Friday, December 30, 2005

Grand Turismo 4 Vs Jeremy Clarkson

In this weeks Top Gear (last of series, repeated BBC2 7pm on news years day) Jeremy Clarkson played Grand Turismo 4, driving a Honda NSX on the Laguna Seca track in north America (the one wit the steep corner) he set a laptime of 1:41. It is then his challenge to do the same laptime, in the same car, on the same track, but for real.

You can watch his attempt online Here and if you want to know his final laptime read the comments.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

define: Game

I have been looking at a lot of definitions for the word Game and it strikes me that none of them have any inclination on the concept of Fun. Games can be indeed not fun or not entertaining, but to leave this from any definition seems tragic as any-game which isn't fun or entertaining isn't going to be considered much of a game from any perspective players viewpoint.

So anyway here is my definition of Recreational Games that I will not be including in my final year report because there is no president to define games as being fun.
A game is any interactive activity that is fun or entertaining, which follows a set of predefined rules and requires cognitive interpretation on the part of one or more participant/s to reach a set predetermined goal/s.
All the definitions of Game that I have read always include something about quantifiable outcome or goals and the interesting thing here is that Will Wright's games don't have these. So in many respects Sim City and The Sims aren't Video Games at all, but more accurately described as Video Toys.

Dirt Cheap Xbox Games

GAME has a Sale Running and on the Xbox front is selling Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Chaos Theory for £4.98 and XIII for £0.98.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Stuff to Look Forward to in 2006

Voodoo Extreme has an article about games coming in 2006. Spore and Supreme Commander should be much higher in that list, but it is a good list.

Next year also brings CliffyB's much anticipated Gears Of War and surprisingly Duke Nukem Forever in March (I will believe it when I see it).

On the Anime front I am looking forward to Black Lagoon which is an Anime adaptation of a Manga series (name one that isn't) about a small group of Mercenaries that smuggle arms etc. The girl of the unit Levi, is nicknamed Two Hands because of the amount of people she has killed with her duel .45s. And it sounds like a lot of fun.

On the film front there is Pixar's new film Cars, Aeon Flux, X-Men , Pirates of the Caribbean 2. Plus Steven Spielberg is releasing Jurassic Park IV and a remake of the 1951 SciFi film When Worlds Collide where a giant asteroid is found to be heading towards earth and there is no question of it not destroying the planet so a ark is built to send survivors out into space in the hope of the continuation of humanity.

And if all of that wasn't enough there is Series 28 of Doctor Who which looks fantastic.

The Cell Processor

NOTE: This is mostly guess work on my part as explained why at the end.

I have been doing some reading on the Cell Processor to try and understand why Sony is staking so much on it and after reading a couple of articles it is very evident that nobody writing these articles are seeing the full picture. From what I gather the Cell Processor was designed to solve a problem of CPU process management space taking up too much room on the CPU and it getting more and more complicated to sort the L1, L2 cache out and find what instruction should be processed next. At the mo applications get time-slices and processes can be cutoff mid process for something more important even if it isn't the efficient thing to do, but all this requires a huge amount of management by the CPU.

The Cell Processor's Architecture moves all this management from processing-time to compiler-time. So when an application's source code is compiled into an executable the compiler will mark out parts of the code that can be completed quickly by the cell architecture. This from the sounds of it is repetitive tasks that access memory sequentially like an algorithm that does something with an Array maybe.

When this specially compiled code is run on the Cell Processor each marked out part of the code is run and if there is a break that tells the Cell to switch process because the next bit is going to require a delay in fetching something from memory then the Cell will switch process until it comes across another switch.

This is all opposed to the CPU having to choose for itself when to switch between process which can happen at (sometimes) the most inefficient of times.

I have no idea if this is right because all the articles are very vague and just jabber on about haw instructions are divided at a very low level between it's eight SPEs instead of explaining how the high level management stuff is accomplished which is what the Cell architecture is supposed to revolutionise and these articles still manage to call themselves technical reviews.
This little instruction went to RAM.
This little instruction stayed at home.
This little instruction had to run again.
This little instruction did not.
This little instruction cried “Wee! Wee! Wee!” and ran all the way home.
And they get away without explaining the how or why of it all!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Christmas Invasion

Just finished watching the Doctor Who Christmas spacial which is the first episode with David Tennant (Dr #10) and he was great, plays the Dr with a lot of energy and with a huge Tom Baker (Dr #4) influence. And that is great because Tom Baker was a breakthrough in the character after, the old one, the grumpy one and Jon Pertwee.
The Doctor #4: Would you like a jelly baby?
Leela: It's true then. They say the Evil One eats babies.
The Doctor #4: You mustn't believe all they say.

Merry Christmas Everybody

See title.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Need For Speed Most Wanted

Been playing EA's Need For Speed Most Wanted, and I like it. I mean it was ok using the keyboard, but when I found-out how to turn the gamepad option on, the analogue controls on the 360's pad just made the game a whole nother beast because now I have analogue control over acceleration, breaking and turning which makes cornering just so much more fun instead of doing that old woodpecker cornering trick to get my speed just right.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Creating ISO Images

If you use Microsoft Virtual PC and are still trying to find an easy way of making ISO images to put files onto your virtual drives then I have a treat. If you want to use some free burning tools instead of the standard retail bloatware that is CD Creator or Nero then I have a treat for you also.

DeepBurner offers a free version of their software and it is very good. Very lean, burning side works well, allows you to create custom autorun menus, bootable disks and creates ISO images. The pro version has a couple of extra buts, but the meat of it all is in the free version. Been using it for a couple of weeks and I am loving this because it is so basic.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Friendly Game Of Thermo Nuclear War

After Introversion made a success of Uplink they (Chris) started work on a new project and then as a side thing started worked on Darwinia. Well Darwinia was ok and now the project they where (Chris) where working on has been announced and it is called Defcon.

Don't know if it will be distributed over STEAM or Arcade, but it is essentially the strategic game of Thermo Nuclear War played in the film Wargames (I see a tend here with their games) where you and your opponent has to kill each other with Nuclear weapons. Apparently the game happens in realtime so expect multiplayer matches to last eight hours or more, but this sounds good.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

War Of The Worlds eComic

I have been following This War Of The Worlds eComic (click on the big image on the right) by Ian Edginton and D'Israeli for months now and it has finally furnished, so the time is right to point it out to you (saves you from waiting six months for it to finish like I have).

Give it a read because it is the best comic interpretation of H.G Wells's War Of The Worlds yet. I think the eComic has been designed to promote Ian Edginton and D'Israeli's other work called Scarlet Traces which follows a few years after War of The Worlds where the British Empire has taken over most of the world by researching the Martian Heat Ray Technology.

Then next year in May they have Scarlet Traces The Great Game #1 coming out which seems to follow on from Scarlet Traces where British Empire is struggling to win a war at home and on Mars.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Game of The Year Surprise

I have been looking through a few game of the years and there is no surprise that Civilisation IV is PC game of the year because this year has been lackluster for PC releases (same as last year) and CIV4 is fun even if it is a bug ridden game.

What did surprise me however is that Call of Duty 2 of the Xbox360 seems to have surpassed it's PC incarnation and picked up Best Original Score, Best Graphics Technology, Best FPS and 360 Game Of The Year all over at IGN alone. And I wouldn't have even considered it a purchase if I had of bought a 360 at launch simply because it is a multiconsole title. Well Activation has showed me one.

Random Fact

Microsoft has sold 3.9 games per Xbox360 sold.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Quake 4

I have just been playing through Quake 4 and I did wonder why a lot of the reviews had been negative because I was playing through a brilliant game, but then that character mutation thing happened and the game went down hill fast. Q4 goes from intelligent fictional representation of what is happening in the story and gameplay to a mindless Serious Sam like slugfest as soon as your character becomes mutated.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


I got Half-Real another game theory book through today and this thing starts out excellent. Been busy today Christmas shopping so haven't even gotten past the first chapter yet, but seems a very good book and so far I only disagree with him on one point, and that is I think the fictional element in games like the setting or the characters can help gameplay where as Jesper doesn't see a connection.

Xbox360 Extreme Edition

Some guy has modded a 360 and put it Up For Auction On eBay.

The thing I like most is the glowing controlpad buttons, but the whole thing is so cool.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Dead or Alive and Halo Crossover

As if being able to play as Link in Soulcalibur 2 wasn't a cool crossover already Bungie has just Announced that they have been working with Team Ninja to incorporate a Master Chief looking character named Nicole into the game.

Cultural Differences

I think the slow takeup of the 360 might have something to do with the culteral differances that eastern and western people take to work and gamming.

In the west we will do anything to get out of work, or get rich by doing as little as possible, but in the east there is a strong workethic that says you should always do the best you can and through hard work you will be rewarded.

Where as westerners probably like having the world evaluate their gamming efforts publicaly and have their score directly evaluated besides their friends, this might be something hard for easterners because this opens them up for chritasism from their gameplaying efforts. So if I was not playing as much Kameo has my friend was then they would probably critasise me for slacking, being lazy or just being crap.

Really this is just me guessing, but there has to be some cultural reason why the 360 is flopping in Japan. And this is the best I can comeup with. It also might suggest why Nintendo and Sony have not considered online as worth while.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

69,865 Consoles (32%) Less!

In Japan the Xbox360 has sold 62,135 consoles in the first two days of sale.
Originally in Japan the Xbox sold 123,000 consoles in the first three days of sale. Meaning that at the moment the 360 is an even bigger flop in Japan than the Xbox was.

I have no idea why the 360 has sold less, but I don't think this can be all down to DOA4 not being a launch title. DOA3 was an Xbox launch title, but common! LESS! Nobody was sure of the Xbox before it was launched, the console was the size of a house, the controller was big and horrible, Live wasn't working and nobody was sure about having a hard drive in their console or what Microsoft wanted to do with it. In retrospect we can look back and see that Microsoft changed everybody's perception of what a console can be, leaving Nintendo and Sony playing technological catchup, but the Japanese haven't honoured that.

I really have no idea on this one. I see flying to Japan, kidnapping a few gamers there and interrogating them as the only option in this matter.

I did think it was safe to say that the PS3 will outsell the 360 in Japan even if the PS3 is a pile of shit, but I also thing everybody was expecting the 360 to at least be able to compete against the PS3 competitively. Sales will probably pickup and it is longterm sales that Microsoft will be looking at, but still, LESS!!!

Monday, December 12, 2005

F.E.A.R. (Completed)

FEAR reminded me a lot of Doom3. Nice graphics, scary atmosphere and research project gone wrong. Doom3 was a game that a lot of critics didn't like because it's flashlight switching scary combat was too tireing, but they liked FEAR. I on the other hand liked Doom3, but did not get on with FEAR at all.

To start with the story is about a physic general that gives orders to his troops by thinking about it. This is supposed to allow him to know what is happening on the battleground, but the game shows no evidence of this because the guards show no idea where you are at any stage of the game and expend a considerable amount of resources trying to find you.

FEAR has some of the most boring level design I have seen for years (since Halo). Most of the game happens in an office block (goes on for ages), then there is a short warehouse bit and a slightly longer research facility bit.

The developers (just like in Doom3) have tried to keep the player on edge and breakup the action by doing a flashing light thing. In Doom3 this signals demons teleporting in or a vision of something horrific, but in FEAR it signals a ghost sighting for which I soon realised has no threat to the player's life at all. You might hear a little girl laughing or see something, but it is certainly nothing to fear.

Weapons are good, plenty of ammo after the start of the game (not sure why there is an ammo scarcity at the start, probably to make you feel on edge more).

Bad guy AI is good, nothing spectacular as all encounters are scripted.

Story is poor and very predictable. The hinting actually gets annoying as the backstory to your character is so obvious (ripped straight from Metalgear Solid).

More variety in level design like a shorter office section at the start/middle/after, more variety in enemies and a richer story would have gone a long way making the game a more interesting.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Greatest Car Ever Made

I just finished watching Top Gear on BBC1 and OMG! The Bugatti Veyron is the greatest car ever made.

Clarkson's Excellent Review in The Times puts it quite nicly.
I also cannot tell you how good this car is. I just don’t have the vocabulary. I just end up stammering and dribbling and talking wide-eyed nonsense. And everyone thinks I’m on drugs.

Model Bugatti Veyron 16.4
Engine 7993cc, 16 cylinders in a W
Power 1001bhp @ 6000rpm
Torque 922 lb ft @ 2200rpm
Transmission 7-speed DSG, manual and auto
Fuel 11.7mpg (combined)
CO2 574g/km
Acceleration 0-62mph: 2.5sec
Top speed 253mph (370ft a second)
Price £810,345
Rating Five stars
Verdict Deserves 12 stars. Simply as good — and as fast — as it gets
It is faster than an F1 car, from topspeed it has the stopping distance of a third of a mile and if you where to fillup it's one hundred letter fuel tank and drive it at top speed, you would runout of fuel in twelve minuets (or fifty miles).

It is one of the nicest looking cars evermade. Just checkout Google Images. And if you can imagine this Picture with a streaking red light on the front of the car, it would easily beat KIT in coolfactor.

Dating a Developer

I thought This Account by Emily of her experience with dating a software developer was interesting. A lot of women struggle to understand why their hubbie spends so many hours looking at a screen instead of them, but Email has some lighthearted advise.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Prince of Persia The Sands of Time (Completed)

Good game, the story is good, music isn't emphasised probably enough. The controls are nice and intuitive (with the 360 controller it was anyway), but the game has some camera issues and the combat isn't great. I didn't think the combat system is bad, just that sometimes the combat goes on for far too long. It is just placed to breakup the levels, but I restarted the battle between between the prince and his undead-farther several times because I thought I was doing something wrong, but no, the battle is supposed to be long and tiering.

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Dynamic Motion Synthesis

Animation in CGI is traditional achieved by an artist sitting infront of a computer animating or motion capture. These both work well, but take time and a lot more time to makes alterations.

Endorphin tries to solve this time consuming aspect of animation by using a combination of physics and character intentions (called behaviours) that can be applied to a character to generate realistic movement. So for example if a character falls down some stairs the model can be told to protect a part of their body like his head, try to stop the fall with his hands or just spread his arms around as if he where unconscious.

The Demo Page has some great examples of characters interacting with objects dynamically. Demo seven for example shows how a character can be told to catch a ball simply by selecting the behaviour, the ball and the character's hands because everything in between is generated by Endorphin.

At the mo this isn't applyable for realtime use in games, but as a productivity tool for animators this looks great.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Prince of Persia The Sands of Time

I bought Prince of Persia The Sands of Time earlier this week and just started playing it today. I haven't bothered with POPSOT before because I found the very first fighting bit in The Demo to be too difficult on the keyboard (I died multiple times), but I wanted to play a game that really needed a controlpad.

The 360 controller is easy to setup from the game's option menu and I am thoroughly enjoying it (just brought the city defences online).

Phase Test Result

Just as a followup to my Phase Test Post. I got 78% from the test, and that is 7.8% of my total module grade (I need to get 40% to pass).

Monday, December 05, 2005


I have been looking into a way of getting more out of my 360 controller by writing somekind of app and it turns out that in the October release of the DirectX SDK there was an addition called Xinput that allows added functionality specifically for common controllers (at the mo that means the 360 controller).

Xinput allows a programmer to receive input from the controller and to output to the two rumble devices inside the controller. With this Microsoft is giving a big helping hand to developers. It even has events in for when the controller is unplugged or not detects. Plus it can address upto four controllers. This is exactly what I was looking for.

And I found this in the FAQ:
How do I disable ALT+TAB and other task switching?
You don't!
So there you have it, Alt-TAB should always be supported. Can't think of any games that disable it at the mo, but they do exist.

UPDATE: The documentation isn't detailed, all the samples are in C++, nothing will compile and I don't seem to be able to find the correct DLL to write an application. So not exactly the best of starts.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Random Fact

For ever 12 to 14 people you know, at least one of them is gay. This number would be higher if it wasn't so easy for women to deny their sexuality.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Microsoft's Xbox360 Controller For Windows

The 360 is out today and I am not getting one yet because I need the money and my final year project would be better completed without the distraction, but I have bought a Windows 360 Controller because I have always wanted a good gamepad for games like Beyond Good And Evil which are better played with a gamepad.

The controller itself is the most comfortable gamepad I have ever held. The buttons are all well placed and the build quality is excellent. The guide button in the middle has a metallic paint with a graining effect on it that makes it look like it was machined out of metal. The 'B' button is at a slight angle to better follow the edge of the controller and the 'L' and 'R' buttons press in and to the left or right depending on which side of the controller they are on instead of directly inwards to make pressing them more comfortable.

This controller is supposed to be a common gamepad for Windows to fix the problem of Windows having too many generic controllers for games developers to support one configuration. I phoned the support number that was given (0800 5871102 which is the UK 360 support line) and they had no idea if any games specifically supporting the controller, but I am sure with time some might.

I have tried gamepads for my PC in the past, but they have always been impossible to configure adequately and windows never quite recognised all the pad's buttons. Windows does recognise all the buttons with the 360 controller and all the analogue sticks because of the drivers that come with the controller, but unfortunately game support is shaky at best and as of yet I have only managed to get one setup correctly and that was F.E.A.R. which requires a little more precision than the controller can give because F.E.A.R. doesn't support analogue control on the 3D sticks, but they do work. The worst offending game is Half Life and Half Life 2 which doesn't have any gamepad support at all.

Right now I am looking at DirectInput tutorials in the hope I can write an application that will translate input from the controller to game input that looks like it came from a mouse or keyboard. That way I can use it with games like Half Life.

If you have a 360 wired controller and want to use it with your PC then you can get the necessary divers Here.