Computer Games Imported From Epistula


There are two kinds of Gamers in this world.

There are smegheads, and there are smegless wo… No. That isn’t it, is it? wrong article.

There are those who buy FIFA 200[0-9] year upon year upon year upon year, and there are those who complain about EA releasing the same game year upon year upon year upon year with little to no changes. Those who see the destructive power of a megacorp shooting down every good idea because it’s not a surefire moneymaker. Who tried to shoot The Sims out of the sky before being surprised when it became a global success (And so, in response, shot down Sim Mars) and shot down Simsville (which was a new game) for Sims 2 (which wasn’t). The most annoying one is probably the canceling of Dungeon Keeper III (And the shutdown of Bullfrog Studios, who were making it), because they felt it would clash with recently-purchased Westwood Studios’ Command and Conquer series (Westwood have since also been shot down, the team is now making Lord Of The Rings Real-time Strategy games). Few people in the games industry seem to be really innovating. Few, in this case, meaning Will Wright, Nintendo, a host of amateur coders and Introversion Software.

Introversion Software style themselves as “The last of the bedroom coders”. They are a small company making incredibly original games. The two games they have released so far are Uplink, A computer cracker simulator, and Darwinia, a… er… Retro Cannon-Fodder-like lemmingsesque Viruslike digital dreamscape. If I was still writing Top5 I’d describe it as a “Save-em-up” but that completely misses the point. One of the problems with reviewing the game was that it didn’t fit into anything you’d seen before, and at the same time referred to lots of things you have seen before.

The unit of Darwinia is the Program. You can, to start with, run three programs at once. Programs can be Squads or Engineers (Again, to start with), in This screenshot (Which is of a level called “Containment”) those bright red arrow things are viruses. They writhe around the landscape like the snakes from, well, Snake. You shoot them (Left mouse button to go to that point, right mouse button to shoot at that point, like Cannon Fodder was) and they squeak and die (They make a noise like a party blowout thing when they die. It’s vaguely creepy), and you shoot things, and you rescue the Darwinians, and… and…

That’s not the point, really. The game is possibly the single most original thing released this year (With the possible exception of Katamari Damacy), it’s being sold in shops as well as online, it comes for Windows, Linux and OS X (It’s got an official Linux release. We need to encourage this.)

That’s not it either, though. The game originally came out with something of a weird control system, where you went between programs with Alt-tab and killed them off with Alt-F4, created new squads by drawing a triangle and this kind of thing. Windows crossed with Black & White, really. This was one of the things it was criticised for in the reviews, and a barrier to being a really big game.

So they fixed it. The latest 1.3 patch puts in (and by default, on) a new icon based control system. There is now no excuse. Try it, then Buy it, or if you ever complain that nobody does anything original ever again, I will hit you with sticks until you regret it.

Oh, and it’s pretty.

Imported From Epistula media

Bad Science

Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science is a column that I would buy the Guardian for, if I didn’t get it every every week day anyway (Except it’s published on a Satuday now, the one day I don’t buy it, not having any buses to catch).

The last few weeks he’s been exposing a fraudulant lab as being the source of most of the various MRSA scares (Articles One Two and Three on the subject) and is getting increasingly frustrated that nobody’s paying attention, because the papers that publish ”$FOO IS AN EVIL FRAUDSTER!!” stories are the ones using the lab…

Apple Computer Games Imported From Epistula

Marathon Runner

So, Bungie, who are the people who made Halo and are owned by Microsoft, cut their teeth on a series of games for the Mac called Marathon.

They’ve recently released all three for free download (Free as in beer, though they are supporting an Open Source conversion of the engine). This is how I got them to work on my Powerbook.

One, Mac Classic

The Marathons are old software, so you’ll need a Mac Classic (that is, OS9) environment to run them in. Fortunately Apple supply you with an install of OS9 on the second OSX install disk you got with the laptop. Dig it out, set up a 1 Gig disk image somewhere on your system, and install OS9 to it by clicking the icon when you put the install disk in.

Then, go to System Preferences and then Classic, and when it finds your new Classic install, click Okay.

Two, Marathon.

  • Download Marathon.
  • Extract it.
  • Double-click the icon


    You’ll need to redefine the controls, as they default to a number pad the Laptops don’t have.

    That’s it.

    For shits and giggles, now attempt to run a game released 11 years ago under Windows XP without resorting to Dosbox

Design Imported From Epistula web development

An example of impressive web design (Warning: Sound) (Warning: Flash) (Warning: Animated CEO figures) (Warning: Uses flying bits of pages) (Warning: Strong colours) (Warning, Warning, WARNING!)

Current Affairs Fiction Imported From Epistula media

Balance in all things.

On the plus side of the news, Anne Rice will never again write another vampire novel.

On the minus side, she doesn’t appear to have abandoned the notion of people you can kill and then they’ll be back a couple of days later.

Anne Rice is novelising the bible

Computer Games Imported From Epistula


On Saturday night (Well, Sunday morning really) there was a City Of Villains Beta event to stress-test the new Heroes Verses Villains Zone Combat thing, which I – as a loyal villain – was at.

Full report of my experience is here but I also took a client demo (CoH is nice like that) and turned it into a movie of some of my time in the event.

The CoV Beta PvP Event Movie is here

It was great fun.

Gaming Imported From Epistula

Pure Evil

I’m currently beta testing City of Villains, which is cool. With a few days to go the NDA is lifted, and I’m going to share a couple of characters.

In fact, just one for now, since The Hat has been wiped along with the server he was on. Bah.

The Lime Green Ninja
(Stalkers main power is to go into Predator style invisibility and reappear in front of them to cut their noses off. To do this they have a generic power called “Hide”)

But also I saw this, and it amused me:

If only it were that easy…

Apple computing Imported From Epistula

Bash one-liner of the day

Mirage:~/Data/CD aquarion$ find . -name *.m4p
| sed -e"s/m4p/mp3/g"
| while read FOO;do BAR=$(basename "$FOO");locate "$BAR" | tail -1; done
| while read FOO ; do cp $FOO .;done

Okay, so I need to do the rm *.m4p afterwards, but still.

So, question one, what does it do, and question two, what is it for?

Imported From Epistula Personal

Dangerous Cycle-paths

So there’s this where a woman is arrested for walking on a cyclepath.

And while there is the whole ‘chilling effects’ thing about being arrested under the terrorism laws for walking along a path, my inner cyclist is leaping up and down and screaming “Yes, lock them up! Lock them all up and throw away the keys! TAKE THEM AWAY!!!”.

It joins my Inner Commuter in being voted down for control of the brain today.

Imported From Epistula Personal

Taxi Adventure

There is a moment in the traditional romantic comedy where the hapless, gormless (but kindhearted) True Love type (Played by Hugh Grant, or – in this case – Me) has to get to the airport before his True Love leaves forever with the Bastard.

My life has, over the last few months, been many different types of movie. From romantic tragedy through Gillanesque surreality though to the type of creepy horror flick where the ex- just can’t let go. For about half a week I was having sane, rational, non-movie type days where my sanity began to reassert itself. Due to LoneCat having come down with EvilNastyBug which causes her to stop eating (Incidentally, why is it that she gets the viruses and bugs where you waste away into nothing? She’s thin already. Life isn’t fair) we have run out of Potatoes (Mashed potatoes, clear soup and toast being the only things she can eat at the moment. I thought the Detox diet was dull, but this one takes (away) the biscuit. So, I went shopping and grabbed the last packet of potatoes in Bedford (Well, Iceland) and various instances within the class clear soup. Then, like a good little commuter lemming, read my Guardian until the bus arrived and then spent the hour on the bus reading usenet and writing the Sapphire thing that will either be a short story or the first chapter of Ceavern depending on how long it takes them to get to the plot.

Now, my bus is due to get into Hitchin from Bedford at 19:35, but an arrangement with my usual bus-driver means he tends to get in as close to 18:30 as we can, given that my bus to Letchworth is due to leave Hitchin at 19:35 on the dot, and whilst it’s normally late this state of affairs will only continue as long as I don’t ever rely upon it. Today we missed that target and I was able to theatrically run down the street in the rain as my last bus pulled away. My inner thespian rejoiced at the sheer drama of it all, and my outer good little commuter lemming wandered over to the ATM to get cash for the taxi. At this point, the good little commuter lemming decided his role in this was over, and the new dramatical me who was running my brain hailed a taxi and asked to be taken to ”$myRoad, on the Jackmans’ Estate”. “That’s on the new bit, isn’t it?” “So they tell me” (And they do. Every time).

The taxi driver was a London Taxi driver. His taxi was a London cab, still with the London Transport notices inside. And, as London Cab Drivers do, he regaled me on the drive down with why I shouldn’t be commuting to Bedford (He suggested a Moped, which may become a later entry), and the state of the world, then we fell into silence before he asked “So do we go though the Estate?”
“No” I said, because you don’t, usually. That is, most taxi drivers take “Go though the estate” as meaning this way, whereas we actually go that way and come into the estate though a roundabout off the longabout (Which is like a roundabout but… yeah). I explained this. “Well you could have facking told me! I dunno, I said the old Creamery, but didn’t even think about it, could have saved you a couple of quid if I just drop you on the embankment” (There is a small path near the park near my house to the main road. I tend to direct taxis the long way around because otherwise… ah, you’ll see) “By that long central reservation,” (The taxi driver continued. You know that bit in the Romantic Comedy I mentioned earlier? Okay, well, the Hapless Writer hails a taxi and does the ‘Follow that cab to the Airport!’ bit).
“Not that I know why they put that reservation into it, they say it was to prevent accidents but…” (We speed around a roundabout that would take us into the estate if we were going the wrong way. We aren’t) ”… I don’t remember any facking accidents before they put it in! I mean, I’m not the world’s greatest driver, but when I was learning to drive fifty-odd years ago…” (We pull onto the longabout) ”… my instructor told me (Bloke up in Newcastle, great he was, if you were to found driving school you’d want him teaching it) that driving is 90% common sense and 10% driving sense. Now everyone’s got common sense” (I’d have disagreed with him at that point, but a) I couldn’t get a word in edgeways, and b) I was attempting to point out, in my hapless, romcom gormless Englishman type way, that we were about to miss my turning) ” but no bugger’s got the other 10% anymore. I mean, they keep telling me the new test is harder” (I’d have agreed, or something, but we were just passing my roundabout at this point) “but if you were to take the first 100 people coming around that bend” (That I’d have preferred we go down) “98 of them wouldn’t have a facking clue, but I mean why would you put this central reservation in place? You couldn’t crash on this road, nobody’s that stupid!” (He paused, long enough to register I was objecting, and continued) “Okay, yes, most buggers are that stupid, most of them don’t have a facking clue, not a facking clue. Where do you want to be dropped off?” We had, by this point, entered the even newer estate near the A1M entrance.
“Anywhere here’s fine”
“Okay, I’ll drop you off and turn around. Hey look, it’s even called ‘The Old Creamery’, I never knew that was here, never knew. You’re going to cut though the hedge?”
I agreed that yes, cutting though the hedge was exactly what I was going to do. I paid him his money (A good 20% shorter than he would have got had he actually taken me to my house) and got out of the cab. I walked down the road until I was sure he’d turned back, then walked back the way we had come, cutting though the hedge a few hundred yards from where we parked. I arrived home, muddy, wet, with a slightly tattered plastic bag of potatoes and soup, about five minutes after I’d have arrived had I actually caught the facking bus. Just after the plane had left, I suppose.