Steep – A Snowboarding, skiing, Parapente and Base Jumping game

Winter is coming and snow has fallen on the local peaks and then melted again. The temptation to go snowboarding in real life is back. While waiting to go and do sports in the real world Ubisoft give us the opportunity to simulate the experiences of snowboarding, skiing, base jumping and paragldiding.

I know three of these sports. I ski, I snowboard and I recently tasted my first paragliding flight.As I watched the trailer above and Jack Septiceye’s video of the game it reminded me of so many of the extreme sports videos I have watched. It also reminded me of the FIFAD event as well as the Montagne En Scène events. It pays a nice tribute to the culture of snowboarding and extreme sports that many of us have grown up with. It also harkens back to the days when I would edit the events that are mentioned in the trailer to this game.

This would be a good game to have in the chalet while waiting for the snow to fall or the conditions to improve.

I understand why the game filled me with passion. I liked seeing places that we know. It’s because the game developers are in Annecy so they’re playing in the same landscape as us. They’re snowboarders and skiers so they understand the sensations and they’re trying to emulate them in the game. When watching the paragliding sequences I like that we hear the flight computer’s beep as you ascend at different rates. It’s one aspect that you really notice the first time you try paragliding. That’s a nice touch for the game.

From the videos I have watched so far it looks as though they have managed to capture all of these sensations in the game. This looks like a really enjoyable game to play. The game should provide people with a nice amount of escapism. As they get used to the controls and as the community for this game grows so the ties that bind this community will grow. It looks excellent.

Black Mirror – A television series

Black Mirror – a television series

Black Mirror is a television series that was broadcast by Channel 4 a few years ago and made available to Netflix audiences recently. The series explores a variety of topics and issues to do with technology from death to crime and existentialism. It also explores themes like family and friendship.

We spend a lot of time thinking about technology and how it has changed our lives. Sometimes it’s fun to watch 80s series to see the world as it was before computers and the internet and sometimes it is fun to watch dystopian essays or short stories exploring facets of modern life.

In modern society we see that social media is affecting the discourse that is taking place between politicians and normal people. We see how social media and the lowering of the barriers of entry to the fourth estate have created a golden age for propaganda and disinformation. We see in The Waldo Moment that a CGI bear can mock the political system. It could be directly related to what we have seen happen recently.

Be Right Back deals with online identity and how a person can be emulated once they have died. The question is an interesting one. The more active we are on social media the more our character and personality can be understood and reflected back. This is limited. We are not entirely ourselves online. There are some things that we hide from the online world.

In Fifteen Million Merits we see a dystopian vision of the world where everyone lives in a small dark room. They get out of this room to go and peddle for a few hours to get Merits. Once they have 15 million merits they can “apply” for a different kind of job via a talent show.

Nosedive explores popularity and social networks. Everyone is constantly being rated based on what they share, how they interact with others and more. In such a dystopia people can progress or lose privileges based on reputation. In such a reality people are vulnerable.

A vertovian theme is explored in “The Entire history of You”. An implant called the Grain records your entire life and you have the ability to fast forward and rewind moments of your life. In so doing you can analyse what went well, what went badly and more. You can also see more than you were intended to see through other peoples’ recorded experiences. In this episode we see the Kino-Eye, the all seeing eye. Your life is no longer private.

I like some of the themes that are explored in this series and I recommend people to watch at least some of the episodes. I feel that they are relevant to our discussion about social media and online lives.

Prison Architect – a game review

The leaves are going from Green to brown and are starting to fall. At the same time nights are getting longer and temperatures are decreasing. As a result of this the fun sports season is slowing down and getting ready for hibernation. In effect the prospect of outdoor sports is decreasing. This presents a perfect opportunity to play games like Prison Architect.

Prison architect is a good way to unwind after a week of work. You can familiarise yourself with gameplay either by watching youtube videos or by playing the game in campaign mode.

In Campaign mode you are in charge of a number of prisons with issues. As you resolve those issues you are trusted with a new set of issues before resolving these. It is an easy way to familiarise yourself with gameplay before moving on to creating a prison from scratch.

When you start a prison from scratch you have limited funds. You can get around this issue by applying for grants and completing tasks. Completing tasks gives you more funds. These funds allow you to progress quickly.

As your prison expands and as you take responsibility for more prisoners you can also research various aspects of prison management. This goes from prison labour to rehabilitation and more. You control the prisoner’s regime. You can choose the regime for low security, medium security and high security prisoners. You also assign patrols. These include normal guard patrols, dog patrols and armed guard patrols. Dog patrols can be used to detect weapons, tunnels and drugs. Armed patrols can be authorised to shoot without warning shots.

Prison labour can be used for making licence plates, carpentry, cleaning the prison or working in the kitchen. The bigger you make these rooms the more prisoners you can allocate to specific tasks.

With carpentry, kitchen work and workshops prisoners must first be trained. The more time you allocate to work the more groups you can have working at once. If you have two or more workshops you can get two to three sets of prisoners  to be trained at once.

Education and detoxes are also possible when you build common rooms, a medical ward and offices for psychologists. Prisoner ratings go up as a result of this. With the right regime prisoners can be rehabilitated and paroled. Parole is a desirable feature because every early release gives you 3000 dollars. It’s a nice and easy way of earning extra cash.

There is a prison scorecard which you can consult. On this card you can see health, security and other ratings. Reoffending rates are also visible. When playing this game I managed to get single digit re-offending rates.

The prison gains value as you expand. Avoid escapes and deaths as these prevent you from selling your prison for a period of 24 hours in game. When you decide to sell a prison you keep the money earned through its sale and can use it to start a new prison.

With this capital you can build bigger and better sells and you can expand the prison faster. You can also buy more land and choose the security levels for various sections of the prison.

As you play this game you have the opportunity to experiment with regimes, parole conditions and more. The more you play the happier your prisoners will be. As the prison expands you have to make sure to keep your prisoners happy to avoid riots, prisoner escapes and more. You can just as easily play this game for long stretches as short ones.

Attack on Titan – The Jack Septic eye play-throughs

One of my favourite play through series at the moment is Attack on Titan by Jack Septic Eye. I haven’t watched the manga series so I don’t know the context of the series. I like this series because I find the story okay and I like the idea of swinging around between buildings and through an entire city.

When I hear of Titans I think of Greek mythology rather than Japanese Mangas. I would expect it to be about Greek gods, Titans and of course humans. In this case we’re transported to a city that has three layers of walls around it. When the Titans are hungry they break through the walls and eat the humans. The Humans were forced to retreat from the outer wall and part of the city to the inner walls.

Some people are trained to fight. They have grappling hooks, boosters and swords. Using the grappling hooks they can move from one part of the city to the other quickly. With their blades they can attack the titans and subjugate them. The game starts with a training session in some woods. When they are qualified they can protect their part of the city. They can attack the titans by amputating their legs and arms before getting the nape of the neck of these titans. When the titans are killed they vanish. There are small, medium and large titans.

I find the episodes fun to watch because I like the idea of flying across a city using grappling hooks. It reminds me of Assassin’s Creed but with greek mythology and manga lore. This isn’t the type of game that I would play but it is fun to watch. It provides for a nice moment of escapism, to forget about reality and daydream. Jack has produced five episodes so far. Two and a half million out of twelve million subscribers have watched at least the first episode. Will you be one more viewer?

Watching independent film rather than mainstream cinema

When I saw the Wired headline below I was happily going to say that I haven’t been to see a film at the cinema in years but that isn’t strictly true. As you have seen from my blog I have been an active appreciator of independent films. I was at FIFAD earlier this month and I was at the Montagne En Scène a few months ago. I have been to a few film screenings at the Graduate institute among other places.

I have been to see quite a few films this year
I have been to see quite a few films this year

I love watching good films and I love going to the cinema but at the moment there isn’t a single mainstream film that I want to see. Every single film is filled with CGI and fantasy and as I have joked about why would I spend 25 swiss francs on a film ticket to go to a film screen at a specific time when I could watch youtube gameplay videos and discover the story at the same time as the youtuber.

Last week I decided to stop my netflix subscription for two reasons. The first reason is that the content is crap. As they have a selection of films that have recently been shown at the cinema there is nothing that makes me think “That’s what I want to spend the next 90 minutes of my life watching.

Imagine if Netflix showed more extreme sports, adventure, environmental and other films. Imagine if they showed films that make us dream and aspire to more. Films need to be for other people than sci-fi geeks. They need to be for sports enthusiasts, for people that follow current affairs and for people that live in the real, rather than fictional world.

When I was living in the South West of England I went to the cinema ninety times in 9 months and what burned out was not my passion for the cinema but my ability to watch the same story line over and over again. The lack of creativity and originality is destroying people’s desire to go to the cinema. I have no reason to go to Pathé or other cinema complexes around Geneva because they do not show the films that I want to see. They do not address my niche.

Montagne en Scène, FIFAD and I think the Coupe Icare film festival fulfil my desire to watch films. They cover topics that I am either interested in passionate about.

Les Icares du Cinema 2015 from coupeicare on Vimeo.

Doesn’t the trailer for the film festival make you want to go? Don’t you want to watch people pushing themselves to the limit of their courage and endurance? I watch a trailer for an event like this and I definitely want to go. It fills my desire to challenge myself through the sports I do but also to see beautiful scenery and lanscapes. Why would I want to go and see CGI films when I can see extreme athletes challenge themselves and their equipment to the limits. Watch the video below.

Coupe Icare 2016 from coupeicare on Vimeo.

I watched this video at least twice and you see that whilst hollywood is filling its films with make believe the independent sector is documenting those with a real adventurous spirit. Imagine going to the event for the film festival and staying for the aerobatics.

For years now the film industry has been re-hashing the same content with no appreciation of societal changes. As a result they fail to capture our imagination and our desire to spend money. They need to inject new blood and find new creative directions that will make us want to go to the multiplexes rather than independent events. I enjoy the multiplex experience but the content dissuades me.

Prison Architect Game Play videos fill a niche.

I sometimes envy people who produce gameplay videos because the barrier to entry is so low. In theory all you need is a microphone, a gaming PC or console, a capture card and the ability to talk without being asked questions. In essence you are providing an interior monologue whilst staring at a screen and playing a game. Prison Architect Game Play are an example of this trend.

The purpose of this game is to plan and then build a prison. You make sure that you stick within the budget, that the prison is clean and that you make enough money to survive and possibly even thrive. As you build one prison you can then sell it and keep the money to build a new prison.

Some game play videos are interesting because you discover a story at the same time as the person whom you are watching play the game. In other cases you watch people build parks or prisons and you get to live their experiences through the video. It brings us back to our youth when we watched our siblings play computer games. In this case though, the game player can have from two hundred thousand to four million people watch their videos.

On youtube these videos are monetised but I have not researched how much they make but view. I also noticed that if you watch these videos via Chromecast you do not see any of the adverts so I question how they monetise these videos when they are viewed on a television.

Squadron Scramble – book review

Squadron Scramble is an interesting book to read in post-BREXIT England because it highlights aspects of the Second World War that BREXITers forget about. It looks at how the main character had to flee France via Dunkirk as well as the situation that Polish airmen had found themselves in. First they lost their homes, then they had to flee France when it was invaded and finally they went to England via North Africa.

You can read more about Polish Air Forces in France and Great Britain following this link for factual rather than fictional information and context. The book provides us with an easy to read, easy to understand scenario. If you had lost your country and you were flying for a third country would you want to shoot pilots as they parachute to safety or would you allow them to live.

If you were in England during the Second World War at what point would you have felt secure and confident that Germany would be overwhelmed and beaten. When would the battle shift from a fight for survival to a fight for supremacy?

This book focuses on the air war during daylight hours when Hurricanes and Spitfires were in their element and only glimpses at dog fighting at night. The book touches superficially on a number of topics without providing as much depth and context as it could.

This is an interesting documentary about the Polish contribution to the Battle of Britain. It shows how effectively they helped to fight the German Luftwaffe and how they were betrayed by the British people once the war was over. They had fought to defend England and defeat the Germans in order to ensure that their country would be freed from the Germans only to be betrayed when their country was handed over to the communists. Some of them went back to Poland but had to flee to other countries. They were not honoured in the victory parade either. The documentary is interesting as it provides its viewers with a good account of the Polish contribution to the British and Allied war effort.

The Martian after the Hype

Yesterday I finished reading The Martian. I chose to read the book rather than watch the film, and I chose to read it now rather than months ago because I wanted to read The Martian after the hype and excitement had declined.

The story is simple to follow and the ideas are interesting. I feel that when problems occur for the character they are put in simply to demonstrate more technology and more ideas rather than to provide real challenges to the character. It is more of an essay looking at a hypothetical trip to Mars.

There is humour in the book as shown by some quotes.

Well, okay. I know the answer to that. Part of it might be what I represent: progress, science, and the interplanetary future we’ve dreamed of for centuries. But really, they did it because every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out. It might not seem that way sometimes, but it’s true.

“It was like flying a cow,” Martinez grumbled, his hands racing over his controls.

“Brought product to surface of Mars. It stopped working. 0/10.”

“first: Tomorrow I’ll be the first person to recover a Mars probe.”

Using advanced construction techniques (duct tape), I reassembled some of them into a square.

As you might not have read the book I will leave these quotes without discussing the context. There are one or two moments in this book where I laughed aloud. It is nice to read a book that makes you laugh.

The importance of a book such as a Martian is not the writing style or the story telling but rather the ability to imagine what future human exploration could be like. How would we get food. How would we survive on scenario or another. Are some risks more interesting than others. It encourages people to think about space exploration and some of the challenges. It is accessible to a broad portion of people.

 

 

Experimenting with Spherical photographs

I was in Spain with the Ricoh Theta S last week so I took the opportunity to experiment with the Ricoh Theta S in a number of locations. What I like about such a device is that it takes a click to get pictures. I experimented with a manfrotto monopod and a smaller monopod. The Manfrotto base was clearly visible in shots so the immersive experience is degraded. With the smaller monopod the base is the same width as that of the camera. This means that at least the support was hidden.

runners in Denia, Spain – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

The first image was taken at Denia port, showing two runners running along the port wall/promenade. You can look around and see that the sea was flat, that the car park is relatively full and buildings behind the scene. It provides you with context.

Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

The second image is taken with the monopod fully extended so that it is among the branches of the trees. You can see a light house ahead and you can look at the tree at the same time.

theta archaeology. 🙂 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

It would be interesting to experiment with archeology and 360 pictures and video. Instead of placing the camera to one side and having the camera operator choose what you see the action could take place around the camera and the viewer, sitting in a swivel chair could turn and look at where the most interesting thing is happening next. You can zoom in and out within reason, to see details or to see a wider picture.

Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

At the Denia Marina part of a bar is floating on the water. it has a sphere of sun shades around with speakers and lights. You can sit in comfortable seats and look up. A conventional image would show the dome from outside but with a spherical camera you can capture the feeling of being in the centre of the structure.

my camera and I, between shots. 🙂 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

This image was taken in Basel during a recent trip. This location is ideal for 360/spherical images because each wall is covered with paintings, the clock is decorated and more. As it surrounds you the subject lends itself well to 360° photography.

a rock outcrop – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

For the last image I went to sea level and photographed the view from a headland and beaches on either side. One of those beaches has bars and a number of people whereas the other beach is nice and quiet. It is nice to look at these images and get a feel for the place.

The challenge in taking these photos is how to get the camera in to an interesting place and hide yourself or the support for the camera. I usually knelt down and tried to stay directly below the camera. The other option is to find a system to stand the camera at the right height but make the monopod invisible. With multi-camera setups parallax makes hiding tripods and other objects easier. The next step is to find a base that makes hiding the stand simple.

Montagne en Scène Genève

Au Vieux Campeur held the summer mountain film screening event at the Batiment des Forces Motrices in Geneva. They introduced the event as being the opportunity for them to share the passion of the mountains with people who may not be aware of the activities that are possible. They then went on to say “but as we’re having the screening in Geneva we know that you’re just half an hour from the mountains so many of you are practitioners and today we may even have participants from the cancelled Patrouille Des Glaciers.

Mountain film screening
Montagne en Scène, four films screened at the BFM buildling in Geneva

Four films were shown at Montagne En Scène. The films shown were A Line Across the Sky, a documentary following two less experienced climbers as they attempt the Fitzroy traverse during a rare good weather window, Chasing Niagra, a documentary about Rafa Ortiz and his preparations to shoot the Niagra Falls in a Kayak. The third film is Mont Rebei Project, a documentary looking to achieve a new Rope Jump record.

The Last film, and my favourite is Valley Uprising. It takes a look at the American climbing scene from the fifties up to the Modern day. This documentary is great because it provides us with a deep understanding of the American climbing psyche. Mountain climbing is a sport of passion and so to see how different groups helped this passion progress over the years is interesting.

Film screenings are in Switzerland, France and Belgium