Deus Ex Machina

A recent post on ChipFlip reminded me of this game, so I thought I’d better repost it. And it fits quite well with the last post because it is a Commodore 64 game…. some might think I am going through C64 nostalgia here… but the truth is I never had one… Its just a common thread, this game stands by its own. It is bizarre… a surreal psychedelic travel through… something. You were meant to press play on a cassette which played while you were playing the actual game. Weird enough, but made 10 times better by it being narrated by Jon Pertwee! Anyways, you are going to either watch it or you aren’t, so get on with it! Really worth it! Unlike a usual game, it is probably more interesting watching someone playing it on youtube rather than playing it yourself!

It comes in seven parts, so search on youtube when part 1 is done. You know the drill.

For those about to be bent, we salute you!

Went for a search down below in the nether-dungeons of my parents house. I knew I had an old c64 down there… one of those ugly ones they bought out later… my aesthetic sense prevents me from touching those….. and an Amiga 500, which I love! But is way too big to be practical onstage….. looking for a 1200. I’ve got all manner of other stuff down there from a bizarre obsession of collecting every computer I could (I am now quite an anti-hoarder) for a year when they were going for $5 at second-hand stores…. but didn’t remember I had this!

How exciting! ’cause I’ve been looking for this era of c64 to bent out of it’s usual form into something like the following to go with my new music project.

On another interesting note, in the same box with about a thousand floppy discs is one of those old books from back when you had to type in your own programs to play games (1982). I can cloudily remember me using this book to convert Sinclair ZX81 programs into VZ200 programs back near the dawn of my time. It isn’t the same book though, because it doesn’t have scribbles all through it (a habit I have to this day), but nostalgia none the less! :)

Hooray for bending and serendipity!

P.S. Now that I’ve noticed this is a Commodore 64, I will not be making the same mistake again and getting my bandwidth hammered…. you are being hosted off-site buddy!

Jaron Lanier

Well…. what more can I say? Thats the image on the front of his website, which is pretty sweet… (click on the image to be sent there) I have only recently discovered Jaron Lanier of recent note, and I am a great fan. I have yet to fully read his book ‘You are not a gadget‘, but I’ve watched quite a number of talks by him, and feel a particular affinity with him.

To divulge away from the substance and through a little bit of superficiality, one of the first things I noticed is he shares with me a particular trait…. having long dreads… For whatever reason people have them… ( I of course have my own), they don’t get in the way of anyone being a particular success. I’ve never experienced them being an impediment in my everyday life, except that they always elicit comment, and, at least in the academic world I live in,  they haven’t affected my ‘career’ at all. The reason I have diverted into this self-serving blabber is that I discovered Jaron Lanier at the same time as about 5 other ultra-dreaded successful dudes (yet to stumble into a dudette) as well. I think I will eventually have a hall of fame to people in successful positions who look unique and irregular… and not just dreads. I’ve always had a stubbornness about how I appear that arose early in my life, and I think all people should be able to express themselves freely.</gets off soapbox> Anyways, I digress. Back to the meat and bones.

Jaron Lanier coined the term ‘virtual reality’, was a founding editor of ‘Wired’, is listed in the list of the 300 greatest inventors of all time in Encyclopedia Brittanica. He also killed a Sony AIBO dog at a talk, as should be watched in the video below. Be careful, the sound sucks, so you have to concentrate, but it seems to sum up the Lanier gestalt for me so far.

What I appreciate about Jaron Lanier is that he is very concerned about being a human as much as he is concentrating on his own particular geek pursuit. His own particular major geek pursuit is through extending human experience through virtual reality… in becoming different creatures and having new experiences…. not just the somewhat plain and dull ‘VR’ we have today in such things as Second Life…. which I’ve always found to be a bit underwhelming so far… something like an IRC chat room with frustrating 3D characters. I find the idea intriguing that the human body is preadaptive to be able to cope with all sorts of different body shapes and sizes (like being a squid!) and would definitely like to become a crab at some point in the near future. On a side note, Lanier was one of the guys working on the new Kinect system for the XBox… the first common commercial VR tool where you don’t need to be wearing a suit! Very cool.

Lanier is interested in “opening up new continents of human potential” through channeling the semi/un-concious parts of the brain, the same that are used in musical improvisation, by jet pilots, by anybody who experiences ‘flow‘ (my emphasis here). How to “wake up parts of human functionality that we may not have noticed before”. His talking about his work with kids becoming molecules or geometric patterns or equations and even transforming human movement into programming and data structures is absolutely fascinating. In the future, will be become these creatures who dance to create Office 2025?

Figure X : Future programmers working on a new way to represent columns in Excel.

I do disagree with him about the open-source culture and the open movement. He seems to think that no good has come out of it….. but I tend to disagree because I have benefitted quite hugely from it as have others.. I.e. most chiptune music is released openly and free which is great… free and open software OS packages such as Linux have made computing cheap and easy, and free tools such as GIMP and OpenOffice have provided free alternative tools to artists and workers who can’t afford hundreds of dollars for the commercial software. I also see that the open movement has led to the outputting of huge amounts of art and music and combinations thereof that includes the usual 80% pile of crap, but also huge numbers of golden gems as well. To be fair to his ideas, I have yet to read the book, so I may be presumptive in attacking his argument… I may be arguing against a strawman here, so after I read the book, I will return in more detail to this issue. There are some subtleties in his talking about this issue (such as the concept of the ‘moosh’ and the mediocrity of anarchism compared to the structure of democracy) that I need to delve deeper into to really get a handle on what he is saying.

But yes, in conclusion. Check out Jaron Lanier. Interesting Dude. I’ll have more to say on the core of his “You are not a gadget” ideas once I’ve read his book. He is the first entry in my “Hall of Dreads” 😛

NW Tasmanian Genius Architecture.

Not too much to say about this one, but I’ve been past this building countless times in my life. Especially considering for most of my early life up until teenager-hood my dad used to work up the road. Slowly as I have been coming back over the years, I’ve taken more and more interest in this building…… I mean, just how inspiring it is, and the fact that somebody came up with the design and built it! Although it was probably built in 2 doses, meaning this design choice was made twice! Also I love how the off-blue matches so well with the vomit pink. One of the best buildings, and tourist attractions, on that particular exact bit of road in Wynyard.

Reminds me a lot of Kunstler’s VCR building in his 2007 talk, although not quite sooo bad, but definitely worse coloured!. If you have not seen this talk – ‘The Tragedy of Suburbia’, I highly recommend watching it!

Space Harrier is a Load of Dingo’s Kidneys

Look at that cover, doesn’t that look awesome! Space Harrier was a game that comes up when I’ve been looking at games from that era (mid-80s) that are similar to the game I am making. So I always like to check them out, as there was some crazy ideas back then that can be an inspiration! I was alive back then, and I can remember Space Harrier being a big deal, although I never remember playing it….. but….. it’s a piece of crap! How you can have such a sick cover, floating Easter Island heads, huge dragons, gigantic robots, mammoth cyclops, weird space aliens, and boulders that defy gravity in your game, but not be able to get me to play for more than a couple of minutes is beyond me! It’s basically a bad home computer version of a bad arcade game….. why did I think it was meant to be good???? The only nice thing I can say about this game is that trees and bushes realistically explode when you hit them with the nice big soap bubble from your portable dishwashing machine gun.


Old Review from Zzap64 here

And as I generally claimed in an earlier post, the CPC version is ‘better’, but not much. Beware only to watch it to get the gist, watching it for too long is just annoying!

But they are both ports from the arcade version….. which looks better, but is still the same horrible game underneath! Scroll and Blow!

Bah Humbug! This game gets two moldy hamburgers. Ba-Bow.

As far as I can garner, Space Harrier was one of those games that was awesome at the Arcades. Cutting edge technology that blew your mind in twain with its awesome graphics and sound…. but underneath was pretty much a dull dreary uninspiring shoot’em’up. People still play Donkey Kong, Pacman and Frogger, but nobody still plays Space Harrier. Except for me….. but only once, and I wish I had the time back! So the moral is…. make sure your game is fundamentally awesome…. rather than superficially awesome.

On a different note, I am currently on working on getting my ball to stop when it hits a wall in my game… it’s trickier than it seems! Currently it just wobbles….

Bandwidth Cops Some Flack

The website has been down for the last week or so. And its all this image’s fault!

My site got listed as first at google image for this image. At that point it was on my server and it was in high quality (3 mb or so). Not thinking that I would be so popular, it didn’t worry me, until one day……… 24,000 visitors to the utopiantrace.com site….. BAM! Out blew my bandwidth! Holy Crap! I enjoyed the popularity, but ya know… Now I’ll make a good effort to make sure big images are hosted somewhere else! Like this one now is….. It better watch out… if I meet this C64 down a dark alley and no-one is looking, who knows what might happen……! *shakes fist*