Capn Design

Video Games

Canabalt Scoreboard Upgrades: User Scores, Historical Data

Posted December 4, 2009

Remember the Canabalt Scoreboard I built a while ago? I decided to add a couple things. Semisecret, the game's creator, is going to be adding a global leaderboard in the next update, so I thought I'd some things that will remain useful and parse some of the data.

Historical Data

death-graph.pngSince I started tracking data on October 4th, I've captured 25k scores. As of today, the average score is 3965m. When you break it down by the type of death, it's 3728m (fine mist), 4082m (hit wall) and 3686m (fell). I think it does a decent job of showing what obstacle is hardest to avoid (hitting a building above or below the window).

If you go to the site and click on the stats tab, you can also see a list of the highest score for each day since I've tracked scores and a pretty graph of how people are dying, broken down by day (seen to the right). It's also an interesting look into how often people are posting their scores to Twitter which I imagine correlates closely to total usage.

User Scores

You can also now look at all of the scores you've submitted. For example, here are mine and here's iSpacemanSpiff, who has the highest score right now. If you want to look up the scores of anyone else, just go to the main page and do a search.

More Information

I have other data I'd like to get up there, specifically the average score per day, to see if people are improving overall. And if any of you like the graph, I built it using the Javascript library, Bluff. I like it a lot and have also been interested in using High Charts, but that's fodder for another post.

The more I build this out, the more I think this would be a useful tool for developers. I know many collaborative FPS and MMPORG games use stats to change how the game works and I think iPhone developers with global leaderboards could learn from this data too.

Canabalt Tips & Tricks

Posted October 19, 2009

I don't want to over-Canabalt all of you, but bear with me as I get this out of my system. Below are a few items, some of them obvious, that might make the game a little easier for you.

  • Going too fast? Run into a box. The game takes longer, but going slower makes it a lot easier.
  • Tapping the screen more lightly results in a lower jump.
  • You can play the game using your own music. If you have a song playing when you launch the app, it will lay the sound effects over that. If you are a serious nerd about it, you could have a song that is silent so you can focus on the sounds of the game.
  • When a bomb is dropped, it makes a noise one building's-length before it lands.
  • A bomb always lands in the dead center of the building

Introducing: Canabalt High Scores

Posted October 14, 2009

20091014canabalt.pngI am becoming obsessed with the iPhone game Canabalt. In the game, you run and jump for as long as you can before you die. Maybe not revolutionary, but it's damn fun.

My biggest problem with the game is that the only way to share your scores is to tweet them. You have a leaderboard on your phone, but it's not global. And since I'm so awesome at the game and Sippey asked nicely, I built a public leaderboard based on people's tweets.

That's right, the world now has a Canabalt Scoreboard.

For those who are technically minded, I have a script that hits the Twitter search API every few minutes and grabs people's scores. I went back as far as Twitter would allow to grab old data and I'm ignoring scores from people (cheaters) who posted from the web and not the API (which sucks for me as I've gotten 16k+, but didn't tweet it).

That's it! Good luck, Canabalters.

Just Don't Use Squares and Triangles

Posted July 26, 2009

I'm doing a poor job catching up with my New Yorkers as I'm now 5 months behind. The good news is that you've probably already forgotten about this article.

In the 2/23/09 issue, there's an article about weaponizing robots that focuses on one of the best gun-makers and his efforts to sell his inventions. The robots he has built, the ones with the guns, can only fire their weapons when the operator presses a button.* Quoth:

"Automating firing, that's taboo," [Adam Gettings of Robotex] said. But, with a little programming, "you could definitely do targeting and tracking. You could have it identify targets, A, B, and C, put squares around them. Then just hit a button and decide which person to take out."

Immediately, I thought of the Madden football games. In Madden, after the play starts, each player is assigned to one of the buttons on the controller. When you're ready to pass, you press that button and the quarterback throws the ball.

Madden Routes

The problem is that I often press the wrong button. Not a big deal when you're playing a video game, but it becomes a bit more of an issue when you're choosing whom to shoot. Here's hoping they have someone controlling this device who's better at video games than me. I suggest they look to Madden Nation for recruits.

* I'm glad people in our government are fearful of autonomous weaponized robots. No one wants another Skynet.

Fan-Made, 8-Bit Video of Kanye's "Robocop"

Posted June 18, 2009

Robocop is my favorite song off the latest album and this video with all-original artwork, created by myk31, makes me happy. There are Double Dragon, Mega-Man and Punch Out! references, to name a few. I encourage you to watch it big, in HD. I also encourage you to check out the artist's site. He's got plenty of cool illustrations.

(via Buzzfeed)

Guitar Hero Ad: You Just Blew My Mind

Posted May 28, 2008

Normally I'd just stick this in the sidebar as a quick post, but I didn't want to make you click again to see this. Hot damn, this is the worst/best ad I've ever seen. It may be our modern day Wendy's training video rap.

via kotaku

Xbox 360 vs. PS3: Which is Less Bad?

Posted August 16, 2007

Although I am a proud owner of the Nintendo Wii, I've decided my home is big enough for another game console. Unfortunately, I can't choose. I've been bouncing back and forth between the two for a few weeks now and I'm still deadlocked. I'm hoping you all can help me decide. Here's my list of pros and cons for each device.

Xbox 360

+ Cost $349 (X360 Elite) + $49 (Xbox Live) = $398
+ All of my friends are on Xbox Live
+ Big library of titles
+ Has GTA 4 Extras
+ Madden looks better on it
- consoles completely die on a regular basis
- HD-DVD add-on is $200
- No Little Big Planet, Metal Gear Solid 4 or MLB The Show


+ Has Little Big Planet, Metal Gear Solid 4 and MLB The Show
+ Includes Blu-Ray
+ Includes online play
- Cost $499
- I only know one person who has one
- Developers continue to complain about the difficulties of development

In the end, it seems somewhat even. The gist is that PS3 is expensive and I won't have friends to play with online and the Xbox 360 is missing some exclusives, can't play HD movies and has severe quality control problems. I am completely torn and I'm dying to play Madden 08 and pick some other next-gen titles I've been missing out on. If you've got any insight, I'd love to hear it as I'm completely deadlocked.

Addendum: I forgot to mention when I wrote this last night that Dan was kind enough to let me try out both consoles at his place. Sony definitely won style points for the menu systems and their extras were great. I liked the X360 as well, but wasn't quite as impressed. And this morning my buddy Jason sent me info on getting $150 rebate on the PS3, which is currently tipping the scale in Sony's favor.

Blip Festival and 8-Bit

Posted November 30, 2006

20061201blip.jpgThe Blip Festival hit NYC tonight and is sticking around through the weekend. It's a festival of chiptunes and many of the big names will be here including Nullsleep, Bit Shifter and Cory Arcangel.

On Saturday at 3pm there will be a screening of 8 Bit, a movie all about chiptunes. I saw it at MoMA a couple months ago and really enjoyed it. Hell, it's only $5.

I'm wishing I could see Cory Arcangel's new flim, Super Mario Movie, which will be played at 8pm on Saturday to start of the evening's festivities. I'd also recommend you check out Nullsleep's presentation about creating chiptunes, NES Music: From Concept To Cartridge, on Sunday from 2pm-4pm.

I think I might check out the show tomorrow night if anyone's interested.

Bob Dob's Video Game Inspired Art

Posted November 14, 2006


Jason pointed out this great Nintendo-inspired artwork from Bob Dob. The paintings above are my favorite, but I also loved this one and this one. Lucky for us, we can buy some of his work here and here.

Hello Onyx

Posted September 12, 2006


Today, I am upgrading to a small, sleek DS Lite Onyx. I do love my Mario Kart DS, but it's a little too big and clunky. Time for something svelte. Since it's no fun to get a system without a game, I also picked up New Super Mario Brothers.

In other Nintendo news, I'm excited about the possibility of a $150 price point for the Wii. Although the leak is from Vibe magazine, I think this is more trustworthy than if the scan was from a gaming mag. It's often a non-industry publication that forgets us fanboys get the shivers when we hear the words Shigeru Miyamoto.

If the console ends up being $150, which we'll find out for sure on Thursday at Nintendo's Wii event, the Big N will sell a boatload of these consoles and take a dominant role in the console market again. Aside from always having Nintendo's back, I'm happy that a product that innovates while promoting fun over graphics is going have a major role in the next wave of video games.

Peace out Sony. Take your $600 PS3 and shove it.

Edge and the State of Video Games

Posted September 13, 2005

While home in Chicago a couple weekends ago, I happened upon a most welcomed surprise while browsing the periodicals: Edge Magazine. Edge is published in the UK and is one of the few video game magazines that isn't geared towards 12-16 year-olds. It's also the only game mag I still find tolerable since the departure of Next Generation (now an online magazine focused on industry news).

Previously, Edge wasn't available in the U.S. at all, even from newsstands, which is why I got all excited. It also turns out they're now offering stateside subscriptions for about $80 instead of what used to be $120. Issues are selling on the newsstands for eight bucks.

Edge caters to the video game fan who's looking for more than a three-sentence preview with a page of photos. Their analysis is in-depth and the reviews are thorough. In the two issues I've read this week, a lot of words were devoted to the soon-to-arrive Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Since Edge delves deeper than "Project Gotham Racing 3 will look sick," it's easy to get a sense of how these new consoles may not be all they're cracked up to be.

The Next Generation Could Disappoint

Each developer profiled in Edge mentioned that the cost of development for the X360 and PS3 will be significantly higher. One Japanese house said they'd have to charge $100 for games based on the predicted costs, even though they know that isn't feasible. If that's the case, we're looking at a dark age for creativity in video games. The system isn't really set up to support indie games and the major players aren't going to put $10 million down for an unproven commodity, at least that's the fear.

Hollywood is facing similar issues, the difference being that people can make feature length films for hundreds or thousands of dollars (and have) while that's just impossible for a console game. Does this mean we'll have to wait until the end of a new console's life-cycle before seeing innovative games from small firms? Hopefully the small studios have a strong fight-or-flight mechanism that'll help them innovate quickly.

My fears were realized this year when Madden 06 was the only football title on the shelves this fall. EA Sports purchased the sole rights to the NFL license for the next five years, which means no one else can have NFL players or logos anywhere in their game. Some were hoping this would prod the others to think fast and create unusual football titles. Well, the NFL season is upon us and that didn't happen. This isn't a result of rising costs but it is indicative of the lack of risk-taking.

So, We're Screwed?

I doubt it, but only because I think the five-year product cycle of consoles we know now will cease to exist. The new consoles are too expensive for most people—the Xbox 360 starts at $299, but the cheapest pre-order package at Gamestop is $699 and the PS3 will be at least that expensive—which means people will hold onto their consoles longer.* Developers will keep churning out Xbox and PS2 titles because they're cheap to make, they know the hardware, the upfront cost is lower and the profits will be greater. We'll then see the PS2 still going strong into 2007 and possibly 2008.

Although your casual gamer or gadget-freak will pine for the newest console, if a game is good it won't matter what console it's on (Halo certainly sold a lot of Xboxes), especially if prices stay high and new games go for $60. In other words, I don't think the new consoles will bring in the gamers' apocalypse, but it will certainly shake up the industry. Sony and Microsoft may get taught a harsh lesson, but everyone will come out okay in the end.

* This is also why I think Nintendo may be due for a renaissance. The Revolution should come in cheaper than the other two, and Nintendo historically has a much higher percentage of quality games.

Man Killed Over Virtual Property

Posted March 30, 2005

Jane at Gamegirl Advance reported on the slaying of a man over virtual property earlier today. As she put it, "The China Daily reports that a 41-year-old man stabbed an acquaintance who stole and sold his Dragon Sabre in the MMORPG Legend of Mir III." This could have just been the case of a crazy, obsessed gamer, but the fact that he reported this to the police first and was turned away changes all that.

Qiu, the accused, was told by the police that virtual property doesn't count, even though the sabre was eventually sold for $871. That sounds pretty real to me. It seems obvious that the police should have followed through and arrested Zhu, the man who stole the sabre, but I can see why they didn't. It's not very likely that they have someone on staff who knows how to determine whether it was stolen. This is aside from the preconceived notions they likely possess.

This is a great example because it is something quantifiable. If Zhu had stolen the sabre and traded it for money within the game, it would be much harder to rationalize for a lot of people. I would be curious what would happen if someone were to copy every music file I bought online and then deleted them from my computer. Forgetting about copyright issues, I would likely have to re-purchase those files but I doubt I would be able to file a report with the NYPD.

I also wonder if this would be connected to intellectual property in some way. I'm far from a lawyer, but it seems to be something else that has monetary value but can't be held in your hands.

The PSP Diet

Posted March 24, 2005

My PSPI broke down. I bought a PSP today. While staring it down at Virgin I realized that it was only a matter of time until I picked it up, so why not do it now? Before the part of my brain that deals with logic kicked in, my credit card was swiped and I was walking out with a PSP and two games (Wipeout and NFL Street, which I'll be exchanging for Lumines when they get a copy in).

As a result of my purchase, I'm going on the PSP diet. I've got to balance out my spending somehow. Until my birthday on April 14th, three weeks away, I will do the following:

  • Eat out for lunch no more than twice
  • Eat out for dinner no more than five times
  • Buy the cheapest groceries possible
  • Buy no DVDs and 1 CD (I need the new Beck)
  • Go to no more than 1 movie in the theater

Obviously, that's not all food, but a gadget/media nerd knows that hunger isn't the only craving you have on a daily basis. If I stick to this, I won't feel as bad. I'll have birthday money by the time my diet is over.

In totally unrelated news, if anyone needs some freelance web work done, I'm looking.

I'm Feeling the Handheld Hype

Posted October 14, 2004

It's official, I will most definitely be buying either a Nintendo DS or a Sony PSP. As of right now I'm leaning towards the PSP, thanks to this video. All that's holding me up is the lack of a price or a release date. There's no way I'd pay more than $200 for a portable system, and even that would be a bit steep.

Still, I'm more than ready to welcome in some better looking games for handhelds. The color screens of the Gameboy Advance and SP were a step up, but I'm looking for more and these seem to have it. So, I'm going to wait until the PSP makes it stateside before I decide, butthe sexiness of the Sony device is pretty tempting. Don't you agree?

Sony PSP

Racial Stereotypes in Videogames

Posted August 12, 2004

In today's Circuits section of the NY Times, there is an article about race and video games that tells us virtually nothing new. Just like television and movies, video games are introducing people of color in racially insensitive ways.

For instance, the new version of Grand Theft Auto is set in the early 90s, when gang wars were prevalent. Obviously, many of the gang members are not white. The other example is Def Jam Fight for NY, which depicts black and hispanic men fighting -- a lot.

Similar to past articles of this nature, the author questions whether games that promote racial stereotypes should be encouraged or even allowed. He quotes a parent-like figure, who says, "They are nothing more than pixilated minstrel shows." I think that's taking it a bit far, but you get the meaning.

Yes, these games promote stereotypes, but show me a single game that doesn't. This man is concerned about a 7 year-old kid, whom he helps to raise, and his exposure to these games. His, and many others, chief complaint is that despite the game-makers claim that this is meant to be a fantasy world, the kids can't make that distinction. I agree, but I think it the onus is on the parents to keep their kids away from these games. I am able to play GTA and understand that not every fat hispanic man in the ghetto sells guns and hand gernades.

The critics want to see a game that promotes positive depections of non-white people. Unfortunately, these games would likely be boring to their intended audience (people seventeen and up). Comedy and entertainment is based around stereotypes for a reason -- seeing something you can relate to is engaging. These games, shows, and movies are not going away, which is why it has to be up to the parents to teach their children and provide a positive role model. Kids will only relate to these negative stereotypes if they are surrounded by them.

I don't claim to be an expert on this issue, but parents should not expect media to conform to their expectations. We live in a free-market economy and the most popular item will sell, with few limitations based on morality. If you don't want your kids to play Def Jam Vendetta, that's fine by me, but don't tell me it can't exist.

ESPN Gamer

Posted August 14, 2003

Today, ESPN launched ESPN Gamer, a mini-site devoted to sports video games. According to their introductory letter they plan to offer all of the usual stuff you expect from a video game site: reviews, screenshots, trips, features, etc. This begs the question, why does ESPN need to do this? There are sites and magazines devoted to video games that do a very good job. It makes me wonder how much money the game developers are throwing at them.

I explored the site a bit to decipher their motives. The reviews they offer are relatively crappy. It's broken down into six sections (graphics, gameplay, etc.), which doesn't leave much room for the writer to discuss what it's like to play the game. It's too rigid. If this is all they offered I would write off this site immediately. Thankfully, they have two well-written columns -- one of which is quite refreshing.

The first is an interview and showdown with Michael Vick (the coverboy for Madden 2004). The writing is good but the content is the same as every other magazine who was there on that press day.

The second is an article on Sega's newest football offering, discussing the first-person view. What's nice about this article is that the writer's knowledge of football is put to good use here. Video game magazines know video games, not sports, which means they miss some nuances of the game. ESPN will be able to pick up the slack here as they are (or at least should be) sports gurus.

That is the what the draw of this site should be. ESPN is able to offer a perspective on video games that will look at whether or not they are accurate or relevant to the world of sports. They can, and should, leave all of the technical stuff to EGM or Edge. This is why I'll be returning to this site. It's likely that they are trying to sell the new line of Sega games they're sponsoring, but if it means the potential for good content and a new perspective then I have no complaints.

Note: There are definitely other columns on this site that are quite good and some other content on its way, but I didn't want this to become a detailed review of the entire site.

The Dying Arcade

Posted July 29, 2003

After my trip to the movies last night (see previous post) I went to Cold Stone Creamery to get some amazing ice cream and then to Broadway City, the only true arcade I have found in New York thus far.

While living at home in the Chicago suburbs I would often frequent Super Just Games (note: the link is to a Street Fighter competition page) quite often. Maybe once every couple weeks at high points. In college, I pretty much stopped going because there was nothing convenient and I didn't have any close friends who wanted to go (or maybe I was embarassed to ask). Now, I did find one in NYC but it is in Times Square and is amazingly expensive. (The cheapest games were $.75 and those were Galaga, Ms. Pac Man, and Metal Slug 4.) Where have all the arcades gone?

Sadly, I know the answer but I don't want to admit it. Arcade games are expensive to produce and don't have a great rate of return unless they're at an amusement park. Just look at my current favorite game, Time Crisis 3, and how much it costs. $15,495. Granted this is a shooting game with two screens, but it is an example of how much new games cost to produce. So, the neighborhood arcade is gone because kids would rather stay at home and play games from their couch.

What we lose is the sense of community that comes from playing people that you don't know. Even though fighting games aren't my forté, nothing can beat waiting in line to play the reigning champion of the game. Even though you don't know him/her, the two of you have a both a rivalry and a common bond already there. In a more basic way, we also lose to the ability to just hang out with like-minded people. I am not as obsessed with games as some people, but it's nice for me to visit that world and chat with people who know what they're talking about.

Another reason to keep arcades around is for games that can't be recreated on a PC or console. Racing games, gun games and Dance Dance Revolution cannot be recreated in the home setting. It is impossible. Now the only place to enjoy these games is at amusement parks that charge at least $1 per game. I don't expect things to still cost a quarter but I know that price can come down. I paid $1.75 per game last night and some of the racing games were $2.50. That is ridiculous.

The only thing that has come close to replacing the arcade is the converted movie theaters. (In some places movie theaters are being converted to LAN gaming areas.) You do get to bring back some of the community, which is nice, but you still lose the variety of games and some fun nostalgic factors.

I don't know if I'm ever going to get my arcades back but I do know that I can't be alone. There must be others out there who long for the arcade experience. I just hope that we are able to find some happy medium where I can play my games without dropping $30 per session.

Video Game Roundup

Posted May 29, 2003

I've ran across a few good articles over the last couple days and I'll bring them up now.

The Game Industry Crisis
Greg at Games * Design * Art * Culture has posted a piece about the upcoming fiscal crisis in the videogame industry. As system power increases in accordance with Moore's Law, the cost of game development increases with it. Game sales and profits are increasing at a much slower rate. The industry will not be in a good situation until people from my generation turn 40, which is when video games will have a mass appeal. The point is, we will have a serious problem on our hands in a few years and beyond, unless we come up with a solution.

Video Games Good for You
Two American researchers have determined that video games can improve your visual skills. People who play games regularly, especially shoot-em-ups, fared much better in a variety of tests done by the researchers. Really, this doesn't mean much to me as any gamer could tell you that it improves their "visual skills." I guess it is good to have people from the world of science confirm this.

Matthew Barney vs. Donkey Kong
The immediate connection is the concept of climbing up a series of platforms to reach the woman and her guardian. The rest of this piece goes on to explain a lot of other interesting stuff. Now I want to see the movie in its entirity so I can see what exactly he means. Really cool piece.

Super-Duper PS2: PSX
It's a PS2 with a 120GB hard drive, DVD+/-RW, DVR software, USB 2.0, a memory stick slot and connections for the PSP (the upcoming Sony handheld). This machine sounds like a badass machine. I'm curious how much it will cost and what the response will be like when it comes to the states.

Women in Games

Posted May 18, 2003

I just finished reading an article on women in games from the NY Times and I have a lot to say. Before I begin, it's important to know that the article discusses the way women are portrayed in games and not female gamers, as they are two very different topics.

The discussion is similar to the one that occurred when black people first appeared in television and film -- is it better to have black people on tv being portrayed inaccurately or to have them off tv completely? In regards to women, the critics seem to agree that women need to be in games, but there is argument as to whether or not the portrayal is acceptable.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is at one extreme, as women are often beaten or killed, usually after a helathy round of prostitution. Clearly, no critic approves of this. In a game like Tekken 4 the women are capable of defending themselves and often kick ass, but are still hyper-sexualized versions of real women (see image below). All of the games in the Tomb Raider series are also good examples of this. As the article points out, many women have applauded the heroism and stength of Lara Croft but have been disappointed by her incredibly large bust size. Few games give a totally positive portrayal of women -- even games like Super Mario Brothers show the Princess as a completely helpless person that a plumber can save from a hideously large and violent super-turtle.

Tekken 4: Christie

The bottomline is that although women are being given a fair shake in fighting games and often given starring roles in other genres, it is under the wrong pretenses. They are put there and are shaped accordingly in order to appeal to the male gamer's labido. What's more troubling, and isn't fully addressed by the article, is that this accurately portrays real life. Yes, women are finally gaining some equality in society but they are still portrayed as feabile, sexual creatures. A quote from the article sums it up nicely.

"Now women can be killing machines, but adolescent about everything else," Ms. Hooks said.

"That is what one sees in 'Charlie's Angels,' " she continued. "The women kill as ruthlessly and as brutally as any men, but when it comes to sex that drops out and they are little girls. It is a tremendous burden."

At this point I would like to point out that men are also shown as hulking masses of testosterone, only capable of maiming and looting, which reminds us that games, like all fiction, allows people to live out fantasies. Still, we need to remember that authors of any form of fiction have a tremendous power -- the ability to shape our concept of reality.

Now, I challenge the video game industry, and all other industries as well as society, to think of women as equals in all senses of the word. I admit it is fun to visit a fantasy world where men can pretend they are 6'4", incredibly strong and unbearably handsome fighters who get to wrestle with unbearably buxom women, but if this is giving adolescents the idea that women can be treated like dirt then I think we can and should give up these images forever.

Games to Movies

Posted April 26, 2003

This is a relatively exhaustive list of all the video games being turned into films. Here are some of the highlights.

Metroid - I couldn't even actually read what they were saying. I was too excited. Hopefully this won't be the next Super Mario Bros.

DOA: The Movie - I can't believe they're making movies out of fighting games. For instance, this movie is set on an island where girls are forced to fight in a tournament. Um, yeah.

Crazy Taxi - The company that has the rights to this movie said it will be a "fun, PG-rated comedy that blends the action and car crashes of The Fast and the Furious with the drama of HBO's Taxicab Confessions and the comedy of Rat Race." I see.

Pac-Man - Woh. I am very curious to see how this will turn out. If they are at all faithful to the game, it will be a long ninety minutes.

Spy-Hunter - This movie will be starring The Rock. That alone piques my interest, but not necessarily in a good way.

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