Monday, February 28, 2011

GDS Website

I was thinking that I would probably end up making a post about the Oscars today but I didn't actually watch the show and I've not really read much about them yet today either. From what I have heard the show itself was actually quite boring. Instead I've been taking a moment to revamp my business website which is something I've wanted to do for a long time but never found the right moment to do it. Today I realized I had a little time in between projects and decided I should get it done. It's not going to be a huge site so I should be be able to get it finished this evening. I shall therefore get back to it now.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dev Weekend - Day 3

All over now and it's been fun. We finished coding late this afternoon before we had to finish off and return to normal lives. We decided to write a UML class diagram editor using JavaScript and PHP. Most of the existing alternatives are written using flash. You can have a look at the result here It was all an interesting experience which we hope to do again. In the meantime even though the website works well at the moment, there are many addition features that might be nice.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Dev Weekend - Day 2

Things got off to a slow start today but they eventually picked up. I'm actually a bit surprised at how far we have come. There is actually a chance that by tomorrow evening we could have a product at a point which is suitable to launch. There will no doubt be a few loose ends to tie up and perhaps some additional functions to add later but the major features are all in place and ready to go.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Dev Weekend - Day 1

The first day has gone quite well I think. An idea was chosen and development has been progressing nicely. It feels like there's still a long way to go to a finished product but there's still two days to go. I should get back to it now I suppose.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dev Weekend

I have to admit that I cannot take credit for the concept nor can I take credit for the suggestion that we do one. I am looking forward to it though. The idea is that a group of developers get together and lock themselves away for a few days. During that time intense development on a single idea takes place and hopefully you come out at the other end with a marketable product. So beginning this evening and until Sunday this is what I will be doing. Unfortunately due to other peoples commitments our group this time will only be two of us. However we do plan to start doing this on a semi-regular basis, maybe once or twice a year I guess. So hopefully with a bit more lead time in the future we can organize a couple more people. Later this evening I will meet an old friend from my university days at the train station as he visits from London, at which we will begin spinning ideas at the only place you can do such things, the pub!

(Side Note)
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Official Trailer looks great

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Something Different

I have something new and a bit different planned for this weekend, which I will explain tomorrow. In the meantime I'm busy trying to wrap a few things up before that starts. So today's post is going to be a short one and the rest of the week will probably be on the short side as well. Sorry in advance about that.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Call To Arms

Normally I wouldn't bother with a demo of a game which I have already decided to buy and have already pre-ordered. However for Dragon Age II the developers at BioWare and the marketers as EA have come up with an extra promotion. The idea is that anyone who plays the demo (with their BioWare account logged in) will get an additional in-game item available in the full game. Also on top of that if they can amass one million downloads two further items will be added. I've just finished downloading the demo and I'm writing this intro while I'm waiting for it to install. The website has an nice counter and map showing the downloads and at the time of writing this it's showing 161,774 downloads. That's after only 2 hours and 20 minutes of the being available, so I suspect that hitting the one million target by March 1st probably won't be a problem. The demo has installed now and apparently the play-time is only about an hour, so I'm going to play now and will finish this post with a quick review afterwards.

The first attempt was not so good, I got a DirectX error and the demo failed to load. The demo installer had warned me that I didn't have the very latest version of DirectX and told me that it would update it. Yet even after a reboot it would not work. So I manually installed the latest version and that got it going. (As usual, screenshots can be clicked for larger versions)

All of the character customization options have been cut out of the demo. This means the only choices you get to make are class and gender. I decided to with the standard male warrior which BioWare/EA have been using in most of the promotional screenshots and videos. After a brief intro video in which a women of the Chantry is interrogating a Dwarf you are thrown straight into the action. You are immediately fighting waves of Darkspawn with one companion, your sister. I have to say I was expecting her to die, but it turns out that was not the case. After a few waves the game cuts back to the Dwarf as at this point the action is representing him telling a story. He begins the story again from an earlier point and the game becomes a more standard format. Eventually this leads you back to the battle you started with.

The path you have to take here is very linear but this is only the prologue to the story. There are lots of cutscene interruptions and character introductions but I guess it won't all be like that. One thing that I was surprised about was the dialogue. When I first heard that the system from Dragon Age: Origins had been changed to one more similar to Mass Effect I was worried it wouldn't work as well. I believe I devoted an entire post to the subject. Yet now I've actually played it I've changed my mind. It worked nicely and the voice actor behind the male version of Hawke did a good job. After the prologue the story jumps to another short section from later in the game.

Although the HUD has a different layout from the first game the combat in general is pretty much the same in terms of mechanics. There are new talents and powers to be explored but if you've played the first game you'll pick it up in no time. One thing I noticed though is that it seemed to be a lot faster. The animations seem faster and so combat seems more frenetic. This made me pause in combat to issue orders more than I did in the past and I lost track of my mouse cursor a couple of times.

The graphics for the environments appear to be much improved and look really nice. The character models on the other hand have not changed as much. This does however help to make it feel more like the game is still taking place in the same universe rather than all being new. Although the new Qunari horns and backwards Elf ears might change that, but they don't appear in the demo.

The demo could have been a disaster for sales if it had been bad but I'm looking forward to the game even more now. It looks like I'm not alone either. The download count on the website after only five hours is now showing 242,598! Three weeks to go...

Monday, February 21, 2011


I've got quite a lot of photos. A quick (but incomplete) count comes in at 3544. I've had them all organised by date in Picasa for a while but I still need to finish tagging people and locations. I really should get it done before I start forgetting things about them. It's yet another one of my projects that I've not quite finished. There has only been one album for 2011 so far and that's all done. I've now just completed all of 2010, but that was easy and it was already part done. It's the older stuff that's not as well organized. However I've got digital photos going back to 1999 and scanned prints going all the way back to 1984! Some of 1999/2000 is done but it's inconsistent, so now I'm going to work my way backwards. Another task for me to attempt to complete this year. Even just one years worth per week would see it done by mid-August (but I'll probably do some of 2009 now).

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Quiet Day

Last night out at The Wendy House was great. It's been too long since I've been up there. I think everyone had a good time. There are photos linked on my Facebook if you're interested. The club shuts at 3AM which is followed by the drive back to Sheffield and then a taxi from Sheffield town centre back home. That means it's generally getting close to 5AM before you get home. So not a lot has been going on today. Got up late as to be expected and watched some TV, that's about it. Nothing else to report.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Off Out, Also Eyes

Early post today as I'm off out to Leeds this evening to celebrate a friend's birthday. Other than that I don't have much else to talk about today.

While I'm away here's an interesting article/video about films and eye movement to take your time instead:

Friday, February 18, 2011

Diabetes & Android

When I was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes one of the first things I was given was a diary to note down and keep track of my blood sugar test results. My first reaction to that was, this needs to be an online database! It took me a while to get around to it but I did eventually write such a website. Of course like many of my side projects it has never quite been completed. It is usable but there are many rough edges and so I have never opened it up to outside users. I am the lone user. Now is the time to change that. This is not the project I've been mentioning recently (that's a brand new one) but I decided I should finish off some of my older projects first. It is of course my fancy new Android phone which has triggered this plan. In addition to finishing off the website I'm also planning an Android app to go along with it. Sorry iPhone users but Apple charge $99 per year for the "privilege" of developing apps for their devices so I won't be doing that anytime soon. Admittedly Google charge too but it's only $25 one-off for an Android developer license. So right now I'm in the learning phase, finding out what there is to know about Android development. I've been churning out generic php websites for many years now it's been a long time since I learned anything new. I'm a bit rusty at this. There are some existing solutions out there but not very many and a lot of the software options are tied to a specific meter. Still I kinda want the satisfaction of using my own.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


My quest to see more films at the cinema continues and tonight's choice was Sanctum. Aside from the film itself this was an interesting experience in a different way. If you've been paying attention you might have noticed a fortnightly Thursday trend to these film posts but to keep that schedule I had to accept that I'd have to go alone sometimes. I mean you're only going to sit quietly in the dark and I have the Internet to share it with afterwards. So tonight I went alone but then on top of that I was the only one in that screen as well. I purposely pick quiet times to go but to be the only one in there was a little bit weird.

I have to say that if James Cameron wasn't involved as Executive Producer and it hadn't used the 3D techniques developed for Avatar I would have probably skipped this and waited for a DVD. Except for Cameron and actor Ioan Gruffudd I'd never heard of anyone else who worked on the film, not actors, the writers or the director. It has to be said that when a film is properly captured with 3D cameras rather then being converted in post-production they look so much better. The film looks great but there is not a lot more to it.

It's hard to decide what genre of film this is. It's not really action nor is it horror (unless you're claustrophobic). The best description I can come up with is survival drama. The story is simple and involves a group of explorers getting stuck in a flooded cave system. For the audience it's a guessing game. Who will die? Who will sacrifice themselves? Who will go crazy? Who will survive? Unfortunately the answers to those questions are generally the obvious ones.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

One More Turn

I started playing Civilization 5 again. That means I'm running late and have not taken the time to think about a blog topic. It's 50AD and my empire is expanding. Elizabeth and Napoleon keep asking me to help destroy the other and Gandhi keeps asking for a Pact of Friendship. I'm mostly ignoring their requests for now as once I've finished building my army they will all be annexed. I decided I'd play as Alexander this time.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dragon Age: Redemption

From Buffy to Dr. Horrible and then The Guild I've been a fan of Felicia Day for a while. She's been teasing about a mystery project on Twitter for the last few weeks and today we've finally found out that it is a live action web series based on Dragon Age. Apparently she was approached by BioWare/EA and asked to create something and so now were getting a six part series that will tie in to Dragon Age II. I guess some people at BioWare are fans of The Guild as the format sounds quite similar with mini episodes airing online written by Day and with her starring as Tallis, an Elven assassin. I'm looking forward to it already, but if you're reading this you're probably already aware I'm a big Dragon Age fan. I also love the use of Twitter and other social media to build a buzz. I, like many others, have been wondering what this was about for a while now. Most people were guessing Dr. Horrible 2 but now I think about it that wouldn't have made sense based on Nathan Fillion and Neil Patrick Harris' other commitments. Still I always appreciate it when famous people on Twitter use it to simply interact with their fans rather than just trying to sell things and Felicia Day is a pro at that. Of course part of the reason I say that is she's one of two famous people that have replied to me on Twitter. There is no information about when it is going to be on yet but I hope it's soon. (Watch The Guild while you wait)

Monday, February 14, 2011


I've been thinking for a while now but I just can't find an interesting topic for today. I was trying to find something to talk about so I could avoid doing a post about being single on valentines day but now I'm doing it anyway. Of course to me it's normal anyway, I've been single on valentines days more times than I've not so it's never been something I've been hugely bothered about. The only difference about my evening is that none of my coupled friends are on messenger. Maybe one day things will change but for now I feel like I've got far too many other things to deal with first.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Where does it come from? I feel like it's something I've been missing for a while and I don't know how to get it back. I feel like I want to do something creative but don't have enough things to put that into. Of course technically I've got two existing projects on the go, but I plan to be finished with those this week and after that I don't know what's next. Although after saying that I've just had another thought. So I guess my inspiration comes from writing blog posts about being uninspired!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

San Francisco

That is a bit of a silly name for a mobile phone as far as I'm concerned but that is what I've got now. The Orange San Francisco is an Android smart phone and it seems to be quite good so far. I've used a couple of Android based phones before but this is the first one of my own. It's not actually something I'd been planing on getting but I happened to see some interesting free upgrade offers after logging in to my Orange online account and I ended up getting one of them. There have been a couple of annoying frustrations but I think they're more the fault of Orange rather than of the phone and so I hope a quick chat with them on Monday can get those sorted. Now it is time to look at what is involved in Android app development.

Friday, February 11, 2011

First Class Trailer

The main news today is of course the new trailer for X-Men: First Class. When I first heard about this film I was unsure about the concept, part of me still wants Bryan Singer to make X-Men 4. Still when the first pictures were released I was less worried and more interested. Now we've got a full trailer and I think I'm sold. Although we know little of what the actual story will be the trailer looks great to me. Sure the trailer could just be all the best bits but I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt now. See for yourself here:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

No Topic

I'd been trying to have less of these posts which are not really about anything. However I just can't seem to think of anything to write about today. There's no film or TV news. There's no new game to be played. There's not even any personal news worth talking about. Day off today then and I'll try again tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dragon Age 2

Less than a month to go now until Dragon Age 2 is released and there's a new trailer to celebrate that fact. Can't wait.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Louis Theroux

I don't remember the first time I ever saw one of Louis Theroux's documentaries but I think it was one of his Weird Weekends which the Internet tells me was around 1998. Quite when I became a fan of his work I don't know either but these days I'll always make sure to anything new from him. He's tackled a great variety of subjects from quirky celebrities like Paul Daniels and Jimmy Savile all the way to the Westboro Baptist Church or crime lords in Lagos. Then of course is his latest one on Jewish settlers in the West Bank which was on last week but I just caught up on iPlayer. He has the strangest of styles coming across as a bit scared and shy yet not afraid to ask any questions. Also he seems to be able to befriend anyone from UFO nuts and porn stars to crack addicts and drug dealers. The documentaries are interesting and while perhaps not always covering all points of view (which his style probably doesn't quite allow for) they do offer fascinating insights.

Monday, February 7, 2011


I'm not in any way bothered about the game itself. However it is of course one of the most watched events in the US and therefore it's prime advertising space. This brings us lots of new teasers and trailers for upcoming films. There are some good looking films on the way. There were updated trailers for Pirates 4, Thor, Battle LA, Cowboys & Aliens and Transformers 3. Although more importantly were the first trailers for Super 8 and Captain America. I'm sure all the Marvel ones will be good but I'm most looking forward to Cowboys & Aliens and Super 8. Watch for yourself here:

Cowboys & Aliens
Super 8
Captain America: The First Avenger
Battle LA
Transformers: Dark of The Moon
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ghost Box

A new story and a new location for the X-Men. They've got themselves a new base, this time in San Fransisco. After being called in to an investigation by the SFPD they find themselves travelling all around the world looking for clues which lead them in the end to a threat from a parallel world. Just like aliens, parallel dimensions area big thing in the Marvel universe but again left out of the film adaptations to try and keep the attention of a wider audience. I've always been a fan of alternate universes to I found this an interesting story. Although we don't actually see much from the alternate world it's just there is a threat from there. After reading the first 24 issues of Astonishing X-Men drawn by John Cassaday the first thing I noticed here was how different Simone Bianchi's drawing style is. It happens a lot I guess but I'm still fairly new to the world of actually reading comics. Dark Horse's old Buffy & Angel runs are the only long running series I've read the entirety of. So artist changes happen and it's fine once you've adjusted, it's just this one seemed particularly striking. Overall I liked the story but my favorite part was the four shorts at the end. These quick tales from alternate Earths are not constrained by continuity and could go to new places, a couple of which are quite dark. I look forward to reading the next one but unfortunately the paperback doesn't have a release date yet.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


The final batch of comics in Joss Whedon and John Cassaday's run on Astonishing X-Men is a great conclusion. It gets to go somewhere the films could never take a mainstream audience and deals with alien planets and spaceships. I know (mainly from the cartoon version) that these things have always been part of the Marvel universe. However with the exception of Fantastic Four 2 it's a concept that has been largely left out of the film adaptations. When it comes to the comics this is the first one I've read that takes place away from Earth. There are prophecies and sacrifice but I won't spoil the plot. I guess most interested people will have already read them but I can't be the only one who is getting around to them late. It ends with a giant crossover issue featuring more Marvel heroes than I know the names of including Spiderman, Iron Man, The Fantastic Four and Storm is back too. So this story comes to an end and overall it's been excellent. Of course it's not the end of the Astonishing series, that continues with a new story written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Simone Bianchi. I'll talk about that tomorrow.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Characters & Avatars

I've been wondering as a gamer what our characters and avatars say about ourselves. In the comments Fiona said that my updated Eve character looked a bit like me and yet personally I don't see it, that was not the intention. I wonder is it a sub-conscious thing that we can't help putting ourselves in these characters? I've often got an intention behind a face or character but I wonder if that ever actually shows. I re-use names sometimes (I'd forgotten too that I actually just called one of them Doon) but I usually try to keep them fairly unique, of course that's easier for non-humans. I decided I'd put together a gallery of my recent characters and see what people thought. These are only from games where you have a reasonable control of facial features and ones that I currently have installed. Oblivion is the oldest game represented, if you go much futher back than that there wasn't as much control. The most you got in the mid-era of gaming was a selection of different heads and hairstyles which you could mix and match. The first thing I noticed when putting them side by side was how similar my two Shepards were (Mass Effect 2). I hadn't realised that before. My Fallout characters are quite close as well but that's for two reasons. First is the hats and glasses but that's a roleplaying reason, they live in a nuclear desert wasteland. Second the Fallout character system doesn't have as many options as some of the others. So what do my avatars say about me?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Green Hornet

I briefly mentioned it in my recent video but I've never really talked about it here. That is my intention to make an effort to see more films at the cinema rather than waiting for other options. Not only do you get the big screen and quality sound you're properly supporting the industry as well. I started with TRON: Legacy a couple of weeks ago and now earlier this evening I continued with The Green Hornet.

Now The Green Hornet is not something I've ever really known a lot about. I know the name but that's about it. I understand it originally started as a radio play. I think my main reason for having any knowledge about it is the fact it gets confused with The Green Lantern. A mistake I have made in the past and I'm sure others have too. In fact I read a rumor that the release of The Green Hornet was moved so that very confusion would be avoided when the film version of Green Lantern comes out later this year.

The film itself was not perfect but was quite enjoyable. It had been shot in 2D and then post converted to 3D with was a bit lame but there was no 2D screening option at my cinema. So other than a handful of FX shots the 3D was mostly unimpressive. Seth Rogen gets quite a lot of press but I've never really seen a lot of him personally, in fact I've only seen him in two other films. Here he seemed to do ok in the lead role but I felt more attached to Jay Chou as Kato in the end. Christoph Waltz was fun as the villan and it's always great to see Edward James Olmos in pretty much anything. The least impressive part of the cast was Cameron Diaz I didn't connect with her at all.

If you're looking for fun and superheroes you could do worse but there are probably better films you should see first.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Moments of Gaming (January 2011)

The video turned out okay this month but not quite as well as I had hoped. I had footage from two and a half games. I say it like that because there was footage from two different Dragon Age modules, Awakening & The Darkspawn Chronicles. I decided early on to leave out The Darkspawn Chronicles as it was too similar to Awakening. If I'd had a few more games to break things up I might have considered it but I couldn't think of a way to include it this time. So that left me with Dragon Age: Awakening & Eve Online and the majority of the Eve footage was from the new character creation system. The plan from there was quite simple. I'd play the Dragon Age footage as chronologically as possible and split the scenes up with clips from Eve. I found some music which was all over the place (in a good way). I wanted something that had some quiet parts as a lot of RPG game play is dialogue and that can be tricky to fit over a music track, still I didn't use a lot in the end anyway. It started off quite well I thought but later I realised I'd got to the mid point of the music track and I'd barely used any of the Dragon Age footage, I was still in the opening section of the game. At that point I probably could have gone back and started again but I decided not to bother. That was only the first problem, getting towards the end I ran out of Eve footage to inter cut with. By that point it was definitely too late to go back to the beginning, these videos are not that important. So the video ends with me rushing through what Dragon Age footage I'd got left. Luckily the music trails off and slows down at the end so it almost makes sense, but I have to admit that was not intended. My two favorite/best videos have been where I had a theme in mind and choose the games on purpose rather than just making a video from whatever I felt like playing. I think I might have to try that again.

See what you think, view the video here:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

TRON: Betrayal

Thanks to its vast profiling system Amazon knows me quite well. So when I bought Daft Punk's TRON: Legacy soundtrack CD its response was "Hey, did you know there is a graphic novel prequel to the film we thought you might like it". As usual my response was "Actually yes I would like that thanks". Curse you Amazon and your upsells, I always end up buying more than I originally intended.

TRON: Betrayal is a graphic novel which briefly re-tells the story of the original film and then goes on to cover some more of the story which took place in the twenty years between the films. I won't go in to any more details of the story as it wouldn't make a lot of sense without having seen the films, also I've not finished reading it yet. I've swapped my plan a little as I needed something to post about today. Still what I've read so far has been good and the artwork is great too. Sometimes in a long running series certain pages can look a little rushed, but with a one off like this the artists can take their time. I look forward to reading the rest tomorrow.

PS. January's Moments of Gaming is nearly done but not quite there yet. It's getting late and it would still need to be rendered and uploaded. So I will post that tomorrow.