Sunday, May 29, 2011

5/28: Never heard of Mario's chicken suit?

File this under "Drawing Board, Never Made It Past." Apparently Nintendo gives out a booklet to new hires, to give them a sense of company history, and what they do, since there are a lot of regular administrative jobs that need doing and they won't all be filled with people who, if you cut their head open, the Super Smash Bros. Melee trophy room would spill out.

Two of the drawings that were included in the booklet (which was shared on a gaming message board) were of Mario (and two Toads) in a chicken suit and Mario as some sort of red-haired, horned cloudmaster. If you've played New Super Mario Bros, Wii, you'll of course not remember those suits. They're not in there. But developers spitball a lot of ideas, and they get approved or declined for a variety of reasons. "Demon Mario" (or Owl Mario, or my own designation of Cloudmaster) would have been a great gameplay addition, but maybe it was too similar to being bubbled up.

Chicken Mario is just silly. And maybe that's why it didn't go forward into the game. It's surely made one California teen, Mr. Martin "Marty" McFly, happy -- he hates to be called a chicken.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

5/27: Pop Art: Mario as soda fridge packs

Mario. Soda. 12-packs.


Mario: Coke and I think seltzer. Luigi: Coke Zero and ginger ale. If only the green tube was Mountain Dew...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

5/26: Repixellate that 8-bit Mario game!

Two simultaneous fads -- bigger and better TVs, and a love of old-school video games -- are butting heads. The end result of downloading (or, ahem, attaining) an eighties video game is that it looks weirdly awful on a crisp clean screen, like you're moving a bunch of Lego blocks around. Our eyes used to fill int he gaps between the pixels to make a stack of boxes "Mario." No longer: all we can see is the pile.

Check out the awesomesauce solution. As with many amazing engineering fixes, you need to know German to understand this. Basically, there were always ways to smudge pixels to make them flow, but the algorithm used to do so wasn't perfect. It looked off. Now, though the magic of science, or the science of magic, or possibly just smart guys with computers, there's a way to redraw that 8-bit image and make it look like a cartoon version of what that image was supposed to represent, before it got all pixelated due to technological constraints.

It's not ready to be clamped onto an NES and turn your Goonies 2 into a cel-shaded experience, but it can do marvels with still images. And soon enough, we're guessing, it'll run a test with an established 8-bit game, showing off a whole new look for the same exact gameplay millions grew up loving. Wanna bet, as with a lot of the examples on display, that it'll be Mario?

Note to Nintendo: Please don't hate on this: it's a potential revenue source for you! I'd buy a revamped version of SMB! Lots of other people would! Get someone who can sprecken the Deutch to call them now! Schnell! (Wait, does schnell me now or stop? Better play it safe and use the Harry Pottery Esperantoish Amazing Race-approved word for fast: rapido.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

5/25: Mario's red hat looks like a black hat

News is spreading fast that a Google Chrome app of Super Mario ports is doing some nasty things to people's computers. I'm not jumping in front of this particular bullet and buying it to see how messed up it makes my machine, but second-and third-hand reports (now fourth-hand for you, since you're reading about them from me: click the links to make them second-and thirdhand, and dig deeper if you really care) say they crack open complete access to all your bookmarks, your physical location, your browser history, and all your other apps.

All of this is, believe it or not, aboveboard: it's all in the user agreement -- that thing Kyle from South Park didn't read, to, um, mixed results. No one reads them, because people assume they're legally required and not the work of crooks. "heyimgoingtomugyouokaysayingnothignisconsent," whispered under your breath before you pick someone's pocket, is not a get out of jail free card.

On the other hand, the guy doing this is called "chromitude," which itself is a crime in 18 states. He's illegally selling Nintendo products, pocketing the money, and then (I'm spitballing here) linking all the computer into a zombie beowulf cluster to go help Flynn on his sky cycle fight the Master Control Program. But one of the nice things about the Internet is that it's filled with eRobin Hoods. Some white-hats (good hackers) will find out who he really is, and after that he will regret telling those CalTech students doing laser research that he hates popcorn, but loves his new house.

5/24: Koji Kondo's playing to help Japan

The man who's given us all of the Super Mario tunes over the years is Koji Kondo. I the book I wrote that the "correct" way, with macrons (little straight lines) over the Os in his first and last name. Separately from that, I proofed the book's index. (They have someone who's job is it to produce the index for all of the books, which is good because I'd be very troubled wether a brief one-time mention of, say, Huey Lewis and the News is enough to that band in the index. And then are they L? N? H?

Those decisions have already been made, so all I had to do was proof the language used. And I did, and lo it was good. I said things were five by five (switching from one type of faith-speak to another -- both a bible AND a Buffy joke), and then out of nowhere I realized that -- AAAAAHHHHHH! -- we had forgotten Kondo-san's macrons. "Stop the presses!" I actually typed. Turns out the presses hasn't started, so the change was made.

Koji's back in the news, since he came up with a new medley of his Mario-san melodies for an upcoming charity album to raise money for tsunami relief. Lots of other I-LOVE-this-song guys on here, from Bear McCreary to Nobou Uematsu. It was all arranged by Silent Hill songster Akira Yamaoka, and will be available on iTunes soon.

And no, I didn't use macrons when writing his name this time around. Because I'm on vacation, and while I'm not stopping writing these up (from hotel rooms) I am drawing a line at pronuncatory punctuation. if for some reason I have to mention some dude with a tilde in his name, there will be no tilde. (Unless it's her.)

Monday, May 23, 2011

5/23: Robots vs Spiders: Super Mario edition

As far as I can tell, via the powers of deduction, this web site is run by Skynet. Yes, "Super Mario Outlet" is trying to take over the world, but it's starting small: your eyeballs.

It's pulling every article it can, from each wispy tether of cyberspace, about Super Mario. You put Super Mario in the title, and it'll show up in this thing's news feed. Is it smart enough to also pull in Luigi stories? Stories about regular people who happen to be called Mario?

Click on "about:" "All Mario all the time!" Followed by "if you are interested in advertising opportunities..." But why advertise, when they'll publish anything you say...for free? Read on for the deets. (I have to stop using that word; I'm not ten.)

The site seems to have two different posters, "admin" and "editor." Reminds me that dog food companies sometimes break up the fake-junk listing in dog food into two components, so that "meat" can be ingredient #1, followed by filler and slightly renamed filler. Think this is the same thing here, None of the stories have any comments, the headlines and first paragraphs are obviously being cut off by some word limit instead of by a human editor, and it keeps on asking why salt water falls from our meatbag orbs when we witness a human pupae being delivered.

And the best thing is, since this story has Super Mario in the headline, it's heading over tot he Super Mario Outlet. Have a blog yourself? Go ahead, just throw Mario's name up there and Super Mario Outlet will spot something about YOU, too! Man, if it wasn't so late I could really brainstorm something fun to do with the lack of guidance behind the wheel over there...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

5/22: Mario Art Installation #9 (collect them all!)

One of the inherent problems of selling the 3DS is that you can't film what it does. What it does is a) create 3D images that by definition can't be seen outside that top screen, b) play AR games that are mild controllable meth-addled hallucinations only you can see, and c) Nintendogs. So they show a 3D image, and pan over and you're looking at it on a commercials, and that's not really what it's like, but it probably beats showing some guy waving his 3DS around the room yelling "I'm trying to kiss myself! I have to shoot me! Aah, balloons of my uncle Chuck are attacking wearing samurai helmets!" Now that I've written that, Nintendo should ABSOLUTELY make that its new ad campaign. The 3DS: An Acid Trip for the Whole Family.

(Same thing for any TV ad. You have a superbright screen with 1080i? Well I'm watching your commercial on a 13-inch CRT from 1996. All I can tell is that your monitor shows pictures of the beach, and possibly will make my carpet sandy.)

Here's a third example of something you can understand easily enough by watching, but not by explaining. It's a Super Mario level where, to paraphrase Jon Lovitz in League of Their Own, the station moves, not the train. Mario stays in his box, but the background scrolls, and hiccups when he jumps. The execution won't win any engineering points for smoothness, but the idea behind it (showing a familiar world in a new way) is inspired.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

5/21: I stand corrected: THIS is the world's biggest NES controller!

There are lessons you have to learn the hard way. One of them is not angrying up the gods of the Internet, as I apparently did when I mentioned that a coffee table shaped like an NES controller was "the single biggest controller of all time." did not that, and cast down proof that whatever we saw is the ultimate, we're merely a couple of Dutch engineering students away from eating our own words.

Kotaku and others have unDutched story, for those of us who do not speak the language of Rutger Hauer. Want to play Super Mario Bros, or Tetris? Button-pund them...with your feet.

Friday, May 20, 2011

5/20: Somebody's getting Super Mario married!

As Dave Barry would write -- heck, if he's up on current events he may be writing about it right now -- I am not making this up.

Meet Elijah Slagter and Bobbi VanZante. I don't know if they've heard about the other Super Mario wedding proposals, but they're one-upping (1-up, get it?) everyone else with a Super Mario-themed wedding.

And before you think "Cool, a Super Mario groom cake," read the link -- I implore you -- because it will reinforce the not-making-this-upness of events. She will be dressed as Princess Peach. He will be dressed as Mario. Father of the bride? Dressed as Bowser. Everyone else in attendance? Encouraged to dress up as any other Super Mario character than Mario or Peach.

And to think, they called me crazy for sinking all my book profits into a Waluigi-styled Central Iowa tux rental business! This'll make me rich! Rich! The wedding, by the way, is Saturday, August 6 -- two days after the Super Mario book hits stories. You know, it does make a perfect wedding gift...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

5/19: Yet another new way to show Mario in 3D!

Nintendo means two different things when it says "3D." The first started around 1995 or so, when it started rendering Mario and Link and all your Captain N superstar pals in three dimensional, instead of being flat like paper dolls. The second just started earlier this year, when it took those rendered characters and started shoving them in your face like it was popcorn or harpoon guns from Friday the 13th Part 3.

So when I describe these art pieces by John Buonvino as "3D," you may very well not know what I mean. Has he found a way to recreate a 3D movie on a screen? No. Did he draw Mario popping popcorn and shooting a harpoon gun right at you? No. Did he take Mario 64 and rerender that as a flat game? No, as if he did that would be the opposite of 3D.

What he DID do is take a series of action scenes from classic NES games, mostly Mario, and rebuild them sprite by sprite in his I'm-going-to-guess-Mac. Except the sprite he used were 3D, not flat squares. So when he was done, the result looked just as it should...but it allowed him to then pivot his internal camera around and show a whole host of new views. Even the score rotates! Basically, imagine putting your head inside the TV, and looking around.

nes 3d renders by john buonvino

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

5/18: Lady Gaga's Princess Peach impression

Lady Gag hasn't exactly been sedate when it comes to promoting her works. She's not exactly a TJ Maxx shopper. ("Hi, I'm looking for a Kermit-head dress, size eight. Marshall doesn't have it. Is it next to the fireworks bras?") Yet she's mainstream enough -- everyone likes her -- so she can get away with partnering with FarmVille, that most Aunt Helen of Facebook apps, to players can stream some of the songs from her new album.

Which got one of the writers at Entertainment Weekly, the Aristotilean pinnacle of pop culture magazines, to drum up a list of OTHER video games Ms. Gaga could invigorate with an appearance. First on the list: Super Mario 64. Sez Christian Blauvelt:

"Gaga’s never really been the damsel in distress type, but she may have more in common with kidnap-prone Princess Peach than you think. Imagine Bowser replaced by an eyepatch-wearing Alexander Skarsgard — Peach’s mustachioed rescuer could be played by Gaga’s male alter ego “Joe Calderone” — and you’ve got yourself Super Mario Paparazzi."

Give the site some traffic-y love if you want to see the complete list of ten.

5/17: Mario's plumb positioning

This is certainly the first time I've passed on a link from, but they're the opposite-of-unlikely source for a great selection of pictures about Super Mario art related to plumbing. We've got actual plumbing trucks decorated with Super Mario, we've got actual toilets decorated with Super Mario. We've got Super Mario and Luigi working an actual plunger.

I've never seen him work harder. Honestly, I've never seen him work at all. This is a subject I plan on bringing up with Mario, when I sit down with him for our scheduled interview. If all goes well, and he doesn't chicken out, we'll be airing it in the weeks leading up to the book's launch. I hope he's forthcoming about why we never see him chipping away at okum or sealing a new flange.

Monday, May 16, 2011

5/16: M is for Mario, W is for Wario

This isn't world's hardest video game puzzle, not for the stalwarts, those who remember the days of raytracing. (It's a sight easier than this Nobel-worthy attempt to chronicle over a hundred games, of every stripe, in cupcake format.) But what it is is sweetly brilliant.

It took me a few letters to realize the genius behind this: not only is Link masquerading as a letter, he's masquerading as the letter L.

video game characters alphabet

Sunday, May 15, 2011

5/15: Mario's top 45 deaths...with five extra deaths!

Count how many different ways you've killed Mario over the years. Singed by lava, fall through a hole, drown, smacked by Bullet Bill...the list can go on. In fact, the list goes up to 45 separate ways Mario can meet his demise.

Here's proof. This gorgeous piece of art, by Yves Bourgleas, includes such I-forgot-I-killed-Mario-this way classics as "Lasered," "Ghost House," and "Black Hole." Sure to liven up any apartment, provided the residents are the sort who want to see cartoon characters slaughtered on their walls every day.

I broke the Internet the last two times I tried posting the pic, so I'm going to ask you go click on the link that is hot in the pargraph above if you want to see it for reals.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

5/14: No boss key in the world can hide this

Want to know where I wrote the Super Mairo book? At my desk.
Note: This is not my desk.