Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Wii is important

I now write articles on gaming at

Here's one on why I think Nintendo should have a greater presence in emerging markets like India. An excerpt :

This is why I believe that Nintendo's products are best suited for getting a whole new segment of people into gaming. Markets like India are chock-full of people who've never played games before. Products like Gears of War aren't going to convert too many of them into gamers. Fancy explosions and realistic physics will get their attention, but won't hold their attention long enough to convert them.

Read the full article here.

Two handhelds in one day

by Anand Ramachandran

What a day!

I bought a PSP. My friend S.U.Saravanakumar (yeah, the bosey guy) bought a DS. An opportunity for day long handheld gaming, and of course, for the diligent reviewer to conduct a comparison.

First, the DS. Along with the Wii, I think the DS firmly establishes Nintendo as the custodians of all that is sublime about gaming. They continue to innovate, they continue to fly in the face of convention, they continue to astound. More power to them.

The touch screen, stylus thing is cool to a fault. Already, games are beginning to make use of the input system in interesting ways ( Trauma Center, WarioWare Touched, Nintendogs). I played Mario Kart : Double Dash, which was most enjoyable, though not madly innovative. It's a great design - so I guess Nintendo knows how not to mess with a winning formula. Fair enough.

I also think the DS wins out in the looks department. Sara's black unit looks so sexy, he's already fending off advances from crazed women, so he can focus on Advance Wars : Dual Strike. Wildlife photographers are weird like that.

And the PSP?

One word . . th . . th . . the SCREEN! Ohmigawddd. It's enough to make the most cynical of gamers do a double take. It's the most brilliant, breathtaking thing I've seen in gaming. Never mind all that next-gen nonsense - the future is already here, and it's in the palm of my hand.

Ridge Racer and Burnout Legends are reasons why I haven't updated the blog in ages. Hi-Octane, blissful gaming experiences both. FIFA 06 looks good, but it's only FIFA. The gameplay remains retarded in comparison to PES. I can't wait. Damn, that screen!

The unit feels nice and solid - takes a little adjustment but soon the grip feels entirely natural. I know I said that the DS is sexier, but this is no slouch in the appeal department. Oh - and did I mention the screen?

And the sheer power of the PSP opens up immense possibilities - I can't wait to see what developers are going to do with this thing. Hell, I'll even be happy with PS2 ports. Shadow of the Colossus, anyone?

Which one should you get? Tough, if you aren't a fanboy. (If you are, you already know)

If you're more of a straightforward, racer-shooter-sports type gamer, it's the PSP. Also if graphics are your thing.

If you're looking for a more innovative, quirky product - then get the DS. It's also a lot cheaper.

Tough, but. I don't see how anyone who truly loves games can be without purchasing both consoles, and quitting their day jobs.

The Wii is important

I now write articles on gaming at

Here's one on why I think Nintendo should have a greater presence in emerging markets like India. An excerpt :
This is why I believe that Nintendo's products are best suited for getting a whole new segment of people into gaming. Markets like India are chock-full of people who've never played games before. Products like Gears of War aren't going to convert too many of them into gamers. Fancy explosions and realistic physics will get their attention, but won't hold their attention long enough to convert them.
Read the full article here.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

World Rock, Paper, Scissors Championships! No, really!

I don't know why I bother to write Son of Bosey, when there are real-world happenings that are this funny!

A report in today's Hindu led me to try and dig up more information on the old schoolyard favourite 'Rock, Paper, Scissors' - with delightful results. There's a whole bunch of people who are either masters of satire, or are dead serious about the 'sport'. I'm not smart enough to figure out which.

This is the video promo for this years World Championships, which was held yesterday, and carried a winner's purse of $10,000/-.


According to the official World Rock Paper Scissors Society web site, here's what 'Advanced RPS' is all about :
RPS is gaming at its most basic, its most fundamental. Take anything away, and it ceases to be a game at all. Every other game, at some level, contains RPS. Like chess or fencing, the rules are simple, but the game itself is as complex as the mind of your opponent.

Playing RPS probably won’t make you rich and famous. Chances are good you won’t win an Olympic gold medal. And it’s not likely to improve your physique, maximize your sex appeal, jump-start your career or expand your memory. Many players have found, however, that studying RPS gives them a greater understanding of how gaming relates to human behavior. In that sense, RPS can help you find success in other areas, but only if you have the determination to work hard and think hard – not just in RPS, but in every area of your life.

More general hilarity at The world RPS Society, and, as always, at Wikipedia.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Vijay Saar helps in diabetes control!

You never know what your favourite tamil actors are capable of!

Herbal cure for diabetes

Surya Herbal Limited which claims to be the first Ayurvedic ISO 9001 certified company, has launched X-Diaba, a herbomineral approach for arresting, stopping and curing diabetes. A chronic metabolic disorder, diabetes is characterised by an increase in sugar levels in the body.

X-Diaba is a combination of some of the best anti-diabetic herbs and minerals. The capsules contain Basant Kusumakar Ras (with gold and pearl) which provides strength to the brain, heart and the kidneys. It also contains Vijay Saar, which is known to regenerate activity of the pancreas. Other herbs are Gurmar, Karela and neem extracts. A pack of 20 capsules is available for Rs 200. Surya Herbal Limited has a manufacturing unit in Noida. The automation of the entire process meets the requirements of Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) spelt out in World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.

Originally from here. Scroll down to see it.

Three cheers for Vijay Saar - celluloid star by day, herbal cure by night!

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

You may have heard of Rajnikanth. You may have heard of Kamal Haasan. But have you . . .

Heard of Kamalkanth?

I've just learned that Sarath Kumar, much before taking his first steps to fame by battling Gap-Tian in Pulan Visaaranai, used to knock at the doors of producers, asking for roles. All under the carefully constructed moniker of 'Kamalkanth'.


This HAS to be the best idea ever. Surely, the film studios would fall over each other for the chance to work with a judicious combination of the best of Tamil cinema's most bankable stars - in one convenient package. The charisma of Rajni. The talent of Kamal. Who could resist?

Disbelievers, check with Dinakaran.

Whore Presents Expert Sex Change.

Now that I have your attention, check this out. The worst domain names ever. Tummy-achingly hilarious.

Saturday, November 4, 2006

Meet the IODC and the BCODCI (or) Will somebody please punch Malcolm Speed.

Wonderful, just wonderful.

The amazing Malcolm Speed, in his most recent bleatings against the BCCI, says that Indian cricket is in bad shape since we “haven't won a significant cricket event since 1983”.

In response, Ratnakar Shetty, in all his wisdom, points out to Mr.Speed that “we won the World Championship of Cricket in 1985, and were in the World Cup finals as recently as 2003.”

I see.

What about the test series victories in Pakistan and the West Indies? What about the levelled test series in Australia and England? What about that unforgettable Laxman-Plaha inspired home win against Steve Waugh's Aussies?


This clearly shows where the priorities of the suits who run cricket lie. God save our game.

P.S. - Technically, we won the Champions Trophy in 2002. Which means South Africa and New Zealand haven't won squat for even longer than India. The mind boggles at how inefficient and unprofessional the ICC and BCCI can be, even when just bickering.

Trouble in the dessing room?

Some of my cricket-based friends (Inis, Jubbs, Tayne), picked up on something during the disastrous Champions Trophy campaign. There were plenty of signs that there is more wrong with Team India than just bad form with bat and ball - the lacklustre body language prominent among them - but one was particularly interesting, and decidedly odd. During the final over of that famous loss to the West Indies, conferences were conspicuous by their absence.

How many similar finishes have you seen – six to ten off the last, tension all around? In every such game I remember, before every delivery, the captain, bowler, and a few seniors would congregate to hatch a plan. There would be nods of agreement. Shakes of the head. Scratching of chins. Frantic waving of arms. And then, everyone would run back to position, and the bowler would do his best to set the plan in motion. Depending on the result of the delivery, the boys would wash, rinse, repeat.

Where was all this during the India-West Indies game? I don't remember seeing Sachin, Plaha or Kaif running up to offer advice to Dravid or Agarkar. Are the boys even talking to each other? Hmmm . . .

India lose another heartbreaker. in more ways than one.


You watch a whole game after a long time, and it just HAS to be a last-over nailbiter loss. Well, better than getting trounced by the 45th, with a bagful to spare - as we perhaps deserved to, on the strength of yesterday’s showing.

But what breaks my heart is this - the team got so many things wrong, it wasn’t funny. Even if one of them was done right, we might have sneaked it.

Five hopelessly wayward overs from Irfan Pathan and R.P.Singh up front quickly gave us a mountain to climb, right off the bat (sorry ’bout that). I believe Pathan has it in him to bounce back, hopefully sooner than later, but R.P.Singh looks out of his league at this level. Pathan showed a bit of pluck to come back at the death and bowl reasonably, collecting Lara’s stumps on the way. Singh merely added an assortment of embarrassing fielding manoeuvres to his profligate bowling, and came away India’s least impressive player on the park. In this game, that’s saying something.

The ground fielding was the killer, in my opinion. Lazy, lacklustre, and sometimes downright sloppy - the number of times Indian fielders miscollected, strolled up gently to the ball, or otherwise exhibited a lack of commitment made the jaw drop and the mind boggle. Batsmen and bowlers can take cover behind the convenient ‘bad conditions’ curtain, but there’s simply no excuse for a fielding display like the one India put on in this game. Why, boys? Why? A little bite and sting in the fielders’ body language, and it immediately begins working on the batsman’s mind. Should I chance the single? Maybe I shouldn’t play on the rise. Where are the weak fielders? Suddenly, it’s a different game. Against a team known for buckling under pressure, it would have been well worth a try. Even Raina’s grassed chance of Gayle didn’t hurt us as much as the ground fielding did - in all the subtle ways that are such a huge influence on a cricket match.

I admire Dravid as much as anyone, but I can’t help feeling he let it drift a bit in the middle overs. He should have been barking orders, clapping, shouting encouragement, mixing things up a little. Even if he wasn’t actually DOING anything differently, just being seen to be on top of things would have helped. When he did appear, it was a tad too late.

Sure, the batting failed - but the game was not yet lost at the dinner break. Sure, they could have picked Powar - but everyone’s a selector after the game’s done and dusted. We could still have won if we got a few simple things right when defending. Period.

‘THE HINDU’ gave us a lame report this morning stating ‘India goes down fighting’, or some such tripe. True, we did show great improvement in the latter half of the game, but the oh-so-close finish was greatly helped by some brainless batting from Morton, Lara and Smith. Even in the penultimate over, a single edged boundary from Lara or Smith would have made this game seem like a thrashing.

Lots of work to do if we’re to beat Australia, who will doubtless be primed and ready for a do-or-die match.

Gentlemen prefer blondes.

Get a load of this. Priceless stuff. From a site called

“This ties in to mass migration of non-whites into the West. If there are sufficient non-whites around, unattractive whites, who would until the recent past disproportionately die without being able to find a mate and reproduce, may end up with a non-white person who would be more than happy to get a white mate. For instance, a black man would typically prefer a 250-pound white woman to a 350-pound black woman. The resulting offspring of such unions, being closer to whites in looks, would be more acceptable as a mate to a greater proportion of whites than the non-white parent, which in turn will set the stage for gradual creeping of non-white genetics into the white gene pool, resulting in reduced attractiveness of the descendents of modern whites. In addition, if mass migration of the likes of Muslims reduces sexual freedom in the West, then the mulatto descendents of present-day Europeans will also have less of an opportunity to reacquire the looks of their white forebears via intense sexual selection. The conclusions are clear…we have yet more reasons to keep the non-white masses out of the West, even if they are as intelligent and as well-behaved as whites are. Personally, I don’t have a problem with a small non-white presence in the West, but allowing mass migration of non-whites to the West is madness.”

This guy’s put up a bunch of pictures to ’scientifically’ demonstrate that Nordic women are better looking than Indians. It’s brilliant. Scroll down, and don’t miss the comments section.

Here’s the full article.

How did I find this? While googling for ‘Shilpa Shetty’. Har.

The true Yin and Yang.

Those ancient Chinese dudes merely came up with a pictorial representation of Yin and Yang . . .

yin yang

But Kollywood has finally revealed the real thing . . .

The one and only Gap-Tian

Wonder why he looks so happy, sly dog! There can only be one true Gap-Tian.

Why I support the Indian team.

“Why do you support the Indian team? They ALWAYS lose. They’re USELESS.” Okay, how many of you have heard THAT one recently? I’ve heard it several times. So has Aravind Murali. So has Vishvanathan Srinivasan. So has Tony Chacko. Mostly from people who have no problem joining the party when the boys win.

Our answer? Because it’s OUR team, you morons! O-U-R team. India. The men in blue.

We don't support this team because it's the best team in the world. Or because it's filled with good looking hunks. Or opening batsmen. Or great scientists. Or whatever.

We support this team because they play for India. And, in case you haven't noticed, we're Indians.

little fan

Stay with it, little one. Stay with it. Don't let them tell you any different.

I'm no apologist for the team. I think our approach to fielding is woefully hopeless. I agree that our bowlers and batsmen are too indisciplined, too inconsistent, to provide us with anything more than patches of brilliance (but WHAT brilliance!). And no, I don't think we're going to win the world cup.

So, what do you want me to do? Paint my face yellow and support Australia? Sounds ridiculous? Exactly.

It’s all about loyalty, you superficial palookas. That’s why people support Atletico Bilbao. Or Charlton Athletic. Or Tim Henman. Or England. Or India. Loss after loss after heartbreaking loss. That’s what real supporters do. That’s what makes them different from fair-weather fans who will guzzle the bubbly during the good times, and change the channel during the bad.

Yes, we'll castigate the selectors. We'll say that Suresh Raina needs a kick up the backside. We'll dream of throwing the fast bowlers off a plane. We'll crucify the captain and make plans to assassinate the coach.

But when the game begins, we'll be there. When a single wicket falls, we'll dream of an impossible recovery. When a tailender finds the boundary, we'll start hoping for cricket miracles. We'll believe in our hearts what we can never conceive with our minds.

Because that's what we do, us cricket fans.

That's why none of you outsiders will ever know the sweetness we feel when India wins. I hope you're happy waiting for The DaVinci Code 2, or the next Shah Rukh blockbuster, or whatever. Because we have a world cup to look forward to.


P.S. - I lost a large number of posts due to some technical issue with wordpress. This article is a reconstruction - and may differ slightly from the original. Also, all the comments were lost, so I'm putting them all up in one lot. Thanks for visiting. 


Friday, November 3, 2006


PEPSI is brilliant.

They've finally cracked a way to keep their feel-good cricket ads, even when we lose.

Their response to India's disappointing exit from the ICC Champion's trophy is a syrupy ad film featuring an angry old man, an optimistic young boy, and India T-shirt, and oodles of pop-sentimentality. No doubt you've seen it.

Now, they no longer have to look stupid when their highly paid brand ambassadors fail to live up to their reputations on the field. And no longer have to bear the brunt of the negative-publicity backlash that is otherwise inevitable in these situations.

Personally, it makes me cringe, but it's sound advertising strategy. They're actually gaining positive brand momentum, turning defeat into victory (for the brand, that is. We're still some way away from doing that for the team).

Why did it take them so long to come up with something like this?

Why you should buy a PS2

I just bought a PS2. That’s right, just another newbie bitten by the virulent bug of gaming, and a little behind the times. Only I’m not. My first video games were Nintendo handhelds and two pong machines. And through a distinguished Atari 2600 career, a Mattel IntelliVision, countless hours of Sierra Online’s ‘Quest’ series, down to losing much of my life to Half Life, Baldur’s Gate 2 and their ilk, I’ve been gaming pretty much forever. So the question becomes, why am I getting a PS2 so incredibly late in life? Well, partly because until a few years ago, I was a card carrying member of the ‘consoles are for immature kids, only PC gamers are true sophisticates’ brigade. And when that changed, the evil empire got me, and I got an Xbox. And was recently considering a 360, so a PS2 wasn’t even on the radar.

It took half an hour to change all that. One holiday, I spent a few hours at my brother’s place and suddenly, I had to have a PS2. I can sum this transformation up in four words: Shadow of the Colossus. I happened to play for an hour or so, and soon any set of circumstances that could prevent me from playing, owning, experiencing, living this game was inconceivable. And so, I bought a PS2. The thought that there may be other games this good, and not owning this console meant I might be missing out was honestly just an afterthought.

Shadow of the Colossus is an incredible experience, serving up a cannot-ignore mix of action, art, emotion and philosophy that transcends mere gaming and crosses over into something more. Several reviewers, while sharing my sense of awe at this game, have begun their take on it by saying that at its core, Colossus is a platform jumper. To me, that’s like saying that Pro Evolution Soccer is basically a game of Pong. At its core, of course.

You play a young warrior/traveler who is seeking to restore to life a young girl who was killed to save her from a cursed fate. His quest (over the course of a long, almost painfully slow cut scene intro) takes him to a distant land where he finds a mysterious presence known as the Dormin, who tells him that in this land, he might indeed achieve his objective. All he has to do is find and hunt down the 16 colossi who roam the land. Dormin also casually mentions that the young man might have to pay a very heavy price indeed for this, but he doesn’t really seem to be listening. And so, with your trusty steed Agro for constant company, you set off.

So as you can imagine, you set off, heroically astride your horse, holding your sword up into the light to guide you, roam this vast, desolate land that is all the more beautiful for it’s complete lack of inhabitants. And eventually, you will find your first colossus. And colossal it is. You quickly find that you are roughly half the size of it’s little toe, so any thoughts of using your warrior like skills to hack it down are quickly banished. After shooting a couple of arrows at it which will not even get it’s attention, you then figure that you need to run at this thing, cling on to it’s fur for dear life and climb all over it’s body as you look for it’s ‘weak spot’. Which you then need to stab at repeatedly, while it uses every bit of its colossal strength to shake you off.

I won’t even begin to describe these battles, you have to experience one to believe it. The heat and grime and dust and mud are as real as anything you’ve felt. And the consistently brilliant mood enhancing score completes the picture, perfectly complementing whatever you’re feeling every moment of the game. But it’s only when you bring your first colossus down that you realize why this game stops being a game and becomes a work of art. As you watch the cut scene of the creature’s death, the first voice of doubt nags away at you…. And therein lies the beauty of it. It is impossible not to feel sorry for these colossi, yet you cannot help yourself as you are compelled to find the next one and bring it down. And I’m not talking about the character in the game, I’m talking about YOU. You end every battle with a bit of a bad taste in the mouth and yet you are driven to find and kill each one of the colossi. Corny as it sounds, the moral compromise inherent in destroying these lonely, isolated creatures in order to restore the life of a loved one is inescapable to anyone with even a molecule of sensitivity.

Many of them have no intention of harming you at all until provoked and even then, they’re merely defending themselves. What compounds your feelings of guilt is the consistently excellent character design, and the fact that you have no option but to watch as each of the deaths is played out in front of your eyes. As the adrenaline wears off, the guilt kicks in. Every time. But one cut scene later, you’re off in search of the next one.

I’m only half way through the game as of this writing, but four battles were enough to have my entire family glued to the tube in the way that the best movies can achieve. And, albeit temporarily, to make me my four year old nephew’s hero. I’m told that Roger Ebert said that games could never be art or something like that, but he’d better have four thumbs for this one, so he can point them all skyward.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Why we must support Serious Games

by Anand Ramachandran

Let's face it, except within a few select demographics and a few specific geographic pockets, video games are widely regarded as a waste of time, meant mainly for kids or nerds. Cultured, intelligent, successful people don't play video games - so goes the perception. And nowhere is this perhaps truer than in India.

Nobody says the same thing about movies. Or music. Or books. Why?

I believe it's because, by way of being more evolved and mature media, they are no longer viewed as purely entertainment. Think about it. Movies (documentaries, newsreels, instructionals) are often used to educate, inform, provoke thought. Ditto books, obviously. Music is used in teaching tiny tots a range of things - who doesn't remember the A-B-C-D tune, or those nursery rhymes that taught us how to count? Even comics have bridged the gap better than games have managed to do - TINKLE and Amar Chitra Katha being shining examples of products parents would happily buy for their children.

People tend to devalue anything that is purely recreational. For the mainstream to embrace a medium, it must be perceived as something that can be used to actually help people grow as individuals. Become smarter. Or more cultured. Or wiser. Or healthier.

While there are stray instances (America's Army, Civilization) of games that can be held up as products that are designed to educate and instruct, an overwhelmingly large majority of commercially made games are principally entertainment-oriented. Fun is the mantra - and rightly so.

In fact, I'm a great believer in the ability of games to build skills, teach and educate - I'm talking about commercially available, regular games here, and not games built specifically for educational purposes. Playing games can enhance, among other things, skills like hand-eye coordination, decision making, strategic thinking and memory. However, the fact remains that all this learning is hidden under a layer of entertainment. Hence the lack of understanding among the general populace. You can't really expect them to understand the hidden, subtle benefits of a game that, to all outward appearances, is about shooting things with insanely overpowered weapons. It's not even reasonable to expect them to take the effort to connect - the effort must undoubtedly come from the gaming community. Namely gamers, developers, and the gaming press.

This is where Serious Games come in. Serious Games are, for the uninitiated, games that are designed for purposes other than just entertainment. These games use the medium as a vehicle to educate, train or inform. They're used in areas as diverse as military, healthcare, agriculture, politics, environment and education. America's Army is probably the one everyone knows.Darfur is Dying is another that has gained popularity.

It's an important movement, and it's gaining momentum. Which is good news for all of us.

Because once Serious Games break through and begin to get mainstream press, people will begin to look at gaming as a medium, and not simply as recreation. A medium that can be used for purposes other than filling the minds of children with violent thoughts. And, as we well know, perception is everything. The same reality suddenly begins to look different - and as a result, more people buy, play and talk about games. And yes, more people have fun playing them. Just like movies. And books. And all that other stuff. Yay!

For this very reason, more of us need to support the Serious Games movement. By participating in the community. By talking about Serious Games. By working on projects, however small.

Consider the possibilities in India - simply enormous in my opinion. Make a game that teaches children to use fireworks safely at Diwali. Or an RTS that promotes communal harmony where factions must work together to win. Or a game that demonstrates the effects of pollution in cities, and how citizens can help control it. I believe that the press will give you quite a bit of coverage - it's an interesting story angle for them as well. When a simplistic crap-mountain like 'Kargil' can appear on India Today . . . enough said.

So that all those sceptics will stop regarding us as some sort of cultish group of outsiders. Yes, even Roger Ebert.

More on Serious Games here.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Real Ghosts and Fake Heart Attacks

Shane Watson is the best ever. The Australian team's leading fraidy cat and worst sledger is at it again.

On cricinfo.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Next Gen? Here's a Wishlist.

by Anand Ramachandran

Ooooh – let's get all excited everyone! The Next-Gen is here. Yuvraj and Akshay are plugging 360s already. It's going to be in every village, they tell us. The PS3 and Wii will soon follow.

And what's the fuss all about? Of course, it's eye candy, mainly. Graphics. Ooooh – look at those orgasmic hi-polys. Aaaaah – look at those ultra-detailed textures. Prettier than all the girls. More realistic than your dad.

But wait – that's what's supposed to happen, innit? I love souped-up graphics just as much as the next gamer, but that's just par for the course for the Next-Gen consoles. What more can we expect from these bodacious machines? We know about the beauty, what will the brains be like?

Here's what I wish we could see?

Less 'Artificial', More 'Intelligence'

Here's to developers who try to make NPCs more interesting, believable and complex. I'd like to meet opponents who feel fear, become enraged, make mistakes and surprise me. Developers who finally realize that 'improved AI' doesn't just mean bad guys who can sidestep, take cover or toss grenades. Games with an adventure element, especially RPGs, could do with a more complex emotional layer that controls NPC actions, to replace the rather lame 'hostility level' or equivalent that most of them use currently. Things that NPCs could do on the fly, depending on the game situation : Lie. Make, and break promises. Go insane. Fall ill.

Controller Innovation.

Sure, I'm excited about the Wii-mote (but not quite so much about Sixaxis – it seems like an afterthought, shoehorned into a design. Prove me wrong, Sony, please.). But why stop there? If Eye Toy, Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution were such big hits, it perhaps says something about intelligent controller innovation being an important tool in breaking through to new gamers. How about a controller accessory that can measure heart rate or blood pressure, and interpret it into the game, altering the player's abilities in some way? How about an oxygen mask like thing, which can check if players are holding their breath (Think Kabaddi. Think underwater sequences. Think stealth sequences) ?

A good cricket game

Okay. It's time. I've had it with playing second fiddle to football, tennis, golf, basketball and sundry other sports. I WANT a good cricket game – a true simulation. Brian Lara is fun, but it's nowehere near the quality of experience games like Pro Evolution Soccer and Top Spin deliver to fans of their respective sports. Go on, ICC cretins. Fund this one. We'll buy. Hell, we even buy EA's crappy game, even though we know it's not cricket!

Stuff I don't want

I hope no-one's working on bringing a real 'smell' component to the gaming experience. I don't want to smell rotting corpses and fresh blood. I don't want to smell sewers. Thank you very much. I sincerely hope there are no efforts on to extend 'force feedback' to include things like electric shocks and real burns. I don't want a role-playing game based on Jack Thompson. No, wait . . .

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

25 Years a Gamer

by Anand Ramachandran

Just realized that I've been gaming for quarter of a century! That's longer than many of my gamer friends have been alive! Grumpy. OLD. Man.

So perhaps I'll rather self-indulgently go off on a stroll down the old lane, and try to pick up some of the best gaming memories in all that time. Younger gamers, perhaps you can mine the following micro-memoir and try some of the oldies mentioned – you'll certainly be glad you did. Fellow dinosaurs, you may find something that has you nodding in agreement, while your eyes mist over. You have been warned.

Earliest memories of gaming

The world-famous Nintendo Game and Watch handhelds. Mickey Mouse. Parachute. Fire. Popeye. Old pong machines – I had a poppy TVG-4, which was a black and white unit, and a SOUNDIC TVSPORTS, which featured four brilliant colours. Tennis, soccer (I hate that word), basketball. Wheeee! And of course, the inevitable ATARI VCS (later known as the 2600). Not the nooB silver version. The true-blue, wood finish beauty. Oh, and before I forget – the coin-op Pac-Man at sleazy burger joints all over the US highways. When I was about seven.

Addiction Alert

Game and Watch titles such as Fire, Octopus and Parachute were pretty much unputdownable. Diablo. Baldur's Gate 2. The Sims. Halo. Tetris. Civilization (your version number here). KOTOR. The Minish Cap. I think these were probably the worst.

Adrenaline Rush

Turning up the speed to 'high' on the SOUNDIC, and then playing an impossible furious basketball game against a friend. The final, tense scramble as Master Chief tries to escape from Halo. Taking down a dragon for the first time in Shadows of Amn. Drunken Soul Calibur 2 parties. A headshot with the Ripper in Unreal Tournament.

Moments of WOW!

Exploring a huge (for the time) gameworld in 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', on the ATARI 2600. My first view of DOOM. Every single moment of 'Shadow of the Colossus'. Typing 'kiss alien' into Space Quest 2, and discovering that Al Lowe had actually programmed a response : 'You have a dirty mind'. Katamari Damacy. Oblivion.

Adventures in Adventure

All early Sierra games – Space Quest 2 was the first. Sam and Max hit the road. Monkey Island. Grim Fandango. The MYST series – yes, I really DO think they're great games. Out of Order.

Dirty Little Secret

I LOVE the N-Gage QD. I count Pathway to Glory, Mile High Pinball, High Seize, Colin McRae, Rifts:Promise of Power among some of the most satisfying and fun games I've played. And I've played. A lot. My sympathies to biased gamers who bad-mouth a product based simply on hearsay or limited experience and knowledge. A poke in the eye to NOKIA, who was chiefly responsible for shoddy initial design and moronic marketing.

WTF moments

Finally finding the Lost Ark, playing the game on a 2600 emulator, some 22 years after my first attempt!

Multiplayer Gems

Soul Calibur 2. Burnout 3. Pro Evolution Soccer (I hate that word). Unreal Tournament. But the games I enjoy most playing with friends – Worms 2, and Outlaw on the ATARI 2600.

Holes in the Resume

Very little gametime on Nintendo systems (apart from the Game and Watch and GBA). No SNES. No N64. No Gamecube. Will plug the gaps, though.

Next Gen

Don't know. I am excited about all the systems – but the Wii-mote has possibilities for swashbuckler-style swordplay. Bring it on – that's what I want to see. Grrarrrhhh. Maybe a Hellbrandt Grimm game. Shhlunk!

The other Next Gen

My four year old son knows the entire Halo weapon set and creature list by heart. He knows which weapons are UNSC and which are Covenant. He knows how to snipe enemies from afar. I'm SO proud of him. I'm going to be arrested for ESRB violation.


Now that I've greatly reduced my design consultancy work to focus on game design and comic-book writing, more time to keep this blog alive. And to play more games – never again shall my Xbox see a 6-month idle period. Shudder.

Advice to gamers

Play everything. Try out MYST. Have a go at the Sims. Check out the N-Gage (if you can get your hands on one, that is). Prejudices and biases are for wimps and losers. Tell your children to stay away from cheat codes.

Okay, time to go. Have to plan my 25-years-of-gaming party. If you're in Chennai, you'll be welcome. I'll post details on this blog once I'm ready.

P.S. - Other old-timers out there - pitch in and comment. Would love to hear your voices.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Has a comic book made you cry?


Lone Wolf and Cub Cover

Do you cry when you read comics? Have you? Ever?

I've just completed reading the last chapter of the legendary 'Lone Wolf and Cub', created by the revered Japanese Manga masters Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima. And I've gone all misty-eyed.

THIS is the joy of comics. The long, arduous redemption journey undertaken by super-assassin Itto Ogami and his baby son Daigoro is an emotional roller-coaster that will amuse, delight, anger and move you like perhaps no other long-running comic series in memory. It's astonishing how writer and artist combine magically to create some of the most gripping and thought provoking sequences ever to grace the pages of popular comics - they combine so well it's almost impossible to believe that two separate people worked on the series. Indeed, sometimes you forget that you're reading a book at all - so powerful is the storytelling that it drags you right into the pages - you walk with Itto, witness his duels, feel the icy wind, want to pinch little Daigoro's cheeks.

And if you, like many readers in India, are used only to American comics, then the experience will perhaps be even more moving. Think of this as the first time for a Manga virgin, if you will. Pages of contemplative, delicately paced sequences suddenly tumble into a mad flurry of bloody, furious combat. Scenes depicting complex human emotions and delicately crafted conversations slowly melt into long sections without a single spoken word. Breathtaking stuff.

And the finale! Let it be enough to say it stands alongside the most powerful, poignant and heart-rending climaxes I've come across in ANY entertainment medium. If you're a comics fan, a fan of Japanese martial arts stories, or simply someone who delights in good fiction, you can't go wrong with 'Lone Wolf and Cub'.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The success of the Indian Gaming Industry

I write this on a lazy Sunday morning while I’m cooking lunch for my wife. Yeah – it’s a man’s world they said. I have a rum and coke in one hand and I’m listening to Big Bad Bill by Van Halen while David Lee Roth was still singing for them. I’m also trying to figure out why onions and tomatoes don’t get along when they are thrown in the cooker at the same time. How times have changed!

This morning I started up my 360 and did my dutiful checking online to see what’s new. I see Frogger has just been re-released as an arcade game on XBOX Live Arcade. It’s now available at 720p and is displayed in a whopping 16:9 wide screen ratio. I found myself playing a game that I played more than 20 years ago. How times have changed!

I also have the IGDA Indian chapter open in a browser and I’m reading what seems to be such an eclectic mix of views. You see developers getting utopian in their exchanges with how graphics should actually work. You see game designers talking about inspiration for their work. You see project managers and producers trying to convince the world that they actually mean well. You see the budding student that wants to become an ace programmer by just asking questions or talking l33t. You see recruiters putting up posts for employment underestimating how savvy or educated today’s employee is. What an amazing mix. What’s so outstanding about this is the fact that there is a certain amount of order within the chaos that sometimes ensues. In my opinion, it’s called discovery.

How long does it take to learn math? How long does it take to learn how to cycle? How long did it take you to figure out that you cannot walk on the sand in Half Life 2? Discovery – It’s a wonderful experience. More so, when the results are so extremely rewarding.

Let me explain:

Fact: India Games released Yoddha in 2002. Was it good? Maybe not - but the discovery there was how to finish developing a game. Granted, it was a rather short game, but it still had a beginning and an end which indicates that it did get completed. India Games has now gone onto being the most successful game development companies within India with an almost global presence in Mobile game development; a true testament to their pioneering efforts.

Fact: Game Masti released Chakravyuh in 2002. Was it good? That's not important - but it was officially India's first full feature game spanning ten whole levels. That alone was almost biblical in impact. Thinking about a game is tough, making a demo is tougher, and finishing a game is nothing short of Olympian in nature. I know, I finished making a version of Pong and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. This effort had just signalled the arrival of full fledged game development in India. Before this, people were just testing the waters.

Fact: Lumenphon released Bhagat Singh. Was it good? Maybe not – but it was the second game released in India. I remember how excited I was at the fact that India had now developed two games. They may not have been the most polished or the most advanced, but they were two whole games nonetheless.

Fact: Dhruva Interactive won a deal to create art assets for Mission Impossible. Was the game good? Maybe not – but it established and confirmed the bandwidth that led up to the biggest game development outsourcing company in India who ever since has worked on Mission: Impossible 2, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Geoff Grammond’s Grand Prix 4, and the critically acclaimed TOCA Pro Race Driver series. Not too mention they worked on the incredible Forza Motorsport.

Fact: Kawabonka creates an online gaming community site that allows PvP multiplayer gaming leveraging the advent of high speed internet connectivity and it blows up into being the most successful online gaming community in India.

Fact: Milestone Interactive gets approved to by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe to develop a PS2 game. Was it a major accomplishment? No – but the amount of people that the effort had touched was huge. That single handedly was worth it – and that’s discovery, right there.

Fact: Paradox squeezes the A5 Conitec Engine to the max and releases BattleDust. Was it good? – Maybe not the greatest, but it was a beat ‘em up, it was similar yet different in nature and it was complete. Once again, hats off to the team at Paradox for going completely above and beyond.

Let’s not forget Lakshaya Digital and their patented GPO (Games Process Outsourcing) strategy, Raptor Entertainment’s proprietary RTS engine, Gameloft opening up shop in Hyderabad, ATI, Microsoft and now the cerebral explosion of casual game development in India.

How things have changed; and all this in just about five years!

I don’t know about you but I think that’s a pretty impressive portfolio for a country that had its highest selling game sell a measly 25,000 + copies. Even more impressive, considering how attractive the “brain drain” methodology has been for talented employees who might have left the country in search of more established and educated lands.

What am I trying to say here? Things change. People change. Countries change and heck, I’ve seen Doordarshan change. While we have certain folks on one hand pretty much dictating how the Indian game development will never improve, I see an extremely bright future for all of us. I see a visible, clear learning curve; I see maturity evolving; I see another five years for us to learn and discover how we can effectively contribute to an industry that we feel so passionately about. After all – Discovery leads to innovation. Innovation leads to leadership. Leadership leads to success.

I applaud everyone that has contributed so far in their own little way as it has unknowingly created a seemingly self aware and sentient industry. Thanks to their efforts, India has reached a position where it can now begin to turn discovery into invention.

Until next time…

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Lessons from Casual Games

How often do game designers look to casual games for inspiration for design ideas? It's amazing how a simple arcade game can throw up valuable insights.

Take the wonderfully chaotic, whimsical Insaniquarium. You can get it here. A must-play for anyone involved in game development, and for lovers of gaming in general. It's a delightful little game that demonstrates the effectiveness of two core design values – simplicity and context-sensitive control.

The objective of Insaniquarium is simple – you need to buy little fish, feed them until they become big fish, after which they drop money. By collecting enough money, you can save up and buy pieces of egg – complete the egg and you complete a level. Sound simplistic? Somehow, almost impossibly, the designers manage to throw in food upgrades, carnivores that feed on little fish and drop diamonds, evil, scary aliens that attack the fish, weapons upgrades, oysters, swordfish, and more. By the third level, your screen is a psychedelic, swirling mix of fast moving, brightly coloured objects, to the backdrop of cutesy-pie music and classic arcade woo-bop-bing-bop sounds.

And what controls must you master to play this game that includes strategy, action, resource management and an economic model? Just the simple mouse click. That's it.

Click anywhere on the aquarium, and you drop food for the fishies. Click on an alien, and you shoot it. Click on treasure, and you collect it. Click on buttons to buy upgrades and more fish. It's deliciously simple, and insanely addictive.

The power of context sensitive control. By using this elegant solution, the designers have managed to reduce a reasonably complex set of activities the gamer must perform into a single control – the left click. This makes the game beautifully accessible – no need to figure out / remember a control set – just jump in and play. What a blast!

More power to games like this.