Ok so I tried something a little recursive in nature to see what ChatGPT AI do, and I think this is very much in the write style and has some surprising little rant in it about the process of writing a sitcom. I like this better than the first Blackadder sketch I had in the previous post.
write a Blackadder sketch of Blackadder writing a Blackadder sketch
Baldrick: My lord, what are you doing?
Blackadder: I am trying to write a sketch for our next Blackadder episode, Baldrick.
Baldrick: But my lord, you are Blackadder. Why are you writing a sketch about Blackadder writing a sketch?
Blackadder: Because, Baldrick, it is a clever and meta way to poke fun at the absurdity of the situation.
Baldrick: Ah, I see. But what is the sketch about, my lord?
Blackadder: It is about Blackadder sitting at his desk, trying to come up with a sketch for the next Blackadder episode. But every idea he comes up with is met with objections from the other characters.
Baldrick: Like what, my lord?
Blackadder: Well, for example, I might come up with an idea for a sketch where Blackadder and I go on a quest to find the Holy Grail. But then Prince George would object, saying that we already did that in a previous episode.
Baldrick: Oh, I see. And then what would happen, my lord?
Blackadder: Then I would come up with another idea, perhaps involving a time-traveling Blackadder going back to the Tudor era. But then Queenie would object, saying that we already did that in a previous episode as well.
Baldrick: So Blackadder can’t come up with any new ideas for sketches?
Blackadder: Exactly, Baldrick. It’s a satirical commentary on the creative challenges of writing for a long-running television show.
Baldrick: Oh, I get it now, my lord. That sounds like a very clever sketch.
Blackadder: Yes, Baldrick, I thought so too. But now I just need to figure out how to end it.
Baldrick: How about Blackadder giving up and going for a walk instead?
Blackadder: Hmm, not bad, Baldrick. Not bad at all. I think I’ll go with that. Thank you for your assistance.
Baldrick: Always happy to help, my lord.
Blackadder: Now let’s hope this sketch is a hit with the audience.
(Blackadder gets up from his desk and exits, with Baldrick following behind.)
I have carried on experimenting with the wonderful Midjourney app on Discord. My previous post had some images and a degree of explanation, but as a reminder. This is one of the new generation of publicly available of AI based image generation from text. Just watching the flow of requests and the range of styles and images that appear constantly is fascinating. It generates 4 images for each text request which you can then curate and push for further generation of more similar to that one. It can also take a web image not generated by it as inspiration.
This however, made me chortle, then stop to ponder, then simply just say way. I said /Imagine Lego John Wick – that is all I asked
Look at the variety of styles from the top right and bottom left as actual minifies with shadows to a stylised top left looking as if he is paid in lego pieces not gold, and bottom right an angular representation but a cool image.
Then of course that got me going onto the obvious /imagine Lego predator
This just looks great, lots of predator variations, which as has happened with the films is pretty much in the storyline to have multiple tribes. (BTW Watch Prey the latest Predator movie on Disney+/Hulu it is really good !
Once again Midjourney hit me with its range of styles it delves into. I moved off the lego thing for a while and asked to see Laurel and Hardy breakdancing
This is a second generation image from a set of already very good images. Laurel and Hardy are of course well known, but there are no breakdancing scenes to refer to. Also, it chose black and white, presumably because most of the source content was black and white. The quirky style of this compared to the photo realistic lego minifigs and the stacks of other images show how amazingly versatile this approach is. You should be able to get a glimpse of the madness on my public facing page in midjourney (if that works )so I can stop posting here all the time saying “look at this: 🙂 You may need to change the second in from the right navigation drop down to grids or all, it seems to default to the large upscaled individual images.
Firstly, yes its been a while since I posted here, I could have done with an AI clone of me carrying on sharing interesting things. I was out mainly due to an annoying post-ailment “thing” (medical term) hitting my facial nerves which meant for months any screen time trying to read or write was visually and mentally uncomfortable. That was followed with a dose of Covid that knocked me out for a while but also seems to have had a potential positive impact on whatever else was going on. Anyway, I am back. Anything happened the past few months, I mean 1/2 a year?
I suddenly felt compelled to blog about some of the marvellous work going on with AI image generation of late with things such as Dall-e and Midjourney becoming available to more people. I have so far only used Midjourney, which is accessed through Discord. In the relevant channel you simply type the command /imagine followed by any descriptive text you fancy and it will generate four images based on that, with often surprising results. Any of those images can be selected as the root to generate more in that style, or you can upscale, get a big version, of one you favourite.
Handy hint- The mobile version of Discord really likes to scroll to new items, midjourney works by updating your post to the channel. As so many posts are being generated every few seconds you might think you can leave the app on your post to see the results but very quickly you will zoom up the screen. Constant scrolling back to try and catch your images being generated is a bit of a pain. However if you log into midjourney.com with Discord ID it will present you with your collection and lots of links to get back to do things with them. The Discord search doesn’t seem to work on userid etc so it took me a while to figure this out.
After a few attempts, and with one eye on the political situation and crisis faced in the UK I asked mid journey “an artist forced to stop painting in order to work in a bank” and got this wonderful set of images
I also asked it to generate a protest by the people
Rather than continue the doom and gloom it was time to go a bit more techie 🙂 I asked it to show me directing the metaverse from a control centre
An obvious course of action was to explore my Reconfigure and Cont3xt novels and this is where I was very impressed by whatever is going on with this AI. I asked to see “a cyberpunk girl manipulating the physical world using an augmented reality digital twin” and it seems that Roisin (@Axelweight) is in there somewhere 🙂
This was worth exploring and picking couple of the images to then seed generating more similar to that which generated these two
And this one
These were good but the first version of the top right image in generation 1 was the one I did a more detail version of on its own. It could be the cover of the third book couldn’t it?
In case this seems a all a bit too serious, I did ask a slightly weirder question of the AI and got this.
For a happy image how about this /imagine a bright green planet full of life
But back to the surreal and unusual and predlet 1.0 and I share a joke we “invented” when she was quite young, we were passing the pub in Lock’s Heath having been to the supermarket, she looked at the pavement and saw a creature. She said “dad look there’s a worm coming out of the pub” to which I replied “and he is legless”, and here it is
As this kind of AI generation evolves from the static image to the moving one and then onto virtual world and the metaverse, what a wonderfully weird set of worlds we will be able to dream/nightmare up 🙂
As many people who pop along here will know back in 2006 (and even before that) I have been somewhat passionate in explaining and sharing what can be done with things like game technology, virtual worlds etc to help with human communication, that includes entertainment (which is often regarded as not a serious business), office type business, education, industrial digital twins the list goes on. Metaverse is a handy word to bundle all this together and whilst not tightly defined I think many of us know what we mean. This month I wrote a piece for the BCS which is available to read here and they have nicely highlighted the phrase ““Travelling and actual teleportation aside, do you think that we should be able to find better ways to feel we are with people and to have shared experiences?” Whatever you think the Metaverse is evolving to, just consider if the way you are doing things now is the best it could possibly be given the tech available. Things evolve and move, not always replacing everything behind them but adding.
Having sad that, it is worth reminding everyone that the original work in 2006 in Second Life was mostly about pulling data from other sources into the environment, and doing things with it, this eventually led to building Wimbledon’s 2006 course with the ball trajectory from Hawkeye rendered there.
There is an ongoing discussions is about interoperability of Metaverse or virtual world platforms. These range from is it desirable to have objects from world x appear in world y and then often hit the barrier of platform x has a completely different rendering engine to platform y. The former is a style and even a business question, why does an environment of any type exist, real, virtual, augmented, projected, whatever. This then leads to the technical wars around content being “in” a development or build environment. Importing of meshes, textures, animation rigs etc is one way to look at Metaverse evolution but I think it is also worth considering the potential for things like remote rendering, if the unifying standard for content sharing was actually containers, of potentially any size or shape and level of detail, the anything from environment x could appear in environment y and even interact with it to vary degrees depending on permissions or needs. My Nvidia RTX ray traced shiny car could appear in the most basic of 3d environments as I am rendering the car my end, and the virtual world is processing a container and stream. This is after all what we do when we video chat, each of our cameras is doing some work and being hosted by a basic integration layer. Yes I know 3d and collisions and physics and and etc. all make it more complex but it is worth considering that other ways of working can exist to the build and compile we are used to from games. Also, from what I remember of Snowcrash avatars are rendered by the person’s own device, those with worse computing power have more basic avatars in world? Also, we already did some of this back n 06/07 it just takes a different way of thinking.
Talking to thinking, literally, I was invited to join the Games at Work dot Biz podcast again and I was more than happy to give a shout out to a book by Prof Richard Bartle on virtual worlds and our god like powers over them. Checkout the podcast and links are here and on any player you have, give it a rating to help the guys too please.
There is a lot of hype of the new Matrix movie but today a demo/experience rendered in Unreal 5 live on Xbox series x and PS5 went live. The intro movie is fantastic, sometimes you can’t tell real from virtual, other times you can, but that often feels deliberate, toying with the uncanny valley.
If you don’t have an next gen console then there is a video, and it is well worth watching, remembering this is live rendered in Unreal 5 not precanned cut scene.
Many of us in tech have an affinity to the Matrix. I remember the first one, sat in the offices in Hursley building early web sites and shops, engaged in the start of digital transformation. The free character drip screen savers everywhere and even the old clunky web we had clips to watch “I Know Kung Fu” etc. Many of us were gamers too so this blaring of physical and digital was really appealing. I even bought the soundtrack, not on old fashioned CD but on Mini disc 🙂 Its always pushing the envelope and as this video shows, they are still at it! Metaverse FTW 🙂
What a bumper time for games it is, and on 9th November the latest of my all time favourite racing games Forza Horizon arrived on the Xbox, The games have always had a large free roaming area to collect, drive, race and photograph some fantastic cars. Each generation gets more jaw dropping as it pushes the limits of what can be done with the graphics, sounds physics. Number 4 in the series was set in the UK, building on a huge map that merged many of key locations and and cities into a manageable terrain. Number 5 has moved to Mexico and even more stunning scenes await there. The game is bundled into Microsoft Xbox Game Pass, but being a fan I bought the full version and all the expansions, knowing full well that I will be playing this on and off for years.
The beauty of Forza Horizon is that “where we are going we don’t need roads”. There are roads and tracks and you can just stick to those but you can also tear across the landscape in even the most unsuitable car possible. This may seem at odds with the precision feel of the driving simulation but it always manages to walk that line between arcade lunacy and pure driving simulator. Why would you go tearing around the scenery, well its for the views like this.
The scenery alters across many different biomes, the time of day and weather also make for great variations and the game itself switches between spring, summer, autumn and winter every week.
Also of note is the radio stations, prerecorded play lists of rock, dance, classical music that have wonderful DJ voice overs that often refer back to things that are happening such as event s just raced or about to come up. It is enjoyable to just pick a car, and casually (or otherwise) drive around the place seeing the sites and smoking up the tunes.
A feature of Forza that I always share and enthuse about is the custom paint and decals for the cars. The game has managed to preserve artwork with each generation of the game so effort in creating these is not wasted. I use the decals as a demonstration of in game advertising and support with both my martial art and my Reconfigure books represented, along with a stylised predator face based on the Wii Mii version. These designs appear with my car in other peoples games and can also be downloaded, though there are some much better painters doing some great work to check out.
There are cars from 3 wheelers to high end supercars, over 500 different models and all hyper detailed in and out. There are drag races, giant leaps and even houses to buy.
There are lots of online multiplayer angles to join in on, but I really enjoy driving against the Drivatars of friends and family. Here, a single player race is populated by names and cars of people you know driving to some degree in the way they would drive if they were there. This degree of personalisation is always great fun.
If you are looking at these shots and saying, oh it all looks too shiny to be real though, I saw this vehicle parked outside a London train station in a recent (and long time since I have been out) trip.
I have already blasted through many of the races and levels, the last game was one of the few I have level capped and “prestiged” on. That really just comes with lots of time more than any particular skill, though doing well in races, performing superb stunts, drifting, speeding and crashing the scenery all ramp up the levels more quickly.
It is also great that I can play this on PC and on Xbox Series X but also now its available as a cloud game. Its juts a pity that our communication infrastructure on the train lines is not up to using that, but its still good if other members of the family are playing something else at home.
As you may have noticed I have been in and around the virtual world and metaverse for a long while. I have spent decades helping people understand the basics of virtual worlds and benefits they bring to us all. The pandemic has highlighted the need to do some things differently so it is not a suprise that Metaverse is trending in all sorts of places once again. You don’t have to look far to find replays of the ebullient money money from US TV Jim Cramer “describing” the Metaverse is such odd mixed up sets of keywords and company names that it had me crying with laughter and with sadness.
Just to follow his stream of blurb he went through. I only need 10 minuted to explain it all to him, as do any of us, or even better just logon to a virtual world, anyone of them and talk to someone, experience something. I was reminded of the conversation about the internet, the web, ecommerce, social media and so many other emerging technologies. We always get to this stage of apparently influential people getting it so wrong yet bringing so much attention to something.
To be fair, we all have to learn things, but maybe we don’t all then talk about them to a large TV audience in the context of financial investments until we do understand the words. I would be one of many to be happy to explain what the vision of the metaverse is, what the practical implementation of that is today and why it is some of the words used but not in the same order or context. Also… its not all about NFTs either !
He said (slightly paraphrased):
“It’s Unity with an oculus looking at a t-shirt its Nvidia?”
“It’s a hologram”
“You go into a room to listen to Mozart but listen to Beethoven and these people don’t exist”
I hope my virtual world descriptions on TV (of which there are a few) and possibly the relationship between virtual worlds that form a proper metaverse are not quite on this level. As on my TV showreel page with the opensim conversation, added here from 2011 for completeness. Yes a decade ago on saturday morning kids TV, a live virtual world. Cmon people lets do this thing !
Meanwhile I am off to google something up on the inter webs.
Hot on the heels of my BCS animation and games webinar on the games of 2020 I was delighted to be invited to pop along to my favourite podcast, Games At Work, as a guest to talk about my personal views of some of the thing going on in the tech and games worlds including AR and VR.
To hear us riff on a range of subjects head over to here to website and the show links or look for Games at work dot biz on your favourite podcast repository.
I have had the honour to be on before, the last time was in June 2020, a mentally trying time that the podcast recording really helped with. Its always a blast to record, they kindly had me on years ago too when I first published my Sci-fi Novels Reconfigure and Cont3xt. Given it is now on episode 311 you can tell this podcast is certainly not a fad or a flash in the pan but a wonderfully produced and entertaining experience, despite my ramblings and book pitching. Enjoy.
Yesterday I presented a webinar for the BCS animation and games specialist group that I chair, but open to all, sharing some thoughts on what games made sense and for what reasons on 2020. I am not sure which BCS channel that will appear on but whilst waiting if you want to have a look and listen its all here.
As I say throughout this is all my own thoughts as a gamer and all personally experienced, bought and paid, no promotional activity by anyone other than me mentioning my books in this.
Just over two weeks ago I was sitting waiting for my Xbox Series X to arrive on launch day. It got held up for some reason and for a tense moment or seven I thought I might have fell into the over booking of orders trap. The good news though it arrived the following day and here it is.
Installation and setup was super simple and I left the One X attached too. However I had already moved lots of the key large games that were due a X/S upgrade onto a removable USB drive to save needing to do quite so much downloading, network transfer was an option too but I thought things would be at least playable more quickly. On logging onto the new box the profile and all its favourites and colours etc re-appear making it completely like the older box. Next gen gaming is now very like phone upgrades with the excitement of taking the thing out of the box, logging on and seeing …. oh its exactly the same. The best way to see and feel the different is to dive into an X/S enhanced game, get some ray tracing going as in my last post.
Microsoft has a smart delivery label on some games indicating they know to patch to the fancier version on the Series X. However, for a Series X version to work it has to be on the internal 1Tb internal drive or the 1Tb extension cart (which I also felt obliged to get). So I set about asking all of the 60-100gb games on the USB drive to make their way over to the fast internal drive. That is not an overly speedy process and for obvious reasons is kind of a one at a time gig. I had booked off the rest of the week to use up 2020 holiday and immerse myself in the new console but some of that the was going to be sat sipping in a progress bar.
Whilst I waited it was great timing the Harmonix (of Rockband fame) had released their DJ music mixing game/experience the day before. I had already played it on the One X but now could spark it up (from the USB as it is not “enhanced”) and just get on with enjoying the console. This game is disc flipping brilliant! An array of tunes, from 60’s country to modern EDM are available to put into your set. 4 platters let you drop parts of those tunes onto the decks, e.g drums from one, vocals from another. As you progress you get to mix and match all sorts of elements, fading in new parts, hitting beat markers for scores, muting, looping and adding custom instrument sections. The whole thing keeps everything in time and tune and synch in a really impressive and entertaining way. Most DJ stuff is usually dance music but as with my little mashup below there are some old 80’s tunes too. It won’t win any prizes but, rather like rockbound it makes you feel a musical god when you are doing it. You can play it as a game to progress, hit marks and styles or just tootle around. I have played with a lot of music games and to be able to just put stuff together and it sound right is such a buzz. We don’t all have the musical ability to do these things but it does make you want to do more. This filled all the time I was waiting for things to transfer and I had a blast, and am still. playing it of course 🙂
Once on of the One X versions of a mega game had moved across I launched them. It was Dirt 5 the new mad Codemasters racing game. Duly it announced with a new message that a better version was available did I want to upgrade. Hell yes ! The original was something like 60Gb so I was expecting some smart delivery of a few GB more of textures, instead I got a 70Gb full download. It seems smart delivery is not a delta, but the full thing re downloaded in a new package. This meant the transferring of over a terabyte of games to the USB drive from the One X and then transferring from that to the Series X SSD, hours worth or transfer, was in fact… pointless as far as I could see. I killed all the other transfers and just went to the network to get it to download new version. In this case I started with the launch of Call of Duty Black ops whatever number it is and carried on playing Fuser! I even entered something into a monthly task competition.
Once it had downloaded I launched into Call of Duty Black Ops in the single player story mode. I was constantly amazed by how fast and slick it was, how many great scenes there were visually. I also enjoyed the story and the temporal jumps. I mean I should as Reconfigure starting chapter is form the middle of the book :). It was also set in my era. A very different time for American presidents, though Reagan was previously a hollywood actor, and wanted to create space based defence systems. Interesting to be working for him though.
I played the entire campaign through that day. To be able to a) finish a game and b) do it in one sitting is not to say it is too short or anything. The ability to block time off, enjoy and dive in made this like a fantastic boxed set on Netflix. There is of course the multiplayer, but I have to be in teh frame of mind to get a constant beating in that by all the kids.
Another really nice touch was this easter egg (which took a bit of figuring out to get to, ut not too much 🙂 ) As well as some 80’s games to play, really old eight bit glories there was this terminal.
Typing on the diplayed keyboard it was clearly a proper version text based operating system from back in the good old days. I listed and changed directories (not sure many modern players will have a clue about that, but they can always look it up on the fancy inter webs). It turns out it has full versions of Zork I, II, Leather Goddesses of Phobos and a few others. I couldn’t;t use the keyboard on the Xbox app, only the slow and annoying onscreen key board, but that was actually part of the fun. I tried one of the games and saved a game, left the console and went back to see if it loaded it, it did! In the middle of the kick ass, next gen first person shooter there was a good old fashioned text based adventure from my youth, utterly brilliant and not the only flashback this month.
There were a stack of other games I have then dived into. In teh house we were already playing Watchdogs:Legion on the previous Xbox, but it was a really nice upgrade to be able to see London in all its next gen (and own futuristic dystopia).
However, The real stand out game has been Assassins Creed : Valhalla. The free-roaming of a beautiful looking saxon Britain it truly eye meltingly lovely. Unlike Call of Duty its an almost never ending set of things to do or complete, constantly attracted way from one task to do another or just to go sight seeing. I particularly liked that over in East Anglia, where I am from, a full version of Burgh Castle exists. The roman walls still stand there today and was a childhood haunt out on the edge of the broads.
Admist all the lovely views there were a few unusual things too. I went to sort out a real work delivery of food and my controller timed out I was met with this amusing error message.
Also I unlocked fishing, of course it has fishing. As I tweeted recently.
I also played this for a while too, one I specifically bought after getting the console.
It is as mad and weird as its predecessors, will not be to everyone’s taste but it has made me laugh a lot. The new fighting system is more turn based, but you get used to it.
I have updated a stack of other games, Mortal Kombat:Ultimate was the biggest mess as I tried the moving from the USB drive again as it has lots of standalone pieces, I ended up deleting it all and starting again. Fifa got me confused too as it kept not installing much of an update, only to realise it was not actually available in the new shiny version yet, it just never told me and the X/S icon would relaunch the original One X version every time.
The only other fly in the ointment is that our 3 years old super snazzy high end Samsung TV does not cope with the new 120 hz ability of the Xbox. I also had to double check how to enable full HDR on the HDMI ports as it was not automatically doing that either. All done now though and it all works.
What no PS5? Well, once it all quietens down I will investigate getting one of those, but the Xbox, with its Game Pass Ultimate that covers the PC’s too is just too much ecosystem to ignore as a primary gaming system.
I mentioned I was relieving my childhood, well I also finally signed up to yet another video service – Britbox, as it was bundled for 6 months free on out BT broadband. I had pondered if I wanted old box sets of BBC and other channels shows, the lure of Spitting Image reborn too was tempting. However what finally did it was Blake’s 7, this was such a formative show for me, for career, interests and the sort of Sci-fi that I really like, and also write. Yes its all a bit set wobbly, occasionally long winded and cheesy, but I love it. Avon in the foreground below, played by the late Paul Darrow, as I have written often, is probably one of the reasons I became a techie/programmer. That’s turned out OK it would seem 🙂