Category Archives: One a Day

Another dull update entry

This will be the second entry within a week that I forgot to do because I was too busy doing Things What I Should Be Doing. That really shouldn’t be something that I’m impressed with, should it?

I forgot how long the process of building a website can be when you’re starting completely from scratch. I have the design almost done, but the code I had written before wasn’t really up to the job and there was still all the “working” elements that needed figuring out – slideshows etc. That’s what I spent the vast majority of yesterday doing.

I genuinely enjoy building websites once the design is finished and I normally rush in before I’ve worked everything out. It’s not the best way of doing things and normally means I have to backtrack over some things at some point, but yesterday I used a basic WordPress installation to work out how I was going to build and implement all the complicated elements of the design before I started writing all the basic code. It was still mostly enjoyable, but getting very close to working something out and then realising it doesn’t work at all isn’t fun.

Still, work is underway now. I honestly don’t know why I had these periods where I get very little done; I enjoy doing this sort of work and having big gaps between doing it just means I forget really basic stuff, which makes it harder to actually get better. I’m a bit anxious about having to use Photoshop since it’s been so long since I’ve used it for a full design. I am an idiot.

Anyway, I don’t like writing these entries because they’re dull, so I’ll stop writing it. Right about now. No, wait. Now.

Origin: Why rivalling Steam is a bad idea

So, EA have launched Origin as a service to rival Steam, the digital distribution platform for games. As a company that likes money, preferably lots of it, their reasons for launching a rival service are hardly a secret, and it’s not really all that surprising that they’ve started removing some of their bigger games from Steam, but here are a few reasons why I think it’s a mistake.

First of all, the convenience. I’ve never been particularly reluctant to use Steam, even back when it started with Half-Life 2, but as the service expanded it actually became a convenient place to “store” games. Launching HL2 was a chore when you had to open an application to run an application, but when you have 150 games on an piece of software that runs in the background it isn’t annoying anymore.

Third-party publishers’ games appearing on the Steam store ensured its success. I launch Steam before I even know what I’m going to play on when using the PC, and if I could, I’d run all my games through Steam*. It’s become a games hub. Unless Origin (formerly “The EA store”) starts accepting third-party publishers (or more importantly, get them to choose Origin over Steam) then it will be like the early days of Steam forever. Or until every game is published by EA, but that might be a while off.

Secondly, the bar is too high. Steam launched eight years ago and is now unrecognisable from the version that originally launched. It’s easy to use, and has now become synonymous with the incredible sales that appear from time to time. How do you beat that? You probably don’t.

Now, I haven’t looked at the actual software for Origin yet, so it may be a joy to use, but based on previous EA Store sales I know that it won’t become irresistible to gamers who love a bargin. In fact, the whole ‘games hub’ aspect mentioned above ties in closely with the sales. I have to talk myself out of buying games sometimes, as I often want them so they’re in ‘the collection’.

Origin may add features that Steam doesn’t have, but in all honesty, I don’t see what they could add that Steam needs. Part of it’s brilliance is in it’s simplicity: the store and the library are the only two parts I ever use – one section for buying games, one section playing games. Sorted.

Finally, we don’t want a rival to Steam. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty damn good, and while it’s often nice to have choice that isn’t what this is; Origin isn’t an optional piece of software for EA games, it’s essential for some (and no doubt, eventually all) of their games.

There will be people who won’t buy games because of this service. I don’t own that many EA games on PC and in all honesty, I’d be in no rush to buy any if it means messing around with an unnecessary application. I’m not stupid enough to boycott it though, it’s not much of a protest when a few million other people will go ahead and use it anyway.

That said, maybe EA have a few surprises in store. Third-party games would change things, however unlikely it is, and it’s very early days, so it’s definitely too early to guarantee it’s failure, especially for a company of EA’s size. And let’s face it, it can’t be any worse than Games for Windows Live.

* I’m aware that it’s possible to add games installed outside Steam, but that sort of defeats the objective.

A plan: holiday edition

Due to circumstances beyond my control (or laziness, I forget which) I haven’t managed to write an extra 14 entries here prior to our holiday in France. In fact, this is the entry for the 14th. Don’t panic, though, I have a plan!

The plan, brilliant in it’s simplicity, is to not update for 14 days. There. Brilliant, isn’t it? I’m not giving up though. I intend (read: hope) to write an entry while away and add an extra one of these every day when I got back, alongside my scheduled entries. Two a day! Imagine that!

If we arrive and I’m able to get access to the internet I’ll obviously be able to update this anyway, but I’m not holding out much hope of that. In fact, I’ll be quite disappointed; I’m looking forward to having a few weeks away from the internet and it’s distractions. Despite being on holiday, I’m hoping I can do something productive in that time, even if “productive” ends up meaning “finishing Catch-22.”

The perils of working from home

It occurred to me, moments after posting my previous entry, that the reason I’ve been feeling fairly upbeat one moment and grumpy and lethargic the next, is because I haven’t left the house for about a week.

I’ve had a job that gives me the “priviledge” of working from home for over a year now and there are still things I haven’t adjusted to. Clearly, leaving the house from time to time is one of them. In all honesty I still find it hard to grasp; I find myself frustrated and restless, sometimes miserable and snappy, just because I haven’t walked out the front door at some point in the last few days.

I had three days off in a row last week and I did absolutely nothing. The day after, feeling frustrated, I headed to the shop to get some milk and felt almost giddy and excitable by the time I’d gotten back. Thankfully, I started work about an hour after and the grumpiness quickly returned. Christ, imagine if I’d been nice to someone. Perish the thought.

Let this be a warning to anyone who desperately wishes they could work from home: it’s not all waking up at 12pm (that makes me instantly angry) and working in your underwear (those early conference calls were very awkward), it can be…well, fucking horrible at times. I know how lucky I am to have my job, so I’m not moaning about it, but remember the next time your colleague makes you laugh or you have a half-interesting conversation, that wouldn’t have happened if you were sat on your sofa in your underwear with your toothbrush in your mouth. And no, the postman doesn’t ever want to come in for a coffee.

Some thoughts on the longest Grand Prix in history

This is a very strange feeling; it’s gone 10pm and the Formula 1 press conference has just finished. And that strange feeling will be joining the other mix of emotions that F1 has put me through today – frustration, anger, despair, and complete and utter joy. It’s been exhausting, frankly.

I still have no idea why the race was started under the safety car. I’ve seen lots of F1 races started in wet conditions and many of those were much worse than it was today, so it’s mystifying to me. Even more confusing was the decision to bring the safety car out just because it started raining. These are some of the greatest drivers in the world, they don’t need to be slowed down because the conditions have changed, they can work that out themselves.

Obviously, the conditions got really bad a few laps later – when the safety should actually have appeared – and the race was stopped. Part of me wanted the race to end at the this point. Vettel is a great driver and he seems a likeable sort of guy, but you can only have so much luck before I start to dislike you. Yes, he’s won a lot on his own back, but far too much good fortune has gone Red Bull’s way this year and it’s definitely helped at times – Monaco being a great example.

That said, I was looking forward to seeing some racing once we knew it was going ahead and despite things conspiring against Jenson Button again, he managed to find himself near the front and with great pace. Hope was rising. I’ve said a many, many times this year that Vettel needs someone to challenge him; a driver of his calibre doesn’t make a mistake in the race while they aren’t under any pressure.

Thankfully, what the red flags may have taken away from us in Monaco, the wet conditions gave us in Montreal. I never expected Button to make it passed Vettel with pure aggression – I don’t think he has that much aggression in him – but he certainly had enough pace to push Vettel all the way…and evidently over the limit. There wasn’t any doubt that my passion for F1 is back, but I surprised myself by jumping out of my seat and screaming when Button finally passed him, obviously made that much sweeter by the fact that it was the last lap.

That mistake showcased exactly why we don’t want safety cars on the track just because it’s wet: these conditions multiply the pressure placed on the best drivers and punish a lapse in concentration or a desperate desire to get that extra tenth of a second – it brings the best out in every driver. The safety argument is absolute nonsense – crashes in wet conditions are often at a fraction of the speed of those in dry conditions and the cars are capable of keeping the drivers safe at those speeds.

There is still a good chance that the FIA will ruin Button’s race by penalising him for the obvious racing incident with Alonso, or the moment of madness with Hamilton. I’d like to think they will do the sensible thing and take the conditions into account on the first incident though: if he had seen Hamilton, it’s unlikely he decided to block his obviously faster team-mate and push him into a wall. I honestly don’t see how they could punish him for the second incident, as he clearly had the racing line at the point of impact and there was very little he could. I have very little faith in them though.

I’m obviously delighted that the race ended on such a high, but I’m a little disappointed that this will no doubt overshadow any liability the FIA need to take for essentially ruining any competitive element of racing before the restart. No more safety car starts, please.

Incidentally, it actually was the longest Grand Prix of all time. According to Jake Humphrey, anyway.

Dull update entry #5840261

In a bizarre turn of events, I managed to miss yesterday’s entry due to being absorbed in work. In an even more bizarre twist, I was actually enjoying it. Obviously, it wasn’t the job I get paid for, that would be insane, but the work I’d like to get paid for – web design.

I’ve mentioned my annoying habit of trying my hand at everything and failing on here before, but I decided to be sensible after I bought Xcode two nights ago – I’m not going to touch it until I finish the websites I’ve been working on for an age. Once they’re done, I’ll start reading up on it. Admittedly, this is partly because my brain would melt if I tried to do both.

I’m currently one website down with three (possibly just two) to go, two of which I haven’t even started designing, so it may be a while before I get to open Xcode. On a more positive note, the extra RAM has got my Macbook Pro running like a bastard (in a good way) so it doesn’t feel like a chore to do work anymore. It even managed to run Half-Life 2 at 60 FPS on medium-high settings, which hasn’t even been a distraction yet. Amazing scenes.

Dull update entry: done. Coffee is required. Lots of coffee.