Category Archives: random

Some Reflection


I have been doing this blog for some time now. I started it back in 2012 — today sort of kind of marks its 5th birthday, in fact. At the time I was unemployed, had a lot on my mind and needed a constructive outlet for it, which is why if you check the Archive you’ll see 2012 had a fair variety of posts ranging from explanations of black hole physics (as much for my own personal reference as anything else) to lengthy peans to the old manuals that used to come with Microprose games. There were also a lot more of them, since I had far more time to write.

That all changed in 2013 when I finally found myself my first post-PhD job, which is also currently still my only post-PhD job as I’m somehow still there. The unfortunate burden of actually having to do annoying life-essential things for the first time meant that non-review posts were almost immediately jettisoned; doing the research required for a science post took 6+ hours of my time, while it takes me two or three to bang out a review. It’s the difference between spending a Sunday evening writing, and spending an entire Sunday writing, so it made sense at the time to focus on chunks of writing that were actually going to be manageable given my drastically reduced free time.

I will admit, though, that as we enter the Glorious Space Year 2017 the idea of writing another 40 reviews is starting to pall slightly; I’ve done 201 of them so far and it’s beginning to get a little repetitive. I’ve never written them for any other reason than that I enjoy doing so (although I am immensely gratified that other people enjoy reading them and value my opinion, and I very much appreciate everyone who has stuck with me this far), so the looming prospect of the act of writing becoming a chore is a rather alarming one that I would like to avoid if I can.

With that in mind, I am going to make some or all of the following changes to my output this year:

  • I am going to try and write 4-6 science posts this year. Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s the largest amount I think I can reasonably commit to.
  • I am also going to do more In Praise Of-style retrospectives of old games and mechanics.  Possibly a lot more, depending on how many ideas I can come up with.
  • Consequently, the rate of full on review posts on here is probably going to become less regular – I may experiment with doing shorter-form reviews as I think condensing a cogent opinion into 1,000 words or so could be a challenging but useful exercise, but it’s more likely I’ll only crank out 25-30 reviews this year compared to the usual 40.
  • Most importantly I’m only going to sit down and write a review of a game if I’ve actually got interesting things to say about it that I want to commit to text. There have been a few occasions this year when I’ve had to mentally force myself to write about whatever I’ve been playing recently when I didn’t really want to. It doesn’t happen that often as I usually have a lot of Opinions About Games, so I don’t expect this to affect my output all that much, but having that filter in place should stave off some of that looming ennui.
  • Finally, and I know I’ve said this before, I will do my best to respond to most comments that merit one within a day, rather than the current turnaround time of a week. You guys are taking the time to write them, so I should prioritise taking time to respond to them.

Have a happy New Year, and one where you hopefully read more varied content on this blog.

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Thoughts: Crypt of the Necrodancer


You’ll probably have heard of Crypt of the Necrodancer already; it’s a “rhythm-action roguelike” with a pun name so terrible it loops all the way back around to awesome, and which got a lot of positive press when it came out on Early Access around August last year. The concept was interesting enough that I broke my Early Access rule to try it for a couple of hours, but while I was pleased to see there was a lot of promise in the core mechanic of moving your character in time to a beat the amount of actual content present was a little bit limited, and so I left it to what I assumed would be a protracted period of Early Access limbo. However, developers Brace Yourself Games have shocked me by actually bringing Necrodancer out of Early Access a mere eight months after it first appeared on Steam1 and pushing it to full release last week. Unlike its Early Access phase this is something that’s gone almost completely unremarked upon by the gaming press at large (or at least the parts of it I follow), and this confuses me, because this finished version of Crypt of the Necrodancer is the best roguelike I’ve played since Spelunky.

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  1. This is the equivalent of breakneck development speed for an Early Access title.

2014′s A Goner


Not that it’ll really be noticeable against the backdrop of my recent slow output, but I am taking my seasonal break along with seemingly the entire rest of the videogames blogging community. The Scientific Gamer will return on the 5th of January – and hopefully I’ll have used the break to actually write something for it! In the meantime, three things:

  • Merry Christmas.
  • Merry Russian Christmas.
  • I am assembling a list of games to play in the new year. Currently I have Elite: Dangerous, Alien Isolation and Temple of Osiris, along with Dead State (which launched just before Christmas to a general reaction of “Are you really sure this game is finished?”)  That gets me through January, but up till March looks pretty dead in terms of new releases. So all suggestions and recommendations are welcome.

August Hiatus


You know when I said that the spotty period was over and that I was going to be posting more regularly?

I lied.

Well, I guess I didn’t really lie as such. I just forgot that August is traditionally crazy for me what with Space School sucking up my free time for the first two weeks, and then work has seen fit to send me to San Francisco for another week so I can’t even think about writing until that’s all out of the way. It’s a shame to leave the blog for that long as I’ve been at it for long enough that it’s become something of a habit and feels kind of weird not to write anything, but important life things must take precedence. All being well, Scientific Gamer will return the week of the 25th August — we have a bank holiday that weekend, so I will have absolutely no excuse for not posting something. See you guys then.

(Oh, and I would also like you to know that even though finding time to respond is difficult these days I do appreciate the comment threads on here. I shall try at least to work through the most recent ones tomorrow.)

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Christmas Again.


I’m on my Christmas holiday for the next couple of weeks, so this blog may be quieter than usual until the new year. “Usual” already being pretty quiet compared to 2012, of course; it turns out being in full-time employment sucks away all of your time and energy and leaves you a withered, lifeless husk of a human being whose atrophied claws are hardly capable of accurate touch-typing. I’ve been toying with the idea of maybe starting fortnightly science posts again next year since I feel like I’m losing my edge a bit when it comes to the physics, but it’s probable this will go the way of all resolutions. In the meantime I’d like to thank my regular readers — in defiance of all logic and sanity, I do have a few — for their comments and conversations over the last year; your feedback is greatly valued and one of the reasons why I still scrape up the time to sit down for a couple of hours each week to bang out a game review. I hope you all have a fantastic Christmas and New Year, and we shall see what the future holds for the Scientific Gamer.


There will be a post today. However, there will not be a post now thanks to my poor forward planning in forgetting to bring the memory stick with the half-completed post on it to work so that I could finish and upload it. It is comingthough, because while I might miss every other day of the week I’ll be damned if I miss a Monday.  It’ll just have to wait until this evening, is all.

This post will self-destruct in five seconds.

It Isn’t Easy Writing A Blog.


Yes, it’s one of those periodic posts where I make excuses for the distinct lack of posting recently. There have been things getting in the way the last couple of weeks and I’m having trouble finding enough times to both play games and write about them, or do the background research necessary for science posts.  This is nothing new; I write this blog because it’s a genuinely healthy thing for me to do and the trickle of posts will never dry up completely, but this state of affairs looks like it is going to continue and I just wanted to save anyone still reading it some time by outlining when exactly they should be checking for new posts (if they don’t have reader programs that do it automagically, that is.)

  • Mondays. There will almost always be something posted on Mondays because I’m never going to stop playing games and I’ve usually got something to say about the games I play; the only reason last week got missed was because the game I was playing was Fire Emblem and I’m not really in the habit of doing 3DS games on here. (P.S. Fire Emblem is really good and you should buy it if you have a 3DS and I’m totally up for Fire Emblem chat in the comments.)
  • Wednesdays. There will usually be something posted on Wednesdays now that I’ve realised I can mine the rich new seam of particle physics. I don’t know it as well as I do astrophysics but that makes me more likely to write about it, not less, since it’s actually genuinely useful for me to go off and learn about it. That being said, science posts do take a hell of a long time and I’m not going to be able to do one every week.
  • Fridays…. are something of a question mark. For example, today there was going to be a post about the power of games to stealthily educate people and I spent the last couple of days working on it, but then I realised at the last moment that I didn’t know nearly enough about conventional game pedagogy to state anything beyond the bleeding obvious, which is why you’re getting this post instead. Maybe that post will resurface in a couple of weeks, but it reflects the difficulty I have filling that third slot; writing about old games isn’t much better because I usually have to go back and play the old game in question again, which is something I really don’t have time for now. Treat Friday posts, when they do appear, as a nice bonus.

Tl;dr version: checking back every Monday is probably the most efficient way to read this blog for the time being, so really it’s business as usual since I started my new job. Life catches up with us all, I guess.