From time to time, I’ve been known to write short stories. As a child, I often read the likes of the Best SF series, edited by Edmund Crispin, and stories like those became a source of my inspiration.
There are two sci-fi short stories that have always stood out in my memory, and both were included in Best SF Four. The first is Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (which was also adapted to film), and the second is Hobbyist by Eric Frank Russell; my all-time favourite.
In more recent years, my enjoyment of the sci-fi novel genre has grown to include Issac Asimov, Douglas Adams and Richard Matheson, but I have plenty of favourite authors in other genres too, such as Sir Terry Pratchett for his Discworld series. I also studied the artwork and style of H. R. Giger while I was at school (i.e. Alien).
I prompted myself to make this post when I stumbled upon one of my old pieces of creative writing while rummaging through an external HDD full of backups. Rather than post each story separately, I’ve put them on individual pages within this one post, listed and linked below.
A piece of fan-fiction about the game Supreme Commander by Gas Powered Games, which I originally posted on their community forums in 2008.
I used a purpose-built programming language called AlanIF to make an “Interactive Fiction” game back in 2007. People who know me well will also know about my keen interest in Russian history and culture, which often inspires me for setting and atmosphere in my stories like this one.
“Dead Meat” was a short horror story I wrote just for fun some time around 2003. I’d visited Toronto in Canada a year before, which was clearly part of the inspiration behind this story.
- Maybe others to be added later. 🙂
I’ve recently been overcome with nostalgia and revisited several of my favourite games from “back in the day”. Some of EA and Westwood’s Command & Conquer games are among those that hold a special place in my heart, but not all. I’m quite particular about which of the series I like; namely Red Alert 1 and 2 along with Generals and their respective expansion packs. Yes, I admit it, I don’t care very much for the Tiberium games. Sorry.
Anyway, many moons ago, I used to tinker under the bonnet of Red Alert 2, modifying its config files to produce amusing results, like flying cows that could rapid-fire nuke shells across the map with a sniper rifle. I also used to build maps for it, but as I’ve had several computers that each saw multiple hard-disc wipes since the days when Red Alert 2 was in its prime, I’ve long-since lost them all. So, yesterday I decided to make a new one. Just to see if I still could.
After a little searching, I found the semi-official map editing tool, Final Alert 2, and set about rebuilding one of the multiplayer/skirmish map designs I’d once made from memory. It was loosely inspired by one of my favourite maps from Cavedog’s Total Annihilation, “Shore 2 Shore”. Read on to see how it turned out.
I have been part of multiple projects using Linden Labs‘ Second Life, a massive virtual world where thousands of users can interact using “avatars”. Almost anything can be created in Second Life, and its behaviour can be controlled using a scripting language called LindenScript.
One of the projects was an actual university assignment, whereby we had to design mini-games that were similar in style and theme to what you might have seen on a TV game-show, like The Crystal Maze.
The other projects, however, were extracurricular; and I worked with fellow students Chris Butler and Matthew Brittain. Firstly, we supplied the assets for a “machinima” in Second Life as a pilot TV programme for Channel 4, which was directed by Pixel-Lab. Secondly, we worked on a major press event when the University of Derby signed a deal with global technology services giant, EDS.
For the press event, we had to model a replica of the specialist Games Development Suite in Second Life, as that was where the signing took place in real life, and we produced avatars that would mimic the actions of the real people in the room. You can find the university’s article on the event here. Expand this post to see screenshots of how we built the virtual Games Development Suite.
One of our final year university modules was called “Languages, Platforms & Tools”. This module featured lecture material on compilers and interpreters, along with debates about various programming topics. The coursework required us to produce a simple application in a programming language that we knew well, and then port it to another mainstream language that we did not know at all. The bulk of the work, however, was a written report that compared the chosen languages.
As you may have guessed from the title of this post, the primary language I chose was C#, and the secondary language was Python. The application I made with these languages was a simple clone of Asteroids, so I utilised the XNA 4.0 Framework with C#, and a library known as Pygame 1.9.1 with Python 2.7 to handle the graphics for the game in each case. My report discussed the histories of both languages and contrasted their features. I also included a developer diary that reviewed the progress of my implementations. I was given a “B+” for my work.
A screenshot of the Asteroids Clone (Python version).
Languages, Platforms & Tools – Report (.PDF, 485 KB).
XNA Asteroids Clone – x86 Executable (.ZIP, 25 KB).
I aim to compile and upload an executable of the Python version at a later time.
As another part of the “Advanced 3D Graphics Programming” module assessment, each student had to give a 20 minute presentation to the entire class about a given graphics-related subject, which we could not choose ourselves. Also, we only had one week’s notice to prepare our talk. My subject was “Real-Time Anti-Aliasing”, and I discussed the causes and effects of aliasing in computer graphics, along with the techniques used to address the problem.
Real-Time Anti-Aliasing – Presentation (.PPTX, 800 KB).
Read on to find out more.
This was a final year university assignment for our “Network Programming” module. We were required to produce a simple network-capable application with a suitable programming language such as C#. I chose to make Battleships in Java, a language that I was unfamiliar with and therefore had to learn as I went along. I received a “B+” grade overall for my work on this module.
A screenshot of the Battleships game.
This post continues with the technical details of this project.
For the “Advanced 3D Graphics Programming” module in the final year of my university degree, we were given an open-ended assignment whereby we could choose to create a tech-demo of any graphics technique that we wanted, and attempt to enhance it in some way (in terms of performance, quality, or by combining it with other techniques). After some deliberation, I chose to create a particle effect system using a traditional “billboarding” technique in DirectX 9 with C++. I then demonstrated the performance benefit that could be gained by reproducing the exact same effect with “point sprites” instead, and wrote a report to document my findings. My work received a “B+” grade overall.
An x86 (Windows) executable of this application is available from the following link if you’d like to try it out.
Particles App – x86 Executable (.ZIP, 25.8 KB)
Read on for the technical details of this project.