Computer Games


So, I’ve come to the eurogamer expo for the Saturday. I got in just in time to get into the Bioware session, which consisted of the founders doing a history of Bioware and what they believe is important for games. Mostly, they believe games should be engaging and emotionally involved, but rhey have moved from the original version of this – which was more or less story focused in their earlier games, to being engaging to all the different types of players they have identified.

They also believe in engaging with the audience, as demonstrated by them giving out a Star Wars Old Republic beta code to everyone in the audience, as well as a Mass Effect XBox thingy and beta for their new War Hammer Online game, Wrath of Heroes. All in all, a good use of 45 minutes.

Most of the rest of my time is being spent in queues. The games I’m most interested in playing – Guild Wars 2 and Skyrim – have the down side at an event like this that the demos are, by necessity, quite long in order to give you a good idea of a deep game. This means that by being third in line for the Guild Wars demo, I’m still stuck here for another hour, as the guy on the game is halfway though at 20 minutes, and they’ll be another 40 minutes with the guy between us.

I did manage to play Battlefield 3, which was interesting. The City Warzone area we were demoing owes an awful lot to Modern Warfare in its various forms, and reminds me far more of that than the slightly more arcadey feel of the earlier games. One to miss, I think. Plus, people who played BF on the consoles got bags of free stuff, and people who queued for the PC version got nothing, which sucked.

(This post was finished some time later)

I gave up on Guild Wars 2 in the end. The booth structure screwed it over entirely. They had at least 20 machines playing it, but because that meant 20 different queues that moved every 40 minutes instead of a couple of queues that moved every 10, it felt like an infinite wait. The Battlefield 3 booth, which had separate queues for each of the three platforms, each containing a rotating block of around 16 machines, worked a lot better. I know queue management isn’t very interesting, but it didn’t help my enjoyment of the event.

The OnLive booth was popular, though since it was giving away free set-top boxes to use it that wasn’t surprising. The longest lines were for that, Arkham City, Skyrim and Star Wars, and as a result I played none of those. Once I had the queue I was in pushed back 40 minutes so they could give an “industry demo” to a guy who had once been on a podcast, so apparently I need to get press credentials somehow next time. (To be fair, there was a note above the games machine saying this might happen. Given it pushed my projected queue time into multiple hours, that didn’t help).

With the show floor mostly dedicated to multi-hour queues, If I go again it’ll be to go to more of the developer sessions, since the one I was at was interesting. I liked having the opportunity to play the big games before I consider buying them – the demise of the demo is a terrible thing – but I don’t care enough to waste that much of my life in queues.

Things I didn’t explore enough include the Indie games arcade, which is my own stupid fault.


Two Stories, In Order

By Paul Ford in The Morning News, The Age of Mechanical Reproduction.

By Paul Ford on, Welcome to the Company.

computing Random

Sod "Every Desktop". Everything Everywhere.

My dream computer is probably a phone.

It’s a box, about phone sized, with a full-size touch screen, Wifi and Mobile data capability, running unix based OS with touch-screen optimised UI, and having enough data storage to put the majority of my stuff on it locally. The rest is encrypted on a server somewhere (some people will run their own, others will buy commercial versions, companies would have shared ones). That’s probably Ubuntu One, or something similar.

A current-gen version of this has HDMI and USB out, but could probably be replaced with Thunderbolt. The Thunderbolt could be used for a larger screen version of the touchscreen-optimised OS, at which point you’ve got a tablet, or you could plug in a keyboard and/or mouse as well, at which point you’ve got a full PC analog. Possibly there also exist docking stations with more CPUs & ram in, or maybe the CPU in the “phone” unit scales based on available power capabilities. The important bit is that the data, the control and the “machine” itself is a small pocket thingy. Ideally you don’t have to plug anything in anywhere, and this is all magically done over wireless. Plus, it’s entirely secure and never breaks.

See? I’m a pundit now!



Things that are happening:

I’m playing Deus Ex, still, but currently short-term distracted by Rock of Ages, which is what happens if you drop a Tower Defence game into Marble Madness, and then give the artistic direction to someone who has been obsessing over Terry Gillam’s cartoon style since Monty Python stopped producing new things

It involves crushing things with boulders, and is therefore a good thing.

Work continues, last night we interviewed the Economist’s Education Corespondent, Alison Goddard, for the benefit of our students. There was deep discussion on the state of education, and also dolphins. We set it in the TV studio we’ve built for the new Languagelab course based on Pearson’s Market Leader textbook.

But this weekend is the last Maelstrom event, and the last big weekend larp thing I’m playing this year (I’m reffing Winter in the Willows at halloween), and with any luck I can close out the year (The end of the character’s sixth year in the system) with a bang.

Back on Sunday.


Cloud Frontin'

Cenote, the server which hosts Aquarionics and 64 other sites of varying complexity, has better things to do than spend its CPU and bandwidth on static content. It’s set up with a memory-limited version of Apache (which I can retune now I’ve bought a larger Linode, but was important at the time) so connections are at a bit of a premium.

The Enterprise solution to this is a CDN, of course, an international network of local stores that make everything better. But CDNs are traditionally tuned for heavy lifting – capital D Downloads rather than asset serving – and aren’t generally useful for one-man-band outfits where most of the readership is in RSS anyway. Plus, it’s something I’d like to do for work, so I was playing with tech.

The solution I’m currently using is Amazon’s Cloudfront, which works in a way pleasingly similar to Epistula (my old CMS)’s Fried Caching system. You point all your static files at a cloudfront-backed domain (in my case with exactly the same URL, and if it’s got it and it’s not too old, it sends it out. If it hasn’t got it, or it’s too old (defined by the caching headers on Aquarionics) it gets it from my server, sends it out, and saves it for later requestors.

This causes a minor problem if I want to change a static file quickly, because the CDN will cache it for ages, but I can either turn off the CDN, or I can invalidate part of the cache using boto like this:

import boto
cf = boto.connect_cloudfront(KEY,SECRET)
cf.create_invalidation_request(CLOUDFRONT_ID, [URI,URI,URI])

It’s currently costing me around $0.05/week, but it’s not very high traffic (Around 6k requests/month), but the site is a hell of a lot faster.