Thursday, 18 December 2008

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Belated Britball 08 Write-up

For those that don’t know, the BritBallRun (BBR) is a 1000-mile car-tour come treasure hunt come fancy dress party that’s run every August bank holiday around the UK, the event is a top laugh and draws in a really wide range of entrants in cars that vary from car-porn through to a post office van and my personal fave this year, a VW Corrado dressed up as Starsky and Hutch’s car – wicked! More info on the event can be found at http://www.britballrun.com/.

So... a little over six months ago now Paul Fryer and I stepped up to defend our title as 2007 BritBallRun Champions . The rest as they say is history!

One point worth mentioning is that instead of asking for donations, this year I pledged to donate £20 for every person that helped us out en-route, the donations were to go to the Bishop Simeon Trust who we supported last year. Did I regret this rash decision? Well... a bit but it’s a good cause!

So... enough of the back story, let’s get on with the write-up!

Day 1 – 23rd August 2008
Paul and I woke up horrifically early in a very nice little B&B in a village about 5 miles from Gaydon Heritage Motor Museum where the event was due to start. The very nice lady that ran the B&B kindly got up at this stupid hour to cook us a full breakfast (Damn £20 and we haven’t even got there yet!) We ate up – my egg had a triple yoke in it! – and then we shimmied upstairs to don our costumes for the event. This year we’d been planning for a while and we’d decided that since we had almost the slowest car there we’d go as the KillerViral racing team which involved race-suits, shoes, helmets and aviator shades - I even had a full-on Amos Riley-style beard. I think it’s safe to say we looked like a right pair of twats!

So, off we go to Gaydon, but first we need petrol. So we head to the nearest station to Gaydon to fill-up. Unfortunately the place was absolutely full of rozzers! 3 cars outside and 4 in the shop Fryer fills up the car and I wander as nonchalantly into the shop as I can manage. Luckily the bobbies in the shop seem more interested in the selection of cakes on offer and I escape without challenge, wheyhey!

So off we go the start, not wanting to let the BBR boys down and feeling like we had to at least try to match up to the amazing airmen from the year before we had a big entrance planned which involved circling the car-park with me on the roof waving a massive Union Jack with “Princes of the Universe” playing as loud as my poor old stereo could muster, unfortunately in all the excitement I nearly fell off the roof of the car. Not something I’ll do again!

So we pull up and wander around a bit chatting to people while looking at the various entrants (sizing up the opposition) fully expecting to have plenty of time to work out what’s going on after the briefing... but... arrggh! No briefing! We’re suddenly told to get into our cars, head for the start and pick up the first envelope there... bugger! No time for tactics... Fryer rips open the envelope and off we go up the motorway heading for a service station. This is when things start going wrong... we arrive at the service station only to find that it’s the wrong one! So back we go onto the motorway, unfortunately we’re not used to the new Sat-nav so we completely miss the exit! Arrgh! So we have to do a 12-mile detour to get to where we’re supposed to be. Arses.

The next few hours was a blur of motorways, service stations, the car not starting punctuated by about 2hours sitting outside a small village post office going through every bag of pennies they have looking for 1998 pennies (we had to collect a maximum of 20) they helped us a lot so I’m calling that £40.

Then to our surprise, we’re off to St Albans! We arrange to meet our families there and Mr Fryer arranges to retrieve a Scottish pound note from his flat-mate (another £20). En-route we find ourselves in front of the MGF crew, we decide to jokingly try to send them the wrong way at a roundabout, misread the satnav and.... arses... we go the wrong way ourselves! Again... not doing that again in a hurry, another 6-mile detour.

So, we arrive at St Albans, Oscar (my 3 year old) is very excited to see the Car and us in our overalls, sun’s shining, we retrieve the pound note, much to the annoyance of Andy from team Smarties... sorry mate, can’t help it! So... where next? Into London... the millennium wheel! Oh crikey.

By this time we’re running very late and unfortunately the A5 which is the shortest route into London from St Albans is a complete nightmare to drive into town on, but we can’t afford the extra miles so we plough on as we reach the centre of town traffic slows to a crawl, by now we’re quite frustrated, I drive that road for work and this isn’t my idea of fun, a mile takes us half an hour, things are bad. But hurrah! We spot our friends, team Smarties up ahead, we have a chat with them and compare notes on the snails that are overtaking us in their thousands.

The next bit I’m still not entirely clear on, somehow there’s a misunderstanding and we end up skipping the next checkpoint, we follow TS, heading for Rochester through the streets of London, the traffic eventually eases as we get to the city and we have a very fun blast through the deserted streets, the sound of two twin Brabus tailpipes reverberating off the glass buildings, heaven!

But... something’s bothering me... as we get past Greenwich and into suburbia an irritating voice gets louder and louder... “you missed the checkpoint... that’s not taking part” damn... blasted conscience. So... we pull up, have a chat about it, call the organisers and decide that despite the fact that it’s another 22 mile detour to go back it doesn’t feel right to miss it out so off we go, back to the London Eye!

On the way back we’re desperately trying to make up points where we can, Fryer spends about 45mins running round a fairground looking for seaside Rock to no avail, we pick up the remaining bonus items and find a huge carrot (there were points for the longest one) in a supermarket. Then we re-read the items list...

“The longest carrot you can find – points for each centimetre of length, must be real carrot”

So... cutting and shutting two carrots is probably out... but what about peeling them? How long a bit of peel could we get? We buy a peeler and head back to Rochester.

At about 10:15 (been in the car non-stop now since 8am) we arrive at the hotel, before we go in we arrange our Aphabetti Spaghetti and set to peeling our carrot, the first couple of attempts are abortions but then I realise... softer carrots are less brittle... we hunt round for one that’s a bit manky and dive in.... 15 minutes later... it’s a whopper! Yay!

BBR Andy comes out to tick off our stuff, we’re feeling rather smug... we unveil the “carrot” Andy measures it.... a whopping 1 meter 5cm! We all have a good laugh about it however if they had accepted it then we would have been a stupid amount of points in the lead. We decide that’s not really on so we all sleep on it after a nice meal in the hotel bar.

Total for BST so far... £80.00 not bad but we resolve to try harder tomorrow.

Day 2 – 24th August 2008
Morning breaks, I open the curtains it’s a miserable grey day but we head down for our second cooked breakfast running so all is right with the world! We chat to Dan about the carrot, surprisingly even with the 40-odd extra miles we put on the day before we’re still it the top four or five so we decide to just go with our longest full carrot instead.
After a short briefing we head out to the cars, by this point we’ve ditched the helmets in no small part due to the fact that we couldn’t close the roof of the car with them on but otherwise we were suited and booted as before! And so we were off on the road again we read the instructions, we’re off to a sleepy village in the West Country, we start plotting a course… but wait! We re-read the instructions; we have to go to Stonehenge first!!! We realise just in time and take the motorway instead.

Having avoided making the mistake at the start we motor on down in good spirits surrounded by lots of the other competitors, we film lots of fly-bys of the other cars with the limpet-mount camera and then put some good tunes on and get down to business it’s pedal to the metal and off to Stonehenge! We employ our corner cutting strategy on the motorway, overtaking in the outside lane on right hand bends and staying in the inside on left-handers. As we arrive at Stonehenge we realise that we’re one of the first to get there, that’s good, I leave fryer with the car and head over to the shop to gather our first items, a postcard and a receipt for as little as possible. Getting here early has proved useful, the assistant is happy enough to help us and gives us a receipt for a refund, excellent! Another £20 in the pot for BST.

We get back on the road and start thinking about the other items, it’s Sunday and by now it’s about 11:30, we don’t have long before even supermarkets will be closed so we need to be thinking about them now. We quickly identify the items that are likely to be a pain, some wool in red blue and white and some blonde human hair. About half way to the next checkpoint we spot an Asda so we dive in. I run into the shop while Fryer waits in the car. Thanks to the help of one of the lovely shop assistants (another £20) I quickly gather a large proportion of my shopping list including a white woollen sweater, a pair of scissors and a packet of markers… we were getting creative again!But where were we going to get the hair? I asked the sales assistant whether they had any of those hair extensions that girls sometimes clip into their hair, unfortunately not, but then she says that one of he friends who works on one of the counters might help so we head over there. The second very cool lady agrees to have a lock of hair removed for us, I take a photo and fold the lock of hair up in a bit of paper, make a note of another £20 and Having bagged the majority of our items we head off to the next checkpoint.

The next few checkpoints take us through, beautiful villages, empty sweeping roads carving through the hills, This is what it’s all about, it’s sheer bliss, these are roadster roads, where the car comes into its own (although not the fastest car in the world, my little Smart Roadster handles like it’s on rails). After a while we get close to the next checkpoint, Cheddar Gorge, the instructions suggest that we might want to take the high road down through the gorge as it’s quite spectacular. We check out the mileage both ways, the high road is a mile longer… we decide that given yesterday’s mileage we can afford a mile (two points – remember that) in return for the luxury so we head up to the high road.

On the way we pull into a caravan club camp-site who very kindly allow us to use their toilets but made us promise not to do a poo… Fryer did a poo so I’m calling that another £20! Then they helped us to print off a calendar of 2007 (another shopping list item and another £20 for BST) and then we head down into the gorge. The drive down is staggeringly beautiful, it’s quite incredible how the landscape changes so suddenly from rolling hills into the craggy gorge, something I’ll never forget.

When we reach the gorge we stop to get some cheese (another shopping list item and yet another £20!) and loads of people gather round the car and ask about what we’re up to. This is another thing that’s nice about the BBR, people are genuinely interested in what you’re up to and are generally more than happy to help, people aren’t half as bad as you sometimes think.

Finally we arrive at the hotel for the evening, Fryer puts on some stockings which he says was for points but he doesn’t show anyone which makes me suspicious… we’re nowhere near as late as we were the night before so we have some time to chat and have a few drinks with the other competitors. It’s a lovely hotel so we settle in!

BST total today £120, a bit better!


Day 3 – 25th August 2008
The day begins with everyone queuing up in the hotel for boiled eggs, one of the items for the day we were running in 2nd or 3rd at that point so it was all to play for today.

Day three had lots of point to point navigation which I find quite stressful, at one point we lost count of the number of roundabouts we’d been past and the traffic was so bad that we had to park up and go back on foot to check our position. Other than that though the driving was quite nice, more of the same, beautiful rolling roads that we’d enjoyed so much the day before, at various points we encounter other competitors and I remember a wonderful section driving down some empty country roads with Starsky and Hutch on our tail, that was lots of fun.

At one point the shortest route on the Sat-Nav took us down some very rarely used and in fact, gated, lanes only to then find our route blocked by cows! Progress was slow until we were saved by a bright yellow fiat coming down the other way which the cows seemed to find more intimidating than the roadster.

Many of the days items were tricky, at some point we ended up in a village shop looking for a euro coin but the family that ran it went back into their house (which was behind the shop) and got a pair of their own chopsticks for us, and therefore another £20 for BST. Then we had a real stroke of luck, one of our items was a cream tea and since we’d missed the cafĂ© en-route that sold them we were keeping our eyes peeled for any opportunities. All of a sudden we came around a corner and spotted a sign for an open garden with tea… got to be worth a punt I thought! I knocked on the door tomeet a vicar and his wife, they couldn’t help with the cream tea but they did have several of the other high-scoring items including a Christmas pudding! I’m awarding £40 for their help!

The final stage that day took us to Stratford upon Avon which was a traffic disaster, Fryer got out of the car and did most of the important stuff on foot while I plodded on through the town, including sourcing the world’s most expensive cream tea, £16 for two scones a small pot of jam, clotted cream and a teabag! Unfortunately I can’t justify a donation for that!

Finally with all of our items in hand we hoon back to gaydon, worried again that we’re gonna be late just like last year, oh the humanity of it, held up by cakes! Thankfully we arrived back just in time, had our items totted up and headed back in for sandwiches.

So… all that’s left to do is the results and presentation, have we done enough to get the win? Unfortunately not quite… we end up in 2nd place over all but only by two points! Gutting, if only we hadn’t taken the scenic route or those massive detours on day one… oh well, there’s always next year eh! See you there:http://www.britballrun.com/

Charity Money Run Down
Day One:
  • Lady in B&B who got up to cook us breakfast £20
  • Post office pennies £40
  • Merlin "magicking" the scottish pound note £20
Day Two:
  • Shop assistant at Stonehenge £20
  • Asda shop assistant £20
  • Asda meat counter lady £20
  • Caravan Club Toilets £20
  • Caravan Club Calendar £20
  • Cheddar Gorge Cheese £20

Day Three:
  • Shop with chopsticks £20
  • Vicar and his Wife £40

Total £260

Friday, 12 December 2008

Friday, 12 December 2008

Digital Arts Platform Tutorial

Following the release of our immensely popular new game for Pentax Extreme Safari a few people asked me how to start creating a platform game so I thought it might be useful for me to resurrect the tutorial I wrote for Digital arts a year or so ago which is based on the same basic engine that Extreme Safari runs on in the hope that it might be helpful for young developers.

The tutorial can still be found on the digital arts site here: www.digitalartsonline.co.uk/tutorials/index.cfm?featureid=1597

And I've uploaded the source to: www.kempt.co.uk/chris/DAPlatformTut/platformsrc.zip

Hope it proves useful and please do leave me a comment to let me know if you use it!

Cheers

C