BRB

Sweet Crapolina, I haven’t posted anything new for a couple of months, have I? This, in spite of promising to give this blog more love back in January. Unfortunately shit happened. Assignment work has kept me banging my head against the wall (through no fault of the college or its staff… I just never seem to be able to convince myself that I’m on the right track with most of my work) and I lost my granddad a few weeks back, which has cause more than a little chaos for my mum, as much as everyone tries to help her out.

So, just a quick post to say that I haven’t dropped off the face of the buggering Earth. Still. Abnormal service will resume at some point.

Stages of Mystery: The Secret Garden Nightclub

I like fighting games, even if I suck at them. And one of the things I like about fighting games are the stages themselves, even if the majority of the time, they’re either city streets, some cack-handed caricature of a specific culture or a secret underground base.

Still, sometimes music can give me ideas for stages I would like to see in a fighting game, but aren’t going to happen because 1) I have no means to give them form outside of crap prose, on account of being no game designer while also being a shitty artist and 2) No studio in the world is going to give a toss about the random ideas of some random nobody. It’s an unfortunate reality with basis in both common sense and intellectual property law. And I’m not about to be one of those dicks that go around requesting a free commission either, for reasons that should be obvious.

So what are my options? One, really. I blog them, and I hope they prove some form of entertaining read that keeps me feeding this blog with something other than music and rants. And I might not restrict myself to fighting game stages, either. Just don’t expect any attempts at actual game or level design, because that’s not a set of skills I have under my belt. These are purely descriptions of visual themes, along with a link to the music that inspired it, and in some cases I’ve pulled characters from some of my past NaNoWriMo efforts, because I like to think these characters wouldn’t look out of place in a fighting game.

So, to start, here’s one stage, a forested area sitting atop a nightclub:

High above the smoggy streets of coastal Suncaster, the Secret Garden nightclub lives up to its name, for atop this towering venue rests a small oasis of nature, standing out amongst the concrete jungle below. Though a high steel fence circles the garden protects visitors from an untimely fall, considerable efforts have been made to cover it up though the clever placement of plantlife, trees and vines. Efforts to great success, many would say, as it has been proven time and again that it is incredibly difficult, if not completely impossible to spot the artifical barrier.

A large pond resides in the middle of this rooftop realm, with a low island formed at its centre, adorned with grass of a more vibrant shade of green than has been seen out in the wild. Questions have been asked as to the “authenticity” of this grass — is it real? Who knows, but not a single visitor has denied that it feels real. Up above, the midnight sky is clear, and the ancient light of distant stars glitters among stars not seen before nor identified by astronomers. These stars are only ever seen within the confines of the Secret Garden, and appear to hang directly above this place, rather than countless light years away. In fact, some of these stars seem to have been caught in the very trees that circle the island.

To the north of the lake is what can best be described as a throne, formed and twisted from untraceable roots bursting from the ground to form a central seat for the club’s propietor, a diminuitive and young-looking redhead in a formal knee-length party dress adorned with a mixture of emerald and sapphire sequins, its low-cut back providing room for her to spread her colourful, butterfly-like wings as she sips her champagne and watches the crowd form on both sides of her. The people that form this crowd are similarly dressed and armed with a glass of some alcoholic beverage, though each one lacks any features as distinguishing as that of the fairy on the throne. For all anyone can tell, the entirety of this crowd is human, and as much as they are dressed for a formal party, it appears they are also here for a fight.

A fight that is about to occur in the centre of the island ahead. From the night sky above, an object falls, striking one end of the island with the apparent force of a small meteorite and throwing a cloud of dust into the air. The cloud soon fades, and in the resulting tiny crater, a young woman draws her fist from the point of impact and pulls herself into a commanding stance. Though expected to dress in stark contrast to the partywear around her, the girl’s blue t-shirt, black pleated miniskirt and baggy socks that only just reached below the knee seems a far cry from the protective gear one would expect when entering any kind of battle.

“Ladies, Gentlemen!” the fairy calls out as the girl dusts herself off and straightens her silver pigtails. The winged woman’s voice, though high in pitch and dainty even by human standards, booms across the garden by way of undetermined means. “Taking a little time out from fighting the crime that plagues this fine city, the centennial teen, the immortal vigilante, the one and only… Party Crasher!”

The crowd bursts into an almighty roar of cheers and supportive whistles, a positive cry that travels beyond the confines of the garden. At the other end of the island, a man in a long black trenchcoat marches forward, his head shaved completely clear of any hair while at the same time exhibiting a neatly-trimmed beard that extends just beyond his neck, the only thing that serves as any indication of his natural hair colour. As he approaches an equidistant point opposite the white-haired girl, the greatsword that hangs from his back hisses from its scabbard as he casually draws it over his head and brings it down before him in one smooth slice, planting it firmly into the ground by his feet.

“And tonight,” the fairy on the throne declares. “She’ll be facing the calm that brings the storm… Ragequit!”

Another roar arises from the expensively-dressed crowd. The Party Crasher raises her fists while Ragequit takes a moment to crack his neck both ways, along with his knuckles.

“Hope ya enjoy gettin’ yer head stoved under the ground.” the immortal girl calls out to Ragequit, who simply shakes his head as he pulls his sword from the ground.

“Round one, people?” the fairy announces, both as a declaration and a question to draw the crowd’s attention. “Are you all ready? FIGHT!”

Farcebook

I haven’t touched this blog in like a couple of months, and even before then it’s been a rare thing. Basically, NaNoWriMo, Christmas, college and the panic that comes with applying for university kept me busy, as well as a few other personal projects.

That and I feel like I’m all out of shit to say for a number of reasons. Largely because things have pissed me off more than cheered me up (and I really don’t want to fill this blog up with endless rants – dammin, Jim, I’m 28, not 82), and a lot of what I have had to say of late tends to fit “comfortably” within a couple of Tweets. Oh, yeah, and I’m currently under a feature block on Facebook right now, and I don’t know the full extent of that, but the extent of Facebook’s hypocrisy. See, as far as I can tell, the block may have been a result of a comment I left on a post made by Real Radio North East, in which they asked their listeners to write three words that summed up the prior 24 hours. My contribution was “Stupid mouse broke” because, well, my stupid mouse broke that day. Overpriced piece of crap that it was. That comment had since disappeared, and I also found that the station has also blocked me on Twitter.

It was either that or the station is taking it out on me because I called them out, when they tried to claim someone else’s image as their own by slapping their shitty logo over the original.

The original image is actually a user card from someecards.

The original image is actually a user card from someecards. And yes, I was understandably pissed that they pulled that shit. They quietly took the post down an hour or two later and then tried to pretend it never happened.

In any case, it’s looking to be the case that I’m going to be stuck in that feature block for a whole month, possibly more, and I don’t even know if this post will go through to my page, or if I am even able to comment on my own page (never really had that opportunity, to be quite honest). Either for doing the right thing or posting something that was about as offensive as breathing. Which might cause a few eye rolls, but let’s face it, if you’re offended by the act of calling an inanimate human interface device stupid, you might want give your life, and your priorities some long hard reconsideration.

And yet, while I am being penalised for the most moronic of possible reasons, others continue to get away with personally attacking someone and calling them the C-word for the “crime” of “failing” to post a link and spouting transphobic shit, to name but a few examples of the bullshit I’ve reported, only to be told that no action had been taken because none of them had been in violation of their community “standards”. Seriously, Facebook? Fucking hypocrites. I wouldn’t be surprised, at this point, if the site’s support “team” was nothing but an army of robotic bros, given this and their history of allowing pages promoting domestic abuse to go unpunished for months.

So, yeah, I went off on a rant. Again. On a lighter note, I’m going to try and give this blog a little more love. I have a few ideas which I might be posting over the next few weeks. So, erm, stay tuned?

A Toy By Any Other Name

Earlier this week, The Shakespearean Insult Kit had been doing the rounds, albeit in grotty JPEG screenshot form that gave absolutely zero indication of its origins as a webpage on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s site. The Insult Kit was simply three lists of components and the reader was required to select one from each and precede the completed insult with “Thou”. That didn’t stop my urge to use this as the basis for a little randomised constructor program, for the most part just to give myself something to help wrap my head around Python’s GUI framework of choice, Tkinter.

The outcome was two versions, one that ran in the command line and the GUI-based one that I was aiming for. The CLI-based version came out of the fact I built the actual construction code as a function first, and needed something to test that it returned a full-formed insult. Ultimately, though, both versions do the same thing: construct an insult from the lists provided in the original Insult Kit and preface it with “Thou”. The GUI one does have the added option to copy the insult to the clipboard, too.

Once again, it requires Python 2.7 which you can download from python.org or, if you’re using a Linux distribution with a package manager, you can install it from there if it hasn’t been already. You may also need to install Tkinter from there as well (I found it listed under python-tkinter). The Windows version’s installer came with it already. To run, unzip it somewhere first, open a command line, navigate to the folder that you extracted everything to, and then type “python insult_constructor.py” for the CLI version, or “python insult_constructor_ui.py” for the GUI one.

The download link can be found below these screenshots, along with a link to the repository on Github. Both links contain both versions of the constructor.

Shakespearean Insult Constructor (CLI version)

CLI version

Shakespearean Insult Constructor (GUI version)

GUI version
Download | Github

Picdump: Hartlepool, December 6th 2013

A Christmas fair came to Church Square in Hartlepool this week:

Mostly Harmless

I’ve been following Elite: Dangerous as best I can since its developer, Frontier, erm, Developments, started a project Kickstarter to get the game funded. My first experiences with the Elite series were with Frontier: Elite II, so admittedly, I was somewhat spoiled by that game by the time I finally got hold of the original. That said, I can’t deny its impact, and I’m betting that if I had the damn patience to wrap my head around it, I’d enjoy it as much as I did Frontier.

Elite: Dangerous has been way overdue, what with there being a 19-year gap between the third game, Frontier: First Encounters and Dangerous‘ planned March 2014 release. Holy crap, that made me feel old. In between, we’ve had many a pretender. The X series, Freelancer, EVE Online, to name a few. None, in my opinion, have really matched Elite for scale and freedom. Most of those games forced you along a storyline. Elite just gave you a basic ship and some cash and let you get on with it. It was up to you to forge your own path rather than some scripted “destiny” or some shit.

Back in mid-September, Frontier released video of a scripted battle between two capital ships (battles won’t be scripted in-game, apparently), with internal viewpoints of a freelance pilot accepting a job to provide support. Originally made to help Frontier find a composer for the game, it’s some pretty exciting stuff, thanks in no small part to the music provided by the developer’s winning musician of choice, Erasmus Talbot:

Brilliant, right? Sadly, if you look at the comments, its full of people bemoaning things like the inclusion of sound in space and generally getting their amateur scientist on.

“There’s no sound in space!”

“Lasers don’t look like that!”

“Why’s that ship rolling over like it’s sinking?”

“Why didn’t they get their cannons out in the first place?”

Seriously, people, way to pour a bucket of piss over it. Fortunately, Frontier just released another video going into some of the details of the “Damocles” video, and in the process addressing a few of the criticisms:

It pretty much boils down to this question: Would you rather see a scientifically accurate game or an entertaining, exciting and enjoyable game? Personally, I’d prefer the latter. If I were playing Elite: Dangerous right now, I would prefer to hear ships blow up. I would prefer to see and hear the frickin’ laser beams being shot at me. I would prefer to see visible signs of a whopping great capital ship being knocked onto its own arse. That’s not to say the Elite series hasn’t had a certain degree of scientific accuracy. It has. Some accuracies, like gravity, inertia etc. make for a fun game. Others, on the other hand, won’t keep you playing for very long. Even Shattered Horizon, for all its scientific accuracy, adopted an environmental audio simulation concept that doubled as a mechanic in its own right (EMPs shut down that simulation and left you deaf to the arena around you for a moment). The absence of noise, if it doesn’t simply drive you insane first, would otherwise make matches dull and also cut out the tactical aspect of listening for your enemies to get the drop of them. Not that it got me very far in that game, but then again, I fail at multiplayer shooters so terribly, I once got accused of cheating for the sole stroke of luck I had in Gears of War. ANYWAY.

The same applies to TV and film. A protracted space battle with no sound other than the radio chatter of thousands of pilots screaming at one another would put me to sleep, to be honest. That’s why I think the likes of Star Wars and the original Battlestar Galactica has more enjoyable space battles over many of the more recent shaky-cam battles of late. “Pew! Pew! BOOM!” and a little bit of banter in between, coupled with a score that serves to add to the excitement. Not several minutes of fighters and nukes quietly zipping across the screen while every bro and his dog are all “HOLY CRAP THE SHIT’S HITTING THE FAN WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE AAAAAARRRRGGGHHH!!” Without some concessions to scientific inaccuracy, space battles are really just the world’s least interesting silent movie, aren’t they?

Count Me In

For some time, I’ve been trying to learn to code. I’ve been through one year of an ICT course at college already, and I’m currently backing up what I’ve learned there with a site called Codecademy. Of course, it’s no good trying to learn something if I don’t put it to use, so I’ve been rattling my brains in an effort to come up with some ideas to put together. Nothing big, because I don’t want to set myself hurdles I’m never going to make it over any time soon. So I started simple, and decided on a simple web-based word count calculator.

What it does isn’t much. It takes 4 inputs: a user’s word count in a work so far, their target word count for the whole thing, the time frame (in days) they expect to reach that goal in and the current day within that time frame so far. With those, it works out their mean average words per day up to your current day, and also suggests the average words per day they would have to write in order to make it to their goal in time. Took a little doing. Originally it was all in a column instead of a box, but it started displaying weird in smaller browser windows. I’ve also had a little input from a friend Facebook on things like label clarity and adjusting itself if the current day is higher than the target (which defeats the point of the calculator) and a friend elsewhere on how to make my code look pretty.

Part of the reason I thought of doing this was because NaNoWriMo is on the way, and although the website already has similar and superior tools for tracking daily word counts, including a pretty graph, well, it only goes up to the standard 50,000 words expected of everyone, and some writers getting involved in the event like to set higher goals. Plus this might also be useful for keeping an eye on progress on a work outside of NaNoWriMo. “Why not just use Excel?” you might ask. Not everyone can use or even has Excel, or can wrap their heads around other spreadsheet programs like LibreOffice Calc. Some can’t even do maths. Some can’t be arsed with any of that. End of the day, I wrote something and it might be useful to someone, so here you go. Click the image to try it out.

Picdump: Hartlepool, September 14th 2013

It’s interesting, some of the things you catch when you’re not trying to be somewhere:

Star Trollin’

 

Um. No. While I don’t consider myself a Trekkie, I in no way feel lucky or thankful for seeing Star Trek reduced to headache-inducing lens flare, dumbed-down space battles and massive genderfails. Granted, the original timeline had moments of questionableness (was Seven of Nine’s outfit really necessary?), but holy Cthulhu on a stick, the way the new movies’ TWO named female main characters (Not sure Amanda Grayson counts since she was offed so quickly in the first movie. Or Gaila, for that matter.) thus far have been manhandled is an Hobus-sized insult to Gene Roddenberry’s original baby.

There must be a ton of different ways Orci and Abrams could have revitalised Star Trek. Aside from Sulu getting his badass acting captain on early in Into Darkness, they really dropped the warp core with the franchise.

So no, I should not be thanking Roberto Orci and JJ Abrams for the new movies. I should be more inclined to tell them to fuck off instead.

Why News?

Dear Sky News,

Why the fuck is the One Direction “movie” even news?

Why do you insist on reporting on this bullshit like it bears the same level of importance to Britain, if not greater, as something like the shit currently being hosed into the nearest fan in Egypt, the bullshit intimidation tactics our own government is employing in the wake of Edward fucking Snowden’s leaks, or the massive dump Russia is taking on its LGBT population?

Who, with even a hint of a sodding clue, gives a toss about this movie? It’s not even a proper movie, not even in the sense of feature-length documentaries like March of the Penguins. It’s a bunch of camcorder footage that might as well have been edited together by an unpaid intern, yet somehow, people are stupid enough to buy a full-price ticket for it. It has nothing on the likes of Spice World or S Club’s Seeing Double, which is saying something considering both movies are still considered crap. At least someone put some effort into writing them and directing them. At least those bands tried to act.

One Direction themselves are an insult to boy bands. Their “music” is monotonous, detrimental to logical thought, and has probably inflicted aneurysms upon a few people. Whenever I hear this shit on the radio, or have it inflicted upon me by way of a pre-video YouTube ad, I feel inclined to hunt down stuff by the likes of N*SYNC or Five just to flush that shit out. 1D’s music is not good music. If you can even call it music.

So kindly knock off with reporting on unimportant crap like this, especially after it damn near bordered on the level of idiocy that surrounded the Royal Baby yesterday. Focus on what really fucking matters right now.

 

Rant over.