A couple of little diles came into Carmarthen with us today. The weather was lovely and there were even some nice hot rocks to sit on – very civilised!

2013-04-30 13.17.09

As it happens that wasn’t what made me smile. It was a sunny Tuesday afternoon in my little home town but there were quite a few people wandering around shopping. Again, very civilised. The thing being that compared to other towns and cities I’ve been to in recent years this place was bustling (at least for a weekday afternoon). There were exciting new little shops, an active indoor market, and cafes with food and drink that were actually worth paying for!

I actually found myself smiling and almost giggling a little to myself. It seems silly but it has been an extremely long time since I was so invigorated by a walk through a town.

In recent years my dislike of big chains has become rather… unsubtle. I tend to find their immense scale intimidating as a small business person but more than that their efficiency becomes a negative. I like efficiency – being deliberately bad at something seems idiotic. That said there’s something to be said for an efficient overall economy and for that to exist it’s arguably better to have some of the population employed needlessly in order to keep things flowing.

What I’ve seen in Carmarthen would appear to be a nice compromise. There’s some big shops – H&M, Marks & Spencer, Debenhams, that sort of thing, but there’s also a vast number of little shops making a go of it. When I see a vacant one and others closing down I find myself thinking, “Excellent, time for something else to have a go!”

Perhaps some sort of ratio is the way forward for city centres – partly based on accounting, partly on footprint, and partly on number of independent businesses within X hundred metres of the chain.

Either way it’s much more uplifting wandering through Carmarthen than the capital of Scotland!

Oh and Diablo’s has rather fun and tasty things. Try their panko chicken. Nom!

Laser Lass is bangin’!

29 April 2013

Van Wilder isn’t exactly a great film but I do like the idea of recruiting a PA to help manage my life. When I was in university there were times when that role would have been a real one. Lots of the time I didn’t have a lot on my plate but during my society days it could get rather hectic.

Personal assistants aren’t exactly unheard of but I can’t say I know of many people that have them. What if that wasn’t the case?

What if they were much more common?

Taking a moment to think about this hypothetical yields some interesting results. To do the job requires dedication, a varied skill set, and excellent communication skills. Doing the job provides opportunity for mentoring, networking, and hands-on experience of whatever the organisation does.

What does the candidate need to bring to the table? A sharp mind, a good attitude, and willingness to learn.

Skills in other areas such as event management or additional languages would definitely help. Beyond that any sort of qualification could probably be put to use.

Of course at the moment we’re hiring fewer people because money is tight. This is in turn bad for the economy as fewer people have money to spend.

What if one created a subtle campaign to make the concept of PAs cool and relevant?

I’ve seen attitudes change through simple marketing schemes. Uncle Dave was kinda right – people will believe things if you just tell them enough times. Provide a consistent message and a bit of credibility and you’re good to go.

What if this was used to indirectly stimulate the economy? Creating a desire for PAs?

Imagine someone interviewing for a medium-level executive position and asking “Does this post come with a PA?” as if it was the most reasonable of requests. Dramas could slot it in as a background thing, a minor element in plot lines.

PAs are useful in plot lines, hell, Suits is basically built on the premise.

It was just a thought, anyway.

Over on tUGS there’s not all that much in the way of regular updates. The site is dedicated to a game released in 1997 and so our reasoning goes that another few months here and there aren’t going to bother anyone too much.

Despite this facade of slow updates when things are being worked on there’s an awful lot happening behind closed doors. At the moment there’s old White Dwarf articles in the to-be-scanned queue, fan rules from websites across internet archives we’re securing rights to, and new stuff. So much new stuff!

That little preamble out of the way I wanted to spend this post praising the people who write for the site. They’re a joy to work with and I must say they make me proud to be associated with the tUGS name.

A problem lot of rules writers run into is the fact that simplicity isn’t thought about often enough. There’s always going to be complexity in skirmish level games, it’s part of the appeal, but knowing when to add detail and when to remove it really makes all the difference.

There’s not a single team member at tUGS that doesn’t understand this. Sometimes I find myself reading through something (I tend to act as editor) and marvelling at the elegance of rules. That’s definitely a good sign!

Then there’s an understanding of the setting and its scale. As much as people want to field Battlewagons and Killa Kans they’re just too overpowered for regular Gorkamorka games.


(Bonus fact – the Ork in the picture is Nazgrub Wurrzag, a special character from Gorkamorka)

Similarly warbosses don’t make an appearance in Gorkamorka. They don’t fit into the setting. Big Mek Booma could appear: booma_model52

But some how Big Boss Gargrim is a little too much:bigboss126bigboss127

Again, the guys on the team never seem to lose sight of this. To date I don’t think we’ve broken anything that wasn’t already broken. Just don’t ask us about bloody vehicle capacities…

Lastly there’s the understanding that if we’re doing this we’re going all the way.2013-04-28_00002

Someone’s cutting off an ear!

When it comes to our own work we don’t publish things that no one proof read. Photos are always as good as we can manage. Illustrations are presented in 300 DPI. Credit is given and licensing details provided.

As much as I love the rules from Da Deff Islands (tUGS post) all the images provided of a campaign of it look like this:

That’s not a thumbnail.

They’re all 320x240.

My first Digicam took photos that were 1600x1200. That was in 2002. These photos are from 2009.

(Oh and they’re hosted on Photobucket. How is that site still even around? Its interface is a garbled mess!)

Our photos aren’t all that good although since I got a better camera than my piece of crap Z1 things have improved drastically. There’s a few pics from it (and one from my old iPhone 3GS) in yesterday’s blog post.

The point being that we strive to provide the best quality content we can and the work the rest of the team do puts me to shame. You guys rock.

On Thursday I played Gorkamorka with a couple of friends. One of them had never played before and seems to have been in a similar situation to my own growing up – no one to play it with.

Well we sorted out a board and played a three person game of We Woz ‘Ere First. Despite being the only one to take casualties I actually won the game but part of that was just through some unlucky rolls and a jammed thruster!DSCF3628

The game really summed up what I love about Gorkamorka – vehicular mayhem, brutal hand to hand combat, and amusing shooting.

At several points both Ork mobs tried to run my Muties over:


IMG_4786Often I dodged, other times not so much. There was the hilarious occasion where my leader held his ground as a speeding Ork trak tried to flatten him. Of course, this was a game of Gorkamorka, his thrusters sputtered out at the last minute and his vehicle span out of control.

The trukk on the left side of that photo had just pancaked my Mutie Keeper. Gitz.

Perhaps this was revenge for an occasion in the past where the same model in a different mob got squished by another Ork trukk…

There was also a moment of internet fame when our new guest mentioned that it was rather surreal playing with the terrain in the middle of the board (as seen below):


I made it for a contest over on Terrain from Junk ages ago and it has appeared on tUGS a fair bit too. I just reminded me that whenever we do work for tUGS we’re not just shouting into the void. Plenty of people read the site it would seem!

Admittedly we knew that because we do extensive stat tracking. We do kinda know what we’re doing behind the facade of incompetence I manage to present so effectively!

Something I find myself frequently annoyed at is copyright infringement.

I’m not talking about piracy in this case, I’m talking about people’s understanding of it as a legal concept.

I see things like this:

Bottom line is you're taking something without paying for it. that's stealing.

I don't know why people are so adamant about this. The charges for stealing are much less than infringement, so I would think apologists would want it to be considered stealing rather than copyright infringement.


It annoys me. A lot.

The first line tries to say that copyright infringement is theft. It isn’t. It’s copyright infringement.

The two can have a lot in common but their similarities are not sufficient for them to be one and the same, hence why they have separate legal definitions.

Arguably online piracy has become a major problem in the last ten years, possibly even less. Internet connection speeds have increased rapidly and technologies have developed allowing copyright infringement on an unprecedented level.

Copyright is essentially a state-mandated monopoly granted to the author of a work. One of the rights granted is distribution rights. Violating that is the crime.

Theft on the other hand is taking something from someone else.

Online piracy is somewhere in between it could be argued as it can result in undermining future works in the case of AAA videogame piracy. The developers were already paid by the publisher when they worked on the game. That money can’t be affected by piracy. Future projects may not receive funding though as the risk/reward balance may have been affected by piracy.

Essentially we don’t really have a legal concept to cover the specific ills created by modern digital piracy.

Similarly I would argue that we don’t have much in the way of economic theory when it comes to digital goods. They’re so young and it would seem traditional academia always lags half a decade behind reality. Lecturers at my university seemed entirely oblivious as to how to use Powerpoint presentations properly, I avoided taking a class on “Direct to Digital Marketing” because of how outdated it was.

I’m not on the cutting edge, far from it, but I seem to anticipate shifts fairly well. I love reading about what Valve are discovering about the nature of digital goods – they’re on the frontline of the digital revolution. Unfortunately politicians and lawmakers don’t seem to be able to take the idea of videogames seriously. Film makers have plenty of credibility for all their eccentricities, but videogames are some how not worth their attention unless a tabloid kicks up a fuss about them?

It’s a huge industry and yet both legal and economic disciplines don’t seem keen to get their teeth into the underlying things that are driving different aspects of development.

Ugh. I’m going to go shout at some people on the internet from my basement.

(Actually I’m going to drink a big mug of tea whilst reading a hand written letter that just arrived)

I was browsing Reddit’s /r/Geek and encountered an image that could be applied to any number of things, a fact that is fairly tragic:

It’s so incredibly true.

I’m not thinking of it from the point of looking down on staff – obviously some customers are going to be better informed than they are – but I can’t think of more than a single physical shop that I don’t feel this way about. The exception in this case is Pulp Fiction here in Edinburgh – Steve really knows his stuff.

If I wander into any given shop I find sales assistants asking whether I need help. I might well do but on the few occasions I’ve asked they’ve been woefully under informed. I’m not suggesting they need to stop asking because it annoys me, I know full well that their overlords and the corporate policy they’re required to enforce are the issue.

ScienceOf course I’m sure there’ll always be customers who are ignorant of virtually the entire world and need the comforting hand-holding of the aforementioned sales staff. They want to have someone take an unreasonable sum to make whatever problem they have go away.

The question is though – are there enough of those people left in modern society to support the bloated corporations that up until now have dominated the retail sector?

Something I’ve talked about before that factors into this is physical retail space. I buy most things online because it’s cheaper, less hassle, and I don’t have to be needlessly condescending to some poor sales droid. That said I don’t mind physical shops, I just mind needless ones. The most recent time I was buying clothes with a female friend I wasn’t allowed to try things on with her anywhere nearby or vice-versa. What’s the bloody point of bringing a friend in that case? I might as well have browsed online and then ordered in my sizes!

The point of the physical trip was so we could try things on, critique each other, then try a few different combinations. I can look in a mirror but ultimately I can’t watch myself like someone else can. That’s something a physical retail space can provide that the internet can’t. Of course that can’t possibly be allowed to happen – gods forbid we see each other in any state of undress, that’s why the shop provides complimentary cassocks!

Similarly if I want to see products in person there should be some sort of advantage. Oh, wow, this smartphone weighs marginally less than the other one. Cool. That was totally worth the trip.

Instead sales staff have been given a role of customer deception. It’s their job to say whatever it takes to get me to buy things I don’t want or need. I know I am not alone in that as soon as someone tries to upsell me I’m incredibly likely to walk away. Does that sales model work to the extent that it’s worth continuing or is it simply a matter of stagnation?

Surely at some point access to smartphones will make the role of sales assistants fairly redundant. Not completely but to the point where they do not generate sufficient income for the business to be worth the paperwork it takes to employ them.

Personally I’d rather their jobs be shifted to be one that actually complimented the unique advantages of a physical retail presence.

Regular viewers will be well aware of my feelings towards Sony. As a technology company go they develop cool things that tend to be a massive disappointment for one reason or another.

Sometimes it’s pricing and positioning, other times it’s a lack of joined-up thinking, and occasionally it’s a bizarrely dumb technological blunder.

The PS4 actually appeals to me. I won’t be buying one, obviously, at least not until things shake out and it becomes clear whether Sony have managed to deliver on their rather lofty promises. Oh and when the price isn’t completely nuts.

Today Microsoft let it slip that the new Xbox will be announced on the 21st March. About damn time.

Admittedly to normal folks I doubt the gap between the PS4 and the new Xbox is even noticeable. Hell, I doubt they even know that the PS4 is inbound. Still, rumours have been annoying, particularly with people deliberately fabricating them.

Anyway, over the lifetime of the Xbox 360 there have been two tiers of Xbox Live – “Gold” and “Silver”. The former is paid for whereas the latter is severely crippled and free. The PS3’s basic online capabilities are free and their premium service offers useful upgrades.

What’s interesting about this is that even with a paid subscription the Xbox’s dashboard is covered in advertising and has become increasingly hostile to the user. I’d say “decreasingly user friendly” but it just doesn’t sound right to me.

The question is whether that has been kept going as a status quo thing (people might moan but how many can be bothered to actually cancel payments?) and whether it’ll carry over to the new console or not. What can Microsoft bring to the table to compete with Sony’s fairly impressive promises?

There’s speculation that it’ll bring more “set top box” functionality and target that kind of usage but that sort of thing should be incredibly easy for Sony to provide too, should that becoming a flashpoint.

Either way, I hope 360s come down in price. I want a copy of Rockband and Guitar Hero to play!

I love to camp.

23 April 2013

DSCF8573Back in Q3 2010 we released the rules for a new Gorkamorka faction.

That faction was The Dust Rats.

The document is 14,039 words long, apparently (excluding the title page) and is still missing a few bits and pieces.

I could have sworn it was just under 12K but apparently not. My completed undergrad dissertation document is 12,946, from what I can tell. That was a pain to write whereas the Dust Rats were easy. Conversely I cannot bring myself to read that bit of university work I slaved away on but the Dust Rat stuff is actually fun to read.

Not all that surprising, but I spent twenty minutes just reading through parts of the Dust Rat text. Every page has little details on it, intermixed with the rules. Reading Gorkamorka’s Da Uvver Book feels like that and so I am overjoyed that in retrospect we created a document that echoes that style.

It feels a little silly and arrogant but when I read the document the faction really jumps off the page for me. Their world exists for me within the story of Gorkamorka, contrasting darkly with the boisterous life of the Orks.

It has of course now been quite a while since that beta document was released. Perhaps later this year a polished, finished version will be released?

It really depends what happens, of course, but it’d be nice to get a finished version out there, complete with photos, illustrations, and so forth. Now that I’ve a better camera photos should be easy, and hopefully tracking down some artists isn’t beyond reason.

It’d probably be a good idea to put together some new models though. My sculpting abilities then and now contrast massively!

p-dg1-art-280I’m not a “bro gamer”. I’m not FPS Doug either.

I don’t know how to categorise myself with regards to games but that’s not really what I’m getting at today.

Today I’m thinking about FPS games.

My taste for them comes and goes but ultimately they can be a lot of fun (not to be confused with “alot of fun”).OR71S

The thing being that despite not being the aforementioned “BOOM! HEADSHOT!” FPS Doug I do rather enjoy a nice game of “Use gun on man”. Shooting enemies in the head is a satisfying little puzzle.

Of course, in reality I wouldn’t waste my time aiming for the head. With an assault rifle I’d be firing 5.56 mm rounds in all likelihood. They’re not perfect but a few hits will certainly ruin someone’s day unless they’re wearing state of the art body armour or similar. The chest is a bigger target and contains lots of vital organs, that’d be where I’d be aiming if only for practical reasons.

That said in games it’s often about headshots because their depiction of firearms is so laughably inaccurate. Everyone and their dog seems to love the Halo series. Personally I never cared for it – the basic assault rifle is complete trash in all the games and the vehicles tend to be a slow, floaty mess. It’s the shooting that gets to me though – if I have to empty an entire magazine into a single enemy officer I get rather bored.522691-halo-combat-evolved-macintosh-screenshot-helping-out-with

I tend to favour battle rifles in games as they tend to offer something useful – a powerful and accurate weapon. In reality I’d much rather have an assault rifle because there I’d be looking to suppress the enemy rather than outright slaughter them. Unfortunately videogames haven’t, for the most part, managed to figure out how to model enemies that aren’t completely suicidal.


Until they do I’ll use something like the M1 Garand to get the job done. “Spray and pray” is a mug’s game. Aim down the iron sights and give the mouse button a squeeze when there’s an enemy dome between the posts.

…and if the game doesn’t insta-kill the target then I tend to be extremely aggravated. It a second round doesn’t do the trick then I tend to stop being annoyed and switch to simply being disappointed. I’m sure you can see how much worse that is.

When I attend events these days I find myself puzzled by the music selection and the way it is presented. A friend had an engagement party last night and the music level perceptibly crept up over the course of the evening. At a certain point, fairly early by Saturday night standards, the DJ decided that conversation was no longer permitted and pushed the levels to club levels.

When the audience is friends and family that doesn’t make sense to me. Conversation is more important. Sure, crank it up a bit later when we’re all a bit too drunk to make sensible conversation, but early on it just curtails socialising.

Then there’s the music selection. Not for the first time the choices made by the DJ were bizarre. The songs themselves weren’t the issue – it was the order. Going from a figurative standing start to loud club music really isn’t the way to get people in the mood, well, unless the desired mood is “cringing uncontrollably”. Instead mirroring the room’s energy and then slowly working it up would make sense, surely?

There were plenty of songs I liked but when they’re presented like a mountain range it really doesn’t create a good experience for anyone.

Then there’s the concept of a “disco”. How is that term still in use at all?

To quote Wikipedia:

By the early 1980s, the term "disco" had largely fallen out of favour in most of the English-speaking world.


It’s so strange to go to “family” events and see these tired old concepts trotted out. They’re not fun, they’re just pathetic. Some things don’t go out of style though – I enjoy a good ceilidh, for example. We have those at the Wealside farmer’s barbecue these days.

For me the problem is partly that I have no idea how to dance to the kind of music one gets in most clubs. I have no idea where I was supposed to learn that. There’s no end of imagery for how women should dance but guys..? Yeah, we’re a bit left out on that front. Awkward gyration charms no one.

The thing being though that music selection is no longer limited to what’s available locally. Personally if I was hosting a similar party I’d throw in some music from the Fallout series to warm things up.

Perhaps it’s not to everyone’s tastes but it illustrates a point nicely – access to the internet and modern games has drastically broadened the horizons of those of us geeky enough to have paid attention. Music selection at events should reflect that.

This also extends to dance styles. These days learning swing dance, or salsa, or tango, or any number of other styles is relatively easy. There’s YouTube for the basics and then finding classes takes but a few keystrokes. Wouldn’t it be nice if that could actually be reflected in the selection of music played?

Metal boxes?

20 April 2013

Something struck me whilst at Conpulsion 2013. Do that many people really play Space Marines?

It would seem the vast majority of players actually favour these generic space fascists and I just can’t wrap my head around it. I’m not actually being facetious about fascism here – the Space Marines are not the “good guys” in Warhammer 40,000. In the grim darkness of the future there are no “good guys” – it’s just a case of choosing what kind of bad you’d like.

Personally I love greenskins. They’re carefree, enthusiastic, and go to war because it’s fun. It’s not fun for those fighting them, obviously, unless they’re other Orks, but let’s not bring the horrors of reality into this.

The other thing being that ever since Gorkamorka their aesthetic has been this wonderful post-apocalyptic style. Armour that has that “Kicked-by-trolls” look, ridiculous custom gear, and stuff like this:

Space Marines have some personality but by comparison they’re a grey office cubicle. I just don’t see the appeal, really. A few models perhaps but a whole army seems duller than queuing to get through a train station ticket barrier.

It really does seem that lots of people play as them, perhaps because winning is what matters to them, if I was guessing. I would imagine that things are likely to be unbalanced in the spehss mahreens favour to keep them popular.

Personally I want an army that I enjoy building and that just thinking about inspires creativity. Last night I found myself thinking of a bit of Orky terrain to build for Gorkamorka – fortunately I keep a notepad next to my bed!

With so many interesting races available in Warhammer 40,000 and so few “bro gamers” who are enamoured by Space Marines, what’s with the popularity?

After listening to the latest episode of Unlimited Hyperbole I found myself in need of something else to listen to while I worked. The cat was dozing quietly and I figured I might as well try another podcast linked in the episode’s shownotes.

As it happens the podcast linked to seemed to bear only a passing resemblance to anything related to videogames. Quite some time was devoted to discussing a blogger’s publicity generating penis. Given his prodigious length I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him – good luck not hurting yourself or your partner with something that long!

I skipped past much of what he had to say simply because I got bored. I’m not particularly squeamish but there’s only so long I can listen to someone prattle on about their privates for. He wasn’t particularly arrogant about it it was just intensely dull.Jonah-Falcon_532_1549164a

Fortunately there had been other things on the podcast that were actually of interest. The one that stuck with me was in a discussion about Pac-Manhattan.

Basically it’s a game played with real people in the field and a partner in a control room. The ghosts only know each other’s location whereas Pac-Man knows where they are and everything else on the map.Pacmanhattan-group

When it comes to Pac-Man my only real point of reference is Pac-Mania on the Acorn Archimedes. We completed it once in the mid nineties back when I attended St. Michaels, I even remember where in the school that happened. It makes me sad that there tree outside the classroom has been cut down…1

The point being that despite playing it as a child I’m only nostalgic for the place it happened, not the game itself, and most definitely not the original piece of repetitive garbage. That wasn’t what interested me about the piece – it was the attitude of treating games as their own concept and then using technology to make them better.

Instead of thinking about a videogame as a piece of software subservient to the hardware the idea is to think of the hardware as enabling the more complex mechanics of the game. This is fairly true of old RPGs like Fallout and its ilk. It uses the SPECIAL system to underpin its mechanics and at the appropriate times the game makes virtual dice rolls to determine the outcome of a player’s actions.

Essentially the same game could be played as a boardgame in theory.

This made me wonder whether I should attempt to approach design documents for videogames like I would with boardgames. I’ve got a fair bit of experience with that sort of thing so being able to merge the two disciplines might actually be very helpful.

Or it could be a shambling mess that is no fun whatsoever. Yay!

I said the *third* race!

18 April 2013

One of the downsides to much of the user testing of websites I do is the fact that I’m paid in US dollars. It’s not a huge problem but it does mean I avoid spending it in Sterling (conversion rates tend to be lousy).

Remy recently returned from running The Gathering 2013 and asked me if I’d played Bioshock Infinite. Unsurprisingly I pirated the game to play it, something that rarely sits well with him.

The thing being that I’ve actually bought the previous two Bioshock games, hell, I own two copies of the first one. Was it worth the price I paid? Not at all.

Was I going to waste however many pounds on it this time ‘round? Of course not.

However in the time he was away I spent $15 on backing Road Redemption and $10 on Death Inc.. Sure, $25 isn’t all that much, but when there are projects like that where I’m being offered a game I want at a price point that works for me, I’m in. If the trade off is I have to wait a while for the game to be released then that’s absolutely fine!

Would I pay £7.50 for Bioshock Infinite? No. Perhaps £4.50.

It may seem like a pittance but to me that’s all the game is really worth. It took a lot of time to get through some of it and that wasn’t fun. It wasn’t quite as bad as Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 which you may recall I actually gave up on, but the combat wasn’t a fun part of the game. In fact the only reason I powered through it was to reach the end and avoid having whatever lurked there spoiled for me by the internet. There’s an informal statute of limitations on game spoilers after all – after a while it’s assumed that those who were going to play it have done so. I would probably fall outside that.

I did hear rumours of DLC though which if it’s any good might be of some value to me. I wouldn’t pirate the game for that though – I’ll just wait until the game is available in a sale and then pick it up for a price I consider fair.

$10 – 15 for a “proper” game though, as an upfront investment works for me. That way I not only helped make it happen but as a result have an emotional stake in the product. I like that aspect of things: picking which horse to back as it were and as a result literally voting with my wallet!

I wonder if Remy’s issue with my general habit of pirating large budget games stems from his connections to the video game world. Perhaps to him it’s seen as stiffing his friends or something. Personally I’m not really all that bothered – they got paid for their work I assume. They’re not paid a percentage of the gross. Even if I could afford to I wouldn’t have bought it at the release price – that was never going to happen. Either I’d pirate it and buy it later or I’d not bother with it.

The aspect of helping a game happen rather than recouping its outgoings really is exciting for me though. There’s justification for wanting to pay more then – more money means a better product, potentially. With the finished game the quality isn’t affected by how much money it takes in and as such I’d rather pay what I feel it’s worth to me. Usually not anywhere near the asking price.

When I read how other people describe themselves on Twitter I find myself a little uneasy.

I seen things like “Project manager”, “Creative director”, and so on. It makes me wonder how I’m supposed to describe myself in those sorts of terms.

BuzzgobMy title at Fox Box is “Big Mek”.

I sometimes refer to myself as the proprietor if a more serious title is required but generally I like to keep things informal.

Something that may surprise lots of you – I’m not actually very good at promoting myself. For all my perceived arrogance I don’t think all that highly of myself I just think little of many other people.

I’m okay, I could be better. That’s kinda my stance on the matter. Relatively speaking that means that others who aren’t roughly as good as me seem inferior. To me that makes logical sense. The thing being that I’ve been exposed to people I think are truly brilliant – I’m merely okay compared to them.

I have skills in some unusual areas that I have honed to a fairly extreme degree but they’re not really in areas of traditional use. I don’t mean I’m brilliant at video games (as people in the past have oddly assumed!) just that the skills I do have are apparently rare enough to not have a category of their own at the moment. That makes them a little difficult to put on a CV!

I’ve founded and managed projects in the past. I’ve written copy. I’ve been an editor for various things, in fact just a couple of hours ago I had my editor hat on for a piece Depiff is writing for tUGS. I also run my own little business and have qualifications and experience in leadership positions.

The problem being of course that I’ve no idea how to turn that into something brief that truthfully reflects who I am and what I’ve achieved. I’m not trying to get hired but it’d be nice to have a personal site that gives an overview of who I am for others to find when looking into me for future collaborative projects or similar.

It also occurs to me that many of the projects I’ve been involved with, most in fact, have been initiated by me. Not always me alone, of course, but I’ve had a central role in their creation. As a result I haven’t really assigned myself a job description or role, I do whatever needs doing and more. I was president of Napier Subculture, for example, but that doesn’t really describe what I actually did. Not only was I a leader but also its most hardworking member (without exaggeration). On my record though that’s overshadowed by the title of “president” which suggests that my role was primarily leadership of the organisation.

Thinking about whether I’d describe myself as a “team player” is a tricky one, for example. Most of the things I’ve worked on I’ve been the one in the centre of it all. Can I work with a team? Sure, if I get along with the team and they’re willing to work with me and my quirks. Do I feel that’s sufficient to count myself as a “team player”? Not by my own standards, no. But my standards are often higher than those of most others.250px-Sniper

Jenny and I often refer to the Team Fortress 2 sniper about these sorts of things – professionals have standards. That is to say we’ll do a good job even if it’s not really necessary because we consider it a character defect to do anything else. I’ve been known to define (and document) standards for things in projects because I feel being competent is a virtue.

No, 72 DPI images are not enough for the finished document. What do you mean why not? Because they’ll look like crap when printed!

I don’t care that most people won’t notice or care. We could paste together any old rubbish for them. This is so that when other people, ones with similar appreciation for competence, see the work they’ll know that we are worth their respect. Our work is what other people see of us – let’s make it good.

Harking back to my “team player” comment though – what if other people don’t appreciate my view of things? I don’t really experience empathy as has been previously noted and as such will run into issues if they don’t understand me. I won’t understand their point of view, it’ll just seem incorrect to me.

Well, I guess I could at least say I’m detail orientated…

princess_diariesTV shows and films seem to have a bizarre preoccupation with first kisses. As a guy I really can’t wrap my head around it.

I literally do not remember my first kiss.


Because in the grand scheme of things it’s not really an event.

If we’re talking first kisses in relationships I can remember them but more as something that had to happen before further progression could happen.2013-04-14_00002

All this fuss over it and really it’s usually lousy. You’ve not kissed before and as such don’t really have any appreciation for your preferred styles and natural rhythm. Much like many other things it takes a few attempts before a comfortable status quo can be established.

The kisses I remember with positivity tend to be those under certain circumstances. I’ve kissed someone in the rain under an umbrella, for example. I don’t remember any other kisses with that person with any degree of wistfulness or fondness. They happened, I guess, but they weren’t interesting or important.

Really, as relationships go, what I tend to remember are certain moments and feelings rather than the cookie cutter milestones that the media seems to fixate on. Bringing someone tea, them cooking something delicious for me, laughing together at something, jumping after a tense scene in a TV show we’re both invested in. Real relationship things, not arbitrary milestones.

But really, Tara, how could it possibly seem sensible to get that close to Otto?!

Lunch cost too much.

15 April 2013

I went to Conpulsion 2013 on Saturday.

I was underwhelmed.

The price of a ticket for one day was a tenner. For that I expected to get access to something half decent but apparently that wasn’t on the cards.

Reviewing the line-up of talks resulted in a sigh and a “So, what else is on?”

Games Art (Art) - Saturday 15:30 - 16:25
Paul Scott Canavan, Andy Hepworth, Paul Bourne and Scott Neil are here to talk about the projects they are working on, what brought them into the business and the way to survive. With questions from the audience.

Oh gee, wow. Artwork. As much as I enjoy a good illustration I can’t help but feel that the main audience at Conpulsion is there for stuff directly related to games of different kinds, not business tips for artists.

I’m perhaps being a bit harsh – there were other (better) talks on the list too. The thing being that not one of them stood out. I decided instead to go for a wander and see what else was available.

At this juncture it’s worth noting that the venue, Teviot, is made up of lots of different rooms. Interestingly it’s the oldest purpose-built student union in the world. Admittedly it’s only marginally older than my grandfather but still, it’s a bit nifty:Teviot_Row_House,_Edinburgh,_pen_drawing,_c1888Teviot-Row-1

Now for the event map:


Yeah, as you can probably tell it’s a bit of a maze inside. It’s even worse in reality.

That said there’s a real sense of a lot of different places and a lot going on when things are well planned. There’s countless places to setup little talks, play games, and just generally socialise.

Wandering around Conpulsion 2013 that was really not the case. There were groups of people playing various RPGs but beyond that it was rather impressively mediocre. Tabletop wargames were in the pleasantly lit Dining Room:2013-04-13 11.48.52

2013-04-13 11.48.46Although I must say that I’m always amazed by just how many people favour Space Marines. They’re so generic – play a faction with personality!

Much like in wargaming though I always find it weird when an event doesn’t play to its strengths. I don’t expect it to be all things to all people, that’s too much to ask, but it can surely make better use of its resources?

Photo 13-04-2013 16 21 07

The traders are tucked away at the top of the building where one is unlikely to wander through. Yay, useful. There’s a stage there and lots of room – why isn’t it being used for talks and wargame modelling (a painting contest, for example) ?

I suggest the wargaming stuff because whilst it’s an RPG convention such extras are easy to organise and a good way of making use of otherwise wasted space. The hall is a bit too big to be useful just for an audience but painting isn’t particularly talkative work – being able to hear the talks at the same time seems sensible to me!

Then there’s the Dining Room – it works fine for tabletop but wouldn’t it be better for traders?  Or discussion panels?

Also what about mini exhibitors? That is to say people working on things and wanting to show off their projects and talk to people for a bit? No money changing hands, just a little area where one could book a table and sit around for a few hours with other people of a similar mindset?


Something I loved about LugRadio Live was “Lightbulb Talks” – 3 minute talks about whatever. One would sign up either before the event or on the day. Great for getting a mixed bag of content and seeing whether a subject is worth doing more work on.

I’d have enjoyed seeing something like that at Conpulsion. Partly for the feeling of getting involved and partly to get a whole load of different subjects related to Conpulsion’s subject matter covered.

Right, next moan!

As far as I’m aware the talks weren’t recorded in any way. It’s going to be a bit tricky to promote next year’s event when all that remains of the last one is a stack of unused promotional tat and a few photos!

Oh and then there’s the “bring and buy” sale…

Given how big the hall is I struggle to believe that they had this to say:

We don’t want armies – we just don’t have the space.

-Jason Brown

That hall had MASSES of spare space. Complaining about space there is completely ludicrous. Furthermore the hoops one was required to jump through to sell things there – dear gods.

While all security measures and precautions are taken, GEAS cannot accept responsibility for items that are lost or stolen. Please secure firmly any packages or boxes and label each item with the sheet no, line letter and price before handing it in to the staff. We CANNOT take pick and mix selections of magazines or cards, nor will we accept wargaming figures.

Items for sale can be reduced in price after 2.00pm on the day of the convention. There will be an auction in aid of charity on Saturday night. If you wish to donate any of your unsold items to the auction please tick the relevant box below.

Surely there must be a better way of organising that? If 10% of the sale price is being taken as a commission surely a better service can be offered? (I don’t care if GEAS choose to give it to some unspecified charity – it’s being taken away from the seller.)

Something I haven’t moaned about is RPG space. I saw lots of people playing and having fun – clearly they’re doing that bit right. With that in mind perhaps a few pints worth of attention could be spent on fixing up the rest of the damn event to make it as good?

Dear gods, the Death Inc. news was good but this is bloody brilliant:

It’s a spiritual successor to Road Rash.

I played that game on a friend’s Sega Master System back in the day:

Not much to look at, certainly, but it was a lot of fun. Sadly it has been a long, long time since the last Road Rash game – the last proper one came out in 1999.

So Road Redenption gets me a bit excited. It’s using Unity 4 and as such will support Linux just like most other Kickstarter games.

It’s interesting to see how common that feature is becoming. What’s more unusual is that this game is apparently going to be open sourced when it’s done.

This is a fairly unusual occurrence at this stage in a game’s lifespan. Whether it’ll pay off remains to be seen but I certainly approve.

By the looks of thing there’s to be a story to the game as well. This I like, particularly as it’ll be dealing with outlaw MCs. Hopefully they’ll not screw that up, it’s not that easy to do right.

Oh and the lowest tier that gets the game is $15. Not bad!

A while ago I mentioned an upcoming strategy game called Death Inc.. Sadly the Kickstarter pledge drive didn’t hit its target. That saddened me, unsurprisingly, as I was looking forward to it.

There’s two bits of good news though – one it’s back:


Two – the bottom tier is now $10 (before it was £10).

The fact that it’s in US dollars is actually very handy for me. Most of my user testing work gets paid in dollars and so I have a load of dollars sitting in my PayPal account. Not so handy for buying food, of course, but pretty good for paying for products from the US. Admittedly I think Death Inc. is actually a UK project but whatever!

Something else that makes me happy is the fact that there’s forums. I love a good forum.

They’re going out of fashion these days of course but they’re not gone yet!

This morning I was having a chat with Steve from Pulp Fiction and the subject of stuff came up (tangible goods vs. digital books). Unsurprisingly ebooks aren’t exactly good for his business but it seems we’re at least in accord about many things surrounding the topic.

Thinking about it in terms of linear vs. random access really gave me some perspective on the matter. I enjoy books but they fall into the two previously mentioned categories.

On the one hand there’s linear books like novels. They are experienced page by page and as such there’s no real reason the words need to be available as a whole at any one time. An eReader can take the place of a library of novels without a problem.

Magazines and reference books on the other hand just don’t work for that. My novels rarely end up “well thumbed” but I know my way around Da Uvver Book blindfolded. I’d rather have them as tangible things that can be strewn about and cross-referenced.2013-04-12 22.43.13

(It hadn’t crossed my mind until she mentioned it that Jenny could actually patch up my original copy of the book! I keep forgetting that she’s a conservator by trade…)

Similarly with music if it’s individual tracks I want random access. An entire album on the other hand (assuming it has been designed for it) can be a much better experience if dealt with in a linear fashion. For those sorts of things I adore vinyl records.

Regular readers will of course know of my aversion to CDs and DVDs. I loathe mass marketed clutter.

The thing being that I actually don’t hate possessions. I’d rather be a bit more minimalist, certainly, but I’m not actually against stuff. I don't like that mass marketed merchandise has cheapened our appreciation of the quality of tangibility.

The value of a film on DVD is not the disc, it’s the film. A vinyl record and its contents are one and the same on the other hand – playing back a recording of it isn’t the same.wazbag

A counter representing an Ork with the iron mask bionik and two six-shootas isn’t the same as an actual model of it. Certainly the rules will work the same but the overall atmosphere is diminished by it.

Tangible objects have plenty of value just like physical shops do. I just wish that value hadn’t been so watered down by unnecessary tat that doesn’t take advantage of its medium.

Whenever I play Gorkamorka I roll out my game mat. It’s a hefty thing made of some sort of flexible plastic that looks like a bolt of some sort of fabric.DSCF9269

It was bought at Clark’s Toys in Brecon, where I went to school. In fact while visiting Brecon to see whether that would be the school I would attend I remember seeing Gorkamorka models for sale. They’d have been fairly new then and I was enamoured by the post-apocalyptic look of them.

The mat wasn’t bought until a while later but it was bought on the understanding that it was a “now or never” type situation. That isn’t to say I was under pressure to purchase it was more a case that it seemed likely that I’d never find something as good anywhere else.

At the time green battlefields were all the rage, well, no, but they were ubiquitous in the world of Warhammer. That included Necromunda, bizarrely:Necromunda

Despite being set in a nightmarish world of urban decay their bases were lush green. Hmmm.

Gorkamorka on the other hand encouraged sandy bases (in fact the models came with little rugby-ball shaped bases to make it easier to fit models on vehicles). Sandy bases needed a desert environment!

Keeping a whole table coated in sand or similar just wasn’t an option but a mat could be rolled out at a moment’s notice. Sorted!

The thing being that it turns out I was right. I’ve never seen these GW mats for sale anywhere after that place. They don’t seem to be listed anywhere. It makes me wonder if my memory is even accurate on this.

Flipping through some old White Dwarfs looking for Gorkamorka articles I noticed a little box out in issue 220 (published in April 1998):


It seems a silly thing to make such a big deal about, I know, but this is one of these examples of something I think about a lot. Back then information was scarce – these days I’d be able to find any number of mats just about anywhere online. I’d be able to read reviews, find old product announcements, etc..

As the years passed I found myself wondering whether it really was a GW product or something made by another company and shelved next to the GW stuff. It’s kinda nice to see that my memory was accurate and my younger self was right to buy the damn thing!

In fact I may unroll it for a game today!

How far are you willing to go to learn a game?

For me games are for enjoyment. If I have to pore over guides just to get the hang of the game then chances are I won’t bother.

I remember trying to play The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind once. It came with my graphics card and I’d heard such glowing reviews that I thought perhaps I should give it a go.

Hopping into the game it asked me to build my character. Erk.

I didn’t know what the different stats were for or how relevant they’d be to my adventure. I had no idea what to do.

In Fallout and Fallout 2 not putting points into “Small Guns” on a first run through is asking for trouble. That skill alone determines a huge number of things in the game. “Explosives” on the other hand is basically irrelevant.Nordchargen

Having zero experience with the series I pretty much gave up after that. I wasn’t interested in the setting and it was as user friendly as a two legged stool.

screenshot1To contrast this with another old game, Dungeon Keeper, sometimes the learning curve is too shallow. I found myself constantly asking why the game was withholding units. How many damn levels until I get to play with the more advanced creatures mentioned in the manual?!

I don’t like tutorials. In fact I loathe them.

They’re virtually always terrible, patronising, and pointless. Really? I crouch like that? I’d never have guessed!

The option of a tutorial is fine but most of the time I find tutorials simply get in the way and try to teach me things I already know how to do from spending a few seconds with the controls.

Amusingly in both Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas my characters are hand to hand combat powerhouses. I ran out of things to put the stat boosts into.

Do I know how to fight in melee combat in those games? No!

The games completely failed to teach me that.

To return to the question though I would have to say my answer is “Not very far”. If I want a challenge I’ll have a bash at sculpting something or writing another blog post. If I want cheap fun I’ll play a game. If a game is work then anyone gifting me a game gets the following response:


Receiving a video game as a gift shouldn’t be akin to forcing another job onto someone.

Various videogame developers and critics talk about the “core gameplay loop”. What that refers to is fairly simple – the core part of the gameplay. The bit that everything else revolves around. Wendy Despain’s 100 Principals of Game Design gives the example of Super Mario Bros. (1985) in which jumping is the key. The core gameplay loop is to encounter something and then deal with it by jumping.

Not a difficult design concept, really.

The thing being though that if that isn’t fun then the game probably won’t be fun. Tweak this, polish that, whatever – it won’t fix the fact that the core is rotten.

Sometimes game designers figure out this problem in advance and go ahead. Other times, erm, not so much.

If you recall Introversion’s City Generator I mentioned about ten days ago then you might have wondered what it was for. Well it was developed as part of their work on a game they cancelled in favour of Prison Architect. That game was Subversion and you can find the story of its cancellation here:

In short it comes down to the fact that as cool as the game looked the core gameplay simply wasn’t fun.

My criticism of the combat in Bioshock Infinite springs to mind. Much like in Spec Ops: The Line for me the combat was a roadblock to the next bit of story.2012-12-19_00013

That screenshot is one of the 31 I took while playing the game. Not a single one is of combat. The combat in that game is dull.

Assorted things argue that it’s intentional but really I don’t buy that. I think that the developers simply tried to turn a weakness into a strength. In realising that they couldn’t make it fun they worked it into a vaguely credible design choice. A poor one, admittedly, but still better than “Yeah, well…”.

Thomas from Frictional Games posted this about Bioshock Infinite and it seems to reflect similar themes. If the combat isn’t fun why is it there? Is it even necessary?

Various commenters argue that without the combat there’d be nothing to do. I’m sure that if the combat was removed it wouldn’t be replaced with anything at all.

I know my favourite points in Bioshock Infinite were the bits where I was exploring the atmospheric setting. Not collecting stuff, hunting weapons, etc. – that stuff was no fun whatsoever. If anything just give me unlimited ammo and mana – Elizabeth basically makes that true anyway. Instead there’s the hassle of finding it in between combat encounters.

Encountering the Letuce twins in the game was fun.tumblr_mk8q10RBdd1qz5g4uo8_r1_500

Making choices was fun.

Discovering the story was fun.

Exploring how Columbia came to be was fun.

Shooting dudes was not.

What would happen if more games were built according to the principal of making something fun?

The modern Call of Duty franchise is built on that to some extent. The thing being that their core gameplay loop is in multiplayer. They do that bit very well (as one would expect by now) the single player, eh, not so much.

So arguably in creating Bioshock Infinite the developers aimed for the wrong genre. Its core competencies aren’t shooting. It shouldn’t be an FPS. Using the first person perspective is fine but what’s the point in developing an impressive setting when the primary way one interacts with it is “use gun on man”?dishonored_heart1

Even Dishonored did this better – the heart the player carries can be used all over the place to hear things about the setting. It goes some way towards replacing the classic RPG text box.

I’m wondering what would have happened if Fallout 3 had incorporated a similar mechanic to the heart?

I do often find myself asking (in an immersed context) “What happened here..?” in games. Usually the answer is sadly “We thought it’d look cool” rather than any hidden narrative.

Actually that’s fairly true of reality too. So little thought goes into most things and the result we see is simply what became of various attempts to achieve something rather than indicative of an underlying deep narrative.

By that I mean that if I look at a building and see a bricked up doorway there’s rarely an interesting story behind it. Normally the answer was “We don’t need a door here any more”. Holes where iron work used to sit are there just because no one could be bothered to maintain it. Things just sort of trail off.

On that note I’m going to peter out myself.

Pew pew.

08 April 2013

I played Bioshock Infinite over the weekend. I was in a hurry to get through it simply because otherwise spoilers are likely to ruin the story. As it stands, well, meh.

This post isn’t actually about the story though, it’s about the weapon mechanics in the game.

Much like the other Bioshock game I’ve played, the first one, it has a selection of upgradable weapons and a number of, for want of a better description, magic powers.SnatchSW2

The thing being, I played through the game with the carbine rifle and virtually nothing else. The reason behind this was simple – I could only carry two weapons and none of the others were worth bothering with. The shotgun had about as much range as a limply thrown potato, the pistol would do more damage if you fed it to someone, and the rest..?






I hate it when I encounter this in FPS games. There was literally not a single weapon that was more fun to use than the carbine. I’m not suggesting that was fun simply that it got the job done. Pointing it at someone’s head and pulling the trigger invariably resulted in the whole “being attacked” problem being resolved. It was a workhorse that served me well for all but the toughest enemies.

One major problem for me was the difficulty in distinguishing between the weapons. There was the “Repeater”, the “Heater”, the “Volley Gun”, and the “Hail Fire”.

The first of those is supposed to be a modified carbine. Great. Except it fires a burst, not a single round. I don’t want three rounds that might hit, I want one that does.

The Heater on the other hand? It was supposed to be a variant of the shotgun. That’s not really true though – including one in the chamber it could hold eight rounds. That is to say after each shot a reload was required and ammo for it was rarer than hens’ teeth. I’ve experienced farts with greater range than that piece of crap.

Similarly the Volley Gun and Hail Fire seemed to be some sort of inaccurate grenade launchers that were much more hassle than they were worth.

Ultimately the combat in the game simply wasn’t all that much fun. It’s not like I was even playing for that – I simply wanted to experience the setting and story.

Of course such a moany post can’t end without talking about plasmids. I say that because the in-game menus still made reference to them as such even though they’re called “Vigors”. What can I say?

They’re really dull.

I especially hated the tutorial videos for them and just as in the original Bioshock found myself asking “Who on Earth would have a use for these powers outside of a videogame?”

Virtually every power has a “trap” functionality as a secondary function. I think I used that in one encounter in the entire game. Because the game told me to.

Completely worthless.

They can apparently be combined too. How fun, now if I actually got a moment to play around with that maybe I would. Except combat tends to be frenetic in the game, particularly against “Handymen”:Mjsl.png

Any time I faced one it seemed to be trying to hump me to death. Trying to use anything against them just resulted in a confused mess on screen as they’d get so close as to make targeting them damn near impossible.

In general though I’d deal with enemies by shooting them in the head with my carbine. That worked for the vast majority of the game. Why would I try something slower and less reliable?

In fact the only useful vigor is “Possession”, the first one the game provides the player with. I mostly used that to get free money from vending machines.

Also, much like with Dishonored – stop limiting my use of powers! Give them a recharge timer if you must but ugh, just let me play. Collecting “mana” (for want of a better word) is a repetitive chore.

The only positive thing I can say on the resource front is the fact that Elizabeth usually proffers ammo and mana mid combat. Much better than escorting a vulnerable NPC!

Unlike Dishonored this game did occasionally manage to be fun. Admittedly the best bit was wandering around the setting right at the start of the game and doing the same with Elizabeth. She was a delight during those bits.

Today I’d like to go against the grain about a particular game:


Remember that one?

I do.

In fact my mother bought it for me after I spent the rest of my savings on buying an N64 back when I was about ten.

The point being that I was a child and it was new. I wasn’t a cynical twenty-something and I hadn’t seen PS2 games before seeing this. I saw it when it was new and groundbreaking.

I still don’t get what people see in it. It got rave reviews, people loved it.

I played it and found it lonely, annoying, and empty.

Lonely may seem a silly thing to say, particularly as I was surrounded by awesome friends who I could talk about it with (Hi Michael!). Playing some games though just feels that way. I’ve not had that while playing Bioshock Infinite, even without Elizabeth, at least not most of the time. The environments are rich enough and there’s NPCs. In SM64 on the other hand the environments tended to be massive whilst few NPCs existed. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time avoided this by littering the world with characters and interesting places, so it wasn’t a limitation of the system.

If memory serves I got either 106 stars or 112 stars (of 120). I couldn’t be bothered to keep trying for the rest simply because the game was too frustrating and dull.

To serve as a contrast in Super Mario Galaxy the three of us in Fort Sanity got all of them (242). Then we looked forward to SMG2.

The thing being that SM64 promised so much but ultimately I felt it under delivered. The graphics were ugly, even then (I always remember the terrible texturing on fences in the game, for example):246932-super-mario-64-nintendo-64-screenshot-bob-omb-battlefield

The thing being that solid colours could have been used to avoid the terrible blurriness that pervaded the game. More recent texture packs put a rather fun spin on things:



They might be a bit much, I’ve not tried them out. That said they certainly give a bit more style and life to the environments.

Graphic complaints aside (and they were present even at the time) the open worlds were novel but ultimately annoying. There was no convenient navigation between areas and I really felt the joyful whimsy of the series was left out. I don’t normally care about the princess particularly but in this instance she was even less interesting than usual.

Mario Kart 64 is still an excellent game. It has some failings, of course, but it was good then and is still excellent. SM64 on the other hand was overhyped and hollow.

I don’t want to end on a negative though. The promise of SM64 was ultimately fulfilled – by Super Mario Galaxy. That game is wonderful. Much more linear, certainly, but beautiful, charming, and… fun. So much fun that I’ve paused while writing this to see if there’s going to be an SMG3.288496-super-mario-galaxy-wii-screenshot-the-game-begins-heres

Hmmm, no word.

Even the soundtrack to SMG was beautiful. As a complete product it was everything I had hoped SM64 would be and more. In ten years time running it on the Dolphin emulator with all the settings cranked to max will probably result in a game that is still gorgeous. The same cannot be said of the awkward phase of 3D where everything looked like polygonal crap.super-mario-galaxy-dolphin

So essentially this post was to say – why do people love SM64 so much? It’s dull, ugly, empty, and primitive. I saw it when I was a happy child and even under those circumstances it couldn’t hold its own.

Play Super Mario Galaxy instead. It’s actually entertaining.