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?

The Iphone 7 has Raw support and is waterproof

The Iphone 7 has RAW support. This will allow people to take mediocre quality images and re-work them in post production. This is an interesting development because in theory you no longer need to get dedicated hardware capable of shooting raw. This is good for covering events when you do not want to carry a DSLR or compact camera. This could include via ferrata, a night out or a trail journey where weight reduction is key.

if you’re going to shoot RAW then I would strongly recommend getting the highest capacity iphone possible. It has 256 gigabytes of storage and will allow you to take at least a hundred pictures before offloading them to an external hard drive or storage solution. Ideally you would want the iphone to be like most android phones. SDHC card support is useful because you can easily buy these cards and increase your phone’s memory capacity. With the latest devices you can use SDHC cards with a capacity up to 200 gigabytes. The cost of these cards is decreasing. I like being able to take images with a mobile phone, ejecting the card and downloading to the computer in an instant. If you’re travelling you can walk around with terabytes of storage, if you’re that way inclined.

Samsung, Sony and other brands have recently started to make mobile phones that are waterproof. When playing Ingress we would play in the rain thanks to this feature. Crosscall has been designing weatherproof phones for a while now with an IP certification of 68. The new iphone only has an ingress protection of IP 67. It’s waterproof enough to survive caving but don’t take it canyoning. For that you should still rely on Crosscall devices.

In essence Apple have come out with a waterproof camera that has internet connectivity and can make phone calls. They are moving towards a more adventurous market at least two or three years after I said they should. I might soon consider using them again.

A 360° cooking Show would be interesting to watch.

For a few weeks now I have been thinking about how you could make a 360° cooking show. For this video I would like to be able to see the process from an angle where I see the person cooking. I would also like to see all of the ingredients and the preparation of various stages of the recipe. For this you would need an open plan kitchen where preparation takes place in the middle of the room.

If it was to be filmed with just one camera then the camera should be lower than eye level but not by much. I would want to look straight ahead in to the eyes of the person preparing the meal and talking. As the person speaks about ingredients I would like to be able to look down and see all of the ingredients. You would need enough room for chopping and marinating. I would think about having a camera above the cooking surfaces so that we can see how the textures change from the start of cooking to when the mix becomes “saucy”. That’s how they describe it in recipes.

I want the 360 approach to be justified. I want to make it so that the viewer has a reason to wear VR goggles. The video above justifies a 360° video whereas the video below does not. The camera needs to be placed as close to the action as possible. It should be designed so that the viewer has to turn his head to see what is happening.

This video does not justify the 360 approach because the action happens in front of the camera and although you can look around the background is not relevant. The action is too small on screen. You can’t see what they are doing.

The camera operator and the producer should learn the recipe and identify what the stages of preparation are. They should have a shot list of every thing that is relevant and place the camera accordingly. Is an oven or a grill used? is sauce prepared? Is something timelapse friendly?

A few years ago we were up in a swiss chalet with a friend and we decided to cook a pizza with a log fire rather than an oven. We started the log fire and then we placed the pizza next to the fire. As the fire was only on one side we rotated the pizza to get it to cook in full. In watching the playback you see the pizza cook as well as the logs go from being logs to embers and “melt” downwards as they burn. If the camera can safely be placed close enough to the fire then you could look down at the pizza as the ingredients change appearance and look up to see the logs decrease in size.

I believe that 360° cooking shows have a future. In theory you need just one well placed camera and editing is cut down to a minimum. Instead of editing and vision mixing from two or three cameras you need just one. I believe that the programme should not be more than 5-10 minutes. People, for now, are still getting used to VR headsets and may find extended periods of time more tiring to watch.

How long will it take before someone like Jamie Oliver uses VR cooking simulations to teach people to cook in the real world. With enough time they could emulate real cooking times at different heats so that when you transition from VR to reality you have the right intuition to successfully cook for yourself and others.

The Selfie Stick cutter

In some cities you see a strange set of creatures and the selfie stick cutter is there to resolve this issue. People carry long poles at the end of which they stick their camera. They look at the phone held at a safe distance and smile, do victory symbols and other such gestures. These sticks would be really interesting if they were used to provide people with interesting images. Instead they are used to take pictures in interesting places with ordinary people in front. As a camera operator I photograph landscapes or monuments. It is an old fashioned habit.

The selfie stick is so endemic to some parts of the world by now that pranksters run around and cut people’s selfie sticks with the phone still attached. You can watch as dozens of phones fall to the ground in this video. Mobile phone repair shops must really enjoy watching this video. Look at all the work they will soon have.

I think that this video is meant to be seen as a joke but can you imagine how much anger such an action would generate. Can you imagine how fast you would have to run away from some of these people. You see these people look surprised and in some cases betrayed.

They have a quarter of a million views so far and it will grow from tomorrow onwards, as people in offices share the video with their friends and colleagues. Maybe by next week it will have more than a million views. Selfie sticks are popular and so are pranks. With the money they could make from monetising this video they could compensate the people whose screens they broke.

The story is not viral yet
The story is not viral yet

Selfie sticks do have one practical purpose. You can fix 360 cameras to them and take pictures without the giant index finger getting in the way. That is how I use one. You can get them for cheap from certain types of shops. You do not need to spend 29 euros.

Corporate Social Responsibility and Apple

I have read numerous articles and I think that Corporate Social Responsibility and Apple are hot topics at the moment. When it was found that European firms were cheating on their emissions reports it was a great scandal and the European and German automotive industries took a financial hit. Their cheating cost them billions. In the US people were financially compensated whilst as one article put it Europeans got a plastic tube.

We should look at the Apple Back taxes story within the context of Brexit, the rise of the far right in a number of countries and the emerging popularity of Trump within certain sectors of the American voting public. The group anonymous is defending the rights of the 99 percent. They protest against Wall Street and the abuses of corporations and the wealthy.

When houses in the US were foreclosed because of the bubble bursting because of complex dividends those who suffered were the poor and the middle classes because they borrowed money at a rate that they could not pay it back. A number of documentary makers have explored this issue and there have been talks at the Graduate institute and other places.

Apple is currently making billions per quarter and that money is being stockpiled in offshore accounts so that neither the US government nor the European union can get to it. Other writers and journalists have written about this extensively. The perspective that I want to take is a moral one.

Apple products are expensive, they can cost twice as much as their android equivalents. People in the European markets are paying for these products. They pay the country’s VAT along with the product’s cost. They are contributing to the local economy.

Tim Cook argues that what the European Commission is doing is a “load of crap” and that it is abusing of its power. From an ethical and moral point of view though it is Apple that is being unethical and amoral. They are part of the economy. When they sell products they make huge profits that are taxed at less than one percent. 12 billion dollars could do a lot of good within the European Union if and when it is recovered because it could contribute to the road networks and transport infrastructure. It could contribute to housing, education and much more. In contributing to the economy those billions that Apple owes in back taxes could improve the quality of life of millions.

They hide behind the mask of job creation. They believe that because they contribute to the creation of 6000 jobs in Ireland that their corporate social responsibility stops there. It does not. Apple must be ethical enough to pay taxes like every other business is expected to do.

In effect Apple is providing a concrete example of what Brexiters voted against, the corporations syphoning off money to the detriment of living conditions of many populations around Europe. If corporations are allowed to make billions in profits without paying taxes because of creative accounting then society as a whole suffers. It also ferments resentment and encourages people to vote for the right.

In my opinion, based on the reading of numerous articles and watching many documentaries Apple should agree to pay the 14 billion as a gesture of good will and as a Public relations exercise. Imagine what a positive effect those billions would have for the European Union as a whole. Imagine how much social good having that money re-invested would do.

I believe that Tim Cook and Apple need to pay these back taxes to diffuse the tensions caused by austerity movements across Europe. A wealthy, rather than austere Europe could buy more Apple products. Other corporations would also benefit directly from people’s increased disposable income. A few weeks or months ago I watched a documentary about how the United States benefited from corporations paying their fair share of taxes.

Strava now has rock climbing, hiking and more

Strava now has rock climbing, hiking and many more sports. Sports tracker, movescount and other applications already allowed you to do this but it is nice to see one more network provide us with this option.

Strava expanded the number of sports you can track
Strava expanded the number of sports you can track

Up until now I had to make sure to go for a bike ride or three per week to keep people updated on what I did. During week days I am likely to go for bike rides. On two to three evenings per week I may go climbing and on the weekend I may go hiking or for a walk. As a result I can track the diversity of my activities.

Strava has updated the list of sports
Strava has updated the list of sports

With rock climbing I would like them to add two or three more fields. I would like them to add an option to add the grade of the climb we did. This would need to use the European and the American systems. It would help us track our progress and even track how hard we worked if we’re wearing a heart monitor as we climb. In effect it could provide us with a way of seeing who else is climbing and whether we match their skill level. In the long run this could contribute to new groups. I have created a group for Swiss Via Ferrata in anticipation of via ferrata practitioners joining the network and sharing their climbs.

Until recently I would only track cycling and running. Now that walking, hiking and climbing have been added I can track a number of new sports. It should result in people using the app more frequently.  It could be fun to see climbing and hiking heat maps. We will see how they adapt the input section to match the sports.

 

Negotiating Overhangs

Negotiating overhangs is physical, fun and sometimes scary. It is for this reason that the Via Ferrata de Thônes via ferrata section is such fun. It gets your adrenaline pumping as you fight to keep hold and clip and unclip in the relevant sections. It forces you to overcome your fear of being over the void. The third section of the Via Ferrata de Saillon is a challenge for the very same reason.

The video above shows rock climbers at the IFSC World cup negotiating an overhanging wall and trying various techniques to get further than other people. We see how they use heel hooks and go for it before losing their grip and falling. This footage is fun because we see them work to solve the problem in a number of ways and then fall. When they fall the belayer slows down but does not stop the fall so it looks as if they are falling towards the ground. Imagine an ordinary person getting that sensation. It would scare them.

Fear is good because it keeps us safe. It means that we’re thinking of the consequences and we are aware of the dangers. It means that we will only progress within our comfort level. If we have doubt we can climb down to the nearest quick draw and rest. If we ignore that fear then we may fall. By staying in our comfort zone we are safer.

When you’re climbing you know when you have good foot holds and hand holds. You also know how long you will be able to stay in that position. The more afraid you are the more energy you burn. That’s why positioning is important. In the video above we see that one person decided to climb feet first through the overhanging section. Our leg and feet muscles are much stronger than our arm muscles so they allow us more time to think of a solution. With time all of these climbers could have negotiated that section.

 

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.

A 360 Video of planes landing – An experiment

Waiting for planes to land

I prepared a 360 Video of planes landing at Geneva International Airport yesterday afternoon. Watching planes land, especially when you’re right underneath them just as they’re about to touch down is a lot of fun. You see the lights in the distance and slowly those lights approach. There is a point after which everything speeds up and the sound gets louder. The plane flies right over you and you see the landing gear, the engines and you see the plane correct as the wind buffets it from side to side. You see it skew and then you’re turning around very quickly and you watch it land.

With a conventional camera or tripod this is a challenge to film because tripods are designed to pan and tilt but not in this manner. If you wanted to film landings from the position I was in you would need to build a rig that tilts up and then when the plane is directly overhead swivels and then tilts back down. With a conventional tripod this takes practice to get right.

360 cameras are an interesting alternative for camera operators because rather than move the camera it is the viewer that changes the direction in which he is looking. He watches the plane approach, looks up as it flies overhead and then swivels around to see it touch down.

I filmed 18 landings. Some of the aircraft are A-320s and others are private jets. I would have liked to get one of the A-340s that lands at Geneva but I was not that lucky. When viewing this footage I notice that the underside of the aircraft is dark. When you watch this in person then you see a lot of detail which the camera was unable to pick up. I look forward to when we can film 360 videos with full control of the device.