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Recently I discovered an AI bot named Midjourney, a bot hosted on a server in an app called Discord, which is a chatroom and community app. It is an AI that produces pictures for members of the server, who can get twenty five free images or can pay for membership which is a monthly subscription that has multiple tiers. After doing a bit of a play around with the trial version of the AI, I decided to subscribe to basic tier to allow me to play around a bit more and discover what different kinds of things Midjourney could do.
The AI works by taking prompt words from the user and producing a two by two grid of images based on the details it has received from the user in 60 seconds. There seems to be very few limits on what the AI can do and how it quickly each prompt is processed.
Users then have the option to either upscale any or all of the images produced by the AI. Some of the results that I personally have received from the AI after giving it different prompts have been seriously impressive, I’ll include examples below with the word prompts that I gave to produce the images
I started off thinking it would be interesting to experiment and see what sorts of interesting images it could produce, before moving on to images that were photorealistic or close to looking as real as possible. I thought it would be interesting to see an artificial intelligences interpretation of different real world artifacts and how to render them to look a certain way. I felt like if I could get something to look like a photo it might make for some interesting subjects.
With a new month coming soon with a credit reset for paying members I look forward to more experimenting and seeing what the AI can do and what new features the hardworking staff are working on in the background and I look forward to seeing what they are.
Over the last 9 months or so, something I have been experimenting with has been making Mead. I have done a couple of batches with varying success on quality and like with my chilli plants it’s still very much a learning process.
When I tell people that I’m brewing mead, they often say something along the lines of “How Medieval of you” or “like the Vikings?” but it has roots much older and more further east that Europe, having had forebearers potentially identified in clay pots from China as far back as 7000 BCE, it’s first theoretical appearance in Europe come from residual samples taken from samples thought to date from roughly 2800-1800 BCE and it is believed its earliest written description comes from old religious texts (the Rigveda) from a precursor to Hinduism (Vedism), Aristotle is said to have been a fan of the drink as well.
Mead is known as “honey wine” honey being what is being fermented, along with water, to create alcohol. Like wine its sweetness can vary depending on how much honey is in it or how much is consumed by the yeast before the yeast’s alcohol tolerance is reached. It can be flavoured with various fruit, to make things even more interesting, from example I have flavoured mine with things like blueberries and cherries, apples and spices, chillies, as well as citrus fruits, all with varying success and interesting flavours.
Like my chilli growing, I kind of started doing it to see if I could do it and now part of me wants to do it properly and really experiment with it to see where I can take it as a side project. There are so many sub-categories of mead that you could wing it and find what sticks, like I have done so far, but you could also nail the process and make it an exact science using almost laboratory grade equipment. Depending on what kind of fruit you brew your mead with, it technically becomes another type of drink, like how ale and larger are different types of beer. For example, pretty much all mead brewed with fruit is called a Melomel and then under that banner depending on what fruit it is, it will have a different name i.e. mead with apple is a Cyser, a Rubamel is mead with raspberries.
The process of making mead itself can be relatively straightforward, once everything is clean and sterilised, it can be as simple as leaving the ingredients, Water, honey and yeast, in a container with an air lock to allow any gases to escape, or you can go full professional brewery about it and have a sophisticated setup to create a very precise drink. I definitely belong in the “simple as possible camp” at the moment, I figure while it taste good there’s no need to complicate things or make things harder than they need to be, although certain parts of it could be a lot more efficient.
More experimenting is on the horizon though, so watch this space. I have, I think, an interesting idea for my next batch of mead and it’ll be interesting to see if it works or not, but some more research and planning needs to be done I think, so we shall see what comes of it, a lockdown does seem like the best time to become a bit of a mad scientist.
Now we have reached the end of the 2010’s I thought it would be a nice lighthearted distraction from all the dismal politics to try to decided what I would consider to be the best game of the decade, with best games from each year within that decade.
Starting with 2010 the contenders are: Mass Effect 2, Bad Company 2, Dragon Age: Origins, Red Dead Redemption, Halo Reach, Assassins Creed: Brotherhood and Bioshock 2
Mass Effect 2 will forever be my personal favourite Mass Effect game, it blends a good balance of action, gameplay and roleplaying. It’s story was also more action orientated, which made it more ineresting to play than it’s predecessor. Bad company 2 was a great First person shooter last with some witty humour in the single player campaign and the level of destructibility the battlefield games have become known for. Dragon Age: Origins was another great, expansive RPG from Bioware that drew on fantasy elements to create a solid experience. Red Dead Redemption absolutely blew me away when I first played it, everything from the world you inhabit and the stories told in the game to the protagonists story is just excellent.
Game of the Year for 2010 has to be Red Dead Redemption, this game has so many brilliant moments and fantastic characters, it’s a world that draws you in and urges you to stay for as long as possible, and who can forget the first time you cross in to Mexico!
My nominations for 2011 are: Bulletstorm, Gears of War 3, Portal 2, Skyrim, Assassins Creed Revelations.
Portal 2 is considered one of the best puzzle platform games of all time, it helps that it has a great sense of humour to go with it as well. Skyrim is another game considered to be the best of it’s genre, this time an RPG. This game has one of the most intersting worlds to explore and varied ways to experience, I’ve put hundreds of hors in to this game and still go back to play more now over eight years later.
Game of the year for 2011, for me, has to be Skyrim, the fact that I can go back to it and play through it in different ways and have a different experience each time, in a world that is beautiful and immersive and still enjoy it makes it an easy choice for 2011’s game of the year
My picks for potential game of the year 2012 are: Mass Effect 3, Assassins Creed 3, Journey, Dishonored, Borderlands 2
Mass Effect 3 certainly had an air of ending from the beginning, everything is focused towards the final battle with the reapers. Despite what many people think of the endings, I thought it was a reasonably ok action RPG. When I first played Journey I was blown away by how beautiful it was, not just to look at but to listen to it as well. This game is so well scored that it add extra weight to a beautiful game.
Game of the year for 2012 is by far Journey, this short but beautiful game, helps prove the idea that games are art and was a pleasure to experience.
The games I think deserve a look at from 2013 are: Assassins Creed: Black Flag, Battlefield 4, The Last of Us, Grand Theft Auto 5
Grand theft Auto 5 broke all sorts of sales records when it was initially released and wowed both fans and critics who still love it to this day. hopping between the 3 protagonists was a first for me, but it still felt very much like previous iterations of the game with it’s interesting world, satirising real world cities, and sense of humour. Black Flag, in my opinion, is the second best Assassins Creed (after 2 obviously), it opened up the world and explorable regions a bit more and improtved on the naval combat introduced in Assassins Creed 3. Edward Kenway was also a much more interesting character than Connor from Assassins Creed 3. The Last of Us was an absolutely brilliant game, being cinematic in scope but character driven and intimate at times. The Last of Us is one of those games that stays with you for a while after you play it, you get so attached to characters and the relationships they form, you feel fear for them in tense situations, you will them on in tough times and everything seems almost personal.
For me Game of the Year 2013 The Last of Us, this was a close one for me as I loved Black Flag, but the intimacy of the story of The Last of Us and how it made me feel, means that it has to be Game of the Year.
The following are the games I considered from 2014 are: Titanfall, Alien Isolation, Assassins Creed Rogue, Assassins Creed Unity
I feel like Assassins Creed Rogue flew under a lot of peoples radar, primarily I feel because it released on the same day as Unity, but for the previous generations of consoles and only for those consoles, luckily a remaster was later released. Speaking of Assassins Creed Unity, despites the horrificly buggy state it was released in there was a fairly ok game to be found in the aftermath, if you came to it later on after it’s initial release like I did. Alien Isolation is a license saving game, after the major wobble that was Alien Colonial Marine a lot of people thought that there wasn’t going to be another game based on the Alien movies ever again so a lot of people approached this game with trepidation, unsure of what it was going to be like, but luckily those nerves were quickly settled, well sort of.
The Game of the Year 2014 has to be Alien Isolation. this game got atmosphere absolutely spot on. It got what it’s like to be hunted spot on, with the intesity of being chased by a predator, you really do fear for your characters welfare as you try find any hiding space that you can squeeze in to. The aliens AI in this game is also one of the best and is still considered to be great.
For 2015 the contenders are: The Witcher 3, Assassins Creed Syndicate, Until Dawn
The Witcher 3 is an RPG of epic proportions, the world and the characters are all fascinating to explore and to interact with. The Witcher series as a whole is excellent at taking moral “greyness” head on, not everything is as black and white as it seems and it’s more pronounced in the third and final game. Until Dawn makes a decent crack at a game based on The Butterfly Effect, the idea that even the smallest actions can have big consequences. The ending can vary depending on certain actions and decision the player performed and made. I believe that Until Dawn tackles this really well and playng through it in order to try and get certain endings add some replay value to a fairly enjoyable game.
The game of the year 2015 goes to The Witcher 3, this game is just absolutely brilliant, everything just adds up to make an absolutely stellar game. From the world and the lore to it’s characters and stories, The Witcher 3 is truly and excellent game.
Games from 2016 that I’m considering for Game of the Year are: Heavy Rain, The Division, Gears of War 4, Titanfall 2, The Last Guardian
Titanfall 2 was actually a solid game, with a fairly standard, but enjoyable, single player campaign and a multiplayer suite that expands on the one in the first game. It’s a shame it was released between a Call of Duty and a Battlefield game, so not many people played it initially and I genuinely believe a lot of people missed out. An awful lot of people waited a long time for The Last Guardian and boy were they rewarded. This game is genuinely incredible, from its gameplay to how it looks, it is one of those games that stands out as an absolute must play. Originally destined for the Playstation 3 the nine year development meant that it came out on the next generation the Playstation 4, given what a marvel this game is, I’m certainly glad they took their time with it.
Game of the year 2016 in my opinion is The Last Guardian the relationship between the boy and trico, as well the journey the go on throughout the game, make The Last Guardian essentially playing, whether your new to video games or a seasoned gamer
The year 2017 has some strong contenders for Game of The Year, they are, Resident Evil 7, Horizon Zero Dawn, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Assassins Creed Origins, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Resident Evil 7 is tense, atmospheric and a refreshing change on the formula of the previous games. The Baker famil are great characters as they help maintain an air of creepiness about the game. Playing this game with a VR headset on for the playstation adds another layer of terror as well, and makes for a genuinely scary experience. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild feels like a Zelda game that I’ve been unwitingly waiting for years, having only dipped in and out of the series since The Ocarina of Time and Majoras Mask. Breath of the Wild is an absolutely fantastic game, a world so open and awe inspiring, it felt like I spent more time exploring it than playing the main quest. That to me is the mark of a stellar game, one that you don’t want to leave by finishing it off and spending as many hours as possible with it. It of course is also a beautiful game to look at as well, it’s art style is so unique and suits a Zelda game entirely. Horizon Zero Dawn is set in a world where technology is pretty much autonomous from humans and humans have forgoten how to use it. Aloy, the protagonist you play in this game is an interesting one, some might say she is just another “chosen one” video game character, but there’s more to her than that. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a heavy game, as it deals with mental illness, particularly Psychosis. The main character is psychosis sufferer and throughout you as the player experience what she is experiences as she goes on her quest to retrieve the soul of her lost love from the norse underworld. Throughout the development of this gamers the team at ninja theory worked with doctors and psychiatrists, as well as patients, to best understand and represent the condition in the game.
My choice of Game of the year 2017 is Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, the amount of work that went in to the development and production of this game, from a small team of developers as well, was incredible. The way that mental illness is portrayed in the game as well is outstanding. Often people with mental illnesses are so wildy inaccurately portrayed across various types of media, so the fact that the team at Ninja Theory worked so hard to get it right earns extra kudos from me. Of course the game is also beautiful and a decent challenge to play. The technique they used to produce the sounds in different directions is also realy cool and well worth playing this game with a decent headset on.
Another strong year for gaming in 2018, I will be considering the following games for game of the year: Sea of Thieves, God of War, Detroit: Become Human, Spiderman, Assassins Creed Odyssey, Red Dead Redemption 2, Gris, Super Smash Bros Ultimate.
When I initially played Sea of thieves I thought it was a bit bare and repetitive, you effectively were doing the same three quests over and over again until you reached the final boss, but regular content updates have improved it vastly and added some extra fun, which is what I was initially expecting from this game. I will give the game it’s due and say it certainly is a good looking game and now it has some meat on it bones it actually a good experience to play it. God of War was an absolute masterclass in storytelling and getting a player to empathise with a protagonist and their story. This next phase of the God of War series shows Kratos’ softer side as a father and you get to see a different side to the character. Gris is a game that caught me off gueard completely, I knew nothing about it when I saw on sale in the switch store and something about the way the way it looked made me think I should give it a go. This game is beautiful and I know I’ve banded that word a lot in this article, but I genuinely mean it for this game. It’s watercolour art style and sondtrack blew me away and then to discover that the meaning behind the game being each colour is supposed represent a stage of grief added weight and substance to Gris that I wasn’t expecting. Red Dead Redemption 2 was the game of 2018 that I was most excited about, when they first announced it, I knew I had to play it. The idea that it was a prequel as well intigued me going back and seeing some of the backstory of John Marston, the protagonist of the first game. bein back in the world of the first game, plus more, felt good to be back and with a much bigger world there was more to explore and discover and it was a joy to do it as Arthur Morgan this time round. The story and the characters were genuinely brilliant and like the first game it was easy to feel connected to Arthur Morgan despite him being rough around the edges, as he tries to legitimise the gangs continued existense, now that the west is a little less wild.
My personal choice for Game of the year 2018 is Red Dead Redemption 2. There is so much that is absolutely fantastic about this game that is was almost impossible not to choose this game, it’s story, characters and its world expand on what made the first game so brilliant and with more things to and more ways to interact with the world there is so much to love about this game. You can spend hours with this game and only scratch the surface of what’s available for the players, everything down to little easter eggs that can be discovered is just excellent and worth the time you spend in this game.
My picks for Game of the Year from 2019 are Resident Evil 2, Apex Legends, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Gears 5, Pokemon Sword/Shield, Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order.
Apex Legends surprised me, much in the same way I think it surprised everyone else in that it just about interesting enough to be worth a try and good fun to play. when I first saw it, I thought “oh here we go, another Battle Royale game, last man standing, how original”. When I heard it was set in the same universe as the Titanfall games, that got my attention, as I’m a fan of those games particularly the second one, as I’ve mentioned earlier in this article. Apex Legends turns out is a fairly solid experience and once you get used to its mechanics a fairly enjoyable one too. Resident Evil 2 was a game I was far too young to play when it forst came out and never got a chance to go back to, so was quite excited to get a chance to finally play through. I’m so glad I finally got the chance to do so, the game is an exceelnt combination of puzzles, action and horror. the upgraded graphics and voice acting all add to the atmosphere and experience that is addictively terrifying. Pokémon Shield is the first Pokemon game I have bought in years and my inner child was excited about this one. An open world pokémon game definitely lives up to that childish excitement, being able to explore the world and even camp in it, really did add a little to my enjoyment in a way, it added to a feeling of the world being real and fleshed out.
The game I have chosen for Game of the Year 2019 is Resident Evil 2, with only old videos as a reference point to compare the remake to the original, it may seem odd that I might choose Resident Evil 2 as game of the year, but as far I can tell it is largely true to the original game with a few minor tweaks to the gameplay and it’s mechanics and the main change being the graphical overhaul. Playing through this game and going back to the remake of the first game, I can understand why they are considered classics, particularly of the survival horror genre and I can see where more modern games draw inspiration from them. The remake I feel was an excellent opportunity to introduce a new set of fans, like me, to the older games. It a genuinely tense experience, with different enemies needing different tactics to dispatch them and a limited inventory meanng you had to think twice and hard about how you use your resources.
So this is it, we come to the end, I have the joy of playing plenty of great games over the last ten years and I hope I have the pleasure of playing many more in the decade to come. For me Game of the Decade is Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. For me this game is a genuinely incredible experience and the work the put in to the game, to make sure the game is sensitive to how sufferers of mental illness live. The level of detail of what it’s like to live with psychosis in this games is incredible and makes for an intense experience that stays with you long after you sit and play through any part of this game. The sound design and visuals also add to the experience to make it diorientating and uncomfortable at times, with very little respite, it certainly gives you the player, some form of understanding of how intense life get for sufferers of psychosis. As someone who has suffered from mental illnes there were definitely parts of the game that hit hard and otheres that resonated with how I sometimes feel. It’s also a beautiful game to look at as well and that adds to the often visceral feel of the game as well as the emotional intensity, particularly with some of the visual “hallucinations” that the character Senua is experiencing.
There we have it, those are my games of the decade and my overall favourite, let me know what you think, what were some of your favourites? it would be interesting to know what featured on your list and why?
This year marks my third year of growing chillies, mostly what are reffered to as super hots, chillies like the Carolina Reaper or the Ghost pepper, with a few milder ones for good measure.
I am defintiely what you might call a hobby gardener, at best. I only have a vagues idea about what I’m doing and each year offers new lessons. so far I’ve learnt that the plants like consistent warm weather, which we don’t get very often in the U.K. last year we had a freak heat wave and I had more chillies than I knew what to do with. this year, the weather has been all over the place and so my yield of chillies is about a third of what it was at this time last year. Other than that I’ve learnt that they’re quite sturdy plants, it’s not been cold (relatively) but quite wet compared to this time last year, but the plants seem to be doing well and still producing fruit.
Last year I did a bit of experimenting with the chillies, trying different sauces and “jams” as well as trying them in various meals and even doing several batches of chilli chocolate, of varying heat profiles some of which were more successful than others. This year I’ve stocked up on various jars and bottles so there will probably be a bit more experimenting.
There is something satisfying about growing your own food, even if it is only chillies. Growing them from seed to fruiting plants requires a fair amount of work to begin as the plants try to establish themselves, but once they get going they are fairly hardy. Each chilli has an individual flavour and heat profiles that change slightly as you cook with them.
I can’t remember how or why I started growing chillies, I’ve liked spicy food for years, my go to curry of choice was a Vindaloo for a long time. I’ve been challenged to eat hot food more than I can count and I think when I first learned about the Carolina Reaper, I think I knew I had to at least try it. Then I think that’s when I found out that you could buy seeds and seedlings with kits to grow them and figured it would be a good challenge.
Three years down the line, I’ve managed to keep one of the original four plants alive and I’ve added to the number plants that I have and the variety of heat that the chillies have. I feel like I’ve learnt a fair amount about looking after plants and gardening, I even enjoy it, which not that long ago I’m not sure I would have believed.
Anyway plenty more updates to come as I pick, taste and cook with my crop as it expands.
As we are coming to end of Mental Health Awareness week, I hope you will indulge me, as I Ramble a bit about Mental Health and why it is so important.
People who have come to this blog in the past, will know that I have Depression. I was diagnosed back in 2012, I think I knew I was depressed and had been for a while or had had episodes of depression in the past.
I try to make these post a start of a conversation on mental health, because being open and honest about it is how we reduce the stigma surrounding it. My depression, on bad days, often manifests itself as suicidal thoughts and feelings of frustration and general sense of despondency and helplessness. I don’t plan for a future because I don’t see much of a future for myself. I’m also generally more irritable and quicker to anger.
I think having Asperger’s Syndrome complicates things as well, I don’t particularly enjoy the standard night out and that can be isolating, of course we all know there are links between social isolation, loneliness and depression.
Too many loved ones are lost to suicide and mental illness, it is one of the biggest challenges faced by society today and we shouldn’t be quiet about it, theres no shame in admitting not everything is OK, so if you need to talk to someone please do.
Opening up about mental health can be incredibly helpful, like a weight off your shoulders, so if you think you might need help, don’t be afraid to ask, there are so many people out there willing to help. Here’s a link to the NHS guide to accessing mental health services. There also Samaritans and CALM.
Another year has ended and provides an opportunity to reflect. At the beginning of the year there was a family ski trip to Meribel, through the spring and into the summer I ran three half marathons in three and a bit months. I started writing for darkworldgaming.com which has been a great experience.
Skiing is always good fun, this time we visited Meribel, in the French Alps in February. It’s somewhere I’ve not been before, so it’s always good to visit somewhere new.
The half marathons were hard work, three different weather conditions, made them all challenging in different ways. Warwick half was just after the beast from the east so was cold and windy.
Stratford-on-Avon half was fairly warm comparatively and made it harder to breathe.
Leamington Spa Half was almost slap bang in the middle of one of the warmest summers that I can remember even at nine o’clock in the morning it was warm and it only got warmer.
Writing for Darkworld has been good fun and challenging in equal measure. Making sure that I write coherently enough to get my opinion on a game across in a way that communicates accurately what I think or feel about a game isn’t very easy to begin with, but I feel like I’ve leaned how to do it as I’ve gone along.
Well here’s to 2019 and the challenges it brings!
So pretty much a year on from my last World Mental Health Day post I figured it was a good time to provide an update on where I’m at with my mental health issues.
I had to back through some of my old posts to figure out what had changed, if anything. I would say on the whole, there have been some changes, more for the good I guess.
The main change is that I am receiving treatment for my depression, in the form of antidepressants, which I’m on the highest dose of this particular drug. I’m also going to counselling every couple of weeks. I think for me the two side by side have worked well for me, so it will be good to see where I go from here.
In terms of my overall outlook, it’s getting better, I still have bad days to struggle through every so often, but they’re more manageable now, so that’s progress I guess. I’ve done things that I’m proud of since this time last year that have helped, I ran three half marathons in three and a bit months (my body still hasn’t forgiven for that), I’ve started learning the guitar, unfortunately I’m still a way off being a mega rock star.
So things are going OK I guess and we shall see what happens.