Game On

Game on!

I’ve got so many games on the go at the moment it’s mad. First up is Wipeout Fusion – I’m a bit biased there, but I’ll sum it up by saying it’s the fastest racer ever and it looks great!

Next up is Ace Combat 4 – brilliant stuff, brings back Top Gun in a big way and the atmosphere is great during the tense missions and dog fights. The graphics are almost photo-realistic in places, and the menus and loading times are sensational. Top marks!

Jack & Daxter follow on behind, pushing a whole load of polygons in their journey over a fabulous looking fantasy land. It does smell a little like Crash Bandicoot… well, a lot actually, but it’s heaps better than Crash because it’s more open. If you find something that’s a pain to do, the chances are you can go and do a load of other things instead, and that’s great game design.

Now on to Rockstar’s State of Emergency – it’s crap, avoid it at all costs. Ok, to be fair, if you loved the missions in GTA3 where it was really frustrating and you lost your life just before you completed them then this is up your street. Even more so if you love games with scewed up camera movement, ‘cos in SoE it swings from your back to your side and round to your front without any logical reason while you’re getting a kicking from 8 riot police. Not fun and not a very good game either.

Dropship made it out of the packaging long enough for me to play the training level. It looked good, but it’s a little less playable than Ace Combat 4, so I’m leaving it ’til later.

Airblade on the other hand is still in the celophane. I have Tony Hawks’ 3 and I another take on the theme doesn’t really appeal to me. Could save it for a rainy day, I suppose.

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There is no spoon

Work has been crazy over the last week, really crazy. After ending up with stress about three years ago (it’s true, you don’t even know you have it) from the amount of work I was doing (designing, coding and running 17 websites at the same time, singlehandedly), I promised myself I’d watch out for it happening again.

Since then I’ve been pretty careful, whenever things were starting to get too much I’d get a grip and take a step back from it. Work is work, but it is never worth losing your health over (Are you reading this Jess Unwin?).

The strange thing is, as mad as things are at the moment, with looming deadlines, I appear to be getting a kick out of it. Don’t know why – I have a whole load of stuff to be finished by the end of the week and it will be seat of the pants stuff to get it finished on time. But at the same time, I’m doing some great stuff – I’m looking at a hundred lines of code or more that I’ve churned out two days before and I’m thinking “Hey – that was clever, passing that to a function there so I can re-use it… well done!”, yet at the time I don’t remember making conscious decisions to plan ahead like that.

I think I’m in the zone. Oh yes, that’s what it is. You know when you’re there, and you don’t think too much about it because you might snap out of it. But it’s a great feeling – you’re flying along and everything is clicking. Most of the time it happens on the pool table down the pub – you can own the table for the whole night, pulling off everything you try. Then the following week you’re back to shanking the cue ball into some bikers’ pint!

I’m going to love it while it lasts – if I make the deadlines and get the job done I don’t mind being mortal again next week. For now, I’m in the zone!

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The heart of the matter

When I was little my father disappeared off the face of the Earth, leaving me with my mother and assembled family. What could have been a pretty tragic set up turned out quite nicely for me. The family house was always busy, with my Grandpa and my uncle John there to look after me almost all the time. Except for my grandpa passing away back in ’89, most of the family is still close and intact.

In my younger years my uncle filled my head with ideas of rockets and space travel – the sort of thing that had been going on through the sixties when he was a teenager. He’d encourage me to watch Star Trek, Blakes’ 7, and Tomorrow’s World – a good mix of sci-fi and emerging technology – and tell me all about things like the race to the moon, for example. He bought me my first chemistry set and threw the manual to one side, showing me all sorts of experiments he’d done at school that were much more interesting than making crappy crystals over six week periods.

To say he enriched my young life would be an understatement. As I grew older and walks to the park with my uncle evolved into trips to the pub, his input and conversation became valuable in a different way. In fact, our Tuesday night sessions only came to an end when I moved to London two years ago. If not for that I’d probably be in the bar with him right now discussing matter transfer or the possibility of anti-gravity, while the rest of the patrons talk football.

Actually, it turns out that even if I was back in Scotland at the moment, we wouldn’t be in the pub at all. Hence the point of the above. A week and a half ago my uncle calls me and tells me that he is going in for heart surgery. Wow.

Ok, nowadays they do that kind of operation pretty routinely… but, you know, not to my uncle they don’t. So on Thursday night I cant get to sleep thinking about it – what if something has gone wrong, or whatever – you know, the usual soap opera worry stuff. So Friday I call the hospital and they tell me he’s in intensive care and they will be moving him to the high dependancy unit.

What is that? Is that good or bad? I asked the nurse. Turned out it was a good thing. Regardless, all through Saturday and Sunday I’m still bothered about the lack of news. Then on Sunday night I get a call and it’s him! Fantastic – he’s pretty breathless and he sounds a bit out of it, but he starts talking about the machines he’s hooked up to and how techno it all looks.

That’s when I know he’s ok and I’m so relieved.

So here I am – working in the video games industry and using a world wide network of computers to tell whoever cares to know that I was worried about my uncle. And the reason I am where I am today is probably because of the things he planted in my mind when I was little. And that’s cool, I think – really cool.

In all the time he had me thinking about where I was going – where we are going – now seemed like the perfect time to acknowledge where I had come from. Thanks uncle John!

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