Archive for the ‘Non-Gaming’ Category

It’s been a long time. How have you been? What better post to come back to than a post about Scottish Independence! Now that the vote is in, I feel more comfortable talking about it openly. Seeing as in I’m not Scottish I didn’t really have much right to weigh in before the vote. The Scots have long earned the right to decide their own affairs, and they have.

Personally, I’m glad they decided to stick around. This Union of ours has been through a lot together – Founding a new nation (you’re welcome, America), building an empire, a couple of World Wars… so much heritage and tradition it’d be a shame to throw it all away. Plus videogames only recognise ‘posh’ and Scottish as legitimate British accents, so without you guys we’d be kind of boned on that score.

Sure – England conquered Scotland at a point in history and forcefully bound them to the Crown, and later Westminster. That happened. Before that, the Normans conquered the Saxons, who had taken England from the Romans who took it from the Welsh/Cornish before Scotland was even a thing. Whoever created Scotland in the first place would have had to assert his will over the rest of the country… It’s hard to draw a line on this stuff, but I’m glad we’ve finally learned the harsh lessons America and Ireland taught us and allowed you guys to really decide for yourselves what you want.

There’s still going to be a lot of anger over this I imagine – It wasn’t like this vote was a close run thing but there was around 200K votes between the No and the Yes when the final count was in. I’m sorry the Yes people didn’t get the result they desired. Again, glad you’re still here, but I know it’s not what you wanted. I hope Westminster delivers on some of their promises and makes you guys feel more comfortable about being part of this Union.

My own feelings on the matter have been that a lot of things the ‘Yes’ people seemed to want, bar of course the base desire to be a separate nation, could be granted through smarter and more sympathetic devolution so I hope this becomes reality sooner rather than later.

I’m sorry I haven’t been posting as much – been involved in this database project that takes up a lot of my time, but it’s coming to an end soon and hopefully normal services will be resumed after I’m back from holiday next week.

Chin up ‘Yes’ Scotland, at the very least you’ve all made history today. That’s something you can be proud of.

 

 

 

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I’m now at 50,000 words! Yay me!

After doing some calculations, I’d be surprised if I had more than 75K when the book is finished. At the moment I’ve got a structure of three parts, with six chapters per part and averaging at 4,000 words a chapter. I was hoping to hit 90,000, but I’ve already decided that I’ll just write the story as I envision it now, and see what happens. It’ll be as long as it ends up being – what’s more important is to start getting it into the hands of some ‘beta’ readers I already have lined up, start getting some genuine feedback. Maybe then I’ll be able to add, or expand, etc… 80,000 would be a good minimum to reach.

Anyway. To celebrate this milestone, I went ahead and bought a full-time use license of the software I’ve been using to write my book – Scrivener. Let me tell  you, as someone who started off writing his book in MS Word (What WAS I thinking?), this program was a revelation. It’s really easy to get into it, and it makes working with a multi-section document like a book so much easier to interact with. I wish I’d had this for my dissertation, I wouldn’t have had to go through so many headaches in the end.

The only thing I will say is that the compiling part – where you take your work and compress it into one, neat document – was a bit fiddly. It wasn’t 100% clear what all the options were and I had to compile several times just to figure out how to get the format I wanted. Other than that though – wonderful!

It costs $40 USD/£26 to buy, and it’s worth every penny if you need to write something big. It’s also got loads of built-in multi-media features as well that I don’t need to use, but that someone else might find extremely useful.

BRB, Cornwall

Posted: February 24, 2014 in Non-Gaming, Other
Tags: , , , ,

So despite what I said the other day about blogging more, I’m actually spending a week in Cornwall. Apparently its a holiday, but i’m not convinced.

The fact that I have working (and decent) WiFi is in itself a small miracle, but i’m not really in the habit of blogging or anything while I’m away. I read, I walk, I play card games until I lose the will to live. Might work on my novel a bit, mind.

It’s ok, I’m sure you’ll get on fine without me.

As I mentioned in a previous post – I’m writing my first novel. Project Author is coming along alright, I think: I’m on 35,000 words, which while not even being close to half done yet (I hope), is still the longest single piece of work I’ve ever written. At the moment I’m working to three parts, with Part One being more or less finished. Working on Part Two now, which is proving a bit more difficult to write. When writing reviews etc…, if I get stuck I usually just go write another paragraph, like the conclusion or just a thought I had, and then jump around and slowly tie everything together, re-writing as needed. I’ve been doing that with my book as well, but the problem is everything is on such a larger scale that the tiniest change could mean I spend a couple of hours re-writing everything. It’s a bit of a drain on the enthusiasm tank, but I’m powering through.

The main thing I’m worried about at the moment though is what happens when I’ve finished. What happens when I reach the ‘summit’? Even before I started this, I’ve always followed one or two authors on twitter out of personal interest (John Scalzi, for one, is really interesting). From time to time these people will tweet, or re-tweet information and links about book publishing in all its forms. Sometimes friends of mine who happen to like reading as well will post some articles, like this post today about a fiction-author getting back at the people who fired her. Anyway – since starting Project Author for realz, I’ve been paying more attention to this kind of stuff, as obviously it’s going to be something I’ll have to deal with when I’ve finished my book. Honestly, I’m a little bit apprehensive about it all.

From what I can tell, self-publishing seems the way to go at the moment. For one, there’s a lower barrier for entry as there are many established platforms in existence now for selling your book online. Also, considering this is my first book, I’ll definitely appreciated the fact that A/ I’m in total control and B/ I get all the money. From what I’ve read, Publishing House Contracts haven’t gotten much better as the decline of print means these big behemoths have to fight harder to maintain their bottom line. I understand it, I can even appreciate it, but it doesn’t mean I like it. Also, it’s important I don’t get caught out by the fact that my favourite authors are also fairly successful, and they are barely a handful of people out of the multitude of authors – aspiring or not – out there right now. Not everyone makes it, so if I’m going to fail I’d rather fail on my own terms.

That’s not to say I’ll never go down the traditional publishing route – my book is only part one of a series that I can continue for an additional 3-4 books. The general plan, at the moment, is to start with EBooks, get a following, get some numbers and ‘PR’ behind me, and then at some point use that to go to a publishing house so that I can get a special paper edition made or something, and use my past success to leverage a better deal.

But then I don’t really know anything, so that probably won’t work. I’m trying not to waste too much time researching book publishing at the moment because, honestly, the more I read the more depressed I get about the industry. I want to write this book, and I want to get it out there. If I’m lucky, it’ll supplement or be a nice addition to my existing income. Whether I’ll write the rest of the series if it’s a financial flop is a bridge I’ll have to cross when I get to it. They always say get into book writing for the love of it, not the money, but my own personal circumstances mean I’m very much aware of how I spend my time, and how much money that brings in. Gots bills to pay, yo.

I’m already nervous because I don’t know the book is even going to be any good. Everyone I tell loves the idea, but having a great idea and then putting it to words are different things. But I plan to have some extensive ‘beta’ testing, so hopefully I’ll be able to work it into something majestic. I also plan to be smart about this – I’ll use my own money to hire proper copy-proofers, commission some nice cover art, and I may even approach an agent just to get their opinion on the book, possibly even sign up if they can help me with E-publishing.

Wish me luck.

Its ok, I’m still alive. Just about. I think I left my keys somewhere… This is just a quick update to let you all know what I’m up to at the moment, as well as some musings on recent events I’ve been meaning to get around to. I say this a lot, but I want to pick up the pace on blog posts in the New Year, so hopefully they’ll be more communication from me in general.

First and fore-most – I’m buying a house! Go me! This is the main reason why I’ve been so busy recently. Buying a house is hard, don’t you know. Lots to take into account, and then there was that one time where we thought the house was going to collapse on us as soon as we bought it… but it’s all good now. Coupled with this will be the acquisition of Virgin Media and fibre optic broadband. I’m literally this much happy right now {________________}. This will help me greatly with something else I’m getting into:

Twitch!

I’ve been avoiding it for a while, but we can’t ignore that YouTube and Twitch represents the future of videogames coverage. That’s not to say the written word will die out – not at all, but to ignore these emerging mediums is to tempt fate. Or admit that you have so much money that you don’t really care. Since I’m a poor freelancer though, I’ve got to go where the action is. My meagre video-editing skills that I picked up at University have rusted to the point of, well, whatever a good joke about ‘rust’ is, but Twitch is something I reckon I can handle.

At the time of writing, I’ve only done a couple of streams. Still fiddling around with the settings to be honest, and getting used to the talking/playing thing. It’ll get better when I get my fibre optic anyway. Please do check it out if you get a chance!

Project Author

That’s not the actual name of the project, but it’s the public name. I’ll reveal the real name and more details at a later date. Some of you will know what this is about anyway, but essentially I’m writing my first novel. I’ve always, secretly, wanted to write a novel as I love reading and I like to think I have a fairly active imagination. I got into Journalism in the first place because I wanted to tell stories, essentially, but do so in a way that’s informative and actually useful. Then I realised that actually that was quite boring and so went into writing about games instead, but I always try to tell a bit of a story in my work. My desire to write an actual novel never waned, however.

I’ve been working on it for around four-five months now. I’d like to say I’m making progress, but as soon as I hit 25K words I suddenly realised I wanted to do something different, so I’m currently re-purposing as much as I can and then carrying on from there, but I plan to do a lot more over Christmas as I won’t have as much freelance work to do. I’ll probably share more details when it’s more complete, but for now I’ll just say I’m writing a Science-Fiction novel. Because Space.

How Videogames Change the World

A quick shout out to all my friends and acquaintances who were involved in the making and production of ‘How Videogames Change the World’, which aired last weekend on Channel 4. It’s a great program, and I hope to see more positive mainstream coverage on videogames. The Guardian’s Keith Stuart’s segment during the Minecraft entry about his kids was very heart-warming.

It wasn’t perfect however, although plenty of other people/sites have covered this already so I won’t go into it too much. Essentially though, the format of the show didn’t really fit the theme, as the format was actually a list of 25-influential games, and how they specifically influenced the world. The only problem with this though is that a list structure like that is actually a bit too rigid, and at times they went off on tangents that didn’t really fit in well with what they were trying to do. It also meant they couldn’t really deal with issues like women in games at much as maybe they would have liked to, but no matter.

It also gave off the false impression that the games were in some kind of order of importance, when actually they were just in chronological order. This problem really game to the fore though with the #1 entry, which was Twitter. Now… I know what they were doing, but it was a bit poor, in all honest. Regardless of what the list means, having sat through an hour and a half of really decent discourse on videogames, to then have Twitter as the last thing I saw left a bitter taste in my mouth. Although that could have been what I was drinking. Still, it was something that was too smug for its own good and trying to be clever, and it wasn’t needed. Other than that, fantastic show though.

That’ll do for now… the problem with writing for a living is that I find I only have so much creativity in me, and I find I use it all up when it comes to be writing a blog about something. And there’s twitter. It’s essentially the perfect Micro-blog platform, and I find that I’ll make a point on there far quicker and more effective than just writing about it here. And I hate repeating myself.

 

So, I watched Pacific Rim for the first time the other day. It was a tad disappointing. I didn’t think it would be that easy to make a bad film about Robots fighting Monsters, but they managed to make it fairly naff. The action was pretty good, even if all the Robots managed to do was box while the Monsters jumped all over them, but hey, it’s hard/expensive to animate that kind of stuff in 3D I guess. I hear people say they didn’t like the Transformers films because the fighting was just a blur. Each to their own. I can’t help but feel the creators of Pacific Rim missed a trick by not making a westernised version of Evangelion, the cult classic anime created by Hideaki Anno. When I first saw the trailers I thought it WAS the live-action Evangelion film that had been rumoured for years.

Granted, Evangelion was actually pretty weird, all things considered, but the basic premise matches that from Pacific Rim and they could have incorporated some elements which I feel would have made for a more interesting film, or at least made some of the more obvious plot devices a little less obvious. I know this post is probably going to sound very self-aggrandising, but I’m seeing this as an exercise in creative adaptation more than anything else. Here is how I would have made Pacific Rim:

* WARNING: Will contain mild spoilers of both Pacific Rim and Evangelion. You have been warned *

Rimvangelion

Create Monsters to Fight Monsters – The tagline for Pacific Rim is kind of rubbish, in hind sight, as humanity didn’t end up creating monsters at all: they created giant robots. Everyone loves giant robots (true fact). Looking at Evangelion though, the EVA’s are actually part-biological, and psudo-clones of the First and Second Angels. Translating this into Pacific Rim would be easy, as the film takes place many years into the ‘Kaiju War’, and you see several sub-plots of scientists and black marketers playing around with and using Kaiju Bio-Materials.

What I would have done is changed the first and only Mark 5 to have been the first Jaeger to not need two pilots, as it has Kaiju bio-matter integrated into it. Specifically a cloned brain which is meant to ease the neural load of the human pilot. This would eliminate the painfully cheesy co-pilot selection process mid-film, where it (painfully) obvious that the cute Chinese girl with inexplicably blue-tipped hair was going to be the go-pilot. I mean it seemed like those other candidates weren’t even trying. Anyway – you could still also keep the disastrous start-up test sequence as well, as obviously this has never been done or tested before, and wrestling with a Kaiju brain is probably going to be traumatic, at best.

Hell, you could even use the Mark V as the plot device that reveals the Kaiju origins and purpose as well, as like some kind of residual memory from the brain it was cloned from. Would be preferable to having that really annoying scientist/fanboy go on his pointless quest because he’s a bit of a dick. Obvious sub-plot is obvious.

Plus, a great ‘fan service’ moment of Evangelion is where Shinji’s (and on occasion Asukas) EVA goes berserk, where the EVA itself takes over (kind of) and just beats the holy crap out of the enemy. You see plenty of examples of the Jaeger’s controlled, boxing/wrestling combat style, but this set-up would allow the Jaeger to act more like the Kaiju, which could be a bit of a visual treat.

You could still keep the set-up more or less the same – The Jaeger program being shut-down, the last stand in Hong-Kong. You could even blame the development of the Mark 5 on the program’s demise, as too much money went into creating that ‘machine’ whilst Jaegers were being torn apart left right and centre, and the Kaiju’s getting bigger. I think the ‘Wall of Life’ project was a pretty weak justification on its own, especially once that one Kaiju tears through it fairly early into the film. It annoyed me that no-one really addressed that. Reactivating what’s-his-face would still make sense as well. Perhaps they felt they needed to tie the (not)romance plot into a buddy plot with the whole co-pilot thing, but you could also argue that an inevitable evolution of the Jaeger’s would be to find a way around the neural load problem. The Kid, being the only Jaeger pilot left alive who wasn’t already part of a team (And one of only two to have piloted a Jaeger single-brainededly), would be the perfect choice.

Considering the romance plot isn’t really acted upon, it doesn’t really matter that it’d get reduced a lot by not having blue-tip in the centre of it all. Or maybe you could have her as the back-up pilot, if you really wanted to keep her in that sphere.

Hmm, I thought I’d have more to write than that. It’s really just the part Kaiju/Part machine thing that I reckon would have made Pacific Rim a whole lot better, and it would hold together quite well with what they ended up doing. You can carry on with your day now.