On History and Influences

So I am now at home from uni for three weeks (Already a week down). I have a mountain of work to do (primarily my Games Device Programming and FYP projects), got all the Christmas things to do and will be spending some of it tidying through my room which despite having moved out of for most of two years is still full of all my stuff. I had a great flush of emotions when looking around, remembering things from the old game boxes to the Warhammer figures scattered everywhere. I’m tempted to put a few of these up on a self-indulging “This Is Where I Came From” thing.

Part of this links to something I was thinking about whilst my Aunt and Uncle visited last weekend as a sort of Christmas celebration/youngest cousin’s birthday. My Uncle Mike actually introduced me to computer gaming way back in mid to late ’90’s. Visiting him would always be a treat – driving down south to go see him and my aunt, having a nice home cooked meal, often Italian styled in their lovely house. But the highlight was jumping on his computer to play the latest and greatest games that had just been released. I’ve written in great detail about him and his effect on my life elsewhere.

No, the game I’ve been thinking about more and more over the past few weeks has been Close Combat: A Bridge Too Far, released in 1997. For those of you who don’t know, this is a WW2 strategy game focused on the battles that raged during Operation Market Garden, an operation that aimed to win the war by Christmas 1944. The plan was an ambitious one – drop Airborne troops from both the US and Great Britain onto three strategic bridges across the Rhine in Holland. These units would then be relieved by XXX Corps, a British formation that would steam up the main roads in order to open a route across the Rhine and into Germany. Unfortunately, it was a catastrophe. From bad weather to the plans falling into the German’s hands to a string of bad luck, everything seemed to go wrong. The plan itself was also a tad ambitious due to it requiring the British to push down one thin highway within four days covering a huge distance through territory perfect for tank ambush. The game itself modelled everything letting me dip into single battles, whole operations or even attempt the Grand Campaign – the capture of all three major bridges from Eindhoven to Arnhem. Sadly, it would take me up until last year before I finally managed to beat history and link up with the British Paras.

Market Garden is really a perfect example of history filled with what-ifs and maybes. It has a bucket load of personal stories from those of the British 1st Airborne surrounded and fighting to the last round in the ruins around their objective at Arnhem or to the Germans who had, up until a few weeks before, been falling back to Germany after the collapse of their defence in France following the Falsie pocket. There are great stories of triumph yet under pinning it all is a great tragedy – the failure of this plan really hammered home the fact that the war wasn’t going to be over by Christmas.

It really inspired me and grabbed my interest in both the military and history in general. Without this game I probably wouldn’t have spent the vast amount of time I have on History, doing it at both A Level and GCSE. The only reason I didn’t do it at university was because I wanted it as my hobby – something that I can go back to and enjoy looking through outside of my studies. My interest in history has taken me places – WW2 Airsoft is mostly about the airsoft but also a little bit about living some history. Many of the game ideas I want to develop for have some basis in history or the military as it’s something I enjoy researching.

Anyway, all this talk of Market Garden has inspired me to take up Flames of War as a hobby that will take me away from staring at a screen all day. Thanks to some chatting with my friend I can now confirm we will be doing a swap of stuff from the Open Fire box leaving my starting British Armoured Company with a total of 12 Shermans, 4 Fireflies and two US Airborne platoons. All I need now is a set of Achilles 17pdr tank destroyers and a 25pdr battery box set and I’ll have a completed army list. This is something that will take a while to happen thanks to both its cost and the sheer amount of painting I’ll need to do. But I’m looking forward to it – I’m not a natural painter but I find it nice and relaxing. Now where did I leave my paint brushes from back in the Warhammer days…

I’m going to try and do a few more posts before the year is out, as well as updating my work diary and showing off some of my programming. Until then, have a great Christmas everyone!

On Virtual Tiny Tanks, Tiny Tanks, Work and a little bit of Airsoft

A bit more variety since last time as I have a fair bit to talk about. Topics range from games featuring tanks to work I’ve done this week and a little bit of airsoft. Just a little bit.

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First up I have spent most of today at home feeling a little off thanks to a combination of giving blood and a few drinks the night before. Due to this, I’ve managed to do a little work but ended up mostly playing Wargame European Escalation. I finally managed to get past my major sticking point in the game’s singleplayer which is the final level of the second campaign. It was a pretty close thing – the objective is to achieve a higher points total than the NATO alliance (who start out with a significant points bonus as well as a greater selection of troops) while you instead have to use only the troops you managed to salvage from the last mission which are never going to be appropriate ones for the mission in hand. In the end, I’d lost all my command sectors, was down to T62s (Cheap, terrible and waiting to brew up) and APCs (not really designed to go head to head with tanks) against M1A1 Main Battle Tanks and only managed to win thanks to 40 points. To put in context, a single new T62 with no experience costs 25. So a little close for my liking.

Overall, Wargame is still a a really fun game. It does a fantastic job at looking good and easy to get into while at the same time having some pretty complex systems hidden in the background. Take for example the wire guided missile system – as long as the unit firing stays stationary, the missiles are pretty much guaranteed to hit the target 95% of the time. The problem I have with this is that it can play into the massive problem that Wargame has – its abilty to be a massive dick.

Take for example the humble BMP-3. A late-era Russian transport, this vehicle is oddly one of the most powerful units in the game. It mounts both a 100mm gun/launcher and a 30mm autocannon which means it can handle anything and everything. The first mission of the last campaign grants you an Mi28 – the Russian equivelent of the Apache fitted to the brim with fire and forget missiles as well as the latest tech. While playing the mission, a stationary MI28 can be downed by three BMP3s rushing it at high speed before the BMP3s would then proceed to dick on everything else. In fact, the game can run some bullshit past you, with veteran AT teams refusing to engage vehicles trapped in their killzone due to some unknown reason. Overall, I’m going to play a little more of this I think.

Open-Fire-01

In other little tank news, I’m also wanting to get back into miniature wargaming. Building little tanks and figures is something of a relaxing hobby and the world war 2 airsofting I’ve done has reignited my interest in World War 2. In addition, one of the other members of Teesside Airsoft has been playing Flames of War, one of the most popular miniature games that cover WW2. Having played a little bit of it last year, I’m now really wanting to get into it properly. Luckily, Battlefront has released a new starter set featuring (among other things) the super cool artwork you see above which kind of matches up to what Teesside Airsoft is all about. Hopefully, I might be able to pick up this for Christmas (either with my own money or as a present)and then return to Teesside garbed in my airborne kit before playing someone else with a combined British/American force. All I need to add is a Churchill tank or two and maybe some commandos.

Undercurrent Prototype Video

In terms of work, things are flying ahead. We presented our first presentation of our group project, Undercurrent, last Monday and it went down pretty well. Its a few weeks until the first prototype has to be handed in and really the programmers are tweaking up a few more things in preparation for it. In terms of my own personal project, I’ve been assigned my personal project supervisor. He is from the Computer Science school as opposed to the Games side which I think will be useful – my project is primarily general computing focus rather than just about games. More info coming soon on this. Other project are cracking along right on track.

 

Finally, more airsoft. Not much to chat about from the last trip seeing as not much happened. Also there are hardly any shots of me airsofting so here is the video. The biggest things is that my M16 got a kill before it had some issues and died. Well, after cutting the hop unit out of it I am now selling it in bits online. Keep an eye out

And that’s it – I’ll be away next weekend as I’m WW2-ing it up airsofting and so I may have to try and sneak a blog in at some point.

On Airsoft Trips and Gun Experiences

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Well it’s time to go back to University. I’m already back in Middlesbrough in my new house and I have been sorting out stuff and getting ready for the new academic year. I’ve also been working on my unreal script in preparation for the group project – something I haven’t touched since the start of the year. The house is a lot smaller than last year buts its already better although the sheer number of airsoft guns lying around is a recipe for gunfights throughout the year.

As part of going back to uni though it’s also time to get back into Teesside Uni airsoft. So we went off on a little visit to NAA again for their open day. Once again, a good day of airsoft. Personally, it wasn’t my favourite day ever. It may have just been to do with some gun problems or maybe I’m just not a fan of the site now it is so overgrown but I just wasn’t feeling it quite as much as I usually do.

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But it was also a day of playing around with some new purchases. And so, once again, it’s time for a list of experiences:

  • ICS M16 w/ M203 – Still love running around with the gun but its still not working. I need to bed the hop unit in but also the hop wheel is jammed on. I think I need to do a bit more sorting with it. The other problem is with the M203 – the firing pin every so often doesn’t quite hit the striker enough to set off the round. Again, a bit more sorting.
  • KWA Sig P226 – A new purchase and one that needs a little bit of work. In terms of how it shoots and handles I love it. It’s a beautiful shape, the evolution of the 1911’s design principles and it handles in a very similar way. The lack of a safety is a little odd but is made up for the trigger pull being tougher. Overall it’s a nice pistol. But it is obvious that has been well used. The gun needs some oiling, it seems to drink silicone oil, there is a loose pin in the back that can move around and can jam the slide and the worst thing is the mag follower has a habit of sticking thanks to someone attacking the mag. I’m going to have to file the side down and find a new pin.
  • KWA Mk23 – My new favourite thing. I really like this pistol all round – from externals to internals to performance. I’d call it a sensible man’s Desert Eagle – it shares the large size but doesn’t have any of the bling connotations you get with the DEagle. The handling is In terms of shooting, it hits out at around 330fps and goes damn far with the correctly adjusted hope. I need to improve my accuracy with it but I got a good few kills with it on Sunday.
  • KWA M93R – The last of the recent purchases and I’m going to sell this on. It is a nice reliable pistol but I much prefer the Sig and the Mk23. It also costs a fortune to use the burst mode as it eats gas and is a pain to reload.

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So Airsoft plans – I am going to be selling off my M93R and the Tercel 1911, putting the M16 and Garand to bed until they are fixed/its summer time and using the Thompson/M79 as a primary combination with the Sig/Mk23 as a sidearm. I also need to tweak my vest slightly so I can move the holster further up the vest in order to stop it from pulling all the weight to the bottom of it, which can be a pain when it comes to crawling around in the nettles. Apart from that, I think I’m just about sorted, apart from repairs and the like.

Well, that’s it for. Expect some more as term starts – I’ll put up some work both here and on my tumblr so you can see what I’m up to.

On the End of Term, Start of Work and Max Payne 3

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(Top and bottom pictures from my last airsoft trip)

Well that’s my second year of university over and done with. I came back home on the 24th, spent the next day sorting out a piece of work and then my holiday started. I’ve found my second year to be much harder both in terms of university work and student life in general. However, it has proved that I do enjoy programming but I’m not a natural at it – I’m going to have to spend most of the summer practising so I’m ready for my final year. I have a few projects all planned up to do over the summer and I plan to write about them during my month’s off after June.

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On One Month Left, Guns and Games

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(Teesside University Student Union Airsoft Society 2011-2012)

So we’re into May and the final month of Uni is upon me. I’ve got a code handin next week and then after that its report writing, portfolio making and a single presentation on mobile games. I’ve enjoyed this year but I’m really looking forward to having the summer off. My plan is to get some paid work during June before my sister’s wedding, have two weeks doing a little bit of own work but mainly relaxing and then spend the rest of the summer working on personal projects and prepping for my final year project.

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On Holidays, Games and Summer

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So I’m back at home for my holidays (well until Sunday) and its been a quite good time. I’ve got plenty of work done, went for a placement interview, saw my sister and had a meal with her and generally had a chance for a bit of a rest. April is going to be packed full of work getting all the coding projects finished so it may be very quiet round here but once that’s all over, I’ll be just working on a few reports and portfolio things.

One of the things I spent a lot of time doing over the two weeks is driving. From going to the dentist to going to Newcastle for an interview, I’ve clocked up a good few miles in the car. I’ve discovered I really enjoy driving long distances, with the radio blaring out and being able to concentrate on the road.

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@property(nonatomic, retain) IBOutlet BlogPost “More Coding and Games”

From XKCD

Yep, don’t worry I’m still here. Just been doing some more programming to get ready for a few hand ins. At this point they are mainly milestones although I do have a presentation on a LISP problem to show on Tuesday which will be great fun.

At the moment, the main two projects I’m working on are a C++ game using HAPI, a API (or framework) developed by my tutors at Teesside University and a game for iOS (hence the horribly mangled bit of Objective C in the title bar). I’m finding coding hard work but its oh so satisfying when you finally solve a puzzle.

But you people aren’t here for coding talk, you’re more interested in games! So here what I’ve been playing for the past few months:

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A (Very) Short Update

Airsoft Society Doing MW3 Launch Night

So I keep saying this but once again I need to write some more on this blog. Been a little overwhelmed with the whole "going back to uni thing”. Bit of a crappy excuse but here are all the things that have happened since the last blog entry which was on the 2nd of September also known as 74 days.

  • Finished work at Mamas and Papas
  • I got back to my flat in Middlesbrough
  • Moved all my stuff into the flat and decorated it
  • Got my desktop upgraded to i7 and memory – runs games like a dream
  • Went back to uni and did some work
  • Went airsofting three times (last one was less then good)
  • Found a whole bunch of new shows to watch thanks to Anicom, Airsoft and other uni things such as Adventure Time and the Amazing World of Gumball
  • Started writing for This Is My Joystick again (Currently have two sets of review code to review)
  • Started swimming again
  • Wrote a CV to start looking for placements for next year
  • A whole bunch of lovely games cam out for me to review
  • Airsoft did some midnight launches. Surprisingly few idiots asking questions
  • And I grew a small beard. Its pretty beardy.

Sorry for how short this is, I’ll write some more in the future when I have a bit more time. And I’m not taking a five minute break from coding.