Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Short, Sharp, Cynical.

Infinity Ward, please sort your servers out. This isn't much use.

Reckon I'm sort of out on my own saying this, and its mainly because those thinking it locally aren't wanting to ruffle feathers, but a company that blames everyone but themselves is going to have problems. The games industry is a tough place, but its exactly that...an industry. You need a backup plan for your contingency of your backup plan.

Also, as far as elections go...I'm waiting to see what happens regarding "Digital Britain", but trust Lemmy: "A two party system is only one party better than a one party system."

Finally, cynicism has become cool. What a turn of events! I'm now cynical about what degree I should endeavour to be dismissive or judgemental publically...It's too trendy to have an opinion!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Ummm...

Ok...so is it just me or does that hit counter legitimately read 34,000 ish?

I'd better get writing this stuff again. That's GOOD.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Alien Chestburster Fancy Dress

Desired Outcome:














About 10 minutes of papier mache wizardry:





















































Some paint


















Some cling-film and nakedness.















































































TADA!


















Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Return to Action- Games Managment

Apologies to all (the few) that previously followed this blog, for my epic lapse of both effort and concentration- I really should’ve been posting more over the past few months. Proper apologies will come later, but for now I shall crack on with this evening's proceedings. (If you read in the day time, use your imagination to think of me typing away at 12ish on a Tuesday evening).

The following article will also be published on my Games blog (more academic and for industry types to look at) but I think it's scathing enough to appear on this blog too.

Essentially this article is grounded on a wholesale personal distaste for one David Braben- ‘living industry legend’ and pompous fart. Scandalous you say? Well my initial gut response to Braben was based purely on how he acted in person at the 2008 Edinburgh Interactive Festival. Braben was part of a panel of the 4Talent showcase, which were brought together to discuss ‘Publishing’. The day had been broken up into various sections to appeal to all, but with specific areas of interest for artists, coders, management etc.

I touched upon this on my review of the event closer to the time, but the panel was in dire need of a chairperson to restrict the ego-fest that ensued. Two members of the panel for the most part kept schtum until questioned, whilst Braben and Gordon Ross, a previous employer of mine went at it. I like Gordie Ross a lot, but don’t let my affiliation fool you; I wasn’t just gunning for his side of arguments. In fact, at times Gordon Ross sounded pretty tongue tied, but I’d like to imagine this was on account of Braben pulling every subject towards himself for the sake of putting his full stop on it. It was cringey to watch, as wide questions were pulled to and fro from one person’s personal experience or example to another. By about forty minutes in, the panel had managed to swerve the subject of PUBLISHING completely, and somehow were still finding things to yap about between themselves, rather than to the increasingly agitated audience.

At this point, because I was there specifically to hear about the subject, I asked a publishing related question. I started it with “It’d be good if you could all talk a bit more about publishing”. I was particularly satisfied with myself, and I relaxed back in my chair to hear the brilliant answer. Within a few minutes, the whole subject had changed again, and our dear Mr. Industry Legend Braben was correcting the rest of the panel again on anally specific details of nothing much at all.

Which brings us up to date on the Braben front- I didn’t like him much in the first place. However, I think what I have to say now is far more encompassing than just getting back at him personally. Education is vital to the games industry right now; not only because the industry is expanding its production techniques, processes and theories to match film studio professionalism or because the industry can truly prove itself through the tough economic conditions, but instead because there needs to be a sea change in thinking about how games are produced and how studios are managed.

"One of the things that is very worrying is there are over 80 games courses in Britain and the sad thing is they aren't really teaching what we need for games at the moment, which is a frightening thing," David Braben. Reported on gamesindustry.biz

"There are something like 81 courses in the UK dedicated to computer games," he added, "but universities get paid for putting bums on seats and they're turning out students who know all about the history of games, but they can't make them."- Ian Livingstone. Reported on gamesindustry.biz

It is sweeping statements like this from the industry’s oldies that are causing concern for me. They punctuate an already growing anxiety I have for how the industry is going to change very soon. I highlighted recently in an essay for my own university course in Abertay, how the elders in the games industry are not forward thinking enough about the next generation of management and development. On the contrary to what Braben has said about education materials being up to five or ten years behind what’s needed within the industry, recognition of Agile development methods in institutions like Abertay has been met with surprise and awe from some studios. Whilst game companies are obviously aware of such theories, all too often I think the management in a studio is for the longest serving member of the team. The old-school method of shunting a brilliant programmer into a management role isn’t working to align the professionalism of a game studio with that of a film studio, or any other corporate company. Brilliant programmers should be allowed to thrive upon newer more exciting programming challenges, not moved into a role which they are not theoretically trained for.

There are two separate issues here. One is that I think a lot of comments like these are made without full knowledge of what is really being taught in the ’80 plus’ institutions across Britain. The second is that there needs to be a willingness from the elder statesmen of the industry to accept that there are academically proven, and talented young individuals raring to step up to the plate. This willingness needs to also stretch to the acceptance of some of the new input that could really project our industry- business and management skills within a studio or publisher. The days of ‘crunch’ should be numbered. Instead, in 2009, it’s still an accepted fact of the production process.

To further illustrate the point that at least one UK University is doing the right stuff (I’m not biased, I simply know more about Abertay!), the amount of team project work I’ve done in the past year is astounding. The courses across the School of Computing are all shaped to accommodate large team projects, where students get a real-life, hands on experience of what making games and software is actually like. Coupled with projects like Dare to be Digital, what more education does a scholar need? Well, industry experience. That’s the problem.

How can the ‘new school’ knowledge infiltrate the industry? Simple- game companies need to recognise the worth of the courses. The film industry is different to the games industry for a number of reasons; (Don’t mistake my use the film industry as an example for me thinking these sectors of ‘entertainment’ are the same- it is simply that the film industry is a number of years ahead of gaming in terms of creating a structure for itself) but one of the most important reasons is that it has recognised film studies courses to draw on for talent. The sooner games companies get acquainted with what universities are teaching, the better.

I spoke to Colin MacDonald, Studio Manager of Realtime Worlds, Dundee, about the possibility of a placement with them in a production type role. I also asked for his take on my CV as it was, and it was telling that he asked me to include more information about what my course- Game Production Management- actually entailed. Furthermore, I quizzed him about ‘runner’ roles or ‘shadowing’ roles for a non-graduate like myself to gain experience in production. I’m somewhat paraphrasing here, but he essentially said that there really isn’t such a role in the games industry- it’s a bit of a gap. And that’s where some of our biggest troubles lie. Oversights like this might mean the difference between a great producer getting the placement he needs to kick off his career, or not.

I think you’ll see that the Braben- hate was probably more light-hearted than I suggested at the start. I am, however, passionately against the element of the industry that I think Braben stands for.

One particular article thats worth a read if you're interested enough is found here


Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Elections, Shitty TV and Quantum of Crap


I'm currently watching the live BBC footage of the US Election voting and keeping a keen eye on the numbers. Looking rather good for Obama. Which is nice. The feed of that is here.

What's funny is that the guy doing the visuals and graphs of the statistics (not the guy with the white hair who's done it for years unfortunately) has this RIDICULOUS Minority Report or as I'm about to explain Quantum of Solace style visualisation playing behind him. It's certainly not how it looks, it is quite clear and concise- instead its the fact that its supposed to be actually functional. He keeps reiterating that he's going to use 'the touch screen' when he's clearly using a green screen behind him.

That aside I'll start my deconstruction of 007: Quantum of Solace. Okay, so it's not as bad as requiring a deconstruction. But there are a number of serious problems with it:

- It fails to follow on from Casino Royale the way it promised it would.
- It doesn't completely stand alone as a Bond movie- his vengeance isn't explained nearly explicitly enough.
-The story is very incoherently told. This is fine if done on purpose. But around half way through the film you give up because you don't see anything coming together.
- There is NO story!
- The action loses its vitality because you don't buy into the story.
- There aren't any gadgets.
- There's no proper spying.
- The bad guy sucks, and there is no evil plan.
- The experience is marred by the sponsorship. Not because of how it appears in film, but because the ads before the movie plays suck so much donkey dick.
- There isn't a suitable finale.

One final point that's rather more humourous is that the camera Bond uses is a simple Sony 5Mega Pixel camera phone, as advertised, yet he has ridiculous image-enhancing capabilities when using it! The technology is very badly veiled- anyone with a vague handle on what is currently possible would know this. The other thing that's really funny is the aforementioned touch-screen stuff, its very like Minority Report and is likely possible, especially in MI6's capable and money-filled hands, especially considering Window's' proposed 'Touch' stuff. But the stuff they do with it is so ridiculously over-the-top and unnecessary! Nobody wants to see the amount of information that Bond, M and a few others browse through nar the middle of the film, it isn't digestable and it isn't coherent.

One really FINAL point is about digestable content. The Michael Bay style slap bang action kind of sucks. And a couple of us found that if we the viewer can't follow the action on screen, the complex situation Bond finds himself in is made all the more improbable, because his reaction-times must be absoloutely other-worldly.

On the plus side...ehhhhmmm. Its not THAT bad. The intro credits are done very nicely, and I liked the low-fi sound of the intro music. Mark Kermode blasted it for not being memorable. That much is true, but I still liked it.

I've also just opened the BBC's British Style Genius. The stuff in this show is brilliant! Who made it!? Its absoloutely dumbfounding. It seems like somewhat of a misuse or pun, but the cosmetic quality of the analysis in this show is actually flabbergasting. The faux- historical reference points in the show just make it absoloutely laughable. I put it off when a girl in a shoe shop explained that the trainers sold for £200-400 and suggested that the shitty diamonte crap all over otherwise functional Nike 'kicks' made them 'classy'. I understand some people go for that sort of thing, but the fact they value the clothing as much to spend their wages on stuff that is so obviously badly made and thrown together in factories and live their lives so cosmetically is saddening. Don't get me wrong, I see the cultural importance of fashion. Just don't make low-brow programming about it.

Wow, that's all I'll complain about right now!

Kiss Kiss!

Monday, 20 October 2008

Mediocrity: A Study After a Thoughtful Bus Journey

I'd imagine there must be a concerted bunch who, like me, consider Oasis's latest outing- Whatever It's Called to be earth- shatteringly mediocre. I hope as you read this you know that the actual critiquing and critical content isn't going to go any further than "yeah that single was shite".

All I really wanted to highlight was that a band praised as some kind of big deal, have totally flopped again, yet a huge yobbish fanbase of people (sorry to over-generalise, but do know any oasis fan? Do they generally also like The Verve and The Stone Roses and know a sampling of crap the Beatles did?) eat it up eagerly.

On another note. Why should the American election only cough up one viable option for the future of the western world? Okay, I'm a bit late jumping on this issue given it's like 10 days away, but in seriousness, shouldn't all the candidates exhibit the charisma and in some senses the 'hope' that Barack Obama does? That 44. whatever % of American's would consider John McCain as a viable president and not just some douchey stand up comedian kind of hurts my head.

Don't get me wrong, I'm entirely aware that the American election is run entirely on the basis that the candidates are 'buying' their way to the heart of their nation, but surely there should be some better candidates appearing now and then?

As far as British people go, I think this is the first time in a long time that we've been so eagerly involved in the American Elections. Not just because we desperately don't want McCain, who'd seem more suited in the old-boys Hollywood outing Space Cowboys alongside Tommy Lee Jones and Clint Eastwood, to win, but because possibly, just possibly Barack Obama might do some stuff which actually helps people. Which actually makes things just a little bit better. Given the shitty state of affairs in terms of economic downturn and possible(? probable) recession, I think we need somebody like him to do the right stuff.

The case for the widespread increase in mediocrity will no doubt be continued on this page sometime soon.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Don't Pay For Crap Things

After reading an article in The Guardian today about the OCC's new chart- encompassing both digital and physical downloads, I got talking to a friend about the effects of digital distribution and obviously the inability of the industry or the courts to keep up with the rather grey area of digital distribution. This considered, clearly live music is where a lot of the money is to be made for bands these days, and the push towards bands to have a great live show now is evident.

However, on a smaller scale- certainly on the Dundee scene but most likely more widespread- DJ's have been upping the door price to their events exponentially. As a conscientious human being, who at least tries to contribute to society in some way and have some sense of self pride, I URGE you not to go waste £14 to go and see 'EROL ALKAN' or 'PENDULUM' 'play' in a club. I cannot claim to have lived through the golden age of live music, but when I was young, you paid around £15 to see a band you really liked and a couple of support bands (regularly something else worth paying for). That's value for money. And more and more I see young people (not just young people, but strapped for cash students squandering their student loans) coughing up for club nights that are essentially places where drink can be purchased for over the odds prices (okay thats a given, its been like that for a long time) and you can stand and listen to somebody 'mix' a range of music that probably doesn't sound much different to the music the club usually plays.

Now don't get me wrong. Some DJ's clearly have mixing skills, but the limited skillset required to select some 'cool' or 'scene' tracks to illegally download to your iMac and then fart about on through a clubs P.A really doesn't justify the £15 price tag.

The only bad thing about this is that seeing popular bands on stage now is gradually creeping up in price too. That's just something that can't be stopped unless people forfeit live music, which isn't likely to happen because its brilliant.