Thursday, 23 April 2015


A friend challenged me to write something about family and food. This is my attempt.

It’s my turn to cook. Steak? Check. Salt and pepper? Check. Olive oil? Check. Garlic? Check. Butter? Check. Coriander? Check.

There’re four reasons I love cooking. The first is the escape, the way I can forget about everything else and just worry about making sure my dish comes out perfectly. The smell of the cooking food, the sound of the sizzling wok or pan, everything just feels so serene, like I’m in my own world, and within it, just me and the food.

The second is the look on people’s faces as they bite into my food. That look of satisfaction, telling you immediately from the moment they take their first bite that you’ve done a good job.

The third, the thanks. When I hear those affirming words, “That was really good, thank you.”, the hour and a half I put in preparing and cooking that teriyaki beef stir fry my sister loves so much, or the half hour spent slaving away over the stove to make sure the steak I cooked was perfectly seasoned and to the preferred rarity of each person – my brother and sister a solid medium, my father a juicy rare – the whole process just becomes completely worth it.

The final reason, experiencing your own creation first hand. After all that time spent cooking, the moment when you can finally bite into your creation, and it tastes exactly how you’d hoped – that’s the best part.

I place the pan on the stove and turn it to just below a simmer temperature, then move to the chopping board. I season each piece of beef with a healthy helping of salt and pepper, rubbing it into the meat to ensure the flavour makes it the whole way through. Back to the stove, a splash of olive oil. In goes the steak. The sizzling begins. A minute per side, then in goes the garlic. Two cloves. The smell immediately fills the air as they begin to roast. Another minute per side, then in with the butter, a large chunk to either side of the meat. It melts slowly, and starts soaking into the fat lining the edges of the meat. Another minute per side. With a large spoon I pour the melted butter and oil combination over the steaks, combining with the salt and pepper to seep right into the core of the meat. Another minute per side. Finally, a sprinkling of coriander over the steaks. Then let them fry until they’re exactly the right rarity for the intended recipient.

Combined with a healthy serving of vegetables, I bring the steaks out, one by one. One to my father, one to my brother, one to my sister, and finally, my own. My mother sits with her personal potato salad, having chosen to cook for herself as the resident vegetarian. Crowding around the TV, we start the latest episode of whatever show we’re watching as a family. We eat. My mother explains an obvious joke. My sister tells her off for talking. Everyone compliments the food.

The show finishes. My brother says something sarcastic. My mother, not noticing, takes him seriously. My sister and I laugh. My father banishes himself to the bedroom, choosing not to partake in our silliness. We joke some more, we laugh some more. We tidy up our empty plates. We head back to our respective rooms. My sister resumes reading. My brother plays online games with his friends. My father returns and watches a political drama with my mother. I head to my room and listen to music while I talk to my friends on Facebook. We all sleep. We wake up. Different times for everyone. We go our separate ways for the day. We return. It’s 7pm. It’s my sister’s turn to cook.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

I made a Homestuck Dress Up game for a Friend

After my last two days of mass exams, I decided I'd work on a project I promised a friend I'd do for her a while back (on the promise that she'd watch Steins;Gate afterwards) - a Dress Up game for Calliope in Homestuck. Knocked it over in the day, was actually a huge learning experience for me, because I've never really worked with flash before. I probably wouldn't have agreed, but she sent me all the art assets (what a legend) in a format that meant I could easily put them all together without worrying too much about the logistics of placing each item specifically (Alpha channels lining up exactly so I could place them all at the exact same point just overlay them in the right order)

Calliope, the model of the game in question (from my friend's blog)

Because it's technically a favor, it's a bit rough, and some of the clothing items clash or overlap. It'd be interesting to see the logistics of making one without clashing/overlapping items, whether it'd fall on the artist's head to design the garments so that they'd all go together, or the designers to make sure ones that didn't work together would be disabled automatically. It's fascinating to think about, and I think either could work, but, the conclusion I've come to is that it's far easier for a designer to design a set of clothes which work together graphically than it is for a programmer to deal with a heap of exceptions. Perhaps a good way to work around it would be to make an outfit specific slider, where you could put outfits where the clothing doesn't work in tandem, so the artists can also include outfits that don't work with other clothing pieces. Not that it really matters, because chances are I won't be making another dress-up game. What I can say though, is it's gotten me interested in games programming again, and I think I'll probably test my hand at LUA (probably through trying some very basic game creation in LÖVE).

Anyway, here's the game:

And you can find the artist's blogs here (where the images are from, and the blog the game was made for) and here (her non-cherub tumblr). Hopefully I'll be blogging about more game dev stuff soon, when I find something new to work on and I'm not being a lazy ass.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Why I Love Alan Wake

A couple of days ago I borrowed Alan Wake for 360 from one of my friends after a bunch of my pc gaming friends started recommending it to me. Now I know I'm a little late onto the bandwagon here, but y'know, this is my blog, so I'll talk about what I want.

Despite Alan Wake's unique story and interesting gameplay ideas, I think the thing I like most about it is the story's structure.

Alan Wake takes the traditional episodic format of television series and shoves it into a game. It's something I didn't really expect to work when the words "Episode One" came up on my screen, but I'm starting to see the beauty of it now.

After getting into the game, I've found that I'm pacing myself using the game's episodes. I go into the game at the start of an episode, and then I can't stop myself until the episode is over. This is perfect for me, as I live a busy life and rarely have the time to sit down and play long games anymore. The episodes are well paced, and of a length that I can reasonably expect to get through in one sitting.

In addition to this, the "Previously on Alan Wake" at the beginning of each episode makes it the perfect game to go away from and come back a week later, picking up right where I left off. I find that with many games these days, it is not the gameplay mechanics, controls or combat that I have problems getting used to when coming back to a game, but rather picking up where I left off with the story, and too many times have I restarted games because I don't remember what's going on. Alan Wake solves this problem through it's "Previously on" system, and it is probably the one thing I am most appreciative of.

The last thing I love about the structure is Alan's interior monologue. Alan is constantly reminding you of your goal, so even if you do have to stop and forget where you were, it should be easy to quickly figure out exactly what you were doing and continue with it. Internal monologue and narration are two things I miss in games, so I love and respect games like Alan Wake (and Bastion, on a slightly unrelated note) which are using such a fascinating style of storytelling.

So as great as the gameplay is, what makes Alan Wake so good to me is this structure. It keeps me wanting to know more, wanting to come back for another episode, and paces it  in a way that whenever I have time to play, I can jump back in right where I left off and know exactly where I'm up to, what has happened, and what I have to do next. Thank you, Remedy Entertainment, for making such a great and accessible game, I hope that other developers will take note and follow in your footsteps when considering story structure in their future games.