Friday, 28 August 2015

50 Word Stories (Autowrite (Slight Return))

i.e. precisely 50 words, no more or less.

The concept is a bit hackneyed, but that doesn't matter. Apparently they're called Minisagas, who knew?

Anyway, I've not written any (well, not yet - my thing at the moment is writing a long story with as few different words as possible, but that's a whole other story (see what I did there?)) but it struck me the other day that the middle spoken section from "They'll Need A Crane" by They Might Be Giants might intentionally be one.

Starting at about 1:19:

Don't call me at work again
Oh no
The boss still hates me
I'm just tired
And I don't love you anymore
And there's a restaurant we should check out
Where the other nightmare people like to go
I mean nice people
Baby wait
I didn't mean to say nightmare

Definitely 50 words; I've never seen any allusions to it being intentional, but I wouldn't be surprised. And now I'm wondering if they've got any more of them hidden away in their lyrics.

But that's not the point really. The point is: this seems like a good starting point for a computer to automatically write a story...

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Sunday Sport circa 1995

Needs to be turned to black and white really

(for the full Sunday Sport 1995 experience)

Might have to do some more of these, they appeal to my sense of the puerile, I think.

Labour Leadership race pt.4

Still two weeks to go

...and the Labour party machine are getting a bit desperate now.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Like a brick shithouse...

...has always been a favourite expression of mine. 

Dunno why. It's evocative I suppose. It always comes to mind when I think of Justin Gatlin.

And I like playing about with Viz-style piss-takes. I want to make whole parody newspapers - where everything looks normal at first glance, but is slightly skewed to the bizarre, although quite subtly, I'd want at least some people to be fooled - and leave them lying around in random places.

I could do this sort of shit all day, frankly. Mind you, I don't think there's much money in it. Best not give up the day job, eh? Oh wait, I just did. Hahahahahahahahahahaha etc.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

The Mundaneum

Google's doodle today (23rd August) is great.

This is what it looks like and I must confess I hadn't got a clue what it was about when I first saw it:

It's about The Mundaneum. I'd not heard of it before but now I've read about it, wow, what a thing.

It's a great example of a Google Doodle in that it gets you to learn about new things; but in this case it's even better because it makes you think about things, too. I would think of this massive edifice, with its drawerfuls of indexed information as something akin to a giant physical database. But now with computers easily capable of storing far vaster amounts of information, why hasn't an Internet Mundaneum been set up?

Maybe I'm thinking of it wrong - i.e. the physical Mundaneum is more akin to the architecture of the internet - and the digital Mundaneum is the internet. Or perhaps it's more akin to Wikipedia? I don't really think the latter can be true, as a true digital Mundaneum wouldn't limit articles at all; the way I see it, a real digital Mundaneum would have all the publically-available information in the world, right down to the tiniest detail. Wikipedia doesn't fulfil this criterion for lots of reasons.

So then, it's more similar to the internet. But that doesn't work either; not only is there the "right to be forgotten", there are huge swathes of archived material (newspapers spring to mind immediately; most of them haven't got around to digitising their pre-1990 material, but you can view most of them on microfiche right the way back to the first editions, if you're lucky enough to still have a library with such state-of-the-art 1970s technology.

Of course the original Mundaneum didn't contain everything known in 1910, so bemoaning the lack of a digital version isn't really fair. But I wish more newspapers would pull their fingers out and get their really old stuff onto the internet, that would be a decent start.

This all plays into one of my current obsessions: making a simulation of UK politics. I know it might not seem relevant, but I guess what I mean is that, within the simulation, each person would represent one of the Mundaneum's index cards...that's for another post, I think.

Edit:  Oh my, I've just found out about The Dymaxion Chronofile.  I might explode.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

ZX Open World, Part 4

Sorry for the delay...

Excuses: had a birthday, which was all pretty cool, pissed about doing other stuff, then thought "ah shit", need to finish this thing, or at least reach some sort of (probably unsatisfactory) conclusion.

But anyway, excuses out of the way, my favourite open world game on the Spectrum - not to say the best, I lost touch with commercial Spectrum games in 1988 or so - was by quite a distance, Mercenary:

Crash-landing on Targ is imminent...

I didn't care that it was a port from an MSX game, nor that the Commodore 64 version was better in many ways, nor even that when the Amiga version came along, it knocked them all into a cocked hat. Mercenary for the Spectrum was - I think - as close to my ideal open world could be at the time. Basically, you crash-land on a planet (Targ - or was the city called Targ? - I forget) which is currently experiencing some sort of civil war (between the Palyars - the goods ones - and the Mechanoids - the baddies - but this isn't immediately apparent). When you land, you're pretty much on your own to do as you please (it definitely helps that you crash-land there's a flying craft nearby - walking around this place takes a long, long time).

The City of Targ becomes visible as
you plummet helplessly...
Handily, a craft is immediately
available on landing

The logical thing to do is to buy the craft that's available when you crash-land. That way you can get yourself exploring from the air, which is far faster than walking around. But you can walk around if you want. You might come across a land-based craft that'll get you around a lot faster, but your line of sight is far more limited than it would be from the air.

Point is, anything went, pretty much.

As can be seen above, the city was broadly laid out in a grid format, although not all co-ordinates contained anything of interest (not on the ground, anyway, although there might be something hovering up above...)
It's Milton Keynes...
in bizarro world

This is a view flying over the city. It's difficult to describe how amazingly well all the flying craft were (once you'd got the hang of them). There was a real feeling of weight and momentum and speed; there was a genuine physics engine working in there.

Of course, this was a 48K Spectrum game (41.5K usable blah blah blah) so by necessity, it was sparse. Boy, was it sparse. Vector graphics to the max.

But that added to the atmosphere if you ask me. Mercenary had an atmosphere all of its own.

Here's a bridge (pictured left). It's a bit like the Humber Bridge, but it only spans a road. Or does it?

Here's a...actually I can't remember what the fuck that was (pictured right). I'm sure it added to the mystery, though.

And there was plenty of mystery, for sure. Mysterious satellite installations! Mysterious forests!
Mysterious circus big tops which were something else but nevertheless looked like circus big tops!

And you could of course blow all this shit up if you wanted (given a suitably-equipped craft). What more is there to like?
The hangar at 09-06. Some nice stuff in there.'s something. It's a hangar from the outside, but it has an elevator to a subterranean level.

There's a good few of these dotted around the city. Some of them contain useful stuff but some of them just do their best to kill you.

'Course, there's no way of winning without going into the subterranean complexes, as they contain all the stuff you might need to finish the game (plus all the cool stuff).

For a start, you'll find new flying craft with far better capabilities than the one you start with. And you will ultimately need one, as the starting craft is nowhere near capable of getting to the places you need to get to, as it simply can't make the altitude.

Let's take a trip...

This is descending into a hangar and not knowing what the fuck is going on, incidentally. Not that that's a bad thing; in fact, in this game, it was the only way to figure out - gradually - how best to play.

Turns out the triangular doors seen here need a triangular key to get through, but that's not obvious from the outset.

Course, there's all kinds of weird shit down there, it's not all enormous blue rooms with triangular doors.

No, quite the contrary, the area to explore underground was - in terms of mapping data - probably bigger than the above-surface stuff; there were quite a few of these underground complexes, each with different things in them, f'rinstance:
Yellow corridors!
Red rooms!
Blue corridors with lethal
spider webs in them!
Mysterious purple doors!


It all looks so basic and primitive now, but the simplicity of the graphics added to it all I mentioned before, the atmosphere generated within Mercenary was unique.  I genuinely loved this game. I felt that this was the future of gaming; the basis being that game landscapes could become increasingly vast whilst the detail could be generated depending on the player's point of view.

There's an interesting interview with David Aubrey-Jones (from Crash edition 44, possibly more on which anon) here and sometimes I wonder what people like him are doing these days.

I bet whatever it is, it's not as exciting as what he was doing in 1987.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

ZX Open World, Part 3(a)

Before embarking...

...on what looks like it's going to turn into a very long post about another game, I just wanted to drop in the brief story of the Game That Never Was (except for later, when it was overhauled and was released, but let's not dwell on that for now), The Last Ninja.

It did well on other platforms and spawned sequels, but the Spectrum version was doomed to failure; it seemed to be imminent all the way through 1987 and 1988 but never actually appeared, which was a shame, as when it did eventually appear for the superannuated Spectrum (as Last Ninja 2, some two and a half years late) it looked damn good:

These screens are from Last Ninja 2, I think, or maybe another of the versions that was eventually completed for the Spectrum. It doesn't exactly look state of the art now, but back in 1987, when I still believed this thing was going to appear, I was pretty excited.

It looked like a proper cross between Saboteur and Turbo Esprit, with proper solid-looking graphics, fighting, exploring, etc. which was pretty much my dream game in 1987. But by the time it eventually appeared, I'd long moved on.