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The Esoteric Beat: Skipping, Making, Kombat

Welcome to 'The Esoteric Beat', the news report that provides new and unusual ways to think about games and culture. This week's column looks at virtual skipping ropes, i...
Welcome to 'The Esoteric Beat', the news report that provides new and unusual ways to think about games and culture. This week's column looks at virtual skipping ropes, instant creatures and musical fighting. - Right now Rockstar is busy putting the finishing touches to its virtual playground in its rough-and-tumble game Bully, but it seems unlikely that the game will feature peripheral support the less visceral playground toys of old, like the humble skipping rope. Well, this time we've uncovered a virtual skipping rope partner [QT movie], who will be more or less inclined to play with you depending on how good you are at reacting to then imaginary spinning of the rope. If motion tracking has a future, then perhaps it's down to designers to find actions we're all familiar with on which to base their games. The EyeToy-like skipping rope device is part of a display for the hugely diverse Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria. - Time for something just a little more practical: like this freeware tool for creating virtual creatures. Modulobe is a simple physics engine that allows designers to build simplistic moving skeletons, a little like the popular 2D web toy Sodaplay. Simple variations based on the functions of various simple objects allow animal types to be created procedurally. This kind of design has already found its way into games, most obviously in Will Wright's Spore, which will provide players with a creature editor very similar to the Modulobe tool (although significantly prettier, as Wright's GDC demo illustrated). One problem though: the Wiki for using Modulobe is, sadly, in Japanese. - More cultural integration hit the news this week with New York band The Trophy Wives using a beat-em-up as an interactive backdrop [.QT movie] to their set. The actions of the characters are 'controlled' by the music. "We found an open source version of Mortal Kombat," band member Matthew Kane implausibly told NY1 News. "The programmer just switched it around so that it was recognizing midi messages instead of normal keyboard messages. So, for example, if you had a video game controller you could press A and it would equal a certain move - it could be a punch or a kick - because midi translates these musical messages into binary code, it could just as easily be a note on a keyboard or a drum pad." Could Goro be the next big thing on the Brooklyn New Wave scene? We'll keep you posted. - Presumably the Trophy Wives should be top billing for any after-convention entertainment at the forthcoming Game Hotel, an event celebrating 'games and pop culture' in Paris on September 15th, and a previous featured attraction at Game Developers Conference in 2004. Those who fancy a trip to the French capital, and some edifying lectures and events focused on the influence of Japanese games on wider culture should head over to the Game Hotel website - guests include Keita Takahashi, Tetsuya Mizuguchi, Mark Healey, and Alex Rigopulos. [Jim Rossignol is a freelance journalist based in the UK – his progressive games journalism has appeared in PC Gamer UK, Edge and The London Times, to name but a few.]

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