreams

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010


Video games, they are not just for recruiting The Last Starfighter anymore. They can also aide in controlling your dreams, according to science!

That ability to shape the alternate reality of dream worlds might not match mind-bending Hollywood films such as “The Matrix,” but it could provide an edge when fighting nightmares or even mental trauma.

Dreams and video games both represent alternate realities, according to Jayne Gackenbach, a psychologist at Grant MacEwan University in Canada. But she pointed out that dreams arise biologically from the human mind, while video games are technologically driven by computers and gaming consoles.

“If you’re spending hours a day in a virtual reality, if nothing else it’s practice,” said Jayne Gackenbach, a psychologist at Grant MacEwan University in Canada. “Gamers are used to controlling their game environments, so that can translate into dreams.”

Get to it.

[Live Science]