Harry Potter&the goblet of fire: Afterthoughts


Harry Potter, “the boy who lived, is in for a dangerous fourth year at Hogwarts when the goblet of fire selects him to compete as one of four champions in the triwizard tournament -despite the fact that he did not submit his name”

I find Harry Potter and… both interesting and enjoyable: even though it goes on for almost three hours, I didn’t feel tired or bored after it finished. However, although the different sequences were all very good, the whole movie suffered most from the editing. Some transitions between scenes were too abrupt; many times, it seemed like chunks of the plot were missing, and at times the story didn’t flow as naturally as it should. In my opinion, the best part of the movie was around the middle, when it showed the relationships between the main characters and bits of their life as teenagers, like in the events surrounding the Yule Ball. After that the movie got pretty intense, but I felt that the whole thing ended too suddenly: I was expecting more action at Hogwarts after the villain had been revived!

Now that I made that last remark, it may be the time to add a caveat: I haven´t read the book yet, so while watching the movie I wasn´t biased by it, nor was I recalling a previously assumed plot. That´s why, after the movie had ended, I talked to several others who had previously read the book and asked them for their opinion. I found out that they thought that the movie had been too short, and also that many things were omitted from the book, from small details to entire characters (Ludo Bagman or the house elves, for instance). They also coincided with me in that the movie felt rushed (I´m quoting my girlfriend: thanks Steph!). However, though being disappointed in some ways, I think that no one could say that the movie hadn´t been a good one. My footnote on the music: I found it accomplished and technically well done, though several times, like at the very beginning, if I closed my eyes I wouldn´t know if it was Harry Potter or Batman. In this sense, and especially for its orchestrations, I prefer the music John Williams made for the previous movies.

The incredible Robopet

,or When aliens mate with aibo

a robot by Mark Tilden


Robopet is the perfect fusion of technology and personality. He “comes alive” with a combination of user-controlled movements and autonomous, free-roaming behaviors, some of them naughty and some of them nice. And, at seven inches, he’s the perfect interactive pet to take anywhere!

A few days ago I found Robopet while walking down the toy section in a nearby mall (don´t raise your eyebrows. Since we are approaching Christmas the toy section has taken over the entire place. Anyway, I was searching for toys for my little nephew. For when I have one, that is). That first contact was kinda tepid: flanked by a bunch of huge Roboraptors, the much smaller robopets didn´t really stand out very well on the shelves. However, I decided long ago that Roboraptor is too expensive for my budget nephew, so I took a box with one robopet and looked at it carefully. Now, after some time, several reviews read and a few videos watched, I still look at it with the same “what the …?” expression. I like robots very much, and robopet seems to feature some of the things that made aibo so interesting for a fraction of the price: it moves smoothly, has several well thought interactions, runs on batteries (I wonder how long they last), and can either be autonomous (to impress oneself) or remote controlled (to impress oneself´s friends). However, it seems that for some reason I can´t get accustomed to the way it looks. Quoting a PC Magazine Article describing the robot, “Robopet is, more accurately, a skeletal representation of a small Chihuahua’s physical anatomy, especially in the legs, which have been engineered to realistically interpret the bones and tendons of a dog”. Well, I don´t know if I´ll buy the robot, but of one thing I´m sure: chihuahuas will never look the same to me. 😛

Shadow of the Colossus

Last Updated 18.02.06

a PS2 game by Fumito Ueda


a majestic journey through ancient lands to seek out and destroy gigantic mythical beasts.

Shadow of the Colossus is a game which succeeds in conveying an atmosphere of purity and refinement, partially by means of its sense of aesthetics and gameplay, partially because of its technical achievements, and mainly because it avoids or even twists most of the common places in videogames in such a way that it is unique without being pretentious. There´s no hurry to reveal the story too quickly, nor unveil it completely, and no interest in adding elements alien to the core of the design to lenghthen the game. These decissions are certainly risky, but they pay off by making the whole look coherent, special and more than just a game (less is more, they say). Sometimes finding the beasts can be tedious, the camera angles unreliable and certain fight patterns frustrating. However, those are small shadows out of a truly brilliant whole, from which two highlights overexcel: the beasts, which are the most incredible creatures I have ever seen in a video game, and the music, great in both how it is made and what it adds to the overall experience. Together with ICO, which shares most of its values and quality, Shadow of the Colossus stands as an all time masterpiece of digital art.

Update 18.02.06 Link to a recent interview with Fumito Ueda and Kenji Kaido.

Dogma05: Experimental Gameplay


Our philosophy that complexity is not necessary for fun, and that it is possible to have fun even with basic primitives given a compelling interaction and goal.

Born by the initiative of four students at the Carnegie Melon University, Experimental Gameplay is as much a project as a manifesto by which the participants commit themselves to make games under three constraints: one person, one week, one topic, an attitude which parallels that of the Dogma 95 filmmaker movement.

In a situation where mainstream videogame developing is quickly moving towards the same practices of film industry, with evergrowing companies and games which aspire to comprise as many different experiences as possible, it seems a paradox that some young creators want to refine their skills by putting boundaries to their work. However, there are in fact many benefits in doing so: a seven day deadline underlines the need for accuracy and self criticism, both in analyzing the problem and giving solutions to it; that the work must be all done by oneself forces to face all the elements of game creation, which will result in a better understanding of the teammates in bigger productions; and limiting the subject focuses the problem, thus stimulating creativity and putting the technical and craftmanship skills to a test. Moreover, an emphasys is made in that the main goal is not to show off those skills, to output “tech toys”, but to make playable games: wise words! Continue reading Dogma05: Experimental Gameplay

Let´s make a mini-me! now, in 3-D


People Putty is a tool (and also, a toy!) that allows you to make your very own interactive 3-D character, then use it to play dress up or act as a tour guide for your own web page.

Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, in fact it´s true and, even more, it´s fairly easy to accomplish. Right after you start People Putty (try to read the funny descriptions while loading), you face… no, well, actually a 3D character faces you, a nice girl who quietly stares at you while behaving in a very realistic manner. (actually only the face is represented, though it is possible to get full bodied characters from the company) . This is already quite impressive, but it´s only the tip of the iceberg. The interface to the program is self explanatory, intuitive and very well documented, comprising all the stages which take part in the creation of a character in a single row, from top to bottom: skin, shapes, emotions, accesories and theatre. Continue reading Let´s make a mini-me! now, in 3-D

Keep on movin´, it sounds good


the betasound version of sodaconstructor is an extension to the current sodaconstructor beta version, including all new functionality like fixed bar springs, variable model area etc. In addition it offers a new sound feature, enabling hi-fi stereo sound generation in realtime response to model motion.

Soda constructor has been out there for quite a long time (more than I can remember; the first models in their records point to October, 2000). For those who may not know what it is about, the constructor is a java simulator where you can create 2D models made of masses and springs, whose movement you can control by means of a simple interface. Over the years there has been a constant flux of new, amazing machines and critters, with initiatives like sodarace preventing the project from coming to a standstill. The latest of these refreshing ideas, betasound, improves the sound capabilities of the system up to hi- fi levels, by means of two different sound generators which act like choirs, each of their voices associated to an element of the model: “each spring and node of a model has its own voice”. Besides the classic controls, there are some new sliders that can be used to tweak certain parameters in the generators, and are intuitive enough to play with without bothering about the technical details. The whole is still too constrained, since one of the generators uses sine waves, while the other uses “more complex waveforms” (which isn´t saying much, since sine waves are the simplest ones). However, even with these limitations the results are already very interesting and highly promising. It´s amazing to perceive the organic correspondence in between a model´s behaviour and the sounds it produces, which are sometimes cloudy, sometimes percussive, and at least as interesting as the models themselves. Installing the simulator is really simple, and whether you are interested in sound or cOol ideas, it really worths to check it out.

Space Ouija?


The Revolution is our latest concept synthesizer providing an intuitive interface which we feel most accurately represents the principles of time and music (…) We must conclude that music is cyclic, and should so be represented in its natural form. And so it is… the Revolution.

Ok, in fact it´s a synth, but I must claim in my defense that it can make weird songs which will escape out of your control. 😛
Coming from a company named Future Retro, it´s no wonder that the Revolution looks like it could be the synthesizer of choice of the Discovery ship in the movie 2001. I haven´t played the synthesizer myself, but from what I heard in the demos it looks proficient, and it features an “auto pattern variation” (they call it Remix), which must make it a joy to play with, especially if the controls are as intuitive as they say.
The Revolution sells for $699, which sounds fair enough (both the synth and the price), and it would make good company with the perhaps more intellectual evolver.

Glest 2.0-rc1 released


At last, Glest 2.0-rc1 has been released. The version is not the complete 2.0 though, some icons are missing and some animations will be improved; However it includes most of the features that will be present in the final version.

– New Magic units:

– Tower of Souls: Air defense building, attacks air only
– Golem: Defensive unit, needs EP to walk, can’t attack air
– Daemon giant: Heavy melee unit
– Drake rider: Light ranged unit

– New Tech units:

– Aerodrome: Building for producing air units
– Air ballista: Air defense building, attacks air only
– Horseman: Fast medium unit
– Ornithopter: Light air unit
– Airship: Heavy air unit, can’t attack air

– New Magic upgrades
– New Tech upgrades
– New animations for existing units
– Loads of balance changes

New units really change the way factions are played. The Magic faction now has a new defensive unit, the Golem, that makes them stronger at the early stages of the game. The Tech faction now has air units, but should be less powerful because both factions have new anti air defenses too, which make towns very difficult to attack with air units only.

To play this version, download the data and win32 binary packages from sourceforge. Linux users can still use 1.2.1 source code with 2.0-rc1 data.

Serenity: Afterthoughts


Hunted by vastly different enemies, they begin to discover that the greatest danger to them may be (…)

Opposite feelings and a kind of certainty: that´s how I feel about this movie. On the positive side, I have to say that it offers two hours of entertainment, is impressive at times (both in visuals and sound), brings moments of very accomplished music, has some hilarious lines, doesn’t take itself too seriously and introduces a memorable antihero (Mal, the captain). On the negative side, I should say that the plot is kinda fluffy and at times dull, as dull are some of the characters. The villains represent Continue reading Serenity: Afterthoughts