Archive for the ‘Off Topic’ Category

Dateline Mar. 3, 2003: Ready For A Real World Safe House?

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

If you like spy conspiracies and ever have the opportunity to visit Milwaukee, Wisconsin, you have to checkout International Exports, Ltd.

International Exports, Ltd. is a ‘front’ for a spy themed restaurant and nightclub called Safe House. Prepare to be immersed in the world of prohibition era spies and experience a club quite unlike anything you’ve ever seen outside of Hollywood. They don’t advertise or display their real name anywhere. You can only learn of it by word of mouth.

Once inside, you are greeted by a doorkeeper that requires a password before she lets you proceed through a secret passage hidden behind a bookcase.

The entire restaurant and club spans three separate buildings and is full of hidden passages, fake doors, secret panels and other accoutrements of a classic safehouse. Doors often open to reveal brick walls, while other doors are hidden behind sliding panels. One room is accessed by a spinning booth. Once your party is seated, a hidden switch causes the booth to revolve revealing another room.

Visitors are encouraged to arrive dressed in appropriate spy attire. Guests and management can monitor those that wander through the maze of passages. If you get lost enough, a member of the staff will approach you and help you find your way. There are three well hidden exits and a new member only hidden entrance is under construction.

The spot opened in 1966 and remains popular with both locals and visitors. Your Safe House in Milwaukee is located behind the stately office of International Exports Ltd., 779 N. Front Street, Milwaukee, WI 53202, downtown, in the shadow of Milwaukee’s City Hall, near the intersection of north Water and east Wells Street.

Dateline Jan. 20, 2003: Imperial Wars: Another Spin on Cooperative Online Gaming

Friday, June 4th, 2010

What do you get when you cross TerraQuest, Traveller and The Beast? You get Imperial Wars. Five years in development, it combines some of the best elements of immersive campaigning and role playing without requiring anyone to give up their real job, families, or both!

You can read the [″ full article] on OGCAN.

The creator of Imperial Wars, Intelligent Life Games, describes the core element as the metagame. The metagame is “that cool stuff that happens outside of the game rules, where people talk across the table, make local rules and generally enjoy the social aspects of an activity with others.” Essentially, the stuff that happens in the Iwars Universe facilitates the metagame.

According to Scott Miller, PR man for Imperial Wars, “In the game is full email and instant messenger, whose address books are populated as you meet the other Starlords in your own pocket universe. But maybe the best thing about the game is the ease with which it fits itself into your lifestyle and yet retains the immersive quality of a long-term game. Unlike games that demand your complete and full attention, IWars co-exists with the rest of your life. It brings back not only the really fun social aspects of gaming but also those wonderful lost emotions of anticipation and contemplation. This is not a game for everyone; it’s not the long-awaited breakthrough game of the Internet masses. The target is much higher than that. We just wanted to make the most fun game that we could think of. ”

IWars is different because it has its roots in older Play By Mail (PBM) games rather than persistent worlds like Ultima Online and even Colossal Cave. The game development started five years ago and was intended from the outset to use tools players already are familiar with, such as email and IM.

Imperial Wars recently completed their closed beta and is now accepting applications for the [public playtest]. The game universe includes 350 diverse worlds traversed by hundreds of star fleets. The revenue model for the game will be based on turns with other elements of the game available for free. Turns are expected to cost $3.95 each with a monthly cap of $10.99 for games with faster paced activity.

Because the focus of the gameplay is based on interaction and strategy, players have no need to engage in time-consuming activities to build their status or increase levels. The initial game pace will seem slow for players unaccustomed to this form of gaming, but as you meet other ‘Starlords’ and encounter more of the universe, the number of options available and time required to effectively execute your strategy will increase to meet whatever amount of time you intend to spend.

With the information I gathered from the article, the positive discussion on how the gameplay progresses, and my affinity to sci-fi plots, I’m very excited to see how this game turns out when it launches.

Dateline Jan. 12, 2003: BMW Films Season 2 Immersive Game Ends in Vegas

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

BMW Films gave away a 2003 BMW Z4 Roadster last night. The endgame in Las Vegas was the culmination of an extensive online scavenger hunt three years in the making.

The online game was discovered by following a [ mysterious link] denoted with the symbol :k: found at an Apple website.

The goal was to follow the clues online to uncover six keys. By mailing the list of keys along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope, players received an envelope containing an entry for a chance to win the BMW. Out of several thousand players who began the search, only 250 became eligible for the top prize.

At least four members of the various ARG communities were present for the endgame in Las Vegas. You can view three accounts of last nights events at Unforums. The live event brought players from around the United States to the Stratosphere and face to face with some of the actors in the short films from [BMW Films].

The lucky winners, Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan Fisher, are newlyweds from Bellingham, Washington. They’ll be driving home in their new [2003 Z4 Roadster].

Unfiction has a complete write-up of the live event, including plenty of pictures, compliments of Steve Peters.

This was the second game sponsored by BMW Films. They have run one for each of the two seasons they’ve been producing films. According to Steve, who spoke with the winners, the PMs, and quite a few other folks behind the scenes, “As far as what the PMs told me about a third BMW Films game? I wouldn’t know. I’m just a pawn. ;)

Dateline Jan. 10, 2003: Uru: Online Ages Beyond Myst Promises Story and Exploration

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

The recently announced open beta for the online MMORPG sequel to Myst promises to deliver more than open ended interaction and level advancement. They also intend to offer players the opportunity to explore within the context of a complex, interactive story.

Uru: Online Ages Beyond Myst is about to begin closed beta testing.

Unlike [The Sims Online], Everquest, and other games of that genre which focus on open ended play and level advancement, the latest massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) from Ubi Soft will offer something new.

First and foremost, URU will be a game of exploration. The game will have three different environments (personal, neighborhood, and the city). By focusing on exploration rather than conflict and level advancement, the game designers are able to introduce puzzles requiring group interaction that will forward a story. This design philosophy should be an enormous draw to fans of the original Myst.

For fans of online immersive gaming, the potential for a running story, a continual stream of puzzles, and realtime interaction may prove to be an undeniable combination.

The original presss release:

San Francisco, CA - January 8, 2003 - Ubi Soft Entertainment, one of the world’s largest videogame publishers, and Cyan Worlds, Inc., developers of the legendary Myst® and Riven™, today announced their highly anticipated upcoming online adventure Uru™: Online Ages Beyond MYST. Players will have the opportunity to explore and interact with meticulously crafted environments in, around, and beyond the newly discovered underground D’ni empire that predates human civilization. Explorers wishing to help test the game during its beta phase are invited to apply today by visiting

“Uru is an ancient word, the earliest word for city. It is rooted in the idea of a gathering of people, which is precisely what Uru will foster,” said Rand Miller, founder of Cyan Worlds. “We’ve been working for almost five years developing the cutting edge technology, detailed design and breathtaking graphics that allow us to build real-time online worlds that go beyond Myst. Imagine being able to explore lush landscapes, ancient deserted cities, mysterious forests, curious swamps — and that’s only the beginning. We’re trying to provide an environment that’s so engrossing, people will talk about it and share their experience. With Uru the journey is experienced together within the game, with friends, family, even strangers uncovering fantastic places together.”

Uru will take advantage of broadband to deliver a continually updated, immersive environment and storyline, with content that grows, changes and evolves constantly. It will also be the first persistent world to support real-time voice communication. Uru is designed to appeal to a broad audience and enable players of all skill levels and interests to experience expansive ages of the Myst universe in a uniquely social environment. Playing their own avatars, hundreds of thousands of players will meet new people, all realistic impersonations of themselves, play games, solve mysteries and embark on a voyage of discovery with friends. Players will be able to customize their level of interaction with other players, choosing to play alone, with small groups of friends or in areas where they can meet new people.

With 12 million units sold worldwide, Myst is one of the most widely recognized and critically acclaimed game brands in history. “Uru represents an incredible evolution in the Myst product line and in online entertainment,” said Jason Rubinstein, General Manager of “Fans of the Myst series, online socializers, mystery buffs, Internet chatters, multiplayer online gamers and non-gamers alike will be amazed by Uru. It will definitely raise the bar for an immersive online experience, and we expect it to attract new customers to online gaming and perhaps change the face of mainstream entertainment.”

PC users will be able to enjoy Uru, which will be made available through, one of the top ten gaming portals. The final version of the game is scheduled to launch in late 2003 with a closed beta test commencing in January 2003. For more information about Uru: Online Ages Beyond MYST, or to apply to be a beta tester, visit

Dateline Jan. 4, 2003: Cybertrek Winners Announced. Dave Barnett Claims $500 prize

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

SIMPLE CodeWorks announced the grand prize winner and a number of finalists in their online mini-adventure, Cybertrek. Dave Barnett took the $500 prize with his entry.

Cybertrek, a seven chapter mini-adventure played solely on the web, presents players with a number of cryptographical puzzles and increasingly difficult mathematical challenges wrapped around an adventure story.

Of the winner and current list of six finalists, members of [ the Collective] swept at least six of the top seven spots. Dave Barnett, a member of, took top honors and the $500 cash prize for submitting the first email to SCW. The consolation winners will each receive a free copy of The Pro-SIMPLE Combo.

Although the prize has been announced, anyone can still play. The rabbit hole can be found at The game is still very playable and doesn’t have any time sensitive elements that detract from the playing experience.

According to their website, “Will you be able to rescue the old professor from his secret underground laboratory? Will you be able to find the stolen jewels that have been hidden in the Murdock Mansion? Will you be able to escape from the castle of the evil Baron Von Laden? If so, then you might even be able to complete all seven episodes of Cybertrek and discover the true identity of the mysterious “Woman in Black!”

There is plenty there to keep you busy for a couple of days and the game is completely free to play. Playing the game is easier if you download the free version of SIMPLE, but the download is optional until you get to the last chapter.

SCW also plans further installments in the game with Chapter 8 planned for release at some future date. There is no word yet as to whether there will be prizes for the additional segments.

Dateline Dec. 26, 2002: GameSpot Releases Picks for Games of the Year

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

GameSpot presents their picks for 2002 games of the year in various genres. GameSpot had an unsurprising set of choices for their games of the year. You can read the entire feature or go straight to their “best of” adventure game, Role-playing game, and worst game of the year (all genres).

Here is the short list:

Best Adventure Game: Syberia
Best RPG: Morrowmind: Neverwinter Nights
Worst Game: Demonworld: Dark Armies
Game of the Year: Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos

The list closely mirrors the choices made by GameSpy.

Dateline Dec. 19, 2002: TOME: A multi-user LOTR Dungeon

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

If you like to play games with friends and love Lord of The Rings, you might want to check out Tales of Middle Earth. T.o.M.E. is a roguelike dungeon exploration game based on JRR Tolkien’s works.

TOME is based on the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and tries very hard to stay true to Tolkien’s world while making the game balanced and playable.

The game is a character based dungeon similar in style to Dungeons and Dragons, but with appropriate characters, artifacts, monsters and skills. If you are looking for a lot of flash and sizzle, this game is NOT for you. But if you wax nostalgic for games of the past where a good story, a good imagination and interaction with other players are key, you’ll get a kick out of this game.

You can either download a single user version and play solo (Windows, DOS, Amiga, and Mac versions available) or download the multi-user client and play online at (Windows only at this time).

And since we all crave interaction with other players, there is a nicely trafficked message forum where you can post questions, get tips and spoilers, and chat.

Dateline Dec. 18, 2002: Alternatives to Xbox Live

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

The most obvious is a local network of Xboxes, but there are several other options for head to head play on the Xbox over the Internet without springing for the license fee. I found a very interesting article by Brian Livingston at [Infoworld] about alternatives to XBox Live.

One huge problem for many users is that Xbox Live permanently blocks any units that have ever been modded. Even if you remove the mod chip, the unit still can’t talk to the Live service.

The coolest option is the Xbox Gateway. It’s a gateway for your Xbox to let it talk to other Xboxes over the Internet without using an intermediary. You have to run it on a PC with LINUX, but the developer is working on a version that will boot from floppy so you can use it on your PC without screwing up Windows.

Another nifty choice is the GameSpy Arcade. It requires a couple of PC programs to tunnel the SystemLink traffic, but looks pretty easy to configure. Most SystemLink games work and you then have free access to play online. For a one-time $20 fee, you can play ad-free on their network.

Neither of the above options require any modifications to your Xbox.

Dateline Oct. 21, 2002: Gold Treasure Hunt I Solved. $10K awarded

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009 has announced the winner of their first Gold Treasure Hunt. Way to go, Drew Giles of London, England. He won two round trip tickets to Savannah, Georgia to claim his prize of 2 1/4 pounds of gold valued at $10,000. had 30,000 people start the hunt and plans on hosting Treasure Hunt II in the near future.

The puzzle took merely 1 1/2 weeks to develop and took about as long to solve. 9 finalist had the correct city and were provided the final clue.

The complete solution can be found at {Dead link).

The correct, winning answer was In the flowerbox outside of The Six Pence Pub, 245 Bull Street, Savannah, Georgia USA. Finding the solution involved identifying a number of obscure references on the Internet and recognizing three different clues relating to movies filmed in Savannah.