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January 27, 2014
Written by , Posted in My Gaming History

My Gaming History ‘Part 12’

This part of my gaming history, the transition from PSX to PS2 will no doubt have to be spread over two parts. The PlayStation was and still is one of the most popular gaming systems ever made and I did enjoy my time with it. I will try to cram as much as I can into these two parts but I imagine it’ll be like trying to fit my fist in my ear.

Moving out from the home of the humans that spawn you is definitely one of the most exciting, character building although altogether frightening experiences you’ll ever face whether they love you or hate you. Within the first year of moving out I became the owner of two lizards, hosted African dancehall parties (complete with Africans), I was threatened with a bread knife at a house party and I almost drowned at Glastonbury.

The building was a three storey apartment block attached to a large furniture shop, so as their opening times were 9-5pm weekdays, we could blast out music all through the night if we wanted to. I lived with a recently acquired male friend and my girlfriend at the time. When we had become acquainted with the neighbours downstairs, we occasionally had open door ‘block parties’ with a sound system in each flat playing different styles of music, where guests could come and go as they please. The third flat was occupied by a young professional couple, I say professional because I’d see them leave the flat shouting at each other wearing suits. We never really spoke because I don’t do shouting and so we never discussed invitations.

This level of fun and mayhem can and will eventually attract the wrong type of people for a party and I remember several times having to ‘hold the fort’ against druggies, chavs and occasionally the police. At one particular gathering, music was at full chat and amongst the carnage, a lone chav (A mentally challenged youth in sports gear) managed to infiltrate the defences and for whatever reason headed straight for the kitchen and picked out a breadknife of all things. If you enter a house party with the intention to grab a knife from the drawer, why the breadknife? In hindsight when you think of the weaponry usually housed in the drawers of a kitchen, surely the most stabby type blade would be better than a serrated option, then again maybe he had the intention to saw someone like a loaf of bread but I doubt it.

Uninterested in making sandwiches for us, the youth starts waving it at guests in a threatening manner. Too drunk to consider any kind of attack based on any of my martial arts experience, I opted for plan B. Plan B consisted of 6ft 3 inches of man mountain called Jim. Jim was as soft as Dads who shop at Waitrose but he looked rather like Vinnie Jones. I felt like I was asking the older brother I never had for some assistance, tugging at his T-shirt and pointing in the direction of the problem. After I briefed him on the situation he stomped down the corridor with me closely following behind sipping a can of lager, eager to witness Jim confront the twat with a breadknife. He walked in and immediately grabbed the guy by the back of the neck, removed said knife with his free hand and literally dragged him by the collar, down the stairs to the front door and shooed him outside like a beggar found in Harrods.

My flat mate, who for privacy reasons we’ll call Jay, is an avid reader. The kind of guy who has read and experienced so much in his existence that his mind was full of fuck. That’s the trouble with reading, if you fill your head too much with fantasy stories throughout time, you end up over thinking most things and blurring the lines between reality and the book world. I could be wrong, it could be the drugs or the drink, or both but I guess the same could be said for video games…if you’ve ever experienced gaming whilst on mushrooms for example, you’ll understand it’s not all that strange to hide in a cardboard box playing Metal Gear Solid for 15 minutes, musing to yourself about existence in a box within a box within a box…

Cheapest Cosplay ever

It was in the year 2000 that I decided as TV had officially died (Due to the disappearance of Knight Rider, A-Team, TMNT, Air Wolf, Transformers, Jayce & the wheeled warriors…the list goes on) I would disconnect the aerial from the light box and forget about TV all together. And I was right to do so (Over 10 years and counting) as I am part of the ever decreasing percentage of the population who are the able bodied, sound minded individuals choosing to no longer pay for mind wank television full of insecure jazz handed, ex drama school nonces, interspersed with advertisements about how inferior your hair looks and what you can’t afford at the moment. Sure, I use the modern catch up programs to enjoy some recorded broadcasts but if I see advertisements now It only builds contempt for the society I live in.

Fuck you Jack

Being an Sony fan boy meant that on the release of the PS2 in the year 2000 I was keen to get my hands on it. Gamers were looking for another vision of the future from Sony and for console fans we weren’t disappointed. Boasting now a 64bit CPU clocked at around 300Mhz, it was DVD/CD with SCART, RGB output and with a range of larger storage capacities as the games grew larger. To show off the raw power of this new vertical standing home console, Sony wheeled out more Tekken, Gran Turismo and Metal Gear Solid which did nothing but impress the fans. Controller wise, the ergonomically near perfect pad of the PS1 had been superseded by an even more comfortable device, the Dual Shock 2.

On release Sony could have issued the statement ‘Don’t bring a fart to shit fight’ as the console could have funded a small war in the first couple of days. In the market place the SEGA Dreamcast was pummelled in terms of figures even though there was never a bad word said about SEGA’s swan song, which did offer a varied selection of titles, internet connection and an array of peripherals.

My limited time playing a Dreamcast introduced me to some brilliant titles including the eye watering Marvel VS Capcom, the gore fest that was House of the Dead and the awesomely strange Shenmue.

Set in the 80’s in a Yakuza area of Japan, Shenmue was the story of Ryo Hazuki. Ryo’s father is killed in the first five minutes of the game and from what I remember I had to then stay with a bloke who occasionally gave me pocket money. Your aim was to then explore the outside world for clues to your father’s death. After investigating the town for over an hour I was beaten and mugged trying to help someone out and had to go home for a Coca Cola and a sit down. I didn’t play the game an awful lot as you can tell from my muddled description but from what I remember the game had a very humble appearance and a satisfying flow to the gameplay. The concepts and content have remained a much praised part of video game history.

By 2002 the Sony PS2 had steamrolled the competition and it wasn’t all about specs. It may not have been the most powerful on paper but it’s adaptability and versatility propelled sales to a monumental scale. I had brief encounters with the competition up until that time, such as the much loved Nintendo GameCube, the Dreamcast and eventually the Microsoft X’tremly large box. On a side note. By 31st March 2012 the PS2 has sold an estimated 155 million units worldwide, in all the colours of the rainbow, with the support of pretty much every game developer under the sun.

The old Xbox has many uses, even after death

Still some of my best loved titles were released on the PS2 and the continuation of certain titles ensured I stayed loyal. Ace Combat was a particularly challenging game early on but the basic control system and in flight physics made it one of the best flight games seen on a console to date. Gran Turismo still retained a top spot for most PS2 owners game stacks and for those who took interest, Tourist Trophy as a motorcycle racing sim was not a disappointment but sadly has not seen a sequel on next gen. New titles like Armoured core was another welcome addition to the roster, a well-crafted Japanese robot shooter is always going to draw the crowds, although the often complex menu systems and gameplay intimidated less experienced pad grabbers.

Racing games came out in force on the PS2, there are far too many titles to mention but it was planes, trains and automobiles for the most part and sometimes obscure racers from developers you’d never heard of and for good reason, as usually controlling said vehicles was much like steering an F1 car on a frozen lake. In fact most genres were tried and tested on the PlayStation, perhaps because of this huge proving ground it’s the reason why we’ve now thinned out the crap and retained some of the best concepts until the present. If you look through the list of PS2 releases on Wikipedia you’ll find more than a few titles you can’t pronounce yet alone recognise.

Glad i didn’t play this on mushrooms

Like on Facebook and stay tuned for much more on the PS2 and maybe some more irrelevant ramblings from yours truly.

Mortal Mikey.

CLICK HERE FOR PART 13!

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March 11, 2013
Written by , Posted in The Pit

Top Five Video Game Intros

Putting together this top five compilation has been harder than Jimmy Saville in a school for the blind. Today’s video games begin much like a big Hollywood blockbuster, with running commentary from the main protagonist, several people being strangled and shot, all mixed to a track from this week’s electronic Beethoven. The new game worlds and game engines enable developers to go full Michael Bay and deafen you with cinematic bass, whilst blinding you with strobe effects.

In the past however, there was a time where  a more humble approach was taken to video game intros, where original ideas and artistic personalisation were showcased, to convey the right message and immerse the player, given the constraints on hardware and software. They left more to the imagination and in someway become more like reading a novel, unlike modern titles which are much like watching a movie in a cinema, pressing a button when you wish the main character to perform something.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been roaming my shoddy memory banks of the hundreds of titles I’ve played and completed, to make a list of my personal top five game intros and why.

#5 – Soviet Strike

Platform: PSX

Year:1996

Stop the war before it happens

Stop the war before it happens

Almost six years after I played my first Strike game on the Megadrive, Soviet Strike, the fourth installment was released on the brand new 32bit PlayStation.

If you never played the series, you’ve missed one of the greatest series of games ever to appear on computer. In 1992 Electronic Arts released Desert Strike, Return to the Gulf. A controversial title that became a talking point for using recent real world war situations to create a game. But Mike Posehn, lead designer, pulled this off perfectly with new slick gameplay mechanics, with visually pleasing graphics and a new era of SFX.

“The lead designer, Mike Posehn, had no video game experience prior to developing Desert Strike. Inspired by Choplifter, he aimed to create a nonlinear game with smoothly animated vehicles. Posehn, a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, developed a camera system with momentum to mimic realistic helicopter movements. Three-dimensional (3D) modelling was used to generate the vehicle sprites, which were later touched up on the pixel level with color.”

When the most inspiring video game era began in the late nineties, everyone was eager to lay eyes on the new tech and the next generation of titles. Soviet Strike was one title I would have eaten through a crowd of people to get. It did not disappoint. Utilising more space on CD ROM, the intro video to this game set the new pace, and this was sprinting. The audio and visuals were ramped up to real footage, whilst graphics were used to create a very futuristic look and feel.

Stop the war before it happens

#4 – Grand Theft Auto III

Platform: PS2

Year:2001

Stealy Drivey Shooty

Stealy Drivey Shooty

When Grand Theft Auto appeared as a 2D bird’s eye view driving based, one man crime spree, I was impressed by Rockstars new ideas for the free roaming elements and wasn’t overly fussed that graphically it was lacking in parts. What really made GTA stand out from the crowd was the attention to detail, the influential soundtrack and solid sound effects. The media however, saw it another way. It was to be sat on the naughty step in the middle of yet another media shit storm, backed by bored middle aged keyboard warriors, who demonised the game because crime isn’t for fun, it’s only for real life. If anything, GTA taught young people that if you kick someone out of their car and drive at triple figures in the wrong direction, when you collide with another vehicle, it should explode.

You would have hoped that they learned from the game Carmageddon, that it didn’t spawn a generation of boys and girls who enjoy mounting the pavements ploughing through dozens of innocent people. Nevertheless, GTA made its mark in more ways than one. In 2001 when it was announced Rockstar had developed a 3D GTA for the Playstation, I would have broken the law to get my hands on a copy. If I could have grown a beard at the time, I would have emerged from my bedroom looking like Bin Laden.

#3 – Flashback

Platform: Megadrive

Year:1992

Where am i?

Where am i?

I mentioned my love for this game in part 10 of my gaming history. Flashback was pretty incredible for the time, with ultra-realistic character movements, an original story line and setting. From the beginning you know you are participating in a great piece of work. The SEGA Megadrive by today’s standards is about as powerful as a musical birthday card, so anything visually impressive meant that a lot of hard work and dedication went into the making of the game.

The intro wastes no time getting going and shortly after the very cool Delphine Software logo appears accompanied by some moody synths, you’re thrown into the action. The main character, so it seems, is being chased, by who we don’t know but you do see lasers weapons, you do see this guy escape on a flying motorbike in space, when sadly he is shot down by his pursuers and left for dead. If that isn’t enough to keep the pad in your hand, then nothing is.

The main menu appears, again with an unforgettable intro track, you then begin your journey as Conrad B Hart, a lone man on a mission to retrace his steps before he purposely erased his memory. It’s blade runner, terminator and total recall all rolled into one, that’s like eating only the marshmallow pieces from Lucky Charms.

#3 – Half Life

Platform: PC

Year:1998

Gordon fucking Freeman

Gordon fucking Freeman

If you had access to a PC capable of playing Half Life when it came out and didn’t, you should have been dragged outside and trampled by the North Korean army. The Valve Corporation combined everything you’d ever enjoyed about first person shooters and squashed it all into one disc, it gained a cult following and for good reason. Quite simply one of the best concepts and game designs to date along with it’s equally satisfying sequel. To top it off, one of the most memorable intro’s into a game.It was ground breaking in all areas, graphics, sound and gameplay, the sense of immersion was incredible once you stepped off the train at Black Mesa.

In a nutshell Gordon Freeman, the main character, saves the world with a crowbar. It’s a little hard to explain the full plot here but there’s a lot more to it than bludgeoning things. Black Mesa is the facility where you work and well, your normal working day is about to get very not normal.

#1 – Fallout 3

Platform: Various

Year:2008

War...war never changes

War…war never changes

I must admit, i hadn’t played any other Fallout before No3 and that was probably partly to do with my obsession with motorbikes and no funding for a PC from the bank of mum and dad anymore. A good friend of mine explained Fallout 3 and it sounded like a fantasy come true, in post apocalyptic landscape, you emerge as a lone wanderer with no real objective only that to explore the land. The intro was voiced by Ron Perlman and your father is non other than Liam Neeson. For anyone who played Fallout will know how it felt when you first stepped out of that vault and into the sun. I think at the time i was wearing a vault jumpsuit and a welders mask for protection. Stoned off my tree I took the long walk into the wastelands, peeking over rocks, armed with only an air rifle and a police baton i found on a corpse. Over two hundred hours well spent.

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January 20, 2012
Written by , Posted in Mortal Musings

Technologic

Watching a video online yesterday got me thinking about robots and the new possibilities of AI’s within them. It also made me think. Are we really that stupid?

I believe so.

From the beginning of the robot fascination, a decade or so after the beginning of the 19th century, ideas quickly began to turn a little sinister. The reason being is that if you intend to create a robot that can perform the functions of a human and have it built to last for an incredibly long long time, with next to no care for human survival at all, you can expect a lot of hassle.

Now, you instantly start thinking of  a few things from your recent past, mainly films. i-Robot, Terminator, 2001 A space Odyssey and short circuit. In a nutshell robots will mess you up and that’s partly because we made them and partly because we’re really that stupid.

Big corporations at the forefront of technology have used the money they earn from selling us overly priced, cheaply made plastic things that light up and thrown it at robots and AI. Usually what is showcased for example, is a piano playing, dancing, skipping, helpful little robot with a smiley or vacant face, finished with a colourful paint job. The only reason these things haven’t started to dig mass graves for us is because we’ve yet to find a safe and compact way of storing massive energy. In the 1987 film, Robocop, the lead role in the film plays a cop and is brutally murdered in a warehouse by a bad ass gang. When located, he is then whisked off by medical staff and put through a process to create a new prototype ‘cyborg’ cop. Part man, part machine, all cop, was the tag line of the film. In the films, Murphy (the cop who was killed) is haunted by the residual memories of his past, up until the point where he took a bullet to the head and had his body replaced with a suit of silvery blue armour. He lives on, with a basic digestive system by eating a nutritional paste (a bit like baby food), this was enough, combined with the rest of the suit, to go about his cop duties.

Thankfully he didn’t want to harm everyone he meets, due to some of the memories that lingered, instead he sets about systematically murdering anyone involved with the gang who gave him a head full of lead. Cyborgs, being part man, part machine, are in my opinion something we should develop as much as possible…so that even the most handicapped person could enjoy super human strength and the ability to smash through walls.

Right now we have computer brains that are learning all the time, they are somewhat stationary, for now, but it’s all to obvious where this is leading. There are robotic experts trying to re-create the human skeletal system using machines…they are also giving these robots the ability to learn. Take a look at this video from Japan, I have no idea why the decided to make it look like a hairless pale child but given what the Japanese usually get up to, this isn’t all that weird.

Developments in silicon skin have reached a point where an android covered in the synthetic skin are hard to spot in a crowd. I heard recently about an android in Japan that was sat in a chair before a meeting commenced, programmed to simply fidget, blink and breathe. It was only when pointed out to the guests that they were in presence of an android, that they realised. The robot, who looked female, obviously would have given the game away if she spoke, because it would be through speakers and her face moves like that of a person with a plastic bag over their face.

Here is a robot showcasing the movement and the synthetic skin.

I have always been a very visual person, even as a child. As an engineer myself, my opinion is I think we’re a long way from recreating the fluid movement of a human being, in a robot. If you take a look into the natural geometry of the human body i.e the golden ratio…studied by the late great Leonardo da Vinci and any great architect or artist worth their salt,. The perfect form of the human body and the biological mechanics within it are mind boggling. It’s hard to comprehend with the sheer size of some people today, that there is a natural mathematical rhythm to everything but there is. To replicate muscle structure, bone strength and combine it with balance, is very very difficult…not only because we produce our own perfectly balanced power source through consuming burgers and beer but because it is simply one of the most complex arrangements of space junk we’ve ever seen.

Take a look at this short video below to see some of the natural occourances robotics engineers world wide, have to recognise.

Where was i…?

To ensure the absolute destruction of the human race, we need to crack on. AI is improving at a staggering rate, one can only imagine what the first artificial intelligence that learns at a geometric rate will be sat in but i’m not sure we’ll like it. Some home truths are bound to be exchanged and god help the thing if we literally plug it into our internet.

This leads me onto mention just how small robots can be.

At a molecular level scientists have managed to create robots so small, they could perform tasks inside your body, with no sedation whatsoever. The subject of Nano technology may or may not ring any bells but quite simply, it is the art of creating materials from the very core elements of our universe. Using atomic sized building blocks, new materials can be created with unreal characteristics. Take the simple example in the video below of a spray on material that creates an instant water repellent surface.

Science fiction writers have already predicted how we could potentially kill ourselves with nano technology but as always, we plough on, into the unknown like a blind bee keeper. Prince Charles knows a thing or two about these predictions, he has given out the warning that a ‘grey goo’ could potentionally eat the world.

“It offers a nightmare vision straight out of science fiction – the destruction of the environment, perhaps even of the world, by robots smaller than viruses, able to share intelligence, replicate themselves and take command of the planet. “

A quote taken straight from this article in the Gaurdian. A threat bigger than his ears

The subject of the grey goo, otherwise known as utility fog and other hypothosised theories of tiny nano robots, is pretty freaky. In the weaker installment of the four Termintor films, Termintor 3’s bad guy was infact a woman. Now, i’m a big fan of the films and as far as ideas go, this was hot shit. Sadly Joathan Mostow ruined it with his take on dark ‘humour’ and it became a bit of stain on the franchise. Nevertheless, the female terminator or T-X model was a combination of nano technology and futuristic alloy’s. She had the ability to control other mechanised objects and could shape shift to what ever she saw fit for purpose. Imagine a world where this is a possiblity, a woman who can not only make herself look like *insert your ideal woman here* but could also wipe your computer and control your car remotely or just punch her fist through your face. It’s all hypothetical, obviously but judging by what you can easily put together yourself by looking on Youtube and the like, is that we haven’t paused long enough, to recognise that we’re literally creating our own demise.

But not all of the future of robotics or AI technology is a bleak one. Forever running parralel to the fairly blatant military applications of these creations are also the robots that will be helping us out in daily life. Anything from firefighting robots, medical robots (currently being used for major operations) and post natural disaster robots. There is still someway to go before we have to consider fallout shelters and shotguns.

I leave you with this….