Monday, January 30, 2006

Is The PS3 Easy To Programme For?

The question of the PS3's ease of development has come into question in the past few weeks and why should we care?! I mean it's not us gamers that will be making these games, but after comparing the quality of the graphics between the XBox and PS2 in the last generation it is easy to see that the PS2 was more of a PlayStation1.5 than anything that could match the XBox, but games like Black (that aren't out yet) do match what is available on the XBox. And the reason for this is that the XBox is an easier console to make games for, where as developers have had to work long and hard for many years to get anything out of the PS2. So yes gamers do care because if a developer has a hard time making games for a console then the games will suffer.

In the past week a few people have said that the PS3 isn't as hard to develop for as others first thought. What has been said is that it is very much like developing for the PS2 (not good) and that games have to be very thread intensive to make sure that all seven PPEs are working inside the Cell Chip. Now this might sound ok, but multi-threading in C++ is horrible and in traditional software development (for the XBox360 for example) threading is only used when it is of benefit (physics, AI, control input etc). So creating more threads, just for the sake of it is simply going to complicate things. I could go into what threading is and why it is good, but the bad side of it is that it creates non-deterministic bugs. These are errors which are extremely difficult to track. I mean ultra difficult and that is with using great debugging tools like Visual Studio. So any thread creating where it hasn't been architected properly will have a detrimental effect on development and mean that released games will crash or stutter badly (as it recovers from a near crash) occasionally.

Looking at Screenshots from games in development for the PS3 I don't think they look much better than what the XBox can do. Sure there is a lot of stuff on screen, but a lot of what is in the screens all has very simple textures and low polly counts. I might even go as far to say that those pictures aren't any better than These new screens from the latest PS2 games. So I do feel that developers are struggling badly.

Still all that being said even if Sony ships empty boxes with PS3 logos on the side they will sell loads.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

America Being Dragged One Step Closer To The Modern Century

After eight years of debate, protests on both sides, the guys for it saying it is their civil right to be treated just the same as everybody else and the guys against saying the other guys are filthy perverts. Washington state has made it Illegal to Discriminate Somebody Based on their Sexuality.

If all the states in America where to have this and bring their minimum wage upto a livable level, I might just have to call America a civilised country.

Amazing French Tshirt Folding System

I didn't think anything could top the Amasing Chinese Tshirt Folding Technique, but This French Folding System is stunning.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Free Game - Trackmania Nations

I have been following the Trackmania series by downloading the Demos and the series has been getting continually better with each new release. The general premise is a racing game with Scalextric stunt like tracks. All of the games come with a built in track editor making it ultra easy to create custom tracks.

The latest incarnation of the series is as a free game sponsored by Nvidia for this year's Electronic Sports World Cup.

You can download the game from the Game's Website, 3D Gamers or Fileplanet.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usFree Image Hosting at

Friday, January 27, 2006

The IT Crowd

New comedy on Channel4 starts on the 6th next month, but you can watch the first episode right now over at Channel4's Website.

With the the tagline:
CTRL+ALT+DELETE your TV and watch the first episode of the IT Crowd online!
I think you will automatically realise that this is office monkey stereo typing of IT. A few of the things around their basement is internet folklore related like The Flying Spaghetti Monster, but the jokes avoid any deep IT related stuff and just stick to the standard helpdesk Mistaking the CD-Tray for a Coffee Cup Holder stuff.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Working Priorities

Since Christmas I have done quite well to keep on track with all my assignments and things have been going ok. I have avoided playing any new games because that would distract me and put me in a mode where I have to complete the game before I can do any work.

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on reasoning) I have gotten distracted with one of my assignments. It is probably the last one that will be handed in, but I have been almost exclusively working on my Compilers assignment for over a week now. The task being to create an application that demonstrates table compression. It's not finished, but the challenge of finding ways to maximise compression while still retaining the benefit of being able to read data inside the compressed class directly is actually fun.

Anyway I think I can easily get the compression ratio higher than the standard 40% and that might just be me being overconfident because I haven't actually measured the results of my implementation yet, but the whole thing is soaking up time. I should have the prototype of my final year project up and running Thursday or at least very near complete and that is still very possible, but my mind is on my compression algorithm.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Old Game Revisited Tetris & Dr Mario

Many years have passed since I last played Dr Mario so I thought I might gain some new appreciation for the game if I played it again. I remember not liking it and it's only appeal being Mario. And indeed this is it's only appeal because as a puzzle game it doesn't have the cognitive depth to keep the player interested. The audio is bland and the puzzle element itself leaves much to be desired as later in the game you have very little room to move Pisces no-matter how good you are. Plus the player is forced to dump blocks in the hope that the next one they need will come soon. This dumping element makes most of the levels feel like a last ditch attempt at beating it as there is no way to avoid the dumping (or maybe that's just me).

I have played many games of Tetris and many Tertis like clones, but I have never liked any of those clones. Not on mobile phones, CD Players, Flash, Java or calculator version can compare to the original.

A limited number of four block shapes that fit into satisfying places in the puzzle environment. To get a piece in the right place is nice, but then to have the line flash, disappear, the blocks above fall down, have a nice ding sound play and have bonus points added is a satisfying event.

The Russian music is very methodic putting the player into a relaxed state. All other sounds in the game are posative pitched bell like sounds. Research has shown that these pitched bell reward sounds are satisfying to the human brain and even moving a falling shape from left to right in Tetris results in this sound.

Levels are conveyed by changing colour scheme and the difficulty is controlled by the game speed. Wither a player has been playing the game for two seconds or five hours the gameplay, rules and cognitive decisions made on the players part are the same.

The reason why people play Tetris is because every action results in a reward sound making Tetris a very satisfying and relaxing game to play. Also within it's simple gameplay there is required planning for future moves so a player's mind is always busy.

Even if you loose in Tetris there is a sense that you could have done better if you had just planned your moves better. In reality the game moves to a speed that is just slightly faster than you can operate at, so you make just enough clumsy mistakes to loose.

Star Wars Empire at War Demo

I thought Star Wars Empire at War was going to be a linear mission to mission strategy game like WarCraft, but it isn't. It is actually an attempt at a remake of Star Wars Rebellion (Called Star Wars Supremacy in the UK) which was very difficult.

I don't know if the full game will get boring, repetative or very hard once you are being attacks on multiple fronts, but the demo is funish (space battle good, ground battle bad).

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Defcon Interview

Eurogamer has an Interview with Chris about Defcon.

The best line of the interview has to be:
It's worth mentioning that alliances and betrayals are all options that can be disabled when the game is starting up, if you fancy a slightly more friendly game of global nuclear war.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Favourite Artist oF The Moment

I go through fazes of loving some artist's work and for a few months now I have been stuck on Banksy. Visually his work has impact, but he puts thought behind his work, it makes people look at it a few seconds longer and elevates it above graffiti.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Firefly why the cancellation!?

So I have finally gotten around to watching the first two DVDs of Firefly and this series is stunning. It has a tight set of characters in a persistent, but changing environment (the ship Serenity and the different worlds she visits) which is a winning combination in any fiction, but the characters are so varied. In most TV and film series the audience is introduced to one character that they are expected to identify with, then others come together and the audience sees the relationships form. The Matrix, Star Trek Voyager, Star Wars and Romeo & Juliet all have this same formula, but with Firefly we witness an established crew put in difficult situations. I mention this because Joss Whedon uses this so intently for the benefit of the series. For example there is a scene between Wash (the pilot) and Zoe his wife (also the ships second in command) in bed just after having amazing sex. Zoe starts to fall asleep and Wash says:
you know what happens when the acting captain falls asleep?
Jane slits my throat and steals the ship
Jane being another crew member who isn't a bad person, but give an inch and he will take a mile.

I also like the fact that Joss's writing isn't prolific with the dialogue. There is an incident where Kaylee (the engineer) is asked about a problem she was fixing. Her lines never contain anything negative. She is a very positive person. If anybody says anything bad she remains quiet and gives them a hurt look. Yet when asked if she has finished fixing it yet she simply says 'no'. Joss purposefully missed an opportunity to add comic relief or reinforce her character. Instead preferring to keep the pace of the story going which is excellent because too many writers will keep their characters chuntering for too long and most American TV series and comedy films will pack the dialogue with as much rubbish as the writer can think of.

Anyway the writing is simply amazing and in 'Our Mr and Mrs Reinalds' the crew help a small village by killing some highwaymen, unusually for an American fiction the audience is left to assume who or what these men are, (this is a trait more commonly found in Asian cinema) but after the celebrations are over Mal (the captain) is found to have Married a girl (there was much drinking and nobody can remember the brief ceremony). The dialogue between her in his cabin is brilliant, simply brilliant. She is standing naked infront of him and he asks why she did this:
I lived my life in the maiden house waiting to be married off for trade
I seen my sister paired off with ugly men, vicious or blubberous
Men with appetites too unseemly to speak on
and I have cried for those girls,
but not half so hard as the night they gave me to you.

>Is there blubber?

I cried for I'd not dreamed to have a man so sweet, So kind and beautiful.
Had I the dare to choose, I'd choose you for all the men on all the planets the sky could show me.
If I am wed then I am a woman, and I will take your leave to be bold.
I want this.
I swell to think of you in me,
And I see that you do too.
>Well, that’s just...
Leave me at the nearest port, never look upon me again.
I'll make my way with the strength that you taught me.
Only let me have my wedding night...
I have seen films with such dialogue, but never TV series and the quotable content is astonishing like "Don't you stand for that, if anybody tries to kill you, just kill them right back". And there is swearing too, only the swearing is done in Chinese and Gaelic so not to offend, which actually adds to the imaginative depth of the fiction because there is no explanation as to how these characters know such varied languages.

The set design is also brilliant as well as the attention to detail. Serenity is an old Firefly class ship and there is evidence of past owners like faded flower paintings on the wall of the galley, the dinning table is wooden and the chairs are of all different styles so obviously scavenged from different places.

I could go on about the use of body language and the CGI work, but this series is stunning and it was cancelled WTF!!!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

PGR3 Looks Better Than You Think

Here is a forum post comparing pictures of Japan to Japan from PGR3 on the 360.

Nintendo Misses A Trick

Nintendo history of missing generation vital features:

No CD support. Fans so wanted the same kind of demo disk distribution that PlayStation had.

Game Cube
No DVD Support. Fans in Japan bought PS2 consoles as cheap DVD players. And this decision left a lot of gamers around the world drooling over the Panasonic version that could actually play DVDs.

No HD support. That might not sound like much now, but give it three years when everybody is enjoying HD TV channels, HD Movies and HD games on other consoles. The picture quality on the Revolution will look horrible unclear and uncrisp, unlike everything else on HD displays.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Massive Eve Online Ships

A few news ships have been added in the new expansion and they are Massive.

Additional: There is a picture of the Eiffel Tower down the bottom left corner for size comparison.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The HP ScanJet 3c/4c Music

This is the most astounding things I have seen this year.

So I was reading Slashdot and I don't normally link to anything on there because it is all just reconstituted news, but they have This Bit on how ScanJet scanners have variable speed motors and how somebody made one play music (Ludwig Van Beethoven's Fur Elise to be exact). The site is down because of the Slashdot effect, but you can still get it from Mirror Dot.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Video Game Journalism Sucks

This Article Titled The Pointlessness of Current Videogame Journalism has been making the rounds and he has a point.

Previews are a wast of time because a lot of the previews are written without the writer actually playing the game. The previews where the writer does play the game (called Hands On Previews) are always very lukewarm in opinion because the game isn't finished and they can't say the weapon selection is crap if all the weapons haven't been added yet etc.

I believe most journalists see reviews as an entertainment medium in themselves instead of an academic review of the game in question. For example no Mario has ever gotten a bad review. Readers who are upset by what a reviewer says will obviously take their readership elseware, so reviewers don't want to upset anybody by giving a bad review to a popular franchise. I have read many reviews where the reviewer hasn't played through the game at all and bases their opinion on just the first fifteen minuets of the game as they don't even hint at any of the problems latter on in the experience (Black & White is a prime example of this). And there are many times where it is painfully obvious that the reviewer isn't an experienced gamer at all. Reviewers are hired on their writing experience an not on their gaming credentials so obviously there is going to be a lack of authority in their opinions, this in itself renders their opinions uninformed and thus the review pointless.

The whole VG industry has to make reviewers happy otherwise they will write something bad as revenge and effect sales. Yet there is no need for anything to change. I was going to link here to that eWeek article by that guy saying Xbox Live sucks and the way Sony is allowing publishers to control their own service is better, but I can't seem to find it.

ID Chip Placement

So I was watching This Video on BBC news about a few students in America trialling ID chips by using them in their hands to login to their computers and I think they have them in completely the wrong part of their bodies.

See in their hands they wait for the login screen to appear then they put their hand on a pad. The chip is read and they are logged on, but if they had the chip implanted in their ass instead then the system would work much better. Then they would just have to sitdown infront of the computer and when the login screen appeared, the pad in the seat of the chair would read the chip in their ass, removing the need for all that hand waving rubbish. Plus the system could automatically lock itself when the user stands up, thus greatly improving security too.

Fast If Empty

The fastest way to check to see if a string is empty is to check it's length. Any other method like comparing it to an empty string (or "") is about three times slower and generates another memory address to do the comparison with.
If i.Length = 0 Then

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Dates For Your Diary

Here is a shortlist of some of the industry dates for this year:

20th to 24th March
Independent Games Festival and the Game Developers Conference, San Jose, California.

10th to 12th May
E3 2006, Los Angeles, California.

12th to 13th July
Develop, Brighton, England.

23rd to 27th August
Leipzig Game Convention, Germany.

8th to 12th September
IBC, Amsterdam.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Post 1000!!!

This is my thousandth post. Weren't sure if I would be running this blog that long, but it looks like I have. Not had much to post as of late because I have been working on my final year project still, which I am not sure how much I should or can say about. I would post code from it, but then when I hand it in for marking it might get flagged for code existing on the internet. Still looking at my time plan it looks as if I am on schedule after spending the everyday last week working on it.

Anyway I was trying to think earlier if I should do something every one thousandth posts to kind of mark the occasion, maybe impart somekind of knowledge or show a picture of a cake. I still think the idea might be a bit tacky as my normal style would be to just keep it short and say what I had been doing, but I will give it a go just to see how I feel about it.

Ok so first bit of imparted knowledge is that, having spent seventeen years of my life in education and six years of that in higher education I have never liked any of the courses I have ever been on.

Let me explain. With every course I have started it with high hopes of what I might learn and in every case I have been disappointed with the content. It is normally a four stage thing:
1) YAY [insert course or module title], Hack the world!
2) We aren't going to hack the world!? Just say Hello to it!
3) This is a wast of my time, just give me a pass so I can leave!
4) Thank god that was over (throws certificate in folder)

Then months or even years later I see something or get asked something that relates to what I was taught in that class and I go "wow I did learn something". So the moral of that story is, all courses are crap and never what you expect them to be, but stick with it because you might get a certificate and years later might find you leared something and be happy you got that certificate, doctorin or whatever.

I think the problem is that I take courses where I don't know anything about the subject, so then I get annoyed when I don't learn or cover what I expected. This is probably the primary reason why people leave courses before they finish.

uuhhh... Don't know how I feel about posting that, big text little content.
beh, submit anyway, it's either this or that cake idea.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

CES 2006 Keynote

Microsoft had the floor in the keynote address. You can watch the video Here.

Few key things shown, but the Fight Night multiplayer match between Bill and Steve at the end was certainly the best.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Need For Speed Most Wanted (Not Completed)

The game becomes very repetitive towards the end. And the game doesn't change any. Ok you might get a faster car as you play and the opponents get better, but you are still riving around the same places and the routine of challenging your next blacklist guy is the same. And then there are the odd bits like the BMWs not having run flat tires which they put on all their cars.

I liked the game a lot when I started playing, but it doesn't change any. It has a good experience, but it requires you to play through that same experience too many times. The only thing that changes is the difficulty.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Gamercard as Image

GamerCard.Net is a site that will generate an image of your gamercard and allow you to direct link to it from their server.

Now there is no excuse for not using your gcard in your signature on forums.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year!!!

See title. And what am I doing right now you might wonder, well I am writing some of the report that goes with my final year project. YAY!