Teesside Snog Monster (jiggery_pokery) wrote,
Teesside Snog Monster

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Another ten-spot

1. dezzikitty and I will be in the south of England between Friday 31st December and Wednesday 5th January, and would be very keen to see Friends and /friendsfriends in London, Oxford, Cambridge, Reading and related areas at your convenience during that time. We also pledge to be rather better organised than last time and so we shall be timely, subject to public transport. In response to previous enquiries, we recommend special offers from Travelodge, Holiday Inn and the Hilton chain. Hat tips to imc and mr_babbage.

After that, we will be in Boston between Wednesday 5th January and Wednesday 12th January, and keen to see our friends there.

2. It's rare that both principals and incident of a news story can be summarised in one word, but I think the nonce word Fan-dabi-do-SPLAT means that British readers don't need to read the full version of the article to know what happened.

3. The government recommend maximum levels of alcohol consumption, with specific advice against binge drinking (roughly, "half the weekly level in one night" is bad). They also recommend minimum levels of fruit and veg consumption. I wonder if there has been study into whether binge fruit'n'veg consumption is significantly worse than regular levels? I can reasonably easily consume 8-10 fruit'n'veg units in a day then go without the next.

4. So mobile phones with in-built GPS units now exist, which are begging to have interesting new types of game written for them. I'm sure three-dimensional geocaching would be possible, with the interesting caveat that the third dimension would be time rather than height, unless GPSes have gained altimeters without me looking. What do we want? Live Action Super Bomberman! When do we want it? October 2002.

Anyway, other people are taking the technology in other directions; it's interesting to read about Glofun RayGun, which is effectively GPS-mobile-phone Live Action Ghostbusters. Turn your GPS mobile phone on, and attract ghosts. Run about wherever you live to evade them, or shoot ("ionise") them for points. I quote: "To aim the raygun at a ghost, you move toward it. Moving quickly increases the raygun’s range. You can adjust your beam to long and narrow (good for zapping ghosts while they’re still far away) or short and wide (good for zapping them when they’re closing in on you)."

I'm not quite sure that I get why this would be fun, but I imagine it could well be fun - or, at the very least, novel. (I have horrible visions of playing this game while in a car.) It also looks a little disappointingly one-player, but I'm sure that people will work out interesting multi-player game applications soon enough. (For instance, are we within software of being able to play pick-up PacManhattan?) Download the game early in 2005, or - and here's where the Seattle part comes in - you can drop by the development company's office basement with your suitably endowed handset and beta-test it, Seattle game geeks (have you met? Peter, Deanna; Deanna, Peter?) go thou and have at.

5. Also in Seattle-related gaming news, static_zombie's Peter Sarrett, who occasionally drops a comment around these parts, has had his second party game published: Tunebaya. Despite a dodgy-looking name - one with which I doubt he had much to do - this is based around a simple and elegant concept: The Match Game (UK: Blankety Blank *) meets singing. The .wmv video explains all: all players are told a category and need to name a song fitting that category that others will know, then (in turn) sing it. Earn points by joining in singing other people's songs; earn more points by having other people join in your song, earn pots of points by naming the same song as other players. (So, technically, more like Bill Cullen The Match Game than Gene Rayburn Match Game '73.)

* ...and I don't mean the Georgia rock band of the same name, with a very interesting/annoying/epileptic-fit-inducing web site.

Looks like a fundamentally sound design to me; more co-operative than competitive, which is fitting because singing is essentially a co-operative game. Contrast this with the similar What Were You Thinking?, in which players aim to write down members of a specified category and earn points by naming popular choices; the twist is that the lowest scorer in each round pays a forfeit by explaining what they were thinking (normally by reading a self-deprecating card, jabbing at their own ignorance). No such focus on losing or negativity here, it's all co-operative and positive, ideally inspiring impromptu hootenannies aplenty. I'm not sure how well it would work if people wanted to get really competitive about it - it might get into arguments about whether people were singing along or not, but it's clearly a game designed not to be played very competitively.

(Talking of What Were You Thinking?, back in 2000, I once played a round of it in which all the players were asked to name songs by The Rolling Stones; I ended up with a spectacularly low score, possibly even blanking completely. Asked what I was thinking, I offered the excuse that I was British. The rest of the table simultaneously said "...so are they!" Oh. I have gone right off the game ever since.)

What I particularly admire about the design is that the experience will be different from group to group as you all know different sets of songs. I can imagine metalheads and goths finding their communal, collective imagination tends towards defaults that are far from the apparent mainstream, and the filkers would be all over this, spectacularly enjoying their own in-jokes. On the downside, I am not sure quite how much replay value the game has within the same group - you'll quickly work out what the best answer per category is for your group, but at a recommended 8 categories per game, this should keep you going for a while. (Mind you, I was in a group which saw in 2002 by playing through all 100 Apples To Apples adjectives. Only took us about four hours.) Also on the downside, British gaming groups - who have a collective sense-of-humour age of about 12 - will find the microphones to be the most phallic game components since the cards in Bang! with pictures of bullets on them.

Another backwards step is the distribution method; the company, Simply Fun, seem to intend to sell their wares through parties, giving commision to the hosts, much as the way in which housewives used to buy Tupperware and these days buy sex toys. (Colour me envious.) I think that's a business model that won't work here. When you go to a game-buying party, you'll be with the group of people who you play games with, so the group will need to buy exactly one copy of the game between it. Perhaps they'll buy one copy of each game sold by the company, but that's still not going to add up to nearly as many sales as products where every attendee would benefit from owning one.

This is rather a shame, as it looks like a fun game. In an ideal world it would be picked up by one of the major manufacturers, rebranded and sold to the mass market; for instance, I don't think there has been a game of the UK celebrtiy impersonation singing show Stars In Their Eyes, which is an Endemol property and so might be replicated all around Europe. Time can only tell.

All told: looks good and I'd like to give it a try. I have happy memories of singing at game conventions and of the United Geeky Board Gamer Tabernacle Choir of Columbus, OH once spectacularly improvising an impromptu round of the theme tune to WKRP in Cincinnati, even harmonising the last line. Apart from a boomerang which comes back, what more could any gamer ask?

6. While it is logically consistent and not, in fact, a contradiction in terms for a "way" to be both "new" and "old-fashioned", (a) it damn well sounds silly and (b) it raises questions about what exactly was wrong with the old old-fashioned way.

7. We read that Oxford University are set to offer a £3,000/year bursary to students from the poorest families from 2006. In addition, such students will be set to receive a state grant of £2,700/year - so, all told, that's £5,700 per year and no fees to pay up-front. (The fees are later repaid when people start earning over £15,000 per year.) Now admittedly we can extrapolate from current rates and estimate that essentials of food and housing will probably cost something like £4,000 per year, but that's really not too bad, all things considered. Well done, Oxford. (In fairness, Cambridge may be offering slightly better bursaries still, but the details are yet to be revealed. Also include an obligatory Tab-bashing remark here.)

8. Trolling is neither big nor clever and nobody likes destructive low-lives. However, those who remember how a happy game show newsgroup was destroyed may be amused by the change history of July 24th for the game shows page on Wikipedia. I particularly like the way Wikipedia demonstrates its strength at repelling vandalism.

9. I recently read Eastern Standard Tribe, the second novel by Cory Doctorow; like his first, it's been released under a Creative Commons license and you can also download it from his web site. My capsule review of his first novel was that he set up a brilliant sci-fi world and then failed to fill it with a compelling story; the second novel is better throughout, but still suffers the same fault. This is irritating because the world projected is within grasp and enjoyably near-future sci-fi, but there are better stories to be written using the constructs he establishes. Again, ripe pickings for fanfic if someone wants to write it - heck, someone presumably already has.

10. Alan Randy Amasia, October 9, 1957 - December 12, 2001.
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