Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Graphics compatibility test up. Please test!

I just uploaded a compatibility test that will check so your computer will support the graphics in Amnesia. Please test it as it will help us make the release version work on as many computers as possible.

You can get the test and more info here:

Please keep all feedback in the forum thread since that makes it easier for us to keep track of all data.

Thanks in advance to all who test!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A tale of two camps

They're back! And they aren't happy to be home. Both the 11 year old and 9 year old in their last days of their first two week overnight camps lobbied to stay an extra two weeks. Of course, their modes of communication to us are telling in terms of the camp experience they had.

Child No.1 attended a very traditional, outdoors type camp in New Hampshire. Her communication with us consisted of traditional, snail mail. I should emphasise the 'snail' part. The two letters we received prior to her coming home consisted mainly of demands, subtle and not so subtle, for stuff which we duly express posted to her. But her letters took a week to reach us just one state over. Thus, on the day we brought her home, we received her letter asking, well pleading, to stay longer. That said, we already heard much of that during the car ride home and, indeed, during the pick up where we pretty much had to physically drag her from her cabin. Suffice it to say, she had the time of her life and didn't see why that should end. From our point of view, in principle, she had exactly the experience in camp we were looking for. In retrospect, I think a bit of hardship that might have made her more willing to return home might have been nice. Apparently, the bugs, the relatively poor food, the crappy showers, etc, weren't enough to outweigh two weeks of swimming, kayaking, dances, photography, archery, horseriding, waterskiing and fifty new best friends. Go figure.

In contrast, Child No.2 told us about his desire never to return home via FaceTime. FaceTime is an iPhone 4 feature that allows you to talk face to face. And, yes, our son has an iPhone 4. He was going to computer camp for goodness sake. I figured he should have the best. So sue me! But the big benefit of  that was being able to communicate face to face every night; sometimes absurdly late at 10:30pm! Indeed, I think our experience would make a good iPhone ad. I never expected that feature to be more of a gimmick but in actuality, he got about as much of home as he needed and saw no reason to come home. Of course, we can add to that the comic creation, the puzzle game making, and the web page design in html! Apparently, he had good food and hot water. Also, given the computer camp experience, one of his roommates brought a Nintendo Wii and of course a flat screen TV to use it on. Suffice it to say, that made his room the hub of a huge amount of social activity. Near as I can tell, they pretty quickly turned it into an exclusive club with rules of behaviour and apparent entry fee in form of canteen food. 

We had two kids go for very different experiences and, in neither case, are they at all pleased to return to us. Their younger sister was pleased to see them as will we, of course, once the period of sulking ends.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bullying, the Law and the Media

I've quoted from Emily Bazelon many times in this blog. Usually, it is about a parenting issue inspired by her own parenting. For that reason, it is good fodder for me.

Her contribution in today's Slate is something different: a full blown journalistic investigation into the events surrounding the suicide of Phoebe Prince. Fuelled by criminal charges against 6 students, the media has portrayed the suicide as being a symptom of bullying out of hand -- including the use of new technology. Bazelon looks deeper and tries -- in the face of considerable difficulty in obtaining direct information -- to understand the story behind the hysterics. It is more complicated than portrayed in the media and what is clear that the attention and also the legal system has likely done far more harm than good. I recommend this article in its entirely to anyone.

I want to comment on just two aspects of the whole story. First, there is an issue with the role of technology in all of this -- specifically, Facebook and other social websites that allow rumours and insults to travel far and with the speed of light rather than over the speed of the playground as they did in the past. The reaction is often to ban those technologies where bullying arises. The problem is that, like all of these situations, teenagers are trying to find their social ground. If you cut of a tool that will be available later on you only push forward that learning into the future where it can potentially be even more damaging. We should all recount how many years it took for the norms of email use to be established. Those norms need to develop for these technologies too. The sad part is that while they remain out of official school business, we have those norms evolve without adult supervision. I think it is a mistake. Schools should be more proactive about adopting these things rather than having as their first instinct to push them away from the classroom.

Second, Phoebe had moved recently to the US (New England in fact) from Ireland. One thing that I have observed about my own children in moving schools cross-nationally is that, initially, their differences are a novelty but after a while there were some struggles. Each of my two eldest have recounted how they find engaging in humour more difficult than they had in Australia. That what they thought of as a joke or joking wasn't seen as such. This has led to awkwardness but eventually I am sure they will learn what the right things to say and do are. My point is that we should not underestimate those issues as playing a role here. For my pre-teen kids, it is joking, for teenagers it is all of the relationship stuff. Talk about a hard transition to make. This is something that the Slate piece does not bring out but I do think it will deserve some understanding into trying to make sense of all this.

Monday, July 19, 2010

You learn well, young grasshopper

Following up from her first letter from camp -- without any coaching from me -- comes this gem today addressed only to "Mummy."
Besides, the other girls in my cabin have never heard of Tim Tams and I really want to show and share with them -- can you please send some?
OK that looks like a naked demand but she follows right up.
I miss having food at home. They never cook veggies here -- and when they do, it's drowned in yucky stuff.
Perfect. She expresses missing exactly what her mother values most and uniquely supplies. Just brilliant. Tim Tams -- if we can find them -- are on their way.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Camp and candy

As regular readers know, my eldest daughter is at summer camp. Her mother did not believe she should bring any 'special treats' to camp. This is part of the general belief that special treats should been restricted at every opportunity. I, on the other hand, was pretty sure that treats were a key part of the camp experience. When dropping her off, I snuck in a few things but it was clear that it wasn't going to last the two weeks. Her cabin mates had large stashes and clearly more neglectful or loving parents depending on your perspective.

Now while I could have sent her a care package, moving to large quantities in secret seemed too much. So instead I opted for shameless manipulation. I told my daughter that she should write a letter immediately saying citing social problems as a result of her treat poverty. 

"You mean that I can't make any friends because I don't have treats to share?"

"No, more like 'I feel left out because others have more.'"

We received a letter on cue reading "Dear Mum and Dad, I love it here! But I do feel a little left out because I have the smallest amount of treats." etc. Suffice it to say, a care package is on the way  (with home-made Anzac biscuits and M&M's) and also we have just given her an incentive to write more. What is more I have begun a process of passing on what small knowledge of intra-household manipulation to my daughter. So we can classify it under "education."

Monday, July 12, 2010

Summer camp

With three months of summer here in the US, there was no doubt we were going to avail ourselves of an extensive array of summer camp options. Now unlike the foreigners who were profiled on This American Life, we knew that the US summer camp tradition was more formal than driving your kids to a camp site with a bag of groceries, pitching a tent and leaving them there alone for a week. (Yes, that actually happened to someone). But the kids had imagined a summer camp ideal akin to what they had observed at the movies. So the search was on for that.

But before that traditional notion, I was determined to expose the kids to the technology-based camp options available in the Boston area. So for the last two weeks, the two eldest have attended the Digital Media Academy at Harvard University. They were supposed to go for just a week but my son was enrolled in an "Adventures in Cartooning" class which, at the last minute, was found to have just one attendee. Apparently, that isn't a great experience so to compensate us for that loss, we got an extra week for free. My son ended up doing a game design course which turned out to teach him enough so that he could design around 10 games by the end of the week. None are killers but he did come away with the insight that "it is much harder to program games where you play against the computer than where two people play against each other." My daughter did a Photoshop course and suffice it to say, became President of the US as well as placing Wizards out in the open in muggle territory clearly performing magic. Both activities kept them quite happy for the entire week. In the second week, they participated in a movie making course. Of course, the 11 year old was horrified that she had to be in the same class as the 9 year old but, hey, it was free! They wrote, filmed, acted and edited (with special effects) an 8 or so minute spy movie. I think they came away with an appreciation of just how hard it is to make a movie, let alone something good. We enjoyed seeing their final products and differing interpretations. 

For the next two weeks, they are both attending overnight camp. I drove the 11 year old out to New Hampshire for a camp that was exactly movie like with cabins, an eating hall, and a lake all out in a forest. As we drove up, a squad cheered our arrival before we were moved into the 'lice' queue which all parents seemed to appreciate. During that time, we heard more cheers as another camper arrived and I commented (loudly) "hey, it looks like they weren't just happy to see us." Of course, my daughter couldn't escape the line. I then dropped my daughter off at her cabin. These cabins had disappointing names like 'Cabin G' rather than the expected quasi-native American cast off that was more 'movie accurate' but I guess that's the times. The cabins had well worn bunk beds and (I guess) atmosphere. As we unpacked, I started to quiz my daughter's cabin-mates about where they were from and that instantly led to the question, "Daddy, when you are going?" At which time, I made a grand exit leaving my daughter grateful she wouldn't be seeing me for two weeks.

Our son, on the other hand, hasn't attended the movie Summer Camp. In the end, when presented with the option he opted for Computer Camp that took place closer to home. Suffice it say, this camp was huge with 150 kids and it was clear that not a one of them was going to be jumping up and down to get in on the regular physical activity that was part of that camp's schedule. Compared to his sister, he was in the lap of luxury and civilisation. Also, for us, there is far more connection as evidenced by the video call we received only a few hours later. 

The house is relatively quiet now; although we still have one child wandering around. She'll likely get much more attention. I suspect those with teenagers appreciate these Summer Camp months more than we do at the moment. For now, it is all character building.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A cry for help!

Release of Amnesia: The Dark Descent is now getting dangerously close and we are hard at work polishing, fixing bugs, spell checking, feeding the beast and answering mails. In between this we also need to have time to do PR work, but unfortunately we do not have time nor resources to do as much as we like. We therefore would like to ask you, dear Reader, for a small favor.

To be able to continue making games we depend on people knowing about them. This is something that you could help out with! Doing so requires very little effort and below follows a list of a some things that would help us tremendously:
  • If you see a preview, news post or whatnot about Amnesia, please Tweet, Facebook, Digg or in some other way post about it and help spread the word.
  • If you find one of our blog posts interesting, up it on Reddit, Retweet and/or share it on Facebook (buttons found at the end of the post)
  • If your favorite gaming blog / website / magazine does not cover Amnesia, drop them a mail saying they should. They are free to contact us here.
  • If a website you frequent is lacking up-to-date information on the game, such as box-shot, release date, etc, mail them about it.
  • Any sort of help in spreading, no matter how small, will be greatly appreciated by us! Many small streams eventually form a river. :)
That's all! Thanks to all of you who have supported us so far!