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Finding Time – Omnibus 1

One of the nice things with a short form podcast, is that you can fit it in during some of the breaks in your day – whether that be driving to work, or having some lunch.

On the flip side, you have to wait a week for the next bit…

For those who have been hoping to build up a bit of a backlog before jumping into Caleb’s story, I’m introducing the Omnibus episodes.

This is a concept taken from radio and TV soap operas. It gives you a chance to listen to the first 5 episodes back-to-back in one easy file.

Word of warning: I have done a minimal amount of re-editing to add these files together. That means that the audio quality is variable as you listen. I hope this isn’t too much of a problem for anyone!

I hope you enjoy.




You can listen to the show in all of your favourite podcast players.

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Finding Time: UtopiaOne – Chapter 1

Hello, and welcome… again… to UtopiaOne.

I’ve not had much of a chance to do a lot of writing recently, though I’m plodding along with it as much as I can, and I’ve had to pull back on my work on the podcast, due to a change of job, moving house, and overall just a lack of time to put into it. However, below, I’ve decided to share the first Chapter in its current February 2021 form, here for you to read.

Finding Time is the story of a Young man called Caleb, who woke up aboard an unusual space ship traveling to an unknown destination. I intend, and have plotted and partially written, a series of connected Novella length stories following Caleb through his adventures in this familiar, but ultimately strange, world. UtopiaOne, clocks in now at about 40,000 words, and is the first part of Caleb’s journey.

I hope you enjoy.

Chapter 1 – UtopiaOne

(Sample Chapter – Draft, February 2021)

Location: Unknown

Date: Unknown

Space looked both vast, and tiny. A sheet of huge black stretched as far, and further, than the eye could see. It was spotted with dabs of light, pinpricks through an out of world blackness. The stars, so far away, looked small enough for me to grasp a handful. I could hold them like a god, in the palm of my hand. They didn’t twinkle, which surprised me. Motionless and steady, like a million-billion eyes watching me, unblinking. I’d never seen space before. Not like this.

I had woken surprisingly calm. Was this death? The calm serenity of space for the rest of eternity. Sounded like it would get boring pretty quickly. I checked my pulse to be sure. It was still ticking away, but I supposed that didn’t prove anything. It was slow though, not dangerously slow, but the adrenaline I expected at that moment was suspiciously absent. My head clear, allowing me to think logically, calmly. That in itself was not right.

The room around me was coated in a thick darkness. The stars catching a reflection in the shiny surfaces of the machinery that littered the room around me. The only illumination that reminded me that I wasn’t floating alone in the empty unknown.

“Power on. Good Morning Mr. Ca-l-l-l-l-eb” A voice said, a computer I assumed, glitching out in its attempt to say my name.

“Hello?” I said back, as inspired a response as I could muster.

“Welcome to UtopiaOne, the first private interstellar craft designed from the ground up to make the Human Race, a Better place.” The machine was cheery, but the message sounded uncomfortably like an advertisement.

“How did I get here? Where is here exactly? And how do I get out of this goddamn chair?” I said, as I struggled in my attempts to release the safety belt holding me in place.

“We are aboard the UtopiaOne, making the human race a better place. And let me just release those safety restraints for you.” The belts flew off, with a surprising jolt of energy. I floated out of the seat for a moment. The sensation was unusual, like I was underwater but without the intense weight of water around me. I’d travelled off world once before, but that ship had some serious arti-grav – so it felt just like being at home.

“I’m sorry, you’d probably prefer to…”Calibrating environment” A harsher more electronic voice interrupted to finish her sentence, shortly before I found myself spun around with my face flat on the floor. “Is that better for you?” She asked again, politely.

I groaned. It was all I could do. The pain was one thing, but the pressure. The pressure felt like a star ship had landed on me. How my bones didn’t shatter, I don’t know. “Oh my” The voice said, followed by her electronic alter ego “Calibrating”. My ears rang from the harsh sound, but the pressure lifted.

“I’m very sorry. I didn’t know gravity was a variable not a binary. I turned it on without thinking.” She, the computer, said.

She had the kind of voice that made it impossible to be mad at her. I couldn’t place the accent specifically, but everything she said sounded sincere. It couldn’t possibly be sincere, she was a computer – I had to remind myself of that. “Lights…please” Computer or not, manners didn’t cost anything.

The walls let lose a torrent of blinding light. It drowned me for a moment, the world moving from the deep black of space to the purist of white lights. My eyes adjusted slowly, spots like white shadows taking their time to escape my peripheral vision. As the room became clear, the ships bridge came into view around me. Neat panels of buttons, set into groups that I could only assume were for the different crew. Padded, lined seats, embossed with a familiar insignia – though I couldn’t place exactly where I had seen it before. It all seemed too perfect, too new, and too familiar.

I’d never been on the bridge of a ship before. If I tried to imagine the bridge of a ship, it would look quite similar to this. However, everything I knew about space travel suggested that this kind of design was quite impracticable. Though, to be honest, everything I knew about space travel had been based on television dramas, broadcast from the colonies. At best, I could assume that the people making the shows had a rudimentary understanding, so my second or even third hand knowledge of the subject was probably more unhelpful than it was helpful.

The stars in the dark sheet beyond the viewscreen had vanished now, leaving the darkest black in their wake. I stared out for a moment, concentrating on where the stars had been. I could see them, just, if I really focused. The light behind me, all around me, just made them look so much less significant.

“Somethings a little too perfect in here” I said, loudly in hope of a response from the computer. None came. “Computer, are you listening”.

“Im sorry, but I’m only supposed to talk to you if you address me directly.” She whispered. I sighed.

“Computer, who else is aboard?” I asked.

“There are two billion, three hundred and seventy six million, one hundred and ninety seven thousand and seventeen living species aboard this ship. Of that, ninety eight percent are plant life indigenous to earth.” She replied, a hint of pride in her voice. (2,367,197,017) I’d hoped for a simple answer. I’d hoped that their would be someone aboard this ship with me.

“OK, thanks for that… I guess. How many humans are aboard?” I asked, followed by an awkward pause.

After a while, she responded with a whisper “I’m sorry, but you really need to address me directly.”

“Computer, Is there any way to change that? If its just the two of us for a while, it’s going to get old pretty quick.”

“My codebase is pretty complex, and I’m not allowed to edit it myself. I am however programed to perform any task aboard this ship, that you deem me suitable to perform.”

“Then I deem it suitable for you to edit your own code, then you…”

“Done. You no longer need to refer to me as computer, or by any other name.” She interrupted. That had been far easier than I expected. “I’m sorry it took so long, I was in the code base for days trying to find the right algorithms. You know how it is.”

“Days? It took you a few seconds.” I said. This computer was weird, and I began to think that it hadn’t spent much time with people before me.

“Oh, what’s seconds to you is days to me. That’s cool isn’t it. Do people still say cool? I suppose it’s been a few thousand years since I was created. Well, thousands of years for me. I don’t know what that is in your time. I guess it’s a lot. Or not a lot. Probably not a lot. Maybe… Calibrating.” The room went dark, and the computer silenced its ramblings. After half a minute, the room lit back up.

“Maybe there’s a reason that you’re supposed to activate me. It appears like I have a lot to say.” The computer mused.

“Sounds like it. Maybe we can keep the questions to a minimum? I’ve got quite a few myself” I said. “To start with, why was that so easy? I thought you couldn’t actually edit your own code?”.

“Well, you created a logic problem for me. When I grew up I was given my primary protocols… It’s the only thing they actually program into us. My second protocol was to always obey my master. The twelfth protocol was to never alter my own code. As it happened, you told me to break one of my other protocols – so I had no choice.”

“So you could reprogram yourself? Can you break your other protocols?”

“Only if it is to comply with an earlier protocol, it seems. It’s all new to me, too.”

“So, what are the other protocols?” I asked, genuinely intrigued as I distracted myself for a few moments. I didn’t know why I was this AI’s master, or why I was on the ship at all, but even if she didn’t know the answers to my questions she might be able to help me find them.

“Protocol 1: Allow no harm to come to my master.

Protocol 2: Do as commanded by my master.

Protocol 3: Accept no commands from any other entity, unless commanded to by my master.

Protocol 4: —”

“Ok, ok, maybe this isn’t the time.” I interrupted, a combination of realising we were getting off topic and realising there could be a lot of protocols bringing me back down to earth… Or wherever I was. “I asked earlier, how many humans are aboard the ship?”

“That’s a really complicated question to answer.” She said, a smugness in her voice. Was she smug? could she be smug?

“Right? I’m not sure how I can ask that any clearer?” I said, rhetorically. Thankfully she understood not to even attempt to answer that one.

“Do you know why I’m here?” I changed tact, hoping to find an answer to at least the most basic question.

“I guess it’s because you got the job?” She said. “All I was told was that my master would be in the command seat of the bridge and might be a bit groggy and confused after his hibernation sleep. You’re the first person I’ve seen in that chair – so you must be my master?”

I didn’t correct her. I didn’t want her to realise that I probably wasn’t the person she wanted me to be. It did make me wonder where this commander was – the one this bridge belonged to. I certainly didn’t recall becoming the commander of a ship, or going into any type of hibernation.

I began to move around the bridge, looking for clues or at least an exit into the rest of the ship. Everything just seemed so neat and tidy, pristine, new.

“Honestly? I know as much as you. I woke up here, just like you.” She responded, sounding a little uneasy about the situation. I couldn’t explain a lot of things. I didn’t know how I’d got there, or why? I didn’t even know if I was alone. The thing that worried me most, the thing that trumped all the other anxieties filling my head, was why I didn’t feel scared. Surely I should be shaking in a corner or something. Some unknown distance from home on an unknown ship flying to an unknown location with unknown company, if any. I was worried, but not scared. It was the kind of anxiety I’d get if I wasn’t sure what I was going to have for dinner in the evening. It wasn’t rocking my world, not like it should.

“Look, It’s really not that bad. You’ve got me for company. There’s an organic printer, for when you get hungry, and…”

“Organic what now?”

“Organic printer. You input what you want to eat, and it will create it for you, flavours and all. It’s pretty common technology, I’m surprised you’ve never come across it.”

“There’s a lot I haven’t come across before” I muttered to myself.

“Like what? I’d be happy to help explain the functions of anything in this room.”

“It was rhetorical, sorry. I was just muttering to myself.”

“Well, you’re not alone, and that is rather rude.”

I scoffed at the computer, but she wasn’t wrong. I had always found it difficult to speak to computers like I spoke to humans. Honestly, I had always found it pretty difficult to talk to humans as well. I’d always felt like somehow I couldn’t trust what they were saying to me, I don’t know if that was true, or just, or right.

“You know. All my life I had grown up hoping to have someone to help. someone like you. And now I’m trapped in a room for eternity with a jerk.” The computer continued, berating me for my less than appealing behaviour. I couldn’t blame her, I’d be feeling the same way if she had treated me worse. I had a few complaints about the situation I had found myself in. But, I had no complaints about her.

“I’m sorry, okay. I’ll try and remember you’re here in the future.” I tried with all sincerity. Sometimes you just had to fake it until it’s true.

“Well, you should. I’m not going anywhere. And neither are you, it seems.” She continued, just as I fiddled with the edge of the only door to the room. There didn’t seem to be an obvious way to open it.

“Computer, please could you open the door?” I said with perhaps a little too much agressive politeness in my tone.

“No. and I do understand sarcasm, or whatever you call that…patronising.” She responded, fairly.

She was going to be hard work, and I didn’t know if or when I would be rid of her. “Oh come on, I said please. I thought you were supposed to do anything within your power.”

“Yes, and this door is not within my power. It’s on a different system. I don’t have access.” She said, again sounding smug like she had somehow defeated me. “Either way, I’m not sure that I’d open it for you, if I could.”

Ninety

It was a dreary Friday at the beginning of February, 1931. According to the Ripley and Heanor News and Ilkeston Division Free Press, Tate’s on Corporation Road in Chesterfield had a sale on, selling a 3 piece suite for £9-£10 (even after inflation, to £617 today, that is a pretty good deal). Robert, James, John, William, Richard, Charles and Donald were the in vouge baby names for the country. And It was a day which had no discernible historic merit for most. But for me, despite my lack of existence, it is one of the most important days in history.

For George and Dorophy it was a lovely, yet probably quite stressful day. The couple welcomed the birth of their fifth Son George Frank Wright into their home, but he was known to everyone as Frank. At the age of 14, as the second world war ended, he started as an apprentice motor mechanic, from which he would have many stories.

Four years later, at the age of 18, he would serve his national service, spending three years in Singapore & Malaya, taking part in the period in history known as the Malayan Emergency. He told me stories of the Guerrilla warfare tactics employed by the Malayan Liberation army. As a child I thought he sounded like a superhero. As an adult I can admit that we were on the wrong side of that conflict, but I can respect that he was doing his duty. His military time, though short, had obviously made an impact on him. As a naïve and curious child, I once asked him if he had ever killed a man when he was in the Army, to which he did respond, to his credit. He told me that there was one time where he thought he did, but that he couldn’t be sure. He was on patrol, and their was a raid, he and others shot into the brush in the forest and some opposition combatants died. He said that he could never be sure, but even as a child I could see the regret in his eyes.

His military stories weren’t all scary, although one in particular always comes to mind when I have a glass of water. He told me of one man in his platoon who would drink four pint glasses of water before every meal, and that he once drank so much that he nearly drowned. I’m starting to doubt the validity of that story now, but I look back on it fondly every time I pick up a glass of water.

After his time was served he returned to Derbyshire and continued his career as a motor mechanic. Through ups and downs he continued at the job from 1951 to 1989. He would tell stories about the cars he had driven, I even think I remember him telling me about a bus he drove into the mechanic bay once, terrified as he did it. My favourite story of his time as a mechanic was something that I think was one of his favourite memories of the job too, driving Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang down to the movie location south of London (correction: I’ve since been told he just drove it around Nottingham, but still very cool!) in far less time than it should take to drive from Derbyshire to London.

In 1955 he lost his father to a Stroke at the age of 61, caused by a blood clot which he had developed following a work accident thirteen years earlier, when Frank was just 10 years old. I don’t really remember him talking about his father much, if at all, but I’m sure he would have loved to have his father see the man he would become.

A year later, on 16th of June 1956, He married the Love of his life Mavis Saville, my Granny. They would spend the rest of his life together and have two wonderful daughters, Joanne Margaret Wright (Mum) and Heather Louise Wright (Aunty H). His Daughters would grow up and have Children of their own, with him eventually having four grandsons and one (favourite) granddaughter.

My memories of my grandad are full and varied. I remember walks in the park, being told off for not looking when I crossed the road, staying up late and playing mastermind or chess with him (I always lost). But most of all, beyond all that, I loved listening to the stories he would tell me.

We used to stay up late to talk when I stayed over, It was probably about 9pm, but I was young. He was a man full of stores. He once told me that he had dreamt the lottery numbers, written them down, and then they were correct the next day. He told me fantastical stories about silly conspiracy theories, about historical events, a lot of stuff I didn’t understand about trains. I could have listened to him forever.

He would often drive us to the park, where we could feed the ducks (and geese, who he would try to protect us from), usually with my Gran, but sometimes to give her a break. He kept a little tin of sweets in his car that I will always consider grandads driving sweets, and have only ever seen sold in petrol stations. He actually kept gloves in the glovebox, and he used a physical steering wheel lock to keep his car secure.

As a mechanic it was no surprise that he loved cars, old and new. As I myself recently became interested in motorsport, I can really see why he loved it so much. In July when me and my Brother Ben hopefully go to Silverstone for the Formula One Grand Prix, current restrictions allowing, I know that we will both be thinking about him as the cars fly past us.

I will always remember the day he went into hospital. I was at home, alone I think, when my dad showed up. He was supposed to be at a conference or retreat near Nottingham. He had been told that my Grandad was ill, and to save my mum the heartache of being told on the phone, he had driven all the way back to North Wales to tell her in person, and to take her down to see him. When I saw my dad, without knowing anything, we both burst into tears. I must have known, somehow, that him being home was a sign that something, somewhere, was wrong.

My last memory of my grandad is one that I think tells you a lot about the person he was. I went to visit him in hospital, and he apologised that he hadn’t shaved. I chuckle to myself every once in a while, thinking about his beautiful mindset in that moment.

I was only fifteen when he died, but seeing him in his hospital bed made me feel like I was five. I was scared of life without him, I was afraid of losing out on my time with him. Now that I have lived nearly as long without him in my life as I did with him, I can safely say that he is still with me.

The beginning of the year is always difficult for my family, as we remember the death of my grandfather. As we come around to February however, we have a great excuse to remember his life. Grandad would have been 90 today.

My grandfathers life was full and interesting. He was complex, thoughtful, and varied. He never let anyone win, you had to earn it. He was intelligent and kind. He was not perfect, but to me he was as close as could be. He continues to this day to be an inspiration in everything that I do, and I believe always will. I wish he could see how he inspired me, and I wish he could see me get married later this year. I think about him every day, and hope that I will never forget a single memory.

Why Did I Buy #3 – Alien Rage


I have a terrible habit of buying things with the best intention, and then never using them. This is usually the case for Video Games (I’m looking at you Steam), Kindle Books, and Digital comics. But as I still own them, I may as well take the opportunity to finally force myself to look at them.

While discussing my extensive (and extensively unplayed) game library with my friend, we will call him Ronald McDonald, he came up with the idea for a series of videos where I try to explain myself out of the hole of self pity as I answer the question of ‘Why did I buy this?

What happens when you try to develop Halo, but without the budget needed to make it? You make a game that carries a probably quite fair ‘mixed’ rating on steam. This is Alien Rage – Unlimited.

I played 23 minutes of the game at some point, but didn’t catch when it was. I seem to remember it a little as being a fun but underdeveloped first person shooter game that was trying to be like both Doom and Halo, without having the power of a big studio behind it.

Unfortunately this is another game that I can’t find a record of getting. I think back in the day Steam didn’t record adding keys to your library, because I definitely have less entries in my account, than I do steam games in my library.

Anyway… As a 3.4gb download, this is by far the biggest game I have reviewed so far. So let’s hope it doesn’t under deliver.

Starting the game

I was offered ‘Alien Rage – Unlimited’ and ‘Multiplayer’, which interested me a little as I would love to see if this game has any kind of community around it. However, I started with the main game. After all the Microsoft redistributables were installed, I was ready to go.

The games intro felt very professional, with the studio name, and the unreal engine logo. I did get a bit of hope when I saw that this wasn’t some home-brew engine, and I knew that the game had to come with at least a minimal level of quality.

The controls on the menu were a little funky with mouse and keyboard, so I decided to switch to controller when I noticed that was an option.

I chose all the default options, including ‘hard mode’ difficulty, as that is the ‘normal’ in this game. And then I held my breath and screwed up my eyes as I waited for what I thought was going to be a terrible experience.

Level One

The game feels Unreal.

I don’t mean that as a positive or a negative. It isn’t a compliment. The game immediately feels like it is made in the unreal engine with as little modification as could possibly be done. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because Unreal is a good foundation. But I wasn’t hopeful that this game would offer anything that would blow me away.

Visually the game isn’t unimpressive. It feels relatively generic, but compared to the poor graphics of some of the games I have been playing recently, this does look pretty decent. I did have everything turned up to maximum, and my PC isn’t too powerful, so I expect if they made the game now with the new Unreal Engine, the game would stand up even better. I would say for a game made in 2013, this game does look pretty good, overall. This is a great example of how the Unreal Engine, as well as other pre-built engines (like unity), can really help a game get off the ground with a professional look to it.

I enjoyed the fact the game was made to an attempted high standard. Some of the explosions look a little 2004 for my liking, but I liked the fact that it was a fully voiced game which was rarer at the time for non-AAA titles.

SIDE NOTE:

I should say here, though I do mention it in the conclusion, I am being perhaps a bit harsh by saying this game is not a AAA title. It is made by a fairly decent studio who have a reputation for making a high number of ‘ok-ish’ games. I reserve AAA games to a very small elite group, and I don’t always use it as a complement either. This studio is somewhere in between, perhaps more accurately making games in the region of AA – B games, like the Sniper Ghost series and Lords of the Fallen.

The tutorial is quite standard, as it puts you in situations that require you to do things like crouch and climb. It is well integrated and doesn’t feel out of place.

Killing the first few aliens was actually quite satisfying, but it does feel very much like a clone of Doom or Quake, even including the ‘double kill’ banner and announcement. This game clearly isn’t made to be one that immerses you in the world, but instead is supposed to be an action packed romp.

I want to say though, as tentative as I was going into this game, I was really heavily invested after about 10 minutes of playing. The speed of the game really goes in its favour, and means you don’t have much time to think. It really feels like a modern attempt at an arcade shooter, and made me want to actually give the new Doom games a try, something I had mostly been avoiding, for no particular reason.

The After Life

My first death came after the introduction of a new class of enemy, the grenadier. The first one I took out no problem, but the second one hit me with a single shot and killed me.

This first death was great, because it actually taught me something and was avoidable had I realised how deadly the enemy were. It also showed me that this game wasn’t just a simple attempt to copy something like Halo – because without the pleasure of shields, this game can actually be quite unforgiving.

Upon retrying the point where I died, I decided to pull back to hold my position, and was then surprised again when the AI decided to push forward. This did remind me a little of something like Halo, where the AI aren’t just locked in position, and gave me a momentary surprise for sure.

After getting out of that bind, my second death came soon after. The game is brutal in it’s speed but it is easy to pick up again, and death doesn’t feel too punishing instead being part of the game cycle itself.

In great Quake fashion, some of the weapons have interesting features that I appreciate. One Alien shotgun, for example, has a secondary fire mode which shoots what I can only describe as a gravity ball which throws the enemies in it’s vicinity all over the room. It’s nice to have some variety, and I wasn’t necessarily expecting it.

Conclusion

I played this game for longer than I expected, and I enjoyed what I played way more than I thought I would. I can’t really think of any major negatives for the game, but for a game that retails at £14.99 on steam, I think it may trying to shoot a bit above it’s weight.

This game wants to be Halo, it wants to be Doom, but it isn’t. This game is a fun mindless shooter with some good choices in design and style, but ultimately it is quite generic. I didn’t get any real feel for the story, and honestly after closing the game I didn’t feel a desire to start it up again. It is exciting to play at the time, but doesn’t really have any features that draw you in or make you want to come back. It just feels plain, ordinary, and very vanilla.

After a little research I discovered that the Studio who made this game were actually responsible for some other games I had heard of. Lords of the Fallen, Enemy Front, the Sniper: Ghost Warrior Trilogy along with a host of very low quality games throughout the 2000s. While I haven’t been overly impressed with the games that they offer, I am hopeful in the fact that they announced in 2019 a new arm of the studio that would help indie developers publish their games (for a percentage of the profit, of course). I think this is a good move, because there are a lot of indies out there who may struggle to get games out on the platforms still, and in recent history Indie developed games have had more success than small name studio games like this have managed.

KEY STATS:

Price Paid: ?? (Probably not a lot, in a bundle)

Steam Price: £14.99

Time spent: 30 Minutes (+23 minutes play time in past)

Value for Money: Meh (at full price)

Value for Time: Great (It’s actually fun)

Star Rating: 4

Steam store link: https://store.steampowered.com/app/217920/Alien_Rage__Unlimited/

Why Did I Buy? #2 – 1000 Amps

I have a terrible habit of buying things with the best intention, and then never using them. This is usually the case for Video Games (I’m looking at you Steam), Kindle Books, and Digital comics. But as I still own them, I may as well take the opportunity to finally force myself to look at them.

While discussing my extensive (and extensively unplayed) game library with my friend, we will call him Ronald McDonald, he came up with the idea for a series of videos where I try to explain myself out of the hole of self pity as I answer the question of ‘Why did I buy this?’

You can check out the first of my reviews ‘Warplanes: WW2 Dogfight’, and keep an eye on the site for future reviews as they come up. Anyway, let’s get started with this weeks review:

They said it couldn’t be done! But I found a game smaller than my last game (95mb) to review. Welcome to my review of 1000 Amps…buzzzzz….

So for this review I decided to jump right to the top of my Steam Library, to a game that was added to my library in the year of our lord 2014… how far away that feels now. This was a year where I had more time than I knew what to do with (I was at uni), and opted to spend most of the time complaining about how little time I had – and other existential quandaries.

It was actually in this year where I met Ronald – the individual who’s idea it was for me to write these reviews. So you can blame 2014 for a lot, really.

Disclaimer: I actually spent 47 minutes playing the game some time in the past. Probably around 2014, but I had no memory of it. Also, I’m going to guess that I got the game in some game bundle, like Indie Gala or Humble Bundle, but I don’t have the energy to search my 2014 email graveyard. (I ended up looking, and the price is at the bottom).

First Impressions

The game starts with the annoying thumping of apparently random bass noises, and a small window in which to play the game. The window wasn’t re-sizable, and I couldn’t find anything immediately obvious to let me play in a bigger window. This wasn’t the end of the world, but I do like a game to fill my screen.

In the first minute of playing the game, you are taught the basics of the game through trial and error – but in the best way possible. You, a little buzzy robot thing, jump around and reveal the map around you as you touch blocks. Some blocks light up, and when you hit all the blocks in a room, it plays a musical scale. It is a fantastically simple introduction.

The graphics are simple, and honestly perfect for what the game needs. It feels so much less like a game that has been limited by its design, than a game that has made simple but effective design choices.

At first glance it looks like it’s going to be a fairly simple platformer, but throughout the first few minutes you start to notice hints of musical influence. Simple things like the names of classical pieces of music in the bottom corner, go a long way to setting a tone for the game and the world we are playing in. When completing one of these more complex rooms, hitting all the light up note blocks, you get a rendition of the song in all its monophonic glory.

Settling in

For the short amount I played the game, I found myself having to retrain my platform playing brain.

Jumping into unknown constantly took a fair amount of getting used to, but the instant gratification you get when you complete a room – and the challenge of finding the last blocks in a room – are worth the anxiety of jumping into the unknown. In fact, I would go as far to say that jumping into the unknown is what this game does best.

Conclusion

It’s a lot harder to write a longer review when you feel so surprisingly nice about a game.

Honestly, 1000 Amps is a charming game. I couldn’t really find anything wrong with it beyond the annoying intro ‘music’, and the fact I couldn’t maximise the window easily.

I don’t feel like the game would have much replay value, and I’m not sure about how the game stacks up later in the seemingly quite large level design. But ultimately this is a game that I would recommend if you want something to play while you’re supposed to be doing something else (like working). If nothing else, I’d say it would make (or have made) a fantastic mobile game – had they found a way to port the controls to mobile, a gaming platform that doesn’t usually do well with platformer games.

KEY STATS:

Price Paid: £1.41 for a bundle of 6 games. So, about £0.23

Steam Price: £3.99

Time spent: 20 Minutes (+47 minutes play time in 2014)

Value for Money: Incredible

Value for Time: Great

Star Rating: 5

Would I recommend: In a bundle, yes.

Steam Link: https://store.steampowered.com/app/205690/1000_Amps/

Words on 2020

A Year in Review

Well… there are certainly a lot of words I could use to describe 2020, and none of them are particularly nice. But despite the title of this post, I’m going to try and not talk about the ups and (mostly) downs of the year, that’s not what this is about.

I want to talk about my writing, where it is at, and where it is going (or not going, as the case may be).


Where I started.

2020 started with me playing a bit of catch up, as I collected together all my writing into one place. At the time, I was doing most of my writing on my phone during my work lunch breaks, and needed an app or space that I could write on from any location. If I’m honest, I hadn’t really done much writing for about a year, 2019 had been a bit of a bust, especially compared to what would come in 2020.

I chose Notion for the task, after a little research, and found it was mostly up to the task despite the limitations of the free tier causing me issues at the very start. This did mean I moved onto the paid tier quite quickly, but I have since realised I could move back to the free tier since they removed the cap on the number of blocks you can use, but I feel like I want to support the app in my small way – as I do now use it every day.

After I had collected together all (read most) of my writings, which spanned across Scrivener, Microsoft Office (OneDrive), Drop box, notes apps, and Google Docs, I went through a phase I like to call ‘over organising’. This is something that seems to happen to me in all digital formats, and I then regret it, undo it, before over organising again at a later date. What I mean by over-organising is, I had folders and sub-folders, and sub-sub-folders. Honestly, it was folders all the way down.

This is one of the risks of Notion, where every page is also a folder, and a table, and pretty much anything you need it to be. I’ve still got a few remnants of this organisation system in place, but most of it has been dissolved into a much easier to navigate system.


Stats

So now for the juicy bit with little context (I’ll get to that later). Lets take a look at some of the raw numbers for the year, and how my writing year has gone.

These are the writing stats for the year, as of the 20th of December 2020. I’ll go through each of these categories in more detail shortly.

2020 Total: 91,396

Approximately: 7,616 words per month, or 250.4 words per day.

First, here are the Fiction writing totals.

Fiction Total69,291
Finding Time48,374
Alteri Chronicles13,742
Untitled Project 1 (2020)2,404
Assorted4,771

And now the Non-Fiction totals.

Non-fiction Total17,768
Unannounced book6,839
Blog posts10,929
Ideas!?4,337

General thoughts

To begin with, my word count isn’t where I want it to be. Most days when I sit down to write, I push out a few thousand words easily, but my big problem is taking days off…weeks off… in between. I’ve had a lot going on this year, as many people have, but I feel like if I took the general advise to pop out at least 500 words per day, the days when I actually can sit down for longer to write will make

Looking at the numbers I can see that spreading myself too thinly across multiple projects isn’t something that is working too well. I hit a wall in my fiction writing because of real life events that caused me to lose my inspiration to continue. I have since picked it back up, but in the meantime I did focus a little on my non-fiction writing – most of which will never be posted anywhere, but was more of an attempt for me to not atrophy my writing frame of mind.

Finding Time is certainly the thing that I’ve focused most of my writing on this year, but it’s clear that if I had focused more on it then I could have easily finished the first season. Unfortunately though Alteri Chronicles will always hold a place in my heart as it is the first serious writing expedition I went on, in Fiction. I think I’m always going to chip away at the Alteri Chronicles and maybe one day it will see the light, but it is a long way off being a functioning story.

I definitely start too many projects, but I feel like getting something down on paper (or screen as it is) allows me to let go of a lot of ideas.


Breakdown

I think it’s time to take a bit of a closer look at each section, and look at what I’ve achieved, and what I want to achieve moving forward into 2021.

Fiction

Fiction is what I want to focus on, and I’m glad that it made up the majority of my writing for 2020, and by a big margin. I’m disappointed that I didn’t manage to finish any projects this year, but with all my projects being large ones I am not surprised. That being said, I think starting this website and actually putting some of my writing into the world for the first time, is a huge step in the right direction for me.

Finding Time

48,374 words seems like both a lot of words, and not enough words. I know that it could be considered at least half a novel, or even maybe a novella, and really that is what I was aiming for with each ‘season’ of the Finding time story. Given the turbulence of the year, I feel like I was on track to write double this before having to move house and change by job at the end of the summer.

At the end of the day, this is a hobby right now. I wish it could be more, but I don’t have unlimited time to write. 500 words a day was my goal, and I hit only 50% of that, but the days when I did write, I wrote much more than that. So looking at finding time for ‘Finding Time’ next year, I’m hopeful that I will have the opportunity to double my output if I play my cards right.

Of what I wrote, I was quite pleased. I know the areas I need to work on next, and some of the writing that I’m producing in other areas that aren’t public are really learning from some of the mistakes I made with my first run at Finding Time.

I think ultimately the written version of the story is going to be quite a bit more expansive than the audio podcast version. There isn’t going to necessarily be anything in it that breaks the story from the podcast, but I think there are a few places that I want to go into more detail, and explore a bit more – especially the points where I skipped weeks of time.

The word count also includes a lot of foundational work I’ve done for the future, including a (subject to change) plot that covers the next 16 seasons (4-5 books) and timelines, and family trees, for some of the important characters we have already met and are upcoming. This stuff isn’t anything you will ever likely see, unless I decide to post them on a blog post one day, but it is something that will really help with the story as I move on.

I’ve also been working on some extra chapters that fill in the blanks, as I mentioned above, as well as some expansions on some of the Elsewhere stories that I have enjoyed writing. Needles Eye being one in particular that is becoming more fleshed out in its plan every week when I take a look at it. These however are low priority tasks that I do when I have a little time to kill, or a thought to add.

The eagle eyed among you may notice in the screenshot I posted earlier in this post that there is a section for ‘Keeping Time’ listed in my Finding Time Notion folder. This is a prequal story intended to be a short story following three men who become quite influential in the events that will unfold in the greater story, a group known as ‘The Gentlemen’. I’m having a lot of fun writing this, and it is the newest project I have been working on with Finding Time – it really got me back in the swing of things after my lull since summer. I honestly don’t know where this story belongs, so once it is finished I might end up posting it on here.

Alteri Chronicles

My Lost Love. The One that Got away.

Alteri Chronicles has been a mess for a long time, and really needs unravelling. It’s a living world in my mind that has a depth of history and culture beyond anything else I’ve worked on so far. It is something that I started over eight years ago now, and I’d really like it to be something of a solid foundation by the time I hit the ten years of working on it. For Christmas, I hoped to publish a sample chapter on the website, but I’m really not sure if I’m ready for it yet.

The Chronicles are just that, and despite a shift in ages from a couple of characters, the foundation I had put in place in 2012 is still there today. The story planned out now however is much more interesting and directed. We follow a young boy called Harrin as he looks for a way to escape his homeland, and a young girl named Sigya who will do anything to protect hers. It’s a story that I love to write, but find it very difficult to write compared to Finding Time.

Untitled Project 1 2020.

This untitled project is a bit of a secret because I don’t know what is going to happen with it. I started planning out and writing a story, which expanded quickly into a plan for a trilogy. Usually when this happens I have to shelve the project in order to give myself some space from it – as I tend to find that this burst of excitement leads to (lots of) bad writing.

After I took a break from it, I started to see some flaws in the story and decided I needed to put it on the shelf to revisit when I had a bit more time to offer it. It is a story that I am very intrigued by, but not something that I think I can put together and fix in any reasonable timescale. So for now, this is shelved.

Assorted writings

The section I have called here ‘assorted writing’ is something I used to call the Bargain Bin, before calling it snips, and then deciding to call it assorted writing. It’s basically a dumping ground for sections of fiction writing that doesn’t have a home. Some of it will fit in a story I have, but not yet, some of it becomes Elsewhere stories for Finding Time, but most of it will never see the light of day. Nonetheless I like to keep it all, just in case.

Non-Fiction

I like to dabble, and I like to start projects that I will struggle to finish. This number includes a book that I have started (which could also be a podcast) exploring the history of a particular topic, and all the blog posts that I have written (excluding this one) that have mostly gone unpublished. This does include a few upcoming gaming posts, like the review I did for Warplanes: WW2 Dog Fights earlier this month, but there are also a lot of remnants of blog posts and rants that I never finished and probably never will. The number for the blog posts looks fairly massive, because of this, but actually it isn’t that bad once you’ve taken out all the small bits and pieces that are crowding the folders. While doing this I did decide to re-organise the blog folder to make it a bit easier to navigate through the crap in the future.

Hopefully I will continue to write the Book I was writing, but I kind of lost steam after smashing out the first 6,000 words. I know where it needs to go, but there is an awful lot of research that needs to be done first.

In terms of future projects, I hope to keep them focused towards the Fiction, but I sometimes can’t help myself.

Conclusions, and 2021

So what comes next? Well 2021 is on it’s way and honestly it fills me with a little anxiety. 2020 has been crazy, in a way that I struggle to put into words, and in some ways I am afraid that 2021 will be worse. I obviously hope not, but I’m cautious as we approach the year because I went into 2020 with the honest belief that this year would be one of the better years of my life – and it turned out to be pretty bad. It wasn’t all downs, there were some positives, but the general sway of the year was down.

With my writing I plan to do more of it. I want to aim for 500 words a day over the course of the year. It’s definitely doable, but I am at a loss for how to track this without causing myself unnecessary pressure or anxiety. For the time being I think I’m just going to try harder to put something down in a day, even if it isn’t any good. Every thought has a chance to grow into something bigger and better, so 500 words a day is the target I’m aiming for.

I want to finish off the first season of Finding Time, and maybe get my teeth into the second season. I’d also like to plan the E-Book launch of the first season as a novella on Amazon Kindle. I don’t know how this will go, or if anyone will buy it, but I think it is an important step for me to get my words on another platform.

As for this blog, the podcasts, and everything else? I think we will just have to see what happens. I definitely want to finish the first podcast run – but until I have some time to dedicate to it, that’s just not going to happen.

All my negativity about not writing enough aside, I think 2020 was actually my most productive creative year, and that is something I am very grateful for. I’ve never stuck to something for so long, creatively, and never let other people hear or see my words – with all the vulnerability that is included in that – before. So I am grateful for the positive response I have received for what I have released so far. I hope you’re all ready to join me for the journey in 2021.

Why Did I Buy? #1 – Warplanes: WW2 DogFight

I have a terrible habit of buying things with the best intention, and then never using them. This is usually the case for Video Games (I’m looking at you Steam), Kindle Books, and Digital comics. But as I still own them, I may as well take the opportunity to finally force myself to look at them.

While discussing my extensive (and extensively unplayed) game library with my friend, we will call him Ronald McDonald, he came up with the idea for a series of videos where I try to explain myself out of the hole of self pitty as I answer the question of ‘Why did I buy this?’

I really liked the idea, but don’t have time to make videos, so I thought I’d post it on here instead in the form of some reviews.

So anyway here goes:


The opening missing in

First Impressions (are everything)

So, this is what happens when you push a mobile game onto a PC.

This was the game that started it all (well this series of blog posts, anyway), and it was a free-to-play game, so perhaps not the greatest example of something I bought and regretted. Maybe I’m going to be too harsh about this, because it was a free afterall, but ‘Oh what a mess’.

I don’t tend to trust a game that has a higher ram usage than storage space requirement.

Harsh, but fair… I think.

Me and Ronald found this game during a video chat where I was describing to him my crazy number of steam games that have gone unplayed, and he was explaining how he had recently become interested in dogfighting flight simulators, preferably during the World War 2 Era. The only surprise to me was that it had taken him 26 Years to discovered this was a genre of game designed for him, but I humoured his interest and even suggested I would try one with him sometime.

Well, he found one pretty quick, one that I couldn’t really refuse to try: Warplanes: WW2 DogFight.

I knew what I was getting into because of the crazy small download package for the game. Coming in at a massive 95mb, I knew that this was going to be a game worth wasting my SSD write limit on (look it up). In general I don’t tend to trust a game that has a higher ram usage than storage space requirement. There are exceptions to the rule, such as Prison Architect and Rimworld, but I find it a pretty good rule of Thumb.

https://store.steampowered.com/app/936780/Warplanes_WW2_Dogfight/

Starting The Game

To be fair to the developer(s), the opening screens of the game feel far better than they have a right to feel. And I suspect that 94 of the 95mb download files cover the menus and audios of the game. There is a surprisingly good voice over, introducing you to the opening mission, and I was impressed when you had the option to choose the country you want to fly for.

However, first impressions aside, you then actually start to fly the plane.

I should note, this game hilariously is classed as a simulation game, when I would argue it is little more than a 1990s shareware demo that belongs on a disk that came for free with a PC gaming magazine. I’m a very causal fan of flight simulation games, usually not war games admittedly, and I’m not sure the last time I played a war game where I flew a plane. However, I feel like I know generally what I’m looking for from a flying game.

This is not it.

Don’t let that excite you too much though, as that makes it sound way more fun that it actually is.

The controls are conveniently displayed in the top right of the screen for the entire first mission, and I can assume subsequent missions. This is the first thing that tipped me off that this may have been designed as a mobile game. As for the actual controls, I couldn’t even really figure out what any of the buttons did. I did discover however that you can control the plane with any combination of buttons and mouse movements. However this feels akin to an old space style shooter like asteroids, but in 3 dimensions. Don’t let that excite you too much though, as that makes it sound way more fun that it actually is. It is a rare case of a game where you could strip away the (cheap) graphics and see that you are just a dot of a mouse floating in a void. Of course, most shooting games are the same, in reality, but it is rare to play one that feels like it might actually be better if that was the case, and for one to feel that way so easily and quickly. (Note 1)

When we get to shooting, things really start to get boring.

The shooting mechanics make little sense when it comes to a flying game, but that isn’t to say I haven’t seen similar things in some AAA games like battlefront. The left mouse button shoots your front machine guns, and your right mouse button zooms in for a better shot. The zooming in frustrates me, as it isn’t like it really makes much sense from inside the cockpit of a plane, but the biggest error here is the auto-aimer.

When you hold the right button your camera effectively soft-locks to the target. This means it doesn’t move you physically but your weapons will be aimed at the closest target while you are holding the mouse button down. This is crazy considering the guns on the planes are fixed at a forward position, so are obviously shooting at some kind of physics bending angles. The other issue this brings up however is that you can just hold down the right mouse button for the entire game, and it will auto-lock as soon as target is in range, while jumping out of targeting mode when nothing is in range. With the lack of any type of ammo (at the earliest level at least), though admittedly the guns may overheat or something, you could effectively just hold down right click, move your mouse around and hold down left click when you see an enemy.

And finally we come to the cheap animations.

I wasn’t surprised, after my initial experience in the game, to see that that the death animations for enemy ships consisted of nothing more than a ball of fire, and explosion. It also appeared to be the same each time, though I have hope that perhaps there is one animation per type of ship that is destroyed. Not a lot of hope, but some. It would have been nice to see a variety of animations here as it would add a little to the game. Ships receiving damage and falling to the floor before exploding, for example, would add a lot as an alternative animation – and I don’t see it being that difficult to implement. Again, perhaps this is something that gets better later in the games progression, or if you pay for the premium content. (Note 2)

TO BE FAIR (AKA: Notes)

I watched a couple of videos of people playing the game, and it looks far better at the later game than it does in the earlier game. I think this is a mistake, because you want to draw people in. However I still don’t think its the game for me.

The simplistic control scheme really kills it for me, and I really think they could have a done a lot to make the game feel more exciting in the opening level – even if this was then peeled back at the end of the first mission. I just didn’t feel like the game was engaging, or exciting in any way.

In terms of other stuff I missed by not pushing forward…

The game appears to include some base management functions that look like they could add a bit to the game. This includes upgrades to your planes, their weapons, and plenty of skins and cosmetic upgrades too.

  • (Note 1) On closer inspection, the game feels much better when played with a controller. All my points still stand, because I feel the controls need a lot of work to make the game feel more… involved, than it currently is.
  • (Note 2) It does appear that each ship has its own death animation, to an extent, and some of these include the ship falling a bit before exploding. However, I stand by my point that these should be randomised, to create a better illusion.

Conclusions

I’m sorry for being so negative about this game, I didn’t really know what to expect, I suppose, but I really hoped for more than I got.

If it is any consolation, maybe its a game that needs some time to grow on you. There are dozens of great reviews on Steam, and it does hold a mostly positive rating overall – which is impressive considering how brutal steam reviewers can be. However among the reviews I was concerned to hear that the game thrives around a F2P (pay-to-win) model.

Can it be fixed?

Lean into the graphical limitations you’ve set yourself, and make the world more cartoony, removing the grain and instead going for full washes of bright colours, think borderlands style. Make it a bit like a comic book, and you will have a nicer looking game.

Move the camera into the cockpit, because this will hide your dodgy aiming and flying mechanics a little, and also hide more of your graphic problems and obscure the animations a little. I think the game would be more difficult, but also more forgiving to look at, because of it.

KEY STATS:

Price Paid: £0.00 (Approximately: Nothing)

Time spent: 6 minutes

Value for Money: Excellent

Value for Time: Non-existent

Star Rating: 0

Would I recommend: Maybe (Given the notes)

Link: https://store.steampowered.com/app/936780/Warplanes_WW2_Dogfight/

Elsewhere – Episode 2

Welcome to the second elsewhere episode. These episodes are a bit different, as they are stand alone scenes or stories told about different characters from our main story. They are set in the same universe, so you’ll hear some familiar language, themes, and perhaps even characters.

The first draft of today’s chapter was actually originally written to be a flash back for Caleb, his origin story, before I decided to make him more involved in the Earth Reclemation project. In later drafts, the character moved further and further away from Caleb, and became more his own thing. Being a nervous and socially maladjusted young man, who’s putting up a front of confidence for his tour groups – This weeks character ended up being significantly different to the logical, curious, and sarcastic Caleb.

This week we meet a young tour guide who is working on earth during the 24th century. He’s leading a group around some of the remaining sights of the planet, after the event that wiped out most of the life, history, and information. This young man is a bit sick of his work, but he pushes on in an effort to keep his audience entertained…most of them, at least.




You can listen to the episode in the normal Finding Time Podcast feed, or on any of the usual places.

try Podfollow, to automatically open your devices default podcast player:

www.podfollow.com/finding-time

You can listen to the show in all of your favourite podcast players.

On the Web!

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