road to wake

Alan Wake on the road
At Remedy‘s official Alan Wake website a read the buzz section has been added, being a link-collection to press-comments on the presentation of Alan Wake at E3. Furthermore a link to the AlanWAKE.Net Forums has been prominently placed—the developer-company has linked itself officially to the emerging community. At the latter forums there now are world exclusive screencaps of the E3 tech demo to be seen. Naturally they are quite blurry, but are giving a little more impression of Pride Falls’ universe. Call it marketing-strategy or what you like—I sense it to be something more, an integral part of the online-culture of computergames and gamemodding at large. There are direct hints to the Remedy-staff not merely playing the game of marketing, but feeling a certain affection to, maybe even ‘communitas’ with the gamemodders. For example their longtime presence at various Max-Payne forums and practiced interaction, and—most revealing—a ‘secret’ Max-Payne-modding project which one of the Remedy-guys does together with a handpicked posse of modders. In the end, this play of teasing, of secrecy and piecemeal revealing, of luring one to the imagination of being close to the closed developers’ laboratory, definitely has its psychological effect on me. I already feel being there, on the road to Pride Falls.



Space Invaders OuttakesOne rung of the ladder to Jackie Chan’s fame are the famous outtakes at the end of his movies, mainly showing off stunts that went wrong. Jackie getting his head bashed by a pinball machine, Jackie breaking his ankle, and so on. In Pixar’s cg-movie “A Bug’s life” there are outtakes at the end, which play to the fantasy of the animated characters being actors who are subjects to the profession’s pitfalls, too. The Ludologist, Mr. Jesper Juul himself, recently saw those fake outtakes and wondered how fake outtakes of a computergame would be like. As a result he brings to us the hitherto unseen outtakes from Space Invaders. Please go, see and play yourself—yes, computergame-outtakes of course are playable! It simply is phantastic.



Finally I updated and rearranged the sidebar a bit. The blogroll now has its subsections ordered from most close to my project and specialized to farer away and more general (from the top down). The entries in the subsections now are in alphabetical order, and the section ‘anthropology’ is newly added—with the recent explosion of the anthropological blogosphere this became necessary. Below the blogroll my siteroll has appeared, which carries the visible, the public-access-parts of my community’s space. This is where I roam around a lot.

When biXen saw my blog for the first time he meant that the content is very worthwhile to him, but that the site needs a big CSS-overhaul. Frankly, I didn’t quite know what to make of that. After I read that Kerim Friedman had problems with the excellent layout of savage minds when viewed in IE, it slowly trickled into my mind. Well, today I tore IE up from the darkest corner of the cellar, and indeed it messed up xirdalium quite a bit. Now the CSS-settings are adjusted accordingly and xirdalium looks as intented in IE6, too. Although the up-arrows ↑ (marking offsite-links) still look a little scribbled at the point, and even the sixth installment of this magnificent browser (puke) refrains from displaying the beautiful crooked-arrow ↵ (marking links to somewhere inside IE-users: take the little I-do-not-know-about-this-as-I-am-from-Redmond default-square as the marker for in-domain links.


mphq again

Just some minutes ago I discovered that Max Payne Headquarters (MPHQ), the once blooming, thriving, and buzzing core of my community has once again gone online—maybe since 12 May 2005. A new chapter in its changeful and sometimes fateful history. Which gives me the chance for a little roundup of the community sites. The most reliable and sustainable sites—apart from the official 3DR-forums—of the MP-community have been the German ones: Max Payne Area and Max Payne Zone. And those still are quite active, but Max Payne Source, once the hopeful substitute for then vanished MPHQ, idles. Payne Reactor at the moment still undergoes a series of changes, but its interactive side has seen a magnificent rebirth in the form of Max Payne Forums. Deep Six still is going strong, but can not be reached sometimes—or is that just me? Now to the next generation: grows promising, now having 47 registered members—the ‘most users ever online’ suddenly jumped from 21 to 118. WakeReactor and Alan Wake Zone are still in the making.


savage minds

The Savage MindsThere is a new anthropological group-weblog. The savage minds behind the accordingly named endeavor are Alex Golub, Antti Leppänen, Chris Kelty, Kerim Friedman, Nancy Leclerc, and Dustin M. Wax. kindly commented: “Great! A new anthropology group blog! Something like an American version of the German Ethno::log.” This comment is kind in respect to the ethno::log, as with the latter we never had the impact savage minds already has after just some days—and I dare say we never had this kind of quality. Not that the entries at ethno::log lack quality, but they possess a different kind of it. Savage minds is a group weblog for anthropology, like many2many is for social software, or like media@LSE. My experience is that entries at group weblogs normally are of considerable length and more in depth. The ethno::log never was a group weblog, but something of a wiki-weblog, meaning that everybody who registers can post entries. In consequence the group of authors is not defined, but as open as it can be. With a policy like that there is the danger of drowning in spam—but that never happened. What happened was that the ethno::log quickly found a wide readership, but from the start on carried the illness of far too less people who actually fill it with content. What the founding fathers (KerLeone and me) originally had in mind was a global platform for anthropology: news, conferences, call-for-papers, job-opportunities, publications, discussions, and whatyouhave. But that never happened—maybe my view is a bit too bearish and resigned. The two of us, backed-up by activists like fab and 2R, made several attempts to refurbish the ethno::log—but till today it refuses to bloom as we had envisioned. What struck us most was the fact that the vast majority of our institute’s anthropology-students (and we have 1200+ !) never made good use of the ethno::log—despite of random reading. I assumed that the cause was the bondage of having to write in English (as you easily can deduce from my own faulty writing, I am all but a native-speaker, too). So we dropped the language-barrier and allowed every language. Which inconsistently may have cost us quite a bit of our international readership. Anyways, I am terribly proud that both the ethno::log and my xirdalium reside on savage minds’ blogroll.


alan wake zone

The wake spreads—on 18 May 2005 Max Payne Zone has launched its offspring Alan Wake Zone. ADoomedMarine from commented: “Let me just say it’s good to see everyone from the Max Payne community jumping ship and supporting Remedy like that. Agree?” It seems like I was right with ‘Max Payne is dead—long live Alan Wake.’ This comment suports it, too: “We’ll wait and see but we are gonna enjoy this game as a fanatic Remedy hailing community, that’s for sure.”Froz.


holy men in tights

a superheroes conference
Holy Men in TightsAt my institute there once was an anthropological project on superhero-comics and the like in the making, but never took off—I will dig up the material from the past and prey on it. Now a conference on the new gods will take place down under:

Superheroes and supervillains—whether human or god, born or created, product of nature or creature of science—they have existed as cultural icons for centuries. Why have they endured? How have they transformed over the decades? What is their cultural or mythic function? Where does the hero end and the superhero begin?

This interdisciplinary conference will address the varying roles, identities, and social functions that these enduring beings serve. A diversity of approaches will be undertaken including: historical approaches; censorship codes; industry and franchise differentiation (e.g. DC vs. Marvel Comics); mythology; national and cultural specificity; gender identity and power shifts; ethnicity, class and race; diverse media formats (cinema, comics, computer games, television) and their distinctive versions of superheroes; the female superhero; serial form and the cliff hanger; the resurgence in the cult of superpowers in recent cinema; the supervillain; the super-collective; super-auteurs (e.g. Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Tezuka Osamu, Grant Morrison); superhero universes (e.g. Matrix, Star Wars); fan culture and superheroes; the science and physics of the superhero; ancient superheroes; and the ‘hero’ who isn’t ‘super’.

The conference will be held between 9th-12th June 2005 and is hosted by the Cinema Studies Program, School of Art History, Cinema, Classics & Archaeology, University of Melbourne.
via ludology


in the wake

Alan Wake's door
With Alan Wake a new, albeit concealed door to the anthropological understanding of online-communities appeared for me. Striding through this portal hopefully will allow me to shed light on the issues my project is concerned with, by swimming in the wake of a new community. There is the chance to ‘be there’ from the very beginning, to follow every phase of community-building, appropriation, change, and so on. I dropped into the original Max-Payne community quite early, but never was a first-hour member. With Alan Wake I dare say I am. And now the situation is different, because meanwhile—after struggling to develope the project, strategies and methods of online-fieldwork since 2002—I know what to do and how. So I threw my paraphernalia into cyberspaceworthy shipping crates and am off shore in the limbo of my field again. Nevertheless I will go on to keep an eye on Max Payne modding, complete, and write up my meanwhile almost historical material. But now to contemporary action: The first stage of cognitive and emotional appropriation of Alan Wake by the modding community already has started by compiling information on the game. All the tiny, sometimes hidden, valuable pieces of straylight are gathered in order to feel closer and closer to the new, desired game-universe. And the creator gods assist. Some members of the developer team dropped by at the, said hello to everyone, and announced that new screenshots may pop up on the official site during E3. Some more screenshots indeed went online, permitting a good look into Alan’s haunted eyes, and showing changing light and ambiance of the landscape:

Light is completely dynamic, including the day & night time cycles, trees and foliage and water reacts to the wind. Morning, day and dusk all feel completely different and the transitions in weather and time are completely seamless. […]

On the tech side, we’re doing things like complete modeling of atmospheric scattering, fully volumetric shadows that are projected through the entire world, high dynamic rendering, full weather modeling, day/night time cycles, ambient occlusion, normal mapping and so on.

We’re pretty keen on making the world feel real, so we’re pushing the envelope to get the content creation to a new level as well. In addition to all of the basic research stuff like texture shooting on location and so on, the elevation data in the environments is based on satellite data. Even the stars on the sky are procedurally generated to be completely accurate in position and brightness.

(Petri Järvilehto in Alan Wake Q&A)

It’s fun to follow this play of teasing between developers and online-fanhood/modding-community. And it’s fun to roam around on the new community’s premises. At I already met again quite some old-schoolers from the MP-community whom I haven’t seen for quite a while (which may well be my own fault). And there is all the joking around and crazy stunts like the 10.000 posts plus thread, just as it was in the times of thriving MPHQ—I feel at home.


alan wake

a psychological action thriller
Alan Wake
ForestAs E3 approached the usual straylight had again started to sift through the closed hatches of the nordic creator gods’ realm—and hit my modding community of course, too. Everything seems to have started on 19 April 2005 with a casual sidenote at cgonline, saying that a new game by “Max Payne creators Remedy will be showcased at E3. Then Remedy said that it will be something new, completely different. On 21 April 2005 Lon Matero posted at the 3DR forums that he had discovered something: Remedy has registered Alan Wake as a trademark (The only other trademarks applied for by the company are ‘Remedy’ and ‘Max-FX Technology’). Speculations started that this will be the name of Remedy’s new game. ShackNews shared this suspicion the very same day. Not very much later was discovered—without carrying content yet. On 04 May 2005—in two different threads at the 3DR forums—Jokke_r and smattbac at the very same time posted the news that the Alan Wake website now was filled with first glimpses of the game. From then on the information spread rapidly. And the Max Payne community reacted.

LighthouseStill on the same day MP-veteran ADoomedMarine erected the first beacon around which the future Alan-Wake community may condensate. He opened an Alan Wake Forum at Max Payne Forums, and on 07 May 2005 he brought online, immediately followed by PayneReactor‘s sister page WakeReactor. Like Stalker Alan Wake now has a modding-community infrastructure long before the release of the game. All this brought a conversation up from my memory, which I had with an employee at TakeTwo a long, long time ago. She asked if I thought that the Max-Payne-modding community was interested in Max-Payne games only, or in everything Remedy creates. Now I suspect that back then she already knew that Max Payne 3 would not be done by Remedy, and that Remedy had something completely different in the pipeline—I know that you are reading this … you easily could trust me a little more ;-) Back to topic: I did not know what to answer, but suspected that the community-members are more attached to the Max Payne character and story than to Remedy. Now I think I was wrong, although the comments are mixed. At the one hand it is said that the real hope was to learn more about Max Payne 3. On the other end of the spectrum reigns a motto like ‘Max Payne is dead—long live Alan Wake.’ For me there definitely is the chance to be absolutely close to the emerging of a new modding community, evoloving out of the Max-Payne community. Wook, are you listening? Will there be Lightsaber 5 for Alan Wake?

VillageWhat we can see in the teaser trailer gives rise to the hope that one indeed can make large maps for Alan Wake which suit the Lightsaber-theme. Apart from that the trailer refrains from showing us any action. The beautiful captions of scandinavian landscapes lets us experience the atmosphere of mystery and the unknown. Jokke_r and some others discovered a secret picture of Alan Wake—which later was removed from Remedy’s website—onto which was written: “Alan Wake is a bestselling horror writer. He made a book about his darkest nightmares. Now those nightmares come true” Is the game about a StephenKingesque writer who discovers that he lives through his own stories? The community also discovered that the lines of text in the trailer (“Some are born to light. Some are born to endless night.”) resemble lines of the poem “Auguries of Innocence” by William Blake: “Some are born to sweet delight. Some are born to endless night.” Light and Darkness—Lightsabers!
Initially via Max Payne Area | tnx to Sentinel for his great summary


deciphering blogs

Some days ago a colleague of mine came to my office and said thank you for my forwarding to her a call for papers, which fell right into the category of her research. “You’re welcome,” I said, “I knew that you are not reading the ethno::log on a regular basis. So I thought direct forwarding would be best.” She replied: “You know what? When I was a kid my mother did not allow me to read comics. I guess that’s the cause why I do not get along with blogs, websites, and the like.”