Saturday, September 30, 2006

Got Defcon

Introversion's website is fully taxed, but if you get the demo you can just enter in an key into that and get the full game.

I want to love Defcon, but at the moment it isn't really doing anything for me. When the Defcon forum is back up I will see if I can get some tips. Not that I am doing badly, but it doesn't feel very strategic as to me the strategies all seem too obvious. I hope that I am missing something with the game's mechanics, but it isn't looking good.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Defcon Demo

I should be getting an email any time now with a serial key and where to download the full game as I have preordered the full game, but FilePlanet has a Defcon Demo available if you want to see for yourself what the fuss is about.

Germany Invaded By Giant Insect


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Doom Doom Doom

Been checking out the Microsoft X06 event stuff on XBox Live and the new Bioshock trailer under 'Brining It Home' is a must see. I also really think it deserves a content rating because it's rather bloody. The Banjo Kazui teaser wasn't great. Show me something in game, something of the story or nothing at all, please.

Also have been playing the origenal Doom on Arcade and it is just like the origenal, I have a headache and everything. I did try playing multiplayer for a bit, but that made me feel even worse so I had to stop.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Random Fact

There is no Italian translation for the phrase "Fashion Victim".

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Two Software Development Methodologies That Everybody Can Use

There are many different kinds of development methods from waterfall to circular, but in the past few months I have found-out about two which I wasn't taught at school, yet everybody can use. From large development teams to lone developers working on personal projects, both of these methodologies work and are very effective.
  • Test Driven Development
    The core of this methodology is to create an automated test method that will actually give you a green light telling you wither your application works or not. This is very useful when you are writing an application that needs to conform to an input specification or automates a task that is difficult to check by human means. Large teams can use software on their build server to run use-cases against their codebase that provides feedback, but lone developers can use test driven development just as effectively.

    As an easy exsample, when I wrote my table compression algorithms for my Compilers Class I needed to know wither the data stored in the compressed table matched what was inputed from the source table. Obviously if the data retreived from my compressed table did not match the source table then there was something wrong with my algorithems. I tried checking by using my own eyes, but I was dealing with tables 1024x1024 in size so I soon rearlised that I needed to automate the task.

    I created a button on my form called 'Test'. This button called a method which in turn methodecally called every cell in both the compressed and uncompressed tables and looked to see wither what was returned from both matched. Obviously there was nothing wrong with the sorce table so any mismatches where the result of a bug in one of my algorithems. Thought creating this I was forced to spend an extra two weeks trying to get all the bugs out, but that is because I could find bugs quickly simply by the press of a button (I also had t create a lot of different test data, but that is a another talk).

    When I wrote my last Tic Tac Toe game I also added a test button which took the place of a player and played random moves against my AI for 100,000 games a time. Because of this I know that my AI is unbeatable.

    The trick is to have your test method provide useful feedback. In the case of my Tic Tac Toe game when the test method which is making random moves wins against my AI, the test method will append every move made in that game to a text file so I can easily replicate the game and see where the AI made a mistake.

  • Burn Down Graphs
    In order to create a burn down graph you must first create a list of features that you want to include in yourr application. This should include all necessary and desirable features. Then each feature should be broken down into tasks and a time alloted to each task. This will give you a list of features, how long it will take to implement each one and indeed the entire application.

    With a burn down graph you don't need to choose how long you want to work on your application each day like with a gant cheart, but it is important to update the graph regularly otherwise it won't track progress. Update the graph daily, weekly or however often you feel is appropriate. This will form the time scale that runs along the bottom of the graph.

    Image Hosted by

    So along the bottom of the Burn Down Graph you have a time sale running from when the project was started to your desired deadline. And up the left side you have hours until completion. As features are completed, added or removed the graph will reflect how many hours you have left to work on your application against your progression to your deadline. And over time you will see a nice line appear that will give a very good indication as to wither you need to put more hours in to complete the project on time, move the deadline or cut features to meet the deadline.

    In the picture above you see a nice smooth line, but real burn down graphs aren't like that. There will probably be a few occasions when the time needed to complete the project will increase as difficulties are encountered, that is ok because the graph will always communicates clearly where you are, where your deadline is and by looking at the line you can clearly judge wither you will meet your deadline or not by the work you have been doing.
So there you have it, two methodologies that even a lone developer making an application for themselves can find useful.

Friday, September 22, 2006

3D Tertis

Of all the Tertis clowns I have played over the years the 3D Version is by far the best. Still not as good as the original.

I have a similar version to this on my BBC so this is the first time I have played it in colour.

50GB Storage

Microsoft announced today that the next 360 dashboard update will add support for 1080p output. I assume this is just for HD-DVD playback. Sony then rebuttaled by saying that support won't be native (I don't know how they would know that if that is true) and that at least the PS3 still has 50GB game disks.

I was a little surprised they actually did a rebuttal, but everybody knows that all developers will use the extra room for is FMV.

Additional: I should have mentioned that it is eastern developers that will fillup the game disks with FMV. It has never been fashionable in western games to have gameplay broken up between long RPG segments and long FMV sequences. There have been a few western games that have tried to do the whole interactive movies thing that doesn't work. But Eastern gamers look on FMV sequences as a reward for their long hours of killings hundreds of whatevers so such a large disk capacity will only suite eastern developers, and not in a way that breads innovation or originality.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Going For "IT" (Good Rant)

Mr Bleszinski over on his 1UP Design Diary talks about working "IT" into Gears of War. That special thing that makes a good design something brilliant in the eyes of the player. Everybody has ideas on what "IT" it, but nobody is sure. Yet everybody agrees that "IT" can make an instant hit. So going for "IT" on a project is always good because if you get "IT" (whatever "IT" is) then you have an instant classic.

I mention this because there is a notion that games have lost the tantalising excitement that they used to give people with gameplay had "IT". I have heard a lot of explanations, but currently the notion that talent isn't maturing in the games industry is a good one. Most industry professionals carriers only lasts five years maximum and that takes into account all the moving around between companies that happens. People enter the video games industry enthusiastic about working on video games, don't have the maturity to produce a bonafide classic with "IT", their first few creations are lackluster and then they leave before reaching their potential after being burned out by the software development lifecycle and unrealistic expectations. Then their replacement comes in and makes the exact same mistakes.

Another idea about "IT" that I also agree with is that games don't have strong enough source writing material. The game designs that are being produced are good, but the story elements aren't there and the dialogue is terrible. Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith both say they are best at writing dialogue, both have produced several films that have "IT". In Quentin's case very few of his films don't have "IT", so to say game developers need better writers on staff is probably a very true statement.

So if "IT" can be bottled and worked into a game as suggested above by developing talent and hiring a good writer to write good dialogue then why doesn't "IT" happen more often!
The answer to that is simple when you look at games that have "IT". With Half Life, when it was nearing the end of development and became playable from start to finish. Gabe Newell sat down and played the game from start to finish. He concluded that the game sucked was not as fun as the team wanted it to be. So the whole team promptly redesigned the entire game from start to finish just a few months before release. In this instance the team had learned a lot from their first iteration of the game by effectively building an elaborate prototype and this allowed them to build "IT" into the release game because the playable prototype although exstensive (it was going to be the game) taught them a lot about the mechanics of what they where creating.

Publishers don't like "IT" because it doesn't necessarily sell more units as in the case with Psychonauts and can extend a development cycle beyond what was originally envisioned on a project. And a game from a marketing standpoint that can be described easily can be marketed better wither it has "IT" or not. Games with "IT" are sometimes very difficult to market and so fail without gaining the sufficient revenue to justify the added cost of working "IT" into the game. And that is why I believe all these things mentioned contribute to the falling standards of game design and by falling standards I mean the expectations of players isn't being raised by newer games.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Random Thought

I wonder if international negotiations would go better if politicians had small fifteen minuet breaks between discussions for kitten time, where each diplomat would be given a kitten to pet before continuing discussion.

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By harnessing the relaxing power of kittens, diplomats could quickly destress and relax, putting them in a good frame of mind for more talks.

Friday, September 15, 2006


I have seen the Retro-Encabulator Video a few times, but never linked to it because I wasn't 100% certain that it was a joke, but I just looked at the Wikipedia Page which states that it is indeed a joke.

My thinking is that this is an internal video made by Rockwell Automation as something to be played at the Christmas party, much like Rainbow Twangers Video was.

Defcon Pre-Order

Defcon, Introversion's newest creation is a simple game of Thermonuclear War. And is now available for pre-order. A link to the pre-order site can be found on Defcon's appropriately named promotional site

I know I don't have much money, but I have been waiting for months to get a copy of this and it's only £10. If you get it now you get the digital download copy for £10 and you get sent a free physical copy of the game too (should be £15). So it's a reasonable amount when you consider it is a modern interpretation of the game from the 1983 film WarGames and thus allowing you to recreate an authentic 80's atmosphere in your computer's vicinity if you so choose.

Defcon will be available to download and play to everybody who pre-ordered September the 29th at 6:00pm (GMT).

Additional: Defcon MIGHT be cheaper on STEAM, but I don't know because I am yet again having that login problem (started just now) that will require Valve to do something on their servers for me to be able to login again. Here is a pre-order link to their pre-order if you are interested. It says $9.95 on that page, but I don't know if that is before they add UK VAT if indeed they add UK VAT. So I don't know if it indeed cheaper from STEAM or Introversion. Still you don't get a boxed copy and I hate giving money to Valve.

Update: Valve go their ass in gear kindly enabled fixed my Steam account and I am still not sure if Defcon is cheaper from them, but from what I can tell it is about £2 cheaper. So if you want it dirt cheap you know where to go.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Second Coming of The Monkey God

There is a new teaser animation on Microsoft's Comming Zune Site that is very nice. Zune if you didn't know will be part of Microsoft's attempt to gain some market share of the downloadable music market from iTunes.

I don't think that going after iTunes is a healthy distraction for Microsoft, but this is what happens when a company has all the available money it needs and a lot of share holders.

Monday, September 11, 2006

World of Warcraft New Dance Routines

For the Burning Sea expansion pack Blizzard is adding some new dance routines to the ones already in the game. There is a crappy video of them Here on YouTube. That is crappy until you watch the last elf dancing on the video. Then it becomes very cool.

EDIT: Blizzard has has asked YouTube to take the video down. I don't want to spoil Neapolitan Dynamite for anybody who hasn't seen it so I won't say any more here about what it was.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Skillz Hitch

Been trying to learn XNA, don't know C# too well, tried learning it quickly at a higher level, found stupid things that I don't get right because I don't understand some basic stuff. So it looks like it could be a few weeks before I will have a crack at XNA again and actually get something working as my working knowledge of C# programming is ass and I can barely make anything. Need to find a job too, will phone somebody Monday about that as my desire to see my 360 games in HD just won't relinquish.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

PS3 Update (Diagnosis: Not good)

I have been off the RSS reader for a couple of days while I sort-out what i want to do with my life, but just reading the PS3 headlines today it doesn't sound good for Sony. Here are just a few things I read today:
  • PS3 Blue-Ray drive 25% slower than the 360's.
    This shouldn't bee too much of a problem because of the massive hard drive the PS3 has, which gives the possibility of pre-caching, but this issue is compounded by the fact the PS3 only has 256MB of RAM compared to the 360's 512MB. Sony talks about bigger textures, but they have failed to provide the space to put them.

  • Delayed Launch In Europe.
    Look for them on eBay sometime March 2007.

  • Shortage of units for launch.
    There will only be 400,000 PS3 units available for the US launch. Microsoft sold 326,000 XBox360 units in their first week of the US launch. So if we assume that Sony will be doing large boated shipments like they usually do, then this is going to be a big problem for anybody trying to get one before 2007.

  • No 1080p games at launch.
    The launch lineup is already weak so this won't come as a shock to anybody. But the odd thing about Sony's hyped HD resolution is that although the screen resolution has 40% more pixels on the screen than 720p, because the refresh rate is slower it makes it less suitable for watching fast moving video like sports and video games. 1080p is best suited for nature shows and Opera.

  • No HDMI Cable In The Box
    One of those really annoying things about buying cheap electronics is that sometimes they don't include the necessary cables to use them right out of the box. You get your new DVD player home, open the box and then realise you have to go back to the shop you bought it at to buy the correct cable to connect the player to your TV. Well anybody wanting to use the PS3's HDMI connection right out of the box will have to do just that because Sony won't be including one. They will be including a composite cable, but because of the perceived cost of owning a PS3, I think many customers will feel a little ticked off.
The interesting thing I find in all this is that despite what is happening in the news analysts are still predicting a PS3 win. This all assumes Sony has market allegiance with many customers. I think that is a flawed assumption and that consumers don't care who makes their console as long as it has the games they want.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

HDMI Is A Trojan Horse

I have read a few comments by audio, video, TV, HD film reviewers/engineers that content piped through a HDMI connection doesn't look or sound any better than a standard composite cable. They have all then said that it is probably still too early in the standard's implementation to properly tell, but I just found out about a feature that comes along with HDMI.

The extra feature is called HDCP which stand for High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection. This means that the signal travelling along the cable from your HD player to your TV is encrypted. Thus preventing a signal recorder from being placed between the player and the TV to capture the signal. This is most certainly another serious attempt by the industry to stop high quality pirated rips of films appearing on the internet. My initial reaction was that this is a little bit subversive, so I did some more reading to findout more about HDMI.

The idea of HDMI is that video and audio is digitally transmitted along one cable to prevent electrical interference. I had some Creative speakers that where digital and could switch between a Digital and Analogue signal on the fly. When no sound was being played, I could turn up the volume and there was always much less static on the digital setting. Using the speakers at a standard volume setting however I never could noticed the difference just like everybody who has commented about HDMI so far. So that begs the question, was HDCP the catalyst for HDMI or was it is just an extra feature someone thought of when the HDMI standard was being written, we will probably never know, but I am fairly certain that the uptake of HDMI would be a lot slower if more consumers where aware of HDCP because this stinks of corporate capitalism.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Dangerous Ideas

For a long while now I have been trying to put into word what I think is wrong with American Politics and what could be done to fix it. I haven't come up with much, but that doesn't matter now because Roy Eidelson a PhD Physiologist has.

His Google Video Titled Dangerous Ideas talks about what is wrong with American politics. This video could be seen as an attack on right wing conservative politics, but they are just the subject matter of the video as they are the ones currently in power. This video talks about how core concerns of Vulnerability, Injustice, Distrust, Superiority and Helplessness are exploited by politicians to gain support from the public. I have always referred to this as keeping the American people is a perpetual state of fear that is used to makes them think their government is doing a good job, but this video shows that it is simply a mechanism politicians use to get support and not something they do purposefully do to make the public subdued or obedient.

The solution proposed by Dr Eidelson to solve the current state of American politics is for the American public to vote for politicians that don't spin phantom issues, but instead address real concerns that American society and individuals have. The threat form Iran for example is a potential threat, but there is little evidence that warrants action. Yet real social issues like the 46 million Americans that are without anykind of health insurance are ignored, which I believe proves that the politicians have stopped serving the people.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Left Behind Eternal Forces Demo

I have been playing the Left Behind: Eternal Forces Demo and it is broken bad.

You start with a Disciple who will convert Neutral characters to your side. You do this by walking up to them and preaching. This is where the demo has a fatal bug. If the path to a neutral character is blocked by whatever then the game freezes. Anyway once converting the neutral character they become a Friend who can be trained to be come several types of unit. There is however a strange qwerk of the game where women can't be trained as Builders or Priests. No reason is given and so I can only assume this a religious thing and sexual discrimination. From what I can tell there is nothing women can do that men can't in the game, so I actually found myself not recruiting women because of this.

All the left behind citizens have life stories and I found this to be the only interesting aspect of the game. Although the writing is fairly bad. Below are two which caught my attention.

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Red Dwarf's Hidden Message

Tonight on YouTube as well as seeing a Stupid Cat and a Posessed Cat (mind your ears if you are wearing headphones) I found This Video from the Red Dwarf Episode Backwards where the crew go to an alternative dimension and everything happens backwards. There is a hidden message in one of the backwards tracks for anybody who took the time to play the episode backwards and it's funny.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Saints Row Rating

Been playing Saints Row which is a lot of fun and very buggy. Right now I can hear rain in the game and it is not raining, but anyway I was just reading the XBox Forum and there are a few teenagers talking about the game. I wouldn't let my kids play it, certainly not when the radio talks about banning immigrants religious costumes and has reference to burning fags. In the UK the game has a big 18 sticker on it so obviously parents are going to seriously consider the game before letting their kids play it.

However in the US it has an M for mature. If you read the Description of a Mature title then you know what you are in for, but when you look at the box it just has a little M in the corner and that doesn't communicate anything like the 18 sticker does in the UK. So there are going to be a lot of parents buying the game for their kids who aren't aware of the game's contents because the rating doesn't accurately communicate that at the point of sale.