I have moved on and have just completed a film script called George and George about two men who escape from a mental insititution. Hello lovely friends and supporters. After this date the book can still be ordered through the website but it will be too late to get your name in it as a patron.
This date has been in the diary a long time. It will be an intimate evening in a cafe style atmosphere. If you can make it please say hello afterwards. All details below. Looks great, doesn't it? It's a good question. I spent the best part of a month editing with Liz Garner. Researching a novel can be a lot of fun. When Joshua Jones went in to the cave where his father died I thought I had better follow him.
The South Wales Caving Club very kindly gave me special access to one of the biggest cave networks in Britain. This clip is filmed in Highgate Cemetery where Karl Marx is buried. You are officially not allowed to film in the cemetery but no one can stop you putting your camera on the pavement outside and filming through the bars. Here is a short amusing video where I try and fail to explain what happened to Joshua Jones when he visited the men's bathing pond at Hampstead Heath.
Sometimes the out takes are better than the film! Move those spades and maybe put a window in. I will however continue…. I love reading traditional stories for their wisdom. See attached video. Like many of you I am just getting my head round this whole new Unbound experience. Until recently I was a luddite when it came to social media.
The Half-Life of Everything: A Novel
I was a late-adopter but always admired people like Stephen Fry…. I hope you are well. Also, I would like to buy the same package to give to someone as a present - whereabouts in the process do I give her name sp it can be printed in the book? Thanks and kind regard, Holly Kernot. Hi Holly, Thanks for getting in touch. To check or change the names in the back just log in and head over to the 'Your Account' page which can be located at the top right hand corner of the site.
Works by Roger Gloss, Blog, and Recommended Reading
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Many monster closets in later battles put enemies on every single side of the player character, meaning that the player has to be moving constantly to avoid close-range fire. The use of monster closets to turn empty rooms into frenetic arena encounters is where the last big Doom innovation, the disposition of items, comes into play. In W3D and SoD, healing items and treasure were located in hidden rooms and alcoves, much as they would be in an RPG or adventure game. The obvious purpose of these items is to replenish the player character's health when numerous demons suddenly leap out of the walls and start firing.
All of the frantic running helps to dodge enemy fire, but it also allows the player to pick up items from around the floor of the arena. The ammo, health and armor make it possible to sustain an intense, roving battle without real cover. Sometimes, rather than placing items directly in the line of fire, the designers placed health and ammo in the very closets which have opened to let out monsters. The player has to charge through and around the enemies in order to access it.
It makes sense for Doom to put its health in dangerous places, because that placement achieves what the Doom designers wanted: reflex-oriented shooting sprees. Half-Life originally started as a mod of Quake 2, so it's no surprise that it owes much to its immediate ancestor in terms of design as well as in terms of technology.
Indeed, the first two Quake games are probably the most influential shooters of all time from a mechanical perspective. Quake 2, especially, solidified the fundamental mechanics that still make up the foundation of contemporary FPS games. Quake made the transition to true 3D. In Wolfenstein and Doom and the lesser-known Marathon , the environments were 3D but the characters were all 2D sprites that were effectively infinitely tall. The player never has to aim upwards not that it was possible to do so , because both the character's shots and the enemy's sprite have no upper limits on the y-axis.
If the player is aiming at the correct coordinates on the x and z axes, the bullets will hit. In Quake, the player has to actually aim at the 3D model of the enemy to hit them. Before Quake the player could only shoot at the center point of the screen; the player had to move their character to move the target icon. The introduction of true-3D aiming mechanics opened up many new design ideas above the mechanical level. The most widespread of these ideas was the introduction of zone-specific damage i. Both Goldeneye and the original Team Fortress a Quake 2 mod used this as a natural outgrowth of the ability to target enemy models precisely.
Another thing both games did was to put a greater emphasis on verticality in their level designs. Image taken from playthrough by NegativeZeroZ. Half-Life would take both of these things significantly further. One thing I want to point out here about these games though is how the mechanical and supra-mechanical changes like verticality led to the use of modern cover. Once players were finally able to really strafe and aim precisely, popping in and out of doorways or just over the lip of a catwalk to take a quick shot at distant enemies became a viable strategy.
In Quake and Goldeneye, it's a lot easier to perform this maneuver, but even then, cover play is really only an emergent property of new mechanics rather than a conscious effort by the designers to create cover-based encounters. Although Quake had incidental cover and the mechanics to use it, the series went in a very different direction than Half-Life eventually would.
Half-Life took the seed of the cover idea from Quake and developed it into an entire game because Quake did not. Quake was designed to be fast-paced and chaotic in the same way that Doom was. The large apertures and empty rooms of Quake certainly don't make it easy to avoid enemy fire. For better results the player needs to perform maneuvers like kiting, circle-strafing and jumping up and down through vertical portions of the levels to avoid the enemies. This kind of combat would come to be known after Half-Life and several more Quake sequels as the true arena shooter style.
Half-Life takes the emergent cover mechanics of Quake and builds the majority of its content from that idea. Half-Life also features some of the arena combat that we traditionally associate with Quake and its descendants, as well as a lot of platforming content which comes from the composite design tradition. This theme also sees the greatest amount of development increasing complexity from beginning to end.
Indeed, Half-Life does so much with the use of cover that most of the lessons we can learn from the game are about cover as it relates to level architecture, pacing and the use of AI and weapons. Even though Half-Life's cover theme represents the largest portion of the game's content, that theme doesn't start until chapter 4, reaches its climax in chapter 12 and then drops off significantly after chapter This means that the cover theme is densely packed into those ten chapters. It also means that the game has a peculiar structure, because there are eighteen chapters and only three design themes to fill them with.
There are certainly pieces of content in the game that don't fall into any of the themes; usually these take the form of boss fights or small pieces of through content.
Of the three themes, the cover theme is simply the most frequently seen. One of the most-discussed problems of Half-Life is that the last four chapters in Xen are stylistically different from the rest of the game, and also of a lower level of quality. Some of that is the sudden and radical change in the gravity and accompanying emphasis on long-range jumping puzzles. But I think the real reason that the Xen levels feel so much weaker is that the game design goes backwards in time.
If we see the cover theme as the core of Half-Life's design, then the climax of the game is in chapter 12 Surface Tension , with chapter 13 serving as a kind of denouement to that. What if the portal that opened in chapter 14 had gone directly to the fight with Nihilanth? I think the overall flow of the game might have seemed a little more even, but that isn't what the designers made. Instead, the arena theme comes to dominate the later chapters of the game, with large doses of platforming mixed in.
In the rest of the game, the incidence of platforming and arena content follows the rhythms of composite flow, although not in the traditional ratio that a true composite game might employ. From chapter 4 until chapter 13 what we usually see are two to four set pieces in the cover theme followed by one or two out of the platform theme, the arena theme or a unique piece of through content.
There are exceptions to this rule, especially in chapters eight and ten. Chapter 8 has a lot of long, slow through content thanks to the monorail cart Freeman has to ride, and so it eschews the kinds of arena and platforming challenges that might make the chapter much longer. Chapter 10 could almost be taken from a straight 3D platformer in the way it operates. But starting in chapter 11, set pieces in the arena theme start to appear more often, and then they mostly displace cover-based set pieces in chapter 14 and after with a couple of interesting exceptions.
This work primarily concerns itself with level design, and little has been said so far of the shooter mechanics at their most basic levels. I have not deliberately ignored them, but I feel that while Half-Life's shooter mechanics are very solid, they are generally unremarkable. The auto-aim or aim-assist function, for example, is mostly like other aim-assist mechanics before and after Half-Life. The only big difference in Half-Life is that the always-centered reticle will come unstuck from the center for a second or two if an enemy enters the magnetic area of the auto-aim function.
Aside from very minor differences like that and couple of other things we'll get to, below , there are not huge mechanical innovations in Half-Life. Weapons do not do variable damage i. There are not really any specialized weapons for specific enemies. Only the rocket launcher has a truly novel mechanic in its laser guidance system. This screenshot is from set piece , during which Freeman has to fight a helicopter from the mouth of a cave. Forcing the player to track the target with a laser pinpoint defeats that player's ability to hide behind cover.
That is, the player can't simply fire a rocket and then duck behind the ledges and walls that would otherwise be available here. This means that players have to learn to shoot rockets at relatively close range in order to shorten the length of time that Freeman is exposed to fire while steering that rocket. What makes the weapons interesting is the way the levels are designed.
This becomes a lot more apparent when it comes to multiplayer. If you buy, or have bought, the eBook version of this document, there is a section detailing how the most successful multiplayer maps drew most of their appeal from their use of cover. Many of the more arena-oriented Half-Life maps were forgotten because they were too much like Quake, and did away with all the level-design innovations that really made Half-Life what it was. The one big exception to everything I wrote above is Half-life's AI. The AI of any game is actually composed of many mechanics, although only two of those mechanics are really continuous throughout the game.
Many reviews have credited Half-Life with having some of the best AI of all time, but this impression is the result of a series of clever illusions. While the AI in Half-Life was certainly ahead of its time, many of the most memorable moments in Half-Life are not a result of continuous AI but rather of discrete, one-use scripts and specially-created tools. There is an entire section about these moments in the later part of this document. Whether it's an unusual emphasis on grenade-tossing or a sudden and preternatural ability to detect Freeman no matter what he does, these behaviors are examples of custom scripts that exist beyond the normal scope of the AI.
Clever level designers can create the illusion of greater enemy intelligence by using hidden scripts, but once players figure out where those traps are laid, they can avoid them. The system of decisions which enemy units can make independent of custom scripts is what really counts as a systematic advance in artificial intelligence. The fundamental AI which almost all marines are equipped with features two new ideas: cover-seeking and what I call "movement jitter.
The circumstances vary but generally come down to two criteria. The first criterion is the presence of other marines; if they have companions, marines will often fall back towards those companions and take cover temporarily so as to draw Freeman into a trap. In either case, but more often the second case, marines will display a flaw in the design of the cover-seeking behavior. Marines are not very picky about their choice of cover when the behavior is triggered.
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We can still learn from watching enemies take cover, because that tells us something about the cover design of the set pieces, but the underlying design idea is only remarkable for its place in the history of FPS design. Movement jitter, on the other hand, means that enemies in Half-Life mostly marines have irregularities deliberately programmed into their movement patterns. When cover-seeking behaviors are not active, the first priority of a marine is to acquire line of sight on Freeman. After that happens, the enemy's behavior then gains the movement jitter attribute.
Movement jitter usually means that an enemy will take stuttering steps while firing upon Freeman. At range, these steps are short and somewhat frequent. In close quarters, enemies can move quite a bit in between shots. Because I do not have access to the decompiled code of Half-Life, I can't determine how the high-jitter, point-blank zone works.
It may be that the principal line-of-sight-seeking behavior causes enemies to prefer a longer range, secondarily causing them to perform a run that appears highly jittery. It may be that any enemy who reaches point-blank range is subject to cover-seeking behaviors. Nevertheless, the practical effect of point-blank range on the AI makes enemies run around in unpredictable ways, even when they do not appear to seek cover.
As far as the player's experience goes, the extreme movement jitter of point-blank range seems only like an exaggeration of the same behavior that is occurring at long range. Ultimately, it's easy to see how the development of movement jitter was an important mechanical evolution in the history of FPS campaigns. While many aspects of single-player campaigns before Half-Life prepared the player for the level-design aspects of multiplayer combat, it was rare for single-player enemies to approximate real players in their behavior.
No game-based AI can ever match the resourcefulness or intuition of a human player, but by giving the player a more difficult target, Half-Life made its single-player campaign more interesting, and its multiplayer experience more accessible if only slightly so. Site questions? Reverse Design: Half-Life If you're interested in more research like this, most of it is going to be in video format over on the Forum's YouTube Channel.
Introduction This is fourth entry in the reverse design series, attempting to analyze all of the design choices that went into the classic game Half-Life. A Brief Overview of Videogame Design History Through the Reverse Design series and other documents, we have already set forward the overall history of videogame design several times.
You can visualize the difficulty of the game like so: Essentially, what Nishikado had done was to treat difficulty as something that could slide up and along an axis. By extended , I mean that the content of a set piece lasts much longer than the content of a challenge, which was the primary unit of content in a composite game. A level in a composite game would have many challenges, usually more than ten, and each challenge would last only a few seconds. Set pieces tend to last for around sixty seconds or more, and can last as long as five minutes each.
Accordingly, there are fewer set pieces in a game like Half-Life than there are challenges in a typical composite game.
Half-Life of the Lie :: Roger's LibraryRoger's Library
Self-containment means two things. The first is that a set piece is a unified action; once the player begins a set piece, they have to finish it in order to move on. The second aspect of self-containment is the way that every set piece tends to contain within it everything that the player needs for that set piece. If the player character can heal fully between every set piece, then the designers never have to worry about whether the player is entering set piece seven with enough health to survive after completing set pieces one through six. The same is largely true of ammo; if every enemy in a set piece drops a little bit of ammo and maybe a grenade or two, the designers never have to worry about the player suddenly running out.
The set piece contains everything the player needs to beat it. However as Willie grows older, the voice is lethargic and even though the language is simple, I wished the book to end soon for the story started getting boring. Perhaps I didn't like the book because I didn't like the protagonist.
I wanted him to be different from his father, motivated, having the zest to live life. However, he lacks vigor, motivation and is purposeless. In the end however, the protagonist seems to have finally woken up and initiated himself to start yet another "Half of his life" but by that time, I got too bored. Jun 15, LindyLouMac rated it liked it. A title recommended and passed on to me by my daughter recently. I read it in one afternoon session sitting in the shade in the garden.
As a little boy Willie Chandran wanted to know why his middle name was Somerset. His father explains that it was after the famous British writer Somerset Maugham. Willie of course wants to know why. This is the story that his father gradually tells him, of a son whom possibly should never have been born, while he is growing up and Willie is coming to terms with his origins. Growing up in India he leaves for London in the post war years, eventually falling in love and moving to Africa. A short biographical style story that I found rather sad as he felt he did not belong anywhere.
Willie seemed such a pathetic man, hated by his father he appears to wander through his own life aimlessly trying to fit in with those around him. Once a misfit always a misfit; seems the easiest way of describing Willies discomfort with his life. Oct 19, Sai rated it it was ok. This didn't make much of an impression on me —I expected more. Through a weird set of circumstances, he turns into a somewhat revered sadhu, who comes into contact with Somerset Maugham and vaguely names his son after him , and ends up in various accounts of spiritual India etc.
I liked this bit because it took a jab at such stereotypical accounts, which you could still find very easily in a bookstore. I liked that it questions authenticity. Feb 19, Joell rated it did not like it. The characters never touched me, the scenery was never vivid, nobody in the book did anything interesting or learned anything about themselves or the world around them - but hey; it won a Pulitzer - so what do I know?
I guess I'm just not sophisticated enough of a reader for this book May 03, MJ Sasse rated it liked it. This book was not my favorite, but it is also not even near being one of the worst books I've read. I just had a very hard time staying awake while reading this book I actually missed two nights of tracking because I fell asleep while reading due to its relatively dry subject matter and tediously paced plot. Thus, as you can probably derive from my previous statements, this book was a pretty slow read for me and what would've normally taken me 20 minutes to read, took me I was just constan This book was not my favorite, but it is also not even near being one of the worst books I've read.
I was just constantly catching myself either dozing off or letting my mind wander to other homework assignments I had to complete after I finished reading. However, vapidness aside, there were certain redeeming qualities about this novel as well. The actual writing itself was honorable, which I would expect from an author who has won the honor of a Nobel Prize in literature. The characters were also intriguing although at times it felt as though Naipaul was trying so hard to make them appear multi-dimensional that they lost all depth and simply became archetypes.
Additionally, he did such a superb job of making me hate the father in the beginning that I couldn't seem to shake it, even in the portions where my hate was supposed to subside. Another redeeming quality was the setting as it took place in three different continents Asia, Europe, and North America so while the plot dragged, the reader was never bored with the location. This also allowed the reader to learn about the culture and landscape of each continent and how they differed from one another. Thus, all in all, this was not a bad book, it just wasn't a great one either.
Sep 21, Jerry Pogan rated it really liked it. A plotless but enjoyable read. The story follows the life of a very unambitious young man who leaves his home in India to go to England for college where he makes little effort to excel. He writes a book of short stories that leads to his meeting a young woman from Africa.
Since he has no ambition he decides to go to Africa with the woman after college because he doesn't know what else he can do. The story is very lackadaisical but Naipaul's writing makes it a good read. Oct 11, Ajay rated it it was ok. Sometime in the late 90s Sir Vidia declared that the novel as we know it is dead. It has been supplanted by other forms of entertainment. As someone who has admired his works. I was overwhelmed by the journey that I undertook with him in Among the believer and Beyond Belief. The Indian trilogy has shocked and enlightened me in equal measure.
I did provide me with an alternative Sometime in the late 90s Sir Vidia declared that the novel as we know it is dead. I did provide me with an alternative way of viewing at my people. And so when Sir Vidia after declaring the death of the novel brings out Half a life at pages it is not onerous , I was intrigued. Half a life evokes among other things the conflicting identities of the colonised people. Willie Chandran, the protagonist, is born out of an unusual wedlock between a high caste father and a low caste mother.
Half a Life charts his journey of reinvention upon reinvention in quest of a life that he so strongly desires. The story at its core is evocative. But he leaves it at that. Names — of places and languages — give a solid anchor to a story. Sadly Naipaul never gives us that.
About The Half-Life
The following quotes prove this. He knew Hindi and the language of his region. She replied in the same language. The ideas of conflicting identities are not fully explored. The quaint style of writing instead of adding charm to the tale only seems to hamper it. No one trained me in that. When my father told me his life story and talked about his sexual incompetence I mocked him.
I was a child then. Now I discover I am like my poor father. All men should train their sons in the art of seduction. But in our culture there is no seduction. Our marriages are arranged. There is no art of sex. Some of the boys here talk to me about Kama Sutra. Nobody talked to me about that at home. That philosophical, practical way of dealing with sex belongs to our past, and that world was ravaged and destroyed by the Muslims. Now we live like incestuous little animals in a hole. We grope all our female relations and are always full of shame.
Nobody talked about sex and seduction at home, but I discover now that it is the fundamental skill all men should be trained in. These words more than make up for the shortcomings of the larger story. After having declared that the novel is dead, Naipaul has brought out two novels Half a life and Magic Seeds.
Sir Vidia, we don't mind it. We are rather thrilled! As for Half a Life. I cannot quite make up my mind. I found it half baked. Yet I was not disappointed. And well there were a few gems in the book that more than made my day. I haven't yet read Magic Seeds.
I will be putting a review as soon as I have read it Sep 10, Kathryn Berla rated it liked it. One of the few Naipaul books I hadn't read so I was curious. The main character was pretty unlikeable. Extremely self-centered and disloyal, there isn't really anything positive to say about him. The historical context of the time and locations was interesting. The ending was extremely abrupt and left me reeling a bit. This is the first novel by Naipaul that I have ever read. The first part of the book left me a bit cold and bored, but suddenly something clicked and I realized it was really a very passionate and even funny novel.
Everyone in this novel is pretending to be something they are not. There is a lot about being a stranger in a strange land; Naipaul really captures how it feels to be an expat and the way living in anot This is the first novel by Naipaul that I have ever read. There is a lot about being a stranger in a strange land; Naipaul really captures how it feels to be an expat and the way living in another country sets you free to create a whole new persona for yourself. It is liberating and frightening.
Are you betraying your parents, your family, your country? Are you discovering new facets of yourself or only playing a role? Will others find out you are just faking? Seldom have I found a book that explored these issue. Naipaul clearly has lived these experiences and has put a lot of himself into this book. One of the many other themes Naipaul examines in this book is the difference between being a person who comes from privilege British, Portuguese vs.
It is painful to read the passages in which the protagonist, Willie, tries to connect with the British men whom his father thought of as friends but who were really just privileged Brits passing their holidays in exotic India. This is a different view of power and privilege than the black-white narrative that underlies the American experience. I found the change in point of view refreshing and thought-provoking. So much of the book felt autobiographical that I have taken the time to look up some additional information about Mr.
I hope that by reading these two books, I will learn something more about this extraordinary author and better understand how his life is reflected in his novels. This one had lived on my shelves for far too long. I'm glad I finally read it - was pleasantly surprised that I liked it so much : This is my first Naipaul and I wan't sure quite what to expect.
What I got was a layered narrative, textured characters and fine language. This is a short book, just over pages but boy does it pack a punch! I like family sagas, and although this one is a physically short read, it is no less, epic in scope. We follow Willie Chandran, a mixed-caste boy from India w This one had lived on my shelves for far too long.
We follow Willie Chandran, a mixed-caste boy from India who grapples with issues of identity, belonging, family, values, friendship and love amongst others, as he grows up first, in a recently Independent India and then in London and Africa. I identified strongly with Willie - with his meandering approach to life, never truly settling down to one thing or one place; a seeker, an explorer but not quite a settler.
As Willie tests the waters, he is inevitably drawn toward stronger characters. In their company he becomes more confident and assertive, drawing from these same qualities in them, if only for short periods of time before his inherent, natural malaise returns. For me, the concept of 'half a life' represents Willie's struggle to find his identity, and his place in the world. He doesn't fit neatly into any box and so floats from one place to the next, one friend to the next, one thought to the next - with no heed to permanence.
Naipaul's prose is a beautiful balance between incisive and philosophical. His characters tend to think, often overthink and yet he never feels repetitive, never over writes! Half a Life is a treasury of 'full circle' moments. Naipaul brings these to fruition with formidable skill. The parallels between characters are envisioned with insight and authenticity.
He is indeed a raconteur par excellence and I enjoyed my first dip into his considerable body of work. None of the intimidating density of award winning authors here. Just a fine story, wonderfully told May 24, David rated it liked it Shelves: english-lit. This was an odd book. I read "The Bend in the River" a good 15 years ago and read a few of Naipul's books since this one. I enjoyed the "Bend in the River" but had mixed feelings about "Half a Life. Through a scho This was an odd book. Through a scholarship, Willie goes to England to study English and ponders his future. While there he discovers sex and women.
He finally starts a relationship after publishing a series of short stories. The girl seems to be his only fan. She is born of mixed Portuguese and African race and they return together to an unnamed place on the east coast of Africa to marry and live out their new life.
Willie admits he was nervous leaving, not just England, where he was becoming acquainted, but India as well. Without spoiling the plot, I found the African section more interesting and yet frustrating as well.
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At one point, I found passages recalled Graham Greene, which I loved, and yet the subject matter was disturbing. The ending was a surprize but left me puzzled. It almost seemed that Naipul pulled off this character " son of the famous Indian" with a feeling of animousity towards the world. Perhaps this is what he wanted but I wanted to know more of why he did what he did? It seemed like Willie just went through the actions and carried on as if nothing mattered. Perhaps, but bordering on insensitive. Parts are excellent so I don't regret the read but not sure who to recommend the book to, other than Naipul fans.
Sep 07, Nathan rated it really liked it Shelves: other-fiction. It is awfully frustrating to reach the end of a well-written and engaging tale, only to discover that it is in fact the back story to another book. How much more frustrating it must have been to read this lovely book in , before the sequel was written.
You see, the story ends unresolved: the protagonist has learned so much about the world and his place in it, all of what we thought has been duly shaken
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