Category Archives: Design

Writing

I wonder why it seems so much easier to write straight into an html file without wordwrap than to write a proper word document? I think it has something to do with being forced to be recursive and re-read everything written, as well as essentially having two seperate views of what you are writing – the stylised version and the plain words surrounded by markup. A close up view of a sentence followed by a quick ctrl+s and a refresh of the stylised page with a view of it in context seems to make me concentrate much more on what I’m writing, for some reason.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time AGAIN!

I finished this yesterday. Got distracted midway by Resi 4, and then by 6 Robin Hobb 800+ page books. But wow though, this game is so good. Level design was superb, dialogue was excellent, and I loved the grace of the movement and animation so so much.

As well as that, it was a very pretty game:

Sands of time

Weirdly enough I really loved the voice acting too. I can count on one hand the games where I’ve thought the voice acting was done well and suited the characters. They got it spot on with Prince of Persia though, and the music through the game was great as well.

They got the difficulty level right too. Just enough so your stomach drops with dread when you see the latest fiendish timed trap sequence, and your heart lifts just as high when you manage to complete it, but not so much that you are still trying to get through it half an hour later, growling in frustration. Everything is really tightly done, and it’s the kind of thing where you can see the designers and coders and testers have put hundreds and hundreds of hours into making everything exactly right.

In fact one sentence can summarise just how immersive this game is : When the Prince is climbing up the torture chamber, jumping from beam to beam, occasionally overbalancing with bats flying out at him and no sand left, I actually experienced vertigo.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

The movement of the Prince is fluid and effortless – the first few battles I was just constantly jumping and backflipping over people and then spinning round to knife them, just because it was so much fun to watch. Getting through to slightly harder battles and it’s even more enjoyable, trying to think tactically about it. Oh, and being able to slow/turn back time is pretty damn cool as well.

I love the way it’s being told as a story, it gives a totally new take on checkpoints and dying (“No, no, that’s not what happened. I didn’t fall there. Let me start again.”), and so far the plot is pretty interesting as well.

I remember when my brother and I found the very first prince of persia on an old floppy, and oh how we struggled to get even past the dungeon levels. Back then I was really impressed by Prince’s movement as well, it seems to be their trademark to make the character animation beautiful.

It feels pretty weird going back to being restrained by a normal controller though, instead of the freedom of the wii remote but it’s worth it. Can’t wait for Resident Evil 4, which is released in a few days time, but chances are I’ll play it briefly and then go back to Prince of Persia.

Edit 04 July : Boy was I wrong, Resi Evil has me hooked. Bit of a scary game though…

Crime and punishment (and a repeat of last post, I guess)

Okay, so I’ve finished crime and punishment. I didn’t put the book down feeling as stunned as I’ve felt before about some books. I keep thinking about it though, and Raskolnikov’s character has stayed with me and poked at my brain and made me think and see things from other people’s perspective… I never thought I could empathise with a murderer. I don’t think I’ve never read anything as adept at manipulating the reader’s emotions and thoughts. I’ve given it 5 stars in my catalogue though, right up there with Anna Karenin and The Tiger who came to Tea (what a classic).

I’ve made the mistake of reading an in depth analysis of the novel though, and you’ll be pleased (or disappointed) to know nothing’s changed – I still don’t like it when people try to tell me what the author meant/was thinking about when he/she wrote such and such. I still think that the deeper analysis and thoughts behind novels, art, music, whatever, should come naturally, as you reflect on it over the few days after you’ve experienced it. I hated it when it was forced on me in English lit at school; it pretty much ruined Macbeth for me. I didn’t care what the underlying meaning was in such beautiful prose, all I wanted to do was enjoy it uninterrupted by teacher “explaining” it to us. But I guess…:

“We don’t know what Shakespeare meant. Or what he wanted us to learn. Or if any of the Cool Shit that modern scholars find in his work is in there because the historically-extant Shakespeare deliberately put it in. But that doesn’t mean the Cool Shit isn’t there (the other mistake students commonly make).”

The Darkening Garden reviewed by Sarah Monette

I’d make a new years themed post but I can’t really think of anything to put. It was uneventful, although the fireworks I went to see with Fergus and Alessa and Gavin were pretty awesome. So, onwards.

I’m very much interested in language and I guess just different ways of expressing things to people. Emotions and thoughts and feelings and expression. Videogames and multimedia in my mind have such power to deal with these things, and probably has a somewhat wider appeal than, say, the small-text edition of Crime and Punishment. And that’s the reason why I’m enjoying the course I’m on so much, that and the excitement of all the programming ;).

Sarah Monette writes beautifully, so I usually keep tabs on her livejournal and read her essays and so on. She’s clearly very intelligent and her opinions are always insightful and usually miles ahead of whatever I thought about writing and literature. So I was surprised when I saw my own thoughts about design mirrored in her review of John Clute’s The Darkening Garden: A Short Lexicon of Horror, which I think I’m going to have to dig out and read for myself (yes yes I know it’s terrible, reading a review before you’ve read the actual book, but there you have it).

The other thing that makes me uneasy about Clute’s argumentative definition of horror is his use of an explicitly prescriptive four-part structure in talking about the narrative progress of horror. I am dubious about this rhetorical move for several reasons. One is that, as a genre theorist myself, I am suspicious of and philosophically opposed to prescriptive definitions. In my experience, this leads to a habit of fitting the facts to the theory instead of modifying the theory to suit the facts.

I hate the thought of having a set structure to any form of art, be it writing or not. Yes of course I realise that if you look at things generally enough it works, and design processes are there to help and everything, but it still gets on my nerves for some reason. So, I thought I’d share.

Another interesting article on processes.

Pious Thoughts For Diligent Clerks

For me, this sums up design in a way. Basically ‘The Psychology of Everyday Things’ and my own view of design summarised.

Michael Kelly on his bread making machine:

This machine reassures me. It reassures me that all along it has been the world, not I, that is mad. Because it turns out I’m not a fogey and a Luddite after all, but, as I suspected, the world has been bombarding me with useless and annoying and unnecessary and malfunctioning shit. Because I love my little bread machine. I have several times had to fight the urge to lick it. I did sort of give it a little kiss once, but not with tongues.

It’ll probably never win any poncey bloody design awards, because it looks like it’s supposed to look and you can’t see its insides. It has a valid purpose. It’s not a pointless fuck-around with something that already worked perfectly well. It’s something genuinely new. It can do something that couldn’t be done before, i.e. enable a buffoon like me to make his own bread. It isn’t portable. It’s not compatible or multi-platform or synergistic. It doesn’t smoke crack or sleep with whores or deliver race hate literature door to door, unlike the Dyson vacuum cleaner. You can’t annoy people with it on trains. You don’t have to upgrade it every two minutes.

Best of all is that it’s invisible. I’ve never seen it advertised. Its launch didn’t appear on the TV news, you won’t see footage of people queueing round the block to buy the latest model. You won’t, apart from this one, see any articles about ‘Why I love my bread machine’ or ‘What I put in my bread machine’ or why it heralds an epoch-making liberation for mankind. It just does what it’s meant to do without any fuss. This is what the modern world could have been like, if we’d won the war.

He’d absolutely scorn our design course and this blog no doubt!

hmm well……

We got the design practice (Make A Difference) assignments back today.

I didn’t actually get that bad a mark for it, ended up with a C which is more than I think I deserve, although Leon’s comments confused me a great deal and made me feel as if he hadn’t actually looked through it properly, so I might go have a talk with him about that if I can muster the enthusiasm.

That’s the problem, enthusiasm. I seem to be completely lacking in it for anything lately; really need to sort that out.

Make a Difference

The first assignment for design practice. We had to create a multimedia artefact which would somehow make a difference to society in some way by addressing a social issue.

I chose binge-drinking and targetted it at students and young people, but I’m not at all happy with the result. Having to juggle the imaging assignment at the same time as this and complete both within about 3 weeks just made me feel overworked and harassed. We had of course been told about the assignments beforehand but pretty much only recieved both final versions of the briefs with 3 weeks to go before the deadline. Very frustrating.

Excuses aside, I simply did not put enough thought into my final artefact and, well, it shows.

You can see it all here.