10 Really Bad Console Knock-Offs
I remember first hearing about knock offs for clothes and purses. Many street vendors and swap shops would offer bags that looked like the very expensive ones you would see in designer stores for a cheap price. Amazing enough, some were very good knock-offs while others were down right horrible. In fact, some knock offs were so good they were pretty expensive themselves.
The video game market is no different, we have bootleg games, consoles and accessories. Just like the clothes and purses, console knock offs can look pretty good, or down right horrible. In the end, I think the key here is to catch unsuspecting adults just trying to buy a kid something and being fooled by the name and a slick salesman because no respecting gamer could fall for these right? Continue reading “10 Really Bad Console Knock-Offs” »
Comic book writer Matthew Kuhn and artist Preston Stone are asking Kickstarter users to back their latest project, a 30-page science fiction action-adventure comic entitled Law of Realities.
On his Kickstarter page, Kuhn explained the premise of the comic, which will be “set in the near future where climate change has reached an extreme, with natural and man made disasters growing in intensity and frequency.”
Scientists discover a new technology which is able to alter reality and thus fix the Earth’s climate, but an accident instead creates massive earthquakes that tear the planet apart. As the “energy bubbles” change reality in the many remnants of Earth, “new life explodes from the devastation with the same ferocity as the destruction that preceded it,” Kuhn explained. “Flora and fauna rip out of the ground and trees burst forth, racing for the sky, growing to incredible heights in mere moments.”
Calvin and Skyla, the two protagonists of Law of Realities, are survivors of the anomaly who now have to fight for their lives in the now-foreign territory that was once Earth, now filled with dangerous new animals and plants.
Law of Realities will boast a unique “cinematic” art style, which Kuhn and Stone said will differentiate it from other comics.
“This is something that has bugged me in the past, where artists like Alex Ross would tackle the cover and deliver something lifelike and awe inspiring, and when you open the book, it’s just the same old cookie cutter art,” Stone said. “That will not happen with Law of Realities.”
For an example of what the comic’s artwork will look like, Stone drew us this epic portrait of The Jace Hall Show‘s namesake:
Stretch goals for Law of Realities include expanding the now-30-page work to 60 or 90 pages, as well as giving backers collector’s coins designed by Stone and hardcover copies of the comic, should the project reach its final stretch goal of $100,000.
So far, Kuhn’s Kickstarter campaign has raised $500 of its initial $25,000 goal. Backers have until December 25 to make a pledge for the comic.
Before you get all hot and bothered…we are talking classic, arcade foursomes, here.
Remember the days of being elbow to elbow with other gamers at your local arcade? When two play games hit the arcades it added a whole new dimension to gameplay, but when we first started seeing 4-player arcade games, it was as if we arrived in heaven. Now we could grab a bunch of our friends and take on an army of bad guys using our elite arcade skills and it was hours of fun. Continue reading “The Best Retro Foursomes In History…” »
The mass slaughtering of giant birds has now taken place. The pumpkin pie, stuffing and other foods nobody eats the rest of the year is now piping hot. That weird aunt you only see twice a year is ready to get your name wrong and ask how Tom Landry is doing when she sees you watching the Dallas Cowboys game. Black Friday shoppers are sharpening their swords and spiked cleats as they prepare to kill for the chance to own some off-brand TV for $8… if they can only get there during the first 17.8 mintues.
Yes, it’s Thanksgiving… and that means it is time to give thanks, which happens to fit right in with the name of the holiday. Pretty cool how they did that.
Here is what I’m thankful for in the world of video gaming as we start to get all reflective for 2013 and stuff.
I’m Thankful for the New Console Wars Continue reading “What I’m Thankful For in Video Gaming (Snarky Style)” »
Ho ho ho. Ho ho ho.
No… I’m not calling you names. Damn written word. It’s the laugh of that fat guy that breaks into everyone’s house this time of year.
Video games are a huge focus for retailers this holiday season, with the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Wii U going at it in a blood war for your Christmas dollars.
Continue reading “This Week in Video Game History: Retrogaming Christmas commercials” »
After fans worried Activision no longer owns the IP for Crash Bandicoot, the company confirmed Crash is still in their hands and could someday make a triumphant return.
Concern was recently expressed about the current state of Crash in online fan communities after a Reddit user pointed out that the Crash Bandicoot official website was taken down, and any mention of Crash was erased from Activision’s website.
A representative of Activision told Game Informer that Crash Bandicoot still belongs to Activision, and that he may be in some new games in the future.
“Activision owns Crash Bandicoot and we continue to explore ways in which we could bring the beloved series back to life,” he said.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates shows he is ready to kill for the Xbox One’s success over the PlayStation 4 in the latest episode of South Park.
Continuing from last week’s episode poking fun at the latest console war in the style of Game of Thrones, the episode “A Song of Ass and Fire” has Bill Gates gruesomely taking back control Microsoft from Steve Ballmer. The then sends a number of weapons to Colorado in order to ensure a bloodbath will occur over which next-gen console is better when the South Park Mall starts its Black Friday sale. Continue reading “Bill Gates Enters the Console War in the Latest “South Park” Episode” »
1979 Revolution, an independent video game based on the events of the Iranian Revolution in 1979, is looking to Kickstarter for funding.
“The Iranian Revolution of 1979 is a defining story for me,” Navid Khonsari, the game’s creator, wrote on the project’s new Kickstarter page. “When I was 10 years old my grandfather took me by the hand and brought me to the streets in Tehran so I could witness what was happening in our country.”
The game, being exclusively designed for iOS devices, promises to offer a “deep narrative experience” within the setting of 1979 Iran, during the height of the country’s revolution. 1979 Revolution‘s story will focus on Reza, “a young photojournalist in Tehran” who is not politically motivated but rather enjoys the idea of change, the Kickstarter page says. After the death of his cousin, Reza chooses sides, becoming “a key player” in the overthrow of the Iranian monarchy.
1979 Revolution places emphasis on the player’s ability to re-play history. A particular mini-game will allow Reza to take photographs of events in real-time; players can then compare the in-game photos to real images that captured the same events back in 1979 Tehran.
The gameplay of 1979 Revolution focuses on the dangers present in an Iranian city placed under martial law. Reza will have to use stealth tactics to sneak around police forces, and critical decisions have to be made interacting with other characters that can affect the outcome of Reza’s story.
Khonsari and his team of developers are taking many risks developing 1979 Revolution. Iranian media are wrongfully reporting that Khonsari is an American spy, he said. Three members of the game’s design team — the graphic novel artist, animation director, and one of the writers — remain anonymous.
iNK Stories Studio is asking the Kickstarter community for $395,000 to finish a full build of 1979 Revolution‘s first episode, “Black Friday.” The project so far has raised more than $11,100 from 86 backers. The funding period for 1979 Revolution ends Monday, December 16.
Section 7.1, under the subtitle “Resale,” says, ”You must not resell either Disc-based Software or Software Downloads, unless expressly authorized by us and, if the publisher is another company, additionally by the publisher.” Continue reading “PS4 Games Can’t Be Rented or Resold; Sony May Record You On PlayStation Network” »
As a both a woman and a gamer, I’m always glad to hear news about women in the gaming industry leaving their mark on what was (and, for the most part, still is) a predominantly male industry.
There are several, shining stars on the list, including: Ubisoft Toronto managing director Jade Raymond, EA’s Lucy Bradshaw, IGDA executive director Kate Edwards, the Casual Gaming Association’s, Jessica Tams, Kongregate CEO, Emily Greer, Kabam co-founder, Holly Liu, IndieCADE CEO, Stephanie Barish, and King CFO, Hope Cochran.
These women only show that despite the hardships that come with being a woman in the gaming industry (sexism and all that jazz), it’s very possible to come out on top in the world of gaming. Video games are no longer created just for men and by men alone. While the playing field is far from level, there will, hopefully, come a day where the aforementioned developers won’t get recognition just because they are women—but because they are great developers regardless.
We’ve a long way to go, but things are slowly, but surely changing. Maybe one day, women might even be seen as equals in the video game community as well.
If you’re a gamer and you don’t know that your IPad can be used for more than just watching porn and watching your pet do adorably dumb things on it, then I have news for you, so zip up your pants and put Fluffy away.
Here are just a few, honorable mentions out of a list of twelve, great games you can play on your IPad (depending on which generation it is) that’s more than just Fruit Ninja or Angry birds. The list includes:
The fun, quirky rhythm game, Beat Sneak Bandit:
The action-paced adventure game, Infinity Blade III Reborn:
And last, but certainly not least, for those who wants a dramatic, eerie, and mysterious puzzle game, The Room:
All of these games are available for download from the App Store. Check out the full list of games you’re missing out on. Happy Playing, IPadders.
Still wondering whether you should buy The Stanley Parable? The game’s free demo on Steam may just help you decide.
James Portnow of the web series “Extra Credits” said he loves the demo to the recent indie hit despite arguing on an episode of his show that most game demos can harm sales.
“[The demo for The Stanley Parable] goes against everything that industry wisdom says,” Portnow told The Jace Hall Show editorial staff Friday during “JHS News Talk Live.” “It exists as its own wholly created content, as a demo created for its own sake to be a demo rather than a slice of a game. And in that context, I think you can produce something great. The question is: if you’re producing a triple-A game, is that economically feasible?”
Also appearing on “News Talk Live” was developer of The Stanley Parable, Davey Wreden, who said building a demo that is separate of the main game allowed his small design team to develop a whole new experience based on what they learned working on the full version of The Stanley Parable.
You can watch a video of the full conversation below.
Okay how did we do at predicting the future this time around?
Q: Was it mostly just a cynical PR stunt to stay relevant this Christmas?
A: Yup, called that one. Lots of hype for the launch of an unspecified game console you can’t buy this year.
Q: Will Valve be selling a specific console configuration?
A: Not entirely clear yet but the implication is that they will “Endorse” one from a possible partner. Doing a big hype launch and not revealing the console is a pretty strong indicator that it is still far from existence so the answer is, even Valve doesn’t know what its specs will be yet.
Q: Will they announce a bunch of supporting partners including strong support from Nvidia?
A: Actually the partners mostly announced themselves in parallel and included all of the usual suspects… most importantly Nvidia.
Q: How did you score on the game controller launch
A: I give myself points for identifying it as an important element but given my assessment that this was mostly a PR stunt I was actually surprised that a gamepad was their final reveal. I was dismissive of a commenter who knew better. I bet on more partner announcements (which did occur). They even released a picture of it, making it even more tangible than the console itself.
My brother Rex claims I’m a prognosticating fraud because of this news item, so I’ll post it for everyone’s independent evaluation.
..but I don’t see how it’s a miss when this is an existing product, Valve didn’t launch it and all they are expected to “announce” is an update. I’ll eat my words when Valve announces that THIS is the beta device they are sending to 300 gamers.
I’m scoring myself 90% on this one. Any idiot can comment on the news, but who can predict it AND tell you WHY it’s happening? I don’t think I have to turn in my crystal ball yet.
So, now that we imagine that we know some facts, what does this all mean to gaming? As usual I’m tempted to give Valve a hard time for such a BS dog and pony show ahead of the Christmas buying season. They yanked everybody’s chains, they’ve got nothing to ship and it’s an extremely irresponsible thing to do declare if they’re not really committed to it because taking on the role of a gaming OS provider is a HUGE job and if they don’t follow through on their promise of doing a good job of ensuring that a huge range of crappy Linux driver configurations work together, they will finish the job Microsoft started on the PC game industry. They’ll kill it dead because the last bastion of dedicated PC gamers will be very disappointed after they buy a premium priced Linux game console only to discover that it’s a highly unstable unreliable gaming experience. So even if this was a cheap PR stunt, Valve has placed themselves in a position to do a lot of damage if they don’t really execute against the promise they just made. This is not the first time Valve has “launched” a half-hearted technology initiative that they didn’t really follow through on. That said… I’m actually pretty excited about this and not for the usual ”giddy gamer” reasons.
Basically what Valve is recognizing, through the emphasis and launch of a standardized GAMEPAD, but not a standardized console configuration, is that games are the media of interactivity and given that any decent computer can run a game engine, what really unifies and defines a gaming experience these days… is the controller… That’s something only real gamers fully embrace. You certainly didn’t see any of that emphasis on gaming experience during the XBOX ONE launch which immediately tells you that people with an innate love and appreciation for the media of games… were not in charge of the XBOX ONE. It’s a great way to unify the huge range of gaming configurations they expect to support.
Now here’s the REALLY important point that I think Valve’s fans will have to keep them honest on. Media driver problems are almost always the sources of terrible stability and performance problems. It’s not good enough for Valve to ship a reference console that they may test thoroughly and wish everyone else well on getting their own “Steam Box” configurations to work well. It’s not good enough to get all the leading PC OEM’s, system integrators and IHV’s to CLAIM to support them. The only way to ensure that consumers who try to buy or build their own SteamBox configurations don’t experience consumer gaming disasters is for an independent third party to rigorously test and CERTIFY everything. Valve needs a very strong logo program that they defend rigorously to actively prevent people from shipping bad “Steam OS” boxes associated with Valve’s name. When it comes to gaming platform sins, THIS was one of Microsoft’s greatest failings and Microsoft (thanks in part to the early DirectX teams efforts) has fairly rigorous driver testing compatibility suites and certification standards. But even Microsoft’s relatively high modern standards are not good enough for a game console grade experience. Having announced this, if Valve doesn’t take this on, they may be responsible for a terminal loss of faith in the PC game platform. Valve has to play cop with its partners, or it’s all going to be a s**t-show. We all know that a $1000 console is not going to put them on the map against Sony and Microsoft’s console offerings at half the price. Valve needs free-market competition between manufacturers to bring down the cost of Steam Boxes and they need that competition to play out in area where hacking up media drivers to get better performance doesn’t result in a total protonic meltdown of driver stability. The sad economics of the PC game market is that the more competitive it is for performance, the crappier the drivers get because companies will take more shortcuts to ship faster and perform well on speed benchmarks. Valve has to define the standards for stability and performance or it will all decay into a horrible mess quickly.
They also can’t afford to be naïve about this and learn the hard way by having a huge configuration disaster early in their launch of this initiative or they’ll lose their cred with gamers before it’s even had a chance to take off. They need to be all over robust hardware permutation testing for anything they are going to allow to call itself a “SteamBox ” ASAP. The sin of making OS platforms without taking responsibility for driver consistency is one Google is also responsible for with Android which is a major reason that Android is the “poor mans” iPhone. Valve has positioned itself to be the “rich mans” game console, third-world stability problems will not cut it.
The root source of my concern here is that enforcing driver standards is a tough boring job and I can’t help but wonder if Valve’s elite core of game developers are really excited to sign up to work on policing irresponsible IHV’s and OEM’s. That temptation to avoid this tedious task or to try to pawn it off on the market may be irresistible for them and I believe would be a HUGE mistake. At WildTangent when we had 120M 3D web drivers running all over the world, it was an impossible testing task. We built a huge automated lab that sported a huge range of hardware and OS configurations. The lab was staffed by engineers who scripted automated configuration permutation tests that ran all night with each nightly build of our technology. It was the only way we could manage a high standard of compatibility for hundreds of games on thousands of PC configurations and we weren’t trying to police the drivers themselves.
Okay Valve, you want to dish on Microsoft for screwing up the PC game market? Don’t make their biggest mistakes. Own the driver standards early for SteamOS, that’s the unpleasant chore that a responsible platform provider has to embrace. Testing your own configuration isn’t good enough if you’re making the OS available to anybody to ship with your name on it.
For you sucker consumers out there, keep this in mind. There is enormous market pressure on IHV’s (Independent Hardware Vendors) to hack up their drivers to perform better on consumer benchmarks. Those great performance benchmarks often come at the expense of driver robustness. In addition to the many illegitimate reasons Windows saddles games with some overhead, one of the VITAL sources of driver overhead is Microsoft driver certification requirements for robustness. Robustness is also your insurance that NEW games will actually work on your OLD computer. IHV’s have an interest in you being forced to buy new computers to play new games so just testing existing games and tweaking them for speed is their dominant motivation. Being reliable can come with a substantial amount of “overhead” because the driver can’t take cheap performance shortcuts or skip parameter checking to perform better for a benchmark. Nobody writes consumer reviews about how “Stable” an exciting new gaming piece of hardware is… most reviewers don’t have the tools to evaluate that information, so all you hear is about speed. Personally I buy new graphics hardware after it has been in the market for year and is still receiving top review marks, that ensures that the IHV has had time to clean up the drivers they probably shipped in haste to hit a market deadline. Don’t get all buggy-eyed over claims that Linux will magically be faster just because nobody will be supervising the quality and stability of the drivers they are churning out. I’m looking for Valve to own this issue.
Odallus: The Dark Call is a new classic 2D side scrolling action game from Joymasher, currently vying for a spot on Steam. The game looks to be bringing back the classic NES vibe in a very exciting way.
Featuring multiple paths, players will take on the role of Haggis, battling through 8-bit inspired stages. The combat system seems to take from the original Castlevania games a little bit, but Joymasher insists the inspirations in general are drawn from titles like Demons Crest and Chakan: The Forever Man. Continue reading “Classic 8-bit Action In The Metroidvania Throwback ODALLUS: THE DARK CALL” »
I’m writing this article BEFORE Valve makes further disclosures about SteamOS because it is far more intellectually entertaining than reacting to it AFTER it has been announced and suddenly everybody is retroactively brilliant. There are lots of interesting angles to approach this story from. Is it a good press strategy ahead of the launch of next generation consoles from Microsoft and Sony? Absolutely, in fact there’s a good case to be made for it being the primary purpose of announcing a SteamOS. First Microsoft severely screws up Windows 8 for game publishing, Valve’s primary distribution platform, then steals all of the core gamer enthusiasm and press with the next generation console war stories. How does Valve get back in the picture without an announcement like this?
Now let’s analyze this from a business point of view. Can Valve afford to mass produce a cheap game console and subsidize the hardware costs for millions of users? Probably not… so it better be a FREE OS download to a box you buy yourself, right? But wait a second, Linux media drivers for gaming are notoriously atrocious. Is Valve really going to take on fixing hundreds of crappy, low performance Linux drivers across thousands of random hardware configurations so you can use Steam on ANY PC you build? Probably not and without rigorous driver testing and certification standards most hardware makers will persist in producing crappy drivers for their products. So clearly this announcement makes no sense whatsoever without a box. One single configuration that Valve can rigorously control the drivers for and ensure that they are stable and fast.
For that Valve needs partners and the company in this space that needs a partner MOST right now is Nvidia, so let’s predict that IF Valve announces a box, it will most likely sport an Nvidia chip and be most rigorously tested against Nvidia drivers. Since Valve is unlikely to be able to subsidize the hardware, they are going to have to rely on being cool because they are Valve and sport the highest spec console configuration in the market which you will have to pay a premium for… but the OS is FREE!
Now most of Steam’s content lineup is designed for a mouse and a keyboard, yet everyone expects a gamepad experience in the living room… so what is the input device going to be for this Linux console? If Valve is going to launch a box, then they probably also need to launch a controller. Given that most of the content in their channel requires a mouse and keyboard and is NOT designed for TV play, they’re going to have to have a mouse and keyboard story. This is a problem where a lot of creativity is required and will be a major indication of how serious they are about this play. The simple solution is to say; “get both and good luck using a mouse and keyboard to play games in your living room.” If they are REALLY serious about this strategy, then they will need to announce a brilliant and elegant solution to this conundrum in an integrated input controller that just works somehow. Again a relationship with Nvidia and Shield would provide one good solution.
Strategy-wise, there is no downside to trying this, they need a story to stay relevant during this console cycle and they need an alternative to Windows given Microsoft’s apparent determination to destroy the PC’s usefulness for gaming.
Finally, will Valve announce its next big title for this device? If they don’t it’s certainly just a cheap free media gag, because clearly that’s what it would take for them to get any significant adoption. One huge hit game will certainly be enough to get it off the ground but the real question is will they be able to get other PC game developers (the half dozen that are left) to follow suit? That’s a tough one because most core PC game developers are abandoning the platform in favor of targeting consoles or mobile. Microsoft has certainly done a fine job of completely wiping out the PC game retail channel over the years so Valve needs some big players to divert their next gen console development cycles to their box. On the other hand… the next gen consoles all look like PC boxes and anybody targeting the PS4 will be targeting Linux as well, so Valve may get a free ride via Sony on getting next generation console games for their own channel. Tough one, but again, there’s really no downside for Valve to try it. The short of it is, Valve needs some big partners to pull this off, so if their subsequent announcements don’t sport some big names with big endorsements then odds are they have a long futile struggle ahead of them.
What do I think of Linux as a consumer gaming platform? It’s a crap consumer platform, but it’s what you’ve got to work with if you don’t want to build an OS from scratch. Packaged well, the OS base is irrelevant, but itself… pure garbage… there is no way Valve wants to try to support thousands of broken Linux driver configurations… madness… sure the OS will be free to anyone who wants to waste a lot of time discovering that Linux drivers suck for gaming and then buy whatever Valve’s “SteamBox” turns out to be. How about a Linux console in the living room? As I’ve stated previously, it’s not clear to me that consoles have any future in the living room anyway… the market and the kids all seem to be going mobile. Unlike the last console generation, I don’t think the market will be big enough to support 3 or 4 winners this time around and Microsoft can afford to buy their position in the market. It all strikes me like the last generation of horse and buggy makers battling for market share even as Henry Ford (Apple) takes over the car market. New approaches to obsolete markets don’t get me excited.
Without knowing more, I’m going to bet that this is a no-downside, mostly good PR play to stay relevant during a new console cycle. The most brazen committed thing I could see Valve doing is stating that their newest games are exclusive to their box. If they don’t go exclusive they’re hedging their bets against its failure which makes this announcement and commitment weak-kneed. I think the most interesting question is, will the “SteamBox” be Nvidia’s horse in the next generation console wars?
After meeting its $80,000 fundraising goal on Kickstarter, a multiplayer online RPG set in the universe of StarCraft II is now on its way. Here’s what you can expect to see in StarCraft Universe:
The game is a mod of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. StarCraft Universe will focus on telling a deep story with intense combat sections, as well as having multiplayer experiences that are highly re-playable. Multiplayer is at the core of StarCraft Universe‘s gameplay, as groups of players will “battle together through enemy forces and powerful bosses in a rich and living environment.”
StarCraft Universe stems from independent studio Upheaval Arts from an earlier mod, entitled World of StarCraft. Upheaval was initially involved with Blizzard Entertainment over a small copyright dispute, but this latest version of the mod has Blizzard’s support, including their approval of the Kickstarter page.
StarCraft Universe‘s setting is an alternate version of StarCraft II‘s universe in which the Protoss are defeated and survivors of the conflict struggle to live on “shattered worlds.” Players will have two races (Terran and Protoss), and eight classes within those races, to choose from. The characters will have custom assets that are re-designs of Blizzard’s original models and textures. There will be a wide variety of character customization options for players through the mod’s unique “allocation ability system.”
The designers of StarCraft Universe also boast the game will feature an original soundtrack, an achievement system, and cutscenes that are fully voice acted. Once the open beta is released this mod will be free to play, with no StarCraft II purchase required to play StarCraft Universe. Keep an eye out as this mod continues development, now with another $80,000 to help move it along.
I’m sure everybody realizes by now that Microsoft had every intention of attempting to completely monopolize the computing industry in the 1990’s. Bill Gates had a fierce competitive frustration with Apple and could be said to be nearly obsessed with crushing his only real consumer OS rival. Microsoft and Apple were locked in competitive struggles at that time including a never ending patent battle over Windowed UI and the use of the mouse.
When I joined Microsoft in late 1992 I had little idea or comprehension of the epic industry wide battle that I was joining by becoming Microsoft’s first “Publishing Technology Evangelist”. Gates was desperate to get Windows into the home and the massive overhaul of the Windows Operating System to create Windows 95 was a company wide initiative to end Apple in the home, schools and film industry once and for all. Even the Windows 95 UI could be trivially configured to mirror the Macs. Although I didn’t know any of this at the time that I joined Microsoft’s Developer Relations Group, the team had been created by Steve Ballmer in an effort to counter one of Apples most effective weapons against Microsoft. Strong support from major application developers DESPITE Apple’s tiny market share as a result of their own great Developer Relations efforts lead by Apple legend Guy Kawasaki.
Guy’s efforts at Apple had a devastating impact on Microsoft. Developers hated Windows, hated Microsoft, hated Microsoft tools and LOVED anything Apple did in large part because of Guy’s incredible evangelism talents. In response to Apple’s extremely effective efforts in this area, Ballmer created Microsoft’s DRG group under Cameron Myhrvold. Microsoft’s version of Developer Relations was somewhat different from Apple’s. Microsoft’s version was extremely aggressive, ruthless and essentially had a blank checkbook to wield against its adversaries. The father of Microsoft Evangelism and chief rival of Guy Kawasaki was James Plamondon.
James was a student of ancient warfare, military strategy and propaganda. He was an older “fatherly” figure who recruited young… impressionable engineers like myself and “raised” us to be Microsoft’s chief technology warriors. James was famously and CORRECTLY identified as one of the principal figures in Microsoft’s “anti-competitive” efforts.
Plamondon’s top-secret internal training program titled “Evangelism is War” is now famous for having been exposed during the Microsoft DOJ trial. http://www.alexstjohn.com/WP/2013/01/15/evangelism-is-war/
I was a student of that program and ultimately became the “Master” as my efforts with publishing and gaming were so devastating to Apple that I became responsible for running that team and James ultimately came to work for me. To be clear, James was an extremely nice likable guy, for him, technology strategy was just a giant competitive game of chess with Apple that he didn’t consider “diabolical” in the least, it was just competition. He was friends with Guy Kawasaki and aspired to develop superior evangelism tactics to exceed Guy’s own achievements in the area.
At the time that I joined Developer Relations there were over a dozen evangelists dedicated to challenging Apple’s progress on a variety of developer relations fronts. There was a team of 8 led by Rick Segal dedicated to competing with QuickTime, James and several others lead the Win32 API push, then other new comers like Craig Eisler and Eric Engstrom (who later built DirectX with me) were pitted against competing tool platforms like Borland. There were also teams of anti-Novell, anti-Sun, anti-IBM and intriguingly an Intel dedicated team. In addition to the technology focused evangelists there were people focused on driving Apple out of educational institutions and most interestingly, Hollywood evangelists to displace Apples presence in Movies and TV shows. (Vic Gundotra, now Sr. VP at Google was one of them) All had been trained by James.
To characterize DRG as a CIA like technology organization would not be a large stretch. Even Bill’s book “The Road Ahead” was drafted by DRG. Certain elements of Microsoft’s PR messaging were also driven by DRG. We ran the developer conferences and events, we produced MSDN, we developed the Windows logo programs. Our cover was simply “Developer Relations” a friendly “customer support” like organization to “help” developers adopt Microsoft tools and platforms. I recount all of this to make it clear that Microsoft was making a concerted effort at that time to wipe Apple and Steve Jobs from the history books. I’ve recounted many specific stories and events about those days in other blog articles, the purpose of this account is to put it all together in one place because it was a very pivotal time in the history of the computer industry. Microsoft actually succeeded in slaying Apple by 1997. History’s account of the events leading to Apples decline focus solely on Steve Jobs and Apples internal struggles which were certainly a dominant factor but as James Plamondon used to teach us;
“To increase the chances that a strong opponent will make a fatal error you must harry them constantly, cause them to lose sleep, cause fear, cause panic”
Microsoft was systematically pressing Apple on all fronts. I was hired as Microsoft’s first “Publishing Evangelist” because Apples strength among desktop publishing application developers like Aldus and Adobe was giving them a defensible niche in the market that Microsoft couldn’t root them out of. I was hired as a graphics and desktop publishing technology authority to help Microsoft dig Apple out of their entrenched position in media authoring. After my initial “conditioning” phase I was turned loose to wreak havoc on Apple. Something strange however had happened with my generation of evangelists. Previous evangelism efforts at Microsoft had almost always been exclusively outward facing. Evangelists promoted and influenced external developers to adopt whatever technology stratagem Microsoft was pursuing. The generation of evangelists that I came from were increasingly encouraged to turn more of our energy inward towards Microsoft itself. The 1992 batch of evangelists Microsoft recruited were increasingly leading experts in their technology domains. Instead of devoting our energy to trying to “sell” developers on adopting Microsoft stuff, we spent over half of our time influencing Microsoft product teams to build technologies that developers would WANT to adopt without having to be talked, cajoled, or bribed into doing it. The advent of internally focused evangelists was traumatic for Microsoft. We caused tremendous internal political conflict and strife as internal product teams, previously accustomed to pursuing their strategy relatively unimpeded by any actual customer focused requirements, were suddenly confronted by category authorities who knew better than they what solutions the market needed built regardless of what these groups WANTED to work on.
We had no special authority to impose our views on product teams, just James Plamondon’s training and our personalities. I didn’t spend much time worrying about Apple, I wreaked havoc inside Microsoft “influencing” the product groups to redesign the Windows 95 and Windows NT graphics and print architectures. I brought Adobe in to strike a deal with Brad Silverberg to write the PostScript driver for Windows 95 in exchange for Adobe application support for Windows 95. I recruited senior product managers from Aldus to run the Windows NT print group. We cloned Adobe’s Type 1 font technology to kill Adobe’s ATM product (ruthless), licensed Kodak’s color calibration technology, persuaded every major Desktop Publishing application developer to port to Windows 95 and booked Bill Gates to keynote the annual Seybold conference. By 1994 the impact of the work had been so sweeping that I was quite possibly the first Microsoft evangelist to succeed himself out of a job. Windows 95 would have every major desktop publishing and media authoring product available for it by 1995. Apple would lose its dominance in media authoring. I was asked what I wanted to work on next.
The battle with Apple over QuickTime and video standards was floundering. Microsoft’s own internal media technology teams just couldn’t keep up with Apple’s development speed. The team spent all of their time chasing Apple press releases and momentum. Rick Segal, the head of that team asked me what I thought we should do. I advocated pursuing gaming as a strategy. Keep pressure on Apple over video technology then catch them off guard with massive leadership in a completely unrelated media market. Eric Engstrom and Craig Eisler had nearly finished crippling Borland in the Windows tools business and were also looking at new opportunities. Segal gave me the job of Game Evangelist and I began to conspire with Craig Eisler and Eric Engstrom (Another Microsoft witness of DOJ fame) to shape a strategy that would give Microsoft total dominance in media API’s and render Apples leadership in video technology irrelevant. The early DirectX team was beginning to take form.
In 1995 Microsoft shipped Windows 95 with support for thousands of video games, dozens of hit titles from leading developers and widespread developer support for media authoring and graphics tools. Apple’s consumer market share dropped to its near record low of 3.3% by 1997.
Apple’s board, growing increasingly desperate in 1996 acquired Steve Job’s failing NeXTSTEP to try to revive Apple’s OS leadership, with the acquisition came Steve Jobs.
“By 1997 Apple was in rapid decline and Jobs struck a deal with Bill Gates for the survival of his company.
At the 1997 Macworld Expo, Steve Jobs announced that Apple would be entering into a partnership with Microsoft. Included in this was a five-year commitment from Microsoft to release Microsoft Office for Macintosh as well as a US$150 million investment in Apple. As part of the deal Apple and Microsoft agreed to settle a long-standing dispute over whether Microsoft’s Windows operating system infringed on any of Apple’s patents. It was also announced that Internet Explorer would be shipped as the default browser on the Macintosh, with the user being able to have a preference. Microsoft chairman Bill Gates appeared at the expo on-screen, further explaining Microsoft’s plans for the software they were developing for Mac, and stating that he was very excited to be helping Apple return to success. After this, Steve Jobs said this to the audience at the expo:
“If we want to move forward and see Apple healthy and prospering again, we have to let go of a few things here. We have to let go of this notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose. We have to embrace a notion that for Apple to win, Apple has to do a really good job. And if others are going to help us that’s great, because we need all the help we can get, and if we screw up and we don’t do a good job, it’s not somebody else’s fault, it’s our fault. So I think that is a very important perspective. If we want Microsoft Office on the Mac, we better treat the company that puts it out with a little bit of gratitude; we like their software. So, the era of setting this up as a competition between Apple and Microsoft is over as far as I’m concerned. This is about getting Apple healthy, this is about Apple being able to make incredibly great contributions to the industry and to get healthy and prosper again.”
The day before the announcement Apple had a market cap of $2.46 billion, and had ended its previous quarter with quarterly revenues of US$1.7 billion and cash reserves of US$1.2 billion, making the US$150 million amount of the investment largely symbolic. Apple CFO Fred Anderson stated that Apple would use the additional funds to invest in its core markets of education and creative content.”
In what must have been the happiest day in Bill Gates career, Bill got to loom over an entire audience of Microsoft hating developers and Steve Jobs himself to accept Apple’s “surrender” to Microsoft’s total dominance of their only safe haven from Microsoft’s hegemony. Contrary to the wiki article the $150M was hardly symbolic… an additional “undisclosed” sum was also paid under the table.
Gates not only invested in Apple, he called off his dogs. After crushing Apple and Netscape, the original DRG team was converted into the harmless technology marketing organization it had always presented itself as. The original evangelists disbanded and took other lucrative roles across Microsoft and the technology industry, many like Eric Engstrom, Craig Eisler and myself all started technology companies of our own.
All trace of our original charter had nearly vanished in time for the DOJ anti-trust trial… nearly… James Plamondon’s evangelism training program came to light and Eric Engstrom became a key witness for Microsoft DENYING his role in destroying QuickTime and Netscape. Gates got what he always wanted, total victory over Apple and the opportunity to magnanimously allow them to survive on his terms with the extra bonus of propping up a hand puppet competitor to point to for the anti-trust proceedings. James Plamondon moved to Australia to live a solitary life far from Silicon Valley and I had the good sense to get myself fired before being implicated. After the DOJ trial Microsoft poached away the DOJ legal team to ensure that the US Government would never have the talent to pursue such a case again. Years later Craig Eisler returned to Microsoft to run Microsoft’s Apple products business unit and Eric Engstrom returned to work on Microsoft’s mobile OS and BING.
PS>> A few related historical email threads: The email and DRG plan by NEW DRG head Tod Nielsen was sent the day I was fired.
From: Tod Nielsen
Sent: Tuesday, June 17, 1997 4:14 PM
To: Developer Relations Group – Redmond; Developer Comm. Mkt. Permanent Employees; Tod Nielsen’s Direct Reports Cc: Rosemary Knapp
Subject: DRG BillG Review
On Friday I had a review with BillG, SteveB, PaulMa and NathanM on DRG and our FY 98 goals and objectives. Overall, the meeting went extremely well. We spent some time discussing the responsibilities of ADCU and our relationship with that customer unit. Bill and Steve thought we were doing the right thing to focus our energies on new technologies and working with strategic ISVs to get them to adopt our technologies. We discussed a number of specific ISVs and talked about how they would be handled between ADCU and DRG. Overall, the new model we have setup should work very well for both the ISVs and for Microsoft. We then spent time talking through each of the initiatives that we are focused on for FY 98. Everyone thought we had the right focus and that we were making the right trade offs. All in all, the feedback was super positive, and now we just need to deliver! From my perspective, the great thing about the review (other than the fact it is over and I’m still alive!) is that we now have a very clear charter that our executives have signed off on. Going forward, we need to make sure we meet (and exceed) our objectives, as well as take a much more visible roll providing feedback and direction to the product groups.
Bill, Steve, and Paul all have told me that they look to DRG to provide insight and direction so Microsoft can make the right platform for developers. In other words, the next generation computing platform will be defined by all of us…..think about that. You and your peers are being asked to define and gather support for the computing platform that the entire world will use in the future. That is unbelievable! Microsoft is in a major platform war, and we have been put on the front lines of it. You/we will determine how quickly and effectively Microsoft will win this war.
I’ve attached the slides that were presented during the review. Please let me or your manager know if you have any questions or would like to discuss any of these:
Since review time is upon us, I encourage all of you to take a look at your personal objectives for FY 98 and make sure they are in synch with our group’s priorities and objectives. I want all of us to spend some time thinking through what we can do better, smarter, and more effectively in order to help Microsoft win this platform war. FY 98 is going to be a turning point year for DRG, Microsoft, and for the Computer industry at large. Next year I want us all to look back and know that we made a difference and were critical in winning the platform war for Microsoft.
One of the most exciting things to me about the next generation of consoles is that both devices are basically PC’s with similar Direct3D enabled GPU’s. Both Sony and Microsoft are touting their openness to supporting indie game developers.
The idea of having an Apple Appstore like online market for hundreds of high production value console games created by amateur game developers and an accessible onramp for game players to become game creators is really cool. The reality is that supporting such a broadly accessible developer program and making the incredible power of next generation consoles accessible to amateurs is a major undertaking. Both Sony and Microsoft claim that indie developers can apply now to join the program but that in the near future ANYBODY will be able to use their home game console for game development. In reality it’s likely that these programs will really only be accessible to a narrow community of established console developers that are more professional than amateur. It’s great sounding stuff to say to the press but how accessible will indie game development really to be the masses?
Given that I am building 3D games that use next generation GPU capabilities and personally meet all of the requirements of being an indie game developer with a long track record of experience, I’ve decided to apply to both Sony and Microsoft’s indie game developer programs and find out for myself what the experience of making indie games will be like on both platforms. Obviously I want to report on the experience but understand that I will almost certainly be subject to some NDA requirements to be accepted as a developer, so please excuse me in advance for having to be circumspect about any views I have that may be covered by NDA once I agree to participate.
To begin with I’ve tracked down the indie game developer registration pages for both companies… which bear an interesting resemblance to one another…
I’ll submit my applications to both at the same time and see how fast I get a response. Wish me luck!
We can finally breath a sigh of relief. The stellar looking puzzle platformer, Monochroma, has now reached its Kickstarter goal.
Up until just a couple days ago, things were looking tight for the more than promising new indie game, still being a little shy of its funding goal. Fortunately, with less than 40 hours to go in the campaign the team finally reached its $80,000 benchmark, cementing further development on Monochroma. This is one Kickstarter game that not only deserves to be funded, but a title no gamer should miss out on.
Head below for more details on the game from producer Burak Tezateser, some gameplay footage and a link to download the free demo.
I’m sure many of you are familiar with Conan O’Brien’s featured video game series “Clueless Gamer”, where the former host of the Tonight Show and proverbial n00b gamer trips over himself trying to play new video games. O’Brien shook things up this week by throwing back to Atari Classics — something O’brien was none too pleased with.
After initially mistaking the Atari 2600 for a George Foreman grill, O’Brien tackles Combat, Missle Command and Golf, before professing:
“What a horrible era for mankind…This is awful, this is just America on its knees.” Continue reading “Conan O’Brien Shows Off His n00batry, Plays Classic Atari Video Games” »