Friday, July 28, 2006


Last night I had Sausages and Mash for dinner. Well, Sausages at 6 O'Clock and Mash at Midnight; does that count as Sausages and Mash for dinner?

Then I went dreamy-bye-bye, and thought about ambling barefoot over the paving stones of didsbury, aimlessly walking to work. Then I dreamt of games, and got so annoyed at myself for my addiction I tried to think of ways of forcing myself to stop. At university I used to give my power cables away every time I wanted to work; now I think a little dynamo powering off your body's movement would do the job. Every time the circuitry detects that the average input rate (over the course of a day) drops below a certain rate, the battery would start discharging, niggling at first but increasingly painful. Which would certainly make you jump up and do some exercise. If you were playing games for too long, sitting still, that would bring the average input rate down, shocking you into motion. Exercise would buy you lots of time playing games, so we could hope for a pavlovian reaction in the long run, where the gamer starts associating exercise with pleasure and games with pain. Yay!

Thursday, July 13, 2006


...and Nintendo! I don't how to broach this but, as a gamer, I'm really excited to see what you're doing with the Wii controller, Digital MM and euphoria, especially for the Indy game!

Peter Hirschmann, Vice-President of LucasArts:
(Laughs) You want a Wii world exclusive?

I'd have to hide it, I wouldn't be able to tell anyone, it would be terrible, a horrible secret I'd have to keep to myself.

The burden of writing for a platform-specific magazine.

How am I going to keep this to myself?

Expurgated excerpt from an interview I did with the LucasArts head of games for the magazine! I'll link to the rest when it crops up.

Day in the life

Day in the life

Multiple alarms go off. I'm lying in dirty sheets with an Oblivion hangover and I should be getting up for work. Instead of which I've piled all the duvets and my too-many pillows and cushions up (incidentally crushing my plush Gonzo) and thrust my face in, feeling for the crisp coolness of unused linen. Eventually I get up, have a cold shower, and wonder if there's any fodder in the house I feel like eating. I pull on sandals, as it'll save on washing socks later and go down, through my flats.

Longfield house is a bipolar place, with the landlord promising all these improvements, none of which are thought through properly. So to stop tramps sleeping on the roof outside my window, he blocked off the fire escape. To improve the look of the concrete entrance ramp, he covered it in sheet metal that is lethal in ice or rain. The postboxes have been replaced three times, because they can't get the numbers right – and the flaps are so big, anyone wandering in from the street can nick the post. Anyone can wander in from the street because the security system has been deactivated. It's been deactivated because the intercom doesn't work and not enough keyfobs have been handed out to the other residents of the building. The building has a caretaker but he doesn't clean the building itself, merely sweeping up the leaves outside. Inside there's piled rubbish, holes in the wall and bird crap coating the stair-wells, presumably from when a pigeon got in when they were jerry-building the new flats in which we live. No-one I've met, apart from us, likes living there.

I walk through Longfield house quickly.

I walk ten minutes to Ealing Broadway, spend twelve minutes on the overland to Paddington, hop on the underground to Marylebone, walk to the office, and wait for the lift.

Then it's a long day of typing. Yesterday I made about fifteen phone-calls, sent thirty emails, wrote a two-page preview of a game, played squash with Jamie Sefton at lunchtime (having gashed my index finger with a big knife at the weekend, I can't hit straight or hard, and lost badly 5-0), interviewed the head of LucasArts game development over a crackly transatlantic line, stopped a copyright-infringing image going on our cover and took some time to browse the internet and catch up on news stories.

Somedays I even talk to people.

I then reversed my lengthy homeward journey, bought a cookie, stopped in and picked up some cheap canvasses for the painting I never get around to doing, bought some absolute cheap crap from Morrissons, went to a bar with my flatmate Jamie and ate some nachos, drank some white wine, went home, played Oblivion for four hours, had some dinner at midnight (ribs and rice), went into my room, cleared the crap off my bed, started my computer up, listened to radio 4, twiddled, brushed my teeth, installed a duplicate-file finder (because I seem to have at least two copies of most of my MP3s) and went to sleep.

Woke up. Repeat.
The Smiths on Charlie's Bus with Sandie Shaw (April 1984)

Wow. That's awesomely surreal. A very young group called The Smiths appear with Sandie Shaw on the kid's show "Charlie's Bus." Watch for the magic disappearing-reappearing child behind Sandie's shoulder.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Strandbeesten in Trafalgar square

Wandering beachcombers in trafalgar square, powered by the wind, the strandbeesten were awesome to behold. Me and Jill went down to see them a couple of weekends ago.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Warning! Game Related Blog - Prey Physics

This post is about the use of theoretical physics in the science fiction shooting game Prey. Don't get me wrong, Prey is not an ideal game; it's stupid, bloody and enormously derivative in everything it does, from combat, to weapon selection, to the plot. That said, it raises some questions about physics and biology that are quite interesting and worth exploring. I know I don't normally talk about games, mainly due to a desire to maintain the work-life separation but a conversation with Steve Hogarty of PC Zone intrigued me enough to write this.

Prey - upside

First off, its wall-walking technology is interesting. Simply put, there are powered ramps on the walls which, when you walk onto them, flip your perspective around so you're like a fly walking up the wall, and gravity is apparently always perpendicular to you. It's not possible that you're just stuck by your feet, as your legs wouldn't be able to cope with your entire body weight shifting from the vertical to the horizontal to the inverted vertical, whilst running and shooting; you'd fall over at the knees and just hang there.

So there must be a field covering the entire walkway to hold you in place. However, when a hunter is killed on an upside-down walkway he immediately falls off (likewise if you jump), indicating that the point of contact is only at the base of the foot, or that the field only maintains strength as long as you're in contact with it (like the giant Antaeus from the myth of Heracles only maintaining his tremendous strength so long as he was in contact with the ground.) Still, if you jump into the walkway, it doesn't grab you back by that part of your body, so it can't be a mere contact thing. Nor are you wearing special boots or anything of the sort.

Prey - portalfeet

The portals are extremely problematic. These consist of two linked holes, allowing you to move anywhere on the level. While wormholes are theoretically possible, there are multiple problems with these as they are expressed here. Firstly, they should cast shadows if they allow light to pass through their entrances - and they allow you to see people through the portal entrance, so light does pass through. However, if they don't allow light to pass through, they should be black circles on the side you can enter through, and be perfectly transparent from the back. These portals allow light to pass through the entrance side, so you can see into them, and are perfectly transparent from the back. This doubles light, effectively creating it. With this system, you could place one entrance to a portal behind the other, so the light passing through the back of one would be endlessly be recycled, growing in strength exponentially, creating limitless energy from nothing - which counteracts the first law of thermodynamics.

Secondly, there are problems with what is allowed to pass through the holes. Light and sound seemingly can, but gravity cannot. Whether other electromagnetic waves can isn't clear - your shots, which vary from pure energy to projectiles, can pass through. The other key forces to the universe (the nuclear forces, etc) seem to be unaffected. Perversely, the light from your lighter cannot pass through the portal either.

Thirdly, approaching the portal from the side or rear. If you walked into the back of the portal, then backed off, would the intruding piece of your body simply shear off? If not, how does the portal qualify what is a full entity and distinguish it? Approaching if from the side would surely shear the entity along the line of approach, like the finest nanowire. Unless, of course, the edges of the portal are robust and solid in themselves - which they're ostensibly not.

And what if someone walks through the back of a portal while someone else is exiting it? Would they appear on the same spot? Would they mingle? If you force that many atoms into the same space, surely they'd explode. What if you poked your finger into a mirrored portal - one that the surface for entrance and exit are the same? Surely you'd be able to touch yourself, much like you can in normal life, albeit in a mirrored form. In crude terms, you could give yourself a reach-around!

Finally, the portals seem to float above whatever surface they're fixed to. We have to assume they're held in place by magnetic fields or something like that, as if they weren't imagine the problems - dropping a portal onto the surface of a planet would result in it spewing out a tube of material at its other end, as gravity sucked it down, endlessly consuming until it hit the planet's centre.

There's a lot more problems with the physics of Prey and they simply haven't thought the issues through at all. They make for a fascinating physics test of the rigours of science fiction, which is more interesting that the game itself.

Prey - manpants

I can't justify this though.