Thursday, October 31, 2013

Night Drive

I've always wanted to make a night time driving video.

I find driving at night therapeutic. It gives me time to think about the things most people think about in the shower.

Initially I intended this video to be a quick demonstration of what a relatively long driving video would look like if it was sped up.

But while I was editing this video I noticed uncanny similarities that driving shares with many aspects of life. A new idea is born.

I refer you to the start of our driving adventure. You begin in life not really knowing where you're going or where your life will lead you. Some of us have stronger ideas of where we want to go, some of us don't and that's fine. You don't always have to know the way.

So we drive on. Gotta keep moving.

You begin to notice that during your voyage you come across people driving in the same direction as you (in the video's case that would be the cars in the same lane). They represent your family, friends, workmates and members of society heading towards a similar goal as you. But it's not long until you must part ways and diverge lanes, just as we do in everyday life when it's time to say goodbye.

People will come and go in your life. As sad as it may seem, this way we get to meet different people and experience new things.

While you're driving along, living your life, you start to realise how beautiful the journey is. The lights, the quality time you've spent with the people you care about and the fascinating new things you've learnt along the's nothing short of breathtaking.

Sure there'll be speed-bumps, hiccups and detours that get in your way but they just remind you to focus more on the journey, not the destination. It's okay to make mistakes, and we can't be afraid to admit them. We learn faster that way.

Then you realise how fast you're traveling. We sometimes forget how much time vanishes right in front of us. Nevertheless, there will be some people who like to live the fast life, to push their cars to the red-line. They yearn for the thrill of speed and the excitement of not knowing what's around the corner. I've never really understood that.

The faster you go, the more scenery and beauty you miss out on.

Other people prefer a leisurely cruise and to relish the great memories they've had. They don't mash the throttle or try to rush their lives. They don't like getting older. They want to be kids. They want to be naïve, to be oblivious of the messy world we live in.

Part of me likes to think that I'm in this category. I despise the idea of growing up. But if we don't grow up, that would be like driving in reverse gear all the time, constantly looking out of the back window and living in the past. That's just as bad as living life too quickly. You don't even get the chance to see anything before it's all over.

Perhaps the message I am trying to send out is not to live your life so quickly that everything whizzes past in a colourful blur, but not so slowly that you miss out on opportunities to see what the world has to offer. Find the speed that is right for you.

You only live once, so make this one the drive of your life.

Watch the video here:

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sim City Review

The latest instalment in the Sim City franchise saw overwhelming doubt and speculation months prior to its launch.

For fans, including myself, it’s been a long time waiting and hoping. I am happy to report that while the new Sim City has its flaws, gameplay is thoroughly enjoyable, visuals are beautiful yet informative, and the overall presentation of the game is clean and easy on the eyes.

No Sim City game has been easy. Its deep simulation meant a significant amount of “number crunching” in comparison to games such as Call of Duty where the only numbers you need to be concerned with is your health and ammo, as well as kill/death ratio, if you’re obsessively competitive.

The latest Sim City cuts back on the amount of number crunching. EA and Maxis have tried to make the new Sim City a more approachable game for newcomers. However, in doing so they have taken away the technicalities that defined past Sim City games.

While there are still numbers to play with in the new Sim City, it’s not as predominant as it used to be. Instead, most in-game data is represented as colours and 3D bar graphs.

Despite what some players have criticised the game as “dumbing down” to appeal to a larger audience, the new Sim City offers plenty of hurdles to overcome, even for veterans of past Sim City games.

The game feels rewarding more than ever, especially when you start seeing skyscrapers under construction and high density buildings developing, then being able to maintain them through taxes and zoning. Earning money in the new Sim City is as pleasurable as it has always been.

The new, somewhat omnipresent social aspect of the new Sim City provides a fresh set of challenges for players to feast on. In a way this game has become an MMO.

For instance, playing as a highly industrial city causes health and environmental problems that not only affect your city, but the entire region and its players. If crime is unresolved in one city, criminals can travel to another city wreak havoc there.

Dirty industry causes air pollution.

Should you and your friends play in the same region, everyone can contribute to “great works” such as an international airport which will provide lots of tourists and demand for city expansion.

Unleash your inner stalker. You can follow individual Sims in the new Sim City and see what they’re thinking and how their life is going. By listening to them, you can then tailor your city based on their needs. You really do get to play God.

Finally curved roads!

If you’ve got a decent computer, you’ll be pleased to know that the game looks amazing. Models are well sculpted and architecturally beautiful. Some complained that the new Sim City’s graphics look “cartoony”. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I personally love the sunlight’s reflection you get while moving the camera around your city’s skyscrapers and water. I like the blurring effect when viewing things up close as it gives your city a more cinematic feel. The day/night cycle and weather adds new layer of realism that past Sim City games did not possess.

The new Sim City’s in-game interface is clean and minimalistic. It has adopted a somewhat “clinical” appearance that looks fresh and modern, but potentially mundane to players who like StarCraft 2’s interface for the difference races. Buttons are small and city notifications do not interrupt your view too considerably. It’s an improvement over Sim City 4’s interface.

Sadly, this is where the positives end. The new Sim City’s downsides range from large-scale to small-scales issues.

The major concern that the majority of players had prior to launch was how prepared servers were to handle the inevitable flood of people trying to enter a game.

I had preordered the new Sim City, and downloaded it before the actual launch date (7th of March). The download went well, and my hopes were high. Installation took a couple of hours so I was impressed.

Then I tried to join a game. It was a disaster. There weren’t any servers that could take me in and finally after getting into a server, I couldn’t join a game because of “an error that was currently being worked on”.

Sometimes I actually got to play the game. For about ten minutes. Then I got disconnected from the server and couldn’t rejoin.

I was locked out of my own city. That is unacceptable.

To this day, EA and Maxis are still working to fix server issues by adding more servers and increasing capacity, and I’m glad that the game is almost free of its server problems.

The new Sim City does not allow for any terraforming and maps are limited to “medium” size which is really too small for any real city to exist. Some buildings take up so much space (such as the Sydney Opera House) that you are forced to compromise entire suburbs to allow for them to be placed and expanded later.

Additionally, the fact that you require an internet connection whenever you want to play Sim City has received much debate. This is partially the reason why players experienced network issues from day one.

There are some smaller issues in the new Sim City and while they do not take away from the overall gameplay, they may cause some redness, swelling and tenderness amongst those who have OCD. The graphics, while pretty, can bug out sometimes sometimes causing higher terrains to cut into roads if viewed from further away.

I read in a recent EA blog post ( that “to get us back in your good graces, we’re going to offer you a free PC download game from the EA portfolio. On March 18, SimCity players who have activated their game will receive an email telling them how to redeem their free game".

Looks like EA and Maxis have learnt their lesson after all.

Sim City is not perfect, but as we get more and more updates, it’ll come close. This is a small step for making the best Sim City game yet, and a giant leap for making city building simulators a more enjoyable experience for new players and fans.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Buying Petrol with Ian

I bought some fuel for my car recently.

Buying petrol is a pretty big deal. It can set me back up to $80 every time I refuel.

Fred Flintstone be pimping in his new ride.

Obviously I've bought petrol before, but this time was definitely the worst time I've ever bought petrol.

So I'm driving down to the local station, pondering the mysteries of the universe, wondering what I could've spent $80 on besides petrol and of course, paying attention to the road.

Remember kids, drop five. Save lives.

Speed kills. Not if you're sober.

It's night time. No one goes out to buy petrol on a Wednesday night, right? Saves me the hassle of waiting.

Wrong. It's as if the entire neighbourhood is invited to Kate's party at the same petrol station I'm refueling at.

It's so crowded down there that cars are actually blocking the streets on both sides of the station.

And because cars have their fuel hatch on one side, you have to choose which booth you want wisely, otherwise the whole place ends up looking like mi goreng.

In retrospect, I could've walked away from the situation like a man, but I stood my ground like a BAUS.

But after waiting for about 10 minutes, I'm already bored of Angry Birds so I decide to investigate as to why I hadn't gotten my petrol yet.

I see the problem instantly. Up a few cars is a white Holden Colorado, basically a ute but bigger. Equally as big is the man standing next to it.

It wasn't this guy, but I wish it was.
He's refueling his car, but there's five jerrycans (portable petrol tanks) at his feet and he's refueling those as well.

Probably in his mid-40's, he looks like the sort of guy who eats microwave meat pies for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and supper.

In other words, fat.

I don't approve of someone holding up the line like that. Besides, why would anyone have to refuel FIVE jerrycans?

2012 has already passed, so there's no need to worry about a zombie apocalypse, and I doubt he's off to fight the Second World War because that ended 70 years ago.

I decide to go over to the petrol hog and tell him to hurry up but before I can, I am rudely interrupted.

If you've never heard of Murphy's Law, it's a saying that goes like this:

"Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong"

Murphy's Law is one of those things that everyone can relate to.

Ever wondered why out of all the days you forget to bring your umbrella, it ends up raining? And whenever you do remember to bring an umbrella, it's nice and sunny.

Or what about that time when you stepped into the shower for a second and your phone started ringing?

Go ahead and read into it more. You'll find it quite enlightening, I promise.

So I'm walking over to the troublemaker when suddenly, of all the things that could happen, the power goes kaput.

All the lights are gone. The lights inside and outside the station, the traffic lights, street lights - gone.

Only the headlights of a few cars illuminate the area.

People start shouting. I hear doors banging.

A few bogans rev their V8 engines. They're at a petrol station, wasting what they put in just a minute ago.

Some people honk their horns, as if that will do anything.

Petrol hog has hogged so much petrol that even power to the neighbourhood has buggered off.

Look at what you've done. Said Jet.

Even if you've got an electric car hooked up to the wall, there's no escaping the inevitable petrol hog.

Then it hits me. What if the zombie apocalypse is starting?? What if Petrol Hog is right and we all need to fill up our petrol suitcases??

Some loser starts playing "Dancing In The Moonlight" by Toploader very loudly in their car.

They are destroying my moment of fantasy.

Shortly though the power comes back and the hog resumes hogging. I walk on over and tell him the lady in the car behind is not happy, Jan.

Not happy, Jan!

He starts packing away his jerrycans, pays and drives off. Not long after it is my turn for fuel. What a night it has been!

Instead of opening the little hatch for the petrol to go in, I open the boot.

There's five jerrycans in there.

Might as well fill them up while I'm here, right?

Official Trailer!

This video was HEAPS of fun to make.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

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