Date archives for August, 2006

August 28th, 2006
Blog Entry

The best look ever

I know I say this every time the website has an overhaul, but I have to say this is  the best-looking my site has ever been. Phil has done an amazing job, and deserves a very public “thank you” and a link to his two wonderful websites, Sodaware and Phil Newton.net. Sodaware is dedicated to his shareware business, and contains some excellent hand-drawn art too. Phil Newton.net is dedicated to “Improving Every Day” with insightful articles on getting things done, motivation and productivity tips. If you want to fine-tune how you approach your life, it’s a great website to visit.

If you’re a new visitor then welcome and thanks for coming! A great place to start is to browse the archives or check out the Best Bits in the sidebar on your left, and please bookmark me with Ctrl + D, subscribe to my RSS feed, leave a comment and spread the word!

Over the coming weeks we’ll be seeing more development on the elusive novel, another Player P.O.V. article as I take another look at my beloved Beyond Good and Evil and many, many more memorable posts. I aim to update at least twice a week, so please do check back and I hope you enjoy your stay!

   I am currently listening to God Only Knows by The Beach Boys


August 24th, 2006
Blog Entry

Are games acceptable yet?

This occurred to me whilst watching “Snakes on a Plane” last week (watch those hits skyrocket!). Whenever I watch a film and a character plays games, it’s rarely a normal part of their character – they’re either kids who won’t do their homework, grown-ups that wildly thrash about, tongues flapping, or have some other form of abnormality that stops them functioning normally. Probably caused by games, but that’s another story.

I wrote a CV a few weeks ago, and didn’t feel that “playing videogames” was a good hobby, even though “reading books” and “watching films” would be fine, and are arguably more passive activities (contradiction?). I like to believe that you shouldn’t feel ashamed of anything you enjoy, but when writing that CV I felt ashamed to say I enjoyed playing games. That’s sort of upsetting.

Games are bigger business than ever, and will be all over the media this Christmas with the new console launches. Does this validate the existence of games? Are games acceptable now that everyone knows about them?

I really want to know your take on this, which is why I’m hosting a special “The Collected Writings of James Newton” podcast – catchy name not included! – for you to air your views. You can get in touch in these ways:

Skype – JamesProsody. Leave a voicemail!

Email – mail@prosody.co.uk. Either attach a sound file (mp3 please!) or just write your comments down. I’ll be happy to hear them.

Leave a comment here on this post.

However you do it, do get in touch – I’d love to know if you think games are – or will ever be – acceptable and “normal”. Here’s another thought – would you want them to be?

I am listening to Can You Feel The Sunshine? by T.J. Davis.


August 21st, 2006
Blog Entry

First day’s progress

Well I didn’t quite manage 1,000 words of the book but I did around 500 of actual prose, and another 500 of notes, ideas, characterisation and so on. Unfortunately that’s not really a lot when you think about it – Hannah mentioned that NaNoWriMo books have to be 50,000 words long to qualify, so I am 1% of the way there. Small steps, I suppose.

More to come every day, including some possible extracts if they’re good enough!

Note – normal blogging service will continue whilst I write the book, don’t worry!


August 20th, 2006
Blog Entry

Writing a novel can harm your health

Honestly, who thought writing a book could be so hard? All you do is sit down at a computer and write the thoughts in your head. I suspect most people on the Internet do that anyway via email and instant messengers, so why should it make such a big difference when the program is Word instead of Messenger?

Part of the reason I started this site was because I wanted to begin writing my novel and posting sections of it up here. So far I think I’m about fifty words into it.

Most of the problem is not having a story, or so I tell myself, but I’m sure I must have a story worth telling in me somewhere.My novel so far

I love writing and I don’t publish half as much as I should do. One of my aims for the near future – maybe the next year or so – is to collect these articles from the site and publish them in a book. Of course, that leaves me with lots of content yet to write, but let’s face it – both of us know that my best is yet to come.

Part of the book will be my novel, however far I get with it. I’m going to set myself a target of 1,000 words a day, starting tomorrow. I’ll post tomorrow night letting you know how I get on with it. Wish me luck.

I am listening to Passing The Hours by Tunde


August 16th, 2006
Blog Entry

Beyond Good and Evil: The best game of this generation

Beyond Good and Evil is a grown-up’s game. IGN called it “Zelda for grown-ups”, and although in typical IGN style they’re half-right, there’s so much more to Beyond Good and Evil (BG&E) than a Zelda clone (see my next article on Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy for more on that front.) Beyond Good and Evil is brilliant because it likes the player, which I’ve always thought is the most important aspect of a game – if the game enjoys being played, people will enjoy playing it. It really is that simple. BG&E loves to be played because it wants to show you its ideas, how different it is and how much it likes you. It wants to be your friend.

It wants to be your friend because it knows you’re going to be impressed with what it can do. First of all, it’s not like any friend you’ve had before – it’s a stealthy photographer that pilots a laser-shooting hovercraft. The game switches between different game modes smoothly, and although they’re not all winners – the stealth sections aren’t great, though I dislike stealth anyway – the overall effect is a pleasing range of things to enjoy.

Of these gameplay sections, my favourite is the photojournalistic drive of the game. The idea of a photography game appeals to me greatly, but up until now I’d only played Pokémon Snap on the N64; these two are very different kettles of fish (likewise Tecmo’s Project Zero series, which I’m far too wimpy to play!). Your character is sent on missions to photograph the hidden secrets of Hyllis, including aliens, torture and exactly what the Alpha Sections are shipping around in crates. Whipping out your camera and taking aim is easy, and can also be used to “scanalyse” maps or, in a really enjoyable sidequest not unlike Wind Waker’s figurines task, document all the animals living on the planet for the Science Centre, which is a very lucrative hobby. When you’re slinking around bases or zooming around the open waters, managing to grab a shot of an elusive animal is really satisfying. It makes me wonder why we haven’t seen more photography games – perhaps an opportunity for the Wii?

One thing I haven’t mentioned so far is the game’s sublime art and music. The visuals’ use of greens and blues give the game an almost aquatic feel, and the many aliens, corals and crystals glow and filter light beautifully. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ubisoft’s alien world was inspired by the depths of our own oceans.

The game’s soundtrack is one of the most varied I’ve come across, with beautiful piano tracks (“Home Sweet Home” being possibly the best game tune since Headhunter’s “Jack’s theme”) sitting alongside the rhinos’ reggae, drum’n’bass and others. It’s good to hear the French and European influences in the music as a whole (the reggae being an obvious exception), and another point is the game’s voice acting, which is certainly higher quality than some I’ve heard.

Plot-wise the game makes a number of more serious points – or even accusations – than your typical 3D adventure, particularly in questioning the information handed down to us. This is brilliantly done by contrasting a subscription to the official Hyllis Word with the emails and newsletters of the rebellious Iris Network. When your reports are published it’s wonderful to read how the Alpha Sections spin and cover it up to make you look like the bad guy, which also somewhat unnerves you; who can be trusted? I won’t say that the game is a massive political satire, but there are certainly subtexts of uncertain trust and Government manipulation.

Unfortunately for me and many others, despite its good review scores and press praise, Beyond Good and Evil did so poorly in shops that it’s unlikely to see a sequel. It was released on the PC and all consoles, so you can play it if you want to. I’m told the Xbox version can go for a fair old price on eBay, but if you flick through the second-hand racks of your local game shop hopefully you’ll chance upon a copy (if not, send me an email – I have my sources).

Please, please do hunt it down and give it a chance. It’s a very warm and charming game with so much to recommend it, from its fantastic dialogue and characterisation (I can never decide whom I like more, Pej’y or Double H…) to its inventive direction and above all its smooth, enjoyable gameplay. I really took to Beyond Good and Evil in a way I haven’t felt for many years, and I hope you’ll think it’s worth your time and try it yourself.

www.beyondgoodevil.com


August 14th, 2006
Blog Entry

The James Newton show!

Yes, as if reading my thoughts wasn’t enough, now you can watch and listen to them too with my very own television show, suspiciously cleverly-titled “The James Newton show”. I don’t host it at the site because, at ten minutes long, it’d probably eat all my bandwidth; for that reason, it’s over at Google Videos.

It’s an extension of the site really, with me presenting entertaining clips and segments of all sorts. It’s a one-man variety show, with games, music, films and other stuff all sloshed together. It was great fun to do and I think it’s good fun to watch too. It’s also got the greatest theme tune ever.

You can watch the video by clicking right here

There’s also a great video up at YouTube; a trailer “Horses on a Boat”, a Lego film that Hannah, Phil and I made. It’s great and I think you should watch it!

There’s a second episode of The James Newton show to go up which is a lot more like this site, with me talking about the best games ever and why they’re so great. For now, just enjoy these two videos and keep coming back here for more entertainment from me, including the next in my Player P.O.V. series.


August 12th, 2006
Blog Entry

How to Get Up Right Away When Your Alarm Goes Off

Steve over at StevePavlina.com posted a very useful article about how to defeat the most powerful button in the universe – “snooze”. Well, here’s my simple version.

Annoying

If, on hearing that, you still want to stay in bed I’m afraid you are an inhuman monster. Stick it on a CD or your phone and you won’t want to spend another second asleep, I guarantee it.

Disclaimer: The Collected Writings of James Newton is not responsible for any after-effects that may follow this course of action, including but not limited to insanity, loss of hair, breakdown of relationships with significant others and incontinence.



Blog Entry

5 common English mistakes, and how to fix them.

I guess it’s time I put some of that English teacher training to use! Walking around town and browsing the Internet, I see some really simple mistakes in people’s grammar, spelling and punctuation. The good news is that they’re easily fixed, so here are the top five most common mistakes I see and how to solve them, and remember to get them right every time. Take heed, writers of the Internet!

1. Apostrophe (ab)use.

That photo above was a large printed advert in a nationally-known mobile phone retailer! Apostrophes are quite hard to get right. How do you know if you need an apostrophe, and if you do, where does it go?

There are only two reasons to use an apostrophe: possession or contraction. If you want to show there is more than one of something, don’t use an apostrophe, just use “s” or “es” if the word ends with an s – more than one bus is two buses, not two bus’s.

The farmer’s wife – the wife belongs to the farmer (this is to illustrate an example – I’m not sexist!), so stick an apostrophe there.

James’s dog – if the person/thing that has something ends in s, like my name, you still add ‘s on the end: WordPress’s features.

The farmers’ wives – use the apostrophe after the s if the word is plural. Here we have more than one farmer, so the apostrophe goes after the final s.

Single – ‘s

Plural – ‘

That’s about as simple as I can make it for possession. The other rule is for contraction, which goes a bit like this:

An apostrophe replaces a missed-out letter – do not becomes don’t because we miss out the second “o”. As a rule of thumb, in any form of construction like that, the apostrophe goes between the n and t – shouldn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t and so on. That’s easier than possession, I think.

  1. Of or have?

As a teacher I saw this quite a lot, but lots of people still use the wrong word. “I should of” instead of “I should have”. When you think about it, “I should of” makes no sense, but it sounds right – if only it were that simple! If in doubt, take out what we call the modal verb – could, should, might – and see if it makes sense. For example, “I should have been a teacher” would read “I of been a teacher”. Doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it? Whereas “I have been a teacher” reads perfectly. This doesn’t work in all cases, but it can be a useful test if in doubt.

  1. Definitely separate?

Is it i or a, a or e? Here go a few easy ways to remember.

Definite – “defy nightly” to remind you it’s an i sound, not an a. Defy nately doesn’t make sense, unless you know someone called Nately, or are pregnant and think it says natally. Just remember the root is finite – this also works for infinite too, by the way. Just please put an i instead of an a, and don’t write it “defiantly” or “definatly” – defy nightly!

Separately – I was told to remember this as “sep a rat in the middle” to keep that “par” middle section in my mind. I guess it worked for me!

  1. It’s, its, their, they’re or there?

Its – no apostrophe – is used for possession: “its song rang out.” We use his and hers in exactly the same way – no apostrophe.

It’s – with an apostrophe – is just a shorter form of “it is”; use it whenever “it is” would make sense in the same place: “it’s cold outside.”

They’re – they are. “They’re going out”, “they’re all good reasons.”

Their – belong to them. “Their car”, “their hospital appointments.”

There – in that place. Here, where and there, all to do with place, have an h in them, which is quite handy to remember. “Over there!”

  1. Sloppy spelling.

Vauge. Neccesary. Dissapoint (please: one s, two ps!).

Everyone has a few words they just can’t spell; someone I knew couldn’t get “definitely” right no matter how many times he tried. I know the idea of learning spellings off by heart went out in Year 8, but sometimes it’s just necessary. If you’re writing to a friend then obviously you can take certain liberties with spelling sometimes, but if you’re representing a website via an article, email or other written text, you really do need to spell check carefully, or get a friend/teacher to do it. Putting poorly spell-checked work on a popular website does you no favours, and can put the reader off.

I know this all comes off as a dressing-down from your English teacher, but these are honestly really simple mistakes that take about thirty seconds to fix. There are few things more dissapointing (sic) than a well-written piece on your favourite website that lets itself down with some really simple mistakes. Make that improvement now!


August 10th, 2006
Blog Entry

TCW is go!

After a too-long break, I’m back on the keys and can’t wait to start posting again. I have a few good articles waiting to come up, from the next Player P.O.V. to basic tips on improving your English, and even my own downloadable television show!

Please do bookmark the page – hit Control + D! – subscribe to my RSS feed at www.prosody.co.uk/feed and come back on Saturday when normal service will hopefully be resumed!


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