The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

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12:55am on Saturday, 23rd November, 2019:



A quick search of the Imperator Rome directory unearthed a file with the end date of the game in it, so I changed it to 31 December 900 (which is 147 AD). Most of the expansion that followed happened before 800, then I ran out of small countries to conquer so colonised parts of Eastern Europe until I had enough money to take on larger ones. Carthage kept declaring war but never sending any troops my way, so all the wars ended in a white peace. Rome also declared war a couple of times: I took some territory in the first one and the second one was under way when the game ended.

I managed to trade for camels towards the end, so created a camel unit in Denmark because I could. I perhaps shouldn't have imported the steppe horses to Scotland, though, as the horse arches they enabled were a bit too far away to see any action.

Back to playing Pathway tomorrow, I think.


4:07pm on Friday, 22nd November, 2019:

Cat Queue


Damn, I'm not first in the queue for the campus shop to open.


2:10pm on Thursday, 21st November, 2019:

Unsound System


While standing outside a café in Montevideo, waiting to meet a group of people who had decided not to go to the café but hadn't yet told me, I took these photos of a vehicle as it went past. That is indeed a speaker attached to the roof. My rudimentary O-Level Spanish was sufficient to ascertain that it was advertising a candidate for the second round of the presidential election that is set to take place this Sunday.

I'm glad that none of the UK political parties have any of these little cars. Actually, maybe they do in marginal constituencies where votes actually count. I remember that when I was a lad, people used to drive around in cars with loudspeakers on to, urging us to vote for some particular candidate. They'd do it in local elections, not just general ones. It was like the opposite of an ice cream van: you heard it coming and made yourself scarce so as not to have to engage with it.

Today, in the throes of the UK election, the only ads I'm coming across are on Facebook. None of them have been relevant: it seems that despite the fact it's supposed to know everything about me, Facebook is unaware that I don't live in the Colchester constituency so will not be voting for whoever is trying to persuade me through the medium of Facebook advertising to vote for them. I suspect that the ads are generic, given that one this morning from the Conservatives has a picture of Nicola Sturgeon on it. Even the Scottish Nationalists themselves would concede that their chances of winning the Harwich and North Essex seat are quite slim.

When I typed "Nicola Sturgeon" into Google just now, to make sure I was spelling her name correctly, the results page included a "People also ask" section, the second question of which was "Who is Nicola Sturgeon married too?". I can believe that enough people don't know it should be "Whom" to make an impact on the phrasing, but "too"?

I'm sure that car would fall over backwards if it went up a hill.


3:47pm on Wednesday, 20th November, 2019:

Editing Down


Earlier this year, I agreed to write a chapter for an acedmic book on storytelling in games. I'm doing the chapter on storytelling in MMORPGs. I was given a word length guide of 3,000 to 5,000.

I've just finished the first draft, and it weighs in at 11,200 words.

Oh well, I don't have to hand it in until January — there's plenty of time to edit it down. If I simply delete three words in every five in an X-X-X pattern, that ought to do it.

Is. The, the the. Stories the.

Yes, those first two sentences come out fine. Maybe I'll write a macro to do it for me.


3:52pm on Tuesday, 19th November, 2019:



I've been playing Imperator: Rome recently, a grand strategy game from Paradox. It's not bad, a bit simpler than some of their other games but still quite interesting. Its main faults from my perspective are a lack of a manual, a lack of a city summary screen and it finishes too soon. The lack of a manual in particular was annoying until I realised how colonisation worked.

This screenshot is of my latest (third) game. I was playing as the Iceni, but the name was changed to Albion once I conquered/colonised the British Isles. The game ended mid-war with Sciria — another couple of years and I'd have added it to my collection.

OK, so I was playing at easy level of difficulty (I don't think the Iceni are supposed to finish second behind Rome on points), but I'm getting the hang of it. Maybe I'll play as Rome next time and get an easy experience a different way.


2:26pm on Monday, 18th November, 2019:

Several Minute Errors


You know those dots people use to end sentences? They're there even in question marks and exclamation marks. People call them "full stops", or sometimes "periods".

Why would Microsoft employ someone whose job it is to OK the deliberate removal of full stops from what would otherwise be fully-formed sentences?


11:38am on Sunday, 17th November, 2019:

My Weekends



11:34am on Saturday, 16th November, 2019:

What are you Talking About?


Overheard in Sainsbury's:

Him: Well we could have a stir fry, we haven't had one of those in a while.
Her: What are you talking about?
Him: You know, a stir fry. Bit of this, bit of that.
Her: What are you talking about?
Him: We haven't had one for a while.
Her: What are you talking about?
Him: The last time must have been around your mum's birthday.
Her: What are you talking about?
Him: Well when do you think we last had a stir fry?
Her: Ryan, what are you talking about?
Him: What do you want to eat, then?
Her: Oh, now it's on me, is it?

Also overheard in Sainsbury's (different couple):
Her: They only ever have one bag or no bags.
Him: They're not very popular.
Her: No, they're very popular. That's why they keep running out!
Him: I don't think they keep many in stock.
Her: Why not?
Him: Not many people like them.
Her: What? Who doesn't like mussels?

Also overheard in Sainsbury's (while passing the customer service desk):
Her (angrily, holding up a bag of dishwasher tablets): These. Aren't. Onions!


11:55am on Friday, 15th November, 2019:



This huge photograph occupies a wall in the Teaching Centre at the university. I particularly like the guy in panel 9.

Someone has clearly taken his beer.


12:24pm on Thursday, 14th November, 2019:

Life Tree


I brought this back from Uruguay for my wife.

If I disappear under mysterious circumstances over the course of the next few days, that means it works.


1:08pm on Wednesday, 13th November, 2019:

Tiny Dice


Along with the tiny playing cards that arrived earlier this week was a bonus item: a set of three tiny dice.

They're in a container 22mm (7/8in) in diameter. It doesn't look quite as scratched in real life as it does in the picture, because the light from the scanner pikced out every imperfection in the glass. Because of the scratches, you can't see that at the back there's a ring around the edge with notches cut into it so that when you shake the device the dice roll round it rather than slide round it, thus helping with the randomness.

Turning the container so it's glass-down reveals that on the reverse side is a piece of soldering in the middle. This suggests to me that originally there was something stuck to it. My guess is that it's one of a pair of cufflinks and the stalk has come off it.

I don't quite know what I'm going to do with it yet, other than keep it. I'll probably put it on a shelf in my office at the university so that I don't have to make a decision for several years.

Yes, that will work.


2:13pm on Tuesday, 12th November, 2019:



Wow, this Notepad++ update looks as if it's going to take awhile.


6:42pm on Monday, 11th November, 2019:

Sapient AIs


I did an interview with Dean Takahashi of Venturebeat recently, on the subject of the ethics of games AI (based on my talk at the IEEE Conference on Games in August). It's now available here: https://venturebeat.com/2019/11/11/richard-bartle-interview-how-game-developers-should-think-about-sapient-ai-characters/view-all/.

I come across as slightly rambling and mad, but was undoubtedly more rambling and mad when I gave the interview so on the whole I'm quite pleased.


5:41pm on Monday, 11th November, 2019:

Lecture 4


Damn it, lecture 4, why can't you have the same icon as everyone else?!


12:38pm on Sunday, 10th November, 2019:



While I was away, I won a bid for yet more antique playing cards.

These are unusual because they're tiny (hence the ruler in the picture). They're made by C. L. Wüst of Frankfurt, but the Internet doesn't seem to know exactly when. There are two packs in the British Museum that were donated in 1896, but those have patterned backs; mine have plain backs, so are probably earlier. The donated sets are likely to be a couple of decades or more earlier than 1896, come to that.

I do already have a pack of these with patterned backs that I bought 6 years ago. They're in a tiny box. This latest set is boxless, probably because they were originally in a silver box that someone decided to use for another purpose (such as melting it down). My guess is that the 7 of clubs is so filthy because it was the top card in a pile that was left for many years, which suggests that the box has been gone a long, long time.

The patterns on the card, while based on those of other Wüst patterns, seem to be unique; I can't find another Wüst deck that matches it. The aces are quite pretty — here they are enlarged.

Wüst cards are very collectable, and you can see why. I still prefer Dondorf, but I like these a lot all the same.


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Copyright © 2019 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).