September 15, 2005

Life Long Hacking

Still awaiting that dream job here in Fort Awesome, how long will I last waiting for a call back from a place I actually want to work at, before I crack and apply over at MacDonalds or ASDA? Take your bets please.

In the meantime I've been trying to improve my C++ skills by moving them into the modern era of namespaces, I/O streams and design patterns. My current method is to mix a variety of reading material sources with some real world problems by coding up a mod for Half-Life 2 called The Opera. The mod is one I've been involved with for some years, through a release on the original Half-Life (netting 5 stars in PC Gamer I might add) to an abortive attempt on the Unreal Engine finally reaching the present day with a Half-Life 2 version. Previously I've always been involved in the level design and modelling aspects so this is my first foray at taking the very familiar design into my ill practiced coders hands.

I always feel like something of an academic leper, useless at the most high brow philosophical debates due to the large gaps in my knowledge caused by doing a split degree. Yet I have also never been able to quite keep apace of the computer Scientists either. While I have latterly felt more at home among them, I actually studied even less Computer Science than I did Philosophy. Maybe this is why I can't get one of them fancypants coding jobs.

So, with my degree a fading memory, I've decided that I don't really care too much for those high falutin' philosophical debates. Nietzsche was right. The End. I'm going to spend my post university time learning to be better at all things computerized. Soon I shall know my observer pattern from my bridge pattern and I'll write UML designed code that will make grown men weep in wonder.

If anyone has any essential C++ coding tips or, just tips in general then post up a comment.


September 11, 2005

The Heaven And Earth Show

Writing about web page http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/programmes/heavenandearth/

I've been unfortunate enough to be too lazy to change the channel when the Heaven and Earth show comes on, more than once. This show epitomises everything that is irritating about the charlatans that perpetrate most religions.

In the most recent edition I watched , a debate over good medical practice, pitted a bright pink tracksuited woman (yes, I know, don't comment on what women are wearing -sets back the cause of feminism, blah de-blah. However in this case it serves to illuminate her odious character) with a high wattage smile that looked like it had been drawn on by an over excitable five year old; against an actual medical scientist (a man, cleverly). The show seemed to be attempting to grant some kind of legitimacy to the 'complementary' medicine brigade, both through the complete lack of forensic questioning of the flimsy 'evidence' presented by the radioactive spokeswoman, and the transparent attempt to show alternative medicine as more friendly, spiritual and feminine than the cold, hard and masculine light of… truth?

This disinterest in facts and rationality continued to permeate the whole show. Next up was a priest who claimed, dramatically, that he could forsee the future due to a special connection with god. he demostrated this power by recollecting the time when he was holidaying in Rome, noticed all the birds had fled and thought to himself 'I bet there is going to be an earthquake', and lo and behold, by the grace of god there was indeed a minor one. Nevermind the dubious claim that he thought it, then it happened (surely I could say that I thought that a hurricane would strike New Orleans after the event) there is also the overwhelmingly less exciting explanation that his thought was merely coincidence. We can then add the fact that he saw the birds leave and was able to make a logical connection that something big was going to happen and then guessed that in an earthquake zone perhaps that might be it….

No, it must be the divine power of god.


September 08, 2005

The City That Sleeps

The way I have my desk set-up in the new house is perfect for encouraging me to sketch in idle moments when I'm thinking or otherwise being generally unemployed (yes, jobs are on my mind a lot right now). I've always been drawn to the image of a city at night; the shapes and dramatic lighting fascinate and excite my emotions.

The sketching is gradually improving almost a year on from when I decided to restart sketching and brought a whole bunch of fresh materials. A lot of higher priority things got in the way of my drawing ambition but I've hung on in there and drawn things throughout the year. I'll aim to do more.

I was generally in a bit of a useless TIZZ last night and this morning, got a bit over stressed by the whole employment search. Its easy to feel like the whole process is outside of your control, which can then become demoralising when things remain unchanged. At around mid day I relaxed a bit, made myself a nice cooked lunch, did a little bit of drawing and managed to take back some of that control by re-emailing the people I have contacted about jobs and tuning up my CV for some other kinds of work.

I've pretty much decided that my future lies in making games, but with my lack of experience and the difficulty of getting started in the industry it seems likely I'll have to take on some other kind of work in the meantime. Most of my proudest achievements however relate to the making of games in some way so the CV has required some highly creative editing.

I seem to have now gained coding control over my long running Half-Life 2 mod project so I shall be using that to brush up my C++ game programming skills while I hit refresh on my email account and glance anxiously phone-wards.


September 05, 2005

The Big Flake

Today I at last finished moving into my new home in Leamington Spa. With all the moving around I've been doing it feels like I've barely been living here, despite collecting the keys around three weeks ago. Now though its sinking in; phase one completed in the master plan, university is over and I've truly moved away from the family home. The safety net is gone and, along with my companions in Fort Awesome, Real Life™ must begin.

Phase two of the plan is to find a way of surviving (producing the hard cash) that I enjoy and this is likely to take considerably longer. I think many less than perfect jobs will have to be endured and discarded as I search for that holy grail. My current dream is to make money from designing indie computer games and selling them through a web portal. The problem with this plan is its very risky and provides no immediate cash injection of which I am sorely in need. Yet I suspect I will make moves in that direction anyway, while searching for something else with the other hand. What I am at core is a dreamer, I live in my own mind for a large part of my life and I want to bring these dreams to life. I'm not bothered by having large amounts of money. I'm not going to be a banker in the city. I just want to get by well enough and make challenging, groundbreaking, critically acclaimed entertainment.

I also want a robot.

I wonder what phase three is though? If I achieved the dream; what next? Is there something else to do?

Schopenhauer described life as being a cycle of desire, fleeting satisfaction and boredom. I guess for me I could satisfy myself by continually improving my creative output, maybe one day saving up enough cash to build my own house (with robots). Then I can retire and open that pub (non-smoking, no kids, no food – I figure we'll all need some way of making money in retirement plus I like sitting around in pubs). At weekends I will draw. Or maybe I won't, I'm not sure I like planning that far ahead. Makes life less exciting, If I stick to it I've already surrendered control of my life to a plan, I'll be stuck doing these things. Maybe I'll keep it loose instead, just go with what the mood takes. Make sure I'm enjoying myself all the time, that kind of basic stuff.

I'm always meaning to write more blogs; I've planned loads in my mind. There is the hillarious Jehovah's Witness Leaflet Parody Entry, The Entry In Which I Draw Your Attention To The Work Of Always Black and The Entry In Which I Explain The Educational Power Of Wikis. I think I'll have to come clean and just admit to being a flake, these entries will never get made. I'd just rather be doing other things, or else I would have done them.

Then again…


September 02, 2005

Sexy new CSS Layouts

Writing about BlogBuilder update: Custom CSS from Blogbuilder news

Looks like the good folks at Blogbuilder have pulled some rabbits out of hats and allowed us to "bling up" our blogs. Its all very exciting and persuaded me to spend a couple of hours today tweaking the source code to make this new layout.

I reccommend starting with one of the already made .css layout files and working from there. Also I've heard tell on the grapevine that all the hard work modifying may be broken soon when Andy Ingram uploads his fixes to the generic layouts. You might want to hold off till thats done.

Otherwise an excellent move for Blogbuilder which might spawn a whole mini culture of tech savvy types passing round css designs for the less tecnically minded. Lets see if I'm right.

Anyone got any jobs?


August 16, 2005

Amiga Power

Amiga Power 2

I expected noone to understand this. Mostly I was right


WGA entry

I'm now ITfficially no longer a student at warwick.

However

SUPER MEGA HYPER ALUMNI UPGRADE!

Better.


August 13, 2005

Houses

Looks like we got the house, all that remains is the delicate buisness of signing contracts and we can move our collective arse into the region, of Leamington Spa. This is what is known as Awesome.

Also on the theme of houses, Helen is currently at my house reading the Times Educational Supplement. This worthy tome of teacheresque bounty seems to have become her constant companion, very interesting. I've supplied her with plentiful bounty of soduku but she is so far uninterested, odd for a female of her age and pigmentation. More on this experiment later.

I've just been made aware that something called the 'coalition of hate' is attempting to attack and sieze control of my very essence of being. Sam, you're a very hunky man and I'm sorry for all the love letters.

Pretty standard fare for a saturday morning in chez Lawrence.


August 11, 2005

Got Milk?

Writing about web page http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/howesn/

Nick Howes is a man of many talents.

However his most noticeable feature is his love of milk, I know that living with him is going to be a pleasureable experience simply because our fridge will never fail to be stuffed with this white gold that I too have a great and, in many ways, terrible thirst for. The love of milk is entirely grounded in scientific fact and very powerful advertising, which, as we know, is better than scientific fact.

Nick Howes is also a Lance Corporal which should mean he brings a sense of military discipline to the other slack jawed yokels I'm forced to cohabit with. Freeing me up for a few of my favourite pursuits , which is excellent. Nick can also lighten up even the darkest of evenings by imitating Police Academy's Michael Winslow with impecable timing. What a useful chap he is, and with the right wiring should be able to keep our home secure as well! Magic.

A poem about Nick

That guy on the news,
Had none of your flair,
He took an unscheduled cruise,
Sailed right through the air,
The poor chap hit the floor,
While trying Parkour.

Too soon?
That's why I'm no Nick,
While playing the loon,
He never misses a trick,
He's so cool,
Makes me look like a fool.

Thats why I'm watching him now,
As I tighten my grip,
I see him milking a cow,
One little slip,
Where'd he get all those cows?
God bless you Howes.

The best thing about Nick though, is that he loves making things, be it games, £10 pound note t-shirts, or wild photoshop antics he's always creative and thus great, and truly inspiring to have around.

Lance Corporal Howes; I salute you.

(Sorry about the delay on your application form Nick, beaurocracy and all that)


Indie Games

Writing about web page http://diygames.com/


Will independent video games soon rival the strength of the independent cinema scene, and provide a similar role in reinvigorating the conservative mainstream? These signs are definitely begin to show, with a few breakthrough games like Uplink showing that the small scale independents can still have large success, as they did in the dawn of the industry. While the team behind the game have said that if they'd known how hard it was going to be in the beginning they wouldn't have tried, somehow I don't believe them. On a much wider scale independent companies are having success in specific fields with good buisness models – such as in MMORPG games where players pay a monthly fe for an ongoing experience and are often prepared to do without expensive and time consuming graphics for a greater depth of experience.

There are plenty of signs from the more artistcally inclined game designers that they yearn for a stronger independent scene in which to exercise their skills. Warren Spector (Credited as the main genius behind the original Deus Ex) went on a 'rant against the games industry' panel at this years GDC saying:

We need Sundances. Independent Film Channel. Equivalents of those. Just try to find some way of funding your stuff that doesn’t come from a publisher.

See the full text here

Outside these big industry names there are also things happening; independent games are getting better. Observe this article over at Euro gamer on some of the more interesting titles around today.

There are new models for lower cost gaming emerging, with new distribution models. Check out Ritual's SiN: Episodes . They intend to use Valve's Steam software to deliver game content directly to consumers in a format like TV serials, evolving and changing the way the game plays as more content is released and players generate feedback.

Its exciting and somethng that everyone should encourage and be involved with. More independent games means more innovation, games for smaller markets, games for adults, women, artists. Games that make you think, make you cry, games that move the industry into a proper art form, worthy of the name.


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