Monday, June 25, 2007


edit: coincidentally, this article was posted on Slashdot today.
edit: I've spent a totally disproportionate amount of time setting up my profile compared to how long I intend to spend on MySpace generally. I guess people really do love customising things.

I'm trying to hunt down a track Annie Mac played as a white label from Mickey Finn, it's on the Finn People label (read it off some vinyl at the weekend! then went a bit spastic) and I think it might be by Modified Motion, but Juno Records doesn't have it. Bah. Annie dubbed it Super Mario because of the well, Mario noises... it isn't called that though.

There's a mix here Hattie pointed out, mainly filler as always but some really nice mixes and basslines too. Actually seems the first/second and last tracks are best!

edit: MySpace ftl. FaceBook seems way more featureful. I may make that my 'main SNS', as far as I even have one.

Kids movies

Reposted since I hate to waste 30mins writing and throw it away.

Trackback to original post.

You'll never get a great movie by thinking of a new category like this. What was Monsters, Inc? A kids creature feature or a story about a couple of factory workers helping a kid defeat her nightmares?

Where are the comic adaptations for kids? I read Girl Genius by Phil and Kaja Foglio, it would make an awesome kids movie. It's available free online, although I've bought all the books. There are giant robots, tiny robots, Transylvanian monster soldiers, a talking cat and lots of dirigibles.

A great 'kids' movie for adults would be Barry Ween by Judd Winick. It spins the traditional supergenius kid story by introducing a foul mouth, *reference* to porn and a reluctant hero. Girl problems and an eight year old friend who acts more like five aid familiarity. I cried and it's a *comic book* for gosh darn sake.

What's your favourite genre? Why hasn't it been done for kids? Hoodwinked is fantastic, it's like Murder She Wrote for kids.

Kids feel oppressed by adults, they like to see kids beating adults. The Witches is about a kid with a power uncovering an adult conspiracy, perfect. Kids also like older kids, I bet a lot of kids under 16 sneaked a look at American Pie.

ps. Psychonauts would be good too. Can't be bothered to write porperly any more.

Friday, June 22, 2007

How to mix and write

It turns out beatmatching is only half the story. Stick a tune on, tap out the beat if the BPM counter is off, and add FX to taste. To mix the second tune, pitchbend (or timeshift, if you have it) until the BPMs match, cue and drop. This works for tracks with nice long intros/outros because there's time to crossfade. Unfortunately, lots of music doesn't do that. Especially gabba and other esoteric noise music.

So here's the other way. When you put the second track on, match the mid and treble levels and kill the bass. Crossfade the bass or use the kills to hard swap basslines. The downside of this approach (at least to my ear) is your levels end up very peculiar and people complain about the beat change. I have yet to try it. I'm guessing you can merge the styles, at least if you're not changing track too often.


This was also an attempt to follow Scott Adams' recent advice on how to write. The first sentence leads you to read further. The sentences are fairly simple and follow subject|action syntax. I culled this entire next paragraph because it lent nothing to the story. Part of what I want to do with this blog is to actively not talk about myself and focus on what I'm doing / learning instead. That should make it much more interesting!

I woke up one day, a couple of months ago now, and decided to learn to mix. I bought some decks off eBay, Numark CDXs. These are pretty unique because they have a fullsize turntable (no tone-arm) with a slipmat, so you can scratch on them. That's waaaay advanced for me though.

Friday, June 8, 2007


Imagine you're a ghost. You had a life once, people you cared about. You grew up, you loved, you hurt, you died. Now you're invisible. Intangible. Powerful.

Find an animal, and possess it. Feed it, care for it, grow it. Augment it. Train it. You are the most powerful being the forest has ever known.

Until one day, you hear a tap on the window. Which is funny, because there are no windows in the forest. Then symbols appear, and suddenly you understand you are not alone, only one tiny piece of a massive telepathic society. Other monsters bump in the night, other Avatars like yourself. Some respect the world about them, others, the Abominations, do not.


The most basic shell, the Blob, is also the most adaptable. It is resistant to all kinds of attacks and it has only two component slots. One is a mode of attack, the other a power source. An Appendage allows a melee attack, while a Focus makes the Bolt attack available. Both need to be powered.

The basic choices are a Generator or a Reservoir. A Generator gives a small pool but regenerates quickly. A Reservoir gives a big pool, but does not regenerate. When not fighting, your soul heals and recharges your shell quickly, although you can only 'flash-charge' a certain number of times before needing to rest. (time spent eating / drinking is minimal but exists. 1min in 10 perhaps)

Later shells have more slots, but the base shell becomes weaker. Some shells have defensive slots, which provide damage reduction or avoidance. Other shells have multiple attack slots. Most importantly, components gain adaptations. The Appendage becomes a Stabber, inflicting greater single-target damage, or a Cleaver, inflicting short-range area damage. The Bolt attack focuses a certain type of energy, with effects beyond simple damage.

Eventually you find yourself in possession of a full-fledged war machine, a Biosynth constructed from living organisms, able to fell redwoods with a kick or flash-fry a sheep in under a second just by glaring. The only trouble is, that's what the Abominations think of you.


I give up on the story. This is a gameplay feature list. Key items include:

The player has multiple Biosynths available for control. Changing 'class' is not free, but it is far less costly than in WoW.

A Biosynth is the sum of its parts. You don't get so much as a punch attack without buying it. OTOH, if your shell has an empty slot, you may as well fill it. This allows for 'mandatory' abilities.

Components are attacks, defenses, powers, reacts and supports. Attacks are physical or energy based, both CAN be specialised for greater effect. Defenses split identically, in both cases more damage/mitigation can be achieved per point by specialising. Powers include generators, reservoirs and reactors, which create power based on damage taken or done. Shells will closely restrict power builds. Reacts are meta-components which power active abilities when conditions are achieved. Supports buff or debuff one or more targets. They constantly drain power, so are preferably offset by a generator. Some supports can be customised to apply differently to different people.

There is no healing (maybe some regeneration). Post-combat, you insta-heal which costs soul points. To regain soul points, you meditate. Most builds should average to 1min in 10 resting, a big decrease from most MMOs. Some builds will not require any resting, but this will cost in other areas. Builds which require >2min in 10 should be rebalanced. Combat occurs in bullet-time.

Tanking: armor (constant dmg mitigation) and luck (% dmg mitigation) are passive. Dodge, parry (allows counter) and block (partial mitigation) are active.


I wanted to gut certain aspects of the MMO canon. WoW bent the trinity a bit, but ultimately the purebreed DPS and healers suffered. Warlocks, hunters, paladins and druids can all perform two or more roles admirably, while mages, rogues and priests are left lackluster in comparison. At present, all the priests I know are DPS-specced... which is just wrong. So remove healing. Now you just have tanking and DPS, and tanking seems a hell of a lot harder.

In a long fight, even a perfectly played tank will eventually run out of HP. This suggests multiple tanks are a good solution. Suddenly 1/3 of the group are tanks, tank-swapping is routine, the line between DPS and tank is blurred and boom goes the trinity. This also removes some of the "KPOW, you're dead" factor. No single blow from even the biggest nasty will fell a tank. Of course, if too many big shots are absorbed, the entire group runs out of HP. AKA wipe.

Position is one of the best mechanics since it's 2D. Actually, since we're in bullet-time, it's 3D - a jump lasts long enough that lag doesn't destroy it as a combat mechanic. DPS will be maneuvering around AOE attacks to reach weak spots, while the tank(s) either dodge (safe) or parry (riskier, but with a damage payoff) the main attacks. Yes, tanks - multiple tanks may be required for the 12-armed Cthuloid Abominations. You do NOT want all 12 arms hitting one tank, right?

I wanted to gut equipment. The whole 'magic sword' idea has gone waaaay overboard. It particularly dissonates that when I get a new shiny, I just *destroy* (aka vendor) that thing I sweated blood for. Originally I wanted persistent items with upgradeable sockets. Then I realised that making the entire character the persistent item, with their limbs and abilities the sockets, I could get the same effect. Instead of looting items off defeated foes, you learn genetic techniques.

As part of the whole loot thing, I wanted to move a little away from the "numbers going up!" basis of RPGs. Through the levelling game, primarily you'll be looting specialisation and diversity. The Blob is going to be pretty damn boring... roll up, set autoattack, wait. Soon you'll become faster, or sharper, or tricksy. By 'endgame', you should have enough techniques to fulfill one or two roles one or two ways.

It bugs me that WoW Mages can only do fire or frost at once. It bugs me I even have that stupid fireball spell when it's so useless. Biosynth mages will put most of their points into lower level modules, they can choose to specialise or not, but two schools should be affordable. The expensive choices will be stylistic - debuff or direct, fast or slow, control or power.

I'd like to introduce some aspects of Populism, but I'm not sure how yet.

I'll add more later.

Character customisation

So, Shamus Young wrote this post about character customisation in Jade Empire, and my response got a teensy weensy bit out of hand...


I loved the Open Palm / Closed Fist philosophies, re: actual personality development. Except for the couple of cases where you had to be straight, mindless, chaotic evil to avoid Open Palm points. Closed Fist actually makes sense, it's harsh but fair.

I disliked that you really needed all three stats. Health/Chi were pretty interchangeable and Focus let you use weapons, which speed the fights up to a bearable point. Basically, you couldn't be a "warrior" or a "sorceror" or a "ninja" - you were always a jack of all trades. I love to specialise.

I also disliked that there were so many styles and you had to put points in just to make a lot of them worth using. My first toon, I spread my points around a lot and had a tricky time in the midgame. They could have fixed this to a large extent by making all the weapon/support/etc styles use one pool of points each.

I really hated the poor descriptions on the abilities. Storm Dragon stuns, it doesn't do damage over time at all. It stuns for longer than Paralyzing Palm. Misleading text like that is a slap in the face, it honestly decreased my enjoyment of the game.

LoTRO customises via traits. Particularly the choice of Legendary trait can be fundamental, or so I hear. WoW of course has talent builds. Oblivion is so back to front it makes my head spin... although it has the unique quality that min/maxing is sometimes HARDER than normal play. Killing Daedra with untrained fists and arrows is tricky.

What I dislike, especially about D&D based games, is how hard it is to identify successful builds. It seems elitist, a kind of metagame that gives an unstoppable advantage to those willing to actually run the numbers. Google 'DDO Batman' to see the full horror of a Rogue 2, Paladin 2, Warrior 6. While I respect Grenfell a great deal, the developers really messed up.

WoW, for me, strikes a good balance between premade subclasses (talent trees) while still allowing meaningful customisation. You can - generally - just look at the talent trees, read the text and come out with something 80% as good as an optimised build. Each plays differently and requires different equipment choices to optimise (the Warlock has to be the prime example).

The most successful customisations allow a revolution instead of an evolution of gameplay. I would have been happier if they'd removed the style and attribute points from Jade Empire entirely, and had instead focused on genuinely differentiating the styles. Thousand Cuts was a big disappointment.

edit: I'm completely onboard with Lee from the OP who hates critical choices during character development. I want to be able to respec *everything*, goddarnit. Yes, even my class. I have 4-5 L60+ WoW chars and levelling another is not an attractive prospect, even though I would love to see the endgame with that char (my warlock is 43).

DDO was by far the worst for this. There were so many critical points in that system that one misplace stat point during character creation could have a massive impact on your future performance. The developers actually considered rerolling a part of the game. You couldn't even create one of the really good characters (with extra stats) without completing 80-90% of the game content. The redeeming 'feature' was that you could hit max level in a month without even trying. Still, you'd be running the same dungeons again, and again, and again.

edit: Up to 12 80s and a 77 now. I've become more casual with the raiding and the DDO model is starting to appeal much more, particularly in reference to Kingdom of Loathing, where you gain an itsy bitsy bit every 'reroll'. I very much like the KoL model.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

How to treat your customers

I just bought two t-shirts from Noisebot. They're US and charge as much for UK shipping as they do a t-shirt, but two still worked out at <£15 each. We're so ripped off here... or maybe I should stop paying £15 for fancy tees. Anyway, this is how they confirmed the order:

Yay! Awesome! Thanks a lot for ordering from! =)

Please note that orders require at least 3 to 5 business days (excludes weekends and holidays) to process before they are actually shipped.

You will receive an email confirmation for your order shortly. You will also receive a second email with a U.S. Postal Service "Delivery Confirmation" number when your order is actually shipped.

Please print or save this page for your records.

Again, thank you very much for the order!

You are awesome! We love you! =)



Sylvia Drake
Customer Assistance

Arguably it's a teensy bit desperate, but I'm not complaining. Way to positively reinforce, people. I particularly like the name and email address at the bottom.

I bought "the cat says MAO" (all pictures) and "Come to the dark side! (we have cookies)". I was tempted by "Make awkward sexual advances, not war" but didn't follow through.

Also I appear to have fallen into traditional "blogging whatever makes me go ooh" mode. Oh well. I haven't had any smart thoughts for a while so this will have to do.

edit: the tees arrived :D I'm very happy with the cat one, but the dark side one I regret a little. It's not the most original after all.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007


The downside on solar cells is, as always, production cost. Still, commercial cells are peaking around 19% efficiency now (Wikipedia). Last I heard, it was 5%.

The thermal acoustic piezo article specifically mentions solar cells. If the two dev paths become tightly coupled, it may affect solar cell design by enabling heat dissipation to be partly offset. IE a very high absorption material which sheds too much energy as heat to be conventionally efficient may become useful.

I'm not sure what's going on wrt microwave power transmission these days. Wikipedia seems to say it is possible and safe, but somewhat impractical (a "large rectenna volume" is required).

Brilliant. What pisses me off about this is that apparently it isn't even that hard, just no one bothered. Gah.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Version control

I've taken another look at version control systems again today. Subversion still seems the clear winner, despite Linus Torvald's writing his own called Git. It's a distributed SCM and designed for the Linux dev model, ie maintainers accepting patches, instead of the centralised SVN model where devs commit independently.

Word is that a distributed system is better for massively branched systems, but I don't quite see it. The killer for Git is that it's optimised for POSIX; Windows performance is poor.

Distributed runners up include Darcs and Mercurial. The former can become unstable, the latter I didn't read about any problems before I lost interest in the distributed class.

edit: huge fan of Mercurial now. Note all (or at least, many) of the Svn devs are now on Mercurial.