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All posts for the month January, 2013

Howler.js LogoWhile developing its latest HTML5 game, Casino RPG, Goldfire Studios ran up against a severe weakness in the current technology, specifically regarding audio output. Frankly, HTML5 audio sucks when it comes to doing much of anything aside from embedding sound clips on a web page. This is a common complaint from HTML5 game developers. With that in mind, it is great to see that one game developer is looking to solve the problem, hopefully once and for all.

Enter Howler.js. Goldfire has put together a great all in one package for handling audio for cross platform playback. The library allows the game developer to assign several sound files to a single audio object and the library plays back the file that the user’s browser supports. Additionally, it has all the features you need for great game audio such as looping, mute, fade in/out, etc.

It also contains support for what are known as sound sprites. With this, you can put all your audio into a single file and play back only certain sections of the file for different sounds. This reduces the strain on bandwidth for most games as they would require numerous sounds and multiple download streams to play without this feature.

It is great to see something like this coming from a studio in Oklahoma. This certainly shows the talent this state has to offer. If you want to learn more about Howler.js, head on over to the project description. Additionally, Goldfire has open-sourced the library and has it available for download over at Github.

Finally, if you want to support Goldfire for its efforts in creating this much needed and great sound library, then head over to their Kickstarter project, Casino RPG, and pledge them a few bucks. After all, it is this game that spawned this library.

TechCon V CanceledFor months, the popular gamers group OKGamers.com had been working with Sapulpa, OK based Central Technology Center to organize and host the fifth annual TechCon this coming Saturday. Hundreds of gamers planned to come out and participate in a variety of gaming tournaments from Soul Caliber to League of Legends. You can imagine the surprise and frustration of those gamers when they saw this abrupt message on the Facebook event page.

TechCon V cancelled for Saturday, January 26 at Central Tech.

Gamers responded to the short message demanding an explanation. What they were given was the promise of a more detailed message to be posted today. This is what they got.

National tragedies in recent months have caused Central Tech to reevaluate curriculum, extra curricular activities and events. Central Tech offers its sincerest apologies for the late notice of cancellation of TechCon V. While Central Tech supports the intent of the event, fostering fellowship and partnering with the community, as an institution it must also uphold social responsibility. Hosting a tournament depicting graphic violent images may detract from Central Tech’s mission and be construed as insensitive considering Central Tech is an educational institution – a school.

In response to the magnitude of comments, we again apologize for any disappointment and/or inconvenience the cancellation may have caused. At the same time we ask that you understand the sensitivity of the issue and the position we as an institution must maintain.

Yes, you read that right. Because of recent shootings such as that in Sandy Hook and more recently in New Mexico, Central Tech felt that the risk posed by hundreds of gamers all congregating on a school campus was too great and canceled the event at the last minute. The school made this decision despite the 4 years of incident free gaming events it has had up till now.

Meanwhile, OK Gamers and its partners are busy trying to salvage this event as well as the relationships with local businesses that have been damaged because of this last minute cancellation.

UPDATE: OKGamers has found a replacement venue for this Saturday’s event.

The Magi and the Sleeping StarSeveral years ago, I met Game Equals Life founder Adam Grantham at the first OCCC Game Expo. There he showed me his game in production, The Magi and the Sleeping Star. The game was meant to be a creative way to help children with Diabetes cope with and manage the disease. The game took place in a fantasy setting and the hero had to manage his diabetes in order to keep his fighting potential at its peak.

Sadly, as the years went by, the game project went stale and no new information was made available about it. I am not sure why this was so and I have contacted Adam for information. I am hopeful, based on a recent discovery, that this game project lives on. While doing some research into companies and games in Oklahoma, I discovered that the website for The Magi has been updated.(This is the website as of 2011) This new update reveals that a potential Kickstarter campaign could be coming that could bring this creative game idea to the world.

While there is no real information as of yet, this is an exciting prospect. I hope to hear back from Game Equals Life soon.

Update: I have heard back from Adam. While he doesn’t have any direct plans for The Magi as of yet, he is considering Kickstarter and other avenues as a means to revive the game. Additionally, I am informed that Adam no longer lives in Oklahoma. I won’t let that stop me from reporting on what I hear though.

While Oklahoma lawmakers rightfully refused to introduce game regulation related legislation this year, the calls for such regulation from many uninformed people continue. We already wrote about one oped calling for an extra tax be levied on the entertainment industry. However, the larger issue of the public’s opinion on violent gaming is something that will have to be addressed for many years to come.

The US Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that video games, even violent ones, are protected by the First Amendment and cannot be regulated outside current obscenity laws. Despite that ruling and in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, people are calling for “something to be done” about violent games. Even the President has called for more research to be done in the area of violent gaming and its relationship to violent behavior. So is it really any surprise to see more opeds calling for “something to be done”?

The first oped actually calls for a ban on video games.

We are all still in shock over the tragedy at Sandy Hook school in Connecticut last month – in addition to the incidents in Colorado and Oregon. Rather than immediately attacking the National Rifle Association and rushing through more gun control, I wonder why a ban – or certainly more control – for video games has not been considered.

These children appear to be in a hypnotic state while their hands are moving like crazy, causing destruction. They are learning how to create violence. Why is it surprising that later they actually may not be able to separate fantasy from reality?

They are not being taught that acting out these “games” is a serious crime that has devastating consequences. Boys seem to be more addicted to these types of violent videos and the attacks in Colorado, Oregon and Connecticut were committed by young males.

I’m not naive enough to think this is the cause of all increasing crime, but these videos could be responsible for some of the violence, and should be considered as a great possibility.

Citizens (competent) have the right to own firearms for their own protection. No matter how large our police force, there cannot ever be enough officers to take care of everyone. We have to be able to take care of ourselves when necessary.

A study might be in order to decide if these videos are banned or controlled or even require a license.

It is very interesting to read someone actually coming out and saying that video games are more dangerous than guns and should be banned. Whatever your views on gun control may be, the idea that a video game is more dangerous and more deserving of regulation, bans and licensing (?) is completely absurd. As for studies, there have already been many done and which found no causal links between violent games and violent behavior.

Our next oped, while not calling for specific actions to be taken, does make the tenuous claim that violent media is a significant “why” factor in violent behavior.

Laws banning certain weapons won’t deter anyone who is intent on shooting another person. The banning of guns only leaves the honest person more defenseless against the criminal world, who will have plenty of weapons. The call for a weapons ban only makes Obama “look” more presidential while surrounded by armed guards.

“Why” needs to be addressed. Violent video games and motion pictures just train people that to shoot someone is no big deal, it’s just another game. Until we quit training unstable people that it’s OK to shoot someone in a video or movie, the mass shootings will continue.

Now, I am not going to make the claim that playing violent games has no impact on the life and behavior of kids. I certainly believe that everything we consume has some impact on our development. Yet, based on the research available, there is nothing that would lead me to believe that a normal, stable child will become a violent killer solely because he/she played violent games or watched violent movies. Granted, this writer does qualify the statement by using the word “unstable” when describing violent people; however, it does imply that “something must be done” about violent media.

Finally, we come to the most reasonable oped to date on this issue. This person recognizes that regulating or banning violent games is not the answer.

My heart aches when I hear about another mass murder by some deranged individual as they abused their constitutional right to have and bear arms. Even more heartbreaking is the pathetic action by some well-meaning citizens to try to curb this violent behavior by putting restrictions on that constitutional right.

Some speculate that these despicable acts are motivated by the impact of violent movies and especially video games. A majority of these murderers did have an unhealthy obsession with violence as a result of viewing the violent acts depicted in video games and movies. Lack of regard for human life can often be the product of such viewing.

What is the solution? Gun control has never worked and it will not work in this case. Fifty-six million people were exterminated in the last 90 years because they were defenseless due to gun control. (Soviet Union, Turkey, Germany, China, Guatemala, Uganda and Cambodia, Eastern Europe.)

Regulation of movies and video games is as much an infringement of First Amendment rights as gun control is an infringement of Second Amendment rights. Regulation and government control is not the answer.

Breakdown of the family unit and lack of adult supervision is the root of the problem. Viewing of violent movies and video games should not be allowed in our homes and should be replaced by having meals together, family time, family devotion and prayer time.

Our children need us to listen. It is not about us and our careers, but them.

I agree that parents need to take responsibility for the media their children consume. Parents are the strongest influence on the development of children and those who take a more proactive approach will have a better and stronger relationship with their children. Yet, I do take issue with the idea that such games should not be allowed in our homes. Some parents, especially those with older children, may feel that violent media is ok in their homes. That is a personal choice. If you do not want to allow such games in your home, that is fine, but don’t look down on those who feel it is fine. Those parents are raising their children and you are raising yours.

As game industry professionals, we need to be out there educating the populous about gaming and what is currently known about it. Some people will not be reasoned with, but when they do make absurd statements such as that above, we need to be out there countering their statements with reason and facts. We cannot stand idly by holding up the US Supreme Court ruling as a placard. We need to be out there using it along with the many other great resources available as tools in the fight against false and inaccurate information.

Earlier last week, Goldfire Studios announced the opening of its Kickstarter campaign for Casino RPG, the latest game from the studio. This campaign has been live for about a week and has raised over $6,500. With it funding goal of $20,000, Goldfire seems well on its way to reach and potentially exceed its target.

Casino RPG will be a free to play game that promises to offer a fair paid experience, meaning it will not be “pay to win”. The game will focus its core gameplay around building a career in the casino business starting at the bottom and working your way up to a multi-casino empire. What makes this game more than a tycoon style game is the multiplayer and social aspects. Not only can you build a casino and have players explore it and play the games, you can also visit the casinos of other players and try to win big.

Another interesting aspect of this game is the underlying technology is built on the platform commonly referred to as HTML5. According to the Kickstarter, this technology was chosen as it allows players on all compatible devices to play the same game with the same experiences. With the growing popularity of HTML5 in the game landscape, this puts Goldfire at the forefront of this new market.

CasinoRPG is built with the latest in web technologies, often grouped under the term HTML5. What this means for players is that there is no need to download the game, run Adobe Flash, open a Java applet or install a plugin like Unity Player. You simply point your browser (on virtually any modern device) to the CasinoRPG website, and you are instantly loaded into the game world, right where you left off. This allows us to do some amazing things that have never been possible before, like providing the same great game experience across devices, while being able to play with your friends in real-time, no matter what device they are playing from.

We wish Goldfire and Casino RPG the best of luck in the coming weeks and hope that this Kickstarter reaches its funding goals.

IRSWith all this fiscal cliff, 99% vs 1% and other such economic controversies going on, there is a lot of talk about how to bring in new revenue and make cuts in order to close the deficit and bring fiscal sanity back to the US. Within all this, there are plenty of crazy suggestions from all kinds of people. However, there is one person and that person’s suggestion that seems a lot crazier than others. In a recent op-ed to the Daily Oklahoman, one person feels that a good source of revenue for the nation would be increased taxes on the entertainment industry, including the games industry.

It dawned on me that we’re missing out on enormous revenue opportunities by not imposing massive tax hikes on certain industries currently overlooked. When I think of industries that are heavily taxed for the benefit of society, I think of tobacco and oil. Areas I believe we can extract more tax dollars from for the benefit of society are the movie, video game and music industries. These are industries that take enormous amounts of the people’s money from the economy and put it in the hands of a few.

There are a number of problems with this line of reasoning and I will get to the more pressing ones in a moment. However, I would like to address first that last sentence. This writer feels that these industries take money from other people. That implies either theft or fraud. However, that is far from the truth. These industries earn that money through their hard work in creating a product and selling that product to consumers. The idea that we in the games industry are defrauding the public to enrich a few fat cats is absurd on all levels.

Speaking of hard work, this person also feels that creating films, video games and music is easy.

These people do minimal work. Talking, singing, perhaps playing an instrument, yet they’re allowed to take in massive amounts of cash and put it in their own pockets. This isn’t fair.

It isn’t fair that someone has found a way to earn a living and build a business using their talents and skills? Is it not fair when a car mechanic builds a successful business around his knack for fixing cars? Is it not fair when a chef creates a thriving restaurant based on her ability to create culinary delights? What about fashion design, accounting or any other trade that requires an expertise in a specific field. Under this person’s logic, no  one deserves their payday.

But let’s humor this person for a minute. What if we do raise taxes from the already high 40% rate to the suggested 60% rate. How much revenue would we be talking about? For that, we will consult Techdirt’s Sky Is Rising report on the entertainment industry.

According to this report the industries this op-ed writer proposes raising taxes on brought in the following revenue for the year 2010. For fairness sake, I will include the publishing industry although this person did not include it for some reason.

  • Film Industry – $10.6 billion
  • Publishing Industry – $33 billion
  • Music Industry – $168 billion
  • Games Industry – $33 billion

Keep in mind, this is revenue and not profit. So while that is how much money these industries earned in 2010, it is not how much they pocketed. However, even if we consider taxing these industries based on gross revenue, what will we get? At the current 40% rate we will have raised $97.8 billion in tax revenue. Under the proposed 60% rate that revenue will be $146.76 billion Considering we have a budget shortfall of $1.1 trillion that will hardly make a dent. This is also taking the tax revenue out of gross revenue. If we take it from just profit, that number will be far smaller. So how in the world could raising taxes on the entertainment industry help the economy?

Additionally, this plan relies on the assumption that all things will remain unchanged aside from the tax rate. This does not give any thought to companies that will leave the country to avoid the high taxes, or companies that will close down or any other such response. This person even insists that such taxes will have no negative effects on the consumer.

If you believe that fleecing these industries with tax liability will cost the price of a movie ticket to go up or cause you to pay more for a CD, don’t worry. When you extract more tax from the top, it doesn’t affect those below; it makes everything fair.

This statement is so laughable, I can hardly breathe. What this higher tax rate will do is decrease profits for a company. When a company faces decreased profits, it responds in one of two ways. It could respond by cutting costs in the form of layoffs or it could respond by raising prices of the end product. Either way, the economy suffers. In the first scenario, it suffers because fewer people are employed and will have less money to spend. In the second scenario, it will result in fewer purchases of the higher cost goods thus decreasing profits more and thus decreasing tax revenue.

We cannot fix the economy or the national budget on the backs of a single sector. Doing so will never raise enough money and will in fact result in less tax revenue. One would hope that nobody takes this person serious and that someone out there will help them see the fallacy of their opinion.