Oxbridge admissions

While idly browsing through an Oxbridge admissions website, I came across a report of an interview written by someone who applied to the same course at the same college as I did, but a year later. Curious to see if they’d changed anything, I checked out the questions this person was asked at interview.

Practically nothing had changed – this person was asked exactly the same questions that I had been (enzyme kinetics, sketch y=xsinx). The only differences were due to the fact that there was a physics bias instead of a chemistry bias. Incredible. This just goes to show that if you’re on the ball, you can really get an unfair advantage at interviews by using the Internet.

GM grass

Sneeze-free grass on the way – a genetically modified strain of grass has been produced that doesn’t provoke an allergic reaction in hayfever sufferers. The article is sparse on detail so I’m not sure how they did this, other than stopping the production of pollen (but obviously this unleashes a whole load of other concerns).

Introducing massive…

Welcome to mssv.net, my new weblog covering massively multiuser online entertainment (mmoe), among other subjects. The format of mssv.net differs quite a bit from my old weblog, weblog.vavatch.co.uk; there are now three concurrent weblogs running called massive, middling and tiny, updating at different intervals and concentrating on different themes.

Tiny will be (in theory, as with everything else here) updated daily with various assorted interesting links.

Middling will have personal commentary and some links, updated every three days or so.

Massive is the centrepiece of this weblog and as such will carry on the Vavatch spirit of updating at completely random periods (nominally once a week, but who knows how the whims of the universe will change that?). Massive is one of the main reasons why I’ve created mssv.net – I wanted a place where I could talk about massively multiuser online games – but more about those later. I’ll also cover space and biology topics, as usual. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to increase the length of articles in massive so they’ll go into some depth, and also back articles up with links and references. The latter is quite important to me; much of the stuff I read on weblogs is interesting but ultimately pure unsubstantiated speculation dealing in generalities – I want to avoid that.

So, you might ask, exactly what was the point of starting up a new weblog at mssv.net? Aren’t I just complicating things with this weird differential concurrent multiple weblogs thing? After all, I could simply write everything in one column.

I could, but I’m not going to since this keeps things more organised. I was aware on Vavatch that there were plenty of topics that interested some people but not others, and this problem would be exacerbated if I was serious about writing about mmoe. With this new layout, people can easily pick out and read what interests them – the serious articles, the personal commentary, or the random links.

I registered mssv.net because I thought it’d be nice to have a change, and also because it’s a more relevant name than Vavatch.

*What is massively multiuser online entertainment (mmoe)? It’s any form of entertainment that involves over one hundred individuals interacting in some form, separated in physical but not temporal space. Games such as Ultima Online and Everquest qualify as mmoe, but not Starcraft or Quake. However, I’m not exclusively talking about massively multiplayer online roleplaying games (mmorpgs) here; they might have the lion’s share of the users and media attention, but that won’t last. I’m talking about any form of entertainment – it might be a group of a thousand people reading an online detective story, solving puzzles, finding hints and exchanging tips with each other (ring any bells?).

Why is it important? It’s a form of entertainment never seen before, and it draws together a number of new technologies that vastly increase the scope of entertainment in general, allowing it to be experienced collectively by more people than ever, over a longer length of time and larger physical space for less money. It sounds attractive, but it’s hard to do and has already seen the world’s largest game company lose $10 million in an attempt to put mmoe into practice.

Can you be more specific? Yes, I can. That’s the purpose of the mmoe section on this weblog – to explore in detail the possibilities of massively multiuser online entertainment and to look at the current developments in mmoe right now.
Continue reading “Introducing massive…”

Police 24/7

One of my favourite arcade games (besides DDR) is Police 24/7. It’s your standard gun-shooter game, a bit like Virtua Cop with decent graphics, except for the fact that it uses sonar to detect your posture. So, when you’re playing the game, if you duck then your viewpoint in the game will duck, and you can dodge any bullets coming towards you – you can also duck to the left and right to fire around walls and so on.

It’s a remarkably fresh concept and is enormous fun. I was quite surprised to see one in the arcade of a service station on the motorway towards Cambridge, and of course put some money in. But for some reason I was playing really badly – the game wasn’t picking up my movements at all. After a fruitless couple of minutes, I stepped back from the machine to see if I could figure out the problem.

The machine had a metal frame extending above it with sonar emitters and detectors. Along that frame was a warning saying, “Do not place any signs or obstructions along this frame.” Right next to the warning was a large sign saying, “Play this game!” – clearly this was the source of the movement detection problem. I sighed, and resolved to a) have a word with the manager next time I’m there and b) if that fails, bring a screwdriver.