Archive | August 2015

My Thoughts On Adam Sandler’s Pixels

Pixels is the new Adam Sandler film based on the charming short by Patrick Jean. It’s about saving the world from aliens taking on the form of classic arcade video games. To be honest, my expectations were never particularly high for the film – Wreck-It Ralph being the only good game inspired film I’ve seen – but I was curious enough to want to see it. However, before its release I was pointed to a review that absolutely slates it. It seems it is now considered to be one of the worst films of 2015. It didn’t put us off going to see the film however as we wanted to judge it for ourselves. Could it be so bad that we’d find it entertaining or almost endearing? Had our expectations been set so low that it couldn’t possibly be as bad as we were thinking? Well, after seeing the film we definitely had a lot to complain about, but I still found I was able to enjoy its colourful and fun antics. Rather oddly the film also contains a handful of really interesting actors such as Peter Dinklage and Sean Bean.

When I first heard about the plot it sounded really silly, but somehow the film manages to put together an explanation that seems somewhat decent and believable. Unfortunately, there are also many plot conveniences that are lazy or make no sense. I won’t go into detail here as I don’t want to reveal any spoilers and there are already many reviews out there that cover these problems in detail. When there are too many mistakes in relation to the chosen subject matter, it suggests that they didn’t do the research to understand it or even care about it. As many gamers are very passionate about their interest, this can be a major obstacle to their ability to enjoy a film.

One of the issues that really bothered my friend was that at times the film appears to be insulting its own target audience – assuming that they are people with an interest in games. Many of the characters are based on tired stereotypes – the typical nerd. One of the characters for instance, is shown to be socially awkward and is in love with a video game character. Some of the humour also seems to revolve around making comparisons between the ‘nerds’ and the buff militaristic guys. I think this could be justified by explaining that a contrast was needed to show the transition of nerd to hero (along with the realization that all of that time spent playing games was worthwhile), but it could have been toned down a lot and still have the same affect. I try not to let this sort of thing bother me too much as I know that most game enthusiasts – and I’ve met a fair few – are not like these stereotypes and I can laugh it off because of how silly it really is; Although I do prefer a wider range of character types to be represented if possible.

It seemed to me like Pixels was confused about its target audience. If the aim was to create a nostalgic experience then presumably it’s for adults, but on the other hand most of the humour seemed very childish or just simply wasn’t funny. Mind, I also find it hard to believe that kids wouldn’t have heard of some of the classic games (such as Pacman) as the film implies, considering that they are cultural icons – or so I thought anyway. Then again the film also contains some drawn out romance scenes that were just predictable and not very entertaining for any kind of audience. The film shines when it comes to the colourful and bright interpretations of the games and everything else feels like a distraction from the fun. Unfortunately, I did feel that I’d already seen the best parts in the trailer already.

Despite the niggles, I wouldn’t say it was anywhere near being one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. I found I was still able to engage with the plot/characters and enjoy it, which is more than I can say for others that I have attempted to watch (I couldn’t even make it to the end of Mr. Turner.) In answer to my initial questions, while I understand why Pixels has so many negative reviews it turned out to be better than I expected; Despite all of the problems it was still somewhat entertaining to watch. I’ve always considered games to be great because they are something we choose to do for fun. Games are not always meant to be taken seriously and this could be said for Pixels as well. There were moments where it seemed to me like they were just trying to have a good time with it. At one point during the film I found myself longing to play some of the classics again. In some ways it felt like they were more focussed on gameplay with clean and precise mechanics; As Adam Sandler’s character himself mentions, you have to be able to spot the patterns to play them well.

I get the feeling that the film Pixels irks a lot of people because the idea behind it is actually pretty cool and we want to love it, but there are just too many flaws. It always disappoints me when something that could have been great falls short or in this case plummets.

… Also, giant Pacman is kinda creepy :O.

Celebrate The Small Things: 28 August

Got a lot more “me time” this week; admittedly I spent a good part of that relaxing. I’m also close to finishing the prototype for the game I’m building – the one based on somebody else’s idea. I’m very much looking forward to showing it off. Yeah, even though it’s suppose to be a really simple concept I still somehow found a way to fill several pages in my notepad with ideas I want to try out – I’m terrible for overcomplicating things. 😛

Had a meal out with the parents. It was my dad’s birthday so I wanted to spend some quality time with him. This meal also included a helter-skelter of profiteroles, which was very tasty – albeit not very healthy. Also went to the cinema with a couple of friends to see Pixels. We were admittedly curious because the film has received such bad reviews. We were kind of hoping it’d be bad in an endearing way – you know when something is so bad it’s actually entertaining? To be honest I think our expectations were set so low that it surprised us to find ourselves engaged with the plot despite all of the flaws. Had a lot of fun discussing it afterwards too.

Going to order a takeaway pizza tonight and spend some quality time with the boyfriend. We’ve been playing a lot of Diablo 3 lately and just have to get through the Reaper Of Souls expansion.

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Head In The Clouds: A Go Play, Go Learn Challenge

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The next ‘Go Play, Go Learn challenge‘ on ‘Nerd In The Brain‘ was to turn our attention to the clouds (the last one was insects.) I decided to spend a bit of time learning about them and also took some photographs while keeping note of the weather. During the short space of a week I photographed a variety of clouds. The weather was mostly calm and warm, but there was the odd spot of rain and even a small thunderstorm at the end.

Clouds And The Weather

Clouds are really important as they bring rain and offer shade from the sun. Knowing how to identify them can also be an indicator as to what to expect from the weather (incredibly useful for anybody that enjoys outdoor activities.) It’s in a loop, where the right conditions affects the formation of clouds, but in turn the clouds affect the conditions. They have an impact on the climate by reflecting incoming light from the sun or radiating back heat rising from the surface.

How Are Clouds Formed

During the morning the sun heats up the earth. Throughout the day different areas heat up at different rates. Thermals (up-drafts of warm air) start to rise and water evaporates from rivers and lakes. As the air rises to where the pressure is lower it expands and cools, causing condensation to occur (when water changes from gas to liquid.) There are usually other particles such as dust for the droplets to hold onto and they are light enough to float in the air. Once the droplets are big enough they fall to earth as rain and the process starts again. There’s an interesting experiment you can try to see how they are created, using a bottle, warm water and matches.

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Celebrate The Small Things: 21 August

Had a wonderful time at comic-con over the weekend. Spent a good bit of time hanging out with friends – got the chance to meet a couple of new friendly people too. I treated myself to a few things: the ps1 game King’s Field (a From Software game) and a signed set of the book series Ruin by Samsun Lobe (epic fantasy.) I also got to see Christopher Judge again (Teal’c from Stargate.)

My boyfriend knows somebody at work who has an idea for a really simple tapping game, but doesn’t have the time to build it. It’s going to take a little bit of time away from my other project, but I’ve agreed to have a go as it should be easy and fairly quick to put together. Apparently a few people are interested in seeing this and it can be fairly exciting working on something that you know others will be happy to see.

I made a couple of Battenberg cakes this week. The first was a plain one for practice and this time I was very happy with how it turned out. The second was a birthday cake for my friend. Turns out Battenberg is his favourite. I put together a cinnamon and apple one that turned out to be a delicious combination of flavours. I put a marzipan Corgi on top too (one of his favourite animals.) I basically had a lot of fun with it and he seemed to really appreciate it,

I’ve been getting a decent bit of me time this week and will continue to have some next week. Sometimes I need the space to be able to focus on what’s important to me and to recuperate. The weather has been lovely and warm too.

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#1000 Speak For Compassion: Listening

compassion1000 Voices for Compassion is a movement that is trying to encourage compassion through blogging. Each month they choose a theme, and on the 20th  they encourage people to write about it.

This months theme is listening. It’s my first time writing anything for this, but I thought it was an interesting topic to cover at a time when there are so many distractions it’s difficult to do.

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A Ranking of My Creative/Artistic Abilities

I came across this post ‘A Ranking of My Creative/Artistic Abilities‘ on the blog ‘Things Matter‘ where people have been ordering and describing what they think they are best at. I couldn’t think of a reason not to join in and give this a go, so here it is:

  1. Drawing/Painting: I come from a very creative and artistic family and so have always been encouraged to spend my time drawing and painting. I don’t get as much time to do it now as I use to, but I still like to keep up with this skill so that I can create images for the games I like to build. Whenever I have the time I will also upload images to Deviant Art.
  2. Photography: I love going out with my camera to take photos. It encourages me to go out, take an interest in things and to explore my surroundings more. I’ve enjoyed taking photos since I got my first digital camera as a kid. I upload a lot of my images to Flickr.
  3. Video Editing/Directing: I use to really enjoy putting movies together using video editing software. We use to meet up and share the movies that we created. I haven’t done this in quite a while though, but I imagine I could pick it back up again if I wanted to.
  4. Writing: I never considered myself to be great at writing, but I do enjoy doing it and took a free online course last year – start writing fiction. I also attempted NaNoWriMo. I’d like to improve this skill so that I can also write better text for my games and maybe even attempt a visual novel sometime.
  5. Editing: I need to have a bit more patience in this area. I tend to enjoy starting the creative process, but I start to get distracted by the time I get around to editing my work. I do spend a lot of time editing my photos on Photoshop however and I also have a better understanding of the importance of editing my writing.
  6. Cooking: I’m not so great at cooking (I’m the kind of person that eats to live rather than lives to eat, so food doesn’t interest me that much,) but I do try to bake something each week. You can see some of these attempts on my website, Share And Bake.
  7. Public Speaking: I don’t enjoy getting up in front of people, but I have done it in the past so I’m not incapable of it either.
  8. Dancing: I don’t feel comfortable dancing in public, but I will admit to having some fun in the privacy of my own room, in front of the computer with the music on loud.
  9. Singing: I can’t sing at all and I very rarely do even on my own. It leaves me feeling self-conscious.
  10. Acting: Other than drama at school I’ve never attempted to act before, nor do I plan to in the future.
  11. Playing Musical Instrument: Never done this before, other than messing about with keyboards and recorders when I was a little kid.

Celebrate The Small Things: 14 August

This week has gone quickly, I feel like I’ve had more energy and motivation than usual. Been making bits of progress here and there which is always a good thing. I was messing about with a few level designs in the game prototype I’ve built and I’ve had a few more ideas. It’s definitely paying off to take my time on it as it’s giving me longer to allow ideas to blossom. I’m really bad for always finding new stuff to do, which is why it can end up taking a lot longer than it should, but I really hope to get my ideas written up properly soon and to also ask my friends for feedback. I’m also happy so long as I continue to make a little bit of progress each week.

I got some shopping sorted out. Birthdays are coming up and I needed to figure out what to get people. I don’t always enjoy having to go shopping, but it didn’t turn out to be too difficult or time consuming to choose what to get. I’m looking forward to getting them wrapped and handing them over, seeing the look on their face. The wedding photos taken by the professional photographer a few weeks back have also finally been made available; just browsing through them now and they look wonderful.

My boyfriend and I also finally decided to take the plunge into Diablo III (it’s a game I’ve been intending to play for years now and yet for some reason never got around to it.) He also treated me to a Chess course, which was reduced in price. I understand the rules of Chess, but I’ve always wanted to learn how to play properly and well (I also think he’s hoping that we can enjoy playing Chess together more, but I think he’ll regret it once I get better :P.) It’s a fun thing for me to do on the side at my own pace whenever I fancy a break from everything else. Had a bit of time to do some baking too and attempted a second Battenberg cake. I had a proper tin for it this time, which made life a lot easier. I’m still not entirely happy with how the assembly went however. I’m improving and plan to try again next week. I don’t think people mind having extra cake to eat anyway.

For the most part I’m glad the week is over because I’m incredibly looking forward to this weekend. It’s comic-con again and my friends and I have a few things planned – I’ve been saving my birthday money for this moment just in case. Should be fun!

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It’s Not Just About The Tools

sunset_low_qualitySometimes I worry that my work won’t be taken seriously because of the tools I’ve used to produce it. There are a few reasons for why I may not be able to use the latest or best tools, such as not being able to afford it or not having the skills to use it yet. There are times that I prefer to keep quiet about what tools or process I’ve used to develop a piece of work because I don’t feel like it makes a difference to the final piece. If I love a game or a piece of art, will knowing how it came to be change that? While I’d find it interesting, I don’t think it’d change my opinion about it.

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Identifying Butterflies

A few weeks back I noticed a really cool idea on the blog ‘Nerd In The Brain.’ They plan to set challenges every couple of weeks as an opportunity to go out and learn something new. The one that I saw was to spot insects in the garden. I wanted to give this a go, but didn’t have much luck finding anything interesting and quickly gave up. I thought back to the post after visiting a butterfly house however. Normally I’d label my photos with boring titles such as ‘butterfly on a flower,’ but instead I decided to try and identify the subjects. I actually found it to be quite fascinating once I started to read up about it.

How To Identify A Butterfly

There are many different species of butterfly and they can look similar, especially in flight, so it can be a challenge to identify them. Ideally, you need to spend a bit of time looking for field marks, such as shape, colour and patterns, while they are still. The edges of the wings can vary from smooth to wavy to pointy and with tails on the end. The patterns can be chequered, spotted, veined or include bands of colours. The way the wings rest can also be an indication as to the type of butterfly, some lie flat while others at a slight angle. Check the ventral side (below the insect) of the wing too.

There are different families and sub-families of butterflies to look out for, each with its own distinctive qualities:

  • Papilionidae – These are usually large and colourful. A majority of them are Swallowtails, named so for the distinctive tail on their hind wing. They can be found in every region except for Antarctica.
  • Nymphalidae – This is the largest of the butterfly families. They are medium to large in size and have colourful wings that lie flat when resting. The ventral side is usually dull and fairly plain in contrast, giving them the appearance of dead leaves. Most of them have a reduced pair of forelegs. This family includes Monarchs and Angelwings with the greatest number found in the tropics.
  • Pieridae – These are medium-sized and vary in colour from white to orange. Many also have black markings or spots on their wings. The colouring is caused by waste products in the body. They may also have ultraviolet markings, used during courtship. This family includes Whites and Sulphurs and they are mostly found in the tropics.
  • Riodinidae – Small to medium sized. Their wings come in vibrant structural colours of brown, red, yellow, orange and white and may also include metallic markings. Males also have reduced forelegs. Examples include Duke of Burgundy and Palmers Metalmark. They are found in the neotropics.
  • Lycaenidae – Small and quick, with brightly coloured, sometimes iridescent, wings. They have slender bodies and narrow heads and their antennae is sometimes striped in appearance (usually with white bands.) This family includes Hairstreaks and Harvesters and they inhabit temperate and tropical areas.
  • Hesperiidae – Small to medium in size with duller colours such as brown, orange and cream. They also have thicker and hairier thoraxes with smaller wings giving them a moth like appearance. When resting the forewings and hindwings rest on different planes. The antennae also have a curl or hook at the end as opposed to the usual rounded club shape. They have a quick dart like movement. Not always considered to be true butterflies, example include include Skippers, Duskywings and Cloudywings. A majority of them live in the tropics.

Sometimes moths and butterflies can be confused, but they have distinct differences. Butterflies tend to be thinner and smoother while moths have thicker and hairier bodies. Moths also have feathery antennae and are usually duller in colour. When resting their wings are held flat against their bodies as opposed to butterflies that hold them vertically. It’s also important to consider that there can be differences between the sexes such as colour, but the patterns usually remain similar.

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Celebrate The Small Things: 7 August

giant_otter1I had a lovely birthday weekend. We went to an otter and owl sanctuary. Ever since seeing a giant otter on this nature documentary I’ve been wanting to see one in person and my dream came true. Got to see a fox and some wild cats close up too, they were beautiful. See some of the photos I took that day at https://www.flickr.com/photos/115638066@N07/shares/Lcoe55. (I’ve sorted through, edited and uploaded a lot of other photos this week too.) Later on we ate out with my sister and her fiancé.

One of the main things I got for my birthday was a PS Vita, so now I am very well set as far as my gaming needs are concerned. I couldn’t justify getting one before, but there were a few game that I really wanted to play.

Last week my friends and I went to see Inside Out – It was a fun film. My friend had also returned from a break so we got to have a bit of a catch up too. We also have plans to play a Civilization V game tonight, which I’m very much looking forward to… Oh and I finally got around to watching all of the first series of Sword Art Online and Humans.

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