Tag: physics

Antichamber – You are not here

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Antichamber - Sometimes condescending
One box or two?
One box or two?

Not since Portal have I had this much fun playing a puzzle game. And there is a distinct feel of Portal going on here, with the clean whites, the clever puzzles, a strange gun, and the outlandish physics.

Is Antichamber just another Portal?

I sound dangerously close there to doing Antichamber a disservice – it’s also got its own unique feel to it, quite apart from Portal – no voices at all for one. In fact, for me it almost gives me a retro feel of sitting with a 2D Amiga puzzler; the days where back story and plot, celebrity voices are gone. This game is just puzzle and BGM, and very nice BGM at that. OK, so graphically it isn’t retro – it uses some kind of cell shading on top of the powerful Unreal Engine. It looks superb. All whites, blues, reds, yellows, greens. Bold block colour that stands out well.

The puzzles range from easy as pie to fiendishly difficult, and the game doesn’t give you clues in as much as it taunts you with a kind of “here’s what you learned” quote after each puzzle. It’s a nice touch – and I’m thankful for a puzzle game that pulls out the difficult mind benders, I know that I’ve often been frustrated that puzzle games just didn’t challenge enough to be satisfying. I’m still working out a few of Antichamber’s 😉 and i guess that’s why they can afford to throw in the difficult ones, because you don’t need to solve them all to reach the end.

Forcefields tend to eat blocks

Progress is through upgrading your ‘gun’ through the colours, in order for you to manipulate blocks. The degree to which blocks can be manipulated increases with higher colour levels, meaning that hard blue puzzles might become really easy with green powers, but that some puzzles must be solved to reach the new colour guns ensures you don’t get too easy a time. You don’t get too these new powers either, at one point I got stuck just because I never realised I could DO something.

The game suggests that it is a deeply psychological exploration game, and it feels it sometimes. The goal of the game isn’t really the ‘end’, its to solve all the puzzles, and in that sense, as I’ve said, I haven’t completely done it all.

Sometimes condescending
Sometimes condescending, these messages are your ‘completion percentage’

You can track your progress in this regard by the number of little pictograms / “what you’ve learned” / taunting messages you’ve seen.

The real standout is the non-euclidean nature of the game – the map just doesn’t obey the normal rules of the world. You might turn a corner, look back, and the corridor is gone. You can go up a set of stairs forever. A box open on one side might seem like a Tardis.

Atomic ‘things’ are a recurring puzzle element

It’s mind-bending, but very fun. There IS a map, but it’s not as useful as you might think!

All-in-all, if you enjoy puzzle games, it’s highly enjoyable, cheap on Steam, and will definitely give you those frustrating but ultimately rewarding moments. I think I ‘finished’ it in <5 hours, which interestingly raptr was telling me (at the time, close to release I guess) made me only an hour’s playtime from number 1 player on the service, which I guess meant at first it snuck in under the radar. Good job, Epic. No real flaws, good difficulty curve, good total time, graphics, sound, style. If pushed, I’d struggle for a firm reason to dock the final point, but it feels like a 9 out of 10 for me.

– Zuki

Conferences and Open Bars

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Every so often, when doing a PhD, you get to go to conferences and the like. Sometimes, there conferences are across the world, and you get a free holiday. Sometimes, they’re right in your backyard.

This week, I had the pleasure(?) of attending a Seagate sponsored and ANSIN organised conclave at the Hilton Hotel, Templepatrick. Whilst I don’t want to go into detail on the content, suffice to say the talks were all interesting enough, some good and some bad – par for the course really at these conferences.

Did I say par? Ah yes, so one reason they picked the Hilton? It’s got a great golf course!

The view of the golf course here at my room in the Hilton Hotel, Templepatrick

Robert and Bob, my supervisor and vice-supervisor respectively, are keen golfers, as are a few of the Seagate staff if I recall. Whilst I’d love to try it out as I enjoy watching it, I don’t have clubs, shoes, skill…

Anyway, time was too short really for either that or the jacuzzi and gym that our room fee got us. What was fun was the boozing. As you may have heard me say on Facebook, it was an open bar.

Very tasty Long Island Iced Teas, and with an open bar courtesy of Seagate, much more tasty again!

Well, basically this post is just to say how much fun it can be seeing your friends and colleagues, other academics, and staff all get very very drunk on free booze!

Chronicles of a Thesis: Despair, frustration and hope

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So, I know I said I was going to do an hour a night. Yeah, that didn’t last long unfortunately. I have a good bit done, but thesis writing moved to second behind actually getting results (kinda a required part of a thesis).

Science ruins my sanity on a daily basis
Science ruins my sanity on a daily basis. But I wouldn't care, as long as I can get my results and write my thesis!

I can’t (probably not anyway, so I’ll not risk it :P) talk about what I’m actually doing, but suffice to say something should be working, and it hasn’t been. I’ve been trying to make it work for a year, but to no avail. Earlier today, I had a despairing moment, one of those moments I’m sure happens, where I freak out about “Oh damn this isn’t working it’ll never work never EVER” and worrying about whether I’ll get done in time to take ANY job, let alone the one I’ve secured with BT. It’s not a nice feeling.

So I had this moment after an hour futilely analysing a sample looking for my stuff to happen, and seeing nothing. See, the equipment I use to analyse it is kinda dodgy, like most equipment in labs everywhere. It is new, but has glitches and problems, and I was coming against one of its problems. But the frustration was discovering, thanks entirely to Bill, that the problem wasn’t on the bit I thought it was but on a completely different part.


So I mentioned hope somewhere. Well, so it’s already 7pm and I want to get home to watch the Champions League Semi-Final between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. But, knowing now what part is bad, an easily replaceable one, I really want to swap it and do just a few more scans…

So I do, and despite it being much too early to declare it a real result, amazingly, I get a graph out that looks suspiciously like the ones in the literature. The numbers look reasonable. Hope. I still have it.

I’m home now, watching the match on ITV+1, and eating chicken strippers and cheesy bacon potato skins. I’m supposed to be watching my weight because of Spain holiday in 5 weeks, but I couldn’t NOT tonight. Not after that day. Hope for tomorrow springs eternal!

Chronicles of a Thesis: Day 1 – A beginning (LyX)

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It’s gotten to the point – for a few reasons – that I really must start making a concerted effort to write up my thesis in order to finish on time by autumn. And so, I will be regaling you all with my progress, thoughts and frustrations. Lots and lots of frustrations, I’ll bet. I appreciate your attention, comments and advice.

I’ve resolved to do an hour a day on my thesis – while I feel I am a little behind where I need to be in terms of experimental data, I think that the actual write-up could be largely done if I devote at least 7 hours a week to it each week until finish. For those who don’t know, I’m studying a PhD in Physics, and the general topic is on a heusler alloy called CFAS which has intriguing properties. I know most don’t know this stuff so I’ll spare you the details for the most part! Instead, I want to offer an insight into what it takes, and your feedback on how you think I’m doing, and how I might do better.

It’s a tough goal – to be finished by September. Very tough – but I want to do it, for a few reasons that I’m sure, over time, will be eked out.

So, without further ado – Day 1

I’ve  had a long, time-wimey day, with unexpected phone calls and frustrating probe tips, with the topper of a less-than-good session of sparring at karate and aggravation of an old injury. Additionally, I wanted to get most of my every-4-week progress report out of the way tonight to give me more experimenting time tomorrow morning. So I gave myself an easy one tonight – reading the draft thesis plan I’d done a while back for familiarity, and deciding how to actually type up the thesis. You might wonder what I mean. I mean how to word-process it. Because, for reasons I still don’t quite understand, Microsoft Word is considered a no-no.

A bit of prior knowledge and the “done thing” for journal entries etc is LaTeX, and I’d tried in the past a decent half-way house in the form of LyX. Some further digging suggests that Word 2007 onwards is actually much better than it used to be for this kinda write-up, due to the greater use of style systems. However, knowing that the results of LaTeX usually end up looking very professional, I resolve to use it. It proceeds to download HORRENDOUSLY slowly from some FTP server somewhere, probably in some field in Texas…

It’s a small start maybe, but I feel now armed with Evernote for notes, LyX for write-up, and a time frame in mind. The end is there, it’s still distant but approaching fast. And I do intend to meet it.

More will follow.