Singularity

Tag: games

Experiment 626

by on Nov.29, 2012, under gaming, Geekery

avatarA couple of Christmases ago, my beloved brother bought us a Mindflex, knowing that I like that sort of thing.

For those who find clicking on links and watching videos too much tl;dr, the basic premise is that you wear a headband sensor that registers brain activity. If there’s a lot, power is increased to a fan, causing a foam ball to rise in the air (like balancing a ping pong ball on an air dryer — what do you mean you’ve never tried that?) and the player twiddles a knob to send the fan around the course. There are a variety of obstacles one can place around the course, with varying levels of ‘control’ needed to make it through them.

You’ll notice I put ‘control’ in scare quotes. The thing is, there is a reasonable amount of argument as to whether this thing genuinely reads brain activity or whether it offers the illusion of control. I’ve been playing with it for a couple of years, off and on, and I honestly couldn’t say. I know how powerful that illusion can be, and I don’t fall for the “lots of people think it’s real so it must be real” argument. If I did, I’d be scared of the giant sky pixie.

So we decided to do an experiment.

This is Stitch. Some of you will have met him.

Is sad

This is not the Stitch who ate all the pies, or travelling Stitch, or Warpig Stitch (don’t ask). This Stitch is relatively well behaved and not known for having high levels of brain activity. This is Emo Stitch (Sad Stitch Is Sad).

One of the games available on Original Mindflex is a time trial arrangement called, melodramatically, Danger Zone. This involves setting up an obstacle course and taking it in turns to try to get past all four lights within the time limit.

On this occasion, the players were:

Me (incidentally, MoC is seeking funding for Episode 5, so go and look at the cool stuff you could get for supporting them and lob a few quid their way): Minister of Chance is currently in need of funding. Go and donate.
Frood: Frood
Munky: Munky's game face
Emo Stitch: Stitch in a tinfoil hat

You will notice that Stitch is wearing a tinfoil hat. The Mindflex requires the player to have a crocodile clip attached to each earlobe and a small metal disc pressed against the forehead.

No, we’re not sure how that’s supposed to work, either. Hence the experiment.

Stitch needed the tinfoil hat for the various alleged electrodes to form a circuit and the game to accept him as a biological entity. Note that the game didn’t need any verifiable brainwave activity, merely a circuit. Plush gets in the way of circuit forming.

Our null hypothesis was that the Mindflex system was not designed to read genuine brainwave activity as the hardware supplied does not seem capable of measuring genuine brainwave activity; and that the apparent relationship between ball height and concentration was entirely a result of the illusion of control. Thus, to disprove the null hypothesis, our control Stitch would have to perform significantly worse than our human players, on the basis that he doesn’t have any brain activity.

Because he’s plush.

This was our experimental method.

We chose the Danger Zone game, as this would give us a quantitative measure of each player’s performance. A number of obstacles were used, including a maze cage with trap level and several hoop obstacles, to ensure a requirement for the player to vary the ball’s height (which, as explained earlier, is a measure of brainwave activity, APPARENTLY). I went first, then Frood, then Munky, then Stitch.

Experiment 626

The obvious flaw with this is that Stitch is plush and could not operate the twiddle knob by himself. Therefore I did it for him. Please also see notes below for future experimental proposals.

I completed 4 zones in 1 minute 49 seconds. Frood completed 4 zones in 2 minutes and 15 seconds. Munky completed 3 zones in 2 minutes and 48 seconds while Stitch completed 3 zones in 2 minutes and 20 seconds.

Yes. That is correct. Stitch beat Munky.

Sad Sackmunky Are Sad

There are some obvious problems with the experimental protocol. Ideally, an experiment would involve at least three repetitions (it was late, we’d been drinking, it was time to go to bed). Also, another round needs to be added, in which a neutral observer operates the twiddle knob for all of the players, to remove that factor from the timing. It would also be worthwhile checking some of the other games, to see if Stitch is better or worse at any particular type of game compared to a human, to at least identify the possibility of an inherent bias in the system.

And maybe give Pooh a go, and see if he’s as good as Stitch.

I think what we can definitely say, however, is that how well you do at Danger Zone isn’t necessarily related to how much control you have over your brainwave activity. As a biofeedback training tool, it’s not much use.

I’m obviously not the only one to want to test this, either:

What I like best about that are the people getting really upset in the comments because they believe it REALLY DOES WORK UR JUST DOIN IT RONG.

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Ancient and the bluest blue

by on Jul.06, 2011, under Photography, rambling

avatarOK. I’ll admit it. I’m not a big fan of Neil Gaiman. This marks me out as a pariah in the world of SF&F, apparently, because Mr Gaiman can do no wrong.

Please don’t misunderstand me: it’s not that I think his work is rubbish. I quite enjoyed the early Sandman graphic novels. It’s just that, well, I think he is over-hyped. He doesn’t do it for me in the way Pratchett does, for instance. He doesn’t do it for me in the way Grant Morrison does. He doesn’t do it for me the way Warren Ellis does. Or Alan Moore (when he’s on form). That’s just my opinion and I’m sure he’d be the first to say I’m entitled to it. He’s the one making all the money, and I can’t imagine him giving a monkey’s uncle what I think one way or the other.

And yet, despite this, The Doctor’s Wife was the only episode of the current series I really enjoyed. I loved the emphasis on and exploration of the relationship between the Doctor and the big blue box that means so much to him. I liked the banter, which had been sorely missing since… pretty much since the Lodger back in Series 5 (River’s “What time do you call this?” was good, but not enough).

But… Oh, there’s always a but.

You know what? The sign on the door that says pull to open? That refers to the cupboard where the phone is kept, not the door to the police box. Look at the door design and the location of the hinges. The door can’t open outwards. Maybe TARDIS doors are supposed to open outwards, like fire doors are, but police box doors don’t because they can’t.

Can I say “Did not do the research” about Neil Gaiman? Seems a bit churlish given that he wrote the only episode of the current series I thought was any good.

Here’s a picture of Fingal next to an original police box:

fingaltardis2

We have a lot of police boxes in Edinburgh. They make me sad, because so many of them are in such a terrible state. This is what the Doctor’s TARDIS would have ended up looking like, I think, if House had had his way and no one had mentioned her being the last one.

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Sam reviews: Portal 2

by on May.02, 2011, under games, gaming, Geekery, Reviews

avatarWhile everyone else was rolling painted eggs down hills, chasing after Easter bunnies and stuffing themselves full of chocolate, my main concern about the penultimate weekend in April (other than the trip down to Lincolnshire for my mother-in-law’s birthday) was the release of Portal 2.

Portal 2 cover
In a gaming world where most of the action titles seem to be taking the “increased difficulty = more monsters and more shooting”, finding a title that is engrossing, has a good narrative and doesn’t rely on ultra-violence is quite difficult. I haven’t bought a new adult action game since Bioshock 2 — I’ve been buying things like Little Big Planet 2 and Rabbids titles instead. Compare Resistance: Fall of Man with its sequel, FEAR likewise — I haven’t gone near Dead Space 2 because the original took that to a frustrating extreme. There is only so much I can cope with button mashing through a fight only to run straight into another one with barely enough of a break to regain a couple of health bars.

Portal 2 is a breath of fresh air in a room stale with the scent of testosterone, cordite and spent shell casings.

It’s a puzzler, much like the first one. The first one, however, had us join Theseus after entering the Labyrinth then bug out as soon as the Minotaur was dead. In Portal 2 we get to see a bit more of Crete and the Kingdom of Minos.

Gameplay is similar to the first offering, although there is less reliance on laying portals in exactly the right place with impeccable timing and more on figuring out the correct sequence and making use of the portals to achieve the seemingly impossible. While I had a considerably frustrating time with the original, lacking the precise hand-eye co-ordination required to make accurate portals at high speed while flying through the air, I found Portal 2 to be just frustrating enough. I liked the logical progression of problem solving. Rather like doing a crossword, it’s necessary to gain an eye for it, to learn the rules and the patterns. There is a sense of accomplishment in gaining the mindset required to solve the puzzles. The achievement here isn’t being able to slaughter more and bigger and stronger rabid creatures: it’s being able to solve ever more complex puzzles that on first glance seem impossible until a solitary patch of white turns into the end of a thread that will lead you through to the exit.

There are nods to the original in the use of some of the same test chambers, run through the decay mill. If you are expecting the game to be as short as the original you are in for a shock at the point you think you have escaped into the outside world. The use of the derelict original facility to bring in a whole new set of puzzle types and give some background to the Aperture Science facility was enjoyable, seasoning the very dark storyline with welcome humour.

Another point for which Valve has my undying love is that our protagonist is a woman. But she just happens to be a woman. There is a point halfway through the game where GLaDOS says “She did all the work!” If you have been concentrating on the gameplay rather than laying out portals to get a look at your character, and know nothing of the game, this is the first time the sex of the character is clear. This isn’t Silent Hill, where being female inevitably leads to a plotline involving maternal instinct; or a reason for pneumatic busts à la Lara Croft; nor the ridiculous posturing of Bayonetta. Portal 2 passes the Bechdel test with flying colours, even when one of the women involved is a potato. (Spoilers!)

“Oh, it’s you. It’s been a long time. How have you been? I’ve been really busy being dead. You know… after you murdered me? Okay look, we both said a lot of things that you are going to regret. But I think we should put our differences behind us. For science. You monster.”

Chell

"And then you showed up. You dangerous, mute lunatic."

I couldn’t have been happier had a Big Daddy removed his helmet to reveal he was actually a Big Mummy.

We haven’t started on the co-operative level, and there are several achievements that I missed on my first run through, so there’s plenty of gameplay in it yet. If you fancy something a bit more cerebral than your standard first-person shooter, where difficulty isn’t measured in how many times you die in a sequence before you learn the spawn patterns and get your timing just right, I can thoroughly recommend this engaging and satisfying number from Valve.

I won’t spoil the ending, but yes, there is a song.

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Sackpeeples FTW!

by on Jan.05, 2011, under gaming, Geekery

avatarI owe the world some game reviews, notably the recent Rabbids game, but I had to squee about Little Big Planet 2.

Unless you’ve never, ever, ever been here or met me or talked to me or had anything to do with me ever at all (in which case, hi!) you will know that I have an almost pathological obsession with Little Big Planet. So when Media Molecule released a demo for the forthcoming LBP2, I was all over it like a rash.

Frood and I have spent an inordinate amount of time playing it over the past couple of days. Yes. A demo. For the first time ever a game has me so enthralled that I’m going back to the demo over and over again because it’s so enormously, splendiferously fantastic that I can’t wait for the full release.

Robo-buns! Grapple Guns! The Tower of Whoop! THE BEST AND MOST AWSUM HATS EVAR!!!!

Dude, this is seriously going to rock so hard that it will be subject to tectonic drift.

Flabbit!

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A day older

by on Nov.26, 2010, under Miscellany, Photography

avatarIt’s my birthday today and I am officially much older than really I feel is right. It’s one of those “How the hell did that happen?” moments. Mind you, I occasionally still get asked for proof of age, so I can’t be doing that badly.

I’ll be pretty busy, so while I would normally find time on a weekday off from work to post some rambly nonsense about telly adverts or bicycles or computer games, you will have to wait for my considered opinion on Rabbids Travel In Time because I have a cake to make, another batch of ice cream to start and a whole pile of vodka jellies to do.

Yes, it’s my birthday, and I shall do my own catering if I want to.

In the meantime I leave you with this image I captured using my (practically obsolete) mobile phone while out for a lunchtime walk last week. I love these colours. I love the scents and textures of these colours. My synaesthesia gives these colours a tang and a fizz. Imagine a curtain made of fine, bronze threads hanging in an open doorway on a hot Mediterranean summer’s day with the azure sea just visible far below when the breeze separates the threads a little. Now walk up to it until the threads rest on your face.

Stick out your tongue.

Someone coated the threads in sherbet.

A flash of Autumn

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ZOMG!!!

by on Nov.10, 2010, under gaming, Geekery

avatarTwo of my favourite things in the whole wide world.

Rabbids.

Bicycles.

And I’ve pre-ordered so it will ARRIVE ON MY BIRTHDAY!

JELLY. CAEK. RABBIDS. BICYCLES. SACKPEEPLES.

I can’t think of anything to make a birthday girl happier, unless it’s Stitch-related.

Stitch of Death

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Bottom lip a birdie could perch on

by on Oct.19, 2010, under gaming, Geekery

I just read this.

LBP2 is not going to be released until January.

Down arrow.

Down arrow.

Down arrow.

Sad Sackmunky Are Sad

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The Lapins Crétins

by on Aug.07, 2010, under games, Reviews

avatar I’m a Playstation girl. I’ve never been one for the cutesy Nintendo games and so have not been tempted by one of their consoles. My gaming platforms have evolved from Pong (ohgods, that shows my age) to the Atari 2600 (Pitfall and Enduro Champion badges in 1984, thankyouverymuch) to the ZX Spectrum and thence, with a gap of some years, to the PSOne and its descendants.

I succumbed to a DS in March, after buying one for my mum, because I enjoyed the Brain Training on hers and had a hankering for some Syberia type action. Then, when I was over in Galway visiting Splinister‘s household in July, they introduced me to their Wii. More precisely, they introduced me to Rabbids Go Home.

You see, Splinister knows me very well, probably better than anyone else on the face of this planet (barring Frood, of course), and considers me to be a serious gamer: a serious gamer with a bizarre fondness for really odd, quirky, stupid games like Katamari, and an intense liking for crazy, mischievous critters like Stitch and sackpeople. Splinister also knew I have an injured foot that I’m supposed to be staying off as much as possible, and I suspect she calculated that a game that pushed all my buttons might induce me to keep my arse on the sofa instead of running around chasing the dog.

Bwaaaah!

Rabbids Go Home is a game in which you have a trio of mutant rabbits, one of which is in a shopping trolley, one of which is pushing the trolley and the last of which is inside your wii remote. The aim of the game is to drive around a world ruled by the legions of Greyface, shouting at people to make their clothes fall off and nicking all their stuff to build a pile big enough to reach the moon because the moon is big enough for all the rabbids to sleep on at the same time. It’s like Katamari done by French Canadians. It is, quite simply, TEH AWSUM.

There are plenty of reviews out there that claim it is too easy. The same could be said of the various katamaris and that doesn’t mean the game is awful, far from it. It’s certainly straightforward, and the learning curve is shallow — you’re only driving a shopping trolley around, after all. On the other hand, the single player game requires that you drive your trolley through each item of stuff you want to collect, and that gets pretty damn tough in the later stages, when you’re pushing a cow with a ticking bomb on it around herds of spiky cactus or bouncing a highly infectious patient in an isolation bubble around high-rise construction machinery and homing grenades.

What makes this game, however, is the humour. It’s the sheer glee that has gone into it. Everything — the way the rabbid you have selected for abuse inside your remote stares at the live electrical socket with nervous, desperate, impatient anticipation while you dangle it in front of his eyes, or the way he giggles delightedly when you beat the crap out of him with a giant glove; and the crazy Moldovan Gypsy music — is bubbling with effervescent joy. The attention to detail in the rabbid behaviour is worth the price of entry: one of my favourite touches is the way he sucks in his breath and stands very still for you when you wield the tattoo stamp, and there is possibly nothing quite so funny as a pair of rabbids with a pneumatic drill.

Occasionally a game comes along that casts a console (or an accessory) in a new light. Little Big Planet did it for the PS3. (Antigrav did it for the EyeToy, and I will never understand why development on that ceased.) Rabbids Go Home, for me, did it for the Wii. On the pathetic justification that I will be off training for a few more months at least, I went and bought a console just so I could play this game and the sequel, due for release later this year.

That’s about the highest recommendation I can make.

Got a sense of humour? Get Rabbids.

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Weapon of Choice

by on Jun.05, 2010, under games, gaming, Geekery, Reviews

avatarThere are a couple of games that have stayed with me as I have progressed through the various ranks of consoles I have owned and enjoyed throughout my time as a gamer (and I’d betray my age if I told you my first console was Pong). Nothing from the old Atari 2600 has survived the various upgrades, although I first played R-Type on a ZX Spectrum, when a dodgy joystick meant the only way to progress was for us to play in pairs, with one gunner and one pilot. By gum Frood and I rocked that game.

As far as I know they are not planning on releasing a version for the PS3, which is very sad. But I’ve kept my PS2 so I can still play R-Type Final.

The other reason I kept the PS2 was so I could continue to play the other game that I’ve bought every time I’ve upgraded my console: WipEout. WipEout Fusion is, in my opinion, the best of the various WipEouts. Sadly it’s one of the few games that doesn’t port properly over to the PS3 — after a certain number of tracks are opened up the game starts crashing.

Of course I have WipEout HD, and there are some features that are great improvements. The screenshot facility is great, and I have gone into geeky paroxysms of obsession trying to get the perfect picture (and so far failing, but enjoying the process). The ability to import your own soundtrack is also fantastic, as previously we had a complicated setup involving a Sony stereo system with a games function that allowed us to connect the audio output of the PS2 to the stereo, where it would be mixed with whatever CD happened to be playing. Turn down the in-game music, turn up the sound effects, stick some Crystal Method on the multichanger and you’ve got yourself a thumping race soundtrack.

Sadly, however, the tracks don’t live up to expectations and I do miss the pitstops. I’ve spent most of my life living in shared households with friends and we had our own language and terminology, some of which was game based. “Jeopardy” was taking a three-lap race with only one pit stop. “Double jeopardy” was taking a three-lap race with no pit stops at all. In the current WipEout you regain ship energy by consuming weapons, and it takes some of the risk out of it: skipping a pit-stop commits you to flying your socks off to cross the line before you crash and burn. They’ve also got rid of the shortcuts, which is really sad. I’ve spent many a happy afternoon sending my ship down strange side-roads in an effort to find the shortest (and therefore fastest) route round a course.

Then again, the head to head mode in the current version is much better, and I like that you can select which tracks you want for a multi-race challenge against a friend. I haven’t tried the online version, so I can’t comment on that.

Still. I miss Mandrashee.

Perfection, of course, would be importing the tracks from WipEout Fusion into WipEout HD. Then we could get a picture of Munky falling off the moon.

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OMFG SQUEE!!!!eleventy!!

by on May.10, 2010, under gaming

avatarI haven’t been this excited since… since… Since the last time I was waiting for a new bike to show up!

Frood just said “If you write it, I’ll build it.”

Intelligent objects! Digital puppetry! Linked levels!

OMFG I’m so excited!

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