Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Google vs China

There's a lot of talk passing around the internet at the moment about Google in China.

Google has decided to shut down its censored google.cn and instead redirected to google.com.hk, the hong kong based (and uncensored) version of its search engine. This is a big move by Google, because the Chinese government could see this as them trying to circumvent their national laws and some of the Chinese media has already had a a few negative things to say about Google's disrespect for them.

CNet has a few reports on the subject.

I hope this works out well for Google in the end. Censorship of the media and government control of the flow of information into a country is an affront to basic civil rights.

Also . . . I'm hoping that when our government tries to censor the internet here in Australia, Google will have a similar response. I can imagine a huge voter swing against Stephen Conroy and his warped crusade to protect us from the phatom dangers of the internet when he becomes "the man who drove Google out of Australia".

We can only hope.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Good Riddance Michael Atkinson

This post is here to just relay some news that came out very recently.

Michael Atkinson Resigns from the Front Bench

For those of you who don't know, Michael Atkinson has been the figurehead of the resistance against the introduction of a R18+ rating for Video Games in Australia. It's quite a strange thing to have an R18+ rating for movies, yet not for games . . . and we are very alone in the international community in this respect.

Here's hoping that Atkinson's replacement isn't equally ready to bow down to vocal conservative minorities as he was.

With the Federal Government (mainly Stephen Conroy) working towards mandatory censorship of the internet in Australia, we were starting to look like a totalitarian state that's trying to prevent its citizens from gaining proper access to digital media . . .

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Some media from the Rome Exhibition

Here's a video of the Exhibition I worked on in Rome.

As you can see, there's a bunch of really interesting art pieces from around the world. There isn't that much in the video that's in English, but I guess you get a little bit of me there telling you about our systems.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Mass Effect 2

I love it. Can't get enough.

It's not a groundbreaking game . . . and it doesn't have astounding design or new art that's going to change the way you think about computer games. But it's mighty solid and very refined. They've streamlined a lot of the annoying inventory management, so it's a lot simpler (it's ok, if you want inventory management in a long bioware RPG, you can still play Dragon Age :P) than its predecessor. The gunplay is quite satisfying and the flow of the game is good.

The only downside is the amazingly grindy mining minigame that you play while exploring random worlds out in the universe. That is one of the worst time fillers I've ever seen in a game. It's astoundingly bad . . . and very annoying that you have to do a certain amount of it if you want certain positive outcomes in the game (I'm being vague to avoid giving out spoilers).

The morality system is kinda funny. I find myself walking around in everyday life trying to figure out how I can help people to earn Paragon points (In the game, your decisions earn you Paragon points for helping and looking after people and Renegade points for taking a "end justifies the means" approach to problems). It's all about computer games helping you be a better person :P

The characters are a lot more interesting than in most games, each with their own back story and gameplay style, and as opposed the the first game, you're actively encouraged (even forced) to play with different squad members and to use your whole team, not just 2 chosen team mates.

I've played the game through twice, to check out different character types and morality decisions (although the different decisions didn't really change the storyline at all) and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Setting up an AVIE in Rome (or A Week in the Life of a Systems Engineer)

I get asked a bit what my job actually is (especially by family). There's also a bit of "You're flying where now?" because of my frequent overseas trips to build massive art installations.

Without getting too in depth into it . . . I build these things call AVIEs (Advanced Visualisation and Interaction Environment). At the moment I'm sitting inside one in Rome . . . it's in this place called la Palenda, an old abbatoir that's been repurposed. It reminds me of the Carriageworks in Redfern, just with more meathooks.
I've spent the last week or so putting together the computer systems and the infrastructure for our AVIE in Rome (for the RomaEuropa Digital Life Festival) . . . it's going to be here for a few months. I've also been supervising a render farm . . . which has got to be one of the most mind numbing and (when you're on a deadline) infuriating things to do.

We've also rigged up our projectors, speakers and screen . . . which is quite a difficult operation involving a lot of people, lifters and scaffolds, some hard work and some precisely correct measuring and planning.

AVIE is a cylindrical projection environment, 4m high and 10m across. I spent most of my time preparing computers and software so that they'll project nice images onto the panoramic screen. It takes a lot of work because it's not just a bunch of projectors on a screen . . . they have to be calibrated so that we can deliver stereoscopic 3D (yeah, the same thing they do in the cinemas) and so that they blend together on their edges.

Here's a look at the AVIE from outside the door (without any projection):
I guess the scaffold gives you a good sense of the size of it.

We use these systems for all kinds of things. For this exhibit, two artworks are going into it . . . one is a 3D computer generated artwork that takes you on a crazy randomly generated journey through tunnels of videos and dark soundscapes. The other is an experiment in digital noise and emergent patterns that arise from noise interference etc. We've got a bunch of them set up around NSW for mining safety training simulations and it's also used for projects involving high quality panoramic photography.