All 18 entries tagged Games

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June 17, 2005

The two things you need to know about…

Writing about web page

Saw this on Tim Worstall's blog and it strikes me as a cool meme. He says:-

The aim is to take some area of knowledge, any area, and boil it down to the two things that you really need to know about it. Two things that encapsulate, as far as is possible, the full wisdom and experience of the field.

He in turn borrowed the meme from Glen Whitman whose web page has many, many examples.

Some examples from Tim and Glenn's sites:-


  1. All people are nuts some of the time.
  2. Some people are nuts all of the time.

Project Management

  1. The schedule will slip.
  2. It's about how you manage the schedule slippage.

Now, this is a university where, we like to think, lots of people know lots of things about lots of things. So what are your two things you need to know about [...] ? My suggestion (with apologies to Pixar):-

Two things about superheroes

  1. Villains always talk too much
  2. Avoid capes

May 27, 2005


Writing about web page

This game combines such ridiculous simplicity with infuriating addictiveness that I'm almost embarrassed to recommend it. There's only one control – mouse click – to master, and a game tends to last no more than thirty seconds or so. But it is weirdly compulsive.

If 2D strikes you as too wilfully retro, there's also a 3D version of the same thing, although despite 3D being on the face of it cleverer, I found I enjoyed the 2D version more. But that's probably just my age.

May 13, 2005

Cover versions

So at a quiz I went to recently, my friend Charlie, who was setting the questions, amused and delighted everyone with the head-scratcher I attach below. Twenty album covers with the titles lovingly air-brushed out; how many can you identify? At the quiz, everyone could do at least half of them, but very few people could do them all (and while using Google or Amazon would make it easy, it wouldn't really count as "doing" them in any real way).

If you're tempted to post your answers, it might be sociable to do so with a trackback to your own blog, otherwise everyone else will see your answers before they get to post their own.

May 01, 2005

Student Survivor game

Writing about web page

This is, if you like, Sim Student. From the instructions:-

Your mission is to keep your student happy, fed, watered, studious and solvent for a week of 'in-game-time'.

The screen-grab shows my student in sadly typical pose watching TV. Happy, fed and watered turn out to be surprisingly easy, but studious and solvent are more challenging. (So actually when I say surprisingly, I guess I really mean unsurprisingly.) The only real tool one could use to get all these goals accomplished – a cattle prod – is inexplicably unavailable. Perhaps it's a power-up you can unlock on later levels. The game's got quite a few nice, whimsical touches; each time you play, for example, the posters on the wall of the student house change, and each choice, at least to my uninformed eyes, looks worryingly plausible.

Disclaimer: the web site wants to flog you accommodation-related and other crap, but you don't actually have to sign up for any of it.

April 23, 2005

Abstract curling game

Writing about web page

Simple but curiously addictive Flash game, which unlike my previous post does require at least a tiny bit of skill. The instructions are all in Japanese, but it's pretty simple: click and hold on a small blob to show its direction arrow and a power meter. Let go of the button to fire the blob, and try to land it in the big box. Each big box has a number in it, which is the number of small blobs you need to get in it. It's like golf or bowling or worms or curling, but completely abstract, and kind of engaging because of that.

Kitten Cannon

Writing about web page

Flash game. Ridiculously simple and with almost no skill required, so it suits me well on two counts. 1,054 feet is my best so far.

Guess the Google images

Writing about web page

This is entertaining. You're shown twenty images from Google Images, and you have twenty seconds to guess the single keyword which would have retrieved all the images you're shown. If you're good enough at it, there's a scoreboard to record your performance for posterity. I wasn't.

February 08, 2005

New "Stuck for ideas" questions

Follow-up to More "Stuck for ideas" questions from Autology: John Dale's blog

February's contributions to the "Stuck for ideas" questions are now up. It could just be me, but they seem to be getting more esoteric. Your favourite translation of Dickens into Finnish can't be far away…

January 27, 2005

Games for children

Writing about web page

Writing video games for young children is both unfashionable and tough, which may explain why there aren't many of them. Tone down the violence, lose the rap soundtrack, eliminate all criminal behaviour, and what's left? Nintendo do a good job on family-friendly titles, but there aren't many third-party producers doing the same. So I found this write-up on the making of Ty the Tasmianian Tiger 2 pleasingly insightful. It touches on some technical problems – streaming level data in, frame-based versus delta-based game timings – but much more interesting (to me, at least) is the commentary on how you (a twenty or thirty-something developer) make a game for young (six to twelve-year-old) children. Sample quote:-

There's a difference between making a great game, in general, and making a great game for younger kids. We may be kids at heart, but we are still adults. Sure, we like giant robots, we've got Transformer action figures all over our desks and have Nerf wars through the workplace, but there aren't many of us that burst into tears when you can't jump over a fence that LOOKS like you can due to invisible collision, or get scared because the spiders are too life-like.

At the very least, it's made me want to pick up a copy of the game for when my son is a few years older.

January 15, 2005

Mind games

Writing about web page

A fun, if irritating, collection of web games, all free, all playable in under a minute, all trickier than they look (except Shrunken Head, which is just stupid).

I'm pretty sure that I've got worse at doing these sorts of puzzles as time has gone by, but I'm not sure whether to ascribe it to stupidity or laziness or both.

January 12, 2005

Invisible infant

Can you spot the missing baby in this picture?

January 11, 2005


Today's state-of-the-art games are cool. Halo 2? HalfLife 2? GTA San Andreas? They all rock. But there's a problem (apart from the fact that I seem to have started writing like William Goldman): I'm too old for them. I played video games between about 1980 and about 1990, so everything I spent time on was 2D, and an arcade game or a home computer or console arcade clone. By the time FPS's and Final Fantasy and survival horror games and the like came along, I'd pretty much given up. I still like to find a few minutes to play now and again (with a three year old in the house, playing in five minute bursts is about all there's time for) but there's pretty much nothing on the shelves in Game that's aimed at me.

But that's okay, because there are other solutions for retro gamers like me:-

  1. I have an arcade cabinet with a PC running MAME inside it. More on this some other time.

  2. There's a growing shareware industry making games which are modern twists on classic arcade games. They're simple to pick up, the games don't tend to last too long and the play is simple but challenging. Perfect. And since they generally go for $15 to $20, and the pound is beating the dollar to a bloody pulp right now, most of them cost about a tenner, which seems much more reasonable than the £35 or so that new releases in the shops seem to cost.

Current favourite: HamsterBall. This is basically the old arcade game Marble Madness given some shiny new graphics, some great multi-player modes, and new tricks and toys on every level. A particularly nice idea is the "Ghost Ball"; if you lose a level, when you replay it, there's a semi-transparent ball as well as your ball, showing you what you did last time. So you can see how you're doing compared with last time, and whether you're improved enough to get to the finish line in time.

January 02, 2005

Sonic in Flash

Writing about web page

I loved the Sonic games when they first came out on the Megadrive. I'm mildly dumbfounded to discover that some dedicated coder has faithfully recreated the Sonic experience entirely in Flash. What little I know about coding in Flash leaves me impressed going on bemused that there are people with the talent, creativity and patience to make this fairly lame-ass tool do such cool things.

November 11, 2004

Game development: Harder than you think

Writing about web page

This article is a really interesting primer on why writing video games is so much harder now than it was ten or fifteen years ago. Some interesting insights into the relatively poor fit of compilers and profilers to games development, and the pain associated with the build-and-test cycle for modern games. But as a games developer from many years ago, the bit that really made me wince was this:-

A programmer just isn't going to be competent in a modern game without a decent grasp of basic linear algebra, as well as geometry in 2D and 3D. We often use 4D representations for basic operations (4D homogeneous coordinates for general linear transformations, and the quaternions to represent rotations) so the ability to reason about higher dimensions is extremely useful. Basic calculus is necessary for all kinds of simulation and rendering tasks. For many rendering tasks, signal-processing mathematics is very important – both linear signal processing as well as the murkier study of spherical harmonics. For any kind of sophisticated simulation, you'll want experience with numerical analysis and differential forms.


November 07, 2004

San Andreas business

Writing about Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas from 9276

Seems that GTA:SA did great business; ChartTrack report that it sold 677,000 copies in its opening weekend - more than twice the sales of Vice City, the fastest selling title prior to San Andreas. At about £35 on average per copy, that's £24 million in a weekend. It also seems to have fuelled sales of the new slimline PS2, with many customers buying both the game and the console to play it on.

It's interesting that this doesn't seem to get reported in the media as a remarkable feat; it's Harry Potter or Star Wars sized business, representing a better opening weekend than just about any book or movie. But while record-breakers in every other medium are news-worthy, not so games, it seems. Strange.

October 11, 2004

R–Type, Wallace & Gromit: Together at last!

Writing about web page

You know what's missing from modern video games? Apart from playability, originality, wit, insight or whimsy? Well, I'll tell you; it's clay. All these be-tentacled aliens and and lovingly rendered Aztec ruins and shiny metal guns with their specular reflections and immaculately viscous gore are all very well, but why aren't there more games powered by claymation?

Now, thank goodness, the wait is over and the void is filled. Platypus is like R-Type would have been if Nick Parks had designed it, so it's essentially fabulous twice over. And at a mere 5.5MB for the demo version, it's smaller than the loading screens for Doom 3. Well worth a look.

June 10, 2004

Quizzical #2

Follow-up to Quizzical from Autology: John Dale's blog

What links:-

  • Robin Cook (chess computer)
  • George Foreman (pillow)
  • Oliver Reed (inflatable doll)

June 03, 2004


I'm a sucker for quizzes; the Guardian has a particularly good one on Saturdays, and despite knowing not very much about not very much, it's fun. There's a real art to good quiz questions; questions you know the answer to immediately aren't great, and questions where you have no idea (even after hearing the answer!) are no fun either. But questions where you suspect that the answer is in your head somewhere, or where hearing the answer makes you say "Doh!" are ideal.

Every so often I hear or read questions like that, and I always intend to remember them, but never do. So maybe a blog is a good place to jot them down; I've given them a category of their own so I can easily list them all on one page when I want to remind myself. We'll see how many accrue.

Here's the first one: What's next in this sequence of colours?

Brown, blue, pink, orange, red, yellow, green, ...

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