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Half Life – Escape from Reality

May 25, 2009 2 comments

We have oh so many reasons to worship at the gilded feet of ATi and Nvidia at the moment – their continual graphics development has lead to some extremely immerse and consuming games of late, with the promise of still more to come as the Silicon wars heat up. Although many have heralded the start of ‘real life’ or (‘VR’ in the 1990s) quality computer graphics as just being ‘around the corner’ in practice we are nowhere near. (Ask anyone who does Ray Tracing about their render times). :D

Despite significant leaps of late, GPU hardware presently lacks the horsepower to pull this feat off and as a result, game engines utilise trickeries which enhance the final rendered images on our screens. HDR/ Bloom to simulate ranges of lighting, AA / bump/parallax mapping to give flat textures the impression of having three dimensions, film grain and post processing (to name just a few) are all examples of ways in which we are catapulted into the darkest realms of the minds of game developers.

And you know what – it works. It works because the vast majority of games are not based on real life and there is a good reason for this – they would probably be slow paced and/or boring. It is much easier to transport a player into a gritty or glossy world and tell a story where the developer has complete control over the experience – and it is fun. Although please don’t get me started on recoil-less rifles, enemies who can take so much fire to put down you would expect them to look like apple cores, ‘unlimited’ ammo vehicles and some of the other ‘realistic’ travesties that have occurred in recent games.

I would write more on this topic, but I should veer back onto the point. Short films inspired by games are not new, however upto now they were normally poorly voiced over clip shows rendered in the originating game engine. However this is different- I discovered recently; well actually it was back in February so sue me 8) , Escape from City 17.

I can already see the 60 Watt bulbs illuminating above your heads, but for those of you on energy saving varieties, City 17 is the fictional setting of Half Life 2. The fan movie really serves as an advert from ‘The Purchase Brothers’ and it is fantastically put together considering their tiny budget. It blends the oppressive Orwellian City 17 with real life environments seamlessly resulting in a fantastic short video which I highly recommend.

At the rate Valve are working, Half Life 3 Episode 2 may look just like this… probably not worth ordering a bunch of 4870s or 295 GTXs in anticipation though.

Directorate of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Policy

January 21, 2009 1 comment

There are two rather good sites for anyone interested in UK politics by mysociety.org (which is a third incidentally). They are WhatDoTheyKnow and TheyWorkForYou, the former providing a framework for making freedom of information requests to various ministries and the latter for keeping an eye on your (and other) MPs.

But this isn’t just shameless linkblogging, I found a rather amusing freedom of information request applied for by ‘Lewis’ to the Ministry of Defense. In his request, ‘Lewis’ asks about our nuclear missile codes as well as specifics about warhead capability.

[I would like to]  ask whether the UK has the launch codes for them, and if the british (?) do i request a
list of all the nuclear missles owned by our country …

Rather unsurprisingly, the reply was a little vague :

[ We ] strongly [are] against disclosure … as release would provide highly classified information to potentially malicious parties concerning the UK’s nuclear deterrent…

Surely everyone knows that the UK’s launch codes are printed on a cracker in Gordon Brown’s pocket.
This so that, if ever caught (or hungry), he could simply consume the codes at the tax payer’s expense.

So there you have it, a useful resource and an anecdote all in one post, what else would one want? :)

For reference, full reply from the ministry of defense.

Quincying and you…

January 19, 2009 Leave a comment

quincying1It seems the much anticipated Playstation Home has, rather then revolutionise the game lobby experience, spawned a rather strange behavioural trend. Apparently all the male avatars gang up on the female avatars pestering them with their attentions… somewhere in the distance, the strained cry of “WOMAN” punctuates the silence followed by a left 4 dead style mobbing. Well, I guess that is what happens when you let pimply love starved socially inept geeks loose on the Internet… but I digress. :)

I chanced on a great little article describing in detail the act of ‘Quincying’. In the infinite world of Ying, yang and Newton’s third law, the Internet has come up with a comical rebuke to this sort of behaviour. Simply take one part beautiful avatar, mix with a pinch of deviancy. Stir for twenty minutes and add a sprinkle of button mashing and what do you come up with?

The process if trivial, create  a beautiful avatar and glide along seductively where-ever other avatars roam. Human (and online geek) nature being what it is, you will have a nice gathering in no time at all. When you have their attention, suddenly change your avatar from striking blond or giant ogre and watch in amusement as your digital ‘peers’ recoil.

Full story and description here.

I am sure there is scope for a detailed sociological study somewhere here… oh well.

From the ‘Deep South’

December 25, 2008 Leave a comment

Just had to share a video I found on DH‘s blog. I give to you Ladies and Gentlemen, a chainsaw gun…

… for those of you so interested in the Gears of War modification, they also do chainsaw bayonets. I am almost lost for words, I guess it could be needed against today’s super animals though… ;)

Categories: Guns, Random Tags: , ,

Lego Miscreants

December 12, 2008 Leave a comment

toy_talibanMinifigforlife, who apparently are not licenced by Lego, have come up with a, dare I say it – a rather cool range of accessories of the budding Lego adventurer. However they have met with a fair amount of criticism from around the world chiefly for their ‘terrorist’ Lego man which some say bears a striking resemblance to a Taliban fighter. Ok, I would have to be blind not to see where the critics are coming from, but for such hysteria over a toy?!? I seem to recall from my childhood that I was playing with Lego Pirates and other such miscreants. Infact, I am fairly sure I once built both the ship and the island fortress in this picture. Good times :-) .

According to wikipedia, the Pirate range started in the late 1980s, so as you can see it is a bit late for Lego to turn around and condemn “violent” and, in their eyes, “non-family friendly” toys. Granted Lego themselves have nothing to do with this new range, but for papers like The Sun (and others, but I feel like picking on The Sun) to write headlines like “Osama Bin Lego” is simply absurd.

Of course violence and terrorism are not concepts to expose young children to, but in this Nanny state we find ourselves in, it never ceases to amaze me how people can get worked up over such petty things. I highly doubt that a child would think along such lines anyway – this is simply a fun baddie like countless others before in the varies Lego franchises. Admittedly this is the first time the Lego ‘bad guy’ has come to vaguely resemble a particular ethnic or social group before (if we don’t count pirates for a moment) but I am sure no disrespect was meant. In fact, I would challenge that such a stereo type (perhaps we should include Call of Duty 4 in this)  is as contrived as the pirate characters were in the first place.

Long and short of it? Stop getting so worked up over nothing – I leave you a particularly nice construction that is definitely not suitable for all ages ;).

rook-small

Categories: News, Random, Rant Tags: , , , ,

Exploding the legend

November 17, 2008 2 comments

I am a bit late on this one given all the fireworks and general merriment of this month have past, none the less I feel the need to post a documentary the BBC did recreating the Guy Fawkes plot. (Background courtesy of Wikipedia for those not familiar with British history.) Except of course, they blow up their life-size replica Houses of Parliament. I didn’t record it when it was first shown 3/4 years ago so I was ecstatic when I found it on youtube, the quality is a little poor but it is phenomenal what that amount of gunpowder could have done.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Part 6:

Part 7:

Part 8:

Halloween special – Science of Candles

November 1, 2008 Leave a comment

Welcome Wizards and Warlocks, something a bit special today (although I know I am a bit late with the Halloween reference) – my friend Louise pointed me towards this short youtube video explaining the science behind candles. It is rather interesting actually, so anyone with a love for science (or just pyromania) — enjoy :)

Spore Spurrned

September 25, 2008 3 comments

Way back in 2005, Will Wright got on a stage and proclaimed the future of gaming did not have to include ultra high resolution graphic, overly flashy animations and scripted environments. He described his vision of a game which was by its very nature, procedurally generated from the textures to the very mechanics themselves.

He got a standing ovation – not just from the crowd, but from me as well which probably looked a bit peculiar to those around me, seeing as I was watching this on youtube. As time went on, gamers were tantalised further and further from videos of Robin Williams creating his own creature to more recently the Spore Creature Creator. All was not well however, unknown to the larger gaming community, storm clouds were forming behind the scenes, the weather system was called EA.

Fast forward to today, the game has been released and for the most part it lives up to Will’s original promises. It is fun, imaginative, very configurable and different. So why have I and many others not bought it?! Why is the rating for the game on Amazon so low? DRM has hit land.

DRM, or digital rights management, is a mechanism or system by which control and access to something (MP3s, DVD / Blueray video, Games etc) is restricted to predefined parameters. Despite countless examples of DRM not working companies still convinced it is their only method of protecting their products press forward with more and more limiting restrictions. Whilst I can understand a system which stops someone buying a game and then installing on ten computers belonging to their friends DRM has gone a lot further. Depending on implementation, it can install hidden software on computer systems, deny owners of legally purchased content (e.g. music) to play it on all their devices and generally inconveniences loyal, legal customers.

But thats all well I good, I hear you say, these companies are stopping people from stealing their work which they are perfectly entitled to. If that were the case, I would agree (despite my reservations.) However such is not the case, you see DRM doesn’t work. Copy protections are circumvented typically quicker than they make it to market. With a bit of know-how, anyone with a reasonable internet connection can illegally download copyrighted music, videos or games which have this copy protection entirely removed. Even more absurdly, in some cases, at a better quality than could be purchased legally! I could go on and on for a while backing up my claims, presenting examples but I am getting off topic.

So why have I yet to buy Spore? Simple, its not that I don’t want it, the converse is true, Spore uses SecureRom coupled with an activation system that allows the game to be installed three times. No more. So if you need to rebuild / reinstall your system or you buy another computer, that’s another install gone. After three installs, the game will no longer work.. that is until you buy another copy. Ludicrous huh? And Spore is not the only game to have such a draconian system, Bioshock and Mass Effect had similar ‘controls’ bundled with them. I did not buy Mass Effect for that reason, luckily I managed to buy Bioshock on steam without such restrictions.

So what is the point of all of this, have EA saved money from people not pirating their game? Quite the contrary, you see, this copy protection system EA seem to be dry humping was cracked and a completely unprotected version of Spore was released to P2P sites before the game was officially released. Turning legitimate users who paid money to buy a game, only to find they were just leasing it, are being driven to piracy sites just to install a game they legally own and others are simply not bothering to buy it, or worst still for EA and Will Wright, pirating it. DRM does not work, certainly in this case EA have lost money than they would have had they released the game with no copy protection. In fact, it made me smile today to read on slashdot that they are being sued because of this tomfoolery.

EDIT: Just found an article with EA relaxing the restrictions slightly. Now you can install the game five times and ‘deactivate’ installed copies. I know someone who installed the game on three PCs when it came out. He is still waiting on EA to de-authorise two of the copies. I will buy the game but only if I can get it without SecureRom and this activation nonsense.

EDIT 2: Ars technica as a great article on this topic, claiming that, despite EA’s stupid DRM Spore has been downloaded more than half a million times. I wonder what percentage were protest downloads?

Monitor the LHC Experiment!

September 12, 2008 3 comments

I found a great link to a couple of webcams that actively monitor the Large Hadron Collider experiment. There are currently two cameras available,

  • Camera 7: looking at the Underground Experimental Cavern from the Saleve side.
  • Camera 8: looking out of the window of the 1st Floor of the SCX building that houses the CMS Control room.

Below is just a screen shot, click through and take a look for yourself :)

Would almost pass as an advert for Command and Conquer Red Alert 3. :)

LHC Hysteria

September 10, 2008 2 comments

I found a beautiful combination of headlines on the BBC news site a moment ago:

Classic..

Categories: Funny Tags: , , , ,
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