Thursday, May 30, 2013

Arcade appeals to generations of visitors

If lights flash and dance everywhere you look, buzzers sound, children laugh and carry fistfuls of prize tickets, and that pinball machine in the back has eaten almost all your beer money — then you’re in FUN-LAND.

FUN-LAND Arcade and Snack Bar has been in business 63 years to date. And if you ask someone of age to bring their grandkids to the beach, three attractions have identified Panama City Beach over those years: Miracle Strip, Petticoat Junction and FUN-LAND.

“We have third generations that come in,” said Joel McDavid, general manager at FUN-LAND for 12 years. “There are baby boomers that come in to bring their grandkids and say, ‘When I was their age I was in here.’ ”

McDavid reflected on when he was 10 years old, coming to FUN-LAND, never dreaming of one day managing the iconic arcade.

FUN-LAND is the last surviving vestige of the three landmarks that embodied the desire for an amusement park-themed beach. Though technically not an amusement park, the clown logo and outside appearance was intentionally misleading to give the impression of a circus mixed with an amusement park — a marketing method to compete with the Long Beach amusement parks of the day.

Originally opened by Don Remsnider in spring 1950, FUN-LAND is the oldest arcade in North Florida, McDavid said. It was purchased four years later and has been owned by the same family since, only changing hands once from father to son in 1990.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Virtual Weimar: Hyperinflation in a Video Game World

As virtual fantasy worlds go, Blizzard Entertainment’s Diablo 3 is particularly foreboding. In this multiplayer online game played by millions, witch doctors, demon hunters, and other character types duke it out in a war between angels and demons in a dark world called Sanctuary. The world is reminiscent of Judeo-Christian notions of hell: fire and brimstone, with the added fantasy elements of supernatural combat waged with magic and divine weaponry. And within a fairly straightforward gaming framework, virtual “gold” is used as currency for purchasing weapons and repairing battle damage. Over time, virtual gold can be used to purchase ever-more resources for confronting ever-more dangerous foes.

But in the last few months, various outposts in that world — Silver City and New Tristram, to name two — have borne more in common with real world places like Harare, Zimbabwe in 2007 or Berlin in 1923 than with Dante’s Inferno. A culmination of a series of unanticipated circumstances — and, finally, a most unfortunate programming bug — has over the last few weeks produced a new and unforeseen dimension of hellishness within Diablo 3: hyperinflation.

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Disney and EA Announce Multi-Year Star Wars Games Agreement

The Walt Disney Company (DIS) and Electronic Arts Inc. (EA) today announced a new multi-year exclusive licensing agreement to develop and publish globally new games based on Star Wars characters and storylines.

Under the agreement, EA will develop and publish new Star Wars titles for a core gaming audience, spanning all interactive platforms and the most popular game genres, while Disney will retain certain rights to develop new titles within the mobile, social, tablet and online game categories.

“This agreement demonstrates our commitment to creating quality game experiences that drive the popularity of the Star Wars franchise for years to come,” said John Pleasants, Co-President of Disney Interactive. “Collaborating with one of the world’s premier game developers will allow us to bring an amazing portfolio of new Star Wars titles to our fans around the world.”

“Every developer dreams of creating games for the Star Wars universe,” said EA Labels President Frank Gibeau. “Three of our top studios will fulfill that dream, crafting epic adventures for Star Wars fans. DICE and Visceral will produce new games, joining the BioWare team which continues to develop for the Star Wars franchise. The new experiences we create may borrow from films, but the games will be entirely original with all new stories and gameplay.”

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Disney Shuts Down LucasArts, Cancels Star Wars 1313 And Star Wars: First Assault

Staff were informed of the shutdown this morning, according to a reliable Kotaku source. Some 150 people were laid off, and both of the studio’s current projects—Star Wars: First Assault and Star Wars 1313—were cancelled. Disney will still use the LucasArts name to license games, but the studio is no more.

Publicly, Disney is saying their current games could be licensed out to a different publisher or developer, but according to our source, that’s unlikely. Our source says Lucas has pursued the option for “one or both games,” but nothing happened. “With the teams now basically being dispersed I think both games are effectively dead forever,” our source said.

A second source also told Kotaku this afternoon that the chances of Lucas licensing out 1313 are very slim. The odds are “effectively zero,” the source said.

“After evaluating our position in the games market, we’ve decided to shift LucasArts from an internal development to a licensing model, minimizing the company’s risk while achieving a broader portfolio of quality Star Wars games,” LucasArts parent company LucasFilm said in a statement. “As a result of this change, we’ve had layoffs across the organization. We are incredibly appreciative and proud of the talented teams who have been developing our new titles.”

This comes after weeks and months of rumors involving the studio, which was acquired by Disney last fall. In September, LucasArts put a freeze on all hiring and product announcements, which many staff saw as the beginning of the end. In February, we started hearing rumors that the studio might be shuttered. Today, it’s official: the iconic development house is gone.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

6 Video Games Every Libertarian Should Play

Until recently, popular storytelling was an essentially top-down art: Novelists told readers how characters thought and felt, playwrights determined what they said, and movie directors subjected captive viewers to their own individual visions. The story you saw was the story someone else imagined, and audience interaction was limited to throwing tomatoes at the stage, or scribbling in the margins of a book. Even popular sports were basically passive: Fans might follow along in great detail, but the plays and their outcomes were determined by the actions of an elite few on the field.

But for the last 40 years, video games have begun to change all that. Games were built around interactivity: Players got what they wanted, not what someone else gave them. And as the technological firepower that makes video games possible has grown cheaper and more abundant, those games have increasingly focused on complex choice architectures designed to let players make their own stories. Game designers still build the playing fields, and some are more constrictive than others. But the arc of game design has bent toward expanding player choice. You are at the center of the experience, and you make it your own. The star of the show isn’t some writer or actor or player on the screen. The star is you.

It’s probably too much to argue that video games offer players freedom from the iron grip of the author—after all, games still have designers, and the old stories weren’t exactly forced upon their readers. But the rise of video games as a popular art form is surely a sign of the way that the broad universalized stories of yesterday have fractured into an array of niche narratives, each designed to serve an individualized interest.

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Friday, November 30, 2012

10 Best Videogames Since 2002

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (2002)

Nintendo’s mainline franchises don’t change very much. Mario and Link are always wearing the same clothes and rocking the same basic moves — jump, slash, fireball, hookshot — on a mission to save some kind of princess from some kind of Bowser/Ganondorf. But the deceptively simple gameplay at the core of Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda belies the games’ strength — they are easy to play but difficult to master. What sets The Wind Waker apart, 10 years after its release, is its eccentric, eerily beautiful cel-shading aesthetic. It’s Nintendo’s last great visual experiment, a remnant from a bygone age before the iconic game company shifted its focus toward redefining The Controller. Set in a gorgeous world halfway between Hayao Miyazaki and Calvin & Hobbes, Wind Waker also looks ahead of its time now: At a moment when videogames were shifting toward cinematic realism, Wind Waker found a raw beauty in cartoonish primitivism.

Half-Life 2 (2004)

Valve’s futuristic first-person shooter deserves a place in the videogame pantheon just for the introduction of the Gravity Gun. That single innovation cemented a change that had been brewing for a long time. The ‘’environment'’ wasn’t just something you walked through while killing people; post-Gravity Gun, it was an organic part of the experience, and it could be the deadliest weapon of all. But Half-Life 2 also set a new benchmark for in-game storytelling, eschewing cinematics in an immersive storyline. (It’s remarkable how few games took the basic lessons of HL2 to heart…and it’s depressing when an otherwise-stellar modern game like Assassin’s Creed 3 ends with what amounts to a neverending poorly animated cartoon.) Best of all, because Valve encouraged players to create their own modifications, Half-Life 2 became a veritable laboratory for user experimentation.

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