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Quite a hodgepodge of Science, Technology, Engineering Arts and Math today… and I’m going to start for the story that should probably be kept until GameBandits next week… but the news waits for no nerd… and everyone loves a good drama…so:
Fortnite’s Epic Games really resented Apple taking their 30 per cent cut on the billions of dollars Epic makes on their in-game currency, Fortnite’s Vbucks. So they knocked 20 percent off every purchase made directly through Epic instead of the “easier” sale through apple. The thing is, Apple’s contract says that they get 30% from each and every sale via it’s apple store, which is pretty much the ONLY way of getting a game or app onto apple’s iphones and ipads…and so they pulled Fortnite completely from their App Store for breach of contract! But the drama doesn’t end there! Epic then sues Apple for anti-competitive behaviour and makes a video mocking Apple with it’s own famous 1984 commercial! Check this out!
Which is obviously taking a jab at this old Apple classic!
If you want all the gorey details The Verge has a great article about it all:
Whew! Now that breaking news is sorted we can turn our attention back to things closer to home… like our garbage trucks!
I had no idea that we were doing this… but it’s such a simple idea and I love it! Using the methane given off by garbage to fuel the garbage trucks that pick it up… so of course I did a little digging and found a little more about how Toronto is using Biogas plants to keep things green:
You can even do the same thing yourself on a smaller scale with your own food scraps…and you’ll get free cooking gas and liquid fertilizer in return!
While we’ve been enjoying our summer days, it seems scientists have been comparing our artic to surface of Mars and coming up with some new ice!
By comparing the red planet to the Canadian Arctic scientists now believe that there was never a moister, warmer, river covered early Mars… only sheets of martian ice!
And speaking of martians… how you like this alien-looking deep sea beastie showing up in your fishing nets!? It seems that the tiny isopods in shallow water have a deep sea cousin… and a much bigger cousin at that!
And finally we see how hard it is to be a bee… especially these days!
There’s a lot of things out to get bees… everything from pollution, pesticides, global warming, disease and now these horrid looking Varroa Destructor mites that can infest a hive and can lead to complete colony collapse!
Few can explain things as well as the fine folks at Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell… so I’ll let them tell you all about the death of bees!
Without bees, we’re in big trouble! Now, obviously it would be much better if we could keep them around, but we’re already looking at ways that we can automate all the pollinating that they do… including robot bees! (see, I always have to get a robot or two in here!)
But recreating our fabulous flying bees is complicated, let alone having them perform the actual transfer of pollen needed to keep our crops growing ! Which is where bubble blowing drones come in!
Well, I’ve been wondering if there was anything I could do to become faster at the button mashing, less creaky at the keyboard and a slightly less pained parent before during and after my gaming (defeats), so I went looking for some tips…
Dr. Levi “The Gaming Doctor” has great information and exercises…
including how important it is to stretch and flex and take just a 5 minute break every 60 minutes of gameplay
…it doesn’t sound like much, but apparently it can really make a big difference to your gaming abilities and how long you’ll be able to play!
And having run through Tykato Fitness‘ warmup and stretches my hands feel likethey could reduce a controller to powdery plastic dust…try them out, it’s a real work out!
And while all the extra video game and computer time we’re getting can be bad for us… COVID, once again proves, the virus is great for video games! 30% increase in sales for a whopping $11.6 billion between April and June,
We’ve also got to check in with BagOfChips and hear all about his quest for components to feed his new PC gaming beast! Found any great deals out there BagOfChips? Or perhaps you’ll be holding off until the rumoured Nvidia 3080 GPU’s (Graphics Processing Unit – the card what draws every element of every frame of your game onto your screen) hit the shelves?!
3080TI!!!!??? As Bratlett says, you will be able to see the bullet coming before the enemy even aims their gun at you! 😉
GPU cards are becoming almost as important…if not more important…than CPUs (Central Processing Units – the brains of the computer)! CPUs are fast, but they max out at around 28 cores (meaning they can be running 28 “virtual computers” all at the same time) whereas GPUs have literally thousands of these “virtual computer” cores. So obviously GPUs are in big demand for heavy processing jobs like rendering VFX, processing big data, searches, and of course…AI.
AI is always something that gets my attention so I wondered if games were using the GPU’s to handle the AI side of gaming… that’s when I stumbled onto this series about the difference between AI and game AI. Game AI turns out to be a bit different than I’d assumed… and I was surprised to find that it’s still a lot faster just to give those NPCs (non player characters) a crazy long list of possible moves, rather than have real AI decide what they should be doing to seem more “alive”.
And finally, I noticed that there were a few leaks, rumours and even fan trailers about a possible Sims 5 release, which I thought our fabulous London Ladies, PinkNinja & GoldenWolf, might have some thoughts on…
Being the distracted SQUIRRELS! that we Bandits are, we spoke about easy ways to do 5 times tables:
Although, the Bandits showed me it by dividing numbers to be multiplied by five in half and then multiplying the result by 10.
We also had a very funny discussion about the possibility of making zombie shark themed video games (or a man-shark approach that Bratlett quickly dubbed “Mhark attack!”). The bandit’s found the above image as a nightmarish “inspiration”?
And musically… how about a tiny bit more death metal take on Baby Shark:
We wondered if perhaps this “Zaws” project might be a job for Roblox and their Roblox Studio?
I can’t believe how fast Friday’s come this time around. Just did an amazing interview with the fabulous and talented Neal Acree who, having worked on Stargate, is now also composing for some of the biggest video games around…such a great guy and what a fantastic insight into the world of film TV and video game music!
Also this week I had the pleasure to chat with my new Geek Brother from another Mother Barnacules (Smash together Barnacles and Hercules if you want to pronounce it right). He’s not exactly kid-friendly content, but he’s a great guy and just as much of a curious nerd as we Bandits. He has been kind enough to put me in touch with Haddington Dynamics… makers of the incredible open source Dexter robotic arm…have a look see!
Normally, I’d be curled up on the sofa tapping my TechBandits show notes… but it seems our new DireWoof, Huzzah! is using it…ALL of it!
See you Friday Aug 7th 11am EDT for more banditry and chatter!
I’m hoping that we’ll get to check in with Tony Ellis about our N.O.H. distancing Sensor…but he’s got family visiting and you know how crazy that can get!
Check out this fabulous Beetle Cam that BagofChips’ dad sent us! Small enough to fit on the back of a beetle but able to send live video from a camera that can be positioned remotely!
And how about this as another great use of tiny cameras? These upgraded google glasses are being used by kids on the Autism spectrum to understand how they should identify and react to people’s emotions.
I know we’ve spoken about 3d printing buildings before, but I just love the idea of this one designed to be printed on Mars… and I was so inspired hearing the designer describe the system’s “hunter scavenger” approach to building off world housing!.
And since we’re still in Pandemic mode… I couldn’t help but seek out news about how technology is being used to help us stay safe… or robots wielding light sabers!
Nope… not him… this one! 😉
How about this COVID19 Blasting beast of an autonomous robot that uses powerful UV light to disinfect buildings for us…have a look at it in action at a Boston food bank:
The computerized voice-over for this video is so bad it’s funny, but there are some really neat new face huggers in here!
See you all tomorrow!
But just because we had topics all mapped out, didn’t mean we stuck to them! Where’s the fun in that!? Here are some really fun diversions (SQUIRREL!) we went on during our crazy wonderful live stream.
The Bandits and I are big on bunkers… and we had some amazing suggestions from the Twitch Chat including this horror movie worthy virtual walkthrough of a Titan 2 Missile Complex up for sale:
Or maybe a nice $400k for a Nuclear Bunker in Scotland that houses 150 and originally cost 30 million!
One of my favourites is Colin Furze who never disappoints with his enthusiasm and over-the-top approach to engineering…here’s his take on a little backyard bunker:
We also manintaged to meander into the realm of stupid Internet memes that nobody with a brain should repeat… including idiots endangering their own health by eating tide detergent pods and mounds of cinnamon.
My evil spawn, known to you non-Hewletts as Baz, has given me a couple of breaking gaming news items…
Valorant has released its Act II, with a new Battlepass that allows you to grind your way to new skins. Act II also introduces a new robot loving character, Killjoy and yes…more ridiculously expensive ($100) gun skins…a hundred bucks!?! Am I alone in thinking that’s nuts!?
Let the games begin… the Overwatch Summer Games, that is…with new LucioBalls and fast paced Remix game mode, along with some fun new skins.
Baz is grounded!
What I mean is, he’s one of over a million gamers who have tried out Grounded, the massive new game, all about being tiny…which actually felt the need to include an arachnophobia mode for those who just can’t stand coming face-to-face with the glowing eyes of towering spiders!:
What would you do with 250 million dollars? There are now 150 million users on Roblox users and the developers that will earn that staggering amount of bucks, not just robux, this year are mostly teenagers….like us!
Game Bandits! Looks like CaNERDa day is going to mess with our PC Bandit plans this week…so no Session this Wednesday… however why don’t I get a show of e-hands about getting together Thursday at 11AM EDT and I’ll see about getting that scheduled! In the meantime…
Have you dug up any Netherite yet? What’s your favourite new addition, or rarest find or your daringest deed thus far in the new Minecraft Nether Update?! What do you think of this the latest Minecraft incarnation… and does it beat watching movies with 360 million gamers on Party Royal Island in Fortnite?
Before I started going live with the TechBandits and GameBandits, I was conducting these sessions in private Zoom meetings…these are the notes.
Wow! What was that!? A month! Where did that June go? Yikes!
This week we’ll be checking in with inventor Tony Ellis about the status of the Bandits’ N.O.H! (No Outbreaks Here) COVID Distancing Sensor prototype! and his new fabulous Face controlled robotic wheelchair. I’m hoping we’ll also get to see the STEAM sisters and maybe even their jello brains…no really, they have brains that they made out of jello…to demonstrate the impact of concussions on your noggin, I’m guessing! In the meantime, here’s a few other COVID related Tech tidbits for you to look at before we meet! Looking forward to your thoughts on all this!
The problem with testing people for COVID is that you need to get within a swab’s distance of them…and a lot of the time these are people you probably want to avoid because they’ve been exposed to the virus! What about giving that job to a remote controlled medical robot? Robots are all about doing jobs that could injure or harm us mere mortals so what about this one? How comfortable would you be using something like this?
Last summer, I had the pleasure of speaking at The Odin’sBiohack The Planet Conference in Las Vegas. I could not get over how exciting this burgeoning DIYBioTech and body modding community was. Their passion and their knowledge and the old school hacker mentality of sharing and collaboration was electric. The idea of BioTech, even genetic engineering tools like CRIsPR, becoming accessible to everyone in the same way that electronics kits are commonplace today was intoxicating!
Using their BioHacking knowledge, a few of my BioTech friends are trying to design their own DIY Covid vaccination…not only that, they are testing it on themselves! A Vaccination is when a dead, or severely weakened version of the virus you want to protect against, is injected into the body. The body then learns to identify these wimpy versions of viral “invaders” and creates antibodies to attack them. So when the real deal shows up, your body’s immune system is ready to kick its virus butt!
The particular vaccination they want to use is based on a new discovery that targets the COVID19 virus’ “spikes” to alert the body to the virus and trigger our immune systems to handle it. This approach has been tested on monkeys and it’s looking pretty good…at least for the monkeys. However, the vaccination still needs to be tested on humans. They are not alone in this…here are currently more than 100 experimental coronavirus vaccines being developed worldwide…though most through more established research facilities.
What do you think about “DIY bio tech”, or “bio hacking”, as it is sometimes called? What are the potential benefits and pitfalls of citizen scientists forging their own path with BioTechnologies, like gene modification and genetic engineering? What BioTech creations would you want to work on?
Tomorrow will be a day to remember; a day when two sisters of STEAM will turn our brains into jello… all in the name of science! 11am EDT Bandits!https://www.twitch.tv/ironhamtv And we’ll do our usual chitty chat over on discord.
That’s right, we’re streaming live again tomorrow and we are extremely lucky to have the STEAM Sisters…Swapna and Sandyha Mylabathula… joining us! This dynamic duo will be talking about their amazing quest to save our jello-brains from traumatic brain injuries that can really mess with our heads…concussions! Here’s a couple of articles that once again prove that are STEAM rockstars with their heads in the game (it’s hard to stop!?)!
Talking about unlocking the secrets of the brain…got me thinking about the secrets of unlocking locks…Squirrel!?
Did you know there were competitive lock picking clubs? “Locksports” as they call them. But these break-in artists aren’t looking to steal anything… just listening for that satisfying click of defeating an almost infinite combination (couldn’t resist it!) of locks… check these out!
Prepare yourselves… you thought COVID was bad…today you may witness me dance!? Why? Just to make Bratlett cringe? Nope…In Today’s GameBandits, we’re talking Video Game music! Tune in (see what I did there!?) 11am EDT
Despite recording an orchestra in Australia from his home in LA, (and it being something crazy like 3am in the morning!!) he’s very kindly given us a whole bunch of insights about music for video games.
His first suggestion is that we watch the Disney+ series “The World According to Jeff Goldblum” episode on video games…which I immediately watched!
Here’s what what else Neal had to say… Function:
Game music usually involves either triggered, looped or interactive music.
Triggered is a single piece of music that is triggered when you enter a specific area in the game or a specific event happens. This can also involve a playlist of music that plays at random intervals while you are exploring a certain area. This is common in MMOs like WoW or open world games that need to cover a wide variety of gameplay. The music is more about the mood or enhancing the scenery than tracking specific actions.
Interactive or adaptive music uses the game engine to score the scene in real time by adapting to certain variables like proximity to danger, how much or how little health you or your enemy might have or how many bad guys you are fighting. This is most common in FPS games that emulate a cinematic experience.
At its most simple, interactive music is made up of layers that are faded in by the game engine based on proximity to the event that needs to be emphasized. The base layer is often a simple, ambient pad or repeating pattern that can play while you just sit there for an hour without annoying you. As you get closer to danger a slightly more complex version fades in on top. This has to work both musically and dramatically. You can have quite a few layers depending on the game engine and the music has to be composed with the big picture and the individual layers in mind.
On a more complex level, adaptive music can work like a Choose Your Own Adventure Book but in musical form. The music is composed in short, loopable sections that cover a wide variety of scenarios and then there is someone on the game team that implements these cells into the audio engine. These “horizontal” cells that change with your actions can also have vertical layers like the previous example I mentioned. There are some scores out that are incredibly complex in regards to how they adapt to the player’s choices. A game like Overwatch uses music more as auditory cues to alert the players that the match is about to begin or end. The sound is designed so you could almost play with your eyes closed and know whats going on and the music is part of that. (That’s an interesting point… can (or is) music being used to help people with hearing disabilities navigate games?)
My friend Austin Wintory did a great behind the scenes breakdown on an interactive score he did called Erica. It’s a great visualization of how the interactive score is working under the hood and he talks about the musical choices he made:
These are the technical considerations that first need to be worked out before a note is even composed. Then of course comes the actual music. How do you capture the mood of the game? What melodic/harmonic/rhythmic devices will help enhance the player’s emotional connection to the game? What instrumentation will help establish a sonic aesthetic and identity? These are all things that are asked of film and tv music as well.
But game music has the added challenge of having to be impactful without being annoying upon repetition. Either repetition through looping in a game or through the same pieces coming up in the triggered playlist format. Players will usually play a game for many more hours than they would spend watching a single movie yet the amount of music in a game is never enough for the player to never hear it repeat.
Career-wise there are many avenues into game music. There are the technical aspects of audio implementation, meaning the people that program the audio engines that will trigger the music in-game. Sometimes the composer does that as well but not always. I have never been asked to do the programming though I have been asked to deliver all the sliced up layers.
On the actual music side of things there are all the same music roles as in film or tv. A lot of game music is done by one person using synthesizers and home studios to produce the music. I’ve done plenty of that. Then there are a lot of huge orchestral game scores that involve a composer, orchestrator(s) to translate the music into notation, copyists/music librarian to print the actual sheet music and put it on the stands, the musicians themselves, recording engineer, pro tools operator and more.
Ever since Myst allowed for CD audio to be included with the game, game music was no longer limited to preprogrammed “beeps and boops” played by a mini 8 bit sound generator in the game. Once that happened it meant that anything you could record audio of could be used as a soundtrack. It took a while for someone to decide to put the money behind hiring an orchestra for a game but once it did, it has become the norm.
The best and sometimes worst thing about game music to me is that it feels like the early days of hollywood sometimes. People are still figuring things out but its getting to a really interesting place where people are doing a lot of experimentation with the technology that sets the medium apart from film. As games have become more profitable than films in some cases (or at least on par), it has attracted a lot of talent from the film world that has increased the scope and quality of the work.
This whole idea of talking about music in video games was a suggestion by our friend and Patreon Patron, Bertly…who was inspired by this video about the history of video game music and the problem with Twitch and Youtube gamers playing games with the sound off…or their own soundtrack.
How do you make game music that isn’t going to drive you crazy… especially if you’re playing the game for hours and hours every day…no that we do that, right!? 😉
And if you actually want to sit down and play some of this amazing stuff…how about this montage of the music notation starting way back in the 1980’s with Pacman and going right up to Fortnite!
I’ve found us another wild winged beast to look at… it literally dropped in during a socially distanced coffee meeting yesterday… I’ll give you a clue: These noisy giants can live up to 17 years! If you can’t wait…here’s a bit about them:
I was heartened to see that he too is pretty great at getting distracted…Squirrel!
And finally, my Algae intensive investigations lead me to the wonderful Pond Life, a fabulous series of videos by the American Museum of Natural History
But then I realized that I hadn’t mentioned robots…and I can’t really wrap things up without robots… or even better, the people who build them! Here’s a great video about a Day at Work as a Robotics Engineer!
And now, my usual random collection of GameBandit news and inspirations…
The company behind these impressive games Is in a huge mess right now. Last week us Bandits were talking about the lack of diversity in video game design. Well, this week we’re hearing about the worst kinds of results from a male dominated game culture of sexism, homophobia and predatorial behaviour… this time from Canada’s own Ubisoft… including Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft San Francisco, Ubisoft Sofia and yes, Ubisoft Toronto!
There have been accusations of everything from sexist and homophobic comments to full on violent assault. One of the VP’s got drunk at a Far Cry party and attempted to strangle a female employee!? Numerous other incidents have only come to light thanks to the recent twitter storm which included text messages from anonymous employees concerned for their jobs. The whole situation seems to indicate an incredibly toxic work environment.
How should companies deal with accusations like this? How does behaviour like this happen in the first place and what can we or the companies making great games do to stop it from happening again?
It’s frustrating to hear that Ubisoft has got itself into this position… as Baz has pointed out… the character choices for their new game Hyperspace are wonderfully diverse!
Fortunes in the Googling!
Peer through the mists of time and gaze into the future? Be the first to find the next smash hit video game? Decide once and for all if Fortnite is losing steam… or prove without a shadow of doubt that Minecraft is still the reigning champ! You don’t need a time machine or a crystal ball…you need Big Data! And the big daddy of Big Data is Google!
Every search made on Google is saved and organized for your viewing pleasure over on GoogleTrends! Type in your favourite games and instantly get an insane amount of information about how it’s being reference around the world… or even in your own city… check it out… you’ll quickly become an expert, with the data to back it up about just about any topic imaginable! Here’s what I got comparing Fortnite, Valorant, Minecraft and Call of Duty… what are you going to search for?!