Ingress -Huddersfield Banner Mission

2016-04-09 10.56.24I’ve been playing Ingress for over 3 years now and yet despite this, I have not really written about my experiences playing it.

Ingress is a GPS based game, a sort of MMO where you play yourself in augmented reality.

With elements of capture the flag, tower defence and even (to a small degree) role-playing, Ingress has captured the imaginations of millions of players worldwide.

I am genuinely surprised that it has taken me this long to write about it.  I play Ingress daily, it is a part of my daily routine – a part of my life… and yet, I would only class myself as a casual player.

I have travelled to other cities and even met friends that I would not have met if I did not play the game.

After 3+ years I am still only level 14, with a current level cap of 16.  I have seen friends start the game and achieve the maximum level in around a year.

The game has evolved massively since I started playing both in terms of game-play and coverage.

In the early days, agents (the term used in game for players of the game) could submit “portals” – places of interest that can be captured, held and even linked to other portals to gain points within the game.

Portal submissions are no longer accepted (there are rumours this is a feature that may well return) but I did manage to rack up 118 successful submissions while they were.

The only way agents can improve or add to the game currently is by the creation of missions.

Missions (created from the Mission Authoring Tool) are a further incentive to play the game – if you didn’t find the game addictive enough to start with.

missions1I have created 39 missions, including 3 single line “banner” missions, I’m awaiting acceptance of these missions by Niantec (the organisation that created/runs Ingress).

Banner missions are by far the most interesting, rewarding and challenging form of mission.

2016-04-09 12.47.34A mission is a collection of 6 or more portals (or way-points from Google Field trip – but that’s another story) with actions that must be performed on them.

Actions can be sequential or performed in any order and range from a simple “hack” to capturing, upgrading or “modding” a portal.

Agents may even be requested to enter a pass-phrase related to the portal or area they are near.

The only reward an agent receives for a mission is a badge; badges are images created by the mission author and collecting them results in progress to wards the achievement of an in-game medal that aids towards an increase in level.

Banner missions creatively break down larger images into a mosaic of badges that, when collected in sequence, display the larger image in the agent’s in-game profile.

huddsbadgesThe Huddersfield banner mission is the first banner I have attempted and was created by a respected local agent from my team (Enlightened/Green), J0nny.

At 24 missions, this banner is not the largest I have seen (I came across a 60 mission banner in Eastbourne!); 24 missions across Huddersfield was still quite a challenge.

It took me 2.5 hours and led me, meandering, around Huddersfield, hacking my way through portals that have been familiar to me for years.

I tracked my progress using MapMyWalk as Ingress gives a useless estimate of 15 minutes per mission- this map should give you an idea of how long it takes a 40 year old, overweight Yorkshireman.

huddsmission_map

Starting at Huddersfield railway station, the missions lead you North, out of town under the viaduct and up towards Greenhead Park.

A spike up through the park then pulls back into town past the Civic centre and Town Hall then down to the University campus.

You have an opportunity here to drop into the Queensgate indoor market; I took the opportunity to pick up a couple of books from the excellent (and Ingress friendly) Kapow Comics.

A circuit of the campus (challenging at the moment due to the construction work in progress there) eventually brings you back into town and around St. Peter’s park before heading back to the railway station.

There is limited parking available at the station itself, so you may want to consider coming in by train.

If you are planning on attempting a banner like this, it is important to make sure that you are going to start at mission 1 and that you are starting a brand new line of mission badges, otherwise the overall banner will be askew when complete.

If you’ve made it this far and you’re not an Ingress player, well done.

If you fancy taking up the game then consider trying it out; it certainly gets you out more.

Also, choose Enlightened (Green/Frogs) over Resistance (Blue/Smurfs)… help us immanentize the eschaton… Hail Tsathoggua…

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Egged While Walking

eggfaceLast Monday I was assaulted, in a way that both literally and figuratively left me with egg on my face.

After successfully shedding over four stones last year, I have decided to carry over into 2014 in the same vein. So, Monday night I decided to try a new route.

My usual winter evening route has reached its expansion limits, at best I can make 6 miles on a night without straying too far into urbanity but to do more than 6 miles would mean looping over territory already covered and that would become a little too repetitive for me.

The new route takes me down into my local village and then the opposite way to my usual route. A good 7 miles minimum at first estimate.

My plan is a simple one, start 2014 at 5 – 7 miles of mixed walking and sprinting every other night and build up a mile a month until I can comfortably cover 12 miles without too much of a struggle.

Fitness wasn’t the only drive to change routes, I’ve recently started playing the augmented reality game Ingress and the only vulnerable enemy portals near me are on the new route.

So Monday night I started Endomondo and set out, down into Lindley, farming enemy portals in Ingress.

It was a nice start, despite having been relatively idle over the festive break, my fitness levels hadn’t dropped and I made a good pace through the village and up towards the M62.

3.5 miles in I cross the M62 and head on to my planned turning point, a church on route – co-incidentally the last of the enemy portals in Ingress.

The road up from the bridge over the M62 is poorly lit, poorly paved and poorly travelled. The occasional car speeds past on its way towards Rochdale but it’s my preferred walking environment – lonely and isolated.

I’d estimated that a turn around there would result in my returning home at the 7 mile mark – a circuit that could be expanded upon by moving the turning point forward by half a mile in future,

I hacked the Ingress portal and made the turn to start home, checking my progress in Endomondo to make sure I wasn’t short changing myself on distance.

I was suddenly struck in the face, throat and chest by what I took to be a hard snowball – an ice ball even.

Cold, hard and wet, I was knocked back by the blow.

Uttering an expletive, the realisation dawned that we have not had any snow yet this winter; I looked around to check as I wiped, what I thought was snow, away.

My hand came away with a mix of albumen, yolk, blood and shell.

I had been egged.

I think the embarrassment negated the rage and shock somewhat, although the anger seeped back in as my hand came away a second time doused in blood.

I could tell there was a wound, of sorts, bleeding profusely from my chin – and my throat and chest felt bruised.

The egg had hit at a fair speed. My memory, catching up with me, associated the impact with the passing by of a speeding car.

I had been egged from a passing car.

A third wipe and I determined that I was still bleeding.

One hand pressed against my chin and throat to stop the bleeding, whilst the other struggled with my, now egg-bound, phone.

The camera wouldn’t activate and so I decided to make my way back towards home (2 miles away) or hospital – (4 miles away – if needed).

The blood kept streaming, so I stopped at a local takeaway that had just closed for the night. The gentlemen inside let me in but didn’t have a mirror or first aid kit.

They let me stay there until the bleeding stopped and gave me paper towels to stop the flow.

As helpful as they were, the chaps in the takeaway couldn’t really help me identify the severity of the source of the bleeding, so I decided to set out again whilst phoning my other half for help.

When I finally got the phone free of blood and yolk, I managed to take the photograph above and realised that actually I wasn’t badly cut at all.

A swollen chin, minor cuts on the chin and in the mouth; and a chest full of egg.

In the aftermath I called 111 to go through a medical check-list and then 101 to inform the local police – although there is nothing they can do with no description of the assailant or the assailant’s vehicle.

Four days on and I have already made sure that I get out again, albeit on a third route. I did find myself flinching as cars passed but that didn’t last long.

It does seem that I am not alone, this kind of assault appears to be surprisingly common.

I’ve heard of walkers, runners, cyclists and equestrians being pelted with eggs, stones, bottles and cans; even being shot with pellet guns in more extreme cases.

I just count myself lucky that I was not hit in the eye and that I haven’t come across this activity before – hopefully it is quite rare.

Fat Club – Winning Through Losing

Before And After Back in May I broke the first rule of Fat Club by writing about it.

Ever the rebel I thought I would write about it again.

Yesterday evening I had my final one-to-one with the dietician who developed the programme behind the Kirklees Weight Management service.

My initial goal was to lose 5% of my weight as it was when I started the programme – just under a stone in total.

The programme isn’t a diet by the way, it’s a catalyst! It incites change in the individual to help them lead a healthier life by making healthier choices.

I still manage to enjoy myself, I just enjoy myself moderately rather than excessively.

Bearing in mind I’d already lost half a stone between signing up in January and starting the programme in May, I was confident I could meet that target and I did – 5 weeks in,

Weight Loss ChartI’m now a gnats whisker away from my personal target of 3 stones off by the end of July and whilst the Victoza/Liraglutide is partially responsible the majority of the credit goes to the Weight Management service itself.

I kid you not, the service here in Kirklees is a world leader in its field.

They don’t boast about it online but ask the team behind the service and they speak with pride about their success and retention rates compared to the global and national average.

I mention the team because it is just a small team of people that have made this happen, which is amazing when you consider how wide and dark an organisation like the NHS can be.

There is a chance that the NHS may drop the programme in favour of a one-size-fits-all bland service provided by a multinational media company with little or no understanding (or passion) for dietetics or nutrition… which would be a crying shame.

The advice I’ve taken away from the programme is simple.

  • Eat regularly – Breakfast, Lunch & Tea with a light snack in-between if hungry.
  • Eat healthy portions – You’d be amazed at how large the portions we’re used to are these days – far too much for the sedentary lives we lead.
  • Eat a balanced diet with satiety in mind – Wholemeal Bread and a couple of Eggs for breakfast will keep you fuller and satiated for longer – don’t cut out carbs or proteins or anything, instead know the right portions and proportions in which to eat things.
  • Keep active – it only takes small changes to keep the body working and active.
  • Banish unhelpful thoughts – don’t punish yourself for failing by indulging in further failure – don’t reward yourself with food or drink, instead look to work out negative emotions through activity or reward yourself with non-consumable treats.
  • Know your calorie I/O – The human body burns at least 1400 calories a day, just by living – it is a lot easier to not take on excess calories than it is to burn it off.  By setting a calorie target/limit under the supposed GDA you are guaranteed to lose weight – but don’t set it lower than 1500 without medical supervision.

All of that and more.

I keep a loose and fast food diary now and have a mental meal plan that I follow day to day.

I’m walking 4 or 5 miles a day (or at least every other day) to burn off the daily office stress and every day gets better and better.

I genuinely believe that anyone struggling to manage their weight should speak to their GP and talk about getting on the Kirklees Weight Management Programme.  It costs nothing more than 48 hours of your life (broken down over 12 2 hour sessions) and the desire to change.

The show’s not over though.  I have another 12 weeks to lose another stone – which will take me to 16 stone by mid-October – although, personally, I’m aiming for 2 stone off in that time.

 

The Witcher 2 – Reviewed by Roleplayers

Geralt of RiviaI recently read this excellent review of The Witcher 2 by fellow Huddersfield based roleplayer, Shorty.

From his recent experience of playing The Witcher 2 to the size of his pile of books yet to read, I hadn’t realised we had so much in common.

Said pile is in fact an entire book case full of stuff, but it’s on there nonetheless.

You can read Shorty’s review here, it’s written from the point of view of a tabletop roleplayer; a point of view that demonstrates quite aptly the flaws in the Witcher 2.

I commented at length as to one particular memory the game dredged up, wherein the games GM railroaded players so incessantly and with such ferocity that the game was ruined and closed early.

Prior to my own comment there is reference to the unoriginality in character naming within the game, although I’ve not read Eddings, so I can’t comment.

Piles of Books(What? I told you I had a massive pile of books to read!)

It is well worth visiting Shorty’s blog, he’s only just started posting his thoughts recently but what he’s posted so far is well worth a read.

I am going to seek out the books that Shorty mentions. When my friend, Morelenmir, recommended the original to me years ago, it was the world and environment that he sold me on.

The stories are written by Polish author, Andrzej Sapkowski. It looks like The Last Wish might be a good place to start.

As for my own opinion of the Witcher 2 (and the game it followed) I just couldn’t get into them.

The earlier game threw me on gameplay alone, years of console gaming have atrophied my PC gaming skills, I vowed to take up the sequel when it came out on XBOX 360.

This most recent edition is far too linear though. The game is riddled with RSI inducing spamhit “A” then “Y” then “B” type nonsense and some wonderfully crafted but incredibly drawn out cut scenes and dialogue.

I also found the “adult” scenes childishly cloying – a stulted inference that roleplayers get off on that kind of pixelated frotting.

OK, Geralt of Rivia enjoys sexual intercourse – I get it (and so does he) – but I don’t need it rubbed in my face (although I’m guessing he does) when I’m trying to play a game.

I play PC/console roleplaying games for immersion, leveling and story. If I want erotica there are plenty of (probably illegal) hentai games out there (and a whole interweb of sauciness out there).

Maybe there’s a whole other blog post there. I could air my views on Geralt’s rutting and Duke Nukem‘s troilistic fellatio.

All in all, I didn’t enjoy the Witcher games BUT I can see how some people would. They just aren’t my cup of tea.

What does excite me about the Witcher is things like this:

A fan film (that term does not do them justice) made by my awesome friends (and fellow roleplayers) at It’s A Trap.

Top 5 Literary Roles Played By Sir Patrick Stewart

Sir Patrick Stewart at the 62nd Primetime Emmy...The blogosphere loves top lists, this is a well known fact of blogging.

I too love top lists, it seems to be human nature that we instantly lock onto the “Top X Somethings” and click the link.

A blog I follow has just posted up The Top 5 Characters I’d Like to Punch in The Face; listing a good selection of aggravating characters that the author would happily deck if she were to meet them on the street.

This is no mean feat, I have struggled to come up with even one literary character that I would honest-to-goodness lay out cold given half the chance.

(Actually, that one is simple, no struggle at all – Micah Samon from Harry Harrison’s Deathworld 2 – but that’s a another story).

What I found most enjoyable about the post was a footnote to entry #2, Claudius from Hamlet.

But not if he’s being played by Patrick Stewart.

(Actually, I found the caption to the associated picture more enjoyable BUT that’s not the point. )

Sir Patrick usually plays good guys, heroes and the like – Claudius is a rare example of Stewart playing an absolute bastard. He must be good at it though, he has played the role twice on screen: once in 1980 and again, alongside David Tenant in 2009 – 29 years later!

It got me to thinking that Sir Patrick Stewart really is a genuinely likeable actor but how many of his film roles are based on literary characters?

Sir Patrick Stewart grew up in Mirfield, which is very close to (considered by many to actually be a part of) my home town of Huddersfield.  A well known thespian, Sir Patrick is currently Chancellor of Huddersfield University (the University I went to – I’m so proud) and is also some kind of science fiction God!

So here I offer, as some kind of cheap compensation for being too nice to easily list characters I’d like to punch, the top 5 literary roles played by Patrick Stewart.

Continue reading

Follow Up – Last of the Summer Whine

A few months ago I posted about a MacDonalds advert that was filmed in Huddersfield.

At the time I had hoped to find time over the following months to film my own answer to the video; sadly, time was taken up elsewhere.

I have, however, just come across the following take on the advert on Vimeo:

Mashdonalds from Nathan Page on Vimeo.

Excellent stuff!

Well done to the creators.

Investigating Lindley Church Amateur Operatic Society

Lindley AmateursOver the past month or so I have been setting up a WordPress blog to report on the doings of my local Amateur Operatic Society.

My partner is a member of their committee and is soon to play the part of Emily Pankhurst (Emmiline Pankurst in the musical) in their forthcoming performance of Below Stairs.

It has been tricky a there isn’t much of a written history, although I suspect there is a lot more than I have found so far.

I will probably end up joining the society as a fully paid up member, which will be useful for gaining more details… I already attend most of the dinners, functions and shows after all.

The upshot of my findings so far is that the Lindley Church Amateur Operatic Society was founded in principle in 1934 and in name in 1935, after its first performance of an operatta titled Irish Girl.

There does seem to be evidence of an older society not affiliated with the Church itself but only in the shape of the show poster that you can see at the top right of this post.

If you want to read more of my findings then you can read Raising the Rafters – In the Beginning.