Have you ever lost connectivity, because you were holding your phone wrong?

So, this isn’t really directly video game related, but I noticed this, and a quick Google search tells me that nobody else has noticed it, so I feel compelled to mention it.

Here is a screenshot of an iPhone in an AT&T ad…



…from 1993.

Technically, of course, it’s not exactly an iPhone, and the actress is using a stylus with it, but otherwise it’s an HD touchscreen smartphone that’s about the same form factor as the iPhone. It even has a touchscreen that goes to the edges of the face, aside from a black area at the bottom. Spookily prescient!!

You can watch the whole ad here. This was part of AT&T’s “You Will” ad campaign, which was stylishly directed by David Fincher (obviously borrowing heavily from Blade Runner, but with a more optimistic air) and which made a large number of accurate predictions about future technology, although very few of those innovations actually came from AT&T.

What if it was a video game?

This is a bit of a departure from the usual stuff here, but it’s good enough and video-gamey enough that I thought it was worth talking about.

A friend of mine recently posted on his tabletop-gaming blog his ruminations on running a tabletop RPG based on Day Break. I’d never heard of Day Break before (and I suspect most other people haven’t, either), but he gave an intriguing, spoiler-free summary of it in his post, so I decided to pick it up for $7.50 for the entire series and give it a whirl. My wife and I started watching it Friday evening, and finished watching the entire thing Saturday night.

Here’s my version of the gist of the show: Taye Diggs (who also starred alongside She-Hulk from Heroes in one of my favorite horror movies, the 1999 remake of House on Haunted Hill) plays a police detective named Hopper in “a serious Groundhog’s Day“; he’s living the same day over and over again, but he’s trying to solve a murder mystery and unravel a huge conspiracy. I say “a serious Groundhog’s Day” because it’s serious, and also because it’s firmly established early on that Hopper’s injuries carry over from day to day, which quickly curtails any of Groundhog’s Day‘s “toaster in the tub”-style antics. Other people can be injured and / or die and will be just fine when the day resets, but if Hopper dies it’s game over, and if he’s grievously injured he has to waste a few days being rushed to the hospital first thing in the morning and recuperating in an ICU. Still, Hopper at least carries over his memory from day to day, and if he spends all day going through some sort of grueling ordeal just to get a name, or an address, or some other important clue, then he still has that clue when the day resets, and can circumvent that ordeal completely. Hopper also gradually discovers that there are certain “side quests” he can complete (see? I’m tying this into video games. It’s not TOTALLY off-topic!) that have lasting effects when the day resets, but there’s no indication of what these “side quests” are and, thankfully, there’s no exploitable “gimmick” to making things carry over like “people remember things he tells them while a magic stopwatch is running” or anything like that, which keeps munchkin gamers in the audience from agonizing over possible ways to game the system.

This show only lasted one season, and only half of its episodes were originally aired. This is sad, but its short nature might actually be a blessing in disguise; it was created by a combination of one of the creators of Lost and one of the creators of The X-Files, two shows notorious for running WAY too long, and piling one mystery on top of another without ever resolving any of them. The creators of Day Break knew well in advance that the show was only going to last one season, and so, miraculously, all the major loose ends are tied up and there’s a great, satisfactory ENDING at the end of the last episode. I should also mention that the show features some stellar performances by everyone involved, especially Adam Baldwin (there, I just sold all the Firefly fanatics on this) and Mitch Pileggi.

You can watch the entire show on Hulu, or you can get it from Netflix (it’s not on Watch Instantly, though, unfortunately), or you can get it from Amazon for $7.50 for the whole thing (in a weird case with the discs themselves in black paper sleeves, but still — $7.50).

After blazing through all 13 episodes in a day and a half, I immediately tracked down and started playing the Gamecube port of Majora’s Mask (which takes place in a repeating 3-day cycle), unaware that I already owned but hadn’t yet played two games that revolve around “time loops”; Grim Grimoire and Flower, Sun, and Rain. So I think I’ll be living the same day over and over again for quite a long time.

UPDATE: ZOMG, I had no idea that I was posting this the day before Groundhog’s Day. Spooky!!!

Here comes a new challenger!

Since I’ve been too distracted to post much lately, and since he has all kinds of exciting things he wants to post on a video game blog, I’ve invited Strider to contribute to Inverted Castle.

He’s previously written a number of things for Hardcore Gaming 101, including their article on Tyrian, so I’m sure he’ll make some good contributions here, as well. And also I can stop feeling guilty that Inverted Castle keeps not getting updated! Yay!

when life gives you moral dilemmas, make moral dilemmanade!

So… the Superplexus is an amazing 3D maze toy, where you navigate a ball bearing along a plastic track by turning the whole toy in every axis of rotation. It was designed by an art professor named Michael McGinnis, and is a project that he worked on in fits and starts from childhood through adulthood, until he developed the final model, and sold the design to Hasbro. Hasbro added a completely superfluous electronic timer and annoying-music player to it, and proceeded to run the idea into the ground by marketing it to small children who were much too young, clumsy, and videogame-oriented to appreciate it. Right around the time that Hasbro discontinued production of the Superplexus, the kinds of adults who are the proper market for such a thing discovered it, and were overjoyed to find that they were available on clearance for $5 at Toys R Us. Once they snatched them all up, however, they were gone forever.

Earlier this month, ThinkGeek added the 360 Puzzle Sphere to their catalog, which is identical to the Superplexus, minus the extraneous, tacked-on electronics, and with a less elegant seam between the two clear plastic domes of its case. After a few emails from various potential customers (including me) asking if this model had the designer’s approval, ThinkGeek did a little digging, came to the realization that it is a Chinese knockoff, and have stopped selling it. Meanwhile, in the comments of this BoingBoing post about it, someone quotes the designer as saying that he only made 33 cents on each Superplexus sold by Hasbro, but didn’t mind because he was more interested in getting it into peoples’ hands than he was in getting rich off of it.

So, the dilemma is this: knowing that this knock-off exists (it is sold elsewhere as the “Magicel Internect Ball” (sic)), and knowing that the designer was getting peanuts from the “real” version and wasn’t doing it for the money anyway, should you buy one, knowing as you do so that you’re supporting a manufacturer who is ripping-off an artist’s life’s work?

EDIT 4-30-2011: McGinnis is a little hazy on the details, but it looks like he discovered the Magicel Internect Ball, contacted the manufacturers, and they’re now working together to make a licensed version called the Perplexus! Hooray!

The noir-est place on Earth

I just wrote a review of “Dogby Walks Alone” for Amazon, and felt that the story was so good I needed to post the review here, too, even though it’s only barely tangentially related to video games. Long story short, whoever you are, you absolutely MUST read this book, and help spread the word about it as much as humanly possible.

I’m a huge fan of film noir, and “noir” in general. My three favorite movies are BladeRunner, Brick, and The Big Sleep. I’m especially impressed when noir is translated well into non-noir settings (as with BladeRunner and Brick), which is part of why I absolutely love Dogby Walks Alone. A direct sequel to Wes Abbott’s identically-titled short story in The Rising Stars of Manga 2, Dogby Walks Alone tells the story of Dogby, an amusement park mascot, who solves crimes without saying a word and without ever removing the head from his costume (at least not in any way that the “camera” can see). The actual narrative and dialogue of the story comes primarily through “Snack Girl”, Dogby’s “Watson” who also has a huge crush on him. While the original short story’s plot had Dogby deducing who stole all of the park’s hot dogs, this book kicks it up a notch by having Dogby solve a murder, while the rest of the park is on the brink of civil war over the mysterious theft of a week’s ticket sales. And whereas most manga end their volumes with hair-raising cliffhangers to seduce readers back for more, this book wraps up the murder mystery nicely at the end, leaving the reader wanting more simply by virtue of the characters and the writing.

Where Dogby really shines is in its pastiches; there were many times in the story that Abbott made such an obvious homage that I was afraid the story was going to derail into a parody of Star Wars, or Metal Gear Solid, or one of a dozen other things, but instead Abbott glances perfectly off the surface of his reference, working it fluidly into the plot of the story and never for a moment wasting time on fancruft. Every single reference to something else is there not as a distraction, but actually to propel the story along; as soon as a character mentions that one of the sections of the park is called “Chinatoon”, I KNEW that, at some point, someone was going to get killed fleeing Chinatoon in a go-kart, and another character would remark “Forget about it, Dogby, it’s Chinatoon”. Again, I presumed that it would be an indulgent distraction, but when the moment finally did arrive, toward the end of the book, I discovered that it worked perfectly, and created one of the most solemnly dramatic moments of the entire book, while simultaneously making a smirking homage.

Which brings us to the drama. Despite the fact that most of the book is comedy, and none of the characters have real names (the main heroes are “Dogby”, “Snack Girl”, and “New Shift Manager”), there are moments of pure, gripping noir drama, unadulterated by any hint of melodrama or sarcasm. There are even scenes that are both grippingly dramatic AND absolutely hilarious, something I’ve never seen before in ANY writing, much less a graphic novel, and for which Web Abbott wins my deepest respect.

I know that this book won’t sell well; there’s no androgynous bishi boy or giant-breasted teenage girl with guns on the cover, and the hero will probably scare away furry-phobes (it’s certainly not furry, though — the reader is aware at all times that Dogby is a man in a dog suit, not any sort of anthropomorphic dog). This is, quite simply, one of the best single-volume graphic novels I’ve ever read, and one of the best noir works I’ve ever experienced (on par with the movies listed at the beginning of this review). Both the art and the writing are absolutely top-notch. This book deserves the Eisner Award, and you absolutely owe it to yourself to read it.

(Dogby Walks Alone also gets ALL of the bonus points for using a mocked-up Neo-Geo MVS game for a chapter splash page, complete with cartridge, marquee card, and move list.)

Free Chocobo to good home

My old host is going away, so I’m in the process of moving Inverted Castle to the new one. The old host also hosts smellslikechocobo.com, another domain I own but have never done anything with. Rather than go through the trouble of moving it, I’ve decided to give it away for free. Tell me, in the comments of this post, what you would do with it if I gave it to you, and if I like your idea it’s yours. There are no rules, no concrete deadline, and no competition, I’m just making sure it’s going to a good home that will give it the care, feeding, and love it deserves.