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December 17th, 2004


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02:33 am - Another ten-spot
1. dezzikitty and I will be in the south of England between Friday 31st December and Wednesday 5th January, and would be very keen to see Friends and /friendsfriends in London, Oxford, Cambridge, Reading and related areas at your convenience during that time. We also pledge to be rather better organised than last time and so we shall be timely, subject to public transport. In response to previous enquiries, we recommend special offers from Travelodge, Holiday Inn and the Hilton chain. Hat tips to imc and mr_babbage.

After that, we will be in Boston between Wednesday 5th January and Wednesday 12th January, and keen to see our friends there.

2. It's rare that both principals and incident of a news story can be summarised in one word, but I think the nonce word Fan-dabi-do-SPLAT means that British readers don't need to read the full version of the article to know what happened.

3. The government recommend maximum levels of alcohol consumption, with specific advice against binge drinking (roughly, "half the weekly level in one night" is bad). They also recommend minimum levels of fruit and veg consumption. I wonder if there has been study into whether binge fruit'n'veg consumption is significantly worse than regular levels? I can reasonably easily consume 8-10 fruit'n'veg units in a day then go without the next.

4. So mobile phones with in-built GPS units now exist, which are begging to have interesting new types of game written for them. I'm sure three-dimensional geocaching would be possible, with the interesting caveat that the third dimension would be time rather than height, unless GPSes have gained altimeters without me looking. What do we want? Live Action Super Bomberman! When do we want it? October 2002.

Anyway, other people are taking the technology in other directions; it's interesting to read about Glofun RayGun, which is effectively GPS-mobile-phone Live Action Ghostbusters. Turn your GPS mobile phone on, and attract ghosts. Run about wherever you live to evade them, or shoot ("ionise") them for points. I quote: "To aim the raygun at a ghost, you move toward it. Moving quickly increases the raygun’s range. You can adjust your beam to long and narrow (good for zapping ghosts while they’re still far away) or short and wide (good for zapping them when they’re closing in on you)."

I'm not quite sure that I get why this would be fun, but I imagine it could well be fun - or, at the very least, novel. (I have horrible visions of playing this game while in a car.) It also looks a little disappointingly one-player, but I'm sure that people will work out interesting multi-player game applications soon enough. (For instance, are we within software of being able to play pick-up PacManhattan?) Download the game early in 2005, or - and here's where the Seattle part comes in - you can drop by the development company's office basement with your suitably endowed handset and beta-test it, Seattle game geeks (have you met? Peter, Deanna; Deanna, Peter?) go thou and have at.

5. Also in Seattle-related gaming news, static_zombie's Peter Sarrett, who occasionally drops a comment around these parts, has had his second party game published: Tunebaya. Despite a dodgy-looking name - one with which I doubt he had much to do - this is based around a simple and elegant concept: The Match Game (UK: Blankety Blank *) meets singing. The .wmv video explains all: all players are told a category and need to name a song fitting that category that others will know, then (in turn) sing it. Earn points by joining in singing other people's songs; earn more points by having other people join in your song, earn pots of points by naming the same song as other players. (So, technically, more like Bill Cullen The Match Game than Gene Rayburn Match Game '73.)

* ...and I don't mean the Georgia rock band of the same name, with a very interesting/annoying/epileptic-fit-inducing web site.

Looks like a fundamentally sound design to me; more co-operative than competitive, which is fitting because singing is essentially a co-operative game. Contrast this with the similar What Were You Thinking?, in which players aim to write down members of a specified category and earn points by naming popular choices; the twist is that the lowest scorer in each round pays a forfeit by explaining what they were thinking (normally by reading a self-deprecating card, jabbing at their own ignorance). No such focus on losing or negativity here, it's all co-operative and positive, ideally inspiring impromptu hootenannies aplenty. I'm not sure how well it would work if people wanted to get really competitive about it - it might get into arguments about whether people were singing along or not, but it's clearly a game designed not to be played very competitively.

(Talking of What Were You Thinking?, back in 2000, I once played a round of it in which all the players were asked to name songs by The Rolling Stones; I ended up with a spectacularly low score, possibly even blanking completely. Asked what I was thinking, I offered the excuse that I was British. The rest of the table simultaneously said "...so are they!" Oh. I have gone right off the game ever since.)

What I particularly admire about the design is that the experience will be different from group to group as you all know different sets of songs. I can imagine metalheads and goths finding their communal, collective imagination tends towards defaults that are far from the apparent mainstream, and the filkers would be all over this, spectacularly enjoying their own in-jokes. On the downside, I am not sure quite how much replay value the game has within the same group - you'll quickly work out what the best answer per category is for your group, but at a recommended 8 categories per game, this should keep you going for a while. (Mind you, I was in a group which saw in 2002 by playing through all 100 Apples To Apples adjectives. Only took us about four hours.) Also on the downside, British gaming groups - who have a collective sense-of-humour age of about 12 - will find the microphones to be the most phallic game components since the cards in Bang! with pictures of bullets on them.

Another backwards step is the distribution method; the company, Simply Fun, seem to intend to sell their wares through parties, giving commision to the hosts, much as the way in which housewives used to buy Tupperware and these days buy sex toys. (Colour me envious.) I think that's a business model that won't work here. When you go to a game-buying party, you'll be with the group of people who you play games with, so the group will need to buy exactly one copy of the game between it. Perhaps they'll buy one copy of each game sold by the company, but that's still not going to add up to nearly as many sales as products where every attendee would benefit from owning one.

This is rather a shame, as it looks like a fun game. In an ideal world it would be picked up by one of the major manufacturers, rebranded and sold to the mass market; for instance, I don't think there has been a game of the UK celebrtiy impersonation singing show Stars In Their Eyes, which is an Endemol property and so might be replicated all around Europe. Time can only tell.

All told: looks good and I'd like to give it a try. I have happy memories of singing at game conventions and of the United Geeky Board Gamer Tabernacle Choir of Columbus, OH once spectacularly improvising an impromptu round of the theme tune to WKRP in Cincinnati, even harmonising the last line. Apart from a boomerang which comes back, what more could any gamer ask?

6. While it is logically consistent and not, in fact, a contradiction in terms for a "way" to be both "new" and "old-fashioned", (a) it damn well sounds silly and (b) it raises questions about what exactly was wrong with the old old-fashioned way.

7. We read that Oxford University are set to offer a £3,000/year bursary to students from the poorest families from 2006. In addition, such students will be set to receive a state grant of £2,700/year - so, all told, that's £5,700 per year and no fees to pay up-front. (The fees are later repaid when people start earning over £15,000 per year.) Now admittedly we can extrapolate from current rates and estimate that essentials of food and housing will probably cost something like £4,000 per year, but that's really not too bad, all things considered. Well done, Oxford. (In fairness, Cambridge may be offering slightly better bursaries still, but the details are yet to be revealed. Also include an obligatory Tab-bashing remark here.)

8. Trolling is neither big nor clever and nobody likes destructive low-lives. However, those who remember how a happy game show newsgroup was destroyed may be amused by the change history of July 24th for the game shows page on Wikipedia. I particularly like the way Wikipedia demonstrates its strength at repelling vandalism.

9. I recently read Eastern Standard Tribe, the second novel by Cory Doctorow; like his first, it's been released under a Creative Commons license and you can also download it from his web site. My capsule review of his first novel was that he set up a brilliant sci-fi world and then failed to fill it with a compelling story; the second novel is better throughout, but still suffers the same fault. This is irritating because the world projected is within grasp and enjoyably near-future sci-fi, but there are better stories to be written using the constructs he establishes. Again, ripe pickings for fanfic if someone wants to write it - heck, someone presumably already has.

10. Alan Randy Amasia, October 9, 1957 - December 12, 2001.
Current Mood: lovedTwo weeks... :-)

(30 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


From:dr4b
Date:December 16th, 2004 07:18 pm (UTC)
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Huh. I don't have a GPS-endowed phone, nor one of the kinds they say they'll install it on, so I guess that's a lose for me. I hadn't heard of these guys before, though. Sounds neat.
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:December 17th, 2004 10:35 am (UTC)
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You know you want to buy an appropriate phone just so you can try the game out.

You know that you know lots of people who would be interested in playing the game, some of whom might have the appropriate equipment already and might well be interested in trying it out and telling the world whether it's any good or not.
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From:sir_gareth
Date:December 16th, 2004 08:34 pm (UTC)
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In totally unrelated news, I thought you might be amused to learn that CATS entered Milliway's last night... and very well role-played he was as well. I guess. Made me smirk anyway. (I sincerely hope you remember CATS - it must have occupied out MSO 'work' chats and emails for a good month).
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:December 17th, 2004 10:32 am (UTC)
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What you say?

This is leading up to an ALL YOUR BAR ARE BELONG TO US but kudos to the player for not shooting their bolt straight away.
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From:catalana
Date:December 16th, 2004 08:58 pm (UTC)
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All told: looks good and I'd like to give it a try. I have happy memories of singing at game conventions and of the United Geeky Board Gamer Tabernacle Choir of Columbus, OH once spectacularly improvising an impromptu round of the theme tune to WKRP in Cincinnati, even harmonising the last line.

Am I geeky because, after reading this, I felt compelled to sing the entire theme song (with all the words, natch) while sitting here? *grin*
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:December 17th, 2004 10:37 am (UTC)
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In a most de-light-ful wayyyyy!

I also note that you get one point for singing, and I score one point for nominating a song that another player would actually sing. Accordingly, this makes us joint leaders in the ongoing online global game of Tunebaya. In yer face, Sarrett.
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From:klepsydra
Date:December 16th, 2004 10:41 pm (UTC)
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Did you get my email the other day?
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:December 17th, 2004 10:38 am (UTC)
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I did! Working on it. :-)

Would there be a good time to meet up with you, and hopefully other nice mutual acquaintances, in the first week of January? I would very much hope so.
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From:bateleur
Date:December 17th, 2004 12:10 am (UTC)

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Re: Glofun RayGun

My strategic tip: a skateboard !
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:December 17th, 2004 10:40 am (UTC)
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It raises the question of where would be a good place to play the game. Playing it in urban surroundings is probably the intention and would engender the most miscellaneous havoc, especially with a skateboard underneath, but playing it in a cornfield (modulo rural phone signal strength) or similar patch of green would probably make for the easiest gameplay and the highest scores.
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From:strangefrontier
Date:December 17th, 2004 01:49 am (UTC)
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Point #2. As cruel as this sounds, I can't help but giggle. Panto season in Glasgow is just painful, knowing that the Krankies are actually out in public. Eech. Worse is the knowledge that just across the road from my flat, Gerard Kelly and Elaine C Smith are making arses of themselves every night till early January. (They're doing Mother Goose this year.)
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:December 17th, 2004 10:45 am (UTC)
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We have Bella Emberg at the panto in the theatre 400 yards up the road. *shakes head* In keeping with the Krankies theme, Stu Francis is playing at the Billingham Forum theatre. I'm not sure why he still gets work, or who the target demographic is there, but it keeps him off the streets.

There was a funny tale in The Times the other day about Gyles Brandreth receiving an invitation to go on series two of I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here! and consulting his wife for advice, only for the wife to point out that not only is Gyles evidently at the level of I'm A Celebrity invitee, he is not even sufficiently celebrity to be invited to take part in the first series.

Similarly, it turns out that even the Krankies get understudies.
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From:zarchasmpgmr
Date:December 17th, 2004 12:43 pm (UTC)
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From a caption in the article:

Ryan Fletcher will step in as a village idiot

So many retorts, so little time...
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From:gwendolyngrace
Date:December 17th, 2004 06:43 am (UTC)

Visit!

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After that, we will be in Boston between Wednesday 5th January and Wednesday 12th January, and keen to see our friends there.

And we are keen to see you, but it may be a trifle tight schedule-wise. I have some travel booked that week-end (6th-9th), but could be available on the 10th or the 11th for dinner, depending on how other things work out.
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:December 17th, 2004 10:28 am (UTC)

Re: Visit!

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I hope so!

I was idly wondering whether it would be possible to take a party of Boston t00bs out to the new 5-wits game, the feedback about which I have heard to be unremittingly positive. You were definitely in mind as someone who would be likely to enjoy it. Unfortunately, it's shut on Mondays and Tuesdays, which makes things tricky. Ah well. Dinner alone still sounds good and I'm sure there are other fun things to do, too.
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From:gwendolyngrace
Date:December 17th, 2004 01:48 pm (UTC)

Re: Visit!

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It does look nifty - will have to be some other time.

But I would definitely love to get together with you while you're here.
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:December 17th, 2004 05:40 pm (UTC)

Re: Visit!

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Being honest, my comments about the word on the street being positive are mostly wishful thinking. I'm still inclined to give it a try in fun company at some point, and feel that in good company it can't possibly be less fun than a barrel of monkeys plus two mixed metaphors.

Thanks for the info by e-mail. I shall indeed be in touch!
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From:zarchasmpgmr
Date:December 17th, 2004 12:21 pm (UTC)
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Ah, panto. Someday I would actually like to see one in person, not just be a victim of "He's behind you!".
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:December 17th, 2004 05:42 pm (UTC)
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Would that I were the Fairy Godmother, able to wave my wand and conjure up a couple of panto tickets - but, I suspect, your issue is more one of being able to find a panto to attend in the first place.
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From:zarchasmpgmr
Date:December 20th, 2004 09:14 am (UTC)
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That is an accurate assessment.

I was in London last December, but unfortunately I did not fit one in to our hectic schedule.
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From:amuzulo
Date:December 17th, 2004 04:59 pm (UTC)
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we will be in Boston between Wednesday 5th January and Wednesday 12th January, and keen to see our friends there.

Hey!!! I hope to be in New York City by the first week of January. What would you think of taking the chinatown bus to NYC and hanging out for a day (any day except January 7)? It's a four-hour bus ride and costs only $20 round-trip ("return trip" in British English, heh)! It goes from Chinatown in Boston to Chinatown in NYC. You get your bus tickets in English and Chinese and watch a couple of American movies with Chinese subtitles. Also, feel free to buy some Chinese food before you take off. In any case, the ride itself is almost cool enough to warrant the trip. =) Oh yeah, this would also save me some postage of sending you that Esperanto game magazine... =D

So, you could arrive in NYC around noon and stay until 7 pm or so and still get back in time to turn into your Boston hotel (or wherever you're staying in Boston). Unfortunately, I'll be chillin' at a friend's apartment in Manhattan, so I won't be able to host you... :-( Oh yeah, and what a perfect place and time to discuss the possibility of having an MSO USA in NYC! =)
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:December 17th, 2004 05:48 pm (UTC)
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Mmm... worth considering. The main purpose of my trip is so that I can spent time in person with dezzikitty rather than being reduced to speaking to her on the phone, and (even taking the Fung Wah Bus Company's ferocious reputation for velocity in mind) eight hours on a bus is rather a lot to spend from one day. I could try to catch a bus as Meg goes to work and be back soon after she finishes, but that's going to give us very little time at the NYC end.

I'll keep thinking and will talk more once you're in NYC.
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From:amuzulo
Date:December 17th, 2004 05:58 pm (UTC)
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Hmmm... I would also consider visiting you in Boston for the day, but the only trouble is that my friend is letting me stay in his Manhattan apartment, so I can find a job and an apartment, not so I can go gallavanting to Boston for the day... Hmmm. Well, I guess I can't be doing much job hunting on the weekend. Perhaps I could go up on Sunday, January 9, but I also shouldn't really be spending money I'm not making. Ugh. Life is rough, isn't it? heh

On the other hand, I might could come up for the whole weekend and visit some other friends in Boston and the area as well. Ummm. I dunno. We'll talk in more detail later.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:December 17th, 2004 05:07 pm (UTC)

Tunebaya

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Actually, I came up with the name for Tunebaya and am quite happy with it. The heart of the game is recreating those magical campfire singalong moments, so my design partner (a decade ago I could have said simply "my partner" and left it at that, but now I feel oddly compelled to add the qualifier lest I be misunderstood [not that there's anything wrong with that]) suggested Kumbaya as a name. I thought that "kumbaya" had religious connotations (perhaps because one can hardly say the word without continuing on to "my lord"), but that otherwise it evoked exactly the right feeling. So I suggested Tunebaya instead, we both smiled, the published loved it, done.

As for the microphones, I haven't seen them in person-- they were the publisher's idea. We used giant meeples in our prototype. But when I showed some friends the video on the Simply Fun website, the phallic jokes immediately sprang up. So to speak.

As to the business model, I have no idea how successful it will be. Similar direct-to-consumer businesses like The Pampered Chef are enormously successful. I don't agree that you'll be at a party with the same group of people you'd usually play games with. That may be true for the HOST, but not for all the guests. And remember that the vast majority of board games are purchased as gifts, and all the games in the SimplyFun line are very gift-friendly.

Don't know any Deannas in Seattle (or, for that matter, outside of Seattle). She's cordially invited to swing by my inbox (peter at gamereport.com) and say hi.

- Peter
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:December 17th, 2004 06:06 pm (UTC)

Re: Tunebaya

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Well, it's true that I've been judging based on what I know of the European hobby gamer market all along, which is not even close to the market you're trying to sell to. I look forward to finding out how well it performs and hope many people get to try it out before long.

The other relevant question is: O cutting-edge-game-savvy Seattlite, do you have a well-endowed micro mobile phone? Might you even be one of the five guys in the Glofun basement in your spare time? :-)

Deanna writes at dr4b. It's not at all impossible that the two of you have come into contact through gaming at MS and just not known it. If you've been beaten at Ricochet Robot by any ladies recently, it's probably her...
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From:oinomel71
Date:December 19th, 2004 04:14 pm (UTC)
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Work out when you're going to be in London and/or Cambridge, and I shall endeavour Really Quite Hard to fit in with at least one of them!
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From:imc
Date:December 20th, 2004 09:03 am (UTC)
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dezzikitty and I will be in the south of England between Friday 31st December and Wednesday 5th January

bopeepsheep and I will be in the north of England between (probably) Thursday 30th December and Monday 3rd January…

I'm due back at work on the 4th, but I suppose a lunchtime or evening thing isn't out of the question.
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From:malachan
Date:December 26th, 2004 10:55 am (UTC)
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Am working on 1st and 2nd, but not on 3rd or 4th. Happy to tootle down to London or (even beter!) Oxford. Should we put the call out for an impromptu t00bage?
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:December 26th, 2004 12:56 pm (UTC)
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Good call! zorac is also free on the third and has indicated willingness to host. Sound like a plan, man?
From:t_tank_engine
Date:December 26th, 2004 03:48 pm (UTC)
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Excellent. We should make Times and Plans and perhaps announce via LJ post if you want it to turn into a full-blown mini-t00bage!

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