MLG in bite sized chunks · 30 days ago

Destiny has lived with very mixed reviews since it came out, and despite it being somewhat repetative (as is the want of MMOs, where nothing can ever change), I do find it very enjoyable. It’s particularly great at providing fifteen minutes of fun and making you feel like a badass without you having to dedicate your life to it, i.e., it’s the perfect shooter for those of us with a job.

The above clip is an example of how it strokes your ego by setting up lots of awesome moments: headshotting a monster through the legs of another monster made me feel like king of the game for that brief moment, something I couldn’t hope to achieve in most FPSs that need you to devote many hours to them. Destiny may be repetative, but it’s the bite sized moments of awesomeness it keeps delivering that make me keep returning.

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Viewing a rolling shutter · 31 days ago

I consider myself fairly well versed in the the use and operation of my trusty 7D, but I was fascinated by this video by the Slo-Mo Guys of how the shutter on a DSLR works at high speed:

Whilst I understood the idea of a rolling shutter with digital sensors at the electronics level, it’s fascinating to see it at the mechanical level as your camera tries to take a shot at 1/8000th of a second.

Whilst you’re at it, it’s worth going through some of the back catalog of the Slo-Mo guys. Their videos are a bit hit and miss – sometimes they just gloss over what I’d consider the interesting detail of whatever they’re capturing, but there’s a few gems in there such as the tuning fork in water, shooting guns under water, and exploding paints.

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Clutch · 66 days ago

Peak Design Clutch on my Canon 7D

I always find that conventional camera straps annoy me; I usually have a bag with me for my camera anyway, and they just dangle uselessly when I use the camera. Jason put me on to Peak Design and I spotted their Clutch strap, which just wraps around your hand, and at $40 I thought I’d take a punt and see if it made me any happier. Having used it for a week whilst I carted my Canon 7D around Copenhagen, I’m pleased to report it did.

Above you can see it in use on my camera. The strap is very snug and secure, meaning even with just a light grip on the camera body I’m happy my camera won’t vacate my hand unexpectedly, even given how heavy the 7D is. It’s easy to fit, attaching to one strap point and to the tripod shoe plate, and comes with a quick release mechanism, though I’m in no rush to remove this now.

Downsides: it makes it a little fiddly on my camera to get the CF card in and out, and it does mean I can’t leave a tripod shoe on any more. But for most of what I do, I’m happy to live with these niggles, as for day to day shooting the Clutch is just what I want.

Lovely build quality too, so if you want something other an a strap, I recommend checking them out, as they have a number of designs, and one might just suit you.

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A white xmas is Los Santos, a happy new year in Azeroth · 68 days ago

Snow in Los Santos

There’s something charming when video games respond to real world cultural events. Mostly you use video games to escape the real world briefly, so it is perhaps counter-intuitive, but these events make the virtual game worlds feel a little less fixed and a bit more human. Pictured above is Los Santos, home to Grand Theft Auto Online, covered in snow this holiday season, as it was last xmas too. It’s not just the snow, you also get wonderfully horrible holiday sweaters and firework grande launchers. Such changes aren’t just a GTA thing either; I remember many years ago being in Stormwind, the main human city in World or Warcraft, during the bells of new year, and watching the fireworks go up and revealing in the party atmosphere with the hundreds of other players online on that server at the time.

These sort of seasonal changes are rare. Video games are typically finely crafted environments that present the illusion of freedom within a strict set of confines, and changing something even as seemingly trivial as whether there’s snow on the ground will mess that up and potentially break the game. It’s notable for instance that Los Santos only gets snow in the narrative free online game modes, not in the tightly plotted single player game. Indeed, the snow and ice do wreck havoc with some of the online games, but that is part of the charm – I know it’ll be gone in a few days, so I don’t mind the frustration of a ruined mission or two in exchange for swapping grenades for snow balls briefly.

Me in my lovely xmas sweater

Both GTA Online and WoW are both games that invite hoards of players in to experience a world together, and I suspect that also is part of the charm – it’s not just seeing the snow on the ground or the fireworks in the sky, it’s experiencing that brief stepping out of the regular game world with others and sharing that which adds a sense of place and community that whilst you wouldn’t normally notice it isn’t there, adds a wonderful extra layer of depth when it is.

I’m not sure what the point of this musing is, other than to encourage you to take advantage of these brief moments of otherworldliness that grip our favourite online worlds whilst you can; they may be a distraction from the main event, but they make the virtual worlds all the more richer for allowing that distraction to exist.

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Elite:Dangerous · 79 days ago

On the topic of Elite:Dangerous – I’m very glad to say I was wrong. After so many promises, and then seeing Frontier struggle as a company, I didn’t think it would ever ship. I was quite wrong, and I have to say it looks very impressive. It is essentially Elite as I remember it, but freshened up for the modern day – a perfect update. As a result of my misplaced scepticism I didn’t back it or get the betas, so missed out on earlier builds, but the full game comes out this coming week, so I’m quite excited.

For those interested to see what 20 years can do to a video game, you can compare this video of ArcElite on the Acorn Archimedes (which to me is the definitive version from my childhood) with videos like this one and this one of the new Elite:Dangerous. I’m looking forward to spending some time playing Elite over the xmas holidays, and this version is online, so hopefully I’ll be able to find some of my friends out there too.

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