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Double Fine becomes third party publisher with Escape Goat 2

Double Fine becomes third party publisher with Escape Goat 2

The original Escape Goat was launched in 2011. Its sequel only started life as a high-res art experiment.


Indie studio Double Fine has entered the third party publishing game with the release of puzzle platformer Escape Goat 2.

The game, a follow up to 2011’s Escape Goat, originally started life as developer Ian Stocker of MagicalTimeBean was experimenting to see how the first game would look with higher resolution art.

’I never imagined it would come this far, launching along with a nod of approval and publishing support from Double Fine,’ said Stocker.

The Escape Goat series pits players in the hooves of a goat imprisoned in a dungeon for witchcraft and needing to escape.

The last part of the game’s development was completed from the Double Fine offices in San Francisco where MagicalTimeBean was allowed in to use the studio’s resources during the Indie Omega Jam.

‘It’s super rad to be surrounded by other independent developers who are making cool stuff and are passionate aboutwhat they are doing,’ said Double Fine senior publishing manager Greg Rice. ’I’m really glad we could help them out and hope we can do this with more developers in the future!’

Double Fine closes the announcement by offering a contact email address for other indie developers to get in touch with the studio and talk about other potential publishing partnerships.

Escape Goat 2 is currently available on Steam, The Humbe Store and Good Old Games with a 10% discount for its launch week. The title is compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux systems.

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Glasshole heaven: Hotel offers free drink if you wear Glass

Give that woman a free drink.


(Credit:
Google/YouTube Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)

Being seen in public wearing Google Glass is a statement.

Some, though, see it as a statement that you are tone-deaf, socially blind, and congenitally self-righteous.

Casinos have banned it and one Seattle restaurant owner described
Google Glass wearers as “man children stinkin’ up the joint.

But now one joint has come to Glassholes’ rescue. As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, the Stanford Court, in San Francisco’s snooty Nob Hill, is welcoming Glass wearers.

Indeed, it’s not just opening its arms. It’s opening its pockets, by offering a free cocktail to anyone who DOES wear Glass in its Aurea Lounge.

Naturally, there’s an element of brown-nosing to the monied. A hotel spokesperson told the Chronicle: “The complimentary drink is geared toward the local tech crowd who own a pair, and might feel like an outcast or nuisance due to the recent string of negative press. [We] want them to feel at home.”

There is a tiny catch. No, it’s not that you have to first count backwards from 100 in Mongolian.

To qualify for this fine free cocktail, you have to photograph your drink or the hotel with your Glass and post your work to Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter with the hashtag #stanfordcourt.

In a possible lapse of humor, you appear to get nothing if you post your photograph to Google+.

Personally, if I walked into this hotel bar and saw that almost everyone was wearing Google Glass, I’d run for the hills. Even though I was on one.

But this is bold-faced marketing at its finest. The hotel is under new management. It was apparently spurred by the dust-up the other week in a slightly less fancy establishment, when a social media consultant called Sarah Slocum was allegedly assaulted for wearing her Glass and allegedly recording people.

Stories differ as to everything that might have truly transpired. Moreover, the Los Angeles Times reported on Tuesday that Slocum was once accused of recording her neighbors surreptitiously with her cell phone.

Still, I fancy that those who want to see a veritable coven of Glass doing their worst will be tempted to the Stanford with the idea of mockery or worse.

We should all be glad to live in such exciting technological times.

I can currently find no evidence that, if the promotion is a success, the hotel intends to rename its bar The Glasshole In The Wall.

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OK, Glass, have an NBA player dunk in my face

Sacramento Kings guard Ray McCollum slams home a dunk during a scrimmage while wearing Google Glass.


(Credit:
James Martin/CNET)

SACRAMENTO, Calif.–”This is the real Google,” taunted Sacramento Kings guard Orlando Johnson.

Johnson leaned in, dribbling a basketball, ready to explode to the hoop. Only teammates Ray McCallum and Jason Thompson stood in the way. Through the
Google Glass I was wearing, I watched Thompson prepare to stop Johnson. From Thompson’s exact point of view.

Moments earlier, I’d watched as McCallum had dribbled in, jumped high in the air, and dunked the ball hard. My view? A look at the rim from a couple of feet away, close enough to see the stitches on the net, again from Thompson’s vantage point,

Each of the three Kings was wearing Glass, and each was recording as they worked their way through an informal shootaround hours before the night’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans. As they played, they taunted and bragged, well aware of the technology they were wearing. “Google, record that,” one shouted as he made a sweet shot. “Google, stop Ray,” Johnson commanded.

Johnson, McCallum, and Thompson were wearing Google Glass as part of a new program the Kings have started that is designed to let fans see things like shootarounds, pre-game workouts, and even in-game huddles from the players’ perspective. Using technology developed by San Francisco’s CrowdOptic, the Kings plan on making feeds from Glass being worn by players, announcers, the team’s mascot, and even its cheerleaders, available during games to anyone running its app on their own Glass, on TV, and on the arena’s JumboTron. Unfortunately, players will not wear Glass during actual game action.

A Sacramento Kings cheerleader dances while wearing Google Glass. Her view was broadcast to the team’s JumboTron during a game against the New Orleans Pelicans.


(Credit:
James Martin/CNET)

The Kings’ experiment is an interesting one that promises to offer fans a unique new look at game day action. Along with other experiments, like accepting Bitcoin, using drones to shoot video inside the team’s Sleep Train Arena, and even incorporating Oculus Rift, the Kings are trying to take the lead among NBA teams when it comes to using technology to enhance fans’ experiences.

And no wonder, given that the team’s ownership group is packed full of tech heavyweights like Tibco Software founder Vivek Ranadive; Paul, Hal, and Jeff Jacobs (whose father founded Qualcomm); Leap Motion President (and former Apple vice president) Andy Miller; and former Facebook chief privacy officer Chris Kelly. Thanks to those connections, the team, in its search for new tech to try out, is “literally one phone call away from every tech CEO in the world,” said Kings senior vice president for marketing and strategy Ben Gumpert.

But back to Glass. Here’s how it works.

When Glass records video, it can broadcast that feed, and CrowdOptic’s software can capture it, send it back out, allowing anyone running its app to “inherit” the feed. Although there’s a short delay, it means that an average Glass wearer — or later, someone running the CrowdOptic app on a smart phone — will be able to see just what I saw when I watched Thompson, Johnson, and McCallum play 1-on-2: an up close and very personal view of getting dunked on.

NBA dons Google Glass to put you in the game (pictures)

To start with, the Kings bought 10 pairs of Glass, meaning that at any one time, there are few possible feeds that fans could inherit. But over time, as the team buys more, or fans’ own Glass or smartphone feeds are incorporated into the mix, CrowdOptic’s algorithms will be brought to bear to help find the most compelling views for fans. As Jon Fisher, the company’s CEO explained, its technology is able to analyze multiple feeds coming from a similar location and choose the best one to share. Ultimately, when there’s hundreds, or even thousands, of feeds choose from, “the fans will be in charge,” said vice president of business development (and former NFL linebacker) Jim Kovach. “They’re going to see what they want to see.”

As far as the players are concerned, wearing Glass and using the hot wearable technology to give fans a little more access is a no-brainer. According to Thompson, the best way to use it is when doing “tricks and dunks, and flashy things….[You can] see different things, like the way people talk.”

That’s exactly what CrowdOptic is hoping pro sports teams will realize. In addition to the Kings, the company is working with a half-dozen other (as yet unnamed) NBA franchises, as well as some college teams. The technology, said Kovach, lets fans have a much closer look at players’ personalities. “They have their quirks, and you can’t pick that up from the stands,” Kovach said, referring to things like players messing around during workouts, or on the sidelines. “It’s just interesting to see.”

Sacramento Kings players Orlando Johnson, Ray McCallum, and Jason Thompson (left to right) scrimmage while wearing Google Glass.


(Credit:
James Martin/CNET)

To be sure, this technology isn’t ready for widespread deployment. Though the Kings have tested it out during two recent games, the team has so far only pushed the feeds to the arena’s JumboTron screen. For now, network support is the limiting factor. But soon, Glass wearers will be able to see what it’s liked to get dunked on by an NBA player.

“This is a new century,” Thompson said. “It’s 2014, and this is definitely the future, not just of basketball, but of the world.”

Then again, maybe McCallum put it better as he scrimmaged against Johnson and Thompson. “Oooooooh, Google,” the 22-year-old guard said as he drained a pretty bucket over his teammates.

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Jony Ive: Competitors steal Apple’s work

Pursued by thieves?


(Credit:
Charlie Rose/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)

Here is the good news: you can make Jony Ive angry. All you have to do it copy his ideas.

How do I know? Because I’ve just read a long interview with him in the UK’s Sunday Times. (It’s behind a paywall, but I promise I didn’t steal it.)

This interview was part of the Sunday Times Magazine’s “Makers” series, and Ive warmed immediately to the concept. “Everyone I work with shares the same love of and respect for making,” he explained.

He added: “Objects and their manufacture are inseparable. You understand a product if you understand how it’s made.”

The problem is that the word “maker” has been co-opted, nay stolen, by the pimple-faced, soft-hearted techies of San Francisco, who are deeply hurt to be called “techies.

Ive, though, believes craft is enjoying a resurgence. He said he once took his iPhone apart and put it back together again, just to prove he could.

Interestingly, the Sunday Times managed to dig up a photo to prove that he once had hair. And lots of it — spiky like a Bay City Roller. (Look it up.)

The interview takes great pains to describe the great pains Ive takes to make sure the products aren’t great pains. This is relatively familiar territory.

But Ive shone a little light into why Apple doesn’t exactly make cheap products.

He said:

We’re surrounded by anonymous, poorly made objects. It’s tempting to think it’s because the people who use them don’t care — just like the people who make them. But what we’ve shown is that people do care. It’s not just about aesthetics. They care about things that are thoughtfully conceived and well made.

The implication, of course, is that they’re prepared to pay for that thoughtfulness.

Ive put it like this: “We make and sell a very, very large number of (hopefully) beautiful, well-made things. Our success is a victory for purity, integrity — for giving a damn.”

He believes his job is making technology personal and he believes that the relationship people have with Apple products is intimate. (Oh, of course, he vaguely, slightly hinted at an intimate iWatch. But he wasn’t going to actually say anything, was he?)

Asked whether all the lining up outside Apple stores to wait for the latest thing isn’t intimately insane, he replied: “It’s a demonstration against thoughtlessness and carelessness.”

I bet you’ve never thought of it that way. You always thought it was just a bunch of style-obsessed, superficial groupies who are vacuous in the extreme. (At least Samsung thinks so.)

Talking of Samsung — which Ive specifically did not — there is talk (and legal action) suggesting the Korean company (and others) occasionally mimics the work of Ive and his team.

Copying clearly annoys him. “It’s theft,” he said.

He added: “What’s copied isn’t just a design, it’s thousands and thousands of hours of struggle.”

Quiet struggle, though. Ive described a “pre-verbal” understanding at Apple about what everyone is trying to achieve.

Apple only gets verbal during the fancy presentations. And when it sues you, of course.

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/cnet/pRza/~3/Hl8enAdvvzA/

Goodyear unveils next-gen blimp, first in 45 years

Goodyear’s new blimp, which is technically a zeppelin. It’s the tire company’s first new airship design in 45 years.


(Credit:
Goodyear)

Goodyear on Friday unveiled its first next-generation blimp in 45 years.

Technically a German-designed zeppelin, the new airship was built at Goodyear’s Wingfoot Lake facility near Akron, Ohio. Construction took about a year. A zeppelin is a different animal than a blimp — which has no internal structure nor adjustable rotors. But for marketing purposes, Goodyear has decided to keep calling its airships blimps.

Making Goodyear’s next-gen blimp (pictures)

Designed by Germany’s ZLT Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik, the new blimp is faster, more efficient, and more maneuverable. It is the same type of aircraft that Airship Ventures based out of Moffett Field near San Francisco and flew over much of California and other parts of the United States before going out of business during the recent recession.

The new blimp is 246 feet long, more than 50 feet longer than the company’s previous generation airships, known as the GZ-20. Goodyear has emblazoned it with an all-new paint scheme but naturally is retaining its traditional blue-and-yellow branding over a silver envelope. It also has state-of-the-art avionics and flight control systems instead of the manual flight systems. Goodyear blimps have used since 1925. This new one can reach top speeds of 73 miles an hour, a boost over the current max speed of about 50 miles an hour. Goodyear said that will allow it to cover more events than its blimps have in the past.

Goodyear’s blimps, a century of gracing the sky (pictures)

Now that Goodyear has unveiled the new airship, it needs a name, and the company is asking for help. Anyone in the United States over 18 years of age can make a suggestion. Perhaps the new blimp, as it flies around America, will carry the name you suggest with it.

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/cnet/pRza/~3/l6Hqmdrs3IU/

The Web at 25: Out of the ashes and onto the Friendster

Resting on the Yukon River in 2003. I went a little further than most when I fled the fallout of the dot-com bust.


(Credit:
Johanna DeBiase)

In part 1 of “The Web at 25,” I recalled the early days of the Web and how it exposed young, emerging nerds like myself to whole new worlds online. In part 2, the story continued as I came of age alongside the Web during the era of the dot-com boom and bust. Today, on the actual 25th birthday of Tim Berners-Lee submitting the concept that became the World Wide Web, I’ll revisit the long, painful hangover (it was a literal hangover, in my case) that followed until the eventual emergence of Web 2.0 that laid the foundation for today’s social and mobile Renaissance.

In 2002 in San Francisco, the South of Market district that once bustled with startups paying high rents had become a wasteland of empty offices. There was a mass exodus of tens of thousands from the Bay Area, including me. After years of being a teenage Web monkey and writer in high demand for just my most basic skills, I took the only job offered me, sight unseen, in Galena, Alaska, at an AM radio station where I was one of two full-time employees.

After a decade of living the digital revolution, I had gone all analog. And unlike in Silicon Valley, where loyalty was only as strong as the next best offer and hopping from startup to startup was common, I had signed a two-year contract. The penalty for breaking that contract was to pay back the thousands of dollars in moving expenses it took to relocate someone from the lower 48 to a tiny fly-in village that’s closer to Siberia than to the state capitol in Juneau. I was already in plenty of debt thanks to some paychecks that never arrived from now-bankrupt startups, so I wasn’t about to leave. I was locked in until at least 2004.

My Web design skills were still sub-par in 2002. (Click to enlarge.)


(Credit:
Eric Mack/CNET)

For a while, I tried to juggle the responsibilities of running the only radio station within 250 miles in all directions — news, weather, and country music in the morning, more news and classic rock in the afternoons — with trying not to freeze to death and still keeping a toe in the digital waters from a distance.

I gathered up other dot-com refugees from my Ironminds days and edited an online concern called Nine Planets that probably looked way too much like McSweeney’s in retrospect. That only lasted for a few months, before eventually being demoted to dwell in the forgotten spaces, much like the no-longer ninth planet the name references. In mid 2002, I posted this excuse for the demise of the site, which would also come to serve as my final goodbye to the Web 1.0 world:

The straight and strange truth is that Nine Planets currently lives in a remote rural village on the Yukon River in Western Alaska to which no roads lead. This makes it particularly difficult for Nine Planets to get a decent computer system and/or Internet connection. 24 hours of sunlight during the summer made it particularly difficult to continue spending extra hours at work where the only digital devices reside. When Nine Planets did find a decent computer on eBay, it took a month to be shipped from Maine and appears to have gotten royally f****d up in the process. But more darkness and equipment are on their way, and hence more depression and content will surely follow.

More content did not follow. At least not from me.

A cyborg no more
After that, I spent the next few years living life as a “normal” person. I was no longer an early adopter; I did not own a cell phone or have access to broadband; I did not use the word “content” in an online context. After spending most of my life plugged in, I was now less wired than my mother, who was just beginning to use email at the time.

Strangely, I didn’t miss it much. Perhaps because there was plenty to distract me. Besides the fascinating landscape, people, culture, weather, and Northern Lights, the local bar charged just three bucks for any drink you wanted. ANY drink. During evenings and weekends, I was generally a bit tipsy. But during working hours I was getting more intimate with tech that I used to take for granted. I could service and maintain a 12,000-watt AM transmitter on my own, and helped the village set up an ad hoc cell phone network run off of our station’s tower. It was more empowering than being able to design Web sites poorly, and by the time my two years was up, I was also starting to sober up (thanks in no small part to my future wife). More on what all that was like here.

Even largely removed from the Web, I watched Web 2.0 slowly emerge. If something caught on in my tiny village so far removed from civilization, it was going to take off. Strangely, I found that this made Galena a better barometer for the direction the Web would take than the words of supposed gurus in the Silicon Valley hype zone.

Village teenagers and other young adults went absolutely nuts for Friendster early on in the life of the pioneering social network, and of course MySpace followed, and even Facebook was talked about in 2004, before it was available to those beyond Ivy League schools. This kind of chatter was rarely heard at my own high school just seven years prior. The Web had completed the transition from the fringes of youth culture to becoming the bedrock of its mainstream foundation.

Slightly older transplants like myself were also hip to nascent social networks, and started to flock to early blogging platforms like Blogger and LiveJournal to chronicle our great Alaskan adventures. The emergence of Google as a superpower and its many successes in organizing the Web were also evident and undeniable as far away as the Yukon as it filed for its IPO in 2004.

Out of the wild
When I finally left Alaska in 2005, having successfully survived the ordeal and scored a brilliant wife in the process, there were more than 8 billion Web pages online, more than one for each person on the planet. Broadband had become much more commonplace, opening the door for the success of YouTube, Skype,
iTunes, and even wackier digital environments like Second Life.

This period may be the second dot-com boom that nobody noticed. Or they did, but didn’t want to say anything and jinx it all, given what happened last time. By 2006, Google had indexed more than 25 billion Web pages, or almost four for every person on Earth, along with 1.3 billion images, and the search engine was processing 400 million queries per day.

During the Web’s years in the virtual wilderness of sorts, and while I was living in the literal wild, the next-generation www was quietly being built and seemed to emerge all at once around that time. Digg and others helped introduce us to the power of sharing and viral content; Flickr and YouTube enabled a more visual Web worth sharing; and a crowdsourced free encyclopedia popularized the term “wiki” as it became the biggest reference source online, with more than 750,000 articles by 2005.

With this arrival of Web 2.0 came the maturing of Web culture, and the creation of a new generation of celebrities created, nurtured, and exploded by social media. (Where have you gone, Amanda Congdon?)

Before returning to the lower 48 to reconnect with the digital world and sun in the winter, I spent half a year in Asia and witnessed the other dimension of the reinvigorated Web that was soon to crash on these shores. In China, due to the high cost of cellular voice calls, everyone was texting, all the time. Like, even more than we do now. It was already all mobile, all the time over there, and it was easy to see why. Young middle-class Chinese breezed through their days, dashing off brief communiques 10 at a time to lay out and adjust the day’s agenda on the go.

Seeing this helped me to understand the success of Twitter that would soon follow in the United States, even as microblogging bewildered many people who simply could not understand the point of communicating in short bursts. Even then, before Facebook finally overtook MySpace, before the iPhone, it was clear that the world was becoming more social and more mobile.


Texting has been big in China for some time. Like, really big.


(Credit:

China-mike.com
)

By 2006 I was married with a child and a mortgage on the way and settled back in the lower 48, although still far from the once-again-bustling San Francisco Bay Area. New Mexico still seems like a happy compromise between the total isolation of the Alaskan bush and the more crowded coastal tech hubs. Also, remember that pitch we heard back at the beginning of the Web about a future filled with telecommuting masses? Well, it turns out to be kind of awesome, especially for a new dad.

The Web and I came of age at the same time and had to be separated for a bit to get through our growing pains independently, but by 2007 we were both fully embracing our adulthood. The cool thing about coming into your own is that it allows you to focus on just creating and building amazing things. In the next and final installment of this series I’ll wrap it up with a look at today’s golden age of the fully grown Web.

CNET comments are currently down for maintenance, and should be back soon. In the meantime, please share your memories, and parts of early Web history I’ve missed, on Twitter at @crave and @ericcmack.

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Trapped in the Time Travel Lab: My puzzling Sunday

If this doesn’t make you feel competitive, it’s like I don’t even know you anymore.


(Credit:
Real Escape Game in the U.S/SCRAP Entertainment)

“You are trapped in the mysterious laboratory, where it has been said, they study time travel. The door is closed. A lot of hidden clues await you. You wonder if they were able to make time travelling true…” These words on a poster beckon you in to a frantic puzzle-solving team experience that can lead, as it did in my case, to your untimely demise.

Or you might…Escape from the Time Travel Lab.

SCRAP Entertainment’s first Real Escape Game was held in Japan, and nowadays the company is putting on events in San Francisco, Seattle, and Los Angeles. In addition to the basic Mysterious Room, people have escaped from the Magic Show, the Werewolf Village, and other sticky scenarios. There are also Real Escape Game branches in Singapore, Taiwan, and China, plus there seem to be at least four live-escape game companies operating in the UK, so I’m going to call this a worldwide phenomenon. If the rest of this sounds fun to you, you may be able to find something similar nearby.

On the particular Sunday on which I fell into a rift in time and space, never to be seen again, my team of six assembled in a cute tea shop below the venue, a nice, clean spot in San Francisco’s Japantown that’s probably normally used for art installations or something.

The signs warn you to use the restroom before the game starts, since you will literally be locked in the Lab for the next hour. (As it turns out, there’s a “lab technician” in the room with you the whole time, so it’s not as dramatic as the waiver makes it sound, but the game timer’s not going to pause while you take a bathroom break, so it is something to think about!)

“Detective-style clothes might help to sharpen your mind,” the Web site said, but also, “refrain from wearing heels,” so I squashed my first impulse of Victoriana. Clearly we’d need to be physically active to some degree. In Web-based room escape games, you need to examine everything, from the undersides of furniture to the tops of light fixtures. I settled for a Nancy Drew T-shirt, sneakers, and my lucky magnifying glass.

As I’d suspected, I didn’t actually get to use the lens: you’re not allowed to use any items you bring in. Including multitools, the cheerful young MC told us firmly. (“Pens and paper?!” “They’ll be provided in the room.”) We hung our jackets on a rack outside, but there was a clear, closed bin inside the room where we could store our purses and bags, thus removing most worries about credit cards going missing.

my lucky magnifying glass

It’s my lucky magnifying glass because it’s pretty, all right? Not because it saved us from wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey destruction, because it didn’t.


(Credit:
Toni Thompson)

The game is played in groups of 11, so we were thrown in with 5 very nice strangers. Going around the room, we introduced ourselves and described our experience with these types of games, and time travel in general. My aunt (she of the Thor socks) claimed to be from the year 2038. Her friend obligingly said he had come to our time in pursuit of her. Another friend revealed that he’d been time traveling at a rate of roughly 1 minute per minute for…quite some time now. The MC’s face: “So this should go well.”

The opening briefing laid out some parameters of the game, though it didn’t ultimately keep us from being lost in an eternal temporospatial limbo. The directions were clear as to, for example, what objects in the room we could and couldn’t disassemble. (Did reading those words make you want to click over to buy tickets? Then we’re on the same page.)

When we finally walked into the room, it was a bit like living out my favorite scene in “Apollo 13,” when they put the engineers in a conference room and tell them they have to save the day by making THIS fit into THIS using only THESE PIECES. Except with more of a festive air, though we certainly all got pretty excited as our time ran out and our impending doom, um, impended. I wasn’t the only one with shaking hands.

What’s funny is, I’d assumed that with the set of experienced puzzle-solving brains I’d brought with me on my team, we’d definitely win unless the puzzles were badly designed. I’d also suspected I’d be dead weight in the group, based on past games parties with most of these people. Neither of these turned out to be correct. I personally solved and helped solve several puzzles (to be honest, they weren’t hard). And my group — you may have picked up on this from foreshadowing — DID NOT escape from the Time Travel Lab! We definitely could have…maybe in about another 10 minutes…but we did not.

As the game’s materials point out, there’s no shame in that. Still, it’s not WINNING, is it?

We failed to escape from the Time Travel Lab!

This pic does not contain my aunt, who was voluntarily erased from this corner of history. Probably afraid they’ll track her from 2038.


(Credit:
Real Escape Game in the U.S/SCRAP Entertainment)

Overall it wasn’t quite what I was expecting — I’d thought there’d at least be some in-story justification for all the puzzles, and instead they appeared mostly arbitrary. But even though the puzzles weren’t hard and yet we didn’t come that close to winning, my team still walked out (insofar as you can walk out after having fallen into a spacetime anomaly never to return) feeling like the challenge was fair. That seems like good game design. Here’s a little advice, none of which I think counts as spoilers:

1. The comfortable-shoe requirement was a good one. Most of the puzzles are mental, but in addition to the restrictions listed on the site, at least one person in your group should be able and willing to get down on the floor.

2. Unless you bring enough people to fill all the game slots (the number varies by scenario), you’ll be thrown in with strangers, but that’s OK. Anyone who thought this sounded fun and showed up to try it is probably pretty rad, so the group meshes a lot faster than you’d think.

3. Organization is key. Every minute counts, the setting can be a bit overwhelming, and it helps to have someone keeping track of the overall effort. (Corollary: Communication is also key, so if your friends hate being hurried or get snappish in a crisis, it may be best to leave them at home with your high heels and multitool.)

Escape from the Time Travel Lab poster
(Credit:
Real Escape Game in the U.S/SCRAP Entertainment)

I guess that’s all I can say without ruining it. It was definitely worth the ticket price; I live in San Francisco so I don’t have to judge whether it was worth the drive as well. Still, we immediately started looking into getting tickets for Escape from the Haunted Ship. It takes place aboard the Queen Mary! The actual Queen Mary, down in Long Beach.

Unfortunately, the dates for Haunted Ship didn’t work out for us. And my team vetoed the upcoming Escape from the Space Station (before your air runs out) as “too scary.” My aunt’s hoping for other local venues, such as…Alcatraz.

Alcatraz! Think it over, Real Escape Game people! Minus the swimming!

In the meanwhile, if you know of any other interesting types of puzzle-based events, please tell me about them in the comments below at @pages_and_pages. (Shout-out: I found out about Real Escape Game via @sosh, the not-personalized Twitter feed of a personalized event-recommendation service based in some major US cities.) I’ll leave my future self some notes on the calendar!

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/cnet/pRza/~3/uO2QNd_Qf-4/

The Web at 25: Dot-com bubble bursts and breaks me, too

Part 1 of The Web at 25, my look back at the first quarter-century of all things www, left off with both the Web and myself at the peak of an awkward adolescence in early 1995.

This is where things start to get really interesting.

Data nerds who shunned the Web when Tim Berners-Lee first demonstrated it in the United States in 1991 could no longer ignore it mid-decade. After the pioneering Mosaic Web browser launched, the Web saw an annual growth rate in service traffic of 341,634 percent, according to author and early Internet evangelist Robert H. Zakon.


Me at age 17. Happy birthday, Web. I still can’t quit you after all these years, even though you did force me to try, once. (Click to enlarge.)


(Credit:
Marsha Henry)

In the span of about two years, Mosaic transitioned from a university-based project to a publicly traded company named Netscape that saw the price of its shares close at more than twice the opening price on their first day of trading in August of 1995. Companies grow up so fast these days, don’t they?

From that point, the dot-com bubble began inhaling all the air (and capital) in the room and didn’t stop until it left us all with economic Bubble Yum stuck to our faces.

There are millions of stories told about this epic boom, bubble, and bust period. This is mine.

It starts in 1997 with me at age 17 and a copy of Microsoft Frontpage in my parents’ basement and ends with me living in a double-wide trailer on the banks of the Yukon River in the Alaskan Bush five years later. Here’s what happened in between.

Respect my authori-tay!
Like many other young nerds of the era, I suddenly found around 1997 that my understanding and knowledge of the Web was commanding a lot more respect from people significantly more powerful, wealthier, and older than myself. By this time, using MS Frontpage, I had already built a few very simplistic Web sites for fun that were not even remotely attractive or very functional, but even my basic Web design skills were in high demand at the time, and it was still presumed that teenage nerds could be hired cheaply.

Suddenly I was taking meetings with one of the most powerful lobbyists in Colorado to talk about building a Web presence for key campaigns. I built a site for a top wedding photographer out of Boulder in exchange for learning her craft. When I went to college in September 1997, part of my financial aid package was a work study that made me one of the college’s main Webmasters as a first-semester freshman.


This was the Web site I designed to convince people to let me design their Web sites. For some reason, it worked. (Global means worldwide and ducks have webbed feet — get it?)


(Credit:
Eric Mack/CNET)

Here’s the kicker, though: I was a pretty bad Web designer. At the time, the Web seemed to be making everyone who touched it rich, spurring an outright panic by anyone who saw the emerging medium as either an opportunity or a threat. Businesses had to get online to stay competitive, as did politicians and even nonprofits, it turns out. They might not have understood what a domain name was, they just knew I could get them one.

And I did, at least until the rest of the world caught up with me, better Web designers became more plentiful (and cheaper), and the Web began to create opportunities to use another skill that I actually both enjoy and excel at (or at least I hope some readers think so).

I switched schools and majors from computer engineering to journalism and found that the Web would still provide. I landed a gig with an early iteration of MTV.com that took an earnest interest in America’s local music scenes. I spent the next few years traveling the Midwest to interview artists, take in live shows, and write snarky reviews. I was still a student. I wasn’t based in Silicon Valley or manning a startup, but I was still pursuing the dot-com dream for better or for worse. Sometimes it got a little out of hand.

After one particular show, my college girlfriend was a bit confused to find pop-punk darlings Good Charlotte in my living room along with a squad of local strippers providing a live demonstration of the latest technological advances in silicone. Those guys were straight edge, so there wasn’t any cocaine involved that night, but there were plenty of other nights and other bands.

I, being a good boy, never partook. No, really.

Reckoning
By early 2000, I had no interest in finishing my broadcast journalism degree and struck a deal to design my own degree in online media (again, this involved a work study maintaining part of the university Web site and teaching a Web design course to other undergrads — can’t beat cheap labor, I guess). I began working on a little graduate student’s project called Ironminds.com that was actually making a name for itself as a leading online magazine, competing with the likes of Salon and Slate.


This long-forgotten online magazine gave me my introduction to Silicon Valley. (Click to enlarge)


(Credit:
Screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET /Archive.org)

I drove down to Austin that March with the Ironminds crew for
South by Southwest Interactive, where we had been nominated for Best Current Events Site. Remarkably, we actually won, beating out big media names like “The Daily Show.” I was 20 years old and I was part of something that smart people actually approved of, something that actually seemed to matter.

And for the first time, I felt as though I was among my own people. These people understood why I spent so many evenings glued to a monitor, trying to discern how the pieces all fit together, where it was going, where it could go.

At that year’s SXSW Frog Design party, I pulled Ironminds founder Andy Wang aside.

“Andy, I don’t want to go home. I don’t want to go to college. I don’t want to go back to Missouri. I want all this,” I told him. I’m pretty sure we were both a little drunk, but I was still dead serious.

“Go talk to everyone,” he told me. “Ask all of them for a job and then pick the best offer. You’re a f*****g award winner now.”

How come I’ve never heard this from any of my guidance counselors, I thought to myself. How absolutely brilliant.

By the end of that week I had a handshake agreement to start working at Business 2.0 magazine’s San Francisco Bay Area office within eight weeks. If you don’t remember Business 2.0, you could be forgiven. It was one of many such new publications at the time that didn’t survive in its original form (remember Red Herring or the Industry Standard? No? Well they were real once too.) Eventually it was swallowed by Time, Inc. and got lost somewhere in the fallout of the AOL Time Warner debacle before disappearing altogether around 2007.

History now tells us that the dot-com bubble actually peaked two weeks before that fateful trip to Austin, but it was still easy to believe at that moment that the party could continue forever. So I packed up and went to California for what I thought would be a permanent move. But it turned out to be a front-row seat for a great unraveling.

Rude awakening
From the beginning, working at a “new economy magazine” was not all that I had dreamed that night in Austin. The people were nice, but my chops weren’t yet well-honed enough to be a business reporter and I spent lots of my time copying text from the print magazine edition and pasting it on to the Web site. Not exactly the glamour I was hoping for, and how come we couldn’t write some code to do all that anyway?

My living situation also proved interesting. Eventually, after time in hostels and finally being grilled rather intensely during an interview with my future roommates, I moved into a three-bedroom house where I was one of five tenants (the garage had been converted into two more bedrooms). The setup was unexpectedly quiet, however, since the room next to mine was never actually used by the chief operating officer of a major networking company who rented it as an emergency crash pad much closer to San Francisco than her large home in San Jose, farther south. I never saw the other person living upstairs, who also worked for a dot-com. I never even found out which one.

There were high points at the office, like writing a story on Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, who seemed to epitomize the spirit of Silicon Valley I was in search of, but ultimately I wasn’t happy and things quickly got weird around the office as it became clear that the epic ride of the last half-decade was beginning to run out of fuel. Particularly after we moved into a new office space near arguably one of the worst neighborhoods in America, it all seemed to come unglued very quickly. At a mid-summer staff retreat in the coastside town of Monterey, the tension was palpable, at least until it was all released in what may have been the largest collective binge I’ve ever been witness to. My editor ingested multiple mind-altering substances that weekend, broke one of hotel’s windows (with his head, was the rumor), and spoke in a Beavis and Butthead voice for several hours straight. And he was one of the more well-behaved of my superiors that weekend.

It’s hard to say exactly how many people moved to the Bay Area in search of that same dream during that time, but we do have a sense of how many ultimately joined me in abandoning the dream. An oft-cited figure places the number of people that quickly vacated San Francisco between 2000 and 2002 at 30,000, eventually making it the fastest-shrinking city in the country for a moment.

I went crawling back to college, and to Ironminds, which was ironically in the midst of being purchased by a group of “new-media investors” who moved it from Missouri to New York, rapidly poured millions into it, even after the bubble had clearly burst, and then shut it down just as quickly (although it did eventually lead to the creation of Deadspin via former Ironminds editor Will Leitch).

The dream that had helped me retroactively justify the self-imposed isolation of my adolescence seemed to be dead.

Set adrift
I turned my energies to improv and stand-up comedy, lazily finished my journalism degree, and began to see the value of drinking as a hobby. At the same time numerous ruined dot-com prodigies were retreating to yoga ranches and beyond, I took a gig living on a houseboat in the Florida Keys in exchange for — what else — Web design help.

I sometimes woke up on the beach after a long night at the bar on Big Pine Key and wasn’t sure if I was having a good time or too depressed to even recognize it.

Like many others, I kind of lost my mind for a little bit after the dot-com boom went bust.


(Credit:
Johanna DeBiase)

That fall I moved into a house in Denver with a few friends that I had grown up with to try and find a little grounding and figure what to do next now that Web design was providing me far less (I had to share that houseboat with 11 other guys and no air conditioning).

I delivered food and worked for family while still dabbling in Web design and writing jobs that suddenly paid next to nothing. 9/11 happened, the world seemed to be turned upside down, and that glitzy fantasy I encountered in Austin just 18 months prior felt like it had never even existed.

After months of sending resumes to anyplace that might be vaguely interested, I received exactly one job offer — from a tiny public radio station in the Alaskan bush that was not even reachable by roads.

I signed a two-year contract sight unseen and flew to Alaska. I did not bring a computer or cell phone. Perhaps it was time to grow up and put away those childish things. Without being too hyperbolic, I think the dot-com bust may have broken my heart more than a little bit. Those digital dreams had been banished to the wilderness, and now, so had I.

CNET comments are currently down for maintenance, and should be back soon. In the meantime, please share your memories of the dot-com boom and bust on Twitter at @crave and @ericcmack. In our next installment, I’ll celebrate the 25th birthday of the Web by looking at those years that I spent watching it develop and try to re-assert itself from a distance.

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Spy on your own thoughts with Glass Brain

Glass Brain

Thanks to an electrode-fitted cap and a combination of advanced imaging processes, you can now see inside your own brain.


(Credit:
Neuroscape Lab)

What do you get when you combine a neuroscientist with the guy who helped invent the virtual world Second Life? A way to virtually fly around the brain with a gamepad watching thoughts in real time.

That’s what attendees at Austin’s
South By Southwest were recently treated to when Philip Rosedale, creator of Second Life, and Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California San Francisco, unveiled their Glass Brain project. Onlookers were able to be neuro-voyeurs as they peeked in on the mind workings of Rosedale’s wife Yvette, and watched the storm of activity taking place there.

If you weren’t lucky enough to be at SXSW, fear not. I’ve found this captivating video put out by the Neuroscape Lab (the project Gazzaley heads up at the UCSF Neuroscience Imaging Center), that shows what’s going on in our gray matter in gorgeous color. According to the lab, “each color that lights up represents source power and connectivity in a different frequency band (theta, alpha, beta gamma) and the golden lines are white matter anatomical fiber tracts.” In layman’s terms, that means you’re seeing the different levels of electrical energy in the brain (the frequencies), as well as the paths by which that energy moves around (the white matter anatomical fibers).

The Glass Brain project site says these astounding video tours of our noggins are produced through a combination of technologies that include “MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) brain scanning to generate a high-resolution 3D model of an individual’s brain, skull, and scalp tissue, DTI (diffusion tensor imaging) for reconstructing white matter tracts, and BCILAB/SIFT to remove artifacts and statistically reconstruct the locations and dynamics of multiple sources of activity inside the brain from signals measured at electrodes on the scalp.”

I’m not so sure how much the brain is going to like getting looked at all naked and lit up. I keep imagining the wearers of the electrode-fitted caps that make Glass Brain possible falling into some sort of endless feedback loop that has them staring, zombie-like, at screens showing what the brain does when you stare at a screen until someone cuts the power. But a much more likely outcome, according to LiveScience, is that the technology could be used to help people with brain injuries get their brains working correctly again.

In either case, the technology appears to represent a true breakthrough in brain imaging. “We’ve never been able to step inside the structures [of the brain] and see it in this way,” Gazzaley told LiveScience). “It’s biofeedback on the next level.”

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Trapped in the Time Travel Lab: My Sunday of terror

If this doesn’t make you feel competitive, it’s like I don’t even know you anymore.


(Credit:
Real Escape Game in the U.S/SCRAP Entertainment)

“You are trapped in the mysterious laboratory, where it has been said, they study time travel. The door is closed. A lot of hidden clues await you. You wonder if they were able to make time travelling true…” These words on a poster beckon you in to a frantic puzzle-solving team experience that can lead, as it did in my case, to your untimely demise.

Or you might…Escape from the Time Travel Lab.

SCRAP Entertainment’s first Real Escape Game was held in Japan, and nowadays the company is putting on events in San Francisco, Seattle, and Los Angeles. In addition to the basic Mysterious Room, people have escaped from the Magic Show, the Werewolf Village, and other sticky scenarios. There are also Real Escape Game branches in Singapore, Taiwan, and China, plus there seem to be at least four live-escape game companies operating in the UK, so I’m going to call this a worldwide phenomenon. If the rest of this sounds fun to you, you may be able to find something similar nearby.

On the particular Sunday on which I fell into a rift in time and space, never to be seen again, my team of six assembled in a cute tea shop below the venue, a nice, clean spot in San Francisco’s Japantown that’s probably normally used for art installations or something.

The signs warn you to use the restroom before the game starts, since you will literally be locked in the Lab for the next hour. (As it turns out, there’s a “lab technician” in the room with you the whole time, so it’s not as dramatic as the waiver makes it sound, but the game timer’s not going to pause while you take a bathroom break, so it is something to think about!)

“Detective-style clothes might help to sharpen your mind,” the Web site said, but also, “refrain from wearing heels,” so I squashed my first impulse of Victoriana. Clearly we’d need to be physically active to some degree. In Web-based room escape games, you need to examine everything, from the undersides of furniture to the tops of light fixtures. I settled for a Nancy Drew T-shirt, sneakers, and my lucky magnifying glass.

my lucky magnifying glass

It’s my lucky magnifying glass because it’s pretty, all right? Not because it saved us from wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey destruction, because it didn’t.


(Credit:
Toni Thompson)

As I’d suspected, I didn’t actually get to use the lens: you’re not allowed to use any items you bring in. Including multitools, the cheerful young MC told us firmly. (“Pens and paper?!” “They’ll be provided in the room.”) We hung our jackets on a rack outside, but there was a clear, closed bin inside the room where we could store our purses and bags, thus removing most worries about credit cards going missing.

The game is played in groups of 11, so we were thrown in with 5 very nice strangers. Going around the room, we introduced ourselves and described our experience with these types of games — and time travel in general. My aunt (she of the Thor socks) claimed to be from the year 2038. Her friend obligingly said he had come to our time in pursuit of her. Another friend revealed that he’d been time traveling at a rate of roughly 1 minute per minute for…quite some time now. The MC’s face: “So this should go well.”

The opening briefing laid out some parameters of the game, though it didn’t ultimately keep us from being lost in an eternal temporospatial limbo. The directions were clear as to, for example, what objects in the room we could and couldn’t disassemble. (Did reading those words make you want to click over to buy tickets? Then we’re on the same page.)

When we finally walked into the room, it was a bit like living out my favorite scene in “Apollo 13,” when they put the engineers in a conference room and tell them they have to save the day by making THIS fit into THIS using only THESE PIECES. Except with more of a festive air, though we certainly all got pretty excited as our time ran out and our impending doom, um, impended. I wasn’t the only one with shaking hands.

What’s funny is, I’d assumed that with the set of experienced puzzle-solving brains I’d brought with me on my team, we’d definitely win unless the puzzles were badly designed. I’d also suspected I’d be dead weight in the group, based on past games parties with most of these people. Neither of these turned out to be correct. I solved and helped solve several puzzles (to be honest, they weren’t hard), but my group — you may have picked up on this from foreshadowing — DID NOT escape from the Time Travel Lab! We definitely could have…maybe in about another 10 minutes…but we did not.

As the game’s materials point out, there’s no shame in that. Still, it’s not WINNING, is it?

We failed to escape from the Time Travel Lab!

This pic does not contain my aunt, who was voluntarily erased from this corner of history. Probably afraid they’ll track her from 2038.


(Credit:
Real Escape Game in the U.S/SCRAP Entertainment)

Overall it wasn’t quite what I was expecting — I’d thought there’d at least be some in-story justification for all the puzzles, and instead they appeared mostly arbitrary. But even though the puzzles weren’t hard and yet we didn’t come that close to winning, my team still walked out (insofar as you can walk out after having fallen into a spacetime anomaly never to return) feeling like the challenge was fair. That seems like good game design. Here’s a little advice, none of which I think counts as spoilers:

1. The comfortable-shoe requirement was a good one. Most of the puzzles are mental, but in addition to the restrictions listed on the site, at least one person in your group should be able and willing to get down on the floor.

2. Unless you bring enough people to fill all the game slots (the number varies by scenario), you’ll be thrown in with strangers, but that’s OK. Anyone who thought this sounded fun and showed up to try it is probably pretty rad, so the group meshes a lot faster than you’d think.

3. Organization is key. Every minute counts, the setting can be a bit overwhelming, and it helps to have someone keeping track of the overall effort. (Corollary: Communication is also key, so if your friends hate being hurried or get snappish in a crisis, it may be best to leave them at home with your high heels and multitool.)

Escape from the Time Travel Lab poster
(Credit:
Real Escape Game in the U.S/SCRAP Entertainment)

I guess that’s all I can say without ruining it. It was definitely worth the ticket price; I live in San Francisco so I don’t have to judge whether it was worth the drive as well. Still, we immediately started looking into getting tickets for Escape from the Haunted Ship….It takes place aboard the Queen Mary! The actual Queen Mary, down in Long Beach.

Unfortunately, the dates for Haunted Ship didn’t work out for us. And my team vetoed the upcoming Escape from the Space Station (before your air runs out!) as “too scary.” My aunt’s hoping for other local venues, such as…Alcatraz.

Alcatraz! Think it over, Real Escape Game people! Minus the swimming!

In the meanwhile, if you know of any other interesting types of puzzle-based events, please tell me about them in the comments below. (Shout-out: I found out about Real Escape Game via @sosh, the not-personalized Twitter feed of a personalized event-recommendation service based in some major US cities.) I’ll leave my future self some notes on the calendar!

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