31 Oct

Ready For The Play Store

Today might be the day. I’ve now played my game through from the beginning to the end so I know all the achievements are winnable. The major bugs are (hopefully) fixed, though I don’t delude myself into believing that it’s now completely bug free. Bug-free computer code is theoretically impossible. In fact, I’m pretty sure serious research goes into that very subject and nobody has yet established a way of ensuring that the almost infinite number of inputs going into a system will produce a finite set of predictable results. So, although the game plays okay, there’s probably going to be some person who comes along and jams a thumb in a place where I never expected somebody to jam a thumb, producing some crazy results. If a company like Bungee can produce a million dollar game like Destiny, release it to the public, and then face the problems they’ve faced recently with people exploiting cheats to boost their statistics or, as one particularly clever soul did, discover a way of jumping up a cliff face in order to explore an area of the game that Bungee had yet to unlock, then I’m pretty sure I’m going to face a few headaches over the coming weeks as people tell me that my game throws a fit whenever they do X,Y, or Z.

The moment I stick it on the Play store, I’ll be on here talking about it and no doubt boring you with videos about how I made it and things I’ve learned about Unity in the approximately two months (and two days) it’s taken me to build it since I started coding on the 28th August.

My final jobs today are to do with the marketing. I’ve recorded some gameplay footage which I now have to edit into a short video to include with my Play Store listing and on the website I’ve built to advertise the game and provide contact details for all the complaints I expect to receive. Then I need to double check all my text for typos.

One final coding job might remain but that’s based on a last minute decision I’ve yet to make. How much I want to annoy players to encourage them to buy the ad-free version? At the moment, I have ads at the top of the screen but I’m wondering if I should add some interstitials ads, which are the full screen ads that occasionally pop up during gameplay. I don’t like them, I don’t want to add them, but the game as it currently stands is perfectly playable with banner ads. In fact, it might be too playable with banner ads and banner ads are going to earn me so little that they might as well not be there. Interstitials would earn me more but, more importantly, would give people a reason for upgrading.

The alternative is to carry on coding once the free version is built. Once that’s launched, I could branch off a paid-for version of the game and start adding features to it. Other game modes might make it more attractive. I don’t know. Any thoughts or advice are, as always, very welcome.

 

30 Oct

More Stars With Old Heads On Their Younger Bodies

TomJones

Tom Jones

There’s an inherent cruelty to this stunt. I’m aware of that and it does make me occasionally tut and hiss when one of these mashups come out and it doesn’t look particularly flattering to the subject. I know this little game is meant to be (somewhat) funny but I’m not a naturally cruel guy and, I admit, I’ve made a couple of these that I just didn’t think it worth showing because they were simply too cruel.

The difficulty is particularly acute on photographs of actresses and the fact that I feel bad about the results for actresses I’ve attempted this with (but haven’t published) perhaps says something about my own perceptions of beauty. The gentlemen in most of these photographs don’t look too bad. In fact, I think the last few blog posts back up something I’ve always said about generic Hollywood actors: that they generally look better as they get older. Of course, ‘better’ is subjective and perhaps what I mean to say is ‘more interesting’. I preferred Clint Eastwood’s movies when he got older. My favourite actor, Gene Hackman, got better the more he aged. Not that he was classic film star material to begin with but that is one of the reasons I’d always watch him. The same is true of Piece Brosnan, who made better films once he was too old to play James Bond. This also happened to Sean Connery, who made some truly great films once he turned grey. Liam Neeson is an example of a star who found real fame once he got older. Walter Matthau, another of my absolute favourite actors, was old the moment he was born but that was his appeal. If you’re not watching a movie to admire the looks of the actor, then there’s little or no point making you lead actor good looking. Dare I say even Brad Pitt will find more interesting roles now he’s hit 50? Every day I wish Connery or Hackman would come out of retirement because I’m damn sure they’d still be more compelling to watch than half the actors I’ve had to endure in recent films.

What I think these experiments show is that Hollywood is stupidly obsessed with bland, tediously fresh-faced youth. I know Mel Gibson has done some dumb things in his life and I know there are many people out there that still won’t accept his apologies. Yet the films he’s made recently are, in my humble opinion, the best of his career. He is in that perfect zone that Clint Eastwood made his own as he got older. Give me Payback (1999), We Were Soldiers (2002), Edge of Darkness (2010), or the brilliant Get the Gringo (2012) over any of the Lethal Weapon movies or even, for that matter, Mad Max 1, 2, or 3.

Mel2

The deeper truth, I think, is more troublesome. It’s probably a trite thing to say and now doubt it has been said countless times before, but there’s such a disparity between how we think of actors when they get older and actresses. I don’t know who first pointed out that as some men get older they become more distinguished yet there isn’t an equivalent for women. That, I think, is where feminism has been completely powerless in facing down that deep bias in our collectively psychology. It doesn’t suggest that we are wrong in the way he think about aging actresses . It suggests, instead, we have the wrong attitude to actresses in their youth. Great acting ability means little compared to their looks. If we stopped trivialising young actresses, then we might have more respect for them as get older. Only then might we stop making them feel like they need the face lifts that turn nearly all of them into rictus mannequins of our celebrity sick times.

Caine

Michael Caine

Rooney

Mickey Rooney

TonyCurtis2

Felicity Kendall

Felicity Kendall

Gibson

Mel Gibson again…

TomCruise

And Tom Cruise looks exactly the same…

29 Oct

A Note About Spitting

I wish I could spit, filthy habit though it is. I saw somebody spit today and I thought to myself: that is so manly.

I never spit, although as soon as those words fall from my fingertips, I realise that I’ve just typed a lie. I do spit but on those very rare occasions most cyclists experience when you’re flying along, enjoying the sensation of air against the face, and then suddenly you’re enjoy the sensation of a fly hitting the back of your larynx. It happens enough times in a year for me to have figured out my usual operating procedure. First I gag, cough, and then I reluctantly swallow and say ‘urgh!’ There then follows a series of splutters which are my equivalent of the manly spit. You see, because I’m not a regular spitter, I don’t have the technique right. What I really do is ‘spittling’, that slightly plosive thing you do with your lips and also involving your voicebox when you try to make manly spitting noises by saying ‘spppphhhit’.  I sound utterly ridiculous.

A true spitter would find that it begins somewhere down in their guts. It then becomes a rising force, a roar in the back of the throat, and when it emerges, it’s a thing of — well, perhaps not beauty or if it is a thing of beauty then it’s that strange ugly beauty like H.R. Giger’s Alien or the goalkeeper in a women’s netball team. Unlike my spitting, which ends up a fine spray landing back on my face, the true spitter can send it flying feet ahead of them. The true greats have the accuracy too and can hit a spaniel in the eye at about ten paces causing significant tissue damage.

So, there you have it: I wish I could spit like a man. I wish I could spit like the person I saw spitting outside my local Tesco about half an hour ago. It was so manly I just had to give them an admiring look, even as I thought it such a shame because, otherwise, she was quite an attractive woman.

29 Oct

My Friend Stu’s Dream Woman

Warning

I occasionally take on commissions but rarely have I ever accepted one so strange. My friend Stu is generally a good sort but with a peculiar side to his character. He’s about 90% unreformed punk but the rest of him adores Barbara Windsor and particularly the Barbara Windsor circa 1964.

The other day he said to me: ‘David, do you ever wonder what it would be like?’

‘You’re being a bit vague there,’ I replied. ‘Would you like to offer me a clue as to what this “it” might actually be?’

‘Babs,’ he said and gave a whistle.

It was one of those indicative whistles, which are loaded with meaning in the same way some people load shotguns with ball bearings. I knew something odd was on the cards but I was too slow to leap for the first exit leading out of the conversation. Instead I went and foolishly offered encouragement.

‘Speak on, you devil in technical drawing department,’ I said. ‘What devilish imaginings have you conjured up in that curry fuels brain of yours?’

‘Well,’ he began, ‘you’d have to be a strange man not to find Barbara Windsor circa 1964 appealing but as you get older, you do begin to notice that she was lacking a bit of substance. To be honest, she only ever seemed play blonde airheads.’

‘But I thought you liked blonde airheads,’ I replied. ‘Isn’t that why you run that website: blondeairheads.com?’

He shrugged. ‘Oh, that was a mere whim. Once you get a little older, you begin to appreciate that the Barbara Windsor circa 2014 is something else entirely. She’s lived a life, you see… She is a mature woman, full of the wisdom that mature women have after leading very full lives. Imagine what a woman like that could teach you?’

‘How to soak her dentures?’ I offered before I stepped back a little. I didn’t like the look that had suddenly appeared in Stu’s eyes. It was part David Starkey admiring Tudor woodwork; part Fern Britton eyeing up a fruit loaf.

‘Now picture me this,’ continued Stu, his voice a low whisper. ‘Picture me the body of the youthful Babs but with the head of the worldly Barbara Windsor.’

‘I rather not,’ I said.

‘No, no,’ he replied, grabbing my arm. ‘I want you to picture it for me. You know: do your magic on the old Photoshop? I’d like it in colour and preferably printed on glossy paper so I can easily rinse it under the tap.’

I went cold. This was bad voodoo my friend was asking me dabble in. Yet had I any choice?

So, dear reader, I wish I could apologise enough for what I’m about to show you but this was not my idea. This is all his fault (points at my deeply disturbed friend, Stu). ‘Enjoy’ is too strong a word so, instead, I suggest ‘run away’. Once you’ve seen this, you will never ever unsee it.

And may God have mercy on all our souls…

BabsWindsor

28 Oct

Bloody Big Bug

Well, I think (fingers cross, prayers to heaven) I’ve found the last big bug in the game but I’ve just discovered across this big bug in the real world. Actually, it’s sitting on my wall over the computer as I type this (I swear it’s preparing to pounce) and I have no idea what it is or how I should defend myself if it does decide to strike. I’ve never seen one of these in my life before the last couple of weeks when I’ve noticed them in various places around town. It looks like the kind of bug I should either eat as part of a bushtucker trial or shoot as part of a Starship Troopers re-enactment.

bug

28 Oct

The Last Day?

Today I intend to make the last day I work on this game before launching it. Whether that comes to pass, I don’t know. Other business crowds my schedule and I’m finding it difficult to squeeze in enough quiet hours to stare at code, trace logic, and track down the last remaining bugs. I’ve finally decided that I’ll publish two versions, having discovered that advertising inside apps/game tends to earn so very little that I might as well maximise my chances by offering an ad-free version of the game. Not that any of this game is meant to make me a fortune but even a few quid from all my efforts would be rewarding.

Income for work. It’s a strangely old fashioned notion in this world where everybody works for nothing or works for very little. Somebody once told me (I think through a comment on this blog) that I should charge £60 an hour for building websites. I laughed. That’s so far from my reality that it’s depressing. The smaller the world becomes, the smaller wages become. There’s always some genius in China or India willing to do the same work for a twentieth of the price. I was thinking the other day how the best jobs might be those that demand a local presence, like window cleaning or sweeping the streets. There’s no chance of that work moving to Bangalor, which is a good thing since I reckon it’s probably the job I’ll end up doing.

We live in a single dollar economy with countless websites offering a place where workers can offer their skills for the price of a book of stamps. Amazon, one of the richest companies on the planet, encourage authors to publish their books for pennies or for nothing, as part of their loan scheme, where they promise you a share in a million dollar pot. They also run Amazon Turk, which is a depressing example of modern labour economics. App and game development is the same. The market is overcrowded, with small independent publishers struggling to overcome the advertising might of companies like EA, Zinga and Supercell. Hard work is being rewarded with poverty and only the love of the business (or, perhaps more realistically, the dream of making a fortune) keep people making the apps.

It was always thus, you might say and quality will always rise to the top. I’m not so sure, though my app, I hasten to add, won’t fall into either bracket of poor or bad. I’m too small, tired, and busy to make it anything more than my ‘best effort’. I hope to publish in the next couple of days and then I’ll talk more about it. For now, I have bugs to hunt and pennies to earn.

28 Oct

New Cartoon

Cartoon about Alp Racing

 

 

As cartoons go, it’s not much to boast about but this is the first gag cartoon I’ve drawn in… Well, I hate to think when I last scribbled something.

In fact, now that I go back and look, I see what happened. In February, I drew my ‘Great Figures of State’ cartoons, including my George Osborne picture which I remember thinking (egotistically I know) the best thing I’d ever drawn. Except no other bugger seemed to like it and clearly I began to lose confidence. By March, I was struggling to draw ‘Arse Fangs’  and then on 19th March I drew ‘Chubby Hammers’ . I remember feeling really blocked and it’s unsurprising that they were my last two cartoons.

One of my biggest faults is that I can be too damn precious about what I do. Somebody sniffs the wrong way in the direction of something I’ve done and I’ll happily destroy it. I’ve written off novels for precisely that reason. When my confidence ebbs, it can take months to build it up again. People often scoff and I find it hard to explain why I feel this way. For a time, back in primary school, I suffered terrible bullying, which I’ve never been able to explain. Perhaps others thought I was odd or perhaps it was just my turn to be the victim. Perhaps I still live with the scars of that time or perhaps I’m just the hyper-sensitive man that strangely gentle child became. I know I’m hard to figure out, though recently, I began to suspect that I might not be as odd as I’d always feared.

When I was at school, there was a name for people like me. It was a word that scared me as a teenager. It’s a word I haven’t heard in a long time. That word is ‘loner’. There was a time when the newspapers were always filled with tales of ‘loners’ going on rampages or ‘loners’ keeping a meat locker filled with body parts. Only in recent years ‘loner’ has been replaced by ‘Asperger’s’, a word I discovered to my enormous relief. I only discovered it when somebody close to me (and knows me as well as anybody) said she thought I displayed most of the key characteristics associated with people with Asperger’s Syndrome. Since then, I’ve learned that it’s a phrase that’s fallen out of favour with psychologists who prefer to refer to the ‘autism spectrum’, with Asperger’s existing at the mild end. It’s a shame. Asperger’s pretty well described me to the last hair and it came as a great relief to realise that there wasn’t ‘something wrong’ with me, a phrase I’ve heard throughout my life, usually when I’ve not conformed to patterns of behaviour that other people follow.

Looking back, I realise I do have some very peculiar characteristics which have never made much sense, such as my thing with carpets. Ever since I was a child, I go loopy if I hear the sound (or feel the sensation) of something rubbing against carpets. I feel physically ill if I hear somebody actually brushing a carpet. In fact, I’m getting goosebumps just typing this. I’m told that when I was baby, I’d cry hysterically if my mother brushed a carpet. I can still let out a yell if I hear that godawful noise. I’ll often rush from the room, fingers in my ears. It’s much more than a phobia. It’s like a physical pain and I have to grit my teeth until my brain moves on to thinking about something else. Walking in socks on carpet does the same thing. Brushing a hand against certain materials too. It’s bloody weird and I’ve never understood it but acute noise sensitivity is apparently quite common among people with Asperger’s. I don’t have any particular smells that irritate me, but bright lights can make me feel distant and hyper aware of my body to the point where I can begin to panic. I hate rooms that are evenly lit, with ceiling lights, for example. I live entirely in rooms which have one strong single light source and plenty of darkness.

Of course, all this is self-diagnosis and there’s supposed to be nothing worse than self-diagnosis. Is it helpful to think my personality might not be my fault? Is anybody even to blame for personality? It’s not as though having a term for my character gives me any sense of grand meaning. Yet I know it’s been helpful to realise this about myself. I’m far from the worst example but maybe there is a reason why I’m as clumsy as hell, something I’ve often attributed to my height but, on reflection, is down to my being as clumsy as hell. Perhaps that’s why my handwriting is the worst of anybody I’ve ever met, to the point at university I was told I needed remedial help to fix it; why I find it difficult to look people in the eyes, and often feel uncomfortable with people touching me. Maybe this is why I get fidgety and agitated if my routines are broken (certain things in my day are ordered to the minute) and why I totally misjudge situations such as when people ask ‘how you doing’ and I foolishly tell them. It only occurred to me in recent years that I’m supposed to mumble ‘okay, fine’ even if I’m feeling like hell. Most of all, I hate being around people. Not that I hate people but it takes me a long time to get comfortable being around people. Consequently, I hate social situations to the point that I’ve destroyed many career opportunities that lay before me simply because I was useless in social situations.

I know I have these things relatively mild, which makes me lucky. Sometimes — most of the time — I just hate being me but I think I’ve finally begun to understand my peculiarities. It also helps me understand the better side of me and why I have ridiculous levels of patience. I often won’t quit until I’ve done what I set out to do, to the point that my nearest and dearest think I’m crazy when I spend four or five hours trying to unknot some cheap necklace they’ve got tangled. When I can get absorbed in something, I can forget to eat or sleep, and that’s especially true when computers take hold over me. It’s why I stopped programming for years and only recently have I returned to it only to discover that I can pretty much do it for entire days and nights. Programming this game in Unity has been great fun but I know it’s also been feeding a part of me that sometimes shouldn’t be fed.

Cartooning, I suppose, is a way I find to escape it and I’m really happy to be drawing cartoons again. Comedy has always been my escape. I’m not completely anti-social — I genuinely like many people and having contact with people but always on my terms — and I will sometimes (but not always) stop being me and become the clown. That other me can be so funny and charming. It’s the version of me who wrote all those letters that went into my book. That other me sometimes shocks the real me. I could never flirt with Jacqueline Bisset but that other me is charming and will ask or do anything. The real me stupidly didn’t do the publicity to sell the book. I never understood why, until now, and I regret it terribly. Perhaps that’s the version of me who writes this blog, though I suspect it’s really the deeper me who is always crying to get out and then rudely offends people when they ask to meet me.

27 Oct

This is what a feminist looks like…

EdI hold no love for David Cameron except for this morning when I did feel like giving our old moon faced leader a big kiss on one of his sizable cheeks. Apparently, our PM has refused to don a t-shirt proclaiming ‘this is what a feminist looks like’. It is, of course, the sensible thing to do, even if it doesn’t seem politically shrewd. For a start, if he wore the shirt, it would still not be what a ‘feminist looks like’ because ‘feminist’, being an abstract noun, doesn’t look like anything. Feminists don’t look like Ed Miliband or Ed Balls. They don’t even look like Benedict Cumberbatch, though that’s something of a rarity these days given that everybody and everything looks like Benedict Cumberbatch who doesn’t seem to capable of saying ‘no’ to a role. The snowman in this year’s John Lewis Christmas ad? Benedict Cumberbatch. The model for next year’s new Mini hatchback? Benedict Cumberbatch…

‘This is what a feminist looks like’ just makes as much as sense as saying ‘this is what sexy looks like’ when you don’t have an idea what I think sexy looks like. Unless you’re going to get Sigourney Weaver posing in an LFC top and thumbing Martin Rowson’s newest collection of cartoons, then I really doubt if you know what sexy does look like. And that’s a problem with using such a heavily loaded phrase. ‘Feminism’, to me, is a whole range of positive and negative meanings, experiences bound up in persons I variously liked, loved, admired, or despised. It also assumes that I have exactly the same thoughts about gender equality as you or Ed Milliband or the editor of Elle Magazine when there’s a chance they’re not.

I would hate to label myself a ‘feminist’ because it’s too narrow a definition, in the same way that I shrug my shoulders when people tell me they’re against homophobia or female genital mutilation. I find myself thinking: good for you but wouldn’t any right-minded person be against those things? It’s not as though we’re talking about grey areas such as genetic engineering in Brighton or fracking laboratory beagles. You wouldn’t think of wearing a shirt saying ‘this is what anti-murderist looks like’ because people should already assume that you’d be against murder. It would be more appropriate to wear a shirt saying ‘this is what somebody looks like when they like to state the bloody obvious in a pithy but fashionable way’.

Besides, to wear a shirt proclaiming any message marks you as a person who believes in the power of t-shirts emblazoned with messages and those are some of the scariest people out there. They’re the people seen red faced on the front row of any mob; people who can’t see past the rhetoric to the difficult reality. And that’s always been the power of rhetoric in that it makes you admire the rhetoric rather than the reality. Plato banned certain types of poetry from his Republic because he recognised that people can be too easily motivated by fine words.  Plato, I think, would have also banned memes from his ideal city. There would be no ice-bucket challenge in Ancient Greece, unlike today when nearly every celebrity seems to have taken it, though a much smaller fraction than 100% of them could tell you who Lou Gehrig was and why ice has now become synonymous with his name.

Has any medium overwhelmed the simple message as much as the ice bucket challenge drowned out the message about the disease? The whole thing began to resemble the old schoolyard dare in which the gang give themselves over to the power of simple but powerful message. The message might be something as dumb as poking a lump of dog shit with your finger yet any reasonable person might say poking dog shit with your finger leaves you venerable to god knows what diseases.

‘Do you want to make me blind?’ you’d protest.

‘Ah, you’re frightened of dog shit!’ would come the answer.

‘No,’ you reply, ‘I just think the whole dog-shit poking scenario is more complicated than you’re allowing.’

There aren’t many issues which are morally more absolute than the stupidity of poking dog shit. ‘I’m pro-breathing’ would perhaps be one, alongside ‘human rights not snow rights’. At the same time, whilst feminism is self-evidently wishes to say something positive, it is also more complicated than a man simply wearing a t-shirt proclaiming that he’s a feminist. A t-shirt doesn’t change the reality of the cabinet dominated by men. It doesn’t make a convincing argument for positive discrimination (there really isn’t one). Nor would it recognise that the problem no longer lies in our notions of gender but in the very definition of the word ‘equality’. True equality is impossible since our differences are bound up in the very fabric of our DNA. Monty Python were perhaps the most profound when Stan told the People’s Front of Judea that he wanted to have a baby.

Reg: You want to have babies?!?!

Stan: It’s every man’s right to have babies if he wants them.

Reg: But … you can’t HAVE babies!

Stan: Don’t you oppress me!

Reg: I’m not oppressing you, Stan. You haven’t got a womb! Where’s the foetus gonna gestate? You gonna keep it in a box?

Perhaps we need a more enlightened view of our entire society, our notions of success and failure, intelligence, power, careers, ambition…  Many feminist writers have acknowledged that woman think differently to men and are as powerful but in sometimes different ways. Perhaps it’s men who are wrongly obsessed with working their way up the greasy poles of industry or politics. Wearing a t-shirt that says ‘this is what a feminist looks like’ also says, ‘this is what a man looks like who is so uncomfortable with the issue of gender equality that I have to wear this patronising t-shirt’. As far as I can see, it’s fighting a battle which was won decades ago. Equality today is as much about gender as it is about race, class, education and the green economy.

So, please go and wear your slogans and read Russell Brand’s books, filled with pith and fruity vinegar but not much else. It marks you out as a limited free thinker, a person who reduces the wonderfully complicated structure of the universe into abstract concepts that will ultimately fail. Today, and just for today, I’m on the side of the Prime Minister. Just don’t ask me to express my support in the form of a t-shirt.

 

26 Oct

Testing…

Testing… Testing… If this publishes, I guess the website has moved to the new server. I’ve had to log on via a Dutch VPN in order to see this site. The nameservers seem to have propagated throughout the entire world except for the odd little corner of the UK where I live. I just can’t get the new blog to load, so I can’t even get my email set up correctly or work on this new site.