Friday, 2 November 2012

abu dhabi grand prix

Well, I thought last weekend's race was poor, so I'm bracing myself for a real bore-fest this weekend.

It's the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend and so far it's been a real snooze fest each time it's been held.

I take the point that F1 is supposed to be a world championship, but so many really dull racetracks in the Middle East (and mostly pretty dodgy parts of the Middle East at that) can't be a good thing either.  I mean if it's supposed to be a World Championship, why no Russian race?  Or African race?  Or more South American races?

Because the dictators in those parts of the world don't have enough cash or the desire (or maybe the common sense!) to throw it at Bernie, obviously.

It's the second to last double-header too, with a weekend off next week followed by the last two races as a double header (Austin, the new track and Brazil, the traditional closer).  I think the championship could well go down to the wire in that Ferrari will remain relatively competitive, but Red Bull just slightly better and therefore winning in the end.

Of course anything can happen - there's been a lot more unreliability this year than there has been in recent years - but barring problems and accidents I don't see how Ferrari will really be able to catch-up.  Much of their success was really due to Alonso, consistency and reliability and Newey's big brain and Vettel's particular talent for leading & controlling races probably just manages to trump those things.

One of the things that has been amusing me just recently, though is that other drivers have clearly cottoned on to Vettel's love of putting his name in the record books at each circuit.  He clearly not only loves to win but also likes to get the fastest lap as well, so the other drivers seem to have been deliberately trying to take that off him, even when they can't win the race.

So last weekend Vettel put in a super quick lap on the last lap but Alonso also did the fastest lap as the last lap so he took it off him, but then Jenson Button did a fastest lap too, clearly with the intent of taking it off him as well.  The weekend before Webber clearly did a fastest lap towards the end just to take it off of Seb too.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

simcity moving closer

So the new version of SimCity is moving closer.

Current release date appears to still be February 2013.  I'd wondered if it might slip or perhaps if it was tied in to something (only thing I can think of in February is Valentine's Day).  You'd think they might try to hit an important date or get it out for Christmas, but I guess the date they've given is based on realism and not rushing it out.  Hopefully, anyway - I wouldn't mind if it slipped so long as it means a better product at the end.

Anyway, it's looking good from what they've shown on the website and various places.  In particular my big concern about SimCity 4000 I expressed before was that it was full of horrible micro-management.  Not meaning micro-management is horrible, but that the way you had to go about the micromanagement was horrible.

In the new game engine they've developed there's a lot more in the way of clever graphics to show you the numbers.  Now sometimes this can be quite a token effort, but here they appear to have done it in a really sensible and easy to use way - at least, that's what it looks like from the gameplay footage.

I have to say it doesn't look massively different to SimCity Societies (or SimCity 4000 for that matter) but then those games looked pretty good.

One thing they do appear to have developed is the idea that your city sits in a region - you can either control all cities in the region or other people can control other cities.  I'm pretty sure this was in SimCity 4000, but there was a thing on the site where people were asking questions and the implication was that this was new.

My guess is I'm miss-remembering quite how it worked in 4000 - perhaps although multiple people could control cities they interaction between them was minimal?  Certainly in the new game it appears to be going more for a specialisation idea.  So one city might be industrial, another residential and a third all about education.  In a sense then this means that the region kinda operates like a single big city, or a network of interconnected towns.

It sounds interesting either way - interactions sound like they might be quite complex and multi-faceted.  Although only if you want them to be seemed to be the implication - you could have them all isolated.

There seem to be some changes, though.  You can no longer terraform.  The way they explained it was that it gives it more of a puzzle element, which makes some sense.  I never used to be that big into terraforming anyway.

However, a slightly odd change is the lack of subways.  They appear to have trains, buses, boats and even trams, but apparently subways have gone.  I'm not quite sure why - subways could presumably be represented in some fairly simple ways.  Perhaps they're saving it for an extension or as downloadable content?

I mean, it's not a big loss, just a bit unusual.

Still, it's looking good.  And hopefully it will be a game I will play properly, rather than sitting on my shelf like all the others!

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

scream 4

I really liked the original scream.

As I'm sure everyone knows, the clever thing about scream 1 was the meta-textual stuff.  Or to put it another way it constantly referred to classic slasher films, yet was a slasher film in and of itself.  In particular it played with the idea that many of the victims were slasher fans and new all about such films as Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street.

It was very well done - it didn't step too far over the line of reasonable-ness, yet it had plenty of fun with the format too.  It managed to work as a story as well as a slasher film and a meditation on both.

Screams 2 and 3 were less good.  They were written by the same guy and tried to bring in the types of things that happen in sequels (the second was almost unrelated, but the third brought it back to the origin, for example).  It also got even more met textual in that in the Scream universe the events of the first film spawned a film series called "stab" (a film-within-a-film).

Those sequels were okay - the trouble with any sequel of course is that people who come to them are doing so because they enjoyed the first film, so the temptation is to give them basically the same thing, but of course then they know what to expect.  While the plots weren't exactly predictable and "the same" the basic idea - the meta-textual thing - had to be the same, so it made them fairly predictable.

Scream 4 essentially tries to do what Scream did, but this time including the idea of self-referencing and meta-textuality.  In other words if Scream was "what would happen if a slasher film happened in real life?" then Scream 4 is "what would happen if a slasher film happened in real life if a slasher film had already happened in real life and been absorbed into the milieu?"

You probably see the problem - certainly I think the problem I had writing that paragraph (and I therefore assume you had reading it) hints at the underlying difficulties.  It's become too complicated.  It's meta-text of meta-text.  It's like a self-parody of a self-parody: it could be brilliant or (as here) it could just feel like it's derivative with too many bells and whistles added on.

Don't get me wrong - there are still some good killings and thrills, it's just that you can get those in any good slasher film.  The bits that made Scream stand out when double-heaped end up making this film feel overly complicated.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

it's christmas

I was actually planning to blog about this a few weeks back, but Christmas seems to have arrived already.

I noticed while I was on holiday at the end of September that the big supermarket already had a few Christmas things out, but I kinda dismissed it as it's a huge supermarket and it was only one or two tins f biscuits that looked a bit Christmassy.

However, while shopping in the local Sainsbury's last week and then the big Tesco up the road a couple of days later (nowhere seems to sell Crunchy Bran, which is one of my favourite cereals) there were some proper areas that seemed to be sprouting multiple Christmas things.

Every year it seems to get worse - I mean, seriously, September is ridiculously early isn't it?  That's a quarter of a year before the event.  And both Halloween and Bonfire night still a month away - it's just taking the piss.

The thing is though, people must buy this stuff.  I'm sure supermarkets wouldn't waste space on Chrimbo stuff if nobody bought it; so who the hell buys it this early?

The other thing I wanted to mention on the Christmas front is that it snowed this last weekend.  And I don't mean in a general sense in the UK - it snowed where I live.

Every Saturday morning I do my washing at the laundrette and once I've transferred it over to the Tumble Dryer I usually go for a short walk around the estate (while it's washing I read a book).  Well this time weekend it was bitterly cold and as I was coming up the hill a small flurry of snow started.

We're only talking tiny bits and it wasn't settling or anything, but still snow.  It had stopped by the time I got to the top of the hill and I don't think it snowed again.

It's a bit of a worrying sign, actually - I was hoping we might finally get a mild winter, having suffered really cold ones for the last few years.  I've also not really been prepping for winter; particularly in terms of electricity - there's only a little bit of electricity on the meter and when it gets properly cold heating really sucks away at the power.

To be fair, given I was expecting to change jobs and therefore move, I've been tending to keep the meter quite low all year, but I'd better ramp it up just in case winter is a cold one.  I'm now certainly not going to be moving or doing anything change-wise until next year.

Monday, 29 October 2012

indian snore prix

Indian Grand Prix this last weekend and it was a pretty rubbish race.

It was a race the BBC only showed highlights of and unlike some of the others it was probably a race that really only deserved highlights.  I listened on the radio and watched the TV coverage.  The clocks went back, which made pre-setting the recording difficult, but then coverage started at about 9:30 so I was up and about anyway.

I actually did some stuff on the computer while it was on but didn't really miss anything.  Indeed, the radio coverage seemed to focus quite a lot on other stuff, rather than what was (not) happening on track.

What was weird is they seemed to big up the race quite a bit beforehand.  I guess when you're spending lots of money to show races you're not going to do the race down, but I seem to recall last year wasn't that great either.  Quite whey they were describing it as one of Tilka's best and a circuit the driver's love I'm not sure.

Well, I guess what the driver's love and what the spectators love can be quite different things, but still, it was a bit of a damp squib of a race by all accounts.

What was interesting is that the TV coverage flattered the race - they trimmed out so much of the dull stuff that it seemed much more exciting than it was.  What was really telling having listened to both is that the highlights didn't have any exciting bits missing - in a really exciting race they would have had to make choices about what to leave out for want of time, but here they had to put in some of the less exciting moments to pad it out.

Unfortunately from a championship point of view Vettel also extended his lead - not by much and he very nearly got scuppered by a technical problem at the end, but still, it now looks like Vettel and Red Bull really have the momentum.