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We’re going to start featuring the most interesting, creative and original animated music videos every weekend in a new section we call the Weekend Groove. Submit you vidoes HERE.

“Gangsta Riddim” directed by about:blank (Belgium)

Audio excerpt of “Gangsta Riddim” remix by Roel Funcken. Gangsta Riddim (Original) by SCANONE.

“Over You” directed by Drushba Pankow (Germany)

“Over You” is a music video clip originally made for the song “Nobody’s Fool” by Parov Stelar. The Berlin-based musician Michal Krajczok wrote and produced his song “Over You” especially for this video, featuring the voice of Larissa Blau. The video is directed, designed and animated by Drushba Pankow (Alexandra Kardinar and Volker Schlecht), with additional animation by Maxim Vassiliev.

“A Very Unusual Map” directed by Loup Blaster (France)

A music video for Hibou Blaster

“Teapot” directed by Clem Stamation (Australia)

Cantaloupe are a synth-guitar/bass-drums trio from Nottingham, UK, formed in January 2011. Drawing influences from Afro-pop to Krautrock to the avant garde, who aim to make infectuous and thoroughly pleasing instrumental pop music.

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 High velocity bullets operate in this area
Is it unfashionable to be cynical about free-to-play these days?* I’m a bit of a stick in the mud when it comes to this stuff. I don’t like the idea that game design, balance and content are all elements of a game that can and should be fiddled with depending on how many little chunks of money a player throws at the developer. I also think that the some examples of microtransactions are at best poor value, and at worst deeply exploitative. I’m open minded though. Especially open minded when the free-to-play game in question has got very shiny graphics, and lets you shoot robots. I sat down with Crytek’s Michael Krach & Michael Khaimzon at GDC to find out more about their upcoming Microtransaction based game, Warface, and it seems as though they saw me coming. (more…)

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Many games feature invisibility in some form. An excellent moment I recall from my days in World Of Warcraft was necking an invisibility potion to run past a load of mobs I couldn’t fight, while my rogue friend stealthed his way through. (If only that game had more such emergent highs.) Anyway, the Invisible Bastard joy I want to talk about is probably only applicable to Eve Online, although I’d love to know about any parallels in other games. It’s a thing that stood out for me over the years and something I loved, because it spoke of persistence, human psychology, the value of patience and the delight in being a big meany. I would leave my laptop logged into Eve, with a character cloaked in various star systems, and do nothing, for weeks.

Why would I do that?
(more…)

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Europe has been battling a deep freeze that started in late January and has killed hundreds, snow that has trapped thousands in Balkan mountain villages and prompted worries of flooding as heavy snow melts. In Greece and Bulgaria, flooding on Monday and Tuesday left dozens of homes under water and at least eight dead. Serbian [...]

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Today's collection of independent game links includes more indie game previews, a couple of development updates, and the usual round-up of interviews with developers from around the 'net. (image source).

TruePCGaming: Orcs Must Die! Interview
"Justin Korthof from Robot Entertainment, developers on Orcs Must Die!, recently got with TPG for an e-mail interview. You will learn how Orcs Must Die! came to be, how they were able to fund the game, successes and failures in doing so, and his thoughts on the PC gaming industry."

Eurogamer: Playdead's secret project two is weirder than Limbo
"Cryptic Danish developer Playdead is keeping its follow up to the enchanting black and white downloadable game Limbo under wraps - despite having worked on it for over a year now."

Giant Bomb: Three Dudes Making Games About Wizards 'n Orbs
"Tribute Games' goal is to produce one game per year, hoping to build a brand players can follow and regularly expect games in the vein of Wizorb--old school with a twist. Wizorb itself was actually built in just a couple of months, amidst the complications of finding office space and figuring out how to run a company."

DIYgamer: How Activision's Indie Games Competition Tricks Devs
"Indie devs have more contests and competitions than ever to enter today to essentially become the next Minecraft or Monaco. However, these challenges sometimes involve signing legal paperwork that may give up too many rights."

TruePCGaming: Dungeon Defenders Interview
"TPG got the chance to interview Trendy Entertainment, the developers responsible for the newly released hybrid title, Dungeon Defenders. You will learn how Dungeon Defenders was created, the successes and failures in doing so, and their take on the PC gaming industry."

Quote Unquote: Hayo van Reek Interview
"Hayo Van Reek is an independent videogame developer, who passionately teaches a Multimedia Fusion 2 game development class, while attempting to hone his own game design methods."

DIYgamer: Mike Bithell Interview
"Here's the first bit of coverage from the fabulous GameCity festival in Nottingham last week, a chat with Mike Bithell, creator of the minimalistic puzzle platformer Thomas Was Alone."

The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Love+
"We believe no one deserves to starve, and many indie developers are entitled to a fridge full of tasty, fulfilling media coverage, right here. This week, Fred Wood educates us on that thing we all need with his 8-bit inspired platformer, Love+ -- read on to learn how Trunks makes Love."

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Don’t let the cheery title fool you: Oranges & Sunshine actually tells a harrowing tale that’s all the more distubring for being true. In the first feature by director Jim Loach (son of The Wind That Shakes the Barley helmer Ken Loach), a social worker named Margaret Humphreys (Emily Watson) encounters a woman seeking answers about her past. As Humphreys digs deeper, she uncovers a massive conspiracy to deport thousands of abandoned kids from British children’s homes to brutal work camps in Australia. Hugo Weaving and David Wenham also star.

Though it sounds like something out of a Charles Dickens novel, the events are actually chillingly recent — the real-life Humphreys conducted her investigation in the ’80s and learned that these injustices had taken place during the ’50s and ’60s. Watch the trailer after the jump.

[via Thompson on Hollywood]

The U.S. trailer involves much of the same footage as the earlier trailer, but seems to downplay the tearjerker aspects somewhat in favor of showing off more of the film’s dramatic side. I think the new video looks much more exciting, because you get a better sense of what Humphreys was really up against.

Oranges & Sunshine was recently picked up by Cohen Media, and is expected to hit U.S. theaters sometime next month. The film has already opened in several countries, to mostly positive reviews.

Synopsis:

On a dank night in Nottingham, Margaret Humphreys, a British social worker, is cornered by an angry Australian woman. It is 1986. The woman, Charlotte, tells Margaret, ‘I want to find out who I am.’ She says that she was in a Nottingham children’s home when she was put on a boat and, at just four years of age, sent to Australia. There were several hundred other kids like her. Margaret can barely believe her story. A week later, Margaret learns of a man who was taken to Australia as a boy on another ship full of children. She starts to look more closely at the archives. What begins as an attempt to help Charlotte find her mother, soon turns into the discovery of thousands of other lost sons and daughters… and one of the most significant social scandals of our time.

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rrrrrrrRRRRRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrr

I really cannot fathom what’s going on with Cargasm. As we’ve said many times, the way it’s being promoted is foul, with awful allusions toward gathering some sort of harem of scantily clad women and so forth. And we’ve also pointed out that its claims of “photo-realistic graphics” for its iOS version are, well, nonsense. But the biggest issue of all is despite some really impressive-looking screenshots, we’ve still yet to see the game actually show any driving. And that continues in the latest video, with yet more of what I’m pretty certain is an awkward, juddery fly-through in the level creator rather than actual in-game footage, which is clearly trying to look like a driver’s view. However, I don’t post it for Cargasm at all, really. Rather for the extremely interesting tech that’s discussed coming from Near Global. It’s well worth a look.

(more…)

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I think almost everyone I know in the software development field
has a deep hatred for patents and the way they've been used in our
field. I've had a post on my todo list for ages about this and have
finally been moved to write about it after a particularly
good piece of investigative journalism
by This American Life.
The short form of my post is that while patents (even software
patents) are a good idea in principle, in practice they have turned
into an unmitigated disaster and would be better scrapped.

To begin, however, I'll say why patents are a good idea in
principle, indeed they may be one of the most valuable 'inventions'
in human history.

A good argument for patents playing such a central case in human
development is made by William Rosen in his book The Most Powerful
Idea in the World
. Rosen's book looks at the Industrial
Revolution which he characterizes as one of the most important
events in human history, one that made a step change in human
wealth.

A skilled laborer—a weaver, perhaps, or a blacksmith—in
seventeenth-century England, France, or China spent roughly the
same number of hours a week at his trade, producing about the same
number of bolts of cloth, or nails, as his ten-times
great-grandfather did during the time of Augustus. He earned the
same number of coins and bought the same amount, and variety, of
food. His wife, like her ten-times great-grandmother, prepared the
food; she might have bought her bread from a village baker, but
she made pretty much everything herself. She even made her
family’s clothing, which, allowing for the vagaries of weather and
fashion, was largely indistinguishable from those of any family
for the preceding ten centuries: homespun wool, with some linen if
flax were locally available. The laborer and his wife would have
perhaps eight or ten live offspring, with a reasonable chance that
three might survive to adulthood. If the laborer chose to travel,
he would do it on foot or, if he were exceptionally prosperous, by
horse-drawn cart or coach, traveling three miles an hour if the
former, or seven if the latter—again, the same as his
ancestor—which meant that his world was not much larger than the
five or six miles surrounding the place he was born.

And then, for the first time in history, things changed. And
they changed at the most basic of levels. A skilled fourth-century
weaver in the of Constantinople might earn enough by working three
hours to purchase a pound of bread; by 1800, it would cost a
weaver working in Nottingham at least two. But by 1900, it took
less than fifteen minutes to earn enough to buy the loaf; and by
2000, five minutes. It is a cliché, but nonetheless true, to
recognize that a middle-class family living in a developed
twenty-first-century country enjoys a life filled with luxuries
that a king could barely afford two centuries ago.

-- William Rosen

The change wrought by the Industrial Revolution is almost
unimaginable. We think our current era is one of constant change, but
that phrasing captures what we forget. These days we are used to
change, but before the Industrial Revolution human life changed very
slowly. The biggest change the Industrial Revolution unleashed was
change itself.

Thus I think few students of human history doubt the vital
importance of the Industrial Revolution, but this raises a couple of
important questions - why did it occur when and where it did? What
was so special about late 18th century England that set this steam
train off? Rosen's view is that patents are the key enabler, because
they provided a financial incentive and platform to support inventors
and entrepreneurs. Without patents only wealthy people (or those with
wealthy patrons) could afford to innovate, and there was little
incentive for them to do so.

I find Rosen's argument persuasive and thus think that
patents were not just a Good Thing but one of the Best Things to have
happened to our species. So why do I loathe software patents so much?

It boils down to the fact that patents generally have become very
debased from the animal that enabled the Industrial Revolution. The
primary debasement is that of novelty. The whole point of
patents is to grant a (limited-term) monopoly to something that is
new. The US
patent law
says you can't have a patent if "the subject matter as
a whole would have been obvious at the time the invention was made to
a person having ordinary skill in the art to which said subject
matter pertains." This boils back to the English 1623 Statute on
Monopolies[1] which
started the notion that a patentable invention is something that is
both novel and useful.

The core problem with software patents is that this key principle
has been tossed aside. Everyone in the software field has seen a
parade of patents which do nothing but try to claim rights on
techniques that have already been in use for years, let alone
developments that while new, are are still obvious to those of us with ordinary
skills in programming.

Although this debasement is quite enough to ruin the integrity of
software patents, there are some other debasements worth mentioning
too. Patents were originally created with a limited time in mind -
the 1623 law placed them at fourteen years. This, of course, at a
period of time when change was much slower than it is now, let alone
than it is in our field. Proper software patents should hold for a
shorter period than that. Further debasement occurs in lack of
specificity - most software patents are ridiculously broad and vague,
while patents were originally seen as narrow and specific. Narrow
patents encourage innovation by incenting people to think of
different ways to solve the same problem, broad patents
snuff that innovation out.

The result of all this debasement is a world where patents no
longer incentivize and communicate new inventions, but where they are
weapons to be used to fight legal battles. For large companies they
are, at least on the surface, an annoying distraction and cost. But
the real damage they do is to small outfits, that can't afford the
time and money to fight a patent lawsuit. Thus we see patents used for
shakedowns - stifling innovation.

The tragedy is that patents have become a source of reinforcing
existing powers. A big company may find patents a significant
inconvenience, but in the end patents are good for perpetuating the
current power-holders because they can snuff out the smaller ones. This is why
it's hard to change the system, those with the power have no
incentive to give it up.

I find it particularly depressing that my fellow programmers are
complicit in this tragedy. It's not uncommon for programmers to talk
about patents they've been involved in getting and how they know how
absurd they are. I know it's easy to get on a high horse here, but I
do think that any programmer who cooperates in getting a baseless
patent should be ashamed of themselves. It shows the kind of lack of
responsibility that undermines any justification we have to be
treated as professionals.

In theory, I'm not against software patents if we were able to get
back to the core beneficial principles of patents and apply them
properly. This would imply developing a process that would ensure
that patents were only granted for truly novel ideas. But unless such
a process were properly put together, I'd rather see software patents
eliminated completely. A world without software patents would be
better than the mess we're currently in.

Further Reading

There's a huge amount of material that's been written about
patents out there. Tim Bray's piece last year on giving
up on patents
links to a number of good sources. A couple of
these point to evidence that software patents have reduced innovation.

Planet Money did a follow up podcast to the one on This American
Life, with links to the studies they summarize.

"At a time when our future affluence depends so heavily on
innovation, we have drifted toward a patent regime that not only
fails to fulfil its justifying function, to incentivise innovation,
but actively impedes innovation." - W.W. of The Economist

1:
I rather like its original name: "Act concerning Monopolies and
Dispensations with penall Lawes and the Forfeyture thereof"

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