Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives

November 2005 Archives

Torque 2D does nothing to promote its sale.

So I'm working on a project for class this week, and I'm trying to decide between Power Game Factory and Torque 2D. PGF is cheaper ($44 vs $100) and is more Mac-friendly (heck, it's Mac only), but Torque is more widely respected and allows cross-platform development. I expect I'm going to wind up buying PGF not only because it'll probably be a heck of a lot faster (which is awesome, since it's due fairly quickly) but because Torque's onliine documentation of Torque 2D suuuuucks. PGF lets you download a demo that's fully functional, but my poking around on the Torque site has only turned up a demo of the games you make with it (which kind of suck). C'mon, people. I know it's only an "early adopter" release, but what gives?

Luckily, I have a friend in the program who is into Torque, so maybe I'll build this version in PGF and then reuse the art and other stuff in compiling a Torque version further down the road.

Going home for Thanksgiving was awesome, and reminded me exactly why I'm doing what I'm doing. I miss Ohio, I miss my friends and my family. and dear sweet Jesus do I miss the country. Cities suck! It's renewed my motivation to excel here at MIT, so I can make the connections and gain the experience I need to start up my own studio in the woods and work with my friends from all over the world via the Web. Eyes on the prize, my friends. Eyes on the prize.


"Vacation" is a misnomer.

I'm looking over my to-do list and realizing how much back reading I really need to do for some of my classes. This is deeply, deeply disturbing. Luckily, huge chunks of it are on my laptop so I won't have to lug huge bags of books home with me, but jeezus. It looks like this "vacation" is actually going to be spent reading my ass off – and that's just to catch up.

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Five days. Thousands of pages. I can do this.

I think.

leaf launches the O.C. Store.

I just posted the following weblog entry over on the MIT Creative Industries blog, but I thought it was compelling enough to repost here.

Interesting -- has launched their "Necessary Objects for The O.C." store.

It's a clever move, especially if Amazon places pop-up ads into the corner of the screen during each episode saying things like "Like her halter vest? Buy it now for $38.00 on Amazon's O.C. Store!" And, of course, featured a big graphic link to the O.C. store located on their homepage while the show was being aired, with the object in question featured on the O.C. Store's homepage. This would have to be repeated as necessary for the different time zones, but it's an interesting concept – and what happens when Amazon gets enough shows buying into this tactic that they need the Smallville store, the Sopranos store, the House store and so on? How much you want to bet they snatched up the nanosecond it hit the auction block...?

From their website:

Available exclusively in's Apparel & Accessories Store, Necessary Objects for The O.C. is the first branded women's fashion collection for The O.C. The 12-piece collection was designed by Necessary Objects' Ady Gluck-Frankel, in collaboration with the wardrobe supervisor from The O.C., and captures the young, contemporary boho-chic style that is synonymous with the The O.C.

Whether you're a die-hard fan of Warner Brothers' popular television drama The O.C., or you just love the trendsetting styles sported by the actors, you'll love The O.C. Collection from Necessary Objects at From borrowed menswear looks to fabulous beach-boho styles, you'll find inspired designs by Necessary Objects for The O.C. at Set in ritzy Orange County, California, The O.C. is a smart and edgy youth-oriented drama, as popular for its chic fashion sensibility as it is for its sizzling plot lines.

An interesting question: what shows do you watch for fashion tips?

Another interesting question. So far, the O.C. store is only for women. What shows should guys in the 18-36 age group watch for fashion tips? And how long until this business model spawns a fashion show like Esquire TV or GQ TV on Spike?

Andy's a paragon!

Andy Rozsa, composer in concert

One of my oldest, bestest friends Andy Rozsa just got a serious writeup in The Alberquerque Tribune: Key of Gee: No Dumbed-Down Music or Long-Dead Master Will Headline This High School Concert. The piece is awesome. Some excerpts:

When Ruth Klein told her orchestra students at Eldorado and Sandia high schools she wanted them to have an opportunity to play the music of someone other than "dead German men," they weren't sure what they were going to end up with.

But they probably didn't imagine it would be an original work composed by a 26-year-old trombonist and computer geek from Chicago who - with his baggy jeans, untucked shirt and black backpack - looks more like a peer than a paragon.

Andy Rozsa (pronounced "rosha") arrived in Albuquerque this week to rehearse with both orchestras, which will combine for the world premiere of his "Fantasia on a Theme by Amy Beach," at the La Cueva High School Performing Arts Center on Tuesday night.

The commission - Rozsa's first - was made possible by a "Classroom Innovations" grant of $2,700 awarded by the Public Service Company of New Mexico. Klein applied for the grant because she was determined to offer her students something outside "the canon of works deemed appropriate for high schoolers."

...Klein gave Rozsa free rein in his direction but was firm that, whatever he wrote, it was not to be "dumbed down" for students.

"And I agreed because I know when I was that age I hated playing flea market swag," said Rozsa, who became serious about his trombone studies relatively late, at the age of 17. "They want steak, and they're being fed baby food."

But as Rozsa worked with each orchestra separately this week, Klein wondered nervously if perhaps hamburger might have been a better compromise.

"I'm scared that we may have been a little too ambitious," she said. "Some of it is more technically difficult than they've done before. But they've done a good job of taking it on."

Rozsa, who viewed the trip to Albuquerque in part as a belated honeymoon with his bride of two months, Anne-Marie, appeared to have fewer reservations. Standing before the Sandia High School group at 6:45 a.m. Thursday, he did more encouraging than critiquing.

"Overdo it!" he urged the 32 orchestra members. "I want to see that rosin fly! Play this stuff with confidence. If you make a mistake, I want to hear it at the back of the hall!"

Asked later if the wrong notes and faulty timings were trying his patience, Rozsa - pushing his glasses up on his nose and running his hand through his boyish haircut - just laughed. Not nearly as much as his day job as a computer systems analyst, he said - a job he hopes to leave soon to perform full time.

"I had an undergraduate professor who said: `A good performance is a clear exposition of the score,' " Rozsa said. "That's all I want. I'd like to see them play with the confidence of a professional, even if the technique is not there."

...Rozsa - once a Grateful Dead and Phish fan, who admits he often finds Mozart "boring" - said there is a better chance of high schoolers enjoying classical works if the music they play is closer in time and reference to their own lives.

"I hope they realize there is music in the orchestral realm they can relate to," he said. "Something that's not Britney Spears with a snake but is also not as scary as everyone believes it to be."

And did Klein think the students were cowed by their first interaction with a living composer?

"Not at all," she said, laughing. "They're still not paying attention."

My friends rule. I was just remembering the cold evening Andy and I spent sitting in a cafe in Coventry near his old apartment, chatting about women and art and old friends and everything.

Life is great.


Xbox 360: meh?

Apparently the new Xbox 360 scheduled to launch this week is getting some pretty mediocre reviews. I got to see a 360 while I was in Austin last month, and the new King Kong game looked like a lot of fun – but aside from that, I'm inclined to agree. The Xbox 360 should be knocking our collective socks off, but so far it's only so-so. The truth of the matter is that there just aren't the games yet to justify the $400 price tag. There aren't enough of them, and the ones that are there don't have enough oomph to justify the big drop.

I'm not sure if Microsoft is extremely smart or extremely stupid in launching the Xbox 360 before Halo 3 was ready to roll. The first two Halo games were the 'killer apps' that nearly had me buying an Xbox before, and Halo 3 will definitely have me considering a 360 – but if they'd launched the 360 and Halo 3 simultaneously – or Halo 3 packaged with each new 360 – this would've been a hype wagon I'd have jumped on with full gusto. The question in my mind: is it better to launch your new system with a big game attached, or is it better to ride two waves of hype, and hopefully have two waves of sales?

Personally, I'd go for one big wave, but I'm also the kind of guy who will wait until A Big Game hits for a particular platform before buying it. I recently purchased a Game Boy DS not for the stylus or the twin screens, but to play the new side-scrolling Castlevania (which is amazing) and Mario Kart DS (which is also amazing). The Big Awesome Spectacular Must-Have Game for me will be the New Super Mario Brothers game that's supposed to be out next year, but these two blockbusters were enough to convince me to drop my coin now.

When I was a kid I bugged Mom to buy an 8-bit NES to play the original Super Mario Brothers, and when the 16-bit SNES came out I spent weeks of gleeful anticipation not for the purple plastic buttons but for Super Mario World. The two games I'm most looking forward to now are the new 3-D The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for the GameCube, which finally uses the graphical prowess of the GameCube to do some amazingly dark and mature graphics for the Zelda series, and the aforementioned New Super Mario Brothers. I'm also seriously looking at developing my own games, so we'll see what happens there.

What I'm hoping is that the Xbox 360 scores huge as a delivery system for independent game developers via the Xbox 360 Live Arcade network. There's a very slick system built into the Xbox 360 where users can pony up a couple of bucks and download smaller games over the Internet. GarageGames is purportedly working on a new version of their Torque engine that is optimized specifically for these types of games. When budgets for the new MMORPGs are spiralling upwards of US$30M a game, that's $30,000,000 a game, I'm much more interested to see what comes out of the basement workshops of America. Give me a contract, a house in Wooster, my old development team and an indefinite supply of Dr. Pepper and I guarantee you we'll deliver something interesting.

My God, I miss the Inkblots homebrew days.


Sick as a dog.

I knew it, I knew it, I knew it. Every time I push this hard for this long I wind up getting kneecapped. I woke up this morning after tossing and turning all night with a temp of 100.4. Damn it. I am therefore spending the day in bed in an attempt to shake this off, but man does this suck. I can not afford this right now.


So close, and yet...

Hat tip to David for pointing this out to me: my dreamed-of iPod wristwatch control is almost a reality. The trouble is, these guys did a rotten job of executing the concept: for starters, if you look at the controls they're oriented the wrong way, so to use them properly you'd have to hold your wrist straight out in front of you instead of looking at it like a wristwatch. Second, there's no wristwatch – this device should have the watch built in and a way to switch between the digital clock face and a readout of track listings and so on. And third, this sucker won't work with the new iPods and nanos, which lack the little tab slot on the top. Three strikes and you're out, Scosche – but please practice up and come back for another swing!


There goes classic gaming.

This is such crap: new Sony lockware prevents selling or loaning of games. Sony's basically trying to kill – entirely – what miniscule efforts exist for classic gaming. I'm a book collector, and I'm constantly on the lookout for old hardcover editions from my favorite authors. Would I be the first one to read them? Hell no. The same goes for me if I really want to play, say, Ico, an older video game that's still supposed to be amazing. I can't waltz down to GameStop and buy a new copy because they're no longer making it. OK, fine – I can pick up a used copy from somewhere. "Ah, ah, ah," sayeth Sony. Bastards. Not just bastards. Idiot bastards.


When even your errands take entire days...

My word. I just spent Veteran's Day frantically catching up on as many errands as possible, trying to clear off my desk before settling down to the real projects at hand this weekend: the rapidly-accumulating Major Project List. The first killer up on deck is the 10-page paper that's due on Monday. Not a big deal, but enough of one to make me want to focus and give it a good go – hence the desire to clean off the desk before getting started. I thought it would take the morning. It took all bloody day, and I'm still not 100% finished. Ugh. This just goes to show how much crap piles up while you're busy keeping all the other plates spinning in the air. Brother. To all my friends in grad school – Talon, Aaron, Mark & Erin, Emily, Laura, all y'all... Daaaamn.


Web design sucks.

Maybe I'm just getting old, or maybe it's just that I've been doing this for too long, but I'm getting really, really sick and tired of building websites with no imaginative content. Seriously. The same old lame brochureware stuff with few graphics, just a bunch of text in a semi-modern color palette, is just painful. Today I spent all day building a site for a project that's nice and functional and all, but aside from having some halfway decent texture it's just boring. Here's hoping these last couple of sites are the last ones I have to build before moving on to something more interesting, like more films or games or mobisodes or books or, well, anything.


Powazek on Threadless.

Check it out – Derek's got some posts up for review on Threadless. Go throw his designs some props and help a friend realize his dream as a fashion designer! Submission - I Still Believe Submission - Starbound


Some thoughts on transmedia storytelling.

It's been a while since I've made any reflective posts about media and my thoughts on such things. This is largely due to my spending most of my days up to my neck in the subject – when you spend all your time swimming in this stuff, it becomes difficult to pull back and really reflect on it. It's kind of like asking a fish to describe water.

That said, I wanted to ruminate for a few minutes about a bunch of stuff that's been on my mind lately. The biggest thing is transmedia storytelling, since it looks like that's where I'm going to be writing my thesis.

The first question I'll have to deal with (which is handy for those of you who are just coming to the show) is: What exactly is transmedia storytelling? In short, transmedia storytelling is telling a unified tale across different media. One excellent example is how The Wachowski Brothers positioned their Enter the Matrix video game squarely between Reloaded and Revolutions. If you invested the time to play the game, a sizeable amount of stuff in the third movie made more sense. This isn't a perfect example of transmedia storytelling in my book because the game isn't necessary to enjoy the third movie. To my mind, transmedia storytelling should be a direct chapter jump from one media to the next: chapter one is a book, chapter two is a movie, chapter three is a game, etc.

One counterargument is that each media element in a transmedia property should stand on its own. The X-Files movie, Fight the Future, could technically be viewed without having seen the TV show; the same can be said about Joss Whedon's Firefly and its filmic spinoff, Serenity. The logic here is that each component of the property acts as a potential point of entry into the franchise. This makes a certain amount of sense, but I want to push the envelope further and really tighten up the narrative connections between chapters. I want to tell a story like Babylon 5 or Battlestar Galactica, where each episode really is the next chapter in the story, and not deal with any monster-of-the-week episodes. I want to see what would happen if you scrapped the whole "individual point of entry" bit and really made the whole experience cohesive. So this will be the second question in my research, namely: How tightly do the components of a transmedia property need to adhere to each other?

There are so many questions to answer here, such as:

  • When is it economically feasible, or desirable, for an author to create a transmedia property?

  • What types of stories lend themselves the most to transmediation?

  • What particular types of media are best suited to handle particular parts of stories?

  • What is the ideal order for transmediation to occur?

  • How much would it cost for an independent creator to author a transmedia property?

  • Is it even possible for an independent creator to affordably create a transmedia property?

  • How does a transmedia property overcome the 'primary media' problem (example: the 'primary media' component of Star Wars is film; everything else is perceived as a secondary media element)?

  • How does a creator pitch and sell a transmedia project?

  • What is the ideal delivery method for transmedia properties?

  • What are some possible business models for the creation of transmedia properties?

The list goes on and on. It's an astonishingly fertile field, which I hope to plow with some fruitful results. (Wow, was that a horribly overextended metaphor.) To that end, I've registered and set up, which will soon serve as a weblog and online resource for this sort of thing, most likely under the auspices of the CMS program (and perhaps the C3 sub-banner as well). What I'd like to do is use these questions to write a long, in-depth paper on the subject (which might be turned into a book?) and then actually try to make one. It's crazy, I know, given the sheer amount of work that would be involved, but it also seems like the best way to get my foot in the door of as many places as possible – and, hell, if I can create each component of a transmedia property, then I can hit all kinds of cool conventions... SPX, here I come!

So, anyway, that's where my mind is these days. I'll post something here when the new blog properly launches. I still need to go in and speak with my advisors on this subject, so wish me luck – for all I know, they'll make me research the sociopolitical impact of the Russian tree newt on Muscovite radio dramas. Or something. Never underestimate the power of academia to assign crippingly boring projects...