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Happy Friday

by on Aug.14, 2009, under Cycling, kit

I’m working from home today as I have a bout of gastroenteritis. Or food poisoning. Or gut flu. Whatever it is seems to be content to prowl around making me feel just a tad less than my usual splendid self, its presence plain but not debilitating, as long as I don’t eat anything. If I eat anything resembling proper food it’s a different matter altogether. So I don’t feel unwell enough not to work, but I don’t feel well enough to go into the office, especially as I’d have to cycle because the car is in for servicing.

In response to a livejournal post on BikePirates I put up some pics of my bikes, and, I have to say, that has cheered me up no end. Share my joy with a touch of bike pr0n for a Friday morning.


The fast one (Peregrine the Pinarello):

I look best on the bike

The loaded one (Fingal, Orbit Fast Tour):

Fingal at Inverness Station

The fixed one (Shackleton, last of the 135mm Il Pompinos):

Shackleton

The other fixed one (Blackbird, a rescued and rebuilt Raleigh Sun Solo circa 1983):

Blackbird goes for a ride

The sometimes grubby one (Max, a Specialized Hard Rock from before they got ugly, with his friend, Bob):

Max and Bob

And if that didn’t make you feel better about the world in general then it’s either because you’re envious of my stable (perfectly understandable) or you prefer lolcats of a Friday.

funny pictures of cats with captions

If that didn’t work then there ish no pleeshing you.

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The levellers – #lbp

by on Aug.08, 2009, under gaming, Geekery, Miscellany

Little Big Planet may look like a game for kiddies, but I can assure you that grown-ups play it too, and are just as fond of mucking about with their sackpeople. No, that is not a euphemism.

Frood (AKA Alibarbarella) and I have played the story levels all the way through and a great many of the community levels, and here’s my short guide for level-makers to creating enjoyable levels that will result in these two picky customers giving you five stars and a heart.

#1 – Single player vs. co-op
And all for one!
You might think that this shouldn’t need to be said, but it does. If your level doesn’t work very well when more than one sackperson is on the field, say so in the description. It doesn’t mean we won’t play it — we’ll switch off one of the controllers and one of us will watch the other one play. The levels that play themselves are good examples. If two of you embark on one of those, a helpful NPC reminds you to switch off one of the controllers.

If your level is designed to work for co-op that’s fantastic. We love co-op games. Levels we can play together are the levels that keep us coming back for more. LBP is, after all, also a social game. That said, if you need more than one player to complete your level, you should say so. If your level can be played by two or more but you’re better off approaching the obstacles one at a time, it’s helpful if you explain that, too.

Remember that co-op sackpeople don’t like being separated. If your obstacles cover a lot of space, make sure that all players can complete each one together, otherwise there will be much peeping and someone will end up piffing.

#2 Storytelling
The best levels have an economy such as would be found in a short story (I’ll talk more about telling stories with levels in a later post). There’s no point putting in a hellishly fiendish obstacle if the sackpeople can just go around it, and sticking a few points balls at the top isn’t incentive enough to waste valuable lives making the attempt unless you’re trying to ace the level.

Frankly, life’s too short.

We liked this oneA really neat sticker (especially one that becomes a switch trigger later) might induce me to tackle an obstacle that’s not vital to completing the level, but I don’t get a kick out of grabbing everything there is to grab. Not everyone does. If I reach the end and it says I’ve only managed to find 64% of the items, that doesn’t necessarily make me unhappy or want to play it again. A good story, with well thought-out obstacles — that makes me want to play it again.

Check out Innocent Cows… That’s a great level, and we’ve played it a few times. Note that it took two months of work and hand-drawn artwork. Good levels don’t come easily.

#3 Gremlins
If you haven’t heard of beta testing, then you’re doing it wrong.

Sackpeople are like hamsters, or octopuses. When you want them to go through a gap they’ll stubbornly refuse and hop to either side of it like it’s the fourth wall. When you don’t want them to go through a gap, they’ll be straight through there and nothing you can do will stop them. Then they’ll get stuck.

You need to use a glitch to get this costumeThey also break things. The players out there will take your level and turn it into so much useless junk, if you haven’t built it robustly. There’s very little worse in Little Big Planet land than getting halfway through a level and discovering you’ve broken it. A pretty typical flaw is when a level generates a vehicle as a one-off, it somehow gets broken or lost (sackpeople also let go when you least expect it) and then you can’t finish the level because the vehicle was necessary to get to the next area.

In addition, we don’t like it when we find ourselves behind the scenes, looking at the winches and pulleys, and can’t get out again.

In short, don’t give us a level we can break. That makes for sad, angry sackpeople.

#4 Number of lives
Sackperson acrobaticsThere’s something to be said for the infinite lives portals. A couple of community levels out there (I can’t look them up because Frood is hogging the machine for level building right now) are designed to be one trap after another. Relax, it tells you. You will die. It’s fine. You have infinite lives. Sit back and enjoy.

And we did.

Running out of lives halfway through a level and having to start again might be part of the fun for some — I own more than one version of R-Type, I get it, I really do — but personally I prefer not having to go all the way back and start again. If you’ve got a particularly tricky bit in your level, in which it’s necessary to get it right to within a hair’s breadth, or learn a complex pattern, consider using a double portal, at the very least. I don’t mind dying, but I don’t like getting frustrated. Gaming is supposed to be fun.Sad Sackmunky Are Sad

On the other hand, there are tags for “tricky” and “frustrating”, so if you like killing sackpeople go right ahead. It’s just that we’ll probably skip it.

#5 Descriptions
Use these wisely, young sackperson! You can get away with almost anything if you explain it up front. There will be players out there who will enjoy whatever fiendish tricks you have to offer, so make your description count! For every player who wants to bring three friends there’s another who likes having levels all to himself. For every player who likes infinite lives there are more who like the challenge of having to do a level over and over to get it right. The important thing is to give us levels that work and are fun to play. If a description covers the important facts then we can choose the ones we are more likely to find enjoyable and you are more likely to get hearted.

All together

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Amen, brother

by on Jul.06, 2009, under Cycling, Geekery, kit, Lols and memes

I can only imagine Thudthwacker really loves me because he said he read this and thought of me (and Munky, to be fair, but that’s an awkward threesome).

You really need to read the whole thing for full FLAVR, but I shall present you with an excerpt or two that I found particularly lulzy with which to whet your appetite:

If some twat on some message board somewhere says that you can use the lockring from your bottom bracket as a lockring for a fixie conversion doesn’t mean that A: you can, or B: you should. Please listen to me on this stuff, I really do have your best interests at heart.

So you want a bike that you can ride to work, goes really fast, is good for that triathlon you’re doing this summer (snicker), is good on trails and mud, and costs less than $300. Yeah. Listen, I want a car that can go 200 miles an hour, tow a boat, has room for five adults, is easy to parallel park but can carry plywood, gets 60mpg, and only costs $3,000. I also want a unicorn to blow me. What are we even talking about here? Oh yeah. Listen, bikes can be fast, light, cheap and comfortable. Pick two, and we’re all good.

Yes indeedy. Especially on the lockring. I was never convinced about that. I can think of a few others, too, especially that one where they say you can convert a single speed into a fixed hub using araldite. Buh. I personally wouldn’t trust araldite to stop the damn thing slipping, but, you know, I don’t mind buying a fixed hub and rebuilding the wheel. If you think it’s easier and better to shove epoxy resin into the freewheel then good luck to you.

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What he said

by on Apr.10, 2009, under games, gaming

I bought the game thinking it was going to be a 2-player co-op. Frood would get Spidey and I’d get Wolverine.

Fat chance.

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QOTD

by on Apr.10, 2009, under Geekery

Back in the 1950s, Britain’s tiny Saunders-Roe company was building the rocket-powered SR.53 fighter. Designer Maurice Brennan, according to some of my old Flight colleagues, used to defend the concept against missile fanatics by remarking that “the guidance system weighs 200 pounds and drinks gin.”

That’s from an article in the Register on UAVs, quoting Bill Sweetman.

Think I’ll get some Easter Hodilay Gin for me and Frood. Top ho! Although he’d probably prefer rum.

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Why go shopping?

by on Apr.05, 2009, under kit, training

Sometimes it’s a wonder, in these days of Wiggle and other internet sports shops, that actual, physical shops manage to stay afloat. When you can buy sports kit so much cheaper online, why go to a shop with overheads?

I’ll tell you for why.

A couple of years ago I went to RunAndBecome in Edinburgh and bought my first pair of trail shoes. The staff were great. They spent a long time making sure I had the right shoes for my purpose, my feet and my gait. The shoes were the Asics Gel Trabucos, and I’ve been very pleased with them. They’ve done sterling service both in training and competition.

Finally, however, they wore out, as shoes are wont to do. I knew they were on their way out, and then I had a dream in which I got back from a particularly tough run and discovered the soles were completely smooth. My feet had been hurting of late so I figured this was my subconscious telling me to bloody get out there and replace them.

A copy of Runner’s World had arrived with a catalogue from an online retailer offering the Trabucos at half retail price, and money is kind of tight at the moment so I was sorely tempted. However, I like to support shops because of the service they offer, so off I went to RunAndBecome and told them I needed to replace my Trabucos. Size 39. I was expecting to be in and out in a flash.

But when I tried them on in the shop they DIDN’T BLOODY FIT. Asics, in their infinite wisdom, had decided to change the last for the 2009 model and they were now too tight. Several pairs of different and not quite right shoes later the lovely shop lady found a pair of 2008 Trabucos on offer, and they happened to be in my size, and also were made with the same last as the 2007 model. Hooray!

That, boys and girls, is why one should not buy such an important piece of kit as running shoes online, no matter how sure you are that you know exactly what you want. As for you folks who take advantage of shops by going in to try them on and then going away to order them cheaply online: boo sucks to you. That’s just taking advantage, that is. It’s practically theft. You are using their services and not supporting the shop. Keep that up and there won’t be a shop, and then you’ll be reduced to ordering unsatisfactory kit online and having to send it back.

I don’t really mind that the new ones are bright yellow. Even though it tastes teh nasteh. I’ll just not look at them.

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