måndag 14 juni 2010

Mini review: PVKII - Three is a crowd?

Pirates vikings & knights II is a free modification for Half-life 2; if you have any source engine games you can get it directly from steam here. You might also want to visit the official homepage: http://www.pvkii.com/

This is a rather whimsical first-person combat game that pits pirates, vikings and knights against each other in various modes of battle.

There are three major game modes; Booty, Last Team Standing and Holy Grail.

In Last Team Standing the goal is to eliminate all enemy players; when enemies are eliminated or the timer runs out the round is over and everyone respawns as the next round begins.

In Booty there are 6 chests and each team starts with a number of 'tickets'; the goal is to accumulate as many chests as possible in your by stealing them from your enemies. The more chests you have, the faster your 'tickets' count down and first to zero wins.

In Holy Grail the goal is to acquire the grail and kill enemies in vicinity of the grail carrier. Here again there are a number of 'tickets'; counting down towards zero as kills are made.

The most distinguishing feature of PVKII is the fact there are three teams simultaneously competing against each other. With only two teams there is no possibility for "diplomacy", you always know who your enemy is. With three teams there is an incentive for two of the teams to engage in an uneasy, often unspoken, alliance to take on the stronger opponent. There's also an incentive for one of the weaker teams to pretend to ally themselves with the other weak team only to stab them in the back; but doing so risks annoying your opponent so that will attack you repeatedly just for the sake of revenge(sometimes even carrying over into the next round!). There can also be an incentive to minimize your presence; e.g. in Last Team Standing, you might just make yourself a bit more discrete and hope the enemy teams wear each other down before you spring into action.

This is in some ways more interesting as it elicits a greater range of human behaviours and in some ways less fair to the stronger team. For 'casual' gaming it works great and it's a refreshing mechanic; but I wouldn't recommend it for 'serious' gaming(i.e. competitons, tournaments, leagues...).

While a first person shooter will never be as good online as it is on a LAN; you can correct for most of the problems induced by latency with clever netcode; with a fighting game you can't do that to quite the same extent. If I'm running backwards with a long spear you can be just out of reach; while on your screen I can be just within reach for a short cutlass. This is somewhat more annoying than with bullets with infinite reach and no ability to parry; but it is not annoying enough to be a deal breaker.

They've been slowly adding more player classes and revisiting gameplay decisions over time and I like the way they're going.

Here's some gameplay footage snagged straight from youtube(what do I look like, someone who's not lazy?):

torsdag 10 juni 2010

Speculative: The mobile phone as tricorder

I have very little use for a camera in my mobile phone; yet I have one, why?

It's because it is so cheap to make a low-end digital camera that it makes no sense to make a phone without a camera.

Even though I'm probably never going to bother using it, I might one day see something sufficiently amusing or important that I would regret not having access to even the poor little camera in my mobile phone; if the difference in price is equivalent to something like a bar of chocolate, of course I'm going to get the phone with the camera.

From the manufacturers point of view; a phone without a camera needs its own variant of the OS which makes no mention of the camera, it needs its own variant of the chassis that doesn't incorporate an opening for the camera, it needs its own printed manuals that make no mention of the camera and so on. At some tipping point when enough people want the phone with the camera it's going to be cheaper to just include a camera with every phone.

I believe it will take several decades to realize, but that eventually the same logic will drive phone manufacturers to include all sorts of things with even the most basic mobile phone.

GPS and navigation software.

Real-time translation from any language to any language; a real universal translator(minus the alien languages).

The Ability to quickly digitize text from an arbitrary surface at an arbitrary angle and read it back in an arbitrary language.

An artificial nose that can detect minute traces of chemicals to help trace a leak, detect minute traces of explosives, record a flavour profile for your favorite wine and tell you what that mysterious spice in your dinner is.

A detector for airborne virii that can correctly place them in a broad category like influenza virus, rhinovirus etc.

A smallish solid-state detector for gamma spectroscopy that is passively operating 24/7 looking for interesting signatures like Co-60(probably a radiotherapy source or food irradiation source that got crushed and blended into a large amount of recycled steel; rare, but it has happened, see the famous case of cobolt-60 in the rebar of Taiwan apartments) or natural uranium(if you happen to find a sizeable chunk of pitchblende or other high grade uranium ore while camping or something, it's not going to be worth much for its uranium content but mineral collectors and other enthusiasts may give you a decent chunk of money for it). It will also satisfy the paranoid itch of people who believe terrorists are likely to try and smuggle nuclear weapons or steal weaponsgrade plutonium.

A 3d digitizer that can create a 3d model of a real world object. It could be used to replicate your face or body shape in a video game; it could be used to scan a broken object or an object that is no longer in production, which can then be printed out on a 3d-printer in the local printing shop in a material hopefully not too dissimilar to the original.

A miniature ultrasound with imaging software and medical diagnostic software that can allow an amateur to monitor atherosclerosis, or explore the bones or other features of your body.

A miniature scanning electron microscope; perfect for amateur entomologists, aspiring sleuths, science hobbyists.

Anything that that is physically possible to make small, cheap and low power enough to include.

tisdag 8 juni 2010

About this blog

This blog is a collection of my thoughts, daydreams and opinions on various topics that do not necessarily share a common denominator other than that I take an interest in them; back of the envelope calculations; links to other blogs, videos, ideas and things I like. It's a kind of diary, without the personal stuff; a kind of externalized storage medium for things I might want to remember and arguments I keep having to re-articulate that I'd rather just link people to.