Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dead Good Name for a Cafe

If you were going to open a cafe, you'd probably want to give it a name. Preferably something meaningful and memorable. Directly meaningful names like "The Cafe", "The Coffee Bar" or "The Snack Bar" are non-starters in a town that sets up a new sixth form college and doesn't call it "[Town name] Sixth Form Centre" or "[Well known historical figure with an association with the town] College" but something entirely random (One, brainchild of Suffolk County Council, I'm referring to you).

Anyway, a cafe in a building that trades in education probably ought to have a name with some sort of "educational association" rather than a bland, straightforward and descriptive name. If it could be a bit ... "exotic" that would be even better. What better then than a foreign word that has some sort of mathematical association? (the institution in question doesn't offer a BSc in Maths, btw, but it should be obvious by now where this is heading).

Here, then, is the name and something approaching a rationale:
UCS Union's new café - Theta - will officially open for business on Thursday 2 September 2010.
Theta shares the space with the new Waterfront Gallery, managed by the School of Arts and Humanities, which will open on Tuesday 7 September.
Theta is the eight [sic] letter of the Greek alphabet and is widely used in the sciences, in particular as a mathematical symbol, making it an appropriate choice for a café in an educational institution.
Oh gosh. That sounds well impressive. It's foreign, it's got something to do with education (albeit not in a discipline one can actually study at the institution) and err ... well that's it. Or rather it is until one digs a little deeper.

This is from the entry for "theta" in the popular online repository of knowledge Wikipedia (doubtlessly pasted-in from somewhere else):
In classical Athens, [theta] was used as an abbreviation for the Greek θάνατος (thanatos, “death”) and as it vaguely resembles a human skull, theta was used as a warning symbol of death, in the same way that skull and crossbones are used in modern times. It survives on potsherds used by Athenians when voting for the death penalty. Petrus de Dacia in a document from 1291 relates the idea that theta was used to brand criminals as empty ciphers, and the branding rod was affixed to the crossbar spanning the circle.
Seems like the naming committee have pulled a killer name out of the hat then. It should pull in the punters in droves ... unlike its clumsily named predecessor, Couture.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Schelling Out

Here's a video recording of Jesse Schell's recent presentation on game development at the DICE 2010 conference. Schell considers the economics of online games [particularly Facebook games, including the ubiquitous Farmville]. Here's some interesting facts:
FV > T

There are more Farmville players than there are Twitter accounts.

Lead generation is greater than direct payments (first they hook you in, then they hit you up).
Facebook is strange

Facebook is strange when compared to retail economics.

Schell links various "unexpected" aspects of recent games development (the success of Facbook games, plastic add-ons/input devices, "achievements", etc, by referring to psychological aspects--he calls them "tricks"--of game design.

When (drawing on Jim Gilmore and Joe Pines's Authenticity: What consumers really want), Schell goes on to talk about how contemporary culture has an aspect of "reality" or "authenticity" that is designed to allow consumers to believe they can get beyond "the bubble of fake bullshit", I think he's referring to what the Frankfurt School might have called "false consciousness".

This is such interesting stuff you'll want to watch it twice.

Games and platforms discussed include Mafia Wars, Farmville, Club Penguin, Wii, Wii Fit, Guitar Hero, Webkinz.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Looking for the Truth

I've been working on a machinima project using Moviestorm 1.2. It's the most ambitious piece of machinima I've made to date, involving voice actors and a proper script. The finished piece has a running time of fourteen minutes. I'll be submitting it as an entry for the 2010 MachinExpo, as well as entering a subtitled version in the Stars and Storm competition on

Here's the teaser text interspersed with some production stills:

Harris wakes up naked, scratched and bruised in an abandoned house.

He tells Bengie, his flatmate, that he can't remember much about the night before.

Meanwhile, Amber's friend Jessica appears to be missing.

Is there a connection?

Bengie and Amber want to know what happened.

They're all looking for the truth ...


The film can be viewed on Vimeo:
Here's a link to the version with subtitles:

It contains nudity and strong language.