Google Glass

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Had the pleasure today of trying out Google Glass, they had a small pop up in Kings Cross London so me and a friend went along to take a look.
We were given a quick tutorial of how to use it and got to try it on and try out some basic functions before being unleashed out into the area to try out a few of the other apps that were loaded onto various glass’s.

The Google Glass itself is pretty light, and small, the left side is pretty standard glasses fare, while the right side is thicker and contains the battery at the back, and then a  bar for touch controls followed by the camera and the actual display module itself, one thing I actually didn’t know until I attended the event was the ‘speaker’ in the side which works by vibrating against bone near your ear – unfortunately however you can only really hear it if you put your finger over your ear, maybe this is different in quiet environments though.

Google Glass itself seemed very interesting, the display however I found equal parts too high up, and too in my face at the same time though – being annoying when I’m trying to ignore its presence, and not being too small and hard to focus on when I actually want to use it. The voice commands seemed to work the majority of the time, however the area we were in was pretty noisy so mileage obviously varies. The touch controls were pretty spot on though, with a variety of tap and swipe gestures on the side to select, go back or scroll.
Some slightly more interesting features were things like ‘look upwards to wake’ and ‘wink to take a picture’, apps demonstrated were interesting, with one analyzing music and retrieving song lyrics, and another being able to live translate foreign text into english before displaying it in glass.

Staff and freebies were very nice, employees seemed very enthusiastic about the product, and there was also plenty of free food floating around and a fridge for free drinks.

Overall, I doubt i’ll be picking up a Google Glass anytime soon, especially not for the price of £1000, but I think it is a very interesting glance at the future to come, in 5 years the AR glasses market will surely be impressive. The google glass project is already very usable, and the resolution on the tiny screen was impressive, just not quite comfortable to be used in everyday life yet.

As a beside, we went for dinner at the blues bar in Camden, and they messed up our order and gave us the deluxe ribs platter instead of the normal one, hell yeah.

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Life – June 2014

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Work

Work has been going smooth recently, after the british gas support thing finished up, I’ve been moved onto Boots windows 7 installs, which is a pretty piss easy job of going to the site and basically just switching desktop PC’s with one’s in boxes and then running a few scripts and tests. They have informed me however that in approximately a month i’ll be switching departments so to speak, and going from being a project engineer (where you work with one client for months at a time) to breakfix, which is a bit more of a IT repairman sort of job and requires visiting multiple sites per day.
I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this yet, on one hand it will almost definitely mean more work and less early finishes, but at the same time because the bonuses switch to an almost commission based structure, there is more potential for earning if I work hard, which I almost always do. Project engineers are paid on time, so most of them take 8 hours to do a 4 hour job – something I often can’t be bothered to do, waiting around always kind of annoys me so I tend to just work hard and then go home and as such i’m way behind on hours owed.

Life

Going alright so far, since my run in at the casino, i’ve gone to visit some friends in Hastings (under the guise of work no less), and yesterday me and some old friends went to Meltdown Bar in London, an eSports bar which had league of legends playing on about 6 screens about the bar, and then even an extra screen showing pro smash bros (lol.), there were also a few xboxes and a Wii floating about. Pretty chill place, they could do with more drinks variety though imo.
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Games

Been slowly getting back into League, since finishing both dark souls 2 and Dark Souls 1 I haven’t really found anything that has properly gripped me. I’ve been playing through the Battlefield 4 singleplayer a little as well, which is better than expected, and at the very least ‘very pretty’. I also gave that Tobias game a try (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2b0tSu0QDQ0), it’s not bad, but the puzzles are a little too random for my liking, though there are some cool moments. I wanted to finish it and give it a proper review but I doubt i’ll actually be able to force my way through the whole thing.

Anime

Season is coming to its end, most of the shows this season turned out to be very mediocre, but out of the darkness, a hero has arisen.
Ping Pong is literally the best thing I have seen in ages, it’s use of imagery, its direction, the soundtrack, the story and characters, and the way it doesn’t force its way, it has a story to tell and does it concisely in 11 episodes, and it is goddamn incredible. If you have the time to watch it, definitely worth.
http://www.nyaa.se/?page=search&cats=0_0&filter=0&term=commie+ping+pong

I gave the roulette wheel a spin.

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So after a walk around the Stratford Olympic park today, we thought we let me brother check out the aspers casino, since he is now at least old enough to go in.

Had a little walk around inside, and went to stare at the people playing roulette.

Next thing I know, my mum has put a 20 on the table and brought back chips, she gives us £5 worth each.

Black then I guess, i partner with my brother and we all-in on black with an incredible £10 on the line (and by that i mean, the minimum you are allowed to bet on split odds).

comes up… Black.

Rad, im up to £10.

Fuckit, I’m not going to be able to do anything with £10, it all goes on Black again.

comes up… Black!

£20 of chips in front of me now. Though it would be embarrassing to go to the cash out desk with £20 worth of chips (although I 100% wanted to just take the money and run already at this point)

I considered going £20 on black, but thought I would drag it out a little longer, so I put £5 on ‘8’ and £5 on ’28’. Round and round the ball went, my chips already practically gone at this point as far as I’m concerned. The ball dropped into the roulette and hit metal, jumped into the air and landed near 8, the wheel’s wall just too high for me to properly see where it landed.

“Black 8”

The dealer placed a metal marker on top of the chips on ‘8’…. my chips.

my jaw drops. no fucking way. I wonder what the payout is? 10 times? maybe more?
My mum turns to me, how much is that? what did you win? The dealer overhears and looks up and smiles, “£175”
“Oh my god.”, she literally starts jumping around.

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Aaaaaaaaaaaand it’s time to leave.

Total chips: £190
Mind = Blown

Estonia 2014 – Day 3 – Patarei prison and Kadrioru Park

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A very late start, after what was practically an all-nighter watching E3 until 6am. Conferences were all pretty decent this year, though somewhat of a lack of surprises. Some games in particular looked jawdropping (The Order, Rainbow 6 Siege, No Mans Sky). But anyway…

After getting up at around 2pm, and having a brunch of eggs and bacon, we headed to the northern coast to visit Patarei Prison. Upon entering the compound, the place was pretty deserted, only after walking for a few minutes did we come across what was essentially a caravan in front of the entrance to the main grounds, a woman came out to take money from us and then we were on into the ‘museum’. I say museum in quotations because Patarei Prison is about as much of a museum as my foot is an artpiece, this place was basically just straight up an abandoned prison, with only a few spots of electrical lighting and some ropes for no-go areas, but for the most part, this was just an abandoned building which a dark past.

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We walked around inside, it was very cold compared to outside, almost like walking around a cave network, only the main corridors were lit, and most of the rooms off to the side were dark or near pitch black – my slight fear of the dark surfaced a few times upon seeing completely black corridors leading into god knows where. The floors and walls had been completely unkept, broken tiles and peeling paint everywhere, and just about everything made of metal had been rusted shut.

Outdoors areas were equal parts rusted and overgrown, and barbed wire was randomly strewn around in places. Patarei prison was definitely one of the more bizarre places ive been to in my life, and certainly sent a chill down my spine. Of special note, I swear that one of the rooms I went into, I saw a guy sitting down at a machine, only to blink and have him disappear in front of me. I didn’t stick around that room too long o_o;;

After the prison, we took a long tram journey down to Kadrioru park, which was essentially Tallinns main park, it was pretty big, with much more trees than I expected, some pictures below. We also walked through the art museum briefly while it was raining.

Dinner was a pizza at some small local shop, and then back to the house again for the final bits of E3 and some much deserved rest. my body still somewhat not recovered from staying up until 6am, plus with the ridiculous amount of walking we did today (Tallinn is equal parts cool and annoying in that you can walk to more or less all of the attractions).

This more or less ends my visit to Estonia, with only one night’s rest left, and then a trip to the airport in the morning. It’s been an interesting short holiday, and I think I really managed to see the majority of Tallinn in these few days (which probably says something about the size of the city).

Estonia 2014 – Day 2 – The City, The Guns, The Games

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After a rocky night of sleep, waking up at 4…5…6..7.. I checked out at the Center hotel and headed to Lfels, stopping off at a shop along the way and buying a white(!) lion bar along with some water.

We headed out relatively late and walked towards the city again, eventually we stopped in at the solaris shopping centre to get brunch, the food court had an oddly homey feel to it, despite having an odd cafeteria feel to it. I had pork goulash with some fried potato hash thing, it was surprisingly nice.

From here we would keep walking southwest, past charles church and into the gigantic national estonian library to be impressed at the sheer scale of it.

Then, it was a bus ride and long walk to the Tondi shooting range, found in the basement of a building which was already quite out of the way. The entrance itself took us about 5 minutes to find, and lead into a very spartan setup of office area and the shooting range itself.
We sat down while we waited for the previous group to finish, when suddenly, obscenely loud gunshots. I nearly shat myself, we turned to see a pair of men firing scoped rifles down range.

Eventually, it was our turn, our ‘menu’ for the afternoon was made from the glock 17, the sig sauer P226, Taurus revolver, Beretta CX4 Storm rifle, and infamous AK-47. The trainer brought us over, gave us goggles and earmuffs, taught us some basic gun safety and then directed us towards a table full of weaponry. We started with the Beretta rifle, then the glock, then heavier sig-sauer (made completely of metal) and then the AK. The guns were all significantly larger than I had in mind, and much heavier as well, even the pistols had fair weight to them and commanded respect.

In general, the rifles were much easier to control than the pistols, with the shoulder stock and second hand taking the weight off the weapon. The pistols felt heavier and had more recoil than the rifles, with each shot throwing my arms upwards, and taking a moment to re-align my aim again. Did I mention the guns were loud? it was tolerable with the earmuffs on, but for one shot I forgot to, and I went deaf for a half second or so.

After firing all of the weapons, she tried to sell us extras, which, considering I have no way to fire guns otherwise, I took, as did L-fel.
I ended up purchasing a single round for the legendary Smith & wesson .44 Revolver, a mammoth of a handgun with an equally enormous noise and recoil. L-fel on the other hand went down a more retro route and paid for 3 shots on the Mosin-Nagan bolt action rifle (and cut himself with the recoil).

My spread on the whole was pretty good for a beginner’s I thought, with all shots hitting the target, and majority in the inner segment. it was an amazing experience, and though expensive, i’m glad I went to try it out.

My target was the left one
My target was the left one

From here we headed back to the city, the old town in particular, to finish off the segments we didn’t get to visit yesterday. a bunch of the smaller side roads which lead around the inner castle walls.
We also went to the old town square, a large clearing by a church. The square itself was surrounded by restaurants, each of these restaurants featuring their own waitresses dressed in old style, each trying to lure you in, not unsimilar to the maids in Akihabara Japan, only with a medieval twist.

Finally, we headed back to L-fels to chill out and spend the rest of the evening watching E3. Though there were of course a few hiccups, his kitchen has no baking trays for example, his toilet lock fell off when he was in there, and he ended up stuck in his own toilet for a good 5 minutes, and probably a few other bits and pieces. But for the most part, a great relaxing night watching E3, with someone I would normally watch it with, only this time, in the same room.

 

Estonia 2014 – Day 1 – Arrival and Old Town

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Flew out from Gatwick North at 12:30 ish, and touched down in Tallinn Airport at around 5:15pm local time, which sounds worse than it actually is, but the flight itself was around 2.5 hours, which inflates to 4.5 hours after timezone changes.

As I was leaving the airport, I got pulled aside by the customs officer, who started asking me If i was carrying any drugs, anything to declare, etc. Obviously thought I was trying to smuggle in some DVD’s or something in my tiny hand luggage (I mean, c’mon at least scan someone who had unscanned hold luggage).

There to greet me at arrivals was of course the smiling from ear to ear L-fel, who was shorter and funnier looking than expected, as soon as he opened his mouth though everything felt natural. As we journey into city via bus to get to my hotel, I get a full rundown of the city’s history from my experienced tour guide. A short walk later, and I’m at my hostel for the night, the Center hotel Tallinn.

Worse than travelodge, who would have thought.
Worse than travelodge, who would have thought.

If ever there were a firm example of ‘you get what you pay for’, it would be the Center hotel that i am typing this from (though to its credit, it does at least have free wifi, something even travelodge UK don’t offer). After checking in with the rather unfriendly hotel staff, I head up to my room on the 5th floor, a tiny square room with no ventilation, I head to look out the window and there is a girl in only a shirt smoking on the balcony, how she got there is a mystery to me still, why she was there with no trousers… well…

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Despite being 5 or 6pm, the sun is still bright and the skies still blue, so we head into Tallinn city centre, or Tallinn Old town as it is otherwise known. Majority of the city is fairly modern looking, an odd mix of old buildings and new glass faced retail and business buildings, and then all of a sudden you hit the Old Town and it feels like you have gone back in time.

I’ve been to my fair share of old castley looking places, but this is the first time it’s been so natural, unlike many old places filled with battlements, stone walls and lookout towers, in the Old town segment of Tallinn these features are all just there and people (tourists aside) just seem to almost ignore them, like they are completely normal. The result is a slice of city that has all of the modern conveniences we know (daim frappe from McDonalds was amazing) mixed with a surreal old time feel.

We walked the cobble roads around the old town for some hours, through small parks, around castle walls and past churches. Rather impressive in particular were the Alexander Nevsky cathedral and the view from Toompea hill, the latter of which featured a balcony overlooking the rest of the old town.

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After this, for whatever reason, Lfel decided to go full adventure mode, I had no idea what I was in for, but we headed towards the harbor area, which turned out to be just a small collection of old docks with no ships, just a bunch of fishermen. It was around this point that a rather eerie fog started floating in from the north.

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There was a massive kind of egyptian looking temple thing to the east of us, complete with staircase upwards, naturally, we headed towards it. This giant structure is the Linnahall, apparently an old sports/concert venue in the past, it has since fallen into a rather sad state, but was home to an impressive quantity of graffiti, some better than others of course. One thing lead to another, and we were soon walking down a disused path down the linnahall and through a fence into a funfair which was situated next door. We didn’t ride on anything, but the fog had given the whole place a rather creepy feel, the fact the place was half empty as well didn’t really help.

 

After slowly making our way back to civilization, we stopped in at an italian restaurant called Vapiano. Upon entering the restaurant we were presented with a smart card, this as it turns out is your tab, you then go up to the counter which is actually a line of chefs, you order your food, and then they cook/assemble it in front of you, fast food style, at the end of the meal, the lady at the door scans your card and you pay your bill. It was a really unique system that I don’t think i’ve seen anywhere else before, a strange kind of restaurant twist on an asian style hawker system, but the service was reasonably fast and friendly, and the price was very reasonable (25eur for 2 meals and a starter w/ alcohol), I had a sweet spicy chicken pasta dish with an amazing pear cider, much better than expected.

After dinner I was too exhausted to keep exploring the city, not that there was a massive lot left of it to explore anyway mind you. We headed back to Lfels place for a casual bit of games before I returned to my small prison cell in the hostel.

Estonia tomorrow – Backstory

posted in: Estonia 2014, holiday | 0

So yeah, flying out to Estonia tomorrow, to visit the capital, Tallinn. It’s not the most common holiday destination, hell most people probably don’t even know where Estonia is, why then am I visiting?

Truth be told, this was almost a 100% impulse driven holiday, at first I was just trying to use up some of my holiday days, if we don’t use up our allowance before the end of the year, we lose it – it doesn’t carry over. So I booked 3 days off to be able to watch E3 (Games conference).
I always watch E3, I can’t remember the last time I didn’t watch it in some way or form, and I usually watch it with people, whether it be my brother, my university housemates (when I was at uni) or with my internet buddies – you can probably see where i’m going with this.

L-fel is probably one of the older internet friends I still keep in regular contact with, a friend from the past when memes extended about as far as the ‘O Rly owl’, the games were still on DirectX 8, and I was still a teenager. It’s hard to trace exactly when we got to know each other, but I estimate it was somewhere around 2006 or 2007 on the purepwnage IRC channel. Since then we’ve been allies on alien worlds, enemies on a battlefield, and everything inbetween. We’ve seen communities form and crumble, good times go bad, and a few bouts of drama along the way.

And so, after booking my holiday time off, I got to thinking, 3 days and a weekend, a huge potential to go somewhere, do something big, and have another bizarre adventure.
A few weeks later, I booked the plane ticket, and tomorrow, I’m off to see the city of Tallinn, and more importantly, an old friend whom i’ve arguably spent more time with than my ‘real’ friends.

 

That said, I really hope he doesn’t murder me in my sleep.

L-fel in the distance about to get murdered (2010)
L-fel in the distance about to get murdered – WoW (2010)
Doin some fishin in Lost Saga (2010)
Doin some fishin in Lost Saga (2010)
L-fel post murder... by me. without him knowing it was me. (2008)
L-fel post murder… by me. without him knowing it was me. – Age of Conan (2008)

(Related blog post  – http://www.mengsbizarreadventure.com/2008/dogs-died/ )

PSU 'pose like a team' shot (2008)
Phantasy Star Universe ‘pose like a team’ shot (2008)

A story about my uncle (PC) Review

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Ever wanted to play a first person spiderman game? ‘A story about my uncle’ is that, mixed with a bit of mirrors edge, and set in a bunch of caves.

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Developer ‘Gone North Games’ clearly had a good idea in mind when designing ASAMU, a featured storyline, mixed with a power suit which can sprint and jump, paired with a grappling hook to allow you to swing from A to B, they even throw in a pair of rocket boots later on in the game, just to try and sweeten the deal.
This is the part where I would normally elaborate on the gameplay or what happens in the game, however ASAMU is simply about a guy trying to find his uncle, chasing him across the world (or rather, a series of caves) with his power suit and grapple. For a game where the primary mechanic is swinging around on stuff, the game is almost entirely linear, with one or two set correct paths to take – failure to use one of these two paths… well, there isnt any other paths to take – the world being a series of floating islands coupled with your grappling hook’s limited range means there is generally only one piece of environment close enough for you to grapple on to – Rinse repeat for around 90mins and that is pretty much the whole game.

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This may be faster and easier to read if I just summarize things that are wrong with the game

1) One path / Boring level design
Is there something in range? That’s almost certainly the direction you are supposed to go.

2) Limited amount of grapples
You can only grapple 3 times before having to either land, or use a grapple on a power crystal to refuel, this is a worst of both worlds scenario, where you are either incredibly limited in the amount of times you can swing, or become forced to use only 2 swings and then scan the environment for a crystal to shoot at. It’s tedious and unnecessary considering there are no puzzles in the game where the grapple limit is properly forced.

3) Inconsistent surfaces
You can only grapple onto certain surfaces, the problem is these surfaces are in no way distinguishable from other surfaces. The earlier areas aren’t too bad, but in later levels sometimes you will go a few minutes before realising the ceiling can be grappled on to, other times you’ll try to hook onto a nearby rock only to be unable to for whatever reason. I can understand why for art reasons you wouldn’t want to make 2 very distinguishable surfaces for ‘sticky’ and not, but this inconsistency is incredibly frustrating and often leads into problem number 4.

4) No quick respawn / restart
Because the grapple sucks you towards the target rather than swing like a rope, you’ll often find yourself crashing into whatever it is you’re grappling to – an act which almost always results in death to chasm, a 3 to 6 second freefall into a bottomless pit before you can respawn and try again, this is of course not including the time it takes for you to lose any upwards momentum so you can fall. You will die a lot, sometimes to problem 2, often times to problem 3, and then occasionally just to bad level design or bad play. I am shocked to see no instant respawn button for times you know you are already dead.

5) No music?
If there was music, I didn’t notice much. Majority of the game was just the irritating noises coming from my grapple system

6) Pointless story
The story was bad, the side character only served to get in the players way and slow down progress, and the game ends quite abruptly and without a whole lot of resolution

7) Bad voice acting
Now we’re not talking house of the dead or resident evil levels of bad, but the voice acting was far from good.

8) Overly short length
I kept kind of waiting for the next area to make the game more interesting and fun, introduce more swinging and so on, and it just kind of never came. The game was over in less than 2 hours and all I had really done was swing around a bunch of cave systems.

9) Caves
Did I mention caves? There is 1 area out of the 5 that is outdoors, and it looks and feels amazing! Why then did they decide to have their protagonist spend the rest of the damn time in caves.

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Verdict:

There is some joy to be found in ‘A story about my uncle’, however it isn’t worth the price tag. The key ideas have some great potential, but they are wasted on a series of caves connected by linear, equally spaced floating rocks.

Approximate Game Length : ~90 mins
Actual Worth / Online Price: £2 / £10 = 0.2
Should you play it : No

Rating: 2/5

ASAMU-Win32-Shipping 2014-06-05 15-11-52-13

Among the sleep (PC) Review

posted in: Games, Games Review | 0

Among the sleep is a short game by Krillbite Studios, and is a first person horror adventure game where you play as a 2 year old child, it was funded by Kickstarter about a year or two ago and has subsequently found its way to release.

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I have to say, I really liked the idea of the game, and initial impressions were good, a game about the horrors encountered as a child, a fear of the dark and all things unknown, and the concept of crawling through this house which is so very different in day and morning.

Unfortunately, Among the Sleep, like many other games, suffers from cool idea, bad execution – or even perhaps, cool idea, but how do we make a game out of this?
The result is a very slow first person horror in the same vain as Frictional games’s Penumbra series a selection of environments with some environmental puzzles, the primary difference is however that in other games of this type you are more vulnerable, things will chase you and so on, but this doesn’t really happen in Among the Sleep, leaving you with just a selection of small jumpscares and spooky environment.

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Being a baby and all, the player character moves very slowly, either walking or crawling. Your actions similarly are very simple, you can climb, you can open doors or drawers, and a few other minor things. The game is very much a linear affair, moving the player from X to Y, maybe finding a few items along the way, or otherwise exploring the area for puzzles and locks, before introducing a few enemies before the game ends. It’s all very slow paced, and isn’t particularly fun or engaging – additionally, excessive animation and other story scene stuff will slow you down further without enhancing the gameplay (a few early examples involve having to throw a teddy bear through a door so he can open it, a completely unnecessary scene which takes about 90 seconds to unfold, yet adds nothing to the story or gameplay other than to slow you down)

The environments start off interesting, it was cool to wander around a dark and spooky house, crawling underneath tables and up chests of drawers, however they rapidly turn dreamlike and ultimately less interesting (in my opinion), while I want to say it would have been hard for them to base the entire game in the house, ‘Gone Home’ did it just fine and to great effect.
Graphics are pretty bad, reasonable textures, but pretty boring geometry, could have easily put much more stuff into the environment.

The game runs for about 2 hours – you will likely tire of it long before that.

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Verdict:

A very slow and boring horror game, has an interesting premise but fails to do much with it other than annoy the player.

Approximate Game Length : <2 Hours
Actual Worth / Online Price: £0.50 / £15 = 0.03
Should you play it : No, plenty of better games out there in this style, Dream or anything by Frictional Games

Rating: 1/5