About Me

My photo
Christian. (That means that I know that Jesus is Lord!) Programmer. Gamer. Weak 3D artist. Geek.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

What the Liberal Democrats said next...

Some of my readers might remember my strongly worded email to the Liberal Democrats about the state of their website.

(Edit: I received this e-mail on the 30th September - only three days after my complaint - I just haven't posted it until now.)

This is the rather lame response I received - with an (even then) outdated policy document attached:

Dear David

Thank you for your email.

Unfortunately our web site is decided unwell at the moment. My apologies for this. We have got a new team working on it, and the new site is due to be unveiled in October.

In the meantime, please find attached one of our policy documents on Crime but please bear in mind that there will probably be an update when the site is relaunched next month. Obviously this is not fully comprehensive either, but it should give you a general idea.

Best wishes

Emma Peall

I am also genuinely saddened to report that the full policy is still not available on their site.

Go to this page and click the link at the bottom to attempt to read the policy - which is still a dead link.

Epic fail Lib Dems. You've lost my vote and I didn't even get to see your policies.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

First impressions of 'Borderlands'

A couple of days ago I spotted Gearbox's new IP, 'Borderlands', for £25 on Asda's (Walmart to my American readers) website.

I'd had my eye on this game for a while. I found it's art style intriguing, mumblings of 'It's Fallout 3 but co-op, online and local' drew me in, but it was an article, that detailed it's change in art direction late on in it's development, that highlighted to me that this game was a labour of love for Gearbox.

I've read this game described as 'gun-porn'.
A Monster Hunter for the west even.
I won't disagree with these statements at all.

It's the comparison to Fallout that is most irking.

Fallout is a game of masterful story telling with slow paced wondering, intrigue and trepidation as you scour the game's world.

Borderlands is an arcade-like, open world shooting gallery with very similar enemies willingly jumping into your firing line. The AI unable to comprehend that you're now far too strong for it and are about to open a can of whoop.

Don't get me wrong, I had A LOT of fun playing this last night, whilst Jen was out at a Bible Study, but this isn't a game I'm going to play solidly until 'The End' because I remain unsure if it really even has one.

Sure, it has a story (a paper thin tale that I really didn't care about) and a whole bunch of quests (I have no idea how many or any notion of whether they can be replayed after finishing them once.) but I immediately realised this game is one I'll pop in every once in a while to run and gun around but it isn't a 'play once from start to finish' affair.

I'm not disappointed with Borderlands, it's struck me as a great game but it won't be replacing 'Mass Effect' as my current game-novel.

If you like the sound of a put-down, pick-up again shooter-RPG then Borderlands is probably your thing and you should check it out.

If you're the kind of gamer who needs story to drive their action forward, look elsewhere.

I'm somewhere in between - and I'm going to enjoy it every once in a while as a kind of filler in between main courses or when friends come over and we just want to blow some stuff up.

(Impressions of Borderlands for PS3 after about 3 hours of play time.)

Sunday, 27 September 2009

How should I vote?

I found myself considering matters of a political nature this evening, and after some comments from a friend of mine, I find myself wanting to get more involved with local politics - by involved I mean, at least understanding whats going on.

So, having been one of the voters who picks which party to vote for based on who they like the most out of their leaders, and general media representation of them, I have previously voted for the Liberal Democrats, so I figured that their website was a good place to start.

I have no idea what Lib Dem policies are. All I know is that they aren't Conservative or Labour, and I know that the media have told me that they haven't done a very good job, so irresponsibly, I figure let the Liberal Democrats have a go.

Wanting to know more about Lib Dem policies, I went to their website and tried to read their policy on policing and crime management.

The link returned me to the front page of the news section.

All that was available on the website, I've quoted in my e-mail to the Lib Dems below.

I wonder if I'll get a reply. I genuinely hope so.

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am merely a generic citizen who knows not very much about politics and for some strange reason this evening found myself desiring to know what the Liberal Democrats think.

The brief summary of your policy on policing, 'The Liberal Democrats don’t rely on tough talk and gimmicks like the other parties: we focus on solutions that really work to cut crime.' doesn't actually tell me what you (the party) actually think about how policing and crime can be dealt with from a governmental level.

I admit, I haven't taken my vote seriously before - but I'm starting to. I've previously voted for the Liberal Democrats but now I'm starting to wonder why.

I also found that when I wanted to download the pdf file that detailed your policy, the link returned me to the front news page of your website.

Where does a generic citizen, who has no knowledge or understanding of politics find out the information that determines how I cast my vote?

Yours faithfully,

David Springate

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The first drop: Impressions of Halo 3: ODST

Anyone who personally knows me or reads this blog knows that I do love to play some Halo in my spare time, so the arrival of Bungie's new 'expansion' to Halo 3 brought a huge smile to face. Obviously, I'd pre-ordered and received my Sgt. Johnson DLC code too :)

My wife, the kind woman that she is, had already agreed that I could spend the evening in front of the TV shooting some Brutes in the face. I rushed home from work (the cancellation of a train not helping) to slap the disc into the drive and embark on a new adventure, with a new hero.

You see, Halo 3: ODST, as I'm sure most of you know, is a stand-alone title (not a typical expansion as such) set between the events of Halo 2 and Halo 3. No longer playing as the signature front-man, Master Chief, you now control various members of an ODST squad, who drop into Earth after the arrival of The Covenant in New Mombassa.

It was immediately apparent from the title screen that this wasn't my usual brand of Halo - the music and exceptionally dark look of the title screen had given that away - there was something about the vibe that had let me know that this was going to be different.

I wanted to approach this game with fresh eyes, so I'd avoided almost all other media exposure to it. I had no real idea what to expect from the campaign or the new 'Firefight' multiplayer mode.

Visually this game is no Killzone 2. It's not even a Gears of War 2.. but you'd be forgiven for not noticing. The artists and designers have made some very wise use of lighting, shadowing and closed environments (especially at the beginning of the game) - creating moody, dank locations, a place where it's very clear that you and the rest of your team are very much alone.

Last night I didn't make it very far because (and I admit I'm not the world's greatest Halo player - I love it but that doesn't mean I'm good!) I made my usual, stubborn mistake of starting the game on Legendary difficulty and found my evening being punished for it.

This game is crushingly difficult. Jen was treated to various yelps and wails as she walked about our apartment as I got my ass handed to me by small groups of Covenant comprising of just one brute and a few of their minions.

This isn't Halo 3 as usual (I know I've already said this but I can't emphasise this enough!).

As I played through the first level, I enjoyed the ODST's use of the new visor - which cleverly draws a nice outline around all the 3D objects in the scene (good one Mr. Shader Programmer!), highlighting the good guys in green and the enemies in red, whilst providing much needed night vision.

My only, exceptionally minor gripe, is that that meant that I couldn't soak up the vibe of a battered New Mombassa as much as I would have liked - the lighting all drained out of the scene because of my visor. The recent Batman: Arkham Asylum also suffered from this problem, offering a nice gameplay mechanic to the player that sacrificed the exceptional look of the game.

I guess the biggest thing that I immediately enjoyed about this game is the new found fear that I had for the smaller enemies from Halo 3.

Jackals, who Master Chief used to laugh in the face of, are now a formidable threat.
Seeing a minion (I can't remember their names right now..) running toward you holding two plasma grenades causes you to rethink your plan and tuck tail and run.

I'm looking forward to returning to this nightmare edition of Halo 3 tonight.

Later on in the evening, once Xbox Live had settled down (it seemed to have been taking a bit of a hammering because of the influx of ODST players), I met up with most of my usual squad who had managed to secure a copy of ODST on launch day.

We didn't even try out the ODST campaign's co-op mode and made a beeline for 'Firefight' instead.

The three of us, usually four, have played something in the region of 500 matches together on Halo 3 - and I think I'm the only one of us now that would like to see it still in regular rotation, the other guys have moved onto other pastures such as COD4.

One of the reasons for this is that, and I don't meant to sound big headed, is that I used to beat them to a pulp every single night of the week.

The arrival of Firefight is exceptionally welcome though as it brings an end to all that.

Where, for a very short while, we embarked on Gears of War 2's Horde mode, for a gameplay premise where we stand back to back, shoulder to shoulder, to face off against hordes (ha) of enemies, I predict that this will last us significantly longer.

GoW2's levels are too small. Their players too clunky, chunky and slow. Their gameplay is more like rock, paper, scissors than chess, with a very limited amount of weapons and manner to use them.

Halo 3 offers us, frankly, ridiculously sized environments with vehicles to mow the enemies down in. The maps offer nooks and crannies, places to hide, enemies who'll find you. Huge enemy vehicles to make the most hardened player stop in his tracks.

Firefight was ridiculously good.

Last night I read on Kotaku, one of their writers describe Halo 3's gameplay to being the closest approximation of a boy imagining to be a soldier, jumping in tanks and hanging out with his squad. As I read the article, I grinned and nodded my head, this guy had totally hit the nail on the head.

Driving around large sandy maps, with my buddies as passengers in my Warthog, one gunning down the enemy (rather sloppily) and the other jumping out at the first sign of a Wraith to plant a grenade on it's back - I can't remember the last time I had this much co-op fun in a videogame.

The hilarity that ensues as a little runt fires the fuel-rod cannon at the front of the car, sending you all flailing in a bloody mess. The laughs as you realise your team-mate has long been out of ammo and is fleeing across a plain from a hammer wielding Chieftain.

I heartily recommend Halo 3: ODST, I really do. Even if H3's campaign isn't your bag, the multiplayer is worth the price of entry alone.

Given that ODST includes every H3 map released to date (all the DLC maps plus a few new ones currently exclusive to ODST), a new campaign (which I have no idea how long it is), guaranteed beta entry to Halo: Reach and Firefight (co-op multiplayer 'Horde-like' mode) I imagine that my credit card almost wants to shake my hand (if it had one) for making such a smart purchase.

(Including the H3 maps also means that I can delete the ones on my HDD - freeing me up over 1GB of space which is obviously very nice.)

If you're looking for a game with an interesting approach to a single player campaign and a sizeable multiplayer experience with both split-screen and online experiences, look no future.

Is it better than Halo 3? I don't know. It's just too early to tell - but the fact that I even wonder makes this a winner.

Halo 3: ODST is now available for Xbox 360.

Monday, 21 September 2009

"When somethings lost I want to fight to get it back again.." - Pearl Jam, the Christians and the lost

The new Pearl Jam album 'Backspacer' was released (as far as I'm concerned) yesterday and having pre-ordered it, it arrived on my desk yesterday morning - at which point I promptly ripped it to my Mac and started listening to it on repeat for the rest of the day.

Now, whilst I am already clear with myself that this isn't the greatest Pearl Jam album ever released, something that every Pearl Jam fan has been hoping for for the last ten years with a desire to say "I was there from the start", I am able to say that this is a 'great' album.

Whilst I feel it's too early for a review, my initial hunch is that some songs are just a bit 'meh' whilst others soar into arenas of greatness that their recent albums haven't been able to reach.

One thing I do want to note is their astute observation as to which song should be released as the debut single for the album.

Most popular (read: successful) artists who are associated with large labels have to debate and negotiate with their label as to which single should be released.

Free from the shackles of Sony Epic, new Pearl Jam are able to make such discussions free of corporate pushing.

'The Fixer', the chosen single, is clearly the right choice to be the first single - and I herald Pearl Jam's wisdom at such a decision - it really is 'single worthy'. (I was most disappointed at Metallica's choice of 'The Day that Never Comes' when clearly 'Broken, Beat & Scarred' should have been the first single for 'Death Magnetic'.)

The real reason I wanted to write this post is to mention some great lyrics on the album.

'I'm a lucky man to count on both hands, the ones I love, some folks have just one whilst others they got none.'
'I hide my disappointment 'cos for years I had been hopin' that when she came, she'd be coming just for me.'
'When somethings lost I want to fight to get it back again.'

How is it that such lyrics echo and resonate so well with the audience?
How does one right words that make the heart pang so hard?

Particularly the line of 'fighting to get it back again' rang true, internally my heart nodded with agreement - that is exactly how I feel about it.

But I also understand that I am a total hypocrite. I agree. I do pine for lost things. But do I act on it?

I recently married my Jennifer, and if for some reason I 'lost' her, be assured, I'd fight tooth and nail to get her back again. I'd go to the far parts of the earth to find her. (I'm quite a protective husband I must confess!)

If someone stole from me, if I had been wronged, I would fight to get it back again. (A friend once told me that I had a strong sense of justice - which is one of the finest compliments I had been ever paid.)

How is it then that the Master has been wronged, many are lost and my heart often remains unmoved?

When I think of lost things and fighting to get it back again it's hard to not think of Jesus.

The lost are everywhere, and were everywhere when Jesus walked the earth - imagine the agony of knowing that so many who you love are 'lost' to you, imagine the hard fight of fighting to get them back again? The pain as they turn from you even when you try to pull them to you?

I find that particular fight that The Lord undertook so hard to comprehend! I guess, this idea does make me say 'Thank you Lord!'.

Even when I want to fight to get something back again, I also know, that I don't always succeed.

Jesus has succeeded and is still watching the lost come back to him.

Pearl Jam certainly didn't intend for me to think of Jesus when listening to this song but I'm glad that it did.

If you're a Christian reading this - I know that some of my (few) subscribers are - please pray that I'd have a heart for the lost. To tell them of the faith I have in the accomplishments of the Lord Jesus, achieved at the cross - and to remember that if I can't find the lost and bring them back again, to know that it is the work of the Master and not mine. To also remember that proclaiming the gospel is a work of salvation and judgement. A dividing line.

I guess it would have been too much to hope that a song lyric would encapsulate the gospel.

Thank you for reading this mornings random post. :)

'Tatsunoko vs Capcom' Wii import controls

I recently imported the excellent Capcom beat-em-up game for Wii, 'Tatsunoko vs. Capcom'.

This is a reimagining of sorts for Capcom, as they return to their Vs. series (previously Capcom had made a series of Vs. games with Marvel characters), this time applying a simplistic slant to the control scheme - which suits it's Wii host platform very well.

One of the things I hadn't realised was that there are no distinctive punch and kick buttons like in the other Capcom fighting games.

In TvC there are merely light, medium and hard attack buttons.

I'll save a review of the game for another time but I wanted to post the control scheme for the classic controller, as it isn't obvious from the Japanese 'Options' menu and I thought it might help others who import this great game before it's Western release.

So here it is, the controls for TvC using a Wii Classic Controller (which I would heartily recommend for this game!)

Y - Light attack
X - Medium attack
A - Heavy attack
B - Partner assist
L - ??
R - All three attack buttons
Minus - Taunt
Plus - 'Start' menu

To tag press B and away from your opponent at the same time.
You can also use the R button as a dash button, both forward and back dashes.
Use A and forward or back to throw.

Does anyone know what L is for?

Hope that helps someone out there, if not, it's great for me to keep as reference!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Anticipating Windows 7

Yesterday, I pre-ordered a copy of Windows 7.

Now, I am a hardened Mac fan nowadays - and I'm not really a big fan of Windows. However, I do recognize the need for a Windows OS (from the user perspective).

Occasionally, I need to use Microsoft's Visual Studio - because it provides an excellent debugger and is also the IDE we use at work.

I also like to run PC games every once and a while, Valve's Steam service has some great games on there that I've collected over the years - such as Half-Life and Half-Life 2, as well as being able to play (and indeed edit) games such as The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.

I have to admit though, there were a couple of things other than that that made me whip out my credit card.

First of all, it seems feedback regarding the release candidate of Windows 7 has been nothing but praise - I haven't read a bad word about Microsoft's new OS.
Secondly, price. Previous efforts from Microsoft have weighed in at over the £100 mark - and that's just too pricey for software in my opinion. Because the EU ruled that Microsoft aren't allowed to include Internet Explorer in their new OS, apparently this has caused Microsoft to run a pre-order campaign that allows users to buy it for half-price at £45.

Finally, this isn't Windows Vista. WV made me want to tear my short, spiky hair out. It was buggy, slow and had a poorly designed user interface. It was expensive and needlessly 'glossly', chewing up valuable CPU and GPU time on effects that couldn't necessarily be disabled.

According to my friends on the forum I visit, (http://www.rllmukforum.com) my concerns have all been answered.

I have to admit, I'm a little excited about the new OS. Even as a child, I was always excited to find out about all the little intricacies of a new operating system. Yes, I was that kid. The one who installed Windows 95 from 25 floppy disks or however many it was..

I was also persuaded by a fellow geek at school to try out IBM's OS/2 Warp - and not knowing what a partition was at the time, consequently blanked my hard drive.

So, last night as a I left work I left the release candidate of Windows 7 downloading (note: A release candidate is literally that - a piece of software that been through the testing process and is now seriously being considered for release..) and I'm looking forward to installing it in a few days. (I think I might need a bigger hard drive..)

Providing the release candidate for public release is a good move from Microsoft in my opinion. It allows me, the consumer, to consider if I actually like Windows 7 enough to warrant a purchase before the product is even released.

I'll have basically two months to make my final decision before W7 is released in early October.

The question I'm now wondering though is, will my poor little Macbook be up to the task? (Another good reason for downloading the release candidate!)

My Macbook specs at time of writing are:
Intel Core 2 Duo 2.2ghz.
4GB ram.
120GB hdd. ( :-( )
Paltry Intel x3100 integrated graphics chip.

It's only really the GPU that lets me down, so I hope that the rest of my, quite frankly, beefy specs, will do fine with W7. But I guess, we'll see.

I'll report back when I know more..

You can download a copy of Windows 7 release candidate here.

Monday, 20 July 2009

The one with the new TV stand (a.k.a 'Why my fiancee rocks.')

People who know me are often a little shocked when they come over to the place I live and see the amount of videogame consoles that I own.

I don't have as many as some of the more ardent games collectors out there - but I definately have a sizeable collection.

A couple of years ago I was given my first proper TV stand by my friend Andrew, and it's served me really, really well until now..

Now that my collection has grown too large to fit on said stand.

Dave, my colleague who lives in the same apartment block as me, gave me a SMS on Saturday to say he was going to IKEA for some shopping, and he kindly asked if I wanted anything..

He and I had been eyeing up some TV stands on the ol' interweb at work and he knew the one I wanted :-)

I'm really happy with my IKEA Lack TV stand - it's huge, comfortable houses all the consoles and even has space left over for some more.

The thing that I want to publicly mention is that my fiancee, Jen (who I am now due to marry in less than 6 weeks!) is awesome.

There aren't many women who'd put up with this kind of thing I reckon - and I also don't think that every woman dreams of having their own videogame collection.

Thanks Jen for putting up with my massive, space consuming hobby. :-)

(Ikea Lack TV stand is £35 from your local Ikea.)

Thursday, 16 July 2009

I didn't know about variadic macros!

It's become quite fashionable of late to cite Wikipedia as the place not to get information from.

At work yesterday I was working with C++/C macros of the standard #define form, you know, like this:

#define MY_FUNCTION myFunction("test parameter")

so that if I use the define MY_FUNCTION in my code, the compiler will swap in 'myFunction("test parameter")' for me.

However, as C++/C programmers out there will know, you can offer default parameter values for a function, so what if my function 'myFunction' has been originally defined like this:

void myFunction(std::string inputString = "test");

Well, that means that the function will have a default input string of test if one hasn't been specified, by calling the function like so:


The issue then is, how do I call myFunction from a defined macro with and without wanting to pass parameters into the macro? I mean, it's easy to define the macro to take a parameter but how do I make the parameter optional? For instance, to add macro parameters do this:

#define MY_FUNCTION(x) myFunction(x)

This way, the parameter 'x' passed into the define will then be automatically passed into the function 'myFunction' as it's first parameter.

But this is the clever part coming up..
If I want to maybe specify an optional parameter I can do it like this:

void myFunction(std::string = "test");
#define MY_FUNCTION(...) myFunction(__VA_ARGS__)

This way, my original C++ function of myFunction receives a single argument of type std::string, which, if it isn't passed in, defaults to being a string of characters as 'test'.
Now, the define will pass on a variable amount of arguments to the function as necessary (so I could pass 4 or 5 arguments if I wanted to, though the function itself would complain because it only accepts one argument.)

This way I can create a macro definition of my function that can accept optional parameters! Apparently this is called a 'variadic macro' and is part of the ISO C99 C standard. I didn't know that and thought it was pretty cool!

You can read more about it here.

The point of this post is mainly for record for myself so I know what this does and how to implement it in future - I don't think any of the other coders in our company knew how to do this, so I thought it was best to document it for future reference.

Geeks out there, I hope that helped.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

More pictures of Springate HQ

At the weekend Jen rented a large van, that made a Ford Transit look like a mini, so I could move all my stuff in.

It made the flat look quite different to have all my stuff inside it - so these are pictures for my friends and relatives to see how development of Springate HQ is going :-)

(Pictures are taken using my new Sony Ericsson w580i phone - a replacement for my Nokia 6300 which I stupidly dropped in the toilet on Sunday morning before church. Camera is good, isn't it?)

Reply to 'Business, profit and the glory of God'

My friend Andrew recently blogged regarding Wayne Grudem's book 'Business to the Glory of God'.

I haven't read the book but I wanted to comment on what Andrew had to say, my reply was too lengthy (oops!) so I've included it here and linked to it in Andrew's comments section.

I realize I'm a little late to reply to this post, but I'm going to anyway.

The seeming 'tension' between the Evangelical church and the workplace is quite an odd one - and let me flesh out what I mean by tension.

It is right that there is a big push for evangelical Christians to enter into full-time Christian ministry - there is a lack of able, teaching Christian men and women entering this 'field' (for lack of a better term) but I can't help but feel that the big push of this actually undermines the importance of the Christian in the workplace.

Christian ministry is something that requires the 'employee' to both have a desire to work in this field and the support from their local church (meaning their pastors and teachers) to do so. So is it right to so publicly urge people to enter Christian ministry? (I'm thinking at the front of conferences, visiting missionaries etc.)

I've been working at a company in Liverpool for just over 2 years now and it is almost a constant battle between two inner lines of thought - one that says that my work is worthwhile because of the friends I make at work (who I then am trying to introduce the Lord Jesus to) and the influence that I hold in a local business - urging them to avoid illegal practice, reminding them that work is not my reason to live and therefore I am not available to sleep in the office all the time. (Some colleagues until recently hadn't had a day off for 4 months!)

However, the other inner thought is that my work isn't worth while and I find myself considering leaving this work behind to become a missionary or other full time ministry role. Part of me can't help but feel this is a more holy pursuit.

This is when I arrive at my final position that there is no reason why I cannot hold these two things together.

I am a missionary - in my workplace! I also feel that whilst being able to work where I do (admittedly taking part in work that I actually love - not just merely think is acceptable - I have been blessed!) I can still exercise my gifts in the local church and (here comes the best part) then share with my friends at work how that is going.

For example, it has often been a great thing to be able to share with colleagues that I'm preaching at the weekend - they'll sometimes ask what I'm preaching on, what does it mean, how do I know what it means, how does it apply to us in today's world etc. I don't think I'm particularly blessed with 'thinking' friends but that it is merely a matter of sharing our lives with them! In fact, as I wrote this on the train to work, a colleague who I travel to work with asked me what am I writing and consequently what an 'Evangelical' Christian is!

Before working where I do, I worked as a ministry trainee at Christ Church Liverpool (as you know, Andrew) and when I left there to work at my current employment I asked a friend of mine what should I do in future? How long should I work in secular employment? Should I return to full-time Christian ministry at some point?

His answer was that I am capable of earning a lot of money to fund Christian ministry and should therefore do so.

This was initially enough of an answer for me and actually fueled my progression at work to be able to earn more money but as time has progressed I've realised that my time spent with friends is far more valuable to me than the by-product of earning money to fund holier employment.

I want to comment on the subject of profit that Grudem discusses - but I feel I have nothing to add. Apart from what does Grudem mean but it being a help to the person he has had a transaction with?

My first stab at an answer would be that the church should most definately encourage their congregations to take part in business - and indeed in transactions that involve making profit.
The reason I would say so is that it is good to take part in all areas of life and to show an example of how to fairly 'do' business and to not act for dishonest gain.

Of course, not all Christians should take part in business as perhaps their hearts cannot cope - the temptation of dishonest gain may be too much - but we cannot falter as a church at that hurdle and frown upon business and profit, as that is the issue with every worldly pursuit, that we are all sinful, selfish, idolatrous, hard hearted people.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

New flat

On August 29th, I'll be getting married to a little hot-blonde honey named Jennifer :-)

So, as is usual for two people who are married we were going to need a place to live - so we went and checked out a few places in Manchester (which was a far more stressful experience than you'd first think! Why can't estate agents and letting agencies take more care for their customer's experience? ) and put our deposit down for the flat shown in the pictures below.

I thought it'd be nice for family and friends to see what our place is going to be like - exciting times ahead!!

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Comments on PSP firmware update 5.50

I love my PSP. I take it everywhere with me. I take it on holiday. I take it to work. I take it to the bathroom. I take it to the bathroom when I'm at work. I take it to my fiancee's house. I take it to my fiancee's parent's house.

Let me reiterate. I take it everywhere.

However, the new PSP firmware update has left me with a bitter taste in my mouth.

New firmware features include:
- the ability to traverse nested folder structures in the directory structure of the device
- internet search from the XMB (the operating system that runs on the PSP when a game isn't being executed)
- trials for Trend Micro's Web Security and Kid Safety
- Information Bar (like the one on PS3) added to the Playstation Network section in the XMB

So, all in all, we have nested folder support (which should have been there in the first place), internet search (which is a minor feature addition at best - and relies upon the name being actually correct on the UMD disc), trials for internet security and kid safety (trials which are probably there to protect Sony from possibility of lawsuit - 'we gave the parents opportunity to protect their children, your honour!') and the PS3 information bar (which is a PR stream at best that doesn't offer any real information to the user, just snippets of sales pitches.)

Besides my comments above I'd like to add:
1. In agreement with a user on the Playstation.Blog - Sony, if you wanted to add some useful information why not add an RSS feed to the Playstation.Blog so that users get some actually helpful and interesting, up-to-date information rather than a sales pitch.

2. Where are my PSP trophies? You can't claim that this is really a portable Playstation if you can't take the general feel of the Playstation experience with you. The same can be said for my friend's list, multiple user support, synchronisation of my bookmarks from my PSP to my PS3.. the list could go on and on.

3. What's the point in providing trial security tools for a web browser that can't actually browse most websites?! Don't get me wrong, I think it's important to protect the kids from inappropriate material but surely that's what the internet parental lock on the device is for?

All in all, I love my PSP. Still.

I play it more than any other gaming device I own. Last night I was up until 1am playing Loco Roco (Jennifer was playing it the other day and that got me thinking I need to get back on it..) whilst even now I have a nagging feeling that I need to continue getting through the quests in Monster Hunter Freedom 2.

But seriously, Sony, pull your socks up. If you want this device to compete against the global dominance of the DS/DSi and iPhone - then you need to start giving us a service/device that can. (sigh)

PS. Any chance of Skype on PS3?

Thursday, 26 March 2009

GDC 09 - Sunday - Wednesday

Whew! A LOT has happened so far!

I arrived in San Francisco on Sunday. Monday and Tuesday were spent not working.
Wednesday, the conference (for me) actually started. (It started Monday for mobile developers.)

Tuesday night, my colleagues and I headed to a UK Trade & Industry bash at a brewery near the W hotel in downtown SF. It was a pretty cool party with games indsustry people standing around chatting and hanging out, free food and beer/wine.. but the conversation quite quickly dried up and we were all dragged a few doors down to the LucasArts/EDGE magazine party. Which was also pretty cool.

My disappointment with the EDGE party, whilst obviously high in budget and class - was the lack of real developers being there, it was mainly a PR exercise where marketing people get to stand around and wag their tongues about games they're not making.

But then came Wednesday morning. I was pretty tired after the late night before but head out at 9am for Satoru Iwata's presentation.

Iwata-san is the president of Nintendo Japan - so this presentation was a very big deal, the queue to get in went outside the Moscone Centre and down the street for quite a way!

In the queue I got chatting to the guy next to me who turned out to be a lead artist for Inis, and had developed Ouendan and Elite Beat Agents!

Anyway, the news about the new Wii SDHC support, the Zelda DS game, Virtual Console Arcade etc. is all heavily covered by news sites such as Kotaku so there's no point in me going over it here..

But what most sites didn't cover was that Nintendo gave every attendee a free copy of their new game 'Rhythm Heaven' - which was previously available in Japan as 'Rhythm Tengoku Gold', this was just amazing. Nintendo gave away thousands of copies of a game I was already looking forward to! Fantastic!

As I was leaving this presentation, I stood on the stairs sorting my bag out and noticed a man I immediately recognised.

Jaime Griesemer from Bungie, the designer of Halo 3.

There was no way I was going to pass this up, so in a moment that is amongst the many geeky things that I do in life - I had to go over and say hi, shake his hand and tell him that I really appreciate his work.

Jaime was a really humble guy and seemed really surprised and pleased to hear someone praising his work to his face - which I thought was great, I figure he must get that kind of praise all the time having worked on such a universally acclaimed title. It was a cool moment.

Anyway, the rest of the day I spent wondering around the expo, looking at all the cool new technology and chatting with representatives from various companies and attending some seminars.

Last night was another cool event for me too though.

In the UK, we almost never get to attend events where gamers are invited to an exclusive party where you can just sit around and play games, chat and win some stuff.

PlayStation.Blog had recently posted that they were having such an event over at the W hotel and I decided to head along.

They had some unreleased games on play for the gaming public such as 'Fat Princess' and 'Rag Doll Kung-Fu' - I particularly liked the 'Fat Princess' game, that's a guaranteed purchase from me. (Though I just remembered how cool 'Flower' was over at the PS booth in the expo - all this PSN downloading is going to get expensive!)

I took part in the Resistance: Retribution tournament too, as I'd brought my PSP along as per the instructions on the blog.

I think there must have been only 16 entrants but I walked away in second place winning a copy of the game and a poster. (I lost by 4 points.. :'( Could've won a Metal Gear 4 PS3!)

Given that I didn't know there were going to be prizes, I took my free Killzone 2 t-shirt and headed home extremely satisfied.

Obviously, I already own Resistance: Retribution so I'll be taking my US version to GameStop later today to trade it in - but that's not the point. It was nice to have walked away having won something :-) (The poster was pretty cool and tasteful too!)

Right, anyway, now it's time for me to get out of bed - I need to get ready to go to my first seminar of the day which is by the legendary Hitoshi Sakimoto, the composer of Final Fantasy XII! I can't wait!

See ya!

Monday, 23 March 2009

PSP Skype defeats my connectivity woes

Last night I arrived in San Francisco for this years Game Developer Conference. (GDC)

I found upon my arrival in the US of A, that I had been a forgetful moron and hadn't enabled international roaming on my cellphone contract before leaving England - which means that my mobile phone can't connect to AT&T or T-Mobile whilst I'm here.

This really bothered me. It meant I couldn't contact Jen (the girl who in a few months will become my wife), my Mum and Dad, work colleagues (I'm a little paranoid about getting seperated from them in a foreign country and not being able to reach them)..

So, last night, using my hotel room phone I called Orange's support line and found that obviously there was no-one there - it was about 4am GMT at that point, so I have no idea what I was thinking..

But this morning, when I woke up it was about 2pm GMT.
The problem was, I didn't want to use the hotel room phone and incurr all manner of phone charges for the company because I needed my cell phone to work.

So I called Orange using Skype on my PSP, through the hotel's free WiFi access.

Now, I've never needed to use PSP Skype to make an 'emergency' call like this - but man, it performed wonderfully.

The software even had a built-in keypad during the call so I could select the different functions I needed, you know, 'Press 3 if you are having problems making phone calls..' that kind of thing.

Within 10 minutes, Orange had setup my phone and it automatically connected.

Right now, I am a very happy man, able to now make and receive calls again, free Wifi in my hotel room (as well as a 50inch TV!) and my boss is taking me out for breakfast soon too.

I love my job.

More from GDC as and when. Keep watching.