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 Q&A with Messenger games studio, Carbonated Games
Q&A with Messenger games studio, Carbonated Games

dwergs says ( 25 May 2007 ):


Gamasutra last week spoke to Joshua Howard of Carbonated Games, Microsoft's first-party studio responsible for some of the first as well as recent Windows Live Messenger games such as Jigsaw Too, 7 Hand Poker, Hexic, Minesweeper Flags and Uno!. This is my personal selection of quotes:

hexic for messenger"By building games into Windows Live Messenger we were able to prove that there is an appetite for games on that platform Ė at the time this was not a given. We did have revenue goals for the games in Messenger, but we also had usage goals, knowing that usage drives the revenue stream. From the early investments we learned what our users wanted, and have continued to partner with the Windows Live Messenger team to deliver new games"

"There are interesting cultural aspects of Windows Live Messenger as well; in some countries itís seen as rude to send an IM to someone out of the blue, never mind to invite them to a game. Some countries use Windows Live Messenger as a social tool and in others itís more of a business tool. Respecting all of our users is important, but not letting this result in our games being bland for everyone is a challenge."

"From the actual development side, Windows Live Messenger is a dream to develop for. Itís nice that we as game developers get to focus our efforts on the experience, and not on working with a difficult platform. Making great platforms is something Microsoft knows well, and building games for Windows Live Messenger is no exception."
>> Read the entire interview here.

>> Visit the Carbonated Games homepage.

>> Launch Carbonated Games' games via our Messenger games launcher (phew, that really was the second to last "games" in this post).

 Skype worm plots surprise attack on Messenger
Skype worm plots surprise attack on Messenger

dwergs says ( 24 May 2007 ):


Another week, another worm. Although it makes use of the usual social engineering trap, this one's a bit different because it's originally a Skype worm (Win32.Stration) but eager to reproduce in other IM environments as well. The message to avoid looks like this:

Check this out
Give me your opinion
Malware researcher Chris Boyd, who discovered the worm, summarizes as follows:
"The main target appears to be Skype with regards a delivery mechanism for the messages sent, but the potential for the infection to leap across various networks is obviously there. The domains the files are hosted on have been flagged for spam-related practices (Viagra pills, mostly) and the whole operation is very similar to previous outbreaks of these Skype worms. In all likelihood, it's the same people behind this wave of attacks, too."
>> Example in MSN Messenger: screenshot.

>> Read: Skype Worm Variant Targets Other Instant Messaging Clients.

 PC World compares web-based IM services
PC World compares web-based IM services

dwergs says ( 23 May 2007 ):


Not satisfied with your current IM client? PC World's Liane Cassavoy tested six free third-party services that allow you to connect to MSN/Windows Live Messenger and other IM networks from within a browser window. Meebo finished on top, qualifying as one of the "viable replacements for a desktop client" because of its sleak interface and excellent performance. RadiusIM comes very close, but the required registration slows down initial access.

I've summarized all of PC World's ratings, pros and cons and added quick links to the services, reviews and test reports on their features:

1. Meebo: 94/100
Supports AIM, Google Talk, ICQ, iChat, Jabber, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger
+ Lets you connect to most major IM services
+ Lets you store chat logs
- Has difficulty notifying you of new messages
[Website] [Review] [Test Report]

2. Radius IM: 86/100
Supports AIM, Google Talk, Jabber, ICQ, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger
+ Supports multiple IM services
+ Offers unique location-based features
- Requires registration
[Website] [Review] [Test Report]

3. Kool IM: 84/100
Supports AIM, Google Talk, ICQ, Jabber, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, Sametime, QQ
+ Lets you choose between two versions
+ Lets you log on to multiple services at once
- Lacks a typing indicator and time stamp
- No notification of new messages
[Website] [Review] [Test Report]

4. Imhaha: 80/100
Supports AIM, ICQ, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, QQ
+ Buddy list and message windows have a nice layout
+ Offers unique collaboration features
- Service can be slow to respond
[Website] [Review] [Test Report]

5. eBuddy: 77/100
Supports AIM, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger
+ Log-on is quick
- Can't connect to multiple services at once
- Interface is confusing
[Website] [Review] [Test Report]

6. ILoveIM: 72/100
Supports AIM, Google Talk, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger
+ Lets you use an existing screen name and password
- Doesn't let you log on to multiple services
- Interface is busy
[Website] [Review] [Test Report]

I'm not claiming Liane's remarks are 100% appropriate, nor have I thoroughly tested all of these services myself. But I agree that two-year old Meebo is very hard to beat. It does make my browser freeze sometimes when I log in with eight account simultanously totaling over 1000 contacts, but I'm sure other services would struggle as well.

 How do you smile? With your mouth... or with your eyes?
How do you smile? With your mouth... or with your eyes?

dwergs says ( 22 May 2007 ):


Think of a photo of a random European or American celebrity. See it? The exaggerated toothpaste smile? Now think of Japanese manga character and tell me its most striking trait? The enormous eyes? Our culture seems to determine which part of the face we use to express emotions, and this is also reflected in the emoticons we use online. The Japanese differentiate emoticons using various symbols for their eyes, Western users distinguish them mostly through the mouth. At least that's the conclusion of research done by Masaki Yukia, William W. Madduxb and Takahiko Masudac.

"The authors test this proposal using students in Japan and the US, who were shown photos in which various combinations of eye and mouth expressions were Photoshopped onto a single face. Consistent with their model, Japanese students consistently rated those pictures in which the eyes were happier than the mouth as being more happy overall than their American counterparts. In contrast, when the mouth had a happy expression, US students rated the overall expression as happier, regardless of what the eyes are up to.

The researchers noted research suggesting that this eye/mouth bias extends to the online world by citing research which suggested that the Japanese tend to use emoticons with expressive eyes and a neutral mouth (^_^) while Americans did the opposite :-)
>> Download "Are the windows to the soul the same in the East and West? Cultural differences in using the eyes and mouth as cues to recognize emotions in Japan and the United States" [PDF]

>> Via ars technica

PS: If this is the first time you hear about "Kao-moji" (or Japanese emoticons), note that the big difference is that they can be read horizontally whereas the Western emoticons "require" a 90 degrees counter-clockwise rotation of the head. Some basic ones for you to compare:

Smiling: :-) vs. (^_^)
Crying: :,-| vs. (;_;)
Angry: >:-( vs (>_<)
Shocked - :-o vs. (@_@)
Kiss - :-* vs. (* ^)(*^_^*)

 The Humane Society joins i'm Initiative
The Humane Society joins i'm Initiative

dwergs says ( 22 May 2007 ):


For more than a half-century, The Humane Society of the United States has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Its major campaigns target factory farming, animal fighting and other forms of animal cruelty, the fur trade, and inhumane sport hunting practices. And officially since yesterday, the HSUS has joined Microsoft's i'm Initiative making it the tenth organisation you can support without even spending a dime. Just putting *hsus in your Messenger nickname and chatting with your buddies does the trick!

Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO, as quoted in the press release: "The Humane Society of the United States is pleased to be participating in this exciting program. We are searching for every possible way to connect with our supporters and to help them demonstrate their affection for animals and their affiliation with us."

donate to charity without spending a dimeAs expected, the i'm Initiative is expanding and other charity organisations that could be joining the i'm Initiative in the near future include Oxfam, the American Cancer Society, and the World Wide Fund for Nature. Our biggest concern, however, is that it's still only valid in the United States while the buzz has clearly caught on worldwide.

>> Support The Humane Society of the United States and put *hsus in your Messenger Display Name.

>> Download the HSUS Theme Pack (1 x display picture, 1 x conversation background).

>> Animal lover? Browse through our animal display pictures and animal emoticons.

>> For all the details please refer to our i'm Initiative FAQ.

Click Here!

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