The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

RSS feeds: v0.91; v1.0 (RDF); v2.0; Atom.

10:05am on Friday, 12th February, 2016:



The view out of the bathroom window this morning had more of a look of a nuclear explosion than a sunrise.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, as strictly speaking the sunrise is actually caused by nuclear explosions.


7:12pm on Thursday, 11th February, 2016:

Borne Free


What passes for a bus station in Colchester is on Osborne Street. Or is that Osbourne Street?

Hundreds of people see these boards every day...


6:52pm on Thursday, 11th February, 2016:



There'll be no QBlog updates over the weekend as my ISP is doing some kind of site migration. Emails to me will also be held up (queued) and perhaps bounced. It should all be fine on Monday.



8:19pm on Wednesday, 10th February, 2016:



The crocuses in our garden are starting to spread out from under the apple trees and onto the grass.

Every year, I plant maybe 50 crocuses in the garden. Every year, maybe half of them flower and practically none of the ones planted in previous years flower. These, however, were here when we bought the house 20 years ago and they come back every time. They seem to have taken the opportunity presented by the mild winter to start spreading.

That's great! If they take over the entire lawn, I won't have to spend 2 hours every summer weekend mowing it.


8:11am on Tuesday, 9th February, 2016:

The Underwater Moon


George Orwell wrote an essay published exactly 70 years ago entitled The Moon Under Water. In it, he discusses the ideal qualities of a pub.

I thought it might be an idea to write something similar for an MMO, The Underwater Moon. What would my ideal qualities of an MMO be?

I didn't even start making a list: as soon as I thought about it, I concluded that although pubs have matured over centuries so that there's some notion of what an ideal pub might be, MMOs haven't reached anywhere near their potential. There's so much more to come from them, once we've got over the WoW clone effect, the pay-to-win effect and whatever effects come after to drive players away and fail to attract new ones until we get a reboot.

The Moon Under Water didn't exist, because it looked to the past. The Underwater Moon doesn't exist, because it looks to the future. Orwell knew what he wanted, because he'd seen every component in existing pubs — he just wanted them to come together. I don't know what I want, because not every component has yet been invented — I just want to see what they are.


4:53pm on Monday, 8th February, 2016:

Raising the Roof


From the email Computer Science people received this afternoon:

Some of you may already be aware but the wind has just blown a large part of the roof off the Square 2 computer building

It seems to have had it coming, looking at the bits (which appear to be soggy half-inch thich fibreboard).

We never used to get any of this kind of thing happening before the Met Office started naming storms. The blame lies squarely on their shoulders.


4:12pm on Sunday, 7th February, 2016:



The top picture here is of the front, passenger-side tyre of our car:

Unfortunately, the bottom picture is the rear, passenger-side tyre of our car.

Damned potholes.

Oh well, it could have been worse. It could have been me driving the car when it happened instead of my wife.


12:36pm on Saturday, 6th February, 2016:



Here are two pictures from today's Guardian from articles associated with the law:

It's lazy enough to use the same symbolism (gavel=law) in two articles just a few pages apart. However, it's particularly lazy to use symbolism that's not even applicable in the UK, where none of our judges use gavels.

Maybe I'm misreading it, and they're associating the law with auctions.


3:32pm on Friday, 5th February, 2016:



I got another 1869 map of Europe for my collection of 1869 maps of Europe. It's by Alexander Keith Johnston, a famous Scottish map-maker (as opposed to Alvin J. Johnson, a famous American map-maker, one of whose maps I have on my wall).

This is what looks like at range:

You can probably see the borders in colour there. Here they are close up:

That colouring was all done by hand. I'm amazed that people could do this kind of thing day in, day out, and not get slapdash about it.

Johnston was renowned for his beautiful maps, and I can see why.


8:59pm on Thursday, 4th February, 2016:



Every year, I run a class for my CE217 students in which I give them each a wad of A7-sized (so 8 to a sheet of A4) paper with the following printed on them: "Something that annoys me as a player of computer games is:". The students get to vent their fury filling in the slips of paper with as many ideas as they can.

Once they run out of steam, I shuffle them up, add in a bunch of responses from previous years, then I split the students into groups and ask them to sort them out into categories. The aim of this is to show how naturally the complaints fall into particular classes, which mimic how computer games developers are organised, and whether the things the companies concentrate on in the belief that they're important actually are important.

Here's what the whiteboard looked like at the end of this year's class:

There's a lot more there about the games themselves than there is about nefarious business practices or the behaviour of other players. Overall, gameplay was the main category that the students deemed essential. They can tolerate bugs, they can tolerate lag, they can tolerate having to pay over the odds to play, they can tolerate 12-year-olds swearing in Teamspeak. They can't tolerate bad gameplay, though. Also, they really don't like cut scenes.

Why is it that whenever the students call me over to ask me to translate what someone with incredibly bad handwriting has written, it's always something I've written myself?


4:39pm on Wednesday, 3rd February, 2016:

More of the Same


All these things happened in the 1960s.

I was visiting my grandparents in Harrogate and we stopped at a café for lunch. We were discussing what to order, when a woman on another table burst out in very loud, raucus laughter. My grandmother, who was a rather taciturn woman, glanced over and said, "I'll have what she's having".

We were watching a movie on TV, and a sword-wielding bad guy leaps down in front of the hero. He waves his sword around in a series of complicated moves, to demonstrate how good he is. The hero unsheathes his own sword and engages teh bad guy in a fight. The hero has a pistol in a holster strapped to his leg. My dad said, "Why didn't he just shoot him?"

We're at school, it's playtime, and another kid says something ridiculous. He seems to believe it's true. I say, "Surely you don't think that!" He says, "Yes I do, and don't call me Shirley."

Those are just examples. They all happened in different circumstances more than once. That "I'll have what she's/he's having" line was something I heard every once in a while if there was some kind of commotion while we were choosing what to eat off a menu. My dad pointed out a number of times that a hero with a gun who didn't use it when he could have was being pretty stupid ("He's a musketeer, why doesn't he use his musket?!"). The Shirley/surely pun was one of those fads that lasted two or three weeks before it died out, having reached our school from somewhere else (the name "Shirley" and the word "surely" aren't remotely homonyms in an East Yorkshire accent).

I didn't find that one-liner following the Meg Ryan fake orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally funny, as I was expecting it. I did like it when Indiana Jones shot the swordsman in Raiders of the Lost Arc because to me it was as if finally my dad's complaints had been heard. I didn't laugh at the Shirley line in Airplane! because to me it had been done to death already and wasn't funny in the first place.

All three of these movie scenes are routinely described as being absolutely classic moments that are right up there with the best jokes in cinema history. Weird.


6:35pm on Tuesday, 2nd February, 2016:

Long List


The applications are in for this year's intake for the IGGI Doctoral Training programme for AI and games, of which I'm a part. Last year, we had 59 applications; this year, we have 68. Furthermore, fewer this year are speculative approaches from people who make swathes of applications across the world, hoping that one will bite.

Across the three universities that comprise IGGI, we're going to be able to take at least 9, probably 10 and just about possibly 11. This means that even some very, very good candidates won't be offered places (which also happened last year). There's an argument that the scheme should be expanded, but I doubt the money is available even if the research council wanted to give us it.

None of the applicants have identified me to be their prospective supervisor, which is fine for the moment as we have plenty of other people who can supervise. However, I do expect to take at least one more, perhaps two, in future years. This time, though, I'm helping other people decide which students are going to get the fully-funded 4-year studentships available.

The unhappy job of long-listing candidates thus begins.


4:31pm on Monday, 1st February, 2016:



The launch of my books is more and more resembling the typical launch of an MMO. There doesn't seem to be a plan, and everything is going according to it.

The last I saw of my books, they were in pieces after I did the major crunch work on them in the run-up to Christmas. The first one i apparently available on Amazon US and the Google Play store, and has been for a couple of weeks; it may be available elsewhere, too, but the UK isn't included in "elsewhere" so I haven't got hold of a copy myself. I can't send anyone else copies, because I have none to send. The release date still says April, so for all I know it hasn't launched yet and it's been released by mistake. I certainly can't announce to the world that it's available, in case the world can't find it.

The latest surprise is like the first patch. The cover has been changed:

The one on the left is the original one; the ugly one that's fallen victium to some kind of corporate over-branding is the new one. I far, far prefer the former to the latter. However, I've no idea which version I'll get when the copy I've pre-ordered from Amazon finally arrives (or, if the publishers ever send me the ten free copies they're supposed to send me, which they'll be). I do know that if I'd bought both the first book (MMOs from the Inside Out) and the second book (MMOs from the Outside In) and I got different cover styles on each, I would be cross. Those few people who have bought copies so far may well have that to look foward to.

I'm expecting that the first reviews of the books will be negative, by the way; that's what happened with Designing Virtual Worlds. People who don't like books are more likely to dash out a bad review before they finish them, whereas people who do like them will wait until they've finished before saying so. That doesn't mean the later reviews will be positive either, of course.

Luckily, I'm not expecting to be able to retire on the proceeds of sales...


5:08pm on Sunday, 31st January, 2016:

Computing and Gaming


If someone had the job of rearranging all the magazines in, say, Sainsbury's supermarket in Colchester, you'd think that not only would they change the locations of the magazines themselves but they would also change the locations of the signs saying which magazines were in each section.

No. That's not what they'd do.


11:02am on Saturday, 30th January, 2016:

Separated at Birth


Two photographs from today's Guardian:

I'll say this for Dmitri Shostakovich, he does a good impersonation of Hilary Benn.

[Aside: one of these two won the Hero of Socialist Labour award.]


Latest entries.

Archived entries.

About this blog.

Copyright © 2016 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).