• "…kids are utterly, utterly obsessed with fairness. It's the most important element in any game. And human rule-enforcement is automatically deemed unfair. There is no referee, umpire or god-like grandparent that can escape being seen as unfair at some point, for some decision. But the commanding voice of Cosmic Catch escapes all that. The relentless, ineluctable judgement of the RFID machine brooks no argument, is prey to no human frailties and biases and is immediately seen as fair."
  • It's more cursor*10, and it's as fiendish and entertaining as ever. The impaled-cursor is particularly cute.

What’s Schulze Listening To?

20 February 2009

So we listen to music on speakers – not headphones – quite a bit in the studio. Or at least Jack does, because they’re in his batcave.

And sometimes, I’m not sure what’s playing from next door, but I know I like it – and it’d be good to know what it is. Fortunately, Jack mainly listens to last.fm radio (and even if it’s not radio, his iTunes would still be scrobbled).

So I wrote wotlisten.rb. You can see it (and get it) as a gist on github. It doesn’t use audio recognition, or the last.fm API, or RSS; it uses plain-old screen-scraping.

(Somewhere near the top of my list of coding tools is Hpricot, because it’s a lovely HTML parser that you can scrape with as fast as you can think. Or, at least, as fast as you can write selectors. That was the case here.)

So: you throw in a username, and wotlisten.rb tells you what they’re listening to. Or what they were last listening to. It doesn’t distinguish between the two – and why should it? This is Situated Software at its most useful: I assume you can hear the music that’s playing, and that you know the last.fm tag for the user playing it (and: until very recently, I assumed that person was Jack Schulze; this updated 2.0 release lets you pass in any username).

It’s unremarkable code in the extreme, but notable for the fact it took ten minutes to bang it out; it came out as fast as I could think it. I’m getting to the point where, especially with Hpricot and similar, this kind of tools is second-nature to write. It’s taken a long while to get there, though.

The script proved useful upon several occasions that day. More to the point, it paid for itself handsomely a few hours later, when we discovered that Schulze was playing Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out For A Hero.

  • "In the 14 months since [TeamFortress 2] shipped, the PC version of the game has seen 63 updates – “that’s the frequency you want to be providing updates to your customers,” [Newell] adds. “You want to say, ‘We’ll get back to you every week. The degree to which you can engage your customer base in creating value for your other players” is key, says Newell. “When people say interesting or intelligent things about your product, it will translate directly into incremental revenue for the content provider.”" Great write-up from Chris Remo of Gabe Newell's DICE talk.
  • "This is a sort of thorough, empirical, sociological study of art students at two British art schools at a very interesting moment, the late 1960s (a moment when, as the book says, anti-art became the approved art, bringing all sorts of paradoxes to the fore). I find it fascinating that such a subjective thing as developing an art practice can be studied so objectively, but then I find it amazing that art can be taught at all. The book shows the tutors and students circling each other with wariness, coolness, misunderstanding, despair, appreciation." Some great anecdotes and observation.
  • "Busker Du (dial-up) is a recording service for buskers through the telephone (preferably public payphones hidden in subway stations). Audio recorded will be posted to this audio-blog and made available to all who cherish lo-fi original music. Try it out at your favorite subway station or street corner." Dial-A-Song comes full circle.
  • "Poole – HAL 9000 is a fictional chess game in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. In the movie, the astronaut Frank Poole is seen playing chess with the HAL 9000 supercomputer… The director Stanley Kubrick was a passionate chess player, so unlike many chess scenes shown in other films, the position and analysis actually makes sense. The actual game seems to come from Roesch – Schlage, Hamburg 1910, a tournament game between two lesser-known masters."
  • Lovely demo – some interesting interfaces that feel quicker than current alternatives, as well as experimental ones that, whilst slower and clumsier, represent information a bit better. I mainly like the form-factor, though – but what's the unit cost? These things get a lot better the more you have.
  • "Something like: Trying to create a reading list that gives the best introduction to everything. This may change." Phil is trying to collect the Good Books in many fields. It's an interesting project, for sure; it'll also be interesting to see how it pans out.
  • I was a little excited from the ongoing Offworld love in, but Oli Welsh's review suddenly makes me insanely excited about Keita Takahashi's new plaything. Why is it that all the reasons for me wanting a £300 PS3 are £3 PSN titles?
  • "…the biggest consequence [of a universal micro-USB adaptor] will be the ease of transferring data/content from street service provider to consumer, and consumer to consumer… There is a place at the edges of the internet where the level of friction makes content and data grind to a halt. It's largely unregulated. And it just got seriously lubed."
  • "30 Second Hero is an action RPG which consists of really short battles that require no interaction, as players race against the clock to save the kingdom from an evil wizard's wrath. As indicated by the title, you only have thirty seconds to level up your character sufficiently for the final battle, although additional time can be bought from the castle at the cost of a hundred gold pieces per increment of ten seconds." Hectic; the entire early JRPG genre (FF1, et al) condensed into a minute-long rush. Grinding as poetry.
  • "I was convinced that it was a spoof. As if there’d be a genre called Donk. Everything is wrong about the video. The knowing subtitles over subtle Northern Accents. The presenter’s slight grin when he’s chatting to folk. The funnily named shops. Everything. There’s no way I’m falling for a prank like that. It reminds me heavily of the episode of Brass Eye where they whang on about Cake (the made up drug). And all the characters and the interviews look like they could be setups or clever edits." But no, it's real. Iain Tait discovers Donk.
  • "…with that sad note from Sarinee Achavanuntakul, one of the most enduring (if illegal) tributes to gaming history came to an end." Home of the Underdogs is no more; just gone, like that. It wasn't that it had the best games or the worst games, or that they were illegal, or free; it was history, and childhood, and the smell of cardboard and boot disks, all wrapped up in one giant cathedral to Good Old Games. Most things I played on my old DOS machine were there. A shame; I hope they're elsewhere. This is why we need proper game archives.
  • Tweaking a game five months after launch to make it both more playable, and also more realistic; understanding that realism is key to NHL09 fans, and delivering on that as an ongoing promise.
  • "Warcraft’s success has always been substantially due to the extraordinary physicality of Azeroth, to the real sense of land transversed, of caves discovered, and of secrets shared. Players old and new bemoan the endless trudging that low-level travel requires, but it’s crucial for binding you to the world." Yes. Despite QuestHelper, I'm always in awe of the new areas. I just wish more people were playing the game as slowly and badly as me. Another beautiful One More Go, and one that resonates a lot right now.

Links & notes for this month