Monday, September 28, 2009

GameLog 110-114

Wow, been almost a month. When I'm doing Uni assignments it doesn't feel right to spend time writing up these reports. Doesn't stop me playing games tho, that's crazy talk ...

Dwarf Fortress (20h) - Back to building holes. Tried to get into the adventure mode, but it seemed more obtuse than fortress mode without any of the roguelike niceties. 3 lots of immigrants so far, but having issues with water. No streams on the map, so it's rainfall into puddles for the time being until I can get some beer production going.

Majesty 2 (15h) - Plays a lot like the original, even having the same sound effects for the iconic parts of the game ("More gold your Majesty"). I like the Heroic hall to pull back surviving heroes from previous campaigns, makes a good addition and adds a sense of continuity to the whole thing. Maybe 1/2 way through the scenarios.

Knights of Honor (10h) - After sweeping up with Zeta, I talked through the game with Greig and lamented on the easiness of the game. Decided that the traders broke the game, so I started another in the Scottish highlands on the hardest difficulty level with a caveat that I won't hire traders. Certainly made the start more interesting, but once I broke out and took a few provinces, the game fell into its usual pattern.

Majesty (10h) - Bundled with the pre-order of Majesty 2 over Steam. Played pretty well how I remembered it, and the new expansion areas are tough!

Pirates! (7h) - Had a hankering for some old piratic action. Played better than I remember as I think I was too concerned how it compared to the original. Sword fights were easier than I remember, and I played through a whole career in under 5 hours. Might have another go in the later parts of the game and go for a monster score.

Quake Live (5h) - Listening to some LO3 for QuakeCon had me pining for the good olf days. Fired up QuakeLive and it felt good to go back to Q3. Some maps I remember, some are new. Aim is a little off on the rail, but TF2 has kept my rockets honed.

Bejewelled Blitz (5h) - Even though the gamesd only go a minute, they are still entertaining and addictive. I've managed to work out enough of a strategy to typically get >50K per go now, but the randomness of the fall somehow adds to the replayability.

Poker (4h) - Landed 1st in the multi-table tournament to net 500K. Was a weird game. Wasn't caring that much about it as I was heading to bed. Played loose and luck was definitely on my side.

Tiger Woods Golf 10 (3h) - Picked up the Wii version for Mark's Birthday and promptly played a round or 2 while he slept. Looks ilke a Wii is heading our way, so I'm debating whether I'll borrow Mark's or get my own copy...

Mafia Wars (2h) - lvl 35. The other Facebook app that I play to fill in a bit of time. Bit too formulaic, but it's got enough variety to keep me hanging around.
Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 (2h) - More Cameron help

Flight Control (2h) - Succumbed to every site recommending this game for the iPhone. Plays well, but the hype put it into a 'meh' category. Boredom killers go to Paper Toss / Tower Bloxx / Flight control, with other notables being CivRev and iGo when there's more time on offer. Highscore chart is great though.

Trackmania Nations (1h) - Couple of laps after tea with 2 squirmers on my lap for added difficulty.

Paper Toss (1h) - Flick. Flick ... Flick.

Tower Bloxx (1h) - Played a bit with Cameron again.

Friday, September 25, 2009

No sound on Windows 7 Virtual PC

Installed a Windows 7 virtual machine onto the barebones XP64 system here at work to test how it's going to go as a personal research environment. Installed fine, but had issues with virtual machine additions and sound. The fix for virtual machine additions was an upgrade to Virtual PC 2007 Service Pack 1. The new additions loaded fine, but still no sound? Not even a soundcard detected.

More googling revealed that the VM needed Vista as the chosen OS on install to set the correct sound driver. I knew this and had definitely set it up that way, but possibly SP1 reverted that change. Anyway, to remake the VM:
1. Run the wizard to create a new VM from inside Virtual PC 2007 SP1
2. Select "create a new virtual machine"
3. Name it as a new name (or v2 on the old name)
4. Select "Vista" as the operating system
5. Select "use an existing virtual hard disk" and point it to the VHD file of the old VM

That done, I fired it up and it picked up the sound card, but couldn't install drivers for it. Seeing that the virtual hardware is the most generic available it must be something to do with how it is being displayed to the operating system. More googling showed that you may need to reinstall the virtual machine additions:
1. Uninstall virtual machine additions
2. ignore any errors coming up about services being in use, they get cleaned up on the restart.
3. restart.
4. Install virtual machine additions again.
5. Restart.
6. Sound!

A couple more updates and I'll store this VM as a blank to base future W7 VMs off.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Intern rollercoaster

Signs you've been playing too much rollercoaster tycoon:

... when every problem can be expressed with a rollercoaster. Check the intensity rating before riding again.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Primary Wedding

Primary Celebration Evening culminated in an all staff dance ala JK Wedding Entrance Dance. As Bret was sick, Gino and I led out the dance as the "ushers". Awesome fun.

Twitter SpamBot

I noticed a random follow on Twitter this morning and it looked suspiciously like a spambot for the semi-ad as the latest post. It may very well not be, but it got me to thinking how easy Twitter makes SpamBots over something like IRC or other personal mediums:
Twitter is public facing. Tweets are generally aimed at no-one in general, just informative.
- This model makes it easier to construct spam as a likely tweet that may be taken as a legitimate message

People generally tweet something of interest with a link to follow.
- This is and almost perfect medium to do short pitches.

More and more people are using link shorteners.
- With the actual link obfuscated, and the increased tendancy of people to click on the link, it opens the possiblity of bait and switches.

Not all tweets are statements, there are fair few that are responses to others. In fact most of my tweets are responses or queries, but that's probably more my style. Could SpamBots mimic responses?
Twitter exposes many half-conversations and non-relevant conversations into your stream.
- With increased tolerance to flotsam in the stream, even short pitches sent as a response to a random person (who would have no idea what it was about, but couldn't do anything about the way it was structured or composed) would fit into the stream quite easily.

Not all tweets are promotions either. All the flotsam makes up a persona and the one thing that the turing test has taught us is that representing personas is damn hard to do with AIs. But why build one when you can copy one?

Twitter exposes millions of personas in their entirety to the world.
- Simply pick an identity at random and copy their tweets onto the spambot, inserting relevant pitches where necessary.
- In later evolutions, copy people that give the types of responses you want to emulate and the volume to limit any jarring differences. Don't target people that have the mimicked person in their friends list, but are on their recommended list (similar interests / many FOAF) for greater appeal of copied information.

And why stop at one? You could easily find a group of people that have a good conversation going and emulate the lot of them, while inserting pitches, pitch responses, and even legitimate RT's! A veritable soap opera played out on your twitter feed to help sell .. err ... soap.

So many opportunities and so many fundamental traits of twitter to feed off that it's almost inevitable. The intriguing thing is not that spambots could exist under twitter (they do already), but that they have the ability to easily embed themselves for a long duration. Maybe we need xkcd's couple testing:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

McDonalds skyscraper

"It's a McDonalds!" exclaimed Cameron.
Wow, that looks pretty cool. Looks more like the spinning observation platform from rollercoaster tycoon, but good imagination.
"Up the top here is the kitchen and down the bottom is all the people" he remarked pointing to the top block. "So if there's a fire in the kitchen all the people are safe."
"Umm, what about the people in the kitchen?" I queried.
"they get into the lifts on the outside. "

4 y.o. engineering at it's finest ...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

IV the Revolution - Change commentary

This article is a review of Andrew's proposed changes to Civ

Gift Culture (from start)
Give gold to other nations in return for culture.

Culture, especially early on, is used for expanding borders to deny access to areas or push against another civ's culture. This makes it highly location specific and is city based. Does the gift target the culture toward the closest city to the gifted country (probably overpowered)? to a chosen city (definitely overpowered - see culture bombs with great leaders)? or just into the civ pool (more or less useless early on)?

Bureaucracy (requires Literacy)
Palace doubles city worker output of your capital instead of culture bonus

I see Bureaucracy as adding central management, which in turn helps focus monetary, cultural or scientific goals. Never really perceived politicians as a steel works.

Vassalage (requires Feudalism)
Plains and grasslands generate +1 trade if they contain your military units

Nice idea, possibly need something extra than just one trade as once you're past the military cap your units would be costing you more than the bonus. Might be a nice balancing act though and definitely gives military nations another avenue between wars.

Capitalism (requires the Corporation)
Double the bonus of resources.

Sounds Ok if it's just trade/food/hammers, but doubling the happiness from resources would be game breaking, allowing a massive population advantage.

Paganism (from start)
Barbarians can be friendly
Barbarians usually only play a part in the first couple of centuries, but it might be a nice decision between that and Ancestor Worship for the fast religion civs. Usually you can't wait getting off the bottom rung civics. That's a nice choice in not giving an advantage for this civic, but removing an option in going to another. Later on in the game it's usually an agonizing decision as to exactly when to swap to another civ. Nice to see some effort in bringing that to the start too.

Ancestor Worship (Ceremonial Burial)
Your units being killed generates culture

Nice. Might suffer from the same problem as before of defining what city to attribute the culture to (closest city? home city?). Anyone going the passive-agressive route of culture spread would love this as it would be far cheaper building 2 warriors and imploding them on an enemy than building a monument. Maybe not the actual ancestors you were wanting to venerate .. ;)

Terrain Changes
Add two new terrain types: jungle, and wetlands

See Colonization

Settlers can convert some terrain types in return for gold. This takes a full turn and requires that the settler has movement still available.

I've tried a couple of mods that allow greater flexibility in deforming the landscape and, although I craved it at the beginning, it destroys the replayability. Every town on every playthrough eventually becomes a mirror of your perfect city. Maybe I'm a sucker for exploration and map design, or I've just played it too much, but the shape and structure of the map is the largest influence on the type of cities and playstyle used for each game, which in turn brings something new each time you restart. (As an aside, make sure you try the tectonics map choice in BtS. Very, very nice)

A big part of the problem is that it is too easy to boom while you're rushing: you steal geographical space over the map which then lets you build anywhere. Starcraft avoids this problem by geographically concentrating the resources required to build expansions in a few discrete areas instead of all over the map.

I didn't really get to see this being addressed in the changes, in fact most changes were about enhancing production that would aid the rushing strategy. To emulate the starcraft analogy would be to play with high corruption so that each city needs to be a valuable choice rather than simply filling in the gaps (although filling across a choke could be valuable enough to do). With more space unclaimed on the map it allows barbarians to work their magic too. Problem with this is that it doesn't feel like you're building a civilization anymore, but playing a strategy game (Most civs would optimise to a semi-hollow circle, rather than having a productive, peaceful, populated core)

Can't believe I'm advocating corruption as it's one of the features that nearly put me off civ4. In earlier civs corruption was nowhere near as prevalent and you could more or less take over 70% of the world (as in CivRev too actually). This feels right when you're in expand / build mode as by that stage you've essentially won. In Civ4 you can only really get to about 40% without serious repurcussions, which is by no means conclusive. Once you get to that stage there's no point retaining conquered cities so the game ends in a massive slash & burn of ~50% of the map. Corruption needs to be more exposed if you're going this route, as well as a serious look into vassalisation (ala crusader kings) to make a slow conquer possible.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Making him fit

Poor gingerbread man, I'll put you out of your agony in just a
minute ...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Assessment and Reporting Tutorial

Writeup of A&R Tute on 6/9/09. Now I just need to find somewhere to upload the actual audio.

- 0:00 Assessment bank
- 0:45 Describe portfolio.
- 1:20 Comparability of work
- 1:50 200-400 pointscale
- 2:40 reflect the gaps rather than concentrate on getting the right rung
- 4:10 Expectations of pre-service / 1st year teacher for ranking student
- 5:20 QCAT standards for assessment bank items to be ramped up
- 6:50 Nearly Everyone sits the tests
- 7:50 Naplan results, 2nd last for Qld
- 8:45 Contextual assesment vs standalone tests
- 9:30 Building the IPT course
- 10:50 Making criteria sheets for 'A level' standard
- 11:40 Make sure you teach what you assess
- 12:10 Progressive scale of assessment
- 12:45 'Fullest and Latest'. Key principle of assessment
- 12:55 Don't simply add up the scores, use quality of material.
- 13:10 Used at panel. First assess the quality of material
- 13:50 Intentionally Hard
- 15:10 Discernment of knowledge through assessement rather than task completion.
- 16:00 80% for demonstration of mastery
- 17:00 Core Skills Test
- 17:55 Best of its type
- 18:20 Purpose - Give the student a grade on an A to E scale. C is acceptable for Lit/Num minimum
- 19:00 How many sit the test
- 20:10 Purpose - Scaling one school against another.
- 22:10 Pressure as a senior teacher to pass students rather than failing them
- 23:00 50% students well serverd by school today, 30% suffice, 20% want out
- 24:20 Schools aren't the same. Wide variety of cohorts and school direction
- 26:00 Design parameters of the QCS test
- 27:00 assessed 35 syllabuses analysed for ~60 common curriculum elements
- 29:00 Current CCEs
- 29:30 Some CCEs are performance based that can't be tested by paper, leaving 49 CCEs
- 30:10 5 big baskets of CCEs
- 30:20 Each year they don't test all CCEs, but only about 1/2 of them and rotate through them each year.
- 33:00 Navigation to Core Skills test website
- 33:30 Difference in CCEs
- 36:00 QCS test can be hard.
- 37:00 Multiple choice shouldn'thave dummy answers, all should be accptable, but one the most appropriate.
- 37:30 layout of multiple choice questions not needed to be shortest to longest
- 38:40 Language of QCSTest. Short and Sharp. Lower level language used than the core skills it attempts to test.
- 40:30 Design of NAPLAN questions: round table -> UNSW
- 41:30 Security of tests, security leaks
- 42:00 Structure of QCS Test: Short Response, 2xMultiple Choice and Writing Task
- 42:30 Testing for Equity in questions before it is sent out for use.
- 44:00 70% pass rate is a good number to aim for in general
- 44:20 Cost of QCS Test
- 44:50 New teachers mentored into the system through moderation (Professional Development)
- 47:00 Preparing for the test
- 48:00 'Test wize': How the test looks, the language, the types of questions, the time it takes to achieve.
- 48:30 QCS test design Easy ones first, might end with hard one, but not mandatory to be scaled linearly.
- 49:50 Unspeeded tests? When do we have time critical assessment in the real life?
- 50:50 Expected to be completed in 2/3rds the time allocated.
- 51:20 Review of sample question and criteria sheet for marking
- 52:30 Difficulty of question for 1 to 5 stars. Shown on test.
- 53:20 Questions weighted, but more for the expected time taken to answer rather than pure difficulty.
- 54:30 Review of sample question and criteria sheet for marking
- 56:30 Review of writing task
- 59:50 Bottom line: Best preparation for a test is do do a similar one.
- 1:00:00 Immediate quality feedback
- 1:08:00 Summative assessment runs counter to immediate quality feedback?
- 1:30:00 So many pedagogy methodologies. Which to choose? DoL, QSA.
- 1:35:00 DoL aligns to teacher best practice.

Saturday, September 05, 2009


Just took the BrainHex test to see what type of gamer I am and came out as a Mastermind-Conqueror. The blurb for that class sounds about right:
You like solving puzzles and devising strategies as well as defeating impossibly difficult foes, struggling until you eventually achieve victory, and beating other players.

According to your results, there are few play experiences that you strongly dislike.

And now to the numbers:
Mastermind: 19
Conqueror: 17
Socialiser: 12
Seeker: 11
Achiever: 8
Daredevil: 7
Survivor: 2