Category Archives: Uncategorized

An Englishman in New York

March 25, 2016 | Filed under: Uncategorized

Yay. I went to New York. It was pure sightseeing. I saw times square, and went up the rockafeller tower thing. We rode in yellow cabs and drank ‘coffee’. We laughed at people who thought we were Australian. We got used to saying ’76th and Madison*’, like in the movies. We even saw people filming ‘a new NBC pilot’ in the streets, just like they do in the movies. Also we saw woody allen play jazz. It was cool. I was impressed with the fire hydrants. I was less impressed that in 2016 some hotels employ people as ‘elevator attendants’. I’m a C++ coder, I can handle a fucking button. I also marveled at the insane cost of room service tea, and the intensely groomed nature of pedigree dogs in ‘central park’.

God I miss real trees and hills, and nice views of sheep, and horses. And QUIET.

Its always interesting to see different cultures, partly because as an indie dev, I sell GLOBALLY. Understanding what variety there is among your customers is pretty important. The UK & USA are very different. I saw a hot dog stand with a sign that read ‘If you enjoy your freedom, thank a veteran’, which is interesting, because you would NEVER see that on a burger van in the UK. Which veterans do I thank? all of them? did the Vietnam war secure my freedom? I’m unsure. I’m also confused that a society so obsessed with freedom won’t let me just cross an empty road, and seems to revel in some petty rules, regulations and restrictions. I’m sure the UK seems mad as fuck to New Yorkers too, its just interesting.

Anyway… I probably checked my work email too much for a ‘holiday’ but that’s because I have new DLC for something coming up, new DLC for something else coming up, A new game (D3:Africa), new translations for old games, another new game (Shadowhand), new websites, another new game (Top secret) and probably a dozen other things, including a trip to the European Parliament to talk about Democracy 3. (Cool huh?).

Right now my main concern is how much battery loss my car has experienced while I’m away. Also, must remember which side of the road to drive on, when the car isn’t handling it.

*Given the relative smallness of New York vs coruscant in the star wars prequels, what addresses do they give? “Take me to the Jedi Temple, 445,234th and Madison”. Seems a bit wordy?

 

 

A month later: The electric car

January 31, 2016 | Filed under: Uncategorized

So last year I treated myself to my dream car, a black Tesla model S. An 85D, to be precise (Range was my top priority, not speed, as I live in a rural location). So I’ve owned it for about a month, here is my thoughts on what its like. First the bad, then the good.

tesla

BAD:

The range is NOT as good as they claim. This shouldn’t be that much of a surprise, MPG figures are bullshit, as has been definitively proven, but its still a bit of a disappointment. Without acting like an asthmatic snail, I can happily just jump in and drive 200 miles, which means I can go to London AND back without worrying about recharging anywhere. Still…it would be good to have a higher figure, AND to see more transparency from Tesla on the real world range.

The in-car maps for the satnav are NOT that good if you live somewhere rural. They are dependent on internet connection, and that isn’t that good here. To be fair, the actual sat nav is better than my previous car, AND it has voice-aware satnav that *works* so I can say ‘Drive to Oxford’, and it will set up the satnav without me once taking my eye off the road, which is cool.

Its BIG. It’s much too big a car for me. I don’t need this space, and it means that I have to be a bit careful when parking. UK roads are not as wide, I live down a country lane, in an ideal world, it would be 20% smaller all-round.

Actually recharging at public charging points is a pain. They all (except teslas) require swipe-cards from different networks, and they charge some fees. How about a universal system that just lets me pay with a flipping contactless card please? Tesla may well fix this over time as they build more superchargers and make the older networks redundant.

t2

GOOD:

Holy fuck it shifts. I have no idea how ANYONE can have a need for a P90D which apparently has twice the acceleration. Its like owning an X-wing fighter. I think it’s 0-60 in 4.6 seconds? It feels damn fast.

The in-car GUI is just phenomenal. The huge screen quickly becomes normal. I cant imagine going back to a car with a smaller screen or without a touch-interface now. The parking sensors (I have the autopilot option) are amazing, drawing a kind of ‘shield-bubble’ around your car as it approaches things. The energy readout, the rear-camera, all of it is just amazing.

Charging at home is just so convenient. I only plug it in every other day or so, but my car always leaves my house close to 100% full. Its no hassle, easy, and dirt cheap. I actually think the (trivial) cost of getting a car charger installed at the house will pay for itself easily by added value, as everyone with a parking spot is going to end up doing this. It’s awesome.

The phone app is cool, when it connects quickly. Again..I’m rural. But being able to tell my car to warm up because I’m going out soon is awesome. plus the car-finder nav means I never forget where its parked.

Autopilot. This car has traffic-aware cruise control, self-steering and auto-parking. Its like living in the future. Granted its not 100% there yet, and you have to keep your eyes on it, but cruising along a main road at night at 70MPH with no foot on a pedal and no hand on the wheel as you watch it smoothly and perfectly steer around corners is just amazing. It can be a bit scary, and tbh I rarely totally take my hands off the wheel, but its still amazing.

Insurance. This car cost more than double what my last one did, and my insurance went DOWN. Methinks this is a very very safe car.

So yeah…in short its fucking awesome, but then it should be for the price. The good news is the Model 3 is on the way, which will be half the price of the S, and I suspect a MUCH better deal. I just couldn’t wait that long :D

 

 

 

I worry that the creation and more importantly, the ownership of original content is becoming a minority sport. I believe very strongly in the free market, and the ‘perfect market, and in small business, widespread distribution of ownership, and other seemingly abstract things. For me, the scariest part of ‘Alien’ isn’t the monster, but the way people refer to weyland yutani as ‘the company’, because there is only one. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, or to put it another way, monopoly companies screw the customers.

wy

The thing is, it seems increasingly like people consider personal ownership of content ‘too much trouble’. A LOT of content is being created, for sure, but who actually owns all of it? the strong likelihood is…you don’t.

Your really popular youtube channel? thats owned by google. Your twitch stream followers? yup, owned by twitch. Your friends? I think you will find facebook own them. And these days if you are one of these young people I keep reading about, your sex life is probably mostly owned and managed by tindr or grindr or other apps ending in ‘r’. If you go so far as to actually have a blog, rather than just facebooking stuff, then its probably hosted by ‘medium’ or gamasutra, or some other blogging company with small print and Terms & Conditions so long you never read them. Your opinions are not yours either, they are indexed and cataloged and stored and owned by facebook, twitter, disquss and all those forums you comment on.

Doesn’t this scare you a bit?

Naomi Klein wrote in No Logo about the privatization of social spaces. basically in the 1800s, we would meet our buddies in the town square. In the 2000s, we met at the mall, which was private space, with security guards who could throw you out for wearing the wrong clothes or behaving in a way they didn’t like. In the 2010s, that ‘public space’ is facebook or similar, where the security guards are invisible, but you can bet your ass they are still there.

town

The companies that have started owning our thoughts, dreams, opinions, shopping lists and diaries, are doing a superb job, because they realize that convenience trumps everything else. They have made it so easy to turn over our lives to them that we have done so en-masse. Thats fine, as long as you and the company are friends. When the two of you fall out….well maybe you just shouldn’t?

I can pretty much say what the fuck I like on this blog. I work for myself so no company has muzzled me. This copy of wordpress is hosted on my server, not by wordpress. The server is rented from a 3rd party, which theoretically could yank my site if I started inciting race riots or something, but we are going out on a limb a bit there. Much more importantly, this article is written by ME, its owned by ME. Its not going to be published legally in some book without my permission, not re-printed by a reputable site without my permission. I won it. Its a trivial, passing thought typed up by a guy in his office on a Sunday afternoon, but I own it, I control it, its mine, and to me, thats very very important.

Take a moment to evaluate how much of your life is being managed by private companies you do not control.

 

There is an economic concept called a Veblen good. This is a product which is desired *because* it is expensive. Like a rolls royce, or a gold plated apple smartwatch, or other frippery. Its ‘utility’ if it can still be described as such, is a price signal to other people. Its basically the same as a hat that says ‘I have lots of money’, and in a more primitive way, its a peacock, or one of those monkeys that shows its buttocks at potential mates. Its purpose is external, to tell other people about your worth.

buttocks

Most goods, thankfully are not Veblen goods, but goods that provide utility. My keyboard provides the utility of letting me communicate. It has a logo on it, but frankly nobody is going to have sex with me because I own a corsair keyboard, so its primarily being sold for what it can do.

This subject occurs to me today because in my various musings about DLC and micro-transactions I realize that what I hate is ‘Veblen DLC’. In other words, if your micro-transaction gives me some convenience feature, or some new content, the ability to play on new maps etc, I’m cool with that, but if its just a vanity purchase then…I kinda hate that. I noticed it when browsing the in-game ‘store’ for company of heroes 2. I’d happily buy new maps and some new tanks etc, if available, but the focus seems to be on silliness like different textures for my tanks, or even a gold-plated ‘faceplate’ for my stats banner. I am not short of cash, but the idea that I’d pay money to announce this to some random person over the internet through the proxy of a different ‘faceplate’ texture is kinda sad.

face

And yet… the gold-plated apple watch. This is a real thing. And ultimately, its all peacock feathers. Big companies, worth real billions of dollars put together marketing plans to persuade us (subconsciously) that members of the opposite sex will throw themselves at us if we have high status, and this high status can only be achieved through this car/handbag/sunglasses.

watch

Although its less clearly about sex, groups of males together competing to be the best are ultimately competing to show dominance and strength to attract a mate. Ultimately, unless conflict and competition is about food, its probably subconsciously about sex. This is no different to what all animals do, its just with humans, some of us ‘monetized it’, presumably so we can earn higher salaries and do the same thing ourselves. That £1.59 faceplate is actually a peacock feather, a way for a sexually frustrated young gamer to show they are the alpha male.

So next time you see someone wearing a gold apple watch, remember. its just a monkey showing their buttocks.

Most games are about fulfilling fantasies. You want to kill people and destroy stuff? Of course you do, its called testosterone. Here! have a gun and a flamethrower and grenades, or even a space-cruiser with big scary laser guns. RAWWWRRRR! Want to be rich and powerful? Here, have a kingdom to rule and a vast business to run. Want to have sex with attractive people? Errr…well we cant quite manage that, but here! Look at this Elf maiden in suspiciously scanty armor/lingerie.

Want to eat an enormous amount of incredibly unhealthy food? Err….. Diner Dash? maybe? Err… I dunno, there is a game about fishing I think?

It seems unusual to me that EAT as a verb is not really catered to in the subconscious mind of the gamer. In a time where game designers use MRI scanners to identify what makes gamers come back for more, it seems a big part of our conscious/subconscious desires are being ignored. Sure, people want to kill/hunt and people want to be be the best/biggest/fastest, but where is the FEED ME urge being satisfied in games. I don’t mean desire in general. Desire for conquest, whether it be military, personal or sexual, is being addressed in multiple ways, in multiple games. Why are there not games that prey on our most immediate need, the need for food?

donuts

An advert with a busty elf in it will get more clicks than an advert without one, but surely an advert with a picture of donuts in also triggers the same sort of effect. Doubtless some game designers think a game where you stare at Lara Crofts buttocks all the time is a great way to appeal to people, but where is the game that has me staring at bacon sandwiches all the time? or listening to food sizzling.

I’ve been playing some ‘diner’ game on steam, and its ok, but it just scratches my time management/casual simulation game urge. The pop-ups that let me select a donut machine are just a simulation draw, they don’t really revel in the LOOK DONUTS side of things.  think its a missed opportunity.

Gratuitous Donut Battles. You know it makes sense.