Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Gamasutra - BioWare Announces Writing Contest For Industry Jobs

Gamasutra - BioWare Announces Writing Contest For Industry Jobs

And in other news - blimey. Bioware. They're ace. And they're looking for writing talent in the modding community. They rock!

Alternate Reality Games SIG

Alternate Reality Games SIG

Hmn. IGDA are starting a mailing list for people working in Alternate Reality Games.

Hie thee down and sign up, my pretties.

Advent Calendar 2005 :: Leslie Harpold

I'm not big in to christmas.

I'm not really sure why; it started to happen when I was in my teens. I used to love singing carols in the cathedral, and very much liked the frankinsencey whiff of tradition around the festivities.

But... I don't know. Maybe it was just growing up, and growing out of the avaricious fervour of a kid waiting for santa.

This christmas is particularly odd. Last year I was in the death-throws of a relationship - it actually ended on the day after boxing day, and only got through christmas by drinking myself stupid. The memories are still raw, and combined with my now-regular burst of midwinter depression have proved to be a difficult storm to weather.

The nice thing, of course, is my new relationship; too soon, not what I expected, but nonetheless good. We've got work to do, yes: I need to stop being so reserved, uptight, offhand and cautious, he needs to wash his own socks occasionally; you know, the ususal domestic stuff. But it's... good. Working. Solid. Nice. Not the most exciting set of words to use about it, but to be honest, they're words I set great stock by, and think are much underrated.

So, this christmas will be a change; a new start, a going forward. And for once, it's almost worth celebrating.

Aaaaany-way. This long digression is a preamble to pointing to a small christmas celebration put together by the redoubtable Ms. Harpold, to which I've contributed a memory of a christmas past.

Friday, December 16, 2005

PlayOn: 10 Things About Conversation in Virtual Worlds...

I stumbled across this interesting piece about player interaction in MMORPGS from a link sent by Ian - with whom I spend a lot of time in Warcraft.

He'd initially sent it for the breakdown of race / gender / faciton stats - which confirmed my hunch that there really aren't many Lady Taurens in game. Only 19% of players have female horde characters, and only 11 % of Taurens are female in game, and only 18% of warriors are female... so - erm, no, I don't have enough data to work that one out, but I'm a minority in a minority of a minority - and I bet even more so as I'm actually a female player, and there are less of us.

Digressions aside, further down the blog is a discussion of how avatars signal their behaviours and interactions in game. There are obviously /emotes in game, but those are very deliberately signalled by the user. I tend to use a lot of /emotes, but it's something to do with playing with my real-life partner a lot of the time; we make a joke of our real-life status in game, so we'll often /kiss or /hug on meeting. I have a personal preference for /tickling in-game strangers, too - especially whilst on the zeppelin, which is idle time in game terms. I'm like one of those japanese tube perverts.

The fascinating thing is the analysis of the possible behaviours an avatar could display whilst the player was performing in game actions. For instance, if you consult a map, you're not 'seeing' the world; your character could signal this by having their face hidden behind a large unfolded map. Fiddling with objects in bags also takes a player away from concentrating on their avatar - so their avatar could appear distracted by ferreting through bags in game.

The problem of facial expression not being visible at a distance is simple to solve in WoW - you only see it when targetted on someone, and then only in the small character information lozenge that displays...

Simple observation of real life behaviours do map on to game worlds, and help bring a tangibility to the social aspects of the game. It would be interesting to find a game with rich charater interaction modelled into it, and compare the rates of 'anitsocial' play with a less-rich environment. It would be nice to find out if social behavioural cues help foster greater socialisation (sociability, or 'good behaviour') in game.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Every Tiny Detail

Good God.

This is one of the best CGI images I have *ever* seen.

The only downside I can see is the over-texturing on the skin - it looks a tiny bit too shiny, and a bit too textured; you'd be likely to take it in as a waxwork rather than a photo of a person.

There was a moment - a tipping point, I suppose, in trendy new parlance - a couple of years ago when an all-cgi image fooled me. I definately get fooled by CGI inserts in live action all the time - it's moreorless seamless in films these days. But when you're, say, playing a game, or watching something you're conscious is all computer generated, you're less likely to suspend disbelief.

There were amazing bits in Final Fantasy, but it still had the problem of the complete lack of 'heft' - none of the characters had bulk, or weight, or momentum. I spent a lot of time in art college studying human anatomy, makind drawings of people in movement, so I tend to spot when bodies aren't moving right, or are slack, or badly articulated. The most difficult thing seems to be to make figures look like they're standing - that their feet are in contact with the ground, and are bearing their weight. Look out for it - few animators bother to make feet articulate much.

Digressions aside - the point at which my brain finally got 'tripped up' was in Monsters Inc. Yes, I know it's a film about imagainary creatures. But there was a scene when the big furry one was stuck in a snowstorm, with the wind blowing through his fur, on his arm. And I caught myself processing the character as a Muppet - a real, big furry puppet. Then went... wow, that's some good fur animation to make me think that.

How long, then, until someone thinks to give animators lessons in the Alexander Technique, or Ballet, or similar, to give them enough physical awareness to create the full illusion of a live person?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Geek Log(os)

The main perk of my job (appart from a rather good pension scheme, obviously) is having the full OED at my fingertips; we have a corporate subscription. The online version is fantastic (if incredibly badly laid out as a website...), and I have to stop myself looking things up, as I loose hours from my working day in a kind of a clicktrance.

I get a 'word of the day' email from them. Today's was 'Stonewall' - interestingly, no mention of its use to refer to the Stonewall riots, but I wonder if this is covered in the usage the dictionary covers... but anyway. They're also involved with a word search - they're looking for very early citations of words like 'cyberspace' - pre-1982, and 'bouncy castle' - pre-1986.

It turns out that they actually have a public lexicography project on the go; the only truly public facing element of it is the Science Fiction Citations word hunt. I thought it was worth pointing to, as I'd never heard it mentioned on the web before, and I know a whole big bunch of people who'd be interested.

Paging Cory, Piers, Ian, Nick and Ann!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Nat' Academies Press, Wormwood Forest: A Natural History of Chernobyl (2005)

Nat' Academies Press, Wormwood Forest: A Natural History of Chernobyl (2005)

Amazing reading.

I really, really want to visit the area around Chernobyl.

I'm strange.

Tuppence a Bag

An aquaintance is out in Finland, where it's very cold. He decided to feed the local birds, only to be given a very thorough telling off by his neighbours; basically, for encouraging pests.

I think feeding wild birds in the cold winter is a lovely thing. We're all set for a desperately cold one this year, so in part inspired by the desire to upset some Finns, I emailed my dad for his 'bird pudding' recipe. He makes it every year, filling half coconut shells with it, and leaving it hanging in the garden. It works - they have a fabulous selection of small wild birds, inclduding wrens, goldfinches, and once, memorably, a family of treecreepers. Robins in particular are very scenic at this time of year.

Anyway - the email from him (part typed by my mother, who is quicker on the keys) is another parental classic. I thought I'd share it here so you, too, can make bird pudding, and also marvel at my mother's ability to know exactly where the cheapest porridge oats can be bought, and her in-depth suet foo. I'd suggest M&S or even Fortnums' potatos, personally, because you don't want to be giving the poor birdies inferior food now, do you?


Dad wants me to give you the recipe. I dont know whether I have it correctly in my mind but I only know what dad puts in it ? no proportions so it will require a little experimentation to get the right consistency. It depends on the weather - if its cold the stuff will stay put and if it gets warmer then it might trickle out as the fat melts! Do you just want to put a dollop on the bird table or are you planning to hang it up in a container?

Any way, find the hardest fat which is suet but it will be in a packet shredded but if you warm the whole mixture to get it to come together I imagine the suet will melt so give it a good stir and then refrigerate.

add to the suet - any of the following...

  • Cooked potato - not too much as its not the birds favourite
  • Porridge oats (Cheapest asda or lidl or netto in plastic bag)
  • Any nuts chopped

  • Stale biscuits, cake, bread crumbs

  • Seeds e.g. sesame, poppy (or buy a small pkt of wild bird seed)
  • Dried fruit e.g. sultanas

Dad says its better to get butchers suet. It is in big lumps but will melt if you just break it up a bit. It should be in the greatest proportion in order to hold the additions

love Ma x

P.S. (obviously not taught my Grand mother to suck eggs) just melt as much suet as you can scrounge or charm from the butcher into large pan blend in what ever you can reheat if to stiff, then cool. old chips from your fish & chips are good
love Dad

del.icio.us Tags: