Archive for December, 2008

20 years to finish a computer game – it must be a record!

Posted in gaming on December 29, 2008 by zombiebacon

There are no words to describe the sense of satisfaction I’m feeling right now. Why? Because I’ve just completed a computer game I began 20 years ago.

Back in 1988 I received an 8-bit home computer for my 10th birthday. Apart from the Atari console that had spectacularly blown up while playing pong, it was the first games machine of my own.

Soon I was down the shops slowly bankrupting my parents with ransom demands to the repeated value of £1.99 – hand over the cash or never see your smiling little boy again.

Some games were good – like Feud – and some games were great – like Werewolves of London – but only a few cassettes made it into the realm of legendary games.

Ask people of a certain age who Dizzy was and they’ll grin fondly in remembrance of the daddy of all modern gaming icons.

Before Mario and Sonic, but well after the white block that went ‘blip’, Dizzy the egg was having a whole series of memorable adventures on the Amstrad, Spectrum and Commodore computers.

The brainchild of the Oliver Twins, the crude little oval sprite transported kids to magical worlds where evil wizards needed to be defeated, lands to be freed, and apples avoided.

I really dug Dizzy’s first game – Dizzy: The Ultimate Cartoon Adventure – which was released by Code Masters in 1988 – but the problem I found was that it was too hard.

Well, too hard for me.

When I grew up I put aside childish things; among them  the hope that one distant day I would complete Dizzy and be able to say that I did.

Until earlier this month, when I installed a Commodore 64 emulator.

If you haven’t tried one, I really must recommend it. I went with WinVice and after a bit of trial and error learning how to get games running, I was well and truly in retro-geek land.

Maniac Mansion, Jet Set Willey, IK+ – all the best titles from the early days of computer games are once again at my disposal.

And Dizzy the egg. Though I do find it sweetly ironic that I have a cracked version of the game to thank for that:)

Playing the game, my memory was jogged on how hard it was actually control the character. He rolls more times than a drunk down an elevator.

And there are bugs, causing much wailing and gnashing of teeth if you die in the wrong place and find yourself unable to avoid the same fate ad nauseam.

But no passwords or save facilities – making the game an unforgiving taskmaster that will force  you to start right from the beginning if you don’t do things absolutely right.

In short it’s hard, and frustrating – but addictive and ultimately rewarding.

Especially if it’s taken two decades to get to the end.

A screenshot from Dizzy

A screenshot from Dizzy

Dizzy! My egg is spinnin'

Dizzy! My egg is spinnin'

Lennon says give PCs a chance

Posted in Humour, media, music with tags , , , , , , , on December 28, 2008 by zombiebacon

First Bob Monkhouse came back from the afterlife to discuss prostate cancer – the cruel disease that robbed us of a comedy genius in 2003.

Now ex-Beatle and more recently ex-alive John Lennon has been digitally resurrected for a new TV ad.

Lennon, who was shot dead by Mark Chapman in 1980, can be heard and seen in a 30-second ad on behalf of the One Laptop Per Child initiative.

The charity, founded in  2005, has the aim of delivering solar-powered computers to the world’s poorest children. Lennon apparently thought the cause strong enough to warrant returning from beyond the grave and give his support.

“Imagine every child, no matter where in the world they were, could access a universe of knowledge,” says Lennon, or a slightly high-pitched sound-alike.

“They would have a chance to learn, to dream, to achieve anything they want. I tried to do it through my music, but now you can do it in a very different way.”

It’s all very clever and delivers an important plea, but it makes me wonder where we are heading with dead celebrity endorsements.

At the moment they are restricted to charitable causes, but what if the corporate world follows suit. Like they do with anything else that is innovative, arresting and pure.

Then we might end up seeing icons of the past re-animating to solicit our favours towards such products as Sky, PlayStation, Daily Mail and Pot Noodles. Being the talents they were, they could do this effortlessly while at the same time spinning violently in their graves.

In fact it’s already happened. Ford put the late Steve McQueen into a Ford Puma years ago in a pastiche of Bullet.

The key difference is in the relationship between sentiment and message. Those embarking upon media necromancy should pause to consider their intentions and the likelihood that the actor, singer or whatever, would have willingly lent his support had they been alive today.
Yoko must think her husband would have approved of the One Laptop Per Child initiative to sanction the use of his memory in such a way. He was, again, trying to help the world.

But I don’t reckon McQueen would have liked to have had his reputation for cool sullied by driving a common old thing like a Ford. The irony is, he WOULD be seen dead in one of their cars.

Ford were cynically exploiting a legend for commercial gain. Nothing more, nothing less. A lot of stars do adverts for goods they’ed never touch in a million years, but we know it’s just work and a means of ptting bread on the antique dining table.

But when the flesh has departed and all you are left with is an icon holding together lots of ideas, it’s harder to seperate the man from message. New connections form and McQueen doesn’t get a say. His character – or at least the one he wished to present to the world – becomes slightly debased.

So you should really have the star’s probable empathy before commencing.

If you have that, then the message doesn’t really matter. If you don’t have that, it can lead to the most offensive kitsch.

Imagine Elvis with a Whopper in his hand. ‘In life I was the King, but even I bow down to to Burger King’. Takes bite of burger. ‘Mmmm-mmm, better than squirrel pie. The King is dead, long live Burger King. Thank-you very much.’

Or Marilyn Monroe with her dress being blown up by the breeze from a New York subway in The Seven Year Itch. ‘Thanks to Bodyform I have the confidence to go out and live my life,’ she coos, before the wailing yet sassy jingle kicks in. ‘Whooooaaaa BODYFORM…’

You could even end up with the opposite. Nefarious characters from history redeeming their former indiscretions with the right endorsements.

‘Just two pounds a week will give this child the gift of life. A gift I never really appreciated until now. Seeing the hardhips families face on a daily basis in a land ravaged by war and famine makes me realise that being a cruel dictator wasn’t really the right way to be

‘If I can defy death to speak to you, you can dig deep and give generously. After all, you don’t want to be so poorly remembered as Idi Amin.’

Extreme example I know, but we must always be vigilent how people choose to use footage of others – be they stars in Hollywood or stars in the sky.

Otherwise, the old fear that a camera might capture your soul as well as your likeness may have more truth to it than we ever expected.

(Click on the pic to see the One Laptop Per Child advert)

Lennon back from the grave

Lennon back from the grave

Christian-themed bank holidays

Posted in Humour with tags , , , , , , on December 28, 2008 by zombiebacon

With Christmas departing as quickly as the novelty of a brand new puppy, all we in the UK have to look forward to in the way of forthcoming public holidays is New Year.

That’s the lot until Easter but in other countries it’s a different stor

For example, in Spain they have 6th January off as well. It’s called Epiphany and it’s about the Three Wise Men – Athos, Porthos, and Aramis – visiting baby Jesus, who was unfortunate enough to be born on Christmas Day and therefore only received only one set of presents each year (combined birthday/Xmas).

Now it seems unfair to me that these three chaps – known collectively as the Magi (the plural of ‘magician’) – don’t get the acknowledgment they deserve in our holiday calandar.

For one thing, their visit was brilliant PR for the future messiah. The ‘los Reyes Magos de Oriente’ (to give them their Spanish title) hit upon the gimmick of kneeling down before the child – sending out the message that all the people on Earth, be they rich and poor, should likewise bow down before their saviour – the one true king.

In short, they gave Jesus two thumbs up.

Secondly, they are very well-known themselve. Perhap for bringing some very odd gifts with them: Gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold’s fine – you can do things with gold – but perfume and annointing oil? For a baby?

Deist Thomas Wolston summed up this innappropriateness wonderfully. ‘If they had brought sugar, soap, and candles they would have acted like wise men’ he said.

These days, a lollypop lady or cleaner can get an OBE  for service to the community, but the powers-that-be won’t even reward the Magi, and us, with a measely 24 hours’ annual commemmoration.

I think it’s time to redress the situation. The scriptures have lots of important characters in them, and they should all get a shot at having a religious public holiday named after them.

Just imagine. We could have Jonah day, where we all go to aquairums and feed whales; Thomas day, where we doubt each other and even Judas day, when we email the boss with everything our colleagues have said about him and the company.

What fun.

Have an epithany on January 6

Have an epithany on January 6