September 19, 2016

No, not over here.

These days, there's a little more to see over at the Leaning Forward blog.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 10:21 PM | Comments (0) |

February 06, 2011


Normally I'd put this on twitter, but for a change....goodnight all.


Posted by Tom Dolan at 12:01 AM | Comments (0) |

March 06, 2010

3-year-old Emo

3-year-old Emo

Originally uploaded by tomskerous

Milo has taught himself to read. And now he's working on writing.

Unfortunately this also coincides with his newfound desire for independence and the world to fit around his desires. And he can now express it in unusual ways...

Posted by Tom Dolan at 09:01 PM | Comments (0) |

November 29, 2009

Why 'Science Papa' is a) a wasted opportunity, b) just shit.

(Originally this was a Facebook message so apologies for the odd but of cut-and-paste contextual cruft)

Much of the discussion on games sites has been about the cheek of Activision in rather ripping off Majesco's Cooking Mama format.

But having played the bloody thing, that's not the real crime - or to be more accurate, crimes. (I'm speaking of the Wii version, some of this may work perfectly on the DS)

1) It's apallingly made, with no buttons to skip the endless intros
2) There are spelling mistakes in the endless intros - even within the first 15 minutes
3) The interface is really clunky and controls are unresponsive/overresponsive at random... See More
4) It's got an awful Comic Sans font
5) The script and plot are just shit
6) You have to poke about in odd corners of the interface to find out how you progress, otherwise the main mission window just has you endlessly making soap and agar agar.
7) Two-player mode comes with no explanations

And then there are the BIG problems. The first is the one that will get most people het up, and I think it's an appalling piece of judgement, but jusssssst about acceptable in the game if everything else was good:

8) The levels are dictated by competitions, where you have to do science cook-offs. But before you win these you have to make smoke bombs to distract the opposition. And while you're doing your science they'll set off goo explosions to disrupt you.

9) There's no feedback on how and why you did anything in the level wrong. So in some elements you can't work out what you were supposed to have done. Indeed, in the soap-making episode, I think there's a bug where it's not possible to do it correctly. I bought this to do with my daughter...and I couldn't get her through the levels.

But worst of all

10) THERE'S NO SCIENCE IN IT, AND IT MAKES SCIENCE LOOK BORING. Even where it wouldn't have cost them anything to add it. It's been reduced to a bunch of stirring, mixing and scraping tasks that are just tedious, even when against the clock. You have to mix 100ml of water with salt to make strong brine - how much salt? Why? You have to do electrolysis on it to make bleach - why does that change it? For how long? Why is there licorique extract in the pink hair dye? Why did you need to mix pink bismuth and green tea essence - and then electrolyse it? Does that make it electric pink? Is that what really happens when making hair dye? What if I want to make green?

It's just a terrible, terrible game. In craft terms, but more importantly as an editorial premise.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 10:28 AM | Comments (0) |

June 12, 2009



Originally uploaded by tomskerous

It's been time to think back over the past. And also about the future.

It's also a time to stop thinking about how I can be more like everyone else, and just enjoy that I'm me...and quite good at that.

An entirely arbitrary event, but none the worse for it.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 10:21 PM | Comments (0) |

March 21, 2009

The Lure of Burnt Meat

It's March.

We all know it's March. And that once the sun goes behind those trees it's going to be bloody freezing in the garden once more.

But still, as the sap rises and the first buds appear, I find my eye being drawn inexorably towards the barbeque in the corner of the shed.

Surely I can't be alone?

Posted by Tom Dolan at 02:02 PM | Comments (0) |

March 20, 2009

Games...the last generation

A fascinating evening tonight - seeing various industry bods aggregate around Nolan 'I set up Atari' Bushnell's Bafta tribute talk. It was also nice to see who *wasn't* at SXSWi.

He made some very shrewd observations though. Particularly as it became obvious that behind his benign father-figure stylings there was more than a touch of P T Barnum.

One theory that particulary resonated was about the change of video games during the mid to late 80s. In the early 80s, his spiel went, games were things that a lot of people played just a little bit. Then two things happened:

1) the 'continue' feature was added, where you could put in another coin and carry on playing when you died...which meant games got harder
2) shooting, fighting, crashing games pushed more of (1)'s buttons, so they got more violent.

Put them together and instead of getting a small amount of money from everyone, with approachable games (around 55% he says), the industry moved towards getting the same amount of money from hardcore gamers (about 8%).

But, and this is where the industry hits a bit of a problem, many of the people who now set the benchmarks of what is a good game where part of that move towards the 8%. Those were their classic days. And even now, this is what they see 'proper' gaming as being.

Similar things happen in music TV. There's a lot of TV execs whose glory days were when punk was just breaking onto the scene - so to them, that's 'proper' music. Hence it being far easier to get a documentary away on Malcolm McLaren than on Duran Duran or Moloko. The latter just don't hit these people's sweet spot. Similarly, on the radio, there's a lot more time given over to post-punk guitar bands than I think the public really want - because that's what the elder people who make the programmes most like.

So the question, as I see it, is how can games step outside the hardcore gaming territory? How can it forget those difficult teenage years so that making playful cooperative experiences for the Wii isn't seen as 'dumbing down' or 'selling out'?

80% of boardgames are bought by women to recreate the hearth, Bushnell says.

How can I motivate my most creative brains to want to do the same?

Posted by Tom Dolan at 12:26 AM | Comments (0) | games

March 17, 2009

Acknowledging Your Inner Child

For some reason, knowing that Maggie Philbin is now following me on Twitter has created many more resonances than when Stephen Fry followed me back.

I've no idea why.

But it's probably to do with Brown Sauce's "I Wanna Be A Winner".

Posted by Tom Dolan at 08:54 PM | Comments (0) |

March 06, 2009

Trying to remember stillness

I've got the day off today.

I've spent a large chunk of it with a raging hangover, but I'm finding it surprisingly hard to step out of work mode now I'm able to function again. I'm almost too wired to be 'in the moment'. Which, when learning quite complex pieces of Ravel piano music, is something of a problem.

I have no intention of becoming some sort of workaholic, I'm not trying to get away from problems at home, and there are a million things I could do - would love to do - here.

But it's hard to remember I'm allowed to let myself stop and do them.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 04:17 PM | Comments (0) |

March 01, 2009

Ticking along

Well so much for the promised blogging activity. I'm obviously not a man of my word.

Or perhaps Twitter acts in the way a busy inbox destroys the best intentions of my to-do list: providing little distractions from the matter in hand, tiny adrenalin rushes that appeal far more than longer term work.

(Even now, I've had an email from facebook commenting on my status which has taken me away from doing this. Which I've replied to. Oh, and there's a reply to that... CURSE YOU ALT-TAB!!!!!!)

The truth is I've been busy. Obviously I've been busy with work, but it's been a period of reinvention, and of laying demons to rest. Many of them I can't talk about yet, but if you peel back the frantic trafficing of proposal documents and firefighting on projects there's a calmer more self-assured Tom underneath.

I feel like I'm acquiring poise...

perspective even.

And that, distressingly, can only lead to opinions.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 10:54 PM | Comments (0) |

December 19, 2008

Panic Over

Phew. After an upgrade to v14 of my N95 firmware, the browser is now working again.

Unfortunately it's the T-mobile edit of the firmware. This was writ large after the upgrade. What deluded person in marketing thought that I'd want my ringtone changed to their tone, to have an extra bit of T-mobile music on startup, my desktop updated? Did they really think that this behaviour would make me love them more?

Posted by Tom Dolan at 12:50 AM | Comments (0) |

December 14, 2008


I'm stymied.

Totally stuffed.

My own worst habits can no longer be fulfilled, even though they're a key part of what I am.

My previously sterling Nokia N95's web browser has packed up. Just crashes and returns to the main menu.

The network layer is fine, and so Twibble will just about keep me going for twitter, but that means I'm without my fix of facebook, flickr, a few key forums (including one I run), webmail for work, the TfL journey planner site and....well, everything.

I feel totally hobbled. Like a huge barrier has come down between me and the on-demand-every-moment web. And it's going to be at least a week before I've got the time to pick it apart and fix it.

Time will tell if it makes for a richer life though...

Posted by Tom Dolan at 11:58 PM | Comments (0) |

December 13, 2008

Too Busy to be Doing Nothing

This afternoon I am trying not to multitask.

As I am writing this blog post, it should be apparent to all that I'm failing, but fingers crossed this will be a temporary aberration.

I'm looking after the kids, while the dear wife visits an emigrating friend to collect a large amount of discount furniture we bought from them. And possibly have a glass of wine.

At the moment, one of them is having a long-overdue Big Fat Sleep, and I'm helping the other write Christmas cards to her schoolfriends. It's wonderfully calming 'small world' stuff...and I'm finding it almost impossible to be so still.

Work does a really good job of tricking us into thinking we've always got to be running at 110%, juggling five things at once, looking ahead - to the point where we lose the ability to stop.

But it's time for another try...

Posted by Tom Dolan at 02:57 PM | Comments (0) |

December 12, 2008

Pro-Am Blogging

Oh the irony.

In the last few days I've been asked to make a regular contribution to the company blog, and sat in a (really rather interesting) presentation about SEO where the consequences of not keeping content current was laid bare.

And meanwhile, this place is like a strange barren desert.

I blame messageboards. And real communities of people. I guess I've found a few places where I fit in, enjoy the banter a lot, and it sates a large part of what used to drive the rather solitary willy-waving experience that having a blog often is. As I only got a comment about once every six months, it seemed that I wasn't exactly centre of anyone's universe. Probably not even mine.

(The tactic of posting once every six months and still getting that comment hasn't worked either.)

But all is good in the world of Tom at the moment. Have had my first major professional victory this week, opening a door that wouldn't open before. Looking forward to that one, and laying some pretty grotty experiences in the last few years to rest.

But I guess, just in case I don't get round to posting again, I should leave a Christmas message to all you lovely reader:

Don't watch 'Mamma Mia' the movie. Simply don't. Okay?

Posted by Tom Dolan at 11:28 PM | Comments (0) |

November 10, 2008

Hundreds of you out there...

Please try not to play 'complete the sentence'.

"It gives Highfield a kind of power that probably no-one at Microsoft’s UK web operation has wielded until now - responsible for sales, marketing, content and programming, business development, partner efforts and operations for Windows, Windows Mobile, Windows Live, MSN, Live Search and Microsoft Advertising"

Posted by Tom Dolan at 08:10 PM | Comments (0) |